Oculi (Lent III) 2018
In the Collect we asked God to “be our defense against all our enemies.” The Sunday Gospels in the season of Lent show us what our enemies are. Two weeks ago we learned about the temptation of the devil. Last week we learned that God allows our faith to be tested so that it becomes the strongest it can be, and our flesh would rather curse God and believe the worst of Him, that He doesn’t care about us, refusing to see Him at work in times of trouble. Today, once again, we learn that our enemy is the devil who wants nothing more than to see to it that our last state is worse than our first. In other words, he doesn’t just want us to be sinners who did not know God’s Law and therefore didn’t know any better. He wants us to be hardened sinners who very much know God’s Law and intentionally, spitefully do the exact opposite.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.