Archive for November, 2010

LCMS President’s Office New Blog Site

November 30th, 2010 Comments off

You’ll want to follow the new blog site that launched today: Witness, Mercy, Life Together.

Categories: Uncategorized

Thinking of an E-Book Reader for Christmas? Choose Kindle

November 30th, 2010 14 comments

Are you considering buying an E-book reader as a Christmas gift for a friend, loved one, or for yourself? I have a recommendation:

Go Kindle.


(1) Amazon is, by far, the leader in e-book titles. It is a strong, stable company that has a huge established base in the e-book world.

(2) The Kindle is a great device. I think it is one sweet gadget. I don’t see much point in a 3G/digital data model, given the fact that the Internet is available via WiFi nearly everywhere these days. It is light, easy to read in bright light, and offers a great e-reader for $139. I think this has put it within reach of a many people today. When it first came out, it cost close to $500!

(3) The Kindle is not only a device, it is an entire platform that allows you to read Kindle formatted titles on a huge variety of devices: all desktop computers, all laptop computers, all netbook computers, on every Apple iPhone, iTouch, and on the iPad, on Android and Blackberry devices, etc. In other words, you have the best possible world of reading options with the Kindle platform.

(4) Concordia Publishing House has, presently, 94 titles available on the Kindle. We will be adding 100 or so more titles in the first half of next year.

By the way, here are the top twelve best selling CPH titles in the Amazon Kindle format:

The Lutheran Study Bible by Concordia Publishing House (Kindle Edition – Oct. 31, 2009) – Kindle eBook
Buy: $19.24
Auto-delivered wirelessly
Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, Second Edition (Pocket Edition) by Paul Timothy McCain (Kindle Edition – June 1, 2009) – Kindle eBook
Buy: $8.99
Auto-delivered wirelessly
Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation (ESV) by Martin Luther (Kindle Edition – Oct. 31, 2005) – Kindle eBook
Buy: $6.15
Auto-delivered wirelessly
Lutheran Book of Prayer, Fifth Edition by J.W. Acker (Kindle Edition – Feb. 1, 2005) – Kindle eBook
Buy: $6.59
Auto-delivered wirelessly
Chemnitz’s Works: The Two Natures in Christ by Martin Chemnitz (Kindle Edition – Jan. 1, 2005) – Kindle eBook
Buy: $29.99
Auto-delivered wirelessly
Hammer of God by Bo Giertz (Kindle Edition – May 31, 1960) – Kindle Book
Buy: $9.99
Auto-delivered wirelessly
The Discovery of Genesis by Ethel R. Nelson (Kindle Edition – Aug. 1, 1979) – Kindle eBook
Buy: $6.90
Auto-delivered wirelessly
Treasury of Daily Prayer by Scot A. Kinnaman (Kindle Edition – Oct. 31, 2008) – Kindle eBook
Buy: $29.99
Auto-delivered wirelessly
Reading the Psalms with Luther by Martin Luther (Kindle Edition – June 30, 2007) – Kindle eBook
Buy: $8.99
Auto-delivered wirelessly
The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel by C.F.W. Walther (Kindle Edition – Oct. 1, 1986) – Kindle eBook
Buy: $13.95
Auto-delivered wirelessly
History of Theology by Bengt Hagglund (Kindle Edition – Mar. 1, 2007) – Kindle eBook
Buy: $14.85
Auto-delivered wirelessly
Modern Fascism by Gene Edward Veith (Kindle Edition – Feb. 1, 1993) – Kindle eBook
Buy: $9.99
Auto-delivered wirelessly
Categories: Uncategorized

The Devil’s Work in the Church: Keeping People from Seeing Christ

November 30th, 2010 2 comments

Jesus says regarding Himself: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man comes to the Father but by Me.” John 14, 6 Peter confirms this statement by his declaration before the Jewish Sanhedrin, saying: “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4, 12 Paul adds his testimony by telling his Corinthians: “ I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” I Cor 2, 2. Verily, then, it is a great and awful sin not to draw any soul that has been entrusted to us for instruction to Jesus and not to tell that soul again and again what a treasure it has in the Lord Jesus, its Savior. To keep some one from believing in Christ is such an awful sin that words cannot express it. A preacher who restrains a soul from confidently laying hold of Christ — no matter whether he does it consciously or unconsciously, purposely or from blindness, through malice or as the result of a perverted zeal for the salvation of souls — deprives that soul, as far as he is concerned, of everlasting life. Instead of being a shepherd to that soul, he becomes a ravening wolf to it; instead of being its physician, he becomes its murderer; yea, instead of being an angel of God, he becomes a devil to that person. Alas, ever so many preachers have not realized until their dying day how many souls they have kept away from Christ by their unevangelical preaching and by their own fault have cause the souls entrusted to them to die of spiritual starvation. The result was that these unhappy preachers shortly before their death have had a severe soul-battle to fight with self-accusations and despair, and not a few of them have departed this life without consolation, in anguish, misery, and despair.

The worst offenders in this respect are the so-called rationalistic preachers, who with diabolical audacity mount Christian pulpits and instead of preaching Christ, the Savior, to all sinners, recite their miserable moral precepts for a virtuous life and fill the ears of the people with their empty bombast. To these rationalistic mercenaries, “whose God is their belly,” Phil 3, 19 the terrible woe is addressed, even in our day, which the Lord denounced, saying: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.” Matt 23, 13. What terror shall seize these preachers who used to call themselves friends and adorers of Jeus Christ when they must appear before His judgement-seat and hear Him address them in words of flaming anger: “I never knew you; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.” Matt 7, 23.

However, equally grievous is the offense of papists in this respect. They, too, do not draw men to Christ, the Savior and Friend of sinners, but represent Christ as a more rigorous lawgiver even than Moses because he has laid on men many more and much more rigorous commandments than Moses. A poor sinner coming to a priest in his anguish for advice is not directed to Christ, but to Mary, the so-called “Mother of Mercy”. They have taught men to be afraid of Christ, telling them that Mary must take them under her sheltering cloak. Or they direct them to some tutelary saint. For this horrible sin of directing poor souls away from Christ they will have to suffer the wrath of God, which will consign them to the place where “the smoke of their torment ascends up forever and ever.” Rev 14, 11 For failing to teach and proclaim Christ, telling men not to believe in Him, is as heinous an offense as blasphemously to brand Christ as a fanatic as the unbelievers do.

Well, it is easy to avoid this gross manner of keeping men away from Christ. I need not warn you against it. But it is difficult to avoid doing the same thing in a more refined manner. Innumerable preachers imagined that they were preaching Christ and proclaiming His doctrine until their eyes were opened and they saw that they had concealed Christ from the eyes of poor sinners and had directed men away from Him rather than to Him. ‘

from C.F.W. Walther, ‘Law and Gospel, Thirty-fifth Evening Lecture’ (September 18, 1885)

The Lutheran Difference – New Book from Concordia Publishing House – Great Christmas Gift

November 29th, 2010 11 comments

One of the most popular Bible study series we have done in recent years at Concordia Publishing House is titled The Lutheran Difference. It offers the opportunity for people to learn and discuss the major teachings of the Lutheran Church and how these teachings compare and contrast with the other major Christian churches in the world. Those Bible studies have, after considerable editing and enhancing, been turned into a wonderful new book titles, yes, The Lutheran Difference. This book is a perfect volume for anyone looking for a highly useful, accessible, and practical survey of the major points of Christian doctrine. It is a lay-friend comparative symbolics, to use more traditional theological terms. You can now purchase copies, and take a look at a nice sample from the book, by visiting the book’s web site.

Oh, and yes, this is the latest volume in The Essential Lutheran Library. It is a bound, hardback, in burgundy, or, technically “Sangria” as the cover material is called by the printer. I know you will really appreciate this book. It packs a whale of a lot of information into its 625 pages. Here is the description of The Lutheran Difference from the CPH web site:

This book began as a popular 18 booklet Bible Study series. In this new work, we gather together all the rich content of the series, order it around the Nicene Creed, and present it in one accessible volume so readers can access the facts they need.

As Lutherans interact with other Christians, they often find themselves struggling to explain their beliefs and practices. Although many Lutherans have learned the “what” of the doctrines of the Church, they do not always have a full scriptural foundation to share the “why.” When confronted with different doctrines or denominations, they sometimes cannot clearly state their faith—much less understand the differences.

Because of insecurities about explaining particular doctrines or practices, some Lutherans may avoid opportunities to share what they have learned from Christ and His Word. The Lutheran Difference identifies how Lutherans differ from other Christians and shows from the Bible why Lutherans differ. Such information will prepare Lutherans to share their faith clearly; it will help non-Lutherans understand the Lutheran difference.

This book was written entirely for the lay person but may also serve well as a high school or college religion class text. This resource would be handy for anyone looking for an additional resource beyond Luther’s Small Catechism.

General Editor
Edward A. Engelbrecht

Contributing Editors
Robert C. Baker
John P. Hellwege Jr.
Rachel C. Hoyer
Charles P. Schaum

Armand J. Boehme
William M. Cwirla
Alfonso Espinosa
Korey Maas
Thomas Manteufel
Angus Menuge
Michael Middendorf
Steven P. Mueller
Patra Pfotenhauer
Robert Rossow
Gregory Seltz
Bret Taylor

Categories: CPH Resources

Highly Bendable and Amusing Toys

November 27th, 2010 Comments off

The Bible is Not a Collection of Riddles

November 26th, 2010 Comments off

“The apostle is not talking about an unattainable, floating in the air, and enduring in the air ideal, but of a feasible and enforceable practice, when he exhorts Christians: “mark those who cause schism and nuisance alongside the doctrine that you have learned and depart from them!” – But one exclaims: How can Christians – simple-minded Christians – recognize those who teach differently and distinguish between truth and error? Even simple Christians can do this. Their Savior, who says remain in His Word, has given them in the hand the means to do it. The Holy Scriptures, the Word of the Prophets and Apostles, is for Christians not a collection of riddles, but a lamp to their feet and a light to their path.

“Christians can only be wrong in their thoughts, words, and opinion, if they place the light of the Word of God under a bushel. When they use their light and right, when they hear and believe their Lord’s Words, then they know the Truth and the Truth makes them free from all bondage of human doctrine. The Lord expressly says that His sheep know their Shepherd’s voice. But the stranger’s voice they do not know, but flee before him (John 10:3-5). Let us remind one another that when we allow the Word of Christ to dwell richly among us, then it makes wise the simple. One raises finally another [objection]: But success! Success, to set aside the separation in this way, is indeed very uncertain. One must despair of success if one looks at the past and keeps in the present survey. Success, dear fathers and brothers, is not ours, but God’s business, Who has prescribed for us this way to achieve unity and to eliminate separation. Incidentally, we must not complain about success.

“The Synodical Conference has worked not separately but together. It has steadily grown in spite of decline around it and it is still the most numerous Lutheran Church Fellowship in the United States. Our demise has been predicted from the start. In recent months some have repeated this prediction. It will not come true. We want to ask God primarily for two things. First, for humility. It is not our merit, but God’s grace alone, that we do not teach otherwise, but confess God’s Word. This humility is also to be felt in everything we speak and write. If we certainly are in the flesh, then we will not argue not according to the flesh. We also do not want anyone who occasionally goes astray treated immediately as a false teacher. It is no wonder, explains Luther, that someone in these high things, that we are by nature so alien, sometimes has his own thoughts and lacks some in words. Luther admits that of himself, and we will not hold back with the same confession. But we should not give in to our own thoughts, but once again take hold of God’s Word and thereby resist all our thoughts and all wrong speech. For this we should help each other in humility.

“Secondly, we want to ask God for mercy that we, as in sincere humility, also testify with clarity and decisiveness the doctrine of the apostles and prophets and expose and reject foreign doctrine. So we strive in the right way toward the unity of the Christian Church and toward the elimination of harmful separation. May God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, blessed forever, grant it! Amen.”

Source: Franz Pieper, ‘Sermon on Romans 16:17-18′; HT: Gnesio

Do as you please, because you are always forgiven? No.

November 25th, 2010 3 comments

We Lutherans are subject to a special temptation. We have been so much assured that our standing with God is based entirely on God’s free and undeserved love and not on any action of ours that the devil is right there to suggest: “Well, if it not based on any action of yours, your actions don’t matter. You have a nice cushion to rest on there. You have complete forgiveness in Christ. So do as you please. You are always forgiven.” There is no more hideous mockery of Christ and Calvary than that. Christ died in our place so we may not be condemned and punished for our sins. He takes all that for us so we may be forgiven and may know the living God as a God who graciously involves Himself with us and we with Him. Are we, then, to make of this the basis for a life that contradicts that we are involved with Him? — Dr. Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons, p. 348. HT: Weedon.

Categories: Church Fathers

Wrestling With the Turkey and Playing the Turkey

November 24th, 2010 Comments off

Categories: Uncategorized

Where did the word “sacrament” come from?

November 24th, 2010 6 comments

Often non-Lutherans are bothered by the fact that Lutherans teach there are sacraments. They think that the word “sacrament” is somehow a “Roman Catholic” thing. No, it is simply a “Bible thing,” therefore, “a Christian thing.” I found a nice little summary of where the word “sacrament” comes from.

By the end of third century, Latin had overtaken Greek as the language of common people in the western half of the Roman Empire. Western clergy preached in Latin, western theologians wrote in Latin, and western scholars translated the Bible into Latin. Western Christians heard the sermons, read the writings, and studied the Bible in Latin. The word μυστηριον was a problem. There was no Latin word that corresponded to it. They could have transliterated the Greek word into Latin as mysterium, and they often did that, but that did not solve the problem so much as avoid it, because most Latin-speaking people still had no idea what it meant. So western Christian scholars used the word sacramentum to translate μυστηριον. These scholars included Tertullian, who was one of the earliest Latin theologians, and Jerome, who translated the Bible into Latin about a hundred years later.

But where did they get this word and why did they choose it? They borrowed it from the Roman Army. A recruit for the Roman army became a soldier by undergoing a sacramentum. The sacramentum had two parts: the soldier took an oath of office, and the Army branded him behind the ear with the number of his legion. The sacramentum resulted in new responsibilities and new advantages. The soldier acquired the responsibility for conforming to military discipline and obeying military commands. He also acquired social and legal benefits, because living conditions in the Roman Army were very good and veterans received special privileges and benefits. Ancient Latin theologians seized upon sacramentum as the best Latin equivalent of the Greek word mystery when it referred to a church rite, because the church rite is simultaneously spiritual and physical, and because the person who undergoes the sacrament simultaneously receives new responsibilities and a new spiritual status before God.

So that is how the word sacrament came into Christian theology in the west. For many centuries, the secular and the theological uses of the word existed side by side. By the time of the Reformation, it was solely a Christian theological term.

Categories: Uncategorized

A Great Day of Shooting

November 23rd, 2010 11 comments

One of the, many, great things about having children is how they help you remember the things you love. Let me explain. During my childhood I lived a few houses down from a very large bayou, in Warrington, Florida. I spent endless hours shooting and plinking at, and I hate to admit this now, but at aluminum cans I would throw out in the water and then shoot at until they sank. My son Paul recently acquired a few firearms and my love of, and for, target shooting was rekindled. I now have a M4 Carbine, made by Daniel Defense, a Glock model 22 handgun, a Ruger 10/22 rifle, a Ruger Mark III Huntsman and am once again a proud member of the National Rifle Association and the Arnold Rifle and Pistol Club. My son Paul and I had a great day out at the club today. Here’s a video of me shooting through a magazine on my M4 in three round bursts. The “silencer” effect is the result of the noise of the gun overwhelming the microphone in the iPhone. There’s a reason I’m wearing the “mikey mouse” hearing protection! The gun is *loud*

Categories: Uncategorized

First Full-Length Biography of Wilhelm Löhe Coming Soon

November 22nd, 2010 5 comments

Dr. C.F.W. Walther said this about Pastor Löhe:

‘Next to God, it is Pastor Loehe to whom our Synod is indebted for its happy beginning and rapid growth in which it rejoices; it may well honor him as its spiritual father. It would fill the pages of an entire book to recount even briefly what for many years this man, with tireless zeal in the noblest unselfish spirit, has done for our Lutheran Church and our Synod in particular.’

—Quoted by Erich H. Heintzen in Love Leaves Home: Wilhelm Loehe and the Missouri Synod (CPH, 1973), p 73.

Believe it or not, there never has been a full-length biography of Wilhelm Löhe published in English before. But now, coming soon from Concordia Publishing House, is such a book, a translation of a very well done biography published in Germany a few years back. You can pre-order the book on the CPH web site. You can also view a sample from the book.

More information on the book:

The best biography of a father of confessional Lutheranism in North America.

Loehe, who never visited the United States, sent missionaries, founded seminaries, established deaconess training, studied doctrine and liturgy, and fought with church officials. Geiger sets forth Loehe’s life, and the divided opinions about him, in a compelling and authoritative narrative.

Dr. Erika Geiger lived in Neuendettelsau, Germany (1953-55) where Loehe and his work made an enduring impression on her. In 1956 she served as a deaconess in a hospital of the Neuendettelsau Deaconess Institute. She later served as an associate professor in Korntal bei Stuttgart, at the Friedrich-Oberlin-Fachoberschule and at the Fachhochschule for Religionspadagogik, Munich.

Translator Dr. Wolf Knappe (1926– ) comes from a family of German pastors. In 1951 St. Peter’s Lutheran Church called him to serve in Wine Hill, IL. He has also served as a guest lecturer and as a translator for Luther Digest.

Praise for “The Life, Work and Influence of Wilhelm Loehe (1808-1872)”

Erika Geiger narrates Pastor Wilhelm Loehe’s story with accuracy, sympathy, and vigor. Avoiding hagiographic impulses she paints a picture of Loehe that allows readers to see his humanity in the multiple scenes of his life: a boy saddened by the premature death of his father, a struggling student of theology, a disenchanted pastor wondering if he had a place in the church, a grieving widower, an energetic preacher, a caring shepherd, a determined organizer of missions, and an aging and somewhat broken old man yet living in Christian hope. This first, full length biography of a key player in Lutheran history is accessible to lay audiences and appreciated by scholars.

—Prof. John T. Pless, MDiv
Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry & Missions
Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne
Co-President of the International Loehe Society

Those looking for a model for pastoral ministry with integrity do well to emulate Loehe. Few pastors have mobilized their congregations for mission as he. Steady, patient preaching and teaching, combined with scholarship, zeal for outreach, and all from a “pastor’s heart,” placed Loehe to move his congregation and ministry to have both a local and an international impact. Loehe’s work was guided by a thorough commitment to Jesus Christ and a love for the church—the center of a vibrant service grounded in Scripture and guided by the Confessions—leading to liturgical renewal, social mercy, diaconal ministry, and missional outreach. May this fine translation help shape and inspire a new generation to do ministry in the spirit of Loehe.

—Prof. Mark Mattes, PhD
Professor of Religion and Philosophy
Grand View University, Des Moines, IA

Erika Geiger’s masterful biography breathes new life into Wilhelm Loehe and his legacy for the mission of the contemporary church.
Through a splendid use of original source material the reader is immersed in the challenges and affairs confronting Loehe in his time. Moreover, one is able to trace how the commitments of Loehe continue to influence the mission of the church today. The excellent translation by Wolf Knappe makes this compelling book the standard work on Loehe’s life in the English language.

—Prof. Craig L. Nessan, ThD
Academic Dean and Professor of Contextual Theology
Wartburg Theological Seminary

While there is precious little in this book about the LCMS, it is a must read for every LCMS Pastor and a strongly recommended read for the LCMS layman. The author is able to capture the essence of the theological formation of Loehe. His catechesis as a Confessional Lutheran had as much to do with the struggles in his life as much as it did with formal training at the University. From his lonely school days to his frustration with raising children as a widower, from his love for the Ministry to the struggles with sinful parishioners, from his love for the Lutheran Confessions to his position that the Confessions were not yet complete, from his care for the hurting and the lack of support for his deaconate; you can walk through his life and see how the “theology of the cross” was his only hope and stay. Loehe clearly was a man who understood the connection between faithful adherence to the Word and God and the Mission of the Church proclaiming the Cross of Christ.

—Pres. Brian Saunders, MDiv
President of Iowa District East of the LCMS

Until now, Loehe has been known to English readers primarily through his Three Books about the Church. Now, Erika Geiger’s biography adds another important dimension to Loehe’s witness to the Gospel of Christ: Loehe’s own life as pastor, father, friend and teacher!

—Prof. David Ratke, PhD
Lenoir Rhyne University, Hickory, NC

How to Live a Life of Significance

November 22nd, 2010 1 comment

“How to” books are a dime a dozen, but very few ever even come close to getting it right when it comes to what makes for a life that is genuinely and truly significant. In his new book, The Calling: Live a Life of Significance, Kurt Senske has hit a home run as he walks the reader through a workbook approach to taking a look at life and understanding how God guide us to the choices that give our lives significance. I am going to be talking to you more about this book, and yes, pestering you pastors to make this book part of a parish study program.

Every Lutheran should, no, I’ll be even more bold about it, every Lutheran must read this book and work through it. As Dr. Senke notes in the book, living out our calling from God is not for the faint of heart. Life a life of significance requires a person to take a path that many may not understand, that the world may sneer at, and may result in sacrifices, both personally and professionally, as we speak the truth. It is not easy, but it is worthwhile. Please visit Kurt Senke’s web site and take a look around. The book is very accessible, beautifully written and designed, in such a way as to allow plenty of room for personal note taking and reflections. It is only $16.99 and I strongly encourage you to buy it and use it, both personally, and throughout your congregation. Here’s a sampler from the book.

This book is designed to educate readers on one’s vocation and what that means in terms of living out our life in our various and overlapping vocational arenas – family, professional, community, and congregational. Throughout the book, what the true meaning of “success” is for a Christian is examined to help the reader discover and live out the life that God uniquely created for them.

The Calling: Live a Life of Significance
*Identify and avoid common mistakes
*Establish eight strategies for living a life of significance
*Set and attain goals
*Diminish your ego to enhance your ability to serve
*Lead a life of simplicity
*Care for yourself so that you are able to care for others

Dr. Kurt Senske serves as Chief Executive Officer of Lutheran Social Services of the South (LSS), as Chair of the Board of Directors of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, and on the Board of Directors of Lutheran Services in America. He holds a law degree from the University of Illinois College of Law, a BS in Business Administration from Valparaiso University, a master’s degree in International Relations from Schiller International University in Paris, France, and a PhD in Government from the University of Texas at Austin.

I invite you to watch two video that President Matthew Harrison made about this book.

Categories: CPH Resources

Is It The End of the World as We Know It?

November 22nd, 2010 1 comment

The new volume of Luther’s Works (vol. 58) has a good amount of teaching on the end of the world. On pp. 163-170, Luther speaks strongly from Romans 8 that this present creation will be renewed just as the bodies of Christians will be. “There remains hope, which we possess together with creation…” Of course, he still says in the same sermon that with our resurrected bodies we will go to heaven. Also, he mentions plants and minerals as participating in this renewal, but is silent about animals. However, in another sermon in the same volume (pp. 133-147), Luther says that the entire world will be destroyed, will die, and will be raised again, even that it will be obliterated, etc.The fact is, Luther could say both things: that the creation will be obliterated, and that the creation will be renewed. He seems to have held to a renewal and transformation of this earth, but only after it has been completely and totally destroyed, maybe even annihilated.

By the way, if you go to the link for the book, you will be able to take a look at a substantial sample, via PDF file. Check it out.

Keep Your Eye On the Prize: The Crown of Life

November 22nd, 2010 1 comment

Another interesting blog post from Pastor Mark Henderson, I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy, 4:6-8_

“We confess that eternal life is a reward, because it is something due on account of the promise, not on account of our merits. For the justification has been promised, which we have above shown to be properly a gift of God; and to this gift has been added the promise of eternal life, according to Rom. 8:30: Whom He justified, them He also glorified. Here belongs what Paul says, 2 Tim. 4:8: There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me. For the crown is due the justified because of the promise. And this promise saints should know, not that they may labor for their own profit, for they ought to labor for the glory of God; but in order that they may not despair in afflictions, they should know God’s will, that He desires to aid, to deliver, to protect them. Just as the inheritance and all possessions of a father are given to the son, as a rich compensation and reward for his obedience, and yet the son receives the inheritance, not on account of his merit, but because the father, for the reason that he is his father, wants him to have it. Therefore it is a sufficient reason why eternal life is called a reward, because thereby the tribulations which we suffer, and the works of love which we do, are compensated, although we have not deserved it.”
Defence of the Augsburg Confession, V, 241-243

I wonder how many pastors will be preaching on Paul’s text this Sunday? I certainly am. I’ve found there is a great need to clearly expound the relationship between justification and reward to our Lutheran folk, as this is a question on which they are not clear, and often much confused. As the Confessions urge: “the preaching of rewards and punishments is necessary. God’s wrath is set forth in the preaching of punishments…Grace is set forth in the preaching of rewards.”

Perhaps in the past there has been too much “we are unworthy servants…poor miserable sinners” (true enough in its proper context), and not enough “we are sons and heirs of the kingdom” (note how the Confessions pick up this theme)? Too much law, not enough Gospel? Older folk tell me this was the case. The preacher needs to diagnose his hearers rightly, lest he apply the wrong medicine! (Or, rather, it might be better to say that he needs to have a word for both the self-righteous and the repentant sinners.)

The Confessions provide helpful guidance on properly distinguishing Law and Gospel on this matter, and can steer the preacher on the proper course between the Scylla of denying scripture’s teaching on rewards out of (understandable) concern to keep the sola gratia (grace alone) pure, and the Charybdis of the Roman Catholic importation of human merit into justification. The sermon might have to clearly reject the Roman concept of Gnadenlohn (“gracious merit”), as the Germans call it, whereby human works merit an increase in grace and/or justification (sic!). This scholastic innovation has even crept into popular theology (“God helps those who help themselves”).

An interesting challenge is whether/how to fit the Gospel (Luke 18:9-14) in as an illustration? This parable, which so clearly teaches justification by grace alone though faith alone, could be a good place to start the sermon: “In our Gospel this morning we hear of a man who was justified freely by God’s grace and mercy…yet in our second reading Paul writes to Timothy about rewarded for keeping the faith, which reminds us that elsewhere in scripture, rewards for works we do are mentioned (cite examples)…What’s going on here? Is salvation and eternal life a gift or a reward? How do we reconcile these teachings of scripture?”

The key to exegeting the Pauline text is the place he assigns to faith.

The Confessional teaching that works should be done to the glory of God could be brought in at the conclusion of the sermon, and might bring the sermon to a close on an eschatological theme – the crown of righteousness…the glories of heaven… praising God (for himself, and also for works done in his name).

Another direction a sermon on this text could take is to consider faith as both gift and task.

Note – This is really just me ‘thinking out loud’ as I meditate on the text in preparation for my sermon this Sunday. It is not intended to serve as a replacement for any other preacher’s own reflections, but if it helps…SDG.

Categories: Christian Life

God’s Love is Shown for Us Through His Correction

November 21st, 2010 1 comment

Fulgentius of Ruspe on Rev. 3:19: Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

“The kindness of God leads us to penance. He afflicts us with trials, he corrects us with infirmities, teaches us with cares, so that we who have sinned in the health of the body may learn to abstain from sins in infirmity. We who scorned the mercy of God in frivolity, corrected by the lash of sadness should fear his justice. Thus it comes about that we who by abusing health have begotten infirmity for ourselves, through that infirmity may again procure the benefits of health. And we who through frivolity have fallen into trials, through these trials may regain happiness. Holy Scripture bears witness that God’s love for us is shown more by the lash and correction. For it says, “My child, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproofs, for the Lord reproves the one he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”vAnd the Savior himself says that he loves those he reproves, saying, “Those whom I love, I reprove and chastise.” The teaching of the apostles does not cease to proclaim that “it is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” The Lord himself also says that the road which leads to life is constricted and the gate narrow.”

— Fulgentius of Ruspe, LETTER 7.16, TO VENANTIA.40

William C. Weinrich, Revelation, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture NT 12, 53 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005).

Categories: Church Fathers