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God’s Word for You

Psalm 119:46 Before Kings

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, December 14, 2023

46 I will speak of your testimonies before kings,
    and I will not be put to shame.

This verse is quoted as the superscription to our Augsburg Confession (1530). This was the first appearance of the Lutherans making a public declaration of faith before the Emperor, Charles V. The document was signed by seven Lutheran princes and the leaders of two free cities. At a time when a number of new ‘denominations’ were breaking away from Rome for a variety of reasons, the Lutherans found it wise to publish a document that showed that there were many doctrines in which they were in complete or partial agreement with Rome, before explaining some differences and the Scriptural basis for the Lutheran position. It was a carefully written example of a testimony spoken before a king.

Few of us will ever speak to kings. But there are times when we will speak before important people, either in society or in our own families, who will be ignorant of our faith, or truly curious about our faith, or who might be in open hostility and opposition toward our faith. When it is our privilege to speak to them, we will not blush.

For someone who is ignorant about our faith, we can share the message of Christ in simple words. What simpler outline of our faith do we have than the creed? We should take care in the age we live in not to get bogged down by the First Article and the work of the Father. People can have many questions about the creation, but we must remember to get to the Second Article, because that is where we get to the main point of our faith, the forgiveness of our sins through Jesus Christ.

For those who seem to know something about our faith already, the same creed will summarize the most important things that they are interested in, which are the last three phrases: “The forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” We mustn’t blush or hide these truths, because these are things people want to know. But once again, we must return them to the Second Article and walk through the life and the work of Jesus for our sakes; for their sakes.

What about those who oppose our faith, and who are hostile towards Christ? An opponent needs to hear the same law and gospel as anyone; only the law and gospel will change his heart. This is where Paul’s brave words give us all courage: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). We should not be ashamed or afraid to stand up for Christ, nor to defend him, nor, in many cases, to attack the attacker. But this last is not always possible. “It would be hard to defend the cause of truth against the godless if wisdom had to examine all that godlessness dares.” “The greater the prince,” Luther writes, “especially in the church, the less his faults should be tolerated and the more sharply should they be rebuked. It is not right to bind the word of God for the sake of a man (2 Timothy 2:9). God knows no respect of persons (Acts 10:34)” (Against Latomus, LW 32:145). The brash, the loud, the cynical, should not be excused for ignoring what even children know to be true. An unbeliever will not tolerate his own excuses from those who live in his home. If his daughter questions rules he has made, he disciplines her or grounds her or he might even ridicule her. But he expects that he can use her reasoning before God his Creator? Such men would rather believe the devil than Christ.

A student once asked Doctor Luther: “Why do we more readily believe Satan when he terrifies than Christ when he consoles?” Luther said, “Because we are better equipped to doubt than to hope; because hope comes from the Spirit of God but despair comes from our own spirit. Accordingly God has forbidden despair under severe penalty. That we more easily believe penalty than reward is a product of the reason or spirit of man. Hoping and believing are different from thinking and speculating. Reason sees death before it, and it’s impossible for reason not to be terrified by it. Likewise we can’t be persuaded by our reason that God gives his Son and loves us so much, and hence we say, ‘You have not allowed your Son to be crucified for nothing!’ This is above reason. That God is so merciful, not on account of my works but on account of his Son, is incomprehensible” (Table Talk, LW 54:59-60).

Believe what the Holy Spirit tells us. “The one who trusts will never be put to shame” (Isaiah 28:16). “I boasted about you, and you have not embarrassed me” (2 Corinthians 7:14).

A Christian might be timid; God forgives this. He knows your strengths and he knows your gifts, since he is the one who gave them. A Christian might sometimes hesitate or doubt. God forgives this, since he forgives the sins and shortcomings of all who put their faith in him. Do not be afraid. But if you find yourself having to stand before someone who is the enemy of Christ, remember that you stand shoulder to shoulder with Paul and the Apostles, Moses and the prophets, and with Jesus himself. Use and speak whatever words come to you, and don’t be afraid to quote the simple language of the Apostles’ Creed. The gospel will do its good work, whether the one you speak to is like the Pharaoh who listened to Joseph, or is like the Pharaoh who wouldn’t listen to Moses. The gospel is the tool that does all the work.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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