✠ One Message: Christ crucified and risen for you ✠
1. Peter 5,1-4 2712
Miserikordias Domini (2. Sonntag nach Ostern) 037 weiß
Soter and Caius, Bishops and Martyrs at Rome 177 and 296
22. April 2012
1. O Almighty God, who has given Your only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace so that we may always most thankfully receive that His inestimable benefit, and also daily endeavor ourselves to follow the blessed steps of His most holy life (The Book of Common Prayer). Amen.
2. So I exhort the pastors [πρεσβυτέρους] among you, as a fellow pastor and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight [ἐπισκοποῦντες], not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
3. As the apostles proclaimed the resurrection of Christ, by the work of the Holy Spirit, people believed this gospel. Churches were established, and the apostles ordained pastors to carry on the work of the gospel in those congregations. The Apostle Peter, whose pastoral work bore much fruit in Rome, and whose preaching was the material from which Mark the Evangelist wrote his Gospel, exhorts pastors to exercise oversight over their churches. He uses the verb ἐπισκοποῦντες (episkopountes) from which we get the noun ἐπισκοπος (bishop). Thus the Lutheran Confessions argued from Holy Scripture that all pastors are bishops and all bishops are pastors (Treatise §60-64).
4. The apostles charge pastors to exercise oversight in the churches so as to lead the people unto eternal life. This episcopal task involves several aspects. First, it means to ensure that the Holy Scriptures are read and preached at the Divine Service, for the Apostle Paul proclaims: »So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word (ῥήματος, rhematos) of Christ« (Romans 10,17). Second, it means that the Sacraments are administered in and to the church, for in baptizing, administering and absolving the forgiveness of sin is given to the people. Third, it means that the liturgy of the Divine Service is followed. Such liturgy should be doctrinally pure and faithful to the traditions handed down since the apostles. Fourth, it means that the law and gospel should be proclaimed. Sinners should be lead to the confession of their sins by examination under the law, and then they should be absolved by the promise of the gospel.
5. The apostles exhort pastors to preach Christ, for Jesus says: »I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep« (John 10,11). This vicarious sacrifice is the gospel that the Word and Sacraments deliver to you. When Christ is preached, then forgiveness and eternal life is preached, for Jesus says: »My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand« (John 10,27-28).
6. If Christ did not protect us, then this life would be most perilous. The devil prowls and stalks you. He desires to snatch you from Christ’s hand and rob you of the certainty (Gewißheit) of your eternal life and to cast doubt on your forgiveness. The devil is extremely crafty. The world and our sinful flesh assist him and make us easier prey. Trials, tribulations, persecutions, sicknesses, violence, warfare, death, famine and recession are all effects of Adam’s fall into sin, and as such, they all afflict us in various degrees, but the promise of Christ gives us the certainty (Gewißheit) of Divine protection unto everlasting life.
7. The Apostle Paul describes this certainty (Gewißheit) in his Epistle to the Romans: »Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification (holy living or good works) and its end, which is eternal life« (Romans 6,22). Jesus the Good Shepherd has freed you from the tyranny of the law and your enslavement to it. This liberation began in your Holy Baptism whereupon you have been united with Jesus in a death like His and united with Jesus in a resurrection like His. In Holy Baptism, your old self was crucified with Jesus so that your body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that you would no longer be enslaved to sin. You have died with Christ, and you will also live with Him (Romans 6,5-6.8).
8. Therefore you must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6,11). The law once enslaved you, and by the law sin was exposed but then sin ran amok. Death awaited you as your legal payment for works rendered in your body of sin. God’s law is holy, just and good, but it is powerless to make you righteous before God the Father. The Apostle Paul thus declares that you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to Christ who has been raised from the dead, so that you may bear fruit for God. For while you were living in the flesh, your sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in you to bear fruit for death. But now you are released from the law, having died to that which held you captive, so that you serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the law’s written code (Romans 7,4-6).
9. Dear church, this is why Jesus diligently and patiently searches for those who have gone astray! Corrupt human nature chaffs at the law’s demands for holiness and Godly living. Sometimes convicted sinners run and flee the angry God, forgetting that He is also merciful and forgiving. So Jesus goes out to find those frightened by the law and terrified by their sins and comforts them with the soothing gospel that promises grace and forgiveness.
10. The law devastatingly reveals that the wages of sin is death, but the gospel mercifully proclaims that now the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6,23). The law says you have rightly earned your wages, and that is death. The gospel says you have been given a gift, and you have not earned this gift, but God freely and lovingly gives you the gift of eternal salvation by the merits of Christ alone (solus Christus).
11. For the believer, the law does not only condemn but by the working of the Holy Spirit the law is now also a delight. By faith, you desire to live a God-pleasing life that conforms to the letter of the law. For the Christian, the law is a delight to perform. All this comes from the Holy Spirit, who by the gospel enables you to delight in, and do, the law of God (Romans 7:22.24).
12. With the psalmist you now joyously acclaim: »Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law (torah) of Yahweh! Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with all their heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in His ways! You have commanded Your precepts to be kept diligently. O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping Your statutes! Then I am not put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all Your commandments. I will praise You with an upright heart, when I learn Your righteous rules. I keep Your statutes; do not utterly forsake me!« (Psalm 119,1-8).
13. In Christ you are justified, and through the Holy Spirit He works out your sanctification (holy living) from justification. It is all by Christ and His merits that are applied to you. You are now dead to sin, alive in Christ and the bearer of holy living all through the gospel that ends in eternal life with its unfading crown of glory. Amen.
14. Let us pray. O Christ Jesus, our Good Shepherd, send for the Holy Spirit to our church and in our lives so that we know we are Your sheep and follow You in both faith and sanctified living. Amen.
To God alone be the Glory
All Scriptural quotations are translations done by The Rev. Peter A. Bauernfeind using the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, 4th Edition © 1990 by the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart, and the Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 27th Edition © 1993 by Deutsch Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.
A Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope.
Book of Common Prayer, The. Copyright © 1662 Cambridge University Press.
ELKB. Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Bayern. www.bayern-evangelisch.de/www/index.php. Copyright © Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Bayern.