Herrenhuter readings for Saturday, the 10th January 2015

the_baptism_of_christ

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD. (Deu 6:4 KJV)

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. (1Ti 2:5-6 KJV)

That is the one pillar of all religion and true theology from beginning to end, namely that there is but one God and that he is from eternity to eternity. This holds true for Israel and for the rest of the world and cosmos. There is none other, who created heaven and earth and deserves the name God and Lord. All else are but shadows and reflections of this one, who was there before the beginning and is all in all now and forever. Logically this is not so far off and many philosophers, religious founders and other wise men have deduced this argumentatively – even though this one God and Lord has revealed himself throughout the ages in manifold ways especially however in the glorious works of his creation.

Yet the other pillar is true too – and not easily comprehended or grasped. In reality it is only possible to believe this through the gracious workings of the Holy Spirit of the one Lord and God Father. That is the fact that when time was fulfilled God became man in Jesus Christ – there in the manger of Bethlehem. It is he, who was announced by the angels, revealed to the shepherds, worshipped and gifted by the wise men from the east, who fled before Herod, hid in Egyptian exile, was baptised in the Jordan by John the Baptist and received the authorisation from the one and only Father in heaven: “This truly is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” even as the Holy Spirit descended upon him. Jesus Christ, the son of the blessed virgin Mary, is the only begotten Son of the heavenly Father – one God of all, he is at the right hand of the Father and all authority in heaven and earth has been given to him. He rules and judges over all – justly and to the absolute glory of the Father. And still there are not three, but only one God. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not just modulations or emanations of the single deity. Rather they are three persons, but one God. Jesus Christ is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit and yet it is but he, who was born of the mother of God – not the Father and not the Holy Spirit. Rather the Father begat the Son through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit however proceeds from the Father and the Son – not another God, but one and only God of Israel and the whole world.

This very Jesus Christ is true God and true man, but just one person and the second in the holy Trinity – not less in divinity than the Father not more than the Holy Spirit, but very God of very God. It is he, who is the true mediator between us people and the heavenly Father. It is he, who is the one and only true ransom for us and our salvation. Only through him do we have access to the Father to call him our Father ourselves and the assurance of being sons and daughters with heavenly inheritance and sure aspirations of the blessed eternity in the very presence of the divine Trinity. By his gracious work of atonement on the cross – his vicarious justification and expiating sacrifice, which sufficed once and for all as it soothed the wrath of the Father and fulfilled his divine will and demands perfectly – we are at peace with God and have the sure hope of redemption that will carry us through the coming judgement as sure as Jesus Christ lives and reigns with the Father, one God now and forever. Amen.

Together with the one holy Christian Church we believe, teach and confess the Athanasian Creed:

Whoever wants to be saved must, above all, hold the catholic34 faith. Whoever does not keep it whole and inviolate will doubtless perish eternally.

This, however, is the catholic faith: that we worship one God in trinity35 and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.36

For the person of the Father is one, that of the Son another, and that of the Holy Spirit still another, but the deity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is one—equal in glory, coequal in majesty.

What the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit. The Father is uncreated; the Son is uncreated; the Holy Spirit is uncreated. The Father is unlimited; the Son is unlimited; the Holy Spirit is unlimited. The Father is eternal; the Son is eternal; the Holy Spirit is eternal—and yet there are not three eternal beings but one who is eternal, just as there are not three uncreated or unlimited beings, but one who is uncreated and unlimited. In the same way, the Father is almighty; the Son is almighty; the Holy Spirit is almighty—and yet there are not three almighty beings but one who is almighty.

Thus, the Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Spirit is God— and yet there are not three gods but one God. Thus, the Father is Lord; the Son is Lord; the Holy Spirit is Lord—and yet there are not three lords, but one Lord. For just as we are compelled by the Christian truth to confess that each distinct person is God and Lord, so we are forbidden by the catholic religion to say there are three gods or three lords.

The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten by anyone. The Son is from the Father alone, not made or created but begotten. The Holy Spirit is from the Father and the Son, not made or created or begotten but proceeding. Therefore there is one Father, not three fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits. And in this Trinity none is before or after, greater or less than another, but all three persons are in themselves coeternal and coequal, so that (as has been stated above) in all things the Trinity in unity and the Unity in trinity must be worshiped. Therefore, who wants to be saved should think thus about the Trinity.

But it is necessary for eternal salvation that one also faithfully believe the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore it is the true faith that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is at once God and a human being. He is God, begotten from the substance37 of the Father before all ages,38 and a human being, born from the substance of his mother in this age. He is perfect God and a perfect human being, composed of a rational soul and human flesh.39 He is equal to the Father with respect to his divinity, less than the Father with respect to his humanity.

Although he is God and a human being, nevertheless he is not two but one Christ. However, he is one not by the changing of the divinity in the flesh but by the taking up of the humanity in God. Indeed, he is one not by a confusion of substance40 but by a unity of person. For, as the rational soul and the flesh are one human being, so God and the human being are one Christ.

He suffered for our salvation, descended into hell,41 rose from the dead, ascended into the heavens, is seated at the right hand of the Father, from where he will come to judge the living and the dead. At his coming all human beings will rise with their bodies and will give an account of their own deeds. Those who have done good things will enter into eternal life, and those who have done evil things into eternal fire.

This is the catholic faith;42 a person cannot be saved without believing this firmly and faithfully.

34 The German and traditional English translations substitute “Christian” here and throughout.  35 Or: “in three persons.”  36 substantia: divine being. 37 substantia: being. German: Natur.  38 In this sentence saeculum may be translated as “age” (time) or “world.” 39 carne: body. 40 substantia: being, natures. 41 ad inferos. See above, n. 7. 42 German: “true Christian faith.” Kolb & Wengert, Pg. 24.

And with this one holy Christian Church let us sing and confess with the old catholic hymn: Oh, Wondrous Type! Oh, Vision Fair By: Sarum, 15t cent.

Oh, wondrous type! Oh, vision fair
Of glory that the church may share,
Which Christ upon the mountain shows,
Where brighter than the sun he glows!

With Moses and Elijah nigh
The incarnate Lord holds converse high;
And from the cloud the Holy One
Bears record to the only Son.

With shining face and bright array
Christ deigns to manifest today
What glory shall be theirs above
Who joy in god with perfect love.

And faithful hearts are raised on high
By this great vision’s mystery,
For which in joyful strains we raise
The voice of prayer, the hymn of praise.

O Father, with the eternal Son
And Holy spirit ever one,
We pray you, bring us by your grace
To see your glory face to face.

Hymn # 87 from Lutheran Worship Author: English, 15th cent.
Tune: Deo Gracias 1st Published in:1495

About Wilhelm Weber jr

Rector of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane
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