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The complete works of Martin Chemnitz, published in English translation by Concordia Publishing House, are now available for only $250, that is a savings of 34% and you receive free shipping.
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In light of some recent comments I’ve run across again on this issue, it’s time once more for the “Aversion to Sanctification” blog post, since the problem persists and appears to have become part-and-parcel of what some perceive to a confessional Lutheran understanding of God’s Word.
More recent examples of this problem in action include a pastor posting a picture of a guy giving “the finger” and claiming there is nothing wrong with that and defending it, continued comments about how no matter what good works are done they are still “sinful,” and the ongoing effort to turn every comment in the Scriptures about the good works to which we are called into a discussion about the second use of the law, virtually laughing off Proverbs 31 and saying that text does not really apply to individuals but is really about Christ and the Church. I’ve had occasion, unfortunately, to observe pastors in my church body defending the use of obscenity and profanity. Why? Because they are “free” in Christ to do. I wish I was making this kind of thing up.
I think the comment that took the prize was posted on my Facebook wall some time ago where the text of God’s Word was actually twisted to the point that the that indicates that God has prepared good works for us to walk in, to read “good work upon which God has prepared us to work” thus not about good works, but about Christ. All these things are put forward with the best of intentions, but they betray an unhealthy lack of balance and understanding on these issues.
I read recently a lay Lutheran theologian taking broad swipes with little understanding of the subject about which he was speaking, and, I should note, this lay theologian is a disciple and fan of Gerhard Forde, whose writings I have always found to be remarkably unremarkable and, in fact, a cause of some of the problems we have on these issues. As one wag put it, the only thing he finds helpful in Forde’s writings is when he is quoting Martin Luther. Keep in mind that Forde denied the Biblical teaching concerning the atonement, the very heart of the Gospel itself, and from there he went wrong on sanctification, the law, good works and a whole host of other Christian doctrines. My advice for any seminarian or college student reading this is: put away Forde and take up much better resources on Lutheran theology!
The memory of a most disturbing conversation with two younger men I had some time ago still is as fresh as ever. They were gleefully asserting that listening to the audio pornography and vile filth of Eminem is appropriate for Christians. One suggested that because only what comes out of a man is what makes him sinful that it matters not what he sees, or hears, as a Christian. These two young men are sadly typical of a poorly formed understanding of the life of good works to which we are called as Christians that seems pandemic in the Christian Church, where apparently some can wax eloquent about how they are striving to be faithful to God’s Word, but then turn right around and wallow in the mire and squalor of sin. This all the more underscores for me the point that we have a serious lack of emphasis on the call to holy living and good works which is part-and-parcel of our new life in Christ, truths that have, apparently until recently, been taught in our beloved Lutheran church. There is much teaching that is not being done, that must done. Simply repeating formulas and phrases about justification is not teaching and preaching the whole counsel of God. Comforting people with the Gospel when there is no genuine repentance for sin is doing them a disservice. There is a serious “short circuit” here that we need to be mindful of. Let this be clear. Listening to the “music” of swine such as Eminem is sinful and willfully choosing to listen to it is sin that drives out the Holy Spirit. This is deadly serious business. Deadly. Serious.
Pastors who wash their hands of this responsibility claiming that they want to avoid interjecting law into their sermons when they have preached the Gospel are simply shirking their duty as preachers and are being unfaithful to God’s Word.
We have done such a fine job explaining that we are not saved by works that we have, I fear, neglected to urge the faithful to lives of good works as faithfully and clearly as we should. This should not be so among us brethren. Parenesis is lacking in much preaching and teaching. Sermons become a never ending recitation of the doctrine of justification, as if that is the only doctrine taught in Holy Scripture.
I’m growing increasingly concerned that with the necessary distinction between faith and works that we must always maintain, we Lutherans are tempted to speak of good works and the life of sanctification in such a way as to either minimize it, or worse yet, neglect it. I read sermons and hear comments that give me the impression that some Lutherans think that good works are something that “just happen” on some sort of a spiritual auto-pilot. Concern over a person believing their works are meritorious has led to what borders on paranoia to the point that good works are simply not taught or discussed as they should be. It seems some have forgotten that in fact we do confess three uses of the law, not just a first or second use.
The Apostle, St. Paul, never ceases to urge good works on his listeners nad readers. I recall a conversation once with a person who should know better telling me that the exhortations to good works and lengthy discussions of sanctification we find in the New Testament are not a model at all for preaching, since Paul is not “preaching” but rather writing a letter. This is not a good thing.
A number of years ago an article appeared that put matters well and sounded a very important word of warning and caution. It is by Professor Kurt E. Marquart of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I strongly encourage you to give it your most serious attention.
Antinomian Aversion to Sanctification?
An emerited brother writes that he is disturbed by a kind of preaching that avoids sanctification and “seemingly questions the Formula of Concord . . . about the Third Use of the Law.” The odd thing is that this attitude, he writes, is found among would-be confessional pastors, even though it is really akin to the antinomianism of “Seminex”! He asks, “How can one read the Scriptures over and over and not see how much and how often our Lord (in the Gospels) and the Apostles (in the Epistles) call for Christian sanctification, crucifying the flesh, putting down the old man and putting on the new man, abounding in the work of the Lord, provoking to love and good works, being fruitful . . . ?”
I really have no idea where the anti-sanctification bias comes from. Perhaps it is a knee-jerk over-reaction to “Evangelicalism”: since they stress practical guidance for daily living, we should not! Should we not rather give even more and better practical guidance, just because we distinguish clearly between Law and Gospel? Especially given our anti-sacramental environment, it is of course highly necessary to stress the holy means of grace in our preaching. But we must beware of creating a kind of clericalist caricature that gives the impression that the whole point of the Christian life is to be constantly taking in preaching, absolution and Holy Communion-while ordinary daily life and callings are just humdrum time-fillers in between! That would be like saying that we live to eat, rather than eating to live. The real point of our constant feeding by faith, on the Bread of Life, is that we might gain an ever-firmer hold of Heaven-and meanwhile become ever more useful on earth! We have, after all, been “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Cars, too, are not made to be fueled and oiled forever at service-stations. Rather, they are serviced in order that they might yield useful mileage in getting us where we need to go. 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).
The royal priesthood of believers needs to recover their sense of joy and high privilege in their daily service to God (1 Pet. 2:9). 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! Or, as St. James puts it: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (1:27). Liberal churches tend to stress the one, and conservatives one the other, but the Lord would have us do both!
Antinomianism appeals particularly to the Lutheran flesh. But it cannot claim the great Reformer as patron. On the contrary, he writes:
“That is what my Antinomians, too, are doing today, who are preaching beautifully and (as I cannot but think) with real sincerity about Christ’s grace, about the forgiveness of sin and whatever else can be said about the doctrine of redemption. But they flee s if t were the very devil the consequence that they should tell the people about the third article, of sanctification, that is, of new life in Christ. They think one should not frighten or trouble the people, but rather always preach comfortingly about grace and the forgiveness of sins in Christ, and under no circumstance use these or similar words, “Listen! You want to be a Christian and at the same time remain an adulterer, a whoremonger, a drunken swine, arrogant, covetous, a usurer, envious, vindictive, malicious, etc.!” Instead they say, “Listen! Though you are an adultery, a wordmonger, a miser, or other kind of sinner, if you but believe, you are saved, and you need not fear the law. Christ has fulfilled it all! . . . They may be fine Easter preachers, but they are very poor Pentecost preachers, for they do not preach… “about the sanctification by the Holy Spirit,” but solely about the redemption of Jesus Christ, although Christ (whom they extol so highly, and rightly so) is Christ, that is, He has purchased redemption from sin and death so that the Holy Spirit might transform us out of the old Adam into new men . . . Christ did not earn only gratia, grace, for us, but also donum, “the gift of the Holy Spirit,” so that we might have not only forgiveness of, but also cessation of, sin. Now he who does not abstain fro sin, but persists in his evil life, must have a different Christ, that of the Antinomians; the real Christ is not there, even if all the angels would cry, “Christ! Christ!” He must be damned with this, his new Christ (On the Council and the Church, Luther’s Works, 41:113-114).
Where are the “practical and clear sermons,” which according to the Apology “hold an audience” (XXIV, 50, p. 267). Apology XV, 42-44 (p. 229) explains:
“The chief worship of God is to preach the Gospel…in our churches all the sermons deal with topics like these: repentance, fear of God, faith in Christ, the righteousness of faith, prayer . . . the cross, respect for the magistrates and all civil orders, the distinction between the kingdom of Christ (the spiritual kingdom) and political affairs, marriage, the education and instruction of children, chastity, and all the works of love.”
“Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, unto Thy Church Thy Holy Spirit, and the wisdom which cometh down from above, that Thy Word, as becometh it, may not be bound, but have free course and be preached to the joy and edifying of Christ’s holy people, that I steadfast faith we may serve Thee, and in the confession of Thy Name abide unto the end: through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.”
Concordia Theological Quarterly
This is really a thoughtful piece.
Allah, Odin, and Thor: Mythical Gods of War, Not of Love
Americans have a naïve view of religion. The religious freedom that is so ingrained in our tradition — and our Constitution — has morphed beyond tolerance to a sort of anthropomorphic acceptance of pretty much anything.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, the God of the Bible is unique in the history of the world’s religions. From Baal to Zeus, from Jupiter to Allah and Odin, the gods of paganism are capricious masters, not loving fathers. Control is their goal — when they think of humans at all — not justice or peace.
But saying so is sooooo judgmental!
Marvel Comics master storyteller Stan Lee took the most interesting of the Norse gods, Thor, the God of Thunder, and made him a crusader for truth, justice, and maybe even the American Way… or at least Western values.
But think of it from the view of the Vikings — what could be more capricious and destructive than the god of the weather?
But of course, a self-centered destructive superhero who loves war and longs to be worshiped would make for a crappy comic book.
On the serious side, though, a misunderstanding of a leading world religion has serious implications for most of the current world conflicts.
Even George W. Bush mouthed the diplomatically convenient canard “Islam means peace.” Yes, and Pravda means “truth.”
A non-rebellious slave is at “peace” with his master, too. Read more…
Introit: Ps. 91:1–2, 9–10, 13; antiphon 15-16
Psalm of the Day: Ps. 32; antiphon v. 7
Old Testament Lesson: Genesis 32:22–32
Gradual: Ps. 91:11–12
Epistle Lesson: 1 Thessalonians 4:1–7
Verse: Ps. 91:1, 4a, 15a, 16
Gospel Lesson: Matthew 15:21–28
Jacob wrestled with God; he would not let Him go until he received a blessing from Him (Gen. 32:22–32). So it was with the Canaanite woman. Though Jesus seemed to ignore and reject her, she continued to call upon His name and look to Him for help (Mt. 15:21–28). Even when the Lord called her a little dog, she held on to Him in faith and would not let Him wriggle out of His words: “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” This Gentile woman shows herself to be a true Israelite, who struggles with God and man in Christ and prevails. “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire” (Mt. 15:27–28). This is the sanctifying will of God (1 Thess. 4:1–7)–to test your faith in order that it may be refined and strengthened. For tribulation produces perseverance; perseverance, character; character, hope. And hope in Christ does not disappoint (Rom. 5:1–5).
Collect for the day:
O God, You see that of ourselves we have no strength. By Your mighty power defend us from all adversities that may happen to the body and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
From Luther’s Sermon Notes on the Gospel
This is written for our comfort and instruction, that we may know how deeply God conceals his grace before our face, and that we may not estimate him according to our feelings and thinking, but strictly according to his Word. For here you see, though Christ appears to be even hardhearted, yet he gives no final decision by saying “No.” All his answers indeed sound like no, but they are not no, they remain undecided and pending. For he does not say: I will not hear thee; but is silent and passive, and says neither yes nor no. In like manner he does not say she is not of the house of Israel; but he is sent only to the house of Israel; he leaves it undecided and pending between yes and no. So he does not say, Thou art a dog, one should not give thee of the children’s bread; but it is not meet to take the children’s bread and cast it to the dogs; leaving it undecided whether she is a dog or not. Yet all those trials of her faith sounded more like no than yes; but there was more yea in them than nay; aye, there is only yes in them, but it is very deep and very concealed, while there appears to be nothing but no.
By this is set forth the condition of our heart in times of temptation; Christ here represents how it feels. It thinks there is nothing but no and yet that is not true. Therefore it must turn from this feeling and lay hold of and retain the deep spiritual yes under and above the no with a firm faith in God’s Word, as this poor woman does, and say God is right in his judgment which he visits upon us; then we have triumphed and caught Christ in his own words. As for example when we feel in our conscience that God rebukes us as sinners and judges us unworthy of the kingdom of heaven, then we experience hell, and we think we are lost forever. Now whoever understands here the actions of this poor woman and catches God in his own judgment, and says: Lord, it is true, I am a sinner and not worthy of thy grace; but still thou hast promised sinners forgiveness, and thou art come not to call the righteous, but, as St. Paul says in I Tim 1, 15, “to save sinners.” Behold, then must God according to his own judgment have mercy upon us.
The governor wants Polycarp to deny Christ, and promises if he will, his life will be spared. But the faithful bishop answers, “For 86 years I have served Him, and He has never done me wrong; how then can I now blaspheme my King and Savior?”
Born around AD 69, Saint Polycarp was a central figure in the early church. Said to be disciple of the holy evangelist and apostle Saint John, he provides a link between the first generation of believers and later Christians, including Saint Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, who later wrote of him. Saint Ignatius of Antioch also knew and wrote to him. His home town of Smryna (modern Izmir, Turkey) was one of the seven churches addressed in Revelation (see 2:8-11 for the details).
After serving for many years as bishop of Smyrna, Polycarp was caught up in a local persecution of Christians. While willing to be martyred, others encouraged him to flee. However, he was later arrested, tried, and executed for his faith on 23 February c. AD 156. An eyewitness narrative of his death, The Martyrdom of Polycarp, continues to encourage believers in times of persecution.
According to the ancient records, he was tried solely on the charge of being a Christian. When the proconsul urged him to save his life by cursing Christ, he replied: “Eighty-six years I have served Him, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” According the the customary reckoning of his birth and death, this means that he must have been baptized as an infant, raised as a Christian, and lived his entire life as in the Faith. His fidelity follows the encouragement given by the Lord to the church in Smyrna in Revelation 2:10, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. (ESV)”
The following prayer is recorded as his immediately prior to the fire being kindled for his martyrdom:
Lord God Almighty, Father of Your blessed and beloved Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have received knowledge of You, God of angels and hosts and all creation, and of the whole race of the upright who live in Your presence: I bless You that You have thought me worthy of this day and hour, to be numbered among the martyrs and share in the cup of Christ, for resurrection to eternal life, for soul and body in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. Among them may I be accepted before You today, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, just as You, the faithful and true God, have prepared and foreshown and brought about. For this reason and for all things I praise You, I bless You, I glorify You, through the eternal heavenly high priest Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son, through whom be glory to You, with Him and the Holy Spirit, now and for the ages to come. Amen.
O God, the maker of heaven and earth, who gave to Your venerable servant, the holy and gentle Polycarp, boldness to confess Jesus Christ as King and Savior, and steadfastness to die for the Faith, give us grace, following his example, to share the cup of Christ and rise to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
In the extended entry is a translation of the document The Martyrdom of Polycarp
“Between the Scylla of legalism and Charybis of antinomianism leads a narrow and dangerous path which the church must follow in her ethical thought. Whether she finds the way depends on the purity of her proclamation and on this depends her existence. It is my wish that the World Conference of Churches meeting at Oxford  would be so endowed that churches of Christendom would serve in some way as a light house on this way. Each of the churches must find its own way. They can only find their ways by turning away from the world’s tempting siren calls and in this benighted century to listen to the voice of him who speaks to Christendom the same message which he spoke to the apostles and the reformers and which they believed: “I am the way.” [John 14:6]”
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Martin Chemnitz’s major theological works translated into English are now available in beautifully bound matching hardback volumes to endure years of study and use.
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The series includes:
Examination of the Council of Trent, Volumes I-IV
The Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Prayer
The Two Natures in Christ
Loci Theologici, Volumes I&II
If you missed out on the great sale of the book Broken at the end of last year, I’ve got good news for you. It’s on sale again, at great bulk order discounts. So, start gathering orders in your congregation or among your friends.
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More than years after it appeared, we still continue to hear that the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was a “breakthrough” between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church. The media loves to perpetuate this myth. In fact, the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification is a fraud. It was a sell-out by revisionist liberal Lutherans to Rome. The Vatican certainly knows this is not true. Liberal Lutherans and those who support them keep repeating it, in spite of the fact that it is simply not true. Here are resources to help you counter this lie and this betrayal of the Gospel.
When, or if, you hear any Lutheran, or Roman Catholic, claim that the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church have reconciled their differences on the doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone this is simply untrue. It is a lie. A complete and total fabrication.
Rome is not to be faulted in any of this. The Vatican has consistently maintained and upheld the historic position of the Roman Church and did not change it. Mainline liberal Lutherans, however, compromised the key doctrine of the Scriptures and the very heart of the Lutheran Confessions. When I served as Assistant to the President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, at the time this statement came out in 2000, we prepared an extensive set of documents illustrating precisely why the JDDJ is a fraud and a betrayal of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. You might want to save this post on your computer somewhere for future reference.
When you hear or read someone asserting that the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was a “breakthrough” feel free to share this material with them. We must continue to correct this erroneous view of the JDDJ.
Was Trent set aside by the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification?
No, quite the contrary. The Vatican was very careful to make it clear that it has not set aside the Council of Trent and that Trent still remains authoritative, binding dogma for the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinal Cassidy, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christianity Unity, the individual responsible in large part for Rome’s involvement in the Joint Declaration, went out of his way to clarify this point in a press conference held when the JDDJ was signed. Here is what he had to say:
“Asked whether there was anything in the official common statement contrary to the Council of Trent, Cardinal Cassidy said: ‘Absolutely not, otherwise how could we do it? We cannot do something contrary to an ecumenical council. There’s nothing there that the Council of Trent condemns” (Ecumenical News International, 11/1/99).
With this statement by Cardinal Cassidy in mind, one is led to wonder how a document that is alleged to be a faithful Lutheran statement of justification contains nothing that Trent condemned.
Canon IX: If anyone says that the ungodly is justified by faith alone in such a way that he understands that nothing else is required which cooperates toward obtaining the grace of justification . . . let him be condemned.
Canon XII: If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than trust in divine mercy, which remits sin for Christ’s sake, or that it is this trust alone by which we are justified, let him be condemned.
Canon XIV: If anyone says that a man is absolved and justified because . . . he confidently believes that he is absolved and justified . . . and that through this faith alone absolution and justification is effected, let him be condemned.
Note: These canons clearly indicate that something more than trust in Christ is necessary for salvation
- Orders of daily prayer for morning, noon, early evening, and close of the day
- A collection of prayers including the Te Deum, Benedictus, Magnificat, Litany, and other prayers for use throughout the day
- The Small Catechism by Dr. Martin Luther, including the Introduction, the Six Chief Parts, the Table of Duties, and Christian Questions and Answers for Communicants
- A brief introduction to the Holy Scriptures, in an easy to understand,question and answer format
- An essay on the key themes of Holy Scripture including: the grace of God, faith, Scripture, Law and Gospel, means of grace, and Christology