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Fourth Sunday after Epiphany – Matthew 8:23-27

Calm seas. Then a storm. Broken words: Lord, save, we die. We are perishing is polite. Then a word from Jesus that sounds like an insult, but is actually not an insult: Why are you afraid, O you of little faith. The word is actually one word in Greek: little faithers. Though their faith is weak, there is faith present. That is not an insult but the way things are.

Let’s consider that question: Why are you afraid? The “Doomsday Clock” moved thirty seconds toward doomsday this past week, the closest the clock has been to the end of the world in a long time. Say what you will about the state of our country, let alone the world, people are scared. There is uncertainty in the economy. There is uncertainty in foreign relations. There is uncertainty that our congregation, or any congregation in Momence, will be here into the next decade.

Where is Jesus in the midst of the uncertainty? He’s in the back of boat sleeping. It’s a good time to sleep. Jesus has preached an extended sermon and healed many people. The guy just wants to get a little rest. We all know what it’s like to sleep through a thunderstorm. Rain, hail, thunder, and lightning sound like doomsday outside. Yet we sleep soundly in our beds, oblivious to what’s happening. You wake up the next morning, discover twigs and limbs down in your yard, and can’t believe there was a thunderstorm. Even the tornado siren didn’t wake you up.

Your life is a dumpster fire, so to speak, and Jesus is fast asleep. You think He can’t, or won’t, hear your prayers. You see no visible evidence of Him caring for you. You’ve stuck with Him through it all and He’s snoring when you need Him most. Your prayers now take the shape of the disciples in the boat: one word imperatives. Lord, help, I die. Lord, help, my job. Lord, help, no friends. Lord, help, marriage. Lord, help, children.

Why are you afraid, O you of little faith? Jesus may seem asleep, but He hears you. He helps you. Do you not believe it? Or is your faith weak? Weak faith does not mean no faith. Weak faith means an opportunity to strengthen it, especially in times of trial. As we prayed in today’s collect, He knows that we live in the midst of so many dangers that in our frailty we cannot stand upright. When we are weak, Jesus is strong. He stands up in the hour of need to hear your prayer. Though we are many times of little faith, there stands Jesus to strengthen us. He is listening. He will take care of your need in His way and according to His will.

Jesus’ question is followed by another question after He calms the storm: What sort of man is this? That’s the Epiphany question. What sort of man is this Who can sleep through a devastating storm, yet remain asleep until His disciples wake Him? What sort of man is this Who rebukes the winds and the sea? What sort of man is this Who brings great calm? This man is no ordinary man. He is also God incarnate.

The same voice that brought the heavens and the earth into existence is able to calm physical distress by opening His mouth and speaking to it. Winds and sea must hearken to His voice. How much more, then, is this man able to hear you and speak to your need?

Yet Jesus does not speak to each of us individually as if we are having a polite conversation. He speaks to us using earthly stuff. Jesus speaks His Word proclaimed from lectern and pulpit using pastors’ mouths to bring the peace and tranquility of forgiveness of sins. We daily sin much. God’s grace to us in Jesus Christ is more than enough to cover our multitude of sins.

Our problem is that we don’t actually believe it. We think there’s a catch, a trap, something along the way that doesn’t truly deliver what Jesus gives us. We spend more time looking for the exception rather than rejoicing in the norm. The norm for our Savior is to remember our sins no more. He has borne every last one of them in His body for our sake. He bleeds and dies for your sin. There is no sin that can cling to you. There is no sin that accuses you. The accuser, Satan, has nothing to say about it except empty bluster. Jesus has paid for them in full. No catch. No strings.

Saint Paul says in today’s Epistle that love is the fulfilling of the law. What great love the Father has shown us in His only-begotten Son! Jesus is the sort of man Who takes away sin and gives everlasting life. He calms storms. He heals lepers. He changes water into wine. He raises the dead. He speaks to your need for His aid in His Word. He delivers that aid by washing away your sin in Baptism and feeding you with His forgiveness in His Supper. That’s the sort of man Jesus is. You cry to the Lord in your trouble, and He delivers you from your distress. Believe it for His sake.

Killing the Old Adam and Sustaining the New Man

According to Lutheran theology, the believer needs the law only because he is still a sinner, that is to say, he is not yet a perfect believer in every respect, not yet a person who has the absolute principle as the all-determining dynamic of his life. For the Lutheran, therefore, the activity called forth by the law is directed principally to the work itself, to practicing the personal and indeed negative virtues, to subduing evil desires (concupiscentia). The believer’s chief concern is to rid himself more and more of the remnants of his sinful Old Man. Precisely these remnants are recognized in the mirror of the law and are constantly struck by its reprimands. As a believer, however, who no longer is under the law, he has only to conserve the faith he has by always establishing himself in it anew. Here, too, of course, belongs the manifestation of love in his outward activities, if indeed he is to avoid losing the fellowship with God he already has.

According to the Reformed view, on the other hand, a believer becomes secure as far as he himself and his final, definite overpowering of sin are concerned only by doing good works. His chief activity to which the divine law summons him is therefore directed toward outward work, toward the positive shaping of the world according to the divine norm.

This basic difference, which is, to be sure, in itself rather subtle but nevertheless very significant and characteristic with respect to the authority of the law, not only gives Reformed piety its particular quality and spirit, but also has consequences and similarities in other doctrines.

Matthias (Max) Schneckenburger, “Vergleichende Darstellung des lutherischen und reformierten Lehrbegriffs” (A Comparative Presentation of the Lutheran and Reformed Concept of Doctrine), quoted in “The Difference Between The Reformed And The Lutheran Interpretation Of The So-Called Third Use Of The Law” by August Pieper. All italicized print appears in Pieper’s essay.

St. James of Jerusalem – James 1:1-12

Lutherans tend to get allergic to hearing preaching, let alone reading, from the epistle of James. After all, James does say in chapter two of his epistle, But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. That ought to be enough to make us nod our heads in approval with Martin Luther calling James an “epistle of straw” and “a good book, because it sets up no doctrines of men but vigorously promulgates the law of God.”

There is always two sides to every story. James might be an “epistle of straw”, but it is also an “epistle of faith”. A key to understanding what James writes in his epistle is to understand that James is writing to an audience who already believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. He calls them the twelve tribes in the Dispersion, echoing Old Testament language of the twelve tribes of Israel who have been scattered abroad.

A clue to why his audience has been scattered abroad comes early in today’s epistle: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. Some scholars place the date of this epistle not long after the stoning of Saint Stephen in Acts chapter seven. Stephen’s stoning began a period of severe persecution for followers of The Way, as the Christian faith was called in those early years after Pentecost. Reading James while understanding the context under which he wrote his epistle brings us a lot of comfort as we listen to his words to those who are ready to suffer, even to death, for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds. That’s the last thing any of us want to do. Those of us who are Cubs fans may have found a couple of games this week to be more than we could handle. Perhaps you have already signed off on the Bears season because you can’t stomach seeing them play poor football. Comparing sports to the Christian faith is foolishness, but you see the point. When persecution comes upon a Christian, the last thing you want to do is consider it a joy to suffer for Christ’s sake.

The apostles counted it joy to suffer for Christ’s sake. Every opportunity they took to preach the Gospel was all joy. They were allowed to speak Christ’s saving death and resurrection to someone. The Jewish authorities tried to silence their witness. Some Roman authorities listened, but never really believed what they said. Others were ready to do whatever it took to silence their preaching, even if it meant killing the messengers.

The model witness, or martyr, in the New Testament who counted it all joy to suffer was Saint Stephen himself. Perhaps that’s why James writes what he does to open his epistle. Saint Luke records his death in Acts chapter seven: And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Stephen doesn’t yell at them to stop. What is more, he doesn’t hold their sin against them. He is ready to die. He is ready to forgive. Stephen stands firm to the end and receives a martyr’s crown.

Those who suffer for the sake of Jesus count it all joy to meet trials of various kinds. Perhaps it is not persecution that should concern us. All of us bear various crosses. For some it is unrighteous anger. For others it is shame and guilt over an abortion, or perhaps a divorce. These are not unpardonable sins. They are covered under Christ’s blood; paid in full. Yet the pain remains, often for the rest of one’s life.

Jesus Christ counted it all joy to suffer and die for your sin. He met a trial no one should ever go through. He was the scapegoat for the sins of every human being who ever lived, currently lives, or will live. Never once did He waver. Never once did He think it a fool’s errand to die an innocent death for the sake of guilty people. Jesus did His Father’s will all the way to Calvary, through the tomb, and to His Father’s side. All this He did for your sake.

The privilege is yours to meet various trials, especially trials that come for the sake of clinging to Christ for your salvation. In those trials you have the opportunity to speak the hope that is in you for eternal life. Your hope, your joy, is Jesus Christ. He has made it possible for you to die a Christian death. A Christian death means to fall asleep in Jesus’ wounds with the confidence that when you again open your eyes, you shall see your Savior face-to-face. James says so in the last verse of today’s epistle: Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

You may not have a death like Stephen, all of the apostles save John, or any other martyr. You will, however, have your trials. In the midst of those trials, you cling to Jesus to see you through it all. When you cling to Jesus in every trial, your steadfastness has what James calls its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James’ words to you today are not words of straw. They are words of faith, a faith that is founded on the Chief of the Corner: Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. Faith for Saint James, and for you, does not merely know Jesus like someone would know answers to trivia. Faith is a lively trust in the God who has made forgiveness a reality for that faith. The ancient Christians believed that reality in the preaching they heard. You today also believe that reality, for you have seen in various trials how the Lord God has brought you through them. Count it all joy, beloved, to suffer everything for the sake of Jesus Christ, even when your faith in Him is a tiny spark. That tiny spark is perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, for it holds fast to Jesus Christ, your Crown of Life.

Sermon: Property and Custody

The sermon…is the property of the church in the custody of the pastor. Both qualifiers are important. Because the sermon does not belong to the preacher, but to the whole church, the preacher will try to see to it that, on a given Sunday morning, the witness of the whole church is heard, not simply the preacher’s own biases and prejudices. But because the sermon is placed in the custody of the pastor, it will at the same time be a personal statement, a kind of “testimony”: This is how I hear the Spirit speaking to me in the Scripture for the day.

Furthermore, the sermon on Sunday morning is set in the context of the church’s public liturgy. It is one part of a larger public offering of praise and thanksgiving – part of a meeting with the Lord of life and with one another in the Christian family. The sermon of course brings God’s Word to bear upon our lives in contemporary terms; it mediates between God and His world; it provides a “mask” through which the hidden God is revealed in His judgment and His grace, today, in this place, among these people.

Rev. Paul F. Bosch, The Sermon As Part of the Liturgy, page 19

Paul F. Bosch

Which Came First: Forgiveness or Repentance, Part Two

More from Dennis Ngien. Part one is here.

Hearing God’s pronouncement of his forgiveness can be a very powerful motive for us to seek reconciliation with him. For instance, when someone has broken a relationship, the word that the wounded party has forgiven the guilty one can serve as a strong impetus causing the offender to seek reconciliation. Our repentance is not a condition of grace, but only a response to grace. Whereas “legal repentance” takes the form, “Repent, and if you do, you will be forgiven,” “evangelical repentance” takes this form, “Christ has given himself for you for the forgiveness of your sins; therefore, repent! Receive his forgiving grace in repentance.” The latter is Luther’s – the gift is primary, and the response secondary. By putting the emphasis on the primacy of the word, Luther gave priority to the responsive rather than causative character of faith.

The justifying word, “I forgive you,” is the content of the gospel, whereas repentance is our response to the gospel, not our causing it. “[O]nly as the word is maintained as the work of God, does faith retain the character of receptivity or reception of other gifts” (Charles Arand, “That I May Be His Own“, page 167). This, too, is in accord with Luther’s sacramental theology, in which God gives himself in his Son. In the Eucharist, Christ spoke the justifying word which effects forgiveness in us. The words of Christ’s institution summon from us an unconditional response of faith and repentance; they foment a sacramental piety, which is not contingent upon any human invention of pious works or pious desire. A conversion (repentance and faith) that is not rooted in God’s justifying word-act, specifically in the mass, is not true conversion. The sacrament is purely God’s action on our behalf, to which we respond with gratitude and thanksgiving. Unlike Zwingli who stressed the signifying character of the sacrament for which thanksgiving was rendered, Luther saw the causative character of God’s word in it as the source of gratitude. We thank God for coming into our lives and redeeming us as the recipients of the inestimable benefits promised in Christ’s last will. It is precisely by our unworthiness that we become the object of God’s grace. Therefore when faced with doubts or a lack of assurance, Luther did not ask, “How is your devotional life or prayer life? How about your good works?”, instead he exhorted believers to heed Christ’s words, the very “sum and substance of the whole gospel.” He encouraged believers to accept and affirm God’s word of promise given in Jesus Christ through the mass (and other means), quite apart from any emotions they might experience. We are to hear Christ’s words, by which our identity is forged and by which we are transformed into images of the one whose innocence we receive in a happy exchange for our sins. In the mass, we experience the power of his re-creating word at work. In Pannenberg’s estimation, “We (thereby) receive a new identity, but we do not possess it separately, in our separate existence apart from Christ, but only ‘in Christ’, which is to say in faith that unites us with Christ, with the Christ ‘outside ourselves’.”

With his emphasis on the objective nature of God’s work for us in Christ, Luther shunned the inward experiences of a subjective nature as a legitimate basis of assurances of any place before God. Not by introspection but only by ex-centricity – by looking outside ourselves (extra nobis) to God’s “speech act” in Jesus Christ can we find assurance. Our inner experience must not become primary, in which case we begin to turn away from faith in Christ to trust in ourselves. When this happens, we are reverting to righteousness by works as the outcome To Luther, the objective word of Christ is the anchor of faith, and the landmark of true piety. Faith cleaves to the sacrament, trusting that God’s word be done unto it. It is an anathema to attack Christ’s words, for to do so is to attack the gospel itself; to deny Christ’s words is to deny his justifying action on us, thus nullify the power and use of the sacrament.

Everything depends on these words. Every Christian should and must know them and hold them fast. He must never let anyone take them away from him by any other kind of teaching, even though it were an angel from heaven [Galatians 1:8]. They are words of life and of salvation, so that whoever believes in them has all his sins forgiven through that faith; he is a child of life and has overcome death and hell. Language cannot express how great and mighty these words are, for they are the sum and substance of the whole gospel. (Luther’s Works Volume 36, page 277)

Dennis Ngien, “Luther As A Spiritual Adviser“, pages 101-104

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The Offense of Jesus Christ

And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” – Matthew 11:6 ESV

The force and significance of the preceding sentence must be carefully dwelt on; on that, namely, which is preached to the poor; that is, they who have laid down their lives, who have taken up the cross and followed after, who have become humble in spirit, for these a kingdom is prepared in heaven. Therefore, because this universality of suffering was to be fulfilled in Christ Himself, and because His Cross would become a stumbling-block to many (1 Corinthians 1:23), He now declares that they are blessed to whom His Cross, His death, and Burial, will offer no trial of faith. So He makes clear that of which already, earlier, John has himself warned them, saying that blessed are they in whom there would be nothing of scandal concerning Himself. For it was through fear of this that John had sent his disciples, so that they might see and hear Christ.

St. Hilary of Poitiers

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Trinity 21 – Ephesians 6:10-17

Your baptism not only made you a child of God and an heir of Christ’s death and resurrection. Your baptism also placed a target on your back. Satan and his dark angels will throw everything at you in order that you would turn your back on God and walk the broad road of unbelief.

As little as you are able to participate in your conversion from death to life, you are able, as a new creation in Christ, to turn your back on God and walk your own path. This is what Saint Paul addresses in today’s Epistle when he talks about the armor of God. Most of what Paul says is about playing defense, about protection from attack. There is only one weapon of offense, and it is often forgotten, or at least rarely used. Your life is a fight to the death. You need protection. The Lord has protection for you.

Paul begins by saying be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. The prophet Zechariah heard this when the Lord said to him, Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. It was the Lord’s Word to Zerubbabel, and it is also the Lord’s Word to you. You have no reason of strength on your own to resist Satan. The Lord is your strength.

However, this divine strength is set alongside and against the Old Adam that clings to you. The Old Adam continually resists good things. Saint Paul teaches in Romans chapter seven: I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

The Lord delivers you from this body of death. Nevertheless, as long as the flesh clings to you, you continually ask for forgiveness. The familiar words of Psalm 32 ring true: I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Consider also that many other faithful Christians have fallen from the faith. Saint Peter denied Jesus three times, yet was restored to the kingdom. Demas, a believer mentioned by Paul in Second Timothy, deserted Saint Paul and left for Thessalonica.

God’s Word does not merely talk the talk, it also walks the walk. It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. In every struggle of both flesh and spirit, the Scriptures beg you to turn to the Lord for help and not your own doings. If only you believe it. If only I believe it! Still we rely on willpower or reason or anything else than divine assistance.

You do not fight flesh and blood. You are not fighting 98-pound weaklings. The Christian as Christian has nothing to do with fighting for the sake of fighting or, worse yet, revenge. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

You fight against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. The prince of this world tempts you through the flesh and the world. Sometimes he uses cunning, sometimes force. Other times enticements and threats. Satan wants to plunge you into sin, false belief, or even unbelief. Evil thoughts plague you every day. It seems to be impossible to survive these struggles. Yet countless Christians have already fought this struggle and blissfully sleep in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Saint Paul says, Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. These are primarily defensive weapons for protection. God is more powerful than all the demons. His armor placed on you by virtue of your baptism keeps you safe as you struggle against the spiritual forces of evil.

You wear the belt of truth, a righteous Christian nature. Jesus is cinched around you to protect you from the false deeds of the armies of darkness. You wear the breastplate of righteousness, the holy, spotless life of Jesus Christ lived in your place and given you through faith in Him Who did not sin, yet became sin for you that you might become the righteousness of God. You wear as shoes for your feet the readiness given by the Gospel of peace. You are zealous as God’s dear child to speak of the hope you have in Jesus to those who know Him not. You carry the shield of faith, the firm confidence in God’s undeserved love for you, a poor, miserable sinner. Finally, there is the helmet of salvation, the firm hope of eternal life.

The only weapon given you for attack is the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit. When the worst temptations come your way, respond as Jesus did to Satan: IT IS WRITTEN. Let this Word dwell in you richly. Let the Word of God permeate every fiber of your being. The Scriptures of the holy prophets and apostles is the only way to destroy your enemy. Remember what we sang two weeks ago:

Though devils all the world should fill,
All eager to devour us,
We tremble not, we fear no ill;
They shall not overpower us.
This world’s prince may still
Scowl fierce as he will,
He can harm us none.
He’s judged; the deed is done;
One little word can fell him.

            Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Eat His Body and drink His Blood for the forgiveness of sins. Live in your baptismal grace. You are forgiven. The Lord fights for you and with you. He gives you protection and the sword of the Spirit. You have everything you need to fight with the devil. The victory is yours, for the Lord is on your side. Believe it for His sake.

The Collar

Dr. Ed Veith reignited a spark to read George Herbert. Here’s a poem that Dr. Veith recited and spoke about this week at the CCLE conference in St. Louis, MO. This poem is good for pastors and people to read and think about, especially in difficult times.

The Collar

I struck the board, and cried, “No more;
                         I will abroad!
What? shall I ever sigh and pine?
My lines and life are free, free as the road,
Loose as the wind, as large as store.
          Shall I be still in suit?
Have I no harvest but a thorn
To let me blood, and not restore
What I have lost with cordial fruit?
          Sure there was wine
Before my sighs did dry it; there was corn
    Before my tears did drown it.
      Is the year only lost to me?
          Have I no bays to crown it,
No flowers, no garlands gay? All blasted?
                  All wasted?
Not so, my heart; but there is fruit,
            And thou hast hands.
Recover all thy sigh-blown age
On double pleasures: leave thy cold dispute
Of what is fit and not. Forsake thy cage,
             Thy rope of sands,
Which petty thoughts have made, and made to thee
Good cable, to enforce and draw,
          And be thy law,
While thou didst wink and wouldst not see.
          Away! take heed;
          I will abroad.
Call in thy death’s-head there; tie up thy fears;
          He that forbears
         To suit and serve his need
          Deserves his load.”
But as I raved and grew more fierce and wild
          At every word,
Methought I heard one calling, Child!
          And I replied My Lord.

Confusion of Law and Gospel Equals A Christless Christianity

If I were to say to you, “What are the principal sources of the abuses which corrupt Christianity”, what would you say? Teenagers having sex? Our not standing up for what’s right? What would you say?…

Nine and a half out of ten people would say something behavioral. “I’ll tell you what corrupts Christianity. We’re just not walking the walk now. We’re talking the talk, but we’re not walking the walk. What really needs to happen, if Christianity is going to become credible again, we have to be the smartest ones in the public square. That’s what needs to happen. And, you know what, we’re just sittin’ around in our little holy teepees and we’re not actually engaging the world. We need to engage the world. That’s the principle abuse. We’re all cloistered up in our own little holy huddles.”

What would you say?

[Theodore] Beza said that the principal source which fuels the abuses that corrupt Christianity is the ignorance of the distinction between Law and Gospel; confusing God’s speech. The failure to distinguish the Law and the Gospel always means the abandonment of the Gospel. That’s why it’s so dangerous. A confusion of Law and Gospel is the main contributor to Christless Christianity, or moralism. When you confuse the Law and the Gospel it contributes mightily to Christless Christianity because the Law gets softened into how to have a better marriage, that’s what’s heard, how to have a better marriage or how to raise better kids or helpful tips for practical living or applying timeless truths to your life so that you can have whatever it is that you need and crave that…that’s what happens, a confusion of Law and Gospel contributes to moralism because the Law gets softened into those things instead of God’s unwavering demand for absolute perfection….

– Rev. William Graham Tullian Tchividjian

A Touch More From David Scaer on the Third Use of the Law

The Third Use of the Law also reflects the Lutheran concept of the Law as it focuses attention on the Law’s true nature. A recognizable mark of Lutheran theology is the tension between the Law and the Gospel. This tension already has been explored. But this tension is limited only to man in this sinful existence, and not in the original and final conditions of sinlessness. The “thou shalt not” of the Ten Commandments did not originally belong to the essence of the Law. The Third Use of the Law in the life of the Christian reveals the Law’s true nature as positive directive. The Law’s positive aspects are being reinstated, though the process is painfully slow. This understanding of the Law is not a contribution first made by the Formula but was set down by Luther in the Small Catechism which antedates the Augsburg Confession. His explanations of the Ten Commandments fall under the category of the Law’s third function. Though brief they reflect the Reformer’s true genius in understanding the Law as positive directive. For Luther, the Gospel does not replace the Law as God’s first vehicle of revelation, but permits the Christian to see the Law in its proper perspective. Here are some examples from the first part of his catechism. The prohibition against the vain use of God’s name now includes the request to pray. The prohibition against murder also forbids inflicting physical harm and more important requires helping anyone hurt. In two commandments, the first and the sixth, Luther removed the negative element entirely, but in the other eight he first listed the prohibition required by the commandment and then its positive directive.

Luther was aware that the Christian continues to offend against God and has to hear the prohibitions and verdicts of the Law. He also knew that the Law could have no positive effect unless a person first knew Christ as the Law’s fulfiller. This faith which knows Christ and His benefits is called trust. Thus when Luther provided an explanation to the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me,” he saw in it an invitation to faith: “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” These words which are Luther’s first instruction in the Small Catechism merge the Law and the Gospel into that perfect harmony that man will experience in the final restoration.

In the Third Use of the Law the tension between the Law and the Gospel is finally resolved. Only in the condition of sin does the tension remain. As soon as a man accepts Jesus’s fulfillment of the Law through faith, the tension begins to dissolve. The Christian grows constantly in the knowledge of God’s positive requirements for his life, but the Old Man never surrenders. The plagues of conscience are never removed, but grow stronger. But as his knowledge of his own sin grows, he also grows in his reliance on Christ.

The Formula states in concluding this article that in glory man will need neither Law nor Gospel. In total glorification he will need neither the threats of the Law nor its directives. He will be thoroughly renewed within himself so that he will from his heart obey God (FC SD VI, 25, 26).

“Formula of Concord Article VI: The Third Use of the Law”, CTQ 42:2 (April, 1978), pages 154-155