The Festival of St. Simon & St. Jude the Apostles, Sunday October 28th, 2018

 

The Lessons: Deuteronomy 32:1-4; Psalm 119:89-96; Ephesians 2:13-22; John 15:17-27

The Text: Ephesians 2:13-22

The Topic: The true doctrine of the faith is founded on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Apostles and the Prophets

INTRODUCTION

Though the Festival of St. Simon and St. Jude the Apostles was instituted only in the ninth century, very little is known about these two Apostles. The Armenian Church believes St. Jude (also called Thaddeus, or Lebbaeus in St. Matthew’s Gospel) preached in Armenia, while the Eastern Church believes both Apostles preached and were martyred in Persia. Since we know so little about these Apostles apart from various traditions concerning them, the Collect composed by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and revised for the 1662 Prayer Book, lays emphasis on the doctrine of the Apostles:

O ALMIGHTY God, who hast built thy Church upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the head corner-stone; Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their doctrine, that we may be made an holy temple acceptable unto thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(p. 254, Book of Common Prayer, 1928)

This Collect itself is based on the Epistle Lesson for today, in particular verses 20 and 21. The petition of the Collect combines the prayer that Christians be united in spirit by the doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Apostles and the Prophets, and the petition that Christians be made an holy temple acceptable to God.

THE PURITY OF APOSTOLIC DOCTRINE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

How is it that the doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ, his Apostles and his Prophets unites Christians in spirit?

If Christians pick and choose what they want to believe of the Biblical record of the Gospel, the Apostles, and the Prophets, then it is some form of syncretistic religion that they believe, and not Christianity. St. Augustine of Hippo wrote, “For to believe what you please, and not to believe what you please, is to believe yourselves, and not the gospel” (St. Augustine of Hippo: Contra Faustum, Book XVII).

In this story, one finds an example of the effects of misunderstanding Mark 16:18, “They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover”:

John Wayne Brown Jr., a snake-handling evangelist, was bitten by one of his own timber rattlesnakes in the middle of his sermon. Though Brown continued to speak to the people of Rock House Holiness Church that October night in 1998, he soon collapsed. The congregation gathered around him, praying and trying to cool him with an electric fan, but Brown was dead within minutes.

Brown, thirty-four, had handled snakes since he was seventeen and had survived twenty-two previous bites. He left behind five orphaned children. His wife, Melinda, died from a snakebite during a revival Service in 1995.

One pastor who was onstage with Brown the night of his death said he didn’t think the tragedy would make the church change its practices: “I think they will be more careful about handling serpents,” he said. “I think they will wait until the Lord moves on them.”

“A lot of people don’t understand us,” he offered. “We are just normal people, but we believe God’s Word.”

— Kent Faulk, “Snake Kills Evangelist, but Pastor Says Congregation Will Hold Firm to Its Traditions,” Birmingham News (October 6, 1998) [1]

Believing God’s word as recorded in one instance, however, must not lead to a conflict with another passage, such as, in this case, “Thou shalt not put the Lord thy God to the test”(Matt. 4:7; Deut. 6:16).

One great purpose of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion was to bring unity to the Church of England by specifying the essential doctrines of the Christian faith, as the Church had received them. One of the vital doctrines in the Church’s understanding of her faith is that Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation (Article VI).

The purity of the Apostolic doctrine is found in the Bible, particularly in the New Testament. The Lord Jesus Christ himself stated that he had not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). What the Law commanded and what the Prophets taught and proclaimed is embodied in the Lord Jesus Christ and in his preaching and teaching. For example, the Summary of the Law, the Two Great Commandments are the supremely important commands of the Law (Matt. 22:37-40; Deut. 6:5; Lev. 19:18), and the prophets’ call to Israel to worship God alone is re-iterated in the Lord’s teaching that a man cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6:24).

St. Paul warns the Colossians not to be beguiled into worshipping angels and to be inflated by carnal pride, and so lose hold of the Head of the Body, the Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:18-19). In the Epistle to the Ephesians, St. Paul describes the purpose of the ministry of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that all come to full maturity in Christ, and no longer be blown off course by the cunning and deceitful doctrines of sinful men (Eph. 4:12-14). St. Jude, brother of St. James and of our Lord, in his Epistle, wrote to exhort Christians to “contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). Since he had to write these words, it is clear that some people were attempting to distort Christian doctrine by introducing ideas foreign to the truths taught by the Lord Jesus Christ and his Apostles, and recorded in the writings of the New Testament.

THE CALL TO A PURE, SACRED FAITH

In conclusion, we should ask ourselves whether all that we believe about the Christian faith and all that we do in Christ’s name flow from the Bible and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Do we follow his teaching and obey his commands?



[1] p. 472, Craig Brian Larson & Phyllis Ten Elshof (General Editors): 1001 Illustrations that Connect. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, Christianity Today International, 2008.

Categories: Sermons

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