Leipzig Debate – 500 Year Anniversary One of the world’s most important debates!

June 27 – July 16, 1519

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The Leipzig Debate took place 500 years ago in June and July 1519. It was a public debate between three Wittenberg University professors – Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon and Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt on the affirmative against Johann Eck, who supported the status quo, the pope and Roman Catholic theology. The debate opened on June 27 in Pleissenburg Castle in the presence of George the Bearded, the Duke of Saxony who was critical of Martin Luther. Luther entered the debate on July 4, 1519.

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Although the debate judges from the University of Paris took two years to decide and the judges from the University of Erfurt never reached a decision, the debate was won by Johann Eck. It marks the defining moment for understanding the authority of the Holy Bible, salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, and God’s grace in our lives. Related arguments include the importance of the Nicene Creed, if faith is a matter of our free will or if we are called to faith by God through the Holy Spirit, and the authority of the church or a pope. Although Eck may have won the debate, Luther’s ideas have prevailed for the past 500 years! Years later, Eck admitted that he could have accepted many of Luther’s arguments, but not on the authority of the pope and the church.

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How will we remember this historic event which involves more than theology?

The Leipzig Debate marks one of the top ten most important events in World History and in the Christian Church. It is significant because it was clear to the people of Europe that the Holy Bible was the truth and divine Word of God. The Bible had authority over the Church, church councils, and the pope. The Bible is the inspired Word of God. While the Reformation resulted in the Ninety-five Theses; the public debate at Leipzig presented the truth and evidence behind these arguments.

Whether you consider your Christian faith as a private and personal matter between God and you or as faith that is evangelical and needs to be shared with others, the Leipzig Debate clearly stated that the good news of God’s grace is for all people and the love of Jesus Christ is the enduring legacy that has changed the world. The Leipzig Debate was a victory for the eternal values of redemption, forgiveness and love!

Map-Leipzig

Top Ten Events in World History (My Suggestions – you can create your own order)

Industrial Revolution

Renaissance

Life, death, resurrection of Jesus Christ

Life of Mohammad

Reformation

9/11 Attack on America

World War 1 and II

Medical Science

French Revolution

Discovery of America

Top Ten Events in Christian Church (My suggestions – you can create your own order)

Conversion of Constantine/Edict of Milan

Nicene Creed

Conversion of St. Augustine

Jerome’s translation of the Bible to Latin

Erasmus’ publication of the New Testament to Greek

Gutenberg’s Printing Press

Reformation and Leipzig Debate

Dead Sea Scrolls

Split between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches

Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

In the year 1519

LETTER FROM LUTHER TO SPALATIN CONCERNING THE LEIPZIG DEBATE

Wittenberg, July 20, 1519

To the Illustrious Georg Spalatin, Court Chaplain and Librarian of His Highness the Elector of Saxony, His Friend in Christ.

Greetings! That our highness the prince and you all have returned safely pleases me, my dear Spalatin. May Christ claim the soul of Pfeffinger, Amen. I should have written you long ago about our famous debate, but I did not know where or about what. Certain people of Leipzig, neither sincere nor upright, are celebrating victory with Eck. It is from this nonsense that rumor has spread, but the truth of the matter will not bring everything to light.

Almost at the very moment of our arrival, even before we had gotten out of our wagon, the Inhibition of the bishop of Merseburg was affixed to the doors of the churches to the effect that the debate should not be held, together with that newly published explanation concerning this matter of indulgences. This Inhibition was disregarded and the person who had posted it was thrown into jail by the city council because he had acted without its knowledge.

Since our enemies got nowhere with this trick, they tried another. Having called Andreas Karlstadt to meet alone with them, they tried hard to get him to agree to hold the debate orally, according to Eck’s wishes, without stenographers taking down the proceedings in writing. Eck hoped that he might carry off the victory by his loud shouting and impressive delivery, means which he had long used to his advantage. Karlstadt, however, opposed this and insisted that they proceed according to a previous agreement, that is, that the statements of the disputants be written down by stenographers. Finally, to attain this, he was compelled to agree that the account of the debate made by the stenographers should not be published prior to a hearing by a court of judged.

At this point a new dispute arose over the choice of the judges. At length they compelled him also to consent to postpone coming to an agreement concerning the judges until after the debate had be concluded. Otherwise they did not wish to permit the debate. Thus they attacked us with the syllogistic horns of a dilemma, so that we should be confounded by both alternatives, whether we gave up the debate or placed the outcome into the hands of unfair judges. So you see how barbarous was their cunning, by means of which they robbed us of the freedom which had been agreed upon. For it is certain that the universities and the people will never make a pronouncement, or they would make one against us, and this is what they want.

The next day they called me to appear before them and proposed the same thing. Suspecting, however, the pope as the instigator of this procedure, I refused to accept these conditions, having been persuaded to do so by my colleagues. Then they proposed other universities as judges, without the pope. I requested that the freedom upon which we had agreed be respected. When they were unwilling to do this, I became reluctant and repudiated the debate. Then the rumor spread that I did not want to risk participating in the debate and, what is particularly unfair, that I wished to have no judges. All these accusations were hatefully and malignantly hurled at me and were interpreted in such a way that now they were turning even our best friends against us; and already permanent disgrace to our university was in prospect. After this, upon the advice of friends, I went to them and indignantly accepted their conditions. I did this in such a way and with the exclusion of the Roman Curia so that my power of appeal would be safeguarded and my case would be not prejudged.

Eck and Karlstadt at first debated for seven days over the freedom of the will. With God’s help Karlstadt advanced his arguments and explanations excellently and in great abundance from books which he had brought with him. Then when Karlstadt had also been given the opportunity of rebuttal, Eck refused to debate unless the books were left at home. Andreas [Karlstadt] had used the books to demonstrate to Eck’s face that he had correctly quoted the words of Scripture and the church fathers that he had not done violence to them as Eck was now shown to have done. This marked the beginning of another uproar until at length it was decided to Eck’s advantage that the books should be left at home. But who was not aware of the fact that if the debate were concerned with the cause of truth, it would be advisable to have all possible books at hand? Never did hatred and ambition show themselves more impudently than here.

Finally this deceitful man conceded everything that Karlstadt had asserted, although he had vehemently attacked it, and agreed with him in everything, boasting that he had led Karlstadt to his own way of thinking. He accordingly rejected Scotus and the Scotuistis and Capreolus and the Thomists, as saying that all other scholastic had thought and taught the same as he. So Scotus and Capreolus toppled to the ground, together with their respective schools, the two celebrated divisions of scholasticism.

The next week Eck debated with me, at first very acrimoniously, concerning the primacy of the pope. His proof rested on the words “You are Peter…” [Matt. 16:18] and “Feed my sheep…follow me” [John 21:17, 22], and “strengthen your brethren” [Luke 22:32], adding to these passages many quotations from the church fathers. What I answered you will soon see. Then, coming to the last point, he rested his case entirely on the Council of Constance which had condemned Huss’s article alleging that papal authority derived from the emperor instead of from God. Then Eck stamped about with much ado as though he were in an arena, holding up the Bohemians before me and publically accusing me of the heresy and support of the Bohemian heretics, for he is a sophist, no less impudent than rash. These accusations tickled the Leipzig audience more than the debate itself.

In rebuttal I brought up the Greek Christians during the past thousand years, and also the ancient church fathers, who had not been under the authority of the Roman pontiff, although I did not deny the primacy of honor due the pope. Finally we also debated the authority of a council. I publically acknowledged that some articles had been wrongly condemned [by the Council of Constance], articles which had been taught in plain and clear words by Paul, Augustine, and even Christ himself. At this point the adder swelled up, exaggerated my crime, and nearly went insane in his adulation of the Leipzig audience. Then I proved by words of the council itself that not all the articles which it condemned were actually heretical and erroneous. So Eck’s proofs had accomplished nothing. There the matter rested.

The third week Eck and I debated penance, purgatory, indulgences, and the power of a priest to grant absolution, for Eck did not like to debate with Karlstadt and asked me to debate alone with him. The debate over indulgences fell completely flat, for Eck agreed with me in nearly all respects and his former defense of indulgences came to appear like mockery and derision, whereas I had hoped that this would be the main topic of the debate. He finally acknowledged his position in public sermons so that even the common people could see that he was not concerned with indulgences. He also is supposed to have said that if I had not questioned the power of the pope, he would readily have agreed with me in all matters. Then he said to Karlstadt, “If I could agree with Martin in as many points as I do with you, I could be his friend.” He is such a fickle and deceitful person that he is ready to do anything. Whereas he conceded to Karlstadt that all the scholastics agreed in their teaching, in debating with me he rejected Gregory of Rimini as one who alone supported my opinion against all other scholastics. Thus he does not seem to consider it wrong to affirm and deny the same thing at different times. The people of Leipzig do not see this, so great is their stupidity. Much more fantastic was the following: He conceded one thing in the disputation hall but taught the people the opposite in church. When confronted by Karlstadt with the reason for his changeableness, the man answered without blinking an eye that it was not necessary to teach the people that which was debatable.

When I had concluded my part of the disputation, Eck debated once more with Karlstadt on new topics during the last three days, again making concessions in all points, agreeing that it is sin to do that which is in one, that free will without grace can do nothing but sin, that there is sin in every good work, and that it is grace itself which enables man to do what is in him in preparing for the reception of grace. All these things the scholastics deny. Therefore virtually nothing was treated in the manner which it deserved except my thirteenth thesis. Meanwhile Eck is pleased with himself, celebrates his victory, and rules the roost; but he will do so only until we have published our side of the debate. Because the debate turned out badly, I shall republish my Explanations Concerning the Value of Indulgences.

The citizens of Leipzig neither greeted nor called on us but treated us as though we were their bitterest enemies. Eck, however, they followed around town, clung to, banqueted, entertained, and finally presented with a robe and added a chamois-hair grown. They also rode horseback with him. In short, they did whatever they could to insult us. Furthermore they persuaded Caesar Pflug [the official host] and the prince [Duke George] that this pleased all concerned. One thing they did for us; they honored us, according to custom, with a drink of wine, which it would not have been safe for them to overlook. Those who were well disposed towards us, on the other hand, came to us in secret. Yet Dr. Auerbach, a very fair and just man, and Pistorious the younger, professor in ordinary, invited us. Even Duke George invited the three of us together on one occasion.

The most illustrious prince also called me to visit him alone and talked with me at length about my writings, especially my exposition of the Lord’s Prayer. He stated that the Bohemians were greatly encouraged by me and also that with my Lord’s Prayer I had caused confusion among many conscientious people who complained that they would not be able to pray one Lord’s Prayer in four days if they were compelled to listen to me, and much of a similar nature. But I was not so dull that I could not distinguish between the pipe and the piper. I was grieved that such a wise and pious prince as open to the influence of others and followed their opinions, especially when I saw and experienced how like a prince he spoke when he spoke his own thoughts.

The most recent exhibition of hatred was this: When on the day of Peter and Paul [June 29] I was summoned by our lord rector, the duke of Pomerania, to preach a sermon before his grace in the chapel of the castle, the report of this quickly filled the city, and men and women gathered in such numbers that I was compelled to preach in the debating hall, where all our professors and hostile observers had been stationed by invitation. The Gospel for this day [Matt. 16:13-19] clearly embraces both subjects of the debate. I got little thanks from the people of Leipzig.

Then Eck, stirred up against me, preached four sermons in different churches, publicly twisting and cutting into pieces what I had said. The would-be theologians had urged him to do this. No further opportunity was given me to preach, however, no matter how many people requested it. I could be accused and incriminated but not cleared. This is the way my enemies also acted in the debate, so that Eck, even though he represented the negative, always had the last word, which I did not have an opportunity to refute.

Finally, when Caesar Pflug heard that I had preached (he had not been present), he said, “I wish that Dr. Martin had saved his sermon for Wittenberg.” In short, I have experienced hatred before, but never more shameless or more impudent.

So here you have the whole tragedy. Dr. Hohannes Plawnitzer will tell you the rest, for he himself was also present and helped not a little in preventing the debate from being a complete fiasco. Since Eck and the people of Leipzig sought their own glory and not the truth at the debate, it is no wonder that it began badly and ended worse. Whereas we had hoped for harmony between the people of Wittenberg and Leipzig, they acted so hatefully that I fear that it will seem that discord and dislike were actually born here. This is the fruit of human glory. I, who really restrain my impetuosity, am still not able to dispel all dislike of them, for I am flesh and their hatred was very shameless and their injustice was very malicious in a matter so sacred and divine.

Farewell and commend me to the most illustrious prince

Your Martin Luther

Wednesday, July 20, 1519.

I met the honorable Vicar Staupitz in Grimma

 

 

 

Jesus Heals the Blind Man

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

The Bible in 3-D

Jesus Heals the Blind Man

What do you see?

Luke 18:35-43  Jesus Heals the Blind Man

35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

39 Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. 42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.

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The Miracle of Christ Healing the Blind Man by El Greco (1560)

Although Bartimaeus was born blind, blindness was a metaphor showing people had no faith. Isaiah and Paul speak of the unbelief of the people in Israel and Asia Minor as not seeing or understanding the revelation of the Messiah or Jesus Christ.

The life of a blind person was awful as the blind were forced to beg and frequently taken advantage of. Blindness, other than a natural condition associated with age, was mostly likely the result of infection from unsanitary conditions or trichinosis from pork.

Therefore, in this picture, El Greco demonstrated the great mercy of Christ in curing his blindness and filling him with the Holy Spirit. It is interesting that El Greco illustrates several people in his painting who appear to be oblivious to the miracle that is happening.

Martin Luther wrote that the book of the Acts of the Apostles is to emphasize the importance of how both Gentiles and Jews must be justified by faith without doing any merits or good works. The big picture of all the stories and events in Acts is how the Gospel or good news of the resurrection and salvation of Jesus Christ makes everything right for us. It is not about the faith of the apostles but it is about faith in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. We do not need to do anything else – just trust God!

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

 

Understanding the Debate within Churches Over Sexual Identity

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

The Bible in 3-D  

Understanding the Debate Within Churches Over Sexual Identity and Behavior

Why is there a Debate?

The purpose of this blog is to provide a perspective on the controversy over marriage and sexual behaviors in the institution of the “church.” Rather than taking a position, the intent of this article is to provide information on the affirmative and negative (status quo) side of the issue. Through discussion there should be an informed debate and understanding.

History of Debates

The church, as an institution, has had debates on theological and social issues over the centuries. The Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church divided in 1054 A.D. over the presence of statues, the date of Easter, and the authority of the Pope. The Protestant Reformation divided the Roman Catholic Church in 1517 over the authority of the Pope, forgiveness of sins, and the marriage of clergy. July 1519 marks the 500th year anniversary of the Leipzig Debate between Martin Luther and Johann Eck over the authority of God’s Word, the distinction between the law and the gospel, the errors of people and institutions, and the absolute forgiveness of sins by Jesus Christ. Andreas Karlstadt and Philipp Melanchton also contributed to the debate with Luther.

The house arrest of Galileo, Index of Prohibited Books, Inquisition, infallibility of the Pope, Scope’s Trial on the teaching of evolution in schools, contraception, population control, abortion, are examples of conflicts that have been debated by clergy and Christians. Some of these issues are still being debated within the church, society, and families.

The LGBT community represents almost 15% of the population in the United States, a significant minority with millions of American families accepting LGBT persons as family, neighbors, colleagues. In the decade of the 1920s following World War I, the gay community became more visible until the McCarthy Hearings in 1950. The 1969 Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village marked a turning point in the problems the LGBT community faced. Harvey Milk became the first openly gay politician who was elected to the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco in 1977. In the 1980s, the homosexual community was affected by the AIDS epidemic. This epidemic led to the identification of people seeking treatment and millions of others who died from AIDS. In 2003 Massachusetts became the first state to recognize gay marriage and today all 50 states (and the District of Columbia) recognize or perform same sex marriages in some capacity.

The Christian church has consistently taught that God knows us before we are born, is the creator of life, and calls people to faith in baptism. Many Christians understand marriage as either a sacrament or part of God’s plan and not necessarily the result of free will or a decision by two adults. It is similar to the “call” one receives to enter the holy ministry. The question of marriage and the amount of free will or foreknowledge by God is important to discuss.

The Church Proclaims God’s Grace

All are welcome

God’s timeless Word reveals His plan for humanity and His intentions for marriage and sexuality. God’s grace is for all who are baptized and believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Although churches may not approve or validated a same sex marriage, premarital sex, a change in gender from a birth certificate, prostitution, adultery, the church recognizes that the sinful nature of humanity impacts each of us. However, in Jesus Christ, we are forgiven and become a new creation.

Romans 3: 21-26: “But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood-to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished- 26he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

John 3: 16-17: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”

The Church Teaches God’s Love!

Galatians 5:14 “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

James 4:12 “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

Romans 13:8-10 “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.”

John 8:7-11 “When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

The Church Teaches That the Bible is the Inspired Word of God

Judaism and Christianity are “revealed religions” because they are based on God’s direct communication with His people on Earth through Abraham, Moses, prophets, and apostles.

The most explicit account of this is in Paul’s second letter to Timothy. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

When Jesus was with us on Earth, he unequivocally accepted the authority of Scripture and He applied it to every contemporary situation. When Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days after His baptism, he quoted the Bible in His encounters with Satan. He respected the faith of the Jews and corrected their unbelief.

Martin Luther spoke of the authority of the Bible at the Diet of Worms in 1521, “–unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason…I do not accept the authority of popes or councils, for they have contradicted each other…my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.” (Roland Bainton, Here I Stand)

When the church has been faced with challenges, as they were with the verse that the sun stood still, the creation of the world in seven days, the Great Flood, or the Virgin birth, the position has been that the translation is in error or the limitation of human understanding.

12 On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:

“Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.” 13 So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. 14 There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel! (Joshua: 10:12-14)

The Words of Scripture on Sexual Ethics

The verses below are not presented in an order of importance, except that I separated the verses in the Old Testament from the New Testament. They are provided only as information to explain the controversy or debate with some churches or between individuals. There is always the danger of citing a verse without offering the context in the Bible or the situation at the time.

The verses below are from the New Testament of the Bible:

Mark 10:6-9 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

 Romans 1:26-28 “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.”

 Hebrews 13:4 “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”

1 Timothy 1:8-11 “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.”

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

1 Corinthians 6:17-20 “But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

1 Corinthians 7:2 “But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.”

Jude 1:7-8 “In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. 8 In the very same way, on the strength of their dreams these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings.”

Matthew 19-6

The verses below are in the Old Testament of the Bible:

Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Genesis 2:24 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Leviticus 18:22 “‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.’”

Leviticus 20:13 “‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.’”

Perspective of Martin Luther

In the first five volumes of Luther’s collected works there are over one thousand explicit references to the verbal inspiration of Scripture! Martin Luther and John Calvin were very clear in their understanding that God is the author of the Bible and although it is written by people it is the inspired and revealed Word of God. Therefore, it is not appropriate to select or delete words, verses, or sections. The entire Bible must be accepted as the Word of God.

Martin Luther made no new claims concerning the nature of the Scripture. Luther writes “We must make a great difference between God’s Word and the word of man. A man’s word is a little sound, that flies in the air, and soon vanishes; but the Word of God is greater than heaven and earth, yea greater than death and hell, for it forms part of the power of God and endures everlastingly; we should therefore, diligently study God’s Word and assuredly believe that God Himself speaks to us.” (Martin Luther, 1848 “The Table Talk or Familiar Discourse of Martin Luther, tr. by W. Hazlitt”, 20)

Luther also wrote, “It is cursed unbelief and odious flesh which will not permit us to see and know that God speaks to us in Scripture and that it is God’s Word, but tells us that it is merely the word of Isaiah, Paul or some other man who has not created heaven and earth. (Robert Preus, “Luther: Word, Doctrine and Confession” Doctrine Is Life: Essays on Scripture. St. Louis: Concordia, 2006, 264)

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

 

 

On the Road: Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch

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

The Bible in 3-D

 On the Road with Philip and the Ethiopian

 Do you have a spiritual appetite?

Acts 8:26-40  Philip and the Ethiopian 

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet.

29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” 30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants?
    For his life was taken from the earth.”

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?”

 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” 37 Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” The eunuch answered, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

Philip+Baptizes+the+Eunuch

Philip Baptizes the Ethiopian by Maerten Jacobz van Heemskerck (16th Century)

Rembrandt,_The_Baptism_of_the_Eunuch,_1626,_Museum_Catharijneconvent,_UtrechtThe Baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch by Rembrandt (1626)

The Ethiopian eunuch might be considered as the personal assistant to the Queen of Ethiopia. Philip is one of the twelve apostles and was brought to faith by Jesus Christ (John 1:43). We do not know much about Philip but from the account of the miracle of feeding the 5,000 with a few loaves of bread and even less fish. Philip is described as reserved and practical and I find that I can identify with him. But God uses Philip in important ways by introducing people to him.

I recently went to a dinner party and when a couple learned my name, they asked me if I was the author of a blog on the Bible. I write but do not often talk to others about this blog. This is my understanding that God uses people like me to introduce faith to others.

The Book of Acts includes the story of many people came to faith in Jesus Christ as a result of talking with a Christian. The ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus was viral in the first century and talked about everywhere in the Roman Empire and with this account we see that it had spread as far south as Ethiopia. We know that Paul and Cornelius accepted Jesus Christ through an encounter with a believer.

We do not know if the Ethiopian was traveling to Jerusalem on business (likely) or if he came to worship in the temple. We know that he is familiar with the Book of Isaiah and searching for answers about life or God or both. He does not hesitate to be baptized. The story is one Martin Luther never preached on even though the baptism of the Ethiopian marks the beginning of the Christian Church in Ethiopia.

Life on this planet comes down to one thing – it is only through faith in Jesus Christ, without law and works, that we experience grace and are justified.

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

 

 

 

The Boy Jesus in the Temple

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

The Bible in 3-D

The Boy Jesus in the Temple

Why is it easy to lose trust or faith in God quickly?

Luke 2: 41-52:   41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

49 Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

jesus-in-the-temple-william_holman_hunt

The Finding of the Savior in the Temple by William Holman Hunt (1854-60)

I learned there are few paintings of this important story in the Bible and that the few painted are from the 16th century, with the one by Albrecht Durer being one that is most viewed. This is one of the last paintings made and William Hunt traveled to the Holy Land to research the geography and culture.

In his Epiphany sermon in 1523, Luther took the opportunity to remind his congregation of the anguish and distress of a mother who does not know where her child is. It is easy to lose our trust and confidence in God when our fears control they way we think.

He paints the rabbis or doctors of the law in traditional clothing symbolizing the Establishment and those who resisted the new teachings of Jesus Christ. Perhaps the one man standing, who appears most engaged in the Socratic discussion is open to what the young Jesus is saying.

Hunt also shows Jesus as a human being without any suggestion with symbols or halos that He is “Christ, the Savior.” Jesus is pictured as obedient and his family appears dressed in ordinary clothing.

Luther’s words: “When God vouchsafes to us a strong faith and a firm trust in him, so that we are assured he is our gracious God and we can depend upon him, then we are in paradise. But when God permits our hearts to be discouraged and we believe that He takes from us Christ our Lord; when our conscience feels that we have lost Him and amidst trembling and despair our confidence is gone, then we are truly in misery and distress. For even if we are not conscious of any special sin, yet in such a condition we tremble and doubt whether God still cares for us; just as Mary here doubts and knows not whether God still deems her worthy to be the mother of his Son.

Our heart thinks in the time of trial thus: God has indeed given me a strong faith, but perhaps He will take it from me and will no longer want me as His child. Only strong minds can endure such temptations and there are not many people whom God tests to this degree. Yet we must be prepared, so that we may not despair if such trials should come upon us.”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Hymn Parade – How Great is Our God!

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022
The Bible in 3-D

How Great is Our God by Chris Tomlin

How is the miracle of faith changing your life?

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpIcqoKOz2M 

The splendor of a King, clothed in majesty
Let all the Earth rejoice
All the Earth rejoice

He wraps himself in light
And darkness tries to hide
And trembles at His voice
Trembles at His voice

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God.

Age to age He stands
And time is in His hands
Beginning and the end

The Godhead Three in One
Father Spirit Son
The Lion and the Lamb
The Lion and the Lamb

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God.

Name above all names
Worthy of our praise
My heart will sing
How great is our God

You’re the name above all names
You are worthy of our praise
And my heart will sing
How great is our God

How Great is our God Tomlin

 Psalm 33:8“Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!”

Psalm 89:16“who exult in your name all the day and in your righteousness are exalted.”

Psalm 104:1“Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty,”

Psalm 119:73“Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.”

Isaiah 66:2“All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”

2 Chronicles 2:5“The temple I am going to build will be great, because our God is greater than all other gods.”

 

Martin Luther preached to a person’s heart rather than to a person’s intellect. God is great in our lives because faith changes us from a person of unbelief into a loving person filled with God’s grace and presence. This is so simple and yet we make it impossible to accept and understand. Read the excerpt below from Martin Luther’s sermon in 1523 on the ascension of Jesus to heaven based on the text in Mark 16:

“Thus, there is no need of your demanding good works of him who believes, for faith teaches him all that; and, being done in faith, all he does is well done and all are good and precious works, however insignificant they may seem. Faith is such a noble thing that it ennobles the whole man.”

Now, it is not possible for a man to live on earth and not have anything to do. Hence all such works as are done by faith are precious works….Hence, the statement of St. Paul to the Romans 14:23:Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” As though he would say, on the contrary: Whatsoever is of faith is all grace and righteousness; that is a foregone conclusion. Hence, there is no need of asking whether good works shall be done, for they come of themselves, unbidden. Such is also the sense of the Psalmist, Psalm 25:10: “All the paths of Jehovah are lovingkindness and truth.”  That is to say, when God works and creates faith in us, all that we do is lovingkindness, and all is truth; that is, all is done sincerely and not from hypocrisy. It follows, however, on the other hand, that all the ways of men are not lovingkindness but sheerest wrath not truth but mere sham and hypocrisy, because they spring from unbelief.”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

Jesus Talks with the Woman at the Well

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022
The Bible in 3-D  (Text, Image, Perspective)

 Jesus Talks with the Woman at the Well in Samaria

 Does God really know everything about us?

 John 4:1-26 and 39-42:  Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.

42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Guercino_-_Jesus_and_the_Samaritan_Woman_at_the_Well

Christ and the Woman of Samaria by Guercino (1640, Madrid)

The conversation between Christ and the woman of Samaria at the well is only recorded in the Gospel of Saint John. Christ, travelling to Galilee, reached the Samarian city of Sychar. While the disciples went ahead into the city to buy food, Christ sat down to rest by a fountain. A woman approached the well to draw water and Christ requested water to drink. Surprised, the woman questioned why a Jew was asking her for water, given that Samaritans and Jews had no dealings with each other. The woman, who had had five husbands and lived with a man (as Christ knew), began a conversation with Jesus about “living water.” Guercino’s (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri) painting depicts a moment in the conversation between Christ and the Samaritan woman. The story of Jesus and the woman from Samaria is one of the most popular paintings made for individuals in their homes in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Martin Luther makes reference to this story in his Commentary on Galatians.

“So then, have we nothing to do to obtain righteousness? No, nothing at all! For this righteousness comes by doing nothing, hearing nothing, knowing nothing, but rather in knowing and believing this only – that Christ has gone to the right hand of the Father, not to become our judge, but to become for us our wisdom, our righteousness, our holiness, our salvation!

Now God sees no sin in us. For in this heavenly righteousness, sin has no place. So now we may certainly think. “Although I still sin, I don’t despair, because Christ lives – who is both my righteousness and my eternal life.” In that righteousness I have no sin, no fear, no guilty conscience, no fear of death. I am indeed a sinner in this life of mine, and in my own righteousness, but I have another life, another righteousness above this life, which is in Christ, the Son of God, who knows no sin or death, but is eternal righteousness and eternal life. For if the truth of being justified by Christ alone (not by works) is lost, then all Christian truths are lost. On this truth the church is built and has its being.”

Many theologians use this story to explain baptism, inclusion, cultural assimilation, and the conversion of Gentiles to faith in Jesus Christ. My observation for your reflection is that Jesus knew everything about this woman’s personal life. For me, it is a comfort and even a blessing to know that Jesus Christ is a personal Savior who knows, understands, accepts, and forgives all of my imperfections, mistakes, and failures. He also knows my heart and silent thoughts, my greatest fears, and my aches and pain. As Martin Luther explicitly proclaimed above, “but I have another life, another righteousness above this life, which is in Christ, the Son of God, who knows no sin or death, but is eternal righteousness and eternal life.”

Please continue this conversation with another person.

hbitten@reverendluther.org

Jesus Teaches the Children

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

The Bible in 3-D 

Jesus Teaches the Children

How do we educate our soul?

 Matthew 19:14: Jesus said, Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Luke 18:15-16: 15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.:

George Hinke painted this in 1953, a few weeks before he died. He was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1883 and schooled in a classic style of painting.  Mr. Hinke came to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1923, where he worked at a printing shop. People are very familiar with his Norman Rockwell styled paintings of the images of Santa Claus.

Hincke-Jesus Teaches Children

Martin Luther explained his views of children and their relationship to Jesus and parents in his Table Talks as recorded by the young pastors he taught in his home. The home and church are places we gather for the education of our soul.

“From this truth there are two important principles of child-rearing that parents must bear in mind when setting themselves to the task of training their children. 

First, parents must remember that their children are depraved from birth. Children from birth have derived corruption from their original parent by the propagation of a vicious nature. Passed on to them according to their first birth is blindness of mind, horrible darkness, vanity and perverseness of judgment, wickedness, rebellion, stubbornness and impurity. That tiny infant who lies asleep in mother’s arms a picture of contentment and peace, that infant who so often fills mother’s and father’s heart with overwhelming love and emotion, that infant is a depraved sinner. It may be hard to believe. We may not want to believe it. But we as parents have passed along to our children our corruption. We must recognize and deal with the sin that is found in our children from infancy on.

The second truth Christian parents must keep in mind in training their children is their need for the cross of Jesus Christ. This does not mean, of course, that as parents we must attempt to convert our children. It does not mean that our children are without Christ until later in life. We certainly baptize our infant children with this assurance in mind, “… for as they (our children) are without their knowledge partakers of the condemnation in Adam, so are they again received unto grace in Christ.”

Parents, however, are called to instruct their children concerning their daily need for sorrow over sin and forgiveness in the cross of Christ. Children must be trained to bow in humility before God and confess their sins. They must be reminded constantly to seek for their righteousness not in themselves but in the cross of Christ alone. Likewise, children must be taught to walk in daily conversion before God, mortifying the old man of sin and putting on the new man in Christ. From infancy on, a child must be trained to hate sin and to live a life of thankfulness before God.”

That this was Martin Luther’s view of the training of children comes to light in the advice he gives parents concerning the method of training their children. Though Luther spends time on many different aspects of Christian pedagogy, we concentrate on only three of them.

In the first place, Luther presents instruction to parents, which we, who live in an age of prosperity and affluence, do well to heed. Parents must not spoil their children. Parents can do this in various ways. They can, when their children are young, ignore their wrongs (sins) and, instead of reprimanding or disciplining them, pass off what they do as minor or even cute. Luther spoke these appropriate words in a sermon on the fourth commandment.

The first destroyers of their own children are those who neglect them and knowingly permit them to grow up without the training and admonition of the Lord. Even if they do not harm them by a bad example, they still destroy them by yielding to them. They love them too much according to the flesh and pamper them saying: They are children, they do not understand what they are doing. And they are speaking the truth. But neither does a dog or a horse or a mule understand what it is doing. However, see how they learn to go, to come, to obey, to do and leave undone what they do not understand. … These parents will, therefore, bear the sins of their children because they make these sins their own.

A parent must never allow his children, no matter what their age, to do wrong and view it as mere ignorance of what is right.”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Hincke-Santaclaus

George Hinke. Selection from his series on Santa Claus.

 

The Widow’s Offering

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

The Bible in 3-D  (Text, Image, Perspective)

 The Widow’s Offering

How has God invested in each of us?

 Mark 12:41-44   The Widow’s Offering

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Widow's Mite

The Widow’s Mite (Le denier de la veuve), by James Tissot, 1886-1894

Martin Luther did not preach on this parable but the perspective of Rev. David Lose, past president of the Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia offers a contemporary perspective on stewardship and using all of the gifts God gives to each of us.

“Stewardship is not, ultimately, about what we give to the church. Rather, stewardship reflects a conviction that everything we have has been entrusted to us by God. Therefore, stewardship is concerned with helping us use all that we have wisely – that is, as God would have us use it.

Read this way, Jesus words about the widow push us to expect more of ourselves and our congregations and take seriously that everything we have – gifts, abilities, challenges, wealth, assets, time, opportunities – all of this comes from God with an expectation to use it in accord with the ethics and patterns of the “anti-kingdom” Jesus has been proclaiming.”  http://www.davidlose.net/2012/10/mark-12-41-44-2/

Think about what our world would be like if the Words of Jesus and the Bible were never written, lost, destroyed, or never translated into the languages we understand.  The Bible is the source of truth in a time when Truth is challenged and questioned.  The Bible reveals to us God’s love and grace, His promises, and His daily involvement in our lives.

The 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s translation of the New Testament into German and the printing of the Bible is perhaps the most important event in World History regarding the importance of God’s Words in art, literature, music, and the impact on individual lives.

How can we best prepare to celebrate this historic event in 1522?

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

 

Hymn Parade – These Are the Days of Elijah

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

Bible Verses That Influenced Hymns

Days of Elijah – Robin Mark (1994)

 How do the events of our lifetime show examples of extreme suffering and the presence of evil?

These are the days of Elijah/Declaring the word of the Lord, yeah/And these are the days of Your servant, Moses/Righteousness being restored.

 These are the days of great trials/Of famine and darkness and sword/Still we are the voice in the desert crying/Prepare ye the way of the Lord!

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MtdyRDy4fU (by U.S. Marines)

These are the days of Elijah declaring the Word of the Lord

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? Romans 10:14

And these are the days of Your servant Moses righteousness being restored

Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous. Romans 5:19

And though these are days of great trials of famine and darkness and sword

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written:  “For your sake we face death all day long;  we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” Romans 8:35-36

Still we are the voice in the desert crying prepare ye the way of the Lord

 A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Isaiah 40:3

[Chorus] Behold He comes riding on the clouds

 Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. Revelation 1:7

Shining like the sun at the trumpet call

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52

So lift your voice it’s the year of Jubilee

Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clanLeviticus 25:9-10

And out of Zion’s hill salvation comes!

Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation,  gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9

The lyrics to this song were inspired by the tragedy of the Rwandan civil war in 1994, which claimed the lives of 1 million innocent people. The people of Israel felt helpless in the 9th century B.C.E. in a divided country living in a foreign culture under King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. The people of Israel who believed in God faced persecution and death if they did not worship the statue of Baal. Elijah stood up against the false religious system and spoke for God, the Creator of heaven and earth.

I felt in my spirit that He replied to my prayer by saying that indeed He was very much in control and that the days we were living in were special times when He would require Christians to be filled with integrity and to stand up for Him just like Elijah did, particularly with the prophets of Baal. “These are ‘Elijah’ days”. Elijah’s story is in the book of Kings and you can read how he felt isolated and alone in the culture in which he lived. But God told him to stand up and speak for Him. When Elijah called to God for fire and it came, the people realized the truth. Unfortunately for Elijah, he had to hide in the wilderness to escape the wrath of Queen Jezebel.

The references to famine and trials, darkness and swords are the story of world history, including the conflicts in our 21st century world. The song, especially the chorus reminds us of the hope that is ours in Jesus Christ. This is why we worship and desire to be in the presence of God!

Mount-Carmel1

Statue of Elijah at Mt. Carmel in Israel.

Elijah is calling upon God to set fire to the altar to demonstrate His almighty power in heaven and on earth.

In his sermon on Christmas morning in 1525, Martin Luther commented on the “days of Elijah” and his coming to earth before the coming of Christ: “But first we must answer the inquiry liable to be made, If the voice of God today is the last message, why is it said that Elijah and Enoch shall come, opposing Antichrist?

I answer: Concerning the advent of Elijah, I hold that he will not come in a physical manner. As to the coming of Elijah I am suspended between heaven and earth, but I am inclined to believe it will not take place bodily. However, I will not contend hard against the other view. Each may believe or not believe it, as he likes. I well know St. Augustine has somewhere said, ‘The advent of Elijah and of Antichrist is firmly fixed in the belief of all Christians. But I also know there is no statement of Scripture to substantiate his assertion.

Malachi’s prophecy concerning the coming of Elijah (Malachi 4:5) the angel Gabriel makes reference to John the Baptist (Luke 1:17), and Christ does the same even more explicitly where He says in Mark 9:13, ‘But I say unto you that Elijah is come, and they have also done to him whatsoever they would, even as it is written of him, ‘Now, if John is the Elijah of the prophecy, as the Lord here says he was, the prediction of Malachi is already fulfilled. And there is nothing more prophesied concerning the coming of Elijah. The statement the Lord made just previously to the one quoted, ‘Elijah indeed cometh first, and restoreth all things,’ may be fairly interpreted to mean that Christ, referring to the office of John, practically says: ‘Yes, I well know Elijah must first come and restore all things, but he has already come and accomplished it.’

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org