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Lindemann on the Conversion of St. Paul (Jan 25)

by revalkorn ~ January 10th, 2011

THE CONVERSION OF SAINT PAUL

January 25

The Introit. “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that Day. There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me. O Lord, Thou hast searched me and known me, Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising.”

The Collect. “O God, who through the preaching of the blessed Apostle Saint Paul hast caused the light of Thy Gospel to shine to the Gentile world, give us grace ever to joy in the saving light of Thy Gospel and to spread it to the uttermost parts of the earth.”

The Book of Common Prayer offers the following: “O God, who, through the preaching of the blessed Apostle Saint Paul, hast caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world, grant, we beseech Thee, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show forth our thankfulness unto Thee for the same, by following the holy doctrine which he taught.”

The Epistle (Acts 9:1-22).

The Gradual. “He that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles, and they glorified God in me. By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain. Alleluia! Alleluia! The Lord said unto Paul, Thou art a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My Name before the Gentiles. Alleluia!”

The Gospel (St. Matt. 19:27-30).

The Proper Preface. “Because Thou didst mightily govern and protect Thy holy Church, which the blessed Apostles and Evangelists instructed in Thy divine and saving truth.”

SERMON ON THE HOLY GOSPEL

By Johann Gerhard

In the story of blameless and upright Job we are told how the Lord first permitted great calamity to come upon him but later delighted him again by restoring everything to him. For was it not a great misfortune that his seven sons and three daughters all perished at one time, being killed when the house in which they were celebrating fell upon them? His unfaithful neighbors, the Sabeans, took his oxen and asses; the Chaldeans made off with his camels; fire fell from heaven and consumed his sheep. In addition, his own wife mocked him and his friends turned against him. He himself was afflicted with loathsome sores from head to foot. Worst of all, God hid His face from him for a time, so that he felt only wrath and terror, his soul loathed life, and his members desired death. He was a burden to himself and no longer wished to live. This was indeed a great calamity and sorrow. But because he remained steadfast and firmly trusted in God, he was later richly compensated for his misfortune. Whatever impatient words he may have uttered in his agony God graciously forgave him when he accused himself, acknowledged his sin, and repented in dust and ashes. The Lord also restored abundantly what he had lost in earthly possessions, gave him twofold, and satisfied him with long life, so that he lived 140 years longer.

What was done for pious job in deed and truth long before, Christ in the text promises Peter and all who for His sake and the Gospel’s leave possessions or family. They, too, may confidently expect to have all richly rewarded and restored. Because this hope and consolation is given them by Christ, who is the infallible Truth, they may be as sure of it as if they already had it in fact and truth.

We shall divide the text into two parts and consider:

I. Peter’s Question
II. Our Lord’s Answer

In the preceding context the Evangelist tells that a ruler came to Christ and asked what good deed he must do to have eternal life. When our Lord directed him to the Law as the perfect rule for all good works, the ruler gave a proud answer. He had observed all the Commandments. This was a vain boast, “for there is no man who does not sin” (1 Kings 8:46), and to sin means to transgress God’s command. Our Lord wished to bring him to a knowledge of himself and said to him: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” This was an extraordinary call and command, addressed specifically to this ruler, that he, like the other Apostles, leave everything and enter Christ’s school. The text tells us, however, that the young man turned and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then our Lord preached a severe sermon to His disciples, telling them that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

When Peter heard this, it occurred to him that he and the other Apostles had left their nets and everything they possessed at Christ’s call and that they had long since arrived at the point to which the Lord wished to lead this young man. Therefore he asked: “Lo, we have left everything and followed Thee. What, then, shall we have?” What kind of a treasure may we expect therefor?

1. Here we find pictured the usual attitude of men. We like to look for the reward in everything and are always concerned that God might not reward richly enough whatever good we do or whatever evil we suffer for His name’s sake. What had Peter left? A decaying hut, a few nets, and whatever else it may have been. Nevertheless he inquires what he is to get in return. This is our usual attitude. We are more concerned about the reward than the work.

This ought not to be. The more faith and love increase in fellowship with Christ, the more this concern about the reward decreases. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for” (Heb. 11:1), and the believers were saved in this hope (Rom. 8:24). God has given them the sure promise of eternal life. If this faith and assurance is upright, why be concerned that the good done and the cross suffered might not be rewarded richly enough?

This is true also of genuine love. It does not insist on having its own way (1 Cor. 13:5). It serves God willingly, without guile or deception. It does good because God desires and is well pleased with it, as a child in the home readily does the father’s will out of love alone, because it pleases the father. The child does not calculate: If only what I do will be rewarded richly! But a pious child knows that his inheritance is assured. He does good and is obedient to his father to prove his gratitude. He truly loves his father with childlike affection. So it is to be with God’s children, the genuine Christians. Out of pure love they are to obey their heavenly Father and patiently accept whatever burden He lays on them, because they know this pleases and delights God.

This is what our Lord means when He says (Matt. 6:3): “When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing.” You are not to keep a memorandum of your benevolence, but give and forget. Surely God takes note and will find it at the proper time. Only do good constantly and consistently. It shall not be forgotten.

Christ also demands of His disciples (Luke 9:23) that they deny themselves. They are not to seek their own honor and advantage by good works. They are to take up their cross daily and follow Christ. They are not to ask and be concerned about where Christ will lead them through manifold sorrow, but they are to know they have a good leader, who will guide them unerringly on the rough, thorny way of the cross. They need only to follow.

2. What prompts the thought that we are to follow the Apostles’ example and leave everything? Some maintain that voluntary poverty, the leaving of one’s own without need or persecution, is rendering God a great service and that by doing so one follows Christ’s advice given to those who desire to do more than the Law commands and that thereby one attains the state of perfection in which one can render satisfaction for one’s own sins and also for the sins of others. In this connection they quote our Lord’s words to the young man: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess, and give to the poor,” and point also to the example of the Apostles. However, what Christ gave this young man and the Apostles was not merely good advice, but a stern and distinct command. When the young man refused to obey, Christ declared that it is hard for rich men to enter the kingdom of heaven. He indicated that the young man had forfeited heaven by refusing to leave everything and follow Him. If men leave everything without compulsion and persecution, they have no such command and call. The truth remains that it is a self-chosen service that does not please God.

Besides all this, it is clearly contrary to God’s Word that a man is able to do even more than God has commanded in the Law and that by such superfluous works he can acquire forgiveness for himself and others. We forego this feigned, self-imposed poverty, for all the world knows the kind it is, a poverty in which usually not only the necessities of the body but also abundance is found. The Apostles’ example can and should be followed when in times of persecution something must be left or even life hazarded for the Gospel and God’s Word. Then there is the divine call and command to leave everything, and then one may take comfort from the promise Christ holds out in His answer. But generally this leaving must be done by true Christians at all times with the heart. They must turn their heart, love, and confidence away from the temporal. “If riches increase, set not your heart on them” (Ps. 62:10). “Let those who buy [live] as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it” (1 Cor. 7:30,31). Outward circumstances do not make the difference between true and false Christians. True Christians, too, sometimes have riches, possess houses, fields, estates, as other men, but the heart does not cling to these things and is lifted up to God. Because so many deceive themselves herein, a careful examination is required whether the heart is set on the material. Consider here that if there is a spiritual leaving by the heart, there is contentment with whatever God gives, be it much or little, abundance or scarcity. For if the heart is directed toward God, there is genuine confidence; and if there is genuine confidence, there is the certain conviction that God will not fail or forsake His own (Heb. 13:5). In this there is great gain, as St. Paul calls it (1 Tim. 6:6), and the greatest riches. On the other hand, the covetous man, who constantly seeks possessions and cannot be satisfied, is poor, no matter how much he possesses, because there is no contentment of the heart. Wherever this spiritual leaving is done in the heart, one takes nothing that is unrighteous or forbidden in order to gather riches. For whoever has set his heart on God and loves Him loves His Commandments, too, and does nothing contrary to love of the neighbor. (Here a reference to 1 Thess. 4:6 is omitted on exegetical grounds.) But the covetous man, whose heart is set on money, has turned the heart from God and His Commandments. It is not surprising that such a man employs all manner of wrong and forbidden means in violation of the love he owes his neighbor to gather riches. Finally, wherever this spiritual leaving has taken place in the heart, one can also outwardly leave everything willingly and gladly, in death or whenever God commands it. Wherever the heart and its desires and love are directed, all else will soon follow. If the heart does not cling to riches, their loss will not cause great pain or concern. Material possessions are faithless friends. Either they leave us, or we must leave them in death. Therefore the heart and the love of the heart must be turned from them in good time so that later this may be done willingly. God is the true, constant Friend who remains with us also in death. Godliness is the best, the genuine treasure; nothing on earth goes with us into eternity but godliness. This is what Christ means to say when He declares that we are to lay up treasures not on earth but in heaven. That is, as He Himself later explains, we are not to serve mammon but to be rich in God (Matt. 6:19, 20; Luke 12:33).

II

This, then, was Peter’s question, what he and the other Apostles were to have for willingly leaving everything. Our Lord’s answer was: “Truly, I say to you, in the new world [Authorized Version: “in the regeneration”; Luther: “in der Wied-ergeburt”], when the Son of Man shall sit on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Thereby Christ directs His Apostles to the reward that will be given on the day of the last Judgment. He calls it the time of the regeneration, for then will be revealed who are the genuine, regenerated children of God. In this world they are hidden. “Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him” (1 John 3:2).

This day is called the regeneration also because then the believers will be fully renewed and will appear before God’s eyes perfectly holy and pure. In this world all is imperfect (1 Cor. 13:9), and the renewing must be done from day to day (2 Cor. 4:16), because sin dwells in our flesh (Rom. 7:20). But then the renewal and sanctification of God’s children will be complete.

At that time, our Lord says, the Apostles will sit on twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. This is not to be understood as though they will judge with Christ in one and the same manner. But the chair or throne of Christ’s glory is here distinguished clearly from the chairs of the Apostles. The chair of Christ’s glory is the right hand of divine omnipotence and majesty. On this chair none other will be seated, not even an angel. “To what angel has He ever said, Sit at My right hand?” (Heb. 1:13). Because of, and according to, the unlimited power and authority He has received to execute judgment, “because He is the Son of Man” (John 5:27), Christ will pronounce judgment on all men, bring to light what is hidden, give each his decree, and bring it to execution at once. In this supreme manner the Apostles will not judge. Nevertheless, Christ declares that they will sit on chairs, which is not to be understood as earthly seats and chairs, but is said after the manner of this world. It is a great and transcendent yet limited honor, according to which they will judge the tribes of Israel by their teaching. In this way it is explained Dan. 7:10, 22; Rev. 20:12, where we are told what was seen in the vision and picture of the last judgment and that books were opened and the dead judged according to the writing in the books. Likewise Christ says (John 12:48): “The word that I have spoken will be his judge on the Last Day,” and St. Paul (Rom. 2:16): “On that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”

This, then, was the answer Peter was given regarding the reward for having left everything and for following Christ. Our Lord added the general promise: “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for My name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and inherit eternal life.” He spoke of the leaving that is done in times of persecution, for His name’s sake and the Gospel’s. That He spoke not of an arbitrary, presumptuous leaving, done as an act of self-chosen devotion and without necessity, is apparent from the fact that Christ includes parents, married people, and children. To leave these without necessity is not perfection but rather sin. Whoever then, in time of persecution, leaves something will even in this time receive it again a hundredfold, “with persecutions,” as it is explained Mark 10:30; and in the age to come the eternal reward will be given him, which cannot be computed in hundreds or thousands. Lest anyone imagine, however, that this eternal reward can be earned by works, Christ adds: “Many that are first will be last, and the last first.” He indicates hereby that one is not to regard oneself as first because of leaving, but one is to be humble in God’s judgment, put away all trust in works, and regard oneself as the least of all. Then God by grace will make him the first, that is, glorify him.

From this promise we see how richly the Lord rewards everything that in this world is left for Christ and His Word’s sake and that the reward begins even in this life and is received a hundredfold.

If anyone asks how it is that people who are driven from comfortable circumstances do not always have a hundredfold in possessions, the answer is that they have a good, happy conscience, which is better than a royal kingdom. They continue to enjoy God’s grace, which is greater than all the riches of the world, and the treasure of God’s Word, which is more excellent than all temporal pos-sessions. Wherever they go they find, as Christ says (Mark 10:30), “now, in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children.” Others, however, who have fallen away from the divine truth lose faith, a good conscience, God’s grace and salvation, which is the greatest poverty. Though such disloyal deniers had an empire, they would be poor before God. However, they who leave their possessions for the sake of Christ and His Word are rich before God, no matter how destitute, because they have rest, peace, and a good conscience in their heart.

But this temporal reward is not all, for our Lord will compensate for everything with eternal glory and heavenly possessions.

Now compare the one with the other: Here some leave a house that is a decaying hut; there they receive “a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1).

Here they leave fine acres, meadows, pleasurable gardens; but there they receive, instead, the heavenly Paradise, where there is fullness of joy and pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16:11).

Here they leave father and mother, who soon would have been separated from them by death; there they come to the heavenly Father, “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph. 3:15).

Here they leave brothers and sisters; there they enter the blessed communion of angels and all elect.
Here they leave wife and children; there they will meet them again in eternal glory.
Here they leave fleeting, fickle honor; there they will find it again, for he who loses his life will find it (Matt. 10:39).

This reward which compensates for all hardship suffered for His name’s sake, is a purely gracious recompense. For if any earning were to be done, there should be some comparison in values between what is left and what is given in return. But here there is no such comparison. For what is Peter’s fisherman’s hut, yes, what are the treasures of Egypt that Moses left (Heb. 11:26), over against the eternal dwellings and the treasures of the heavenly possessions? Nothing whatsoever. just as little as a moment can be ranked with a thousand years. Yes, there is here even less comparison between the temporal and the unending eternal.

Therefore an earned and acquired reward cannot be thought of here. Christ Himself obviates such a delusion when He adds expressly that His constant confessors will inherit eternal life. It is a recompense by inheritance (Col. 3:24). If it is by inheritance, it cannot be by merit. A child who is obedient to the father will have his faithfulness and obedience rewarded with a rich inheritance, but no one else can earn the inheritance. So God rewards His children with eternal glory for all the good they have done and for the hardships they patiently endured for His sake. But this reward is not earned. We are God’s children by faith, and it is not necessary that we now earn, like servants, the eternal Kingdom. We are to serve Him in childlike obedience, not in slavish fear. As soon as we are born of God, we are in Christ through faith and have eternal life (John 3:16) and become God’s children by the new birth and heirs of eternal life. Therefore no man may glory in the merit of his works.

Christ teaches this very thing when He adds that many who are first will be last and the last first, and explains this with the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. The laborers who were first boasted that they had borne the burden of the day and scorching heat and grumbled that they were made equal to others. They became the last. However, the laborers who did not boast about their work but recognized the householder’s grace and kindness became the first. All this teaches that in God’s court one dare not boast of one’s good works or depend on them, but recognize that all is pure grace, abundant and unmerited reward and gracious gift, which He gives now and eternally. Whoever wishes to deal with God in any other way will soon hear: “Take what belongs to you and go.” What belongs to us but sin and destruction? That belongs to us by nature, and we may take it and go. If good is to be done, God must renew us by His Spirit, work in us both to will and to do. Therefore the good is not ours but God’s work in us. How could we, then, earn anything before God with our good works? We thereby become God’s debtors. He could not owe us anything.

Therefore we hold to the Apostle Paul’s words (Eph. 2:8): “By grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God — not because of works, lest any man should boast.” These are mighty words by which all dependence on works, all delusion of merit, is overturned. “By grace you have been saved,” says the Apostle; “but if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace” (Rom. 11:6). You have been saved by grace, he says; therefore we are not only justified but also saved by grace without the merit of works. It is vain to distinguish between the first and second justification, as though the one but not the other is without merit of works. If we have been saved already by grace through faith in Christ, it is not necessary that we first earn our salvation by works.

Furthermore the Apostle says that we have been saved through faith. If through faith, then not by merit of works. “A man is justified by faith apart from works of law” (Rom. 3:28). “This is not your own doing,” he says. If not our own doing, it cannot be by our earning or by our own power. “It is the gift of God, not because of works.” “Now to one who works, his wages are not reckoned as a gift but as his due. And to one who does not work but trusts Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” (Rom. 4:4,5).

The Apostle closes: “Lest any man should boast.” In God’s judgment no man can boast of his works, for all are sinners. He who transgresses in one thing is guilty of the whole Law. “For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by His blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, be-cause in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins” (Rom. 3:22-25). See, then, both are true, that eternal life is a gift of grace and that nevertheless godliness is richly rewarded in this and in the eternal life. To this end may God help us through Christ.

1 Response to Lindemann on the Conversion of St. Paul (Jan 25)

  1. matthaeusglyptes

    From Loehe:

    Conversion of St. Paul

    Jan. 25

    Collect (with versicle):

    They that teach shall shine as the brightness of the heavens. Alleluia.
    And they that lead many to righteousness, as the stars forever and ever. Alleluia.

    O God, who through the preaching of the blessed apostle Paul hast instructed the whole world: grant, we beseech Thee, that as on this day we celebrate His conversion, we may, following him, attain unto Thee; through our Lord… Amen.

    Epistle: Acts 9:1–22.
    Gospel: Matt. 19:27–30.
    Psalms: 19, 34, 45, — 47, 61, 64, 75, 97, 99.
    Hymns: O Herre Gott, dein göttlich Wort (TLH 266)
    Wo Gott, der Herr, nicht bei uns wär. (ELHB 284)
    Wär Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit. (TLH 267)
    Ein feste Burg. st. 4. (LSB 656:4)
    —
    Herr Gott, dich loben wir. (HS69 745)
    Mag ich Unglück nicht widerstahn. (N/A) [Winkworth: May I My Fate No More Withstand]
    Kommt her zu mir, spricht Gottes Sohn, st. 11. (N/A) [Jacobi: Come Hither, Saith the Son of God]

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