“Even though the Word is uttered by men,” says Luther, “it is not their word, but the Word of God …. Hence there is no need of climbing up into heaven to obtain remission of sins. God has put the forgiveness of sins into holy Baptism, into the Lord’s Supper, and into the Word. Yes, He has put it into the mouth of every Christian when he comforts you and assures you of the grace of God through the merit of Jesus Christ, so that you should accept and believe it just as if Christ Himself had with His own mouth assured you of it.” (St. L. XIII:2439 ff.)
Today and tomorrow are your very last chance to take advantage of Concordia Publishing House’s Spring sale pricing on many items, including The Lutheran Study Bible and the Book of Concord, along with a myriad of other great resources and gifts. Seriously: today and tomorrow. That’s it. After May 31 the sale is over. So, act now and do not delay. Tarry not! He who hesitates is lost. Strike while the iron hot. And, whatever your favorite cliche is, insert here.
Every Christian has a creed, either formal or informal, we all have something which we would say, “This is what I believe.” And this is precisely what “Creed” means, from the Latin word “credo” or “I believe.” I thought you would enjoy something I’ve been, literally, carrying around with me for over ten years. It is a page I photocopied out of a very old Lutheran theology book. Shame on me, I did not write down from whence this page came, but it is old. From the early 17th century. It is a phrase-by-phrase presentation of the Apostles’ Creed with corresponding Bible texts both from the Old Testament and New Testament. It cites verses we may be familiar with as “proof texts” for the Creed, but interestingly, it also cites texts we might not first think of as proof passages for the various phrases in the Creed. It does reveal the nature of how the Bible was understood in Lutheran Orthodoxy, and to this day among genuinely confessional Lutheran churches. Wisdom 6:6 is “For mercy will soon pardon the meanest: but mighty men shall be mightily tormented.”
I believe (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 4:5)
In God (Deut. 6:4 1 Cor. 8:6)
The Father (Psalm 89:27; Matthew 7:11)
Almighty (Genesis 7:1; 2 Cor. 6:18)
Maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 33:6; John 5:17)
And in Jesus ( Zech 9:9; Matthew 1:21)
Christ (Daniel 9:24; John 3:34)
His only (Zechariah 13:7; John 1:14)
Son (Psalm 2:7; Matthew 16:16)
Our Lord ( Jeremiah 23:6; John 20:28)
Who was conceived (Jeremiah 31:22; Luke 1:31)
By the Holy Spirit (Daniel 2:45; Matthew 1:20)
Born ( Isaiah 9:6; John 1:14)
Of the Virgin Mary (Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:43)
Suffered (Isaiah 50:6; Luke 23:25)
Under Pontius Pilate (Psalm 2:2; Luke 18:32)
Was crucified (Psalm 22:17; John 3:14)
Died (Daniel 9:26; Rom. 5:8)
And was buried ( Isaiah 53:9; John 12:24)
Descended into hell (Psalm 16:10; Ephesians 4:9)
And on the third day (Hosea 6:2; Matthew 26:32; Acts 10:40-41)
He rose again from the dead (Isaiah 63:1; 2 Timothy 2:8)
Ascended into heaven (Psalm 68:19; Col. 2:15)
And sits at the right hand of the God the Father Almighty (Psalm 110:1; Mark 16:19)
From thence he will come (Isaiah 66:15; Acts 1:11)
To judge (Wisdom of Solomon 6:6; Acts 17:31)
The living and the dead (Daniel 12:2; 1 Cor. 15:51)
I believe in the Holy Spirit (Zechariah 12:10; John 15:26)
The holy (Psalm 45:14; Ephesians 5:26)
Christian Church (Psalm 22:26; Matthew 16:18)
The communion of saints (Exodus 19:5; Ephesians 4:3)
The forgiveness of sins (Psalm 32:1; Acts 10:43)
The resurrection of the body (Isaiah 66:14; John 5:28)
And the life everlasting (Psalm 16:11; 1 Peter 1:4)
Amen! (Psalm 72:19; 2 Cor. 1:20)
“Therefore it is useless and impossible to command or compel anyone by force to believe one thing or another. A different method must be used; force cannot accomplish it …. Faith is a voluntary thing, to which no one can be forced. Nay, it is a divine work in the soul, certainly not a matter which outward authority could compel or create …. The blind, wretched folk do not see how utterly hopeless and impossible a thing they are attempting. For no matter how sternly they command and how hard they rave, they can only force the mouth and hand of the people to comply; the heart they cannot compel, though they wear themselves out trying …. In this way they compel weak consciences to lie, to deny, and to say what they do not believe in their hearts, and thus they load themselves down with the dreadful sins of others.” (St. L. X:397 f.)
President Harrison and Others Offer Prayers and Blessings for Vacation Bible School Directors and Teachers
A nice video encouragement for those involved in Vacation Bible School this year…
“When God creates faith in a man, that is as great a work as if He created heaven and earth all over again” (St. L. IX:972).
“We owe them something, those boys. We owe them first a promise: That just as they did not forget their missing comrades, neither, ever, will we. And there are other promises. We must always remember that peace is a fragile thing that needs constant vigilance. We owe them a promise to look at the world with a steady gaze and, perhaps,a resigned toughness, knowing that we have adversaries in the world and challenges and the only way to meet them and maintain the peace is by staying strong.”
— From President Ronald Reagan’s Memorial Day Speech, 1986
“In order that nobody may deceive us, John says it once more against the ‘enthusiasts’ that he writes these things: ‘These things have I written unto you.’ For them the letter is a dead thing on paper. But John says: ‘I write you,’ since the writing should serve to make the Epistle a means by which one receives faith and eternal life. In the twentieth chapter of his Gospel John says: ‘These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that, believing, ye might have life through His name.’ Therefore we should know that the testimony of God comes to us in no other way than through the human voice or Scripture. ‘All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.’ 2 Tim. 3:16 f. Likewise in the preceding verse of the chapter cited: ‘And that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.’ Again, 1 Tim. 4:13: ‘Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.’ Why does God command to read the Scriptures if written matter is a dead thing? Why do the “enthusiasts” write and publish books if the letter is powerless and useless? Why do they seek to instruct us and others by their writings? If they say that the Spirit is there before the writing, and they first had the Spirit, and then they wrote: that is no argument. For, then, Scripture would be good for nothing but for show. Hear what Christ says: ‘Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their Word,’ John 17:20. ‘Through their Word’ certainly means their word of mouth or the written word, not the ‘inner word.’ For that reason one must above all things hear and read the Word, which the Holy Ghost uses as His means. When one reads the Word, the Holy Spirit is there, and on that account it is impossible to hear or read Scripture without benefit.” (St. L. IX:1514 f.; VIII:829 ff.)
“Over against all that reason suggests or would measure and fathom, yes, all that our senses feel and perceive, we must learn to cling to the Word and simply judge according to it …. For if you insist on judging according to what you see and feel and, when you are told God’s Word, urge your opposite feelings and say: You have good talking, but my heart talks quite another language, and if you felt what I feel, you, too, would talk differently, etc.: then God’s Word is not in your heart, but by your own thoughts, reason, and musings you have smothered and extinguished it. In short, if you will not esteem the Word above all your feelings, eyes, senses, and heart, you will inevitably be lost, and there is no help for you …. I also feel my sin, and the Law, and the devil on my neck, that I lie prostrate under it as under a heavy load. But what should I do? Were I to judge according to such feelings and my strength, I and all men would have to despair and perish. But if I desire to be helped, I must verily face about and look at the Word and learn from it to say: I indeed feel God’s wrath, the devil, death, and hell; but the Word says otherwise, namely, that I have a gracious God through Christ, who is my Lord, superior to the devil and all creatures.” (St. L. VIII:1102.)
We continue to receive truly outstanding endorsements for the The Apocrypha: The Lutheran Edition with Notes. Here is the most recent batch of endorsements from a number of Lutheran leaders and professors, from various Lutheran church bodies here in the USA.
This is an extraordinary volume that should be in the library of every serious student of Holy Scripture. Especially helpful are the historical outlines and theological underpinnings of the intertestamental period. Returning from Babylonian exile, the chastened and repentant God’s covenant people struggled to remain faithful. Entering into a post-Christian era, we can learn much from those who have gone before us when the Messianic Hope was a minority faith. Studying this volume in conjunction with the Bible will enrich you for the living of these days.
—Rev. Timothy J. Scharr
President, Southern Illinois District, LCMS
This companion to The Lutheran Study Bible will be a very helpful tool for Lutherans to become reacquainted with the Apocrypha. I say reacquainted because the Apocrypha were long included in German and English Bibles. More recently among Lutheran Bible readers, knowledge of the Apocrypha has almost disappeared. This volume provides all the tools—translations, notes, and supplemental essays—that readers will need to become familiar with these writings.
—Professor John Brug
Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary
The Apocrypha not only illustrates sin and grace, godlessness and godliness, humanity’s need and God’s grace for the reader, it also helps one to better understand the meaning of “the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4), when God sent His Son to redeem us. Reading it on one’s own, however, is daunting at best. The Apocrypha: The Lutheran Edition with Notes helps the reader to understand the significance of the Apocrypha itself along with issues such as canonicity and historical context. From introduction through the study notes, charts and illustrations to the final topical index, the reader will find great assistance and guidance. And through this guidance, the reader comes to a better understanding of the Word made flesh who gave Himself to save us.
—Rev. Dan P. Gilbert
President, Northern Illinois District, LCMS
There recently has been a renewed interest in the Lutheran devotional writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In this literature their use and interest in the Apocrypha is clearly evident. The devotional writers have a genuine appreciation of these books and especially for Ecclesiasticus and the Wisdom of Solomon. This is certainly in keeping with Luther’s evaluation of the Apocrypha: “These books are not held equal to the Scriptures but are useful and good to read” (AE 35:337). Concordia is to be commended for this excellent Lutheran edition of the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha: The Lutheran Edition with Notes will definitely be edifying for twenty-first century Christians.
—Gaylin R. Schmeling
President, Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary
CPH’s The Apocrypha: The Lutheran Edition with Notes provides a great resource for those who, having mastered the canonical books, desire to delve into those books that arise out of the intertestamental period. The explanations and historical data will help both the lay and clerical reader wade through some unfamiliar literature. The liturgical uses of this literature are especially highlighted. Finally, the appendices will help those who are confounded by the constant resurrection of the so-called “lost books” of the ancient world by the ignorant or misleading media. The reader will be comforted by the clear distinction that is able to be drawn between the canonical books and those of non-canonical status. CPH’s Apocrypha is awonderful resource for the church.
—Scott R. Murray, Ph.D.
Senior Pastor, Memorial Lutheran Church
Fifth Vice-President, LCMS
I have been pleased to review this latest CPH treasure from the perspective of an interested churchman who has watched 60 years of softening in general Lutheran attitude toward things associated with the Roman Catholic Church. Bringing these intertestamental writings out of such shadows is not only bold and timely but may be one of CPH’s greatest gifts to today’s Lutheran and Protestant world. With its publication of The Apocrypha: The Lutheran Edition with Notes, CPH signals that these writings are okay to read. These writings (and the commentary CPH provides) make available to both clergy and laity a very important aid to Bible study: a firsthand look into the historical context that God Himself regarded as “the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4).
—Raymond L. Hartwig
Secretary, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
Edward Engelbrecht and Concordia Publishing House are to be commended for publishing The Apocrypha: The Lutheran Edition with Notes. It is a fitting companion to The Lutheran Study Bible. The introductions, historical articles, appendices, and reference guide provide a concise and immensely helpful overview of the intertestamental period. All who lead or participate in Bible studies will find these resources, as well as the text of the Apocrypha, to be of great value in better understanding the Old and New Testaments.
—Rev. Mark C. Chavez
General Secretary, North American Lutheran Church
Years ago a popular Sunday TV program announced that the evening’s offering was the “biblical” story of Judith and Holofernes. I’d never heard of them! If you don’t recognize them, or the names of Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, or Judas Maccabeus, if you’ve ever wondered about the origin of Hanukkah, or what happened between the time of Nehemiah and John the Baptist, you will discover why Martin Luther recommended reading the Apocrypha even though it is not Scripture. This marvelous edition is chock-full of helps that mark it as a truly Lutheran study edition!
—Rev. Terry Cripe
President, Ohio District, LCMS
I love stuff like this….do you? This will come in very handy if you happen to stumble into one of those time portals and find yourself back in Ancient Rome.
If God were to bid you pick up a straw or strip a feather, and with it command, order, and promise that through this act you should have forgiveness of all your sins, grace, and everlasting life, should you not accept that with great pleasure and gratitude, love it, praise it, and esteem that straw or feather a higher and holier possession than heaven and earth? For however insignificant the straw or feather is, by it you get so precious a gift as neither heaven nor earth, nor all the angels, can give you. Why are we such shameful folk that we do not esteem the water of Baptism, the bread and wine which is Christ’s body and blood, the spoken Word, and the laying on of hands for the forgiveness of sins to be as precious and sacred a thing as we would hold such a straw or feather to be? For in these things, as we see and hear, God Himself wills to work, and they are to be His water, Word, hand, bread and wine, whereby it is His will to sanctify and save us in Christ, who has obtained this salvation for us and sent His Holy Spirit from the Father to apply this to us. On the other hand, even though you were to go on a pilgrimage in heavy armor to the shrine of St. James, or let yourself be killed by the severe life of the Carthusians, Franciscans, or Dominicans in order to be saved, and God had not commanded or instituted this, what good would it do you? He doesn’t know of these things, but the devil and you have devised them, like the special sacraments and the orders of priests. Even though you were able to carry heaven and earth on your shoulders in order to be saved, it would be labor lost, while he who picked up the straw (if God commanded it) would do more than you, even if you could carry ten worlds.” (St. L. XV1:2296.)
From time to time, I hear that there are still some Lutherans who are very confused about the doctrine of justification, specifically the aspect of it known as objective justification, the teaching that God was in the world reconciling it to Himself through the death of His Son. This was an issue of some moment years ago when a dear friend of my mentor, Kurt Marquart, had a member of his congregation that was unduly influenced by false teachers. He turned to Dr. Marquart for assistance in refuting errors regarding objective justification being spread by this layman. Dr. Marquart prepared this excellent response to errors concerning objective justification, which Pastor Mark Hendersen recently highlighted on his blog.
Having been asked by Trinity Church, Bridgeport, Missouri, for a theological analysis of certain papers by Mr. Larry Darby on the subject of “objective justification,” I herewith submit my findings first of all with profound regrets for the long delay, and secondly with the humble prayer that anything now said may still be of help to Christian consciences struggling with this issue.
Given the high level of conflict that has ensued in this matter, I have attempted scrupulously to restrict my remarks to matters of fact and theology, and to avoid inflammatory rhetoric or judgments about motives. I am conscious of no ill will or prejudice against anyone involved in this dispute.
By way of a basic frame of reference I shall first sketch out the standard Lutheran perspective on justification, as found above all in the Book of Concord itself, together with its biblical basis, and then evaluate Mr. Darby’s arguments in that context, spelling out specific agreements and disagreements with his theses.1
1. A Digression on Terminology
I agree with Henry Hamann that the terminology “objective/subjective justification” is less than ideal since “subjective justification . . . is every whit as objective as objective justification.”2
On the other hand, when Calvinists use the same terminology, it expresses their meaning very well: “Passive or subjective justification takes place in the heart or conscience of the sinner.”3 The Reformed reject universal grace, hence cannot mean general justification by “objective justification;” and “subjective justification” means for them something experiential—precisely what it does not mean for Lutherans. Biblically, justification is God’s act, which faith receives or believes, but does not feel or “experience.”
To avoid these problems, it would be best to retain the more traditional usage, which spoke of the “general justification” of the world in Christ and of the “personal justification” of individual sinners through faith alone. This corresponds exactly to the biblical distinction between God’s own completed reconciliation of the world to Himself in Christ (II Cor. 5:19) and our reconciliation to him by faith (v. 20).
If the sense is clear, one should not quarrel about words. The “visible/invisible” terminology in respect of the church is a case in point. Our Confessions do not use that language, but speak of the church in the “proper sense” and in the “wide sense.” Moreover, Calvinists mean something quite different and unbiblical when they speak of “visible” and “invisible” churches. Yet standard Lutheran theology since Gerhard has spoken of the church being “visible” and “invisible,” and meant the right, orthodox content by this terminology. Similarly one must assume—other things being equal—that when orthodox Lutheran theologians speak of “objective” and “subjective” justification, they mean to express biblical, confessional truth, and not Calvinist or other deviations.
2. The Standard Lutheran Pattern in Presenting Justification
The best starting point is Formula of Concord (Solid Declaration) III:25:
The only essential and necessary elements of justification are the grace of God, the merit of Christ, and faith which accepts these in the promise of the Gospel (Tappert, p. 543, compare Apology IV:53, p. 114).
We may put these essential ingredients of justification into a list, as follows:
The grace of God
The merit of Christ
The promise of the Gospel
Esther is the heroine of the biblical book that bears her name. Her Jewish name was Hadassah, which means “myrtle.” Her beauty, charm, and courage served her well as queen to King Ahasuerus. In that role she was able to save her people from the mass extermination that Haman, the king’s chief adviser, had planned (2:19-4:17).
Esther’s efforts to uncover the plot resulted in the hanging of Haman on the very same gallows that he had built for Mordecai, her uncle and guardian. Then the king named Mordecai minister of state in Haman’s place. This story is an example of how God intervenes on behalf of his people to deliver them from evil, as here through Esther he preserved the Old Testament people through whom the Messiah would come.
Even though the book nowhere bears the name of the Lord (Yahweh), it is included in the canon of Scripture because it shows His providential protection of His people as He preserved the line of the Messiah.
Over the years, it’s been my experience that the people who are the most insecure, shy, and embarrassed about being Lutheran are … Lutherans. It is simply sad. I could say more, but I won’t.
Please watch this video.