Hymn Summary: Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart (LSB 708)

Trinity 19

Martin Schalling's hymn is one of the most loved among confessional Lutherans today because it places the Christian’s praise squarely in the midst of the struggle between the Spirit and the flesh that rages on in us.  In the Gospel lesson for today Jesus teaches us the greatest commandment, which is to love God with all our heart.  How can we do this?  Only through faith in Christ, and not by our natural powers.  There is nothing greater than the first commandment.  It contains all theology in it, and Schalling does a masterful job showing how a Christian should meditate on this commandment. 


Our Father, By Whose Name (LSB 863)

Proper 22

This hymn takes a Trinitarian approach to asking God to bless our families.  The Gospel lesson deals both with divorce and with training children up in the true faith, and so it is fitting to pray to God for protection and help in preserving marriage and family, which are so attacked these days.  God does not in love proclaim that each family is his own as if each family has his grace and favor.  Only those who trust in Christ know God as their Father.  But we must understand these words in stanza 1 of today’s hymn of the day to mean that the love of God expressed in the Law claims the right to the love and obedience of every family.  Christians come to know God through his Son Jesus, who says, “Let the little children come to me,” teaching us that our highest priority in preserving marriage and family is to teach God’s Word in our homes, so that faith, love, and hope may abound there. 


Rev. Mark Preus serves as a campus pastor at St. Andrews in Laramie, WY.

Who Are Those Witnesses Again?

PROPTER CHRISTUM: Who is a witness?

Words take on different meanings with the passage of time. While this is well-known, it is sometimes surprising to discover one particular word whose meaning has changed without catching our attention. When this transition remains unnoticed, confusion and misunderstanding quickly follow. For such words, understanding what they formerly meant as opposed to what they mean now is crucial for understanding.

The word "witness" falls into this category. Below is an introduction to Rev. Alan Ludwig's careful study of the word and its meaning in Acts. As students of scripture, Lutherans do well to pay careful attention to the definition and use of words. Ludwig's study gives such attention to the word "witness."

The entire essay can be found in the forthcoming festschrift in honor of Daniel Preus: Propter Christum: Christ at the Center. Visit LOGIA's website to reserve your copy. It is being offered at a discounted introductory price of $29.99, and is scheduled to be released in November. Act now to take advantage of the savings!

 

WHO ARE THOSE WITNESSES AGAIN? Acts 1:8 in Context

— Alan Ludwig

Today it is commonplace, and not only in churches of the Baptist-Evangelical persuasion, to hear sermons that exhort the hearers to "go out and witness." Appeal for this is regularly made to Acts 1:8, which reads in part: "And you will be my witnesses, both in Judea and in Jerusalem and in Samaria, and to the end of the earth." How the preacher has made the move from the original disciples to the people in the pew, from those who received these words from the mouth of Jesus to those who hear them from the preacher's lips, seldom receives an explanation. That all Christians are witnesses is assumed as a self-evident truth that needs no apology.

And yet this easy application of Acts 1:8 to all Christians is a relative latecomer on the ecclesiastical scene. Is it warranted? To answer this question it is necessary to take a careful look at a text that we often take for granted. This study then will include a brief survey of the witness word group in the New Testament-the verb μαρτυρέω and its cognates-and after that examine more closely the peculiar Lukan use of these terms, with special regard to Acts 1:8.

Witness in the New Testament

The Witness words are μαρτυρέω, "to bear witness, testify"; μαρτυρία and μαρτύριον, "witness," "testimony"; and μάρτυς, "one who bears witness or testifies." Some of these words also have compound forms.1 For full information the reader is referred to the standard lexicons and theological wordbooks.

The Old Testament Background of Witness

In addition to its usual meaning in Greek, this witness word group is heavily flavored by Old Testament usage. There μάρτυς and its related words usually translate d[eand its Hebrew cognates, which have a firm setting in the legal sphere.2 The witness is generally one who has gained information firsthand through seeing or hearing, and he testifies to what he knows. God, man, and inanimate things may serve as witnesses. The Torah and its individual parts are also called "testimonies" because they provide written attestation to God's salvation and to the divine will.

Witness in General in the New Testament

Virtually all of the Old Testament uses carry over into the New Testament, though not in equal measure. Especially prominent is the Torah's requirement that every word be established at the mouth of two or three witnesses (Deut 19:15). This is not only a feature of Jewish life regulated by the Torah (Matt 26:59-61; John 8:17-18; Heb 10:28) but also extends to life in the church (Matt 18:16), even to the churches of the Gentile mission (2 Cor 13:1; 1 Tim 5:19; cf. 1 Cor 14:27, 29).

There are two essential characteristics of a witness (μάρτυς): he has gained information, usually by firsthand observation, and he conveys this information to others, often in a formal or legal setting. At the one end of the spectrum, the μάρτυς may be virtually a spectator who observes (Heb 12:1).3 At the other end, the act of testifying and the content of the testimony take precedence over how the testifier came by the information (Rev 12:11, 17). . . .

The Apostolic Witness to Christ

When Jesus tells his disciples that the Paraclete will bear witness concerning him, he goes on to say, "and you also bear witness, because you are with me from the beginning [ἀπ᾿ ἀρχῆς]" (John 15:26-27; cf. Luke 1:2). The disciples' testimony is the witness of those who have seen and heard firsthand, and it is through this testimony that the Spirit himself will bear witness of Christ (Acts 5:32), just as he has already witnessed to the Messiah through Moses and the Prophets. John states beautifully the role of these eyewitnesses in the opening words of his first epistle:

That which was from the beginning [ἀπ᾿ἀρχῆς],4 which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life-the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it [μαρτυροῦμεν] and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us-that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3 ESV)

The "we" here is surely John and his fellow apostles.5 The truth of their testimony is confirmed by their having been present with him "from the beginning" (John 15:27; Acts 1:21-22) and having heard, seen, and touched the Word of Life. . . .

 


  1. διαμαρτύρομαι, "to give solemn testimony, exhort, warn"; ἐπιμαρτυρέω, "to bear witness, attest"; καταμαρτυρέω, "to testify against"; προμαρτύρομαι, "to bear witness beforehand, predict"; συμμαρτυρέω, "to bear witness with," "support by testimony"; συνεπιμαρτυρέω, "to testify at the same time"; ψευδομαρτυρέω and its noun cognates, "to give false witness," "false witness, false testimony."
  2. ʿēd, "witness"; ʿēdâ, "testimony, witness"; ʿēdôt, "testimonies"; ʿēdût, "testimony"; tě‘ûdâ, "attestation"; and the denominative verb ʿwd, "to bear witness, testify." For a more comprehensive treatment, see C. van Leeuwen, "ēd witness," in Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament, ed. Ernst Jenni and Claus Westermann, trans. Mark E. Biddle (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997), 2:838-46. Editor's note: For the actual Hebrew terms, please see the book.]
  3. More is involved in the use of μάρτυς in this passage than the righteous men and women of faith who have finished the course "witnessing" us as we run the race. See Harold W. Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Hermeneia (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1989), 354–55.
  4. This ἀπ᾿ἀρχῆς has been taken in various senses, including from the beginning of creation, from the time of the incarnation, or from the time of Jesus' revelation as Son of God at his baptism. If the last of these is right, then there is a link both with John 15:27 and Acts 1:21–22. For the various views and the arguments in favor of this, see Raymond E. Brown, The Epistles of John, Anchor Bible 30 (New York: Doubleday, 1982), 155–58.
  5. So, for example, Brooke Foss Westcott, The Epistles of St. John (London: Macmillan, 1886), 4, 6, 9; and other traditional commentators. Modern scholars who attribute the authorship of the epistle to a "Johannine school" of course understand it differently (Brown, Epistles of John, 158–61).

Cultural and Theological Readjustments and the Survival of Lutheranism

PROPTER CHRISTUM: The Survival of Lutheranism

Recent years have seen a re-alignment of church bodies, Lutheran and otherwise, as fallout from decisions made regarding sexuality. Some new church bodies, Rev. David Scaer argues, are putting themselves in an untenable position. Their views on scripture and the ordination of women will lead to the same problems which they are currently fleeing. Scaer addresses this question in his contribution to Propter Christum: Christ at the Center, Luther Academy's forthcoming book. Below you will find some of Scaer's thoughts on the issue.

In order to reserve your copy of the rest of this essay, visit LOGIA's website and take advantage of the pre-order price of $24.99 (a savings of 30%) for Propter Christum: Christ at the Center. This offer will expire at the end of August, so order now!

The book, in honor of the retired director of Luther Academy, Daniel Preus, provides a confessional Lutheran perspective on today's world. Essays address women's ordination, church relations, global challenges to Lutheranism, and other contemporary issues. As such, the book is a great resource for understanding and interacting with the world we live in.

 

Cultural and Theological Readjustments and the Survival of Lutheranism

— David P. Scaer

Culture inevitably influences what people believe, even to the extent that a church may come to believe that its faith is indistinguishable from its culture. Some have recognized this cultural invasion and have left such churches to form new ones. At its August 2009 convention, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), swept along by prevailing cultural winds, accepted the ordination of practicing homosexuals as well as the blessing of same-sex alliances and marriages in states where these practices are allowed by law. This cultural accommodation has resulted in some leaving the ELCA to form the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) and the less ecclesiastically structured Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC). Similar exoduses have taken place from mainline Episcopal, Reformed, and Presbyterian denominations.

These newly formed churches have a common interest in maintaining traditionally held beliefs. Other issues are reasons for separation, but the blessing of same-sex marriages and the ordination of practicing homosexuals are the most prominent. While these new churches are not debating the legitimacy of women's ordination, this is the real issue-and if it is not addressed, these churches will be little different from the ones they left. For Lutherans in America, the step towards ordaining practicing homosexuals came when the churches forming the ELCA adopted the ordination of women in the 1970s. Women's ordination long has been accepted in the mainline denominations and likely will continue in the new churches. Here is the dilemma for the newly formed churches: They want to establish themselves on a more solidly biblical basis in tune with ancient church practice, but ordaining women as ministers does not belong to the catholic tradition. Commitment to biblical inerrancy does not assure a positive outcome, since Evangelicals who hold to this commitment are divided on women's ordination and the baptism of infants. A prominent argument for Roman Catholics is that the ordination of women deviates from tradition. Paul uses the catholic argument in 1 Corinthians 14:33-34 when he says that in all the churches women are forbidden to preach. For those not up to sifting through the biblical objections to the practice, the catholic argument may be the most convincing. A church is not allowed to go off on its own or make its own rules for the ministry. With a keen ELCA interest in keeping relations with Rome intact (for example, the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification), its dissidents now in the NALC have good reason to reevaluate retaining women clergy. Supporters of women's ordination in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) who favor closer alliances with Rome should also reconsider their position. . . .

A church's challenge is preaching the gospel in terms that can be understood by the people of that time, but it dare not allow it to be swallowed up by its culture. Bible translations are cultural adjustments that allow speaking in terms people can understand. Sermons take the task further in addressing the word of God to issues Christians face in their time, but the church dare not be overcome by the culture. The Old Testament contains the accounts of how Israel was often shaped by its surrounding polytheistic culture and engaged in pagan worship; succumbing to the worship of the neighborhood gods could be a subtitle for the Old Testament. Christians in Corinth did not entirely divest themselves of Greek philosophy, so some denied the resurrection of the dead. No church is immune from being overtaken by its surrounding the culture-not even professedly confessional churches. Recent events are nothing new. As mentioned, ELCA decisions on homosexuality mirrored first culture and then state laws recognizing same-sex marriages, but this was already happening in discussions about ordaining women. At the time this practice was adopted by Lutheran churches, the eventually failed Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was making its way through state legislatures. . . .

 

Justification and the Pastor's Daily Work

Confessional Lutheran theology sets Lutherans apart from other theologies. What impact, if any, does this have on the parish pastor? How does Lutheran theology shape the daily work of the pastor? Particularly, what does justification have to do with parish practice? This question, Rev. Scott Murray suggests, could use some more attention. See below for an introduction to his thoughts on the matter.

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