All Saints 2013 1 John 3:1–3
I bring you grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus. Amen.
God’s holy Word for our glad hearing and learning on this day of All Saints observed, is from the Epistle Lesson that was read: from 1 John, chapter 3
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:1–3)
Dear brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Last Sunday, we observed Reformation, even though the actual date is on October 31.
And now this morning we likewise observe All Saints Day, which is commemorated on November 1.
The two are close together not without reason.
It was Luther’s prince’s custom of exhibiting his magnificent relic collection on All Saints Day inside the Castle Church in Wittenberg that sent Luther pounding on the doors.
The people of Wittenberg and surrounding Saxony paid good money to venerate these holy objects which supposedly included a feather from the Angel Gabriel, a piece of straw from Christ’s manger, a nail that had pierced Christ’s hand and 19,000 other such fragments of saints and the like, that reputedly offered 2,000,000 years of indulgence from purgatory.
Luther’s Bible reading enlightened him to the truth of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
Luther’s posting of his 95 points, or theses, for discussion declared his discovery for the first time to the world.
Luther’s Reformation causes us to rethink the discussion about who and what a saint is.
Martin Luther, the Augustinian friar, could not come to love a God who he saw only as a righteous judge. He could not satisfy God. No man could. He was damned for sure.
Only when Luther realized that by the righteousness of God the Bible meant what God gives to people by justifying them for Christ’s sake–that is, giving them Christ’s righteousness–could he understand and explain it in these terms: Simul justus et peccator: At the same time we are saint and sinner.
Before God we are declared righteous and are justified and God sees us as His holy child. And all the while we are keenly aware of our sins and short comings and how we struggle to live holy lives.
The Apostle put it this way:
For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. (Romans 7:19)
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25)
This constant wondering, this feeling of inferiority and inadequacy had for Luther become a disease. And he was not the first, nor was alone in it, nor was he the last. Luther reported that there were days when he was so depressed he could hardly get out of the bed. That’s a clinical sign of depression.
Most people do not even go through anything even remotely like Luther did, yet we can find at times, ourselves easily cut down, not by God or even others, but by ourselves. How is that?
And further, the odd thing is that if we take an honest look, we find that the root of this disease is humility. Like all human emotions, this sense of our own littleness, our own nothingness in the sight of God can become an obsession. We are so accustomed to acknowledging our unworthiness in God’s sight –in our prayers, our hymns, our service– that we obsess with it until it takes over in all aspects of our lives.
So no matter what the challenge, we’re convinced that we’re inadequate to meet it. We’re too small, too weak, our talents too limited.
When we think and act this way we hardly appear to the world and to each other as Saints– confident that we are children of God equipped by Him to do every good work. Instead we become more like doormats. Letting ourselves to be walked upon.
Listen to our text again, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1) If there is anyone in the world who should not be despondent or depressed by feelings of inadequacy, it is the believer in Christ.
And why not? The reason the Christian should be the last person in the world to succumb to feelings of inadequacy is His awareness of who he is. Do you ever think of the high-ranking dignity in which the Lord has invested you as a believer?
St. John, the writer of our Epistle Lesson this morning, writes in the first chapter of his Gospel this remarkable statement: (He’s talking about Christ ‘s coming into the world, and then he adds this)
As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name:
Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)
“The sons of God–born not of the flesh–but of God!” That is who you and I are! If our religion means anything to us at all, it must mean exactly what those words imply. God has reached down into the stream of humanity and has picked you and me out of the mass of humankind and has placed on us royal robes of sonship.
We are the sons of God, not merely in the generally accepted meaning that we are His creatures, but in the infinitely more sublime sense that He has redeemed us by His blood, has made us sit with Him in heavenly places.
Nor are we merely “sons of God.” We are “The sons of God,” the ones whom He has chosen to wear the ring of sonship secured by the death of His beloved. This is the theme of the entire New Testament.
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us,” St. John writes toward the close of his life, “that we should be called children of God!” And in the next verse he continues: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
Sons of God today, who, when he comes again, shall be “like him.” Such is the high dignity with which God invests in all who are His through faith. Think, my friends, about all the titles the Bible gives to the believer in Christ–salt, light, saint, chosen, elect, redeemed, beloved, child of God, king, priest–and then contrast these titles with the timid, craven, apologetic, and defeated attitudes some of us have fallen into.
We heard last week that God has not called us His slaves–He has called us by the truth of His Son. St. Peter tells the believers, and that includes you and me,
You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)
But reciting Bible passages won’t do us any good if we simply look for them and pull them out only in times of feeling inferior or inadequate.
If we are to face life assured and unafraid, adequate to the challenge of each new day, we need to be reminded daily of who we are. Sons of God! Ransomed and redeemed. Sent into God’s workaday world to serve.
You must remember this: morning, noon and night that we wear royal robes of sonship and that our Father is the omnipotent and omnipresent God of heaven.
To every son who puts his trust in Him, the Father says: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
Therefore in the lowliest moments of our existence, we are not alone, because we are part and parcel of this great multitude the Saints. And dear friends, as many of you experience, and as I also have had to learn; we need to accustom ourselves to that.
Because we will find ourselves pressed and surrounded by needs and emergencies – financial, personal, and otherwise which often will make us feel quite isolated, and it seems that our family and friends don’t care and don’t want to help. But usually the truth is that there is often not much anybody else really can do. But whatever may be the trouble, we – though we may feel isolated – are never alone, when we are in this great host arrayed in white.
This is the great meaning of All Saints. That we are included in this number already, even when we are experiencing terrible things, yet our faith is from above where Christ is. And that He is present in whatever circumstance we may face. And that for us too, these things are being prepared.
Therefore we can already sing in preparation of our future joining with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12) Amen.
(helpful material was obtained from the book Answer to Anxiety by Herman W. Gockel, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1961. pp. 95–104, and is highly recommended)