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Monthly Archives: May 2020

Summer Social Media Break

Repeating what I said in 2018 around this time:

I think I mentioned this on Twitter, but I am not planning on blogging much this summer. I have some projects, home-related and academic, I’m working on and any posts that I do write I’m guessing I’ll wait to publish later on.

I might publish some things that others hand on to me, so it might be worth checking here once in a while if you do that….

Besides the projects I mention above, there are other good reasons to get off, and some of the stuff I talked about here a couple years ago still holds true.

 

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

“What Is the Third Use of the Law?” and Related Questions

Sadly, CPH “so-called 3rd use of the law” book, you are no help at all…

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First, a little background for any not in the know who might be reading this post: During the 16th century Reformation, church reformers such as Martin Luther identified, from the Scriptures, three uses of God’s law. Simply put, God’s law is that which He commands, and is often accompanied by the threat of punishment and the promise of reward. The first use of the law serves as a curb (as in the curb on a road) which prevents gross outbreaks of human sin, the second use of the law serves as a mirror to reveal the depths of our sin to us, and the third use helps to guide the Christian believer.

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Now, back to the specific topic of this post…. “What Is the Third Use of the Law?” (and related questions).

For Lutherans, this seems like a basic question that the articles on the Third Use of the Law in the 1580 Formula of Concord should be able to answer!

I asked this question to folks on Twitter and Facebook:

How do you define the third use of the law?

“Where do you get your definition? Where, if you do, do you find this definition in the Epitome and Solid Declaration in the Formula of Concord?”

One of the more interesting responses that I got was “Why do you ask?”

Some might say…: Good Lord… So many words and attention to words below! Theology that concerns itself with propositions or what things are in their essence is a theology about the cross, a theology of glory, and not a theology of the cross… Eck…

I suppose that’s not really a bad question to ask someone who recently labeled himself on Twitter as a “Mean and Evilly Evil Lutheran Heresy-Hunter Extraordinaire.” So, here is how I responded:

Because I really want to know where people go, look, think. Why? Because I have picked up on things over the years. Because experience teaches me this is a very important issue and related to the problems which face us. Because, back in 2008 my pastor and Holger Sonntag translated the Antinomian Disputations because of their own questions and experiences. Because, back in 2011, because of things I’d picked up on, I wrote a blog series titled “We are all antinomians now” (which I still think holds up). Because, I have my own fairly developed ideas about this but want to test them against others who I know have knowledge, wisdom, and love for Christ. Finally, because of a sense of mission as regards this particular issue, feeling that, more than ever, we can’t shrink back but must engage.

Another good question for the “why do you ask” question is this: Do you think *you* should be asking and answering this question? Why or why not?

So, the question remains: while there are articles about the Third Use of the Law in the Formula of Concord, is the topic really defined there?

It is an important question. One, for example, said it was defined and put it this way: “The 3rd use guides a regenerate in sanctified living. Through that sanctification I’m protected from boastful self-righteousness by following man-made law. But not perfectly, cuz I’m bound to sin. Then I repent & ask for forgiveness.

You can see my response to this gentleman in the tweet below, which I also shared in my response to Pastor Todd Wilken, who, in response to my question, said “Those promoting the “Third Use is just the Second Use all over again in the Christian” definition are counting on the fact that people don’t actually READ the Book of Concord.” I replied: “I can see why they could think that though (Do you think the 1st and 2nd use of the law don’t do this? Christian parents make their presumably Christian kids go to church (1st use). The 2nd use rebukes the regenerate of the damnable unbelief which remains through instructing them (guidance) of what God demands. Distinct?). And we have, I think, taken away something specific about the third use that allows them to do that….

The Third Use of the Law is certainly distinct from the other uses of the Law, particularly the Second Use (the revealing of sin), but how can we best determine just where the differences lie in this doctrinal matter?

The Second Use, discussed in Article V, is not concerned with instructing, per se, but with revealing sin. Think of Paul in Romans 1-3, particularly 3:19-21: “…so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God… no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law...through the law we become conscious of our sin.”

Another man told me that he always found conversations about the Third Use of the Law to be unhelpful. I strive to overcome that impasse!

Let’s dig in.

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For this post–which I am doing as much for myself as anyone else–I am simply walking through both parts of the Formula of Concord, the Epitome and Solid Declaration (the versions available for free on the internet — clicking the numbers that head each paragraph will take you to the site I got them from), and look for answers to the above question and other critical questions that are related to that first question….

So, we will look at all of the following:

1. What is the Third Use of the Law?

2. Whose Use?: Who is the one “using” the Law in this third way?

3. Why?: What is the goal of the Third Use of the Law?

4. To Whom?: Is the Old Man or New Man of the Christian Being Addressed?

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The goal!: “…this faith [in Christ] is bound to bring forth good fruits… it is necessary to do good works commanded by God, because of God’s will, but… we should not rely on those works to merit justification.”

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I will bold and highlight parts of the text that address these questions according to how I have colored those questions above (stuff related to definitions in red, stuff that relates to agents in blue, stuff related to goals in green, and stuff related to who is being addressed in purple). Please note that in some cases I struggled to choose which color to highlight in as multiple questions appear to be addressed in each statement!

Also, I am also italicizing any other text that stands out to me as being significant, or to further emphasize what I have already highlighted!

Finally, at the end, we will produce a summary of the results of our inquiry, which will also answer the question about what makes the Third Use of the Law distinct from its other two uses, or “offices” (as Melanththon put it in his 1535 Loci, which first formally discussed the topic).

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Epitome of the Formula of Concord

Comprehensive Summary, Rule and Norm According to which all dogmas should be judged, and the erroneous teachings [controversies] that have occurred should be decided and explained in a Christian way.

VI. The Third Use of the Law

STATUS CONTROVERSIAE.
The Principal Question In This Controversy.

1] Since the Law was given to men for three reasons: first, that thereby outward discipline might be maintained against wild, disobedient men [and that wild and intractable men might be restrained, as though by certain bars]; secondly, that men thereby may be led to the knowledge of their sins; thirdly, that after they are regenerate and [much of] the flesh notwithstanding cleaves to them, they might on this account have a fixed rule according to which they are to regulate and direct their whole life, a dissension has occurred between some few theologians concerning the third use of the Law, namely, whether it is to be urged or not upon regenerate Christians. The one side has said, Yea; the other, Nay.

For your reference — and should defining the third use leave out the user?….

[Infanttheology’s comment: Yes, the purple and green above could conceivably be red as well. Still, should not any definition about the Third Use of the law be, in part, that it actually has something to do with “using or deploying the law in this third way”? And note: the statement in red could also be blue as well, correct? So, critically, ask this question too: Is this controversy really over whether or not the Holy Spirit is to use the law in this way?]

From above, for your reference, so you don’t need to scroll up again to check #1

Affirmative Theses.
The True Christian Doctrine concerning This Controversy.

2] 1. We believe, teach, and confess that, although men truly believing [in Christ] and truly converted to God have been freed and exempted from the curse and coercion of the Law, they nevertheless are not on this account without Law, but have been redeemed by the Son of God in order that they should exercise themselves in it day and night [that they should meditate upon God’s Law day and night, and constantly exercise themselves in its observance, Ps. 1:2 ], Ps. 119. For even our first parents before the Fall did not live without Law, who had the Law of God written also into their hearts, because they were created in the image of God, Gen. 1:26f.; 2:16ff; 3:3.

“For even our first parents before the Fall did not live without Law…” No, law and paradise are not opposed….

3] 2. We believe, teach, and confess that the preaching of the Law is to be urged with diligence, not only upon the unbelieving and impenitent, but also upon true believers, who are truly converted, regenerate, and justified by faith.

4] 3. For although they are regenerate and renewed in the spirit of their mind, yet in the present life this regeneration and renewal is not complete, but only begun, and believers are, by the spirit of their mind, in a constant struggle against the flesh, that is, against the corrupt nature and disposition which cleaves to us unto death. On account of this old Adam, which still inheres in the understanding, the will, and all the powers of man, it is needful that the Law of the Lord always shine before them, in order that they may not from human devotion institute wanton and self-elected cults [that they may frame nothing in a matter of religion from the desire of private devotion, and may not choose divine services not instituted by God’s Word]; likewise, that the old Adam also may not employ his own will, but may be subdued against his will, not only by the admonition and threatening of the Law, but also by punishments and blows, so that he may follow and surrender himself captive to the Spirit, 1 Cor. 9:27; Rom. 6:12, Gal. 6:14; Ps. 119:1ff ; Heb. 13:21 (Heb. 12:1).

[Infanttheology’s comment: I think concern about instituting “self-elected cults” is a problem precisely because it gets in the way of the goal of actual obedience to God’s will. Will address the other stuff in italics below, in the “solid declaration” article]

5] 4. Now, as regards the distinction between the works of the Law and the fruits of the Spirit, we believe, teach, and confess that the works which are done according to the Law are and are called works of the Law as long as they are only extorted from man by urging the punishment and threatening of God’s wrath.

From above, for your reference, so you don’t need to scroll up again to check #2

6] 5. Fruits of the Spirit, however, are the works which the Spirit of God who dwells in believers works through the regenerate, and which are done by believers so far as they are regenerate [spontaneously and freely], as though they knew of no command, threat, or reward; for in this manner the children of God live in the Law and walk according to the Law of God, which [mode of living] St. Paul in his epistles calls the Law of Christ and the Law of the mind, Rom. 7:25; 8:7; Rom. 8:2; Gal. 6:2.

“…’spontaneously’ does not mean ‘without effort’ for a creature whose God-given nature is to work. Naturally does not mean ‘without instruction’ for a creature whose God-given nature is to learn….” — Matt Cochran

7] 6. Thus the Law is and remains both to the penitent and impenitent, both to regenerate and unregenerate men, one [and the same] Law, namely, the immutable will of God; and the difference, so far as concerns obedience, is alone in man, inasmuch as one who is not yet regenerate does for the Law out of constraint and unwillingly what it requires of him (as also the regenerate do according to the flesh); but the believer, so far as he is regenerate, does without constraint and with a willing spirit that which no threatenings [however severe] of the Law could ever extort from him.

Glory!: Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory… will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? — 2 Cor. 3 (see Christopher Jackson for more).

Negative Theses.
False Contrary Doctrine.

8] Accordingly, we reject as a dogma and error injurious to, and conflicting with, Christian discipline and true godliness the teaching that the Law in the above-mentioned way and degree is not to be urged upon Christians and true believers, but only upon unbelievers, non-Christians, and the impenitent.

[Infanttheology’s comment: Since the law is given for three reasons, the third being to provide the “fixed rule according to which [men] are to regulate and direct their whole life” — i.e. to walk in, obey — it is to be used in this way and urged upon the regenerate. Again, ask yourself: is the controversy rally over whether or not the Holy Spirit should do this?]

“…the Law must be preached to the regenerate to teach them certain works in which God wills that we practice obedience… because it pertains to obedience, the Law remains…” — Phillip Melanchthon, last Latin edition of Loci Communes, 1559

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The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord

VI. The Third Use of the Law

1] Since the Law of God is useful, 1. not only to the end that external discipline and decency are maintained by it against wild, disobedient men; 2. likewise, that through it men are brought to a knowledge of their sins; 3. but also that, when they have been born anew by the Spirit of God, converted to the Lord, and thus the veil of Moses has been lifted from them, they live and walk in the law, a dissension has occurred between some few theologians concerning this third and last use of the Law. 2] For the one side taught and maintained that the regenerate do not learn the new obedience, or in what good works they ought to walk, from the Law, and that this teaching [concerning good works] is not to be urged thence [from the law], because they have been made free by the Son of God, have become the temples of His Spirit, and therefore do freely of themselves what God requires of them, by the prompting and impulse of the Holy Ghost, just as the sun of itself, without any [foreign] impulse, completes its ordinary course. 3] Over against this the other side taught: Although the truly believing are verily moved by God’s Spirit, and thus, according to the inner man, do God’s will from a free spirit, yet it is just the Holy Ghost who uses the written law for instruction with them, by which the truly believing also learn to serve God, not according to their own thoughts, but according to His written Law and Word, which is a sure rule and standard of a godly life and walk, how to order it in accordance with the eternal and immutable will of God.

From above, for your reference, so you don’t need to scroll up again to check #3

4] For the explanation and final settlement of this dissent we unanimously believe, teach, and confess that although the truly believing and truly converted to God and justified Christians are liberated and made free from the curse of the Law, yet they should daily exercise themselves in the Law of the Lord, as it is written, Ps. 1:2;119:1: Blessed is the man whose delight is in the Law of the Lord, and in His Law doth he meditate day and night. For the Law is a mirror in which the will of God, and what pleases Him, are exactly portrayed, and which should [therefore] be constantly held up to the believers and be diligently urged upon them without ceasing.

Seriously, John? What about Steve Paulson?: “….and his commands are not burdensome…” — the Apostle John

[Infantheology’s comment: Again, in this definition of the what the third use of the law is, naturally, it’s actual use has something to do with it! And is it the Holy Spirit who need to be reminded to “constantly hold up” God’s law to believers so they will really obey it, i.e. “daily exercise themselves in [it]”? Is it really the Holy Spirit who needs to be told to “diligently urge [it] upon [believers] without ceasing?]

Ready to receive it, so let me have it preacher!: “Let the righteous man strike me; let his rebuke be an act of loving devotion. It is oil for my head; let me not refuse it…” – David

5] For although the Law is not made for a righteous man, as the apostle testifies 1 Tim. 1:9, but for the unrighteous, yet this is not to be understood in the bare meaning, that the justified are to live without law. For the Law of God has been written in their heart, and also to the first man immediately after his creation a law was given according to which he was to conduct himself. But the meaning of St. Paul is that the Law cannot burden with its curse those who have been reconciled to God through Christ; nor must it vex the regenerate with its coercion, because they have pleasure in God’s Law after the inner man.

“Before justification the law ruled and terrified all whom it touched. But the law is not to be taught in such a way among the pious, so as to ac­cuse and condemn, but so as to admonish to good.”Luther on preaching to the converted.

6] And, indeed, if the believing and elect children of God were completely renewed in this life by the indwelling Spirit, so that in their nature and all its powers they were entirely free from sin, they would need no law, and hence no one to drive them either, but they would do of themselves, and altogether voluntarily, without any instruction, admonition, urging or driving of the Law, what they are in duty bound to do according to God’s will; just as the sun, the moon, and all the constellations of heaven have their regular course of themselves, unobstructed, without admonition, urging, driving, force, or compulsion, according to the order of God which God once appointed for them, yea, just as the holy angels render an entirely voluntary obedience.

[Infanttheology’s comment: And yet note again that God did give law to Adam and Eve who were entirely free from sin… (see above)]

From above, for your reference, so you don’t need to scroll up again to check #4

7] However, believers are not renewed in this life perfectly or completely, completive vel consummative [as the ancients say]; for although their sin is covered by the perfect obedience of Christ, so that it is not imputed to believers for condemnation, and also the mortification of the old Adam and the renewal in the spirit of their mind is begun through the Holy Ghost, nevertheless the old Adam clings to them still in their nature and all its internal and external powers. 8] Of this the apostle has written Rom. 7:18ff.: I know that in me [that is, in my flesh] dwelleth no good thing. And again: For that which I do I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that I do; Likewise: I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin. Likewise, Gal. 5:17: The flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

“the Old Adam… still clings to them.” It is *other* than them, in the Third Use. They are on the side of the Law here, opposed to the Old Adam.” — Pastor Eric Phillips

9] Therefore, because of these lusts of the flesh the truly believing, elect, and regenerate children of God need in this life not only the daily instruction and admonition, warning, and threatening of the Law, but also frequently punishments, that they may be roused [the old man is driven out of them] and follow the Spirit of God, as it is written Ps. 119:71: It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn Thy statutes. And again, 1 Cor. 9:27: I keep under my body and bring it into subjection, lest that, by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. And again, Heb. 12:8: But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons; as Dr. Luther has fully explained this at greater length in the Summer Part of the Church Postil, on the Epistle for the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity.

[Infanttheology’s comment: The key point here, bolstered by Luther’s sermon mentioned in the Formula, is that the Christian ultimately recognizes God disciplines those He loves and is himself eager to discipline His old Adam (who frustrates and wages war against his true desires so much! — see previous paragraph) — with blows even! This is why the third use of the law can be readily and eagerly received with thankfulness… (in addition to the first and second uses as well).]

From the sermon quoted in the text above: “…an admonition for Christians to follow up their faith by good works and a new life… unless Christians offer resistance, they will lose their faith and the remission of sins and will in the end be worse than they were at first… even those who gladly hear the Word of God, who highly prize it and aim to follow it, have daily need of admonition and encouragement, so strong and tough is that old hide of our sinful flesh…”

10] But we must also explain distinctively what the Gospel does, produces, and works towards the new obedience of believers, and what is the office of the Law in this matter, as regards the good works of believers.

From above, for your reference, so you don’t need to scroll up again to check #5

11] For the Law says indeed that it is God’s will and command that we should walk in a new life, but it does not give the power and ability to begin and do it; but the Holy Ghost, who is given and received, not through the Law, but through the preaching of the Gospel, Gal. 3:14, renews the heart. 12] Thereafter the Holy Ghost employs the Law so as to teach the regenerate from it, and to point out and show them in the Ten Commandments what is the [good and] acceptable will of God, Rom. 12:2, in what good works God hath before ordained that they should walk, Eph. 2:10. He exhorts them thereto, and when they are idle, negligent, and rebellious in this matter because of the flesh, He reproves them on that account through the Law, so that He carries on both offices together: He slays and makes alive; He leads into hell and brings up again. For His office is not only to comfort, but also to reprove, as it is written: When the Holy Ghost is come, He will reprove the world (which includes also the old Adam) of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. 13] But sin is everything that is contrary to God’s Law. 14] And St. Paul says: All Scripture given by inspiration of God is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, etc., and to reprove is the peculiar office of the Law. Therefore, as often as believers stumble, they are reproved by the Holy Spirit from the Law, and by the same Spirit are raised up and comforted again with the preaching of the Holy Gospel.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship….” — The Apostle Paul, Romans 12 ff.

15] But in order that, as far as possible, all misunderstanding may be prevented, and the distinction between the works of the Law and those of the Spirit be properly taught and preserved it is to be noted with especial diligence that when we speak of good works which are in accordance with God’s Law (for otherwise they are not good works), then the word Law has only one sense, namely, the immutable will of God, according to which men are to conduct themselves in their lives.

16] The difference, however, is in the works, because of the difference in the men who strive to live according to this Law and will of God. For as long as man is not regenerate, and [therefore] conducts himself according to the Law and does the works because they are commanded thus, from fear of punishment or desire for reward, he is still under the Law, and his works are called by St. Paul properly works of the Law, for they are extorted by the Law, as those of slaves; and these are saints after the order of Cain [that is, hypocrites].

Lutheran saint Kurt Marquart: “To not preach the third use of the law is break the bruised reed and snuff out the smoldering wick.”

17] But when man is born anew by the Spirit of God, and liberated from the Law, that is, freed from this driver, and is led by the Spirit of Christ, he lives according to the immutable will of God comprised in the Law, and so far as he is born anew, does everything from a free, cheerful spirit; and these are called not properly works of the Law, but works and fruits of the Spirit, or as St. Paul names it, the law of the mind and the Law of Christ. For such men are no more under the Law, but under grace, as St. Paul says, Rom. 8:2 [Rom. 7:23; 1 Cor. 9:21 ].

From above, for your reference, so you don’t need to scroll up again to check #6

18] But since believers are not completely renewed in this world, but the old Adam clings to them even to the grave, there also remains in them the struggle between the spirit and the flesh. Therefore they delight indeed in God’s Law according to the inner man, but the law in their members struggles against the law in their mind; hence they are never without the Law, and nevertheless are not under, but in the Law, and live and walk in the Law of the Lord, and yet do nothing from constraint of the Law.

Luther: “The reason why seemingly contradictory statements are often made in the Bible about Christians is due to the Christians two-fold nature. The simple fact is that within each Christian two natures constantly oppose each other...” And yet, progress too…

19] But as far as the old Adam is concerned, which still clings to them, he must be driven not only with the Law, but also with punishments; nevertheless he does everything against his will and under coercion, no less than the godless are driven and held in obedience by the threats of the Law, 1 Cor. 9:27; Rom. 7:18. 19.

Family devotions with Dr. Luther? “From virtue to grace”?: “The inexperienced and perverse youth need to be restrained and trained by the iron bars of ceremonies lest their unchecked ardor rush headlong into vice after vice… they are rather to be taught that they have been so imprisoned in ceremonies, not that they should be made righteous or gain great merit by them, but that they might thus be kept from doing evil and might more easily be instructed to the righteousness of faith.“

20] So, too, this doctrine of the Law is needful for believers, in order that they may not hit upon a holiness and devotion of their own, and under the pretext of the Spirit of God set up a self-chosen worship, without God’s Word and command, as it is written Deut. 12:8,28,32: Ye shall not do … every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes, etc., but observe and hear all these words which I command thee. Thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish therefrom.

From above, for your reference, so you don’t need to scroll up again to check #7

[Infanttheology’s comment: Again, “a holiness and devotion of their own” describes a way of life —  an ordering of life and its affairs — not in accordance with God’s desires. In other words, this is countering obedience to a false God.]

21] So, too, the doctrine of the Law, in and with [the exercise of] the good works of believers, is necessary for the reason that otherwise man can easily imagine that his work and life are entirely pure and perfect. But the Law of God prescribes to believers good works in this way, that it shows and indicates at the same time, as in a mirror, that in this life they are still imperfect and impure in us, so that we must say with the beloved Paul, 1 Cor. 4:4: I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified. Thus Paul, when exhorting the regenerate to good works, presents to them expressly the Ten Commandments, Rom. 13:9; and that his good works are imperfect and impure he recognizes from the Law, Rom. 7:7ff ; and David declares Ps. 119:32: Viam mandatorum tuorum cucurri, I will run the way of Thy commandments; but enter not into judgment with Thy servant, for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified, Ps. 143:2.

“I do not say this to condemn you… Imitate me…” — The Apostle Paul, various locations.

[Infanttheology’s comment: Although this involves the revealing of sin in the heart of man, the revealing of sin is ancillary to the key point which is evaluating the content of mans’ actual work and life. In other words, they key point is that God’s Law requires that in our lives we actively obey God from a perfect fear, love, and trust in Him. It shows us in great detail the perfection required of us, the goal that God will eventually fulfill in all believers.]

No. “…It is said improperly, that is, not rightly and not fittingly, that we are obliged to do what is impossible by the law….” — Luther

22] But how and why the good works of believers, although in this life they are imperfect and impure because of sin in the flesh, are nevertheless acceptable and well-pleasing to God, is not taught by the Law, which requires an altogether perfect, pure obedience if it is to please God. But the Gospel teaches that our spiritual offerings are acceptable to God through faith for Christ’s sake, 1 Pet. 2:5; Heb. 11:4ff. 23] In this way Christians are not under the Law, but under grace, because by faith in Christ the persons are freed from the curse and condemnation of the Law; and because their good works, although they are still imperfect and impure, are acceptable to God through Christ; moreover, because so far as they have been born anew according to the inner man, they do what is pleasing to God, not by coercion of the Law, but by the renewing of the Holy Ghost, voluntarily and spontaneously from their hearts; however, they maintain nevertheless a constant struggle against the old Adam.

From above, for your reference, so you don’t need to scroll up again to check #8

24] For the old Adam, as an intractable, refractory ass, is still a part of them, which must be coerced to the obedience of Christ, not only by the teaching, admonition, force and threatening of the Law, but also oftentimes by the club of punishments and troubles, until the body of sin is entirely put off, and man is perfectly renewed in the resurrection, when he will need neither the preaching of the Law nor its threatenings and punishments, as also the Gospel any longer; for these belong to this [mortal and] imperfect life. 25] But as they will behold God face to face, so they will, through the power of the indwelling Spirit of God, do the will of God [the heavenly Father] with unmingled joy, voluntarily, unconstrained, without any hindrance, with entire purity and perfection, and will rejoice in it eternally.

The preaching, threatenings, and punishments of the Law will pass away, but the Decalogue is eternal (see pp. 75-76 here).

26] Accordingly, we reject and condemn as an error pernicious and detrimental to Christian discipline, as also to true godliness, the teaching that the Law, in the above-mentioned way and degree, should not be urged upon Christians and the true believers, but only upon the unbelieving, unchristians, and impenitent.

[Infanttheology’s comment: To repeat what was said above (see the Epitome above and comment), since the law is given for three reasons, the third being to provide the “fixed rule according to which [men] are to regulate and direct their whole life” — i.e. to walk in, obeyit is to be used in this way and urged upon the regenerate. And again, ask yourself: is the controversy really over whether or not the Holy Spirit should do this?]

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My Final Summary of How the Text Addresses All of the Questions Above.

While the Holy Spirit will ultimately do as he pleases, Christians are to urge the law in this third way upon one another which means not primarily with the goal of revealing sin (this is the second use, article V, which is modeled in Romans 1-3) but for the goal of actual obedience to God (see Romans 12ff, for instance). On Twitter when one said, “Yea! I don’t think anyone does this. “Now comes 1st use.” Lol. I know Iv heard a sermon & im convicted (in a 2nd use fashion) & friend views the same part in a different application (3rd use). But I have no idea if pastors aim was one or the other,” I replied: “Yeah, this happens all the time. Not the point. Paul’s intention in Romans 1-3 is quite different from Rom. 12. One aims to reveal sin, convict, and kill (like in FC V), the other is urging on to new obedience, action…

The third use of the law can be quickly and effectively defined as “encouraging, exhorting, and admonishing Christians to [actually!] do God’s Law”. Going along with this, only the Gospel can empower a Christian to fulfill God’s law, but one should never imagine that the fulfillment of the law, God’s purposes, cannot encourage the Christian who has the Gospel ringing in his ears.

The third use of the law then, while intimately related to the Christians’ new obedience, is not this in its essence. Rather, again, it is about Christians following the Holy Ghost’s lead (and Apostles’ in their writings) in exhorting, admonishing, and even reproving their brethren with God’s law, all with the end that the “old Adam” would surrender himself “captive to the Spirit.” After all, the Christian, according to their pre-fall-Adam-like new man, will not be “vexed by the coercion of the law,” but will “from a free, cheerful spirit” do the “God’s immutable will” — hearing and better learning it, walking in it, and growing in obedience to it.

No: “‘use’ means reception. Its function revolves around how it is received, not how it is preached or ‘used.’” — Pastor Scott Murray

These, empowered by the Gospel, will even be pleased to administer not only admonishments and threats to themselves, but punishments and blows to their own body (see all the verses quoted at the end of Epitome VI:4)!

Again, we emphasize that the regenerate are to be continually taught God’s law and that “even our first parents before the Fall did not live without Law.” “[A]lso to the first man immediately after his creation a law was given according to which he was to conduct himself.” Going along with this, we read that one side in the controversy argued that “the truly believing also learn to serve God, not according to their own thoughts, but according to His written Law and Word,” and this teaching is never condemned in the article (even as we also hear about the hypothetical that if we were completely renewed in this life — something God’s word does not tell us will happen — we would be like the angels and need no law [I also note that even if they need no law, Luther spoke about how they would nevertheless eagerly and gladly receive and do commands from God]). In fact, we hear this instead: “the Holy Spirit employs the law to teach the regenerate from it, and to point out and show them in the Ten Commandments what is the [good and] acceptable will of God, Rom. 12:2, in what good works God hath before ordained that they should walk, Eph. 2:10. He exhorts them thereto…” To insist, for instance, that the teaching and learning here in FC VI only are the “old man learning how to die,” or something like this, is certainly an unwarranted interpretation.

Again, from Luther’s sermon above: “Having put away the old man, the apostle exhorts us further to put on the new man, that day by day we may grow as new creatures….”

Finally, in places like the end of the Epitome, we also read about the growth of the Christian, albeit indirectly: “the believer, so far as he is regenerate, does without constraint and with a willing spirit that which no threatenings [however severe] of the Law could ever extort from him.” Therefore, the continual renovation or conversion of the Christian is also spoken of here as it is with other parts of the Formula of Concord. Also, the believer not only pleases God for Christ’s sake, because His blood covers our imperfect works, but also “because so far as they have been born anew according to the inner man, they do what is pleasing to God, not by coercion of the Law, but by the renewing of the Holy Ghost, voluntarily and spontaneously from their hearts”!

How could Jesus grow like this? Check it out….

And, hopefully, now that I have carefully unpacked these articles, this Twitter thread I did a while back might make more sense. I said: “I’m re-tweeting this [thread] again [here, for subscribers: https://twitter.com/Infanttheology/status/1259445802621186048%5D because some have expressed confusion. Frankly, I don’t get what is so confusing. Paul clearly intends one thing in Romans 1-3 and another in Rom. 12 (where its more like “I do not say this to condemn you.”). Preachers should imitate Paul. There. : )

And a final clarification: I agree sometimes we can’t distinguish particular uses of the law being attempted. Nor do we need to or should we! That said, sometimes we can. My kids, who are believing but immature Christians, are going to participate in church and family devotions whether their new man is getting the better of them or not at that moment (Third Use, and perhaps even a situation where “he does everything against his will and under coercion, no less than the godless are driven and held in obedience by the threats of the Law”!)! If I were to insist that their non-Christian friend staying over on Saturday night attend worship with us the next day that would be the First Use of the Law.

Dr. Kilcrease, it is not only “civil righteousness” that has to do with habits, right? Cochran’s the man.

This, really, gets to the heart of the issue: do you contend that what Paul is doing in Romans 1-3 is actually the same thing as in Rom. 12ff — or that if he isn’t doing the same thing he is nevertheless completely unaware that this is the case?

Why?!

As you can see from this post, I have some pretty firm convictions about this, and have for a good long while now (see this post from 2014, and the detailed conversation that follows, as well — my concerns here though go back long before even this).

Steve Paulson, who teaches that Christ commits sin, also has some real convictions about this topic (and I think his reasons for teaching Christ committed sin and teaching as he does on this topic both relate to his denial that the law of God is eternal — that is that it belongs to who God is)

I agree with Paulson that using words like “Gospel Imperatives” is a terrible idea.

That said, when it comes to these Third Use of the Law issues, why, really, does he echo Luther on the one hand and sound so much unlike him on the other?

Why do we? Yes, even me… to this day?

If you feel like it?: “Make duty a pleasure” — Luther

FIN

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

When it Came to Good Works, Did Luther Want to “Have His Cake and Eat it Too”?

What? How?: “Make duty a pleasure.” — Martin Luther

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What is really necessary to produce or empower good works in the Christian?

In his introduction to the book of Romans for the translation of the Bible he did, Luther said the following:

Thus faith is a divine work in us, that changes us and regenerates us of God, and puts to death the old Adam, makes us entirely different men in heart, spirit, mind, and all powers, and brings with it [confers] the Holy Ghost. Oh, it is a living, busy, active, powerful thing that we have in faith, so that it is impossible for it not to do good without ceasing. Nor does it ask whether good works are to be done; but before the question is asked, it has wrought them, and is always engaged in doing them. But he who does not do such works is void of faith, and gropes and looks about after faith and good works, and knows neither what faith nor what good works are, yet babbles and prates with many words concerning faith and good works. [Justifying] faith is a living, bold [firm] trust in God’s grace, so certain that a man would die a thousand times for it [rather than suffer this trust to be wrested from him]. And this trust and knowledge of divine grace renders joyful, fearless, and cheerful towards God and all creatures, which [joy and cheerfulness] the Holy Ghost works through faith; and on account of this, man becomes ready and cheerful, without coercion, to do good to every one, to serve every one, and to suffer everything for love and praise to God, who has conferred this grace on him, so that it is impossible to separate works from faith, yea, just as impossible as it is for heat and light to be separated from fire.

The Formula of Concord, written in 1580 and comprising the teaching of the Lutheran church (It is the “Comprehensive Summary, Rule and Norm According to which all dogmas should be judged, and the erroneous teachings [controversies] that have occurred should be decided and explained in a Christian way.”) quotes just this in its article on good works!

It introduces the quote by saying:

“…of works that are truly good and well-pleasing to God, which God will reward in this world and in the world to come, faith must be the mother and source; and on this account they are called by St. Paul true fruits of faith, as also of the Spirit. 10] For, as Dr. Luther writes in the Preface to St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans:….”

After the quote, it goes on to immediately say, interestingly, the following….

13] But since there is no controversy on these points among our theologians, we will not treat them here at length, but only explain ourselves, part against part, in a simple and plain manner regarding the controverted points.”

In other words, there is one thing that all serious Lutherans definitely agree on: Good works flow from faith like heat and light come from fire, they are spontaneous!

“…it is impossible to separate works from faith, yea, just as impossible as it is for heat and light to be separated from fire.” — Luther

In addition, when the Formula of Concord explains the Third Use of the Law, it also careful to talk about this spontaneity….

On the other hand, that is not all it says. It also recommends that we pay attention to Martin Luther’s Sermon on the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity, preached on Ephesians 4:22-28, in order to help us understand how the Christian deals with passages like Ps. 119:71, 1 Cor. 9:27, and Heb. 12:8.* Here is how that sermon begins:

  1. Here again is an admonition for Christians to follow up their faith by good works and a new life, for though they have forgiveness of sins through baptism, the old Adam still adheres to their flesh and makes himself felt in tendencies and desires to vices physical and mental. The result is that unless Christians offer resistance, they will lose their faith and the remission of sins and will in the end be worse than they were at first; for they will begin to despise and persecute the Word of God when corrected by it. Yea, even those who gladly hear the Word of God, who highly prize it and aim to follow it, have daily need of admonition and encouragement, so strong and tough is that old hide of our sinful flesh. And so powerful and wily is our old evil foe that wherever he can gain enough of an opening to insert one of his claws, he thrusts in his whole self and will not desist until he has again sunk man into his former condemnable unbelief and his old way of despising and disobeying God.
  2. Therefore, the Gospel ministry is necessary in the Church, not only for instruction of the ignorant — such as the simple, unlettered people and the children — but also for the purpose of awakening those who know very well what they are to believe and how they are to live, and admonishing them to be on their guard daily and not to become indolent, disheartened or tired in the war they must wage on this earth with the devil, with their own flesh and with all manner of evil.
  3. For this reason Paul is so persistent in his admonitions that he actually seems to be overdoing it. He proceeds as if the Christians were either too dull to comprehend or so inattentive and forgetful that they must be reminded and driven. The apostle well knows that though they have made a beginning in faith and are in that state which should show the fruits of faith, such result is not so easily forthcoming. It will not do to think and say: Well, it is sufficient to have the doctrine, and if we have the Spirit and faith, then fruits and good works will follow of their own accord. For although the Spirit truly is present and, as Christ says, willing and effective in those that believe, on the other hand the flesh is weak and sluggish. Besides, the devil is not idle, but seeks to seduce our weak nature by temptations and allurements.
  4. So we must not permit the people to go on in their way, neglecting to urge and admonish them, through God’s Word, to lead a godly life. Indeed, you dare not be negligent and backward in this duty; for, as it is, our flesh is all too sluggish to heed the Spirit and all too able to resist it. Paul says (Gal 5, 17): “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh … that ye may not do the things that ye would.” Therefore, God is constrained to do as a good and diligent householder or ruler, who, having a slothful man-servant or maid-servant, or careless officers, who otherwise are neither wicked nor faithless, will not consider it sufficient once or twice to direct, but will constantly be supervising and directing.
  5. Nor have we as yet arrived at the point where our flesh and blood will joyfully and gladly abound in good works and obedience to God as the spirit is inclined and faith directs. Even with the utmost efforts the Spirit scarce can compel our old man. What would be the result if we were no more urged and admonished but could go our way thinking, as many self-satisfied persons do: I am well acquainted with my duties, having learned them many years ago and having heard frequent explanations of them; yea, I have taught others? It might be that one year’s intermission of preaching and admonition would place us below the level of the heathen.
  6. Now, this exhortation in itself is simple and easy of comprehension. The apostle is but repeating his exhortations of other places — on the fruits of faith, or a godly walk — merely in different terms. Here he speaks of putting away the old man and putting on the new man, of being “renewed in the spirit of your mind.”

So, do you see a contradiction here? Is Luther wanting to “have his cake and eat it too?” Why or why not?

In the end of the article on the Third Use of the Law, it explains more carefully about the spontaneous works wrought in the Christian. The believer not only pleases God for Christ’s sake, because His blood covers our imperfect works, but also

“because so far as they have been born anew according to the inner man, they do what is pleasing to God, not by coercion of the Law, but by the renewing of the Holy Ghost, voluntarily and spontaneously from their hearts”

I recommend reading that several times over, and focusing on the “so far”.

And now, this question: Ultimately, what makes the difference here as to why some good works, some fruits of faith, are more spontaneous in one Christian compared with another?  

Or: Is that even an appropriate question for serious Lutherans to ask? Why or why not?

UPDATE: Here, I think, is the beginning of a solid answer:

https://twitter.com/Infanttheology/status/1261982457890582531

FIN

9] Therefore, because of these lusts of the flesh the truly believing, elect, and regenerate children of God need in this life not only the daily instruction and admonition, warning, and threatening of the Law, but also frequently punishments, that they may be roused [the old man is driven out of them] and follow the Spirit of God, as it is written Ps. 119:71: It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn Thy statutes. And again, 1 Cor. 9:27: I keep under my body and bring it into subjection, lest that, by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. And again, Heb. 12:8: But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons; as Dr. Luther has fully explained this at greater length in the Summer Part of the Church Postil, on the Epistle for the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity.

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Purity that Endures Forever (sermon text and video)

 

“…we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. ….everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

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Note: This is the first sermon I wrote after taking the preaching class in seminary (the second time in seminary: 2015-2019), and before becoming a vicar. I thought about it again after this past week, where I John 3 was one of the texts for the one year lectionary last week (this is what my church uses…).

 

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is so good to be with you this morning. I hope that you, like me, find this text to be interesting. I don’t think it’s a text Lutherans tend to highlight….

I will try to unpack it by speaking about 3 themes:

  • God’s final purification
  • How we are made pure
  • Living in that purity

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1. God’s final purification

Again, our text for this message comes from I John 3:

The pure in heart—that is God’s people—will “see him as he is…”

And the immediate context for this meeting, this seeing God, is the end of the world!

Human beings certainly make their own attempts at purification, but God’s purification, His final purification, stands out!

The Moon the color of blood,

the sky being rolled up like a scroll,

the veil being removed!

…a loud trumpet,

and Angel armies accompanying the King of Heaven and earth, riding on a White Horse.

The Great last judgment of the sheep and the goats.

These are the kinds of things the church talks about now, at the end of the Pentecost season: the “Last Days”… the end of the world!

Here, though, remember: God’s people are not to be afraid, but encouraged!

When this day comes you, the “pure in heart,” are told to “Lift up your heads!”

You are not to fear this judgment, for this judgment is one of your enemies.

The True Judge of Heaven and Earth comes to save those who trust in Him, the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the persecuted,

The pure.

The time for those who hate us is not long… we will be rescued by our Conqueror when He comes again.

Perhaps it will even be something like from the story the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe — where the royal priesthood of believers wield swords and participate in the final battle….

This battle where The Evil One will be defeated forever….

With the result being that people from all tongues, tribes and nations – will be saved by the Rider on the White Horse, Faithful and True, the Son of God.

It will be “Back to the Garden of Eden…. And more

Let them praise his name with dancing
and make music to him with timbrel and harp.
For the Lord takes delight in his people;
he crowns the humble with victory.

So we read in the Psalm appointed for today. How can we not rejoice?

For this world, the empty way of life, all which opposes the goodness God brings…is passing away.

Much more awaits us.

And so:

“…we know that when Christ appears,[a] we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Now, if you are like me, perhaps you think at this point “Have I ‘purified myself’?

I mean, it seems kind of important.”

We don’t really talk this way, right?

So what does this mean?

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2. How are we made pure?

What does it mean to be pure?

Have you heard the phrase “pure as the driven snow”? Driven snow is snow that has been blown by the wind, into drifts and such.

The kid in me concludes that it’s the kind of snow you can eat.

In any case the expression isn’t used as much these days, but it is used to speak, sometimes disparagingly, about things like moral purity, chastity, and virginity.

(also rarer terms these days).

And of course in our everyday language, pure means something that is uncontaminated.

There is no defilement or spoliation. And to purify something means to bring it to this state.

And if a person has been purified, is pure, this evokes the idea of not only outer, but inner cleanliness… to the very center of one’s being. Through and through.

How, then, does the Bible say this takes place? It says that true purity, purity that lasts and is never faked, is rooted in God.

Only God, after all, is truly good, truly pure.

So, when it comes to us poor sinners, being pure, in the most simple sense, means to believe and hope in God, as opposed to the world, false in its love, which rages against Him.

In I Peter chapter 1, the Apostle says you have purified yourselves. How?

By submitting to what you heard: you believe, Peter says, the words of testimony about Jesus Christ, raised from the dead.

And glorified!

And revealed in these last times for our sakes!

And it is because of this truth, Peter says, that you have true love for each other. Therefore, he says “love one another deeply, from the heart,”

This is what it means to be pure.

Our text in I John says much the same thing and  throughout his book John has a lot more to say:

  • If we walk in the light as He is in the light we have fellowship with each other, and His blood cleanses us from all sin!
  • Keep His word, His teaching, His commandments, abide in Him… [by this, the love of God is perfected in us…]
  • You know the love of the Son of God who laid down His life for us. So, beloved, let us love one another!
  • Do not love the world, or the things of the world: the lust of the flesh, of the eyes, the pride of life… Even if they hate you because of the paths of righteousness in which you walk!
  • As the Son is, so we are in this world! We love because He first loved us
  • If we abide in the Son and in the Father, we have the promise of eternal life.
  • And we will not be ashamed before Him at His coming….

This is what it means to be pure.

Our full text for the day is in many ways a great summary of all these things… the King James version did it the best:

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 2Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 3And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

3. Living in That Purity

“Keep yourselves pure…” (I Tim. 5:22).

The question of living in God’s purity has to do with what God’s purity and holiness is.

It is this:

He, and He alone, is the Love which burns through Evil en route to rescuing those lost in the darkness.

In Christ’s work, we see the charred remains of sin, death, and the devil.

He did this for us.

And so when it comes to us… the implication is that we have – and create – spaces and places where this message can be heard, believed and lived.

The mission we have is never about God’s people being intrinsically superior to others… this is about True sight, True seeing…

Being blessed to know not only where the bread is which we share – the Forgiveness of sins which heals and nourishes… but also knowing where True Life is in Fullness.

What is that?

There is a King we know who is simple.

Who loves His people, who is loyal… but who does not let sin go unpunished….

Who will not allow us to live in our lies, our lusts, our pride and selfishness….

He is ready to Refine us again, and He will stop at nothing to make us more His…

So don’t say, for example, “am I my brother’s keeper?” They are all your brothers!…

You are to love your brethren in Christ first of all,

and in this world you must look to provide for family first,

but all are your brothers…

The Christian life never has as its goal alienation and cutting one’s self off, but we call people–even our enemies–into our spaces, into our places, to participate with us “in the life that is truly life”.

Though He has hard words, demanding words, damning words, Jesus’ default orientation is not to condemn, but save,

…and His heart is now ours.

This is the life to which he has called us….with these truths we must practically wrestle, in the church… and beyond…

Whoever desires, let him take the water of life – this pure water – freely!

Anyone who is thirsty…

With Him, we’re ready.

We’re pure.

We were washed and we ARE baptized, belonging to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Come Lord Jesus,

Amen.

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2020 in Uncategorized