The Epistle reading for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost comes from Paul’s first letter to Timothy, where he writes about the proper use of the Law. Our devotional reading comes from A Year in the New Testament: Meditations for Each Day of the Church Year.
1 Timothy 1:5–17
Read the propers for today in Lutheran Service Builder.
A carpenter’s power drill should never be wielded as a dental tool. This is not its intended use. If employed in this way, it would only bring destruction. Similarly, God’s Law should be utilized only according to His design. Paul says, “Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully.” In Paul's age, just as in ours, there are those who wish to implement the Law in ways for which it was not intended. This is why the apostle charged Timothy to be vigilant to correct those who teach a “different doctrine.”
Some false teachers attempt to make the Law do the work of the Gospel, emphasizing the importance of an individual’s attitudes, actions, and behavior as the avenue to salvation. If these are only ordered in a proper way, the implied message says, one will have reconciliation with God and a blessed life. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although humans sometimes find comfort in knowing exactly what is required of them so they know if their performance matches predetermined expectations, there is absolutely no solace in attempting to achieve salvation by our own efforts. The Law will only destroy us and drive us to despair by reminding us of our failure.
Another misuse of the law is nonuse of the Law. Some try to remove the crushing burden of condemnation by falsely asserting that there is no moral code, that God has no standards of right or wrong. Rather, they say, He allows individuals to set norms of thought and conduct based on their personal experiences and lifestyle choices. In our present, tolerant, libertine world, perhaps this is the heterodoxy that is most prevalent and dangerous.
The Law had worked its intended use on Paul. It opened his eyes to the reality of his true condition apart from Christ, crushed him with the burden of his guilt, and moved him to confess that he was the “foremost” of sinners. Only then could the Gospel bear its fruit, instilling faith in the merciful work of Jesus Christ, who “came into the world to save sinners.”
“Sound doctrine” is important both for Christ’s Church as a whole and for us as individual members of it. The adjective here implies health and vigor; literally, the Law is “hygienic.” Sound health is not achieved when a disease is denied or mistreated. Thankfully, in the proper distinction of Law and Gospel, we know both our ailment and the cure.
Devotional reading is adapted from A Year in the New Testament: Meditations for Every Day of the Church Year, page 282 © 2010 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Hymn of the Day
Hymn of the Day is "Jesus Sinners Doth Receive" from Lord of Our Life: Eight Organ Preludes for the Church Year by Matthew Machemer
© 2018 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.