Esteemed Brethren in Christ, fellow Redeemed:
A year ago we had the privilege of celebrating 50 years of our reorganized Synod’s existence under the hand of a gracious God. Surely we have a goodly heritage, and we are eager to bequeath it to the generations yet to come. That “great heritage,” we have been taught to sing, is God’s Word. The pervading truth of that Word is that “Jesus is the only way of salvation.” And he is that salvation for us only because He is the true God as well as true man.
The Apostle St. John, moved by the Holy Spirit, opens the prologue of his Gospel with the simple words of great depth and power: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Here he states categorically that Jesus Christ is true God from eternity, and throughout his Gospel he shows that divinity is essential to our salvation. If we are to bequeath a saving Gospel to the generations coming after us, that Gospel must provide them with the Christ who is God as well as man. Therefore we have chosen as the theme for this 52nd regular convention, the words you see in large letters above you: “IN THE BEGINNING … THE WORD WAS GOD.”
In the great creeds of Christendom we confess Jesus Christ to be both God and man. The conjunction employed and, a-n-d, is important, for it reminds us of the fact that Scripture not only renders unnecessary, but also denies us the right of, choice between the two. We must retain the doctrine of Christ’s divinity and the doctrine of His humanity. Either or both doctrines will be denied only by those who refuse to accept the abundant and clear testimony of Scripture.
Though both these doctrines have been denied down through the history of the Church, it is the doctrine of the deity of Christ that has most often come under attack, even as it is being subjected to a relentless assault in our present age of brazen apostasy. When the Word of God is being attacked the fearful are often soothed with the sophistry that so long as they retain Christ, they should not worry about what higher criticism, for example, may do to that book called the Bible. Only too late have many realized that in losing the Bible as God’s verbally inspired Word, they have also lost the Christ of that Bible, the Christ who is the WORD, the eternal God.
The unique character of Christ is really the great stumbling block today that it always has been. The unbelieving Jews of Christ’s own day had no difficulty in accepting Him as the son of Mary. It was only when He, who in their eyes was merely the son of Mary and Joseph, made himself God, that they were constrained to seek to destroy Him. That they failed in this effort, even when they succeeded in crucifying Him, is without doubt the greatest proof of His divinity, as it is the glory of the Church that bears His name. Here lies our great heritage.
During this convention it will be our privilege through essay and devotion to be refreshed in our faith in the person of Christ. The only Christ we want is the Christ of the Scripture, and that Christ is both God and man. Without that Christ as the object of our faith, our faith is vain; but with that Christ we not only may truly rejoice, but we also, together with the Apostle Paul, can be assured of being able to do what the Lord bids us do.
Let us go forward then in our implementation of the Great Commission in the knowledge that as surely as this work is of God it will not come to nought, neither will it be overthrown. Lift up your hearts! Amen.
The Rev. J.B. Madson