June 19, 2011 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA
Jesus said: “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Since the beginning of Advent last November until Pentecost last Sunday, you have heard about “the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” That definite plan and foreknowledge began all the way back at creation. It was the Lord’s will to create the world, including you. His desire was to have a cosmos upon which He would pour out His blessing. As you listened to the Creation Narrative this morning, you heard how the Lord’s will was carried out. “And God said, ‘Let there be . . . light . . . an expanse between the waters . . . waters gathered together in one place and dry land appear . . . lights in the expanse of the heavens . . . waters swarm with swarms of living creatures . . . birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens . . . the earth bring forth living creatures. . . .’” This was His will. And as God said, “’Let there be’ . . . It was so.” The Lord’s will was declared in His words, and those words were enacted.
At the pinnacle of the Lord’s creation was mankind. This is seen in the words that He spoke concerning the creation of man: “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the seas and over the birds of the heavens and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” And again, His will-expressing words were enacted: “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” The Lord speaks and His will is carried out. To mankind, God gave great blessing, the provision of all that they would need to support the body and life: “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.”
But from that time, the Lord’s words went beyond giving creating commands. For the Lord’s definite plan and foreknowledge included the understanding of what mankind would do in the creation that He put under their dominion. The fall into sin was known. But the way that the Lord would rectify sin was also known. And from the moment that Eve ate of the forbidden fruit and Adam refused to act as a faithful regent over creation, the Lord’s words would reveal His definite plan and foreknowledge of salvation: a Redeemer would be sent, God Himself who would take on human nature to deliver mankind from condemnation. “God created man in His own image;” to save mankind, God would become man to restore that image.
This was “the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” It was fulfilled in the work of Jesus, as the Church confesses on this day: “He is God, begotten from the substance of the Father before all ages; and He is man, born from the substance of His mother in this age: perfect God and perfect man, composed of a rational soul and human flesh; . . . by the assumption of the humanity into God . . .” This Jesus and His work is what you have heard about every Sunday, from the beginning of Advent unto now. You have heard how He was incarnate, how He performed great deeds, how He taught the way of life, and how He gave Himself into death for your sake and was raised for your justification. Such was the “definite plan and foreknowledge of God”: “Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.”
God desired to save you and all who have sinned. His will is to restore creation to the way it was when He first caused it to exist: “very good.” And that will was expressed in His words, statements that told of what the Lord was going to do. Those words prophesied and foretold the actions to be done for your benefit. Such words are what the Scriptures record, including prophecies about a Holy One being sent who would die and be raised again: “For You will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.” The words were spoken, and it was so.
This is what Peter declares to the people in Jerusalem and to you who hear his words centuries later: “Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to [David] that He would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” That was “the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” The Lord promised, and it was so. And from these actions that Jesus did and were done to Him, the conclusion can be made: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” The Lord and Christ has come, acting for your benefit, just as the word of God declared: “Let there be a Redeemer . . . and it was so.”
As the redemptive works of God were accomplished, Jesus was raised: “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.” Raised and exalted, this Jesus has dominion over all things. The exact image and likeness of God has restored mankind to its rightful place. And He rules over all things: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” But this time, man does not abuse his authority. He does not rebel against his Creator. He does not assume or usurp any status that is not rightfully his. Instead, Jesus uses the authority that He has been given to bring the Lord’s will, His will, to fulfillment for you.
So you hear in the words of Jesus: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” The Lord desires you to be in fellowship with Him, to have the relationship that mankind first had when all was “very good.” So Jesus sends out authorized apostles to extend His kingdom and rule, marking people with His name and giving them a new identity. It is for people of all nations; all the descendants of Adam are eligible.
But note how this is given, how the blessing of sanctification, of being made holy, is done: the Lord speaks, and it is so. It is just like at the creation. The Lord speaks His words that authorize and empower: “Go and baptize. Put My Name on people by combining My word with water. This will make them My people. It will create new life in them. It will give them the gift of the Holy Spirit. I declare that all who believe this and are baptized will be saved.” The Lord speaks, and it is so.
But the speaking doesn’t end at baptism. No, it continues as the sent ones perform another vocal act: teaching. Again, the Lord speaks through those whom He sends: “Go and teach. Recount the works and wonders and signs that I have done. Tell the nations what I have said. Teach them the way of life that I have declared. Discuss the definite plan that I have revealed to you in the Scriptures. It will make them wise to salvation.” The Lord’s words have been spoken and they declare what He has done for you and the way of righteousness that He desires you to follow.
Even then, the Lord is still acting for you. Listen to what He says: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” He is present with you, fulfilling promises. The Holy Spirit works in you, assisting you to lead the life of discipleship. Jesus comes to you in a particular way, as His words bring about His presence. One of the things that He commands, that you observe, is His presence in the Sacrament of the Altar. Just like with Holy Baptism, divine words cause something to be so: “This bread is My Body . . . This wine is My Blood . . . Eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins.” The Lord wills it; His words declare it; it is so.
Hearing God’s words and believing His will that they reveal and fulfill, you receive His benefits. It is a cause for wonder and amazement and to simply receive what God desires to give. The psalmist expresses the humility that comes from realizing that: “What is man that You are mindful of Him, and the son of man that You care for him?” Without your having any merit or worthiness, God wills to create, redeem, and sanctify you. Mercy and steadfast love shown through the death and resurrection of Jesus is His definite plan for you, even though He knows all your faults and sins. It is a matter of grace and love. All the mighty works that He has done for you are simply because He wanted to do so.
Divine authority is used for you. You benefit from it. It is meant for you, according to “the definite plan and foreknowledge of God”. Working in concert, all Three Persons of the Holy Trinity enact their plan for you. Through their work, you have been made. Through their work, you have been delivered from sin, death, and the power of Satan. And through their work, you are made holy and righteous. Your destiny is not to be abandoned to Hades or to suffer eternal, irreversible corruption. No, it is to be raised and lifted up, to have the image and likeness of God restored to you for eternity. He desires to bestow His blessing upon you. That is the will of God for you. He reveals that will through His words. He speaks His command—the command to create, to redeem, and to sanctify—and fulfills it. He says: “Let there be My people here in this place.” And it is so. So on this Holy Trinity Sunday, repeat what Christians have said for centuries after hearing the merciful will of God for them: ”Blessed be the Holy Trinity and undivided Unity. Let us give Him glory because He has shown mercy to us.”
T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.