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  • Writer's pictureRev. Chris Brademeyer

Why Do We Need the Word?

A Catechetical Sermon on the 3rd Commandment

2nd Wednesday in Lent – 2/21/2024

Psalm 119:1-16 & Matthew 5:17-20

Rev. Christopher W. Brademeyer

 

Dear friends in Christ, tonight we examine the Law of God. More specifically, we will examine the Third of our Lord’s holy Ten Commands and its application to our life. In order that we begin this discussion on the same footing, we must have a brief review of the purpose of the Ten Commandments and a basic description of their structure.

To put it briefly, God gives us His holy commands for three purposes. Firstly, the Law was given to stop us from sinning, which you probably remember from your confirmation days as the “curb” use of the Law. Secondly, the Law was given to us by God to show us our sin, which we often call the “mirror” use of the Law. Thirdly, the Law was given to instruct us in God’s will for our lives, which we call the “guide” use of the Law. In other words, God gave us the Law so that sin would be stopped, curbed, so that we would know the state of our guilt in sin and our need for Christ, and so that we would be instructed in what God expects of us. None of these uses of the Law give us righteousness. Even though the Law can show us the expectation of a holy life, it is has no power to bring it about. Hence the old saying in the Church, “lex semper accusat,” which is Latin for “the Law always accuses.” That is to say, because we are sinners, in this life the Law of God always comes with condemnation of sin and accuses us of those same sins. No matter how gentle the teaching of the Law is in this life, it will always come with an element of accusation because we never do what God expects perfectly.

In other words, even that part of Law teaching that focuses on life application will come with the implicit accusation that we do not do these things perfectly. However, such a truth does not mean that the Law only accuses. When we learn about God’s holy Commands, we can learn much about how we ought to live in this world as Christians. As such, we regard God’s Law as holy and good and full of wisdom.

With this in mind, let us take up the matter of the Third Commandment. The Commandment itself is rather short, “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.” The explanation of it given in the Small Catechism is also brief, “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” Now each of the Commandments was given to protect something, in this case, the Command protects our use and reception of God’s Word. And this is for a very important reason, the Word of God is that vehicle that binds us to Christ and grants the salvation and eternal life that He earned in His sacrificial death. In addition to this, it teaches us God’s will and gives us instruction for how we ought to live here in this life.

In brief, we need God’s Word because this is how God informs us of ultimate things such as who He is, what He thinks of us, what He has promised us, what He has done for us, and what He expects of us. The Word of God situates us in a world beyond the concerns of the present, that is, gives us a way to know our place in eternity.

But, if we do not take care with the Word of God, to handle it well, then we threaten to confuse this or, worse, lose it all together. That is to say, the reason that God gives us this Commandment is not for His sake. His truth remains no matter if we ignore or are ignorant of it. No, this Command does nothing for God. Instead, it is a reminder that we need the Lord’s Word. Now, the protection of the Lord’s Word means that God not only is capable of communicating to us in an understandable way, but that He has done so. However, He has in His wisdom decided to communicate in a manner familiar to us, that is, through speech, but this also invites the problems of speech. Inattentiveness, bad motive, and disregard all make communication difficult. As such, this command means we should attend to the Word with great attention and devotion, making it a foundation in our lives.

Practically, this means that we should go to church services where the Word of God is proclaimed to us and for us and is given through the holy sacraments. Notice that the explanation of this commandment says nothing about a specific period of time, but about hearing the Word. To keep Sabbath, then, is to receive this Word. Now this insight is not new with Luther, but was given in the holy Scriptures, specifically the Epistle to the Hebrews in the fourth chapter.[1] In other words, true observance of the Sabbath is not taking time off or any other outward thing, but hearing and receiving what God says with great attention and devotion.

And from this central thing, the services of the Church where the promises of God concerning salvation are bestowed freely on those who hear and receive, spring other, supporting uses of the Word of God. We cannot take for granted the need for the Word of God in this day and age. Without being constantly formed by the Word of Holy Scripture, we should not expect to think like or remain as a Christian. Daily we should read the Scriptures and from this be led to respond to God’s instruction and promise with prayer and thanksgiving in Christian service. It is necessary that we make a daily habit of reading the Bible and hearing from God. After all, if we are to be God’s own people, then we should hear from Him at least daily and speak to Him at least daily.

Now this can take on a number of different forms. Some like to use a daily devotion such as the Around the Word devotions printed in the bulletin every Sunday or those printed in the book Treasury of Daily Prayer. Still others like to read what interests them; others like to read front to back, starting with Genesis and working towards Revelation. To make this easier it is good to establish a habit for your prayers and Bible reading. Some use the morning. Some use the noon hour. Others use the evening for reading the Bible and prayer. The problem with our freedom as a Christians in the form in which we receive God’s Word is that it can seem overwhelming.

So let me tell you my practice. Now, what I am going to describe is not what I do every day, but what I strive to do. Some days I fall short of my intended goal. And let me encourage you, setting a goal for daily Bible reading is good! But if you fall short, do not be discouraged! Even pastors and mature Christians miss days here and there! But, as with all good habits, we should make it a point to chip away at establishing these good behaviors even if they do not come easily or quickly.

In our house, I try to get up and read the Bible for thirty minutes every morning before my family gets up. I am not perfect at this. There have been far too many days that I have missed my reading. And when I say thirty minutes, I mean about that. Some days I may read more, some may be less. I’ve found for myself that setting a time limit works better than trying to read a certain number of pages or chapters as the length of time doing that can vary quite a bit. I get up, set my Bible on the table, make a cup of tea or coffee, then sit down a read for thirty minutes. If a passage is difficult to understand or confusing, I make it a point to reread it until it makes sense to me. After my thirty minutes are up, I go on with my morning routine.

The other thing we do in our house is morning devotions as a family. After the kids are up and breakfast is on the table, we sit down as a family and use the Around the Word green sheet that’s in the bulletin every week. We pray through it, read the assigned Bible passage for the week and the devotion, and sing the first verse of the weekly hymn during breakfast. Usually I lead since that is one of my duties as a father and husband for my family, but there are times when I’ve had the boys or Katherine take parts so that I can finish cooking breakfast or take care of some other matter.

I like mornings for devotions and Bible reading because it helps me to get it done before I get busy or tired in the day. And it helps me start out my day as a Christian, centered on God’s Word. Even if you choose to do your devotional reading another way, this is fine. Making a daily habit is the goal regardless of exactly how you do it.

When reading the Bible, it is OK if parts are confusing or hard to understand. I get confused sometimes and if a reread is not enough to solve the confusion, I do a bit of looking to find the answer. Now, you likely do not have all the books and commentaries I have to look through, so if you have any questions about what you read, please stop in my study and ask! Pastors love to talk about the Bible, its one of our favorite things.

Dear friends in Christ, the Word of God is very important to us because it is God speaking to us and giving us life and salvation. Therefore, the Third Commandment teaches us to cherish and use it so that we might receive its benefits.

 

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

 

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 


[1] Hebrews 4:8-13

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