The Twenty Second Sunday after Trinity 2017
The Epistle – Philippians 1:3-11
The Gospel – St. Matthew 18:21-35
Article 31 – Of the One Oblation of Christ Finished Upon the Cross
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
In St. Paul’s letter today to the Philippian Church we are picking up close to the very beginning of the letter.
He identifies himself and Timothy as servants of Christ Jesus and he and Timothy are addressing all of the saints in the Church at Philippi.
In all letters, you have the person writing it and the recipient. And in the case also with letters there is a distance between the writer and the recipient.
The letter is that form of communication then that bridges the gap.
So when the recipient opens it and reads it…or in this case with Paul’s letters, they are read to the wider Church…the intention is to draw encouragement, or instruction, or strength…or some sort of blessing from what is written from afar.
Because there is a distance between writer and reader, there tends to be a longing on the part of the writer to express his feelings as best as he can so that the reader would feel in some way a connection and a closeness to the writer.
This is evident in today’s section. Paul begins this letter this way, “Philippians 1:3–11
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,  always in every prayer of mine… for you all… making my prayer with joy,  because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.  And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.
 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.  And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,  so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,  filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (ESV)
Total love for his fellow saints at Philippi. I thank my God in all remembrance of you, always. I hold you in my heart….I yearn for you.
Paul writes similarly and even more explicitly in his second letter to the Corinthian Church.
He is addressing again a people who have converted to Christianity. He says,
2 Corinthians 3:2–3
“You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all.  And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (ESV)
Paul is so overjoyed by the conversion of these Corinthians that he says that they are a letter (as it were) from Christ Himself, authenticating Paul’s mission and his success in preaching the Gospel.
The Corinthians were a letter of recommendation for Paul.
Their transformed lives were Paul’s best testimonial of his efforts. “Better than any secondhand letter”
Their steadfastness in the faith was making Paul look good…though he does not intend to be taking any credit. Nevertheless their faith is on account of his preaching.
In the Article today, Article 31, we have a statement on the work of Christ on the cross.
Of the one oblation of Christ finished upon the cross.
What is happening in the Church at this time that gives Cranmer the impetus to write this one Article in particular is an incorrect view and understanding of the Eucharist that had grown in the Church.
The understanding of Holy Communion had grown corrupt and away from what it truly was, what it represented, what is symbolized and what it accomplished.
In His absence, Christ has given us something akin to a letter of remembrance and love and connectivity in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
When we gather together to hear the Word of God read and then preached, we then turn and celebrate this meal that not only feeds us and confirms to us the truth of Christ’s promises….
… but it also brings two distant parties together in a spiritual manner that is not as clearly present at other times.
Though we are at all times in the presence of Christ, and He is always with us, there is also a certain way in which He is distant from us.
So He has provided a special and distinct way in which He is present to us in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood.
The Sacraments are given to us to demonstrate to us and seal in our “consciences the promises of his good will toward us in order to sustain the weakness of our flesh.”
Because of our weakness and repeated need for Christ’s grace, we receive the Sacrament in such a fashion that it truly confirms to us Christ’s love for us, despite us still in one sense distant from Him…and it sustains us and our weak faith.
There is another side to this as well. We in turn attest or witness to our devotion to Him in His presence and before one another.
So there is a mutuality to it. He testifies to His grace toward us. We confirm our reverence and devotion toward Him.
So the Article is addressing something specific about this Sacrament of Holy Communion.
The Reformers found it vital to understand rightly once again the true nature of this sacrament…and to give it fresh ability to once again close the gap of distance between sinner and Savior.
It says that Christ offered Himself.
In other words, He went to the cross.
There on the cross He made his… “one oblation of Himself, once offered, a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world.”
We all know this by heart, for we hear the priest pray this in the Prayer of Consecration.
And those adjectives like, Full, Perfect, and Sufficient are important words. They are intentional words placed in that prayer.
Also, linking them to Once Offered and Whole World is also important.
All of the work Christ did was Full, in that it lacked nothing. It satisfied the just demands of God’s Law fully.
It was Perfect in that it had no hint of sin. It had no imperfection or impurity or shortcomings.
And it was Sufficient in that it, again, satisfied fully and sufficiently all that was required to pay for the sins of the whole world…both Original Sin… which we talked about…as well as Actual sins.
There is no sin we can commit that the perfect righteousness of Christ cannot overcome and forgive.
And there is no satisfaction for sin, but Christ’s satisfaction alone. Another sola if you will.
It is Christ’s satisfaction to the Father and His alone. Sola satisfactio.
Then it goes into the current problem of the time.
“Wherefore the sacrifice of Masses, in the which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits.”
Here is the issue at hand. If all of those things about Christ’s sacrifice were made on the cross by His blood being shed, was Christ now being in any way sacrificed on an altar in a Church 1500 years later?
The Reformers said ‘no.’
To counter this, large portions of the Letter to the Hebrews in the back portion of our Bibles were used to say, :No, Christ’s sacrifice is a past event.
Christ is not being re-sacrificed on the altar at Holy Communion by the priest while he prays the Consecration Prayer.
Christ’s sacrifice was a one time, never to be repeated event.
From the very early times of the Church for at least a few centuries, the Church used sacrificial language when speaking of the Eucharist.
In the early Church the Eucharist was viewed as a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. …as our consecration prayer states.
The Lord’s Supper was a time when the people of God gathered together and offered thanks to God…publicly amongst themselves.
The Greek word eucharisteo, from where we get the term Eucharist, means “to give thanks.”
As the centuries went by, however, the notion of a Eucharistic sacrifice began to be more associated to Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross.
There is a difference between the Old Testament, Old Covenant sacrifice Moses instituted and the Christian Church’s Eucharist.
The Old Testament animal sacrifice certainly provided what it promised, but it still was not perfect in the way Christ’s death was.
If the people brought their sacrifice to the temple, their obedience was credited to them and they could go away knowing that their sins had been atoned for…but only in a limited manner.
The true sacrifice of Christ which the Old ones pointed to were what the people truly needed for full and complete remission of sins.
After the death of Jesus, there was instituted by Him for us…another method for us…to transmit the sacrifice of Christ and all other benefits of His passion to us.
And that is now a table for us to feast at. We can view our altar now… as a banquet table. Here we now feast upon what the priest or minister distributes.
The Hebrew’s passages that were key to the rightful understanding of all of this are these, “Hebrews 7:23–28
“The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office,  but he (Christ) holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.
 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, (such as Christ) holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.
 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.”
“For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.
 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own,  for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (ESV)
“And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,  waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.
 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those (all of us) who are being sanctified. (ESV)
Harold Browne offers our side of this as well, “Yet the Christian Church is said to be “an holy priesthood;” and is “to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. ii. 5). Those spiritual sacrifices are,
1. The sacrifice of prayer and praise: “By Him let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of the lips, giving thanks to His name” (Heb. xiii. 15).
2. The sacrifice of alms and of the first-fruits of our substance: “To do good and to distribute, forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Heb. xiii. 16).
3. The sacrifice of ourselves to the Lord: (Quoting Paul) “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” Rom. xii. 1.
So we are not offering a sacrifice at the Eucharist other than our selves, our souls and bodies to be a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice to God.
And in turn we partake of the One, Christ Jesus, by receiving His true body and Blood in the Eucharist, who was once for all sacrificed for us.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.