Monday, September 28, 2015

Luther's Notes on the Sunday Gospel: Trinity 18 - Law and Gospel

Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity
Law and Gospel: The Great Commandment

Matthew 22:34-46
New King James Version
34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?”

They said to Him, “The Son of David.”

43 He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying:

44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”’?

45 If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?” 46 And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore.

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

34 But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. 
Put the Sadducees to silence. The Pharisees are just as great fools and clumsy teachers as the Sadducees. Yet they regard themselves as wise and subtle and say, "Dear Master," listen also to us, and see what we know; for we are not as gross as the Sadducees. We understand God's word and works, which they do not understand; we are the rightful teach ers of the people; therefore tell us, "Which is the great commandment of the law?" This question indicates to us into what a great blindness the Jews had fallen, that they had for gotten the Ten Commandments, which even the little children know. This follows when one depends upon outward works.
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God. Christ goes straight forward; he is a good marksman and hits the point. He wants the whole heart. Yes, this cordial love is such a sublime word, that reason cannot grasp it, let alone fulfill its demands. Yea, even the true Christians have enough to learn about it, and yet they can never learn it all.
38 This is the first and great commandment. The first and great. The command of love is the greatest; for if we keep this, we need no other. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 
Thy neighbor as thyself. As God is satisfied with my faith, that I love him in my heart, as a benevolent God and merciful Father, of whom I delight to hear; so he will also, that all my works shall be directed to the good "of my neighbor (Psalm 15:3) Therefore he lets me live on earth, that I may in return show such kindness to my neighbor as God has graciously shown to me. When you see a Christian suffer want, then know that Christ suffers want, and needs your help. Where the service of God is, there is heaven. Now, when I serve my neighbor, I am already in heaven, for I serve God. But what is meant by serving the neighbor? It means, to do him good. For love, when it is properly exercised, does not consist in thoughts and words, but in deeds. 
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

The law and the prophets. This law of love runs through all the commandments; and all the commandments must go through love. But now one may ask, How can all these things be embraced in these two commandments, since to the Jews circumcision and many other laws were given? For this reason, that this commandment (circumcision) should show whether they love God with their whole heart; whether they did it willingly or unwillingly; and this circumcision was an exercise in this commandment, "Thou shalt love God with all thy heart."

In the second place, Christ teaches the Pharisees how impossible it is for them to keep this commandment. Neither will human nature ever accomplish what God demands of us in this law; namely, that we must submit our will to his will, and thus renounce our own reason and will. Thus we are in the midst of distress and sorrow, and cannot help ourselves.
41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. 
What think ye of Christ? The other part of this Gospel, What is Christ? and what are we to think of him? follows now. If I believe with my whole heart that Christ has done this for me, then I receive the Holy Ghost, who makes me entirely new. But it is impossible that we should know God, not to say love him, unless we know Christ. Matthew 11:27.

Whose son was he? They did not think more of Christ than that he was the son of David; that is, he that should sit on David's throne, but should reign only as a worldly ruler, and subdue all the heathen under his dominion; but that they should need him in their afflictions to redeem them from sin and eternal death, of this they had no idea.
43 He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, 44 The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? 45 If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?
How can he be David's Lord? David was the greatest man on earth, on account of the divine, glorious promises, and that he was allied with God in so great a covenant; and yet this great man and king falls down and confesses that his son, Christ, was his Lord, and such an one who was equal with God, acknowledged and worshiped as the right and true God; for it does not say, Sit thou at my feet, (for then he would be beneath God) nor did he say, Sit thou at my head, (then he would be above God) but, Sit thou at my right hand; therefore he is equal with God.

This is a correct likeness of Christ, which shows us what he is, and also what his office and work are.

This article of our faith is not as easy as one might suppose. If at this time a sect should arise, such as the Arians, or the Turks and Jews at the present day, it would be hard for a weak Christian to hold out against them. It does not correspond to say, Christ, the man, is God; and if it concerns corresponding, then we could not retain an article of the faith. Therefore say, Whether it corresponds or not, I know that no one can speak of God so well as he can himself.

Now comes the next verse, "Till I make thine enemies thy footstool." Here stand side by side the highest, greatest power, and the greatest weakness. It is the nature of this kingdom to be mysterious.
46 And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions. 
Not able to answer him a word. Thus the saying of Christ is fulfilled, (Matthew 22:44.) Where there is unbelief, though it appear to the world as wisdom and holiness, yet before God it is foolishness and unrighteousness. But the art to know what Christ is, this they can soon learn. We hear it every day and imagine it is an easy art, we understand it very well, when we hear it; but when we try it and experience it in the heart, then this art becomes very small.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 128-129.  (Matthew from pp. 42-43)

Luther's Notes on the Sunday Gospel: Michaelmas 1 (Trinity 19) - Absolution

First Sunday After Michaelmas
Ninteenth Sunday after Trinity
Absolution: Jesus Forgives the Paralytic

Matthew 9:1-8
New King James Version
9 So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. 2 Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”

3 And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!”

4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 7 And he arose and departed to his house.

8 Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

2 And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. 
Seeing their faith. See here what pleasure Christ takes in faith, that he does not call everything which they did for the palsied man, works or a petition.

This means, indeed, to grant the prayers of the dumb.

Here we are encouraged to believe, and in the same manner to pray for others.

Here comes up the question about our own or another's faith. They and not the palsied man had the faith, but he had also to receive faith or else their faith would have been unavailing. But they in their faith be sought Christ, that he might have a faith of his own. "For the prayer of faith availeth much." (Mark 9:23) I can by my prayer and faith help another, that he may also believe; but I can not believe for him.

Forgiveness of sins. The whole kingdom of Christ is embraced in two words: Forgiveness of sins; there is in this all comfort and forgiveness, not only in the words in which it is proclaimed, but in deed and in truth.

These words of Christ are of infinite sweetness. He calls him son, although he describes him as a sinner, when he says "thy sins." Who can harmonize this? But faith harmonizes it thus, that there are two kinds of sinners; one who is of a broken and a contrite heart, and desires to be saved from his sins, is a son; but he who is obdurate and does not realize his sins, but regards himself righteous, is an enemy and a devil.

Be of good cheer. Cheer up; be strong. He does not use the word faith, but a much more emphatic and elegant one; be bold, undismayed, intrepid.

Thy sins forgiven. See here the most learned Physician, how nicely and certainly he knows how to heal the sickness of a broken conscience. As if he would say, It is easy to heal a disease, when the sickness of the soul has been taken away, which is the cause of the bodily disease. But there is an emphasis in the words, "they are forgiven;" namely, that no one can become freed from his sins, except by the forgiveness of the same. One man forgives another in such a manner that he thinks of it again the next day, or casts some thing up to him again. But when God forgives sin, it is a far higher thing, for God condemns no more. Isaiah 43:25.

Thy sins. In the first place, it is affirmed that thou art a sinner, because forgiveness is granted unto thee. Secondly, that thou mayest know that forgiveness is granted, not to another person, but to thee; that is, thou shalt not think of St. Peter, or Isaias, but of thyself; I say to thyself, a sinner, this gospel voice is addressed.

Thus the Lord exhorts the palsied man first to exercise faith. And as soon as he believed those words, his sins were truly forgiven him. Therefore the word and faith must always finely go together.
3 And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. 
"This man blasphemeth." This the scribes said, because (according to their imagination,) Christ acted contrary to the law of God, since the law was not to pass away, but to be fulfilled; but that God only could set aside the law. Accordingly the offense, which the Pharisees and scribes took, appeared to be very just, as zeal for good works always appears to be very correct.
4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? 
Wherefore think ye evil? As if he would say, What very venemous people ye are, that ye begrudge even the grace of God to this poor man, although ye do not lose anything thereby. Here he covertly castigates their covetousness and idolatry. For the priests thought by themselves, Who will in future bring sacrifices, if God can be propitiated by faith?
5 For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? 
Whether is easier? As if he would say, Yes, ye know very well, which is easier or more difficult to say, this or that, one as well as the other. They were certain in their minds that they could secure forgiveness of sins for themselves and others by sacrifices and good works, which they performed only from habit; but to heal a man sick of the palsy, they would not so easily undertake to do.
6 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. 

The Son of man hath power to forgive sins. That ye may see that to me it is an easy thing (namely, to for give sin without sacrifices,) which seems to you impossible ; and that on the contrary, that which is impossible to you (namely, to cure paralysis by sacrifices,) is to me an easy thing, Arise and walk!

On earth. That the Lord says "On earth," is especially to be well noticed, in order that we may not gaze up into heaven, or hope for forgiveness by means of other people's good works or merits after we are dead, and in purgatory.

There are two ways to forgive sin: First, to drive sin out of the heart, and pour in grace; this God does himself. Secondly, the announcing of forgiveness of sins; this one man does also to another. But here Christ does both.
8 But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled and glorified God, which had given such power unto men. 
Such great power unto men. This power (to announce the forgiveness of sin by the word,) have all those who are Christians and are baptized. By such an office God has bound us together, that one Christian can always comfort another, speak kindly to him, and the other shall believe (in case the word has been rightly taught him) the forgiveness of sins in the name of Christ.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 53-54

Monday, September 21, 2015

Luther's Notes on the Gospel: St. Michael and All Angels (Sept. 29)

September 29 or Sunday Preceding.

Matthew 18:1-11
New King James Version
18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

2 Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, 3 and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.

6 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!

8 “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.

10 “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. 11 For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in kingdom of heaven? Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
In this section the Lord delivers a good lecture to his disciples, who entertained such very fleshly and worldly thoughts of his kingdom. When the Lord Christ informed them that he would suffer and die, and had hitherto been among them as their Lord and Master, they thought that they must now consider which one of them should be the chief among them, and upon whom they should confer the government and the authority. But the true church knows of no other Lord and Master, than Christ only (John 10:27). In this church the Christians are all equal, and there no one shall exalt himself over an other. In the future life a child is just as much as I am.
2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, 3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
Jesus called a little child to him. He makes himself lowly, calls a poor, despised child to him, sets it beside himself, presses it to his heart, and regards it as his treasure; yea, that it is almost equal to himself. By this he will say, I, your Master and Lord, am like this little child. Just so shall ye also be. And it is the will of the Lord Christ, that all true Christians should have the manner, simplicity and obedience of children; for the children abide by the truth, and a child is trained by hearing, and it lays no claim to wisdom and makes no effort to dispute.

Whoso shall receive one such little child. Oh, merciful God, one might well say, Why is this great honor bestowed upon me, that I shall have Christ and his heavenly Father and all the treasures of heaven and earth ? Answer: Whoso earnestly takes care of a child, and teaches it to know God, to pray, be chaste, temperate, obedient, faithful, quiet, truthful, etc., he receives Christ.

The Christian Church is depicted here as an assembly of children and lowly, humble people, who are unable to do anything of themselves, know and can do nothing but what the father commands them to do. Thus also is Christ the head. He knows nothing else to advise or to do, than what he hears from his Father. As often, therefore, as I see Christians and children who are baptized, so often do I see Christ. A man can realize heaven and be blest in his own child, not because it is his own natural child, but because it is baptized and is a Christian child or a Christian man.
6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
Whoso shall offend one of these little ones. The other part is that we should not only cheerfully serve the young, (verses 5 and 10,) but we should also not offend them, either by words or deeds, in order that they may not become carnal, ill-bred, dissolute people; as will soon be the case, unless they are restrained by diligent discipline. For we see this by experience, that youth is like tinder, which very easily seizes upon what is bad and offensive; they adopt it much sooner, and retain it much longer, than the Lord's Prayer. Therefore we should be very careful with the young people, as even the heathen have said, "One should be most ashamed before the young people."

What a great sin it is to offend such little ones, is sufficiently shown by the punishment threatened. God has created no greater bodily punishment for murder, than that the life of the murderers should also be taken.

Yet the Lord speaks here not especially of the gross offense, which is called a bad example, but of the real offense, in which the simple people are deceived and led away from Christ, the only true way of salvation, and are confused by false doctrine and bad example, which are contrary to God and his word, and this under a semblance and cover of his name.

And when the devil intends to bring about an offense against the true faith, he does it especially through the best, wisest, most holy and learned men (as St. Gregory with his purgatory, St. Francis, Benedict, Dominic, with their new rules of interpretation, etc.)

7 If Woe unto the world because of of fences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
Woe unto the world. Reason judges and condemns the other sins, such as theft, for example. But this gilded sin reason regards not otherwise than pure holiness; she cannot judge it to be wrong; therefore we must wait till God takes the judgment and the sword into his own hand.

World, denotes the best men in the world, such as the most learned bishops, the greatest and wisest rulers, etc. But how does it come, that the people are so easily deceived? The reason is this: That Christians are children, (verse 3.) Just as a child is deceived and led away by a beggar with a piece of bread, so simple Christians are very soon deceived by heretics with the semblance of the divine name. But Christians are not excusable for this. For Christians should indeed be child-like, but in Christ, not out of Christ. In order that we may not be surprised at these offenses, he foretold them here and in chapter 7:15; 24:4f.; 11:23ff.
8 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. 9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
If thy right hand offend, etc. Here we must not literally understand the bodily members, the eyes, the feet and the hands, when Christ says, It is better for thee to enter into heaven with one eye, with one foot. For it is clear, that in the future life we shall not be blind, deaf, lame or cripples. The Lord speaks here much more allegorically, and "eye" de notes in the Scripture the one who teaches or preaches, and who shall lead and guide others as a preacher, master or bishop. "Hand" means every good friend, who protects, nourishes and helps another. The "feet" are the members that carry the body, or those that are under us, as subjects, people or common men. Therefore, if thou wouldst remain a Christian, do not let anyone with whom thou art daily associated influence thee to do wrong, whether it be father or mother, master or mistress, prince or emperor, brother or sister.
10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.
Despise not one of these little ones. This text has been interpreted in two ways: First, That when Christ speaks of the little ones, he means the humble ones, such as are Christians who believe on him. It is certainly true that all believers are humble. But we will hold on to the simple meaning, as the words clearly imply, that he means expressly little children. Here the Lord looks to Baptism and commends it, in that the child through it has become believing. For he speaks plainly of "these little ones which believe in me." (Verse 6.) It was indeed a very little child that stood among the disciples, yet because it was circumcised and had come into the number of the elect, the Lord said it believed.

For their angels, etc. He will say, The Lord God takes a very deep interest in children and believers. He loves them so dearly, that he protects every one of them, not with guns and spears, but he gives them great lords and princes, who wait upon them as their dear angels. It would have been entirely sufficient, if he had said, They have their own angels. But he extols it still higher, when he says, "Their angels do always be hold the face of my Father in heaven." He will say, Learn that while these exalted spirits serve them so heartily, and always stand before the eyes of God, hear and see him, ye shall also do likewise, who are far, far beneath them, and that ye do not offend these little ones at all, but wait upon them and cheerfully serve them.
11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.
Come to save that which was lost. Here the Lord touches upon another reason why he is so angry with those who despise and deceive his Christians and baptized children. The meaning is, That which I have by Baptism scarcely brought to myself, and have bought with so high a price as my suffering and death, that they corrupt and destroy.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 104-106.

Luther's Notes on the Sunday Gospel: Trinity 17 - Christian Freedom

Christian Freedom: Healing on the Sabbath

Luke 14:1-11
New King James Version
14 Now it happened, as He went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath, that they watched Him closely. 2 And behold, there was a certain man before Him who had dropsy. 3 And Jesus, answering, spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

4 But they kept silent. And He took him and healed him, and let him go. 5 Then He answered them, saying, “Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” 6 And they could not answer Him regarding these things.

7 So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: 8 “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; 9 and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. 11 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

  Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath? These verses treat of two things: The one is common to all the Gospels; namely, in presenting before us the Lord Christ, what he is, and what we have to expect from him. And therein faith and love are pointed out to us. Faith in this dropsical man. He had previously heard of the kind ness of Christ, and accordingly be lieved that he would also show unto him his kindness and goodness. For if he had not heard something great and believed what he heard, he would not have followed him into the house. From this we may also imagine the love of Christ.

The other part is something remarkable, and it is also a necessary doctrine, which we must believe; namely, how to deal with the law and how far it shall be kept.

We say in the proverb: Everything depends on a good interpreter; this is especially true here, as concerning the law. The eye is a tender thing; but still more tender and softer is the conscience; therefore we see here and there how tenderly the apostles treated the consciences, in order that they might not disturb them by laws. Therefore we should know and keep the rule, which Christ himself gives and proves also by this story, that all laws, both human and divine, which treat of outward works, are no farther binding than charity extends. Love shall be an exposition of all laws; where love is wanting, all is vain, then the law is rather injurious, it may be what it will. The reason is, that all laws are given that they may establish love. Romans 13:8, 10.

Since in the Old Testament the law was neither understood, nor moderated according to love, God gave the people prophets, who should explain the law, not according to its strictness, but according to charity. When I therefore serve my neighbor and help him, I have kept the Sabbath right and well, though I have done work on it; because I did a divine work. This teaching concerning the Sabbath tends especially towards this, that we shall hear God's word and do and live according to it. Hence with the Christians every day ought to be a Sabbath. Notwithstanding, Sunday is ordered for the common people, in order that every body may especially hear and learn God's word and live according to it. But here we see what learned, ingenious and wise people come to, when they get so far astray as to despise God's word.

Seeking the chief rooms. The other instruction is that we should not be imperious and exalt ourselves. Christ does not reprove the sitting in the highest seat, but that we should choose out and strive to sit in the highest seats. Not that a peasant should sit above a prince. For the Lord speaks here not of a worldly, but of a spiritual rule, which above all things requires humility.

To sit on the chief seats is not a play and dance, but it brings with it so much work and displeasure, that a sensible man cares very little for them. (See 1 Timothy 3:1) There fore everyone should be satisfied with his station and office, and be diligent, that therein he may be useful to the people. For God has pleasure and delight in them who in their station faithfully perform the duties of their office.

He that exalteth himself, etc. This is true not only before God, but also before the people, for all are disposed to hate the proud. But on the contrary, he that is humble wins the heart of God and man, so that God and all his angels, and afterwards also the people regard him as an especially noble jewel. Then follow also prosperity and blessing, as we see in Saul (1 Samuel 9:21) and David and others. See Psalm 113:5-8.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 229-230.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Luther's Notes on the Sunday Gospel: St. Matthew

September 21

Matthew 9:9-13
New King James Version
9 As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.

10 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

9 If And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and fol lowed him. 
Follow me. Who are our dear Lord's nearest servants and his most prominent counsellors, whom he has in his kingdom ? They are altogether poor sinners, who, if dependent on their own righteousness or good works, would have to sit in the abyss of hell.
10 And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your master with publicans and sinners?

Jews and Gentiles. The Jews rave and rage against the gospel; as if it were the most dangerous pestilence; the heathen ridicule it, as a vain and idle thought of men. (1 Corinthians 1:23) The former regard it as blasphemy, the latter as fables. But the Church and Christ pass through the midst of them and despise with the right ear the blasphemies of the former, and with the left ear the fables of the latter, and live in the truth of the faith which honors God, without blasphemy and fables.
12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. 
They that be whole need not a physician. Here Christ philosophizes; that is, he speaks of the nature of things; and this philosophy he turns very well to his own purpose. This is philosophy; namely, to know how properly to use the knowledge of natural things. The other philosophers only speculate. They say, indeed, how nature does this and that, but they do not teach therewith what these things signify; how beautifully Christ here applies the medical art to religion or to faith.

Here the Lord shows that sin is not merely a defect, but a most dangerous disease, whereby body and soul are eternally injured. But here we see how every one disregards this danger.
13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. 
Call not the righteous but sinners. The other part of Christ's answer is found in the prophet Hosea 6:6, "For I desire mercy and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings," which is above measure comforting and beautiful ; and this Scripture would be abundantly sufficient for us to learn the will of God. But who is it that says, "I will have mercy?" The majestic God, with whom everything is one will; his will endures no opposition, nor can it be changed, so that he could will anything else. And this word means not simply to wish something, but to have pleasure therein, to delight in it, and heartily to desire it.

"Mercy." Wouldst thou know what this is, then look upon the want and distress of thy neighbor.

1. Upon the sin. Wilt thou be merciful to sinners, then thou must not run away from them, but hold on to them, exhort, call, comfort, yea, also have patience with them.

2. Upon bodily afflictions. Here thou canst serve with a kind word and a benevolent heart.

3. Upon want of goods and food. Here thou canst show mercy by food and drink, clothing and other acts of beneficence. Matt. 25:35 ff.

One may freely ask, Why does God have such an abhorrence of the outward sacrifice, which indeed, he chose for himself, and sanctioned it among so many of the fathers; and in addition to this, everything that a righteous man does in faith is acceptable to him? Answer: (Psalm 18:26,) "With the pure thou wilt show thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt show thyself froward." We must make a difference between the persons that sacrifice.

"I am come." Herein lies a great consolation. Forinthat he says, "I am come," it is just as much as when he says elsewhere, " I am sent." For he came, because this was the will of the Father.

In the second place, Christ derides the Pharisees with these words, who might perhaps say, Do we not also teach that sinners should repent? What new thing dost thou then present? Yes, says he, ye claim to be righteous, whilst ye are sinners, and ye do nothing else than pronounce yourselves and others righteous, when in fact ye are, in God's sight, dreadful sinners. Such righteous ones I do not call to repentance, neither do they need repentance, since, according to your declaration, you call sinners to repentance according to the righteousness of the law, so that you make two-fold sinners of them, just like yourselves. I call to repentance according to the forgiveness of sins, so that I make two-fold righteous; namely, in grace and in truth.

"Sinners and not the righteous." That is, all men; for none are righteous. Rom. 3:23. We must not, however, turn this into lawlessness (Jude 4,) and say, Grace, Grace! therefore it is not necessary to do good works! But Christ says here, that he, indeed, calls sinners, yet not unto freedom to sin, but to repentance; that is, (continual) suppression of sin. Rom. 6:2-4.
14 Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?
 Thy disciples fast not. It seems as if this could be connected with the preceding. For fasting is a part of repentance. Therefore it seems as though the disciples of Jesus were not repenting, because they did not fast.
15 And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bride-chamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast. 
Can the children of the hide-chamber mourn? Here it is to be observed that he calls the fastings of the Pharisees mourning and sorrowing. By this he wishes to indicate that the righteousness of the law and of men is a mournful service, such as we hold over the dead.

But the days will come. This may be understood in various ways. First, that after Christ has ascended to heaven, his saints shall be compelled, indeed, to fast and endure all kinds of evil; yet this they will cheerfully do. Secondly, in a prophetical sense, that after Christ shall have been taken away from the Jews (or also from us,) the joyful feast of faith shall cease; that is, there will be nothing but death and destruction. But I prefer the third meaning that Christ would say this much, I will give to my saints mourning and fasting enough, without your fasting and mourning, which is worth nothing; that is, I will leave them in many kinds of temptations, like Paul, that they shall not see or perceive me as their bridegroom. Then they will be sorrowful and really fast. This voluntary suffering is right and acceptable, it is a true cross.
16 No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. 17 Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they cut new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved. 
New cloth — New wine. Your fasting and entire penitence and righteousness must be replaced by a new fasting, penitence and righteousness; that is, all your works must be rejected, and the whole be made new.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 54-56.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Luther's Notes on the Sunday Gospel: Trinity 16 - Death and Burial

Death and Burial: The Young Man of Nain

Luke 7:11-17
New King James Version
11 Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. 12 And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.

16 Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.” 17 And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region.

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

11 And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. 12 Now, when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. 
The two processions. Here you see two processions which meet each other. The one is that of the poor widow with her dead youth, her son, and the people who follow him to the grave; the other is Christ and those who enter with him into the city of Nain. The first picture shows what we are and what we bring to Christ. For this is the picture and course of the whole world upon earth; here is a multitude, who are all on the way to death, and must go out of the city. This is the nature of the whole world; here is nothing but death's picture and its work.

But you must not look only upon the grave and the coffin; but also on the cause of death. This Scripture shows and teaches that sin and the wrath of God are the cause of death. But these are not only the great actual sins, such as adultery, murder, etc., since those also die who do not and can not commit them, such as the children of the cradle, yea, also the great holy prophets, such as John the Baptist, all of whom must die. Thus also this young man died, not because he was an adulterer or a murderer. (Ecclesiastes 11:9; Psalm 100:12) Therefore there must here be a greater and different kind of sin, on account of which the whole human race hath deserved death; and that is the sin which we have inherited from Adam and Eve. Thus Psalm 90:7 teaches us; it is God's wrath; this wrath of God is not a simple, trifling thing; but such a severity, which no man can endure. And yet the world is so blind, that it does not see or regard this wrath of God; yea, even the saints do not understand it sufficiently. Psalm 90:11.
13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.

The Lord had compassion on her. The woman has two misfortunes upon her. In the first place, she is a widow. Secondly, her only son dies also. Among this people it was regarded as the greatest plague, and the greatest disfavor of God, when a father or a mother left no name or children to survive them. Here this thought must also have oppressed her. Behold, thou art also one of those accursed women, with whom God is angry. But here you see what a kindness and grace was bestowed upon this woman by Christ; for this good woman had no thought of ever bringing back her son alive into the city, and therefore she also does not pray for it, much less had she de served it. The unbelief is here, which fights against her prayer, and makes it of no avail; and yet she receives her son again, only because Jesus had compassion on her, so that she must confess it is his pure grace and gift, and that he is such a Lord who can do and give exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20.) Accordingly we are also to learn mercy from the Lord Christ; that is, not only to help the neighbor, but his misery shall also excite my compassion as though it were mine own.(Ephesians 3:20.)
14 And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. 
He touched the bier. All the works and miracles which Christ wrought visibly and outwardly are to be understood as indicating the works which he performs invisibly and spiritually or internally among men. Therefore this bodily death indicates the spiritual death of the soul. There are two kinds of spiritual death. Some are dead in the soul; but one sees it not as he sees the bodily death, and they themselves also do not see or feel it; in this manner the whole world is dead, but does not feel it. He who feels it not can not be helped. There are, indeed, a few who are spiritually dead and feel it, as the law condemns them. The preachers of the law are the pall-bearers.

When Christ touches a bier; that is, when one preaches the goodness of God, and how Christ bestows upon us his merits and work, this hand is laid on the bier, and then we hear no more preaching of the law. But the voice of Christ in the heart must also be added, so that we may believe the word. The young man does not arise immediately after the touch of the bier, but not till the Lord said, "Young man, I say unto thee, Arise;" this voice touched the heart and caused the dead to come to life.

This work of life is also done now, without our doing and work, just as without our doing and work we came into sin and death. Therefore as sin is inborn in us from Adam, and has now become our own, so also must Christ's righteousness become our own.
15 And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.
And the dead arose. From this it follows, that those who lie in the church-yard beneath the earth, sleep much quieter than we in our beds.

And he gave him to his mother. Thus he gives to the widow ten-fold more joy, than she had before; for now she has more joy in one hour, than she had joy in her son during her whole life.

It has the appearance sometimes as though he sided with the ungodly, and persecuted the pious without mercy; but when you hold out faithful to him, a single small word is sufficient for him, and help is at hand, just as he here raised the dead son with one word.
16 And there came a fear on all; and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people.

God hath visited his people. Great joy and thanksgiving now follow. Thus one Christian can bring many to believe.

He turns the sad procession with one word to a beautiful, lovely, and joyful procession of life.

That will, indeed, be a very beautiful, lovely procession, when he shall in one moment bring together all who have died, and lead them with himself as their head. 1 Thessalonians 4:14ff.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 208-9.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Luther's Notes on the Sunday Gospel: Trinity 15 - Contentment

Contentment: The Lilies of the Field

Matthew 6:24-34
New King James Version
24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

24 No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Ye cannot serve God and mammon. What is meant by serving God ? Above all things it means, Hear Christ and accept the Gospel. That is the only proper way in which we can serve God ; for here his command stands clearly before our eyes. Ac cording to this, God commands children to honor father and mother, and parents to nourish and bring up their children.

It may be regarded as a small thing, when a servant girl in the house washes, cooks, sweeps and does other housework; but because this is God's command, her menial work can not be regarded otherwise than the service of God, which far excels all the sanctity and self-denial of the monks and nuns.

But what is meant by " serving mammon," is explained by the Lord himself in verse 25.

Everyone, when asked whether he loves God, will say, Yes, I love Him! Do you regard me as such a desperate man, as to be an enemy to God ? But according to this text it is impossible for him who loves money and riches and "holds" to them, not to hate God.

Hold. Here he does not plainly say he will love the one, but shows the actions and works of love by the word "hold."

Serve. All depends here on the little word "serve." It is no sin to possess gold and goods, wife and children, house and land. He that serves is a servant and does not possess the goods, but the goods possess him. But the service should be rendered from love, otherwise it is no service. Deuteronomy 10:12; 13:4.

Other sins are thus committed, that man makes use of the creature, but mammon lies still and only wants to be served.
25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 
Take no thought for your life. Here you learn what it is to serve mammon ; namely, to care only for the life of our body. The care does not inhere in the raiment or in the food, but in the heart. For I have no care for that which the heart does not love.

And yet St. Paul says we shall be careful. (Romans 12:8; Philippians 2:20.) Christ does not here speak of official care, but of avarice.

Let every one in his station attend to his duties, and do what is commanded him, and let the Lord God care and give as he pleases. God will care; we should work.

Can and must ye entrust God with your life and soul? Why then should ye be such fools as not to trust him with the necessaries of life?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns ; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
 Behold the fowls of the air. Here the birds fly before our eyes, and they render a small honor to us, so that we might well take off our hats to them, and say, My dear Sir Doc tor, I must confess that I do not understand the art that you practice.

In the first chapter of the book of Genesis (Gen. 1:28) we are commanded to have dominion over all creatures, and we disgrace ourselves so much that the weakest sparrow in the Gospel must stand as the doctor and teacher of the wisest man!

More than they. This is God's order ever and anon, that wherever he gives life, he also provides that we can sustain it. When therefore he does this to the brutes, will he not much more do it for men, especially his Christians?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
Which of you by taking thought. It would be a very foolish thing if a little man should sit in a corner, and there all his life-long think and care how he could become bigger.

If the blessing of God is here, we have it ; but if the blessing is not here, although we have it, yet we will not be able to enjoy it.
28 And why take ye thought for raiment ? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Why take ye thought for raiment? If it were not God's special order and creation, it could never be possible that one man should be so like unto the other.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith ? 
Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass. And if we could adorn a rose with satin, it would say, I would rather that the Master in heaven above should adorn me.
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gen tiles seek) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

After these things do the Gentiles seek. Here you see a picture of the world, what kind of a thing it is ; namely, the great mighty multitude, (except a few Christians) who, as soon as they are grown up, turn entirely away from God, and serve the lying god mammon.

The Gentiles, who do not know or believe that they have a Father in heaven. — He has known long ago what he should give you, and has taken care of you before you thought of it yourselves, or felt your need.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 
Seek first the kingdom of God. This is the principal doctrine in this sermon, and supplies the right rule and power how we shall observe the proper order, that we may have both the divine or eternal benefit, and also be supplied with our bodily necessities.

The kingdom consists herein, that we believe on Christ, who is the supreme head and King in this kingdom, in and through whom we have all things.

Seek. That is, believe on Christ, and exercise yourselves in the gospel, and practice its precepts, by preaching, hearing, singing and reading, that your faith may continually grow stronger, and become manifest by fruits or good works.

Righteousness. This is a different kind of righteousness from that which is in the world, and is designated as that righteousness which springs from faith, and is engaged and active in good works.

Seek, as those who have not yet attained, or entirely learned it, or lived it perfectly.

All things added unto you. There could be no more bread on earth, nor any more rain fall from heaven, if a Christian should have to die of hunger; yea, God himself must first have died of hunger.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. 
Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. As we say, Time will show, (Kommt Tag, so kommt auch Rath.) Our care does no good at any rate; but he whom God favors and gives prosperity can often accomplish more in one hour without trouble and care, than another can accomplish in four whole days with great trouble and anxiety.

Evil. By evil he means that which is imposed upon us, to sustain our selves by the sweat of our face (Genesis 3:19) and such other occasional calamities. Such troubles endure and accept with joy, and be satisfied; for therewith hast thou enough to endure, and leave off troubling, whereby thou makest the misfortune only greater and heavier, than it really is.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 40-42.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

The War Room: A Movie Review

A new "Christian" movie starring false teachers Priscilla Shirer and Beth Moore.

The Short of It:

War Room is basically a re-casting of Fireproof switching out the white-male main character for an African-American female lead. The basic issues are the same. Where Fireproof emphasized “the love dare” (one of the writer’s theological themes) the basic flow of War Room follows an un-biblical focus on prayer as way of getting God’s attention off of other things to finally be able to do what the person praying desires. Very evocative emotionally, there are lots of quotes from Scripture, but very few of the quotations are actually interpreted correctly in their context. It follows the Word of Faith heresy pretty strictly. A character prays, God does what the character wants. Yippee! The Divine Vending machine! Put the right kind of prayer in, get the favor you want!

The movie is family friendly in that there is no foul language, graphic violence, or nudity. But it’s not really family friendly in that the Christianity portrayed in the movie is pop-nondenom consumer driven therapeutic deism--which is part of the broad path that leads to destruction. It was so doctrinally generic that Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses and even members of the Pentecostal Oneness movement alike could find this particular movie acceptable. Well, the Witnesses still wouldn’t attend because it has “Christian” celebrities as actors: the false teachers: Beth Moore; Priscilla C. Shirer and Michael Jr. But as far as addressing the issue of who God is and how God saves sinners, there was not much that a Witness would object to.

While having an emotional draw, the movie is formulaic and highly predictable. It might be an enjoyable time, except that it is preaching damnable false doctrine. And when I say it is highly predictable, it is, really. Atheists will have no problem mocking this “God is my Sugar-Daddy movie.”

The Long of It:

I think that there will be some under the umbrella of Confessional Lutheran who object to this negative review. After all, they might argue, this is a good, clean, family friendly movie that directs people away from their sin and into the grace of God’s forgiveness. Many of the criticisms in this review will be seen as nitpicking doctrinal details. And, shouldn’t we, as Christians, be united together in the love of God. Which, they will claim, is what this movie is about.

But, their objections are not new. There have always been those who, in the name of peace, cry out against contending for the doctrine of God’s revealed Word, the Bible. The evidence of this starts in Genesis 3 and fills the pages of Scripture and the epochs of Church history.

It is significant that the first counsel of the Church, in Acts 15, dealt with this issue of rightly dividing God’s Law and Gospel, and that the Letter to the Galatians is essentially a treatment of the heresy of trying to be at peace with God through the works of the Law.

More recently, just over a century ago, on the evening of January 6th, 1885 a sinful man, and in some significant ways in his own personal history--as he would admit--a very flawed man was teaching a group of men who desired to be pastors about an essential difference between the faith held by Reformed churches and the faith held by Confessional Lutherans. The problem then was very much the same as it is now: that is, if we agree on God’s grace why quibble about fine points of doctrine? There was then as there is now, a strong cry to be united together outwardly despite the very real and essential differences on this basic teaching of God’s written Word. This man (C.F.W. Walther) said about the Prussian Union and its affects in America. Walther’s remarks strike at the heart of this movie’s fatal, and Christ denying flaw:

“What is the reason, then, that … many who claim to be Lutherans have allowed themselves to become enmeshed in the unionistic net and, while claiming to be Lutherans, calmly remain in the Union [with the Reformed churches in Germany], which is nothing but an emergency device? They are in a Church that has not been established by Christ, but by an earthly king [Frederick William III of Prussia]; a church in which not all speak the same things nor hold the same views, as the apostle requires in I Cor. 1; a Church in which there is not that one faith, one Baptism, one hope, which the apostle, Eph. 4, predicates of the Church of Jesus Christ. What is the reason? It is nothing else than the notion that, spite of the many and grave errors of the Reformed Church, there is an agreement between it and the Lutheran Church in the principal points. It is claimed that the relation between these two churches is entirely different from that existing between the Lutheran and the Romish Church. There is truth in the claim mentioned last; but if the Reformed Church were in agreement with us in the main points, — a consummation devoutly to be wished! — it would speedily reach an agreement with us also in the few points of minor importance. But what the Reformed Church lacks is just this — it cannot correctly answer the question, “What must I do to be saved?” In the very doctrine of justification, the cardinal doctrine of the Lutheran Church, the Reformed Church is not in agreement with us; it does not point the right way to grace and salvation. Few there are in our day who perceive this point. All the Reformed, and the sects that are derived from the Reformed Church, affirm that a person is saved by grace alone. But the moment you examine their practise, you immediately discover that, while they hold this truth in theory, they do not put it into effect, but rather point in the opposite direction.

The thesis which we are approaching tonight invites a discussion of this subject

Thesis IX.
In the fifth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when sinners who have been struck down and terrified by the Law are directed, not to the Word and the Sacraments, but to their own prayers and wrestlings with God in order that they may win their way into a state of grace; in other words, when they are told to keep on praying and struggling until they feel that God has received them into grace.
[emphasis added]

War Room’s False Gospel:

The fatal flaw is found directly in the title of the movie, “The War Room” and serves as the basis for promoting a popular American view of Christianity, which is not Biblical Christianity.

War Room begins with narration from the elderly widow, Miss Clara (very convincingly played by Karen Abercrombie). Miss Clara, speaking over scenes of a WWII war room in which one of the officers is her late husband, tells the moviegoer:

“Behind the field of battle, someone has a strategy. Death is a part of life. Battles need to be fought the right way. And we need to know who we fight against.” “Victories don’t come by accident.” “The power of God can’t be bought.”

Every plot development in this movie is worked out to demonstrate the pop-Christian/consumerist and Reformed false doctrine of the power of prayer. The lead character, Elizabeth, is a real estate agent engaged in selling Miss Clara’s home. Miss Clara senses Elizabeth’s weak faith and takes her on as a disciple. Elizabeth is introduced to Miss Clara’s empty bedroom closet, her War Room, where she is a prayer warrior for God and for her neighbor. She teaches Elizabeth about the need for a special prayer spot: based on a strongly slanted and over-loaded interpretation of Matthew 6:6:

“6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”

Elizabeth is introduced to Miss Clara’s “wall of remembrance” where she lists and checks off every prayer answered by God. Following this, Elizabeth is instructed in the necessity of having a “prayer strategy” to learn “how to fight the right way with the right weapons.”

“You got to plead with God, so that He can do what only He can do.” (Miss Clara)

The formula “if you pray for something you get a blessing, if you don’t pray for something you won’t get a blessing” is stated overtly a couple of times. But this formula is, as stated above, the basis for every plot development in the movie.

Elizabeth’s life is a shambles, her marriage is almost lost, her husband a successful salesman who lied about his success and stole from his company. Their young daughter is estranged from them in their own home by the lack of love she greatly desires from her parents.

Elizabeth prays: her sales improve; her housework gets done; the bathroom is clean; her daughter starts prayer journaling; far away in Atlanta her husband, Tony, gets sick just when he is about to violate their marriage; he becomes humble; their daughter sees them both starting to love each other. Tony prays and he learns to own up to his own faults and, even though he does lose his job, their marriage and family life are made better than they ever were before. They don’t even lose their home! Plus, Tony and his daughter take second place in the Double Dutch jump-rope contest. And Mr. Scott gets the warp core online with shoelaces and chewing gum just in time to save the TARDIS from Emperor Palpatine.

I have a feeling that the writers gave second place to the team due to a remark by Rebecca Manley Pippert in her “Out of the Salt Shaker” videos from the 1980s. Pippert, a Reformed evangelism advocate, was commenting on how awkward sharing the Gospel can be. Her quip was about having a Christian basketball team and how it would be ironic to say: “We play for God! We never lose!”

It must be pointed out, that just like unionists mentioned by Walther in his lecture in 1885, this movie does have Miss Clara briefly describing the Law, Sin, and Grace. The vicarious atonement is described, but it is described in a way that would be acceptable to Mormons and the Pentecostal Oneness movement--and even so: it all hinges on the false doctrine of making the choice for God and surrendering the heart. It took all of about 2 minutes of the movie. Kind of a footnote, really. The rest was all “do your fighting in prayer. And you better do that right with the correct place and strategy and all.” The same problem outlined by Walther in 1885 “the Word of God is not rightly divided when sinners who have been struck down and terrified by the Law are directed, not to the Word and the Sacraments, but to their own prayers and wrestlings with God in order that they may win their way into a state of grace; in other words, when they are told to keep on praying and struggling until they feel that God has received them into grace.

Ironically, when Miss Clara’s “war room” is introduced she states that there’s “no magic in the location.” Yet later in the movie when a retired preacher buy’s her home, he can somehow, mystically sense that that particular room was used as a prayer room with mighty prayers. Which is true? Or is there some magical power this other preacher has, like some kind of reformed version of indelible character.

At one point Elizabeth’s prayer borders on the form of the heretical “contemplative prayer.” This is not really surprising because Priscilla Shirer, who plays Elizabeth, is an Emergent Church false teacher and advocate for contemplative prayer (at about 0:45:00 in the show at the link). Shirer and Beth Moore are both heretics who claim to have received special revelations from God, teaching contrary to the written Word of God.

There is no accurate Biblical teaching in this movie on the topic of prayer. There is no accurate Biblical teaching about repentance and forgiveness. Oh, these are all mentioned, but they are not taught in the way the Scripture teaches. One must be honest about who made the movie and not hear what the characters say as if the characters were Lutheran. They are not. There are no Means of Grace in this movie. There is no presence of God where God tells us He will be found in Word and Sacrament. The Scripture searching in the movie is haphazard, and serves more as an example of the heretical Lectio Divina than of systematic Bible reading.

Prayer is a wonderful gift of God. He commanded that we as His own children through faith in Jesus Christ, talk to Him, our loving Father. He promised to hear us.

But the god portrayed in War Room is more like an alcoholic father who won’t get his rear end out of the lazy boy to fix the kids frozen pizzas for supper unless they constantly press him with really, really, really nice formal requests. And if you can figure out a strategy, wow, you can really manipulate dad into getting you the good stuff.

War Room is not really evangelism for lost sinners. It is an effort to homogenize the visible church under the market driven false teachings of people like Shirer and Moore. Those who fall for its emotional story will use vitriol against those of us who out of love for God’s Word and our neighbor’s salvation oppose it because it is heretical and damning. The movie is divisive, causing division contrary to God’s Word, uniting people under false teaching.

Now for the last bit. This review focused mainly on just the major theological problem that formed the theme of this movie. There are several other serious unscriptural claims made in this movie. But the movie is itself a marketing campaign for Lifeway books. From the resources link on the movie’s page one is directed to a variety of Lifeway products, including special studies on how to set up one’s own war room and strategies for prayer. Lifeway brought us the heaven tourism books like 90 Minutes in Heaven, The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, and Heaven is for Real. After making a significant amount of sales on this it was revealed that the testimony on which The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven was based was all lies. This past March 2015 Lifeway finally pulled their “heaven visitation resources” after the Southern Baptist Convention rebuked them last June 2014. [SBC Resolution] But Lifeway continues to sell heretical books from heretical authors like T.D. Jakes (a modalist), Beth Moore (Word of Faith heresy), Priscilla Shirer (Word of Faith heresey and contemplative prayer), Sarah Young (a Montanist), Mark Batterson (the Circlemaker, weird mystical christianized neo-shamanism); et-ad nauseam-cetera

Basic issue, Lifeway is struggling as a book company like most other book companies. War Room could be a cash-cow. I have no doubt the product will be pushed in pop-christian circles. My personal view is that Lifeway has demonstrated in the past and up to this day that its primary concern is not the teaching of Scripture but what will do best in the market.

If you want to watch something biblical, watch Mel Gibson’s The Passion. Even with the little additions from tradition that movie still gets the Law and the Gospel down pretty well.

If you want to watch a family friendly movie, get Lassie. The morality is great, the language is fine, and there is a lot less Bible twisting.