Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Second Sermon for Easter – 'The Festival of Christ's Resurrection': “Where there is faith, God no longer sees sin” – by Dr. Martin Luther

Jesus appears before the Disciples - by Imre Morocz (2009)

A Second Sermon for The Festival of Christ's Resurrection

Where there is Faith, God No Longer Sees Sin

by Dr. Martin Luther1
    Text: And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them. And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Luke 24:36-47)

The incidents of our text also occurred on Easter, when the two disciples had returned from Emmaus to Jerusalem, and had narrated to the others what had happened to them and told them that they had seen the Lord. They are in fact the same which John relates, and which form the text for next Sunday, making no mention, however, of Thomas and his experience, which occurred eight days later and is presented to our consideration by the lesson of the following Sunday. Our text, which contains much important matter, might be considered under various heads, but inasmuch as we have already dwelt upon the resurrection itself, we will now confine our discourse to two main points presented by our lesson.

A Sermon for Easter – 'The Festival of Christ's Resurrection': “The Power and the Benefit of the Resurrection of Christ” – by Dr. Martin Luther

See! The Grave is Empty, He is Risen!

A Sermon for The Festival of Christ's Resurrection

The Power and the Benefit of the Resurrection of Christ

by Dr. Martin Luther1
    Text: In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me. Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. (Matt. 28:1-10)

The present festival directs our attention to that consolatory and joyful article of our Creed, in which we confess that Christ on the third day arose again from the dead. This requires us, first of all, to know and consider the Easter narrative, then also to learn why this has happened and how to enjoy its benefits. The Easter events were these. On the evening of Thursday before Easter, when Christ had arisen from the Supper and had gone into the garden, He was betrayed by Judas and taken prisoner by the Jews. These dragged Him from one high priest to the other, until they finally concluded to give him over into the hands of Pilate, who as governor had the power to pronounce judgment. About the third hour of the day sentence was passed upon Him, when He was led forth to execution and was crucified. At the sixth hour, about noon, or an hour later, an earthquake occurred and the sun was darkened. Towards the ninth hour, which would be nearly three hours before sunset, Christ died upon the cross. This is according to the statement of Mark; the other Evangelists do not state so definitely the hours in which these events took place.

In our Creed we confess that Christ arose again on the third day, which is far different from saying that He arose after three days. The Lord was not dead three entire nights and days. On Friday evening, about three hours before dark, He died. These three hours are called the first day. During the whole night and day of the Sabbath He remained in the grave, and also the following night until the next morning. This night counts also a day; for the Jews begin their day with the night, and count night and day as one whole day. We reverse this method of counting and call the day find the night one day. In the Church, however, the old Jewish method of reckoning the festivals was retained, so that these always begin with the evening of the previous day.

Very early on Sunday morning, which was the third day after the Friday on which Christ was crucified, at the first dawn of day, when the soldiers were lying around the tomb, Christ, who had died, awoke to a new, eternal life, and arose from the dead in such a manner that the guards around the grave were unaware of His resurrection. From the account which Matthew gives of this event we must infer that Christ did not arise during the earthquake, which evidently began when the angel descended from heaven and rolled away the rock from the entrance of the tomb. Christ, however, passed out from the closed grave without disturbing the seals put upon it, just as on the evening of the same day He also came to His disciples through the doors which were shut.

When the earth began to quake and the angel appeared, the soldiers were so terrified that they lost all consciousness. As soon as they recovered they all ran from the grave, some in this, others in that direction; for the coming of the angel was to them no occasion of rejoicing, but one of terror and distress. There were others, however, who should be comforted by the cheerful tidings of the angel.

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Second Sermon for Friday of Holy Week, or 'Good Friday': “The Legacy of the Dying Redeemer” — by Dr. Adolph Hoenecke

Death of Christ on the CrossOn Wednesdays through the Lenten Season this year (2013), we published sermons from Dr. Adolph Hoenecke (1835-1908), who is among the most important theologians of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), and from Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann (1883-1965), a prolific author, educator, historian and theologian of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod (LCMS) and among the more significant figures of 20th Century American Lutheranism. We are doing much the same through Holy Week – the sixth and final week of Lent.

We've heard from Dr. Kretzmann twice this week, as we have from Dr. Martin Luther. For this, the last sermon of the Lenten Season that we will be posting, we will hear from Dr. Adolph Hoenecke, as he preaches on The Legacy of the Dying Redeemer.

But just what is a “legacy”? Often, we think of a “legacy” as that for which a person is remembered after his death, the reputation of his accomplishments. For example, very often we hear such talk in the media regarding the concern that a U.S President or state Governor may have for “his legacy” once he leaves office. The term is often heard in this sense in casual conversation. But that is not the primary, or even secondary, definition of the term legacy in its formal meaning, and it most certainly is not the meaning given to it by Dr. Hoenecke in the following sermon.

According to Webster's Third New International Unabridged Dictionary (2002), both the first and second definitions of the term legacy are directly related to the English word legate:
    n. (fr. L. legatus): ambassador, deputy, provincial governor
    vt. (fr. L. legatus past part. of legare): 1to send with a commission or charge, 2bequeath.

    n. 1the business committed to a legate, commission; 2a gift by will esp. of money or other personal property: a bequest
And this formal definition is precisely the meaning Dr. Hoenecke intends with the use of this term: “a gift by will esp. of money or other personal property; a bequest.” It is unmistakeable. Throughout his sermon, he identifies what Jesus earned through His innocent life and suffering as His Bequest to wretched sinners, he identifies Christ as the Testator, and he identifies the New Testament in His Blood as His Last Will and Testament.

On Maundy Thursday, in the night in which He was betrayed, Jesus, our Saviour, took bread, and when He had given thanks, broke it saying, “Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me” (Lk. 22:19; Mt. 26:27; Mk. 14:22; 1 Co. 11:24). In the same manner also He took the cup when He had supped, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink ye all of it; this cup is the New Testament in My Blood, which is shed for you for the remission of sins. This do, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me” (Lk. 22:20; Mt. 26:28; Mk. 14:23-24; 1 Co. 11:25). This “New Testament” offered by Christ in His Blood, was a specific kind legal arrangement that is common in probate law even to this day. Christ, in using this phraseology, was offering his Last Will and Testament.” People draft a “last will and testament” in preparation for their death, in order that their estate be disposed according to their desires following their death; so it is very fitting that Jesus issued such a Will the day prior to His death. In a “last will and testament,” the benefit of the Testator’s life work is left to the bequeathed. By definition, they have utterly no participation in what the Testator accomplished, nor do they have any ownership in His bequest; by definition, He is the sole owner and He alone has the Authority to dispose of His property in the terms specified in His “Last Will and Testament.” It represents the blessing of the Testator upon the bequeathed, a blessing which belongs to the bequeathed only once it has been received by them in the manner specified by the Testator, in the manner administrated by His executors.

And just what was the Bequest that Jesus willed to His heirs? Just what did His life's work amount to, that wretched sinners would gladly receive it as their inheritance, and remember Him with Joy and Gratitude? He left them what they in no way could acquire on their own, what they could never claim any participation in:

And all the benefits attending thereto!

And this Benefit is distributed by His Ministers, “administered by His executors,” through the Means of Grace, Word and Sacrament. Using the seven last words of Christ on the Cross, Dr. Hoenecke identifies in the following sermon seven provisions of the Divine Testament, earned by Christ, bequeathed to sinners, and received by them through faith – which the Holy Spirit works exclusively through the Means of Grace.

(NOTE: This sermon was previously published on Intrepid Lutherans, under the title, Holy Week Sermons – Good Friday (by Dr. Adolf Hoenecke))

Isenheim Altarpiece - 'Crucifixion of Christ' - by Matthias Grünewald

Holy Week: A Sermon for Good Friday

The Legacy of the Dying Redeemer

by Dr. Adolph Hoenecke1

Text: The Passion story containing the Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross

Today we commemorate the death of Jesus Christ. On this day occurred the death of which God speaks through Paul: “The covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ” (Ga. 3:17). And: “For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth” (He. 9:17). So it was on this great day that the divine testament which was made and confirmed in Christ came into force for us. But what did our blessed Lord, the Lamb of God, bequeathe to us at His death? Of earthly goods there was almost nothing. We hear this about his material legacy: “(They) parted his garments, casting lots” (Mt. 27:35) Moreover, we know that the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, had no where to lay His head, to say nothing of gold and silver.

A Sermon for Friday of Holy Week, or 'Good Friday': “The Redemptive Work of Christ, Made Our Own through Faith” — by Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann

Jesus, the Paschal Lamb - Freising CathedralOn Wednesdays through the Lenten Season this year (2013), we published sermons from Dr. Adolph Hoenecke (1835-1908), who is among the most important theologians of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), and from Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann (1883-1965), a prolific author, educator, historian and theologian of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod (LCMS) and among the more significant figures of 20th Century American Lutheranism. We are doing much the same through Holy Week – the sixth and final week of Lent.

We've already heard once from Dr. Kretzmann this week, the Palm Sunday Sermon in which it became clear that the problems which vexed the Church of last generation, as of generations past, are much the same as ours today. That is, they are still relevant. And this is to be expected, is it not? For the Scriptures tell us directly,
    Vanity of vanities! All is vanity... The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear filled with hearing. That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:2-9 (NASB 1977)).
What has been, is, and will be. So the Scriptures say. The past is hardly irrelevant: it is the reality of what is, and what will be; and this is the lesson of Solomon's lament in the verses directly following (vv. 10-11). It is also Solomon's lesson concerning God's Work and Judgment:
    There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen, that it is from the hand of God. For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him? For to a person who is good in His sight, He has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, while to the sinner He has given the task of gathering and collecting so the he may give to one who is good in God's sight... I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one's lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor — it is a gift of God. I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him. That which is has been already, and that which will be has already been, for God seeks what has passed by... The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. Because God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (Eccl. 2:24-26, 3:12-15, 12:13-14 (NASB 1977)).
Thus, that which is “relevant” is only that which God does, that which remains forever, to which there is nothing to add and from which nothing can be taken. And that which is relevant to man, is that which God has accomplished for him. What man accomplishes, whether in the name of God or anyone else, is only vanity.

So what did God accomplish for mankind?
    St. John writes in his First Epistle: “Jesus Christ the righteous... is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 Jn 2:2). St. Paul likewise, in a passage of singular power and beauty, assures us that we are justified freely by the grace of God through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood (Ro. 3:24-25). Even as God loved the whole world and sent His Son to pay for the sin and for the guilt of the whole world, so Jesus died for all (2 Co. 5:15), for all men without exception... And therefore we and all men everywhere should gladly receive the assurance given in the wonderful Lenten sermon of the Baptist: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” It means that each and every person in the wide world, although under the condemnation of the Law as a sinner, may freely accept and make his own forever the redemption gained for all men by Jesus through His death on Calvary, so that we may joyfully confess, with the explanation of the Second Article: “Christ has redeemed me, a lost and condemned sinner, purchased and won me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil. This is most certainly true (SC:II:II).
So concludes Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann. In the following sermon, he explains further.

(NOTE: This sermon was previously published on Intrepid Lutherans, under the title, Holy Week Sermons – Good Friday (by Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann))

Holy Week: A Sermon for Good Friday

The Redemptive Work of Christ, Made Our Own through Faith

by Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann1
    Text: The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the Sin of the world’? (John 1:29)

It is a solemn occasion which finds us assembled here at this time, for the Christian world is today commemorating the darkest day in the history of the world, the day on which the Son of God, the Lord of Glory, the Prince of Life, suffered the most shameful death of the cross; it is the day on which He laid down His life as a ransom for the sins of the world. No wonder that the Christian Church has from olden times celebrated the day with every evidence of deepest grief and mourning.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Second Sermon for Thursday of Holy Week, or 'Maundy Thursday' — by Dr. Martin Luther

Dr. Martin LutherOn Wednesdays through the Lenten Season this year (2013), we published sermons from Dr. Adolph Hoenecke (1835-1908), who is among the most important theologians of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), and from Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann (1883-1965), a prolific author, educator, historian and theologian of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod (LCMS) and among the more significant figures of 20th Century American Lutheranism. We will do the same through Holy Week. Except for today, Maundy Thursday. Instead of Dr. Hoenecke and Dr. Kretzmann, we will hear from Dr. Martin Luther himself, from his Hauspostille.

Normally, we read sermons from Dr. Luther's Hauspostille as they come to us in the collection recently edited by Eugene F.A. Klug, and translated by him and others. This is the same Hauspostille included in the seven-volume Complete Sermons of Martin Luther published by Baker Book House. There were two collections of Luther's Hauspostille: one from the stenographic notes of Veit Dietrich and one from those of Georg Roerer, both of whom copied the words of Luther as he preached to his students in his home. Roerer's notes were published in 1539 without Luther's approval, while those of Veit Dietrich were published later, in 1545, and carried with them Luther's endorsement. The newly translated Hauspostille contained in the Baker publication comes from the Roerer collection of Luther's Hauspostille, under the rationale that “the consensus of scholars has more and more moved in the direction of Roerer's transcription of Luther's house postils as the source most complete, exact, and trustworthy.”1

We will not be reading a sermon from Roerer's collection, however. Missing from that collection, and contained only in Veit Dietrich's collection, are two Maundy Thursday sermons from the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians. Veit Dietrich's collection of Dr. Luther's Hauspostille was translated from German into English in 1871. In this post, we publish Luther's Second Sermon for the Day of the Lord's Supper, from the second English edition of that translation effort, published in 1884.2

A Sermon for Maundy Thursday

Second Sermon for the Day of the Lord's Supper

by Dr. Martin Luther2
    Text: Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come. (1 Corinthians 11:27-34)

This text is of great importance and deserves to be attentively considered by Christians. We have already learned, from the previous sermon, how the people misunderstood these words, so as to deprive themselves of the comfort contained in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, yea, even shunned it as something dangerous. It is true, Judas did not receive this Sacrament to his consolation or amendment. There were also many among the Corinthians, as St. Paul tells us, who received it unworthily, and thus brought upon themselves bodily and spiritual punishment. There is indeed a difference in the reception of this Sacrament; some partake of it worthily and unto eternal life, but others unworthily unto condemnation, inasmuch as they do not repent and have true faith. Hence it is of the first importance that we learn to know what is meant by the expression “eating and drinking worthily or unworthily.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Sermon for Thursday of Holy Week, or 'Maundy Thursday': “The Holy Sacrament” — by Dr. Martin Luther

Dr. Martin LutherOn Wednesdays through the Lenten Season this year (2013), we published sermons from Dr. Adolph Hoenecke (1835-1908), who is among the most important theologians of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), and from Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann (1883-1965), a prolific author, educator, historian and theologian of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod (LCMS) and among the more significant figures of 20th Century American Lutheranism. We will do the same through Holy Week. Except for today, Maundy Thursday. Instead of Dr. Hoenecke and Dr. Kretzmann, we will hear from Dr. Martin Luther himself, from his Hauspostille.

Normally, we read sermons from Dr. Luther's Hauspostille as they come to us in the collection recently edited by Eugene F. A. Klug, and translated by him and others. This is the same Hauspostille included in the seven-volume Complete Sermons of Martin Luther published by Baker Book House. There were two original collections of Luther's Hauspostille: one from the stenographic notes of Veit Dietrich and one from those of Georg Roerer, both of whom copied the words of Luther as he preached to his students in his home. Roerer's notes were published in 1539 without Luther's approval, while those of Veit Dietrich were published later, in 1545, and carried with them Luther's endorsement. The newly translated Hauspostille contained in the Baker publication comes from the Roerer collection of Luther's Hauspostille, under the rationale that “the consensus of scholars has more and more moved in the direction of Roerer's transcription of Luther's house postils as the source most complete, exact, and trustworthy.”1

We will not be reading a sermon from Roerer's collection, however. Missing from that collection, and contained only in Veit Dietrich's collection, are two Maundy Thursday sermons from the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians. Veit Dietrich's collection of Dr. Luther's Hauspostille was translated from German into English in 1871. In this post, we publish Luther's First Sermon for the Day of the Lord's Supper, from the second English edition of that translation effort, published in 1884.2

(NOTE: Due to the length of this sermon, I have taken the liberty of adding subheadings,
to break up the content for those with short attention span.)

A Sermon for Maundy Thursday

First Sermon for the Day of the Lord's Supper

by Dr. Martin Luther2

The Holy Supper
    Text: For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. (1 Corinthians 11:22-26)

The Last SupperAccording to a time-honored usage, more people come to the Lord's Table at this season than at any other time during the year. This fact, together with the urgent necessity that on a stated day the doctrine of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper be plainly taught the people from the pulpit, prompts us to consider now the words of St. Paul, which you have heard read in our text. From these words we learn that this Sacrament was in no wise instituted or introduced by men, but by Christ Himself. In the night in which He was betrayed He instituted it for His disciples, yea for all Christians, that it might be unto them His Testament, His parting gift, full of great comfort and blessing.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Sermon for Sunday of Holy Week, or 'Palm Sunday': “Stand Ye in the Ways, and Find Rest for Your Souls” — Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann

Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Rembrandt (1630)On Wednesdays through the Lenten Season this year (2013), we published sermons from Dr. Adolph Hoenecke (1835-1908), who is among the most important theologians of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), and from Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann (1883-1965), a prolific author, educator, historian and theologian of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod (LCMS) and among the more significant figures of 20th Century American Lutheranism. We are doing the same through Holy Week – the final week of Lent.

There is much value in the words of those Christians who've preceded us, particularly these days, as those words come down to us from a time when post-Modernism was unknown, from a time when language still carried objective meaning. In such words, we find the full force of objective conviction and confident passion, words that are chosen for their direct and unequivocal clarity – as well they ought to be, given that the receptor of language is the human mind. This is in contrast to words chosen by contemporary Christian writers and speakers, who are apparently under the illusion that words are not received principally by the mind, but by the entire human body. Words, even the words of Scripture, result not principally in thought from which meaning is derived, but primarily in a human experience from which meaning is derived. One prominent contemporary Lutheran has even stated as much, in writing, regarding the public reading of Scripture:
    We expect that the primary way in which most WELS people experience most of the Bible, most of the time, is by hearing it read in the context of the public worship service.”1
The speech patterns of post-Modernism are unmistakeable in references such as this. The message of the Bible is to be primarily experienced not contemplated; it is more important that the masses have a feeling for what the Bible says, and have a positive experience in relation to that feeling, rather than understand the Scriptures as precisely as possible, especially if the process of understanding is a negative experience of mental struggle.

In the words of Christians who've preceded us, we also find the comfort of discovering that they faced the same issues we face today. Christians have always been concerned about the health of the Church, and, certainly, this is not necessarily a bad thing; but in connection with this concern, they have also been known to take great pride in counting their numbers as a show of growth, as a show of power and influence over others, and as a show of what they've accomplished for Christ. Dr. Kretzmann warns against this in specific terms, as he also warns of bewailing the apparent failure of Christianity, of the fall of Christs' Church at the hands of Her enemies, and of zealously urging human effort to “save the Church from certain demise.” Writing in 1956 as a contemporary of Donald McGavran, “the father of the church growth movement” (of whom and about which we wrote in our recent post, The Church Growth Movement: A brief synopsis of its history and influences in American Christianity), it's almost as if Kretzmann were responding to McGavran directly in the following sermon, and prophetically warning the Christian zealots of our own day who, “listening to the seductive voices of men who profess to be leaders to everlasting life,” would “glibly prate of scholarship and of the latest results of science” and “presume to put up their pitiful manmade theories over against the eternal verities of God’s Word.”

Almost. The fact is, the World is one of the three great enemies of the Christian, and it has always waged war against the Church, always pitted man's reason against the Word of God. We see Dr. Kretzmann's sermon applying to us in our day, even though he uses examples from his own day, because the warnings he issues, the Truth he claims, and the remedy he offers have always applied to Christians. ‘Stand ye in the ways... ask for the old paths... walk in the good ways... and ye shall find rest for your souls...’ — this Dr. Kretzmann explains in the following sermon.

(NOTE: This sermon was previously published on Intrepid Lutherans, under the title, Holy Week Sermons – Palm Sunday (by Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann))

Holy Week: A Sermon for Palm Sunday

Stand Ye in the Ways, and Find Rest for Your Souls

by Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann2

(Introit, Ps. 22:19)
    Text: Thus saith the Lord, ‘Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.’ But they said, ‘We will not walk therein’. (Jeremiah 6:16)

For most Lutheran Christians, Palm Sunday occupies a unique position among the Sundays of the church year. This is true not only because the day ushers in the solemn contemplations of Holy Week, with the reading of the Lenten story, not only because the Gospel lesson of the day tells us of that unique incident in the life of our Savior, His entry into Jerusalem, but also because in most congregations the day has been set apart for the solemn act of confirmation.
The Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, Félix Louis Leullier (1811–1882)
“And they brought [it] to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus thereon. And as he went, they spread their clothes in the way. And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest... And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.
(Luke 19:35-44)
Palm Sunday has for many centuries been the day on which new members were received into the Christian congregation, when they made a public profession of their faith and were declared ready to receive the last instruction in Christian doctrine before being admitted to the Lord's Supper. For that reason Palm Sunday is a day of solemn memories for many hundreds of thousands of church members, a day on which they quietly and definitely renew the baptismal vow as they repeated it on the day of their confirmation. And even if a Christian was not received into adult membership into the Christian Church on Palm Sunday, he will readily join the other church members in remembering the solemn occasion when he made his vow to be faithful to the Triune God and His Word, and specifically to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Such a solemn renewal of the vow by which a person declares his allegiance to the Savior is particularly necessary in our day, when so many difficulties have arisen to endanger the simple faith of Christians. It is true that the Christian Church, in its outward appearance, has apparently made much headway in recent years. The number of church members, according to available statistics, has increased by many per cent over the gains recorded a few years ago. Over 60% of the people of America now profess adherence to some church3. It is most unfortunate, however, that in many instances, this outward membership is not the expression of a full and complete adherence to the full truth of the Word of God. There is a good deal of formal Christianity, including a fairly regular attendance at the chief service on Sunday morning, chiefly because this is considered rather fashionable. But when one inquires about the attendance at other church services, at Bible hours, and at meetings in which further progress in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ is the goal, there are bound to be great disappointments. And if we should go one step farther and inquire about regular worship in the home, and about daily Bible reading by the individual, the disappointment would be increased in considerable measure. It is truly a sad phenomenon, but one which cannot be denied, that many congregations, especially in the large cities, have, for the majority of the membership, degenerated into social clubs with a religious veneer, and that the call of the Lord: “My son, give me thine heart” (Pr. 23:26), is falling upon deaf ears.

And there is another point which must be added here, namely that of the attitude taken by a great many people who disdain to be reckoned with churchgoers, many of whom even are out-and-out enemies of the Bible and its soul-giving truths. Somehow people have gotten the notion that Christianity, the Christian religion, the Christian faith, are on trial, that the truth of the Bible has been cited before the tribunal of men and has been found wanting.

Is this true? Is the Christian religion failing? Has it been arraigned before the tribunal of men’s justice and found wanting? — Nothing can be farther from the truth. To all who entertain such notions the Bible calls out: “Nay, but, O man, who art thou that thou repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, ‘Why hast thou made me thus?’” (Ro. 9:20). Or: “The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Co. 1:18). Hence it is not the truth of God that is standing at the bar of justice, but the foolishness of man. It is the people of this country and of every city in it who are standing at the crossroads; it is they who should be found in great searchings of heart. For those who reject or ignore His Word and who foolishly criticize the eternal verities of Holy Writ the words are written: “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, ‘Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.’ He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure” (Ps. 2:1-5). It is the almighty and all-wise God who calls out to men, in His holy Word: “This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left” (Is. 30:21). It is also He who speaks to us, in the words of our text:


Let us, under the gracious guidance of the Holy Spirit, meditate on these words for a few minutes.


It is a solemn warning that lies in these words, just as solemn as that which we find in Christ’s own words: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat” (Mt. 7:13). Truly, many are they that go in thereat. Many are they who are listening to the seductive voices of men who profess to be leaders to everlasting life, but whose way leads far from the path of heaven to a dreadful uncertainty which leads to everlasting destruction. Who are they who presume to put up their pitiful manmade theories over against the eternal verities of God’s Word? Ah, they glibly prate of scholarship and of the latest results of science. They presume to pick the Bible to pieces and to substitute for its divine truth the flimsy threads of human arguments. They fill the hearts of our growing boys and girls, of our young men and young women, with doubts concerning the wisdom before which the greatest achievements of man’s mind pale into insignificance. They speak of mistakes in the Bible, though nine out of ten have never even read the Bible. Yea, they lead men and women, or try to lead them, into new and strange paths, into paths where the truth of the creation story is ridiculed, where the inerrancy of the inspired Record is set aside, where the deity of Christ is declared to be non-essential, where nothing is left of the Bible but a shell and a hollow mockery.

But what saith the Lord? Let us repeat the words of Ps. 2:4: “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.” And the Prophet proclaims: “The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of the Lord; and what wisdom is in them?” (Je. 8:9). And again we read: “Thus saith the Lord, ‘Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord’” (Je. 9:23-24).

Eternal Torments of Hell - the Fate of UnbelieversBut there is another matter which ought to concern us most seriously at this time, one which is not connected, except indirectly with the attacks that have recently been launched against the Bible. It is a situation which confronts every one of us in a manner that ought to challenge our attention. It is the universal abandonment to selfishness which characterizes our times, the hectic seeking after the gratification of various appetites, the eagerness for sensual and sensuous delights. It was not in this manner that the kingdom of David and the Church of the Lord was built up through the preaching of the Lord’s prophets. It was not thus that George Washington became the “father of his country”; it was not thus that Abraham Lincoln, under God, was fitted to become its savior. It was not thus that the individual state in our great commonwealth was established, each so remarkable in extent and powerful in riches. And, above all, it is not thus that the Lord would have us live our short span of life, as it is allotted to us in this vale of tears. Shall we spend the money which comes to us as a gift from the hands of a kind Father for the pursuit and gratification of momentary and fleeting delights? Shall we waste our God-given strength in the vain pursuit of pleasures which sap our God-given energy and weaken the stamina of our nation? Shall we prostitute the liberty which is ours as the children of God into a license which endangers our soul’s salvation? — Ah, if there were fewer white lights burning to show the way to questionable and dangerous amusements and more white lights of consecration glowing within the hearts and souls of men in the interest of that which is good and elevating or, as the Apostle puts it, of “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report” (Ph. 4:8); if there were less strength dissipated in yielding to the vices of our day and more strength used in building up the homes and the nation and the churches; if there were less money spent in useless and dangerous luxuries and more for the sound establishment of things which are enduring for the welfare of home and Church: how much more would the pleasure of the Lord rest upon those who call themselves Christians! Does not the Lord say, in the Book of His eternal Truth: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world”? Yea, and He continues: “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 Jn. 2:15-17). And another Apostle writes: “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (Ja. 4:4).

Are we then, my friends, following the allurements of the world's wisdom and of the world's temptations? Have we listened to the voice of the tempter and placed our souls in jeopardy? Oh, let us hear the warning cry of our God: “Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein.” Mark what the Lord says through His inspired Prophet: “Behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, ‘Who seeth us?’ and ‘Who knoweth us?’ Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay” (Is. 29:14-16). The world passeth away, and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.


And this last promise is of such great importance in our present meditation. For we find that, in addition to the warning contained in our text, we have also a most loving appeal, a fatherly call to all men, for while the Lord admonishes us: “Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein,” He adds the beautiful statement: “And ye shall find rest for your souls.” So we see that even the first part of the sentence contains an implied promise, for it says, in effect: If you will keep on standing in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way. The Lord thereby indicates that He presupposes such conduct on the part of all those who are truly His children. This being the case, we can appreciate the promise all the better: Ye shall find rest for your souls; namely, by following the right way and walking therein.

Christ Calls, Gathers and Enlightens His Elect - the Church, the Bride of Christ - through the GospelWe know where the true path may be found; we know which is the right way to heaven. The Savior of mankind has said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (Jn. 14:6). Christ is the Way, because He has prepared the way into the presence of our heavenly Father through the blood of His cross. Does the false wisdom of this world throw up its hands in horror over the doctrine of the redemption, an idea which our oversensitive generation can no longer accept? We ignore all objections to the eternal truth, for we know that we have redemption through the blood of the Lamb, the forgiveness of sins.

Let us, therefore, give the closest attention to the words of our text, to the glorious promise included in the words of the Lord: And ye shall find rest unto your souls. The inspired writer of the Letter to the Hebrews states it as a simple fact: “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God” (He. 4:9). And in the same letter we find the encouraging question: “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (He. 9:14). That is the truth of God: The blood of Christ has purged our consciences from dead works to serve the living God, to walk in His ways. How then can any one, knowing Christ and the atonement through His blood as the only way, neglect to keep on seeking the one and only Way to heaven? Now, Jesus is found in the Word of grace, and in the Word alone. It is He who says, in the Book of eternal Truth: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (Jn. 5:39). It is He who inspired His holy writer to call out: “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.” And again: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps. 119:9,105). And let no one think that these passages refer merely to a sanctified life, for there can be no true sanctification without a knowledge and acceptance of the way of justification based on the redemption wrought by the Savior.

Have we been heeding His call: “...thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (De. 4:29). It is God Himself who draws men to the Savior, namely by creating willing hearts, such as are willing to be led and guided by Him, eager to learn more and more about the way to heaven through the acceptance of His promise: “Ye shall End rest for your souls.

Have you been searching for Him in His Word? How often have you read the Bible, the Book which has rightly been called “God’s love-letter to all mankind”? There are less than 1200 chapters in the Bible and, by spending fewer than ten minutes a day on the average, or far less than one per cent of your time, you can easily read the Bible through once every year. Have you been observing a family worship hour, in which you and your loved ones spend some time daily with your Redeemer, in order to learn ever more about the way of salvation through Christ and His blood? There are 168 hours in the week: do you suppose that you could spare two of these hours in becoming acquainted with the eternal verities which are essential for your eternal happiness? O friends, as we value the great and the lasting things of this life, as we look forward to the life beyond the grave, as we desire to spend eternity in the company of our one and only Savior, let us heed the call of the Lord in our text: “Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.
    Thy grace brought me to faith
    In my Redeemer’s blood;
    Thy grace was sealed upon my heart
    In Baptism’s holy flood.

    Thy grace has kept me firm
    Against unnumbered foes;
    Thy grace sustains my trembling heart
    In tribulation's throes.

    Thy grace shall be the theme
    Of my unending songs,
    For my eternal gratitude
    To Thee, my Lord, belongs.

    Yea, when in heaven’s halls
    I stand before Thy throne,
    This shall I sing, that I am saved
    By grace, and grace alone.


Endnotes:Jesus Only, by Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann
  1. Kretzmann, P. (1956). Jesus Only: A series of Lenten and post-Easter Sermons. Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House. pp. 46-54.

    For more information about Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann, see the Intrepid Lutheran post, Dr. P. E. Kretzmann: Standing on God’s Word when the World opposes us

  2. Wendland, P. (2011, December). Evaluating Translations. Forward in Christ 98(12). pg. 29

    NOTE: President Wendland is here naming and defending criteria for the choice of a new translation for Synod. This particular criterion plainly trumps the claim that Synod's choice of standard translation is only meant to be the translation used by NPH in its publications, that it does not represent the Synod's recommendation or requirement for use in the local congregation. On the contrary, by establishing this as a relevant and primary criterion, President Wendland directly states “it is expected” that Synod's choice of standard translation will also be the standard translation used in every congregation, will be the translation generally read in public during the Divine Service. It is “expected,” and is therefore a primary criterion in the selection of a standard translation.

    Some may be tempted to dismiss President Wendland's emphasis of the term “expectation” in connection with the translation used in WELS parishes, yet, even this month, this point was again emphasized Rev. John Braun, who writes:

      Which Bible should you choose? ...We may prefer to use the translation we have used most often, but which Bible will be the best choice for the next generation? ...My pastor had a good answer to that questions. He suggested that we purchase the Bible our children have used in their instruction classes [presumably, he means 'catechism classes' here, but that is a big word that no one uses anymore -DL]. That makes good sense. Passages that were memorized came from that version. Most of today's confirmands have grown familiar with the NIV 1984 in the same way I became comfortable with the King James Version. God willing, they will continue to read their confirmation Bibles and treasure them for the truths of God's Word.

      Braun, J. (2013, March). Translation 103: Which Bible?. Forward in Christ 100(3). pg. 29.

    NIV 2011 and filthy lucreHence, it is known, indeed, it is “expected,” that the version of the Bible used in catechism materials and other publications distributed by NPH will be the version from which WELS children, and members of all WELS congregations, will be indoctrinated; it will be the version they memorize, contemplate and repeat to one another for the rest of their lives. If Synod in Convention chooses the NIV 2011 this Summer as the “translation used in WELS publications,” then “IT WILL BE EXPECTED” that (a) an egalitarian version of the Bible, that is (b) rendered at the sixth-grade reading level, will be that which our children will (c) “memorize, contemplate and repeat to one another” for the rest of their lives. For the rest of their lives, they will be “memorizing, contemplating and repeating to one another” a translation of the Bible rendered in terms that are (a) twisted to comply with the cultural standards of militant feminism that has been in a state of open war against the Church and Christian teaching from the start, in (b) terms no more sophisticated than a sixth grader.

    This is the form of indoctrination that awaits our children, should the NIV 2011 be chosen this Summer by Synod in Convention, and it will impact them long into adulthood. Their thinking in matters of religion, as they will have been taught from childhood, will not equip them for their lives as adults, it will only equip them with the thinking capacity of twelve-year-old child. At the same time, they will receive instruction in the ideas of the world from their schools, colleges and workplaces, and from the acquaintances and friends they meet through their lives, in terms suitable for adults. Moreover, the word patterns they repeat to one another from childhood will prepare them to receive with gladness the false teaching of the feminists. The juvenile thinking patterns taught them by their NIV Bibles will render them impotent against not only worldliness, but from direct attacks of the World. We see it now, among those adults who've been taught to think about their faith in the simplistic terms of the NIV 1984. Indeed, I am convinced that blame for the appalling state of American Christianity today can be attributed, at least in part, to the popularity of the NIV 1984 over the past generation. It's users are notoriously unprepared for anything but an “experiential” religious life, and decry anything that is not a “positive experience” as false, or of the devil. They are helpless, and mostly worthless as defenders of the Truth. What else is to be expected? Clumsily wielding a dull Sword, they're not dependable partners in battle. I've witnessed the shamefulness of their easily-avoided defeat many times. They look like fools, and make all other Christians look like fools right along with them, for the sole reason that they transparently think and reason like fools, they articulate their thoughts with the shallow predictability of children. To prepare children for adulthood, they must be prepared with thoughts and words that will actually serve them in adulthood, as adults. They must be prepared for adulthood by equipping them with words and thought patterns with respect to their religion that are suitable for adults. This is accomplished by having them “memorize, contemplate and repeat to one another” the Scriptures according to the standards of adult literacy -- adult speech and thought patterns, not those of a sixth grader. The difference between childishness and adulthood that is suggested by St. Paul in this regard is stark:

      When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (1 Cor. 13:11)

    Likewise, the Proverbs tell us:

      Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. (Pr. 22:15)

    The Bible says in these verses, and in others, that childish ways and thinking are habits and behaviours which the adult IS EXPECTED to put behind him, not retain throughout his life, and which he must be trained to put behind him from childhood. Training Christians to think and speak like twelve-year-olds for the rest of their lives is no way to prepare them for the rigours of Christian adulthood. The NIV, whether the 1984 or the 2011 edition, DOES NOT ADEQUATELY PREPARE CHILDREN FOR CHRISTIAN ADULTHOOD.

    So let's have no more talk of dismissing the importance of Synod's choice “translation used in WELS publications,” as if it weren't intended to have, indeed, if it weren't “THE EXPECTATION” that it have, wider and deeper impact than merely the “translation used in WELS publications.” It is clearly “expected” to be far more than just this. And it undoubtedly will be.

  3. This is an interesting statistic cited by Dr. Kretzmann. His sermon was written in 1956, and according to then "available statistics," roughly 60% of America's population "confessed adherence to some church." One may assume that at that time the term "church" was limited to a church of some Christian confession. Of further interest with regard to this statistic is that it had recently "increased by many percent," perhaps giving some reason for Christian boasting. Dr. Kretzmann's further warnings and lamentations in this paragraph, however, make it clear that such increases, in and of themselves, were no cause for confidence as, “in many cases, outward membership [was] not the expression of a full and complete adherence to the full truth of the Word of God.” Moreover, church attendance and membership was generally known to follow from human weakness, as people tended to use church as a way to indulge their need to be “fashionable.”

    In contrast, according to the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), the percentage of Americans identifying themselves as Christian was 76% – a statistic which represented nearly a 15% numeric increase since 1990, but, due to population growth over the same period, also represented almost an 11% decline as a percentage of American adults. Granted, as stated, this is a slightly different statistic than the one cited by Dr. Kretzmann, who cited “confessed adherence to some [Christian] church,” yet, I would presume to say that identifying oneself as “Christian” in 1956 would have been tantamount to confessing “adherence to some church,” whereas today, given the growth of the Emergent Church over the past 15 years and the growing rejection of organized religion, “confessed adherence to some church” can no longer be said to be equivalent to self-identifying as a “Christian.”

    If one accepts that these statistics are roughly equivalent in nature, then even with a relatively much higher percentage of professing Christians in America today, and with raw numbers of Christians in America measurably increasing, it is curious to notice that today’s attitude toward Church attendance, even among those professing to be “confessional Lutherans,” has shifted that much further away from that of Dr. Kretzmann, who indicated that such increases were not necessarily cause for rejoicing, given that “full and complete adherence to the full truth of the Word of God” was not the confession of the adherents. Today, among advocates of the ubiquitous Church Growth Movement (CGM), the primary matter of concern is the health of the organization (whether it be the Congregation or the Church Body to which it belongs), where the health of the organization is measured in dollars. Since such organizations are non-profit and rely primarily on donations, this means essentially one thing: “butts in seats.” More numbers means more donations, and more donations mean a healthy church (or “church body” as the case may be), while fewer numbers thus means an unhealthy or “dying” or “ineffective” congregation or church body. Today, more than ever, to get "butts in seats," churches of the Church Growth Movement exploit the same apparently long-known human weaknesses – the human need to pursue what is judged "fashionable" in the eyes of the World – as we observe them having thus “degenerated into social clubs with [little more than] a religious veneer,” as made plainly evident in our recent post, Real? Relational?? Relevant??? O THE HORROR OF IT ALL!!!


Thursday, March 21, 2013

“What was missing in my life was Absolution”: One Christian's Journey from Evangelicalism to Confessional Lutheranism

On Tuesday, we published a short blog post highlighting the research of Rev. Matthew Richard (CLBA), who is working on a doctoral degree at Concordia Seminary - St. Louis, entitled, 'Crucible Moments' and 'Becoming Lutheran'. Afterward, while perusing his blog, PM Notes: Evangelizing Moral Therapeutic Deists; Comforting Post-Evangelicals; Strengthening Monergists, I stumbled across one of his posts from last December: Confessions Of A Former Evangelical (Encore). It is a brief post, featuring only a broadcast from Chris Rosebrough's Fighting for the Faith, regarding which he comments:I recall this episode from Fighting for the Faith, and agree: It is well worth your time. I've included it in this post, below. Give it a listen.

Incidentally, that post, linked to from Rev. Richard's blog to his Baptist friend's blog, is no longer there. Perhaps his Baptist friend was just cleaning up old posts, but nothing before January 2013 is available. However, maybe this following fact is pertinent. On February 28, 2013, his Baptist friend, a Baptist minister, announced that he has left the Southern Baptist Convention. He has many very interesting, and familiar, reasons for doing so. Please read his post: Why I’ve Left the Convention.

A Journey From Legalistic Pietistic Evangelicalism to the Cross
delivered at the First National BJS Conference, February 2009
by Chris Rosebrough


Quotes from Chris Rosebrough's “Plenary Speech”
compiled for those of who won't listen to the podcast,
who haven't been through the transition of “Evangelical” to “confessional Lutheran,”
who don't know what a genuine Worldview Crisis really is

(See our recent post, 'Crucible Moments' and 'Becoming Lutheran' for more information on “transition” and “Worldview Crisis”.)

They've completely transformed the church service. It's no longer a pastor who is an undershepherd of the Good shepherd, feeding God's sheep with God's Word, making disciples, giving them Word and Sacrament, proclaiming and announcing the forgiveness of sins won by Jesus Christ on the Cross. Instead, it has been turned into a psychological freakshow.

How about this from Saddleback Church: “When you're running on empty, learn the ancient secrets from God's Word for a less stressful, more relaxing, lighter and free-er lifestyle.

Now here is the fun part about it. All of these churches... when these guys launch -- four, five or six hundred people. They are marketing experts, they are running circles around us. And the people coming to their churches, are they hearing the Gospel? Not at all... All of these guys "claim" that they are doing these things to reach the lost for Jesus Christ, and to give them the Gospel, and that they are not compromising. HOGWASH!

What are the results of all this? ...After 20 years, 40% of their people don't believe in salvation by Grace... 57% don't believe in the Authority of the Bible... 56% don't believe Jesus is the Only Way to Eternal Life.

Former Evangelicals, they're like ex-smokers...

So you can say that, at that time, I was "On fire for the Lord!" -- and you bet I was, because I was told if I wasn't, I was going to burn in Hell. There was no Grace. There was no forgiveness. Only an endless rat-wheel of good works with no assurance that I was even meeting the lowest standard necessary for me to be saved. That's the thing about the Law: How do you know when you've done it enough to please God?

I did everything I could to stand out as a Christian among Christians, and at the time if you were to ask me if I was going to heaven when I died, my answer would have been. “I hope so... I hope so.Beneath the Christian facade was a young man who was struggling with his sin, and who knew he wasn't winning that battle. And I knew that I was not good enough to be saved.

We believe that 'Entire Sanctification' is that act of God, subsequent to regeneration, by which believers are made 'free from original sin, or depravity,' and brought into a 'state of entire devotion to God', and 'the holy obedience of love made perfect'. It is wrought by the baptism with the Holy Spirit, and comprehends in one experience the cleansing of the heart from sin and the abiding indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, empowering the believer for a life of service. 'Entire Sanctification' is provided by the Blood of Jesus, is wrought instantaneously by faith, preceded by entire consecration into this work and state of Grace, the Holy Spirit bears witness. This experience is also know by various terms representing its various phases, such as 'Christian perfection', 'perfect love', 'heart purity', the 'Baptism of the Holy Spirit', the 'Fullness of the Blessing', 'Christian Holiness', and 'Second Blessing of Holiness.'

Perfection... and that's really the Material Principle of Pietism... Modern day Evangelicals, the center of their preaching is 'the changed life', and, their Formal Principle is 'The Bible as Guidebook for Living.' That's what they preach for. Life change.

I was literally fed a steady stream of tactics and practical methods for 'living a God-pleasing life'... But there was no peace for me, no assurance, no hope, my sin problem wouldn't go away, and I knew that I would face shame and rejection if I had to stand before Jesus and give an accounting of my life. Because that's all they were preaching: an Accounting.

Be ye perfect, as your Father in Heaven is perfect.

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Yeah, but I wasn't... I obviously didn't love God... I came to [my pastor] for Grace, and he gave me more Law. Looking back on it I now realize, the teaching and preaching of my church literally cut me off from all hope of salvation. I diligently searched God's Law for little shreds of hope and tiny crumbs of sunlight that could tell me that I would be okay. But there is no comfort in God's Law. There is no forgiveness offered in God's Law.

A person can only live under despair for so long. And that is what this kind of teaching produced in me: utter despair. I was literally withering under the heat of God's Law. But what I didn't know, is that that is exactly what God's Law is supposed to do to us. What was missing in my life was Absolution.

There's no way he can make it into heaven, he's not even trying!

He comforted me with Christ's shed blood on the Cross, he told me over and over again that Jesus' Blood was shed for me, for my sins, all of them, FREE, even the one's I've committed today. I'd never heard a Christian talk this way before. And I'm telling you, there are millions of Evangelicals who've never heard a Christian talk this way before. They don't know the Gospel!

He openly confessed his overwhelming need for a Saviour and his utter dependence on Christ's shed Blood on the Cross for his sins.

But now the righteousness of God has been made manifest apart from the Law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe, for their is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are Justified freely by His Grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

I had stopped my incessant worrying about whether I was good enough, holy enough, or perfect enough to be saved. Instead, I was asking a far more important set of questions:
“Was Jesus Christ good enough?”
“Was Jesus Christ holy enough?”
“Was He perfect enough to save me?”
“Did Jesus' Blood, which He shed on the Cross, cover all of my sins? Or just some of them?”

These texts show that it is all about Jesus Christ [not ME]. His obedience, His ministry, His perfection, His righteousness, His taking my sin and suffering my punishment for me, on the Cross!


Celebrating the Birth of the Greatest Composer in the History of the West: the Lutheran, Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach Monument, on Exterior of St. Thomas Ev. Church - Leipzig, DEToday is the Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring, and in 1685, the same can be said of musical excellence, both in the Church and in the West, as within them the full vibrance of musical life was born, as well – with the birth of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), the man known as the Greatest Composer in the History of Western Civilization. We have written much on Intrepid Lutherans about this creative Master, a fiercely orthodox Lutheran who infused his faith into his compositions through the language of counterpoint, in it battling not only Pietism but, as we detailed in our post, Music for the Twelve Days of Christmas, Part 3: Johann Sebastian Bach, the apostasy of the Enlightenment. The first post in which we first featured J.S. Bach, Music for Holy Week, Part 1 – excerpts from Matthäus Passion, we summarized Bach's life and accomplishments, as follows:
    Bach perhaps needs little introduction: he was and remains the master of counterpoint and represents the pinnacle of Baroque musical achievement. In addition to his many secular works, as Cantor of St. Thomas Church in Leipzig he composed a full series of Cantatas to accompany the Lutheran liturgy for each week of the Church Calendar, along with many other Sacred works as he was commissioned... It is worth noting, however, than in addition to his status as a composer, Johann Sebastian Bach was also fiercely orthodox in his Lutheranism. Being active as a composer during the rise of German Pietism and attempting to ward it off through the Sacred works he was often commissioned to compose, his professional library was proliferate with personally annotated works of Lutheran theology – he had the library of a theologian, and he used it as reference material in the composition of his works.
Bach's genius as a composer was not entirely his own. He is known to have studied the Masters of the previous generation and incorporated their genius into his own art: men like Michael Praetorius, Samuel Scheidt, Johann Schein, and especially Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672)the greatest German composer, second to Bach, who, having composed exclusively for the Lutheran Church throughout his career, has been the subject of numerous posts on Intrepid Lutherans, as well.

Schütz studied under the Renaissance Master of antiphonal and polychoral composition, Giovanni Gabrieli, at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. So remarkable was his performance as a student, that Master Gabrieli was compelled to recommend him with the words, “In Schütz you will have a musician such as one will not find in many other places”. Indeed, upon his death in 1612, Gabrieli willed his signet ring to Schütz. Heinrich Schütz was appointed Kapellmeister at the Royal Court in Dresden in 1615, and from there through the remainder of his career, he masterfully wedded the highest musical art of the Renaissance with the German language, the purest manifestation of which, for him, was Martin Luther's translation of the the Bible.

Bach's relationship to Schütz is almost serendipitous. Recall from our post, Music for the Twelve Days of Christmas, Part 2: Heinrich Schütz ... and other thoughts to ponder over the New Year Holiday... the concern Schütz had in the second third of his life over the decline in compositional integrity he had witnessed, for
    the advent of the chordal style dispensing with linear but rich polyphonic textures made it possible for technically less accomplished composers to shine with concertante figured-bass music. According to Schütz, there were hardly any younger composers in Germany willing to deal with the more profound aspects of composition. So their tonal idiom was bound to become increasingly shallow and banal.
As a result, he published his Geistliche Chormusik (Sacred Choral Music) in 1648, dedicating it to the choir of St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, to “encourage budding German composers, before they would try their hand at the concertante style first demonstrate their skill in this area.” O that today's Lutheran composers would follow this advice, and avoid their own “shallow and banal tonal idiom!”

Johann Sebastian Bach Monument, on Exterior of St. Thomas Ev. Church - Leipzig, DEIt seems to be unknown whether Bach took the recommendation of Schütz to heart, or whether those responsible for calling Bach to be Cantor at St. Thomas in Leipzig were seeking to diligently live up to the encouragement Schütz obviously meant for them, or whether his Geistliche Chormusik had any such impact by that time at all. But it is, at least, an interesting coincidence. Other interesting coincidences include Bach's place in time: Heinrich Schütz died as Pia Desideria (published 1675) was percolating in the mind of Philipp Jakob Spener (1635-1705); Bach was born as plans for the Pietist learning center, University of Halle were being drawn; while Bach served in Leipzig, the last of the Lutheran theologians from the Lutheran Age of Orthodoxy, and vigorous opponent of Pietism, Valentin Ernst Löscher (1673-1749), served as Superintendent and as pastor at the Kreuzkirche in Dresden (practically a stone's-throw from the Royal Court, and a place known to benefit from regular collaboration with Schütz); and both Bach and Löscher, being in such proximity, battled with fierce dedication against Pietism in their respective vocations. Löscher and Bach died at the opening of the Enlightenment, in 1749 and 1750, respectively – with no one, really, to take their place.

With the death of Bach, accompanied by the demise of the Lutheran Age of Orthodoxy, the Spring of musical expression also came to an end, and along with it was left behind the Source of New-Life, the True teaching of God's Word upon which this Spring emerged. God's Truth gave way to Man's pride, the searing heat of Enlightenment notions, such as the “perfectibility of man,” invading both the Fine Arts and Christian Theology, first vaunting the objectivity of man's intellect, then vaunting the subjectivity of man's social and emotional existence, each iteratively warring against the other. Today, we live in the Autumn of both the Arts and the visible Church, the clouds of post-Modernism increasingly obscuring the light of Truth, upon which true art and true theology depend. We await with dread the dark Winter that is fast upon us, ready to endure it for the sake of Christ and the benefit of our neighbor, yet wondering what misery it will bring. But we remember the Spring. And we long for its return.

Johann Sebastian Bach is recognized as the Greatest Composer in the history of Western Civilization; and the work recognized as the Greatest Work of the Greatest Composer is nothing other than a Lutheran MassBach's Lutheran Mass in B-Minor. We offer for our readers today, in celebration of the birth of the Greatest Composer to have ever lived, and in fond remembrance of the Spring that once was, this, a full performance of Bach's Greatest Work.

Lutheran Mass in B-Minor – by Johann Sebastian Bach


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Sermon for Judica: “The Power of the Cross” — Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann

The Exultation of the Cross, by Adam Elsheimer (1578-1610)On Wednesdays through the Lenten Season this year (2013), we will be publishing sermons from Dr. Adolph Hoenecke (1835-1908), who is among the most important theologians of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), and from Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann (1883-1965), a prolific author, educator, historian and theologian of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod (LCMS) and among the more significant figures of 20th Century American Lutheranism.

Last Sunday, also known as Passion Sunday, marked the beginning of the Fifth Week in Lent, or Judica — sometimes also called “Passion Week” or “Passiontide.” Today, unlike we have for the past five Wednesdays, we hear from Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann (LCMS), as he tells us about The Power of the Cross

As the late-Renaissance/early-Baroque era painting at left depicts, the Cross of Christ, though once a symbol of ignominy, has, by Christ’s Victory on the Cross become the symbol of Salvation throughout the World, for on the Cross, the entire work of man’s Redemption was accomplished by Jesus. Thus have men through millenia since been drawn to the Cross of Christ, confidently trusting in the completed work of Christ for their eternal Salvation. That is The Power of the Cross, that through it the work of man’s Salvation was completed in Christ, and that by it God continues to draw men to Himself. In the following sermon, Dr. Kretzmann explains.


A Sermon for Judica

The Power of the Cross

by Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann1

(Introit, Ps. 43:1)
    Text: And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die. (John 12:32-33)

We call ourselves soldiers of the cross. And it is a most remarkable fact that the cross, once the symbol of deepest shame and disgrace, has, during the last nineteen hundred years, become the sign of victory, the sign by which millions of Christians all over the world profess their allegiance to a man who once died on a cross, thereby sealing His life’s work with His life’s blood. Yes, Jesus of Nazareth, a man who had come to His own, first of all to the people of His own race and blood, but then also in behalf of the untold millions of mankind throughout the world, was nailed to a cross just outside the northern gates of the city of Jerusalem, according to the cruel custom of the Romans in punishing certain base criminals. It seemed a moment of the deepest shame and humiliation when the cross, erected on Calvary as the center one of three, was lifted up to the skies. And it might have seemed to many witnesses a mere incident in the life of a demagogue, whose false claims, as they thought, were definitely brought to naught by His death.

Yet, as said before, the cross of Jesus has become the emblem of faith to millions of people. It was carried as the symbol of salvation from Jerusalem through Samaria and Galilee, through Asia Minor and Europe, through the Americas and Australia, through Africa and Asia, and through the islands of the great seas of the world. It is displayed on innumerable churches, as well as on the church appointments, such as altars, lecterns, and baptismal fonts. It is used as a pendant on ornaments and on lapel pins; it is printed on millions of books and magazines. In short, wherever Christians are found, there the cross is the most prominent symbol of their faith in the crucified Savior. The cross has successfully withstood the onslaught of the Mohammedan half-moon, the star and the crescent, and it is proudly displayed in opposition to the star of David. To this day and hour the cross is proving the symbol of victory even against the hosts of paganism in every continent of the globe.

In this connection we cannot but take note of the fact that the cross, as the emblem of the redemption wrought by Jesus Christ, is mentioned time and again in the Scriptures of the New Testament. If we look at the Epistles of St. Paul, for example, we find him cautioning himself, as it were, against preaching with “wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect” (1 Cor. 1:17-18). At the same time he openly states that “the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” The same Apostle refers to the “offense of the cross”, for well he knew that the natural man stumbles at this sign of disgrace and shame (Gal. 5:11). He refers to the fact that there is such a thing as a “persecution for the cross of Christ” (Gal. 6:12). Yet in the same connection he boldly writes: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14). So also the Letter to the Hebrews admonishes all men to look “unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).

All this is in keeping with prophecy which Jesus uttered in our text, a prophecy which sets before us, in golden letters


Let us, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, examine this somewhat more closely.


Wherein does the power of the cross consist? What has made it the symbol of a world-conquering faith? Jesus says in our text: “If I be lifted up from the earth.” This is stated, not as a suggested possibility, as though it were an event which might, and then again might not take place. No, it is the statement of an event definitely expected, one that was certain to be fulfilled in the immediate future. Jesus was looking forward to it, He saw in spirit the cross being lifted up in view of the city which had rejected its Saviour. He had, just a few days before, wept bitter tears over the city, because its inhabitants had refused to acknowledge what pertained to their peace (Luke 19:29-44; cf. Luke 13:34-35, Matt. 23:37-39). And His tears had not been the evidence of a shallow sentimentality, of a pity which even a heathen might feel over the trouble that might befall a friend. No, the tears of Jesus, shed as He looked upon the city which would so soon reject Him, were an evidence of His eternal love for all mankind, a love whose unexampled fervor would drive Him even to the cruel cross.

Thus the power of the cross rests upon God’s eternal counsel of love. He had foreseen the fall of men and the terrible power which sin would exert over mankind, the rule of Satan as the prince of this world. But, from eternity also, His love had found a way to break the power of sin and of the devil by sending a Saviour who, as true man, could be under the Law and suffer death, while, at the same time, as true God, He could conquer sin and death.

The fact that God’s eternal counsel of love found its fulfillment in His death on the cross is brought out even in the many passages of the Old Testament which, directly or indirectly, speak of the Messiah’s work. The very first promise which God gave to men after the Fall brought the Gospel news that the Seed of the Woman would crush the head of the serpent at the very time that the serpent would crush the heel of the Victor (Gen. 3:15). In the 22nd Psalm the Messiah, speaking through the mouth and pen of David, cries out: “My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death” (vs. 15).'As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up' (John 3:14), by Gustave Doré (1832-1883) And in Isaiah 55 the sufferings which led to the climax of the crucifixion are pictured: “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities... He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (vv. 3-7).

This fact of the eternal counsel of love giving power to the cross of Christ is brought out also in the various prophecies which Christ Himself uttered in the course of His ministry, when He spoke of His sufferings and death (i.e., John 3:14; Mark 8:31,9:12; Luke 9:22; etc.). It was indicated even in the conversation of Christ with Nicodemus in that beautiful saying: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son” (John 3:16). And who will not immediately be reminded of the various passages in which Jesus tells His disciples that the divine obligation was resting upon Him to go up to Jerusalem, to be delivered into the hands of the Gentiles, to suffer unspeakable agony and shame, and finally to be crucified? (i.e., Mark 10:33; Matt. 20:17-19; etc.) – All these facts are the background of this present meditation: they are necessary for the proper understanding of the power of the cross.


But, we find, in the second place, that the power of the cross is so amazingly great and wonderful because His being lifted up from the earth signifying what death He should die, includes the entire work of redemption. Over the cross we might write the words which Jesus Himself spoke on the afternoon of the resurrection day: “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26). It is by the way of the cross that the way to heaven is open to us through His blood.

Is it forgiveness of sins that we need? The Bible tells us: “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7).

Is it justification before the righteous God that we are looking for? The Bible tells us: “Being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Rom. 5:9).

Do we need the peace of a good conscience? The Bible tells us: “Having made peace through the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:20).

Do we want to be sure that we are purchased from the power of sin and Satan? The Bible tells us: “The church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).

Do we want to be certain of our redemption? The Bible tells us: “Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet. 1:18-19).

Do we want to be sure that we are really clean from the filth of sin? The Bible tells us: “The blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Do we need white raiment to stand in the presence of the holy God? The Bible tells us: “They... have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14).

Do we want to be sure of access to the throne? The Bible tells us: “Having... boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Heb. 10:19).

Thus was the power of the cross exerted; thus was the blood of the cross the agency through which redemption was gained for all mankind. The cross of Christ signifies and includes the entire work of redemption. So the cross is the symbol of the Christian faith, of Christianity itself; thus it was that St. Paul could declare: “I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). And even more emphatically he writes, in a later letter; “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (Phil. 3:8-10).


But now we ask: What has the power of the cross to do with you and me in the present meditation? We know that it is not a mere head knowledge, a mere comprehension of historical acts which will avail us, in view of the greatest tragedy and the most astounding miracle which the world has ever seen. Thousands and millions have known the story of the cross of Christ, but this cross was to them an object of scorn and derision, and therefore a delusion and a snare. To them the wonderful message of the Gospel has become as the Apostle Paul so sorrowfully puts it, “a savour of death unto death” (2 Cor. 2:14-16).

Nor is it sufficient to have the cross, the entire suffering of Christ, a mere matter of contemplation, of something to be interested in as an account of the possibilities which reside in the human mind, that a man will readily become a martyr of the cause in which he believes. Thousands and millions of people have regarded with amazement the miracle of Calvary, and as many thousands and millions have shed tears of sympathy over the fate of One whose love should have convinced even the most hardhearted enemy of the truth of His cause. No mere contemplation of Christ’s sufferings will bring the power of the cross into the hearts of men.

For that reason there is only one fact which gives us sublime confidence whenever we study the story of the cross, and that is the fact of Christ’s statement in our text: I will draw all men unto me.” This is in the most wonderful agreement with His oft-repeated declaration that He came into the world to seek and to save that which was lost, that He came down from heaven, not to do His own will, but the will of the Father who sent Him. “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me” the Saviour cries out, “that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day” (John 6:39). And we should note, in particular, that this majestic statement is followed by the promise: “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40). This declaration shows how close is the relation of the cross, the work of redemption, to the lives of all men.

Let us keep this in mind, for the power of the cross applied in the lives of men is due to the fact that Christ’s redemption was gained for all men. It was the world which God loved, for which He gave His only-begotten Son. “God... will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Christ stretched out His hands even to the rebellious inhabitants of Jerusalem. He is today calling to all men: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth” (Is. 45:22).

Thus the power of the cross draws men to Christ, for whosoever believeth on Him shall not perish. As men, in studying the miracle of the cross, realize their own sinfulness, their guilt in the eyes of the holy God, which will bring them down into everlasting damnation unless they turn to Him, then, by the grace of God, they lift up their arms to Him in an appeal for mercy, then the power of the cross draws them to Christ as their one and only Saviour, who loved them and gave Himself for them. Thus is established the fellowship of heart and mind with Christ and God, thus the power of the cross is exerted in time for eternity. For this reason the song of every believer can be that of Psalm 103: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies” (vv. 1-4). Truly, we can sing, with hearts uplifted to Him:
    Thou cross of Calvary,
    Thou dark and blood-stained tree!
    Where blackest night prevailed
    When Jesus was assailed
    By all the powers of evil,
    The forces of the devil,
    When He hung on the cursed tree
    To give Himself for me.

    Thou cross of Calvary,
    Where Jesus died for me;
    In my stead there He bled
    From wounded hands and head;
    In Him is my reliance,
    To death I bid defiance;
    With faith’s full confidence I sing:
    “O death, where is thy sting?”

Endnotes:Jesus Only, by Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann
  1. Kretzmann, P. (1956). Jesus Only: A series of Lenten and post-Easter Sermons. Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House. pp. 46-54.

    For more information about Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann, see the Intrepid Lutheran post, Dr. P. E. Kretzmann: Standing on God’s Word when the World opposes us


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