Adopted as Sons

A child is born in ancient Rome. The baby is carefully cleaned and tenderly wrapped. She is brought to the father of the family (pater familias) and set at his feet. The household watches to see what the father will do. If he picks up the child and says, “this is my son,” the baby will be an heir in the family, even if the mother is a slave. If he turns and walks a way, the child will be set outside in the street, exposed to the fates and not a part of the family. By this and similar legal proceedings, a free Roman could adopt anyone he wishes and grant all the rights and privileges due to his children to that person. In Greek, the word is υἱοθεσία (huiothesia, the placing as a son, the adoption as a son)

Because he loves us, God arranged for us to be adopted as his sons (Ephesians 1:4-5).  At just the right time, the Father sent his Son, to be born of the Virgin Mary, to redeem us by his sinless life, suffering, death on the cross and resurrection, so that we might be adopted as his sons in our baptism. He then sent his Holy Spirit into our hearts, so that now we can call him “Abba” — “Daddy.” (Galatians 4:4-7) The Holy Spirit testified to all of this. Now, since we are God’s heirs — heirs with Christ, we share in his sufferings in order to share in his glory. (Romans 8:15-17) We await the final adoption decree, the resurrection of our bodies at the end of time. (Romans 8:23)

See Also: Father and Son | Eternal Son of the Father | Son of God

©2018 Robert E. Smith. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy, share and display freely for non-commercial purposes. Direct all other rights and permissions inquiries to cosmithb@gmail.com

The Father and the Son: The Greatest Relationship of Them All

If you watch carefully, you may observe great beauty in unexpected places. An elderly couple, slowly walking hand-in-hand in the park is one such sight. Their marriage has grown through decades of life, thriving in times of great joy and unimaginable grief. If you have the privilege of speaking with them, asking about their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, you will have the sense that you are speaking to one individual, yet two persons. They complete each other’s sentences, think the same thoughts and share a lifetime of memories.

God the Father and God the Son have an eternal relationship. Their love is perfect and profound beyond our ability to understand. No one understands the Father better than the Son. They have been together since the beginning. The Father made the world through the Son. Because He loved us, the Father sent the Son to seek and save the lost. No one has seen the Father and would die if they did. But the Son has always been seen by God’s people and he makes the Father known. (John 1:18)

The Father and the Son share everything. The titles given the Father are given the Son. The Father is the only God, the First and the Last, the only Savior (Isaiah 44:6-8, Isaiah 43:11) The Son is God, (John 1:1) the First and the Last (Revelation 22:13) and the Savior (Luke 2:11). What the Father does, the Son does. (John 5:18-29) Together, and with the Holy Spirit, they are life itself.

So, the depth of his love for us is beyond our understanding. To redeem us, the Father did what he did not require of Abraham. He sacrificed his Son, his only Son, whom he loves, for our redemption. By his death on the cross, he won eternal life for us so that we might live with him forever.

See also:Eternal Son of the Father | Son of God | Jesus is Lord | God’s Name

©2018 Robert E. Smith. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy, share and display freely for non-commercial purposes. Direct all other rights and permissions inquiries to cosmithb@gmail.com

The Eternal Son of the Father

Jesus has always been God’s Son and always will be God’s Son. “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity…” Martin Luther explains in the Small Catechism. “And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds…” we confess in the Nicene Creed. It is why we sing in the ancient hymn Te Deum Ladamus, “you are the Everlasting Son of the Father.”

We can somewhat understand how Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. But how he could be “begotten” by the Father in eternity — outside of time — without having a beginning makes no sense to us. Yet that is exactly how God describes the relationship between God the Father and God the Son.

So far, so good. The problem comes when we try to understand how this can be. As we discussed in a previous post, we cannot fully understand God because we are creatures and he is our creator. It is a mystery — a riddle human logic cannot solve. The issue has to do with the quality of God (attribute) that he is eternal — that time does not exist for God. For human beings, everything has to do with the fact that time passes. We are conceived in our mother’s womb, grow, are born, become adults, grow old and die. Even though we we live forever, it is at best difficult to imagine life without a beginning and an end.

Yet God, in his wisdom, uses this language to help us understand the closest relationship in the universe — the eternal Father begets his eternal Son. (Psalm 2, John 1:18, 3:16-18, Hebrews 1) So, we also use this way to describe the Son and be content to understand him this way.

See Also: Son of God | Jesus is Lord | God’s Name | Understanding an Unknowable God

©2018 Robert E. Smith. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy, share and display freely for non-commercial purposes. Direct all other rights and permissions inquiries to cosmithb@gmail.com

Son of God

Caesar Augstus, Emperor of Rome, built a temple in honor of his Great-Uncle and father by adoption, Julius Caesar. The empire proclaimed Julius Caesar a god after his death. Augustus called himself the son of god from that moment on.

As strange as that sounds to us, many ancient rulers would call themselves the son of one god or another. The move would help cement their political power and stroke their egos. That is why no one was surprised when the Bible used that title for the people of Israel as a whole and the Messiah in particular.

What was unusual was the way that the Scripture uses the title for Jesus. Jesus, you see, is not a son of god as another way of saying he is great. He is literally the Son of God, the creator of the universe, both in eternity and in the womb of The Virgin Mary. More than that, Jesus does not claim the title himself in so many words. The Angel Gabriel gives it to Mary when he announces that she would be the Mother of the Messiah. (Luke 1:30-35) God the Father himself calls Jesus his “Beloved Son” at his baptism and the transfiguration. (Luke 3:21-22, Luke 9:28) St. Peter confessed him to be “the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) After Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee, his disciples also called him the Son of God. (Matthew 14:33) An officer in the Roman Army proclaimed that Jesus was the Son of God. (Matthew 27:54) Even Satan and his demons knew who he was. (Matthew 4:1-11, Matthew 8:29, Mark 3:11)

We accept no substitutes. We worship Jesus Christ because he is the one and only Son of the Living God.

See Also: Eternal Son of the Father | Jesus is Lord | God’s Name

©2018 Robert E. Smith. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy, share and display freely for non-commercial purposes. Direct all other rights and permissions inquiries to cosmithb@gmail.com

Jesus is Lord

Christians are a confessing people. That should not surprise anyone. After all, Jesus told us we would be his witnesses in every part of the world. He directed us to make disciples from every people, going to them, baptizing them and teaching them everything he taught us. (Matthew 28:16-20)

From the very beginning, Christians have spoken together short summaries of what they believed. Several of these are in the New Testament itself. The most important is the sentence, “Jesus Christ is Lord.”

As we learned in a previous post, the Jewish people did not speak the name of God — Yahweh. Instead, they said, “my Lord.” When Christians confessed that Jesus was Lord, they were implying he is God. When they called Jesus Lord, the were echoing the Christmas angel, who told the shepherds he was “a savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) When Christians call Jesus Lord, they do so by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:3) When we confess Jesus as Lord, we do what all people will confess on the Last Day. (Philippians 2:10-11)

As Roman persecutors were to discover, this confession was so precious to Christians, that they would rather die than call anyone else Lord. When called upon to burn incense on an altar dedicated to Caesar as a god, saying Caesar is Lord, they refused. They counted it a blessing to suffer and die as a martyr — a witness for their Lord.

See also: God’s Name | We Believe in One God… | Understanding an Unknowable God | Who is Your God?

©2018 Robert E. Smith. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy, share and display freely for non-commercial purposes. Direct all other rights and permissions inquiries to cosmithb@gmail.com

God’s Name

Moses was minding his father-in-law’s sheep in the Sinai Desert one day. When he saw a bush on fire, he noticed it was not burning up. Curious, he went to see what was happening. The Son of God spoke to him from the bush in the form of the Angel of the Lord. God called him to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt. During his conversation with God, Moses asked for God’s name. That name is Yahweh, which means “I am Who I am.” The Old Testament uses this name for God.

After the Jewish people returned from exile in Babylon, they decided never to pronounce this name. Instead, they used the word Adonai, which means “My Lord.” When they wrote down the text of God’s Word to read in the synagogue, they put the vowels of Adonai together with the consonants of Yahweh. This technique reminded the reader not to speak God’s name. When the Old Testament was translated into Greek, the translator used the word Kurios — Lord — in its place. Most English translations follow that custom.

Christians need not avoid saying Yahweh, but by custom often do so. The word Lord has become a cherished name for our Heavenly Father… And his son, Jesus.

See also: We Believe in One God… | Understanding an Unknowable God | Who is Your God? | What’s in a Name?

©2018 Robert E. Smith. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy, share and display freely for non-commercial purposes. Direct all other rights and permissions inquiries to cosmithb@gmail.com

Understanding an Unknowable God

“We believe in one God… And in one Lord Jesus Christ… God of God…” the Christian church confesses every Sunday. We love God, worship him, study his word and meditate on it. We want to understand God, but no matter how hard we try, one God in three Persons does not make sense to us. And that is a good thing, too.

God is our Creator, so there is always something about him we will not comprehend.( Romans 11:33-36) Because God knows this, he spoke to us in the Bible and revealed himself to us in his son.(Hebrews 1:1-2) He tells us exactly what we should know about him in our language and in ways we can understand. The trouble comes when we try to put it all together with human reason, which is limited by time and place. This will happen every time we deeply consider God’s qualities and characteristics. (His attributes) if you find you fully understand an attribute of God — worry. You are likely making over God in your image.

The way to come to peace with these limits is to believe exactly what the Bible tells us — even if it seems you can’t logically believe all of it at the same time. For example, the Bible tells us there is one God, but three persons are God, that Jesus is both God and man at the same time, that we are saved because God chose us before he made the world, but if we end up in hell, it is because we turned our axis on God and walked away from him. Because God Himself says all these things are so, we can believe them all and be at peace.

See Also: Who is Your God? | How Do We Know What God Thinks About Us? | We Believe in One God

©2018 Robert E. Smith. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy, share and display freely for non-commercial purposes. Direct all other rights and permissions inquiries to cosmithb@gmail.com

The Confession of St. Peter

In Northeast Israel, at the base of Mount Hermon, a giant spring gushed water out of a cave that flowed into Huela Marsh, the headwaters of the Jordan River. During the centuries following the death of Alexander the Great, Syria’s Greek rulers built a shrine to the god Pan. During the earthly ministry of Jesus, Herod the Great’s son, Philip, built a town nearby and named it after Tiberius Caesar and himself. His father had added a temple to Caesar Augustus to the previous shrine to Pan. A major trade road, “The Way to the Sea” ran through the town on its way to the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea. At the end of his ministry in Galilee, Jesus took his disciples to this location to prepare them for his final year of ministry, suffering, death and resurrection. (Matthew 16:13-28)

At this place Jesus asked his disciples who people thought he was. They replied that people said he was a prophet, maybe even John the Baptist or Elijah. Jesus then followed up. “Who you say I am?” St. Peter replied, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” God the Father had revealed this to Peter, but it became clear very quickly that he really did not know what a Messiah was to do. Jesus explained to the disciples that he would soon suffer, die for the sins of the world and rise from the dead in three days. Peter tried to scold him. It could not happen to him — he was the Messiah, after all. Jesus replied by calling Peter Satan. Anyone that would be his disciple, would need to take up his own cross and follow Jesus.

Even though Peter was badly mistaken, Jesus praised his confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. The confession was so important that Jesus gave him the name Peter — little rock. The confession itself is the rock on which Jesus builds his church. Even hell itself cannot destroy that church. So, since the early years of the Twentieth Century, the Lutheran Church has celebrated this confession on January 18th, a day always in the season of Epiphany, when it meditates on the ways that God the Son reveals himself to us.

To: Baptism of our Lord | Conversion of St. Paul

©2018 Robert E. Smith. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy, share and display freely for non-commercial purposes. Direct all other rights and permissions inquiries to cosmithb@gmail.com

Christians and Good Works

When the Bible speaks about good works, it really is not talking about the everyday things we think about when we mention good things people do. The good things people do are always colored with mixed motives. Maybe we did them so that people would sing our praises. Maybe we expected to get something from them, a reward, a trophy or a good deed in return. The Hindu idea called Karma is supposed to work that way. If you do good, good will be done to you. Sometimes the things we choose to do are our own ideas. All night vigils, long fasts, pilgrimages and similar feats are very impressive, but God never actually asks us to do these things.

So, none of them save us or even especially please God — unless we do them because we have faith in God and want to thank him for his love and mercy towards us. Strictly speaking, non-Christians cannot do good works. All the things they do are motivated by the desire to get something out it. Even Christians, who love and trust God, aren’t perfect when it comes to doing good with pure motives.

Truly good works, then, are the product of faith in Jesus Christ. Every thankful thought, grateful prayer of thanksgiving, things done because we love God, are good works. Even though a sinful thought or motive might tarnish them, because Christ earned our forgiveness on the cross, God does not count these sins against us, but sees only those things done because we love him.

See also: What is a Good Work? | Everybody’s Good at Heart, Right?

©2018 Robert E. Smith. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy, share and display freely for non-commercial purposes. Direct all other rights and permissions inquiries to cosmithb@gmail.com

Grace alone, Faith alone

You’ve seen plenty of ads on websites, TV, billboards, in stores and just about everywhere you go. You can lose thirty pounds if you just eat the new diet. You do not even have to exercise! If you buy that brand new sportscar, you can hangout with beautiful women! That brand new pan will make you into a chef and you can clean it in no time! People who know better will tell you if it’s too good to be true — it is! There is no such thing as a free lunch! And most of the time they’re right!

So, it’s not surprising that people think they need to do something — anything — to earn God’s mercy and eternal life. Every religion on earth is about what you have to do to win the love of their gods. Their gods bless those that do the most. Those that fail have at best a second or third place in their blessings.

Some Christians believe that God expects them to do some good works to match the grace God gives them in order to be saved. This may be as simple as accepting Jesus as their savior, inviting him into their hearts. Others feel they must do certain rituals, confess all of their sins, speak in languages they don’t understand or give substantial money for God to bless them. They may even say that they are saved by grace, just not grace alone.

The problem, of course, as we’ve discussed in other posts, that we are not able to please God by what we do. Without the work of the Holy Spirit, we are dead in our sins. That is why it is such good news that Jesus already has paid the price for our salvation on the cross. Because he did this, God loves us, is gracious to us and gives us salvation as a gift — without strings attached. So it is by grace alone that we are saved. He even places the faith in our hearts that trusts this good news and cherishes this gift. It is this faith alone that saves us for Christ’s sake alone. This precious truth is the very center of Christian teaching and the most important of all the insights of Martin Luther and the Reformation.

See also: So, Does God Hate Me? | For Christ’s Sake |Faith

©2018 Robert E. Smith. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy, share and display freely for non-commercial purposes. Direct all other rights and permissions inquiries to cosmithb@gmail.com