Tag Archives: gospel

How Do We Begin to Fulfill the Law?

For where the great unfathomable love and favor of Christ are known and believed, thence flows forth also love both to God and to our neighbor. For by means of such knowledge and consolation the Holy Spirit moves the heart to love God, and gladly does what it should to his praise and thanks, guards against sin and disobedience and willingly offers itself to serve and help everybody, and where it still feels its weakness it battles against the flesh and Satan by calling upon God, etc. And thus while ever rising in faith it holds to Christ, where it does not do enough in keeping the law, its comfort is that Christ fulfills the law and bestows and imparts his fullness and strength, and thus he remains always our righteousness, salvation, sanctification, etc.

This is the right way to secure the observance of the law, of which our blind critics know nothing; but Christ beautifully shows by this, that one must hear the Gospel and believe in Christ before he can fulfill the law; otherwise there is nothing but hypocrisy and nothing but pure boasting and talking about the law without any heart and life in it all.

Martin Luther, Second House Postil for the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity (Luke 10:23-37)

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David P. Scaer on The Ticklish Question of The Third Use of the Law

Confusion on the what is meant by the third use [of the law] has lead to its rejection by certain Lutheran theologians (See the Braaten-Jenson “Christian Dogmatics”, 2:275). This is somewhat of an internal embarrassment, since the third use of the law is entitled to a separate article in the Formula of Concord, the definitive confessional document for Lutherans. For others the third use of the law has been interpreted simply to mean that the first and second uses of the law remain in force. Such a view is not the Lutheran one, even though some Lutherans have claimed this definition. The introduction of the law into the life of the Christian seems a legalistic intrusion denying the freedom of the gospel or turning the gospel into law because the gospel requires or demands certain types of behavior. In answering this ticklish question for Lutherans, I would like to make reference to Luther’s understanding of the Ten Commandments in his Small Catechism as a way out of this dilemma. The reformer’s explanations of the commandments, with the exception of the first and sixth, have two parts: negative prohibitions and positive requirements. Thus the one on killing prohibits bodily harm to our neighbor and requires providing for his physical needs. The one on stealing prohibits any attempt, even if it legal, to obtain the neighbor’s property. Rather he is required to help the neighbor improve it. Luther by not mentioning outward robbery and murder assumes that the Christian simply will not do these things. Gross immorality is out of range for the Christian, but refraining from it does not even begin to fulfill the commandments. Any harm to the neighbor breaks the commandments. You may not rob the neighbor, but if you manipulate law or contract to deprive him of his property, you stand condemned. Perhaps Luther’s delineation of the law of God to less than blatant transgressions is acceptable by all. But Luther reverses the negative prohibition into the positive requirement of helping the neighbor, especially in his distress. The prohibition against cursing God becomes a requirement to pray. Instead of saying foul things about our neighbor, even if they are true, we are to put the best construction on everything. Luther’s explanation of the first and sixth commandments have no prohibitions whatsoever. He turns the first commandment around so that the prohibition against idolatry becomes an invitation to faith. What was law is now gospel. About the sixth commandment Luther makes no mention of adultery, but says that spouses should honor and love one another.

In my estimation Luther’s positive intensification of the commandments is the work of theological genius. His explanation of the commandments are addressed to Christians, not non-Christians. They have nothing to say to civil law. Rather they are addressed to Christians as sinners and saints. Man as a sinner cannot escape the negative prohibitions of the law, but at the same time the Christian is addressed as a saint, taken back to that original paradise situation in which he loves God and his neighbor. The Christian, since he is in Christ and Christ in him, even before he becomes aware of the possibility of fulfilling the law, is actually fulfilling the law.

Has Luther manipulated the Ten Commandments beyond their recognition by following the negative prohibitions with positive suggestions? Here is the law in its pristine sense as positive requirement as it was known before the fall into sin. Here is the law as it was fulfilled in Christ. All of the positive descriptions of the law in the Christian’s life are really only Christological statements, things which Jesus did and which reached their perfection in him. The fulfilled law is Christological, as it is the account of the life and death of Jesus. He loved God with his whole heart, he prayed to God, he heard the word of God and kept it, he honored his parents, he helped those in bodily distress, he lived a life of pure thoughts, he provided for those in financial distress, he spoke well of others, he had no evil desires. Christ is the fulfillment of the law not only in the sense that all the Old Testament prophets spoke of him, but he is the positive affirmation of what God requires of us and what God is in himself. In Christ the tension of the law and the gospel is resolved.

Luther’s understanding of the commandments as positive Christological affirmations are similar to the parable of the Good Samaritan, though I could hardly demonstrate any influence this pericope was on the reformer’s mind. The commandments are not really fulfilled by refraining from the prohibited evil, but helping the stricken traveler. Thus Christians should be embarrassed into making any unwarranted claim to moral perfection for themselves. They should be so engaged in positive good that they have no time to think about their personal morality or holiness.

How did Luther come to such a radical contradiction which required that the Christian think of himself as total sinner and as a person who accomplished only the good things which Christ did? He took the first commandment with its prohibition against idolatry and turned it into an invitation to faith: “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” The first commandment is transformed into a statement of the gospel. But the reformer was not playing fast and free with the commandments, as in Exodus the commandments really begin with a statement of redemption: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the land of bondage.”

– David P. Scaer, “The Law and the Gospel in Lutheran Theology”

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David P. Scaer on Law and Gospel As A Homiletical Device

Law and gospel must also be understood as the basic homiletical device in the church. The sermon must reflect the tension created by the God who condemns and redeems the Christian at the same time. The hearer must never be allowed to fall back on the laurels of his own morality or spiritual accomplishments. The listener is pummeled continuously by the law and the gospel. Testimonies of spiritual greatness must be replaced by the proclamation of God’s fulfilling of his own law in Christ and the freedom which is now given the Christian in Christ. The law and the gospel should be seen as the key to man’s existential self-dilemma in understanding himself and his relationship to God. If the universal atonement means anything, it means that God had satisfied all of the law’s requirements, its demands and penalties, in the person of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. The law no longer can describe how God views man. The gospel can never be nullified. The gospel is never conditional, since incarnation and atonement are permanent realities with God. Our moral and spiritual failures do not trigger a negative response in God so that he returns to the old covenant. The former agenda of penalty is not reinstated. This has been satisfied once and for all. For what reason is anyone now condemned, if the law is not in effect? A great condemnation awaits those who reject God’s free gift in Christ. Under the covenant of the law, we failed to do what God required. Those who reject the gospel have not failed to fulfill a requirement, that would make the gospel only another law, they have rejected what God has freely done. Sinners are accepted by Christ. Those who reject him are not.

Two sayings are attributed to Luther. He promised a doctor’s cap to any one who could rightly distinguish between the law and the gospel. Even theologians who can dogmatically distinguish between them cannot preach it. The other has to do with good works. The Christian does not need the motivation of the law simply because he is so busy doing good works. Still the motivation of the law is there, but not law as demand, punishment, and reward, but law as fulfilled in Christ. In spite of the terrible spiritual agony Luther experienced as long as he lived, he was not a dour, gloomy or sullen person, as some other reformers were reputed to be. Quite to the contrary he never overcame some of his crude peasant speech, which today would be looked upon by some as signs of an unsanctified life. When faced with his own greatness, he said that God brought about the Reformation while he and Melanchthon drank beer. He was annoyed with Melanchthon’s obsession with minor sins and urged him to do something really sinful: “sin boldly.” As a hymn writer, where the brine of the middle ages merged with the sweet waters of the Reformation, Luther was unmatched. He spoke about the Christian merrily going about his business and doing good. The law and the gospel is the secret to understanding Luther. No longer is my chief concern restraining from moral evil and then coming to the conclusion that I have lived a sanctified life and thus triumphed. Christians are never free from sin, but they are so busy doing good, that even when they fall into sin as they do good, this is all covered by grace.

David P. Scaer, “The Law and the Gospel in Lutheran Theology

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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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Practical Gospel Comfort

It is of the greatest importance for theology and ministry to grasp correctly that Paul is not making ethical exhortation in Romans 6-8. It is of great importance for pastoral dealings with Christian persons in their awareness of their moral failures. For it is an operation of opinio legis that makes people use such phrases as “a good Christian” and “live out your faith” in such a way as to engender the false hope of being able to fulfill works of the Law in current behavior. Such false hope can lead to doubt or despair in believers who are weak both in morality and in faith. It is from the devil himself that come thoughts such as “I must not be a very good Christian if I behave (or even think, or feel) in such and such a way.”

To expect that the baptized Christian will be continually growing less and less susceptible to sin is to fall into a grave trap. It is a sad fact that each child of Adam, even the baptized believer, continually recapitulates and confirms the fall into sin.

So what to do about it? Some Christian groups fell constrained to draw a line around themselves, based on outward manifestation of piety, to demarcate between the holy (or, at least, the “more nearly holy”) and the not so holy, between the “good” (“genuine,” “committed,” “reborn,”) Christians and the “bad” (so-called, delinquent, or “nominal”) Christians. When confronted with their moral shortcomings, these (self-proclaimed) holier Christians tend to say something like “God knows we can’t be perfect, and so he has to accept our best efforts, even if they are imperfect.” Such thinking is still in the realm of the Law.

But in the realm of Law, God expects doers of the Law, not try-ers. He will not wink the eye at sin. Those who hold that the mark of the Christians is that they try their best to behave rightly have put themselves under Law and in an impossible position. All holier-than-thou types who separate themselves (as “the godly”) from the ungodly forget that the God of the Gospel is the God who justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5).

But for the ungodly, who have nothing of which to boast and whose experience is all struggle (and mostly a losing struggle) with Sin, the message of Paul brings great comfort. “That’s the way it is,” Paul says, “between baptism and deliverance. Your sanctification, which God is seeing to, has begun with Christ’s death and your baptism. It continues every present moment as you live in the Holy Christian Church in which God daily and richly forgives sins. And it culminates in your deliverance from the old aeon, in the death of the body of sinful flesh and in the purging of indwelling sin and its corrupting power. This brings the resurrection of the body – a spiritual body – and the life everlasting.”

All of this is life “according to the Spirit,” life which has already begun and, as such, makes a foundation for hope.

Jonathan Grothe, “The Justification of the Ungodly”, Volume 1, pages 399-401

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Crushing Law and Soothing Gospel from 1888

C.J. Otto Hanser was the long-time pastor at Trinity congregation in the Soulard neighborhood in St. Louis, MO. Part of the time he served alongside C.F.W. Walther. He was a prolific submitter of outlines (Dispositionen) to the homiletics magazine of the Missouri Synod. Here is a portion of my translation of his outline for the Fourth Sunday in Advent. Any errors of translation are mine. DMJ+

Ask yourself: “Who are you actually?” Answer: a man. Excellent, do you believe also what a man is according to God’s Word, namely a sinner, an enemy of God, under the curse of the law, a child of the devil, a victim of hell and damnation? For we have all turned aside, all men are liars, filled with all unrighteousness. Is your heart scared, do you speak in truth: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner”? Blessed are you, you are properly prepared.

Ask yourself again: “Who are you?” and answer: “A Christian.” Excellent, if it is true. What kind of Christian are you? Are you truly converted, born again, are you in the true faith? Are you ruled by the Holy Spirit or by the flesh? Do you aspire for higher things, or for what is on earth? Do you crucify your flesh, do you renounce the world? Do you surely hope to be saved or are you frightened at the thought of death? Blessed are you if you can answer humbly with John the Baptist: “I am not worthy that I should untie the sandal strap of my Jesus, that I am called according to the name of Christ, because I am such a poor, miserable Christian that I am ashamed of myself. Then you are properly prepared.

Ask yourself further: “Who are you?” Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, master, mistress, manservant, maidservant? What are you all in your station in life? Christian parents, do you lead a Christian household, do you have prayer and God’s Word in the family? Are your Christian children and servants according to the Fourth Commandment obedient or rebellious, humble or arrogant and headstrong? Blessed are you when you answer: “If You, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” “One could not answer him once in a thousand times.”

John testifies about Christ that He is man, but also God (“preferred before me”); for this purpose He became man, that He Who is the Lamb of God bears the sins of the world; the testimony of Christmas confirms it. You should faithfully embrace this and say: I am a great sinner, but I have a great Savior, for He is God, I fear nothing; I am a weak Christian, but God Himself says:Rejoice,the Savior brings salvation every day, new grace that abundantly, daily, forgives my sins. I deserve death and hell;but on Christmas the heavens over the sinful world have opened up, therefore I shall not die, but live. “Welcome to earth, O noble Guest!” etc. In other words, prepare the way for the Lord.

– Otto Hanser (1832-1910), Outline for a sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Advent (John 1:19-28)

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Law, Gospel, What Next?

But let the Law do its work, and let the Gospel follow; then we face another strategic question – what should come next? A popular answer, offered by some of the really big names in LCMS history, is that you go back to the Law! “Sanctification,” some call it! “Evangelical admonition,” others say! Still others refer to “Gospel imperatives,” and yet more point to the “Third Use of the Law.” And all of the above are ready to label as “antinomian” those of us who say “no!” to these answers, however worded. Be assured that I believe in the third use of the Law, precisely and especially in the sense that it is discussed in FC VI, namely, that the third use is one of the ways in which God uses the Law….

Two things need to be noted, as we discern what should come after the Gospel. First, what many people want, and what many pastors deliver, is NOT the third use of the Law, which is purely informative in nature, indicative and not imperative. Rather, many people want and many pastors deliver the first use of the Law! What they desire is the law which modifies behavior, by curbing the continuance of anything that does not comport to what ought to be in the lives of Christians. That is the first use, not the third!

Moreover, whatever else the Law is doing, it is always accusing! Lex semper accusat! This is because, as the Formula says while discussing the third use, “to reprove is the real function of the law.” Now, if proclamation is what Lutheran preaching is about, and if identification of my  new being as a child of God is what the Gospel gives me, and if “good works are bound to flow from faith,” as our confessions assert, why would we want to put our hearers back under accusation and the terrors of conscience once again at the end of the sermon?

Instead, let me propose that Lutheran preachers consider “Gospel application.” Gospel application is where one goes beyond the statement of Gospel facts, such as “Jesus died for you,” or “in Holy Baptism, people are reborn into the kingdom of grace.” Gospel application occurs when, on the basis of the Gospel facts, the preacher actually forgives sins, when he actually declares, “you are God’s child!” “You are forgiven!” “No one will pluck you out of My hand!” Such Gospel application is simply relieving reflective reasoning of a necessary role in proclamation. We ought not to leave the hearer to draw the immediate application from the general principle. Instead, make Gospel application the summation of your sermon.

– Rev. Robert Schaibley, “Lutheran Preaching: Proclamation, Not Communication”


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Trinity 18 – Matthew 22:34-46

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Two questions asked by two different people. Both questions are important. Get both answers wrong and you distort the Christian faith into another false religion of morals and niceties. Get one out of two answers wrong and you still distort Scripture to your peril. Answer both correctly and you distinguish and understand God’s Law and God’s Gospel.

These questions are not child’s play. Which is the great commandment in the Law? It would be easy for Jesus to answer the way He does in Matthew chapter 23. Jesus pronounces multiple woes over the scribes and Pharisees. Both groups miss the forest for the trees. Jesus’ opportunity to get His shots in comes later. For now, He focuses on the great commandment: love.

Our Lord’s answer to the Pharisees’ question is love. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

That last sentence condemns the Pharisees. They once taught God’s people the Law and the Prophets in order to keep them connected to God’s promise of the Messiah. Over time, the focus had shifted from Messiah to dos and don’ts. Do eat certain foods. Don’t have anything to do with Gentiles. Wash your hands, utensils, plates, and cups a certain way. 613 dos and don’ts were taught. Messiah faded into the background. Soon it seemed as if Messiah equaled 613 dos and don’ts. The institution of being a Jew got in the way of what it meant to be a Jew: to live in the certain hope of the Second Adam Who comes to make all things new.

The Pharisees taught love, but it was a love of self. They taught a love of an institution rather than the love of God. The words of Moses in today’s Old Testament reading are directed to the Pharisees as much as to you and to me: Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

You are a sojourner. Here you have no continuing city. You look to God as the Giver of every good earthly and spiritual thing. God gives you the ability to be shrewd when it comes to your money and possessions. Yet your love for both God and neighbor falls short of God’s expectation. You try to repair your circumcised heart with stitches of self-preservation and self-righteousness. You love the institution of Christianity, but could do without actually living the Christian faith in your vocations. Your love for both God and neighbor is at your convenience. You bribe God. You demand partiality, especially when it benefits your needs.

So what do you think about the Christ? Is He your divine enabler who comes to make sure you do as you’re told? Does He come to point the finger at all “those” people who don’t do as you do? Or, worse yet, is He not Who He says He is?

The Pharisees get our Lord’s question half-right. He is the son of David. But if He is only the son of David, what does that say about His divine nature? The son of David alone has a human nature. So there’s the half-right portion of their answer. Jesus certainly has a human nature. But what about His divine nature? Jesus gives glimpses of His divinity in the signs and wonders He performs. He is able to examine the hearts of those whom He comes into contact. So how do you handle Psalm 110:1, the verse Jesus quotes to the Pharisees, if you don’t believe Jesus is both God’s Son and David’s son?

That’s the question I ask every Jehovah’s Witness I meet. They have to deny our Lord’s divine nature to be consistent with their teaching. They fall into the ancient heresy of saying that the Uncreated cannot become the Created. God is not able to become man. So they punt the question and say that Jesus is the archangel Michael before His conception and after His crucifixion.

How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son? If you miss the correct answer to this question, then you destroy the Christian faith. The Pharisees answer the question with silence. They don’t, or won’t, answer the question. In fact, from that day no one dared to ask Him any more questions. It is better for the Pharisees to remain silent rather than incriminate themselves and confess the Truth. Confessing the Truth means to put an end to their institutional lie.

Hear, O Pharisees. Hear, O sinner. He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen. Return to the Lord your God. Return to Him and believe that He is both David’s son and David’s Lord. Believe that Jesus Christ is true man, born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried for you. He is a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief. He weeps. He hungers. He thirsts.

Believe also that Jesus Christ is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity. He redeems you from the fiery pit of hell with His blood as the all-sufficient price of your salvation. His righteousness covers you through water and the Word in your baptism. He rises from the dead, lives, and reigns for all eternity for you. No man is able to make the payment for sin that Jesus makes on your behalf. No man rises from the dead triumphant over death, sin, and the devil except the God-man Jesus Christ. No mortal man sets His enemies, your enemies, under His feet, under your feet, as a footstool.

Jesus Christ does this for you. He is both David’s son and David’s Lord. He alone is able to love as the Father expects you to love. Jesus applies His love for God and for neighbor to you in His vicarious satisfaction for sin. His Holy Spirit connects you to the gifts of forgiveness and life that deliver the benefits of Christ’s satisfaction for your sin, especially the Lord’s Supper, where His Body and Blood is for you under bread and wine.

The result of answering both questions is clear. In Jesus Christ, you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

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Baptismal Identity and Sin

Go here first and read this article. Then come back to here.

I see why a person could misunderstand this article. You might think the article gives the ring of “Once baptized, always saved.” No matter what you do or how you live, don’t worry. You’re saved.

Now go back and read the article again. Consider this paragraph:

For those who are gay or struggle with some gender issue. You are baptized! God has not abandoned you. You are not less in His sight because of your struggles against sin. He has beaten sin for you. All of the guilt, doubt and despair you may feel has been answered for on Calvary. The struggle you face to live a “sexually pure and decent life” is the Spirit’s work in you. Your failings to do so are covered by Jesus’ blood and left buried in His tomb. Your victory over these very real and very bitter struggles is the baptism which the sign of the cross remembers, the absolution your pastor speaks, and the Body and Blood of Jesus He gives you.

The key word in the paragraph is struggle. There is not one Christian who does not struggle with any sin. Not one. I have my struggles. You have yours. When you struggle with sin, the Law is at work in you. The Holy Spirit is using God’s Word to show you your sin. The Holy Spirit is using the Law to show how you don’t measure up to the exacting demand God expects of His people. Sometimes the Spirit uses the Mirror. Sometimes He uses the Guide. He’s in control of what use of the Law He uses.

Yet you are baptized. This is your identity, no matter what sin is your struggle. You are forgiven. That’s a state of being. The Law preaches repentance. That’s the struggle the author mentions. Then:

Homosexuality, promiscuity, divorce, adultery, fornication—anything that is against marriage or denies marriage—denies the truth of Jesus and His church. But it is precisely in the truth of what Christ has done for His church that all sins are forgiven. 
All of them. Without exception. None greater or less than another. All of them are covered by Christ’s blood. And every struggle, and every failing, and every transgression, is covered by the promise of your baptism. This is why the whole Christian life, whatever you struggle with, is nothing other than a life in the Divine Service, hearing over and over the promise that Christ does not abandon us in our sins but forgives and gives us life.

The church does not accept the world’s view that “anything goes.” But neither does it seek to judge certain sins more than others. Rather, the church lives by Christ’s gifts. By His forgiveness. By His Word, water, body and blood. There is nothing else by which the Spirit works in us to rescue us from the world’s way of thinking and the darkness of sin.

Sinful human beings want to see progress and results. How do I know you are really repentant? How do I know whether or not the Law and Gospel you preach, Pastor, is truly working in your flock’s life? I need to see it to believe it. You won’t see it. You will, instead, let the Holy Spirit work in the Word. Let Him do what He is given to do, when and where He wills.

If there’s any sin that demands repentance on our part, it’s the sin of controlling the Holy Spirit. I confess I try to control Him all the time. Every day. Nevertheless, I am baptized. I am forgiven. I struggle with this sin and pray the Spirit to call to mind my Baptism. In that lavish washing of sin I am forgiven and free. Do I have a license to do as I please? No. The Law will do its work again, showing me my sin. I will repent. I am forgiven. It’s who I am in Christ.

What does such baptizing with water signify?–Answer.

It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written?–Answer.

St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6: We are buried with Christ by Baptism into death, that, like as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

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