11/2/16

Here's "What's Up" With Lutherans: A Response to Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung of The Gospel Coalition wrote an article five years ago that has just come to my attention. The article is called "What's Up With Lutherans?" The original article can be found here: https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/kevindeyoung/2011/06/23/whats-up-with-lutherans/

What follows is my response to the article.

DEYOUNG VIEWS LUTHERANS THE WRONG WAY TO BEGIN WITH

 It is helpful to read DeYoung's article recognizing how he thinks. To put it bluntly, he does not think like a Lutheran. Most would say this is an obvious point that needs no comment, but nonetheless it is vital to understand that his whole article views Lutherans incorrectly. I can understand this, because before I was a Lutheran I thought of Lutherans the same way DeYoung does.

How does he think of Lutherans? One need only go to his "UPDATE" at the end of his article, where he says the following:

"My central question was about the place of Lutherans in the big tent of evangelicalism."

That is precisely where DeYoung goes wrong.

Historic and confessional Lutheranism is simply not in "the big tent of evangelicalism."

This wrong way of viewing Lutherans reminds me of similarly how Roman Catholics view the Eastern Orthodox. Catholics think the Orthodox are just a "sister church" that is "like them" in many ways.

But ask an Orthodox person about how Orthodoxy views herself, and they will tell you that they are nothing like Rome, and most definitely not a "sister church."

Historic and confessional Lutheranism does not view itself as "one option among many."

I'm not speaking of those "Lutheran" churches that have fallen prey to non-denominational and American evangelical thinking.

I'm talking about Lutheran churches that subscribe to the Book of Concord. If you want to know what a Lutheran is, it is simply someone who believes, teaches, and confesses what is written in the Book of Concord. You can read it for free at www.bookofconcord.org as well.

Given the above, DeYoung's whole article goes wrong. It treats Lutherans like we are supposed to act like today's evangelicals or today's reformed.

But we are not.

So what follows now is quick answers to his article that views us Lutherans like we are supposed to act or believe in ways that are not us. DeYoung's questions will be in quotes, with my responses below them.

ANSWERS TO DEYOUNG'S QUESTIONS

"What up with Lutherans?"

Sup.

"where are they?"

Right here.

"I’m genuinely curious to know why the big tent of conservative, confessional evangelicalism doesn’t have more Lutherans."

Because we do not consider ourselves part of the big tent of conservative, confessional evangelicalism. We are our own thing. We are not Protestants in today's sense. We are not evangelical. We are not reformed. We are not Eastern Orthodox. We are not Roman. We are Lutherans.

"Where have all the Lutherans gone?"

You'll find us in our Lutheran parishes. You are welcome to visit. Heck, we'll even commune you if you go through catechesis and become Lutheran. :)

"I just don’t know all the good they are doing and saying."

We have a tremendous presence in the mission field. Especially the LCMS. We are involved in the culture and our communities frequently.

"Lutheranism has always been a little out of place with the sometimes rootless, low church expressions of evangelicalism. They never got on board with evangelicalism after the Great Awakening."

Correct! Not only are we out of place in evangelicalism, it is completely antithetical to who we are. We are Sacramental to the core and we believe the Spirit only acts in the Word and Sacraments, and not apart from them. You can probably now guess what we think about the "Great Awakening". :)

"but evangelicalism has been influenced by many Anglican theologians and preachers, hasn’t it?"

Of course it has. Anglicanism from its inception was always less interested in precise doctrine. I often consider Anglicanism to be liturgical non-denominationalism.

"Lutherans are content to remain in ethnic enclaves."

This is a fair concern for many Lutherans, and it is something Lutherans should indeed repent of.

"The Lutheran view of the sacraments is a bridge too far for many evangelicals, and the faddish nature of evangelicalism is a bridge too far for many Lutherans."

Yes indeed. 100% agreement there.

"The bulk of Lutherans have gone liberal and the rest have gone into bunker mode."

That's like saying that the bulk of Christians have gone unitarian-universalist, etc. There are still plenty of confessional Lutherans around. The LCMS is a huge denomination. The WELS, although smaller, has influence as well. And there are numerous Lutheran church bodies the LCMS is in fellowship with across the globe and on the mission field.

A FINAL WORD

I know DeYoung sincerely was trying to understand Lutherans and the various questions of why. My advice not only for DeYoung, but for anyone--including myself--is that when we research folks that think differently than we ourselves do, it is very important that we try to view the research through the lens of the folks we are researching. I know this is not always easy, but it will help us to understand better.

Thanks go to DeYoung for his honest questions.









10/26/16

NON-LUTHERAN VIEWS OF THE SUPPER ARE BLASPHEMOUS

Now that I have your attention from the title of this post......

I've never been one to beat around the bush, or to read between the lines. I've always preferred to be specific and clear. I don't wish to purposely offend either, yet at the same time I don't mind if the truth offends.

Something that has been vexing me as of lately is how many Lutherans have no problem partaking of the Lord's Supper at non-Lutheran churches.

Not only is this against the historic stand of Lutheranism, but it really makes no sense if you think about it.

What is worse, if you think about it, is this:

*If the Lutheran view of the Supper is right and biblical (and it is!), then by very definition this means all other views are false.*

But the worst of it is this:

**Since the Lutheran Eucharist is pure Gospel and biblical and true, then this means all other "eucharists" or "suppers" are blasphemous. They are simply a mockery of what Christ instituted.**

This bears repeating, so I'll say it again:

**Since the Lutheran Eucharist is pure Gospel and biblical and true, then this means all other "eucharists" or "suppers" are blasphemous. They are simply a mockery of what Christ instituted.**

Think about it.

For Rome (and the East), their eucharist is a sacrifice that we offer to God for the sins of the living and the dead.

Lutherans, is this your Eucharist?

For today's Protestants, evangelicals, and reformed, their supper is simply either a commemoration or reminder or thought exercise, or merely a "spiritual partaking" of Christ.

Lutherans, is that your Eucharist?

Some Lutherans say that all that matters is the Real Presence.

But the Missouri Synod correctly says that unity in all articles of the Gospel is what matters.

The Eucharist is the Sacrament of unity.

Lutherans, do we have unity in the Gospel with Rome? Do we confess justification by faith plus works? By infused righteousness?

Lutherans, do we have unity in the Gospel with the East? Do we confess that cooperate with God on the pathway to God for salvation?

Lutherans, do we have unity in the Gospel with Protestants, evangelicals, and reformed? Do we confess that Christ is not present in the sacraments, and reduce them to mere "ordinances"? Do we confess that Christ atoned only for the sins of some, namely, only the elect?

Do we confess that the only way one can have assurance of salvation is by their fruits?

No.

Many say that if Lutherans partake only with Lutherans, that this is divisive and unloving.

I say, it is more unloving to compromise the Gospel by partaking of the Supper with the heterodox, because it does not give witness to the Gospel by flattening out the Gospel.

Some say "but it's the *Lord's* Supper, not the Missouri Synod's Supper or the WELS' Supper.

I retort, "and it is the Lord's *Gospel*. And we are to bear witness to it.

By partaking with only Lutherans, we do not wish to be divisive, but we acknowledge the sad fact that Christianity is divided.

But in doing so, we give witness to the Good News of the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ in Word and Sacrament.

The only Gospel that gives assurance.

We are simply beggars.

So why do I partake only at Lutheran Altars?

And why is this the historic stance of the Lutheran faith?

Because of the pure Gospel.

If we lose the Gospel, we lose everything.

Here we stand.

10/14/16

Where Christ crucified for us meets us

For us Confessional Lutherans we don't approach church (or as we call it divine) service as foremost what we do for God (meaning worship) but as foremost what God does for us. He gives us His objective word week in week out through the service that our sins are forgiven for Christ's sake when we confess our sins and believe Christ paid for our sins (absolution). We hear the Word proclaimed from the OT, the NT, and gospel. We are given the objective promises of forgiveness via sacrament.

For us, foremost, God gives us His grace not only to join us to Christ but to keep us in Him and His forgiveness won for us at the cross via Word and Sacrament given in the divine service.

And in response, we can worship God and give as well knowing we can't outdo God and out give God.

So for us, divine service is where foremost God is gloried in our salvation and in response we glorified and worshipped Him for what He has done for us. In Christ crucified and resurrected for us.

So the approach for us is different from many Protestants.

When people withhold themselves from the church in our view, they withhold themselves from the gifts God give them in Word and Sacrament to continue to keep them in the forgiveness Christ merited for them and strengthened them.

So for us a large part of why people don't go to church is wrong approach. We see it as heaven meets earth, rather than earth meets heaven. We see it as Christ comes to us in a real way to draw us to Himself and continues to do so over and over again to keep us in the one truth faith.

Here we stand.

9/27/16

"You Lutherans have little in common with Luther theologically"

Every so often, folks from other camps especially the Reformed camp claim Lutherans are hardly in line with Luther theologically.

So let's put that to the test.

Confessional Lutheranism holds to Book of Concord as biblical rule of faith. That book contains three writings by Luther in full, three writings in full in Luther's lifetime that he agreed to and with, and a longer version of Formula of Concord that largely quote or paraphrase Luther (yes including his Bondage which was made binding on the Lutheran faith in it).

So explain again how we- confessional Lutherans- are out of step with Luther theologically again?

Here we stand.

9/15/16

"Free" Will???

The common error that those who believe in "free will" make is that they look at passages with words like "choose" and "come" and "whosoever", and then wrongly *assume* that that must mean that they have the *ability* to choose. The Bible nowhere teaches this.
In fact, it teaches quite the opposite. Jesus says no one *can* (ability) come to Him unless the Father draws him. Jesus says none have life except those to whom the Son has revealed Himself. Romans 8:7-8 says that the sinful mind is hostile God, it does not submit to God's Law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the flesh *cannot* please God. Not to mention that the Bible describes the unregenerate as *dead* in sins and trespasses.
Notice, then, that these passages teach that mankind is *accountable* to choose, although they lack the moral ability to do so.
These folks counter by saying "Well then how can God say we are responsible then?"
Scripture declares we are nonetheless accountable. Jesus also commands us to be *perfect*, although none of us can do that. None of us have the ability. But we are still accountable to do so.
Please notice, then, that the only Perfection we will ever have is Christ Himself. And none of us desire Christ unless the Spirit convicts through the law and shows us Christ in the Gospel.
What many of these folks usually do is they say that God draws everyone, then leaves the rest up to man. This is another fundamental error because not only does the Bible nowhere teach this, but it also separates God's Spirit from His Word and His Sacraments. God is always pleased to *draw* people through His preached Word and His Sacraments administered. The Spirit willingly binds Himself to these.

9/8/16

The Evangelical Lutheran Church is the True Church Because of the Gospel

Many religions compete for which is the true one. And many branches of Christianity claim they are the truest to the Scriptures, or the true church. However, unfortunately, many of these claim such merely for the sake of "being right." They usually base it upon alleged "apostolic succession," or "the successor of Peter," or "truest to the Scriptures."

However, even the last case of "truest to the Scriptures" begs the question of *how*. How should the Scriptures be interpreted?

The Evangelical Lutheran Church, or Evangelical Catholics, believes that what constitutes the true visible Church on earth is the pure preaching of the Gospel and the pure administration of the Sacraments according to the Gospel. We believe that the Gospel is what constitutes the proper interpretation of Scripture. Everything is about Jesus Christ† and His work for us.

This is expressed in our Lutheran Confessions, which we believe to be faithful to the Good News of the Gospel. Apart from the Gospel, there is no church. This is why all false doctrine is dangerous. Anything that waters down the Good News of the Gospel inevitably points us toward our own efforts.

God must always come *down* to us. The Gospel is for us, for us poor, weary sinners.

It is all about the Gospel. Apart from this, there is no good news.

Christ is for us in Word and Sacrament!

9/4/16

Forgiveness, Life, and Salvation

Rome says that the Eucharist forgives only venial sins, but not mortal sins. This is absolutely impossible, for through the Eucharist we are receiving Christ.

Rome says that Holy Baptism only forgives original, past, and present, but not future sins. But this is impossible. For through Holy Baptism, we are brought into union with Christ.

Rome says that Absolution is conditional and dependent upon works of contrition. But this is impossible, because no one's works are perfect, but are always tainted with sin. Further, it is impossible to even know all our sins, for our hearts are that deceitful, even after regeneration. 

The bottom line is that, in Roman theology, Christ recedes into the background and ultimately has to be viewed as a mere tack-on.

If we have been united with Christ in Holy Baptism, partake of His Flesh and Blood in the Holy Eucharist, and hear His gracious Words of forgiveness in Holy Absolution, it is impossible for sin to remain. Although it remains in our heart, we are shielded and clothed with Christ Our Righteousness.

All sins are forgiven.

And where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.

8/19/16

THE LUTHERAN EUCHARIST IS FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVE THE LUTHERAN EUCHARIST

Among Lutheran brethren, there are some who are concerned that the historic and confessional view of closed Communion ("Lutheran altars for Lutherans only") comes off as exclusivistic and unloving. Many of these well-meaning Lutheran brethren are concerned that, they believe, it is impossible to come to full agreement in doctrine this side of heaven--yet full agreement in doctrine is required for Altar fellowship in Lutheran churches.

For the sake of these brethren, I would like to take a different approach, which I think may be more helpful when it comes to the nature of the Sacrament of the Altar, and which perhaps, I hope, will help them, as well as others, understand why we believe that the Lutheran Altar is for Lutherans, and why we believe Lutherans should only partake with Lutherans.

THE VERY NATURE OF THE MOST BLESSED SACRAMENT IN LUTHERANISM

As Lutherans, we confess and believe a very unique view of the Supper, that only Lutheranism confesses. We confess that with the bread and wine, we receive the very Body and Blood of Christ, into our mouths and bodies, for the forgiveness of sins.

Do other traditions believe this?

*Our evangelical friends do not believe this. They believe the Supper is simply a remembrance and an action of meditation on Christ's death. They do not believe they receive the Body and Blood of Christ into their mouths. So, why would an evangelical want to come to a Lutheran Altar? And why would a Lutheran want to partake at an evangelical assembly?

*Our reformed friends do not believe this. They believe only those who have faith receive the sacrament, and only in a spiritual sense. Our concern as Lutherans is that this takes away objective assurance, and causes a person to go inward with reflection. Our further concern is that if the sacraments are only gracious for the elect, how do we know God is gracious toward *us*? Our concern is that this is damaging to the Gospel. The Gospel always includes "for *you*."

*Our Roman Catholic friends, although they confess the Real Presence, believe instead that it is a sacrifice that they are offering to God for both the sins of the living and the sins of the dead in purgatory. We Lutherans reject this as sacrilege. We reject purgatory. Why would any Lutheran want to participate in a Roman Catholic Eucharist?

*Our Eastern friends are similar, although their doctrine of purgatory is not as developed as Rome's. Many of them do not like the term "purgatory," but nonetheless they still believe the Eucharist is a sacrifice for the sins of the dead as well.

LUTHERANS TAKE CHRIST'S INSTITUTION VERY SERIOUSLY

We Lutherans take Christ's Words of Institution very seriously. No one has the right to take away the Cup of His Blood, as Rome used to do--and still does in some parishes. No one has the right to skip drinking the Blood.

Christ did not institute a Supper that is offered for sins of the dead; much less is there such a thing as purgatory.

Christ instituted the Sacrament of the Altar for comfort, for the forgiveness of sins.

For you.

Given the above, why would any Lutheran want to partake at any other Altar, given what we confess the Eucharist actually *is*?

And why would any non-Lutheran want to partake at a Lutheran Altar, since they do not believe what we believe about the Eucharist?

Considering the above, closed Communion makes perfect sense.

8/9/16

Word, not just water, makes Baptism

We hold to it isn't the water by itself that makes baptism. It's the Word that makes baptism. The Word by which Christ washes through with water as outward means. It is by which the Holy Spirit calls us to faith that clings to Christ alone given unto us by outward and objective means. And out of the Father's grace, love and mercy, it is by which  to draw us.

Being that the Word makes baptism, it means God can operate outside baptism to send forth His word to us, such as when it is preached.

So we deny one is lost for lack of chances to be baptized. Only unbelief condemns and cuts us off from Christ's Saving work.

It remains true though baptism is objective means we can point back to in regards to when God delivers His promises to us.

And not a one time in the water is baptism.

Our baptism covers our entire Christian life.

We were buried with Christ and in baptism and raised with Him to newness of life.

Daily we are to live out our baptism. Die to old Adam and alive with Christ.

And it is so by the Word and Sacrament giving, nourishing and strengthening our faith/assurance.

Our assurance is never inwards. It is outwards to the objective promises God give us in Word and Sacrament:

In Christ crucified, we are forgiven and our sins washed away.

Faith alone is the instrument in which we are justified. Object of that is Christ crucified for our sins. That is what faith alone receives. Word and Sacrament are means to deliver that to us and give us faith to receive what God gives us.

The Gospel of Christ crucified for our sins.

Here we stand.

7/31/16

No We're Not

Lutheranism is Lutheranism. We do not borrow some from Calvinism and some from Arminianism and some from Rome. We are Evangelical Catholic. We are Lutheran.

It's way too common for Evangelicals who have some amount of learning experience in theology to try to jam Lutheranism into the debate between Calvin and Arminius. This simply does not work, and I will show you why. We ought to give these folks a pass on this, as it is not any sort of malicious attempt against Lutherans in any way. However, we do need to get the word out there about what we believe. Education is paramount in this endeavor. It must be shown, as we on this blog try to do to the best of our abilities, that we simply do not fit within either of these radical reformation traditions.

I was guilty of this too at one time. When I first started digging into theology, I jumped into Calvinism and Arminianism. I was simply being a good evangelical, and after all, evangelicals fall into one of these two categories; or a mixture of the two. Ultimately I cast my lot with Calvin and the Reformed tradition. I saw everything through the lens of the sovereignty of God, predestination, and covenant theology. I thought Lutherans were essentially Arminians, because Lutheranism rejected the P in the famous TULIP.

Then I came across some learned Lutherans online. I didn't listen to them much at first. I thought Lutheranism was a jumbled irrational mess. Little did I know, my world was about to be rocked.

So, why don't Lutherans fit with evangelicals? Simply put, it's the Sacraments. Whereas we can definitely have a scholarly conversation with Calvinists and Arminians regarding election, free will, and other things, we begin in a completely different place. For us, we start and end with Christ crucified for the forgiveness of all of our sins.

Why the Sacraments? Because in Lutheranism, you simply cannot divorce the Sacraments in any way whatsoever from salvation and justification. In Calvinist Covenant Theology, the Covenant of Grace has a substance and an administration. That is to say, there are two aspects to this covenant. One is external and one is internal. The external covenant is the administration of the covenant, where the Word is preached and the Sacraments administered. The internal is the substance, where the Holy Spirit gives that special inward call to the elect alone and no one else. This strips the Sacraments of objectivity. In Arminianism, everything hinges on the free will decision of the individual. Hence, modern American Evangelicalism, which is strongly Arminian and in many cases outright Pelagian, is big on getting people to make a decision for Jesus, ask Him into their hearts, or come forward for an altar call. All of these practices assume a choice is needed to enact salvation. This is the horrendous error of decisional regeneration or decision theology.

We don't fit. In Lutheranism, Christ is right there for us in our baptism. Saving us. We are baptized into the Triune God, objectively. It's not part of an external covenant. It's grace for you, and it saves.

We also need constant forgiveness. How do we know we are receiving constant forgiveness? Well, because some dude in a white dress who is called and ordained stands in the place of Christ (cf. John 20:23) and pronounces "I forgive you all of your sins in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Why do we believe this? Because Christ Himself ordained the Office of the Holy Ministry and gave the Keys to the Kingdom to the Church.

How do I receive forgiveness in other ways? Well, because some dude in a white dress consecrates ordinary bread and wine and Christ feeds us His true body and blood for the forgiveness of sins (cf. Matthew 26:26-28).

How do I know I am forgiven? Because I am baptized into the Name of God. He saved me right there; His Word working through ordinary water. Because I eat the body and blood of Jesus, in my mouth, orally. Now, for any of you Calvinists or Arminians who happen to stumble across this blog post, be honest with yourself. According to your theology, us Lutherans are idolatrous heretics. We know we are forgiven because we eat and drink Jesus in our mouths. Think about that. We know we are forgiven because the guy in the white dress acts on behalf of Christ and forgives us all of our sins. Think about that.

I close with an excellent quote from Gene Veith. He states:

"To understand Lutheranism, it is necessary to recognize that the Lutheran understanding of salvation by grace and justification by faith cannot be separated from the Lutheran teachings of baptismal regeneration and the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine of Holy Communion. These teachings are all intimately connected with each other in Lutheran theology and spirituality. If you play them off against each other, thinking you can have Lutheran soteriology without Lutheran sacramental theology, you might have Calvinists or Baptists or Calvinist Baptists or something else, but you cannot have Lutherans. Nor can you have Lutheran Calvinists or Calvinist Lutherans or Lutheran Baptists or Baptist Lutherans." Gospel Coalition Debate

Exactly. We do not fit.

And no we are not ______. Fill in the blank.

We are Lutheran. Here We Stand.

+Pax+

7/26/16

Baptizing the Baby Polycarp

Since the Reformation, debates continue on when the earliest practice of infant baptism took place. Often cited as evidence are the words of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna (who sat at the feet of the apostle John) right before he was martyred,

We read in Martyrdom of Polycarp:

Chapter 9. Polycarp refuses to revile Christ

Now, as Polycarp was entering into the stadium, there came to him a voice from heaven, saying, Be strong, and show yourself a man, O Polycarp! No one saw who it was that spoke to him; but those of our brethren who were present heard the voice. And as he was brought forward, the tumult became great when they heard that Polycarp was taken. And when he came near, the proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp. On his confessing that he was, [the proconsul] sought to persuade him to deny [Christ], saying, Have respect to your old age, and other similar things, according to their custom, [such as], Swear by the fortune of C├Žsar; repent, and say, Away with the Atheists. But Polycarp, gazing with a stern countenance on all the multitude of the wicked heathen then in the stadium, and waving his hand towards them, while with groans he looked up to heaven, said, Away with the Atheists. Then, the proconsul urging him, and saying, Swear, and I will set you at liberty, reproach Christ; Polycarp declared, Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?



In his own words, Polycarp said he was a believer in Christ his entire life even from birth. Now how does that support the argument he was baptized as an infant?

Consider back then what baptism was seen as. It was regarded as means of grace by which God gives faith and rebirth.

For example, The Epistle of Barnabas stated:

Chapter 11. Baptism and the cross prefigured in the Old Testament

Let us further inquire whether the Lord took any care to foreshadow the water [of baptism] and the cross. Concerning the water, indeed, it is written, in reference to the Israelites, that they should not receive that baptism which leads to the remission of sins, but should procure another for themselves. The prophet therefore declares, Be astonished, O heaven, and let the earth tremble at this, because this people has committed two great evils: they have forsaken Me, a living fountain, and have hewn out for themselves broken cisterns. Is my holy hill Zion a desolate rock? For you shall be as the fledglings of a bird, which fly away when the nest is removed. Isaiah 16:1-2 And again says the prophet, I will go before you and make level the mountains, and will break the brazen gates, and bruise in pieces the iron bars; and I will give you the secret, hidden, invisible treasures, that they may know that I am the Lord God. Isaiah 45:2-3 And He shall dwell in a lofty cave of the strong rock. Furthermore, what says He in reference to the Son? His water is sure; you shall see the King in His glory, and your soul shall meditate on the fear of the Lord. Isaiah 33:16-18 And again He says in another prophet, The man who does these things shall be like a tree planted by the courses of waters, which shall yield its fruit in due season; and his leaf shall not fade, and all that he does shall prosper. Not so are the ungodly, not so, but even as chaff, which the wind sweeps away from the face of the earth. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in judgment, nor sinners in the counsel of the just; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish. Mark how He has described at once both the water and the cross. For these words imply, Blessed are they who, placing their trust in the cross, have gone down into the water; for, says He, they shall receive their reward in due time: then He declares, I will recompense them. But now He says, Their leaves shall not fade. This means, that every word which proceeds out of your mouth in faith and love shall tend to bring conversion and hope to many. Again, another prophet says, And the land of Jacob shall be extolled above every land. Zephaniah 3:19 This means the vessel of His Spirit, which He shall glorify. Further, what says He? And there was a river flowing on the right, and from it arose beautiful trees; and whosoever shall eat of them shall live for ever. Ezekiel 47:12 This means, that we indeed descend into the water full of sins and defilement, but come up, bearing fruit in our heart, having the fear [of God] and trust in Jesus in our spirit. And whosoever shall eat of these shall live for ever, This means: Whosoever, He declares, shall hear you speaking, and believe, shall live for ever.



Another example would be The Epistle of Ignatius, bishop of Antioch (who also knew the apostles and was himself a martyr), to Polycarp:

Chapter 6. The duties of the Christian flock

Give heed to the bishop, that God also may give heed to you. My soul be for theirs that are submissive to the bishop, to the presbyters, and to the deacons, and may my portion be along with them in God! Labour together with one another; strive in company together; run together; suffer together; sleep together; and awake together, as the stewards, and associates, and servants of God. Please Him under whom you fight, and from whom you receive your wages. Let none of you be found a deserter. Let your baptism endure as your arms; your faith as your helmet; your love as your spear; your patience as a complete panoply. Let your works be the charge assigned to you, that you may receive a worthy recompense. Be long-suffering, therefore, with one another, in meekness, as God is towards you. May I have joy of you for ever!


Ignatius identified Polycarp's baptism as his faith and conversion and as something to be endured. Polycarp spoke of his faith as covering his whole lifetime.

That provides right there the strong key evidence for Polycarp being baptized as an infant unto faith and rebirth, for remission of sins.

Here we stand.

7/23/16

Start Wrong, End Wrong.

Theologically speaking, when a theology begins in a place it shouldn't, it ends up in a lot of trouble in the end.

Two great examples of this are the radical reformation theologies of Calvinism, taught in the Reformed Churches as well as Presbyterian and some Baptists; and Arminianism, taught by most Baptists, Wesleyans, and Charismatic churches.

A Synod was convened at Dort in 1618 in which the Remonstrants (Arminians) were challenging the traditional staunch predestinarian doctrines of the Reformed Church (Calvinists). The Remonstrants brought five objections to Reformed Theology, and the famous 5 points of Calvinism was the Reformed response.

Interestingly enough, the bickering that existed between these two schools of theological thought in the early 17th century is alive and well today. It is also quite common for proponents of these two systems to lump everything theological into one system or the other. Hence, any Christian church that believes in some sort of free will in the conversion of a sinner is "Arminian" and any church that believes that God elects people to salvation is "Calvinist."

The problem is that this caricature given by many evangelicals is just not true. No form of sacramental Christianity fits into either of these categories.

Ultimately, the problem with both Calvinism and Arminianism is that they begin their theology in the wrong spot. Arminianism starts with the free will of man. Some Arminians may object to this, but the objection is empty. This is precisely where Arminianism challenges Calvinism and thus begins its theology as an anti-Calvinism of sorts.

When you start with the free will of man, everything in the theological system ends up being read through that lens. Hence, you end up with logical deductions made into dogma. For instance, in many Baptist churches, there is a doctrine called the Age of Accountability. This is a direct result of elevating free will to a primary status. It is surmised that since an infant or young child is not capable of understanding the Gospel and thus unable to make a free will choice, they are then not held accountable by God until they are able to choose one way or the other. Of course, Scripture nowhere teaches this doctrine. It is an example of something completely foreign to Scripture being made a doctrine due to a starting place that is erroneous. Not to mention, many Arminian churches are Baptist, and one of the main arguments they make against infant baptism is that the infant is not able to choose to be baptized. Some Arminians have even proposed blasphemous absurdities like Open Theism, in which God doesn't know the future simply to keep our free will truly free.

Calvinism, on the other hand, has its own difficulties. Generally speaking, Calvinism starts their theology with the absolute sovereignty of God over all things. This idea manifests itself in different ways. One way is that Calvinists tend to get involved with abstract in-house debates about the logical ordering of God's decrees in eternity past. Scripture, however, really doesn't give enough information for one to hold to any of these logical orders. This is also something Luther would term a theology of glory. The Calvinist here is peering into the hidden God.

One outworking of this idea is that objectively speaking, the sacraments are stripped of their power. Ultimately, if a person is elect, the sacraments are effacious for them. But if they are not elect, the sacraments are useless. In this manner, the Spirit is divorced from the places He said He will be in grace. For this reason, Calvinists have to invent novel theories for retaining infant baptism. Calvinism and Infant Baptism Ultimately, infant baptism makes very little sense at all in a Calvinist Theology. It can't be to save them like Scripture says, because there is no correlation (or at the very least, it is unclear) between baptism and God's decree to elect specific individuals in eternity past.

Calvinism also relegates Christ's work to a status that must fit within God's logical order of decrees. Suffice it to say, Christ's work is always logically relegated to a position after God's decree of election. Hence, the Calvinist will argue that Christ only died for the elect and no one else. It is difficult for the Calvinist to say that "In Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28) or "For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died" (2 Cor 5:14), because Christ is only for the elect in their scheme.

Some of the higher Calvinists even take their doctrine of sovereignty to a level where they are fully comfortable saying that God is the author of sin. Perish the thought!

The bottom line is that if a theology begins in the wrong place and reads their starting point into everything else, they end up contradicting Scripture and deviating from classic Christian theology all over the place once the doctrines are fleshed out. Both combatants of the radical Reformation do this repeatedly. As I have argued elsewhere, the Reformed Churches are not a Reformation (Reformed is a Misnomer) but rather a completely new thing. Not to mention the Arminian Remonstrance, which is even further off the rails.

The proper starting place in Christian theology is not philosophical debates about the human will or the hidden God in eternity past. It is Christ, revealed to us, crucified and risen. Only in Lutheranism is this the case.

+Pax+

7/20/16

Kyrie, eleison

With so much going on in the world, including in the United States, with all the terroristic acts and all the suffering they produced, what is the proper Christian response?

To answer that question, we need to ponder different issues that are at hand here.

For starters, we got the hidden, inscrutable will of God. That is we can't read into God's mind why these things occur or what His purpose is in them. We do know from Scriptures that God does not cause or foreordain evil. We do know from Scriptures that God take what men meant for evil and use it for good, especially for the good of those who love Him, who have been accorded to His purpose, in Christ.

What we don't know, however, is what specific purpose these things occur. Nor are we allowed to decide on our own accord that God did it as judgment on specific individuals or groups of individuals regardless of what sins they may be participating in at the moment when their lives are taken away. That is because, regardless of what they did or didn't do, nothing insult the intent of God's creation (which is His image in humankind lost at the fall) more then murder. And more, it is not our place to peer into His hidden will which He forbids us to look into. When Christ was asked about various disasters and misfortunes that overtook and killed the lives of various individuals, His answer wasn't to say God was judging them. Instead of allowing them to satisfy their curiosity into what is inscrutable to them, He pointed to them to God's revealed will for them (and us): unless we repent, we also shall perish.

So when various preachers go on tv or radio and say people died in those instances of terrorist acts because of their own sins being judged by God, they are wrong, and seriously so. Whether of not sins were committed by the victims are immaterial to this. God didn't reveal why He allowed these events to take place so we must remain silence.

We do know that regardless, per God's revealed will shown in His word, He does not desire the death of the sinner. He wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. He does not  want any to perish but all to come to repentance.

His love remains true for those who died in these horrific attacks regardless of what they were doing at the moment. He showed His love by sending His eternally begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to atone for their sins at the Cross. The fact many didn't avail themselves of what Christ did for them does not change the fact of God's love for them.

So what should our attitude be? First off, we need to always remember that God's love is for both victims and victimizers alike. Christ truly paid for the sins of both, no matter how heinous those sins are. When Scriptures say He is the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world, then that is most certainly true for even the worst of the worst of sinners. So we can pray for all involved that they would know God's love, revealed in God Incarnate crucified for them and offered up to them in Word and Sacrament.

Secondly, while Christ crucified is still the central message to all, that doesn't preclude us wishing and praying for governments to carry out justice. In fact, Romans 13 tells us God ordains governments for the very purpose of curbing and restraining evil. And we are indeed to pray for our leaders to do so in proper fashion. That is Lutheran doctrine of two kingdom in a nutshell.

Thirdly, we are to weep with those who weep, and mourn with those who mourn. And with the recent events, many are weeping and mourning the senseless deaths of their loved ones. If Christ as God in the flesh can weep for Lazarus before raising him from the dead or weep for the people of the city of Jerusalem, who rejected His message, we can also out of compassion that we are called to.

Finally, we are to pray for God's mercy. That is what we do when we sing Kyrie, Eleison.

We sing that knowing how fully dependent we are on God's mercy for our salvation, for Christ's sake. But we sing that when we mourn at the evil things that take place in this world. We long for God's mercy to be shown others that change and comfort them as well.

So we sing and pray,

Kyrie, eleison
Christe, eleison
Kyrie, eleison 

Lord, have mercy
Christ, have mercy
Lord, have mercy on us

Here we stand.

7/18/16

Faith alone in Christ alone and the Visible Gospel

For the Lutheran view of sacramental grace and faith alone being complementary to each other to make any sense, start with our doctrine of the cross and law/gospel distinction.

We affirm that all are born into sin and thus by nature are opposed to the things of God. Under the law, all are guilty before God.

It is because all are bound to the sin under the law, the law can never save nor can it offer salvation to us.

Only the gospel can save us. What is the gospel? The gospel is God Incarnate, or God in the flesh, crucified for our sins. That is Christ took our place on the cross for our sins that kept us separate from God.

It is what Christ did that provided payment for our sins on our behalf. He provided the cure. Better yet, He IS the payment. He IS the cure.

Now objectively He provided salvation for on the cross. Folks will say if He did it for all, all must be saved. It does not follow. Payment made for us is not same as payment received. We still need to receive the payment which is in other words Him!

Suppose someone sent you a check to pay your fine for you. If you don't make use of it, it is of no benefit to you. Suppose there is a disease that affects everyone and is deadly to everyone. If a doctor discovers the cure objectively for all, it doesn't mean in subjective sense, all receives it. Some may not believe it is the cure.

Now, folks will say if Christ died for all, and not all are saved, it must mean His work on the cross doesn't save anyone. Again, that is incorrect. His work saves. In of itself, it saves. Independent of whether we believe it not, the work was finished in its saving value. It doesn't depend on us believing for it to be for us. It is objectively true for us even if we don't receive it, and in that case, it didn't get applied to us. But when receive in passive sense, it is applied to us. It is still on its own monergistic.

The gospel then is Christ crucified for our sins, and saves us by grace through faith in what He did for us. It is faith in that objective fact. Rejecting that makes God out to be a liar because it is true for those who don't believe also.

Folks will say if Christ died for them, then it is unjust for them to be in hell since their sins are paid for.

Again, that conflates what was done for at the cross with reception of that finished work.

As long as we are without Christ, we remain under law. The gospel is given for us objectively but unless it is possessed by grace through faith, it remains outside ourselves.

The gospel is offered to us and given to us objectively through outside means- word and sacrament. If it is faith alone that receives the cure or payment so to speak given for us and offered to us as gift wrapped to us in word and sacrament.

And what makes word and sacrament given to and for us? The work of God's grace to call us to receive what was done for us at the cross that is from outside ourselves and independent of anything we do.

Through such means we are called to receive Christ who comes to us via outward, objective and tangible means. In baptism through faith, we are clothed with Christ. We receive Him and His righteousness imputed to us, meaning from outside ourselves. It is foreign to who we are. Our assurance is in Christ and His objective word for us.

Hence, we can say the Sacrament is the Visible Gospel. It is offered to us from outside ourselves. Faith alone receives what God gives from outside ourselves. And what we receive is Christ Himself and His work that He comes with to present to us. It's the gospel given for us from outside ourselves that we receive by faith alone. Apart from reception of Christ, we remain under the law and outside the gospel of Christ crucified for us. What's done for us needs to be received for it to benefit us. Just as the sacrament which offers Christ's work to us is no benefit if we don't receive by faith, though God's promises for forgiveness as His word stands.

Here we stand.

7/17/16

Favorite Hymns and Liturgical Music

Originally, I set out to make a top ten list of my favorite music from the Lutheran Service Book (LSB). This has totally devolved into being a top 100 list, but that would make for a super long blog post. So, I'll make a deal with myself and go with a top 25. Within my top 25 totally subjective favorites, you will find mostly hymns, but also some liturgical music as well. Here goes.

25. Jesus Sinners Doth Receive - LSB #609

My favorites start with a powerful confession and absolution hymn.

"Here is hope for all who grieve: Jesus sinners doth receive." (v.1)

24. Crown Him With Many Crowns - LSB #525

The first powerful and triumphant song of victory.

"His glories now we sing, who died and rose on high, who died eternal life to bring and lives that death may die." (v.4)

23. All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name - LSB #549

Another triumphant and upbeat hymn of Christ the Redeemer. Nothing to dislike about this one!

"Let ev'ry kindred, ev'ry tribe, On this terrestrial ball to Him all majesty ascribe and crown Him Lord of all." (v.6)

22. O Lord We Praise Thee - LSB 617

An excellent communion hymn. Written by Luther.

"Thou with Thy body and Thy blood didst nourish, our weak souls that they may flourish:" (v.1)

21. Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing - LSB 686

It's talks about an Ebenezer. That's enough to chuck it in the top 25 alone. But really, it's a great hymn.

"Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise." (v.1)

20. Gloria in Excelsis - Divine Service Setting 4

OK, before any of you old stodgy Lutherans cut me apart for picking something from Divine Service 4 and not the more traditional Divine Service 3, just remember, it's my subjective list and I really like this rendition of the Gloria in Excelsis. So sit on it.

"To You, O sole begotten, the Father's Son we pray; O Lamb of God, our Savior, You take our sins away." (v.2)

19. The Death of Jesus Christ, Our Lord - LSB #634 (See also LSB #616 - same tune)

Excellent hymn for the Lord's Supper.

"His Word proclaims and we believe that in this Supper we receive His very body, as He said, His very blood for sinners shed." (v.4)

18. When I Survey the Wondrous Cross - LSB #425

This is the only Lenten hymn in my top 25, unless we could Palm Sunday and Good Friday.

"See, from His head, His hands, His feet sorrow and love flow mingled down! Did e'er such love and sorrow meet or thorns compose so rich a crown?" (v.3)

17. Phos Hilaron - Evening Prayer

This is the first entry from one of the daily prayer offices. It comes to us from Evening Prayer and the Service of Light. Phos Hilaron, the Hymn of Light.

"Joyous light of glory: of the immortal Father; heavenly, holy, blessed Jesus Christ."

16. Rise My Soul to Watch and Pray - LSB #663

Outstanding hymn about the church on earth.

"Watch against yourself, my soul, lest with grace you trifle; let not self your thoughts control nor God's mercy stifle. Pride and sin lurk within, all your hopes to shatter; heed not when they flatter." (v.4)

15. A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing - LSB #493 (see also LSB #465 - same tune)

I could have chosen this glorious Ascension hymn or "Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds" (LSB #465), which is played to the same tune. I went with the Ascension hymn. There is a lot more Easter coming up.

"You see Him now, ascending high up to the portals of the sky. Alleluia, alleluia!" (v.4)

14. Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee - LSB #803

Beethoven rocks.

"Melt the clouds of sin and sadness, drive the gloom of doubt away, giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day." (v.1)

13. By Grace I'm Saved - LSB #566

Wonderful hymn of justification.

"By grace! none dare lay claim to merit; our works and conduct have no worth. God in His love sent our Redeemer, Christ Jesus, to this sinful earth; His death did for our sins atone, and we are saved by grace alone." (v.2)

12. For All the Saints - LSB #677

Absolutely outstanding hymn regarding the church triumphant. Very easily could have put this one in the top 10.

"But, lo, there breaks a yet more glorious day: The saints triumphant rise in bright array; the King of Glory passes on His way. Alleluia! Alleluia!" (v.7)

11. Hosanna, Loud Hosanna - LSB #443

Palm Sunday - very underrated for hymnody. As you shall see, another one is coming soon on my list.

"From Olivet they followed mid an exultnat crowd, the victor palm branch waiving and chanting clear and loud. The Lord of earth and heaven rode on in lowly state nor scorned that little children should on His bidding wait." (v.2)

Are you ready for rarefied air? These next ten hymns and liturgical songs are without question the top 10 in the LSB. Because I saith so.

10. Thy Strong Word - LSB #578

It would be impossible for me to leave this awesome hymn out of my top 10.

"From the cross Thy wisdom shining breaketh forth in conqu'ring might; from the cross forever beameth all Thy bright redeeming light. Alleluia, alleluia! Praise to Thee who light dost send! Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia without end!" (v.4)

9. Built on the Rock - LSB #645

An absolute classic hymn about the church.

"We are God's house of living stones, built for His own habitation. He through baptismal grace us owns heirs of His wondrous salvation. Were we but two His Name to tell, yet He would deign with us to dwell with all His grace and His favor." (v.3)

8. Christ Jesus Lay in Death's Strong Bands - LSB #458

Another Easter offering. this one by Luther.

"It was a strange and dreadful strife when life and death contended; the victory remained with life, the reign of death was ended. Holy Scripture plainly saith that death is swallowed up by death, its sting is lost forever. Alleluia!" (v.4)

7. Magnificat - Evening Prayer

I absolutely love the Evening Prayer rendition of the Magnificat. Hard to beat.

"For He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaiden. For behold, from this day all generations will call me blessed." (v.1)

6. Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence - LSB #621

In my opinion, this is the finest Lord's Supper hymn there is.

"King of Kings yet born of Mary, as of old on earth He stood, Lord of Lords in human vesture, in the body and the blood, He will give to all the faithful His own self for heav'nly food." (v.2)

5. All Glory, Laud, and Honor - LSB #442

I warned you, Palm Sunday was going to make another appearance. Well, here it is. Absolutely love this one.

"The multitude of pilgrims with palms before You went; our praise and prayer and anthems before you we present." (v.3)

4. Te Deum - Matins

I could easily stick this as #1. Seriously. The Te Deum is amazing.

"When you took upon Yourself to deliver man, You humbled Yourself to be born of a virgin. When You had overcome the sharpness of death, You opened the kingdom to all believers." (v.5)

3. O Sacred Head, Now Wounded - LSB #449

Attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux in the 12th century, this is the classic and somber Good Friday hymn.

"What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered was all for sinners' gain; mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain. Lo, here I fall, my Savior! Tis I deserve Thy place; look on me with Thy favor, and grant to me Thy grace." (v.2)

2. A Mighty Fortress Is Our God - LSB #657

Come on, you knew it was coming eventually. I'm a Lutheran.

"A mighty fortress is our God, a sword and shield victorious; He breaks the cruel oppressor's rod and wins salvation glorious. The old satanic foe has sworn to work us woe. With craft and dreadful might he arms himself to fight. On earth he has no equal." (v.1)

1. Jesus Christ is Risen Today - LSB #457

Am I an anti-Lutheran heathen for picking a Charles Wesley hymn as my #1 over A Mighty Fortress? Perhaps. But this is the quintessential hymn of the resurrection. It's been my favorite for a while.

"Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia! Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia! Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia! Suffer to redeem our loss, Alleluia!" (v.1)

Feel free to critique, scream at me for glaring omissions, or give me half a thumbs up. But if you do those things, you would be wrong. After all, I am completely objective and the final authority on hymns and liturgy.

Hope you enjoy!

+Pax+

7/14/16

"We are never told to tell the lost Christ died for them!"

One of the favorite arguments Calvinists use to argue their view Christ died only for the elect is that nowhere in the Bible are we told to preach to the lost Christ died for them personally.

But is that true? Besides problematic passages like 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, 1 Timothy 4:10, etc., let me deal with their position according to what they agree are message to the lost.

They agree Scriptures teach all are invited to repent and believe in Christ.

Here's the thing though: believing in Christ is the same as believing He atoned for our sins. John 3:16 and Romans 3:25 make that clear.

Now, if Christ didn't die for the sins of some, and they are among those invited to come, their unbelief in the end would end up being really belief in the truth Christ didn't die for them. Some will say they are invited to believe in Christ, not Christ died for their sins.

But that is untenable. Salvation is in Christ crucified for our sins. Can't seperate belief in Him from belief in what He did for us. Indeed belief in Him is in what He came to do for us.

So it is equally untenable to say to the lost that He died for sinners but not necessarily them. The moment lost sinners are invited to faith in Him, they are invited to faith in what He did for them.

Nor is it tenable to say if Christ died for all, all must be saved on flimsy ground those atoned for cannot be again judged for their sins. The problem with such an argument is those who use it hold to the elect (whom they say Christ died for alone) are lost for their sins that He atoned for before they convert. The moment they affirm any of the elect are ever lost before conversion, they defeat their own double jeopardy Owenist arguments there and then.

When one is called to faith in Christ, it is faith in objective fact Christ is offered to them. And if He is offered to them, then so is what He did at the Cross.

If one can't seperate belief in Christ from belief in Christ died for us, then the command to believe in Christ to be saved is the same as command to believe Christ died for them. And if God commands us to believe Christ died for us when we were lost, then He died for us when we were lost no matter if we end up believing or not. Otherwise, God would be commanding something that isn't true for many folks who end up not believing.

The very passages Calvinists themselves agree teach we are commanded to believe in Christ actually are the very ones that say when understood properly believe in He who was crucified for the lost invited to receive salvation in Him. There's no way around that.

Here we stand.

7/13/16

Lutheran Sacraments Are Uniquely Lutheran

I was talking with my priest today about what Sacraments we Lutherans have in common with Roman Catholics.

The answer?

None.

We count their Baptism as valid, but they don't think it washes away future sins.

Our Baptism washes away all sins, past, present, future, and original.

Their Eucharist is their own doing, their own "sacrifice" offered for the living and the dead.

Our Eucharist is pure Gospel, with Christ coming down to us, giving Himself to us for the forgiveness of sins.

Their Absolution is dependent upon works of contrition, and upon supposedly reciting every sin one has committed.

Our Absolution is pure Gospel. It is impossible to remember every sin we have committed, and sinful desires (concupiscence) are indeed sin. Absolution for us is God's kind and gracious disposition toward us in Christ, forgiving us.

Their Holy Orders is based on supposed "apostolic succession," and leaves an "indelible mark" whether one has pure doctrine or not.

Our Holy Orders is purely based on the Gospel. Our priests are connected to the Gospel, and our apostolic succession is purely in the Gospel.

We do not consider Confirmation to be a Sacrament at all, but simply a rite. Rome considers it a sacrament because they see the sacraments as fuel for holy living.

We see the Sacraments as pure forgiveness. Not law, but pure Gospel.

Everything in Lutheranism is about the Gospel.

7/10/16

Let Me Do Something!

I simply must be able to do something to get myself saved. I have to. I mean, I am a self-willing autonomous human being!

So what can I do? Can I make a positive choice to be saved? Can I just walk the aisle and answer the altar call? Can I do good works to be saved? Isn't loving God and loving neighbor the Gospel?

I just have to be able to do something to get myself saved.

All of these ideas spring not from faith but rather from the Old Adam living within us all. To put it another way, it is our sinful self that concocts these ideas that we must be able to do something to save ourselves - not out new self that is in Christ.

The Scriptures answer this very clearly. I'll give one example:

1 Corinthians 2:14: The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.


Here is says that "the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God..." so much for "accepting Jesus into your heart."

The Augsburg Confession answers as well:

AC XVIII: 1-3: Of Free Will they teach that man's will has some liberty to choose civil righteousness, and to work things subject to reason. But it has no power, without the Holy Ghost, to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness; since the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, 1 Cor. 2:14; but this righteousness is wrought in the heart when the Holy Ghost is received through the Word.


The Confession also tells us how salvation occurs. As the AC states, "this righteousness is wrought in the heart when the Holy Ghost is received through the Word."

But I must be able to do something! I have to be able!

NO. Scripture says no, the Confessions say no. Grumpy Cat says no as well, because well, that's all Grumpy Cat says, evidently.

So, if I really can't do something, does that make me unsavable? In myself, yes, I am unsavable. The Old Adam in me is anti-God. He hates God. He would rather indulge in golf on Sunday morning than church. There is nothing wrong with golf, of course. But the point is, the Old Adam wants nothing to do with God. He won't go to church, he thinks he is good enough to save himself by something he does, and he is curved inward on himself. He is a selfish old bastard. He makes excuses. I need to rest this morning. It is my only day off of work all week, I am going fishing. I don't need to go to church to be a Christian. Perhaps I will just do church at home.

Where there is an element of truth in some of these ideas, they still are ideas that spring not from faith in Christ, but from the Old Adam.

So how can I be saved? Perhaps a quick look at St. Matthew and the words of Christ will be helpful here.

St. Matthew 19:23-26: And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”


You get it? Nobody can be saved by anything they do. It is impossible. Jesus says so. But with God, all things are possible. God saves us. He Himself comes down from heaven, takes on human flesh, and makes all things new. He is born of a virgin, lives a perfect life, fulfills the law, and dies on the cross to save us. But He doesn't stay dead. On the third day, He rises again, is seen by over 500 people, and later ascends into heaven.

He still comes to us today, saving us through His means of grace that give us continual forgiveness of sins. He kills that Old Adam. He uses natural means to do this too. The foolishness of the preaching of the Gospel, plain old water in Holy Baptism, and simple bread and wine where He gives us His true body and blood in Holy Communion. These are all God's acts; ways in which He delivers that once for all sacrifice on Calvary to us.

So back we go. What things can we do to be saved? Nothing. God saves us. Isn't loving God and loving neighbor the Gospel? No, not even close. That is the Law. The Gospel is all about Christ and what He has done on our behalf. Loving God and loving neighbor is the Law. We are unable to keep that Law. Christ did it for us. That is Gospel.

Thankfully, God desires the salvation of each and every individual (1 Tim 2:1-7, 2 Pet 3:9). Yet He alone does the saving, apart from us. We can do nothing to be saved. But God (cf. Eph 2:4) does it all. By grace are we saved, through faith (Eph 2:8-9).

+Grace+

7/8/16

The hidden God becomes the revealed God to Job (and to us also)

The book of Job really shows the distinction between the hidden will of God and the revealed will of God. Granted, we are told what happened behind the scenes that Job was not privy to while he was suffering. And even when God revealed Himself to Job and his friends, chastising Job for inquiring why God "punished him" and his friends for presuming to know what is only hidden to God as to blame Job's suffering on some secret sins (falsely) he may be guilty of, He didn't reveal to Job or his friends to what purpose he suffered for. Job, once God revealed Himself to him without letting him to know what was His purpose, was satisfied to know the revealed God and not the hidden God. And he was blessed for by faith trusting God as He revealed Himself to Job.

And that is how God wants to deal with us in the midst of our own trials and tribulations. We are not to look at the hidden God as if we can know His mind and purpose not revealed to us but we are to look to His Word where He is revealed. Nor presume like Job's friends who foolishly automatically assumed a person suffered through life because he is somehow has some secret sin others don't have.

And what we have is the hidden God becoming the revealed God when His eternally begotten Son assumed flesh to do what none of us can do (which is fully obey God's law) and to pay a sin debt we can never repay God, by taking our place at the Cross and dying for our sins there.

It is at the Cross that our God Incarnate tasted the innocent and bitter suffering and death on our behalf (and being the only one ever sinless, He was truly the only innocent to ever suffered, and He volunteered to do so for us out of His great love for us). And by what Christ did, God is reconciled to us that we may be reconciled to Him by grace through faith when Christ offers Himself to us in Word and Sacrament.

Seek the revealed God where He may be found- in Word and Sacrament. That is where He comes to us to tell us of His love for us that He had our sins atoned for and His desire we turn and receive what He did for us. And He tells in all these things He works for the good of those who are in Christ. And He will see us through our circumstances. His grace is made perfect in our weaknesses.

So, let's like Job, regardless of our circumstances trust in the revealed God, who loves us and desires to save us, and avoid probing what is hidden to us, such as is  the case of Job's friends.

Here are Luther's words to the wise in his commentary on Genesis (29:9):

"You must kill the other thoughts and the ways of reason or of the flesh, for God detests them. The only thing you have to do is to receive the Son, so that Christ is welcome in your heart in His birth, miracles, and cross. For here is the book of life in which you have been written. And this is the only and the most efficacious remedy for that horrible disease because of which human beings in their investigation of God want to proceed in a speculative manner and eventually rush into despair or contempt. If you want to escape despair, hatred, and blasphemy of God, give up your speculation about the hidden God, and cease to strive in vain to see the face of God. "



Here we stand.



7/4/16

The Faith Like a Child: Only Lutheranism

Only Lutheranism, like the faith of a child, takes the Bible at its Word. Other traditions do not.

Consider:

"I take the Bible literally, but that can't mean water Baptism. It must mean Spirit baptism."

"I take the Bible literally, but that can't mean Baptism saves. It's talking about what we do, our faith."

"I take the Bible literally, but 'is' means 'signifies.' It's only a metaphor."

"I take the Bible literally, but 'all' means 'all of the elect.' Or perhaps 'all classes of people.'"

"I take the Bible literally, but 'world' means 'world of the elect.'"

"I take the Bible literally, but 'days' means 'long periods of time.'"

"I take the Bible literally, but surely this cannot mean that infants have faith."

"I take the Bible literally, but 'saved by faith apart from works' cannot mean any kind of work. Surely it must be talking about the specific ceremonial works of the Mosaic law. Surely God must accept our merits that we bring to the table, at least in a gracious sense."

"I take the Bible literally, but surely this passage cannot mean that we are guilty for Adam's sin. That's not fair. But I like the idea that we are held righteous because of Christ's works and not ours."

"I take the Bible literally, but surely this cannot mean we are bound in sin and have no free will. Surely we can only be held accountable if we have the power of free will."

"I take the Bible literally, but this passage cannot mean what it says, because that just wouldn't make sense."
----------
I sure am glad I'm a Lutheran. "Is" means "is." "World" means "world." "Days" means "days." "Baptism saves" means "Baptism saves." "This is My Body" means "This is My Body." "All" means "all." "Saved by faith apart from works" means "Saved by faith apart from works." "No free will and dead in sin" means "no free will and dead in sin." "From my mother's womb You have been my God" means it. "You caused me to trust in You at my mother's breasts" means it. "Adam's sin" means "Adam's sin." "Christ's Righteousness" means "Christ's Righteousness."

Become like one of the babies in Luke, of such our Lord Jesus says the Kingdom belongs to.

7/3/16

Paedobaptism, Calvinism, and Federalism

I came across a Presbyterian (Presbyterian is a Reformed Church. AKA Calvinist. The blog I am critiquing is a conservative Presbyterian blog, not to be confused with the ultra-liberal PC-USA) blog defending the practice of paedobaptism from a Covenant Theology perspective yesterday and with the author's permission, I am going to interact with the blog. The blog I am referencing can be found here: A Case For Infant Baptism

Hopefully, by the end of my blog, you the reader will be able to see why we should heavily privilege the Lutheran case for infant baptism over the Presbyterian case for the same.

From the outset, we ought to be glad that Presbyterians employ the biblical practice of infant baptism. However, for the life of me, I can't make good biblical sense of their reasoning, or square it with what the Scriptures teach.

I also would be remiss not to mention that within Reformed Theology, there are numerous nuances and differing stances on the reasoning behind paedobaptism. I am interacting with Mr. Chris Cole's blog and not every nuance of Reformed paedobaptism. It is certain that someone along the line will read this and say that I am misrepresenting Reformed paedobaptism or that I really don't understand it. This is not that case. I am simply replying to one particular blog.

The title of Mr. Chris Cole's blog post is: Are the Children of Christians Little Pagans? A Case for Infant Baptism. Throughout this posting, I will be quoting from the aforementioned blog post with Lutheran responses underneath.

"Do credobaptists, that is, those who hold to the baptism only of professing believers, really think of their children as pagans, heathens, idolaters, atheists?"

Well, Lutherans are definitely not credobaptists, but we do have a response to this. I understand why Presbyterians formulate this argument. They are children of believers and will be raised in the church, and so on. One such argument put forth in Reformed circles here is called presumptive regeneration. This doctrine basically states that the election and regeneration of the children of believers is assumed. Therefore, it is valid to baptize them. Mr. Cole rejects this line of thinking in a later statement in his post. The other line of thought is what is loosely referred to as federal headship. In the words of Mr. Cole from a later section of his post, "Rather, they are federally holy, or holy collectively with their parents, not necessarily in a personal, redemptive sense."

The presumptive regeneration argument falls apart when we recognize that God has given specific means of grace wherein He has promised to meet us in grace and mercy and regenerate us. We don't need to say anything else here; Mr. Cole himself rejects this.

Back to the rhetorical posed by the author. Do Lutherans too see their children as pagans? Sinners in need of grace? Well, yes, we do. That is precisely why we bring them to Holy Baptism. They need Holy Baptism precisely because they are sinners and baptism is one place where God has promised to meet us in grace, bury and raise us with Christ (Rom 6:3-4), and save us (1 Pet 3:21).

He goes on to make his case by quoting Isaiah 54:13, Ezekiel 16:20, and Acts 2:38-39. He continues on, saying, "These aren't promises that all of the children of believers will eventually become believers." 

This is where the P in the famous TULIP just flat out gets in the way of Reformed Theology and causes numerous other "covenant" interpretations of Scripture. This federal holiness idea essentially wants to have its cake and eat it too. It wants some sort of special, non-redemptive blessing from God for their children. It wants God to claim them for His own.

But what is the point of any of that if the blessings are ultimately non-redemptive? It seems like a grasping at straws to retain the practice of paedobaptism. It makes very little sense. What parent would want special blessings for their kids when they ultimately are not saving? And what sort of God would dole these blessings out when they ultimately just end up being a heap of condemnation? In the end, being federally holy but non-elect (this is a Calvinist term) would probably be the worst possible situation a person could be in. Ultimately there is very little grace for someone who has received the sign of the covenant of grace. Their baptism ends up screaming against them and condemning them. Does this federal holiness increase the child's chance that they are elect? No Calvinist would argue that, but the only way they could deny it is to divorce baptism from salvation completely. This stance almost smells like the preparationist nonsense you hear from Reformed Baptists like Paul Washer.

The P is short for the Perseverance of the Saints. This doctrine states that if a person is elect, they will be regenerated and can never fall from grace and be lost - even if they get it back later. Once regenerated, always in grace. Therefore, baptism can't save because there are clearly a lot of baptized non-Christians in the world. The P is a non-negotiable in Reformed Theology. In its wake, it ends up not allowing for biblical interpretations of plain and clear passages - such as those about Holy Baptism. But of course, the P fails to properly distinguish law and Gospel, taking only the promises of Christ's security seriously while inventing novel interpretations for the dire warnings of falling away from grace written all over Scripture; especially in Galatians and Hebrews.

The final paragraph in Mr. Cole's post is telling. He states, "We don't believe that baptism will save them. Nor do we believe that baptism is a promise of their future salvation." In contradistinction to Scripture, the Reformed federal argument actually says the exact opposite of what St. Peter says in 1 Peter 3:21. Not to mention, this baptism, at the font, with water and the Word, is salvation come to that infant in the here and now.

"Rather, we believe that God has placed His special claim on out children as His own, so that they have a right to the mark of the covenant of grace."

This is the final statement Mr. Cole writes. Here is where the rubber meets the road. Does baptism have to do with salvation or not? You can't have it both ways here. He seems to want to argue that God is claiming the children of believers as His own, but not actually saving them in the process. Or at very best, He might save them somewhere along the line.

Baptism simply cannot be divorced from salvation. The New Testament (as well as some Old Testament prophecy) is very clear that baptism buries us and raises us with Christ (Rom 6:3-4, Col 2:12). It gives the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38-39). It washes our sins away (Acts 22:16). It puts on Christ (Gal 3:27-29). And it saves us (1 Pet 3:21).

Now, I am not sure if Mr. Cole would argue for different baptisms in some of these passages. I will have to ask him. I refer to a common American Evangelical argument that Romans 6:3-4 (among many others) is referring to spiritual baptism of the Holy Spirit and not physical water baptism. But then, that would put the Presbyterian squarely in credobaptist dualism land, the exact place he would like to avoid.

At the end of the day, if you cannot argue that infants are sinners that need to be saved and that baptism effects this (i.e. it saves them), paedobaptism is either a) pointless, or b) a hindrance if the infant is non-elect and will never be regenerated. Some excess covenant blessing apart from salvation is, to put it bluntly, pretty useless if justification is not involved. Moreover, it's not biblical unless one forces a covenant theology onto the Scriptures.

Keeping paedobaptism alone does not prove the much desired catholicity the Reformed Churches want, especially when the practice is justified on reasons that sound nothing like how Scripture talks about baptism. Throw in a few other heterodox doctrines and the desired catholicity ends up lacking.

But I digress. The federal holiness stance, as well as the presumptive regeneration stance, both do not hold water when stacked up to Holy Scripture as well as the history of the Church. They simply do not say what Scripture says about baptism without encroaching an entire systematic theology onto the text, and in some cases saying the opposite thing that Scripture does. In the end, paedobaptism is a pointless practice unless baptism buries us and raises us with Christ and saves us. But hey, that is exactly what Scripture says! At the end of the day, we should greatly privilege the Lutheran doctrine of paedobaptism.

+Grace and Peace+

7/1/16

Sin, Repentance, and Theological Liberalism

Sin and repentance are two enormous topics in Holy Scripture. You can hardly turn a page in your awesome leather-bound copy of Holy Writ without encountering these topics in one way, shape, or form.

Theologically, I think when we boil these topics down, they are not really that difficult to figure out. Here are the main points to remember.

1. We are all sinners. Universally. No one excluded. Romans 3:23 is awfully clear about this.

Rom 3:23: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

2. God, in Scripture, defines what sin is. We do not get to define what sin is or is not depending on personal preference or cultural dictates. The Ten Commandments are a good starting point here. But Scripture also gives numerous other specific examples. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 is a good example of this.

1 Cor 6:9-11: Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed,you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.


3. Jesus says that we must repent of our sin.

St. Luke 13:5: No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.


Or, to summarize, 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)

Scripture also has some harsh words for those who are unrepentant of their sin.

Hebrews 10:26-27: For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.


This is to say, a person who is unrepentant of their sins is not in Christ.

So what about these modern day liberal theologies that adapt to the culture around us and call all sorts of things good and normal that Scripture plainly calls sin?

Well, in that case, I recommend reading the Holy Scriptures carefully. 1. We are all sinners. 2. God tells us what sin is - not our culture, and certainly not us. 3. Christ Himself tells us that sin is to be repented of. St. John tells us to confess it. The author to the Hebrews tells us that a person who is unrepentant is not in a state of grace.

It's not that difficult. A person who calls sin good and normal and does not repent of it is not a Christian.

Martin Luther understood this. His very first thesis posted on the door of the Wittenberg Church says this:
  1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ``Repent'' (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
Sin is something to be repented of, not celebrated. Agree with Jesus, not culture.

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah has some harsh words for these sorts of ideas.

Isaiah 5:20: Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

It's high time that we call a spade a spade. Liberal theology and its incessant obsession with adapting God's Word to fit the culture around us, even at the expense of calling evil good and normal, must be outed for exactly what it is.

Not Christian.

Anti-Jesus.

Darkness.

Blasphemous.

Evil.


Is that clear enough?

+Pax+

6/28/16

What Communion Actually *Is*

My heart broke as I read the following article from Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-i-cant-take-communion-anymore_us_57632febe4b034ff3eef2fb2

I connect with this author completely. And this is why I cannot take communion anymore either.......***at ANY non-Lutheran church.***

I am so blessed to be able to partake of Communion at Lutheran churches. Why?

Because I come to Communion precisely *because* I am guilty. I need forgiveness of sins.

Zwinglians and Baptists already feel strong enough and forgiven enough so that they don't need Christ's Body and Blood. It's just a token of remembrance for them.

The Reformed, although many times broken, tend to focus on getting it right, on God's glory, and whether or not they have "true faith." For them, Christ is only there if they have "true faith." That is not the "communion" I need.

The Catholics and the Orthodox focus on Communion being a sacrifice for the sins of the living and the dead. For them, it is something we offer to God. Forgiveness, although believed, takes a back seat.

No.

Christ instituted the precious Sacrament of the Altar of His precious Body and Blood given to us for the forgiveness of sins.

Truly given for us.

Shed for us.

He comes *down* to us.

We are simply beggars.

That is the only Altar I will go to.

Where I am received as a beggar, offering nothing.

Where my King comes down to me with gracious Words.

Now this true Body and true Blood of Christ has forgiven all of your sins. Go in peace knowing you are clean and forgiven.

Amen.

Ears to Hear - Butcher It Baby!

In the Gospels, Our Lord Jesus Christ uses the phrase "He who has ears to hear, let him hear" (Mat 11:15, Mar 4:9, Luk 8:8, Luk 14:35) and "If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear." (Mar 4:23)

Not surprisingly, this is a very misused phrase in Scripture. Aren't we all kind of like that sometimes though? The old Adam in all of us likes to take and abuse passages and phrases of Scripture to suit our own viewpoint.

Ultimately, the misuse of this phrase ends up being a sort of spiritual pride in most cases. In my Calvinist days, I would routinely hear some well meaning Calvinist folks use this phrase to decry people that rejected limited atonement or the universal saving will of God. They would quip that such a person who affirmed universal atonement (almost always the Arminians) just does not have ears to hear. That is to say, these Calvinistic folks were implying that the Spirit has given them ears so that they can properly affirm the letters and petals of the TULIP but that the other Christian over there (probably a rank Arminian!) is blind and deaf to the things of God. I am using this as an example. Other Christians do this as well - it is not limited to Calvinists, although abusing this phrase fits well with the Calvinistic system when you think about it.

Yet, I don't quite think this is what Jesus intends when He utters this phrase. In fact, in 4 of the 5 times this phrase is recorded for us in the Gospels, Jesus is using it in reference to understanding His parables.St. Mark and St. Luke record this phrase for us in the parable of the sower, for instance (Mar 4:9, Luk 8:8).

The only time Jesus uses the phrase not in reference to a parable is in Matthew 11. Here He is speaking about John the Baptist being the greatest man to be born among women, but He (Jesus) is greater than John.

So when Jesus uses this phrase, He is either using it to refer to His Godhood and status as Messiah, or He is using it to refer to parables with tricky meanings - which He ends up explaining to His disciples later anyways!

He is not intending the phrase to be speaking about denying clear and plain texts of Scripture in favor of some meaning that fits a theological system; especially when the meaning that is implied to be correct is quite foreign to a natural and plain reading of a text.

So when Scripture says that "God so loved the world..." (John 3:16) it probably means that "God so loved the world," not "God so loved the elect." Or when Scripture says that "God...desires all people to be saved" (1 Tim 2:3-4) it probably means that "God...desires all people to be saved" not that "God desires some people of all types of people to be saved." Or when Scripture says that Christ is "...the propitiation for our sins...and the whole world" (1 John 2:2) is probably means the whole world. Or when Scripture says that God "is patient...not wishing that any should perish" (2 Pet 3:9) it probably means that. It doesn't mean that God is wishing that all the elect are saved but not most of the human race. Or when Scripture says "Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you" (1 Pet 3:21) it probably means that "Baptism...now saves you."

And on and on we go. But the point is painfully obvious. Saying that someone does not have ears to hear because they deny plain readings of clear Scriptures is foolish at best. One does not need some sort of secret spiritual knowledge to interpret a passage to mean something totally different than what it says. If anything, it takes some sort of special ability (not in a good way) to butcher the mess out of plain and clear passages to fit some sort of pre-conceived system.

+Grace+

6/23/16

BROKEN, Leaven, and False Gospels

These are the times in which we live, last days in which seemingly pious teachers rise up from our own midst in order to tickle our ears with sweet deceptions (2 Peter 2:10. 'Do not worry about such an old-fashioned idea as pure doctrine,' they say. 'Such concerns are misguided. to focus on such things only divides us. We live in an age where we know better now. It is love and freedom that unite us. After all, since we're all sinners, none of us can perfectly understand Scripture anyway. Better if we just trust in the Spirit and leave it to God.'

The next step may be years, even generations, in coming, but once the seed is sown, it will come. 'Yes, Scripture is God's Word,' they will say. 'But it is also man's word. The prophets and apostles were sinners just like you and me. That is why we must admit the Bible does have mistakes and errors in it, things we no longer need to believe. But that's okay! We have God's Spirit to lead us, and He blows wherever He wills, which we are convinced is over there, in this direction...'

Both of these teachings are the same grossly impious lie. Both make the audaciously terrifying assumption that Christ's perfection is not quite enough to handle and overcome out human imperfection. The words can seem loving and soft on the ears. But when drawing a straight line, a small mistake at the start becomes a great misdirection in the end. So also a little leavenous lie will eventually leaven the entire lump of faith.

Pr. Jonathan Fisk
BROKEN
To say 'we all believe in Jesus so the other things do not matter' does not lift Jesus up. It casts Him down because it casts His teaching down. It replaces Him with a man-made tradition of hating tradition, under which no single word of His is safe. Once it has begun, one by one all the truths of Scripture will be rendered void, one by one relegated to the truthiness of the world and placed on the smorgasbord of half-believed religiosities  until we welcome any false gospel with open arms but decry the scandal  of the real Gospel's particularity as the greatest possible offense. By then, Jesus' crucifixion will have been quietly moved further and further from the center, an afterthought brought out on holidays as a nice story to remind us why we ought to be spiritual people and enjoy our freedom, until at last it is entirely gone with no one left who is religious enough to even notice.

Against this folly, St. Paul cries to us from the depths of our history, "I say it again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:9)

Alas, too many of us have already forgotten how to hear. 'Yes,' we say, 'but that is only your interpretation.'

Jonathan Fisk, Broken, p.217, 219

Pastor Fisk hits the nail directly on the head. This era is already here and is running with full force in the name of Christianity; all the while warring and fighting against Christ and the Gospel.

If you haven't read the book, I highly recommend it. It's an easy read. Easy for just about anyone age 16 or over. Yet, it is theologically deep and written in a very accessible style.

I like to blog and I love to read. Pr. Fisk is a much better writer than I. Every Lutheran -nay- every Christian; should read this book, especially those who are caught up in some sort of new era nonsense that masquerades as pure Christianity when it is not.

+Pax+

6/18/16

THE GOSPEL CREATES AND SUSTAINS THE CHURCH

The Church is identified by the pure preaching of the Gospel and the pure administration of the Sacraments according to the Gospel. All doctrines in the Church are taught as Gospel-centered and Christ-centered, and the Sacraments are Gospel-centered and Christ-centered.

Where a church departs from these, it is heterodox. However, God is patient with us, as we all have bad theology somewhere. But the Church should never tolerate false doctrine in any form, not for the sake of "being right," but for the sake of the care of the souls She is entrusted with.

When I was a Calvinist, I cared about "correct doctrine" simply for the sake of "being right" so I could "please God" and "avoid idolatry." The mindset was one of philosophy, and the hidden G-d.

Glory to Christ that for historic and confessional Lutheranism, it is all about Jesus. Doctrine is always for the sake of the Gospel. The Sacraments are always for the sake of the Gospel. Jesus Christ got His theology perfect for us. Jesus Christ pleased God perfectly. Jesus Christ avoided idolatry.

Philosophy tries to climb its way up.

God in Jesus Christ comes down to us.

Continually.

For me.

For you.

Forgiveness.

Even when we don't feel it.

6/17/16

Letter, Spirit, Forget the Bible?

2 Corinthians 3:6b: For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Here is a favorite part of Scripture for folks who like to discredit or downplay the Holy Scriptures. They see this text and surmise that the "letter" is a reference to the Scriptures and the Spirit is the Holy Spirit. Thus, it's the Spirit and their personal relationship and feelings that give life to them, apart from the Scripture. Hence, personal experience wins the day and all different waves of false beliefs are validated.

The funny thing is, the people who hold this stance are actually using the Bible as an authority to denigrate the Bible so it's not an authority. Imagine that.

But not so fast, grasshopper. All we need to do is to keep on reading.

2 Corinthians 3:7-8: Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses' face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?

These are the next lines given by St. Paul in 2 Corinthians. He explains clearly what he is referring to in v. 6.

You have words like kills and death. He is linking verse 7 to what he just said in verse 6. The letter that kills is not the Holy Scriptures, it's the LAW. He states that the ministry of death was carved in letters on stone. Well, what was carved in letters on stone? He even says that the letter kills and that letters were carved on stone.

Clearly, he is speaking of the law and the Mosaic covenant. He explains that very plainly for us in verses 7 and 8.

 It does not matter what the text "means to me" or "means to you." What is important is what St. Paul is actually telling us.

Now what is the ministry of the Spirit? Well, let's let Jesus tell us that one.

St. John 15:26: But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

Shockingly enough, it's not some Pentecostal mumbo-jumbo nonsense.  It does not matter what the text "means to me" or "means to you." What is important is what St. Paul is actually telling us. St. Paul is not giving us a free pass to "follow the Spirit" apart from the dead letter of Holy Scripture. That is not at all what is being said here. The Spirit is to bear witness to Christ. The Spirit does not point to Himself, but to Christ. He does not give you fuzzy feelings of whatever you want to believe and allow you to say "the Spirit told me so." He points to Jesus and His work on our behalf.

In other words, the ministry of the Spirit is nothing other than the preaching and proclaiming of the Gospel, given to us in Word and Sacrament. Simply put, it's the New Covenant in Christ.

The misinterpretation of this passage is nothing less than a denial of everything else the Scriptures say about the Spirit, Christ, the Law, the Gospel, and the Scriptures themselves. It is a dangerous false belief that leads to self-sufficient Christianity and people making up and believing what they want and saying it came from the Spirit.

Since this particular belief aims it fiery darts directly at the function of the law and the Spirit directing us to the Gospel; and rejects what St. Paul is actually telling us here, it is not a Christian belief at all. It also runs a very high risk of leading to a form of Gnosticism - a denial of any means of grace at all.

I'll go even further. If the Spirit is not pointing to Jesus, it's probably not the Spirit. Do the math.

+Grace and Peace+