“Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.”
Ninth in a Series–
Instruction from God’s Word
Sometimes the Scripture readings are preceded by a few words of explanation. This is done to prepare the hearers for what they are about to hear in the lessons read.
As with the other readings, the gospel selection is chosen with the primary thought of the service in mind. This is governed by the sermon text. The reading is chosen from one of the four Gospels, relaying to us something from the words or life of the Lord Jesus, our Savior.
The congregation welcomes the words of their Savior by responding, “Glory be to Thee, O Lord!” After the Gospel lesson is read, the hearers express their gratitude for the words of their Savior by singing, “Praise be to Thee, O Christ!”
How thankful we ought to be each time we read the Word of God or hear it read. As our Savior proclaims, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (Jn. 20:31). And having been “born again, not of corruptible seed, but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Pet. 1:23), we continue to treasure His Word, search it, hear it, and learn it. For “blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep (guard, protect) it” (Lk. 11:28). It is the one thing that is reliable in the midst of the shifting sand of this world of sin. That is because “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God . . . ” and since this is so, it “is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).
The Apostles’ Creed
The word creed is from the Latin credo which means “I believe.” The Apostles’ Creed cannot be traced directly to the apostles. Therefore it might be preferable to refer to it as the Apostolic Creed. Historically this creed appears on the scene somewhere between A. D. 70-120. It likely grew out of the need for a simple confession of the Christian faith in the Triune God–three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) but one God. It seems that this confession was used in particular in connection with Baptism in keeping with Matthew 28:19: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
The oldest recorded form of this creed reads as follows: “I believe in God the Father Almighty and in Jesus Christ His only-begotten Son, our Lord, who was born of the Holy Ghost and Mary the Virgin, was crucified under Pontius Pilate and buried, on the third day rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, sitteth on the right hand of the Father, from whence He cometh to judge the quick and the dead; and in the Holy Spirit, holy Church, remission of sins, resurrection of the flesh, and everlasting life.”
We must remember that neither the Apostolic Creed nor any of the other creeds of Christianity are found in the Bible. The creeds are confessions or statements of faith which express biblical truth; they were written by believers but are not inspired by God as are the Scriptures.
According to the regular order of worship, the congregation is to receive instruction through the word of the apostles, then from the words of Christ Himself, and finally from the called minister (servant) of Christ, the pastor (shepherd).
First of all, the pastor addresses the hearers with a biblical greeting. It is common to hear, “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” These words are from Colossians 1:2, 1 Thessalonians 1:1, and 2 Thessalonians 1:2. Customarily, then follows the reading of the text; the text forms the basis of the sermon and governs the central theme of the entire service.
How are the sermon texts chosen? Different methods may be used. The most common method in our circles is to follow a pericope of texts. A pericope is a list of Bible readings chosen for each Sunday and festival of the church year. These may be used as a guide in choosing the Scripture readings for the day and/or sermon texts.
Pericopes date back to Old Testament times when the Law and the Prophets were divided into segments for readings in the synagogues. Early Christians made similar divisions of the Bible texts for use in worship services as early as the first century. This was done for the sake of good order–to insure a complete instruction of the people and to prevent the pastor from centering upon one particularly favorite teaching week after week.
Other methods of choosing texts may be used as seems beneficial to the congregation. However, regardless of the procedure used, it needs to be borne in mind that the whole counsel of God should be set before His people for their spiritual edification and growth. Therefore, every sermon must declare law and gospel. God’s law needs to be preached, showing the wretchedness of our sins and the condemnation deserved because of them. God’s gospel must be preached in all of its glory, showing us our Savior and our deliverance from sin, Satan, and death. Besides that, pastors must strive to present sermons in a clear and coherent fashion, centering upon particular theological truths and relating the Word of God to daily life.
How beauteous are their feet
Who stand on Zion’s hill;
Who bring salvation on their tongues
And words of peace reveal! (487:1, TLH)
–Pastor L. Dale Redlin