Trinity Sunday, 2017
John 3:1-15 (16-17)
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt
Where are Church and State separate?
I don’t ask because there’s one answer—I ask because there are so many answers.
Some people will tell you that the two are, or at least should be, completely separate.
Some people will tell you that the two are inseparable.
For the Lutheran Church, and even for Luther himself, describing the place of the State in the life of the Church is a difficult task.
Here’s why this is important—and here’s why it’s this is important in the context of Trinity Sunday.
President Trump appointed Mr. Russ Vought to serve as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. Such appointments are subject to the scrutiny of senatorial approval.
One such senator, Mr. Bernie Sanders, took issue with something Mr. Vought wrote regarding Islam and Christianity.
A graduate of Wheaton College, defending his alma mater, Mr. Vought wrote: “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned.”
Sen. Sanders asked, “Do you believe that that statement is Islamophobic?”
He next asks: “Do you believe people in the Muslim religion stand condemned…”
“Are you suggesting that all those [millions of Muslims in America] stand condemned? What about Jews? Do they stand condemned too…”
He goes on: “Do you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned…”
And: “You think your statement that you put into that publication, they do not know God because they rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned, do you think that’s respectful of other religions?”
Vought’s last response to this nonsense is this: “Senator, I wrote a post based on being a Christian and attending a Christian school that has a statement of faith that speaks clearly in regard to the centrality of Jesus Christ in salvation.”
Sen. Sanders concluded: “I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.”
I tell you all this, so I can ask: what’s wrong with the senator’s questions?
Maybe you think I’m wrong for talking about politics in a sermon.
Well, Sen. Sanders is wrong first in that he asked those questions. Article 6 of the US Constitution says, in part: “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
So, he shouldn’t have opened that bag, to begin with.
But now that he has, let’s examine the contents.
Basically, what Sen. Sanders is saying, is that if, as a Christian, you believe in hell—you are unfit for public service.
Do you believe in hell? Will all those who fail to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, will they be damned eternally?
According to Sen. Sanders, you are “really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.”
I’ve said in sermons before that God gives us crosses to bear, that—as Job and Jesus before us—He leads us into temptation, teaching us to trust that He will, nevertheless, deliver us from evil.
This is what I’m talking about.
A popular senator, asking ridiculous questions that he shouldn’t be asking, about a topic that is has, in the Christian Church, always been front and center.
We baptize and teach specifically so that people don’t go to hell.
And let’s go ahead and wonder—Sen. Sanders obviously has a problem with Christians believing what the Bible teaches. But do you think he would have a problem with Muslims who believe the Quran?
Since it’s not popular for people on tv to question Islam and point out the ridiculousness of that demonic cult, we may never know.
But here’s where and why all of this actually matters.
Mr. Vought—in the now famous essay he wrote that Sen. Sanders took issue with—was arguing against a claim made by a faculty member at his alma mater, Wheaton College.
That faculty member, Dr. Larycia Hawkins, claimed that Christians “worship the same God” as Muslims.
Let’s put this to rest.
Do Muslims trust Jesus for salvation? Do they believe He was crucified, died, buried, resurrected, and ascended? Do they believe in a Triune God like every Christian everywhere? When they pray, do they call God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
No. Of course not.
Katie Perry thinks Christians and Muslims should just hug it out. Christians, having no problem with hugs, are taught by God to love their neighbor and pray for those who persecute you.
Muslims, taught by their false god and false prophet, are taught to kill the infidel. Regardless of whether or not the common American Muslim believes they should kill you, their Quran—in multiple places—says they should, and no Muslim tolerates anything spoken against the Quran.
The point—if you don’t confess the Creeds, you’ll believe the lies that are out there.
If you confess the Creeds, you’ll know simple answers to complex questions and will never be wrong.
Do you believe people in the Muslim religion stand condemned?
We just confessed that we do—“Whoever desires to be saved must, above all, hold the catholic (universal) faith…And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.”
What about Jews? Do they stand condemned, too?
We just confessed that the answer to that question is also, yes.
“It is also necessary for everlasting salvation that one faithfully believe the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is the right faith that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is at the same time both God and man.”
Do you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned?
To that, we confess: “This is the catholic (universal) faith; whoever does not believe it faithfully and firmly cannot be saved.”
Sen. Sanders asked simple questions.
He shouldn’t have asked the questions to begin with, but I’m thankful that he did—it provided a good pretext for us to talk about these things on Trinity Sunday.
But that’s not all we have to say.
It’s true that a Muslim who dies as a Muslim is condemned. It’s true that a Jew who dies a Jew is condemned.
But there’s an easier way to say this:
If you do not repent of your sin and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, there is no hope for you.
If you repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, if you are born of water and the spirit in Holy Baptism, if that, then regardless your past, regardless of your sins, regardless of you, in spite of you, you will be saved.
I don’t want Muslims to go to hell. I don’t want Jews to go to hell. I don’t want you to go to hell.
They—you—will, if you refuse to repent.
They—you—will be saved, if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:14-18).
This is the catholic faith—which we all believe.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!