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    1. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word.” This key teaching of the Spirit (John 16:13) establishes the priorities for all Bible study. All teachings and doctrines of the Scriptures flow out of God’s definition of His doctrine of His Word. Since this issue of GOOD NEWS is devoted to God’s definitions of key words, we also must begin where God begins everything: With the doctrine of His living Word.

    When John wrote the first words of his Gospel, which refer to the Word, he was first and foremost making reference to Jesus Christ, who is God’s final Word to man. As St. John stated in the words which later follow his opening statement: “The WORD became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). This issue of GOOD NEWS begins in the same way, recognizing that Christ is the center of the entire Bible or, as someone has said, “You can cut the Holy Scriptures anywhere, and they will bleed with the blood of Christ.” Consequently, God the Holy Spirit decisively defines God’s Word in the Holy Scriptures by comparing it to man’s word.

    2. “The thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:11–13). God’s revelations about His Word are humanly incomprehensible. God’s revelations are beyond our powers of reason. Only through God’s gift of faith can we understand, in a spiritual sense, God’s Word. In His Scriptures, God speaks about His Word in multiple ways, including: a) As a way He communicates information (Psalm 119:105); b) As His miraculous power to create the entire world. “By the Word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host” (Psalm 33:6); c) As Jesus in the flesh: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14); d) and many other ways.

 3. The primary message of pages 4–5 and Psalm 33:9 is this: When God “speaks” His Word and “breathes” His Spirit, a miracle occurs, instantly! “He spoke, and it was done” (Psalm 33:9).

  4. God has never stopped His work of creation. Jesus says: “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working” (John 5:17). Therefore, when God speaks His living Word through His spokesmen today, miracles occur also today. This is best understood when you read the record of Jesus’ public ministry. Pages 6–7 show paintings of miracles resulting from Jesus speaking His living Word.
    Jesus conducted the public ministry of proclaiming His miracle-producing Word, then established His church (Matthew 16:18). Jesus also calls His spokesmen, His “mouths,” to speak His miracle-producing Word today (Ephesians 4:11). This is explained more fully on pages 8–9.

    5. Through the psalmist in Psalm 33:6–9, the Spirit says God “spoke” His Word and “breathed” His Spirit to create the world. Jesus speaks His living Words today in Baptism, Christ-centered sermons and teaching, Absolution, and Holy Communion. To His appointed spokesmen, Jesus says, “The one who listens to you listens to Me” (Luke 10:16).

    6. In 1 Thessalonians 2:13 the Holy Spirit describes God’s Word as a divine power “which also performs its work in you who believe.” This is to say: When man speaks a command, it is necessary for someone else to hear the word and carry out the command. God’s Word is different. God’s Word is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12). When God speaks, His Word “carries out,” or “accomplishes” what It commands.

    7. In Romans 4:17, the Spirit refers to God as One who “calls into being that which does not exist.” The first distinction between the Word of God and the word of man that the Spirit makes in Romans 4:17 is this: Unless so directed by God, no man can give life to the dead. The second decisive distinction the Spirit makes in defining the difference between God’s Word and man’s word is this: In order to create anything—such as building a house, or car—a man must first have some raw material. He cannot create something out of nothing. To build a house, a man must first have lumber and bricks. God is different. Through His living Word, the almighty God can create things “out of nothing,” instantly! An in­credible miracle, by any standard!

    8. In 1 Corinthians 1:18, the Spirit states: “For the Word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” While the Word of the Gospel is, indeed, information, as in the creation, the “Word” of the Gospel is much more than mere religious data or information. The same Word God “breathed” or spoke at His creation is the same Word He speaks today through pastors for His work of salvation (Luke 10:16), at Baptisms of newborns and adults, where He spiritually “re-create” them (2 Corinthians 5:17). His creative and living Word is the means, tool, or Seed, God uses to cause people to be “born again” (1 Peter 1:3). This same Word, the miracle-producing power of God, is the “active ingredient” in God’s Baptism, Holy Supper, and Absolution.

    9. In Hebrews 4:12, the Holy Spirit describes the Word of God as “living and active.” The Holy Spirit gives you this simple phrase to help you easily recall how God defines His Word and that His Word not only instructs you, it cleanses you, heals you, and saves you.

    10. Whenever you seek to understand the mysteries of God, the things or revelations of God, always remember that these teachings will never be grasped by your reason, thinking, private meditation, or logic. Therefore, when you begin to read or study the Scriptures, pray that the Holy Spirit will instruct you regarding the mysteries of God.

    11. This teaching first occurs in Genesis 2:7, where God breathed into Adam the breath of life. Such a statement is possible only if the breath of God has miracle-producing characteristics. We need also to remember that, through His breath, God not only created, cleansed, and saved, He also brought judgment and destruction of the wicked. “With the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked” (Isaiah 11:4). See also 2 Samuel 22:16; Job 4:9; 15:30; 27:3; 32:8; 33:4; 37:10; Psalm 18:15; 33:6; Isaiah 30:33; 40:7; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 11:11.

    12. Absolutely! Over the centuries, a variety of writers from different ethnic backgrounds have worked hard to make this point. In his book, The Anatomy of Bibliomania, a 668-page book, Holbrook Jackson pulls together many key statements in the secular world where people attempt to show that human words have incredible power—even to heal diseases and do other miracles. One must also note the fact that, in the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit includes documentation of false prophets who did miraculous things by speaking certain commands or words. Also, the devil “breathes” words, and they happen, just as he plants seeds or tares and they grow (Matthew 13:24–30, 36–43).

    13. In Revelation 19:13, the Holy Spirit says, “His name is called The Word of God.”

    14. God Himself says that, when He breathes out His Word, He accomplishes what He chooses. For example, the Holy Spirit says, “Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us” (Hosea 6:1). “See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded, and it is I who heal; and there is no one who can deliver from My hand” (Deuteronomy 32:39). “The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up” (1 Samuel 2:6). Because the Spirit Himself says God’s living Word “wounds and heals,” “kills and makes alive,” many see God’s Word as His forgiving, healing, and life-sav­ing spiritual medicine for you.

    15. To wake Adam up “spiritually,” God did not say to the clay, “Wake up.” Rather, God “breathed” into Adam the breath of life. Likewise, it is useless to use any type of human expressions other than the living Word of God in order to bring people to faith or even grow their faith. This is done only by the living Word that God breathes through us and into other people. We may argue about whether or not we like to hear this. Yet, we need to stick to what the Scripture says.
    When Jesus spoke to His disciples and said He was going to send them out, He “breathed” on them. Today Jesus continues to send out pastors and teachers in His church. Your entire Christian life is one where God continues to speak/breath His living Word into you, thereby forgiving you, cleansing you, healing you, and giving you a hope that is living and eternal” (1 Peter 1:3).

    16. When Jesus rebuked the wind, there was no delay in the result. When Jesus said to the lame man: “Arise, take up your pallet, and walk” (John 5:8), there was no delay in the result. No physicians tended to the lame man, yet the Scriptures document: “Immediately the man became well” (John 5:9).

    17. Genesis 1:3 says: “Then God said, ‘Let there be light;’ and there was light.” Psalm 33:9 says: “For He spoke, and it was done.” CONCLUSION: There is no difference between the living Word spoken/breathed by the Father and the Son. They speak/breathe the same creative and life-giving Word. Even though results may not be visible to the human eye, by the Spirit’s promise we know miracles occur in our own lives also. Miraculous results follow, instantly.

    18. Matthew 9:1–8 and Luke 5:17–26 record how Jesus Christ announced divine forgiveness to the paralytic. Of course, anyone can say: “I forgive you your sins.” However, by showing He could also heal a man lame since birth, Jesus publicly proclaimed that, being God, He also has the divine power to forgive any and all sins whenever and wherever He chooses. One Bible scholar explains it this way: “The act which the eyes are able to see verifies the other act which no eyes can see.” Rejoice greatly in this! You can trust Jesus’ promise of forgiveness, even though neither your eyes nor your feelings can confirm that such a divine act was accomplished.

    19. Like many who saw Jesus heal and forgive the paralytic, you also may be tempted by the devil to doubt the power of Jesus’ Words in Christ-centered sermons, Bible studies, Baptism, Absolution, and Holy Communion. Say no to Satan’s temptations. Instead, focus on the Spirit’s promise that: Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for [you]” (Romans 8:33–34).

    20. In John 5:17 Jesus says: “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” This is to say, just as the Father created at the beginning of the world, He continues to create today; and just as Jesus in His public ministry spoke His living Word and miracles resulted, so also He speaks His living Word today, through those He calls and appoints—miracles result!

    21. The Holy Spirit records Jesus’ Words in John 20:21–23: “Jesus therefore said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.’” In Luke 10:16, the Holy Spirit records your Savior’s Words when He speaks about those His church appoints to teach/speak His Word: “The one who listens to you listens to Me.”

    22. First, at the end of the Gospel of John, the Holy Spirit notes: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books which were written” (John 21:25). In other words, the Holy Spirit records in the Scriptures some of the things Jesus said and taught, including Jesus’ specific command that everyone is to be baptized in His name and that His Baptism assures the baptized that their sins have been completely forgiven (Matthew 28:19–20). Second, central to all preaching is forgiveness: “That repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations” (Luke 24:47). Jesus commands that His Absolution be proclaimed: “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained” (John 20:23). And that Holy Communion be celebrated in Jesus’ name with His promise: “This is My blood . . . for forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).
    Therefore, rejoice that just as the Father did miracles through speaking His living Word at the creation, and just as the Son did miracles by speaking His living Word during His public ministry, so also today, for you, Jesus Christ, through the lips of His appointed spokesmen, speaks His living Word. This speaking results in the miracle of repentance, forgiveness, daily strength, and eternal hope, for you.

    23. Just as He said to believers in the early Church, the Holy Spirit is saying to you: “And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the Word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the Word of God, WHICH ALSO PERFORMS ITS WORK IN YOU who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

    24. The verbs “spoke” and “speaks” in the headline on pages 4–9 are all highlighted in yellow for a specific reason: The yellow highlighted verbs all emphasize that, just as the Father spoke Words causing miracles at the creation, and just as Jesus spoke Words causing miracles—including forgiveness—during His public ministry, so also, the Father, Son, and Spirit continue to speak Their living Word of miracles today to lead you to repentance, to forgive you, to cleanse you, to heal you, to daily streng­then you, and to give you Christ’s hope of the resurrection! These great miracles occur, not where someone casually decides to speak the living Word, but where God has authorized and commanded His Word to be spoken: In His sermons and Bible teaching of Law and Gospel, in Baptism, Absolution, and Holy Communion, and where the church appoints teachers to teach, such as in Sunday school.

    25. The clear teaching of the Spirit in Luke 10:17 is this: When God’s living Word is spoken and the name of Jesus and the Trinity is evoked, the devil has no choice but to depart—to leave quickly. This is shown in Matthew 4:1ff., especially verses 10–11. In his Large Catechism, derived from Scripture, Luther describes God’s Word as a “fumigant” which drives away the devil.
    The Spirit’s teaching in Luke 10:17 is especially applicable to Jesus’ command to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as commanded in Matthew 28:20. Why? As the seventy reported, invoking the name of Jesus places demons in submission.

    26. When the seventy returned, they testified what they saw: the name of Jesus causing the demons to be in submission.

    27. After the seventy testified that they had seen demons brought into submission at the invocation of Jesus’ name, Jesus then added that, while the seventy were proclaiming His living Word and His name, Jesus saw “Satan fall from heaven like lightning” (Luke 10:18). This is to say, when you witness a Baptism of a newborn or an adult and the name of the Trinity is invoked—as Jesus commands that it be done—there is actually more happening than your physical eyes tell you.

    28. Consider what occurs when you go to your doctor’s office and he gives you a pill, an inoculation, or even a chemotherapy treatment. You may not see or feel anything happening in your body. Yet, because you trust in what your physician tells you, you believe him when he says that the medicine is working within you. This is what the Holy Spirit explains in 1 Thessalonians 2:13: Whether or not you can feel or see the work of the Word and Spirit, the Word is alive and at work within you.

    29. After explaining to the seventy what He, Jesus, could see—but what the seventy could not see happening while they were proclaiming His Word—the Spirit says in Luke 10:23–24: “Bless­ed are the eyes which see the things you see, for I say to you, that many prophets and kings wished to see the things which you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and did not hear them.”
    This is to say, when God’s living Word is first planted into the soil of your heart like a seed; or into the flour of your heart like yeast or leaven—then this seed or leaven is “at work in you” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). In addition to this Seed of faith, the Lord also grows within you “eyes” of faith with which to see and understand spiritual matters, matters which prophets, kings, and intellectuals of today—with all their power of reason—could not even begin to understand or even imagine (Luke 10:24). Through God’s Spirit, you are blessed through His gift of eyes of faith, there­by enabling you to see how God’s living Word is at work in Baptism, Holy Communion, preaching, and Absolution.
    Therefore, set aside your reason and—with the eyes of faith and the enlightenment of the Spirit regarding God’s miracles of Baptism, Absolution, and Holy Communion—rejoice with the healed blind man regarding these miracles God does in your life and say, “I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25).

    30. Just as people do in earthly matters, they want to “see” or “feel” something to confirm that something actually happened; or, as many say, they want to see “evidence” of what has happened. On the day Jesus rose from the dead, Thomas said, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand in His side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).

    31. Jesus gives you no special visions or feelings to confirm His promise to you of your forgiveness and your place in heaven. However, through His unchanging Word and through examples of what He told the returning seventy, you can live with the absolute assurance that, through faith in His sin-cleansing blood and trust in His resurrection from the dead, you are fully prepared to depart this life with the complete assurance that all your sins—even your most secret sins—are forgiven and that, when you arrive at the gates of heaven, Jesus will say to you with great joy: “Enter in!”

    32. First, your heavenly Father wants you to see Jesus as the One He has given you and the One on Whom He wants you to nourish your soul: “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” (Matthew 17:5). Second, Jesus’ teachings will always be controversial and rejected. Why? Because people try to judge Jesus’ Words by their own standards of their human reason and their limited human-centered thinking. In worldly matters, reason is one of God’s greatest blessings. However, in Romans 8:7, the Holy Spirit says reason is always hostile toward God’s spiritual teaching—His Bread of life.

    33. John 6:60 says, “Many therefore of His disciples, when they heard this said, ‘This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?’” John 6:66 says, “As a result of this [Jesus’ teaching] many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore.” Many people today have the same reaction to Jesus, especially regarding His teaching of the miracles He performs through His gifts of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. When people are told that the living Word in Jesus’ Sacraments produces miracles, primarily faith and the forgiveness of sins, they will “not [walk] with Him anymore” (John 6:66).

    34. When Peter makes his confession to Jesus by saying Jesus is the Christ, Jesus responded: “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17). In the same way, the confession you have, that you speak of Christ and His saving power to forgive you, is also not of yourself, but is a gift of God! Praise Him everyday for His gift of salvation to you!

    35. In 1 Thessalonians 2:13, the Holy Spirit is not only clear but is also decisive in noting the difference between the word of man and the Word of God. The word of man brings us information. The Word of God certainly brings us divine information (Psalm 119:105). However, the living Word of God is not only information, it is actually a divine power, a spiritual medicine that heals us, and a spiritual bread of life that nourishes us every day.

    36. In John 2:23–25, the Spirit says Jesus knows what is in the heart and mind of every person. Therefore, at the outset of His discussion, Jesus wanted to steer the discussion away from religion based on reason.

    37. After his opening remark in John 3:3, Nicodemus began both questions to Jesus with “How can . . . ?” This indicates that Nicodemus intended to judge Jesus’ teaching with human reason. In 1 Corinthians 2:12–13, the Spirit says, “We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit.” Instead of simply condemning Nicodemus, we should see that all people, including ourselves, when we discuss religion, we are tempted to judge everything by reason and by how we feel about religious questions, rather than according to God’s revealed Word. Many people automatically assume that religious dis­cussions are to be understood in the same way that secular subjects are discussed and understood—by using reason.

    38. In John 3 Jesus explains how, through the water and the Spirit, God causes you to be “born from above” by the power of God. It is in this chapter, Jesus gives us His clearest definition of God’s miracle of Baptism. Just as He did for Nicodemus, Jesus speaks to you His wonderful, clear, and saving Gospel: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him” (John 3:16–17).

    39. The correct translation of verses 3 and 5 include the Spirit’s teaching that to be “born again” means to be “born FROM ABOVE.” Consequently, this proper translation also then totally determines the direction and meaning for the entire discussion that follows. If one does not emphasize, as Jesus does, that being “born again” is “FROM ABOVE,” then the devil can immediately give anyone the idea that being “born again” is something that anyone can do, or at least assist in. Being “BORN FROM ABOVE” shuts out absolutely all participation, partnership, or cooperation from man in his spiritual rebirth or regeneration. If you don’t hear Jesus state clearly, “You must be BORN FROM ABOVE,” the devil will mislead you on the most important teach­ing in the Christian faith and about the direction God desires you to go.

    40. Peter was one of Christ’s closest disciples and one who was carefully and thoroughly schooled by Jesus Christ. Therefore, Peter had a very intimate understanding of what Christ expects to be taught and practiced in His church, including Jesus’ special teaching regarding His institution of Baptism.

    41. First, as a result of your repentance and God’s miracle of Baptism—both gifts of God—you receive His forgiveness of all your sins. Second, Peter specifically adds that God’s miracle of Baptism “for the forgiveness of your sins” is also for your children. This includes the newborn, as shown in the picture on page 16. The Spirit makes no age distinction. In His promise of salvation through Baptism, God includes not only newborn infants but also adults.

    42. When John the Baptist distinguishes his Baptism from Christ’s Baptism, John especially pointed out that Jesus’ Baptism brings into your life “fire,” or the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit establishes, guides, and entirely carries out your sanctification (Romans 15:13: 1 Corinthians 1:30–31; Philippians 2:13). Through God’s gift of Baptism, you receive His Spirit (John 3:5). God’s Spirit teaches you God’s mysteries—revelations you cannot obtain through your own human reasoning (John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:6–16). In addition, the Holy Spirit, who is promised to you through your Baptism, will bless you in a special way by calling into your memory (John 14:26) Jesus’ cleansing, healing, forgiving, and strengthening Word—a Word that gives you eternal life and hope.

    43. Through Isaiah, the Holy Spirit says that we also participated in Christ’s crucifixion: “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried . . . He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities . . . All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isaiah 53:4–6).

    44. Peter did not set forth his own advice for those who asked: “What shall we do?” Rather, Peter simply responded with the same answer Jesus twice told Nicodemus: “Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God’” (John 3:5). Peter told the crowd the same thing—that unless you are baptized and reborn by a miracle from above, you will not enter into the kingdom of hea­ven.

    45. Most paintings or pictures of St. Paul’s conversion show Paul having just fallen off his horse and looking up into a blinding light. These paintings reflect Acts 22:1–11. Most artists follow Bible teachers who believe Paul’s conversion happened when he fell off the horse and Jesus spoke to him. However, if you read the complete record in Acts, you will clearly note that Paul’s actual conversion is described in Acts 22:16, where he is baptized and his sins are forgiven.

    46. In a very clear and forthright way, the Holy Spirit states what happened to Paul in his baptismal conversion: His sins were “wash [ed] away” (Acts 22:16). 

    47. The Holy Spirit assures the believers in Corinth of additional blessings of Baptism: “But you were washed [baptized], but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

    48. After Paul was baptized and converted to the Christian faith, some refused to accept Paul as fully forgiven by God and no less a Christian than anyone else. The same may happen to us. Even after our Baptism, when we have the assurance from God Himself that all of our sins have been washed away, many people may recall our past life and hold our past sins up in front of us, reminding us of our failures. In times like this, treasure and cling daily to the Spirit’s teaching: “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:33–34).

    49. After Paul’s conversion, the Holy Spirit used this great evangelist to define “conversion” as the time when God “unites” a person to Christ through His miracle of Baptism (Romans 6:5). When God “unites” a person to Christ, he is “in Christ,” similar to a branch “united to” and “growing out of” a vine (John 15:5). The Holy Spirit also teaches: “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Through St. Paul, the Holy Spirit also says, “All of you who were Baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ” (Galatians 3:27). Consequently, the Holy Spirit equates Baptism with being converted and becoming a new person, as happened to St. Paul at his Baptism.

    50. First, the Spirit explains that, in Baptism, God “unites” you to Christ. Then, He further explains that, as a baptized Christian, God gives you His daily ongoing protection against slavery to the power of Sin and the temptations of the devil.

    51. Deuteronomy 19:15 says, “On the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.” Through Matthew 18:16, the Spirit says: “By the mouth of two or three witnesses, every fact may be confirmed.” Therefore, if the presiding pastor made sure you have a Baptismal certificate, you need never worry whe­ther you were baptized as a newborn—in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—because your Baptismal certificate will testify that God performed such a miracle in your life. You need never live with the uncertainty of not knowing, instead you can have the blessed assurance of God’s daily blessings of His Baptism.
    If you were to enter another country known to be infested with cholera and, if you had a certificate along signed by a physician saying you were properly inoculated, you would also enjoy the blessed assurance of protection from this disease.

    52. Christ’s disciples—His closest friends—were the ones who often received the special blessings of private teaching. Jesus rescued them from bad situations (Mark 4:39). From the Master, they also received the gift of faith. YET, THEY WANTED MORE FAITH, MORE ASSURANCE, AND MORE STRENGTH. The same is true among all Christians today. Even though they are “united” to Christ through Baptism (Romans 6:5), that is, attached to Christ as a branch is attached to a Vine (John 15:1ff.), even though Christians know they are forgiven and spiritually “clean” (John 15:3), they still desire to have more faith. As they face the challenges and temptations of this world, at one time or another, all followers of Christ feel weak, often as if they can hard­ly go on in life. If this is how you sometimes feel, as if you need more faith to face your challenges in life, picture yourself in the painting on pages 22–23. Pray as Christ’s disciples pleaded: “Please, Lord, strengthen my faith!” (Luke 17:5).

    53. Before discussing one’s desire to have more faith, it is important to note one thing clearly: The world has many popular expressions of faith—expressions or definitions of faith that are completely opposite from the definition the Holy Spirit provides in Scripture. For example, in the secular world it is not unusual to hear someone say: “Without ‘faith’ I could not have finished writing my paper for school,” or “Without ‘faith’ I could not have dealt with the cancer in my bones,” or “Without ‘faith,’ I could not have completed the three-hour triathlon.” Sometimes people even say, “Look at that man. See how firmly he sets his jaw! He must have a really strong faith.”
    Of course, each of these positive expressions generally reflect a person’s honest determination to face challenges in life. However, these secular expressions of faith are totally different from faith as described by the Holy Spirit. Secular expressions of faith declare an inner-generated conviction, a self-determination to pull together all one’s strength to succeed or survive.
    However, as defined by the Holy Spirit, God-pleasing spiritual faith is never inner-generated. Rather, genuine spiritual faith is given to you from the outside, by God. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). It is the living Word in Christ-centered sermons and Bible studies, through Absolution and Holy Communion that strengthens your faith.

    54. The Spirit’s record of Lazarus’ body—a body which had been in the tomb for four days, decomposing and already stinking—followed by His record that Jesus, through the power of His living and life-giving Word, raised from the dead a stone-cold and stinking corpse, gives you great comfort and encouragement each day. Why? Jesus does the same to you. He gives you new life. Each time He speaks His living Word to you, first in your Baptism, then in your Sunday school, in your daily devotions, in sermons, in Holy Communion, etc., He is strengthening your faith.
    Just as Jesus raised Lazarus—who was dead, decomposing, and stinking—back to life by His Word, so too can He give new life and His gift of faith to spiritually dead adults and newborns. Jesus calls each person’s name in Baptism and says to them: “Come forth!” For you, this is how the Spirit defines God’s gift of faith for you and how He begins your spiritual life: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

    55. Both Protestantism and the secular world see faith as that com­ponent which man supplies when he encounters God, especially at conversion or, more correctly, when God confronts man.

    56. They are the same. Protestantism teaches that man has a free will in spiritual matters. Once man hears the voice of God, through his free will, he “makes a decision” to “accept” Jesus or to “commit his life to Jesus.” Martin Luther disagreed. Basing his writings on Scripture, as outlined by the Spirit, Martin Luther wrote repeatedly and unequivocally, that, both before and after you are converted, you continue to struggle as the devil seeks to control your “will” and your life. This is why, even after his conversion, St. Paul confessed: “For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish” (Romans 7:19).

    57. Just as God created the first Adam through the life-giving breath of His Word, so also, through His miracle of Baptism, God breathes into you His living Word of life and, like Adam, you become a living soul. Whether it is in Adam or the new man God creates in you (2 Corinthians 5:17), God’s re-creating miracle always begins with the “breath” of His living Word.

    58. God not only begins new life by breathing His living Word through the lips of pastors and teachers in His church which He established, God continues to strengthen and to grow His new plant/your new person/your faith with the water of His living Word each time you go to church. “So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7).

    59. As shown in the multiple visuals on page 26, after first coming out of the Father’s mouth, the life-giving breath of His Word and Spirit gets “re-breathed” as the Word moves around, among, and in and out of people as the preacher preaches, the teachers teach the children, the congregation sings, the choir sings, as Baptisms occur, Absolution is spoken, and Holy Communion is received. We can see these activities of God—God’s dynamic spiritual working in and among us—only with our spiritual eyes (Ephesians 1:18; Psalm 119:18; Romans 15:21). We rejoice that we can “see” with our spiritual eyes the things that are really happening, as described by Jesus especially when He spoke to the seventy (Luke 10:17–18) after they also had proclaimed/breathed God’s living Word. Wherever God’s living Word and Spirit are proclaimed, the vigorous and dynamic action of God immediately occurs, as shown on page 26. Knowing that God’s house is His place of weekly spiritual cleansing, healing, forgiving, and rehabilitation, it is no wonder the psalmist says: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1).

    60. As the Spirit increases and deepens your faith, and as His definition of faith becomes more clear in your mind, the Spirit then opens your eyes of faith (Ephesians 1:18; Romans 15:21; Matthew 13:11) to increasingly see how each worship service is an opportunity for you to receive uplifting and healing spiritual rehabilitation. As a cancer, diabetes, or kidney dialysis patient sits, patiently, trusting that what he is receiving through this treatment will improve his health and strengthen for the days ahead—so also, each time you attend worship services, through His divine Word, God “waters” and strengthens His gift of faith within you.
    Along these lines, Martin Luther cautions pastors to never demand that their parishioners attend communion. Rather, Luther notes: If pastors tell their people all of the blessings God promises through His living, life-giving and rehabilitating Word in Holy Communion, be prepared! People will not miss a worship service! There is a great chance that many people will actually run up to the communion rail for spiritual rehabilitation, desperately seeking help—forgiveness and strength—for their day-to-day life. THESE ARE NOT THE TEACHINGS OF MAN. THESE ARE THE TEACHINGS OF CHRIST AND THE HOLY SPIRIT. Every time the devil tempts you to doubt these teachings, read, and reread 1 Corinthians 2, where the Holy Spirit says, in the second part: “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:11–16).

    61. The Holy Spirit explains that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

    62. God gives no answer as to why some seeds sprout and die, while others sprout, grow, and bear fruit. “The thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11).

    63. God not only plants His Seed of faith into your heart but He also waters this seed, causing it to grow and strengthen your gift of faith. God accomplishes this growing and strengthening of your faith each time you attend church, where you hear Scripture-based, Christ-centered sermons and Bible studies, and where you receive Baptism, Absolution, and Holy Communion.

    64. In Ephesians 2:8–9, the Spirit states clearly, and specifically: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”
    It is often said, even among some Lutherans, that “faith is the hand that receives the gifts from God.” If one is here talking about faith, the gift of God by which He graciously saves you, this is false teaching. The Scriptures teach that God plants His Seed into the soil of your heart. Soil never has life within it, not even the potential for life. Therefore, in talking about God’s act of salvation and, in any way whatsoever, including the idea that man reaches up to God with his hand of faith, IS AS FOOLISH AS THE DRAWING ON PAGE 31. This drawing shows dead soil suddenly bringing itself to life and creating for itself a type of “hand.” No farmer or agricultural worker in any part of the world, would ever think of something so foolish. In the same way, no student of the Scriptures would ever think of the soil of man’s heart suddenly “growing” a hand to reach up to accept the gift of faith. As the Spirit teaches in Ephesians 2:8–9, “faith” is God’s gift. The soil of our heart receives God’s gift in the same way that the soil around the world passively receives seeds from which plants grow. Of course, once God’s Seed of the faith-producing Word is planted and God creates faith in the heart, this New Man can then exercise the faith God has given him, but never before God has totally, and alone, created the faith.

    65. When HIV/AIDS first appeared, the rash-like, red skin blemishes seemed to be only an “outer” illness, possibly treatable and curable. These initial diagnoses were tragic because the seeming outer skin blemishes were actually an indication of an inner deadly and incurable disease. Consequently, patients didn’t realize that the treatments their doctors prescribed were actually putting them at greater risk because these treatments only helped their outer symptoms and not the disease inside them.

    66. With few exceptions, most people—even in the Christian community—refer to or describe SIN as outer mistakes, misdeeds, or bad judgments. However, Jesus, Who is God, says that wrong actions, misdeeds, bad judgments, are the outer indications of a deep, deadly, and incurable (in this life) inner spiritual disease of the heart. Jesus says: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness” (Mark 7:21–22).

    67. In Psalm 51:3, David cries out to God: “I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me!” Most people know that King David was tortured in his conscience over his affair with Bathsheba; however, David realized his problem was not an individual sin, or sins, but his entire sinful condition. Consequently, David was virtually overcome with feelings of helplessness regarding the power of Sin. He understood that Sin is an incurable “spiritual HIV/AIDS” that he knew was at work deep within him. David understood clearly that, without God’s help, the power of Sin would eventually destroy him.
    What David realized and speaks of in Psalm 51 is also what Paul speaks about in an even more direct manner. The apostle Paul states clearly that Sin is a powerful and deadly force that lives within him when he writes: “So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but Sin which indwells me” (Romans 7:17). The lesson for you in both the Old and New Testaments is clear: Do not underestimate or even dismiss the power of Sin that is now at work deep within you! When HIV/AIDS was first discovered and initial prescriptions were applied, the results were horrific and deadly. Had the diagnosis been better, the results would have been more positive. Similarly, don’t let Satan mislead you into a misdiagnosis of your Sin. Your problem is not with individual misdeeds but with the deadly power of Sin now working deep within you. The only spiritual medicine the Holy Spirit specifically speaks about is God’s miracle of Baptism. In Baptism, God “unites” you to Jesus Christ (Romans 6:5). Then, attached, or grafted, to Jesus like a branch is to a vine, the Sin-fighting medicine of Jesus constantly flows into you like a spiritual HIV/AIDS-controlling medicine. Although the Sin within you is incurable, it is controllable, as the Spirit explains in Romans 6:6–23.

    68. In Romans 6:3–5 God explains how, through His miracle of Baptism, God “unites” you to Christ. You are then connected to Christ like a branch is connected to the protection and sap of its life-giving Vine, Jesus Christ, as Christ Himself explains in John 15:1–11. Just as a branch is dependent every hour on the sap and the nourishment it receives from the vine, so also, for your entire Christian life, you are totally dependent on Jesus Christ. “It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). The Spirit also says to you: “By His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord’” (1 Corinthians 1:30–31).

    69. In Romans 6:3–5, the Holy Spirit explains that, in His miracle of Baptism, God “unites” you to Christ. This is the top part of the label on the medicine bottle, as shown on page 35. Then, in the same chapter (verses 6–23), the Spirit explains that your Baptism insures that Christ’s sin-atoning death and death-defeating resurrection continues to flow into you like sap—from Jesus the Vine into you the branch. This is the explanation in the lower part of the medicine bottle label. This lower level, Romans 6:6–23, explains how this medicine, this divine “sap,” this Sin-defeating power of Christ’s death and resurrection, enables you to take control of your new self and thereby prevent the devil from making you his spiritual slave.

    70. The Holy Spirit’s teaching of Baptism is a type of “lens” He wants you to look through in order to properly understand the Scriptures. Through this lens, the Spirit wants you to learn not only of the power that God’s miracle of Baptism gives you over Sin, but also of the power it gives you for your entire Christian life. For example, in many of Paul’s letters the Holy Spirit refers to being “in Christ” or “buried with Him” or “raised with Him.” Of course, each of these expressions is the Spirit’s reference to Romans 6:3–5. Thus, in the book of Colossians, the Holy Spirit refers repeatedly to Baptism. Look in these passages for the phrases listed above and see them as a reference to Baptism: 1:2, 4, 14, 20, and 28; also, 2:3, 6, 7, 10, 11, 15; also 3:18; 4:7; and 17. The same type of expressions are found in the other epistles, all referring back to the clearest expression of God’s miracle of Baptism, Romans 6:3–5, the “label” on His medicine bottle!
    This Gospel “label” gives you hope because you need not worry about failures in life and about the temptations that you daily face. When you are baptized “into” Christ and “grafted” to the eternal Root (Revelation 22:16), the sin-cleansing death and the death-defeating resurrection are constantly flowing in and through you. Even when you fail, God picks you up, assures you of His perfect forgiveness, and gives you the strength to go on. Begin today to read the Epistles of St. Paul and hear the Holy Spirit, starting with His explanation of His “lens” of Baptism, tell you how He lives within you, helps you, strengthens you, and will see you through life until that glorious day when you shall see Christ in Paradise, face-to-face.

    71. Through His teaching in Romans 6:3–5, the Spirit wants you to know that, through His miracle of Baptism, God “unites” you to Christ. In fact, the Spirit says, through Baptism, God actually “unites” you to Christ’s death and His resurrection. Therefore, once you are “united” to Christ, His Sin- and Satan-defeating power flows into you, strengthens you, and protects you.

    72. Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). When you are united to Jesus in Baptism, His divine “sap” flows into you to protect you from the power of Sin, and this divine sap sanctifies you and produces fruit through you. Without being united to Jesus, you can do nothing. This is why the Spirit teaches in 1 Corinthians 1:30–31: “By His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, that, just as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”

    73. Romans 6:5 is the only place in Scripture where the Spirit specifically states that God “unites” you to Christ through His miracle of Baptism. This is also where the Spirit explains that, immediately after God “unites” you to Christ, you instantly begin receiving Christ’s divine protection from the enslaving power of Sin.

    74. This teaching is not only foreign to human reason and human wisdom, but the Spirit reminds us that, in Spiritual matters, human reason is “hostile” to God and all of His mysteries (Romans 8:7).

    75. In Matthew 17:5, recording the Transfiguration of Christ, the Spirit notes the Father’s clear statement: “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; LISTEN TO HIM!” (Matthew 17:5). In Mark 9:7, the Father gives you the same gracious admonishment regarding whether to listen to the teaching of men or the teachings of Jesus, the Son of God: “Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is My beloved Son, LISTEN TO HIM!” (Mark 9:7). This is to say, when Jesus says He, the Father, and the Spirit actually live in you—not symbolically or spiritually—you can trust the Words of your Savior and not the reason-based words of men!