Worship Helps for Reformation

Artwork: Luther Preaching Christ
Artist: Lucas Cranach
Date: 1547
Location: St. Mary’s Church, Wittenberg, Germany

The painting of Luther Preaching Christ by Lucas Cranach communicates visually what real preaching is all about. Luther has one hand on the Bible, reminding us that all preaching should be rooted in the Word of God. The other hand is pointing to Christ and Him crucified, the very heart of the redemptive message within the pages of holy Scripture. And with the exception of one person looking toward us, everyone in the congregation has their attention focused on Christ as He is preached from the Bible.   

Worship Theme: By grace alone, by faith alone, by Scripture alone—these are the three “watchwords” of God reforming his church.

Old Testament: Jeremiah 31:31-34 – Grace Alone
"The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. 33 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."

1. God says to Israel that he will make a new covenant with them. Where will he write that covenant? (See 31:33.)

2. The heart of God’s new covenant is found in 31:34. What does God graciously do for you and me?

Epistle: Romans 3:19-28 – Grace Alone
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. 21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. 27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.

3. Paul first points out the main purposes of God’s law. What are those purposes? (See 3:19‒20).

4. There is righteousness. Whose is it? From where does it come? (See 3:21‒22.)

5. We have fallen woefully short, but we are also justified, innocent in God’s courtroom. Why? How? (See 3:24.)

6. Our justification is by __________ ? (See 3:28.)

Gospel: John 8:31-36 – Scripture Alone
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." 33 They answered him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?" 34 Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

7. What does Jesus say is the mark of his disciples? (See 8:31.)

8. What blessing does God give as we hold on tightly to the word? (See 8:32.)

9. God has blessed you with full freedom in Christ. How does knowing that it comes from the Word lead us to re-prioritize our lives?

1. God promised to write his covenant in believers’ hearts and minds. (His main concern is our insides—our attitudes, beliefs, etc.—not merely our appearance.)

2. God forgives our sins and remembers them no more.

3. God did not give us his law to work our way to heaven. He uses it to remove all our rationalizations and excuses. (“What do you have to say for yourself?” Silence.) God’s law is a mirror, showing clearly our ugly sin, showing that we cannot save ourselves.

4. Perfect righteousness is God’s. It comes from God. It is not from us.

5. Our justification is free, by God’s grace, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God piles up descriptives to say, “This is my work, my work, my work, not your work.”

6. Our justification is by faith. Therefore it’s not by what I do.

7. One of the marks of Jesus’ disciples is that they hold on tightly to God’s Word.

8. What joy! God’s Word brings us freedom.

9. Knowing that freedom from sin and death comes from God’s holy Word motivates me to keep focused on the Word. I want to keep hearing it, reading it and studying it. God brings me great blessings through it.

Putting your faith into action
Many people like to remember the good old days. These conversations invariably turn to all the stupid things that have been done. The good old days really weren’t all that good. When God looks back on his people, he sees unfaithfulness. His people the Israelites had broken the covenant that he had made with them. They had annulled their marriage with the Lord. But the Lord points to the future: “the time is coming when I will make a new covenant,” a covenant of grace and forgiveness. Remembered no more will be our unfaithfulness: our sinful misuse of our time, talents, and treasures. Taught by the Lord our God, we his people will “know the Lord.” We will know his love, sacrifice, resurrection, and will. These will fill our hearts and minds with the desire and knowledge to live for him. These are “the days.” Saved by God’s grace, we use our time, talents, and treasures to overflow in thanks to our God. 

A reading from the Book of Concord for Reformation
We are counted righteous, not because of the Law, but because of Christ.  His merits are granted us, if we believe on Him.  We are not justified by the Law, because human nature cannot keep God’s Law and cannot love God.  We are justified from the promise, in which, for Christ’s sake, reconciliation, righteousness, and eternal life have been promised.  If anyone has considered these foundations, he will easily understand that justification must necessarily be attributed to faith.  It is not in vain that Christ has been promised and set forth, that He has been born and has suffered and been raised again.  The promise of grace in Christ is not in vain. The promise should be received through faith, as 1 John 5:10–12 says:

Whoever does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning His Son.  And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Christ says, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).  Paul says, “Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand” (Romans 5:2).  By faith in Christ the promise of forgiveness of sins and of righteousness is received.  – Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article V, Love and Fulfilling the Law (paragraph 176)

Dr. Martin Luther's seal expresses his theology and his faith. He designed it himself.
·         In the center is a black cross indicative of Christ's dreadful sacrifice on the cross for every sinner who ever lived.
·         The cross is in the center of a red heart, to show that faith causes love, joy and peace to grow in the human heart.
·         The red heart is on a white rose (Luther's favorite flower) because white is the color of angels and blessed spirits.
·         The white rose is against a blue-sky background to symbolize the Christian's hope for the coming joys of heaven.
·         The seal is enclosed in a gold ring, showing that the bliss of heaven is unending.

Hymns: 200; 457; 529

1  A mighty fortress is our God, A trusty shield and weapon;
He helps us free from ev’ry need That has us now o’ertaken.
The old evil foe Now means deadly woe;
Deep guile and great might Are his dread arms in fight;
On earth is not his equal.

2  With might of ours can naught be done; Soon were our loss effected.
But for us fights the valiant one Whom God himself elected.
You ask, “Who is this?” Jesus Christ it is,
The almighty Lord. And there’s no other God;
He holds the field forever.

3  Though devils all the world should fill, All eager to devour us,
We tremble not, we fear no ill; They shall not overpow’r us.
This world’s prince may still Scowl fierce as he will,
He can harm us none. He’s judged; the deed is done!
One little word can fell him.

4  The Word they still shall let remain, Nor any thanks have for it;
He’s by our side upon the plain With his good gifts and Spirit.
And do what they will—Hate, steal, hurt, or kill—
Though all may be gone, Our victory is won;
The kingdom’s ours forever!

Text: Martin Luther, 1483–1546; tr. composite.


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