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Should You be Terrified of God Today?

30 Jan

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“Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them.”

–Jeremiah 1:17

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In the Gospel for today, we just heard Jesus say:  

“I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”

Luke goes on to add: “…and he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.”

The point here? God has purposes to accomplish, and His Messenger is a critical part of His accomplishing those purposes. This message must get out and take root!

So also today in our Old Testament text from Jeremiah… where we not only read about how God has made Jeremiah – unlike Jerusalem! – a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze wall[i], but He also goes on to say, again:

“Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them[ii]

What is going on here?

The commentator Thomspon says of this “If Jeremiah draws back in fear and flees from his mission, he will encounter not merely men as adversaries, but God himself.”

Speaking of this a bit more, I think the Eerdman’s Commentary on the Bible sums up the matter best:

“The prophet’s penalty for giving into fear in the face of communal enmity and persecution… is divine terrorization and destruction – that is, the prophet defeated by his national enemies.” (550)[iii]

Why should God threaten his prophet this way? Why do this to a faithful guy like Jeremiah? Who else, after all, does God have standing up for His Word?

I mean sure, like Moses Jeremiah had tried to get out of it, saying he didn’t know how to speak and was too young (Jer. 1:6). And later on, in chapter 20, he’d even go so far as to say You deceived me, LORD, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me…” (20:7)

But isn’t this understandable given the stress he was under?

I mean, yes, it is true that God also offered words of encouragement and promise. In chapter 15 we read:

20 I will make you a wall to this people,
    a fortified wall of bronze;
they will fight against you
    but will not overcome you,
for I am with you
    to rescue and save you,”
declares the Lord.
21 “I will save you from the hands of the wicked
    and deliver you from the grasp of the cruel.”[iv]

But overall… who could blame Jeremiah when it seems that the Lord is talking about terrifying him? Isn’t that wicked and cruel itself?  

Maybe you too still have doubts… over whether or not the Lord Himself is really good…

I mean, look at poor Jeremiah and the stress he was under! In chapter 17, verse 17, he even cries out:

“Do not be a terror to me; you are my refuge in the day of disaster….”

Maybe that, however, is the point. Such terror of God and His wrath is meant to drive us to God; it is good that we be further driven to God.

And if it is appropriate for God’s prophets, is it also appropriate for us?

Well, we should note that this is a specific word shared with Jeremiah, the prophet – and in the Old Testament as well. Nevertheless, do we see any similar warnings made more generally to God’s people, and since the coming of Christ? …..

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We do.

Take perhaps the most well-known verse speaking about the fear of God, in Matthew 10:28:

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (see also Luke 12:5)[v]

Can this possibly be related to love? Well, in our day, we do hear some people speak about “tough love” (maybe there is a little wisdom still today!)

But how, really, can such words be connected to love?

Well, we are told that God desires all to be saved from sin, death, and the devil… and that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of true knowledge.

And this is just not a one-time thing: all of us need to continually fear the Lord.  

Christians do continue to need God’s law. Even though our primary identity is a new creation in Jesus Christ, we are nevertheless saints and sinners until we die…[vi]

For that, again, is why we still die. The book of Romans tells us that God is angry with sin, and the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).

Still, should every Christian have fear of God all the time? Terror all the time? (while simultaneously being joyful, or something like that?)

Well, let’s explore “fear” and “terror” a bit: perhaps there is an important difference between those terms?

There is, and thoughts like these were confirmed for me after reading Martin Luther’s commentary on Psalm 90…

It is an extended reflection on how the knowledge of death should re-orient our hearts and minds. Much of the commentary even talks about how Christians fear and even resent God’s wrath… but there are also parts that show how with Jesus Christ we can also gladly embrace godly discipline and punishment…

You see, the terror of the Lord is primarily the beginning of wisdom for the unbeliever, or natural man.

As Luther put it elsewhere, there are those who simply fear God only because of the threatened punishment. “These,” Luther tells us, “only seem to do good…” They are not even Christians yet, but are only at the very beginning….

This is perhaps why Jeremiah had to relay this message to many in his day: “Consider… and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe of me…” (2:19)

At the same time, terror is also important for each one of us insofar as we are sinners – even as God ultimately desires that we be driven not by a “servile fear” but rather be compelled by fear in the sense of respect, reverence, etc. – and this, of course, is a part of love.

In sum then, we should be distraught, mortified and saddened that we continue to need God’s threats – meant to terrify us – instead of basically just needing His patient and gentle discipline and guidance.[vii]

If you think about it the situation as it currently stands – with the reality of death, the fruit of sin, breathing down our neck! – should be more than enough to deter us in our wandering…

(again, death reminds us of what our sin and each sin, in fact, deserves).

So what should we think when Jesus says, “fear the One…who can destroy the body and soul in hell…”?

I submit that the ideal scenario, the one that God would have  characterize us more and more, is that this would be our go-to-thought of last resort… (at least insofar as we need to recall this warning in light of our own situations…).

In other words, it would be best if it, desiring to entertain this or that particular sin less and less, it were not necessary for us to think about this statement!

Again, it is then in fact a certain kind of good word – but one that we’d rather not have to remind ourselves of!

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Luther sums up things well, making this very wise comment. Some people “fear God for the sake of God alone; they do the best they can and very conscientiously avoid evil.”

Only love!

Only trust!

Only that filial fear, that is reverence and respect…

Here, the new creation, what Paul also calls our new man, is truly getting the upper hand in us!

“Others,” he says though, “fear God for the sake of God, and, at the same time, for the sake of the threatened punishment; their works are less good and perfect.”[viii]

In a way, this describes all of us insofar as we remain sinners… but Luther is also saying that this characterizes many persons as a whole, being spiritually immature as they are.

Again though, Luther also knew that such a thought needed to apply to those who we might characterize as spiritually mature as well… for as long as each one of us lives, we will continue to need the law in its full force to fight and put down and kill the old man within us.[ix]

Maybe a good believing guy like Jeremiah thought that he – as a forgiven child of God who also had just been called as a prophet no less! – was doing alright, maturing as God’s faith-filled servant…

Maybe he thought that God’s perfect love was driving out the terror that the old man in him needed!

And yet, God comes to him directly – and warns him with very hard words: “[do this]…or I will terrify you.”

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More on this in a minute, but why, you might ask, is this happening? What is the reason for God acting this way?

Well, in Jeremiah’s day, we know that God’s mission was to announce the judgement of idolatrous Israel as a whole… even as He also promised to show mercy, to preserve a remnant…

Even so, God desires the death of none of the wicked ones, the prophet Ezekiel told us (Ezekiel 18, 33). This desire that all would be saved is made even more clear in the New Testament. In sum, in midst of the chaos, destruction, evil, and death God means for us to live!

But again, how did we get here in the first place? Why do we need to be “saved” at all? Why must we even be terrified of God?!

We should know that to be driven to God and to cry out to Him for my own sake – that I might spiritually survive – is something that would have been unthinkable in a very good world before the fall…

After all, life was meant to be more — so much more! I’ll quote from myself, from a sermon from a couple years back:

In the beginning, God provided for everything that our first parents needed. They were told that they could eat from any tree in the Garden, and this would have also included the mysterious Tree of Life…

This was Paradise! Set to live forever with God in the very good creation that He had made, they lacked nothing. Without suffering, pain, and thorns, they really did “have it all”.

No true enjoyment or satisfaction would have been denied them, for all their desires were in line with all that God had made.

Everything was fit to purpose, “in the groove,” and it would have been, to say the least, a glorious time of feasting, fellowship, naming and playing with the animals, dancing, singing and shouting, loving and baby-making, all in sheer innocence, pure pleasure, and great joy.

When we hear the Apostle Paul say of heaven that “no eye has seen and no ear has heard what God has prepared for those who love Him,” it is no stretch to say that we should also think something similar about Eden as well!

In Eden, surviving—either in the presence of our neighbors or in the presence of God—would have never been a reason to depend on God! To look to Him for help! To grasp Him and cling to Him! To absolutely depend!

We would not have needed, having already being given in full the True Hope known in His love and peace, to call upon Him for salvation…

Nevertheless, we are in the shadow of Genesis 3, where we ruined everything… And so, now:

“…we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places…”

And so now in this environment, the fear of the Lord, that is…

  • the recognition that we cannot survive His wrath…
  • the realization that death is ours’ and our loved ones’ ultimate desert
  • the knowledge that death may be the last enemy to be destroyed but it’s also our wage…
  • knowing that we only truly live when we begin to hate our lives…

…is the beginning of knowledge…

The world, as one man puts it “struggles with life for the sake of life…”

Christians, on the other hand, cry out to Him for our life and the lives of those we love – that we may survive and immortally BE – and BE GLORIFIED – with Him.

This calling out to Him for this then…

  • though it is not sum and substance of the Christian life
  • though it would have not been “good” were it not for the fall
  • though it was never intended from the beginning

…is, of course, no sin, but the very will of God.

The chaotic and disintegrating world is under the curse, and He is our only hope for everything being restored and set right…

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Again, right now, we are not completely restored and set right.

…even we who are redeemed and made new creatures in Him.

In a way, all of this reminds me in of a true story I’m familiar with.

Let me tell it to you.

Names, places, and circumstances have been changed though…

Once upon a time, there was a man named Widget Workman. Mr. Workman had worked his whole life for a large organization that produced Very Useful Things and Mr. Workman was certainly sold on the company’s important mission.

And Widget truly enjoyed his work, where he was able to solve all manner of problems with the gifts he possessed. He would deeply concentrate on what was required to make the Very Useful Things work better and more efficiently.   

Again, Widget loved his job, and also enjoyed taking his turn answering questions from live customers on the phone when it was his responsibility to do so. In addition, he deeply appreciated his co-workers, and felt very supported by his supervisor as well, Big Bossman.

Big Bossman also loved doing what he did, running a large organization that produced Very Useful Things. He was highly skilled himself, and determined to make everything work right according to his specifications, which had proved to be a very successful strategy in pleasing many a customer, improving their lives…

Big Bossman also liked Mr. Widget Workman very much, but noticed a problem. Widget would often become so deeply immersed in his work, focusing on specific problems that needed solving. This was good, but on the other hand he would frequently be late for his shifts to answer questions from customers. He would also sometimes do the same with meetings with fellow workers. On occasion, his co-workers would even have to call him and remind him of his appointments.

Widget, being a conscientious sort, would feel guilty about his failures and re-double his efforts. He attempted to create certain strategies to help him, sticky notes, strings around fingers, writing on his hand, and other reminders as well.

Nevertheless he would continue to fail, maybe even after experiencing success over several weeks and even months. This prompted Big Bossman to give him a verbal warning, and, later, even a written warning that emphasized the seriousness of the issue.

Still, Widget continued to fail. He thought he really did want to change, but it seemed, could not.  

So what was Bossman to do? He knew that Widget did not want to fail in his efforts and felt bad when he did. He not only appreciated Widget’s work, but he also cared deeply about solving his problem as well. And – he cared how his problem affected the rest of His workers.  

Bossman doubled down. He called Widget into his office, and put matters like this:

“I have tried many times to let you know that we appreciate all the good work that you are doing and we want you to continue doing it. As you know, however, we also have some serious problems. Because of these problems, the work of the whole organization and its mission suffers and your co-workers are being demoralized. You need to get to the root issue. However you do that, I am giving you a final warning. Absolutely no lateness for appointments will be tolerated. If it happens again, I am going to need to let you go. We will operate this way for the rest of this quarter, and then re-evaluate.”

With the threat of loss of employment and livelihood – the only one he’d ever known – before him, Mr. Workman found a way.

The old dog could learn new tricks. With his first job now essentially being to keep his job, finally new strategies and habits were formed that enabled him to focus more carefully on not missing his appointments – even as he continued to succeed in his other assignments as well.

A few months later he had not failed in his task and the threat hanging over his head was removed. Widget then actually thanked Big Bossman for helping him to make things work, saying:

“Thank you sir. Nothing focuses the mind like living in perpetual fear that you are going to mess things up when you absolutely cannot afford to… I’ve never prayed so hard in my life. And it helped that I truly believed you wanted me to get through this gauntlet.

He also commented that, for the sake of his work, he would continue to act as if the threat remained!

We all are much like Mr. Workman. Our Lord is very much like Big Bossman.

He has His purposes, and He has called us to these.

He desires those purposes to be accomplished, and our hearty cooperation in the same.

Is that hearty cooperation always there with God’s purposes – particularly when we are being taught or disciplined?

We know it is not, and this too shows our sin and evil.[x] Nevertheless, in our heart of hearts, Christians know their Lord loves them in Christ and that His commands and purposes are good…

And so even though their works are imperfect and impure, the Formula of Concord, the 1580 document that all confessional Lutheran pastors subscribe to, puts it 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.

So when someone asks you if God is really satisfied with the way you live, you can reply:  

“Yes, because I am in Jesus Christ, who paid for my sins on the cross after walking in and fulfilling the law on my behalf. And He empowers me now to begin to do the same, having true peace with Him…”

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God has died for us that we might have true peace with Him, abundant life, and eternal salvation.

And He desires all persons in the world to have this new life!

And of course, He doesn’t desire His people to get in the way of this at all!

Again, we are saints and we are sinners at the same time and so we always, until Jesus comes back, need His law and gospel at the same time.[xi]

Here, I am reminded of another interesting thing:

The former Pope, Pope Benedict, exhorted modern Westerners to act as if God were real – even if they didn’t believe in Him – this, of course, would include fear of the Lord.

On the one hand, this is a bit messed up because we don’t have the “luxury” of acting as if God were real when He clearly is. On the other hand, the statement is at least right in recognizing that God wants us to not only be convicted by the law that we might always find grace, but to do the law as well.

Just like how at the end of Ecclesiastes 12:13 we read. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”

Sinful man rejects this, and hence rejected Jeremiah. And the violent opposition Jeremiah would encounter “foreshadows the violent opposition” that Jesus encountered as well (Lutheran Study Bible).

Nevertheless, Jesus lived out the command from Ecclesiastes perfectly. Without terror, He perfectly feared, loved, and trusted God on our behalf. As Hebrew five puts it:

“…in the days of His flesh, when [Jesus] had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death”, he “was heard because of His godly fear”…

The author of Hebrews goes on to say, speaking about Jesus according to His human nature: “….though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered…” (NKJV).

And let us also point out this important fact:

Even though there is suffering here, there is a final victory. Jeremiah ultimately prevailed over his enemies. He did not back down, his prophecies went on to be verified, and he’s with the Lord now…

In like fashion, Jesus Christ was not defeated but accomplished the mission laid before Him. He too was victorious, with God’s resurrection being not only a sign of His vindication by God…

…but a victory that we all share in and will completely share in when our own bodies are made new on the Last Day and we know the new heavens and new earth….   

Because we are in Him, when that battle between the old and new man commences – and when Satan tempts us to believe that God is not just disciplining us to transform and refine us, but punishing us with a desire to be done with us – maybe even to throw us away in Hell forever! – we can and must tell him to get lost.

Joined with Jesus Christ, in perfect peace – knowing that all our sins, even now, have been forgiven – we too, with Him, can rightly revere, respect, fear, our God…

Nevertheless, again, we too like Jeremiah, are going to keep on needing the terror of the Lord.

Don’t think you can do without it, without His warnings and even threats.  

At the same time, do not live in terror! Know that Jesus Christ has indeed perfectly feared, loved, and trusted in the Lord on your behalf.

And that with Him and His forgiveness, life and salvation – that he continually offers you and gives you even now – you have nothing to eternally fear.

With this message ringing in our ears and finding its way into our hearts what Luther reminds us about can make sense in the midst of all trials: “When… a son is chastened by his father he does not look upon the rod as a symbol of disinheritance…” (110, LW 13).

This is most certainly true.

Jeremiah knew this, and we can too.[xii]

We need to say it again and again: in the Son of God, in Jesus Christ alone, there is peace, joy, and love!

And because of Him, His work, and what He brings even now and will bring at His return, we are all, step by step, are coming to know the meaning of perfect love, so that we might all one day experience – forever experience! – that love that always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (I Cor. 13:7).

For in Him all the promises of God are a “yes,” including, especially, “I will never leave you nor forsake you”.

Amen!


[i] “Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. 19 They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.”

[ii] Some give the impression here that God is just encouraging* the more timid Jeremiah, like he did Ezekiel when He said:

“And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions… I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people.” (Ezek. 2:6a, 3:9).

But what is being said here seems markedly different!

Thompson, 156 is much more honest about everything when he speaks of “torrid experiences ahead…” “These needed to be faced as resolutely as a man preparing for battle faced possible dangers, or with the determination of one who faced a task which involved physical exertion. Long flowing dress which would hinder freedom of movement needed to be tied up around one’s waist…”

This certainly was a perilous occupation, as 2 Kings 21:16 makes clear::

“Moreover, Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end—besides the sin that he had caused Judah to commit, so that they did evil in the eyes of the LORD.”

Thompson also says:

“…in order that God might conquer the last hesitations of Jeremiah after the calm advice of v. 17a, he added in v. 17b the brief and almost harsh warning. If Jeremiah draws back in fear and flees from his mission, he will encounter not merely men as adversaries, but God himself (cf. 12:5, 6; 20:9). If Jeremiah was afraid before men and lacked trust in his divine commissioner, he would be defenseless. A man who fears man has also God to fear” (JA Thompson, 157).

Also good:

“Jerusalem, that impregnable fortress that has stood for so many centuries, would have an army encamped at its gates and would succumb (v 15); Jeremiah, who was to be as a fortified city, would survive all attacks, though there were to be occasions in his future life when that survival seemed severely in doubt.” (Craigies, 17)

[iii] More on verse 17 from the free older commentaries in Bible Hub:

[Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

17. gird … loins—resolutely prepare for thy appointed task. Metaphor from the flowing robes worn in the East, which have to be girt up with a girdle, so as not to incommode one, when undertaking any active work (Job 38:3; Lu 12:35; 1Pe 1:13).

dismayed … confound—the same Hebrew word; literally, “to break.” Be not dismayed at their faces (before them), lest I make thee dismayed before their faces (before them), that is, “lest I should permit thee to be overcome by them” (compare Jer 49:37*).

* I will shatter Elam before their foes,

    before those who want to kill them;

I will bring disaster on them,

    even my fierce anger,”

declares the Lord.

“I will pursue them with the sword

    until I have made an end of them.]

!!!!!!:

[Matthew Poole’s Commentary

Gird up thy loins: by this expression God quickens and hastens him upon his work, not to stand hesitating, but to be doing; prepare thyself: for it is a speech taken from the custom of the countries where they did wear long garments; and therefore they did gird them up about them, that they might not hinder them in any work that required expedition. See the phrase and practice Exodus 12:11 2 Kings 4:29, and in many other texts. It implies two things:

1. Speed and despatch.

2. Courage and resolution, Job 38.

Arise; another expression to the same purpose, to speed him about his work; the like Jeremiah 13.

Command thee, Heb. shall command thee. Be not dismayed at their faces; discover no fear, and conceal no message. See Jeremiah 1:8.

Confound thee, Heb. break thee in pieces; either lest thou prove confused and shattered in thy notions, and unable to deliver thy message, lest I leave thee and forsake thee; or lest I terrify thee worse than they are able to do, even to ruin thee. See Matthew 10:28.

Before them: it seems to be spoken by way of aggravation; God would shame him, or destroy him, even in their sight, to become their reproach. Or, Think not to escape any more than Urijah, Jeremiah 26:23.]

[Geneva Study Bible

Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak to them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I {q} confound thee before them.

(q) Which declares that God’s vengeance is prepared against them who do not execute their duty faithfully, either for fear of man, or for any other reason, 1Co 9:16.]

9:16: “For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”

[Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

17–19. Words of encouragement

17Thou therefore gird up thy loins] obviously metaphorical. Prepare for energetic action or strenuous conflict. The lower part of the flowing Eastern robe was gathered up in preparation for (i) a journey (Exodus 12:112 Kings 4:292 Kings 9:1), (ii) a race (1 Kings 18:46), (iii) a conflict (Job 38:3Job 40:7).

be not dismayed, etc.] be not dismayed (lit. broken down, shattered) before them, lest I dismay thee before them. Be not a coward, lest I leave thee to the consequences of thy cowardice. Quail not, lest I let thee quail. Cp. Jeremiah 17:17.]

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Pulpit commentary: “Be not dismayed. A want of confidence on Jeremiah’s part will issue in his utter discomfiture by his enemies. “Dismay” in Hebrew has a twofold reference, subjective (“dismay”) and objective (“ruin,” “discomfiture”). Both references can be illustrated from this verse. (Comp. the command and – ver. 18 – premise to Jeremiah with the command and promise to Ezekiel – 3:8, 9.) Jeremiah 1:17”

[iv] Interestingly, in our Psalm today the Psalmist also says to God:

Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,
    from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel.”

[v] Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges on this passage:

“Fear him, which after he hath killed] Many commentators have understood this expression of the Devil, and one of the Fathers goes so far as to say that it is the only passage in the Bible in which we cannot be certain whether God or Satan is intended. There can, however, be no doubt that the reference is to God. If “fear” ever meant ‘be on your guard against,’ the other view might be tenable, but there is no instance of such a meaning, and we are bidden to defy and resist the Devil, but never to fear him; nor are we ever told that he has any power to cast into Gehenna.”

[vi] The Formula of Concord, with Romans 7 in mind, states the following: 

“Therefore, in this life, because of these desires of the flesh, the faithful, elect, reborn children of God need not only the law’s daily instruction and admonition, its warning and threatening but often they also need its punishments, so they may be incited by them and follow God’s Spirit, as it is written, ‘It is good for me that I was humbled, so that I might learn your statues.’”

[vii] I think this is an important point to make vs. Lutherans who balk at the notion of progress in sanctification or simply urging progress in sanctification.

[viii] Corollary:

The first use of the law is really only for the Old Adam. The third use is really only for the concrete Christian who is in part a New Man. But the second use is for the Christian as a person of two natures: the Old Adam and New Man.

Speaking more in terms of the creation and less about man’s internal state, the third use, insofar as we are talking about the 10 commandments, is really exactly the same as the first use except without the coercive elements of the latter…

[ix] Luther on Psalm 90:11: “In this verse Moses deplores the blindness and the stupidity and the insensitivity of people who do not understand their own intolerable misery even though they feel it. They are like slaves accustomed to beatings from their masters. God’s chastening does not reform them in the slightest degree. But we all, so Moses tells us, are like that. We are victims of an incredible stupor of the heart and therefore, fail to understand our misery even though we fell it” (LW, 125).

[x] Is OK that I complete an action or participate in a necessary action without perfect intention and motivation? No. Does that mean that if I can’t complete the action without perfect intention and motivation that I should not complete it? Of course not. Jesus commends the man who grumbles about the job even as he goes on to do it and condemns the man who says he’ll do it but fails.

[xi] Werner Elert said that “According to the Law, the fear of punishment and hope of reward are legitimate reasons for keeping it. If, in this, he means that the fear of punishment is something our New Man rejoices in because he wants to be rid of Old Adam who prevents us from running in the way of the commandments – and that our hope of reward is primarily our desire to spend eternity with our Heavenly Father and Brother, Jesus Christ – I think that this could make sense. An acknowledgement of the Christian’s two simultaneously warring natures here, however, is necessary in order to hold this perspective. We also recall that in the Formula of Concord it talks about how obedience born of fear of punishment or hope of reward is not satisfactory because it does not fear, love, and trust God for His own sake.

We can say this though: According to the Gospel though, we are sons and not slaves. We know our Master is not hard, and that He delights to show us grace and mercy, giving us “rewards” we do not deserve. Therefore fear of punishment and hope of reward are not “legitimate” in this context….

[xii] If Jeremiah lived in abject terror throughout his life, what would be attractive about that?

If he has no sense of peace or joy or confidence about him, who would listen?

If he seemed to simply live by the law, where he was constantly in terror of God’s hammer falling, because he had not followed this or that commandment, who would listen?

God knows this. He is no legalist.

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Posted by on January 30, 2022 in Uncategorized

 

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