Uh...That Aint What It Says, Pelagians

It's pretty disturbing when people can make Scriptures means the opposite of what they plainly state. One such example is Romans 12:3, which I will post in a few different translations.

Ro 12:3 (KJV):  For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

Ro 12:3 (ESV): For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

Ro 12:3: (NASB): For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

Pelagians love to rip this verse out of its context in support of an inherent ability to choose Jesus and be saved by that choice. The argument goes something like this:

According to Romans 12:3, God has given everyone universally an amount of faith. Now it is up to them to use that faith properly and put it in Christ.

But that's not at all what it says. First off, it's addressed to believers in the church. It's not talking about everyone universally.

Second, this interpretation goes against other clear passages like Ephesians 2:8-9 that says we are saved by grace through faith.

Third, there are other Scriptures that flatly deny this interpretation, such as:

2 Thess 3:1-2 (ESV): Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith.

So, the Pelagians would have us believe that Romans 12:3 says that everyone has faith and just need to use it properly, but the same inspired author tells us in another writing that not everyone has faith.

On the contrary, this passage is addressed to believers, telling them not to think more highly of themselves that they ought to, because it was God alone who gave them that faith in the first place, and their brothers and sisters in Christ have been given that faith as well.

By grace. Not by nature.

Just another reason Pelagius and the folks who espouse the same crap he taught a millennium and a half ago are rightly considered heretics. Yes, even now.


Westminster Confession of...Fail.

Westminster Confession of Faith, XXIX: V

Of the Lord's Supper

The outward elements in this sacrament, duly set apart to the uses ordained by Christ, have such relation to Him crucified, as that, truly, yet sacramentally only, they are sometimes called by the name of the things they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ; albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly and only bread and wine, as they were before.

There is Westminster regarding the elements in the Eucharist. Let us examine what they are saying here.

First of all, Westminster wants us to see that the elements in Holy Communion are related to Christ. So far so good. I don't think anyone would want to say other wise; especially in light of Christ Himself instituting the Supper. As stated, "The outward elements in this sacrament, duly set apart to the uses ordained by Christ, have such relation to Him crucified..."

The rest of the blurb is where Westminster goes off the rails. The next statement, "...truly, yet sacramentally only, they are sometimes called by the name of the things they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ..."

So Westminster says that the elements are truly and sacramentally related to Christ, so much so that they are sometimes called by the name of the things they represent. So, according to this, the bread and wine are related to Christ, so that they can be actually called the Body and Blood, because that is what they represent.

Here is problem number one. Is the Lord's Supper some sort of trick where we call the elements what Christ called them, but they really aren't them? Why would we, or should we, call the elements by the words Christ called them, if the elements only represent something? Was Christ looking to fool the Apostles at the Last Supper?

I get it. Westminster wants to retain some sort of Real Presence and actually have a Sacrament. The problem is, when you deny the Real Presence via rejection of Christ's words and set up a mere symbol instead (received spiritually by faith only WCF XXIX: VII), you have no Sacrament. If the Sacraments do not do the things that Christ said they do and are not the things that Christ said they are, then there is no Sacrament. Neither does our faith make Christ present. Christ IS present precisely where He says He will be present.

Westminster further clarifies this explanation in the final statement, "...albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly and only bread and wine, as they were before."

The key word here is only. Why is this so? Because Westminster is telling us that the bread and wine is only the bread and wine. NOT the Body and Blood of Christ.

What Westminster gives in one hand it quickly snatches away by denying the Real Presence. They want to affirm a Real Presence (all Reformed Theology does) and claim that the elements are Sacramentally related to Christ. But they are not what Christ said they are, according to them. So, the one thing that retains the Sacrament - the true bodily presence of Christ - is patently rejected by Westminster.

Ultimately, Westminster has no business using the word Sacrament in their doctrine of the Lord's Supper. In their own words, by their own statements, all they have is a bare memorial, despite their desire to keep the Lord's Supper Sacramental.

What do they have, according to them? Well, nothing more than bread and wine, and a pious remembrance of faith that looks to Christ in glory.

But not the Body and Blood of Christ truly present in the bread and wine for the forgiveness of their sins, which is exactly what Christ said it is.

Real Presence denied. Sacrament rejected.


High Priestly Hyper Calvinist Twisting Shenanigans

John 17 is commonly referred to as the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus. In it, there are some phrases spoken by Christ that Hyper Calvinism wrenches from the prayer and reads way more into them that what is actually said by Christ, thereby forcing their theology onto the text of Holy Scripture.

The specific verse to which I refer is John 17:9, which states: I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.

To the High or Hyper Calvinist, they then read much more into this verse than what is actually there. They see this verse and say: See! Christ only prays for the elect alone and not for the world. In fact, He never prays for the world and always only prays for the elect!

But that is a major amount of assumption here; the Scripture in question here simply does not say that. This passage simply is recording a prayer of Christ. In this specific prayer, He certainly is praying not for the world. But it does not follow that He never prays for the world - He simply did not do so in this specific prayer.

We can especially see the error in this interpretation when we look at other Scriptures from the same Bible. For instance,

1 Timothy 2:1-4: First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Surely, we would not be commanded to pray for those whom Christ refused to pray for, right?

And what about Luke 23:34?

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.

I've seen High Calvinists deal with this text in two ways. The first way is to claim that it is a textual variant and that passage might not really be part of Holy Scripture. The second way I've seen is that they will claim that the ones Christ is praying for on the cross are elect. Yet, the text gives no indication of this one way or another.

Neither of these manners of dealing with the text are convincing enough to explain away the plain reading of Scripture here. The simple text is recording that Christ prayed for His persecutors while on the cross.

Calvinists also employ this exact way of thinking when doing exegesis on atonement passages.

John 10:11, 14-15: I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep...I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.

The argument made here is identical to the twisting job used in John 17. They read that Jesus laid down His life for the sheep, and surmise that this means that He did not lay down His life for the goats. i.e. Jesus died only for the sheep, and none else.

But again in this text, Jesus never says that He did not die for the goats. And this is especially relevant when we see that the Scriptures have numerous other texts that say that He died for the whole world (which ends up being described not in terms of individuals - which means 'whole world' does not mean every single person.) 1 John 2:2 is normative here:

1 John 2:2: He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

So here we have two clear examples where Calvinist logic and reason is disproved by logic and reason; allowing the Scriptures to speak for themselves.

Kinda makes these interpretations illogical and unreasonable, don't you think? More so, they are direct denials of God's Word in some places.

+Grace and Peace+


Continual Christian Exhortation To Do Better?

Do Christians need continual exhortation to be spurred on to better works and love of God and neighbor?

That's a big question, and one that I think has a clear answer. I answer this with an emphatic: NO! Of course, there are plenty of examples of exhortation in the Scriptures, so there is a time and place for it.

This is, properly put, a Law and Gospel issue. The Law exhorts and commands, whilst the Gospel promises and forgives.

I think, when we consider the options, some clear answers emerge. I posit that there are two types of people who need to be bashed over the head with the Holy Law of God on a continual basis.

First and foremost, the Law shows us our sin. Thus, those who are unrepentant need to be preached the Law for the main reason that it indeed does reveal that we have not kept it and therefore must repent. Hence, St. Paul can write such passages like this:

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. ~Galatians 5:19-21

St. Paul here is clearly referring to unrepentant folks who engage in these things with no sorrow for their sin.

Those who are unrepentant need the harshness of the Law. No doubt about that.

The second type of person is the person that thinks they have made it and think they are doing such a wonderful job of living the Christian life that their works are better than other folks' works; even to the point of not sinning. They need the Law too, because in essence, they're unrepentant as well by way of denying their sin.

Those who claim they are in Christ and claim they do not sin need the Law preached to them continually. Why? They're liars. They do sin, and they're unrepentant of it.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. ~1 John 1:8-10

Those who are repentant and have a Godly sorrow for their sin, however, need the Gospel preached to them in all of its glory and sweetness. They need that one-sided divine promise that says that they belong to Christ.

So, I answer thus: Does a repentant Christian with a Godly sorrow for their sin need to be hammered continually with the Law and with exhortation to do more works? No way. This will accomplish nothing but leading them to despair. They are already repentant of their sins, and all that continual exhortation will do is serve to show them more and more sinfulness within themselves.

Give them, that group or repentant people, that good old sweet savor of the Gospel.

Grace and Peace


We Need The Gospel Too, Ya Know

The Gospel is the sweet savor of salvation for all those who believe. It's the verdict rendered in the work of Christ alone that says 'not guilty!' It is not milk for the babes, nor is it simply something we need to tell unbelievers. It's not something we can move beyond or move past. It's not something we can brush aside as we move on to bigger and better things, or deeper Christian concepts.

It's our lifeblood. It's Jesus.

As I see it, having been through numerous churches in my years, the Confessional Lutheran churches seem to be the only ones who practice this. Now, hear me out. I do not mean to say that there is no Gospel in Evangelical churches, or Reformed Churches, or Orthodox churches, or Roman Catholic churches. Because, you know what, there is. Wherever God's Word is proclaimed and Christ crucified is preached, there is some Gospel there.

But, we need the Gospel continually. The pastor, priest, or whoever is giving the homily or sermon is quite simply put not doing their job if they do not preach Christ crucified for the forgiveness of all of our sins. Every sermon. And if they do not, they have just done the congregation a huge disservice.

We can never relegate the Gospel to secondary status. All too many churches and Christian believers categorize the Gospel as something they already know, so they think they do not need to hear it. What they really need, they surmise, are commands and instructions on how to live a holier life. Now, I grant you, Scripture is replete with commands on how to live. The Decalogue (10 commandments) is the prime example of this.

But...that pesky Law of God always accuses us and shows us that we have not loved the Lord our God with our whole heart, nor have we loved our neighbors as ourselves. We need the Law. The Law is good! (Rom 7) And even more than that, we need the Christ who kept it perfectly on our behalf.

This is why, when we enter the Divine Service, we not only invoke the Triune Name of God by beginning our liturgy in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; but also why the next thing we do is confess our sins and receive a one-sided divine forgiveness through the office of the pastor. As surely as Christ has forgiven our sins, our sins are forgiven by those who stand in the stead of Christ in the office of the ministry. This is why Confessional Lutheranism retains private Confession and Absolution. Yet, this is also why Confessional Lutheranism retains private Confession and Absolution apart from works of satisfaction (aka the Sacrament of Penance in the RCC). The works of satisfaction bit in essence turns the Gospel right back into the Law, as the Roman parishioners are required to do works of satisfaction after Confession, and so on.

But I am not intending to make this a discourse about Roman Catholic Sacraments. Rome has written plenty on that topic, and we will allow Rome to speak for herself in this matter.

Back to the Divine Service. As we enter we are absolved. This is an entrance or introduction of sorts, as we prepare for the Real Presence of Christ in the reading of the Holy Scriptures. Lutherans sometimes relegate the Real Presence to the Eucharist, but in reality, we would be remiss to mention that Christ is present in the Divine Service through the reading of the Word as well. The climax of the Liturgy of the Word in the Divine Service is the reading of the Holy Gospel; the very words of Christ Himself.

Yet, after the reading of the Word, we move on to the sermon (or homily). Here is a bridge from the liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Sacrament, and the pastor has a simple, but also very difficult, task to accomplish here. The pastor's job in the sermon, every Sunday, is to deliver us the Law of God that kills us and shows us that we are by nature sinful and unclean and stand condemned before God. However, he is also bound to deliver us the Gospel. After preaching that Law, He is to preach Christ crucified for the forgiveness of our sins. The Gospel is not a crutch to bring us back to the Law. The Gospel stands by itself, proclaiming the forgiveness of sins because of Christ's merit, not ours. And done. That is a sermon.

Far from being some sort of "radical" Lutheranism, this is simply the pattern we see over and over in Scripture when the Apostles are preaching.

We need that forgiveness proclaimed every time we gather in the Divine Service in the presence of Christ Himself, angels, archangels, and the whole company of heaven.

Here is where, as I see it, only the Confessional Lutheran churches stand tall and faithful. Most churches will offer not a proclamation of the Gospel in a sermon, but a guide on what God wants us to do, how to live, or how to do this or that. Most pastors will offer suggestions (from Scripture, in their defense) on how to better follow Jesus by loving God and your neighbor. If the Gospel is mentioned and preached (praise be to God when it is!), it generally is used to move us on to 'bigger and better' things. Like following the Law (commands).

But, that puts us right back where we started. In despair. We hear that Word of God in the Law. We hear those commandments on how to love one another and love God. And once again, we realize that we are in deep trouble. We try to do them. We do our best to honor God. But if we're being honest, we fall completely and utterly short.

Proper distinction and proper usage of the Law and the Gospel seems simple, but in reality, it's not easy. Our pastors have a difficult task of moving us from the Law that condemns us to the forgiveness of sins in Christ that saves us, apart from the Law.

We need the Gospel just as much as every non-Christian in the world today. We need forgiveness just as much as them too. The Gospel does this. It is the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16). The Law is not.

Nor should we revert to a sermon format of Law-Gospel-Law (in essence this is what Reformed Theology does). Nor is it just to preach the Law by either preaching strictly on works and holy living or even turning the Gospel into a command to be followed (this is essentially what Rome does). We need Law to accuse and kill, and Gospel to save and forgive. I am not denying the third use of the Law, and our Confessions uphold it in strong language as well. The Divine Service, however, is to give to us the forgiveness of sins, something which the Law, nor our living, can ever possibly do.

The Gospel. It's everything. And you, Christian, need it continually. Just like every other person in this world.

The Gospel is everything because Christ and what He has done is everything.

Grace and Peace


Right Doctrine is Super Vital. And Stuff.

I came across a quote on the www today by Charles Spurgeon, the great Landmark Baptist "Prince of Preachers," as he is so called. It states:

"Believing right doctrine will no more save you, than doing good works will save you." ~Charles Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon

Let it be said from the outset that what Spurgeon says here is true. But let us also move on to what Spurgeon did not mean by it. To be blunt, Spurgeon was not downplaying the vital importance of right doctrine. I'm pretty sure all he was trying to say is that we are saved by grace alone.

Suffice it to say, I am in no way endorsing the Calvinistic Baptist theology of Charles Spurgeon. But it is very safe to say that Spurgeon himself was very strict in his doctrinal stances.

However, to the postmodern mind, Spurgeon's statement ends up meaning something entirely different. They see this statement and read it to mean: See? Even Spurgeon was not a hard core doctrine preacher! Even he saw that all we need to do is love Jesus, no matter what we believe!

They will say: diversity in belief within the church is a good thing, even to the point of accepting beliefs that are not anywhere close to orthodox Christianity. This is why men and women like Tony Jones, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, and Rachel Held-Evans have a big following and platform for their ideas within supposed Christian circles. Namely, these folks wave around the Name of Jesus and also think right along with our culture in a postmodernist fashion. In other words, people now days in the United States, being thoroughly postmodern, relate to these teachers and understand them.

It's also why sect and cult leaders of the past have found there way into mainstream Christianity. Ellen G. White (Seventh Day Adventism), Aimee Semple MacPherson (Four Square Pentecostalism), and to a far lesser extent, Charles Taze Russell (Jehovah's Witnesses), and even Joseph Smith (Mormonism) all find footing within mainstream Christianity. One needs to look no further than the mainstream Christian acceptance in some circles of Glenn Beck (Mormon) to see this. It's why rank heretics like Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, and Bill Johnson are treated as mainstream Christians. We suck at doctrine, and the postmodernism of the culture tells us that it's OK.

To the modern (properly: postmodern) mind, these voices are prophetic. They speak in vague terms and never claim anything as absolute truth. That is exactly what our culture values: Acceptance of everything and anything in the name of love.

Here is what they miss: Jesus Himself, the God-man whom they claim as their Savior, said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life..." (John 14:6) Jesus states that HE IS THE TRUTH.

OK, so technically they don't miss that. But they do go on to say that we can't know anything with certainty, and so on and so forth. Thus we ought to be accepting and tolerant of other views; even welcoming them into fellowship. The end result is a melting pot (or a salad bowl) or all sorts of heterodox and heretical beliefs welcomed as things that are acceptable and even embraced in Christianity. Hence, men like McLaren can write a volume such as A Generous Orthodoxy, where much of everything is redefined to be orthodox Christian teaching, at the whim of McLaren.

Let's exaggerate this a little bit and flesh it out to it's logical conclusion. Let's back up to the Council of Nicaea in the early 300s A.D.

The major discussion at Nicaea was the deity of Christ. Arius, on one hand, posited that although Christ is God, He is not as much God as the Father, who created Christ. To wit: Christ is the first created being. Arius was condemned as an heretic in a way that our postmodern friends would never do today. The Council decided with Orthodox Trinitarian theology, and as a result years later, the Nicene Creed was formulated, which had its basis in the Council of Nicaea.

The culture we live in today very much so assumes the validity of postmodernist thinking. It's not cool to say someone else is wrong. It's the height of intolerance and arrogance, they say, because you're claiming to know absolute truth, and you can't claim that, because you don't know anything for sure.

You know what makes a perfect bedfellow with postmodernist thought? Here's a hint: It's a belief that rejects the absolutes of truth altogether and says that science and culture create truths. It's called Atheism.

Postmodernist Christianity is nothing more than an attempt to keep Jesus as Savior, but read Scripture, and indeed all of life, through a philosophy that is a perfect fit for Atheism. This is why movements (or a conversation, as they put it) such as the Emergent Church will fail. It is grounded not in Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins; not in Scripture as absolute truth given to us by God, but in an Atheistic philosophy. What fellowship has darkness with light?

Right doctrine is vital. Why? Let me make it simple. Christ is the Truth and true doctrine points us to Christ. Heterodox and heretical doctrines do not point us to Christ. They point us to falsehoods that are not of Christ. Thus, they point us away from Christ.

Heterodox and heretical doctrines do not lead us to Christ. They lead us away from Him. If you don't believe what Scripture says plainly, then you are rejecting the Word of God in that manner, and thus pushing yourself further from Christ.

Christ is Truth, and we must hold fast to what is true about Him, revealed in the Word.

It's not about how we live and how much we accept as Christian. This is as unchristian of an idea as anything else you'll find out there. But it is subtle in that it seeks to retain Christ.

Right doctrine; the truth about Christ and the Truth who is Christ, drives right living. Another way to say this is that orthodoxy drives our orthopraxy.

So why are Lutherans a bunch of stodgy old doctrinaire codgers? Because we realize this to be true. A little leaven leavens the whole lump, as St. Paul said in Galatians 5:9.

So when someone comes at you with the whole tolerance spiel in reference to heterodox (or even heretical) doctrine, you can know that this is definitely not a Christian idea. It can only serve to deny Christ, reject the faith by pointing us away from Him, or to turn Christianity into a mess that resembles eastern mysticism and spirituality.

But it's not, and never will be, Christian.

Grace and Peace


The Simplicity, and Depth, of the Gospel

This post is not intended to be a major theological treatise, but rather, a reflection of my own journey to the Evangelical Catholic (Lutheran) faith. Granted, in my reflection there will be (and must be by necessity!) some theological statements and claims.

One of the most important facets of Lutheran theology is the distinction between Law and Gospel. The Law kills, whereas the Gospel brings life. The Law cannot bring life, for that is not its function. It can only tell us what to do. To lapse into finding life in obeying commands is to lapse into legalism, and to lapse into finding assurance in your works is to lapse into a perversion of the Gospel itself.

In Christianity, only the Confessional Lutheran Church upholds this proper distinction, although many Continental Reformed Churches are doing pretty good at it these days. Notice, I did not say all Reformed Churches. The Puritans did a horrible job of this, and their influence in Reformed circles is enormous, even today. Some of the Continental Reformed folks do OK here though. I think of Reformed scholars like Michael Horton, for example.

As I made my own journey to the Lutheran Church, I was confronted with all of these issues, especially I was a staunch Calvinist for many years; even flirting with Postmillennialism and Theonomy along the way. I still to this day have a high regard for the late Dr. Greg Bahnsen in the arena of apologetics. I think he is amazing in that regard. Yet I also think his theology is bunk in many ways.

The Law killed me. Absolutely, positively, killed me. In my journey, especially through Reformed Theology, I was constantly seeing the Law as a bad thing. Yes, I know, Reformed Theology does not see the Law as a bad thing - no Christian Church does. But allow me to explain. As a Calvinist, I was forced by necessity to judge my election based on my obedience to the commands of God. I can hear the howls of protest from my Reformed friends now...

Why is this so? Well, there are two doctrines in Reformed Theology that push a person in this direction. They are the doctrine of Reprobation and the doctrine of Limited Atonement. To put it simply, the doctrine of Reprobation (aka Double Predestination) says that a portion of humanity is predestined to burn in hell, for lack of a better explanation. Limited Atonement says that Christ only died for those who are elect and will be saved.

Here is the problem: If those two things are true, how can you know you are saved? Well, you can't know that you're not predestined for heaven. You might fall away or have a false faith. In that case, you were never saved in the first place. You also can't know for sure if Christ died for you, well, because you don't know if you're predestined for heaven and might fall away or have false faith.

So where does one look for assurance in Reformed Theology? To their own fruits. To be fair, many Reformed people would protest this, and rightly so. Much of Reformed Theology teaches people to look to Christ, and that is a good thing. Yet, how can you not help but to look to yourself if Christ only died for certain persons? To act a little Reformed here, it's an irresistible logic.

From our Lutheran perspective, this is a confusion of Law and Gospel. To look to anything you do (Law) to have assurance of salvation is going to drive you to despair. Or pride. In other words, the thing that is supposed to clearly show your election in Christ either kills you or makes you sin even more by presupposing something that is not a foregone conclusion (if Christ died for you), or leads a person to thump their chest in the name of humility to know and say they are elect.

All of these things mingle the Law into the Gospel. The Law does not give us assurance. It only causes despair or pride.

It's not that I don't think that Reformed churches (and Baptist, and...whatever else) don't have the Gospel. They certainly do. It's that they obscure it by allowing the Law to be mingled in with it. They don't allow the Gospel, and only the Gospel, to do all the heavy lifting.

The despair however, is where it led me. And, I would argue, the Law driving us to despair is precisely what it should do. And when the Law kills you, it also shows you that you are completely and utterly helpless. And screwed. Royally screwed.

That is where the simplicity, and depth, of the Gospel comes in. The Gospel is something outside of us that gives us Christ and His promises, benefits, and work, as a one-sided divine gift. Christ for you, outside of you, clothing you with His righteousness (2 Cor 5:21). He died for you (1 Jn 2:2).

And what's also awesome is that He gives Himself to us not only in His Incarnation, death, and resurrection, but also temporally, apart from ourselves. Not so much to make us better (although the Spirit comes in and the new man rises), but precisely because we suck and fall short. We fall short of everything. God demands perfection (Mat 5:48). We cannot meet it (Jam 2:10, Rom 3:23). We are sinful from conception (Ps 51, Rom 5:12-21).

The Law and the Gospel are both super important. Without the Law, we needn't be saved. Without the Gospel, we can't be saved. For it is the Gospel, not the Law, that is the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16).

Nor does God kill us with the Law to save us with the Gospel just to drive us back to the Law again (Gal 3:2-3).

Christ outside of us, for us, continually coming to us in Word and Sacrament for our salvation. Not because of what we have done, but because of what Christ alone has done.

Anything less than that rips the purity from the Word of God and strips the Gospel of its power to assure us that we are Christ's and He is ours.

Christ saves us. He says: I baptize you in the Name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit (Mat 28:18-20). He says: Whoever believes in me is saved (Jn 3:16, Rom 10:9-13). He says, take and eat, take and drink, this is My body and blood, for you, for the forgiveness of your sins (Mat 26:28).

Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8), does it all, despite of us, not because of us. And because God's Word is sure and God never lies, we also locate our assurance in these promises given to us in Word and Sacrament outside of us, spoken by God.

He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:5