Home > Christian Life > True and False Christ

True and False Christ

November 29th, 2006
Marketing Advertising Blog — VuManhThang.Com

I am increasingly concerned about preaching that does not deliver properly either Law or Gospel, that in an effort, well-meaning no doubt, to put forward the "proper distinction" between the two, ends up falling into antinomian notions about the Christian Faith, thus finally delivering neither Law nor Gospel. The formulaic sermons I often read go something like this: you are of course a sinner. You do bad things. You feel bad about it. You are sinful! But…Jesus loves you and saves you. Come take Holy Communion. Amen. What about sanctification? What about good works? When we neglect sanctification are we preaching the true and real Christ? What do you say? I would respectfully suggest that we simply must free ourselves of the idea that specifically urging our people to good works is inappropriate, or that if we point out how sinful people are and how they do not keep God’s Law that is sufficient for a proper exhortation to good works. Read on for what one Lutheran had to say about it:

Christ wants to cover our sins, but He also wants to take them away. He wants to clothe us with His righteousness, but He also wants to take shape in us, to be the High Priest who reconciles us with God, and to the King who rules over and in us. He suffered and died to atone for our sins, but He also rose and ascended into heaven that He might live in us and we in Him and so we might walk in a new life. For this reason, “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen Him or known Him…The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:6, 8). Therefore, whoever has trusted in a Christ who would allow him to remain in his sins yet to come into heaven without repentance, without conversion, without sanctification and without self-denial needs to know that there is no such Christ. His Christ is a false Christ, who will not rescue him from death, damnation, and judgment, but will forsake him in the greatest distress. Whoever wants the right Christ must turn to Him whom God made our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. With Him there is salvation. He helps against sin, trouble, and death. To Him be praise and glory in eternity.

C.F.W. Walther, “God Grant It” (CPH: 2006), p. 889.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!
Categories: Christian Life
  1. Daniel Grams
    December 1st, 2006 at 00:47 | #1

    Just a few observations as a younger pastor of some of the preaching by “seasoned preachers”.
    1. One pastor told me the thing that helped his preaching the most was when he realized that he wasn’t preaching to the enemy on Sunday morning. By that he was speaking of preaching the law. Didn’t quite understand what he meant, until I heard him preach. There was no proper use of the Law. It was Gospel (?) – You’re hurting, Jesus died for you, You’re his people, now go and tell.
    2. Another Pastor who (thankfully) recently retired…once said in a small group at a pastor’s conference on preaching…when I asked him about how his preaching had changed over the years: “I don’t preach the law any more.” The people already know it. They’re already feeling the effects of it. They just need the Gospel.
    In both instances, these men believe they are not preaching the law, but only the Gospel. In both instances, the opposite is true. Their preaching of sanctificiation is only to go and tell others about Jesus. How is that living the holy life of faith?
    Oddly enough, these sermons tend to be devoid of any sacramental focus on either Baptism or the Lord’s Supper.
    I agree with McCain’s concern over formulaic preaching, especially how the sacramental appendage is sometimes added at the end….Jesus died for your sins…take communion and live happily ever after.
    That being said, I think the sacramental focus can very much lead into preaching the holy life of faith …especially concerning Vocation.
    I never heard sacramental preaching growing up. I count that the greatest homiletical insight gained at seminary!
    This concludes my random thoughts about this subject…except to say this:
    As a young preacher, I have grown more (not less) frustrated with my preaching in the 4+ years since I’ve left seminary. I thought it was supposed to get easier!
    Dan Grams+

  2. Todd Wilken
    December 1st, 2006 at 01:16 | #2

    Okay, I’m a complete simpleton.
    I just don’t see how preaching the Law in all its sterness (and specificity), and the Gospel in all its sweetness, IN THAT ORDER, with a general predominance of the Gospel militates against sanctification.
    Maybe I was an idiot all my years in the parish. I actually thought that this was what I was called to do. I never suspected that I was creating a legion of antinomians.

  3. Paul Beisel
    December 1st, 2006 at 06:14 | #3

    Dan,
    I can completely relate to your last statement. The longer I preach, the more frustrated I get with it.

  4. Paul Beisel
    December 1st, 2006 at 06:21 | #4

    Todd,
    You’re missing the point. We are not debating the need for preaching the Law. We are trying to get to the bottom of what that is supposed to mean. When you say, “Preaching the Law in all its sternness,” do you mean, “Tell people that they are poor miserable sinners?” Or do you mean, exhorting them to good works, or what? That is the question I am constantly struggling with. Is preaching the Law simply finding all sorts of ways to tell people that they stink. Or should it also include positive instruction in what it means to keep God’s Word?

  5. Greg Eilers
    December 1st, 2006 at 08:01 | #5

    Preaching more Law – even more specific Law – will not grow people in sancatification; only the Gospel will do that. While we all need clear, convicting Law preached to us – and I love being very creative in preaching the Law! – we need the Gospel to be deep and sweet; we need to know just how wonderful is God’s love for us, in Christ, and how He fills us with it through the Word, Baptism, and Lord’s Supper. The more we know God’s love – the more we know Christ – the more we will be moved to be a little Christ to our neighbor.
    Generally, I preach Law, then Gospel, and EVERY sermon ALWAYS ends on Gospel. However, there are times when I preach Gospel, then Law, then Gospel, as it seems that being reminded of God’s love, first, helps us understand, as we hear the Law, how we miserably fail Him. Then, to conclude with the Gospel reminds us that He still does, indeed, love us . . . and that is our motivation to love our neighbor as we love our self.

  6. Thomas C. Park
    December 1st, 2006 at 08:15 | #6

    One of the reasons for the difficulty is preaching the Law and the Gospel properly is that instead of “distinguishing” Law and Gospel, we tend to “separate” them. We also tend to separate justification and sanctification rather than simply distingishing them. If we overemphasize the “separation” we may have theology, but we no longer have Scripture. Ephesians 2:8,9 should not be understood without vs. 10. It is an aspect of the Gospel that in Baptism we do receive the Holy Spirit who works within us to will and to do of God’s good pleasure. Sanctification is “God’s workmanship.”

  7. December 1st, 2006 at 08:55 | #7

    For clarification:
    Nobody here is saying that Sanctification is anything other than God’s work and that the Gospel alone is the power for sanctification as well as justification. So far, it is my opinion everyone commenting has said nothing other than this, so continuing to make these points is really missing the point of this discussion.
    The issue is simply how and to what extent preaching should include specific explanations and discussions of good works, not simply, as one Pastor put it, finding new and creative ways to tell people how they continue not to keep the Law, but describing the new life in Christ.
    Following in the footsteps of Christ, St. Paul, the Fathers, Luther, Walther, etc. preach in such a way that we talk very specifically about the life of holiness and sanctification to which we have been called, and for which we have been set free, in, through and by the power of Christ via the Gospel.

  8. Aaron D. Wolf
    December 1st, 2006 at 10:56 | #8

    Pastor Speers asked me (a thousand comments ago) “are you saying that communion is just kind of a cover up for that which is lacking? That is, ok, you did not live a good Christian life, so this will make you feel better for your failure? Kind of like a theraputic bandaid?”
    Yes, I am saying that it appears that way to the sinner/saint who hasn’t been hit with high-octane Law (versus what I’m tritely calling Law-concept). Because true Law-preaching comes from the text, is (therefore) often specific (unless we’re in certain passages in Romans or Galatians), and comes in such a way that it “urges” (per Luther) repentance.
    (Speaking of Communion, there are many nuts that could be cracked in our churches with the hammer of hard, specific Law, with regard to every-Sunday-and-feast-day Communion. The same goes for Private Absolution. General Law-preaching goes hand in hand with general absolution and a “general need” for occasional Communion.)
    The sermon I cited in my most previous post, about stealing, wasn’t just any old sermon, nor was it just any old sermon of Luther. It was from the Large Catechism. And this Confessional document does have something to teach about Law/Gospel preaching. For in it, Luther does place great emphasis on the Law (as it condemns and teaches, and how can it not necessarily do both at once?) as well as the Gospel. It doesn’t really follow an easily distinguishable formula of Law, then Gospel—or the mythical but all-too-often-used-among “moderates” second use, then “Gospel,” then third use.
    Luther’s final paragraph is indeed about our “rich Lord” who gives such great gifts, but then he crankily concludes, “Now, whoever does not desire the blessing will find wrath and misfortune enough.”
    It might be worth noting, as well, that, even if you end on a cranky note like that, a truly Lutheran Divine Service or Mass doesn’t end with the sermon, but with the Sacrament of the Altar. And the non-adiaphoristic liturgy that accompanies it does tell us something about what the Lamb of God has done with our sins. And, of course, the Words speak to that.
    Again, I am not urging what we might call the “bare preaching of sanctification.” When Luther said (again, in what became the Large Catechism), “Whoever now seeks and desires good works will find here more than enough such as are heartily acceptable and pleasing to God, and in addition are favored and crowned with excellent blessings,” the conditional aspect of that statment certainly can, does, and should condemn. And, at the same time, his explication of the Law (“Thou shalt not steal”), clearly also teaches.
    Indeed, such teaching is a teaching-that-brings-condemnation-that-brings-repentance. In other words, it’s not a mere F.Y.I. In a sense, the Old Man is a rich young ruler who needs to be taken apart. He needs to be “taught what he already knows,” as Luther put it. Think you’re immune to adultery? How about that SPAM you lingered over, before you deleted it? How about that second glance you took at your secretary today? Etc.
    To preach Law in that manner, then Gospel (without being hyper-rigid about formula) is not to help create antinomians. But to preach Law-concept, then Gospel (generalities without demanding, require, urging repentance) can and does. Actually, it doesn’t create antinomians. The Old Man is an antinomian, who needs to be mortified.
    Preaching the Law doesn’t produce sanctification; preaching the Gospel does. But that doesn’t mean that good works shouldn’t be urged (especially when the appointed text urges them!). Preaching the Law is indespensible to sanctification, even while it doesn’t “produce” it. For, as Fr. Weedon often reminds is, our faith, which lays hold of Christ and all His benefits, is a faith born in repentance. No child without the mother. Only the antinomian would argue (as our Confessions point out) that the Gospel (in a proper sense) can produce repentance.

  9. David Speers
    December 1st, 2006 at 12:42 | #9

    Aaron wrote,
    Pastor Speers asked me (a thousand comments ago) “are you saying that communion is just kind of a cover up for that which is lacking? That is, ok, you did not live a good Christian life, so this will make you feel better for your failure? Kind of like a theraputic bandaid?”
    Yes, I am saying that it appears that way to the sinner/saint who hasn’t been hit with high-octane Law (versus what I’m tritely calling Law-concept). Because true Law-preaching comes from the text, is (therefore) often specific (unless we’re in certain passages in Romans or Galatians), and comes in such a way that it “urges” (per Luther) repentance.
    Speers responds,
    Aaron, I was hoping that I might get this point about communion clarified.
    I would like to point out that while this is the way some people understand the function of the Supper, this being the way that they understand every application of the Gospel (absolution in confession/preaching, supper, baptism), I am afraid that the trouble here is not that they have not heard the law, but they have a skewed view of the Gospel. The Gospel, when it is applied, is anything but just a simple absolution, although it is clearly that. The Gospel is not just a theraputic massage, “oh, now I feel better”, but rather forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. The Gospel means much more than just a bit of salve on the conscience. The relationship which the Gospel announces, creates, and sustains, is one in which God, the potter, is actively working in and through me (sanctification).
    The Gospel refers to our salvation, which cannot be understood simply as some psychological relief, but to restoration and healing. The notion of restoration is filled with meaning, both now and not yet. In the now, Romans 8 obtains, that “everything works together for good”, that is, as God works in our lives, for all intents and purposes, the end of all that we go through, is the same as the judgment of God in the Garden…all Good. What does this mean? This promise attached to the relationship which is sustained by the Gospel? What does it mean to give up the relationship? What does it mean to forsake the “life” that comes with the application of the Gospel, and which is rooted and sustained in it?

  10. Steven Hein
    December 1st, 2006 at 12:46 | #10

    Paul wrote:
    For clarification:
    Nobody here is saying that Sanctification is anything other than God’s work and that the Gospel alone is the power for sanctification as well as justification. So far, it is my opinion everyone commenting has said nothing other than this, so continuing to make these points is really missing the point of this discussion.
    The issue is simply how and to what extent preaching should include specific explanations and discussions of good works, not simply, as one Pastor put it, finding new and creative ways to tell people how they continue not to keep the Law, but describing the new life in Christ.
    Paul, your opening question involved an open ended query of whether the real Christ can be preached if preaching simply involves delivering a formulaic Law and Gospel sermon but seemingly omits sanctification?
    If there is no argument that the Christ produces sanctification and empowers the good works that follow by the Gospel alone, how is sanctification being omitted in the formulaic Law/Gospel sermon? Is it that you are describing a Law/Gospel sermon that is trite, or watered down, or something like that?
    If Law and Gospel are rightly preached, rightly ordered and at full-strength . . . and God does what he promises to do in the lives of sinners when, where, and as he chooses, how can there be a void concerning the nurture of sanctification and good works?
    But, if the point is to say that our people these days are becoming more ignorant about what sanctification is, how it is produced, or what good works are and how they are produced: then by all means let us concentrate more on teaching them, and perhaps, even in sermons. Such teaching would indeed be salutary and help to build a healthy awareness,appreciation, and anticipation of the Spirit’s working in our lives.
    I would submit that INFORMING people that they are sinners or that they do not keep the Law perfectly even when they try real hard, is not really preaching the Law at full-strength. And that may be the problem that you have put your finger on. Full-strength law presents to our people a picture of what they ought to be and do in such a way that they see how and where they aren’t, don’t, and can’t measure up. It shows them (not simply telling them about)their sickness unto death that leads either to rebellion of repentance. If preaching involves this kind of Law preaching in the service of the full sweet delivery of the Gospel’s gifts, is the preacher still being somehow remiss when it comes to issues related to sanctification and the works that follow?
    Steven Hein

  11. Bill Kerner
    December 1st, 2006 at 13:03 | #11

    Rev. Gentlemen:
    For my own two cents on what I think Lutheran sermons should be like, I (like another writer above) was surprized by the difference between Lutheran sermons I have often heard and the sermons of Martin Luther. I also am sure that if Martin Luther preached today he would be sharply criticized for his preaching (too much of a lecture, like the Reormed). The sermons I am used to are very much the Law (we’re sinners), the Gospel (we are forgiven for the sake of Christ’s shed blood, suffering and death that redeems us), and the invitation to take the Sacrament. Not that there is anything wrong with those things, per se. It’s not as though we can be reminded of the Law and the Gospel too often, but I really believe that one of the purposes of the liturgy (and a major reason to not tamper with the liturgy) is to constantly remind us of the Law and the Gospel. In the liturgy we confess and are absolved; we remember the Law and receive forgiveness for Christ’s sake. The sermon does not have to serve the function that the liturgy has already fulfilled, and Luther did not use the sermon that way.
    In my reading of Luther’s sermons, I have noticed something I don’t remember ever hearing in 35 years of Lutheran worship: a series of conected sermons. (I found these at http://www.orlutheran.com/html/mlserms.html–sorry, I don’t know how to post a link). There we find sermons Luther preached for the 5 Sundays after Epiphany, which were based on:
    1st. Rom. 12:1-6
    2nd. Rom. 12:6-16
    3rd. Rom. 12:16-21
    4th. Rom. 13:8-10
    5th. Col. 3:12-17
    All of these sermons offer verse by verse exegesis of the text, with parallel citations to other explanitory passages of Scripture, and often refer to each other or to even earlier sermons preached that year. As it happens, these sermons are sanctification sermons, but that is not what struck me. What is so striking is that these sermons were not intended to be a simple, stand alone, 20 minute statement of the Gospel; they were not even like independent lectures; they were like taking a course of study.
    We can be sure that Dr. Luther’s listeners, by the time they had heard this sermon series, knew what St. Paul (by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) was trying to tell them in the 12th Chapter of Romans. And Luther preached it, Sunday after Sunday, building block upon building block, until that understanding was as solid as Luther could make it.
    I have often prayed that Lutheran Pastors would approach the sermon this way, and that Lutheran homiletics professors would teach seminarians this method. The sermon is such an unequaled opportunity to convey the truths of God’s Word to the laity. For better or for worse, a Pastor has more laymen in one place at worship than he will have in any other setting. There will come no better opportunity to teach the laity the truth of God’s Word that they need to know, than in the sermons. Believe me, if you preach a 5 week series of sermons on ANY Biblical topic, you will be able to demonstrate the proper understanding of the Law and Gospel as it relates to that topic by the time you have finished the series.
    Of course, this will require us laymen to pay attention to your preaching, but I believe we are up to it, once it dawns on us that something different is going on.

  12. December 1st, 2006 at 14:26 | #12

    Gentlemen-
    Anyone care to meet after work for a beer? All these posts are making me thirsty!
    -Wrigley

  13. December 1st, 2006 at 14:30 | #13

    Wrigley, if you are buying, sure.
    To all: Please read the most recent post on “Aversion to Sanctification.” It is very well said.

  14. December 1st, 2006 at 15:52 | #14

    It is a deal. You know I’m good for it, even though last time we bent an elbow together, I picked up the tab.
    -Wrig

  15. Rev. Steven Flo
    December 1st, 2006 at 20:08 | #15

    Paul McCain said: Following in the footsteps of Christ, St. Paul, the Fathers, Luther, Walther, etc. preach in such a way that we talk very specifically about the life of holiness and sanctification to which we have been called, and for which we have been set free, in, through and by the power of Christ via the Gospel.
    McCain: Steve, do you, or do you not, believe this is in fact appropriate? Do you believe Luther preached poorly when he did this very thing? Some pastors are telling me that in fact Luther is not a model for Lutheran preaching. Do you believe that?
    Response by Rev. Steven Flo:
    Of course we should preach and teach very specifically about the life of holiness to which we have been called, and for which we have been set free…but this is precisely the point, “What does it mean to be ‘set free’ to live the Christian life via the Gospel”. What is the “Sanctified life”?:
    #1) Power to live the law of God …..or
    #2) Power to look to Christ, thanking Him for having lived the law on our behalf?
    McCain: Both, of course! Read the Marquart article Steve. The discussion here is about PREACHING ABOUT DOING GOOD WORKS, not telling people they can keep the law of God, but that they are empowered by God’s Holy Spirit to live lives according to it and according to its guidance.
    If you say “both” then let me remind you that the law demands absolute perfection (Matt. 5:48)! Who does that? The Apostle Paul didn’t. He said: “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” (Rom. 7:19)
    And since the Apostle saw his sanctified life as pathetic according to the law, what was his hope? The Gospel! “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1)
    We are forgiven! This was Paul’s joy in life. He wasn’t encouraged or thrilled about his performance as a Christian according to the law because the law always accuses (lex semper accusa). The Apostle Paul was thrilled only about Christ having fulfilled the law for him as a substitute. (8:3)
    McCain: You are missing the point, dreadfully and dramatically I’m afraid. Nobody is saying people are “encouraged” by the Law! Yes, the law always accuses Steve, but it does not ONLY accuse, it also informs and GUIDES. And the new man in Christ takes great joy in that. We are BOTH saint and sinners.
    Flo: o then, what does “walking according to the Spirit” mean? Not power to fulfill the law of God
    McCain: Steve that is PRECISELY what the grace of God and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit means. Nobody is saying we live the law perfectly, but we do live according to the Law and do fulfill it, and we do good works, incompletely and partially in this life, but we do grow in sanctification, never perfect, but maturing in that walk according to the Law. If this is not your position you are in fact an antinomian and are turning Gospel into Law.
    Flo: which demands perfection, but rather, power to look to Christ on the cross who fulfilled the law on our behalf. Luther made it clear that the best we can do in the Christian life is to “desire” to live the law of God. He said, “It’s not that I’ve ever done a good deed or ever will do a good deed, but it’s that I’ve ‘desired’ to do a good deed.” (Romans 7)
    McCain: No, power to strive to live according to the Law, which is the only guide we have as to how we are to live our lives. And, by the way, you are not representing Paul correctly. He sees within himself a war between New Man and Old Man.
    So why preach holiness and sanctification with great clarity and specificity? Not to accomplish more holiness out of us by telling us how to do it. But rather, to get us to see how little we really do it
    McCain: So, according to this system of yours there is in fact no third use, but only second use.
    Flo: and so, teach us to look only to Christ crucified who did it for us. As we focus on the absolution our Lord declared to us from the cross and given to us through Word and Sacrament, only then is our heart warmed so that we “desire” to live for Him.
    McCain: Obviously, yes, of course. I’ve not said otherwise. But we are not only sinners, we are also saints and we are actually empowered by the Spirit to live according to the Law and we do our very best to do so. Are you saying that when I do love and honor my spouse, in fact I am not? Are you making people take vows that they of course can never keep? See how ridiculous this gets? God gives the strength actually to reject sin and resist temptation. The child of God, the justified sinner, DOES cooperate with the Holy Spirit to live according to the Law of God. This is what our Confessions clearly teach. We seem to be so afraid of people thinking they either can fulfill the law perfectly, or that their works save them that we have abandoned the proper teaching of the doctrine of sanctification!
    I’ve heard far too many Lutheran layman lately justifying and excusing their sinful behaviors by pointing out that they are saved by grace alone, not by works. I’ve even heard pastors excuse their sinful behaviors by saying, “We are saints and sinners and everything we do in life is sin.” That’s where this lack of proper understanding and emphasis on sanctification leads finally. We are so busy defending justification that we have neglected sanctification. Again, read Marquart’s article.
    So preach loudly about Sanctification in all its specificity…so we’ll despair of ourselves and look only to Christ crucified “…our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.” (1Cor.1:30)

  16. December 1st, 2006 at 23:32 | #16

    Paul,
    I still think that you are trying to use the wrong thing to do the right thing. You have repeatedly mentioned examples where you find laymen, pastors etc, excusing their living in sin, their continuing to live in sin, their intent to go on living in sin, as if it was a problem with the fruit of faith, when this whole business deals with faith itself. Our confessions say, over and over again, especially under Ap IV, FC on the third use, et al, that faith does not exist in such people. (I will pull a number of quotations later this evening, to post here). This quotation is so frequent it is quite noticeable, once you pay attention to it. The Lutherans were constantly rejecting such behavior as that which could be called living faith. They called it an illusion, and so the law called for here, formally speaking, is the 2nd use, NOT the 3rd.
    McCain: I would agree, but also disagree. I find Marquart’s comments quite helpful because they are so succinct.
    Secondly, your claims to Luther and Walther are all well and good, and while I have read all of Luther’s sermons in English, I think you need to remember that even Luther did not consider everything he wrote of a high quality.
    McCain: David, I appreciate your thoughtful posts on all this. I wonder what your “take” is on the Marquart article. It was in fact Luther’s sermons that were the most widely influential writings of the Reformation. I simply am realizing, more and more, that whereas I used to believe that Luther, Chemnitz, Gerhard and other Luther divines up to and and through the last thirty years probably went wrong on the proper distinction between Law and Gospel, I’ve come to realize how actually foolish I’ve been and I’ve started instead to question if in fact it is not I who have not properly understood the proper distinction between Law and Gospel, not them.
    Speer: I think that Nagel et al, show that Luther’s earlier stuff was not completely free of his dependence on Augustine.
    McCain: Yes, this is true, pre 1521-22ish Luther can still be rather shaky. The sermons to which I am referring however are mature Luther, for instance, his House Postils, etc. You probably don’t have it, but several years ago I wrote a couple articles for LOGIA on the House Postils of Luther, both a review of the translation by Klug, as well as another piece on the present state of Luther scholarship on the reliability and historiography of the House Postils in particular.
    Speers: You also need to remember that Luther often confounds those who are not careful with his material. For example you might consider one of his Advent sermons (in one of the postilla), where when asked for specific things to do, for a list of specific things for Christians to do, he refused, because, he said, then that is ALL the people would do. They would not actually consider what it means to love their neighbor in their context, and here is where some of this call to specifics falls on its face, since Luther would reject imitation, especially later on, since it is a fleeing of vocation. That is, it is an attempt to serve one’s neighbor without love, that is without responding to what *your* neighbor needs, but rather just copying a saint, as if this is a holy work, which Luther rejected as self-serving, not love. A honest to goodness real preaching of sanctification which bears good works, asks the person to study their neighbor, ask what their neighbor needs and then find a way to meet that need, if they can, all the time, standing in the grace and strength of Christ themselves. (“a bad tree cannot bear good fruit”)
    Finally, much of what I hear, when I hear the call to more/severe/extra/more specific preaching of sanctification/good works, especially when it is related on one level or another to a kind of, “prove that you are a Christian by your deeds” stuff, (which I think violates both Paul and James,)
    McCain: The Lutheran Confessions thoughmake this very point about works, don’t they? That they do serve as the evidence of faith? Or am I misunderstanding what you are saying Dave? What of the hymn verse from “Salvation Unto Us Has Come?” “Works serve the neighbor and supply the proof the faith is living.” I’m not concerned about James actually, since it is one of the antilegomena and we do not use it to establish doctrine.
    Speers: when a person takes up that task they are sinning. They have now lost the focus of good works, that is the neighbor and their neighbor becomes a means for their own self-assurance by sight, not by faith. They are seeking to live by sight and not by faith. For a work to be good, for something to be the fruit of/product of sanctification, it is not done for me, but for others, for neighbor. Eg, this week I am going to be preaching Romans 13:11-14. The context of this text is about love. Love is a fulfillment of the law…that is, service to neighbor. When it becomes service to me, sin has entered into the picture and I am using my neighbor. But this text speaks clearly about the end of time, the approaching day, and living, not for self, not indulging my lusts, but rather standing in the grace and strength of the Lord. (cf Eph 6, “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” with Romans 13:12 to put on the “armor of light”). Paul is calling upon the church to be concerned about others, not about self. That is love…”greater love hath no man”…and that is exactly what Paul is talking about here. But we need to be careful lest we think that we are all called to do the same thing for our neighbor. Luther rejected this, as I said above, as he would have WWJD, Jesus as our example, except in a very qualified sense, for we do not have the same neighbors, nor the same calling. In any case, I will be preaching on Romans 13 this weekend and it will be on our church website, and I will get it up there, if the recorder works, and I would appreciate your comments, especially given that I would like to see how we would handle this text differently…
    McCain: McCain: Dave, I’m sure your folks will be blessed by your preaching, no doubt of that, but I do wonder why you insist on “compartmentalizing” the Law in such a way that you do believe that you would never wish for your people to consider Christ’s life of self-sacrificing love to be a model for them? You know I’m not a fan of WWJD stuff, or any such fads, but…I’m not sure at this point I would entirely agree with you on this point. I’ll have to give more thought.
    I know that we can fall into all sorts of ditches on these issues, but I do remain profoundly concerned that in our efforts, rightly, not to preach properly on faith and love, we have tended to neglect love.

  17. Rev. Steven Flo
    December 2nd, 2006 at 03:03 | #17

    Paul McCain said: Following in the footsteps of Christ, St. Paul, the Fathers, Luther, Walther, etc. preach in such a way that we talk very specifically about the life of holiness and sanctification to which we have been called, and for which we have been set free, in, through and by the power of Christ via the Gospel.
    McCain: Steve, do you, or do you not, believe this is in fact appropriate? Do you believe Luther preached poorly when he did this very thing? Some pastors are telling me that in fact Luther is not a model for Lutheran preaching. Do you believe that?
    Flo: I read Luther’s sermons every week in preparation for my own (we use the one year series). He is excellent! He is a true model for all preaching. I agree with Luther and I am constantly learning from him. You and I might say we are misunderstanding Luther, but let us discuss further and see if this is so.
    McCain: Read the Marquart article Steve. We strive to live according to God’s law, always as both saint and sinner.
    Flo: I agree with Marquart’s letter concerning sanctification. Let’s proceed further and see if we are misunderstanding him…
    McCain: You are missing the point, dreadfully and dramatically I’m afraid. Nobody is saying people are “encouraged” by the Law! Yes, the law always accuses Steve, but it does not ONLY accuse, it also informs and GUIDES.
    Flo: I agree
    McCain: And the new man in Christ takes great joy in that.
    Flo: I agree.
    McCain: We are BOTH saint and sinners. We are not ONLY sinners. Luther had to combat antinomianism in his day and it appears from all the comments in this thread that it is alive and kicking, even among pastors who I believe know better. You would be surprised by just how many people actually do excuse their sinful behavior by saying, “I know I’m forgiven. God will forgive me if I do this.” You do not intend to create that impression, but if your preaching is always simply telling people they are sinful and that they always sin and can’t ever do anything but sin, but they are forgiven, and you never talk about the life of the new man in Christ and sanctification no wonder people can excuse their sinful behaviors, “What then shall we say, should we sin more so grace may abound?” Steve, you are putting words in my mouth and missing the point.
    Flo: I make a point to preach and teach how a sanctified, Christian life should look like = Church attendance, prayer, devotion, tithing, serving your neighbor at home, work, in the church, in the world. Having an attitude of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control in all our service…and a thousand other things. But the more I preach that, the more a true Christian will say, “I do not do that like I should! I’m bothered by that! I wonder if I’m a Christian at all?” That’s a healthy response by a Christian. That’s the “Publican” our Lord was talking about. He learns to look away from his pathetic life and looks only to Christ for mercy. And the irony in all this is that the Publican who despises his life, sees no sanctification going on, and looks only to Christ for forgiveness, is warmed by this Gospel which, in turn, makes him love God and his neighbor. This is sanctification! The Pharisee, on the other hand, looks only to himself and boasts about his great spiritual progress…which, in fact, proves he has no justification or sanctification going on at all.
    McCain: Ok, and I agree with you. I’m not denying that, questioning that the Law always accuses, etc. That’s not the point of my post, nor I believe Marquart’s comments. Thanks for your clarifying comments and for your thoughtful interaction with me on these points.
    Flo: …. what does “walking according to the Spirit” mean? Not power to fulfill the law of God
    McCain: Steve that is PRECISELY what the grace of God and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit means. Nobody is saying we live the law perfectly, but we do live according to the Law and do fulfill it, incompletely and partially in this life, but we do grow in sanctification, never perfect, but maturing in that walk according to the Law. If this is not your position you are in fact an antinomian and are turning Gospel into Law.
    Flo: Paul, we do attempt to live according to the law but we never fulfill it. Only Christ fulfilled the law. Our attempts are poor, incomplete and partial as you admit above. That’s not fulfilling it is it? So what’s our joy in the midst of our pathetic, incomplete, unfulfilled attempts? Christ! He covers us with His righteousness and thus accounts our unfilled attempts as fulfilled.
    McCain: Yes, I agree. We never “fulfill” or “complete” the Law, but we do live by it, do we not? And yes, all our puny efforts are but as nothing and in no way do they merit grace, or in any way elevate our status before God, but as Luther talks so much about in the Large Catechism, we are called to live according to the Law and we do in fact, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, partially and incompletely in this life do live according to the Law. I’m happy to clarify this for you if you were wondering if I was suggesting some sort of “holiness” theology.
    Flo: So why preach holiness and sanctification with great clarity and specificity? Not to accomplish more holiness out of us by telling us how to do it. But rather, to get us to see how little we really do it
    McCain: No, I do not believe this is the whole story and in fact tends to reduce the Law to only second use.
    McCain: So, according to this system of yours there is in fact no third use, but only second use.
    Flo: There is 3rd usage! The law is a guide as well. Our new nature relishes in the law and wants guidance. But our old nature keeps us from ever accomplishing it perfectly in this life like we’re supposed to. That fact convicts us (second usage). What’s our hope? Christ! His sanctified life covers ours, so He becomes our only boast (1Cor.1:31).
    McCain: Accomplishing it perfectly? No, of course not. Accomplishing it partially? Yes, we do. And of course the Gospel is our hope. Nobody has suggested otherwise.
    Flo: As we focus on the absolution our Lord declared to us from the cross and given to us through Word and Sacrament, only then is our heart warmed so that we “desire” to live for Him.
    McCain: Obviously, yes, of course. I’ve not said otherwise. But we are not only sinners, we are also saints and we are actually empowered by the Spirit to live according to the Law and we do our very best to do so. Are you saying that when I do love and honor my spouse, in fact I am not?
    Flo: According the law of the land (civil realm) you are.
    McCain: No, this is incorrect. I was just reading the Confessions on this very point and they clearly do not restrict the keeping of the law, for Christians, only as fulfillment of civic righteousness. I did a word search on “growing” and “keeping” and “living” and “good works” etc. It was a wonderful way to spend a day virtually locked in the house due to the snow and ice.
    Flo: According to the law of God (spiritual realm) you are not. You want to love your spouse (new man), but you have a part of you (old man) that will not let you love her perfectly like you want to or are supposed to.
    McCain: Perfectly? No. But do I keep my vows? Yes, by God’s grace. The new man IS keeping those vows, otherwise in your approach here there is no new man.
    McCain: Are you making people take vows that they of course can never keep? See how ridiculous this gets?
    Flo: Again, you may keep your public vows in the civil realm so that the world may praise you for being an incredibly loving, wonderful, faithful husband. But according to the law of God, you and I are all adulterers. Jesus said a lustful thought is the same as committing adultery. So what’s our hope? Christ. His life of fidelity covers ours. This wonderful Gospel makes me “want” to love God by keeping my vows to my wife. Do I do it? Yes, according to the civil realm. No, according to the perfect demands of God’s Holy law….but praise God, Christ is covering me.
    McCain: Re. the Gospel, yes, re. civil righteousness, I’m not so sure this is a proper distinction. We are *simultaneously* saint and sinner, not “make believe” saints and actually then only sinners. That’s what your comments are making me think you are saying.
    McCain: God gives the strength actually to reject sin and resist temptation. The child of God, the justified sinner, DOES cooperate with the Holy Spirit to live according to the Law of God. This is what our Confessions clearly teach. We seem to be so afraid of people thinking they either can fulfill the law perfectly, or that their works save them that we have abandoned the proper teaching of the doctrine of sanctification!
    Flo: Well, the Scriptures and Confessions teach Christians truly “desire” to cooperate with God, but our cooperation is pretty poor.
    McCain: Yes, it is imperfect in this life, but we are ever growing in it and it is real, not make-believe.
    Flo: Paul makes this clear when he says: ”..for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” (Rom.7:18-19) What’s Paul’s hope? Christ! Christ fulfilled the law for him as a substitute (Rom. 8:1 and 3-4) To live according to the Spirit, then, means believing Christ did it all and meant it when He said from the cross, “It is finished”. Does this make me want to live in sin? No. It makes me want to live for Him. The 3rd usage of the laws show me how. I try, I fail, I look to Christ’s substitutionary life and death again. I learn to rejoice only in Him. He is my cooperation.
    McCain: I’ve heard far too many Lutheran layman lately justifying and excusing their sinful behaviors by pointing out that they are saved by grace alone, not by works. I’ve even heard pastors excuse their sinful behaviors by saying, “We are saints and sinners and everything we do in life is sin.” That’s where this lack of proper understanding and emphasis on sanctification leads finally. We are so busy defending justification that we have neglected sanctification. Again, read Marquart’s article.
    Flo: I agree…it is wrong for a Christian to justify living in sin because they are saved by grace alone. If one truly believes they are saved by grace alone, why would any one want to live under the bondage of sin? (Rom. 6) Christ, declaring us forgiven, is our way out. That Word of Absolution enlivens me and makes me want to live for Him. The 3rd usage of the law shows me how. I try, I fail, I fall back at the foot of the cross. I rejoice in Christ who is my wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.” 1Cor.1:30-31
    McCain: Yes, agreed, but Marquart’s point is spot-on, we do have an aversion to sanctification, and though it may be well motivated, I believe it is very much still an aversion and in effect there is de facto denial of the third use of the law going on.

  18. December 2nd, 2006 at 03:34 | #18

    It seems what is needed is a positive preaching of Law in addition to a negative preaching that is very common.
    An example of this is seen in Luther’s Small Catechism:
    Thou shalt not kill.
    What does this mean?–Answer.
    We should fear and love God that we may not hurt nor harm our neighbor in his body, but help and befriend him in every bodily need [in every need and danger of life and body].
    Any of the explanations on the commandments demonstrate this neagtive and positive teaching of the Law
    McCain: Bingo.

  19. Bill Kerner
    December 2nd, 2006 at 10:11 | #19

    I may be the only one who cares about this, but I continue to believe that a big part of the solution to the problem under discussion is THE WAY Lutherans preach, as well as what they preach.
    McCain: Bill, I believe your concern is entirely valid.
    So, you want us laymen to understand that we are justified by faith alone? Great, you preach that to us every Sunday, and a lot of us seem to get it. Oops, we laymen are now so convinced we are saved by faith, apart from works, that we think we don’t need to behave ourselves! (We’re free from the Law! Oh happy condition! Let’s go out and sin so that grace may abound!)
    McCain: Some of my friends tell me I’m exaggerating or even, more or less, making this up. I wish I was. As one of the persons posting on this thread pointed out if it were not the case that people were saying this the Holy Spirit would never have inspired the Blessed Apostle Saint Paul to write what he did. If this was not a problem in Luther’s day he would not have written what he did in the prefaces to his Small and Large Catechisms. I love and respect my fellow clergy as brothers in office, but I sincerely believe that often they do not stop long enough to consider just precisely what they are preaching. It may be that they are bored, or sated, with the “basics” but our folks, by and large, hardly know what those are, or have long forgotten. Thank God for the faithful laity who do know and have not forgotten. But the sad reality is that they were either never taught or have long ago forgotten. We simply can’t neglect the basics of the faith and we have to teach it. How much of that is possible when our sermons now are growing shorter and shorter and thus hardly have enough time to get off the ground? I find pastors who deliver wonderful literary sermons, but basically just give a brief 10-12 minute impression. And do we seriously believe that a 10-12 sermon heard once a week is sufficient for our folks to grow beyond spiritual milk?
    ARRGH! Idiot laymen! Tell ‘em the foundation of the faith and all they do is get confused! We had better start preaching about sanctification so they learn how to live Christian lives (But if we do that, won’t they get confused again and start believing that their “Christian lives” are what saves them?) What to do?
    I believe those of you who are saying that the content of sermons should go beyond a simple statement of the Gospel are right, but your ideas will never work as long as you treat sermons as 15-20 minute stand-alone statements. The problem is that he message(s) you want to convey through preaching are just too important and complex and (above all) interrelated to adequately convey in 15 minutes. What you need to do is identify doctrines in Scripture you want your people to understand and spend several Sundays in a row preaching about each doctrine, always including preaching about how the Law and the Gospel fit into that doctrine, and each time building on the points made in the previous sermon, until you get your entire message across. Incedently, this is exactly what Lutheran preachers do during Advent and Lent, so why not do something similar at other times during the Church year?
    McCain: I do not believe one must preach on “free texts” to accomplish this same goal, in fact Bill you will find that the historic one year Lutheran lectionary makes it possible to cover the “basics” of Christian doctrinally quite well.
    I know this would force a lot of clergymen to change their habits. For example, in parishes with multiple pastors, the pastors probably could not preach on alternating Sundays anymore. Rather, Pastor A would have to preach for a whole month while Pastor B would have to preach for the entire following month, or something. But I hope our concept of decency and good order would survive such changes.
    I’m telling you, a major reason sermons tend to become simplistic or formulaic is that is what happens when you try to limit preaching about important and complex subject matter to 15-20 minute unrelated homilies.
    McCain: Bill, you are putting your finger on an important concern! In the “old days” our folks gathered for 45 to hour long messages, and would often gather for church more often than we do today. So, I ask myself, in light of the fact that we are gathering less frequently is the best thing to do to rely on 10-12 to 15 minute sermons?

  20. Rev. Jeffery Grams
    December 2nd, 2006 at 10:53 | #20

    Overall, a great discussion in which I discern two major questions:
    One, does “preaching the Law” entail instruction in the Christian life? Of course it does! The Law should and must be preached in such a way that the people of God know how they should be living. Let the pastor remember however that even as such, it still remains the law and the Law always accuses.
    Two, does the STRUCTURE of the sermon determine whether or not the Gospel predominates? Not necessarily, but those who like to end with paragraphs of exhortation DO run the risk of teaching like the evangelicals, “Jesus did His part – now what are YOU gonna do!”
    McCain: I agree Pastor Grams.
    If you didn’t read Maag’s article in Logia on this topic, you should – if only to be reminded that the Holy Spirit determines the *use* of the Law on the individual hearer; we simply preach the Law in fullness and clarity to the best of our ability and preach the Gospel as predominant in our sermon.
    And, with all due respect to my friend Al, many of us preach quite well with the “functional memorization” we were taught at seminary. I can easily shift from manuscript (without being bound to it) to outline, to bookmarked Bible, from week to week without much additional stress. It seems to me a far more effective approach than the classical “rote memorization” that was taught at the sem in “days of yore”.
    McCain: Maybe we should have a good discussion of manuscript/no manuscript. I was never taught “rote memorization.” I think some of our brothers who do take full manuscripts into the pulpit and effectively read them are really just afraid of trying to break loose from the manuscript. We all know that speaches are much more effectively delivered when they are not read. No, I’m not saying that read sermons are less means of grace than when they are not read.

  21. December 2nd, 2006 at 10:56 | #21

    Paul,
    I mentioned that I would look through my Concordia, (yes, the errant one!)
    McCain: You naughty fellow. The inerrant edition is coming very soon! In fact, I actually held in my own two hands one of the first “book blocks” of the second edition, which is the signatures of the book, not yet bound. Exciting! I had it in my hands all of about ten minutes until I had to surrender it to one of our fine production control people who dutifully took it home with her over the weekend to check it for any printing errors: misalligned pages, etc. etc. I should have it back in my mits next Monday, hopefully. We expect deliver of the second edition of Concordia in time to get them out very soon in the new year.
    , and find a few references wrt those who intend to live in sin, faith etc. Cf Ap 4, 48, 64, 109, 110, FC SD III, 41, 64, IV SD, 15-18, 31, and the exegesis of 2 Pet 1 in paragraph 33, in which the confessors warn against walking away from your calling, faith, as we walk in good works. This is very much tied to the notion that good works are not an option for a Christian, as if a Christian can say, “oh, I think I will do a good work or two today”. Rather, we do what our neighbor needs, no matter the cost to us, which is a simple definition of love.
    McCain: Wonderful quotes, no? I found a slew of good stuff yesterday while looking through “Concordia” in PDF format.
    McCain: David, I appreciate your thoughtful posts on all this. I wonder what your “take” is on the Marquart article.
    I certainly agree with Dr Marquart…had him for about 7 or 8 classes at seminary…and think that he is stating the matter in a way that I completely agree with. Remember, first of all, Luther says that a work is good by virtue of the actor, and not the work itself. So Marquart quotes, “Real good works before God are not showy, sanctimonious pomp and circumstance, or liturgical falderal in church, but, for example, “when a poor servant girl takes care of a little child or faithfully does what she is told”” (Large Catechism, Ten Commandments, par. 314, Kolb-Wengert, pg. 428). Who could argue? He goes on to speak about one of my passions, vocation, in which he says, “The “living sacrifice” of bodies, according to their various callings, is the Christian’s “reasonable service” or God-pleasing worship, to which St. Paul exhorts the Romans “by the mercies of God” (Rom. 12:1), which he had set out so forcefully in the preceding eleven chapters”. This reflects Luther’s Table of Duties, in which Luther clearly wants Christians to ask themselves, what are they called to do? Have they done it? And here works become a sign that something is wrong, when one does not see anything…however…I love to ask my people if brushing their teeth is a good work? Sometimes I think that like the romanists, we would miss both the maid and the child and the man and his toothbrush as good works because we mean something other than a biblical notion of good works and vocation.
    Wrt James, Paul, our confessors,Luther, etc, we need to be very careful about this notion about works being *proof* that faith is living. I know we sing it, the confessors in the Formula mention it
    McCain: Actually the Confessions do not simply “mention” it, they assert this as truth and doctrine.
    Speers: and James challenges us, but the reality about this is NOT, James is NOT telling us that faith will be living BECAUSE we do something, BECAUSE we try to keep it. Rather, like all things in this life, we look back and see what exists. We do not do good works to serve our desire for assurance, but to serve our neighbor. When we look and see that these things do not exist or are dismally represented in our lives, we are driven, not to work harder, but to the means in repentance. (repentance is certainly the shape of this life, which is based on looking back, we do not look forward to “planned repentance”). The new man wants to serve, but stumbles in the conflict.
    McCain: Is it the New Man stumbling?
    Speers: The new man cannot, by his own strength, win the battle or overcome the old man, but rather, the Spirit working through the means produces fruit. (love, joy, peace, gentleness, kindness etc). And here the connection to Communion is clearly not one just to psychologically massage us, as if the matter of our living in the law, (as the confessors say in the formula), was based on having good feelings about ourselves, but that through this mystery, the new man is fed and strengthened, and the Spirit is working to bring forth faith and love. When the supper is presented as just a means to take away guilt, the life it sustains is couched in terms of human achievement based on self-esteem and good feelings. (reminds me of the constant, “you should in gratitude act” which is a horrid manipulation of the concept of gratitude.)

  22. December 2nd, 2006 at 11:35 | #22

    Speers wrote: The new man wants to serve, but stumbles in the conflict.
    McCain: Is it the New Man stumbling?
    St Paul responds, “The good that I would *I* do not”… Romans 7
    McCain: I know we can not separate the old man and the new man, but…is it the New Man stumbling? Perhaps we should say that it is according to the old nature that we are stumbling, but the New Man, the new creation in Christ, who is hidden in Christ, can not stumble. It is not the New Man who is daily sinning much, it is who we are according to the old sinful nature and the Old Man. Right?

  23. December 2nd, 2006 at 12:32 | #23

    McCain wrote: I know we can not separate the old man and the new man, but…is it the New Man stumbling? Perhaps we should say that it is according to the old nature that we are stumbling, but the New Man, the new creation in Christ, who is hidden in Christ, can not stumble. It is not the New Man who is daily sinning much, it is who we are according to the old sinful nature and the Old Man. Right?
    Speers responds,
    I do not know if I could, biblically, speak to this and come to agree with you. We *fall* from grace, we walk away, get lost, wander…these are all descriptions of what happens to one man. I do not see the new man *not repenting* for the sin done in this body. In fact, just the opposite. Therefore, when I used that phrase about the new man stumbling, I was speaking about the whole person, of which the new man is a part and which new man takes responsibility for the fall into sin.
    McCain wrote: but I do wonder why you insist on “compartmentalizing” the Law in such a way that you do believe that you would never wish for your people to consider Christ’s life of self-sacrificing love to be a model for them?
    Speers responds,
    I am not compartmentalizing the law here. I said that this kind of talk has to be clearly qualified. I am not called to the office of Messiah, Savior etc. So I am called to love, and while Jesus is an example of, in fact love incarnate, we are called to different offices, and so I need to be very careful I do not slip into perverting love through imitation.
    Even Paul and Jesus qualify imitation very clearly when they use the term.
    Again, here I think others have brought this up in this thread, that love comes forth from faith. For Christ, love is at the heart of who He is. For us, love is a fruit of faith/Spirit, and is, as Luther says, a miracle. Love exists in our lives, Luther says, when I see my neighbor in need and act spontaneously, without thought of self, etc. The confessions also speak about the distinction between works of the law and good works. The latter being spontaneous etc, while the former are forced on us by threats etc, even as we carry them out. Love is a miracle which I cannot produce, but which God produces in and through me.
    McCain: It is interesting to me that you, and others, continue to raise points that are simply not at issue actually. Neither Marquart, nor I, are denying or teaching anything other than what you are saying. In other words, you are not really speaking to the topic, but seemingly wanting always to pull it off into a discusssion of how *not* to teach and preach sanctification properly. I remained concerned that the third use of the law apparently causes some such great discomfort they can’t help but raise a host of caveats, qualifications and otherwise whenever this topic and concern is raised, or by whomever it is raised. I’m puzzled by that.

  24. Holger Sonntag
    December 2nd, 2006 at 12:44 | #24

    Bill Kerner: Somebody once said about a layman that he said he understood the pastor’s sermon much better after starting to go to bible class. What I’m saying is: the sermon is indeed not a “stand-alone” event. It’s in the context of the liturgy, it’s in the context of the teaching that goes on in the congregation. Luther, in his German Mass said: the German liturgy needs a German catechism unless people attend church for years without really retaining a thing — thank God for Luther’s biblical realism.
    The 45-60 min. sermons of old were in the context of 3-5 times of catechism instruction for the young every week. They could handle this kind of sermon. Today, when people complain about 1.5 hr. per week and about pastors mentioning the catechism in the sermon — are we surprised that the sermons keep getting shorter and more “formulaic”? It’s more difficult to write a short sermon that is concrete in law and gospel. It first of all requires you to choose: touch on a few things only, maybe focus on one thing and go real deep. It’s important then to keep that in mind and cover the basics in law and gospel over several weeks. This possible because even in the 3-year lectionary there is some “lectio continua” (continuous reading) in gospel and epistle going on — and Jesus and his apostles, thank God!, have a way of repeating themselves for our good as we are slow to believe and understand (that’ll never change in this life), Phil. 3:1.
    As a few contributors have raised the issue of vocation already, I want to throw my 2 cts. worth into the general bucket. Luther is credited with no less than a revolution here, both by ridding them of the meritorious burdens (coram deo) and by teaching them concretely (coram hominibus): He wrote his tracts on being a soldier, magistrate, spouse, etc., so that people would be *certain* that by serving in all these callings (instead of going to the monastery to chant psalms they didn’t understand) they’re actually *pleasing God.* This certainty also makes for joyful servants. That is what the Ten Commandments are all about, I submit, esp. when we read them in conjunction with the Table of Duties in the SC.
    “Hold on, Luther!”, we might want to say: aren’t you there producing secure work saints en masse that are proud in their callings?
    I guess here’s where we need to distinguish law and gospel! The law tells us what God wants us to do / to leave undone in our vocations (and the new man in us agrees, even *delights* in God’s will, Rom. 7). God really wants us to know about these things, not just that we can’t do ‘em anyways. Cf. Luther’s remarks on “Which are these [sins we should confess to the brother / pastor]?” in the Small Cat. on Conf. and Abs. There he goes into the vocations: father, mother, husband, wife, children, workers … God tells us what (not) to do there, but, alas, our old Adam time and again is unwilling to serve others and from this original unwillingness (orig. sin!) come all sins in thought, word, deed. By God’s grace and through the Spirit working *through the law* (John 16!), we come to realize this, confess it to God or to a brother / pastor, and receive absolution, forgiveness before God. With that absolution-gospel we receive the Spirit who, by strengthening / rekindling our faith (passive, perfect justification = perfect sanctification), also strengthens and renews us to “delight in [God's] will and walk in [his] ways to the glory of [his] holy name” (active justification / sanctification = incipient, imperfect sanctification; sign / fruit of faith showing its genuineness to other Christians). That’s what we pray for every Sunday. Anybody else with us?
    As the church sings: “Faith clings to Jesus’ cross alone / and rests in him unceasing; / and *by its fruits true faith is known*, / with love and hope *increasing*. / For faith alone can justify; / works serve our neighbor and supply / the *proof* that faith is living.” (LW 355, 5) Not?
    In other words, true faith in the heart knows not to trust our good works but Christ’s work. The fulfillment of the 10 Comm. still *starts and ends* with the First, as Luther amply shows in the SC and elsewhere; but that doesn’t mean we really only dwell on the First Commandment.
    Good works as evidence for genuine faith in heart is not unimportant also when it comes to communion discipline. As Pieper put it, from communion are to be excluded those whose being a Christian has become uncertain to their fellow Christians (*we* know a person’s faith *only* by their words and works; this is how we operate in this life and church): You desire to be (known as) a Christian, but you fornicate; stop fornicating and glorify / hallow God’s name (1st Pet. of Lord’s Prayer, right?) by your godly life; otherwise, you will be suspended from HC / eventually excommunicated. But also doctrinally: You desire to be known as a Christian but you are in fellowship with those who teach false doctrine — what do you actually believe: as Scr. (Catech.) teaches or as the false teachers you’re publicly associating with? (Is it a surprise when those who preach like Dan Grams reported a couple days ago because they see no need for the law — but bring it back through the back door by mission imperatives — might be the ones who practice open communion too? And those of us who do practice closed communion, why do we do it if not for the “nexus indivulsus” between justif. and sanctif. that should, in some constructive way, also be reflected in our preaching and teaching?)
    All in all, let’s consider for a moment that Luther, in the Catechisms, teaches that both Creed (gospel) and prayer are given so that we would do what is otherwise impossible: to begin to fulfill God’s holy will, the Ten Commandments, *not* to be saved thereby (here the ways with Catholicism’s gradualism part for good!) but to hallow God’s name (is that unimportant?). And while prayer (as exemplified / mandated in the Lord’s Prayer) and gospel will cease in heaven, the Ten Commandments never will, as Luther points out in the Antinomian Disputations: the decalogue is eternal. So it’s probably no surprise that Luther calls the Decalog a doctrine above all doctrines at the end of the First Part of the Large Catechism.

  25. Jose M. Valle
    December 2nd, 2006 at 14:45 | #25

    In his commentary on Galatians, Luther says, “The apostle, therefore, exhorts the Christians to exercise themselves in good works after they have heard and accepted the pure doctrine of faith. The remnants of sin are still present, even in those who are justified….Therefore, godly preachers must be careful to urge good works as much as the doctrine of faith…Yet faith must be planted first, for without faith it is impossible to understand what a good work is or what pleases God.” (Galatians–The Crossway Classic Commenaries page 263-264)
    Once you have preached the Gospel, what is wrong with exhorting or urging christians to come to church more regularly, to teach the catechism at home, to have family devotions, to abstain from sexually explicit television shows or music?

  26. Paul Beisel
    December 2nd, 2006 at 18:26 | #26

    If Christians could not keep the Law at all, then we would never go to church, hear the Word, pray, trust in God, etc.
    McCain: Precisely. It is a shame that some pastors, in their zeal to defend the centrality of the Gospel, are getting this so gummed up.

  27. David Speers
    December 2nd, 2006 at 18:40 | #27

    McCain wrote: It is interesting to me that you, and others, continue to raise points that are simply not at issue actually. Neither Marquart, nor I, are denying or teaching anything other than what you are saying. In other words, you are not really speaking to the topic, but seemingly wanting always to pull it off into a discusssion of how *not* to teach and preach sanctification properly. I remained concerned that the third use of the law apparently causes some such great discomfort they can’t help but raise a host of caveats, qualifications and otherwise whenever this topic and concern is raised, or by whomever it is raised. I’m puzzled by that.
    The puzzle, I am afraid, Paul, comes about because first, you were trying to fix the right thing with the wrong thing, as I said earlier. Second, what you actually meant was not that clear. The comments did more to confuse, at times, and therefore it seems that we needed to get our bearings and clarify what is meant. Third, the caveats are wholly necessary, Paul, because of the other side of things in our LCMS, that is, the pietistic preaching which has embraced Calvin’s predilection for the 3rd use. Pastors and churches which believe that 40 days of purpose and Rick Warren’s dismissal of the means in favor of deeds is a fine way to bring forth Christian living. As Dr Marquart made clear again and again, the Reformed lead their folk back into the monster of uncertainty, and essentially Romanism, with its need to find assurance of one’s salvation in one’s sanctification, instead of the Word. Pieper himself, admits that our lives are signs, but that the devil can often cloud our eyes, and so we need to be careful about resting on this kind of stuff. The concern, Paul, is for souls which have been led away from the Gospel by a mispreaching of the 3rd use.
    Finally, and I still think that your dismissal of the preaching of the law in the first part of a sermon as enough for the Holy Spirit to use to teach and guide is quite interesting and really objectionable. As a pastor of a congregation, not some theoretical ideal, there will be times when it would seem that the law needs to be reinforced or more specifically elaborated, given the context, but that is a pastoral call. Have used the historic lectionary, using both Luther’s and Walther’s sermons (Printshop of both epistles and gospels), there is a variation, which I would attribute not to some way that things should always be done, but seem to indicate that the pastor will have to, at times, adjust the preaching of the Word, in order to meet the people’s need. What I find objectionable is the notion that I really need to preach the law, rather than just preach the law, in order to be preaching sanctification. the confessions, Luther et al, all admit and exhort us tha t we need to preach/exhort our people with the law, but I think that some of what you are complaining about is a matter of degree, and seems to ignore context.
    Enough for now. I have to prepare my bulletin…

  28. Bill Kerner
    December 2nd, 2006 at 21:33 | #28

    Holger Sontag: “Somebody once said about a layman that he said he understood the pastor’s sermon much better after starting to go to Bible class.”
    True enough. But that does not solve the problem from the pastor’s perspective. I have heard plenty of exhortations from my pastors over the years for laymen to attend Bible study more often and in greater numbers. Doubtless this is a worthy goal, but it has yet to come to fruition. My understanding is that less than 10% of adult Lutherans attend Bible study. We require catechesis to become a confirmed member of our churches, but there is no such requirement for ongoing catechesis to remain a confirmed member. That being the case, the vast majority of adult laymen remain untaught after confirmation. (Don’t feel too bad about this, my reformed friends tell me that they experience the same phenomenon at their churches as well.) There might be reasons for this other than spiritual laziness. Some people are simply not very good students. But, I digress.
    My point is that, while less than 10% of laymen will be available to learn doctrine in Bible class, there will be 35%-50% of the congregation in worship every Sunday (These are my lay-understanding of the statistics; feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). So you in the pastoral ministry have a difficult choice. You can continue to exhort the laity to come to Bible class more often and in greater numbers (which they should be doing, but which has not worked so far), or you can preach the Word to the laity more comprehensively while they are in Church. I mean, if you want your people to learn, and you have a large number of them in one place and listening to you, is that not a good time to teach them something (especially if it’s the only time most of them gather around the Word)?
    I also understand the complaint that we seem to have shorter attention spans such that we don’t want to sit through a 45 minute sermon these days. But this is why I am urging the clergy to consider serial sermons. Even Lutherans might respond to a cliff hanger.
    Look, I know this is unsolicited advice about how to pursue a vocation that is not my own, and I hope I’m not being offensive. But giving advice IS part of my vocation, and I’m pretty sure my ideas would help more laymen learn more doctrine and learn it better than they are learning it now.

  29. December 3rd, 2006 at 05:25 | #29

    Another thought, pastors should preach the Law with its focus on the neighbor and should preach the gospel with its focus on Christ thereby reminding us (your congregants)to get out of ourselves. Luther in “On Christian Freedom” wrote:
    We conclude therefore that a Christian man does not live in
    himself, but in Christ and in his neighbour, or else is no
    Christian: in Christ by faith; in his neighbour by love. By faith
    he is carried upwards above himself to God, and by love he sinks
    back below himself to his neighbour, still always-abiding in God
    and His love, as Christ says, “Verily I say unto you, Hereafter
    ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and
    descending upon the Son of man” (John i. 51).
    This would help in keeping sermons from devolving into sentimentality.

  30. Holger Sonntag
    December 3rd, 2006 at 20:38 | #30

    Bill Kerner: At the risk of “branching off” from this thread (or however you call this in the blogosphere), aren’t you then basically demanding catechism sermons and services? At our church we have them twice a year (Lent, Advent midweek services). Luther had them throughout the whole year.
    At any rate, when it comes to preaching on the 10 Commandments (to return to our topic here), cf. the Preface to the Small Catechism, para. 17-18: “In the third place, after you have taught the people a short catechism like this one, then take up a longer catechism and impart to them a richer and fuller understanding. Using such a catechism, explain each individual commandment, petition, or part with its various works, benefits, and blessings, harm and danger, as you find treated at length in so many booklets. In particular, put the greatest stress on that commandment or part where your people experience the greatest need. For example, you must strongly emphasize the Seventh Commandment … to artisans and shopkeepers and even to farmers and household workers, because rampant among such people are all kinds of dishonesty and thievery. Likewise, you must emphasize the Fourth Commandment to children and the common people, so that they are orderly, faithful, obedient, and peaceful. Always adduce many examples from Scriptures where God either punished or blessed such people.”
    In light of this clear educational mandate, which really flows out of baptism, it is not surprising to me that the part on the 10 Commandments in the Large Catechism is by far the largest and most detailed. Teaching the law also has the component of building a “Christian” culture, of civilizing (restraining) people whom Luther knew to be only a heartbeat away from becoming wild animals, not because they used to be monkeys in some remote past, but because they are sinners at present.
    I guess, we have to define better the difference between “Evangelical” law preaching and “Lutheran” law preaching. Could the difference perhaps consist, not so much in that preaching as such, but in how we see man (anthropology)? On Reformation Day weekend, we did a nice series of presentations here in MN on Luther’s Freedom of the Christian in comparison to Rick Warren and Joel Osteen. What was lacking in the latter two was any sense of original sin, of what the old Adam really is, and that he remains an ongoing challenge in the life of the Christian. As soon as original sin slips away, the law (“purpose”) can take over; the gospel then is really a matter of the past, esp. when you, like Rick Warren, believe in eternal security (once saved, always saved).
    This Arminianism is why there is confusion: these men, like the scholastics at Luther’s time (and most churches today), do not have a correct understanding of the magnitude of man’s corruption after the fall (Osteen doesn’t integrate the fall into his “system” at all). What Aristotle was to the medieval guys is Jung and pop psychology to the successful “leaders” in the 21st century. In other words, these men are so captive to the law because they, as the Galatians, haven’t even fully heard the law. Moses is still veiled for them, as the Confessions would put it! No wonder they have so many followers under the sway of the “opinio legis” (the legal mindset of the old Adam) lodged in their heart.
    Now, their error shouldn’t lead us to the conclusion: because there the law is taught wrongly, that is, without a clear understanding that “the law always (only) accuses” those who are sinful by nature, we’ll teach the law in but the most general, negative terms lest we become “like them.” If we do that, we run the risk of promoting a disembodied, monastic intellectualism that does not join Luther in the struggle to “Christianize” society and culture via Christians who, despite the confusion around them and in them, are well taught in what pleases God in their vocations and strive to do it more and more.
    I’m not suggesting here mass conversions “by the sword.” And I also understand that we don’t live in the far more homogeneous societies of the 16th century anymore. But if we look admiringly at the efforts of the Early Church to end abortion and other moral ills in the Roman Empire, what are we doing today? Do we leave it all to the Evangelicals and Catholics?
    Luther clearly aimed at “taming” man, at least by means of the law; at best by means of the gospel. For Luther, pastors had their role to play as teachers of the law (see, again, Large Catechism, but also Luther’s 1530 “Sermon on Keeping Children in School”) who would hand those who would not be taught by words over to the civil magistrates and their specific God-given arsenal of arguments. A clear understanding of the distinction, not separation, of church and state is needed.
    I read somewhere in Luther that he held that whoever doesn’t have civil righteousness probably won’t have righteousness of faith either. Clearly, you don’t work your way up from love to faith; but if you have the latter, you’ll be driven to seek the best for your neighbor as well. Love is a fruit and sign of faith.
    I know that churches back in Europe (and liberal ones here) have often become social advocacy organizations blown to and fro by every fashionable wind of doctrine and lifestyle. Yet is that the only way churches can engage society? Is not teaching God’s unchanging law to both young and old an important way in which we can make an often underappreciated contribution to the good of families and society as a whole? Knowing our biblical anthropology well will prevent us from believing we could establish some utopia here on earth — but simply to say: “alas, man is just bad anyway,” that doesn’t seem to be enough in light of Luther’s clear exhortations that have led him to reform the educational system of his age.
    To be sure, we, clearly distinguishing law and gospel, must know that the 10 Commandments do not make a person a Christian and that we, when teaching the law, are doing the church’s alien work. But we all agree, I think, that we must do the alien work in order to do the proper work, preaching the gospel of Christ.

  31. Michael L. Anderson
    December 4th, 2006 at 06:34 | #31

    “Another thought, pastors should preach the Law with its focus on the neighbor and should preach the gospel with its focus on Christ thereby reminding us (your congregants) to get out of ourselves. Luther in “On Christian Freedom” wrote:
    ‘We conclude therefore that a Christian man does not live in
    himself, but in Christ and in his neighbour, or else is no
    Christian …’

    Well, yes. There are Scriptural indications that we must “get out of ourselves,” practically to the point of unconsciousness. The Godly lack of self-awareness is perhaps most palpable, amongst the blessed bleaters of Mt 25. It is an “alien” self-psychology indeed to deny one’s own ego, as the first step to shouldering a cross. It is an “alien” perceptual psychology, to see Christ in the persona of the least of the earth, or the child thirsting for a cup of cold water. But there you have it: we are informed that the Law can be accurately summarized as “Love God, and love your neighbor.”
    “And just who is my neighbor?,” a shaken lawyer once spluttered, perhaps a bit too defensively if you ask me.
    Why, it’s that Good Samaritan character.
    Read the summary conclusion to the tale again. The neighbor, of the parable, was that despised and shunned fellow, who paid a price and gave balm to the poor fellow who fell among the thieves and was left for dead (and is not the Devil the prince of theives?).
    It all comes down to Christ, yet again. Love your Lord, and love the manifestations of Himself around you. To “properly divide” is not a license to separate, ignore and discard.

  32. Steven B
    December 4th, 2006 at 11:41 | #32

    It seems to me that much of this discussion is made up of people talking past each other. Perhaps a re-reading of Walther’s eleventh thesis would be advised. Walther’s discussion of law and gospel does disallow Law/Gospel/Sanctification in fact he addresses the need regarding sanctification quite clearly. Instead the importance is to rightly divide law and gospel preaching the sterness of the the law, the sweetness of the gospel and then one can encourage the believe toward sanctification not on the basis of the law but as a result of the work of the gospel.

  33. Steven B
    December 4th, 2006 at 17:09 | #33

    Oops! Please read the third sentence as Walther’s discussion of law and gospel does not disallow Law/Gospel/Sanctification in fact he addresses the need regarding sanctification quite clearly. Thank you
    McCain: But you see, the problem is that we do have folks about these days saying that Walther did not properly distinguish between Law and Gospel and Luther did not either. The more I study the sermons of these two great Lutheran preachers, the less certain that my assumptions about a Law [second use--you are a miserable, rotten sinner who can never keep God's law, and here is all the ways you break it] and Gospel [Christ forgives you, now come take Holy Communion]. Amen. is simply not really the whole story. There must be room in our preaching for preaching parenetically, describing the new life in Christ to which we are called and for which we are empowered by the Gospel. Some of my brethren are so afraid that people will leave thinking they can keep the law perfectly, or keep it under their own power that they are really never preaching Biblical sanctification.

  34. Todd Wilken
    December 4th, 2006 at 19:39 | #34

    Paul wrote: “Some of my brethren are so afraid that people will leave thinking they can keep the law perfectly, or keep it under their own power that they are really never preaching Biblical sanctification.”
    From my limited observation, I think the Law/Gospel/Law sermon is the norm in LCMS congregations. In fact, I think it quickly evolves into the Law/Now-Go-Tell-the-Good-News sermon.
    McCain: Todd, note….I’m concerned about “BIBLICAL” sanctification. I do not endorse the type of sermon you are talking about.
    More accurately, I think the concern about the all-too-common Law/Gospel/Law sermon is that people will leave thinking that the Gospel’s promises are conditional, pending improved behavior. A preaching of probation rather than salvation.
    McCain: Valid concern.
    Are you saying this is a baseless concern?
    If not, how (specifically) would you guard against leaving that impression in the ideal Law/Gospel/Law sermon?
    McCain: No, Todd, you silly goose, of course all your concerns are my concerns, but I don’t get why you can’t concede that Marquart raised and expresed a valid concern too. It’s all HOW you preach sanctification. Maybe I should repost the sermon I preached, with YOU heard and said you really liked, though you never used as one of your “examine a sermon” — a point that I’ve been painfully wounded over ever since, by the way! We have to be watchful on all fronts, not just on those that happen to be tripping our triggers on a given day. I’m an equal opportunity curmudgeon, kind of like you, only not as bad.

  35. Paul Beisel
    December 4th, 2006 at 21:53 | #35

    I think it is a denial of the Atonement to preach the Law as if God were angry with the baptized. I think this is the impression I have given in too many of my sermons. This kind of preaching hearkens to the likes of the old revival preachers, who preached the Law so fiercely and severely, almost in an emotionally manipulative way. I don’t think that was ever what was intended by Walther or Luther in their discussion of Law and Gospel (or the Confessions for that matter). The Confessions simply say that all of Scripture is either Law or promises. And we keep those distinct from each other. In our preaching, I think we ought to make a distinction between openly wicked people and faithful believers. Not everyone of our hearers struggles with the same sins. Some of them might actually be pretty pious both in heart and mind. God’s gift. There is nothing wrong with that unless they think that they are reconciled to God by that piety. We almost make sanctification a sin.

  36. Jose M Valle
    December 4th, 2006 at 23:54 | #36

    I appreciate Pastor McCain’s interest in discussing the lack of sanctification in today’s confessional preaching, and I agree with his point of view. From my perspective as a lay person, the so-called confessional line seems dangerously incomplete. It says to me that if I hunger for guidance in living the Christian life, if I want encouragement to do right what I have done wrong in the past, if I am not content with remaining in a state of continual forgiveness beyond which there is nothing else worth mentioning or even thinking about, then I must be a pietistic, self-righteous Calvinist, a Barthian. What about Paul’s struggle with the flesh? What about the struggle between the old man and the new man? With all due respect to those who carry the burden of the Office of the Holy Ministry, are you above helping your flock with the nuts and bolts of this struggle? Does it diminish your proclamation of the Gospel to preach about the need to set aside time for prayer and devotions? Are you cowtowing to reformed theology if you, from the pulpit, urge your flock to discern the evils that are ever-present in popular culture and to flee them? My father-in-law, the late Gilbert C. Meilaender, a conservative, liturgical, LCMS pastor, did not have problems preaching sanctification and urging his flock to be “living epistles.” Yet no one ever left his church service without having heard the Law which convicts us and the Gospel of forgiveness which alone saves us–a free, undeserved gift of God through faith in Christ. How can preaching the Gospel be complete without an affirmation of the renewal that it brings, without a description of the new life that is now possible yet not completely attainable? Yes, we must continually die to the sin that is still with us and rise again in Christ but for what purpose? The scriptures are clear. Those that are in Christ must act differently for they are different. Why is it that the preaching and teaching that I hear is so quiet about the difference that the Gospel of forgiveness must make in the way we live? Why should pastors not speak bluntly about how christians should and should not act? And if our pastors are silent about this, then the incompleteness of their message leaves the faithfull weak and illprepared for their struggle in the Chrisitian life.

  37. Todd Wilken
    December 5th, 2006 at 00:35 | #37

    Paul:
    I fully concede Marquart’s concerns. And I fully agree with them.
    Re: Your unexamined sermon. I remember it and still think that it was excellent. However, the listener learns more from the egregious example than from the excellent. McCain: OK, I’ll try to get over my pain.
    Did you hear the Warren egregiousity on Monday?
    McCain: Yes, the egregiosity made me egregiously sick. I still haven’t gotten over Rick almost costing us all our housing allowance. That alone should make us pastors unhappy with RW.
    BTW, please do post the sermon you preached.
    McCain: Roger, wilco, will try to find it.

  38. December 7th, 2006 at 11:59 | #38

    I’m concerned by this discussion. Maybe it’s the fact that ‘faith’ in our circles has become ‘a way of acting’ rather than ‘a way of believing.’ Yes, James talks about these things, but at the same time, it’s reading all of these texts through Christ (or don’t believers do that anymore?). Sanctification? How about sanctification in the mindset that ‘satan hates you because you believe,’ and ‘satan wants to pull you off of this narrow path’? How about the law as mirror, turning us away from relying on ourselves to do these good works. If we ask with Rev. McCain “What about good works? When we neglect sanctification are we preaching the true and real Christ?” we have to remember the true and real Christ who has brought us into His family. We remember that there are rules to families, yes. Don’t disgrace the family. Don’t bring shame to the name you wear. But are there a list of rules? You can’t watch R-rated movies because they are from the devil. You can’t read Covey, Warren, Osteen because they are from the devil. You can’t, you can’t, you can’t. Thank you legalism.
    McCain: Thank you for your comment. Respectfully, I need to tell you that I think you are rather dramatically missing the point of the pose. Marquart’s article was spot-on. Nobody is advocating an incorrect proclamation of sanctification. Nobody is advocating “Purpose Driven” or Roman or Baptist theology. Why must we always leap to this conclusion whenever a conversation about preaching about sanctification? I think it does bespeak precisely what Marquart is warning against.
    That stinks, and I don’t agree. The Baptists love it. The RCs love it. Luther didn’t. Read his writings – they’re R-rated in places. Because they’re theology, does that make them different?
    I don’t know – as soon as we end with law (and sanctification preached as ‘do this’ is still law), then you’re throwing even Walther out the window.
    McCain: I wonder how many Walther sermons you’ve read, also, as previously noted in one of the comments on the thread, Walther did not say a sermon can never end with parenesis.

  39. Tom Baker
    December 8th, 2006 at 04:43 | #39

    Greetings,
    After making a 46-page hardcopy of comments related to “Aversion to Sanctification?” I, along with Todd Wilken, am somewhat befuddled about all the fuss. The following points are in random order. The glue that binds them is the motto, “Theology is the art of making distinctions.”
    First, to the Marquart article with which no one appears to disagree. It’s a bit difficult to do so since most of the article consists of either quotes from Luther himself or the Confessions along with a well-known prayer. However, if the article is being used to suggest that the preaching of sanctification is the same as preaching the third use of the Law, then I would disagree. It is not clear from the article itself by Marquart because he distinguishes “the kind of preaching that avoids sanctification” from “seemingly questions the Formula of Concord…about the Third Use of the Law.”
    Moreover, Marquart himself links “Christian sanctification” with “crucifying the flesh, putting down the old man…provoking to love and good works”—each of which would be a function of the first and second uses of the Law, not third! In any case, the discussion has comments which portray “sanctification” as a synonym for the third use.
    I can’t recall, during my last 25 years of sermons, of ever intentionally preaching the third use! I understand the third use to be God’s use of the Law to inform ignorant Christians of His will. Three points are important. The third use is not my use but God’s use of the Law. Second, it is for Christians, not for unbelievers. And third, it is for those who are ignorant of God’s Will as revealed in the Scriptures.
    McCain: What we are talking about is sermons that, as Marquart rightly points out, simply avoid any discussion of the baptismal life of the Christian, but instead condemn sin, rightly so, preach forgiveness in Christ, rightly so, and end of sermon. You can hope on to the Internet and find a lot of sermons being preached today and then compare them to Luther’s or Walther’s sermons and notice a difference. I’ve been wondering about that “difference” for quite some time and that’s the best I’ve been able to do by way of description. And that’s my concern, and it is why I appreciate Professor Marquart’s article so much.
    Baker: Now I did teach the third use particularly in Bible studies and Catechism. For example, in teaching catechism, a former Methodist who joined our congregation was unaware that abortion was a sin. She received third use and was convinced. However, preaching to my congregation of those who had been catechized by Luther’s Small Catechism, I really can’t recall informing them of any part of God’s Will of which they were unaware.
    McCain: I’m not sure it is the case of informing the ignorant, but, using the Law as the guide and rule that it is for the believing Christian.
    Baker: Second, I learned never to end a sermon on Law. The first reason is because I have no control on which use God will make of that Law. My intention may be to inform; but then God uses it to accuse, condemn and put to death. The second reason is because of a question my member Dr. Martin Scharlemann once asked me. “Tom, why do you end your sermons with french or salad endings?” After asking what he meant, he explained that after a typical L&G sermon, I would add, “May we” or “Let us.” For Scharlemann, God used what followed those phrases as second use. I now always end every sermon with what Luther calls the “categorical”, by which is meant, “unconditional promises.”
    McCain: I’m not advocating that, necessarily, nor am I willing to say that a sermon that ends with anything other than “unconditional promise” has thereby failed properly to distinguish Law and Gospel properly or adequately. I used to believe it, but after spending so much time reading Luther, Gerhard, Walther, etc. and thinking to myself, “Those guys really didn’t get it right” I began to second-guess myself and say, “Perhaps it is we who are making assumptions that are not correct.”
    Baker: Would I ever end a sermon with Law? Absolutely. Anytime those who are listening are unbelievers or unrepentant Christians. For then, you ought not give pearls to the swine.
    Second, I could use 42 pages of Walther’s and Luther’s devotions to demonstrate that as one comment had it, they were always better at explaining what a sermon should be like than they were in delivering a proper sermon. For example, from “God Grant It” we quote the last paragraph on page 724 of Walther’s Tuesday’s devotion, “Oh, may each of us be frightened of the shameful service to mammon! Sad is the time of service, and terrible is the wage. Here on earth, it deceives man out of rest and peace of heart, and there in heaven, he will lose God, his soul, and his salvation.” I can only imagine the thoughts of Scharlemann upon hearing that ending.
    McCain: Of course one must be a bit careful with using that book to discuss Walther’s preaching, since each day is not a complete sermon, but excerpted from a sermon. But again, let’s say that was the conclusion of a sermon. Have we imposed on Walther a formula of sermon delivery that he in fact did not advocate he advocated the proper distinction between Law and Gospel? Like I say, I’m just having my doubts. My doubts were triggered by recent blog posts by Lutheran laymen that are antinomian in nature. Tom, I would appreciate your analysis of the following blog site and discussion: < http://terribleswede.blogspot.com/2006/11/horror-fest-2006.html#links>
    What would your analysis of the situation be?
    Baker: Third, one doesn’t “preach” sanctification anymore than one “preaches” justification. Too many sermons are about doctrines rather than are the mouth of Christ. It’s the difference between a Bible study and a sermon. A Bible study is akin to being a medical student watching your professor explain open heart surgery using a blackboard. A sermon is akin to undergoing open heart surgery. A sermon does not only reveal the content of Scripture but primarily uses the Law to put to death and the Gospel to bring back to life.
    McCain: Elsewhere a pastor has put forward the distinction between “preaching” and “teaching” …the sermon is to be “preaching” not “teaching” so he seems to be saying. I don’t disagree with your last sentence. I believe that the Holy Spirit is doing precisely that whenever and wherever and however His Word is proclaimed: be it in sermon, bible study, private reading of Scripture, singing a faithfully Biblical hymn text: See “Salvation Unto Us Has Come” for example.
    Baker: Some comments in the debate are not helpful because the Biblical picture is not fully provided. One example is the spirited discussion as to whether or not the Christian can keep the Law. It seems odd to contend on the one hand that the Christian does fulfill the Law but then admit that he doesn’t do it perfectly. Similarly, it seems odd to contend that on the one hand the Christian cannot fulfill the Law but on Judgment Day God reveals the Christian does only because of the imputed robe of righteousness given to Him.
    Baker: Perhaps the following distinction might resolve the tension. The new Man in the Christian is not simply my sanctified self. The new Man is none other than Christ Himself. The Bible teaches that the will of my old Adam is bound by Satan but the will of my new Man is captivated by Christ Himself. Therefore, I, in regard to my new Man, never sin and have perfect motivation; in regard to my old Adam, I always sin and my motivation is never pure. That is why I am simul justus et peccator.
    McCain: I think it will be good to look carefully at the Confessions for the “pattern of sound words” on these issues once more. I intend to do that and post what I’ve found in my reading. My new man wants to do that study right away, my old man is slow to get it done!
    Baker: The bottom line is as follows. The same preaching of Law and Gospel on the basis of a text might be used by God to convert by creating a new heart and new spirit. And God might also use the Law as first, second or third use. My preaching task is fulfilled and pleasing to God as long as I speak the Word in its purity and administer the sacraments rightly. It ought not be my concern as to the results since they are up to the Holy Spirit.
    McCain: I do not disagree, but I would say, at the same time, that there is nothing wrong with parenesis in Christian sermons, along the lines we find in St. Paul and even in our Lord. Here’s an interesting point of discussion. When Christ heals and forgives and then says to a person, “Go and sin no more” …. what was happening there? Is Christ “ending on Law”?
    Baker: Every sermon I preach has the following L&G outline based on the assigned text. “Here’s how God expects you to behave. You aren’t doing it. In fact, you will never do it properly because your old Adam is always involved. So forget about trying to perfect your motivation. Just do it. Don’t do it to get to heaven because you are already on your way there. Don’t do it to please God because He already is pleased with you in Christ. And when God considers your good work to be a fruit of the Holy Spirit, you will have no evidence at all that such is the case because the only real thing you will be aware of is your self-interest motivation. In fact, if you ever consider that you have done a sinless good work, it is mortal sin! As a Christian filled with the Holy Spirit, you really do deserve nothing but temporal and eternal punishment. God doesn’t need your good works. Your neighbor does. In fact, you best serve God by serving your neighbor. So just do it!
    McCain: I like that Tom, but I do find lacking the “Just do it!” approach in some sermons today and…to repeat myself…that’s been my concern and is my concern. I am noticing more and more that preachers are not even saying that much. That was Marquart’s concern and it is a concern with which I agree.
    Baker: But why are you going to heaven? Certainly not because of all that you do or even all that the Holy Spirit does through you. You are going to heaven because of something that happened on a wind-swept hill called Golgotha outside of Jerusalem centuries ago” And the preacher continues with the Gospel in accordance with the text of the sermon ending with unconditional promises!
    McCain: That’s always been my approach too, and it is, you can ask Rev. Wilken for he has heard me preach a sermon that was, actually, a sermon on good works. I need to dig that out. But lately I’ve just found myself wondering about the forms of the sermon and what I regard as a lack of parenesis in preaching.
    Baker: Recall, John the Baptist was killed for preaching the Law. Jesus was killed for preaching the Gospel. No preacher in the U.S. today is killed for preaching either.
    McCain: Are you sure? I think Jesus got killed for hacking off the leadership by calling them a brood of vipers and whitewashed tombs, but they were able finally to “nail” him on the claim to be the Son of God. That’s an interesting question to ponder. But I like your quip.
    Yet that Word and Sacrament results in creating saints from sinners who are spontaneously sanctified and doing the works prepared for them from before the foundation of the world! How do I know! I don’t know from any evidence. But I am sure because that’s what They promise; that is, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
    As an aside, the comments in the debate needed actual examples of sermon preaching to make clear what often seemed to go over our heads.
    McCain: That’s a very valid point. Perhaps that would be helpful.
    And finally, a bit off topic, one agreement and one disagreement. I really agree that sermons ought to be at least 20 to 25 minutes in length. And I totally disagree with the objection to reading a sermon manuscript.
    McCain: Just curious, Tom, what your style is. I considered opening a thread on manuscript v. no manuscript. I think it is a debate well worth having. The one thing I do not advocate in the “no manuscript” is literally “no manuscript.” Let me explain. I’m all for writing out the sermon in advance, word for word, but I’m not in favor of taking that manuscript into the pulpit and reading it. Others may well disagree with that. I know Luther did not write out his manuscripts, but prepared outlines, and frankly…it shows! Of course he was preaching for upwards to 60 minutes and could ramble, but he did try to work from an outline.
    Baker: The Holy Spirit is quite capable of moving those in darkness to the light whether the words are read or not read. He’s had a lot of effective experience with 66 books of written material that when read save. Then, of course, there’s Al Gore who really ought to read from a manuscript. If you have the gift of not having to read a manuscript, go for it. But if you are like me, don’t suggest that God will be more effective by my leaving the manuscript. Anyone hear of the word “adiaphora”?
    McCain: I don’t disagree. I highly doubt anyone would try to sugest that the H.S. doesn’t work through read manuscripts. It is a matter of communication and what makes for the better form of communication. Every form of communication has a certain delivery style most conducive to being received by the hearer. My point would be that there is a very long history of teaching preaching in our Synod that advocates not using a manuscript and, again, I used to poo-poo that, but now find myself recognizing the advantages of no-manuscript. I suspect a lot of people who do take their manuscripts into the pulpit do so out of habit much more than necessity.
    Tom, thanks for your thoughtful comments. Much to think about!
    Tom Baker

  40. Tom Baker

    Paul,
    Thanks for your comments and questions in regard to my comment. I do intend to answer them but want to wait if others have some reaction. Also, I intend to examine the blog site and discussion you mention but the location of the blog site was not provided. You wrote of it at the end of your fourth comment. And thanks for permitting me to be part of this fascinating discussion.
    McCain:
    Here is the link to the blog site:
    http://terribleswede.blogspot.com/2006/11/horror-fest-2006.html#links

  41. Holger Sonntag
    December 8th, 2006 at 13:21 | #41

    In Walther’s pastoral theology (Americanisch Lutherische Pastoraltheologie, p. 78ff., for German readers among us), he picks up a classic Lutheran (homiletical) instruction for speaking theologically, basically summarizing the five purposes of holy Scripture (according to 2 Tim. 3:16 and Rom. 15:4, not Rick Warren): to teach the truth, to rebuke the error, to instruct in how to live, to rebuke sin, to comfort. This is of course reminiscent of the Formula’s admonition that teaching what’s right also implies refuting what’s wrong, both in faith (“error”) and life (“sin”), SD RN 14; and what the Formula has to say about Rom. 15:4, the comforting purpose of theology, as the test case for teaching election properly. This also goes to show that the “five purposes of God’s word” really apply to every form of teaching God’s word, be it in the lecture hall, at a child’s bed, in the pulpit…
    I’m sure if we keep this in mind, and don’t get mechanical about it, we won’t end up with formulaic law-gospel straight jackets.
    Another thought: theological students spend hours without end thinking about the pastoral office, its nature, its duties etc. because, to be sure, it is the highest office in the church; but should we not afford the people (lay) something that gets close to this careful instruction and lets them rejoice in their callings in the home, at work, at church, and as a citizen *because they know for certain* what God wants them to do in a confused world (Phil. 1). There’s always the gray area of casuistry for pastors as for parents as for politicians, but the basic duties should be clear. This, rightly done, doesn’t have anything to do with hunkering down in the bunker of works righteousness unless you think that Luther actually contributed to works righteousness by writing The Freedom of a Christian or by writing, in the Small Catechism: “for all this (creation and providence) it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him” or “[my Lord redeemed me] so that I may be his own and live under him in his kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness.”
    Remember that Luther said a man instructed in Scripture, a good pastor, can teach all people in all vocations what they need to do and leave undone. I readily admit that some things have gotten a bit more complex, perhaps. But do we even conceive of the pastoral office in this way anymore?

  42. Rev. David Putz
    December 9th, 2006 at 10:10 | #42

    This reminded me of something Prof. Marquart told us. He said our sermons should not necessarily be a rigid Law/Gospel outline, but instead they should be a “tapestry” of law and gospel, with law and gospel weaved together throughout the sermon.

  43. Bill Kerner
    December 10th, 2006 at 16:33 | #43

    Tom Baker: “A Bible study is akin to being a medical student watching your professor explain open heart surgery using a blackboard. A sermon is akin to undergoing open heart surgery.”
    I am truly sorry to have to say so, but I could not disagree more. When the pastor leads me and my fellow laymen in confession of our sins, and then turns and absolves us, THEN I am undergoing surgery. Later in the service, when I come to the altar and receive the Body and Blood of Christ, THEN I am undergoing surgery. If ALL a sermon is supposed to be is a simple statement of Law (I’m a sinner) and Gospel (I’m forgiven for the sake of the shed blood, suffering and death of Jesus Christ), why not just say so? Why bother trying to find an infinite number of different ways of taking 15 minutes to say something that really only takes about one minute (or less) to express? And which has already been expressed in the liturgy anyway?
    I also cannot agree with the implication that preaching doctrine is inconsistant with being “the mouth of Christ”. It would seem to me that ALL of God’s Word proceeds from “the mouth of Christ”.
    The sermon is not like a lecture (which, remember, is given to medical students, not patients), nor is it like the surgery itself. Rather, the sermon is like the Surgeon explaining to the patient the need for and the purpose of the surgery, and further explaining to the patient why he needs to watch his diet, take his medication, avoid too much exertion, go to his therapy sessions…all in the light of the condition the patient suffers from and the surgery the patient required (i.e. how do all these things relate to each other).
    Why is it so hard to simply preach from the text? What was Jesus trying to tell His listeners, or what was Paul trying to tell all those churches in the Ancient world, or what were those Old Testament Prophets telling the children of Israel? How is it that these messages are so important that they apply to all mankind, including us? And, yes, if Law and Gospel are the common threads in a tapestry that hold all of this together (thank you Dr. Marquart by way of Rev. Putz), where are those common threads to be found in the text and how do they connect it all (both within the text and to the rest of Scripture)?
    When I read Luther’s sermons, they are very much preaching from the text, not attempts to find a new way to say the same thing Luther said the previous week (and every other week). Again, I know I am a layman giving all this unsolicited advice, and I want to assure all of you that I have the highest respect for all of you and the office you hold, but this issue has been a burden to me for a very long time.

Comment pages
1 2 862
Comments are closed.