Lord, Keep Us Faithful to Your Word
These are the readings for the First Sunday of End Time—Reformation.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)
God’s Word for This Week
Lord, keep us faithful to your Word! The Festival of the Lutheran Reformation of the Church emphasizes the true Church’s unfailing reliance on the Word of God and unflinching testimony to it in the face of persecution. Jesus promised to pour out his Spirit on the Church so that we might be God’s mouthpiece even before kings. Today the Church prays that the Lord gives us the strength to be faithful and the peace of knowing our lives are safe in his hands.
First Lesson – Daniel 6:10-12,16-23
How did Daniel react to the king’s edict?
The king had issued a decree that his subjects were to pray to no one else but him for the duration of thirty days. Daniel disobeyed that decree and continued to pray to God three times a day, as was his custom.
In Romans 13, God commands us to obey the government, yet God blessed Daniel for disobeying the king’s edict. How do we explain that?
All earthly authority has been established by God. He commands us to obey earthly governments as his representatives. The only exception is what Peter tells us in Acts 5:29, “We must obey God rather than men!” We are to obey the government in all things except those things that go contrary to the will of God. Daniel pleased God by obeying him rather than the king.
Second Lesson – Galatians 5:1-6
What is the freedom we have in Christ?
By nature, we are all slaves to sin and death. With his death on the cross, Jesus has redeemed us. (For example, he has paid the price to free us from that slavery.) Through faith in Jesus, we will not be punished for our sins. Death has no power over us.
Was it wrong for the Galatian men to be circumcised?
The Old Testament ceremonial law commanded that every man must be circumcised. Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament ceremonial law. It had served as a foreshadowing of Jesus’ saving work. However, circumcision was not necessary for salvation. It didn’t matter if the Galatian men were circumcised or not. Only faith in Jesus matters. However, some were telling the Galatian Christians that they had to be circumcised and follow the Old Testament ceremonial laws to be saved. Therefore Paul warns them not to turn to the law for salvation. We cannot keep the law perfectly as God demands. Only through faith in Jesus do we have salvation.
Supplemental Second Lesson – 2 Timothy 4:9-18
Paul learned firsthand that faithfulness to the Word of God brought persecution. His former brothers had abandoned him; his enemies had not stopped hounding him. Though he was by himself, Paul was never alone. Jesus stayed by his side and, in Paul, fulfilled the promises of both the First Lesson and the Gospel. Consider Paul’s confidence that God will rescue him from every evil attack—the point is not a rescue from danger but rather a rescue through danger to the heavenly kingdom. Paul knew that even if he died for Christ, God would rescue him from that evil attack and bring him to heaven. Eventually, the headsman’s sword took Paul’s life, but it did not stop Jesus from rescuing him and taking him to his heavenly kingdom. Lord, keep us faithful to your word in the face of any persecution! To you be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Gospel – Matthew 10:16-23
What does it mean to be: “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”?
Jesus, in this section, warns us that we will be persecuted for his name. As we go out into this world, it is important that we understand that. We should be shrewd in the way we deal with this sinful world, yet we should never become a part of it. We should remain as pure as beautiful white doves.
Evaluate. We are not persecuted anymore as Christians.
Although active persecution of Christians does exist, still today, in some parts of the world, here in the United States, we are not actively persecuted or thrown in jail. The persecution we suffer is much more subtle. We are made to feel intolerant and foolish for following the teachings of the Bible. Let us always stand firm in the freedom we have been given, with the confidence that we, too, will receive our eternal reward.
Note: The effect of the Lutheran Reformation of the Church on the history of the world can hardly be overstated. In fact, when US News and World Report ranked the most important events of the last 1,000 years, the Lutheran Reformation placed second, right behind Gutenberg’s moveable type printing press. Historians consider the Lutheran Reformation to be of greater significance than the discovery of the New World (number 3). Luther was a monk, a priest, and a professor at a little university in Wittenberg, Germany, but he is considered the third most influential person of the last 1,000 years. God used his witness and simple faithfulness to the Word to change the world. As heirs of the Reformation, may our witness be as faithful and the effects of our witness as profound!