Reformation Day, 2021

The Athanasian Creed uses the word “catholic” to refer to Christendom—the Christian Church of all times and places. I’m going to use the term “catholic” in two ways: as the Creed does and to refer to the Roman Church. Because—

There are “‘good’ Catholics” and there are “good catholics.”

That is, there are slaves and there are sons.

And—“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).

Amen, I say, and woe unto them, but what do I mean?

Let’s just go in order…

In our First Lesson, St. John writes: “Then I saw another angel flying overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation, language, and people. And he said with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water’” (cf. Revelation 14:6-7).

This “eternal gospel” may not be what we expect, as it’s a call to repentance, seemingly at the hour of God’s judgment.

But judgment falling on the enemies of God’s people is salvation for the Church.

That’s gospel. That’s good news.

And woe to those who call good evil.

Today, there are those who call good Lutheranism evil.

You know as well as I do that Lutherans are seen as joyless and argumentative.

If you disagree, that’s the argumentative part.

And if you’re not laughing, that’s the joyless part.

While there may be no joy in argument per se, there is most certainly joy in agreement—and that’s the point.

Wanting to agree, we argue until we do.

But that we agree with each other is meaningless if we disagree with God.

And “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

To agree with God—to believe the Gospel—is to fear God, give Him glory, and confess rightly the righteousness of God—as St. Paul does in the Epistle—where he writes: “No human being will be justified in [God’s] sight by works of the law” (cf. Romans 3:20).

And woe to those who say otherwise.

Because “the righteousness of God has been [revealed] apart from the law…through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. There is no distinction: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and [all] are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (cf. Romans 3:21-25).

This is the righteousness of a loving God, that He should die for the many, that one act of righteousness would lead to justification and life for all men (Romans 5:18).

“For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many [are] made righteous” (Romans 5:19).

To agree with God—to believe the Gospel—is to believe in Jesus as a Redeemer of sinners, of whom one is chief.

If you think you’re saved because you give your heart to Jesus, you will not be saved.

Because you don’t choose a Redeemer for yourself.

But the one man, our gracious Lord, passes by, has mercy on us, rescues us, and takes us home with Him.

That’s how it is.

And woe to those who say otherwise.

That’s what Jesus means when He says, in the Gospel lesson, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” and then, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. [And] if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:31-32, 34-36).

To believe the Gospel—to believe in Jesus as a Redeemer of sinners—is to abide in His Word, to hear and believe it.

And if the Son sets you free, you will be free:

Free from the bondage of false gods.

Free from the terror of unforgiven sin.

You will hear and believe and be free indeed.

Because “faith comes [by] hearing, and hearing [by] the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17), and this faith “is not your own doing [but is] the gift of God, not a result of works, [lest anyone] boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

And woe to those who say otherwise.

This is the catholic faith; whoever does not believe it faithfully and firmly cannot be saved.

There are “‘good’ Catholics” and “good catholics.”

There are slaves and sons.

The eternal gospel calls everyone to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus. It announces judgment on the enemies of the Church.

It announces the salvation of all who agree regarding the righteousness of God, and the righteousness of God is revealed in Jesus Christ the Son of God, who sets us free through the redemption in His blood.

This is the catholic faith; whoever does not believe it faithfully and firmly cannot be saved.

No matter what the Pope says about you.

Now, I could not care less about your politics.

But I could not care more about your theology.

Think in terms of theology—not politics.

I don’t know if you saw it or not, but the current Pope told President Biden that he was a “good” Catholic and that he should continue to receive the sacrament.

Set aside the obvious and sinister political use of such a lie, and consider the spiritual warfare that’s going on.

It’s neither good nor catholic to rejoice in or otherwise support abortion. It’s as simple as “Thou shalt not kill.”

But don’t make the mistake of thinking that’s a war we’re not waging. 

If it’s that simple with respect to abortion, it’s that simple with respect to frozen embryos.

Human life is not a commodity to be traded like cattle.

The modern day slave trade that goes on at hospitals should not be. Abortion for some. Fertilization and the freezer for others. Exit through the gift shop, and pay before you go.

All under the same roof, sometimes.

This is the spiritual warfare of our age.

But it doesn’t stop there.

I’ve taken my boys to the public library a few times over the last several weeks, and I found a book about everyone’s favorite doctor—Dr. Fauci.

It’s a children’s book. A picture book.

Think in terms of theology—not politics.

On one of the early pages, we learn this about America’s Doctor: “When the nuns at his school said you had to go to Mass each week in order to get into heaven, Anthony wondered about his grandfather, an Italian immigrant who spent his Sundays over steaming pots of pasta and bubbling red sauce. Anthony asked his grandfather why he didn’t go to church. ‘When I make you all the good food, that’s my Mass,’ his grandfather answered, ‘so don’t worry about me. I’m going to be fine.’”

First of all, that’s the worst children’s book ever written.

Second, don’t think this book is merely political.

How many of you have family members who don’t go to church? That might be misleading, so let me ask it this way: how many of you have family members who don’t abide in the Word of God?

From childhood now, in your public library, you can read about how that’s not only okay but also how you’ll be okay if that’s you.

Contrary to what Humanist of the Year and Puppy Killer Dr. Fauci thinks, we should raise our children to abide and delight in the Word of God and to be in church every Sunday.

This is the spiritual warfare of our age.

But it doesn’t stop there.

I’ve read about a school board in Virginia that apparently covered up the rape of a girl, by a boy, in the girls’ restroom.

I’ve read about a school in Kentucky where boys, dressed in lingerie, danced for members of the faculty, including the principal, while the girls were treated like unpaid prostitutes, all during the school day, for spirit week.

What spirit? Legion?

This is the spiritual warfare of our age.

But it doesn’t stop there.

I’ve read about China testing low earth orbit hypersonic missiles (space weapons, essentially), the sophistication of which caught our military by surprise—probably, and this is my opinion, probably because our military seems fixated with sex, making a recruitment ad about a soldier with two moms and rejoicing in the promotion-to-four-star-officer of a man pretending to be a woman.

These are political problems, don’t get me wrong.

But they teach confusion, a false theology old as sin, and that’s actually worse.

This is spiritual warfare, and our preparation, for the last several decades, has been woefully inadequate.

But we don’t need a new Luther.

We just need to hear—and believe—and confess like the last one.

Offensive to the world, but right, we sang these words a few moments ago:

“Lord, keep us in Thy Word and work, / Restrain the murd’rous Pope and Turk, / Who fain would tear from off Thy throne / Christ Jesus, Thy beloved Son.”

We should sing those words all the more.

Offensive to the world, but good, we sang these words, too:

“Destroy their counsels, Lord our God, / And smite them with an iron rod, / And let them fall into the snare / Which for Thy Christians they prepare.”

We should sing them all the more.

Because, in the words of the Athanasian Creed: “This is the catholic faith; whoever does not believe it faithfully and firmly cannot be saved.”

The Reformation isn’t over or irrelevant.

The Battle for the Bible isn’t done.

The battle for your souls, even, is being waged daily.

Believe in the Lord who fights for you.

Abide in His Word alone, in Christ alone.

And by the Grace of God alone, through Faith alone, give glory to God alone—and you will be free indeed.

Free from the bondage of false gods.

Free from the terror of sin.

Free indeed.

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Reformation Day, 2021
John 8:31-36
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

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