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Sermon for May 6, 2018, Sixth Sunday of Easter

1 John 5:1-8 (Sixth Sunday of Easter—Series B)

“Born of God to Love”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

May 6, 2018

 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Our text is the Epistle Reading from 1 John 5:

1Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God and whoever loves the one who has given birth also loves the one who is born of him. 2In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and carry out his commandments. 3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome 4because everything which is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world, our faith. 5So who is the one who overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 6This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and with the blood, and the Spirit is the one who testifies because the Spirit is the truth, 7because those who testify are three: 8the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three testify to the same truth, but in different ways.

 

          To be born of God is to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. To be born of God is to love those who have also been born of God, fellow believers in Jesus Christ as God and Lord. That’s our joy as Christians.

          St. John begins the concluding portion of his first letter, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” It’s very simple and straightforward. To believe in Jesus, to trust that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, is to be born of God. So, believing in Jesus with saving faith is the same as being “born of God.” John began his Gospel, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn. 1:12-13 ESV). God our heavenly Father has given us new birth from above so that we might believe in Jesus and so receive forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. The Savior told Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (Jn. 3:5-6 ESV). The blessing of the newly baptized echoes this truth, “The almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given you the new birth of water and of the Spirit and has forgiven you all your sins, strengthen you with His grace to life everlasting. Amen.”

          Through the Gospel Word in and with the water in Holy Baptism, God creates saving faith in the heart of the baptized. That faith apprehends Jesus as Savior and Lord. That faith receives from the crucified and risen Christ forgiveness of all sins, rescue from death and the devil, and eternal salvation. “In repentance, namely, in terrors, this faith comforts and encourages hearts. It regenerates us and brings the Holy Spirit so that we may be able to fulfill God’s Law: to love God, truly fear God, truly be confident that God hears prayer, and obey God in all afflictions. . . . So faith freely receives forgiveness of sins. It sets Christ, the Mediator and Atoning Sacrifice, against God’s wrath. . . . This faith is the true knowledge of Christ and helps itself to the benefits of Christ. This faith regenerates hearts and comes before the fulfilling of the Law” (Ap. AC IV.45-46).[1]

          So to be born of God is to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior. To be born of God is also to love those who have likewise been born of God through saving faith in Jesus, namely, our fellow Christians. Did I just hear a big GULP! Oh, I understand. It’s one thing to have a faith-relationship with Jesus Christ, but it’s another thing to have a loving relationship with other people who are Christians. Interesting thing, the Bible doesn’t really have much to say about a “personal relationship” with Jesus. That’s because it’s never, ever just “between me and Jesus.” Faith is not purely personal or individual. What is the victory that overcomes the world, according to verse 4? Not my faith. Not your faith. But OUR faith. How did Jesus teach His disciples to pray? He didn’t say, “When you pray, say, ‘My Father in heaven.’” He said, “Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name” (Matt. 6:9).  

          The new birth of faith in Jesus unites us individuals with all those who have received the new birth of faith in Christ. Baptismal faith in Jesus the Christ the Son of God makes us members of the Holy Christian Church, the communion (the community) of saints! You and I by God’s grace through the Spirit by the Means of Grace are born again from above into the family of the heavenly Father. One commentator said it like this, “Christians are those who have been born anew/from above through the baptism of Christ . . . , ‘who continue the belief in the name of Jesus.’ They ‘are truly begotten by God and therefore are brothers that one must love if one is going to love God.’”[2]

          You and I have been born of God, given the new birth of faith through water and the Spirit, to trust in Christ alone as our Savior from sin and death. That means nothing else than that we also love those, who like us, have been gifted the new birth of saving faith in Jesus by the same Spirit, making us all members of God’s family in Jesus Christ. And isn’t that where Christian living gets a bit sticky sometimes?

          Let’s be honest. We are richly blessed by our heavenly Father as a congregation. We are a congregation made up of people with all kinds of different gifts and talents and personalities and attitudes. This is an incredibly wonderful congregation of saints and sinners. Yes, that old sinful nature that still clings to us even rears its ugly head among church members. Simultaneously saints, believers in Jesus forgiven of all sins through His cross and resurrection, and also sinners who hold on to the cross of Christ in repentance for our failure to love even those of the household of faith, our sisters and brothers in Christ.

          Ever had another member of the church not show you love in Jesus or you failed to show love to them? Has there been a time when you and a sister or brother in Christ had a disagreement about our life together that left a bad taste in your heart toward that person and they toward you? Did you ever say something to another member and later realized that you hurt them by what and how you said it? It happens, doesn’t it? We sin against our family in Christ, our brothers and sisters who believe in Jesus as Savior just as you and I do. And when we come to realize this, a warning should sound in our hearts and minds. Failing to love our fellow Christians is a failing to love God. How does John say it? “Whoever loves the one who has given birth [God the Father] also loves the one who is born of him [our fellow believers]. In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and carry out his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.”

          To love the Father’s children is to love the Father. To love the Father’s children is also to believe as one born of God that Jesus is the Christ. God’s commandments, His instruction for His children, invites you and me to receive, to cherish, and to abide in the communion of saints that our God is pleased to provide. And when we fail in our calling to love our sisters and brother in Christ, when we fail in this way to love God, the Spirit calls us back to the waters of Baptism in repentance. The Spirit calls us to confess our sins to God and to the person whom we have sinned against. In Christ, God bestows on you the forgiveness of sins through the mouth of the pastor in Holy Absolution, either corporately in worship or privately. In Christ, God also extends His forgiveness through the brother or sister in Christ to whom you confess your sin so that you might hear (or say to one who sinned against you): “As God in Christ has forgiven me, I also forgive you, my brother/sister in Jesus.”

          Through the grace and mercy of God in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are recreated and renewed in the forgiveness of sins for a life that loves one another in the household of God our Father. Paul also urges this life of love from his prison cell in Ephesians 4, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:1-6 ESV).

          To be born of God is to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. To be born of God is to love those who have also been born of God, fellow believers in Jesus Christ. Therefore, by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, love one another in the household of faith because we are family, brothers and sisters in Christ, children of our Father in heaven. Amen.

 

 

[1] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 88.

[2] Bruce G. Schuchard, Concordia Commentary, 1-3 John, (St. Louis: Concordia, 2012), 522. He is quoting Raymond E. Brown The Epistles of John, Anchor Bible, 566.


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