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

 

 

 

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!

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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

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.

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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

 

Ascension of Jesus Christ to Heaven!

Ascension of Jesus Christ into Heaven

 How do you understand the perspective of the Ascension of Jesus to Heaven?

 Acts 1: 6-11     So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”

He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”

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The Ascension by Dosso Dossi, 1520

The Ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven is documented as 40 days after His resurrection on Easter. It is one of the most important dates in the Church and it is a statement of faith in the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds. It is accepted by Roman Catholics, the Eastern and Russian Orthodox Churches, and Protestants.

He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the living and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

It is through faith that we understand heaven as the community of all believers or what has been called the invisible church. There are many things we cannot see or understand in this life and perhaps an analogy is that microscopes help us to see molecules, telescopes the depth of space, and magnetic reasoning images the secrets of our body, we are able to see heaven through faith and the reading of God’s Words.

The people of this world will challenge our faith and instincts which is why our understanding, explanation, and actions are powerful illustrations of God’s kingdom and heaven.

Saint Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:15-16, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence.”

This is Scripture and this is God’s Word, which is greater than all understanding and reason. The Scriptures document the truth – authentic news and not fake news.

 In 1534 Martin Luther preached on Ascension Day. Luther speaks about the history and the fruit of the ascension. This history states what happened, how Christ was taken up and hidden by a cloud. If this is preached only as history, Luther says, it does not benefit us. Yet it is preached for our sake!

As he preaches the fruit and use of the ascension for us, Luther proclaims that Christ has made captive all those things that held us captive. Sin, death, devil, etc. no longer hold us captive. Christ has bound them in captivity on high. Since Christ has captured our captors, we are now free from the things that would hold us captive before God: sin, death, hell, and the devil. Luther is drawing here on Ephesians 4:8.

A key fruit of this for us is that we are free from sin. Luther says that we can now taunt sin. If sin threatens to terrify us, we can say to sin: “You are my servant, I am your lord. This is one component of being free from sin, the freedom from fear before God. Another component is the freedom to turn away from sin. Luther preaches both components:

“If you believe in Christ, then the text says that you believe that He sits above, and that He has taken captive my captivity, that is, my sin. In what way? It should not terrify me before God…. I believe in Him who is above, who has captured sin.

Free in Christ, we can stand against temptations because Christ has led sin into captivity by His ascension.

hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

 

Hymn Parade – I Know That My Redeemer Lives!

Hymn Parade – I Know that My Redeemer Lives by Samuel Medley (1865)

How does Jesus Christ change the way we understand life and people?

Job 19:25    I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgY-da_w36Y

1 I know that my Redeemer lives; what comfort this sweet sentence gives! He lives, He lives, who once was dead; He lives, my everliving Head.

2 He lives triumphant from the grave, He lives eternally to save, He lives all-glorious in the sky, He lives exalted there on high.

3 He lives to bless me with His love, He lives to plead for me above, He lives my hungry soul to feed, He lives to help in time of need.

4 He lives to grant me rich supply, He lives to guide me with His eye, He lives to comfort me when faint, He live to hear my soul’s complaint.

5 He lives to silence all my fears, He lives to wipe away my tears, He lives to calm my troubled heart, He lives all blessings to impart.

6 He lives, my kind, wise, heav’nly friend, He lives and loves me to the end; He lives, and while He lives, I’ll sing; He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King.

7 He lives and grants me daily breath; He lives and I shall conquer death; He lives my mansion to prepare; He lives to bring me safely there.

8 He lives, all glory to His name! He lives, my Jesus, still the same. Oh, the sweet joy this sentence gives, “I know that my Redeemer lives!”

Women-at-Tomb

Samuel Medley was introduced to the stories of the Bible by his grandfather but gave them little attention. It was during the Seven Years War (1756-1763, also called the French and Indian War in the Americas) when he was injured in a naval battle that he feared for his life. He prayed without stopping throughout the night that his leg would not need to be amputated and his life spared from death by infection. In the morning, his wound showed a miraculous sign of healing. He was retired from the military and attended a worship service at the Baptist Church on Eagle street and following a sermon he wrote the words to I Know that My Redeemer Lives! He opened a school and began a ministry to seamen.

Emma Smith composed the melody in 1835 and titled it “Duke Street,” which was his address in London.

Martin Luther, wrote: Aber ich weiß, daß mein Erlöser lebt, und als der letzte wird er über dem Staub sich erheben. Und ist meine Haut noch so zerschlagen und mein Fleisch dahingeschwunden, so werde ich doch Gott sehen.

 Ich selbst werde ihn sehen, meine Augen werden ihn schauen und kein Fremder. Danach sehnt sich mein Herz in meiner Brust.

Translation: But I know that my Redeemer lives, and as the last He will rise above the dust. And if my skin is still so broken and my flesh is gone, then I will see God.

I’ll see Him myself, my eyes will look at him and not a stranger. After that, my heart is yearning in my chest.

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

Hymn Parade – When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

Hymn Parade: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by Isaac Watts (1707)

 To what extent is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ the single most important event in world history?

Galatians 6:14     May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQlJm-5_Ll4

  1. When I survey the wondrous cross On which the Prince of glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride.
  2. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, Save in the death of Christ my God! All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.
  3. See from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down! Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
  4. Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Isaac Watts (1674–1748) wrote hymns that reflected the theme of the sermon and in a poetic style that was ideal for congregational singing. Before Isaac Watts, hymns often supplemented the Psalms or based on the strict interpretation of Scripture. Isaac Watts is credited with writing 750 hymns! The hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross is inspired by the most important event in human and personal history!

Peter_Paul_Rubens_-_Christ_on_the_Cross

Christ on the Cross was painted in 1627 by Peter Paul Rubens

In this painting, Jesus Christ is shown crucified on a cross with three women beneath him weeping with sympathy. Jesus is based in the center of the painting to clearly state the importance of His sacrifice and that the subject of this painting is religious. The use of darker colors makes the sacrifice of Jesus to appear as sympathetic and personal for the viewer. Imagine the impact of the perspective of this painting around the same time as the Pilgrims and Puritans were coming to Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colony.

Martin Luther wrote in his commentary on Galatians 6:14: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. “God forbid,” says the Apostle, “that I should glory in anything as dangerous as the false apostles glory in because what they glory in is a poison that destroys many souls, and I wish it were buried in hell. Let them glory in the flesh if they wish and let them perish in their glory. As for me I glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

He expresses the same sentiment in the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, where he (Paul) says: “We glory in tribulations”; and in the twelfth chapter of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians: “Most gladly, therefore, will l rather glory in my infirmities.” According to these expressions the glory of a Christian consists in tribulations, reproaches, and infirmities.

But the Cross of Christ is not to be understood here as the two pieces of wood to which He was nailed, because it is all the afflictions of the believers whose sufferings are Christ’s sufferings. Elsewhere Paul writes: “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church.” (Colossians 1:24)

It is good for us to know this lest we sink into despair when our opponents persecute us. Let us bear the cross for Christ’s sake. It will ease our sufferings and make them light as Christ says in Matthew 11:30, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

By whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. “The world is crucified unto me,” means that I condemn the world. “I am crucified unto the world,” means that the world in turn condemns me. I detest the doctrine, the self-righteousness, and the works of the world. The world in turn detests my doctrine and condemns me as a revolutionary heretic. Thus the world is crucified unto us and we unto the world.

In this verse Paul expresses his hatred of the world. The hatred was mutual. As Paul, so we are to despise the world and the devil. With Christ on our side we can defy him and say: “Satan, the more you hurt me, the more I oppose you.”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

 

Jesus Enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday

Jesus Enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday

What question would you ask Jesus if you saw Him?

Matthew 21: 1-11   As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”   11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Giotto Entry into Jerusalem

The Entry into Jerusalem by Giotto di Bondone (1305)

The Entry into Jerusalem is told in detail in all four gospels indicating its importance for Jesus and our salvation. Although this may not be the most descriptive painting of Palm Sunday, it reminds me of the importance of continuity over time as this fresco was painted over 700 years ago! The historical evidence of Holy Week is in the documented love and grace of Jesus Christ!

Jesus is the center and His face is filled with peace and reflection as the crowds to the left rip off branches and take off their outer garments. This moment is not about Jesus but it is all about the people – the apostles on the left who believed Jesus as their Savior and those on the right who are looking for a savior. The artist is aware of the violent death Jesus will face in a few days. We see the reaction of Martin Luther below in his commentary on Palm Sunday as the people asked: “Who is this?”

Martin Luther’s perspective is one that is likely to appear shocking to us in the 21st century because they should have known who Jesus is! “Therefore, it is truly a disgraceful question when they ask who He is in Matthew 21:10, as if they did not know Him and as if the temple, the city, and everything belonged to them. He answers them with a question, however, and sets before them John the Baptist. He asks them where John’s Baptism is from. The common people and children give them a fine answer and say: ‘Have you not heard of John’s testimony? This is Jesus, the prophet from Galilee’ in Matthew 21:11.

They have to fall silent. They cannot allow themselves to answer Christ’s question by saying that John the Baptist’s Baptism is from men, for the people regarded him as a prophet (v. 26) And as they say here: “The prophet comes from Galilee.” (verse 11). The people say, ‘He is Jesus, the prophet.’ And the very word ‘prophet’ is for them like a clap of thunder. This was not to be trifled with, for the people believed that a prophet held the highest authority in spiritual matters. Whatever he might order of command must be done….

For the Lord did not ride in to stir up a revolt or to usurp the government , but He did want to clean out and reform the temple. (Matthew 21: 12-17) And for that reason He attacks only those who are in the spiritual government, to which He was called, and enters the temple as the true Messiah and Lord.”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

Joseph Resists the Advances of Potiphar’s Wife

Joseph Resists the Advances of Potiphar’s Wife

Why did God allow Joseph to go to prison after resisting adultery?

Genesis 39:7-23 Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!”

But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” 10 And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.

11 One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12 She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.

13 When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, 14 she called her household servants. “Look,” she said to them, “this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. 15 When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”

16 She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. 17 Then she told him this story: “That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. 18 But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”

19 When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. 20 Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.

But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. 22 So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23 The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.

300px-Guido_Reni_(Italian_-_Joseph_and_Potiphar's_Wife_-_Google_Art_Project

Joseph likely came to Egypt around the time of the Hyksos invasion around 1900-1850 B.C.E. or 400 years before the Exodus. He was purchased by Potiphar, the captain of the Pharaoh’s guard. He was recognized for his ability and promoted to manager of the household.

Although Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him on several occasions, Joseph resisted her temptations. Rembrandt captures this moment of moral strength by raising his left hand to shield himself from her and attempts to leave the room. During a physical struggle, Potiphar’s wife grabs Joseph’s robe and accuses him of rape. Unfortunately for Joseph, his robe was sufficient evidence to convict him or rape and he is sent to prison.

Luther respected Joseph’s resistance to the temptations of seduction and encouraged chaste living in his sermons and lectures. Although he was sent to prison, his trust and faith in God became stronger instead of weaker. Luther understands this as an example of trust.

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

The Creation of the World

The Creation of the World

How did God create our world: life, planet, universe, and beyond?

Genesis 2: 4-8: This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.

Genesis 2:19-25:  19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib[h] he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” 24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

Isaiah 40:25,26: 25 “To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

Creation-Michelangelo

The Creation by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel

God is depicted as an elderly, yet muscular, man with grey hair and a long beard. This is dramatically different from previous images of God wearing royal garments. Instead of showing God as an all-powerful ruler, Michelangelo shows God in a light tunic in a personal and intimate person.

Adam is depicted as a lounging figure who rather lackadaisically responds to God’s imminent touch.  This touch will not only give life to Adam, but will give life to all mankind.  It is, therefore, the birth of the human race.

Creation_Eve-Michelangelo

The Creation of Eve by Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel

In the panel on the Creation of Eve, God is actively interacting with Eve and depicted as a man of wisdom while Adam continues in a deep sleep and unaware of the miracle taking place or the temptation to sin (a death sentence) that he will experience.  God’s wisdom includes the birth of His Son through another miracle in Mary – a Son who will give us the miracle of grace and the promise of salvation.

The painting is in the center of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It is interesting to see how God is larger than the painting as His head does not appear to fit within the frame. For Michelangelo, there is no doubt that God created the earth and the universe.

141203_creationChart.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediumlarge

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/human_nature/2014/12/creationism_poll_how_many_americans_believe_the_bible_is_literal_inerrant.html

Luther: In Luther’s lectures on the biblical creation account in Genesis 1:1- 2:4, it was not so much the concept of “creation out of nothing,” but the idea of ultimate creation, preservation, and governance by God’s spoken word that formed the main emphasis. Luther gives us his picture of God’s personal nature and caring character in his lectures.

Luther came to understand a personal God through the spoken word of God in the words, “God said.” This is why Luther understood the spoken Word of God to us in the Bible and through sermons and songs shows the creative activity of how God’s Word works in our lives. hat the various creation acts are preceded by the phrase “God said” was a circumstance that Luther regarded as a reference to the creative activity of the Word.

According to Luther, the action verbs—said, made, and saw—were intentionally chosen to assist the reader in understanding more clearly the doctrine of the Trinity. Luther distinguished between an unspoken and a spoken word in God. The unspoken Word was one with God and the spoken Word created all things. God created all things through the uncreated Word by speaking.

Luther sensed that the statement “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:27) was intended to explain the divine mystery that “from eternity there is one God and that there are three separate Persons in one Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”9   In this perspective, Luther viewed everything in the account as a revelation of God’s love and grace. The creation of the heavenly bodies, the physical conditions of the Earth, and the plant life reveal God’s character as He prepared “a home and an inn” for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and furnished it with every joyful thing for them to enjoy.

In this way God had already taken care of human needs even before He created humans, suggesting that divine providence is far greater than our “anxiety.” The heavenly bodies—Sun, Moon, and stars—were intended for the counting of time in days, months, seasons, and years. Luther emphasized that God repeatedly expressed His satisfaction and delight with the results of His creation. It was perfect!

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

The Wise Men Visit Jesus

The Visit of the Kings

Is God visible or invisible in our lives and world?

Matthew 2:1-12: After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,     are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler     who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Opnamedatum: 2010-02-18

Adoration of the Kings, by Hendrik ter Brugghen (1619)

The richly garbed kings are full of reverence as they offer their gifts with the young toddler, Jesus, grasping at the gifts as all babies do. Brugghen suggests the wise men or kings knew the importance of the birth of Jesus. Jesus will be the savior of all nations and people!

Martin Luther: In his 1522 sermon for Epiphany, Luther used the example of the Magi to emphasize that the priests and educated of Israel knew the Scriptures but failed to understand and assimilate them. Instead they allowed a foreign king, Herod, to cultivate their fear and dismiss this as fake news. Luther ponders that even if they believed God’s Word on the prophecy of a savior as truth, they frustrated it.

Instead, the Magi were prepared to leave their homes and possessions and search for the birthplace of Jesus Christ. They studied the Scriptures and recognized the star. When they arrived in Jerusalem they did not ask for Annas or Caiaphas, priests, or an address. They asked where they would find the King of the Jews! Luther concluded that God works in opposites, He appears in unlikely places, with ordinary people, and hidden from what we might expect. (Robert Kolb. Luther and the Stories of God, p. 129)

“From this we can easily conclude why Christ had to die and rise again in order to rule spiritually to all eternity. For though the passage here proves that He had to become a true natural man, it yet follows that He had to change this bodily life into a spiritual invisible life, as it was impossible for Him to rule bodily as widely and as long as the prophet indicates.

Micah continues and says: “Therefore will he give them up until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the residue of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. And he shall stand and shall feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God: and they shall abide; for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.”

From these words it is clear that Christ’s kingdom should be extended to the ends of the earth by preaching and suffering, of which the prophet says that in the majesty of the name of Jehovah He would preach and feed his flock, showing also that He would be persecuted on account of his preaching. Therefore the prophet also says that they should be given a respite as to their temporal existence and government until a new people had been born. The woman in travail represents the little flock of the apostles which during the sufferings of Christ was in the agony of the birth of a new spiritual people for this ruler of Israel, as Christ Himself foretells, John 16:2. “Then Herod privately called the Wise-men, and learned of them exactly what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, Go and search out exactly concerning the young child; and when ye have found Him, bring me word, that I also may come and worship Him.”

From this text we learn that the wise men were not kings nor princes, but common, honest people, like the learned and the clergy. Herod does not treat them as belonging to royalty, but sends them to Bethlehem, tells them to attend to their mission, and, as if they were his subjects, commands them to bring him word again. He would not have done this if they had been kings or lords; he would have invited them to his palace, accompanied them on their journey, and treated them with great honor. For all historians agree that Herod was a pompous man, who knew how to treat people royally after the way of the world, and wished to be admired by the people.

As, however, he calls the men privately and without display and parade they must have been of much lower rank than he was.

But why does he call them privately, since the land was his and in his full control? He did it for this reason. He knew quite well that the Jews were his sworn enemies and wished to be rid of him. He was afraid, therefore, that if he called the men publicly and the Jews became aware of it, they would go to the wise men and enjoin them not to acquaint Herod with the true state of affairs, so that the new king may live before his eyes.

When he asks them about the time of the star he does it out of the same anxiety. He was already resolved in his heart to slay the innocent children.

He reasoned thus: If the new king is born the Jews will rejoice, and will secrete him for a while until he is grown up, and then will espouse his cause, put him on the throne and banish me. I must forestall them, therefore, and carefully inquire into the time of His birth; and although He is hidden from me I shall still find Him amongst the people when I slay all the children, and their disguise will avail them nothing. He pursues this plan diligently so that the new king might be made known to him, commands the wise men to bring him word again, and puts on a pious and devout face as if he wished to worship the child also.”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Massacre of Innocents PP Rubens 1609-11Massacre of the Innocents by Peter Paul Rubens (1609-1611)