Step Seven – Engaging Others

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Digital Disciples Series

ENGAGING – Step 7

 How do you define or describe an active disciple?

 How many people follow your news feed? 

John 1:45 “Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’”

 When Philip encountered Jesus and discovered who He was, he immediately wanted to share it with his friend, Nathanael. Our desire to make disciples should stem from obedience, but also love for others—if we believe Jesus is who He says He is, we cannot be complacent.

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According to a survey by The Institute for American Church Growth, family and friends are the main link for bringing others to faith in Christ with about 60% of those asked, “What person was it that led you to come to faith in Christ?”, reporting that it was a family member or friend.

Jesus says to each one of us. “Come!” This is how we are called to faith. We share the happiest events in our lives – births, graduations, promotions, awards, weddings, vacations with family and friends – and faith in Jesus Christ should be the most important celebration in our life because it changes everything!

The essential answer to all our questions about life is in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. When we share this answer with others we are proclaiming, witnessing, and demonstrating engagement as an active disciple. We are modeling Philip by sharing the joy and excitement that comes with the peace and understanding about the perspective of life that is known through the gift of faith in Jesus. When we know who Jesus is and why He came into our civilization, the way we talk and live is changed.

witnessBeing an active disciple is sharing our lives with a friend and ice cream and coffee

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

Step Six – Sharing Jesus

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Digital Disciples Series

SHARING – Step 6 

Why is it necessary for someone to “hear” God’s Word? 

Technology supports disciples!

Romans 10:14–15. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”

Paul highlights the importance of making disciples by pointing out that we believe in Jesus because someone shared the gospel with us. Making disciples stems from our own faith—which we have because someone shared the gospel with us.

Hearing God's Word

However, in keeping with his reading of Paul, Luther and other first-generation reformers wondered how anyone can hear the gospel without someone to proclaim it (Romans 10:14). Paul’s answer is that “faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17).

Luther highlights the significance of the preacher’s responsibility and asserts that the priesthood of all believers enables every Christian to proclaim God’s Word and the promise of salvation. The priesthood of all believers means that all Christians have access to Scripture and to God through Jesus Christ. It does not mean that just anyone should assume the preaching office. The preacher should be someone who has both natural abilities and a divine calling.

For Luther, there is a joining of Word and sacrament along with the benefits of Christ through the Spirit. Christ, through the Spirit, enters one’s heart through a voice and each person who hears the sermon and accepts it takes the whole Christ into his or her heart.

This presence of God through preaching is “as great a miracle as here in the sacrament.” Therefore, the Word preached is sacramental in nature, and serves as the basis for the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. What the Holy Spirit achieves through the preaching of the Word is nothing less than the work of salvation. Our salvation begins not with any work of our own but by hearing the Word of life.

The 21st century offers a variety of technologies for hearing the Word of God through media, podcasts, email, blogs, newsletters, and publications. The importance of preaching and speaking God’s Word to family, friends, colleagues, students, strangers is also shared through greeting cards, prayer partners, art and music. Active disciples are enabled by the Holy Spirit to nurture what is heard and experienced into a faith that guarantees salvation.

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Some of the perspective of this post are taken from an article by Keith Stanglin, published by Pepperdine Digital Commons, 2004. https://digitalcommons.pepperdine.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1397&context=leaven

Step Five – Witnessing for Jesus

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Digital Disciples Series

 WITNESSING – Step 5

 Why do we need witnesses?

 Disciples provide us with information that is real truth!

Acts 1:8 “‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’”

witness

A disciple is a witness who shares what he or she has learned and experienced about Jesus. A witness helps to determine the truth about an event. Disciples are witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and that God’s Word as written in the Holy Bible is the truth. This fundamental fact defies reason which is why humans cannot understand or accept the resurrection, even with historical documentation. In fact, the people in Paul’s congregation in Corinth denied the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It can only be understood and accepted through faith. This is why Luther wrote

“But here you notice how Paul adduces Scripture as his strongest proof, for there is no other enduring way of preserving our doctrine and our faith than the physical or written Word, poured into letters and preached orally by him or others; for here we find it stated clearly; “Scripture! Scripture!”‘

The Lutheran Reformation is all about, the truth of God’s Word. Peter confessed his faith when Jesus asked him what he believed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Paul wrote, “Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak” (2 Corinthians 4:13).

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Step Four – Following Jesus

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Digital Disciples Series

FOLLOWING – Step 4

 Why did these fishermen respond to Jesus immediately and without hesitation?

 Are you Walking, Jogging, or Running?

Matthew 4:19-20  “‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.”

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The church is people and God uses their gifts to accomplish things in our world, help others in challenging times, and share love in unexpected ways. This is why it is important for everyone who is a disciple and follower of Jesus to connect with people by speaking God’s Words of love, forgiveness, and acceptance. We speak, we model, we listen, and we share. When the Spirit brings one to faith, the response is similar to what happened in the Bible verse above – people change what they are doing without hesitation!

Martin Luther considered ordinary people with faith to be the priesthood of believers. This was a bold and provocative concept to teach because ordained priests required years of training. Martin Luther understood the meaning of disciples as ordinary people who are reading God’s Word, praying to God, and living their lives in obedience to Jesus Christ.

This is why disciples start by walking and talking, increase their pace by jogging and sharing, and running and winning the race for life for Jesus. Life is a marathon for love!

Comment: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Step Three – Called by Jesus

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Digital Disciples Series

 CALLING – Step 3

 Why did Jesus call you to be one of His disciples?

 I am Spiritually Empowered!

John 15:16 “‘You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.’”

Jesus chose His disciples for a purpose which is why we need to be connected to Him as branches are part of the vine. Through reading God’s Word, prayer, repentance, worship, and receiving the Lord’s Supper we mature and bear fruit. We were called to faith and baptized for a reason – to be a 21st century disciple!

Martin Luther explained that there were two realms in the universe, the realm of the flesh and the realm of the spirit, the secular and the religious, the regnum mundi and the regnum Christi, the things of the world and the things of God. The realm of the flesh included not only physical nature but also the fields of philosophy, mathematics, law, history, and what we call the social sciences, indeed the whole man and the whole world ‘apart from Christ’.

Our knowledge of history and life is limited by facts, empirical examples, and important lessons. The social sciences are not able to educate me as a spiritually empowered person because this comes through the study of God’s Word, reading, talking with friends, listening to sermons and podcasts, prayer, personal experiences, and life-changing situations.

A new perspective might be to understand contemporary discipleship as God calling us to become entrepreneurs in doing His business – which satisfy needs instead of wants. Each of us has been given spiritual gifts to use for this purpose. When we hear that God calls or chooses us, we believe. Because we know Jesus Christ, we have the gift of love! It is intimate, personal, and precious!

Imagine a world where people desire a relationship with Jesus as much as they desire a handbag, shoes, concerts or sports!

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

Step Two – Loving Jesus

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Digital Disciples Series

 LOVING – Step 2

 How is LOVE the mission statement of every Christian?

 What is your role in making a difference in the life of another person?

Ephesians 4:16   From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

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When you become a follower of Jesus, you become part of Christ’s body. The body of Christ depends on each member doing the work. We were each made for a particular purpose and as disciples we all play a role in connecting people with Jesus Christ.

We change the way people think and behave through love. Disciples change the way people think and behave by loving as Christ loved – sacrificing His life for us. Because we believe, are baptized, and have received God’s gift of grace in our life, we understand our family history as the brother or sister of Jesus Christ.

When we are part of the body of Christ, joined together by every ligament, blood vessel, and bone, we are able to walk in love. Our thinking is no longer limited to political correctness, accumulating consumer treasures, or understanding success by our title, educational level, or assets. Instead, we understand that all blessings come from God through Jesus Christ and that we are managers of the generous blessings given to us.

Martin Luther explains to us that every believer has a calling and vocation and is to live ‘in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called’. In Luther’s view the believer is a priest to the body – the church. This is a powerful explanation and statement about how a disciple or follower of Jesus Christ thinks and engages with others. We respond with passion and enthusiasm, commitment and trust. We walk in love when our vision is perfect!

Like faith, love is a gift given to us from God.

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

Step One – Believing in Jesus

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Digital Disciples Series

 BELIEVING – Step 1

 How does a 21st century disciple look?

 Getting ready for an extreme makeover!

Mark 16:15 “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’”

making-disciples-making-a-difference-logo2

The following perspective is from a sermon Martin Luther preached on Ascension Day in 1523:

“Moreover, the sign of baptism is given us also to show that God Himself will help us, and that we should be certain of His grace, and that everyone be able to say: Hereunto did God give me a sign, that I should be assured of my salvation, which He has promised me in the Gospel. For He has given us the Word, that is, the written document; and beside the Word, baptism, that is the seal. So faith, which apprehends the Word, may be strengthened by the sign and seal.

But you see no work of man in this transaction; for baptism is not my work but God’s. He that baptized me stands in God’s stead and does not the work of a man, but rather it is God’s hand and work. God is the real worker. Therefore, I may and should say: God, my Lord, baptized me Himself, by the hand of a man.

Through faith I obtain so much that nothing is impossible to me. If it were necessary and conducive to the spreading of the Gospel, we could do easily the signs; but since it is not necessary, we do not do them. For Christ does not teach that Christians practice the spectacular, but He says they have the power and can do these things. And we have many such promises throughout the Scriptures; for example, in James 14:12, where Christ says: “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do.”

What does it mean, then, to believe the resurrection of Christ, this thing which is so important, and concerning which the disciples were called unbelieving and faithless, and without which nothing else that they believed would help them?

To believe the resurrection of Christ, is nothing else than to believe that we have a Mediator before God. Who is Christ, who makes us holy and acceptable to God the Father. For man’s possessions, by birth and nature, are but sin and corruption, by which He brings down upon Himself the wrath of God. There is always enmity between God and the natural man and they cannot be friends and in harmony with one another.

For this cause, Christ became man and took upon Himself our sins and also the wrath of the Father, and drowned them both in Himself, thus reconciling us to God the Father. Without this faith, we are children of wrath, able to do no good work that is pleasing to God, nor can our prayers be acceptable before Him.”

This is how we should see the face of a disciple: A disciple is baptized, forgiven, loving, capable of doing good, faithful and obedient to God’s Word, holy, and feeling helpless and in need of God’s help. A disciple is loving, nurturing, studying, listening, praying, and sharing words of hope. Discipleship evolves from a proximity of presence within relationships. We have faith – it is God’s gift to us and impossible to understand because of the limits of human reasoning and cognitive learning.

 

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Restoring Life to Jairus’ Daughter

Healing the Sick Woman and Restoring Life to Jairus’ Daughter

 Mark 5:21-43   21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him. A large crowd followed and pressed around him.

25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”

36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

SONY DSC

 The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter by Gabriel Cornelius Ritter von Max (1878)

Miracles presented a problem for artists because of the difficulty in capturing the main point of the event and the atmosphere surrounding the event. In this painting we do not see the desperation of the family and friends whose young daughter has died. Jesus is not the focal point of the painting and is lost in the darkness. Our attention is on the young girl dressed in white but still sleeping and lifeless. Miracles were a problem for people living in the Enlightenment because they denied the natural order of things. Thomas Jefferson edited the Bible and removed the stories of miracles from it. The message of the Bible in the 18th and 19th centuries was on morality rather than faith.

Is it important to see the figure of Christ or the miracle of the young girl coming to life? How would Jesus feel about his place in this painting? As you read the Bible verses and analyze the painting, what is the most important part of the story?

Luther: “These are the words of such a teacher. And He is worthy of being believed by the faithful. He must say: ‘To me, death is not death, but a sleep. In My sight, no one dies; but all are only sleeping.’ We must answer: ‘Amen, my Lord. I believe. Help me believe, my Christ. You do not lie.’ It is Your gift that I do not lie to myself, but believe firmly that I cannot die eternally; the fact that I die means that I shall sleep for a time. Only give me this faith. You are the one who says to these crowds and flute players: ‘Go away,’ so that they will go away and stop troubling and ridiculing this faith of mine. Unless You tell them to go away, I shall be unable to stand against them. Meanwhile, I shall believe that when I die I shall not die, but fall asleep; that when I am dead I am still living, because I live to You, whom I believe. And You are the one who makes alive, You who say concerning me: ‘He is not dead; rather, to me he is living and is sleeping for a time until I awaken him so that he may be alive to himself as well.’”

According to Robert Kolb in Luther and the Stories of God, Christ sees the world differently than we do. David had seen himself as a poor shepherd, and so had the world, but Christ viewed him as a king.  We see ourselves as sinners but Christ sees us as saints. Jesus speaks two words ‘Talitha koum’ and a dead girl gets up! (p. 80)

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

Healing the Centurion’s Servant

How was it possible for the faith of the centurion to heal his servant? Do you agree or disagree with Martin Luther that alien faith needs to be rejected?

Luke 7:1-10: When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” So Jesus went with them.

He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

JesusHealingCenturionServant

Healing the Centurion’s Servant by Paolo Veronese (1580)

Paolo Veronese was an Italian Renaissance painter from Venice known for his historic and religious paintings. His challenge is to tell the story of the healing of the servant while focusing on the faith of the centurion. Two of the centurion’s helmeted soldiers are with their commander as Jesus compassionately gestures to the kneeling soldier. The large painting is at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

Luther: Luther preached on the miracles of the healing of the lepers and the centurion’s servant on the Third Sunday after Epiphany in 1529. It is a remarkable message about faith without merit or works. The lepers call upon Jesus for mercy and healing and the faith of the centurion heals his servant. Yet, the gospels are clear that we are called to faith by the Holy Spirit and that the faith of one person does not save someone else. This will raise questions about the faith of infant and young children and prayers of a faithful parent for an unbelieving son or daughter. The question is does the faith of a parent save their child? “Now the question is, what becomes of the young children, seeing that they have not yet reason and are not able to believe for themselves, because it is written in Romans 10:17: “Belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Little children neither hear nor understand the Word of God, and therefore they can have no faith of their own.”

Excerpt from Martin Luther’s sermon in January 1529: “Herein is the great faith of this heathen that he knows salvation does not depend upon the bodily presence of Christ, for this does not avail, but upon the Word and faith. But the apostles did not yet know this, neither perhaps did His mother, but they clung to His bodily presence and were not willing to let it go, John 16:6. They did not cling to His Word alone. But this heathen is so fully satisfied with His Word, that he does not even desire His presence nor does he deem himself worthy of it. Moreover, he proves his strong faith by a comparison and says: I am a man and can do what I wish with mine own by a word; should not you be able to do what you wish by a word, because I am sure, and you also prove that health and sickness, death and life are subject to you as my servants are to me? Therefore also his servant was healed in that hour by the power of his faith.

Now since the occasion is offered and this Gospel requires it, we must say a little about alien faith and its power for many are interested in this subject, especially on account of the little children, who are baptized and are saved not by their own, but by the faith of others; just as this servant was healed not by his own faith, but by the faith of his master. We have never yet treated of this matter; therefore we must treat of it now in order to anticipate, as much as in us lies future danger and error.

First we must let the foundation stand firm and sure, that nobody will be saved by the faith or righteousness of another, but only by his own; and on the other hand nobody will be condemned for the unbelief or sins of another, but for his own unbelief; as the Gospel says clearly and distinctly in Mark 16:16: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.” “The righteous shall live by faith.” And John 3:16-18: “Whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life. He that believeth on him is not judged: he that believeth not hath been judged already.” These are clear, public words, that everyone must believe for himself, and nobody can help himself by the faith of others., without his own faith. From these passages we dare not depart and we must not deny them, let them strike where they may, and we ought rather let the world perish than change this divine truth. And if any plausible argument is made against it, that you are not able to refute, you must confess that you do not understand the matter and commit it to God, rather than admit anything contrary to these clear statements. Whatever may become of the heathen, Jews, Turks, little children and everything that exists, these words must be right and true.”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

The Stoning of Stephen

The Stoning of Stephen and the Big Picture of Pentecost

How did Stephen’s faith give him the freedom to forgive his murderers in the pain of his violent death?

Acts 7: 54-60  54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

Stoning of Stephen-Rembrandt-1625

The Stoning of St. Stephen by Rembrandt, 1625

This is Rembrandt’s first painting with a biblical subject. Stephen was a member of the Christian community in Jerusalem. Stephen’s job was to care for Greek widows. “And according to Acts 6:8, Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.”

A group of Jews became jealous. In front of the high priests they falsely accused Stephen. He defended himself with a long plea that ended with accusing the priests. Stephen claimed they did not uphold the law, and that they betrayed and killed those that announced the coming of the “Just One” who is Jesus Christ.

The crowd in the temple was infuriated and seized Stephen. Outside the city he was stoned to death. That made Stephen into the first Christian martyr: someone who died for the faith. The yet unconverted Saul (Paul) looked on with approval. (Acts 6, 7 and 8:1).

In the background to the right are the priests. In the top center members of the Christian community watch with fear and worry. Stephen wears a fine gown, common among the deacons in Rembrandt’s days. His last words were “lay not this sin to their charge”. The light that shines on Stephen’s face represents the sign that heaven saw all this happen. The man on horseback is probably Saul, the persecutor of Christians, who will soon take a trip to Damascus where he is converted to the Christian faith after being without sight for several days. His name is changed to Paul.

In the selected passages from Martin Luther’s sermon on St. Stephen’s Day, we discover how faith gives us freedom.

Do we need churches?

“There is no other reason for building churches than to afford a place where Christians may assemble to pray, to hear the Gospel and to receive the sacraments; if indeed there is a reason. When churches cease to be used for these purposes they should be pulled down, as other buildings are when no longer of use. As it is now, (1523) the desire of every individual in the world is to establish his own chapel or altar, even his own mass, with a view of securing salvation, of purchasing heaven. Let us, therefore, beloved friends, be wise; wisdom is essential. Let us truly learn we are saved through faith in Christ and that alone. This fact has been made sufficiently manifest.”

The Faith of Stephen

First, we see in Stephen’s conduct love toward God and man. He manifests his love to God by earnestly and severely censuring the Jews, calling them betrayers, murderers and transgressors of the whole Law, yes stiff necked, and saying they resist the fulfillment of the Law and resist also the Holy Spirit. More than that, he calls them “uncircumcised in heart and ears.” How could he have censured them any more severely? So completely does he strip them of every creditable thing, it would seem as if he were moved by impatience and wrath.

Stephen’s love for God constrained him to his act. No one who possesses the same degree of love can be silent and calmly permit the rejection of God’s commandments. He cannot dissemble. He must censure and rebuke everyone who opposes God. Such conduct he cannot permit even if he risks his life to rebuke it. Love of this kind the Scriptures term “zelum Dei,” a holy indignation. For rejection of God’s commands is a slight upon his love and intolerably disparages the honor and obedience due him, honor and obedience which the zealous individual ardently seeks to promote. We have an instance of such a one in the prophet Elijah, who was remarkable for his holy indignation against the false prophets.

Stephen’s conduct is a beautiful example of love for fellowmen in that he entertains no ill-will toward even his murderers. However severely he rebukes them in his zeal for the honor of God, such is the kindly feeling he has for them that in the very agonies of death, having made provision for himself by commending his Spirit to God, he has no further thought about himself but is all concern for them. Under the influence of that love he yields up his spirit. Not undesignedly does Luke place Stephen’s prayer for his murderers at the close of the narrative. Note also, when praying for himself and commending his spirit to God he stood, but he knelt to pray for his murderers. Further, he cried with a loud voice as he prayed for them, which he did not do for himself.

Who can number the virtues illustrated in Stephen’s example? There loom up all the fruits of the Spirit. We find love, faith, patience, benevolence, peace, meekness, wisdom, truth, simplicity, strength, consolation, philanthropy. We see there also hatred and censure for all forms of evil. We note a disposition not to value worldly advantage nor to dread the terrors of death. Liberty, tranquility and all the noble virtues and graces are in evidence. There is no virtue but is illustrated in this example; no vice it does not rebuke. Well may the evangelist say Stephen was full of faith and power. Power here implies activity. Luke would say, “His faith was great; hence his many and mighty works.” For when faith truly exists, its fruits must follow. The greater the faith, the more abundant its fruits.”

hbitten@reverendluther.org