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Friday, October 13, 2006 

What's Wrong With Ablaze!: Part 5

Let us now look at the Ablaze! website that asks the question “Why count? Why report"? The site starts like this: "Counting has always been important in the Bible as one of the indications of how things are and what needs to be done. A fine example is the parable of the Lost Sheep in Luke 15:4-7. When the shepherd gets to 99, and he knows that there should be a hundred sheep, he leaves the 99 to seek and find the one lost sheep. Without counting, human beings often do not have a clear picture of the real state of affairs."

So, according to the Ablaze! program Luke is telling us that Jesus says we are supposed to count to know how well we are doing. Let’s look at the whole parable:

Luke 15:1-7
Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” So He spoke this parable to them, saying: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

So, did you see what was left out in synod’s promotion of Ablaze!? The first two verses introducing the parable are missing! Why is that important? Because, if we don’t know who the parable is addressed to, it can take on a very different meaning as we shall soon see.

The parable is being addressed to the Pharisees and Scribes who count themselves as righteous and object to Jesus welcoming and eating with sinners. The parable is not about counting sheep for the kingdom. As the Rev. Dr. Arthur A. Just Jr. writes in his commentary on Luke in the Concordia Commentary Series;

“the Pharisees know that these parables are directed against them. They know that, in Jesus’ view, all need to repent, so that there is no such thing as people who have no need for repentance. The Pharisees know that they have rejected John’s call for repentance and so have also rejected God’s plan for salvation in John and Jesus (cf. 729-35). As they listen carefully to the parable, they are never told whether the ninety nine are still in the wilderness or have returned to the village. Jesus leaves it up in the air because the parables are his call to them to repentance. Are they going to be rescued by Jesus and rejoice with the tax collectors? If so they should stop grumbling, repent, be brought to the village, and join the feast with Jesus. If not they will be left in the wilderness, in need of a shepherd to find them and bring them to the feast. The remaining ministry of Jesus, and the mission of the church, is to continue to call – and carry the ninety nine in from the wilderness home to the eschatological feast of Jesus.”

Paul E. Kretzmann, Ph. D., D. D., goes further in his "Popular Commentary." "The ninety and nine just persons that need no repentance are evidently people like the Pharisees and scribes, who in their own opinion are not in need of a Savior."

So, is this parable from Jesus telling us that we need to count to measure how well we are doing? No! It is about those who believe that they hold the law perfectly enough to count themselves guaranteed a place in heaven while grumbling about the one sinner who is not worthy of table fellowship. The ninety nine look at what they do to count themselves after all, they kept the Law perfectly. The parable is accusatory to those who who count their own work. And yet, this is what Ablaze! holds up as its proof text in justifying the counting of “critical events.”

This is just one place where Ablaze! twists scripture to defend its existence. The good news for the ninety nine is that if they repent, they will enjoy being brought back to the village and eat at the table with Jesus with the rest of us poor miserable sinners who don’t count ourselves worthy.

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You did a fine job directing us to the mission of the Church and the Lutheran Confessions. I recently read an essay contained in a newly released book entitled "Doctrine is Life; Robert D. Preus, Essays on Scripture" I was able to find a copy of the essay at the CTSFW website. Enjoy!

Frank, thanks for a well-written, well-researched series of posts. Sadly, all those who "count" tend to forget what happened when David took a census of God's people without permission!

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  • From The Haut South
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