8th Sunday after Trinity + Matthew 7:15-23 + July 17, 2016
Order of Holy Communion - Pg. 15Hymn #265 Thine Honor Save, O Christ Our Lord
Grant to us, Lord, we beseech Thee, the Spirit to think and do always such things as are right, that we, who cannot do anything that is good without Thee, may by Thee be enabled to live according to Thy will; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Grace and Peace be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1) In the Introit for this Sunday we sang these words from Psalm 48:10, “According to Your name, O God, so is your praise to the ends of the earth.” There is a connection between God’s name and our praise of Him. By “name” He means more than simply His self-identification. Consider the First Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Hallowed be Thy Name.” Hallowing God’s name is about much more than simply not using God’s name to curse. That’s part of it, but it’s secondary to the primary way God’s name is kept holy. The Small Catechism teaches us that God’s name is hallowed “When the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we as the children of God also lead holy lives in accordance with it. To this end help us, dear Father in heaven. But he that teaches and lives otherwise than God's Word teaches profanes the name of God among us. From this preserve us, Heavenly Father.” So the name of God encompasses His doctrine. When the Psalmist says, “According to Your name, O God, so is your praise to the ends of the earth,” He connects the name of God, the doctrine God gives us, with His praise.
2) The highest praise of God is to have pure doctrine. God gives us His doctrine in His Word. We, in turn, hear it, believe it, place our trust in it, and then we speak it back to God in praise. God is not pleased with false doctrines in the church, but He wants the correct doctrine, the right doctrine, that which comes only from His Word. The word “Orthodoxy” means just that, “Right Praise,” “Ortho” meaning “straight or right,” as you would go to an Orthodontist to straighten your teeth, and “Doxa” meaning “praise,” as in singing a doxology. Orthodoxy is usually translated as “right teaching,” since if you have the right teaching of the Scriptures, the right praise will follow. Orthodoxy, the right teaching, is what Christ gives to His church because His Word is life and His teaching is the pure gospel which results in the glory of God and the salvation of men’s souls.
3) That is precisely why Satan attacks orthodoxy so vehemently. He does so through false prophets, which Christ teaches about in today’s Gospel lesson. He says, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” Jesus doesn’t say that there might be false prophets. It is simply a reality of life in a sinful world that the devil will stir up the hearts of wicked men so that they preach contrary to what Christ teaches. And in typical fashion for Satan, the false prophets he stirs up will look just like Christ’s true prophets, pastors, and teachers of the faith. St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 11:13-14 “that uch are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.” So Jesus warns that false prophets, false teachers in the church, will not be identifiable by their looks, because their looks are as deceptive as their teaching. Jesus says they are quite easy to spot, though. Jesus says, “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” The fruit of a prophet is primarily his preaching, for that is what prophets do. The fruit of a prophet, in a secondary sense, is their life, because if a prophet does not live according to his teaching, then he shows that his teaching is false. So you are to identify false prophets by their teaching, that is, are they teaching the right doctrine of Christ, the right praise, the Orthodox Christian faith, or are they teaching a different doctrine, a different praise, a heterodox doctrine that is contrary to Christ’s gospel?
4) The Scriptures tell us what leads men to preach falsely in the name of the Lord. The first reason is vainglory and ambition. Many preachers are tempted by the applause and approval of men. They enjoy the popularity that often comes from preaching and once they have tasted it, they expect that if the crowds are coming in to hear them, they must be teaching purely. Another reason some teach a different doctrine is because they are belly-servers. St. Paul says in Romans 16, “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.” When false preachers preach smooth and flattering words, that is, when they downplay sin and repentance and teach that God loves them so much that He ignores men’s sins, they do this so that their hearers will listen intently and fill the preacher’s belly with the delicacies of this world. These preachers don’t care for the souls of the sheep entrusted to their care but that they have worldly wealth and temporal security. The third reason preachers preach a different doctrine from that of Christ is because of Rationalism, meaning that they apply human reason to the Scriptures beyond its measure and interpret the teachings of Christ according to what makes sense to human reason. Many in our day think they can improve upon Christ’s doctrine, His orthodoxy, when in reality they gut the Gospel and drain the lifeblood from the teaching of Christ.
5) We see this daily in North America. False teachers abound. Multitudes flock to preachers who preach a justification by works of the Law instead of a justification by faith. Some blatantly teach that we must do good works in order to earn heaven, while others are more subtle, teaching that we are saved by faith and good works, so that if one doesn’t produce the good works they require, that one is not truly saved. We live in a land of Sacramentarians, those who retain baptism and the Lord’s Supper, but who teach that neither bestow any blessing such as the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Many turn baptism into a work of the law which must be done out of obedience, when Christ teaches that it the means by which God rebirths sinners and makes them into the new creation by forgiving their sins. Many deny the simple and clear words of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, rejecting Christ’s own testament that the bread truly is His body and the wine truly is His blood, given for us for the forgiveness of our sins. Still others teach that sinful man still has a certain amount of free will, so that one can make a decision for Jesus, give their heart to Jesus, or accept Jesus into their heart, in spite of what Scripture says about the total depravity of sinful man and woman, that “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him” (1 Corinthians 2:14). All of these teachings, different doctrines from that which Christ gives, tear souls away from Christ, remove the gospel from before their eyes, and teach them to rely upon themselves for their salvation instead of the grace of God alone.
6) The end of the gospel lesson tells us what fate awaits those who profane God’s name by teaching contrary to the Word of God. Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” The will of the Father in heaven is that men repent of their sins and believe the gospel of the forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake. Those who preach false in God’s name, those who preach something other than the gospel of the forgiveness of sins for all who believe in Christ will be denied entry into the kingdom of heaven because thy misused the name of the Lord to teach their own opinions. Jesus also says, “Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' Lawlessness is sin. And by this Jesus teaches us that to teach a doctrine contrary to His own doctrine is lawlessness. To be in fellowship with those who teach falsely is sin as well. Just because someone says, “Lord, Lord,” or just because someone casts out demons in Jesus name, that does not make them a true prophet. What makes one a true prophet is this: does His teaching align with Jesus’ teaching? Does His gospel align with Christ’s gospel? Does His teaching say the same thing as the Word of God?
7) This shows us why it remains so vitally important that we be vigilant to maintain the correct doctrine, the right praise, the Orthodoxy of Christ and His gospel in all the articles of the Christian faith. Our life is bound up with the Word and comes from the pure Word of God, for it is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Our salvation comes from calling upon the name of the Lord. And the name of the Lord is far more than just His self-identification of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. His name encompasses His doctrine, His teaching, His entire self-revelation in the Word of God. For by His name we know the true God and how He provides everything for our salvation through Christ, include our faith, which He gives us through His means of grace. This is why we pray every day, “Hallowed be Thy Name,” that is, “Help us maintain your true doctrine which you freely give to us, so that we may daily have the forgiveness of our sins. Give us always godly preachers who teach and preach God’s word in its truth and purity, whose goal is the glory of God and the salvation of men’s souls, and not their egos or their stomachs. Keep us steadfast in Thy Holy Word, for “You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).” So we pray, “Hallowed be Thy Name.” May Thy Word, Thy Doctrine, Thy Gospel be kept pure among us always, so that we do not profane your name by unholy teaching and unholy living. Amen.
May the peace of God of which passes human understand guard your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.