Monthly Archives: August 2014

Trinity 11 – Luke 18:9-14

Jace Robert Zelhart is baptized today.

God, be merciful to me, a sinner! Might as well stop there and not have preaching today. The publican’s words in the temple say it all. Compare the publican’s words to the Pharisee’s words. God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get. Where to begin? Why not the verbs. Though the Pharisee’s prayer begins with the address to God, it goes downhill from there.

Everything is “I”. Look at me! Look at all the things I do. God, You tell me in Your Word this is what I am supposed to do. I am supposed to tithe and fast. Shucks, I even fast twice a week, just to show how pious I am. What matters most with the Pharisee is that he is thankful that he is not like other men. What he doesn’t realize, what you don’t realize, is that you are like other men. You are like every man that has ever lived, except for Jesus Christ.

You are a sinful man. You have lived as if others have not mattered and you have mattered most. Everything you think, do, and say is soiled with sin. The harder you try to show God and men how pious you are, yet will not believe that you are dead to sin, the more you set yourself up as an idol surrounded by other idols.

The parable of the Pharisee and the Publican exposes the central point of the Gospel: faith in a God who raises the dead. The Pharisee does not believe God can raise the dead because the Pharisee does not believe he is dead. Instead, he reminds God of all the good things he does for Him. He also points out that he is not like extortioners, the unjust, adulterers, or even that filthy, rotten, stinking, no-good tax collector over yonder. I am better than they are.

No, you’re not. You are actually far worse than they are. Consider the matter from God’s perspective. God is sitting on a throne watching over extortioners, the unjust, adulterers, and tax collectors. Meanwhile, the Pharisee walks up to the throne with a deck of cards. The Pharisee fans the cards and says, “Pick a card, any card. I can’t lose.” God looks at the Pharisee with a sad smile and says, “Friend, don’t do it. The odds are always on My side. See that guy over there, the publican, the one you can’t stand? He couldn’t guess your card even if you showed him what card to pick. Have a drink with him on Me and go home. You can’t win.”

Both the Pharisee and the Publican are losers, but there’s a difference. The publican at least has the sense to recognize that he is a loser. He trust’s God’s offer of a free drink. The Pharisee is looking for a way to pay for that drink, even though it is free. He could lose, but he won’t lose.

God uses His holy and perfect Law to show you exactly how you fare before Him. You’re dead. You can’t even begin to attempt to satisfy the debt you owe Him. The Lord God knows it, too. That is why He sends His only-begotten Son to suffer death on your behalf. He Who has no sin becomes sin on your behalf so you may have life, life to the fullest. Jesus says that the publican went down to his house justified, rather than the other. The publican says it all when he says, God, be merciful to me, a sinner.

That’s the response of a person who has everything to gain and nothing to lose. He’s already lost. He is the least in the kingdom of heaven. He is dead. Only then is he, are you, ready to receive the blood-bought justification from Jesus Christ. Only then is he, are you, ready to be declared “not guilty” before God’s almighty tribunal. The publican believes he cannot justify himself. He won’t even try. So he clings to what he does know: God is a merciful God Who has mercy on Whom He will have mercy.

God has mercy on Cain, even though Cain whines about it and, ultimately, won’t believe it. God has mercy on Saint Paul, even after Paul was once the chief persecutor of the Christian faith. He says, by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain. You walk in the same sandals as Saint Paul. You are who you are because you are His dear child, called out of darkness into His marvelous light. You are washed clean in Baptism, just as Jace Robert is today. God’s grace is never in vain. His favor shines on you in the Light of Christ, Who tramples death when He rises victorious from the grave for you.

Jesus came to raise the dead. Put your name where “the dead” is. Jesus doesn’t come to reform the reformable or to improve the improvable. You are dead. Yet you live because Jesus Christ lives. The cry in the liturgy: Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy, is one of faith. The God Who created you, Who redeemed you, and Who keeps you steadfast in the holy Christian Church has mercy on you. God, be merciful to me, a sinner. He is.

Caponiac Comments on the Pharisee and the Publican

[Luke 18:9-14] is an instruction in the futility of religion – in the idleness of the proposition that there is anything at all you can do to put yourself right with God. It is about the folly of even trying…. It is a warning to drop all religious stances – and all moral and ethical ones, too – when you try to grasp your justification before God. It is, in short, an exhortation to move on to the central point of the Gospel: faith in a God who raises the dead.

As far as the Pharisee’s ability to win a game of justification is concerned, he is no better off than the publican. As a matter of fact, the Pharisee is worse off; because while they’re both losers, the publican at least has the sense to recognize the fact and trust God’s offer of a free drink. The point of the parable is that they are both dead, and their only hope is someone who can raise the dead.

Death is death. Given enough room to maneuver, it eventually produces total deadness. In the case of the publican, for example, his life so far has been quite long enough to force upon him the recognition that, as far as his being able to deal with God is concerned, he is finished. The Pharisee, on the other hand, looking at his clutch of good deeds, has figured that they are more than enough to keep him in the game for the rest of his life.

What Jesus is saying in this parable is that no human goodness is good enough to pass a test like that, and that therefore God is not about to risk it. He will not take our cluttered life, as we hold it, into eternity. He will take only the clean emptiness of our death in the power of Jesus’ resurrection. He condemns the Pharisee because he takes his stand on a life God cannot use; he commends the publican because he rests his case on a death that God can use. The fact, of course, is that they are both equally dead and therefore both alike receivers of the gift of resurrection. But the trouble with the Pharisee is that for as long as he refuses to confess the first fact, he will simply be unable to believe the second. He will be justified in his death, but he will be so busy doing the bookkeeping on a life he cannot hold that he will never be able to enjoy himself. It’s just misery to try to keep count of what God is no longer counting. Your entries keep disappearing.

The point of this parable was that the publican confessed that he was dead, not that his heart was in the right place. Why are you so bent on destroying the story by sending the publican back for his second visit with the Pharisee’s speech in his pocket? The honest answer is, that while you understand the thrust of the parable with your mind, your heart has a desperate need to believe its exact opposite. And so does mine. We all long to establish our identity by seeing ourselves as approved in other people’s eyes. We spend our days preening ourselves before the mirror of their opinion so we will not have to think about the nightmare of appearing before them naked and uncombed. And we hate this parable because it says plainly that it is the nightmare that is the truth of our condition. We fear the publican’s acceptance because we know precisely what it means. It means that we will never be free until we are dead to the whole business of justifying ourselves. But since that business is our life, that means not until we are dead.

For Jesus came to raise the dead. Not to reform the reformable, not to improve the improvable…but then, I have said all that. Let us make an end: as long as you are struggling like the Pharisee to be alive in your own eyes – and to the precise degree that your struggles are for what is holy, just, and good – you will resent the apparent indifference to your pains that God shows in making the effortlessness of death the touchstone of your justification. Only when you are finally able, with the publican, to admit that you are dead will you be able to stop balking at grace.

It is, admittedly, a terrifying step. You will cry and kick and scream before you take it, because it means putting yourself out of the only game you know. For your comfort though, I can tell you three things. First, it is only one stop. Second, it is not a step out of reality into nothing, but a step from fiction into fact. And third, it will make you laugh out loud at how short the trip home was: it wasn’t a trip at all; you were already there.

Death…is absolutely all of the resurrection we can now know. The rest is faith.

Luther on The Pharisee and The Publican

All quotes from his Church Postils for Trinity 11 (Luke 18:9-14).

For what else is it, but to blaspheme and defy the lofty majesty of God, when he prays and says: I thank thee, God, that I am so holy and good, that I never need thy grace; but I find so much in myself, that I have kept the law, and you cannot accuse me of anything, and I have deserved so much, that you are bound to repay and reward me again for it in time and in eternity, if you would keep your own honor, and be a just and truthful God.

Now see, what a disgraceful, monstrous devil is in such a beautiful saint, who can cover himself with a thin appearance of a few works which he performs before the eyes of the people, and what he does in his worship, thanks, and prayers, whereby he blasphemes and dishonors the high majesty with outrage and defiance….

Further, since he has now blasphemed God and lied to him, because he is unwilling to confess his sins, he falls further and sins against love to his neighbor…. Hence he is so full of hatred to his neighbor, if God allowed him to judge, he would plunge the poor publican down into the deepest hell.

For when he sees and knows that his neighbor sins against God, he does not think how he can convert and save him from the wrath of God and condemnation, that he may reform; he has no mercy or sympathy in his heart for the distress and affliction of a poor sinner….

And what is the worst of all, he is glad and of good courage, because his neighbor is under the power of sin and the wrath of God…. For of what use can such a man be in the kingdom of God, who can still rejoice, yea, laugh and be heartily pleased at the sins and disobedience

Feast of St. Bartholomew – Luke 22:24-30

The minute you crave greatness, think of Saint Bartholomew. He is called Nathanael in John’s Gospel, and is the guy whom Philip begged to come and see Jesus even when he said Can anything good come out of Nazareth?. Outside of another mention in John chapter 21 as one of the Twelve, we hear nothing else about him. Legend has it that Bartholomew was sent to preach the Gospel in India, and later to Armenia. It was there where he suffered martyrdom, reportedly by being flayed, which is being skinned alive.

Bartholomew’s greatness is almost non-existent. He preached the Gospel and suffered martyrdom for it. He is perhaps the least known of the Twelve. Nevertheless, he receives the honor of having a festival day with his name. He is the personification of Christ’s words in the Upper Room to the Twelve: let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.

Greatness in Holy Scripture is measured by how much you suffer for Jesus’ sake. The apostles in Acts chapter five rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name [of Jesus]. They were told by the Jewish religious authorities not to speak in the name of Jesus. They received their beating, rejoiced in their suffering, and spoke in the name of Jesus.

Today we think about Christians suffering severe persecution in Iraq, Syria, and even Palestine and Israel. They are geographically speaking far away, but in the bonds of faith close to us. Their voices cannot remain silent as they suffer for speaking and confessing Christ before kingdoms with no shame. Their witness is completely different from the witness of much of what passes for Christianity in the United States of America.

Our witness about Christ gives an uncertain trumpet sound. It’s perhaps more like fingernails on a chalkboard. Our witness sounds awful because Christians bicker about who is the greatest among them. The more well known your congregation is in the community, or the more awesome things your pastor says and does, or the amenities your congregation offers visitors, or the more dollars your congregation gives each week determines who is the greatest among churches. Oh, sure, there is a sermon, maybe some hymns, but what people seem to want from church is a great cup of coffee, a place to park the kids so the parents can worship in peace, and a rocking praise band to lead the service.

Look at what we have here: a simple altar with bread and wine, a lectern from where the Scriptures are read, a modest pulpit for the sermon, and a font that has a sizeable crack in the lid and along the side. Most of the pews are empty. Most of the congregation is retired and soon will fall asleep in Jesus. The noise of children is seldom heard. Sunday School is non-existent. Bible study is not well attended. And where is our band, or our free-trade coffee and artisanal brioche? As the world sees it, we are dead. Nothing to see here. Keep moving. Our best days are long behind us. We aren’t the greatest congregation in town. Best to find somewhere else to go to church.

Jesus continues, For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. Jesus is in the things that the world sees as insignificant, crude, and not so good looking. Consider the prophet Isaiah’s words about the Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ: He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.

Saint Paul says we are carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. By God’s grace, through faith in His only-begotten Son Jesus, we carry His death in us by virtue of our baptism. As we heard a few weeks ago in Romans chapter six, Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

There’s no need of a contest to see who the greatest Christian is or what congregation is the best congregation in town. Earthly comforts are nice, but they aren’t necessary in a Christian congregation. We don’t look for leadership. We look for service, God’s service among us in His gifts that deliver His forgiveness, His life, and His salvation. Jesus is among us as the God-Man Who serves Himself to the authorities in order to suffer and die for our sin. He takes on our dirty consciences and makes them good.

The lastness, lessness, leastness, littleness, and death of Jesus Christ proffered in Word, water, bread, and wine, is the treasure in jars of clay that Saint Paul mentions in today’s Epistle, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. Leadership and victory for Christians happens in death and resurrection. Daily the Old Adam is drowned to death and the New Man rises to live before God and our neighbor in innocence, righteousness, and blessedness.

Greatness personified among the Twelve belongs, in some way, to Bartholomew. Though he doesn’t say much in the Gospels, his ministry of preaching, teaching, baptizing, bodying, and blooding the saints in Christ speaks for him. His death for the sake of the Gospel speaks even louder, for His witness is a mirror of Christ’s witness. Bartholomew will rise as we will rise when we hear the voice of the Savior calling us from the grave. Until then, we love what he believed and preach what he taught. That’s what the Church is given to do. That’s winning…by losing…and yet we win because of Jesus.

Bo Knows the Diversity of Gifts and Service in the Church

In the kingdom of Christ we speak of service, not rights. None of us have any other right to live and serve other than the right Christ have us by dying in our place. We are all equally unworthy here because we are sinners, yet at the same time equally worthy because we are created by God and are members in Christ’s body. The thing that makes us valuable, however, is also what makes us different. We are “the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27), each of us where God has placed us. An eye cannot be an ear. The merit it has is because it is an eye and nothing else.

– Bo Giertz, “To Live with Christ“, page 516.

Bo Doesn’t Know Legalism

Something in God’s nature is reflected in all true fatherhood. Even if man and woman are created differently, both of them are still created by God. They’re created for each other and supplement each other. They do that even in church. Paul talks quite a bit about the woman’s contribution to work in the Church in his letters, In [First Corinthians chapter ten] he mentions that they could pray and prophesy. When people prayed in the home, the woman could lead the prayer. Also, if she had the gift of prophesy, she could speak with the Spirit’s insight.

We see a difference here between the ancient church and Judaism. The Jewish nation was patriarchal, which they reasoned by referring to Genesis. Paul also refers to creation. Of course there are differences between man and woman. We have to see these differences, however, in the light of what happened through Christ. “In the Lord,” in other words in Christ’s kingdom, Christians must not think like the Jews did. Man and woman exist for each other. Each of them serves according to the gifts they’ve received, and we all are one in Christ. We are organs in the same body, serving one another. Therefore, there is no patriarchy in the New Testament. The fact that a woman could be gainfully employed and have a vocation went without saying.

Paul also brings up the question of outward appearances. How long should a man’s hair be? What should be on your head during church services? There’s a general rule in the New Testament for questions like these: one should act according to what’s considered common decency. Given that rule, there will be different answers to the same question over time. What’s considered offensive in one situation can be considered completely respectable in another. If Paul only recommends a certain kind of appearance in regard to this rule, then a Christian can react differently when outer appearances change. If, however, there’s something deeper to what Paul says, his words are binding for all time. Since, in this case, he appeals to a feeling of decency (what’s “proper”) we mean, as Lutherans, that people today can act as custom allows. However, we might see women in other countries put a veil or handkerchief over their hair when they enter the church. There, Paul’s words are regarded applicable through all time. If they are, we should certainly live after them. We Lutherans, however, see these as recommendations of the kind that can change over time, depending on custom and the good of man.

– Bo Giertz, “To Live with Christ“, pages 511-512

Tagged ,

Trinity 9 – Luke 16:1-9 (A Cwirlian Cornucopia of Gifted Gospel)

The rich don’t seem to fare very well in the Scriptures from the eternal perspective. The rich man winds up tormented in Hades while the poor man Lazarus is comforted in the bosom of Abraham. The rich young ruler stumbles over the question “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” because he had many possession and was reluctant to give them up. The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, scoffed at what Jesus had to say and ridiculed Him. God knows the heart. He knows your deepest fears, loves, and trusts. What man exalts, God despises. What man considers glorious, God considers hideous. What man calls glory, God calls shame.

It isn’t riches but faith in riches that God judges. Abraham was rich, yet he was faithful. David was rich, yet he was a man after God’s own heart. Wealthy people, both men and women, were numbered among the early disciples. It’s not riches that are condemned but faith in riches. Money is not the root of all evil. The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.”

Jesus told a parable of a crooked money manager who was wasting his master’s possessions. Charges were brought. The man was called in to give an account and fired on the spot, which left him in a bit of a jam. He was unemployed. So what does he do? Before word gets out about his being fired, he quickly calls in the man’s debtors and starts discounting loans on the fly. He knocks off fifty percent here, twenty percent there, collecting what he can at deep discount. In other words, he’s cashing in on his master’s good name and reputation. It’s a shrewd move. The master is cornered. If he refuses the deal, he looks bad. If he takes the deal, the crooked money manager looks good and has a lot of friends. The master knew shrewdness when he saw it, and he praised the dishonest manager for it.

Seems odd, doesn’t it? Making a crook the hero of a parable? Or perhaps not. Think about it. When was the manager most effective at what he was doing? Precisely when he was essentially dead. He’d been fired. He had nothing to lose with this “Hail Mary” pass to the end zone. He’s like the Samaritan in the parable of the man who fell among the thieves, who doesn’t have a care in the world and no law constraining him and so is free to be neighbor and priest to the broken, bleeding man in the ditch. That day may easily have been the most productive day that money manager ever had. If he’d worked that hard earlier, he might never have been fired. But it’s only when he is fired, when he doesn’t have a single thing to justify himself, that he’s free to make friends with someone else’s money. He lived as one who was dead, as someone who had nothing to lose.

That’s when we are truly free, when we have nothing to lose. That’s what faithfulness is about. It’s holding wealth with a dead open hand of faith. The test of that is how easily we can let go. “Take they our life, goods, fame, child, wife – let these all be gone. Our victory has been won. The kingdom ours remaineth.” And if the “kingdom ours remaineth” we have nothing to lose, do we?

You see how tightly the old Adam clings to us. The mere talk of giving it all away causes us to tense up and reach protectively for our wallets. Luther called the wallet the most sensitive organ of the human body. God literally has to pry our wealth out of the old Adam’s fingers – whether by taxes, economic downturns, theft, fraud, coercion, bribes, finally by literally killing us. “You can’t take it with you.” Even the act of offering and almsgiving, of giving to the Lord as an act of worship and of giving to the poor is an exercise in killing the old Adam with his death grip on money.

You can’t serve two masters. Divided loyalty is no loyalty at all. The old Adam in us will choose Mammon over the Lord every day of the week, including Sundays and holy days. “This desire for wealth clings and cleaves to our nature all the way to the grave.” It has to die along with all the other lusts and evil desires of the old Adam. It has to be drowned and die. If we were left to our own devices and shrewdness, none of us, not one, would be saved. We’d all be like the rich young ruler who turned his back on Jesus when he heard he needed to downsize, sell all his stuff and come die and rise with Jesus. The way of salvation is exceedingly narrow. It doesn’t allow room for your stuff. It’s not like the airlines where you can drag a pile of luggage through that narrow door of death and resurrection.

Our attitude toward money reminds us that we are at our heart of hearts idolaters who cannot save ourselves. But you were washed. You were justified, sanctified, glorified in Christ. You are baptized. The old is drowned, the new has risen. The new you in Christ is slave to no one but Christ. The new you in Christ is free, you have nothing to lose. The kingdom of God is yours. The treasures you have now are a gift from God to you, placed into the dead and empty hand of faith. The new you in Christ is not a slave to Money but a master of it. You can order it around. You can tell Misters Washington, Lincoln, and Franklin, “go feed the hungry person over there” or “go help that homeless person.” The new you in Christ gives freely, joyfully, cheerfully, not out of coercion or for gain, but out of freedom in love.

You are baptized to be servants of God, disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, priests in Christ’s royal priesthood of the baptized. You cannot serve two masters. Your master is Christ who saved you by HIs dying and rising. Your master is Christ who saves you through your Baptism, through the word of forgiveness and reconciliation He speaks to you, through the Bodied bread and Bloodied wine with which He feeds you. Money can’t do that. Money can’t bring love, joy, or peace. Money can’t wash away your sins or give you a free and clear conscience before God. Money can’t make those twinges of guilt go away or reconcile your past. Money can’t raise you from the grave and heal your death. Money is a terrible taskmaster that will drive you to your grave even as you cling to it.

Christ is your Master. He says, “Come to me, and I will give you rest.” He says, “Be anxious about nothing, but look at the birds and the lilies and how God takes care of them and how much more God cares for you, bought by the Blood of His Son.”

You cannot serve God and money. Money is a means to an end. God is the end and Christ is your master. That’s freedom, my friends. Freedom to enjoy, to take risks, to give generously, to live. You’re dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. The nice thing about being dead is that you have nothing to lose. The kingdom ours remaineth.


Faith Itself and Tertius Usus Legis

If we, to begin with, restrict ourselves to the fact that, according to the Lutheran conception, the believer as such does not need the law but only as one who has not yet been completely regenerated, and that, according to the Re­formed conception, the believer precisely as a believer and a person who is regenerated needs the law, then without even considering the difference also in the definition of the law itself, a somewhat different understanding of faith itself becomes evident.

From the Lutheran standpoint, in the justified person faith, bringing with it the unio mystics, is such a unity of the human subject with the divine that he finds in him­self the norm and stimulus for his actions. He no longer needs to receive this from the outside. Because he has been given the Holy Spirit, he is an independent source of a divine manifestation in his life and his activity. The law, therefore, does not stand over him anymore as something foreign to his will, but it has passed over into his will as the impulse of love, inflamed by the Holy Spirit…But in this life faith is never present in such ideal perfection. A believer, to be sure, soars in inspired moments to this pure height in keeping with his real nature. Otherwise, however, he still carries around with him the natural man, who only through a long and hard battle is transformed and enlightened by the Holy Spirit, active in faith.[i] Only because of the Old Man does the believer also need the law as a taskmaster of the flesh in the interest of the spirit. Thus the law has for him a negative function. All truly Christian, positive action, however, proceeds from faith itself, which receives from itself guidance and impulse – which is, naturally, to be compared with the law and verified by it.

For the Reformed, faith is, of course, also a unity with the divine, but only as a principle and beginning. Its actual realization lies in immeasurable infinity. It is not an ideal law which already includes in itself the totality of all development. Faith, as such unity created by the Holy Spirit, possesses the will, the striving and the abstract, general direction. But the norm for faith and the will, which is carried along by faith, in individual situations always is the divine will as something still standing over it, demanding the particular action. The ”you must” has not yet been overcome, but rather sharpened. Only now does the believer begin to understand the law in its spiritual nature. Its commands and promises, as well as its threats and prohibitions, become more penetrating because they are now understood in faith.

So, just because faith has been kindled, for that reason the law is necessary, which urges one on to action. It is precisely the regenerate person who needs the law for his development, his perfection, his positive progress, his manifestations of obedience and his good works, which should glorify God. By no means does he need the law only to control and discipline the unregenerate part in him….The law is necessary for him because it rests on the natural law of God, that is, because the difference between the finite and the infinite always continues, and the former can have its norm only in the latter. The norm of the infinite will always become known to the finite only as a categorical imperative. This is that being kept in the fear of God by the curb of the law [mentioned in the Geneva Catechism] also in the case of the regenerate person. The law must always preserve the reverence which is fitting for the finite as such over against the infinite.

This, then, is the basis for the Lutheran charge that Reformed piety is servile, legalistic and not evangelically free. The Reformed Christian fears nothing more than that under the pretext of evangelical freedom licentious­ness might set in. That is why he emphasizes the law, so strongly at times that he comes dangerously close to in­fringing on evangelical freedom.

Thus Bayly writes, “One should live, therefore, as if there were no gospel and die as if there were no law. In life we should act as if no one but Moses ruled over us.”[ii] The Lutheran, on the other hand, fears nothing so much as work‑righteousness and is very concerned that the striv­ing for sanctification which is based on faith might not become that.[iii] Therefore the law always serves him only to convict him of sin.[iv] That which is positively good is only a work of the freedom of faith in the Spirit. The law is needed only because the individual as the one who is act­ing is still always a sinner. In connection with the apostol­ic text about the law of freedom [James 1:25], the Reformed emphasizes the word law as real law, while the Lutheran emphasizes the word freedom as freedom from the law in the true sense of the word, so that the law of freedom signifies the norm that is present in the believer himself. The Reformed theologian mistrusts what is present in the believer in the form of something which merely motivates him just as we found him mistrusting faith, which is some­thing direct and emotional in him. As the condition of being in faith must be demonstrated to his own self‑con­sciousness through works, so the subjective, impelling norm for action must be legitimized for him by means of the objective law.

[i] Strictly speaking, it is not the Old Man that is transformed and enlightened but the Christian, who, as he grows in sanctification, more and more puts off the Old Man and puts on the New Man (Eph 4:22‑24; Col 3:9,10).

[ii] Lewis Bayly, Praxis Pietatis (Bern, 1703), p 125. Bayly (1565‑1631), was an English preacher and churchman, who had a great influence on German Pietism. His Praxis Pietatis was translated into many languages.

[iii] That is, that it does not become work‑righteousness. One cannot deny, however, that as the Reformed with his position denies evangelical freedom, so the Lutheran can all too easily fall into spiritual inactivity and fleshly security. That we too do not completely avoid this danger follows from the fact that the abundance of works, which the Reformed sects can exhibit in such great measure, is lacking among us. We think only of the great sacri­fices which the Reformed sects bring for the local congregation, for educa­tional and charitable institutions and for missions, while among us fi­nancial need in all branches of church activity is a chronic condition. Even in that one area in which we until now stood far in front of the Reformed churches, namely, in the area of the parish school, our zeal is beginning to flag because its maintenance demands continuous effort and expenditures. The parish school is, of course, not of divine institution or command, and our faith now does not have enough strength and energy to overcome the indolence of the Old Adam. If we regarded the school and other branches of church activity as a strict divine command, then our zeal for its main­tenance and improvement would perhaps be greater. But that we would thereby be richer in real good works cannot be proved, for all good works are good only in so far as they proceed from faith itself freely and not forced by the law. Accordingly, the cure for our lack of works does not consist in this that we become more legalistic in our Christianity and adopt something of the Reformed spirit, but in this that we, in a genuinely Lu­theran spirit, apply the law in its sharpness as a mirror to our lazy flesh, that we allow ourselves to be judged and condemned by it, that we become alarmed at our lack of energy because of which we neglect God’s kingdom and poor souls, and that we flee again to grace and from its fullness and fervor, which surpasses all human thought, acquire for ourselves new, free, spiritual willpower.

[iv] Just as the law serves as a mirror, so naturally it serves also as a rule and curb—because of the flesh.

August Pieper, “The Difference Between The Reformed And The Lutheran Interpretation Of The So Called Third Use Of The Law“. The paper is predominantly one long quote from a portion of Matthias (Max) Schneckenburger’s book, “A Comparative Presentation of the Lutheran and Reformed Concept of Doctrine”, published in 1855.

Tagged , , ,

Preachers Do Not Use the Law, the Holy Spirit Uses the Law

The third use of the law is not the preacher’s to use. Rather, it is the Holy Spirit’s to use. It is the Holy Spirit who uses the law according to all of its uses whenever and wherever it is preached. The third use simply denotes one of several different ways that the proclaimed law functions in the heart of the hearer. This does not mean that the Holy Ghost preaches the third use apart from the oral Word proclaimed and heard. For the law that the Holy Ghost uses is precisely that law that is preached and none other.

Regarding that which is proclaimed by the preacher, one can only conclude that it is the same law that is preached to the Christian and non-Christian alike – complete with all the curses, threats and punishments that always accompany the preaching of the law according to its various uses. That task is left to the Holy Spirit to accomplish as he will wherever the law is preached in its full force. Any attempts to speak of the third use as if it were the preacher’s use are contrary to the intended sense of the Formula. The working of the Solid Declaration must stand unqualified, that “it is just the Holy Ghost who uses the written law for instruction” (Solid Declaration VI:3). Only in this way will one make proper use of the Evangelical Lutheran doctrine of the third use of the law.

– Jonathan G. Lange, “Using the Third Use: Formula of Concord VI and the Preacher’s Task”, LOGIA, Volume 3, Number 1, page 23

Tagged , ,

Which Quote is in The Book of Concord?

“[The Holy Spirit] exhorts [the regenerate] thereto, and when they are idle, negligent, and rebellious in this matter because of the flesh, He reproves them on that account through the Law…. He slays and makes alive; He leads into hell and brings up again.”

“The law is an exhortation to believers. This is not something to bind their consciences with a curse, but to shake off their sluggishness, by repeatedly urging them, and to pinch them awake to their imperfection.”

Which one is in The Book of Concord? Or are BOTH quotes in The Book of Concord? Or is NEITHER quote in The Book of Concord? You make the call.

Tagged , ,