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Walther and Stöckhardt on Trinity 24 – Matthew 9:18-26

by pastorjuhl ~ November 10th, 2010

Faith does not display this glorious power without the believer noticing something of it. It shows itself “as the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith makes the believer divinely certain that he has God’s grace. It fills him with God’s peace. It sends the Holy Spirit into his heart as a pledge and seal of his justification and salvation. As St. Paul writes: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). And in another passage: “In whom,” namely in Christ, “also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of Christ, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession” (Ephesians 1:13-14).

Faith produces another effect. It creates a new heart in man. It not only cleanses the heart from its natural love of sin; it not only plants an honest hatred and horror of all which displeases God and which he has forbidden in his Word. It also gives the person power to battle earnestly against all sin, love God above all things as his greatest good, and find his greatest pleasure in God and his friendship. Whoever has true faith is an enemy of his pet sins and resists them in daily battle. He can conquer all hatred against his most bitter enemies and offenders; yes, he can  heartily love them, completely forget their offenses, and do good to them. He can do without all earthly things wherein the natural man seeks his fortune and joy and still be happy. For Christ’s sake he joyfully endures the theft of all his temporal goods; for the sake of God’s Word he joyfully exchanges the royal scepter for the beggar’s staff; he is unconcerned whether he is despised by the world; yes, he fears being praised and honored by the world. He is dead to it, gladly renounces all good days, health, and rest, as long as he knows that he has God’s grace. He does not strive to become rich. If without any seeking and wishing on his part he becomes wealthy by God’s blessing, he does not cling to it. He seeks rather to do good with it, dry the tears of the poor, and promote the spread of God’s kingdom.

Faith makes a person so certain of a matter that he is unconcerned whether the wise and holy of the world contradict him and call his faith folly, enthusiasm, and deception. His faith makes him so courageous that he is not afraid of the whole world, even if it rages and fumes against him with mockery, threats, and persecution. he is ready to die for his faith if necessary. Because of his faith the missionary forsakes friends, homeland, and everything which he considers near and dear, goes out among the wild tribes and gladly sacrifices the joys of his life for the joy of rescuing immortal souls and leading them to the Savior. Oh, the great heavenly power of despised faith!
Do you wish to drag on till your death with an imagined faith and in your last hour despair without comfort, or first in eternity open your eyes? Ah, understand in time the word of Christ: “Thy faith hath made thee whole!” For tell me, from which sickness of the soul has your faith helped you? Which sins have you conquered? From which bonds of spiritual death has it delivered you? And where are the signs of the spiritual life which it has awakened in you? Alas, close your eyes no longer to your failings in true faith! Go as poor, empty, unbelieving sinners to Christ and pray to him to awaken true faith in you. With great joy you will soon experience its miraculous powers in you.

But you, who daily seize Christ in his Word, even though with weak trembling hands of faith, stand firm in the faith. Write the word which Christ says to Jairus: “Be not afraid, only believe!” deeply in your heart. Let this be your morning star in every temptation or trouble in life. Fasten the eye of your faith firmly to it, when in your hour of death darkness will surround you and perhaps the terrors of hell will suddenly fall upon you. Let the world laugh at you because of your faith as it laughed at Jairus. Christ will hold his Word before you, too, deliver you from the jaws of death, and let you see with eternal laughter what you today believe in though with tears.
This is the Lord’s, this is God’s opinion about what men call death: She is not dead; and if it is not death, then it has to be life. Christ the Lord had reason and right to act, talk, and think this way. He was, he is the Son of the living God; he has power over life and death. For him death is something small, insignificant. That sick woman who doubted whether she would live had only to touch the seam of his clothing, and she was healed. Jesus had but to touch the dead girl lightly, and she became alive. Christ, God’s Son, is the Redeemer of the world. He came in between life and death, has checked the torment, sin and death. Through his death and resurrection he has destroyed sin and death. And now the wisdom that he teaches us, that is the comfort of the Gospel, is that the dead live, live before God. Secure, proud sinners who boast about their life and are defiant, them we remind of death, we direct them to God who lets men die and says: Return, ye children of men! To souls sorrowful unto death, however, we proclaim the Gospel, the truth from above that says: God is not a God of the dead but of the living. This is comfort for Christians who are terrified by sin and death and who believe the Gospel from which they should take comfort when touched by the death of their loved ones and when affected by their own suffering and dying.
Yes, our dead live in God’s presence, in God. The soul lives with God. In God’s hand and bosom it is in safe keeping. But only the soul? No, also the body of Christians lives. Though it lies in the grave and becomes dust and ashes, it lives in God’s eyes. The prophet comforts the Israelites: Thy dead men shall live. Our vain body will rise and become like unto the glorified body of the Son of God. This is the Christians’ hope. What we hope, however, already exists in God’s eyes. A thousand years in God’s sight are but a day. With God there is no distinction of times. Eternity is time without time. In God’s eyes the interval between the day of our death and the day of our resurrection does not even exist. God pays no attention to the dust and ashes in the grave. Death and decay matter nothing in the sight of the living God. His dead live.

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