Death as a solution to life vs. life as a solution to death

Last Sunday was Life Sunday, with Scripture readings about Jonah and the calling of the first Disciples.  See what Pastor Douthwaite did with all of this, how he turned the pro-life message into being not just about Law (abortion is terrible) but about the Gospel.  A sample:

Death is sin made visible. Death is horrible, death is grizzly, death is sad, death is separation because sin is all those things. We die because sin robs us of life. We were not created to die. Sin and death are intrusions into life. And so if death is to be defeated, then sin must be defeated. That’s why science will never be able to defeat death. It can prolong and extend life, but only the One who defeats sin can defeat death. And that is what Jesus has come to do. .  . .

And so Simon and Andrew, James and John, follow Jesus. They had no idea what they were in for. They would see the unimaginable, hear a teaching with an authority not of this earth, and become convinced that Jesus of Nazareth is God in the flesh . . . and then see God die for His creation. The sin of the world all counted against Him on the cross and its price paid, and so death be dealt with once and for all. That no longer would death end life, but life end death. And when Jesus rose from death, that’s exactly what we see – a life that ends death.

“Follow me,” Jesus says, and see this. Follow me and hear that I forgive you all your sins; all your grisly, horrible, unthinkable sins. I know them all for I took them all upon myself on the cross. I was declared guilty for you so that you would be declared not guilty because of me. And so follow me and no longer die a death that ends your life, but receive a life that will end your death. . . .

To be sure, abortion is a problem. 54 million in the United States alone these past 39 years, and the number is still growing. And the problem is moving from the clinic to the pharmacy, where abortions may soon be as easy to get as buying and taking aspirin. But it’s not just abortion, but also mercy killing, suicide, withholding treatment from those who need it, making decision about how to spend health care dollars not based on need but who will provide the greatest return on investment. The problem is how many are seduced into seeing death as the answer and solution to their problems, to their suffering, to their sin? Even Christians. Even you and I. For the same fears, the same greed, the same lusts, the same selfishness all live in our hearts too. Christians have abortions. Christians commit suicide. Christians lash out and kill in thought, word, deed, and desire.

And so to you and to all, the message this Life Sunday is . . . welcome. Welcome here with the rest of us sinners, with the rest of us who have followed the wrong path. Welcome and receive the washing of Jesus’ forgiveness for your sins, for all your sins, whatever and how many they may be. There is no sin and no sinner too big. If there were, then you can be sure God would not have sent Jonah to Nineveh! Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, and the Assyrians were some of the meanest, vilest, orneriest, stubbornest, evilest people ever. That’s why Jonah didn’t want to go. But God would not let him not go. For even for them Jesus died. For their sin, that they may live. 

And so for you. For every life is valuable to God, whether you live in a house or in a womb; whether you’re up and walking around or confined to a wheelchair; whether you are out making a name for yourself or no longer able to remember anyone’s name; whether you’re from Israel or Nineveh or the United States. You are valuable to God. You may not be valuable to anyone else, but you are to God. You are worth the life of His Son, who died that you may live.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church.

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.

  • Michael B.

    “And so for you. For every life is valuable to God, whether you live in a house or in a womb; whether you’re up and walking around or confined to a wheelchair; whether you are out making a name for yourself or no longer able to remember anyone’s name; whether you’re from Israel or Nineveh or the United States. You are valuable to God. You may not be valuable to anyone else, but you are to God.”

    Every life is valuable to god? Is that the god of the bible he is worshipping, or the god of the new age? What about the men, women, and children of Sodom and Gomorrah? Egypt? Canaan? Babylon?

  • Michael B.

    “And so for you. For every life is valuable to God, whether you live in a house or in a womb; whether you’re up and walking around or confined to a wheelchair; whether you are out making a name for yourself or no longer able to remember anyone’s name; whether you’re from Israel or Nineveh or the United States. You are valuable to God. You may not be valuable to anyone else, but you are to God.”

    Every life is valuable to god? Is that the god of the bible he is worshipping, or the god of the new age? What about the men, women, and children of Sodom and Gomorrah? Egypt? Canaan? Babylon?

  • Booklover

    What excellent words. Thank you for this sermon.

  • Booklover

    What excellent words. Thank you for this sermon.

  • George A. Marquart

    First, to Michael B. @1. I don’t know if you have children of your own. Even if you do not, maybe you can imagine one of your children having gone “bad”? When we compare ourselves with God, the comparison is always weak, because we cannot conceive of the reality of a God, Who is infinite in all of His qualities. But even among us limited humans, it is likely that a parent will continue to love the delinquent child. Using our Lord’s and St. Paul’s literal device, how much more will God continue to love His children? You say that all of these people were killed? True! But only God knows their eternal destination, because, as He said, Romans 9:15 and Exodus 33:15, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy,” and as our Lord said, Matthew 10:28, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” If death in this world were the worst thing there is, then we above all are to be pitied, together with all of the martyrs, all of the victims of war and persecution, and all the saints who have gone before us.

    Now to the sermon, particularly the sentences, “Welcome and receive the washing of Jesus’ forgiveness for your sins, for all your sins, whatever and how many they may be. There is no sin and no sinner too big.” These words express the essence of the Gospel. But whenever the pure Gospel is heard among us, a host of people will try to take it away from us. They are likely to quote the following:

    The Smalcald Articles
    Part III, Article III. Of Repentance.
    Of the False Repentance of the Papists.
    43] “It is, accordingly, necessary to know and to teach that when holy men, still having and feeling original sin, also daily repenting of and striving with it, happen to fall into manifest sins, as David into adultery, murder, and blasphemy, that then faith and the Holy Ghost has departed from them [they cast out faith and the Holy Ghost].”

    We are going to have to decide whether this is a true or not, because I don’t think Pr. Douthwaite’s words agree with the Smalcald Articles. But I think the Gospel is on Pr. Douthwaite’s side.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • George A. Marquart

    First, to Michael B. @1. I don’t know if you have children of your own. Even if you do not, maybe you can imagine one of your children having gone “bad”? When we compare ourselves with God, the comparison is always weak, because we cannot conceive of the reality of a God, Who is infinite in all of His qualities. But even among us limited humans, it is likely that a parent will continue to love the delinquent child. Using our Lord’s and St. Paul’s literal device, how much more will God continue to love His children? You say that all of these people were killed? True! But only God knows their eternal destination, because, as He said, Romans 9:15 and Exodus 33:15, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy,” and as our Lord said, Matthew 10:28, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” If death in this world were the worst thing there is, then we above all are to be pitied, together with all of the martyrs, all of the victims of war and persecution, and all the saints who have gone before us.

    Now to the sermon, particularly the sentences, “Welcome and receive the washing of Jesus’ forgiveness for your sins, for all your sins, whatever and how many they may be. There is no sin and no sinner too big.” These words express the essence of the Gospel. But whenever the pure Gospel is heard among us, a host of people will try to take it away from us. They are likely to quote the following:

    The Smalcald Articles
    Part III, Article III. Of Repentance.
    Of the False Repentance of the Papists.
    43] “It is, accordingly, necessary to know and to teach that when holy men, still having and feeling original sin, also daily repenting of and striving with it, happen to fall into manifest sins, as David into adultery, murder, and blasphemy, that then faith and the Holy Ghost has departed from them [they cast out faith and the Holy Ghost].”

    We are going to have to decide whether this is a true or not, because I don’t think Pr. Douthwaite’s words agree with the Smalcald Articles. But I think the Gospel is on Pr. Douthwaite’s side.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • helen

    David, confronted by Nathan, came back to faith.

    Judas was told to go look after himself by his religious leaders. He died.

    It behooves our Pastors to speak of the wages of sin, and also of the gift of forgiveness and life in Christ, so that those who are slipping away may be brought back.

  • helen

    David, confronted by Nathan, came back to faith.

    Judas was told to go look after himself by his religious leaders. He died.

    It behooves our Pastors to speak of the wages of sin, and also of the gift of forgiveness and life in Christ, so that those who are slipping away may be brought back.

  • William Gassett

    Though it is common these days to say: “You are valuable to God. You may not be valuable to anyone else, but you are to God. You are worth the life of His Son, who died that you may live”; the value of the person saved is not mentioned in Scripture. Certainly no one’s life is worth the life of Jesus. It is not the importance or worth or quality of the person that moved God to save. It was the love of God for unworthy sinners, for His enemies, for rebels against him, that moved Him. (cf. John 3:16; Eph. 2:4ff; Romans 3:9-18 [vs. 12 "All have turned aside together; they have become worthless"]; Romans 5:6-8 [where there is a contrast between someone maybe dying for a good person, but God demonstrates His love by Christ dying for sinners.] Pointing people to something worthy or valuable in themselves is not the Gospel. The love of God and the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for worthless sinners is the Gospel.

  • William Gassett

    Though it is common these days to say: “You are valuable to God. You may not be valuable to anyone else, but you are to God. You are worth the life of His Son, who died that you may live”; the value of the person saved is not mentioned in Scripture. Certainly no one’s life is worth the life of Jesus. It is not the importance or worth or quality of the person that moved God to save. It was the love of God for unworthy sinners, for His enemies, for rebels against him, that moved Him. (cf. John 3:16; Eph. 2:4ff; Romans 3:9-18 [vs. 12 "All have turned aside together; they have become worthless"]; Romans 5:6-8 [where there is a contrast between someone maybe dying for a good person, but God demonstrates His love by Christ dying for sinners.] Pointing people to something worthy or valuable in themselves is not the Gospel. The love of God and the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for worthless sinners is the Gospel.

  • George A. Marquart

    Helen @4. According to the Smalcald Articles, David lost his faith and the Holy Spirit. If there is proof for that assertion, it must come from Scripture. I cannot find any. There is, however, the heading of Psalm 51, “A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” If the Smalcald Articles are right, by this time “faith and the Holy Ghost has(d) departed …” But in verse 11, David prays, “Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.” At least David believed that the Holy Spirit had not been taken from him.

    I have no objection to what you say it behooves the pastor to do. What I do object to is that we seem to have a teaching about the Holy Spirit according to which the Lord, the Holy Spirit, leaves us, and comes back any number of times. The question this raises is, “how can people repent without the Holy Spirit?” I know, we say that the Law brings them to the recognition of their sin. But without the aid of the Holy Spirit we are unable to recognize our sin.

    Scripture teaches clearly, and I can support that with a number of unambiguous verses, that the child of God receives the Holy Spirit in Baptism and the Holy Spirit remains with that person for his lifetime. The only exception is “The Sin Against the Holy Spirit” but that is not a common event, as illustrated by the Parable of the Wedding Feast, and the guest who was improperly dressed. Also it is not a sin from which one can return; it cannot be forgiven.

    That is why I believe Pr. Douthwaite is absolutely right, and we cannot make the judgment about anyone’s state of grace no matter how many “manifest” sins one commits. Even worse, I think, is to assume that God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, would abandon us at the time of our greatest need. Our Lord said clearly that He came to find the lost.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • George A. Marquart

    Helen @4. According to the Smalcald Articles, David lost his faith and the Holy Spirit. If there is proof for that assertion, it must come from Scripture. I cannot find any. There is, however, the heading of Psalm 51, “A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” If the Smalcald Articles are right, by this time “faith and the Holy Ghost has(d) departed …” But in verse 11, David prays, “Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.” At least David believed that the Holy Spirit had not been taken from him.

    I have no objection to what you say it behooves the pastor to do. What I do object to is that we seem to have a teaching about the Holy Spirit according to which the Lord, the Holy Spirit, leaves us, and comes back any number of times. The question this raises is, “how can people repent without the Holy Spirit?” I know, we say that the Law brings them to the recognition of their sin. But without the aid of the Holy Spirit we are unable to recognize our sin.

    Scripture teaches clearly, and I can support that with a number of unambiguous verses, that the child of God receives the Holy Spirit in Baptism and the Holy Spirit remains with that person for his lifetime. The only exception is “The Sin Against the Holy Spirit” but that is not a common event, as illustrated by the Parable of the Wedding Feast, and the guest who was improperly dressed. Also it is not a sin from which one can return; it cannot be forgiven.

    That is why I believe Pr. Douthwaite is absolutely right, and we cannot make the judgment about anyone’s state of grace no matter how many “manifest” sins one commits. Even worse, I think, is to assume that God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, would abandon us at the time of our greatest need. Our Lord said clearly that He came to find the lost.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart


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