The Salvation of God

Lowell Green concludes his excellent analysis of Reformed interpretation of I Timothy 2:4:

The dire consequences of claiming human freedom in spiritual matters are staggering. Thereby, salvation is wrested from the hands of God and placed into uncertain human hands. To say that God would have all people to be saved, but that he is unable to bring this about, damages the doctrine of God. Luther held that God is all powerful and he does what he wants to do. God loves all people but he brings salvation to only some of them. Rather than trying to solve this mystery by human reason, one should assign what is unclear to the Deus absconditus and should focus upon God’s boundless love in Jesus Christ, Deus revelatus. The doctrine that salvation is totally in the hands of God is the deepest comfort for struggling sinners.

Exhortation: Pardon is Grace

On this day, we celebrate the Reformation. More specifically, we celebrate the nailing of Luther’s 95 theses to the Wittenberg Wall. We speak of the 95 theses, but very few people have actually read them. Unless you are aware of the central debate concerning indulgences, it is very difficult to ascertain the meaning of Luther’s theses. As you read through them you realize that Luther is not so much opposed to the idea of purgatory at this stage in his thinking, but rather to the idea that adding pennies to the money box (Thesis 27), one can reduce the number of years a loved one will suffer in purgatory. Luther was insistent that pardon from sin is not something you buy, rather something you receive. This is why Luther begins his 95 theses by stating in thesis one that the Lord Jesus “wills that the whole life of believers should be repentance.” Repentance is the outworking of a life of faith. In fact, faith implies a repentant heart.

The Reformation is difficult to summarize, but we can say that central to Luther and others was the idea that salvation is a sheer act of God. Just like the world needed a Causer, our pardon needed a Savior. Luther’s 95 theses manifest this clear biblical reality that the Lord Jesus is the beginner and finisher of our faith.

Prayer: Yahweh, we thank you for our rich heritage. We pray that we may not squander our legacy of faith and perseverance, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

DeYoung, DeRestless & DeRealLiteralLutheran Ninjitsu

I am a happy Calvinist, but I have a particular love for my Lutheran brothers. This is a fine response to Kevin DeYoung’s question in his post What’s Up With The Lutherans? Fisk makes a couple historical assumptions such as the fact that peasant revolts are reformed originated. This is not good history, but overall a good synopsis of confessional Lutheranism.

Luther and The Small Catechism

Luther in his preface to The Small Catechism writes why it became necessary to write it:

The deplorable, miserable condition which I discovered lately when I, too, was a visitor, has forced and urged me to prepare [publish] this Catechism, or Christian doctrine, in this small, plain, simple form. Mercy! Good God! what manifold misery I beheld! The common people, especially in the villages, have no knowledge whatever of Christian doctrine, and, alas! many pastors are altogether incapable and incompetent to teach [so much so, that one is ashamed to speak of it]. Nevertheless, all maintain that they are Christians, have been baptized and receive the [common] holy Sacraments. Yet they [do not understand and] cannot [even] recite either the Lord’s Prayer, or the Creed, or the Ten Commandments; they live like dumb brutes and irrational hogs; and yet, now that the Gospel has come, they have nicely learned to abuse all liberty like experts.

Living the Double Life

Luther says that in Christ every Christian leads a kind of double life. In Philemon, Paul is not just a prisoner, he is also the embodiment of Christ, who reconciles and pays our debts. Lutheran scholar John Nordling observes:

There is a double life: my own, which is natural or animate [naturalis vel animalis];  and an alien life [aliena],  that of  Christ in me. So far as my animate life is concerned, I am dead and am now living an alien life. I am not living as Paul now, for Paul is dead.” “Who, then, is  living?”  “The Christian.”

O Lord, Look Down From Heaven, Behold by Martin Luther

From Martin Luther: Hymns, Ballads, Chants, Truth page 26-27:
“A paraphrase of Psalm 12, this hymn was written in 1523, the same time as many of Luther’s other psalm-hymns. It was published in the first Lutheran hymnal, Achtliederbuch, of 1524. Luther’s version of the psalm reflects much of his own experience in the early days of the Reformation. Though several different tunes were used for this text with various levels of success, the present tune dates from 1524 and is possibly by Luther himself.

Prelude: Ach Gott vom Himmel
George Friedrich Kauffmann, 1679-1735
Publisher: Bärenreiter-Verlag, Kassel

Lenten Quote, Day 3

Lent has become mere mockery because our fasting is a perversion and an institution of man. For although Christ did fast forty days, yet there is no word of his that he requires us to do the same and fast as he did. Indeed he did many other things, which he wishes us not to do; but whatever he calls us to do or leave undone, we should see to it that we have his Word to support our actions. –Martin Luther


Martin Luther on the role of princes and potentates…

Parents keep their children with greater diligence and care than rulers and governors keep their subjects. Fathers and mothers are masters naturally and willingly; it is a self-grown dominion; but rulers and magistrates have a compulsory mastery; they act by force, with a prepared dominion; when father and mother can rule no more, the public police must take the matter in hand. Rulers and magistrates must watch over the sixth commandment.

–Luther’s Table Talk

Catholics and Romans 13

In a recent conversation with a Lutheran pastor here in Milton, Florida we discussed the nature of the Roman Catholic revelations of abuse in the church,which has been going on for decades. In my mind, the issue boils down to celibacy. It is simplistic, but sociologically it makes sense. My Lutheran brother argued that the problem with Rome is that they do not understand the role of the civil sphere (Rom. 13). If a priest abuses a child, you do not take the matter and make it a hierarchical secret; rather, you take it to the cops. Somehow, I think celibacy and this failure to understand the role of government in issues outside of the church’s calling summarize the matter quite well.

Martin Luther and the Two-Kingdom Theology

Wedgeworth continues his review of William Wright’s Martin Luther’s Understanding of God’s Two Kingdoms.