A Sermon by

Dr. Walter A. Maier

 "This [Jesus Christ] is the true God, and eternal Life."

1 John 5:20

 O Jesus, Savior of Endless Compassion:

 If only we could worthily praise the mercy that brought Thee, our God of grace, from heaven's glories to earth's wickedness and woe! By Thy Spirit's indwelling open our eyes and cleanse our hearts! During this sacred Advent season strengthen us to know and confess that because Thou wast born at Bethlehem, crucified on Calvary, and resurrected in the garden grave, we, lost, condemned, helpless sinners every one of us, are rescued from hell and death, redeemed for eternal life. Grant us all faith in Thy limitless love! O precious Savior, hold Thy blessed advent into many hearts now and by Thy sustaining presence in our souls comfort the sorrowing, cheer the bereaved, lighten the burdened, and above all, forgive every contrite sinner! Fulfill Thy promise, "Lo, I am with you alway," to Thy believers serving in the armed forces, and through each danger or temptation fortify their trust in Thee! Bring many who until this time have rejected Thy compassion to the saving faith, and, O Jesus, our God of grace, grant our blood-drenched world a banishing of war! We ask Thee for this and for the salvation of our souls, because Thou alone art our Prince of everlasting peace. Amen!

 What makes the Bible the most widely printed, distributed, studied, and honored Book men have ever known? Why has Scripture, wholly or partially, been translated into eleven hundred languages – far more than any other publication? How can we account for startling truth that this sacred Volume has been welcomed by men in all climes and continents, castes and classes, colors and conditions – the only book to receive world-wide acclaim? How can we explain the amazing power by which Holy Writ has defeated heathen emperors, pagan princes, Communist tyrants, atheistic beasts?  The New Testament, safely wrapped in oilskin, has become come standard equipment for American life rafts. Why? War prisoners, many of them previously boasting blasphemers, carefully tear out pages of the Bible, so that each may have at least a few verses. Why? Our soldiers in Italy, the South Sea Islands, and the Aleutians hold up their Testaments and exclaim, "This is the Book for us!" Why?

 Do we exalt the Bible simply because it is old and venerable? We possess writings centuries older even than the Old Testament; but who cares for their spiritual content? What influence do Egyptian hieroglyphics or the Sumerian cuneiform characters exert on modern life? Do we acclaim Scripture merely because it is written in eloquent language? Literary leaders have indeed paid remarkable tribute to the Sacred Writings, but the true power of these pages is infinitely greater; and when a soul hovers between life and death seeking certainty for the hereafter, it asks for far more than polished phrases and elevated style. Do millions give the Bible the first position in their lives only because it offers sound moral teachings, helpful and uplifting direction? Even this cannot account for its superhuman power exercised throughout history in the hearts of sinful men and women. No; today on Universal Bible Sunday, the basic blessed fact which separates Scripture from all other writings and puts this Volume absolutely in a class by itself, immeasurably exalted over the noblest masterpiece any human author has ever produced, is the assurance that its complete record, in at Genesis and out at Revelation, the Old and New Testaments, the Law and the Prophets, the Gospels and the Epistles, is not human wisdom, but divine truth, every word originally God- inspired, God-breathed, God-sealed, therefore entirely without error.

 Within this Word of unfailing promise there is a glorious climax truth, a central, saving doctrine, a firm foundation of our faith. Here it is, God's guarantee that makes life worth living, burdens worth bearing, sorrow worth suffering, death worth dying, the first and final pledge of your salvation in time and eternity, the supreme assurance of Scripture, in these eight words of Saint John (First Epistle, chapter five, verse twenty), who, pointing to Jesus Christ, says: "This is the true God, and eternal Life." On the basis of this plain but powerful assertion I give you the holiest hope human lips can ever utter or human ears can ever hear:



 "This [Jesus Christ] is the true God," the Apostle begins. Weigh every word carefully! "This," he says, directing us to the Babe in swaddling clothes at Bethlehem, to the Jesus who trod the dusty pathways of Palestine, to the Christ of Calvary who died on the accursed cross, to the Victor over death; marvelously emerged from the grave, triumphantly ascended to the right hand of the Father and soon – a hundred signs proclaim it -- to return in dazzling power for judgement on "the quick and the dead."  "This" Messiah of Old Testament prophesy and New Testament fulfillment, "this" Lord of the Gospels and Epistles, the Bible today assures us "is" (it does not say "may be," "can be,"  "will be," "might be," "would be," "could be," but with absolute certainty we are told that this Jesus "is") not merely godly, Godlike, God-endowed, God-blessed, but in the full, unrestricted sense He is "God," the heavenly, almighty, all-holy, all-merciful, all-righteous "God"! And to pay full tribute, Saint John, writing in a world of pagan polytheism, adds that Jesus is not an imaginary god, not one of many gods, but "the true God." All others before whom blinded men bow are false, fraudulent, fatal.

 In the plain declaration, "This is the true God," you have just heard a central assurance of our Christian faith. Now if you contradict this truth (and I do not care whether you speak from the most fashionable, highly paid pulpit in the land or whether you are one of the uncouth, obscene infidels who write me letters to which they dare not sign their names); if you boldly declare, "Jesus is not the true "God," then no matter how you may exalt Him as leader, teacher, master, model, or by any other name except "God" you are not a Christian; you are against the Bible, you contradict the holy Gospel; you deny yourself the whole comfort of the cross; you are not saved for eternity; you are not a member of Christ's true Church, no matter if you wear clerical robes.

 For how clearly Scripture acclaims Christ God! Not only does Saint John say in our text, so simply that children can understand it, "This is the true God," but Saint Paul calls Jesus "God blessed forever."  Thomas bows before our Lord to acknowledge Him, "My Lord and my God!" A thousand years before the birth at Bethlehem David calls the coming Redeemer "God." Seven hundred years before His advent Isaiah foresaw Him as the almighty God; five hundred years before, Jeremiah greeted Him as "Jehovah, our Righteousness"; and as the pages of Old Testament prophesy draw to a close, Malachi envisions the Messiah as "the Lord" who will soon come into His temple. In these and a score of other passages the Bible proclaims Christ's deity. God the Father repeatedly declares it; Jesus Himself, who never uttered an untrue syllable, asserts it; angels exalt it; redeemed sinners glory in it; history reflects it. Even scoffers studying our lord's life and His influence on the ages have been forced to admit the weakness of their denial. Denis Diderot, the atheistic French philosopher, one evening told a group of unbelievers as he pointed to the Bible: "Notwithstanding all the bad I have said, an no doubt with good reason, exists in this devil of a book, I defy you all, as many as are here, to prepare a tale so simple and so touching as the tale of the passion and the deity of Jesus Christ, which produces the same effect, which makes a sensation strong and generally felt, and whose influence will be the same after so many centuries." Nobody in that assembly of scoffers accepted the challenge; and neither can any modern unbeliever examine the course of human events, influenced by Jesus Christ, and still reasonably maintain that He was only a mortal man.

 Could a mere human leader perform the miracles accredited to Him by four competent eyewitnesses? Only God could send Roman troops straight to the ground as Jesus did in Gethsemane. General MacArthur, General Eisenhower, with their modern military equipment, could never prostrate their enemies on the field of battle by a single word; but Christ did. Only God could still the angry waves as Jesus did on Galilee. No captain of an ocean liner or battleship would dare stand on the bridge of the ship amid a howling storm, cry out, "peace, be still!" and expect the angry tumult of the ocean to subside; but when Jesus spoke those words, wind and wave obeyed Him. Only God could feed five thousand people, not including women and children, on five loaves of bread and two fishes. No food administration with corps of experts could ever multiply provisions in this startling manner; but Jesus did.  Only God could heal a paralytic by speaking a few words. The entire faculties of our foremost medical schools could stand at the bedside of a paralysis victim forever without being able to utter a single sentence which would restore health to the locked or withered limb; but Jesus effected that healing in a moment. Only God could recall a widow's son from death, bring a little girl back to life, or grant the corpse of a deceased friend new existence. All the scientists in the world could surround a casket and apply methods of artificial respiration or restoration without being able to bring a cold corpse back to pulsating life; but Jesus did.

 Don't deceive yourself by arguing that it makes no difference whether Christ was truly God or only a man! It makes all the difference in the world. Because Jesus is more than the greatest men, higher than the loftiest angels, nothing, as the Scriptures promise, "shall be impossible" to Him. He has "all power . . . in heaven and in earth," the might and majesty required to stop this struggle, the heavenly strength necessary to solve your problems and make a way for you through surrounding sorrows. As your God, Jesus has divine wisdom, the perfect knowledge which foresees the way you should take, and he can lead you along the right paths for His name's sake. When everything else gives way; when human hopes collapse; when reliance on men has cruelly failed, you can cling to Christ as your God, find a firm anchor for your storm tossed soul in the faith which accepts Him as the Lord.

 How our blood-drenched age and its bewildered millions need a divine Christ to counteract the destructive delusion that human strength, human ingenuity, human production and power, can win the war, win the peace, win every struggle which may come upon us as individuals or as a nation! During the past days international attention was called to the conference held by the heads of the great allied nations at Teheran, and in this connection an official in Washington has stated that our greatest strength is to be found in our foreign alliances. While we are deeply grateful for every upright and unselfish force which can help us overcome our enemies, American Christians dare not overlook the fact that more than any treaty with European or Asiatic powers this country and its 135,000,000 need Christ, the true God. The seventh chapter of Isaiah tells us how in heavy, dangerous war unbelieving King Ahaz preferred his Assyrian allies to God's help and how with the crushing might of that alliance Ahaz' enemies were defeated. But what happened? Ahaz departed even farther from God. He copied the altar and worship of his heathen allies. Soon his whole country was crushed by the Assyrians, the very nation in which he had proudly placed his confidence. The Almighty prevent a repetition of such tragedy in our country! May we, recalling the grandiose promises of eternal friendship in World War I by the Italians and Japanese, then our allies, but our enemies in World War II, understand that where the divine Christ is excluded, deceit and dishonesty can easily rule. God give us officials in Washington like a former Secretary of State, Lewis Cass, who declared, "I believe the fate of a republican government is indissolubly bound up with the fate of the Christian religion; and that a people who reject its holy faith will find themselves the slaves of their own evil passions and of arbitrary power! Heaven grant us leaders in the capital who, realizing that Jesus is more essential for the masses than any financial, revenue, or tax program, will join Charles Foster, a former Secretary of the Treasury, in confessing, "Faith in the Christ of the Bible is more precious than gold"!

 America needs staunch and loyal followers of the Savior as God, because a widespread revolt against Him and His Word is underway throughout the land. We meet it in almost ever sector of our daily life. Last week, in Saint Louis, according to newspaper reports, a doctor lecturing to twenty high school seniors told them that in his opinion it was "a good idea " to forget personal purity before marriage – and thus ridiculed the divine benediction, "Blessed are the pure in heart." He was discharged by the Saint Louis public school administration, but you know that the same opposition to Christ and His Word exists in many parts of our educational system, while some people wonder why the juvenile delinquency figure is the highest in American history.

 Besides, a score of organizations are formally opposed to Christ. Tremendous sums are being spent to discredit the Scriptures. All the hue and cry of atheism cannot show a single untruth or inconsistency in the entire Bible. Unbelief, attacking our Lord, has only destroyed its own hope and refuge. A Christian minister once happened to meet Robert Ingersoll, the highly paid defender of infidelity, on a train. During the conversation the clergyman told Ingersoll: "I was walking along one day and saw a crippled boy on crutches. A huge bully came up and kicked the crutches, with the result that the cripple fell sprawling on the ground and was crushed by an onrushing wagon." "He ought to be damned!" Ingersoll cried out. Calmly pointing to the scoffing infidel, the pastor declared: " ‘Thou art the man.' Crippled humanity is leaning on the crutch of divine revelation – a dependable support – and you, with your infidelity, are seeking to knock those crutches from beneath mankind."  Similarly every enemy of the Lord is helping to tear heavenly hope out of human hearts.

 Unfortunately many churches have not realized the full blessing of this sacred truth that Christ is our God. If they did, they would not now be frittering precious, irreplaceable time away in a dozen social side issues. Sometimes – may God have mercy on their puny souls! – Protestant ministers lack the inner courage required to acknowledge Jesus openly. Have we descended to this, that certain American preachers are personally ashamed of the Name "above every other name," that in their spiritual cowardice they are afraid to mention it before those who reject Jesus? Too often this denial of the Savior wins public approval.  If an American tramples the Stars and Stripes, he is thrown into prison; but if a preacher tramples the cross, he is often applauded. Therefore, my fellow redeemed, you who know that every last word that I have spoken in exalting Christ as the true God is heaven's everlasting, unbreakable truth, stand up for Jesus! Speak out clearly and decisively against everyone – no matter who he is – who would reduce our Lord to the low, swampy, stinking, human level. Those who honor Him with their testimony will in turn be honored by Him.

 The question then, that has been begging for expression, asks not, "Is Christ God?" (there can be no doubt about that!), but, "Is Christ your God?" Has this confession sprung from your heart and leaped from your lips, "I believe that ‘this' [Jesus] ‘is the true God' "? You can refuse to acknowledge Him, for He will never force you, against your will, to accept His deity. A scoffer in Indiana writes me, "Remember, one of our four freedoms is freedom of religion – which includes the right to be atheists!" I readily concede that. You have freedom, when you hear Saint John say, "This [Jesus] is the true God," to scream out: "That's a lie! Jesus is not the true God. There is no God." But let me tell you, as I pray for your salvation, that you do not have the freedom of escaping the eternal and inevitable judgement prepared for those who reject the Lord Jesus! You have the freedom of sending your soul to hell, but you do not have the freedom of rescuing your soul from hell.


 That deliverance comes only through faith in Christ who, according to our text, is not only "the true God" but also "eternal life." What glorious assurance! Jesus not only gives life, leads to life, but in the full and glorious sense of the words He is Life, and that eternally.

 He is the everlasting existence, without beginning and without end. All life has come from Him. He together with the Father and the Spirit, created you. You live and breathe and move by His power. Keep hold of that triumphant truth in a day when blinded men, some of them in high places, some of them in our public schools, declare that life is an accident, that there is no divine Creator, no heavenly design! A Marinette, Wisconsin, mother writes me that one night when she read a Biblical account of the creation to her son, a third grade pupil, the child protested and said: "Mother, do you really want to know how we got the earth? My teacher," he continued, "says that millions of years ago a piece of the sun fell off and after that piece cooled, it later became the earth." The mother relates, "My horror was indescribable," and rightly so, for there is no quicker way to ruin a young life than by ruling God out from the start; no surer method of bringing divine wrath on a nation than tearing the Almighty out of the hearts of its youth; no more certain means for grown-up men and women teachers to ruin their own hopes of eternity than leading little children away from Christ! Our Lord himself spoke this warning, "It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and he be cast into the sea than that he should offend one of these little ones."

 Not only does the Scripture picture Christ as the eternal Creator of all past life, declaring emphatically, "All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made"; it also proclaims that He grants a blessed eternity to those who are His by faith. In complete contradiction of all who maintain that when a man draws his last breath, the absolute end has come and there is nothing more, our text, "This [Jesus] is eternal life," promises all believers that the dust and decay of the cemetery is not the final destiny, that the human heartache and tears at the funeral will be supplanted by rejoicing in a glad eternity. It is Christ's constant and comforting assurance that for His followers death will be but the quick entrance into a radiant and indescribable new existence, with their frail, broken, disease- marked bodies resurrected in a heavenly homeland where there shall be no more sorrows, no more pain of parting – instead, life everlasting amid celestial splendor, heavenly light, unchanging bliss.

 How, you ask, can Jesus defeat death? The answer reveals to us the most marvelous mercy, glorious grace, limitless love, that earth and heaven itself have ever known. Our Lord overcame sin, which is directly responsible for every death. It was the blessed purpose of His coming into the world, as these Advent days emphasize, that by the mystery of His incarnation, by fulfilling God's Law, which we could never fulfill, by suffering, bleeding, dying on the cross, in our stead and then on the third day rising triumphantly from the grave, He would break the mastery that sin held over our lives, take our transgressions away, endure their total, appalling punishment in our place, and suffer their entire curse.

 Now if you trust Christ's sin-removing, death-destroying devotion, you can wholeheartedly join the Apostle in challenging: "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? . . . thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" You will die, of course, but you will not remain in death. Your body will be laid in the grave, but it will be resurrected. You will bid farewell to your best beloved, but through the Savior, who is "eternal life," you will meet them again in the next world. You will leave the earth, but you will inherit heaven. Your eyes will close, but who can describe the glory that will be yours when they are opened to see Jesus face to face? With that exalting, death-defying trust in your resurrected Redeemer you can stand beside the casket of your dearest and through tears of sadness and loneliness actually thank Christ for calling home to Himself and the prepared place in the heavenly mansions the soul of one prepared by faith for the promise of Paradise.

 Is not this life-giving Christ the God we need in a day of widespread death and destruction, when incomplete government figures record 28,000 American young men killed in battle and another 27,000 missing, and perhaps even greater casualties as the war moves on to its critical stages? The unspeakable peace and soul calm that Jesus, and only He, can give His believers in their dying hours is real and strong and glorious. I saw it with my own eyes during these past days, when my beloved mother, almost eighty-four years old, by the grace of God a true heroine of the faith, lay on her deathbed. We watched at her side incessantly, day and night, but she would not have been alone had we been away, for her Savior was constantly with her. Therefore she never spoke of pain or fear or sorrow, but steadfastly communed with Him who had cleansed her by His blood. Her end came without any semblance of struggle or terror. We prayed,

Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
With these before my God I'll stand
When I shall reach the heavenly land,
and continued

Lord Jesus, I live to Thee;
Lord Jesus, I die to Thee;
Living and dying,
Lord, I belong to Thee;
Save me eternally.

 As we came finally to the last words Mother could ever hear on earth, that most precious promise of Scripture itself, "The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin," before the "Amen" could be spoken, her soul was with her Savior in heaven. It hurt indescribably to lose a mother who taught me my first prayers, gave me my early religious instruction, and daily, together with my godly father, with whom she is now reunited, led me to the Lord; a mother to whom under God I am inexpressibly indebted for many blessings; a mother who continually prayed and worked and sacrificed for all her children and for anyone else she could help; but she said with the Apostle, "To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain," and because she, "faithful unto death," holds our Savior in all His radiance, we are immeasurably strengthened and turn to the Lord with thanks for the victory He has given her.

 Your words of sympathy show me that you believe the comforting promises spoken by Jesus: "If any man keep my saying, He shall never see death." "I am the Resurrection and the Life." Because there is no other hope for eternity than the divine Savior, who says, "I am the way, the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh to the Father but by Me," let us work while it is day, before the approaching night of the world's end comes, to bring groping men and women throughout the world the pledge of everlasting light! Our King's business requires haste. Delay in spreading the Gospel of life may mean death to many. I read the other day of a Christian minister, who, eating dinner at a restaurant, noticed that his waiter was acting in a disturbed and distracted way. He resolved that he would speak to him during the next days and offer his help. When, later, he found time to inquire about the waiter, he was told that the poor man had just committed suicide. We cannot postpone the message of comfort in the Lord's coming without the danger of even greater destruction. Thank God that He has given us a marvelous means of sending Christ's message of salvation almost instantaneously to sinners in widely separated countries! Through the marvel of the radio we are bringing the Gospel of full and free forgiveness to people in Hawaii, Chile, Newfoundland, England, Ecuador, and scores of foreign lands; to our troops in the United States and on far-flung battle lines, not next year, not next month, but today, during these very hours. Stand by us, so that, the Lord guiding us, we may use every available suitable station throughout the world to tell men, "This is the true God, and eternal Life."

 If some of you, whom the Holy Spirit has led to this message, have until this moment spurned your Savior, spoken His name only with disdain or in profanity, beheld His cross only with indifference and stolid unconcern, then may that same sanctifying Spirit now cleanse your heart, so that you can understand; remove the scales of unbelief from your eyes, so that you can see; open your ears, so that you can hear and believe the promise of the pardon and peace sealed for you in the Savior's blood! Within two short weeks Christmas will have come and gone. How tragic beyond all words if this anniversary of our Savior's birth with its marvelous mercy and its personal appeal, asking you to accept the Lord as your God and Savior, should pass unheeded and leave you still in your sin! In the name of the coming Savior I beseech you: Despite all the activities a wartime Christmas imposes, find quiet, precious time to learn that Jesus "came into the world to save sinners" like you and me! If you need help and guidance in understanding that glorious grace, write to me without delay, so that this Advent season, in which we commemorate His coming to us, may be marked by another advent in your life, your coming to Christ! Then, blessed by the greatest gift even God can give you, with joy in your heart, calm in your soul, happiness in your home, rejoicing even amid the heaviest sorrow that affliction can inflict, you, pointing to the heavenly Child cradled in Bethlehem's manger, can exclaim with a faith triumphant over all doubt not only, "This is the true God and eternal Life," but also, " ‘This' Christ child ‘is' my ‘true God and' my ‘eternal Life!' " Our heavenly Father grant every one of you, for Jesus' sake, the repentant faith and the joyful trust which make Christ yours on earth and in heaven, through life and death into everlasting glory! Amen!

The preceding  "Lutheran Hour" sermon by Dr. Walter A. Maier aired in December 1943