Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Promises of Divine Mercy Never Fail

Advent and Christmas Message by Dr. Walter A. Maier (Lutheran Hour Speaker)

Christian News, Vol. 50, No. 48
December 17, 2012

 Thank God, divine mercy triumphs over divine warning! Thank God, we can exult, “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Though “heaven and earth shall pass away,” God’s promises remain the unshaken, eternal truth itself. Doubt any fact of secular history that you will. Put a question-mark behind any of the axiom truths of science if you must. Contradict your own experience if you care to. But do not question this supreme verity, that God loves us with that everlasting affection which makes His pledges the sure word of unchanging grace.

Now, if an inquiring soul demands, “How can I be sure that God loves me?” “How can I come to the immovable faith that the sins which separate me from God have been removed?” What better can we do, particularly in these weeks commemorating our Savior’s advent into the flesh, than point to the sure prophetic word of love and its fulfillment in the Christ-child of Bethlehem? Here, in the majestic train of Old Testament prophecies and in the marvels of New Testament fulfillment concerning the Savior’s birth, life, death, and resurrection, we have, the most awe-inspiring, faith-instilling truth of all history. Go back with me to that tragic day when the gates of Paradise were to swing closed upon the outcast parents of the race. Hardly had sin entered the world, when a Redeemer was promised – human because He was the woman’s seed, yet divine because He was to perform the superhuman task of destroying sin. Ages roll on, and to Abraham and the Hebrew nation is given the pledged assurance that in his seed “all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” Of Abraham’s descendants Jacob, and of Jacob’s Judah, is chosen. Centuries are heaped upon centuries, and David is told that the promised Deliverer will be of his royal house and lineage. The prophet Micah foresees Bethlehem as the royal birthplace. Isaiah speaks of the virgin mother. Even more sharply does prophecy portray the great chapters of His world moving career. Although He will heal the sick and prove Himself the Friend of friends, the Preacher of righteousness, He will be “despised and rejected.” Blasphemous men are to take Him captive. He is to be numbered with criminals. His holy hands and feet are to be bored through. He is to die a felon’s death; and, strangely, instead of being buried obscurely in a potter’s field, His body is to repose in the tomb of a rich man. Yet, marvel of marvels, He cannot be held in the grip of death. His body will not see corruption; He IS to be resurrected; and palsied Job rejoices: “I know that my Redeemer liveth.“ He is to ascend on high and, sitting at the right hand of God the Father, will maintain His Kingdom and Power and strengthen His Church for its victorious course through the ages. And why this life of humility, this death of deaths? Inspired Isaiah, beholding in prophetic vision the suffering Messiah, answers eleven times in eight verses of his peerless fifty-third chapter and foretells: “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities.”

Since all these promises of the coming Redeemer were fulfilled to the letter in the redemptive career of Christ I ask you, in the words of our text; to “take heed” to the sure Word of Prophecy that is sealed in the Savior’s blood, certified by His resurrection, demonstrated daily by His almighty power. If the love of God “spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all”; if Christ so mightily proved His divine power that He changed the world and we date our calendar from His birth; if all history pays its tribute, willingly or reluctantly, to His truth, shall we not especially in this Advent season prepare to welcome Him? Shall we not gain unbounded strength from the fact that, if every prophecy concerning the past has been fulfilled, every prediction of the future will likewise be verified? Shall we not with penitent and prayerful hearts, trusting only in Christ, acknowledge that “all the promises of God in Him are yea and in Him amen”?

There may be many sorrows that surround you in these heavy days. But when Jesus says: “Let not your heart be troubled ... believe in Me,” then believe that He who gives this comfort is the almighty, ever faithful God, that He can and will banish grief from your heart and fulfill His pledge: “Your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” Fears may encircle you in timid, apprehensive moments; yet when Jesus calms your heart and tells you, as He once told His wavering disciples: “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid,” remember this promise will be fulfilled even though Christ shake the earth and move its mountains. You may be overtaken by the dread loneliness which besets those who lead solitary lives, bereft, through death, of their nearest and dearest; but when Jesus speaks to your hearts and promises: “La, I am with you alway,” trust this promise; say to Christ:

“Take Thou my hand and lead me O’er life’s rough way,” and His unfailing companionship will put a new meaning into your hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus!”

Below all gnawing, disquieting cares of life there may be the deeper fears voiced in some of your letters, the hesitancy that makes you wonder whether you are saved, whether you will continue in grace, whether some heavy sin hanging over your conscience will keep you from God. As to, these and a thousand other soul problems, let me assure you for all times that, if you truly believe Christ, if you want to trust Him as your Savior, then, in spite of all the deep and terrifying sins that may have crowded into your life, in the face of all temptations that may assail you, in the very shadow of death that may swiftly overtake you, His sure Word of Prophecy comforts: “No man shall pluck you out of My hand.” And when in seeing, rather than in believing, you experience the full truth of these pledges; when “God shall wipe away all tears”; when “there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither ... any more pain,” then, in heavenly fulfillment, you will exult: “There hath not failed one word of His good promise.”

I pray this blessing for all in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Ed. Advent and Christmas is a time when faithful pastors in their sermons preach about the comforting assurance of the certainty of historic Christianity the fulfillment of direct messianic prophecy brings to the Christian.

Lutheran Hour speaker Walter A. Maier regularly did this in his sermons during Advent and Christmas. Walter A. Maier Still Speaks – Missouri and the World Should Listen by Herman Otten includes a large section on “Maier, the LCMS and Direct Messianic Prophecy” (pp. 66-70) William Beck, the translator of An American Translation of the Bible was one of the few remaining LCMS theologians in St. Louis who still defended direct messianic prophecy as Maier did. CN has repeatedly shown that the RSV and now the ESV in their translation of key Old Testament passages undermine direct messianic prophecy.

It took the LCMS’s CTCR some eight years to respond to an overture asking for a statement on Bible prophecy. When the CTCR finally came up with a statement after 8 years, Dr. Raymond Surburg of Concordia Seminary, Ft. Wayne wrote in Christian News that the CTCR statement left the door open for a denial of direct messianic prophecy. Maier, referred to by some as “The Jeremiah of the Twentieth Century”, has become a virtual unknown in the LCMS. Prior to his death in 1950 he was the most widely known Lutheran in the world. This issue includes the foreword by Pastor William Bischoff to Walter Maier Still Speaks. Today the LCMS’s CPH refuses to promote any of some 20 books by Maier formerly published by CPH. Instead CPH promotes books written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who denied direct messianic prophecy along with such Christian doctrines as the virgin birth, deity and resurrection of Christ. Both LCMS seminaries along with CPH, LCMS President Matthew Harrison, and the Lutheran Witness are all highly praising Bonoerffer. They often quote Bonhoeffer but seldom, if ever, do they quote Maier. The St. Louis seminary says Bonhoeffer is the greatest Lutheran since Martin Luther. CN’s Bonhoeffer and King documents Bonhoeffer’s denial of historic Christianity.

The words above are a section of an Advent sermon by Maier from pages 88-91 in his book Christ for the Nation published by CPH in 1936 and quoted in the CN editor’s Baal or God published in 1965.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

"Why God Became Man"

By Pastor Rolf Preus
From Christian News, December 16, 1985

Christmas is probably the most popular holiday in the world. When cults like the Jehovah's Witnesses and Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God refuse to celebrate this holiday, and even attack it as godless and sinful, folks are understandably upset. What? No Christmas? Why, that's terrible! These anti-Christmas cultists are put into the company of Dr. Seuss' famous "Grinch" who "stole" Christmas.

But which is worse: denying the holiday, or denying the reality on which the holiday is based? When it comes to holidays, Scripture clearly makes their observance a matter of Christian freedom. "Therefore let no one judge you ... regarding a festival..." (Col. 2:16). The observance or lack of it of the Christmas holiday is not something Scripture addresses. Christians are free to choose which festivals or holy days (holidays) they want to celebrate. The reality of Christmas, however, is far different. With or without Christmas, this holiday is the observance of an event which every human being must know and consider. God became Man. Beneath all the externals of the holiday season exists this central fact, not only to Christmas, but of Christianity: God became man. I do not reject the religion of the Jehovah's Witness or Armstrongism because they, for whatever reason, reject Christmas. I reject and denounce their damnable religion because they deny that God became man. This is what makes them anti-Christian cults. Their odd pronouncements on things like holiday celebrations, receiving blood transfusions, and the like, are minor details in their overall system. The error which leaves them entirely outside of the Christian fold is their teaching that God did not become man.

We Christians believe, teach and confess that Jesus Christ, the child of Mary, born in Bethlehem, is the eternal God, the second person of the Trinity, begotten of his Father before all time. We believe, teach and confess that when the Virgin Mary conceived a child, that child was God himself. This act, whereby God became man, is called the Incarnation. It may not be possible to understand how this can be, but it is relatively easy to understand that it is. Scripture clearly teaches that God became man. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ... and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us..." (John 1:1,14).

I have talked with various members of anti-Christian cults which deny that God became man. Without exception, I have found that they don't understand why we Christians are so adamant on this. To them, our insistence that God became man, that Jesus Christ is true God and true man, is rather silly. It makes no sense, and besides, what difference does it make? The difference between life and death!

The religions of those false Christians (Moonies, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Armonstrongites, etc.) which deny that God became man are all religions which teach salvation by works. They may strenuously deny this (Mormons and Moonies claim to teach salvation by grace, but they don't), but to them, Jesus did only part of what needs to be done for their salvation. He didn't finish the job. Perhaps he took care of the guilt of original sin, or he made possible their working their way to heaven, or he in some other way made salvation a possibility, but he did not save them. Why? Because he could not. He is not God. If God did not become, man, if Jesus is not God, then we are left without an Almighty Savior. God alone is all-powerful. There was no other possibility for our eternal salvation than by the incarnation of the eternal Son of God. God had to become man if men were to be saved. Only a man could take our place, as our substitute, under the law. Only a man who was like us in every way, except without sin, could be a proper substitute. Only a man could actively obey the law, fulfilling it for us. Only a man could suffer the punishment which we deserved by bearing our sin. Only Almighty God could render an obedience which would be great enough for the entire human race. Only God could pay a sufficient price. Only a man could take our place. If Jesus Christ was not true God and true man, our deliverance from our sin and damnation would not be accomplished. We would still be lost in the guilt of our sin. It is no coincidence that the various cults all teach that God did not become man and that we must add to what Jesus did if we are to be saved. The two errors go together. One reason that cultists cannot understand why we will not budge from our confession that God became man is that they don't really believe that we believe in salvation by grace alone. Salvation by works is so ingrained in their thinking, that they believe there must be a catch somewhere when we Christians claim that our good works have nothing at all to do with salvation.

We have our job cut out for us, don't we? In our own community, there are many Jehovah's Witnesses and an increasing number of Mormons. It is very likely that even among some of the Christian denominations there are many who don't believe that God became man. This is far from a theological detail. This is a matter of eternal life or eternal death. For only the God man can save lost sinners. Only the Gospel of Christ, the God who gave man, is the power into salvation. This Christmas, as we ponder the spirit of giving, let us give the Gospel of eternal life. Tell the cultist (or nominal Christian) why God became man. That sincere and earnest Jehovah's Witness standing on your doorstep is on the way to eternal damnation. Only the God who became man can save him. "God is man, man to deliver; his dear Son now is one with our blood forever!