Category Archives: Holy Scripture

Not So Secretly and All Too Often

The apostle [Paul] says: “Persist with reading!” (1 Timothy 4:13) Therefore it is necessary to read, and diligently, regularly read [Scripture], and read everything that is written, all the Scriptures from beginning to end, and read what is read again and again so that one, when one is finished with the Bible, immediately goes back to the beginning. Joshua, the leader of Israel who was at the same time to teach the people the ways of the Lord, had the command of God: “Let the Book of the Law not depart from your mouth, but contemplate it day and night!” (Joshua 1:8) This is also said to us. It is not enough when a pastor lets himself be satisfied with the daily lectionary, with which he as head of the household edifies his family in morning and evening prayers. No, servants of the Word, theologians, have the special command of God: “Persist with reading!” And if a preacher also is occupied from morning to evening for the work of the [preaching] office, then he should just not forget that reading, persistent reading is also an duty of the [preaching] office. Lack of time is no excuse. We should simply make the best use of our time. Even longer or shorter offical travels absolutely should not hinder “persistent” reading. Just as every Roman [Catholic] priest takes his Brevarium, so every evangelical preacher can take his New Testament with him on his travels. Every theologian should be versed in Scripture and be at home anywhere in it. About Luther it is praised that he has been a more excellent Localis, i.e., every saying in Scripture could be found immediately. Whoever diligently reads in many cases saves the trouble of pouring over concordances. A famous theologian of this [19th] century has testified about himself that he had not gained his knowledge of Scripture from many books and commentaries, but chiefly from the Scriptures themselves, from lectio continua.

Georg Stöckhardt, “On the Theologian’s Study of Scripture” (Vom Schriftstudium der Theologen). Translated by DMJ

Keep Watch! Study! Attend to Reading!

This is the advice: Keep watch! Study! Attende lectioni (“Attend to reading” 1 Timothy 4:13)! Truly, you cannot read in Scripture too much; and what you do read you cannot read too well, and what you read well you cannot understand too well, and what you understand well you cannot teach too well, and what you teach well you cannot live too well. Experto crede Ruperto (“Take it from Rupert, who knows from experience.”). It is the devil, the world, and the flesh that are ranting and raging against us. Therefore, beloved lords and brothers, pastors and preachers, pray, read, study, and keep busy. Truly, at this evil, shameful time is not the season for loafing, snoring, or sleeping.

– Martin Luther, Preface to Johann Spangenberg’s Postils. Erlangen Edition 63:372-373. St. Louis Edition 14:397-398. Now found in The Christian Year of Grace, translated by Mr. Matthew Carver, p. 6. English Translation of the above quote from Mickey L. Mattox.

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Scripture Is The Norm of The Gospel, But The Gospel’s Verity Is Not Derived from the Scriptures

When Lutherans argue for the inspiration and inerrancy of the Scriptures and insist that the Scriptures are norm even (especially!) for the Gospel, it is not their intention to establish some premise on the basis of which they deduce and attempt to prove the truthfulness of the Gospel in order to compel a mere intellectual persuasion that the Good News is worthy of all acceptation. Lutherans recognize that a conviction resting on such a foundation could well be a human logical conclusion (fides humana) which is hazardously dependent upon rationally satisfying evidence for the reliability of a doctrine about the Bible, instead of a faith worked in us by the Holy Spirit (fides divina) which clings to the voice from heaven heard in the Bible.

In Lutheran confessional theology, saving faith always has as its sole object the promise of forgiveness for Christ’s sake; saving faith is always the creation of God’s Spirit through the Word. The Apology chides scholastic theologians because “they interpret faith as merely a knowledge of history or of dogmas” (IV, 383). “Faith is not merely knowledge but rather a desire to accept and grasp what is offered in the promise of Christ” (IV, 227). “To believe means to trust in Christ’s merits” (IV, 69). “Faith in the true sense, as the Scriptures use the word, is that which accepts the promise” (IV, 113). Again, “Faith saves because it takes hold of mercy and the promise of grace” (IV, 338). “Such a faith is not an easy thing” (IV, 250). “Faith in Christ and in the forgiveness of sins …does not come without a great battle in the human heart. … Faith which believes that God cares for us, forgives us, and hears us is a supernatural thing, for of itself the human mind believes no such thing about God.” (IV, 303)

When the confessors said, “We are certain of our Christian confession and faith on the basis of the divine, prophetic, and apostolic Scriptures,” they added at once that they had been “assured of this in (their) hearts and Christian consciences through the grace of the Holy Spirit.” (Preface to The Book of Concord, pp. 12-13)

When Lutherans say that the Bible is the God-inspired norm of the Gospel, we are expressing our Spirit-wrought conviction that the Gospel we hear in the Scriptures is indeed the “voice-from-heaven” Gospel, not merely some human construction. We are confessing what we deeply believe about this Holy Book from whose pages God speaks to our anxious hearts His very own word of absolution.

Accordingly, our view of the Bible is a result of our faith in the Gospel; our faith in the Gospel is not a result of our view of the Bible. Because we have come to know that the voice we hear in the Gospel taught by Scripture is truly God’s voice, we treasure these sacred Scriptures as the only source and norm of this precious Gospel. With our whole being we resist every suggestion that the Bible is something less than God’s very own Word — not because we feel the Gospel needs to be buttressed by a doctrine about Scripture, but because our attitude toward Scripture has in fact been shaped by the Gospel! As Dr. Francis Pieper explained. “Only after a man is justified does he take the right attitude toward the entire Scripture, believing that Scripture is God’s Word (the Word which cannot be broken, John 10:35), and make diligent use of Scripture (John 5:39).” (Christian Dogmatics Volume 2, page 424)

“Gospel and Scripture: The Interrelationship of the Material and Formal Principles in Lutheran Theology”, pages 15-16. Boldface emphasis mine.

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Good Ol’ Gospel Reductionism

The Gospel is not normative for theology in the sense that beginning with it as a fundamental premise, other items of the Christian system of doctrine are developed as provisional, historically conditioned responses to a given situation which will need to be revised for another situation. The whole body of Lutheran doctrine is always represented as “taken from the Word of God and solidly and well grounded therein” (Formula of Concord Solid Declaration Summary, 5) “supported with clear and irrefutable testimonies from the Holy Scriptures” (ibid., 6), and based “on the witness of the unalterable truth of the divine Word” (Preface to The Book of Concord). Lutheran doctrine is therefore called “unchanging, constant truth” (FC SD Rule and Norm, 20) which “is and ought to [must] remain the unanimous understanding and judgment of our churches.” (Ibid., 16)

Especially with reference to the Bible do Lutherans reject the idea that the Gospel serves as a core to which other teachings of the Bible are related as a mere set of deductions relative to that particular time and culture. Lutheran theology does not appeal to the Gospel in such a way as to relativize the rest of the Scriptures. Gospel is not norm in the Scriptures in such a way as to make only the Gospel the norm of theology. This is a “Gospel reductionism” that Lutherans condemn as a repudiation of the authority of the Scriptures.

“Gospel and Scripture: The Interrelationship of the Material and Formal Principles in Lutheran Theology”, pages 9-10

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Preparing Budgets at Home and at Church

Many Christian congregations are preparing their income and expenditure guidelines for the next calendar year. As they prepare, so it behooves you to prepare as well. These passages from Holy Scripture are suitable for your meditation on how to support the preaching of the Gospel and administration of the Sacraments in your congregation:

The Lord commanded that those who proclaim the Gospel should get their living by the Gospel. (1 Corinthians 9:24)

Let the one who is taught the Word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. (Galatians 6:6-7)

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” (1 Timothy 5:17-18)

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13)

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17)

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