My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me — Vespers Sermon by Pastor Rolf Preus

Wednesday Vespers
March 2, 2016
“My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?”
Matthew 27:45-49

The Christian faith rests on a truth that mystifies the wisest of men but provides deep comfort to millions who suffer pangs of guilt. God forsook his innocent Son on the cross as punishment for the sin of the world. It is not so difficult to think of God forsaking a sinful man. It is more difficult to think of God forsaking a holy man. We Christians believe that God forsook the only perfectly holy man who ever lived. We trust in a truth that defies human understanding. We believe that the holy God took on holy human flesh and blood. We believe that there was and is a personal union of the divine and human natures in one Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that this one Lord Jesus Christ, true God, begotten from the Father from eternity and true man, born of the Virgin Mary took upon himself the sin of the whole human race. Since the sin of every sinner of every time and place was reckoned to him, he became by that divine reckoning the greatest sinner who ever lived. If all the sinners were one sinner what a great sinner that would be! And all sinners were one sinner and as such a great sinner, he suffered what all sinners deserved. He was forsaken by God.

The Scriptures teach this with unmistakable clarity. Isaiah writes concerning Him:

Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6)

St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us.” He writes in Galatians 3:13, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’).” St. Peter writes concerning Him,

Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree. (1 Peter 2:22-24)

When the sin of all sinners of all times was imputed to Christ, Christ became the greatest sinner who ever lived. He was in his own person and life free from all sin. He was conceived and born without the taint of original sin. He was innocent of all evil thoughts, sinful or malicious words, unkind or impure deeds. But he did not suffer and die for his own sake. He suffered and died for the sake of sinners. He suffered and died in the place of sinners. And so he suffered and died as a sinner.

Were Jesus merely a man he could not possibly bear the sin of all mankind. Only God in the flesh could do so. God in the flesh had to become the sin and the curse. God in the flesh had to bear in his sacred body all the sin of all the sinners. And then God in the flesh had to be forsaken by God.

The very idea is too horrifying to contemplate. God forsakes God? How on earth or in heaven could such a thing happen? It is inconceivable! The unity of the Holy Trinity is a unity of eternal love. God cannot forsake God! But when God becomes a man and takes upon himself the sin of mankind he does so precisely for this purpose: to be forsaken in his suffering.

Look and see the wages of sin! Look and see your own personal sin and sins. Look and see the fruit of every selfish ambition, proud desire, and shameful lust. See what must happen because you thought you knew better than God how you should run your own life as if you were your own god. Look and see what justice requires and remember that it is your sins that cried out to heaven for justice and that justice was meted out on the cross. You don’t receive justice. Jesus did. And ponder with me and with all sinners throughout the world the words of the hymn:

Ye who think of sin but lightly
Nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the Sacrifice appointed,
See who bears the awful load:
’Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed,
Son of Man and Son of God.

There is no more powerful indictment of sinners than the cry of him to whom God imputed the world’s sin: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” “Eli” is Hebrew for “My God.” They thought he was crying out to Elijah for help. There was no help for him from Elijah or any other prophet. Indeed, it was to fulfill the prophetic word that he was forsaken by God. While only the first verse of Psalm 2 is recorded by the Evangelists in the Gospels, the entire psalm was written of Christ and the nature of his suffering. Listen to some words of this psalm.

My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning? I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised by the people. All those who see Me ridicule Me; they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, “He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him; let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!” They gape at Me with their mouths, like a raging and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it has melted Within Me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.

David wrote this psalm, but these are not David’s words. These are the words of David’s Son and David’s Lord, Jesus Christ, who was forsaken by God as he bore the sin of the world.

What does this mean for those who take refuge in the suffering of Jesus? What does this mean for Christians who have been baptized into this death and have thereby been washed in the blood of the Lamb? What does this mean for those who believe that Jesus died for them? What it means is simple. We know that God forsook Jesus instead of us. Since God forsook Jesus, he won’t forsake us.

God’s law always accuses. No matter how holy our lives in this world are, God’s law will always accuse us because we are never holy enough. We never love enough. Our hearts are never pure enough. We repeatedly fall into sins of thought, word, and deed. When we do our conscience accuses us because our conscience – if it is in working order – is informed by God’s law and God’s law always accuses us. It makes us afraid of God. It makes us think that perhaps God is no longer willing to forgive us, that he wants nothing to do with us, that we have failed him too often for him to continue to love us as his dear children. The law accuses us because of our sins and since we cannot rid ourselves of our sins we cannot shut up the accusations of the law.

But Jesus did. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” Do you want to see where God’s anger against you went? Look back to Calvary and see! That’s where it went and that’s where it died. It died when Jesus died. He was forsaken in his suffering. You won’t be forsaken in yours. It is not possible for God to forsake his Christians. He has already forsaken his Son instead.

Leave your sin where God placed it. When you suffer loss, pain, sickness, and other troubles of life do not believe that God is forsaking you. He cannot. Christ was forsaken in your place. God cannot forsake you, abandon you, forget you, or refuse to forgive you when you come to him in Christ’s name. Don’t be afraid of God! When you confess your sins to God you should forget them and forget God’s anger against them. They are gone. God’s anger is gone. You are at peace with God. Listen to Christ’s cry of abandonment and know that on account of it you are safe in the hands of your gracious Father with nothing to fear from him now or ever. Amen

About Pastor Rolf Preus

Pastor Rolf David Preus grew up on the campus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, the fourth of ten children, where his father, Dr. Robert David Preus, taught for many years. Pastor Preus graduated from high school in 1971, from Concordia College, St. Paul, Minnesota in 1975 and from Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana in 1979. He was ordained on July 1, 1979, at Trinity Lutheran Church, in Clear Lake, Minnesota. He served Trinity Lutheran Church in Clear Lake (1979-1982), First Lutheran Church in East Grand Forks, Minnesota (1982-1989), St. John's Lutheran Church in Racine, Wisconsin (1989-1997), River Heights Lutheran Church in East Grand Forks, Minnesota (1997-2006), and First American Lutheran Church in Mayville, North Dakota and Grace Lutheran Church in Crookston, Minnesota from (2006-2015). On February 15, 2015 he was installed as Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Sidney, Montana and St. John Lutheran Church, Fairview, Montana. Pastor Preus received his Master of Sacred Theology degree from Concordia Theological Seminary in 1987. His thesis topic was, “An Evaluation of Lutheran/Roman Catholic Conversations on Justification." Pastor Preus has taught courses in theology for Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Concordia University Wisconsin, and St. Sophia Lutheran Theological Seminary in Ternopil, Ukraine. Pastor Preus married Dorothy Jean Felts on May 27, 1975, in Coldwater, Michigan. God has blessed Pastor and Dort with twelve children: Daniel, David, Paul, John, Mark, Stephen, Christian, Andrew, James, Mary, Samuel, and Peter. David, Paul, John, Mark, Stephen, Christian, Andrew, and James are pastors in the LCMS. God has blessed Pastor and Mrs. Preus with forty-three grandchildren so far. Pastor Preus' mother is living in Minneapolis. Three of his brothers and two of his brothers-in-law have served as pastors in the LCMS.

Comments

My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me — Vespers Sermon by Pastor Rolf Preus — 81 Comments

  1. @George A. Marquart #50

    Mr. Marquart –

    There is no absurdity in Rev. Preus’ statement, “He was facing God’s wrath.” The statement should be read “In the garden, He was anticipating facing God’s wrath at the cross.” Christ knew what was coming on the cross. The wrath of God is not carried out in the garden, but there was no angel to come to the aid of Christ as he hung on the cross. Instead, the sky darkens (not anticipating a cry of victory but a cry of dereliction) and the cry goes out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

    Your explanation of Romans 3 does not account for its context in 2:2-5, which speaks of God’s judgment and uses the same specific term forbearance, even as the term is used in 3:25-26. Just as we ought not read penal substitution INTO God’s judgment, we also not read it OUT OF God’s judgment. Allow the rest of the Scriptures to interpret Scripture. The Suffering of Jesus spoken of throughout Scripture goes beyond the ‘ritual atonement of sacrifice’ that the Old Testament foreshadowings went through. It would be great to hear you address why Jesus not only died (atonement), but also suffered.

    Your equating Christ with Adam in order to maintain God’s justice is problematic. Romans 5 says Adam was a “type” of the one to come, and verses 15-17 repeatedly speak of “much more” in Christ. The antitype is not equal to the type, but is the greater reality. Christ is true man, but Adam was not true God.

  2. @Rev. Mark C. Bestul #51

    Apparently we have determined precisely when the wrath of the Father began to be poured out on His Son, and when it stopped. Maybe it actually started when He was first slapped during His nocturnal trial? The scourging should also not be overlooked.

    You should not consider the so called “Cry of Dereliction” as a complete utterance in itself. Our Lord meant the entire Psalm, to call attention to the fact that it is about Him.

    “It would be great to hear you address why Jesus not only died (atonement), but also suffered.” As my lawyer friends say, “asked and answered” in posting #26 to T. R. Halvorson. “Hebrews 2:10In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.” Not that our Lord was not perfect already, but through suffering, all doubt was removed about His perfection, so that Satan could not challenge it as he challenged the worthiness of Job.”

    I like to think that what I address is not simply my opinion, but what Scripture says.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  3. “He was facing God’s wrath”? And the angel who came, did he come on his own, or did the wrathful God send Him to help His Son bear His wrath? I know you don’t see the absurdity.”

    It’s not absurd when it’s viewed through the Scriptural lens of Law and Gospel.

    “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” And yet… “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.”

    Law and Gospel underscores the tension that the Father would pour out His wrath on the beloved Son with whom He is well pleased. A Son, by the way, who lays His life down of His own accord and takes it up again.

  4. @George A. Marquart #52

    “You should not consider the so called “Cry of Dereliction” as a complete utterance in itself. Our Lord meant the entire Psalm, to call attention to the fact that it is about Him.”

    How can the psalm be about him, if he actually never endures being forsaken? He says it, but it never happens? What a sham!

  5. @George A. Marquart #52

    “You should not consider the so called “Cry of Dereliction” as a complete utterance in itself. Our Lord meant the entire Psalm, to call attention to the fact that it is about Him.”

    Mind reading is quite a skill! 🙂

  6. Right, Helen! “Our Lord said ‘why have you forsaken’, but he meant something else.” Sounds eerily similar to “Our Lord said, ‘This is my body,’ but he meant something else.”

    We CAN ponder whether Christ might have prayed the whole psalm (apparently, inaudibly… otherwise those standing by would have, by the rest of the verses, recognized he wasn’t calling on Elijah). But that doesn’t mean he didn’t mean the first verse to literally apply to himself!

    Again, Mr. Marquart, our Lord can honestly say the psalm is about himself (which he does in Luke 24:44) ONLY IF verse 1 actually applies to Him.

  7. @helen #55

    This has nothing to do with mind reading. It has to do with the physiology of crucifixion. In many cases the victim suffocates, because every breath causes excruciating pain where the nails were driven into the extremities. Therefore, people on crosses tend to conserve their breath as much as possible.

    The utterances of our Lord reflect this. They are even shorter in Aramaic. But there is no doubt that it was a tradition among pious Jews to recite Psalm 22 when they were in distress. Contrary to ourselves, they did not own written copies of the Scriptures, so they committed huge segments to memory.

    “14I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint.
    My heart has turned to wax;
    it has melted within me.
    15My mouthd is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
    you lay me in the dust of death.”

    This is the verbal image of one being crucified.

    “24For he has not despised or scorned
    the suffering of the afflicted one;
    he has not hidden his face from him
    but has listened to his cry for help.”

    And this is the trusting faith of the Son of God that His Father would never abandon Him.

    “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit.”

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  8. @Rev. Mark C. Bestul #56

    According to the Aramaic Targum “it is finished” in the Aramaic is exactly the same as the very last phrase in Psalm 22, and “why have you forsaken me” is the first verse of Psalm 22. This is a key point because if you understand that, then you will understand what Jesus Christ was doing when he spoke these phrases from the cross.

    John 16:32, “”A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.”

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  9. @Rolf Preus #49

    Dear Rev. Preus, having given this matter some more thought, I believe that both you and I are confident that our salvation has been accomplished. Whether by a peccable or impeccable Son of God does not change that fact. I suspect this part of the discussion my fall under the admonition, “And we admonish all Christians, since in the Holy Scriptures Christ is called a mystery upon which all heretics dash their heads, not to indulge in a presumptuous manner in subtile inquiries, concerning such mysteries, with their reason, but with the venerated apostles simply to believe, to close the eyes of their reason, and bring into captivity their understanding to the obedience of Christ, 2 Cor. 10:5, and to take comfort [seek most delightful and sure consolation], and hence to rejoice without ceasing in the fact that our flesh and blood is placed so high at the right hand of the majesty and almighty power of God. Thus we shall assuredly find constant consolation in every adversity, and remain well guarded from pernicious error.” The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, VIII The Person of Christ. #96

    As far as I can see, the Book of Concord does not address the matter.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  10. @George A. Marquart #58

    Mr. Marquart,
    You really should speak with your pastor. There are many things that need to be addressed, some the others are working on. But here I focus on this from two comments above: you stated:

    According to the Aramaic Targum “it is finished” in the Aramaic is exactly the same as the very last phrase in Psalm 22, and “why have you forsaken me” is the first verse of Psalm 22. This is a key point because if you understand that, then you will understand what Jesus Christ was doing when he spoke these phrases from the cross.

    What is “the” Aramaic Targum?
    You asserted before that you do not claim expertise in Hebrew [and I would suppose you meant also Aramaic]. So why do you repetetively make claims based on readings in Hebrew or, in this case, Aramaic? [And this you do not just in response to this article, but often on other articles and in other venues] It often seems like the implication is that one really needs to know Hebrew or Aramaic in order to have a proper understanding of God’s Word; that you do have this understanding; and that you greatly desire the readers to share this undersstanding. But when people respond back with Scripture, you appear to trump them with an arcane [and very often plainly inaccurate or fallacious] linguistic claim.

    The first problem is that the words you wrote are not really yours. They are, verbatim, the words of a transcript of John W. Schoenheit [at this page: http://www.truthortradition.com/articles/eloi-eloi-lama-sabachthani-my-god-my-god-why-have-you-forsaken-me ]. His group, The Spirit and Truth Felowship are Divine Monarchianists akin to the teachings of Paul of Samosata. His/Their interpretation of this statement of Christ and of His Suffering is governed by their Monarchianist theology [ http://www.stfonline.org/about/what-we-believe ] not by what the Bible actually says.

    The second problem with these words is that they are inaccurate to the actual תרגום כתוביות of Psalms.

    Here is Edward Cook’s translation of Ps. 22 in

    Psalm 22

    1. For praise; concerning the strength of the regular morning sacrifice; a psalm of David.

    2. My God, my God, why have you left me far from my redemption? – are the words of my outcry.

    3. O God, I call by day and you will not accept my prayer; and by night I have no quiet

    4. But you are holy, who make the world rest on the psalms of Israel.

    5. Our fathers hoped in you; they hoped in your word, and you saved them.

    6. In your presence they prayed and were saved; and on you they relied, and were not disappointed.

    7. But I am a feeble worm, not a rational man; the reproach of the sons of men, and the butt of the Gentiles.

    8. All who see me will gloat over me, attacking with their lips; they will shake their heads.

    9. Let him give praise in the presence of the Lord; and he has delivered him, he saved him because he favored him.

    10. Because you took me out of the womb; you gave me hope on my mother’s breasts.

    11. By your aid I was pulled forth from [her] bowels; from my mother’s womb you are my God.

    12. Be not far from me, for trouble is near, for there is no redeemer.

    13. The Gentiles have surrounded me, who are like many bulls; the princes of Mathnan have hemmed me in.

    14. They open their mouths at me like a roaring and ravaging lion.

    15. Like water I am poured out; all my bones are crushed; my heart is melting like wax within my bowels.

    16. My strength has dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue is stuck to my palate; and you have brought me to the grave.

    17. Because the wicked have surrounded me, who are like many dogs; a gathering of evildoers has hemmed me in, biting my hands and feet like a lion.

    18. I will tell of all the wounds of my bones; those who see me despise me.

    19. They divide my clothing for themselves; and for my cloak they will cast lots.

    20. You, O Lord, do not be far off; O my strength, hurry to my aid.

    21. Save my soul from those who slay with the sword; from the power of the dog [save] the breath of my body.

    22. Redeem me from the mouth of the lion; and from kings who are strong and tall as a bull you have received my prayer.

    23. I will tell of the might of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the assembly I will praise you.

    24. O you who fear the Lord, sing praise in his presence; all the seed of Jacob, give him glory; and be afraid of him, all you seed of Israel.

    25. For he does not despise or scorn the prayer of the poor; and he has not removed his presence from their midst; and when they pray in his presence, he accepts [their prayer].

    26. My psalm in the assembly of many people is from you; I will fulfill my vows before those who fear him.

    27. The humble will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will sing praise in his presence; the spirit of prophecy will dwell in the thoughts of your hearts forever.

    28. All the ends of the earth will remember his offerings and will repent in the presence of the Lord; and all the families of the Gentiles will bow down before you.

    29. For kingship is from the presence of the Lord, and he rules over the Gentiles.

    30. All who are fat on earth have eaten and bowed down; all who descend to the grave prostrate themselves before him; but the soul of the wicked shall not live.

    31. The seed of Abraham will worship in his presence; and they will tell the mighty greatness of the Lord to a later generation.

    32. Their children will return and recount his generosity; to his people yet to be born [they will recount] the wonders he performed.

    [ http://targum.info/pss/ps1.htm ]

    As you can see, the last line of Ps 22 in “the” Targum is not the same as Jesus’ words “it is finished”. Nor is the next-to-last line, nor the next-to-next-to-last line. [In case you want to look at it in Aramaic have a go here http://cal.huc.edu/get_a_chapter.php?file=81002&sub=022&cset=H ]

    יתובון״ייתון#1# בניהון
    ויתנון צדקתיה
    לעמיה דעתיד למילד
    פרישן דעבד
    Their children will return
    and recount his generosity/righteousness;
    to his people yet to be born
    the wonders he performed.

    So the first questions are, where did John W. Schoenheit actually get his “Targum” and why didn’t he give his readers the original source? He’s trying to demonstrate his Monarchianist theology. One would think that if his theological interpretation is valid he would be willing to show his source. [Also, feeling the need to claim to use an early-medieval Aramaic paraphrase –and possibly misrepresent it– is akin to using selected verses of the Message and changing them to demonstrate the validity of “The Purpose Driven Life”].

    And next to this the issue around your use of this source: why would one want to draw instruction from this poisoned well? And if you really were trusting of it why reproduce it verbatim without the references needed for readers to evaluate it? Why would you not just say where it came from?

    What you have been writing leads me and others to have deep concern for your faith. You are placing trust in sources that are misleading you. You are promoting their teachings over and above what you originally learned from Confessional Lutheranism. And you are not shy about that. Please talk to your pastor.

  11. @George A. Marquart #57

    This has nothing to do with mind reading. It has to do with the physiology of crucifixion.

    I have read other descriptions of the ‘physiology of crucifixion’ (more complete, incidentally) and my BA is in biology.

    Your so confident comments have often left me with the uncomfortable feeling that something was wrong. I thank Pr. Abrahamson for digging into one of them and showing us why.
    I am not equipped to do that.

    Be aware that your revered last name will not validate false teaching from you. I can also pull down Strong’s concordance (tho my Pastor doesn’t consider it the best reference).

    For the rest I will rely on those trained in the languages.
    [And here, Pr. Prentice, is a reason to know them… to know the difference between authentic Scripture and the “wool being pulled over your eyes”, you might say. Those of us who have not had the opportunity must rely on those who did. So I am demanding of men in collars!] 🙂

  12. Mr. Marquart –

    I genuinely do not mean to “pile on,” but I pray you consider that some of your incorrect assumptions have led you to negate clear Scriptural comfort. Please meditate on the necessity for Psalm 22:1 to literally apply to Jesus. Please allow me, without any sort of ‘piling on’ tone ( ‘tone’ in written words often can be misunderstood), to offer a final insight:

    Because of how you read Psalm 22, you miss the full comfort of the suffering of Jesus. You seem to make light of the statement that we might know when Christ suffered the wrath of God… but the Scripture seems quite clear on it: Throughout his ministry, Jesus appealed to “My FATHER”… In the garden, Jesus appealed, “FATHER, if it is possible”… on the cross, Jesus appealed, “FATHER, forgive them”…

    …but then, “At the sixth hour, darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabacthani?'”… no appeal to “FATHER”… and then, having cried “It is finished,” Jesus again could appeal, “FATHER, into Thy hands I commit my spirit.”

    Christ does not omit “Father in favor of “My God, My God” because he is restricted by word choice so that he can say the 22nd psalm. The Psalm was divinely penned in view of Christ… not in view of what he would say, but endure … including verse 1. And, when he says, “It is finished”, he speaks not of final words of a prayer, but of the certainty of your salvation. What a beautifully clear statement God has made known to us to show that Christ was forsaken so that we need not be. If Christ prayed the full psalm, it was not for his gain, but for yours.

    Your unfortunate interpretation here stems from another statement of yours from much earlier that the conversation never gave opportunity to answer, but which requires attention: From comment #1 – “If He forsook His own beloved Son, He can and will forsake you. It is not possible for God the Father to forsake His own Son. He will not forsake you.”

    You make the mistake of comparing us to Jesus as “equals” or “apples to apples” rather than “cause and effect.” Because the Father forsook the CHRIST, He will never forsake those who are IN CHRIST. Such would be double-jeopardy and injustice. For those who reject Christ and are OUTSIDE OF CHRIST, judgment and wrath is stored up (Romans 2).

    Again, you misapply the Scripture when you say in comment #1 “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” The Father forsaking the Christ does not divide the house. The Son is not “working against the Father’s will” (Christ’s original use of the statement was about “working against Satan’s will”), but the Sin-bearer willingly suffered the Father’s will – “it was the Father’s will to crush him.” The Christ suffered forsaken-ness for sin, that those who are “in Christ” need never fear such punishment for sin even after sin has been atoned for (What comfort for all those Roman Catholics who think that, though Christ atoned for sins, their loved ones are in purgatory to suffer – not for sins – but to suffer/work off the punishment due the residue of sin, if you will).

    After years, apparently (as I gather from your earlier comments), of convincing yourself to explain away this clear comfort of the Gospel, I pray that your hearing of the words of Good Friday in the weeks to come – that darkness covered the land and the Christ cried out in suffering for sin as our substitute, so that we need never do so – bring you true peace and joy.

  13. @Pastor Joseph Abrahamson #60

    Dear Rev. Abrahamson: First, let me apologize for not documenting the quotation. I was in a hurry, and it occurred to me just as I was pressing the “publish your comment button.” I know that is no excuse, but please believe me that I was not purposely quoting something I knew to be wrong.

    Obviously, I have no way of knowing whether the author is right; I simply picked him out of several, who were essentially saying the same thing. As a matter of fact, as much as I respect your authority in the field, ultimately, you also rely on what you have been told or taught by others. Your suggestion to talk to my pastor does not really solve the problem. For how many hundreds of years did all English speaking Lutherans swear by John 5:39-47King James Version
    39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” How many bad sermons were preached on a sentence that made no sense, yet all piously avowed it to be the truth. Then, when the RSV came along, with all of its problems, we learned that it was, “you search the Scriptures,” and the entire sentence made sense. Much to my dismay, I learned the truth from a Roman Catholic priest and his Douay version when I was a teenager. My LCMS pastor only confirmed the official line.

    I was in my early twenties when I realized that I had only met two people who proclaimed the Gospel in its purity: Rev. Kleinert, President of the English District during the fifties, and my dear professor of English at the Senior College, Rev. Paul Harms. During the next fifty plus years I have not met more than a handful – I mean within the LCMS. My brother and I had many discussions on the subject. I learned the words “Gospel reductionism” and “antinomianism” from him, but I shed tears of joy, when shortly before he went to be with the Lord, I overheard part of a phone conversation, in which he said, “The Gospel is everything.”

    Are you saying that layman are incapable of real knowledge of their faith? What do I do when a respected LCMS pastor asks on his blog, “I wish I knew who the idiot was who said John 6 had nothing to do with the Sacrament of the Altar”? Or even on this blog, when someone says “Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God,” means God smote Him.”?

    It may well be that I am wrong about the true text of the last verse of Psalm 22. There are those claim that the Hebrew text is the equivalent of “It is finished.”

    But that does not prove penal substitution to be orthodox. I note that you chose not to address John 16:32, “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.” Does our Lord really mean, “He is with me, because I know He will punish me and pour out His wrath on me?”

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  14. @Rev. Mark C. Bestul #62
    Dear Pastor Bestul: I honestly do not attribute any but the best motives to you.
    I firmly believe that Psalm 22 is a prophecy literally applying to the suffering and death of our Lord. However, your “timetable” of the wrath of God is something I hear for the first time in my almost 80 years. My timetable is a lot simpler: God never poured out His wrath on His beloved Son. The idea that in order to satisfy His sense of justice the Father had to punish someone, regardless of the fact that this person was perfectly innocent, is impossible for me to believe. Everything God says about justice in the Bible contradicts that. Was not the Son’s sense of justice outraged also, being an equal member of the Most Holy Trinity? And the Holy Spirit? On whom did they vent their wrath? Moreover as I have repeated time and time again, the doctrine of penal substitution was, for all practical purposes, unheard of until about 1000 AD. As I have also repeatedly written, the punishment for sin is ETERNAL SEPARATION from God. Nobody on this blog, or anywhere else has even attempted to contradict that. This is not about my lack of trust or comfort in the Gospel; it is about the truth of the Gospel itself.
    “Because the Father forsook the CHRIST, He will never forsake those who are IN CHRIST.” I cannot find either this statement or the kind of reasoning in Scripture. In fact it appalls me that people can actually believe that. Even the Eastern Orthodox, who revel in believing paradoxes have not gone this far. It is the same as saying, “If you commit adultery just one time, you will never commit it again.” Logic dictates that if any event has occurred once, it can occur again, not that it cannot occur again. No, because, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself,” He will never leave us.
    As to “After years, apparently (as I gather from your earlier comments), of convincing yourself to explain away this clear comfort of the Gospel,” I found clear comfort of the Gospel in Scripture and from the few people I have met in my life who understood the Gospel, and from the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, Who dwells in every Christian. I find it in the Sacrament of the Altar. I find comfort in my Baptism and the faithfulness of God in His promises. It is beyond me that anyone can believe that penal substitution gives anyone comfort. Please do not get me wrong, I firmly believe that our Lord atoned for us, that He did so as a substitute, as the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, clearly as a sacrifice found acceptable by the Father.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  15. Sorry, Mr. Marquart, one more comment (couldn’t help myself). Then, in view of the Holy Week soon upon us, you get the last word:

    I do not doubt your belief in justification by grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ alone – thanks be to God!

    My concern for you in this discussion has not just been “what you think about penal substitution”, but how you arrive at your conclusion (and really, how you interpret Scripture). It has become painfully obvious to many in this discussion that your view is founded first upon Reason and what you believe is logical, and you have tried to support that by citing Scripture. But Luther says, such magisterial wisdom (he calls it “wisdom of the flesh”) is overcome only when the believer confesses that “the Word is true and reason false” (Luther’s Romans commentary).

    You say it is unreasonable that the Father would carry out wrath and not the Son or the Holy Spirit; but, to be ‘logical’, then it is also unreasonable that the Son would take on flesh and die, but not the Holy Spirit or the Father, or that the Father could will one thing, while the Son prayed, “Not mine, but Thy will, be done.” Yet, so says the Word of God.

    You say that ETERNAL SEPARATION is the punishment for sin; I agree!… but that is the point. If Christ is going to pay the debt for my sin (He didn’t just die to help us escape sin, but to pay for it), he is to know separation from the Father. God forsaking the Son is not any less logical than saying, “God didn’t die, but – in Christ – God died.” And, God forsaking the Son is certainly not akin to “once committing adultery, you’ll commit adultery again” because the act of forsaking the Son is not an act of sin or evil, which you imply that you believe it is. It was the Father’s good and gracious will to separate Himself from His Son, and it was the Son’s gracious will to endure it, so that God need not separate Himself from us – our debt has been paid. “Your sins have separate you from your God”… yet, “He who knew no sin became sin for us.”

    Most importantly (back to Luther’s proper interpretation of the Scripture – “the Word is true and reason false”), you say it is not logical to hold that the Father could forsake the Son, but the Word says:

    “It was the Lord’s will to crush him”
    “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”
    “CURSED is the one who hangs on the tree”
    “darkness covered the land from the sixth hour to the ninth hour”
    “Not my will, but thine, be done.”
    “He made him who knew no sin to be sin, that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
    “This was to show God’s righteousness because, in his forbearance, he had passed over former sins.”

    Others could be cited. True, you find passages you think refute those cited so as to convince yourself that these do not mean what they say (that’s my concern… your method of Scriptural interpretation reminds us of others who feel safe in their “reason-based” refutation of ‘bodily presence’ or ‘salvation by grace alone’ specifically because they find passages that say “the flesh availeth nothing” and “faith without works is dead”). But the preponderance of the evidence is that the Word plainly means what it says: God forsook his son, separated himself from His Son, and the Son – though willingly – yet truly suffered God’s anger upon sin in our place.

    It means nothing to me if ‘the Church’ didn’t speak of this until medieval ages (though I’d have to investigate that claim before I would believe it.) The Trinity wasn’t articulated until the 4th century. Some articles of the faith probably didn’t need to be well articulated even until the Reformation… that does not mean the Scripture doesn’t declare it or that the faithful didn’t believe it.

    Please allow to remain the proper relationship: “the Word is true and (magisterial) reason false.”

    A blessed Holy Week and Easter to you.

  16. “Moreover as I have repeated time and time again, the doctrine of penal substitution was, for all practical purposes, unheard of until about 1000 AD.”

    Yes, you have repeated it time and time again, but repeating a falsehood time and time again doesn’t make it the truth. The doctrine of penal substitution is taught throughout the Bible as several of us have shown repeatedly on this thread: Isaiah 53; John 1:29; Galatians 3:13, 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 9:15; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 2:2; etc. To argue against the doctrine of penal substitution is to argue against the gospel. Why was his blood shed? How does the shedding of blood procure for us the forgiveness of sins? What does Jesus say? Every Sunday Jesus teaches us the doctrine of penal substitution as he gives us his body and blood to eat and to drink and tells us that this is for the forgiveness of sins.

  17. @Rolf Preus #66

    Since it does not exist in the Bible, nobody has shown it repeatedly. Let me go through each citation in reverse order:
    1 John 2:2, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” If atoning sacrifice is a synonym in the English language for punishment, then you are right.
    1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” Since neither sacrifice nor punishment is mentioned here, it must mean punishment, right?
    Hebrews 9:15, “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance–now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” Since neither sacrifice nor punishment is mentioned here, it must mean punishment, right?
    2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” This is precisely what happens in sacrifice. But since neither sacrifice nor punishment is mentioned here, it must mean punishment, right?
    Galatians 3:13. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” This is precisely what happens in sacrifice. But since neither sacrifice nor punishment is mentioned here, it must mean punishment, right?
    John 1:29, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Since the Lamb is unquestionably a symbol of sacrifice, it must be punishment, right?
    All of Isaiah 53 is too long to copy here, but I am sure you simply mean
    “4Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
    yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
    5But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
    the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
    6We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
    and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.”

    Looking at parts of v4 and 5, it is clear that “we considered Him punished by God. The word “But” in v5 denies that “consideration” about God being the punisher. Nevertheless “He was pierced for our transgressions.”

    I will defer to Rev. Abrahamson on the meaning of the word “punishment” in verse 5. If I am allowed to suggest it, the Hebrew word may be translated differently.

    Earlier in this discussion I mentioned that we may have a different understanding of the meaning of words in the English language, and the passages you posted seem to bear this out. It is not a matter of Biblical interpretation but of understanding English. Your last sentence makes that clear. There is no doubt that the Blood of our Lord was shed for the forgiveness of sins. That is essential to sacrifice. But only in Luther’s Large and Small Catechisms is it written that we receive the forgiveness of sins when we drink it; not anywhere else in the Book of Concord, or in the New Testament. How that teaches the doctrine of penal substitution is beyond me.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  18. But only in Luther’s Large and Small Catechisms is it written that we receive the forgiveness of sins when we drink it; not anywhere else in the Book of Concord, or in the New Testament.

    What are we to do with John 6:51-58? Is inference not allowed here?

  19. @Mark #68

    Mark, first, to the end of his life, Luther was firm in his belief that “not one syllable” of John 6 applied to the Sacrament of the Altar. Secondly, inference is a problem. You may recall the words of the Apostle Peter at Pentecost, Acts 2:38, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Also, we are forgiven when we confess our sins in church, and the pastor forgives us, and even when we ask God in private to forgive our sins. But the idea that we receive forgiveness by ingesting a substance is really foreign to our faith.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  20. @George A. Marquart #69

    Actually, the idea of not including forgiveness in the Supper is foreign to me.

    Luther was firm in his belief that “not one syllable” of John 6 applied to the Sacrament of the Altar.

    So, are we to give Luther’s “not one syllable” assertion credence but snub his catechisms? I personally don’t see how John 6 has any meaning apart from a foretelling of the Eucharist, the new Covenant to be instituted later in the upper room.

    You may recall the words of the Apostle Peter at Pentecost, Acts 2:38, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

    I take it that you’re referring to a lack of mention of the Supper. But see how Peter doesn’t include the name of the Father and the Holy Spirit? If you cannot infer the triune God in this formula, then we have yet another bone of contention, do we not?

  21. George,

    You keep saying that you’re an LCMS member in good standing. Yet, at the same time in this thread and several other threads, you keep bringing up things which confessional Lutherans believe, teach, and confess, but which you deny as unscriptural and foreign to our faith.

    If His blood was shed for the forgiveness of sins and at the Altar we receive His blood, what are we receiving if not the forgiveness for which He shed His blood? Now since you’ve brought this point up before too, if I remember right, you say that we receive the strengthening of our faith. Absolutely! But how is faith strengthened? Through the forgiveness of sins.

    I have heard this repeated by many a Lutheran theologian: “Don’t tell me about faith; tell me about Jesus and what He gives to me.” For this is what causes faith to grow. As I grow in the faith, I realize more and more every day the depth of my sinfulness, which means every day in see the great need for forgiveness. Thanks be to God that He gives us a number of means by which He delivers to us His forgiveness in Christ Jesus.

    I’m not going to peer into motives or try to peer into your heart, but based on the number of issues you have brought up with confessional Lutheranism, I strongly encourage you to talk with your pastor, examine yourself, and see if you really believe what confessional Lutherans believe, teach, and confess.

    T-rav

  22. @T-rav #71

    You see, T-rav, it’s back to the meaning of words. You write, “If His blood was shed for the forgiveness of sins and at the Altar we receive His blood, what are we receiving if not the forgiveness for which He shed His blood?” His blood is not the forgiveness of sins, it was shed FOR THE FORGIVENESS of sins. Clearly, if the English language means the same thing to both of us, then the receiving of His blood provides only those benefit specifically stated in Scripture, and that primarily in 1 Corinthians 11. With regard to John 6, if you believe that it refers to the Sacrament of the Altar, and I believe many LCMS pastors and professors do, you still have to ask yourself the question, “when is our Lord speaking of correlations and when is He speaking of cause and effect relationships?”

    And now, I have had a serious personal situation arise, that will make it impossible for me to take further part in this discussion. I am sure some will be delighted, but I continue to plea that you make your concern the purity of the Gospel.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  23. @Mark #70

    No, Mark, I am referring to how Scripture tells us of one way we receive forgiveness. There are sufficient references in Scripture, including the words of our Lord Himself, that we should baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. But there were instances were only Christ was mentioned in baptism, and it was deemed to be sufficient. After all, our Lord said, “The Father and I are One.”

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  24. @George A. Marquart #73

    George, one sentence from Matthew 26:27-28:

    “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the [new] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

    Drinking and declaring forgiveness are in the same sentence. Isn’t it a stretch in this context to conclude one has nothing to do with the other? If Jesus poors out his blood for many for the forgiveness of sins and then asks us to drink it because, as he said in John 6, “54Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day,” isn’t it conclusive that drinking bestows forgiveness of sins, especially when eternal life is attainable only through the forgiveness of sins? There is no logical disconnect.

  25. @George A. Marquart #72

    And now, I have had a serious personal situation arise

    Prayers ascending…

    ☧ Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, For my soul takes refuge in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until destruction passes by. (‭Psalms‬ ‭57‬:‭1)

  26. I did try to delete that, on second read, but the Edit function didn’t cooperate.
    The moderator is welcome to do it for me. –hej

  27. @John Rixe #76

    Thank you John, this does not take any time at all to respond to. One gracious, kind word, even though I do not presume you agree with my posting, is worth a great deal. Thank you, and thanks be to God.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  28. Mr. Marquart, the sermon I preached last Sunday has been posted here: The Price, the Promise, and the Persecution. It deals with the same topic as has been discussed on this thread. I included a quote from a Jewish convert to Christianity by the name of Philippi to which I would like to call your attention. What you find offensive is of great comfort to others.

  29. I am going with Luther & Preus, to say nothing of Jesus and Peter.

    “Luther on death and hell: So then, gaze at the heavenly picture of Christ, who descended into hell [I Pet. 3:19] for your sake and was forsaken by God as one eternally damned when he spoke the words on the cross, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani!”—”My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” [Matt. 27:46]. In that picture your hell is defeated and your uncertain election is made sure. If you concern yourself solely with that and believe that it was done for you, you will surely be preserved in this same faith. Never, therefore, let this be erased from your vision. Seek yourself only in Christ and not in yourself and you will find yourself in him eternally.”

    LW 42:105 A Sermon on Preparing to Die

  30. @Mark #74

    Mark,

    While we certainly pray that the seriousness of Mr. Marquart’s personal situation subsides according to God’s good and gracious will, upon catching up with the conversation, I wanted to reassure you that your reading of the life-giving nature of the blood of Christ is most certainly correct… and is supported by our Confessions outside of the Catechisms:

    In speaking on the two natures of Christ, the Formula of Concord confesses, “His flesh is a truly life-giving food and His blood a truly life-giving drink” (FC VIII, 76). The editor of the 21st-century “Reader’s Edition” even employs John 6:55 as Biblical reference, while the original writers appeal, “The two hundred Fathers of the Council of Ephesus have testified that Christ’s flesh is a life-giving flesh.” Even Luther’s own words in “Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper” as cited in the Formula show that, if he personally remained consistent with the portion of his writing that the Confessions include, he would/did not try to divide the human nature from the divine in John 6.

    Where Luther strongly rejected the use of John 6 in speaking of the Sacrament, I suspect he did so because he felt so strongly (and rightly so! – especially against Zwingli) that the Words of Institution need no help. You can hang your hat on “This is…” Nevertheless, the progression of the monologue of John 6, coupled with some important word-use considerations in the Greek (53: phago versus 54: trogo) and the FC confession regarding the personal union certainly seem to suggest that John 6 should not be read “either spiritual or bodily,” but “both/and.”

    However one reads John 6, be assured – in the substance of the Sacrament, you have forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

    I hope that helps!

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