June 21, 2015
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bossier City, LA
INI + AMEN.
The Triune God is a vocal God. Our Lord speaks and we listen. His Word bestows what it says. When He speaks of forgiveness, the Word gives forgiveness, and we receive forgiveness. The same goes with salvation, with eternal life, with the Spirit. Now, faith that is born from what is heard acknowledges the gifts received with eager thankfulness and praise. We rejoice that our God is a vocal God. We rejoice that He speaks, that He gives what He says. We certainly see this in Jesus. God promised He would come and save humanity. Jesus, His birth, death and resurrection, were promised, even in the Garden of Eden, and every single promise was delivered on. Jesus, who is the Eternal Word, came, and every Word of God points to and delivers Him because His Word bestows and gives what it says.
This is what Paul is driving at in our text today from 2 Corinthians. He’s talking about his ministry to the Corinthians, ministers or pastors in general, but also all Christians. His entire discussion has to do with God’s Word. It all gets boiled down to this one idea:
GOD’S WORD OF GOSPEL IS GIVEN AND PROCLAIMED.
(I. It can be received in vain.)
Now, we all know God’s Word is a great blessing. God’s Word is a gift, and it’s given how the Lord wishes to give it. He gives it through Word written on a page and through Word that we speak. Now, we’ve all received God’s Word. When it comes to our receiving God’s Word and the grace and favor that comes through that Word, Paul has a stern warning. “We appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.” The Gospel goes out and it can be “received in vain” as Paul puts it. This means nothing other than to hear the Word, to hear the Gospel and to not really listen to it, not to take it to heart, not to believe it. To “receive in vain” is nothing other than to reject the gift of God’s Word, the Gospel which says Christ has died and risen for you. God’s Word shouldn’t be put off for tomorrow, the next day, or next week. “For he says, ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
So, what does such receiving in vain look like? Well, Luther compared God giving His Word to a rain shower. He says,“The preaching of the Gospel is not an eternal, continuous and permanent mode of instruction, but rather a passing [rain] shower, which hastens on. What it strikes, it strikes; what it misses, it misses. It does not return, nor does it stand still. The sun and heat follow and dry it up…To receive the grace of God in vain can be nothing else than to hear the pure word of God which presents and offers His grace, and yet to remain listless and unresponsive, undergoing no change at all. Thus, ungrateful for the Word and unworthy of it, we merit the loss of the Word.” This is a Scriptural idea. Jesus Himself says to Nicodemus in John 3: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Where will it hasten on to next? It’s hard to say. There may be popup showers here and there in the Western World, but today it’s monsoon season in Africa and Asia. It’s a lot like Tropical Storm Bill from last week. The meteorologists had their various computer models. So it is with the Spirit and the rain shower of God’s grace and Word, you may get the general idea, but the Spirit goes where He wills.
Let us cling to God’s Word, His Gospel. It saves us. For what we have today, may be gone tomorrow. “Now is the favorable time; now is the day of salvation.” It’s not for tomorrow, the next day, or next week. The Lord’s Word and Gospel come today. He saves us with it—today! That’s why it’s given and proclaimed.
(II. It is is our source of help, strength, and life.)
We don’t let anyone or anything get in our way of hearing and receiving God’s Word that He gives and proclaims. His Gospel is so important to us that we wouldn’t let any other commitment, event, or plans stand in our way. This isn’t only because God’s the one who’s given His Word. It’s not only because He protects His Word with the Second Commandment. It’s not only because He protects receiving His Word with the Third Commandment. Though this is true. We don’t want to “receive His Word in vain” because of what comes with it: His mercy, grace, and forgiveness. That’s what’s so vitally important about God’s Word and receiving it. Without it, without Him giving it and having it proclaimed we would be lost. Our Lord speaks and we listen. His Word bestows what it says. Faith that is born from what is heard acknowledges the gifts received with eager thankfulness and praise.
Now, the grace, mercy, and forgiveness that comes from God’s faith-giving, Christ-giving, Spirit-filled Word isn’t something for when we’re feeling good. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s for life in the trenches, and the Gospel that Jesus Christ has died and risen gets us through the trenches of life. It doesn’t take long for us to realize this from what Paul says today. Did you hear some of the things he lists off? He says, “in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger.” That’s some heavy duty stuff that Paul dealt with being the Lord’s Apostle. The giving out of the Gospel always has opposition. Faith in the Gospel has opposition. God’s gracious favor in Christ Jesus has opposition. But Paul also says, “We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.”
How can He say things like this? “as unknown, yet well known”? “As dying and behold we live”? “Having nothing, possessing everything”? He can say this because of Christ Jesus who comes in God’s Gospel Word. You see, Christ Jesus’ death and resurrection shows that no matter what there is victory. Christ’s tomb is empty. For this reason we always rejoice in our circumstances. We may have nothing at all but we’re baptized and that’s all we need. We’ve been clothed with Christ, His righteousness, we’ve been declared sons of the Father in the waters of Baptism. We may be unknown, but you are well known to your heavenly Father. You shall not die, but you shall live. For Jesus says of you, “Whoever believes in Me, though He die, yet shall He live.” This is God’s Gospel Word, and it has come today. He saves us with it—today! That’s why it’s given and proclaimed.
The Triune God is a vocal God. Our Lord speaks and we listen. His Word bestows what it says. Faith that is born from what is heard acknowledges the gifts received with eager thankfulness and praise. This is what Paul is driving at in our text today from 2 Corinthians. God’s Gospel Word is given and proclaimed. It speaks of Christ and what He has done. This gets us through our trenches. He gets us through. This is why the Gospel’s given and proclaimed.
INI + AMEN.