The Incarnation is not enough

Yet another good sermon from Pastor Douthwaite:

Last week we heard that after John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River, the heavens opened, the Spirit of God descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove, and a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17).

This week, we hear what John did and proclaimed after that. When he now sees Jesus, he points to Him and proclaims: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

This is, perhaps, not what we would expect. For it would, perhaps, make more sense if, after the voice from heaven identified Jesus as God’s beloved Son, John would go around proclaiming: “Behold the Son of God!” But he doesn’t. It’s Lamb of God for John. That’s how he unwraps Jesus for us. And today I want you to consider why that is.

But I’ll not leave you in suspense. I’ll tell you straight out, now, why this is: because just knowing that God, who is almighty, is here, is not necessarily good news. Because why has He come? Is this Son of God here to redeem or to revenge? Is He here to comfort or to condemn? Power and might can work both ways, you know. And so John pointing to Jesus and proclaiming: “Behold the Son of God” tells us who Jesus is, but nothing more.

For the fact is, if you just know God as almighty, you don’t really know God and you will be filled with questions. Like, if you are almighty, then why the shootings in Arizona, God? Why the floods in Australia and Brazil, God? Why the troubles in my life, God? If you are almighty, why don’t you stop these things? Or maybe you’re not really almighty at all? Or if you are, then maybe you don’t really love us, or love me, or care for me, or want to help me. Maybe we can’t really count on you.

For who, then, is God, really? An unknown and unknowable God is a frightening God. Is He the God of sunny days or of hurricanes? Is He the God of spring flowers or earthquakes? Is He the God of love or of war? Which Son of God is here?

Or think of it like walking down a dark alley, and you know someone is there with you – you can hear the heavy footsteps, it’s someone big. But who is it? You cannot see them or know their intentions. It’s frightening. . . . But if they come into the light to be with you as a friend, a helper, a protector, that is good news. That is what you need. And then there is peace.

Well that is, John wants you to know, the God you have. Jesus is God the Son, yes; but even more. He is the Lamb of God, the friend of sinners, companion of the downcast, lifter of the low. He has come to be your Saviour. It’s Lamb of God for John, that you might know who Jesus really is – that the Son is the Lamb and the Lamb is the Son, and that in Him we see how God does love you, care for you, and help you. That He has come to lay down His life for you, and give you peace. He has come to BE your peace, by taking away the sin of the world. By taking away your sin.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Epiphany 2 Sermon.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Tom Hering

    “Like, if you are almighty, then why the shootings in Arizona, God? Why the floods in Australia and Brazil, God? Why the troubles in my life, God? If you are almighty, why don’t you stop these things? Or maybe you’re not really almighty at all? Or if you are, then maybe you don’t really love us, or love me, or care for me, or want to help me.”

    We are sinful, and we like to think our sinfulness isn’t all that bad. We don’t murder, or rape, or steal. But God takes our sinful nature very seriously. He knows our hearts are never pure, and that we are capable of every evil. We even lie to ourselves about ourselves.

    So why don’t we ask why most of our days are good days, or at least not terrible days, when we deserve constant punishment for our constantly sinful state? Why don’t we ask why we have bread to eat, and the Sun to warm us and the evening to cool us, when we deserve to be condemned – this very moment – to physical suffering in Hell?

    Why don’t we ask why God is merciful toward us? Why don’t we ask why He offers us eternal forgiveness? It’s all the good things that should cause us to question God – not the bad.

  • Tom Hering

    “Like, if you are almighty, then why the shootings in Arizona, God? Why the floods in Australia and Brazil, God? Why the troubles in my life, God? If you are almighty, why don’t you stop these things? Or maybe you’re not really almighty at all? Or if you are, then maybe you don’t really love us, or love me, or care for me, or want to help me.”

    We are sinful, and we like to think our sinfulness isn’t all that bad. We don’t murder, or rape, or steal. But God takes our sinful nature very seriously. He knows our hearts are never pure, and that we are capable of every evil. We even lie to ourselves about ourselves.

    So why don’t we ask why most of our days are good days, or at least not terrible days, when we deserve constant punishment for our constantly sinful state? Why don’t we ask why we have bread to eat, and the Sun to warm us and the evening to cool us, when we deserve to be condemned – this very moment – to physical suffering in Hell?

    Why don’t we ask why God is merciful toward us? Why don’t we ask why He offers us eternal forgiveness? It’s all the good things that should cause us to question God – not the bad.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    this is excellence. as is tom’s post #1.

    which just leaves me wonder why God has not yet deliverd on toms promise of dunkin donuts coffee….ha!

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    this is excellence. as is tom’s post #1.

    which just leaves me wonder why God has not yet deliverd on toms promise of dunkin donuts coffee….ha!

  • Booklover

    Awesome.

  • Booklover

    Awesome.

  • Tom Hering

    Frank @ 2, mostly because my oldest boy (a senior cat who’s almost 11) was close to death before Christmas (he’s okay now), which left me with a $550 vet bill. But you’re on the list of things to do with my tax refund, so don’t give up on me keeping my promise. I’ll enjoy the thought of you sipping some decent brew for a change. (We need to exchange email addresses. I don’t see yours on your website.)

  • Tom Hering

    Frank @ 2, mostly because my oldest boy (a senior cat who’s almost 11) was close to death before Christmas (he’s okay now), which left me with a $550 vet bill. But you’re on the list of things to do with my tax refund, so don’t give up on me keeping my promise. I’ll enjoy the thought of you sipping some decent brew for a change. (We need to exchange email addresses. I don’t see yours on your website.)

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    dear tom @ 4

    I am just yanking your chain about the coffee. i hope u know that. but I do have something to send you if you really feel a need to feel a troubled conscience! ha! fwsonnek@gmail.com

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    dear tom @ 4

    I am just yanking your chain about the coffee. i hope u know that. but I do have something to send you if you really feel a need to feel a troubled conscience! ha! fwsonnek@gmail.com

  • Tom Hering

    Frank @ 5, of course I know you’re yanking my chain. I’m a yanker myself, so I recognize yanking in others. But no way am I going to accept a gift from you without fulfilling my promise of a gift to you. Call me morally scrupulous, but that’s the way it is. :-D

  • Tom Hering

    Frank @ 5, of course I know you’re yanking my chain. I’m a yanker myself, so I recognize yanking in others. But no way am I going to accept a gift from you without fulfilling my promise of a gift to you. Call me morally scrupulous, but that’s the way it is. :-D

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    tom @ 6

    dont hold yer breath. the postage is as much as the gift cost almost. it is alot. so everything is in packages ready to mail and i will have to wait probably till end of feb or maybe when I come to the states in end of march to mail this stuff all out…. yikes.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    tom @ 6

    dont hold yer breath. the postage is as much as the gift cost almost. it is alot. so everything is in packages ready to mail and i will have to wait probably till end of feb or maybe when I come to the states in end of march to mail this stuff all out…. yikes.

  • Robin

    Beautiful! In my life as many (not all) witnessed to me, they wanted to witness by letting me know how Almighty, Sovereign, etc (you pick the adjective) God was. I knew all of that. I knew he was mighty but, that didn’t draw me to him. In fact, it made me feel farther from him because he was truly holy and I was not. So I was left with the one question, really the only thing I wanted to know was did he love me? Thank you for posting this message. Thank you for telling me that God sent Jesus to lay down his life for me.
    The Gospel is really so radical!

  • Robin

    Beautiful! In my life as many (not all) witnessed to me, they wanted to witness by letting me know how Almighty, Sovereign, etc (you pick the adjective) God was. I knew all of that. I knew he was mighty but, that didn’t draw me to him. In fact, it made me feel farther from him because he was truly holy and I was not. So I was left with the one question, really the only thing I wanted to know was did he love me? Thank you for posting this message. Thank you for telling me that God sent Jesus to lay down his life for me.
    The Gospel is really so radical!

  • George A. Marquart

    I posted the following on Rev. Douthwaite’s site:
    Dear Rev. Douthwaite: In my almost 74 years of being a Lutheran (I am older, but I count from my Baptism), I have never heard a pastor mention the answer our Lord gave to the question you asked in your sermon: “Because why has He come?” His answer is in Luke Luke 4: 43 “but he said to them, ‘I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.’” It is obvious from Scripture that this is not the only reason He came, but it is the reason He gave, probably some years before He finally told His Disciples that, “the Son of Man must suffer and die.”

    Briefly, I suspect the problem is that, as Hermann Sasse pointed out more than 50 years ago, “The true doctrine of the Holy Spirit has lost its place in church and congregation, …” (Letters to Lutheran Pastors, #51). More recently, a well known British theologian and preacher wrote the following, “Certainly we must never conceive ‘salvation’ in purely negative terms, as if it consisted only of our rescue from sin, guilt, wrath and death. We thank God that it is all these things. But it also includes the positive blessing of the Holy Spirit to regenerate, indwell, liberate and transform us.” (John R. W. Stott, Baptism and Fullness. The Work of the Holy Spirit today. Inter Varsity Press, P. 25, 26.)

    It is clear from Luther’s explanation of the Third Article of the Creed, that not just the Incarnation, but even the innocent suffering and death of the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world is not enough. Unless we are given the Holy Spirit in Baptism, none of the knowledge of the facts about God and His salvation is of any use to us, because we cannot believe them on our own. As our Lord told Nicodemus, “no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.”

    But in our eagerness to accept our guilt for the death of our Lord, we fail to recognize that God did not finish pouring out His unfathomable love on His children when His Son died and rose. So we teach about our “response of gratitude” as being responsible for whatever good we do. It is simply not true. We are able to do God’s will, and want to do God’s will, because in Baptism He writes His Torah on our hearts, as prophesied by Jeremiah. Not the Ten Commandments, because Torah, although it includes the Ten Commandments, never means the Ten Commandments only.

    I think that the Reformers were more aware of the effect of the new birth on people’s nature than we are today. I could cite many passages from the Confessions, but here is just one:

    “The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord
    VI. The Third Use of the Law

    17] But when man is born anew by the Spirit of God, and liberated from the Law, that is, freed from this driver, and is led by the Spirit of Christ, he lives according to the immutable will of God comprised in the Law, and so far as he is born anew, does everything from a free, cheerful spirit; and these are called not properly works of the Law, but works and fruits of the Spirit, or as St. Paul names it, the law of the mind and the Law of Christ. For such men are no more under the Law, but under grace, as St. Paul says, Rom. 8:2 [Rom. 7:23; 1 Cor. 9:21 ].”

    Finally, the early Church gave thanks to our Lord in the beautiful words of the Te Deum, “He opened the Kingdom to all believers,” and Colossians 1: 13 “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

    Sorry for the many words; the subject needs even more, but I am afraid to trifle with your patience.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • George A. Marquart

    I posted the following on Rev. Douthwaite’s site:
    Dear Rev. Douthwaite: In my almost 74 years of being a Lutheran (I am older, but I count from my Baptism), I have never heard a pastor mention the answer our Lord gave to the question you asked in your sermon: “Because why has He come?” His answer is in Luke Luke 4: 43 “but he said to them, ‘I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.’” It is obvious from Scripture that this is not the only reason He came, but it is the reason He gave, probably some years before He finally told His Disciples that, “the Son of Man must suffer and die.”

    Briefly, I suspect the problem is that, as Hermann Sasse pointed out more than 50 years ago, “The true doctrine of the Holy Spirit has lost its place in church and congregation, …” (Letters to Lutheran Pastors, #51). More recently, a well known British theologian and preacher wrote the following, “Certainly we must never conceive ‘salvation’ in purely negative terms, as if it consisted only of our rescue from sin, guilt, wrath and death. We thank God that it is all these things. But it also includes the positive blessing of the Holy Spirit to regenerate, indwell, liberate and transform us.” (John R. W. Stott, Baptism and Fullness. The Work of the Holy Spirit today. Inter Varsity Press, P. 25, 26.)

    It is clear from Luther’s explanation of the Third Article of the Creed, that not just the Incarnation, but even the innocent suffering and death of the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world is not enough. Unless we are given the Holy Spirit in Baptism, none of the knowledge of the facts about God and His salvation is of any use to us, because we cannot believe them on our own. As our Lord told Nicodemus, “no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.”

    But in our eagerness to accept our guilt for the death of our Lord, we fail to recognize that God did not finish pouring out His unfathomable love on His children when His Son died and rose. So we teach about our “response of gratitude” as being responsible for whatever good we do. It is simply not true. We are able to do God’s will, and want to do God’s will, because in Baptism He writes His Torah on our hearts, as prophesied by Jeremiah. Not the Ten Commandments, because Torah, although it includes the Ten Commandments, never means the Ten Commandments only.

    I think that the Reformers were more aware of the effect of the new birth on people’s nature than we are today. I could cite many passages from the Confessions, but here is just one:

    “The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord
    VI. The Third Use of the Law

    17] But when man is born anew by the Spirit of God, and liberated from the Law, that is, freed from this driver, and is led by the Spirit of Christ, he lives according to the immutable will of God comprised in the Law, and so far as he is born anew, does everything from a free, cheerful spirit; and these are called not properly works of the Law, but works and fruits of the Spirit, or as St. Paul names it, the law of the mind and the Law of Christ. For such men are no more under the Law, but under grace, as St. Paul says, Rom. 8:2 [Rom. 7:23; 1 Cor. 9:21 ].”

    Finally, the early Church gave thanks to our Lord in the beautiful words of the Te Deum, “He opened the Kingdom to all believers,” and Colossians 1: 13 “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

    Sorry for the many words; the subject needs even more, but I am afraid to trifle with your patience.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X