Ps. 46; Rev. 14:6-7; Rom. 3:19-28; Matthew 11:12-19 (alt.).
Wisdom, And so Wisdom was declared innocent of her own works!” (v. 19) (Dr. professor, Jeffrey A. Gibbs translation)
Jesus laments over his generation’s misunderstanding of self and JB as God’s righteousness way of salvation; to make matters worse, the usual translation, “Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds” (RSV) abstracts God’s wisdom from Jesus’ deeds. The misunderstanding continues in so-called “broader Christendom”.
Observe, it is only Lutherans who celebrate the Reformation festival to “an eternal gospel” (Rev. 14:6). Why do you suppose that is? An ancient maxim holds, “the church is always being reformed”, i.e., to her catholic faith held “everywhere, always, by all” (Vincent of Lerins”); thus, the essential character of the church is located in her universal Creeds, to be one holy catholic and apostolic.
What then may be said of those bodies apart from this confession of unity; simply that “denominations”, may not lay claim to be ONE in belief. All denominations, bald claims and names aside, by shear diversity of beliefs are schismatic, heretical, or sectarian.
When any scriptural article of the Christian faith is denied or compromised, the “eternal gospel”, justification by grace alone through faith alone (Eph. 2:8) is corrupted.
Well now Pastor, you have torn it; are you condemning all our non-Lutheran relatives and friends? Not at all; absent special circumstances it is not my job to condemn anyone, only preach Christ’s truth “in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2), and in that Truth one hopes the seeds of repentance and conversion take root.
Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day you hear God’s law and gospel preached for repentant faith. But on this festival day, Lutherans honor their reformation heritage for prayerful repentance among those traveling under the banner of generic “Christendom”; therefore, it is only Lutheran congregations that celebrate the 16th Century Reformation in “an eternal gospel[’s]” specificity.
Neither is the LCMS excluded from prayer; after all, as a transplanted church body we grew-up within the pale of the American denominations, and on occasion all too ready in joining the source of Jesus’ lament that, “Wisdom is innocent of her own works.”
Jesus, is the enfleshed wisdom of God; so, if Jesus is laments those who call him “innocent of his own works”, we must recognize he is speaking of the violent men who would snatch-away heaven’s kingdom (Mt. 11:12); how so?
Jesus addressed the crowd, “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplace, who as they call out to others, ‘We played the flute, but you [JB] did not dance! We lamented, but you [Jesus] did not beat your breasts in mourning!’” (Mt. 11:16, 17).
This parable-song marks his generation associated with a “wisdom” unrelated to the testimony of JB of Jesus and his Passion. John proclaimed Jesus, God’s sacrificial Lamb sin Bearer of the world.
Jesus’ guilt for the world’s sin is grace’s “raison d’etre” through Baptism. But sinful men are wont to reject grace by faith in Christ crucified, declaring “Jesus innocent on the cross” as though God was uninvolved in his Son’s death (cf. Ps. 22:1); offering the wisdom of men.
Jesus concluded his lament to the crowd, “And so Wisdom was declared innocent of her own works!” warning against a piety separating his coming death from God’s will. Here is irony, “Christendom” confesses salvation in Christ; but all denominations, in one way or another, reject what they speak. Jesus’ parable-song calls all to receive God’s salvation as the only way to “fulfill all righteousness” (Mt. 3:15); Jesus’ guilt for our guilt.
A Reformation message to the “denominations”, if received at all, will be unwelcome; that said, Scripture demands we recognize those declaring “Jesus’ innocence on the cross” a devilish snatching of “an eternal gospel” for which Jesus died: guilty as charged.
By definition “an eternal gospel” out of heaven is not a collection of belief systems, the church does not teach “systematic theologies”; rather scriptural dogmatic Truth.
Against variegated denominational systems, Pharisaic or other, Jesus warned, “From the days of JB until now the reign of heaven is being violently attacked, and violent men are trying to snatch it away” (Mt. 11:12).
Who are the violent men? Throughout Jesus’ ministry he was opposed, by Pharisees and chief priests, thinking their own way to God’s wisdom best. Opposition came to a head; Jesus asked, “when”God’s reign on earth would begin (Lk. 17:20)? His response shocked, “[B]ehold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (v. 21b).
Sinful men reject God’s incarnational Presence in Resurrection power (cf. St. Thomas, Jn. 20:25). God’s fleshly presence in the congregation is heaven’s “eternal gospel”; yet it was unwelcomed then; and is today.
JB and Jesus preached man’s turning to God’s presence in his Son for the gift of receptive hearts by faith “apart from works of the law” (Rom. 3:28). Pharisees, however held a different notion of “repentance”; that by man’s “righteous” obedience to Moses’ law they would usher-in God’s future reign. Imagine their offense when Jesus proclaimed, “[T]he kingdom of God is [already] in the midst of you”.
Jesus turned the Pharisaic catechism upside-down; from a “repentance” by what man does, to a righteousness God gives through his Son’s obedience; so also, the scandalized mentalities of the latter-day “denominations”.
“God’s reign” consists in Jesus’ merciful presence in the congregation, not man’s works of law. This is crucial, any other salvation than Christ’s guilt for us, is rebellion; thus, Jesus warns against teaching, “Wisdom’s innocence” negating his guilt on the cross that offers sham forgiveness.
If Jesus were innocent on the cross, our sin remains. If “Wisdom” was innocent, Jesus’ work on the cross would accuse God of duplicity; rather Jesus, in our place bear’s the entire load of sin’s guilt before God.
Without rancor we remind the purpose of Lutheran Reformation prayers, cataloging modern day violence against “an eternal gospel”:
Rome corrupts Scripture’s language; “grace” becomes an earned substance; and “faith” pits St. James against St. Paul; liturgy is modeled through an Aaronic priesthood; not Christ’s Melchizedek order.
Zwingli and the Calvinist “Reformed” throw Christ and babies out with the sacramental water.
The “Reformed” assault God’s “election salvation” unbounded to his sacramental promises, making God an arbitrary despot so that salvation is only for the “lucky”.
Jacob Arminius disputed Calvin’s duplicitous “elections”, putting salvation into the wheelhouse of man’s free will, contrary to our “bondage of the will” (Ps. 51:5).
Pentecostals locate truth through personal “internal light”, apart from the sacraments from outside; “truth” is: “what is right in one’s own eyes” snatching-away “an eternal gospel”.
Generally, Protestants marginalize the word from being “God’s power” (1 Cor. 1:18, 19) to mere information about God.
“An eternal gospel” is not generic; it is too glorious to be proclaimed in other than specificity; that the crucified and risen man Jesus Christ reigns in our midst by word and sacrament presence for faith, righteousness, and holiness before God.
If this Sermon is less than “inclusive” in a world that would define “Christianity” by lowest common sentiments about Jesus’ work; no boast is intended; rather Truth’s hope is for institutional repentance from “salvations” other than Christ crucified for the sin taken to himself.
Today our Prayer seeks repentance of teachers that “Wisdom is innocent of her own works”, snatching-away “an eternal gospel”, for “another Jesus”, “a different Spirit”, “a different gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6-9) and “another wisdom”; still, Christ’s “little flock” holds fast to word and sacrament alone. Amen.