Four Branches October 2016

Jump to:

Exegetical Theology: All Saints

All Saints’ Day is commemorated on Nov. 1 each year, and in the proposed lectionary, will receive a more prominent place.  The Gospel appointed for All Saints is Jesus’ description of what saints look like in the so famous introduction of his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12).  Even a quick glance at the structure of the text will tell you what is being emphasized.  Wallace calls it “fronting for emphasis” (307-308), and Blass Debrunner Funk’s Greek Grammar says, “Any emphasis on an element in the sentence causes that element to be moved forward” (248).

So, when Matthew “fronts” Μακάριοι nine times, it calls the preacher to attention.  Now, Franzmann, Gibbs,and Lenski (among others) do a great job wrestling with what kind of people Jesus calls Μακάριοι.  I want to deal with what the word means.

Nearly unanimous consensus of English translation uses some form of the word “Blessed” as a translation.  Of the 54 translations on, only 5 use “happy” and one (TLB) uses “fortunate,” so it might seem that there isn’t much to talk about.  But I want to get at what that word “blessed” means.

In a men’s bible study a few years ago – we were working through the Sermon on the Mount and we looked up a dozen passages that used the word Μακάριοs when one of the gentlemen proposed for a definition, “Happy with eschatological significance.”  Gibbs seems to agree: “It does not mean ‘happy’, but something much stronger, tantamount to ‘saved’” (234).  It’s the state of the one who “does not fall away on account of me” (Matthew 11:6), and the one “whose master finds him doing so (being faithful) when he returns” (Matthew 24:46).

So when you are preparing to preach this text – be guided by the thought Matthew highlights and expound the Gospel message that makes us blessed.

Pastor Jonathan Scharf serves Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington, GA.

He also serves on the Scripture Committee for the new hymnal project, and is sharing Greek insights from three proposed pericopes.

Systematic Theology: Pondering Providence (p. 2)

The Father spoke the creation of all things. The Son made all things spoken by the Father. The Spirit makes all behold His creation. The first thing that God created was light. The first thing that God did after making man was to bless him (Gen. 1:28). One of the first things that man created was sin and darkness. It’s been doubt and uncertainty ever since. God’s providence, in the light of His Son’s redemption of mankind, removes this doubt, uncertainty, worry, and stress.

There is a common theme that runs through the hearts and minds of Christians: Conflict between my faith and my reason. The distress of human reason whelms up in the tensions that exist between the unavoidable facts of daily experience and the teachings of God’s Word.

It has been beneficial to begin each providence bible class with some aspect of these daily tensions. Practical resources are available from WLCFS. Connect the stressor to the teaching of God’s providence: worry distracts us from God’s Word (Luke 10:38-42), and chokes out both faith and fruit (Mark 4:18-19); uncertainty denies God as our Lord (Genesis 12:10-13). The connections between pastoral counselling and God’s teaching of providence abound. In addition, Professor Daniel Deutschlander’s “Grace Abounds,” from NPH has a style of writing and application that will edify the members of your flock. The section on providence will be a beneficial read in putting the faith-reason conflict to rest.

If God wills a challenge in our life, He blesses us. If God has not willed it, but concurs, He will deal with it to be a blessing. How blessed is His bride that has an ascended Lord, a Saviour who exercises His Kingly office for His people. Blessings as you study and counsel your flock, pondering God’s providence together!

Pastor Harland Goetzinger serves the Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Paul in Ottawa, and is the president of WELS-Canada.

Historical Theology: Luther’s Commentary on Galatians

It’s hard to imagine how busy the early 1530s were for Martin Luther.  The message of the Reformation was spreading quickly, spurred on by the success of the Augsburg Confession.  Yet so much work remained to be done just as Luther’s colleagues departed to spread the Reformation elsewhere.  At the same time, Luther wrestled with ill health and the responsibilities of a growing family.

In the midst of all this Luther resumed lecturing in the summer semester of 1531. He began with Song of Songs, but then quickly turned to the biblical book perhaps associated with him more than any other, especially because of these lectures. He took up Galatians, Paul’s great epistle of law and gospel, which he had taken up earlier in his career as well. This time, however, in a flurry of lectures, he covered all six chapters in much great detail and in magisterial fashion, producing one of his great theological legacies and solidifying his reputation as an exegete.

Working through Luther’s commentary on Galatians is certainly a big time commitment for a busy pastor. Consider making it part of your devotional life, however. You will be richly rewarded. The message is as pertinent today as ever before. If you are unable to get to it now, or if you find yourself struggling to work through the entire commentary, please do commit to at least reading the introduction, “The Argument of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians” (LW 26, 4-12). Perhaps even use it with your people in Bible class. It is a true treasure and, in my experience, students in the classroom and laypeople in the church basement equally benefit from time with it.

Is there a better way to prepare to commemorate the Reformation than to dive back into Paul’s radical gospel, digging into what is at its heart a treatise on and model of law and gospel preaching and ministry? Along with his Heidelberg Disputation and The Bondage of the Will, Luther’s 1535 (the year it was published) commentary on Galatians remains one of the clearest articulations of Lutheran theology available to us today. This is so because it is biblical to its core, setting the Pauline message of sin and grace before its readers in Luther’s day. As you strive to do the same in your parish, or wherever you serve, there is much you can learn, and much God can work in you, through this testament of Paul and the great reformer.

Rev. Wade Johnston serves as an Assistant Professor of Theology at Wisconsin Lutheran College and received his Ph.D. from Central Michigan University and Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam.

Practical Theology: Diverse Learning Styles (p. 2 of 3)

You’re leading a Bible class. You give the class an “Agree or Disagree, and Explain” statement. Before you even finish speaking, two hands are in the air. These people, whose hands are always first in the air, may have a response in mind, or they may just keep talking until their thoughts crystallize. You see some in the class furrow brows in frustration. They wanted time to think about your statement before answering. Other people will answer, but only after they can process what the first responders say. Still others are wondering if this discussion is about to go off on a tangent from which it will never return.

Here’s something else you can try, maybe once or twice in a class. Say, “I’m going to read a statement to you. After I say it, we will spend 30 seconds in silence to give everyone the chance to think about the statement and how to respond to it—think about if you agree or disagree with it, and why. After that, you’ll share your response with someone sitting near you, and they’ll share their response with you. You’ll have a minute to do that. Finally, I’ll give a response to the statement.”

Last month we looked at four different types of adult learners: Talk Learners, Research Learners, Create Learners, and Step Learners. Notice how the above technique can involve all four types of learners:

  • The Step Learners know what’s about to happen, including the leader bringing the discussion to a definite resolution.
  • The Research Learners get to think on their own for a while. They can think before they talk.
  • The Create Learners can synthesize their thoughts, their neighbor’s reaction, and the leader’s response.
  • The Talk Learners get to talk! Yet they also have boundaries so they can’t take over.

In the next issue we’ll think more about diverse learning styles and how to address them. Until then you may want to check out Jason Teteak’s online course, Teach Anybody Anything: Reach Any Learner Anywhere.  The course is $65, but well worth the benefit it offers to pastors – or any lay leader teaching a Bible study.

Pastor Jon Micheel serves Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Salt Lake City, UT.  He also serves on the Rites Committee for the new hymnal project.