Palm Sunday / Sunday Of The Passion
(25 March 2018)
John 12:12–19 (Palm Sunday Procession)
Zechariah 9:9–12; Ps. 118:19–29 or 31:9–16; Philippians 2:5–11; Mark 14:1—15:47 or Mark 15:1–47 or John 12:20–43
Entrance: LSB 442 All Glory, Laud, and Honor
Of the Day: LSB 438 A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth
Offertory: LSB 444 No Tramp of Soldiers’ Marching Feet
Distribution: LSB 430 My Song Is Love Unknown;
Closing: LSB 441 Ride On, Ride On in Majesty
The Son of David Ascends His Throne and Reigns in Love from His Cross
The Son of David comes in gentle humility, “sitting on a donkey’s colt,” yet as the King of Israel “in the name of the Lord” (John 12:13–15). He comes to be lifted up in glory on the cross in order to cast out “the ruler of this world” and draw all people to Himself (John 12:23–32). The Church is thus called to “rejoice greatly,” because her King comes with salvation, and “he shall speak peace to the nations” (Zech. 9:9–10). As He is anointed “beforehand for burial” (Mark 14:8), He also ascends His royal throne as “the King of the Jews” by way of His Passion (Mark 15:2, 17–19, 26). He goes “as it is written of him,” wherefore “you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power” (Mark 14:21, 62). For the glory of God is love, which crescendos in the humble obedience and voluntary self-sacrifice of the Son of God for the salvation of sinners. So God the Father has “highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name” (Phil. 2:9), that He might reign over us in love with the forgiveness of His cross.
Dr. Martin Luther:
SUNDAY OF THE PASSION - Mark 14:1–15:47 (March 25)
“It (Hosanna) means Helper or Savior, as the angel says to Joseph ... ,’You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’ Hoshiyah, ‘Joshua,’ and ‘Jesus’ sound almost alike; and Joshua is the same name as Jesus. ... The verse is a prayer or a wish of joy.” LW 14:101
Worldview Everlasting – Can't Hug Every Pagan Holiday (John 12:20-43)
Greek Tuesday discusses John 12 as Jesus prepares to go to the Cross. What is Holy Week all about? Watch this episode to find out!
Looking Forward to Sunday Morning (3 Year Lectionary): Palm Sunday — Dr. Carl Fickenscher — Issues Etc.
Dr. Carl Fickenscher, Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, Ind., discusses the readings and propers with Pr. Todd Wilken on Issues Etc. (mp3, 1:19:22, 72.7 MB, 2018-Mar-20)
Lectionary Podcast - Passion Sunday - Series B - John 12:20-43 with Dr. Detlev Schulz
Dr. Detlev Schulz, Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, Ind., discusses the Gospel lesson from the Greek text.
20 Ἦσαν δὲ ⸂Ἕλληνές τινες⸃ ἐκ τῶν ἀναβαινόντων ἵνα προσκυνήσωσιν ἐν τῇ ἑορτῇ·
21 οὗτοι οὖν προσῆλθον Φιλίππῳ τῷ ἀπὸ Βηθσαϊδὰ τῆς Γαλιλαίας, καὶ ἠρώτων αὐτὸν λέγοντες· Κύριε, θέλομεν τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἰδεῖν.
22 ἔρχεται ⸀ὁ Φίλιππος καὶ λέγει τῷ Ἀνδρέᾳ· ⸀ἔρχεται Ἀνδρέας καὶ Φίλιππος ⸀καὶ λέγουσιν τῷ Ἰησοῦ.
23 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ⸀ἀποκρίνεται αὐτοῖς λέγων· Ἐλήλυθεν ἡ ὥρα ἵνα δοξασθῇ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου.
24 ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐὰν μὴ ὁ κόκκος τοῦ σίτου πεσὼν εἰς τὴν γῆν ἀποθάνῃ, αὐτὸς μόνος μένει· ἐὰν δὲ ἀποθάνῃ, πολὺν καρπὸν φέρει.
25 ὁ φιλῶν τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ⸀ἀπολλύει αὐτήν, καὶ ὁ μισῶν τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ τούτῳ εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον φυλάξει αὐτήν.
26 ἐὰν ἐμοί ⸂τις διακονῇ⸃ ἐμοὶ ἀκολουθείτω, καὶ ὅπου εἰμὶ ἐγὼ ἐκεῖ καὶ ὁ διάκονος ὁ ἐμὸς ἔσται· ⸀ἐάν τις ἐμοὶ διακονῇ τιμήσει αὐτὸν ὁ πατήρ.
27 Νῦν ἡ ψυχή μου τετάρακται, καὶ τί εἴπω; πάτερ, σῶσόν με ἐκ τῆς ὥρας ταύτης. ἀλλὰ διὰ τοῦτο ἦλθον εἰς τὴν ὥραν ταύτην.
28 πάτερ, δόξασόν σου τὸ ὄνομα. ἦλθεν οὖν φωνὴ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ· Καὶ ἐδόξασα καὶ πάλιν δοξάσω.
29 ὁ οὖν ὄχλος ὁ ἑστὼς καὶ ἀκούσας ἔλεγεν βροντὴν γεγονέναι· ἄλλοι ἔλεγον· Ἄγγελος αὐτῷ λελάληκεν.
30 ἀπεκρίθη ⸂Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν⸃· Οὐ διʼ ἐμὲ ⸂ἡ φωνὴ αὕτη⸃ γέγονεν ἀλλὰ διʼ ὑμᾶς.
31 νῦν κρίσις ἐστὶν τοῦ κόσμου τούτου, νῦν ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου ἐκβληθήσεται ἔξω·
32 κἀγὼ ⸀ἐὰν ὑψωθῶ ἐκ τῆς γῆς, πάντας ἑλκύσω πρὸς ἐμαυτόν.
33 τοῦτο δὲ ἔλεγεν σημαίνων ποίῳ θανάτῳ ἤμελλεν ἀποθνῄσκειν.
34 ἀπεκρίθη ⸀οὖν αὐτῷ ὁ ὄχλος· Ἡμεῖς ἠκούσαμεν ἐκ τοῦ νόμου ὅτι ὁ χριστὸς μένει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, καὶ πῶς ⸂λέγεις σὺ⸃ ⸀ὅτι δεῖ ὑψωθῆναι τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου; τίς ἐστιν οὗτος ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου;
35 εἶπεν οὖν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς· Ἔτι μικρὸν χρόνον τὸ φῶς ⸂ἐν ὑμῖν⸃ ἐστιν. περιπατεῖτε ⸀ὡς τὸ φῶς ἔχετε, ἵνα μὴ σκοτία ὑμᾶς καταλάβῃ, καὶ ὁ περιπατῶν ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ οὐκ οἶδεν ποῦ ὑπάγει.
36 ⸀ὡς τὸ φῶς ἔχετε, πιστεύετε εἰς τὸ φῶς, ἵνα υἱοὶ φωτὸς γένησθε.
Ταῦτα ⸀ἐλάλησεν Ἰησοῦς, καὶ ἀπελθὼν ἐκρύβη ἀπʼ αὐτῶν.
37 τοσαῦτα δὲ αὐτοῦ σημεῖα πεποιηκότος ἔμπροσθεν αὐτῶν οὐκ ἐπίστευον εἰς αὐτόν,
38 ἵνα ὁ λόγος Ἠσαΐου τοῦ προφήτου πληρωθῇ ὃν εἶπεν· Κύριε, τίς ἐπίστευσεν τῇ ἀκοῇ ἡμῶν; καὶ ὁ βραχίων κυρίου τίνι ἀπεκαλύφθη;
39 διὰ τοῦτο οὐκ ἠδύναντο πιστεύειν ὅτι πάλιν εἶπεν Ἠσαΐας·
40 Τετύφλωκεν αὐτῶν τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς καὶ ⸀ἐπώρωσεν αὐτῶν τὴν καρδίαν, ἵνα μὴ ἴδωσιν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς καὶ νοήσωσιν τῇ καρδίᾳ καὶ ⸀στραφῶσιν, καὶ ⸀ἰάσομαι αὐτούς.
41 ταῦτα εἶπεν Ἠσαΐας ⸀ὅτι εἶδεν τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐλάλησεν περὶ αὐτοῦ.
42 ὅμως μέντοι καὶ ἐκ τῶν ἀρχόντων πολλοὶ ἐπίστευσαν εἰς αὐτόν, ἀλλὰ διὰ τοὺς Φαρισαίους οὐχ ὡμολόγουν ἵνα μὴ ἀποσυνάγωγοι γένωνται,
43 ἠγάπησαν γὰρ τὴν δόξαν τῶν ἀνθρώπων μᾶλλον ἤπερ τὴν δόξαν τοῦ θεοῦ.
(20) And there were some Greeks among those coming up, that they might worship at the Feast.
(21) Then these came to Philip, the one from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, Sir, we desire to see Jesus.
(22) Philip came and told Andrew, and again Andrew and Philip told Jesus.
(23) But Jesus answered them, saying, The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.
(24) Truly, truly, I say to you, If the grain of wheat that falls into the earth does not die, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.
(25) The one who loves his life loses it, and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it to everlasting life.
(26) If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will also be. And if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.
(27) And My soul is troubled, and what may I say? Father, save Me out of this hour? But because of this I came to this hour.
(28) Father, glorify Your name. Then a voice came out of the heaven: I both glorified it, and I will glorify it again.
(29) Then standing and hearing, the crowd said that thunder occurred. Others said, An angel has spoken to Him.
(30) Jesus answered and said, This voice has not occurred because of Me, but because of you.
(31) Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world shall be cast out.
(32) And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all to Myself.
(33) But He said this, signifying by what kind of death He was about to die.
(34) The crowd answered Him, We heard out of the Law that The Christ remains to the age. And how do You say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?
(35) Then Jesus said to them, Yet a little while the Light is with you. Walk while you have the Light, that darkness not overtake you. And the one walking in the darkness does not know where he is going.
(36) While you have the Light, believe into the Light, that you may become sons of Light. Jesus spoke these things, and going away He was hidden from them.
(37) But though He had done so many miraculous signs before them, they did not believe into Him,
(38) so that the Word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he said, "Lord, who has believed our report? And the arm of the Lord, to whom was it revealed?"
(39) Because of this they could not believe, because Isaiah said again,
(40) "He has blinded their eyes" and "has hardened their heart," "that they might not see with the eyes" and "understand with the heart," "and be converted," "and I should heal them."
(41) Isaiah said these things when he saw His glory, and spoke about Him.
(42) Still, however, even out of the rulers, many did believe into Him. But because of the Pharisees, they were not confessing, so that they not be put out of the synagogue.
(43) For they loved the glory of men more than the glory of God.
Scripture quotations marked SBLGNT are from the SBL Greek New Testament. Copyright © 2010 Society of Biblical Literature and Logos Bible Software. Holmes, M. W. (2011–2013). The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition. Lexham Press; Society of Biblical Literature.
“Pastor, that’s your book! That’s the book you promised to teach and practice among us as our pastor. Why haven’t you read it lately?”
…(your pastor) should be studying (the Confessions) because…he loves his people.
Pastor Todd Wilken’s Reformation Presentation
Presentation by Pastor Todd Wilken (1 h 4 m 14 s). Pr. Wilken hosts Issues, Etc.: Christ-centered cross-focused talk radio program.
"Why should it (the Lutheran Confessions) be your pastor's companion — in his daily toolkit?
Two (or three) good reasons:
(1.) If he really wants to be Lutheran, your Lutheran pastor, then those Confessions are the things that make him Lutheran.
He's not Lutheran because he graduated from a Lutheran seminary. He's not Lutheran because he was raised Lutheran in a family of Lutherans or came from a family of Lutheran pastors. He's not Lutheran because has a call to a Lutheran congregation that has Lutheran in its name. None of those things make your pastor Lutheran.
The only thing(s) that make your pastor Lutheran (is) are the Lutheran Confessions.
It's not even the Bible. The Bible makes a person a Christian but Christians believe all kinds of things are in the Bible that aren't there. And Christians err in how they read and interpret the Bible.
But what makes your pastor Lutheran in his theology and in his practice is that book. It is not on par with the Bible. But it is the clearest, most dependable, reliable expression of what the Scriptures say on the subject it addresses as has ever existed.
So, if your pastor wants to be Lutheran, then that book has to be a part of his life. Not just a part, but a big part of his life. Your pastor should be given time, not as much as he asks for, but give him enough time, to study the Lutheran Confessions on a weekly basis, just as he studies the Scriptures; those two should go hand-in-hand.
(2.) But there's another reason and that's because your pastor promised that the Lutheran Confessions would guide both his teaching and his practice when he came to your church. Whether he was ordained there (with) the laying on of hands that ratifies the pastor's place called by that congregation or whether he came from someplace else ... and was installed here, the promise was the same.
He made a promise, well, let's just read it. He's asked first whether or not he believes and confesses the creeds (all those parts that I mentioned), the three ecumenical creeds. And then he's asked, "Do you confess the unaltered Augsburg Confession? Do you confess the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Small and Large Catechisms, the Smalcald Articles, the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, and the Formula of Concord as these are contained in the Book of Concord? Do you confess them to be in agreement with the one Scriptural faith?"
And if he's serving now as your pastor there, he said, "Yes." Otherwise, if he said, "No," you'd have to start the whole process all over again and find another pastor.
And then he made one more promise to you and to God: "Do you promise that you will perform the duties of your office in accordance with these Confessions and that all your preaching and teaching and your administration of the Sacraments will be in conformity with the Holy Scriptures and with these Confessions?" That's the promise your pastor made.
So, you ought to find on his desk open, or at least well dog-earred if he likes to close it up at night, both Holy Scripture and the Book of Concord. Now, if you happen to walk into your pastor's office and you can't find it there or in his library, you might ask him where it is. And he might say, "Well, it's in my car." That's a good answer.
Or, if it's up there and it's smashed in there with all the other reference books and it is real obvious from the dust that's accumulated along the top of the bindings of those books that he has not pulled that thing down since he put it up 25 years ago, that's a serious problem!
You need to speak gently and carefully to your pastor and say, "Pastor, that's your book! That's the book you promised to teach and practice among us as our pastor. Why haven't you read it lately?"
I have grown completely convinced that whatever ills we suffer here in our little Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod in doctrine or practice have one cause. And that one cause is our pastors and, therefore, then also our people, are either ignorant of or outright ignoring what it is Lutherans believe, teach and confess in the Book of Concord. I think it accounts for every single problem. ... I'm talking about the real problems that beset the church: problems of theology and practice. And that means they've got one cure, doesn't it?
It means that if our pastors were to open, read, study and take to heart what it is they promised to conform all their teaching and practice to, well, not all our problems would go away. We're still sinners. But, our pastors would be more Lutheran. Our congregations would be more Lutheran. And our confession to the world would be much more clear. And it would also, I think, be far more confident. There's a certain measure of confidence that a pastor gets knowing that what he confesses and teaches on Sunday morning is not only being confessed by his fellow pastors, his brothers, all around the church and their congregations, but also has been confessed by faithful pastors all the way back to the apostles. That gives you courage. It stiffens a pastor's spine. It makes him confident and it makes him also hopeful.
(3.) It's really a question, as this promise pastors make at their ordination or installation, of caring for the souls entrusted to them. Maybe that's a third reason why that ought to be one of the most used books in your pastor's library. Because he ought to love you, as your shepherd, you his sheep, so much that he does this. If he doesn't study the Confessions because he wants to, if he doesn't study the Confessions because he thinks he needs to, he should be studying them because, at least he says, he loves his people.
From Gottesblog, as found in TLH Agenda (pp. 117-20):
O Almighty God, merciful Father, I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto Thee all my sins and iniquities; especially do I acknowledge my indolence in prayer, my neglect of Thy Word, and my seeking after good days and vainglory. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them; and I pray Thee, of Thy boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Thy beloved Son, forgive me all my sins, and be gracious and merciful to me. Yea, cleanse me through Thy Spirit by the blood of Jesus Christ, and give me more and more power and willingness to strive after holiness, for Thou has called me that I should be holy and blameless before Thee in love.
I thank Thee also, O faithful God, for my family, my wife and children, and for all my relatives. Thou hast given them to me purely out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. Preserve them in good health, and give them their daily bread; but above all keep them in Thy grace and in the true confession of Thy name unto the end.
Thou, O God of all grace and mercy, hast also called me, a poor unworthy sinner, to be a servant of Thy Word and hast placed me into that office which preaches the reconciliation and hast given me this flock to feed. In and by myself I am wholly incompetent to perform the work of this great office; and, therefore, I pray Thee, make me an able minister of Thy Church. Give me Thy Holy Spirit, the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge, of grace and prayer, of power and strength, of courage and joyfulness, of sanctification and the fear of God. Fill me with the right knowledge, and open my lips that my mouth may proclaim the honor of Thy name. Fill my heart with a passion for souls and with skillfulness to give unto each and every sheep or lamb entrusted to my care what is due unto it at the proper time. Give me at all times sound advice and just works; and wherever I overlook something or in the weakness of my flesh speak or act wrongly, do Thou set it aright, and help that no one may through me suffer harm to his soul.
Glory and honor, praise and thanks be unto Thee, God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for all the mercy and faithfulness Thou hast shown to this congregation. Thy Word has not returned unto Thee void, but Thou has here gathered a people that knows Thee and fears Thy name. Give me Thy Holy Spirit, that I may at all times see the good things in this congregation and praise and thank Thee for them. Bless Thy Word in the future, that it may preserve the believers in Thy grace, convert those that are not yet Thine, and bring back the erring and delinquent. Gather Thy people as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and be Thou a wall of fire about Thy congregation.
Graciously take into Thy fatherly care the sick and the needy, all widows and orphans, and all who are in any trouble, temptation, anguish of labor, peril of death, or any other adversity. Comfort them, O God, with Thy Holy Spirit, that they may patiently endure their afflictions and acknowledge them as a manifestation of Thy fatherly will. Preserve their soul from faintheartedness and despondency, and help that they may seek Thee, the great Physician of their souls. And if any pass through the valley of the shadow of death, suffer them not, in the last hour, for any pain or fear of death, to fall away from Thee, but let Thine everlasting arms be underneath them, and grant them a peaceful departure and a happy entrance into Thine eternal kingdom.
Furthermore, I pray Thee, Thou wouldst at all times fill the offices of this congregation and its societies with upright, honest, and sincere men and women, who have the welfare of their congregation at heart and are able to help me in my office with their counsel and their deeds. Unite their hearts with me in love for the truth; give them the spirit of prayer for me and for their congregation, so that we may in unity and harmony build Thy kingdom in this place.
And since hypocrites and ungodly people are often found within the visible church organization, I pray Thee, do not permit Satan to disrupt this congregation through such or to hinder the efficiency of my office. If there is such in our midst, let Thy Word be like unto a hammer upon their hearts of stone. Have patience with them, but if they persist in their unbelief, hypocrisy, and wickedness, do Thou reveal them, so that they may be put forth from Thy congregation. Give me a forgiving heart towards all, and help me, especially for their sake, to speak and act cautiously.
Preserve and keep the youth of our Church from falling way and joining the world, and keep them from the many sins of youth. Thou, O Lord, knowest how difficult it is to lead the young on the right paths and to divide the Word of Truth with respect to them; do Thou, therefore, give me particular wisdom and skill to be stern without estranging their hearts, and mild and charitable without strengthening them in frivolity and unruliness.
Mercifully bless the education and instruction of the children, that they may grow up in Thy fear to the praise of Thy name. I commend unto Thee also the nursery of our church, the Christian day school. Hinder and frustrate all enemies of this institution. May I ever regard and accept it as a precious gift of God! Give our congregation able and apt teachers. Preserve them from an indecent and evil walk and conversation. Bless the work of our Sunday school teachers, and help them to lead the little ones into the Savior’s loving arms.
To Thy grace and mercy I also commend all my brethren in office. Arrest and suppress all discord and dissension. Give me a brotherly heart towards all and true humility, and help me to bear with patience their casual weakness or deficiencies. Grant that they also may act as true brothers toward me.
Keep and preserve our whole Synod, its teachers and officers, true to Thy Word. Cause the work of our Synod to grow. Guard and protect all members of Synod against sinful ambitions, dissension, and indifference in doctrine and practice. Bless all higher institutions of learning, our colleges, seminaries, and universities. Accompany all missionaries on their dangerous ways, and help them to perform their work. Gather the elect from all nations into Thy holy Christian Church, and bring them at last into Thy Church Triumphant in heaven.
Grant also health and prosperity to all that are in authority in our country, especially the President and Congress of the United States, the Governor and Legislature of this State, and to all Judges and Magistrates. Endue them with grace to rule after Thy good pleasure, to the maintenance of righteousness and to the hindrance and punishment of wickedness, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
Hear me, most merciful God, in these my humble requests, which I offer up unto Thee in the name of Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, whom, with Thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.
Ash Wednesday Service
Imposition of Ashes, Wednesday Feb. 14 — 6:50 pm
Divine Service, Wednesday Feb. 14 — 7:00 pm
Wednesdays, Feb. 21, 28, March 7, 14, 21
Supper — 5:30 pm
Service — 7:00 pm (Pastors from Sioux Falls Circuit will rotate churches)
Maundy Thursday Divine Service, March 29 — 7:00 pm
Good Friday Tenebré Service, March 30 — 7:00 pm
Sunrise Matins Service, Apr. 1 — 6:30 am
Breakfast, Apr. 1 — 7:30 am
Festival Divine Service, Apr. 1 — 9:30 am
Dr. Paul Schilf leads a Midweek Family Bible Study on various topics. The study is held Wednesdays at 6:30 pm. The schedule of topics is:
28-Feb: No Class - Lent
07-Mar: No Class - Lent
14-Mar: No Class - Lent
21-Mar: No Class - Lent
28-Mar: No Class - Lent (Please note the change)
N.B. The schedule is under review and will be published soon.
4801 E. 6th St
Christ Lutheran Church is a member of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.
9:30 am Divine Service with Lord's Supper (The Lord's Supper is celebrated every Lord's Day and Festival Service)
10:45 am Sunday School and Bible Classes (except August)
Advent and Lenten services: Wednesday, 7:00 pm
Note: Services on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day are held at 9:30 am.
Recorded sermons can be heard here.
UPDATE: The Voters Assembly, at its meeting of December 10, 2017, adopted its 2018 budget, and voted to continue as a member of the Issues, Etc. 300, for the 8th year.
The Voters Assembly at its regular meeting of January 9, 2011, adopted its 2011 budget. As part of its Missions budget is a line item for Issues, Etc. (via Lutheran Public Radio) and has become a member of the Issues, Etc. 300.
Listen to Issues, Etc. 24/7
Issues, Etc. Journal, Summer 2017
More than a decade ago I wrote “A Listeners Guide to the Pulpit.” At the time, my goal was simple: I wanted to help the average Christian sitting in the pew to tell the difference between good preaching and bad preaching. I dealt with the most egregious forms of bad preaching I could think of, and I thought I had covered it all. I hadn’t. Since then I have become aware of other kinds of bad preaching, some of which I had engaged in myself. To ﬁll in the gaps and confess to my own bad preaching, I offer this update of the original essay.
Most of the preachers were dynamic, engaging, interesting and even entertaining...
Most of their sermons were terrible.
How hard could it be? You go to church. The preacher preaches. You sit and listen. Easy, right?
But how do you tell the difference between a good sermon and a bad sermon? What makes good preaching good, and bad preaching bad?
For several years Issues, Etc. has been doing on–air sermon reviews. We’ve reviewed the sermons of Joel Osteen, D. James Kennedy, T.D. Jakes, Robert Schuller, Joyce Meyer, and many less well–known preachers. We’ve reviewed the sermons of Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Eastern Orthodox, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, and others. Most of these preachers were speaking to packed auditoriums and to worldwide television audiences. Most of the preachers were dynamic, engaging, interesting, and even entertaining. Most of the preachers are considered the best of the best preachers in the world.
Most of their sermons were terrible.
I don’t make this judgment based on my own subjective tastes or my own personal standard. I make this judgment based on the objective difference between good preaching and bad preaching.
Is there an objective standard for good preaching? Yes. It is a standard every Christian should know and use every time they hear a sermon. Every Christian needs to know the difference between a good sermon and a bad sermon.
God’s Two Teachings
St. Paul writes to the young preacher Timothy, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15). Paul says that God’s Word of truth must be handled with care. To rightly divide God’s Word is the preacher’s ﬁrst and most important task. Nineteenth–century theologian, C.F.W. Walther describes what Paul means in his famous treatise, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel:
The doctrinal contents of the entire Holy Scriptures, both of the Old and the New Testament, are made up of two doctrines differing fundamentally from each other; viz.[namely], the Law and the Gospel … Only he is an orthodox teacher who not only presents all the articles of faith in accordance with Scripture, but also rightly distinguished from each other the Law and the Gospel. (C.F.W. Walther, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1928, pp. 6 http://www.lutherantheology.com/uploads/works/walther/LG/lecture-01.html, 30 http://www.lutherantheology.com/uploads/works/walther/LG/lecture-04.html.)
Walther was simply following the leader of the sixteenth-century reformer Martin Luther. Luther explained this critical distinction between God’s Law and God’s Gospel and the danger of ignoring it:
It is therefore a matter of utmost necessity that these two kinds of God’s Word be well and properly distinguished. Where this is not done, neither the Law nor the Gospel can be understood, and the consciences of men must perish with blindness and error. The Law has its goal fixed beyond which it cannot go or accomplish anything, namely, until the point is reached where Christ comes in. It must terrify the impenitent with threats of the wrath and displeasure of God. Likewise the Gospel has its peculiar function and task, viz. [namely], to proclaim forgiveness of sin to sorrowing souls. These two may not be commingled, nor the one substituted for the other, without a falsification of doctrine. For while the Law and the Gospel are indeed equally God’s Word, they are not the same doctrine. (Martin Luther, “Sermon on the Distinction Between the Law and the Gospel,” Luther’s Works, St. L. Ed. IX, p. 799.)
Through His Law, God shows us His will. Through His Law, God tells us what He requires and what He forbids. Through His Law, God demands perfect obedience in thought, word and deed. Through His Law, God shows us that we have not done what He requires and have done what He forbids. Through His Law, God says, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind... You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37, 39). Through His Law, God calls anything short of perfect obedience sin.
Through His Gospel, God tells us what He has done in Jesus Christ to save those who have broken His Law. Through His Gospel, God shows us that Jesus has done everything He required of us by His Law. Through His Gospel, God shows us that Jesus has been punished under the Law in our place. Through His Gospel, God answers the perfect demands of His Law with the perfect, sinless death and resurrection of Jesus. The Gospel says, “What the Law could not do in that it was weak through the ﬂesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful ﬂesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the ﬂesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulﬁlled in us” (Rom. 8:3–4).Through His Gospel, God answers the requirements of His Law with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus for us. Through His Gospel, God makes no demands whatsoever. There is only the free gift of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.
What does this have to do with difference between a good sermon and a bad sermon? Everything. The essential difference between a good sermon and a bad sermon is whether or not the preacher rightly divides and applies God's Law and God’s Gospel. A good sermon must show sinners their sin and show sinners their Savior. Again Luther writes:
This difference between the Law and the Gospel is the height of knowledge in Christendom. Every person and all persons who assume or glory in the name of Christian should know and be able to state this difference. If this ability is lacking, one cannot tell a Christian from a heathen or a Jew; of such supreme importance is this differentiation. This is why St. Paul so strongly insists on a clean–cut and proper differentiating of these two doctrines. (Martin Luther, Sermon on Galatians, 1532.)
So these two, Law and Gospel, must always go together in every sermon. They must be carefully divided in every sermon. God's Law must show us our sin, and God's Gospel must silence the Law’s accusations against us with the perfect life, death and resurrection of Jesus for us.
This is not to say that a good sermon will ONLY do this. Good preaching, according to Paul, does many things: It rebukes, reproves, admonishes, corrects, comforts, encourages, trains and teaches (Rom. 15:14; 1 Cor. 10:11; Col. 1:28; 3:16; 2 Tim. 2:4; 3:16; Titus 1:9). But whatever else good preaching does, it must above all rightly condemn us on account of our sin and declare us innocent on account of Jesus.
That was a Good Sermon?