Monday, November 30, 2015

Luther's Notes on the Gospel: Second Sunday in Advent - Watchfulness

Ad Populus Zion

Luke 21:25-36
New King James Version
25 “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; 26 men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

    29 Then He spoke to them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. 31 So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.
The Importance of Watching

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Redeeming Christian Holy Days: The Christians Stole December 25th

How does a Christian deal with claims like this?

The tactic used in this meme is intimidation. There is no way most readers could research all these claims. The implication is that the maker of the meme must have done the research. Therefore it must be true. After all, how can I possibly argue. This is the use of the Snow Job fallacy []

The meme is not really historical. It is a type of Big Lie Technique [], and the Half-Truth [].

Contrary to the closing claim: “Most scholars” do not actually make such a claim as this meme pretends. Nor were early church leaders wanting “to seize the enthusiasm from crowds already gathering on” that day.

I would encourage readers to spend some time actually reading these myths to discover that none of the claims are true. That has great value in refuting these arguments in the future. But don't read the folklorist stuff. Read the old myths in translation from the ancient languages. What you will find is that the people who put out memes like this do not have any legitimate claim. They are just passing along a group of lies.

And there is another valuable way of showing the claims that these other pagan gods cannot possibly have been born on December 25th. December 25th did not exist as a month or a day in any of the calendars of any of the cultures in the list. December is an exclusively Roman cultural month name.

For Those Who Want Some More Detail

But, But, Buts:

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Luther's Notes on the Gospel: St. Andrew the Apostle (Nov. 30th)

November 30th
St. Andrew's Day

John 1:35-42
New King James Version
35 Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. 36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. 38 Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour). 40 One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone).

Monday, November 23, 2015

Luther's Notes on the Gospel: First Sunday in Advent - Jesus, our Coming King

Ad Te Levavi

Matthew 21:1-9
New King James Version
1 Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. 3 And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” 4 All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:
5 “ Tell the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your King is coming to you,
Lowly, and sitting on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.’” 6 So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. 8 And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’
Hosanna in the highest!” 

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

This Gospel comprises two parts. In the first place, It exhorts us to accept King Christ, who comes to us, and at the same time reveals what this king brings us; that he is sent for our help. In the second place, It warns and arms us against the offense of the poor and lowly form of Christ.
1 And when they drew nigh unto Jeru salem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,
2 Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me.
3 And if any man say aught unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. 
The Lord hath need of them. The Lord does not want a flatterer for a preacher, as he does not say, Go around the village or along side of it; but go into it, resolutely, and tell them what they do not like to hear. This is also said for the comfort of the preachers, that they shall not be troubled as to who shall believe and receive them; for it is declared, (Isaiah 55:11) "My word shall not return unto me void."
4 All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, 
That it might be fulfilled, etc. This prophecy is quoted by the evangelist, to let us see that Christ did not come on account of our merit, but on account of divine truth; since he was promised so long before, ere we to whom he was sent, had an existence. Romans 1:2.

In order that the Jews might not excuse themselves and say, If we had known that the Messiah would come so poor and lowly, we also would have attended to it, and received him; therefore the prophet (Zechariah) pointed this out to them so long time before.
5 Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.
Behold thy king cometh. He says, "Tell the daughter of Zion, that she take no offense at his humble appearance; but close her eyes, and open her ears, see not how lowly he rides along, but hear what is said of this poor king. Thus it also appears a small thing, that through Baptism and the Sacrament so great things should be effected; but do not let thine eyes deceive thee.

He does not say, Speak about the daughter of Zion, but to herself shalt thou speak; she shall believe it of herself and without doubt, that it shall be to her, just as these words read, and not merely to others also.

With the words, behold, or take notice, he wakes us up from our sleep and unbelief, in that he would announce something great, unusual, remarkable, which had long been desired, and which should be received with joy. To reason and nature it is altogether disagreeable, that this should be the "King" of Jerusalem, who comes so poor and lowly.

It is thy King, says he; that is promised to thee, to whom thou belongest, who, and no other one, shall rule thee; he is thine, who art driven and plagued by sin, devil, death and hell, flesh and world.

He comes. Doubtless, thou comest not to him and bringest him; he is too high above thee, and too far from thee; with all thy trouble and labor thou canst not come to him. He comes "to thee." He gives himself to thee, as thine; that all that he is and has may be thine.

Meek. Not as he came to Adam, Cain and Mount Sinai, etc.; not to reckon with thee, nor demand payment of a debt; all wrath is laid aside, nothing but meekness and goodness is here. But the evangelist has slightly changed the words of the prophet; for the prophet gives Christ three titles. Poor, Just, Savior, while the evangelist, for the sake of brevity, gives only one, "Meek." Yet in the Hebrew language the words, poor and meek, have nearly the same meaning, and such a poor man does not mean one who is in need of money or goods, but one who is contrite and lowly in heart.

The word "Just" in the prophet Zecharias, is not to be understood in the sense of strict righteousness, with which God judgeth, but it properly means pious; for when we in German say, this was a pious man, the Scripture says, He was a righteous or just man. That this is the meaning here of the little word "just," is evident from the other little word in the prophet, "Savior," or he that saves.

This poor and beggarly king, says Zechariah, will have a different power from all that emperors or kings have had, for he is called "just" and a "Savior." But no emperor, with all his power, can redeem from the smallest sin.

Thus he retains nothing at all for himself; is satisfied, that in the first place he has God, and is blessed; he serves us therefore only according to the will of his Father, who would have this done by him. Therefore this is not thy good work, that thou givest alms or prayest, but that thou devotest thyself to the good of thy fellowman and servest, and supportest him, where he has need of thee.

He rides not upon a stallion, but upon an ass, which is not a valiant animal, to indicate that he comes not to alarm men, but to help them.
 6 And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, 7 And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon.
Disciples did as Jesus commanded. The arrangements and the conduct of the disciples towards Christ show that they had no fear or terror, but an entire, friendly confidence in him.
8 And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strewed them in the way. 
Spread their garments in the way. This also was a divine service, which was due to this King, and indicates that, according to the example of the apostles, we should honor and adorn Christ with our profession and our whole lives.

The nature of the palm tree is, that when a beam is made of it, it yields to no weight, but rises against the burden; therefore palm branches were carried before lords and kings, when they had gained victories and moved in triumphal processions. Also the bearing of olive branches was a sign of submission, especially by those who desired grace and peace, as it was customary among the ancients. So also is the word of this Gospel a word of grace from this King, which brings us peace. Romans 1:16.
9 And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. 
Hosanna to the Son of David. One part of this divine service which is due to this King is, that we shall receive him; the other part is, that we shall sing hosanna to this Christ; that is, that we wish him prosperity and blessing in his kingdom, and do all we can for its promotion and in crease. Hosanna means, "O Lord, help; Lord, grant prosperity to the Son of David."

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 118-120.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Luther's Notes on the Sunday Gospel: Last Sunday (Trinity 27) - Eternal Life

Last Sunday of the Church Year

Heaven's Eternal Joy: The Bride of Christ

Matthew 25:1-13
New King James Version

25 “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3 Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5 But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.

6 “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ 7 Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.

11 “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ 12 But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’

13 “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bride groom. 
Ten virgins. "Virgin " signifies purity. A virgin herself does not court, but is courted. Thus God courts for souls, has his goods offered to them and courts them. (2 Cor. 11:2) When a bridegroom loves a virgin, he cares only for the virgin, not how rich, how beautiful or how poor she is. Thus also Christ looks upon them as virgin souls, and looks not upon their defects.
2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 
Five were wise, etc. Some of them believe the word, come forth and do good works, and let their lamps shine before the world; for they are well supplied with lamps and oil; that is, with faith and love; these are pointed out to us as the wise virgins.
3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: 
The foolish virgins. On the other hand the foolish virgins have only lamps; that is, outward appearance and show, and they act according to their manner, continually saying, "Lord, Lord." Matt. 7:22.

The mouth is here, indeed, but the heart is far from God. They are not in earnest, seek their own and not God's honor only, there is no fear of God in them; they rejoice, indeed, they want to be at the wedding, but there is no oil; that is, no faith in them. They imagine for themselves a thought, a fancy in the heart which they regard as oil.
4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 
The wise took oil in their vessels. The wise virgins have the right faith, which God has wrought and put into their hearts, whereby they can protect themselves. The oil, which we have, is the unction of the Holy Ghost. (1 John 2:27) This function is a certain knowledge of God, which burns, and they live in fear, and apprehend that God might be angry with them. Therefore they anxiously entreat the bridegroom and pray for mercy. But while they thus cry, their lamps burn, and they expect from God the best gifts in all their solicitude.
5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. 
Slumbered and slept. It is consoling, that it is said, they "all" slept, both the wise and the foolish. The wise also sleep; true Christians also sin sometimes. But the assurance and consolation are here: Despair not! there are people in the kingdom of heaven who are sleepy. God can endure sin in his kingdom; if only the sinner acknowledges his sin and repents of it, God opens the door when the sinner knocks.
6 And at midnight, there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. 
The bridegroom cometh. This is the consolation, the bridegroom permits the cry to come before him and calls us to himself. No one need despair; let none look upon his imperfect life.
8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. 
Lamps gone out. A troubled conscience have they who seek help only when the bridegroom cometh, and must give up their self-conceit; then they begin to see what ails them; then there is a revelation of sin, that they are afraid of God, when they should have run to him for their greatest good.
9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. 
Go and buy for yourselves, etc. These unhappy virgins go and seek all kinds of help from the people; therefore have they no peace and no rest. But the wise virgins have great joy on account of the voice of the bride groom, whose goods they all enjoy (John 3:29.) This is the greatest joy of the wise virgins, to hear the voice of God, as David also prays, Psalm 51:13-14.
11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. 12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. 
Lord, open to us. They should have called out, O Lord, and dear bridegroom. But as they did not call thus, the Lord says, "I know you not; they are within who ought to be in. Depart from me," etc. That will then be a terrible judgment; then they shall be forsaken by all saints, yea, by all creatures; for whom the Lord does not know, him will no one know. When we regard him only as a Lord, then there is no consolation and re demption. Why do they not cry to the Bridegroom? Because they have no oil. Why do they run to the people for oil? Because they have never known the Bridegroom. Just so the rich man in hell cries, My lamp is gone out, send Lazarus. This rich man seeks from Lazarus, and finds nothing.

13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. 
Watch therefore. Let everyone see to it that he has both these two things, the oil; that is, the right trust, and faith in Christ, and the lamp; that is the outward servitude toward his neighbor.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 140-141

Monday, November 09, 2015

Luther's Notes on the Sunday Gospel: Second Last Sunday (Trinity 26), Martinmas - Last Judgment

2nd-Last Sunday of the Church Year
Trinity 26
And the text for the Feast of St. Martin, Pastor- November 11
Last Judgment

Matthew 25:31-46
New King James Version

31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

44 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 
When the Son of man shall come. The aspect of such glory and majesty will immediately bring the greatest terror and pain to the damned. 2 Thess. 1:9. It is, indeed, painful to the Christians, that they must remain in the midst of the untoward, perverted, bad people of the world, which is the devil's kingdom (Matt. 12:10) but here, as in all their sufferings on earth, they have the consolation of the future day of judgment, when Christ shall make such a division.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison and ye came unto me. 41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 
Those on his right hand, etc. It sounds strange that he makes the judgment entirely dependent on these works alone, and gives them as the ground and reason of it. These are called the works of mercy, or on the other hand the unmerciful works, which (to speak in a subtle manner) are the works only of the fifth commandment. But what of the works of the other commandments? Why does he so highly exalt these commandments which are also approved by Turks and heathen?

Answer: 1. It sounds as if he would teach hereby that many among the Christians, after having received the preaching of the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins and of grace through Christ, afterwards became worse than the heathen. Matt. 19:30.

2. He wishes to remind us, who are redeemed from the condemnation of the fifth commandment and eternal death, and have a gracious God, who bestows on us all goodness for time and eternity, that we should also look upon this goodness shown to us as an example.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 
When saw we thee an hungred? etc. With these words he does not say that those who are not Christians merit eternal life by such works, but he speaks of the works of believing Christians. For there is no doubt of this, that whoever will do such works of mercy to Christians, must himself also be a believing Christian; but whoever does not believe on Christ, will certainly not have such an affec tion for Christians, and much less for Christ; that for his sake he should show mercy to the poor; there fore he will also pass sentence on both parties accordingly, whether they have done those works or have not done them, as an open evidence of the fruits of their faith or their unbelief? Behold, here already in this world the distinction is made between the sheep and the goats, that each may very well perceive it in himself, and this must also be seen outwardly.

Then shall the righteous answer him, etc. But how does this come, that the "righteous" do not know that they have done this to Christ, as they say, "Lord, when saw we thee an hungred?" etc. Evidently, because they do not regard what one gives, perhaps to a poor preacher, school master or sexton, as such a precious thing before God. Yea, the world regards it as money entirely thrown away.

Did it not to the least .... did it not to me. You will not be able to excuse yourself; for then he will tell you through your own conscience: Friend, were there not people who preached to you? or perhaps, poor scholars who should have been educated and trained to preach God's word? or other persecuted, suffering poor Christians, whom you could have visited and supplied with food, drink and clothing?
46 And these shall go away into ever lasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
These shall go away, etc. Who ever is so disposed that he does works of mercy for Christians, because he believes he has a faithful Savior and Redeemer in Christ, who has reconciled him with God; yea, who himself also suffers oppression from the devil and the world, on account of his faith, let him be joyful and of good courage; for he has already secured the blessed, joyful sentence: Come, thou blessed one!

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 141-142.
 thus far Luther.

Additional comments:
about November 11th, St. Martin, Bishop of Tours

I'm including some background on St. Martin and Martinmas because of his significance to European Christianity, the shape of the Church Year, and because Martin Luther and Martin Chemnitz were baptized on this date and named after him. It would not be inappropriate, then, to take this opportunity to preach on the Gospel lesson historically selected for this observance.

About St. Martin

Martin was born in Hungary, the son of a Roman tribune of the Imperial Horse Guard Auxilia either AD 316 or 336. At age 10, and against his father's desires, he became a catechumen of the Christian Church. At age 15 he was required to serve in the Roman cavalry (ala). When Caesar Julian (the Apostate) succeded his father Constantine, Martin left military service, was jailed for desertion, and set free by providential circumstances. He then chose to become a priest. He studied at Tours under Hilary of Poitiers, and opposing Julian's Arianism. He preached the Nicene Confession of the faith on his way to Italy to confront the Arians. At Illycrium he was publicly scourged for his confession of faith. After a short exile he returned to Tours after Hilary was re-seated as Bishop in AD 361. Tours became a major center for promoting the genuine Nicene Confession of the Christian faith.

He reluctantly accepted the position of Bishop of Tours in 371, after which he sought to widely proclaime the Nicene Confession and convert the pagans. He launched a project of destroying pagan sacred sites. According to his contemporary and biographer, Sulpicius Severus, Martin did this even by acceptiing and surviving a challenge from the pagans as to whether the True God would spare his life. [Life of St. Martin, Chapter 13]

Martin made a reputation with the secular authorities as an effective advocate for the imprisoned, to the extent that the authorities would try to avoid meeting with him lest they be publicly persuaded to release certain prisoners. His charity is celebrated by the legend about his sharing of his cloak.

Martin died in 397 in central France. He became popular throughout all of Celtic and Germanic Europe.

Martin's Day,  Martinmas, and Advent

By the 6th century the Feast of St. Martin on November 11th was observed as the beginning Quadragesima Sancti Martini (Saint Martin's Lent). This period paralleled the Lententide before Easter. It was observed from November 11 to Epiphany, January 6th. During these 56 days with 40 days of fasting. In medieval documents Martinmas was very often regarded as the end of the agricultural year and the beginning of winter. In 581, the synod held at Macon, in Gaul declared Martin's Day to be the beginning of a season of preparation for Christmas. According to the Gelasian Sacramentary, as early as AD 750 this prepratory season had been reduced to five Sundays preceding. Pope Gregory the VII reduced it to the four Sundays of Advent during the eleventh century. Throughout these centuries, however, Martin's Day was still observed not only as a popular Church festival, but also as the end of the economic/legal year and the popular beginning of the winter season. (Tille, Yule and Christmas, chs. 3-6)

Two More Martins

On the eve of Martinmas in 1483 a baby boy was born to Hans and Margarethe Luder in Eisleben, Germany. They brought their new child to the Sacrament of Holy Baptism the next morning, November 11th, and named him after St. Martin of Tours.

On November 9th of 1522 a baby boy was born to Klaus and Euphemia Chemnitz. Their son was also named in honor of St. Martin, in all probability he was also baptized on Martinmas.

So on this day we have the opportunity to teach by the example of Martin of Tour's steadfastness to the Nicene Confession of the faith in opposition to Arianism and paganism. We have the opportunity to teach by the example of Martin Luther's stance on sola scriptura, sola fide, and sola gratia. And we have the opportunity to teach by the example of Martin Chemnitz, perhaps the main mover behind the confession of the truth of Scripture in the Lutheran Book of Concord.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Luther's Notes on the Sunday Gospel: Third Last Sunday (Trinity 25) - End Times

Third-Last Sunday of the Church Year (Trinity 25)
Signs of the End Times

Matthew 24:15-28
New King James Version
15 “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), 16 “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. 18 And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. 19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20 And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.

23 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand.

26 “Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 28 For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand) The abomination of desolation. 
Matthew intertwines here both the end of the Jewish people and the end of the world with each other. There are therefore two special things in this Gospel. The first is a warning for the pious Christians, who would live to see the destruction of Jerusalem, in order that they might know this beforehand, and could make their escape. The second is a warning that relates especially to our last times.

The "abomination" of which Daniel writes (Chap. 9:26, 27) is, that the emperor Caligula set up his image everywhere, and also in the temple of Jerusalem, as an idol, that they should worship it and offer him incense; for the Scriptures call the idols a special abomination, because God and all pious hearts loathe and detest them; for this sin is more at enmity to him than any other. This abomination before God must have a fine outward appearance of holiness before the world, that the true holiness may be destroyed.
16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: 17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house: 18 Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. 
Not come down from the housetop. The houses of the Jews were square at the top, and paved, that one could walk, stand or sit upon the roof. But, says Jesus, there will be no time for ascending and descending from the roof; let house and furniture burn, and do not think of returning to the house again. After the Jews had been warned by many signs that they should submit to the Romans, they would not; but the disciples and apostles hastened away and obeyed the warning of Christ.
19 And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! To them that are with child. When the trouble comes, it comes commonly sorest upon the group of wives and children. 20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day; 
Winter or the sabbath. The Jews had an especial command, that on the sabbath they were not allowed to go as far as they desired. Acts 1:12.

Pray. He did not wish to perform a miracle, to keep them alone safe amidst the enemies. But he also says, "Pray" to indicate and teach us that we should also pray, and that such prayer will induce and incline God to remember us, and give us success and prosperity in our undertaking.
21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 
Great tribulation. We can read in history how miserably they perished and killed one another. Thus also Matthew writes that such a tribulation shall come at the last day. For, what he had hitherto said, had reference to the Jews; but here he combines both, yet breaks off abruptly, cares not much about the order in which the expressions that he has uttered follow each other, but leaves it to the Evangelist Luke to arrange.
22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. 
Except those days should be shortened. This applies to both events, but especially to the last day; the meaning is, that the misery shall not last so very long, for the sake of the pious; for the war against the Jews did not last quite two years, until peace was restored.

As then the punishment was a bodily one, so at the end of the world it will be a spiritual punishment that shall be inflicted on the wicked. As it is written in 2 Thess. 2:8, "And then shall that wicked one be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy him with the brightness of his coming." He himself will do this, without means, by his word. Thus the power of the pope has been weakened and broken by the Gospel, but his final destruction is reserved unto the last day.
23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. 
False Christs .... false prophets. When the light of the Gospel shall shine forth in the world, then the devil will come with so many factions and sects, false prophets and false teachers, that whoever will look with spiritual eyes upon the world, will imagine that no one can be saved.

Lo, here is Christ. He warns us to beware of those who set forth the kingdom of Christ and bind the Christian life to outward visible things, and that we should not permit ourselves to be torn from this foundation, that we do not become Christians by such means, but only through his blood can we enter into the kingdom by faith.
24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
False Christs and false prophets. It is not necessary to make a distinction here between false Christs and false prophets. Yet we may refer the former to the Turk and his doctrines, and the latter to the pope and his teachings. And the Lord Christ adds something to this, which is still more terrible; namely, that these false Christs and false prophets will be mighty in performing miracles, "show great signs and wonders." This confounds the people, and overwhelms them, to think that these should perform such miracles, whereby not only the common people, but even the very elect might be deceived.

At the time when the emperors were more powerful, they antagonized the pope; — yet they did not accomplish much, but the pope excommunicated them, etc. These were greater wonders than the raising of anyone from the dead.

But this we should know first, that many false miracles can be performed by the devil. When God withdraws his hand, on account of sin, and permits him to deceive the world, then he can restore sight to the blind; yea, even raise the dead to life. Not as though he were a creator like unto God; but he draws up such apparitions, which the people think are real miracles.

In the second place, we should pay careful attention to the design of these signs and wonders; for the intention of all false wonders is, that the devil may confirm his lies thereby. The apostles also performed many signs and miracles, but they all had this design, that the Gospel might be strengthened by them, and that Christ might be known and accepted in all the world. Therefore when a pope or a monk raises one from the dead in the name of St. Anne, it is done by the help of the devil. Then the people say, The holy St. Anne hath helped me, and they are strengthened in their idolatry. We should not believe any of these wonders, after the Gospel has gone out into all the world, and has been sufficiently confirmed by miracles and signs.

Deceive the very elect, etc. These are terrible words, when we consider how those who preach salvation by works deceive the people with such show and energy, that even the be lieving saints are unable to resist the error, but unite with them, as has been the case.

For St. Bernard during his life built 160 monasteries, and was an abbot for 30 years. All this came about through the cry, "Here is Christ." But when he came to die, he said, "Oh, I have lived a bad life! But this is my consolation, that thou God hast said, A broken heart thou wilt not despise." Thus the elect have fallen into error — but did not remain in it. Hence it is incorrect to say, The holy fathers and teachers thought and lived so and so; there fore we must follow their example; for he (Christ) is more than all the saints.
25 Behold, I have told you before. 
I have told you before. As much as to say, No excuse will be valid. The good Lord warns us faithfully. He not only foretells it, but adds some thing to it, teaches it earnestly and repeats it; and then it avails not, that you boast and put your trust in your wisdom, riches or ingenuity. It can not help you, for even the elect are deceived.
26 Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. 
Behold, he is in the desert. "Deserts" are the pilgrimages and fieldchapters (Feldstifte.)

Secret chambers are now all spiritual monasteries.

But the Christian life is not to be confined to the deserts and monaster ies, but is to move about freely, as Christ and the apostles lived; the min ister is to come forth among the peo ple, preach and exhort publicly, in or der to bring the people to Christ.

Go not forth, or out into the desert. Let Christ, the Holy Ghost, God and all the holy angels be outside, but go thou not out. "Oh, but if God should raise up a new prophet, should we not then go out?" If one should rise up today, look sour, fast, wear a gray coat, and be out in the woods, I believe the whole city would run out to him, notwithstanding that here we have Baptism and the Lord's Supper, and all the ordinances instituted and ordered by God. But do thou say, I will remain where the congregation of Christ abides, with Baptism, with the divine word and abso lution, and I will let go the "Lo, here" and the "Lo, there," and I will not be something extra, above what God has ordered; in this thing take care of thyself, and afterwards in thine outward life conduct thyself like other God-fearing hearts.
27 For as the lightning corneth out of the east, and shineth even unto the west: so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 
As the lightning cometh from the east. As if he would say, The lightning is unconfined, and in an instant takes in the whole sky, so my kingdom is not confined to the "here" and "there ;" must not be called Rome, Jerusalem, or St. James; but it is everywhere in the world.
28 For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together. 
Where the carcass is. That is, where the word is preached and the sacraments are administered, there will also be Christians. Therefore you need not ask where the place of Christ's coming will be. I may be where I will, we shall certainly get together. But now it is strange that he compares his kingdom with the carcass of a thief on the gallows. But here Christ is looked upon as nothing but a carcass, or as a condemned, crucified man, and all who believe on him and cling to him, must be regarded as eagles.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 136-139