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!” (vv. 18, 19) (translation, Dr. Jeffrey A. Gibbs)
Please observe that it is only Lutherans who celebrate the Reformation to “an eternal gospel” (Rev. 14:6). Now, why do you suppose that is?
An ancient maxim holds, “the church is always being reformed” to her beliefs held “everywhere, always, by all” (Vincent of Lerins”). Reformation then, is the churchly impulse from the Spirit for institutional repentance, whether Lutheran, Roman, Orthodox, or Protestant.
Lord’s day to Lord’s day you hear God’s law and gospel preached for your repentant faith. But on this festival day, Lutherans honor their heritage in the Spirit’s call for repentance among the multitude of bodies traveling under the banner of “Christendom”.
The LCMS is not excluded, after all, she grew-up in the landscape of American denominationalism too quick to declare, “Wisdom innocent of her own works”.
Speaking to his “generation” (v. 16a) and to us, Jesus makes an enigmatic allegation; yet you understand it, Jesus is God’s enfleshed Wisdom through whom the new creation is coming into being. Jesus’ accusation gives us to discern sinful man’s distrust of God’s salvation; the work of Christ on the cross and of God by the Resurrection.
Jesus said, “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).
Men are wont to reject God’s salvation by grace through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8). So here is the irony, all Christendom confesses God’s salvation with their lips; but denomination by denomination, it is expressly and implicitly rejected. Jesus’ parable of the inconsistent “Marketplace Children” is a call to receive God’s salvation by Jesus proclaimed by John, as the way that “fulfills all righteousness” (Mt. 3:15).
Today, Jesus speaks to his “little flock” (Alleluia verse, Lk. 12:32) for whom faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17). In some way this Sermon intends, not only individual, but the church’s institutional repentance in returning to the one holy catholic and apostolic faith; whether it will gain traction, only God knows.
A Reformation message directed to the denominations, if received at all, will at worst be unwelcome and at best seen as insufferably arrogant; that said, Scripture demands its forthright exposition.
By definition “an eternal gospel” (Rev. 14:6) out of heaven is not a collection of disparate belief systems (the church does not teach “systematic theology”, rather scriptural dogmatics).
Against variegated denominational systems, whether of the Pharisees, or other, Jesus warns, “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, especially by Pharisees and chief priests. Their opposition came to a head on inquiring, “when” God’s reign on earth would begin (Lk. 17:20)? Jesus answered, “[B]ehold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (v. 21b).
Sinful men (cf. St. Thomas, Jn. 20:25) instinctively reject God’s incarnational Presence in our midst and the power of the Resurrection. God’s fleshly presence is heaven’s “eternal gospel”; it was unwelcomed then, as it is today.
JB and Jesus preached turning from unbelief and anticipate God’s presence in his Son. This is God’s way in the promise of his incarnate Presence and gift of receptive hearts by faith apart from works of the law” (Rom. 3:28).
Pharisees, for example, held a different notion of “repentance”; sourced in man’s own “righteous” obedience for ushering-in God’s future reign. Imagine their scandal when Jesus, declared, “[T]he kingdom of God is [already] in the midst of you”. Jesus turned the Pharisee catechism upside-down; from a “repentance” of what man righteousness does, to what God gives in his Son; so also, is the mentality among “Christian” denominations.
“God’s reign” consists in Jesus’ merciful presence in the congregation, not man’s justifying works. This is crucial, any other salvation than in Christ alone is rebellion; thus, Jesus warns against teaching, “Wisdom innocent of her own works!”, that abstracts Jesus’ guilt on the cross.
To claim Jesus “innocent” is subtle violence against God’s kingdom. If Jesus were innocent on the cross, our sin remains and righteousness from God an impossibility. If Wisdom is innocent of her work; we deny Jesus, God’s obedient-new Israel and sin-bearer in our place.
The catalogue of violence against “an eternal gospel” is unremitting; still, Christ’s “little flock” holds-on, empowered by word and sacrament. Consider:
The Roman corrupt of Scripture, “grace” (becomes an earned substance); “faith” (pits James vs. Paul); its liturgy accords a faux priesthood modeled, not on the order of Melchizedek, but on Aaron to underpin “a canon of priestly works”.
Zwingli and Calvinist “Reformed” throw Christ and the church’s babies with her sacramental bathwater; and with Protestants in general marginalize God’s word; no longer “the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18, 19), but mere information about God.
The “Reformed” assault God’s gracious “election” as arbitrariness, unbound to his promises; salvation is only for the “lucky”.
Jacob Arminius disputing Calvin’s “election” put salvation into the wheelhouse of human freedom, making our “election” contrary to Scripture’s “Bondage of The Will” (Ps. 51:5).
Pentecostalism locates truth in the “internal light” of men apart from creation’s sacramental elements from outside us in Christ; “truth” then is that believed according to “what is right in one’s own eyes” that always promotes “man’s glory” snatching-away God’s sacrificial life in Baptism.
“An eternal gospel” is not generic; it is too glorious to be proclaimed in other than specificity. The crucified and risen man Jesus Christ reigns by his word and sacramental Presence in our midst for faith, righteousness, and holiness before God.
If this Sermon is less than “inclusive”; it is not intended as a Lutheran boast, rather hope for denominational repentance from optional “salvations” than Solus Christus.
Our Reformation prayer today for those who teach Wisdom innocent of her own works [on the cross]; snatching-away “an eternal gospel” for “another Jesus”, “a different Spirit”, and “a different gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6-9). Amen.