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A child of the Reformation

20 Oct

In my admittedly small mind there is really only one question about the validity of the Reformation of the Western Church:

Are God’s commands, threats, and punishments – His Hammer which shatters – to be proclaimed so that persons may see themselves as sinners – sinners who should then be given the confidence of faith – i.e. be actively persuaded via the Promise (Christ) that they have God’s forgiveness for all their sins (and hence, life and salvation) – even as they tremble?

Is this to continually occur in the life of the Christian, until death comes, or not? Is this pattern of “Law and Gospel” to be that which the heralds of God’s Word bring – or not? This, in my mind, is *the* question for the Church posed by the Reformation – and everything else flows from this.

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19 Comments

Posted by on October 20, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

19 responses to “A child of the Reformation

  1. Weedon

    October 20, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    A triple Amen to your post, Nathan. I’ve linked it from my blog.

     
  2. George A. Marquart

    October 20, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    Your question is timely and very appropriate, though I am sure it comes from a much greater mind than you claim. But I think that “the” question, more fully, is “what is the Gospel?” and more accurately, “what is the Gospel of the Kingdom,” because to proclaim the latter is what our dear Lord claimed was the reason for His “being sent.” Luke 4:43. Once we appreciate that the Gospel does not end with our Lord’s resurrection, but with His “opening the Kingdom to all believers,” as we sing in the Te Deum, and what being in that Kingdom means, the idea of the “Hammer,” goes away without a whisper – at least for the children of the Kingdom. Our dear Lord wants His children to be joyful; that’s hard to do when you are trembling all the time.

    I don’t know the full history, but somehow the idea of using the Law to make unbelievers aware of their sins, and then sowing the Gospel so our Lord would make faith grow, has seeped into Lutheran homiletics, so that Christians are assailed with the same Law/Gospel “Hammer” every Sunday, as if they were still unbelievers. Walther and Pieper clearly objected to this practice.
    Peace and Joy,
    George A. Marquart

     
    • Nathan

      October 20, 2009 at 8:20 pm

      Pastor Weedon,

      Thanks much. I’m honored.

      George,

      I know what you are saying about preaching, and agree. I hold up men like Pastor Weedon, Pastor Matthew Harrison, and Pastor George Borghardt as my models here. Its hard to talk about – you got to hear it (I recommend listening to Issues ETC when they do sermon reveiews of those preachers).

      Also, I think the “Hammer” does not totally go away until the Kingdom comes in its fullness. As long as I breathe, I am still made aware of my sin, which I dare not take lightly (this may come in a hammer-shattering kind of way, or a “gentle word can break a bone” kind of way). See this post here, for how I think we can also interpret trembling:

      http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/06/03/babies-in-church-part-iv-miraculous-ordinary-conversational-experience/

      Lutherans, it seems to me, of all Christians are able to stare the Law right in the face and confess it in its completeness because we know that by His Hammer God intends that our broken bones would be mended again, that our trust and love for our Lord and His people would ever deepen. In my estimation, that will prepare us for the Kingdom like nothing else.

      ~Nathan

       
  3. George A. Marquart

    October 20, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    I do not believe that anything can possibly prepare us for the Kingdom in which we will see Him face to face. The reason for that is St. Paul’s claim that “the suffering of this world is not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to come.” If one has even the vaguest notion of the suffering of just the last century, of the millions who were tortured to death, starved to death, and simply executed under Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot and others, then it is inconceivable for us to imagine a glory that can eclipse it. All of us will see our Lord totally unprepared for the joy of that experience.

    As the perfect members of God’s Kingdom here on earth (justus, not like alternating current, sometimes justus and sometimes peccator, but always both) is it the Law that makes us aware of our sins, or is it the fact that as totally new creatures from the waters of Baptism, we now have God’s will written in our hearts? Is it the “hammer” or the “yoke that is easy,” and “the burden that is light” which make us want to do the will of our Lord? The Third Use is Law without the “Hammer.”

    I think that the late Fr. Alexander Schmemann, though not a Lutheran, put it best when he wrote in his diary: “It is impossible to know that God is, and not to have joy. And it is only in connection with this joy that the awe of God, contrition and humility are proper, and genuine and bear fruit. Apart from this joy they can easily become a “demonic” perversions of the depth of the most religious experience. The religion of fear. The religion of false humility. The religion of guilt, which says, “This is all temptation, it is all spiritual ‘rapture’.” But how strong this religion is, not only in the world but within the Church. And for some reason, “religious” people are always suspicious of joy. The first, the most important, the source of everything is, “Let my soul rejoice in the Lord …” The fear of sin does not prevent one from sinning. Joy in the Lord does.”
    Peace and Joy,
    George A. Marquart

    PS.: Of the preachers you mentioned, I am only acquainted with the writings of Rev. Weedon, who has my utmost love and respect for his proclamation of the Gospel.

     
  4. Nathan

    October 20, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    George,

    Again, I think I understand your concerns. Insofar as we are in Christ, I do believe that our relationship with God is pure joy. Yes, the perfect law, which is fulfilled in a love that would destroy no relationship, brings freedom. And yet, I am still convinced when I look at Christ’s holy life and passion (the best picture of the law being fulfilled), of the great sinner that I am – and I know that God’s wrath burns against sinners, even as He is only friends to such as these! Tell you what, I am just going to post something I wrote a while back that sums things up for me…

    Here it is: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/10/20/from-despair-to-joy/

     
  5. George A. Marquart

    October 21, 2009 at 12:30 am

    God’s wrath burns against sinners so that He gave His only begotten Son, … Sorry, it just wrote itself. But somehow we are going to have to get rid of the idea that God’s wrath burns against us. Yes, we are all sinners, but the joy of the Gospel comes from the fact that Christ paid for all those sins, and a just God will not exact retribution for the same sin twice. Be of good cheer, your sins are not only forgiven, but, according to Jeremiah 31, the Almighty gives Himself amnesia, and does not remember our sins.

    Peace and Joy,
    George

     
  6. Nathan

    October 21, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    George,

    “somehow we are going to have to get rid of the idea that God’s wrath burns against us.”

    George, perhaps you could clarify? I really don’t think we will be able to say this without qualification until the last day. Again, there is much that you have written above that I agree with, but here, perhaps we disagree.

    First off, I’d submit that there is little point in talking about these things in the abstract, though we can try… I think the only way these things really start to make sense is when we are dealing with concrete persons and circumstances, conversations…

    You say “yes we are all sinners”, and I am glad that you consider yourself such, for Jesus is only a friend to sinners. But we can’t be too careful in a society so given over to, and awash, in antinomianism (the pastor who, with sadness, sensitively but firmly applies God’s law to the husband leaving his wife, is not the one destroying relationships). Sins have names, after all – and they are the best evidence we have that we are sinners, infected by the curse of sin! I assume that there are also concrete sins of which you are aware – things that you know are sin by the Word of God (think Paul in Romans 7, about coveting) – and that you confess.

    If this is indeed the case, then you certainly have a friend in Jesus. For while we were still sinners, Christ died for us, His enemies! He forgives (even forgets!) your sins (though let us remember that he did this for David to, who still experienced loving discipline thereafter). And shall we speak of the joy!: He is not a hard man, but rather gentle and tender. His yoke is easy and his burden is light! He will not break the bruised reed nor snuff out the smoldering wick. Desiring mercy and ever compassionate, He comes only for pitiful sinners as our friend! We are the ox who falls into the well and whom He immediately pulls out, not even waiting for words of repentance (see Luke 15) – and the angels rejoice at this. Sin, death, and the devil have been defeated in Him! For God loves sinners, and disciplines those He loves!

    And: to be certain of the stability of our relationship with God is simply to unreflectively depend on His Word of forgiveness in Christ, which brings with it life and salvation. We are like simple children in this matter, taking their dear Father at his word. It is by this forgiving Word that we have life and stand, not by faith in anything else, like: the strength of our faith; the performance of our actions; our conception and concern over the moral and spiritual transformation needed to stand in His presence. When we think like this, we lose grace, even if we say “grace alone”.

    On the other hand, do you think that as a Christian, your sins no longer make you a sinner – at least to the extent that the warnings about millstones in Matthew 18, for example, no longer apply to you? Or, for example, are there sins of which the Scripture clearly speaks that you don’t think you need to be forgiven for – that Jesus evidently did not really need to die for?

    If this is the case, then John 3:17, not 3:16, applies, and you are still in your sins. For if we have broken one command, we have broken them all. He cannot forgive and forget sins of the unrepentant adulterer, treasured up as they are in his heart. He will grant them the divorce they desire. For God hates sinners who disregard his law, and hence, destroy the relationships of his “little ones”. Millstones do enter the picture – Christian or not.

    In other words, I am not saying God exacts retribution for the same sin twice, I am saying that there is no sacrifice for sin left.

    So the answer is pastoral. To say what I’m saying above does not mean that persons are always shifting back and forth from being Christians or not. It simply means that there is a certain way Christians should talk to one another depending on the particular circumstances. The reason I framed this original post the way I did is because I am not interested in talking about the distinctions between objective and subjective justification, monergism and synergism, justification and sanctification, the sinner-saint model, etc., apart from how this actually plays out in real life. I’d submit that these things have the potential to be less than helpful if not applied in concrete circumstances.

    As the EO like to say, this stuff needs to be lived to be understood, right?

    I hope that this has been at least somewhat helpful in understanding my position.

    Unfortunately, I won’t be able to talk again for a couple days – but I’ll get back to you again, if you want to talk more.

    Love in Christ,
    Nathan

     
  7. George A. Marquart

    October 22, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Dear Nathan: Thank you for your pastoral concern and your extensive explanation of your views.

    As part of my response, I need to make it clear that I have been a Lutheran for most of the 73 years of my life. I was baptized before my first birthday (it’s the time before that that I was not a Lutheran), have studied in schools of the LCMS, and, by the grace of God, the Gospel of the Kingdom has been my joy and my concern for most of my life. All this to make sure you understand that I do not consider my views to be some kind of radical, “newly discovered” form of Christianity, but fundamental, scriptural orthodoxy.

    To answer your first question: yes, I am a sinner, and I know a few of my sins by name. I am certain that numerically there is a myriad of other sins which I am not aware of, maybe even think that some are not sins, and those that I have forgotten. The sins of which I am concretely aware are not trivial breaches of etiquette, but clear, crude violations of the 10 commandments. By the grace of God, many years ago I became aware of the fact that, because of the multitude of my sins, my only hope is in the Gospel; otherwise I am lost. If this Gospel does not mean the forgiveness of all of my sins, confessed and unconfessed, known and unknown, then it is not going to get the job done.

    This Gospel, as St. Paul says, can only be “spiritually discerned.” The reason for that is that it is contrary to human nature. Human nature simply cannot accept the fact that God gives Himself as an offering for the sins of His people, and then makes a home for these same people, a place which He calls His Kingdom. Within this Kingdom God gives us perfect freedom; He makes no demands of us whatsoever. That is the part that human wisdom is least able to comprehend, and which it therefore can only accept with the guidance of the Holy Spirit from the revelation in Scripture. The difficulty is not in believing the historicity of various events in Scripture, it is the idea that we can receive gifts without deserving them, and without incurring a debt.

    Here is what the Formula of Concord has to say on the subject:

    The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord
    III. The Righteousness of Faith

    9] Concerning the righteousness of faith before God we believe, teach, and confess unanimously, in accordance with the comprehensive summary of our faith and confession presented above, that poor sinful man is justified before God, that is, absolved and declared free and exempt from all his sins, and from the sentence of well-deserved condemnation, and adopted into sonship and heirship of eternal life, without any merit or worth of our own, also without any preceding, present, or any subsequent works, out of pure grace, because of the sole merit, complete obedience, bitter suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord Christ alone, whose obedience is reckoned to us for righteousness.

    Please note: “…without any preceding, present, or any subsequent works ….” Sadly, most Lutherans, when they read this sentence will immediately say something that begins with, “Yes, but …” Scripture and the Confessions leave no doubt, but we have to say, “Yes, but …,” because it just does not seem possible that this can be true. And among men it cannot, but God says, “My ways are not your ways.”

    For some reason we are concerned about “true” faith, “true” repentance, and “real” obedience as if the Church were full of enemies of God posing as believers. The same section of the FC deals with this matter quite comprehensively, so there is no reason to repeat all of that here. Suffice it to say, that we should trust the promises and revelations of Scripture, which tell of the entirely new creatures emerging from the waters of Baptism, children of God in whom the Lord, the Holy Spirit dwells, and in whose hearts He has written the will of God, so that in the Kingdom of God we do not do His will because He demands it, but because it is our will also.

    Yes, these children of God are also sinners. But, because of “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world,” our sins are forgiven even as we commit them. Please note that the fourth and sixth Petitions of the Lord’s Prayer deal with things we ask for “this day;” that is, for the future. It is the same with the fifth petition, and our Lord answers our prayer.

    Yes, I know all about “shall we sin so that grace might abound,” and “take heed lest ye fall,” and all of the perversions of the faith of which the human being is capable. But I think St. Paul has dealt more than adequately with them.

    Now to the last of your questions, “On the other hand, do you think that as a Christian, your sins no longer make you a sinner – at least to the extent that the warnings about millstones in Matthew 18, for example, no longer apply to you?” Sinning is what a sinner does, and there is no Christian who is not a sinner. Are the words in Matthew 18 said as a threat to show how precarious our hold is on the Kingdom so that all of us sinners would constantly fear that God will tie a millstone around our necks? Or is He characterizing the enormity of the evil of committing sins against children? Do you know that every minute, somewhere in the world 10 children die of hunger? This goes on even while we come to services in our comfortable, often air-conditioned, churches, whose annual maintenance alone could save thousands (yes, I said thousands) of children from this kind of agony. Yes, I agree, sin should be discussed concretely. And even as I confess that I deserve to have a millstone put around my neck, I also hear His words, “Every sin against the Son shall be forgiven.”

    “Or, for example, are there sins of which the Scripture clearly speaks that you don’t think you need to be forgiven for – that Jesus evidently did not really need to die for?” No. Is it a sin for me to resent being asked this kind of a question? Yes. Nevertheless, it is amazing that this kind of question, which so obviously can be answered “yes” only by an idiot or a psychopath, is the kind of question those who rely on the Gospel wholeheartedly are often asked. Being certain of the forgiveness of our sins because of God’s unambiguous promises is just too easy. We have to grovel, rend our garments, howl and cover our heads with ashes before anyone will believe that we are “truly” contrite. Showing any kind of joy obviously means that we think we have found some kind of an illegal loophole on the path to salvation. It is also worth mentioning that in the parable our Lord told, the publican did not list the individual sins he had committed, but he said, “Have mercy on me, a sinner.” He did not mention his sorrow over breaking even a single one of the 365 negative mitzvoth of which “the Scripture clearly speaks.” And you thought you could get away with just 10? In all likelihood he also broke some of the 248 positive mitzvoth by not doing what he should have. Who is an antinomian? Those who think there are only 10 commandments, although we Lutherans only recognize 9, or he who recognizes 613 and thereby despairs?

    Finally, and I do not know how much space your web site will allow me, if you read the following passages from Scripture (ESV), I think you will understand why I believe that God’s people should not fear His wrath, but live in His light and joy:

    Psalm 55:1 “Come, everyone who thirsts,
    come to the waters; and he who has no money,
    come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without price.
    2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
    and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
    Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
    and delight yourselves in rich food.
    3 Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live;
    and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
    my steadfast, sure love for David.
    4 Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples,
    a leader and commander for the peoples.
    5 Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know,
    and a nation that did not know you shall run to you,
    because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has glorified you.

    Jeremiah 31: 31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law (in Hebrew, “Torah,” not the Decalogue, but the whole will of God. Note by GAM) within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

    Luke 4: 43 but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”

    Luke 12: 32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

    Luke 16: 16 “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. 17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.”

    John 8: 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

    In the evening, just before our Lord began His suffering of mind-bending pain and unimaginable temptation, He said to His disciples: John 16: 22 “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

    Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Romans 8: 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

    Romans 8: 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

    Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

    Colossians 1: 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

    Revelation 21: 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.”

    Peace and Joy,
    George A. Marquart

     
  8. Nathan

    October 22, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    George,

    Please forgive the terseness of my replies that follow. Time is short, and so I am trying to answer your many points as briefly as I can. I’m really not sure where we disagree, quite honestly! : )

    “Within this Kingdom God gives us perfect freedom; He makes no demands of us whatsoever. That is the part that human wisdom is least able to comprehend, and which it therefore can only accept with the guidance of the Holy Spirit from the revelation in Scripture.”

    In my view, commands are only demands on this side of heaven. I see no reason why God may not give us commands beyond this life, which we will perform gladly, as you say.

    “…without any preceding, present, or any subsequent works ….”

    Right – I believe this. And each time I receive absolution or hear the Gospel, I am renewed and strengthened in this simple trust sans works. It is not that when I don’t hear it moment by moment, I no longer have faith, but whenever I do think about God present with me (apart from the times I am hearing His Words of peace) I think of three things: a) all is a gift, my doings cannot earn His approval; and b) my sinful works destroy the little ones, whom God protects from those who do evil, both now and forever, and c) He desires all to be saved, without any questioning, any exceptions (here we get into predestination territory). I believe that this does not destroy joy, this makes joy possible.

    “For some reason we are concerned about “true” faith, “true” repentance, and “real” obedience as if the Church were full of enemies of God posing as believers.”

    This has never occurred to me. Rather, it is full of believers, who often trust weakly, clinging with all their might to Jesus – but who still have the enemy within.

    “But, because of “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world,” our sins are forgiven even as we commit them.”

    Amen! At the same time, sadly, when Christians become aware of this or that sin, they do not always respond with repentant hearts…

    “Yes, I know all about “shall we sin so that grace might abound,” and “take heed lest ye fall,” and all of the perversions of the faith of which the human being is capable. But I think St. Paul has dealt more than adequately with them.”

    I believe there is an antinomianism, as did Luther, and as I’m sure you do to (maybe what distinguishes your belief in antinomianism from mine would be an interesting question). Are you aware of this?: http://www.lutheranpress.com/sdea.htm If not, I highly recommend it.

    “Are the words in Matthew 18 said as a threat to show how precarious our hold is on the Kingdom so that all of us sinners would constantly fear that God will tie a millstone around our necks? Or is He characterizing the enormity of the evil of committing sins against children? Do you know that every minute, somewhere in the world 10 children die of hunger? This goes on even while we come to services in our comfortable, often air-conditioned, churches, whose annual maintenance alone could save thousands (yes, I said thousands) of children from this kind of agony. Yes, I agree, sin should be discussed concretely. And even as I confess that I deserve to have a
    millstone put around my neck, I also hear His words, “Every sin against the Son shall be forgiven.”

    George, I agree with all of this. I certainly don’t think I said that we should constantly be living our lives in fear that God will tie a millstone around our necks – as if there is no relief from that fear! I’m really not too sure where you think we disagree here…

    ““Or, for example, are there sins of which the Scripture clearly speaks that you don’t think you need to be forgiven for – that Jesus evidently did not really need to die for?” No. Is it a sin for me to resent being asked this kind of a question? Yes. Nevertheless, it is amazing that this kind of question, which so obviously can be answered “yes” only by an idiot or a psychopath, is the kind of question those who rely on the Gospel wholeheartedly are often asked.”

    George, your words bring conviction to me that I do not rely on the Gospel as wholeheartedly as I should… Sadly, though, I can say that there are several persons I have spoken to recently, who as best I can tell can articulate the Gospel promises much like yourself, and yet see no problem in approving of a homosexual lifestyle, or of premarital sex, or of leaving their spouse, or of not forgiving persons – seeing these as things that should be permitted, even celebrated! So, regarding such persons answering “yes” to the question, I’m not sure I’d call them idiots, but rather fools, deceived by the devil, lying to themselves…

    “Being certain of the forgiveness of our sins because of God’s unambiguous promises is just too easy. We have to grovel, rend our garments, howl and cover our heads with ashes before anyone will believe that we are “truly” contrite.”

    I really don’t think that this is the case. Our repentance does not earn God’s approval, but is also a gift from Him. And, in general, I think he’d have us pick ourselves – or rather be picked up – rather quickly!

    “Showing any kind of joy obviously means that we think we have found some kind of an illegal loophole on the path to salvation.”

    Again, I really don’t think that this is the case – nor are there any pastors I know who would say such a thing! (if there are any, I’d actually like to meet them : ) ) If you have no joy, that is a sign that you are in trouble at the very heart of your relationship with God.

    “It is also worth mentioning that in the parable our Lord told, the publican did not list the individual sins he had committed, but he said,“Have mercy on me, a sinner.” He did not mention his sorrow over breaking even a single one of the 365 negative mitzvoth of which “the Scripture clearly speaks.””

    Yes, George – but could you explain more how you see this is as being relevant to our discussion? In the general confession each Sunday, we do much the same thing as the publican, and I think that is great.

    “And you thought you could get away with just 10?”

    Most definitely not! : ) Walther said that out of the 10 we can create 1000s! : )

    “In all likelihood he also broke some of the 248 positive mitzvoth by not doing what he should have. Who is an antinomian? Those who think there are only 10 commandments, although we Lutherans only recognize 9, or he who recognizes 613 and thereby despairs?””

    Again, could you explain more how this is relevant? We only give the 10 commandments the status we do because the N.T. writers repeat them – evidently, there really is something about that distinction theologians make between the civil, ceremonial, and moral law…

    As for the rest of the verses you list, I treasure them too! What wonderful promises.

    So where do we disagree? : )

    Ah, yes: “somehow we are going to have to get rid of the idea that God’s wrath burns against us.”

    Again, I really don’t think we will be able to say this *without qualification* until the last day. I think about Bo Geirtz’s hammer of God, and how the pastor gently, but firmly deals with the lying parishoner (having him read from Revelation about liars being thrown into the lake of fire), never assuming for a moment that he is dealing with an unbeliever.

    Much love in Christ,
    Nathan

     
  9. George A. Marquart

    October 24, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    Dear Nathan, thank you once more for your kind response. It seems as if, after all the dust and all the words have settled, there is hardly any disagreement between us.

    So let us dispense with the last item as quickly as possible:
    “So where do we disagree? : )
    Ah, yes: “somehow we are going to have to get rid of the idea that God’s wrath burns against us.”
    Again, I really don’t think we will be able to say this *without qualification* until the last day.”

    The Gospel lives or dies on this point!

    1 John 3: 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now,…

    John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

    Therefore, the wrath of God is on those who are not His children. “His children” are sinners, and members of the Kingdom of His dear Son, and for His sake, they are beloved. That is the thing that is so hard to believe, but without which there is no Gospel. The unbelievable, impossible, contradictory idea of the Gospel is that God loves us even when we sin. If He did not, there would be no hope for us, and what we call “the Gospel” would be “Bad News.”

    1 Thessalonians 5:9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

    None of this denies that to commit sin is a serious matter. I am not saying we should ignore sin. But we have to realize that the wrath of God is on those outside of His Kingdom. Therefore, to say to a Christian, even when we doubt that he is a “real” Christian, that God’s wrath is on them is to say that they are no longer in His Kingdom. Aside from being a very serious judgment, it is also outside of our competence. It is doubly serious because of the Apostle’s claim that it is impossible to reenter the Kingdom of God once one has left it.

    Peace and Joy, in the remembrance of God’s grace to us all in the Reformation.

    Peace and Joy,
    George A. Marquart

     
  10. Nathan

    October 26, 2009 at 11:45 am

    George,

    You need to check out the antinomian theses. What you say makes sense to me, but at the same time, what Luther says may shock you.

    Again, God does love us when we sin, even forgiving our sin before we are aware of it, confess, etc. At the same time, I believe that there are times, for His purposes that He may make us aware of it – and if we are persistent in rejecting this awareness, and refuse to say about our sin what He says about it, then our soul is in great spiritual danger. We come to believe that we do not really need forgiveness for this or that… that such and such a “small sin” is not serious…, etc. And, if, when it is in His Spirit’s interest to make us aware of sins that He has forgiven, and we determine that it was really just a waste of time, i.e. when we start to believe and act as if this is not sin, small sin, etc., we become enemies against His simple children, and millstones are in order for it all.

    “It is doubly serious because of the Apostle’s claim that it is impossible to reenter the Kingdom of God once one has left it.”

    Are you speaking of Peter? If you are talking about a person’s inability to have their faith renewed again after they have lost it, this is not what we believe, teach, and confess (Walther argues that David [by the way, was that God's wrath that killed His Son after He was forgiven? - not trying to be smart, just honest with what we are dealing with here] had actually lost his faith before Nathan came to help him) according to our confessions.

    Love in Christ,
    Nathan

     
  11. Nathan

    October 26, 2009 at 11:46 am

    “Are you speaking of Peter?”

    Sorry about this – I assume you mean Paul in Hebrews…

    ~Nathan

     
  12. George A. Marquart

    October 26, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Nathan: I have checked the excerpt of the Antinomian Debate from the website you suggested and the discussion of this matter on the Book of Concord site. Luther does say some things with which some disagree, but these items are not part of our Confessions, so that we may do so without suspicion of heresy. I agree wholeheartedly with the Doctrine of the Third Use as described in the Formula of Concord. My only qualification is that it uses the word “Law,” or “Gesetz” in German, for several Hebrew words which have different meanings. So, for instance, I do not believe that God wrote the Ten Commandments in our hearts, because Jeremiah speaks of “Torah” in his prophecy, and that is something other than the Ten Commandments. Therefore, I believe the question of what “the Law” is needs more discussion beyond the definition in our Confessions.

    It was not God’s wrath that killed David’s son. We continue to make the assumption that death is the worst possible punishment. It was a reminder, a very harsh one, to David of his responsibility as king. But as to the boy who died, did not David say at the end of this episode, “He will not come to me, but I will come to him,” thus expressing his firm faith in the fact that he will “abide in the house of the Lord forever,” where he will see his son again? So the boy was spared all of the suffering he would have endured had he lived a full life. By the way, I believe a corollary to that is our Lord’s weeping before He raised Lazarus: He wept because He had to return His friend to the world of sin and suffering, so that people would believe the words, “He who believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”

    I cannot say for sure what happens to a person who abandons the Kingdom of God, or at what point the sin against the Holy Spirit becomes final. All of that is in the merciful and just hands of God. But I have searched the entire Book of Concord, and I cannot find a reference to Hebrews 6:4. I will be grateful for your guidance as to where in our Confessions this question is discussed.

    I will be away for about two weeks, exchanging the sunshine of southern California for the dreariness of the East Coast. Therefore, probably to the relief of many, I will be absent from this discussion for a while.

    Peace and Joy,
    George A. Marquart

     
  13. Nathan

    October 27, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    George,

    Glad to have the conversation. Any time.

    “We continue to make the assumption that death is the worst possible punishment.”

    George, I’m not sure who the “we” is here. I don’t know of any Lutheran pastors at least who think this. : )

    “It was a reminder, a very harsh one, to David of his responsibility as king. But as to the boy who died, did not David say at the end of this episode, “He will not come to me, but I will come to him,” thus expressing his firm faith in the fact that he will “abide in the house of the Lord forever,” where he will see his son again?”

    Agree in full. Indeed.

    “So the boy was spared all of the suffering he would have endured had he lived a full life.”

    I’m not sure where you get this reasoning from though… Also, I don’t like how it could be picked up by someone else and used to justify abortion.

    “By the way, I believe a corollary to that is our Lord’s weeping before He raised Lazarus: He wept because He had to return His friend to the world of sin and suffering, so that people would believe the words, “He who believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”

    George, I’d love for you to explain this to me more. I thought he wept because He was sad. : )

    “I cannot say for sure what happens to a person who abandons the Kingdom of God, or at what point the sin against the Holy Spirit becomes final. All of that is in the merciful and just hands of God. But I have searched the entire Book of Concord, and I cannot find a reference to Hebrews 6:4. I will be grateful for your guidance as to where in our Confessions this question is discussed.”

    George, I was looking for my marked-up copy of Tappert last night to no avail. You might want to look at article 11 in the solid declaration (paragraph 42), but I think there are more locations as well that explicitly state that persons can fall away from the faith, but be renewed again. Hebrews 6:4 is nowhere discussed although in the new Lutheran Study Bible it has a note from Luther that basically says as long as persons do not repent and trust Christ, it is impossible for them to be renewed again (something to that effect). I’m not an expert on the Greek, but evidently many Lutheran exegetes feel this is a responsible way to go.

    Again, its a pleasure George. Have a great trip.

    ~Nathan

     
  14. George A. Marquart

    November 12, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    Nathan: About the raising of Lazarus and why our Lord wept. Of course He was sad. My question is, “what made Him sad?”

    A key to the answer to this question is that, in His humanity, our Lord was a person just as we are, except without sin. This phrase, “except without sin,” is often said as if it were a mere tiny little detail, but, in fact, it is like the elephant in the room. It is like saying, “A 747 is just like the Wright Brothers’ plane, except bigger.” Being sinful, we cannot get our arms around the concept of what being sinless is really like. For this reason we (please don’t take offense at my use of the pronoun; in this and any other discussion it is always meant as “people in general,” and “present company excepted) tend to ascribe human attributes to our Lord which, being sinless, He did not have. I have heard it said that our Lord had doubts and fears “just as we all do.” If it were so, then His death was for nothing.

    Being sinless, His concerns were always for others, never for Himself. This is most evident in all of His words on the cross. Even “I thirst” was not said because of His own needs, but “to fulfill the Scripture;” in other words, for us. I also think that our Lord meant for us to know that physiological drives such as hunger and thirst are not selfish or sinful in themselves.

    With regard to the “cry of dereliction,” I believe that the explanation related to the recitation of Psalm 22 is much more plausible than the thought that it was an expression of despair because His Father had really abandoned Him. Although it is true that our Savior knew that he had to suffer the agony and temptations of Good Friday without taking advantage of His “equality with God,” I am certain that He also knew that His Father would never stop loving Him, and that, in that sense, He would never be abandoned. Unless His love indeed was perfect, our hope is in vain, and as John writes, “Perfect love casteth out fear.”

    With this as background to the raising of Lazarus, we can safely say the following:

    1. The story makes it clear that, from when our Lord was first told of Lazarus’ illness, He waited until He was sure that Lazarus was dead, before coming to Bethany.

    2. He knew, again from the beginning of the account that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead.

    3. The mourners could not have made Him sad, because He knew He was going to raise Lazarus.

    4. The unbelief could not have saddened Him to the point of bringing Him to tears, because He saw that unbelief every day.

    5. The tears He shed, He did not shed because of His own suffering or sadness, but because of somebody else’s; i.e. Lazarus’.

    6. The idea that all of the weeping and sadness in this account are somehow related to the death of Lazarus, stems from the deeply ingrained conviction among people that death is indeed “the worst possible punishment,” even though our words may profess something other.

    For these reasons, I believe our Lord wept because He knew that He would cause suffering to His dear friend, Lazarus, by bringing Him back into this world of pain and sin. Moreover, He would never have done it just “as a favor,” either for Lazarus or his sisters, but He did it so that future generations of His children would find strength in His words, “He who believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”

    Peace and Joy,
    George A. Marquart

     
  15. George A. Marquart

    November 12, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    Having written the above, I have to confess that I have not heard of this view about our Lord weeping anywhere, though I have searched high and low. A sane man would assume that he is wrong. But this interpretation is so tied up with my understanding of the Gospel, that I suspect that someone, somewhere, has thought of it before me. If anyone knows of a previous sources, please let me know, for the sake of my sanity – or is it pride?

    Peace and Joy,
    George A. Marquart

     
  16. Nathan

    November 13, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    George,

    Being one who has also had some seemingly unique ideas, I have some real sympathy for you. : ) I too, have wondered about my pride many a time – how could God love someone as prideful as me? Of course, such a thought is not that of a child…

    I am always convicted by the fact that Luther said something like “I had a lot of unique/creative ideas, but I had to give them up because they weren’t Scriptural…” Often I recall these words with displeasure, and then am convicted for about the displeasure I feel about this or that novelty being “cast down”…

    Seriously though, this does not mean to say that our understanding of the Scriptures and our “model” of the Divine drama with its embedded Trinitarianism, Christology, etc. does not change as new needs arise. I believe it does, although not in a contradictory way that would abandon past understandings, but in a “greater fullenss” way.

    All that said, let me confess that for your recent longer post above, you had me following you for a while, as I became more and more open to what you were saying, but finally, in the end, I think maybe you are missing something.

    I agree that the Lord wept “for us” in some way – it was not really “for Him”, for life was meant to be lived only for others, even as they lived their lives for us. At the same time, I suspect that he wept for us to know that [things] such as hunger and thirst [and sadness] are not selfish or sinful in themselves. I think non-despairing tears are a good and proper response to the fall, and are not necessarily implicated in the sinful behaviors that result from the fall. That said, I do not necessarily think that it is wrong to suspect that Jesus would have been sad in some way to bring Lazarus back into the fallen world… for again, tears are a good and proper response to the fall… The idea that He did this crying “so that future generations of His children would find strength in His words, “He who believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”” I cannot be convinced by (yet) though – for we can certainly say that persons found strength in these words insofar as they were connected to Lazarus’ resurrection, but apart from the physical resurrection of Lazarus, I do not think we would find strength, for the God-man must overcome physical death, which is not the worst punishment, but the physical sign, or manifestation of the worst punishment, which is spiritual death, i.e. life apart from God. And the fact that even those who know Christ die is a sign for us that until the fullness comes in the second coming, mankind has not been fully united to God – for sin, spiritual death, clearly remains, pollutes, and holds some sway.

    But God will use evil for good.

    But are we now not getting far away from our original discussion? : ) Perhaps you can connect some dots for me….

    As for others being able to help you here, I hope that it happens. However, I am guessing that this blog is probably to obscure for that to happen.

    ~Nathan

     
  17. frank william sonnek

    November 18, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    nathan.

    yes this blog is obscure. but then there is google.

    This discussion has been good for me.

    Pastor marquart, could it also be that Jesus wept because of death. the fact that death exists in a world God created to be without death?

    Death is unnatural in that sense. Only the fact that one Death on the afternoon of a very good friday swallowed up sin death and the devil forever makes death not the final thing or the worst thing.

     
  18. George A. Marquart

    November 19, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Dear Brother in Christ, Frank William Sonnek: First, I am not a pastor. I am a layperson who has devoted much time to the understanding of his faith. It is now pretty well accepted that laypeople are able to do that. The process is not one that took place in isolation or by some special revelation. It involved countless relatives, friends, pastors, professors, all from a number of different Christian denominations, and a host of books over the three score and a dozen or so years of my life. And I have to believe that, according to the precious Gospel of the Kingdom, that the Holy Spirit was at work in me as well. Not because I am especially worthy, but because all of the promises of the Gospel are fulfilled only in those who are unworthy.

    Secondly, as you certainly know, there are numerous theories about our Lord’s weeping at the raising of Lazarus. Fortunately, by themselves, none of these theories are “necessary for salvation.” Putting together all I know about the precious Gospel of the Kingdom, the story of the raising of Lazarus, and the later comments about how the Jewish authorities tried to kill him after his resurrection, I am personally convinced that our Lord wept because He knew He had to do something that was necessary for the salvation of many people in centuries to come, but would cause His friend to return from unfathomable joy to a world of suffering. Our Lord knew and predicted that faith in Him would cause people to suffer. But He did not weep when He said that; instead He said that we should “leap for joy” when that time comes, because, as the Apostle Paul explained later, the suffering of this world is not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to come. But to bring someone back from that unfathomable glory to the suffering of this world, that is something that deserves weeping over.

    Our Savior, who, according the First Epistle of the Apostle Peter, was foreknown from before the foundation of the world, had seen every death that took place from that of Adam to that of Lazarus. If death would make Him weep, He would never stop weeping. Why then would He weep at this particular death, when, as the story makes clear from the very beginning, He knew that Lazarus would die and that He would bring him back to life?

    And you are so right about that very Good Friday. Flesh and blood have not revealed this to you. Therefore, our final destination is in that glorious place where He, who wept over Lazarus, will wipe away every tear.

    Peace and Joy,
    George A. Marquart

     

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