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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 23:6

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, February 24, 2015

6 In his days Judah will be saved
     and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name by which is will be called:
  The LORD our righteousness.”

How is the Lord our righteousness? First, we understand that this verse is talking about the Messiah, Jesus Christ. In his days, that is, during his life and ministry here on earth, Judah and Israel were saved. The Lord said through Ezekiel: “I am going to take the stick of Joseph—which is in Ephraim’s hand—and of the Israelite tribes associated with him, and join it to Judah’s stick, making them a single stick of wood, and they will become one in my hand” (Ezekiel 37:19).

But the salvation of Judah and Israel was only a small part of his work, since so much more was accomplished. Jesus is the salvation of the whole world.

We have two different chasms separating us from God. The first uncrossable gap is the vast absence of the righteousness that God demands of us. He wants us to be holy, to obey his will, and to keep his will with everything that we do. We also have the record of our sins, which compounds the problem since God also wants us to be sinless. But Jesus atoned for our sins on the cross. This was the purpose of his crucifixion. We sometimes call this his passive obedience, allowing himself to die to pay the price for our sins. “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood” (Romans 3:25). Jesus also kept his Father’s will perfectly for us, and we sometimes call this his active obedience. Paul describes his active obedience this way: “When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem whose under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Galatians 4:4,5).

Seeing these prophecies and their fulfillment described throughout the Scriptures, it seems incredible that so many people who want to be called Christian reject the atonement of Jesus for our sins.

The following is a quotation from a doctrinal book, “Christian Dogmatics,” written by scholars of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). Notice that they reduce the Bible’s primary message to a “tradition,” and the confession of the whole Christian church to “a long tradition.” They say:

“What is the import of this tradition? Put in its most crass form, this view would hold that Jesus death is a sacrifice in which he is a substitute for us who pays the divine justice that is due for human sin and/or appeases the divine wrath…. There is a long tradition, especially among Western conservative Christians which has taken this line. There seems to be a virtual consensus among contemporary biblical scholars, however, that this tradition finds little support in the Scriptures, either in the Old or New Testament. Scripture never speaks of God as one who has to be satisfied or propitiated before being merciful or forgiving.” (Braaten and Jenson, “Christian Dogmatics,” Volume 2 p. 14-15).

It’s incredible that a church body that publishes and uses such a document in its seminaries to train its pastors would have the gall to call itself Christian. I can hardly imagine that most of the millions of members of such a church has an inkling what so many of their pastors evidently profess (at least in the secret places of their hearts) that Christ paid for nothing, there is no sin to speak of, that Christ isn’t really God, that there isn’t really any resurrection, nor is there actually a heaven. The ELCA shares too much of its theology with the Sadducees who at least openly claimed that “there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits” (Acts 23:8). What will Mr. Braaten and Mr. Jenson and the whole of the ELCA clergy say to Christ in the resurrection, but “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?” (Matthew 7:22). What will the Lord’s reply be, but “I never know you” (Matthew 7:23)? Braaten and Jenson’s book was published in 1987, the year the ELCA was being organized. Why, in almost thirty years, has there been so little outcry against it? Why is it still used in their seminaries? Why is it the primary doctrinal book on their pastor’s shelves?

The evidence of the Bible is simple and clear. The hosts of heaven are quoted: “you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God” (Revelation 5:9). Should I apologize to the ELCA that the Bible contradicts them? Should we strike such a passage from the New Testament? Paul also said: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.” (Romans 3:23-25). The Son of God became a human being for precisely this reason: “He had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).

This is the righteousness of God. This why the excellent name given to Jesus is: “The LORD our righteousness.” This is why we are honored, humbled, and joyful to call ourselves Christians.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

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