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When Lutherans Assert that the Bible is the Verbally Inspired Word of God, and Actually Mean it, Are they Fundamentalists or Calvinists?

February 7th, 2013 3 comments

commandments

The one, holy, catholic and apostolic church has confessed throughout her entire history, until the last couple of centuries, that the Sacred Scriptures are precisely what they claim to be: the God-breathed words of God—the very words that God chose to have set down in written form. This is simply a fact.

I was reading recently statements made to the effect that insisting on this truth is a result of the influence of American fundamentalism, or if a person dares venture a bit further back in Church history, there is the charge that Lutherans who confess the Bible is verbally inspired and thus free from error and incapable of error have come under the influence of Calvinism. This is nothing short of stupendous ignorance of the facts of church history, in which one need spend only a small amount of time to find that the ancient fathers of the Christian Church were quite happy to confess the Bible is the very Word of God. Any claim that the doctrine of the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures is some kind of more recent American fundamentalist assertion, or something Lutheranism took over from Calvinist is totally bogus. If or when you hear any Lutheran saying that you can be assured that you are hearing from a person who is abysmally ignorant of Lutheran doctrine, history and, for that matter, church history as a whole.

As for Lutherans…the “Second Martin,” as he was called, Martin Chemnitz, the foremost of the followers of Luther’s reformation insights after the great Reformers death, makes it abundantly clear what Lutheranism has to say about the inspired text, in his magnum opus, from which to this day remains the most definitive refutation of the Council of Trent ever published, The Examination of the Council of Trent.

The quote below comes from the very first volume of Chemnitz’ work where he is setting for the Church’s understanding of the Holy Scriptures and why they, not “tradition” or any other source are the supreme source for everything the Church believes, teaches and confesses. In great detail he works through how God chose to transmit His Word to his people, by means of written communication of His Word, seen already in how God chose to give His people the Commandments:

“It will profitably clear up and simplify the present controversy concerning the Holy Scripture by showing how the Scripture itself began. History shows—and I think this must be noted especially—that God not only instituted this way and method of preserving and retaining the purity of the heavenly doctrine by means of the divinely inspired Scriptures but that He also by His own act and example initiated, dedicated, and consecrated that way and method when He Himself first wrote the words of the Decalog. Therefore the first beginning of Holy Scripture must have God Himself as the author.

“I have related these things in order that it might be observed from the divinely inspired Scriptures, which God wanted preserved and made available for posterity, that nothing was written before the tables of the Decalog, which were written by the finger of God. It does much to shed light on the dignity and authority of Holy Scripture that God Himself not only instituted and commanded the plan of comprehending the heavenly doctrine in writing but that He also initiated, dedicated, and consecrated it by writing the words of the Decalog with His own fingers. For if the writing of the sacred books had first been begun by men, an exclusion of more than two thousand years could have been argued, where in the better times of the world and among the most outstanding patriarchs the doctrine of the divine Word was transmitted without writing, by the living voice. Therefore God Himself with His own fingers made a beginning of writing in order that He might show how much importance is to be attached to this method, according to which the purity of the doctrine is to be preserved to posterity by writings.

“For the fact that He took tablets of stone on which to write the words of the Decalog there is another reason, which is explained 2 Cor. 3.

“In order that those things which were either to be written through men of God, adorned for this by miracles and divine testimonies, or to be approved by them after they had been written, should not have a lesser authority or no authority at all for the confirmation of dogmas and the refutation of errors, God chose not to write the whole Law Himself, but, having written the words of the Decalog, He gave Moses the command that he should write the remainder from His dictation. And in order that the people of God might be certain that this Scripture of Moses was not introduced by the will of man but was divinely inspired, God gave the testimony of Moses authority through many mighty miracles both before and after the writing, and during the writing itself.

“We have thus shown two things from the most ancient sacred history: (1) that the purity of the heavenly doctrine was not preserved always and everywhere through tradition by the living voice but was repeatedly corrupted and adulterated; (2) in order that new and special revelations might not always be necessary for restoring and retaining purity of the doctrine, God instituted another method under Moses, namely, that the doctrine of the Word of God should be comprehended in writing.

“This is how the Scripture began. Now that this has been shown, it remains that we consider further what use God wanted us to make of the Scripture, and what was to be its dignity and authority. Because the history is clear, we shall be content merely to list the passages.

“Moses included in four books not only the history of his own time, the exodus from Egypt, and what happened during the 40 years in the desert, but his plan was chiefly to write the doctrine of the Law, which God delivered to the people of Israel on Mt. Sinai in the desert. Besides, in the first book, he summed up the chief points of the doctrine and faith of the patriarchs, which they had received by tradition, on the basis of the revelation of God Himself from the beginning of the world almost down to his own time, and which they had also professed.

“God commanded that the tables of the Decalog, written by God’s own hand, should be deposited in the ark of the convenant, which was in the holy of holies in the tabernacle. And Moses commanded that his own writings, composed by divine inspiration, should be put into the side of the ark (Deut. 31:25–26). The custody and preservation of this deposit he entrusted to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel. He also ordered that the king should have with him a copy of the Law, written according to that which was before the face of the priests and Levites, lest he depart from it either to the right hand or to the left (Deut. 17:18–20). He also commanded that the people should write these words on the posts, the doors, the lintel, and the gates of their houses. (Deut. 6:9 and 11:20)”

From: Examination, Volume 1, pgs. 53-54.

 

What is the “Righteousness of God”?

November 18th, 2010 Comments off

At the heart of the Reformation recovery of the Gospel, was Luther’s return to the Biblical meaning of key terms and phrases. One of the most signficant is the phrase “the righteousness of God.” Martin Chemnitz lays out the meaning of the word “righteousness” in his Loci Theologici in the following manner:

“It is useful to show on the basis of the correct foundations what the term “the righteousness of God” properly means in this article. It is absolutely clear that the correct meaning in this passage is not the one about which we have now spoken. For this kind of “righteousness of God” is revealed in the Law, and Paul says that, apart from the Law, the righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel.

“We have said that the sum and substance of the Gospel is that we are exempted from the rigor of the tribunal of stern righteousness and that we flee to the throne of grace. And what the proper meaning of the Gospel of justification is cannot be understood nor correctly taught if we understand “the righteousness of God” in a legal sense; indeed, the most pernicious corruptions follow …. It seems indeed to be taken in the legal sense in Rom. 1:32: “Though they know God’s decree [or righteousness, dikaiōma], that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve of those who practice them.” But the words are different. The dikaiōma of God refers to the rule of righteousness in God as revealed in the Law. It is used this way in Rom. 1:32; 2:26; and 8:4. The word dikaiōsis is used in Rom. 5:18 in opposition to condemnation; hence, it is manifest what it means.

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Where Can You Find the Church?

November 6th, 2010 Comments off

The true church of God on earth is not determined by the multitude of people (Mt 7:13–14), even as it is not to be determined by power, nobility, and wisdom according to the flesh (1 Co 1:26–28). Nor does this assembly always represent the true church, which carries and bears before itself the name “church,” even as the universal or Christian church is truly not definitely recognized by the ordinary succession; the accounts of the prophets, Christ, and the apostles point this out. Nor is it enough, to identify it, to put forward what was written many years ago and the authority of the ancients (Mt 5:21–48; 15:1–3). But these are the genuine marks that distinctly identify the true church of God on earth:

I. Where the Word of God is taught purely and in truth, without corruptions (Jn 10:5, 27; Eph 2:19–21; 4:11–12; 2 Co 2:17; 1 Ti 3:15).

II. Where sins are bound and loosed through the Word and according to the Word of God (Mt 16:18–19; Jn 20:22–23).

III. Where the Sacraments are administered according to the divine injunction and institution (Mt 28:19–20).

IV. Where there are people who use the Sacraments (Mk 16:16; 1 Co 10:17; 11:33), hear the Word of God (Jn 10:27, receive [it] (1 Th 1:6; 1 Co 15:1, confess [Christ] (Mt 10:32), follow [Him] (Jn 10:27), and call upon God, as He has commanded in the Word (Lk 19:46; 1 Co 1:2; Ps 79:6). And these signs are sometimes more in evidence, sometimes less evident. For on this foundation some build gold, some stubble (1 Co 3:12–13). And yet if the foundation remains intact, God has His church there (1 K 19:18).

Martin Chemnitz and Luther Poellot, Ministry, Word, and Sacraments : An Enchiridion, electronic ed., 154-55 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).

Rediscovering the True Fountains of Comfort: How God Used Martin Luther

October 30th, 2010 Comments off

Martin Chemnitz concludes his survey of false teachings about justification in the history of the Church in his Loci Theologici with this beautiful comment about the role and work of Martin Luther:

It is in recent memory, and ought to be noted for all posterity, by what events God in our own age brought the doctrine of justification out of densest darkness back into the brilliant light of His Word. For when Christ and His benefits had been quite buried, the impudent trafficking in Masses, indulgences, merits, and invocation of saints ruled in the church, together with sophistic and unending disputations regarding satisfactions. This memory won the minds of many good people over to Luther from the very beginning when, by presenting the torch of divine revelation, he uncovered these impostures and showed the true fountains of comfort.

Martin Chemnitz and Jacob A. O. Preus, Loci Theologici, electronic ed., 473 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).

What are the Benefits of the Lord’s Supper?

October 22nd, 2010 Comments off

What Benefits or Fruit Does the True Use of This Sacrament Confer?

One can reply briefly: It is profitable for strengthening of faith. But this must be explained more fully, and it cannot be done better than with the words of institution, thus:

I. Remission of sins and salvation consists in this, that we are partakers of the merit of Christ and are included in the New Testament covenant of grace. Christ offers us the greatest token and surest seal of this in His Supper, namely that very same body of His, by whose offering these great benefits have been bought, and that very same blood, by whose shedding the New Testament was confirmed, so that we might be made sure and strong against all temptations by this most precious pledge, that the communion of the good things accomplished by the death of Christ most certainly applies also to us.

II. The promise of the Gospel in general offers grace to all believers, so that everyone might surely conclude that this universal promise applies specifically also to him and that this grace is offered and presented to him in such a way that he can safely rely on it and rejoice in it. In the true use of this Sacrament, Christ Himself offers and gives to every individual His body and blood, by the means ordained for this, beamed at every individual with this personal invitation: “Take, eat and drink; this is My body given for you; this is My blood [shed] for the remission of your sins.”

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Does the Bible Teach Infants Should be Baptized?

October 20th, 2010 3 comments

From Martin Chemnitz’ Enchiridion.

Does Infant Baptism Have Basis in the Word of God?

Yes. For Christ declares regarding little children, Mt 19:14; Mk 10:14: Of such is the kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of God. And no one who is born of flesh can enter the kingdom of God unless he is reborn, Jn 3:3. And this regeneration and rebirth takes place by water and the Spirit, Jn 3:5. For Baptism is the washing of regeneration of the Holy Spirit, Tts 3:5. Since, then, Christ wants little children to become partakers of the kingdom of heaven, and that must take place through Baptism, it is surely Christ’s meaning, will, and command, that little children be baptized. For the promise of the kingdom of God must be applied through a certain means or instrument instituted by God Himself. For the promise without application profits no one. Therefore also the promise of the kingdom of heaven, which is given to infants (Mk 10:14) must be applied to them through a certain means. Now, Scripture declares that this means is Baptism. Jn 3:5; Tts 3:5.

Second, Christ also wants infants to be saved, for He says: It is not the will of the heavenly Father that one of these little ones should perish, Mt 18:14. But the heavenly Father saved [us] by the washing of regeneration, Tts 3:5. It is therefore the will of God that infants be baptized and that they do not perish, but be saved.

Third, infants are conceived and born in sins, so that by nature they are children of wrath, Ps 51:5; Eph 2:3. Therefore they must obtain forgiveness of sins, so that they do not perish but be saved, Lk 1:77; Ro 4:7. But Baptism is the divine means by which sins are forgiven and washed away, Acts 2:38; 22:16.

Fourth, Christ wants and commands little children to be brought to Him, that He might bless them, Mk 10:14, 16. Now, one asks: How is this done? And Scripture declares that they who are baptized put on Christ in Baptism, Gl 3:27. For they are baptized into His death and resurrection, Ro 6:3; 1 Ptr 3:21. Christ cleanses and sanctifies the church, for which He gave Himself, through the washing of water by the Word, Eph 5:26. And this very thing is true blessing, Gl 4:14; Eph 1:3. It follows, therefore, that Christ’s command is that infants be baptized.

Fifth, Baptism of the New Testament succeeded circumcision of the Old Testament, Cl 2:11–12. Therefore, just as in the Old Testament the covenant of divine grace was applied and sealed through circumcision not only to adults but also to infants, Gn 17:10, 12, so also now in the New Testament that grace should rightly be applied and confirmed as by a seal both to infants as well as adults through Baptism, since the grace of God was made not less but rather more abundant and richer in the New Testament.

Sixth, Is 49:22 prophesies that in the New Testament not only adults would be implanted in the church, but behold, he says, they shall bring your sons in [their] arms and your daughters shall they carry on [their] shoulders. And Peter says Acts 2:39 after he had baptized adults: This promise was made to you and to your children. In this way also the apostles baptized entire households, Acts 16:33; 1 Co 1:16. But where a household or family is mentioned infants are surely not excluded.It is therefore clear and manifest from this that the doctrine of infant baptism is not only orthodox but also altogether useful and necessary and gives very sweet comfort to parents and children.

Martin Chemnitz and Luther Poellot, Ministry, Word, and Sacraments : An Enchiridion, electronic ed., 116-17 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).