“Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” Rev. 1,4b–6.
Honorable and beloved Fathers and Brethren in the Lord.
“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord. Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.” Eph. 8,14–19.
This is the earnest desire and the fervent prayer of the Apostle Paul for the believers in Ephesus. When he mentions the breadth and length, the depth and height of Christ’s love, he is thereby trying, as best he can, with human words and with human thoughts and understanding to show how bottomless and immeasurable this love really is. No matter from which side or from which point of view we look at it, it is so great and so overwhelming that it passes all knowledge and thought. There is really no comparison which we can make that will do full justice to the love and mercy of Jesus our Savior. (And let it be said that the love of Christ and the love of God are one and the same.) What limits will you set to His love? How will you circumscribe it and hedge it in? And if we do set limits to His love and hedge it in, have we not destroyed it? We are utterly at a loss, yea, our thoughts are much, much too weak, and our wisdom too insignificant to set forth the breadth and length, the depth and. height of the love of Christ or to try to exhaust and measure it. This love has been the theme of the hymns of praise which have ascended as sweet incense unto God from the tongues of believers of old. It is still the burden of the paeans of praise being sung by the marveling believers today. And it shall be the dearest privilege and most happy occupation of all believers hereafter to sing unto the Lamb the new song of praise for His redeeming love.
No one has set forth the love of Christ in a more vivid, comforting, and encouraging manner than John, the apostle of love, in all his writings. “Behold what manner of love the father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God.” 1 John 3,1. This is indeed a most marvelous and wonderful truth. We are called and are made children of God, we who were dead in trespasses and sins and were enemies of God. We are children of the most pure and holy God who fit the description of Isaiah that, “we are all as an unclean thing and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” Is. 64,6. Yet it is truly so. No wonder that John exclaimed, “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God.” Yea, the highest, the most perfect description which can be given of God is given by John when he declares “God is love.” 1 John 4,16. To love is the very nature of God. Love is His essence. The depth of His love for us, the greatness of His concern for our welfare is evident by the priceless gift which He gave to save us. He loved us so much that “He gave HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him (Christ) the iniquity of us all.” Is. 53,6. So much hath God loved us disobedient and wicked, yet wretched and helpless sinners, that He has made Christ to be sin for us, He who knew no sin, that we might be made pure, holy and righteous, yea, His dear children with all the rights and privileges that goes with being sons and daughters of God. Truly we are highly favored who are permitted to live in this love through the preaching of an unconditioned Gospel and the right administration of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. From this it ought to follow that “we love Him, because He first loved us,” 1 John 4,19. May the words of the Hymn writer Kingo be our faith and confession as we say:
Thy love, O gracious Lord and God,
All other loves excelling,
Attunes my heart to sweet accord,
And passes power of telling;
For when Thy wondrous love I see,
My heart yields glad submission;
I love Thee for Thy love to me
In my poor, lost condition.
With this love of Christ constraining us let us set as our aim at this convention to provide for the following goals of accomplishment in the days, weeks, and months ahead:
1. To preserve purity of doctrine and practice within our congregations.
2. To strengthen the bonds of faith and the unity of confession which unites us as a Synod.
3. To increase our Mission work so that we reach an ever wider field with the saving Gospel.
4. To start more elementary schools within our congregations; to enlarge and strengthen our Bethany High School, College and Seminary so that the generations to come may reap of the rich blessings we have received.
5. To increase our Christian giving until it becomes a true reflection of love to our Savior for His boundless love to us.
O God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, give us grace to perform our work. Amen.