Forde on the so-called “Third use of the Law”

(Taken from a comment on this blog by Pastor Mark Anderson) 

 Here is what Forde has to say about the third use…like it or not.

“That is why the law must be limited to its two proper uses. Although the argument is more subtle and complicated that we can do justice to now, one should be able to see why it is perilous to accommodate Luther’s view with a so-called “third use of the law” as a friendly guide for the reborn Christian. There is no way yet into a state where the Christian can use the law in a third way. Such a view rests on presumptions entirely different from those of Luther and, for that matter, Paul. It makes too many pious assumptions. It assumes, apparently, that the law can really be domesticated so it can be used by us like a friendly pet. Does the law actually work that way? It assumes that we are the users of the law. We do not use the law. The Spirit does. And we really have no control over it. Who knows when it is going to rise up and attack in all its fury? Luther knew full well, of course, that in spite of all his piety he could not bring the law to heel. Indeed, even as a Christian one needs to hear and heed the law – and the law will attack a Christian just as it attacks the non-Christian. One does not have the key to some third use.
We do not live in an eschatological vestibule. Christians need the law in the same way non-Christians do. The idea of a third use assumes the law story simply continues after grace. Grace is just a blip, an episode, on the basic continuum of the law. Luther’s contention is that the law story is subordinate to the Jesus story. The law is for Luther, as it was for Paul, an episode in a larger, not vice versa. It is only grace that can bring the law to heel.”

Gerhard Forde

A More Radical Gospel: Essays on Eschatology, Authority, Atonement, and Ecumenism

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74 Responses

  1. I like it…because it puts an end to me and my pious efforts where righteousness is concerned.

    The old Adam will raise his(my) smelly corpse again, but God’s law will do it’s job and kill him. Again, and again, and again.

    As far as my relationship with God is concerned, that is the only good thing that the law will do for me. Accuse me…and then kill me.

    Thanks Pastor!

    – Steve

  2. On this point, and others, Forde was absolutely wrong and teaching contrary both to God’s Word and the Lutheran Confessions. He was, unfortunately, simply echoing the teachings of some of the Erlangen school from the late and early 20th century, and some would say that in fact Americans like Forde were not representing accurately the views of Werner Elert.

    Tragically, Forde’s views are precisely one reason the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is in such a terrible state it is.

  3. Dismissive assertions at their finest and spoken with the bald condescension we have come to expect from those dwelling in the rare air of Mt. Missouri.

  4. I believe the first place I heard it was from Rod Rosenbladt on the White Horse (but I believe it was Melancthon that first stated it):
    “‘The Law ALWAYS Accuses”. Reading Gerhard Forde’s ‘When God meets Man’ certainly seems to validate this Reformational approach to the issue, so if the turmoil is because of some Lutherans seeking to stand by such a maxim, then the turmoil must be amongst those who cannot. I’m pretty much at a loss to see how any theology which seeks to ‘re-establish the law’ beyond the scope of that outlined by the New Testament is going to create anything but tragedy.

  5. David over at ‘Five Pint Lutheran’ has written a nice piece on this current business.

    You might want to check it out…
    http://fivepintlutheran.blogspot.com/

    There is also a link on the blog roll.

  6. It is true that the Law always accuses, but it does not only accuse.

  7. I just wanted to add to my previous comment that the Law in fact never accuses the Christian as saint because Christ has already been accused on his/her behalf. This is the essence of the third use of the Law. The Christian as saint by the gracious provision of the Father through the death of Son been freed to a live in the Spirit i.e to love the Father and his neighbor.

    However the Law always accuses the Christian as sinner. This is why Christians feel the sting of the Law even when it is preached or taught according to its third use.

  8. To Paul T. McCain:

    Piepkorn denied the inerrancy of Scripture. He was loosely associated with the Seminex. I guess – for some so-called confessional Lutherans in the LCMS who are hung up with Loehe, Piepkorn, and lately Korby – that pales in comparison with Forde’s supposed Agricolan heresy. Funny how Sasse whose writings are published by the LCMS and who was also influenced by the Erlangen school came to denounce Piepkorn’s proposal as fraught with “Romanising tendencies.

    For anyone familiar with Forde’s writings, the root problem of the ELCA should become immediately apparent. It is not because it has come to embody the views of Forde, but precisely for not pursuing his proposal to recapture the spirit of radical Lutheranism.

    It is tragic that the profound insights of Martin Luther is not truly appreciated and appropriated even amongst so-called confessional circles. For all their enthusiastic critique of Pietism, the totus, totius nature of the Christian is not sufficiently grasped. The eschatological vision of the Christian life is not sufficiently apprehended. The self remains a continuous existing subject.

  9. Steve G wrote:
    “the Law in fact never accuses the Christian as saint because Christ has already been accused on his/her behalf. This is the essence of the third use of the Law”.

    That is puzzling, because the ‘third use’ of the Law as I understand it is didactic – it shows God’s will for a holy life, but that by implication reveals my failure to do/be such (i.e. I certainly do not love my neighbour in the manner required). Thus, as Dr Rosenbladt counsels, “You hurry back to the Law as revealer of sin and flee to Christ where Sanctification is truly, completely and freely located”. (Conclusion: Christ the Lord). Only in that assurance can the Christian know any liberty to love and serve. This, as I understand it, is the Reformation understanding of ‘third use’.

    “The Law condemns, driving us always to Christ and the Gospel, from whom we receive instantaneous justification and ongoing santification for the rest of our lives”. Rod Rosenbladt.

  10. Steve M.

    What do you make of this from the Solid Declaration…
    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

    The operational word here is “in the above-mentioned way”.

    Which one of them happens to be this
    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.

    I have not gotten around to reading Forde, it seems to me based on the quote that he could be denying that the believer does not even do things voluntarily. He is a walking sin a walking evil.

    The way I read some expositors then would be to say that this is not a proper way of speaking, i.e. the believer does things voluntarily or he does not even do anything of that at all.

    This to me is a thin line that touches to the core which can be Manichaen to me. Sure we are not Pelagians but we are not Manichaean either.

    I know we agree that the work we do is a fruit of the HS

    BTW, for your other readers, I am not from Mt. Zion (Missouri).

    LPC

  11. BTW,

    Pr. McCain,

    I generally enjoy some of your thoughts but funny you should say that ELCA has problems as if LC-MS is not in a state of mess.

    I can only say – he who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.

    Sorry to disagree with you on that one.

    LPC

  12. That is puzzling, because the ‘third use’ of the Law as I understand it is didactic – it shows God’s will for a holy life, but that by implication reveals my failure to do/be such (i.e. I certainly do not love my neighbour in the manner required).

    Again the understanding of the Christian as simul iustus et peccator is key in understanding this. Lutherans do not understand the simul as sequential, or to say that in a different way we are not sometimes a sinner and sometimes a saint even though we may feel in it time that way.

  13. Howard,

    I like the way you’ve described the supossed purpose of the ‘third use’. And I likes what Dr. Rod Rosenbladt had to say about it.

    But, in my mind anyway, it seems as though the second use of the law does a pretty fine job of doing those things in and of itself. It lays out the demand, and then accuses and condemns.

    ‘Third use’, for my nickel, just muddies up the waters with self focus and opens the door for legalism.

    If I’m going to make an error on this one, I’d prefer to err on the side of Christ and His power to bring forth in us what He desires from us, along with His graciousness, than to hedge my bets with a tip of the hat towards any law.

    Thanks much, Howard.

    – Steve M.

  14. L.P. Cruz,

    I agree with that line from the Solid Declaration as long as the intent of (law) preaching to believers is to accuse them and kill off (if only temporarily) their old Adams, and not to promote good behavior.

    Although not as familiar with Forde as some (my pastor was a student of his at seminary), I think Forde believed that we are capable of doing good things apart from the influence of the Holy Spirit (as non believers are) but that those good works are not efficacious towards a right realtionship with God, or indicative of such.
    I believe he believed, as Luther, that anything done apart from faith in Christ is sin. (Isaiah 64)

    I do know some Missouri Synod pastors that really love Forde’s writing, although they either don’t agree with his take on the ‘third use’, or (unofficially)they do agree, but don’t make a big issue of it. And that to me is too bad, because I believe that it is a big issue.

    Having been to your blog site many times, I can attest that you aren’t in Missouri, geographically or otherwise.

    Thanks L.P. Cruz.

    – Steve M.

  15. Steve G wrote:
    “Again the understanding of the Christian as simul iustus et peccator is key in understanding this. Lutherans do not understand the simul as sequential, or to say that in a different way we are not sometimes a sinner and sometimes a saint even though we may feel in it time that way”.

    To look a little further afield, then, the Puritan Thomas Goodwin wrote ‘Let men in a state of GRACE be inflamed with lusts, that one would think there is nothing of grace, YET there is a principal of grace that will reduce them at last. So much for the greatness of sin!” (Works, Vol 8, 72).
    Additionally, Richard Sibbes in his sermon ‘The Bruised Reed and the Smoldering Flax’ (Mat 12;20) notes that such is the TRUE description of the Christian and that whilst there may be no observable sign of any more than ‘grace mingled with corruption’ this is but ‘to force us to pitch our rest on JUSTIFICATION, NOT SANCTIFICATION, which besides (our) imperfection, hath some soil” (works 1, 57).

    Is it not, in this context, that the Reformation perspective of ‘simul iustus et peccator’ should be understood and applied`?

  16. ‘Sanctification’ is just getting used to our ‘justificaton’.

    – Gerhard Forde

  17. I in theory don’t disagree with the “Third Use of the Law” or promoting good behavior amongst Christians. But I do think that the term is abused, and the preaching the third use should not be associated with making the law the third category in a sermon which should only have two categories, law and gospel. Christ has told us to preach repentance an the forgiveness of sins to all the world, Luke 24. I think that the third use can only come in under the category of preaching repentance, It can not be an add on to the Gospel. Nor should it be taught in away that attaches sanctification to the third use of the law. The so called “progressive sanctification.” We may over time and through constant hearing of the word, and proper use of the sacraments “grow or mature in our sanctification,” but it must always be kept in mind that all of us were sanctified in baptism, 1 Cor. 6. Our sanctification was perfected by Christ, we add nothing to it. To say anything else only invites us to sin spiritually with merit monging.
    As the Christian is always Saint and Sinner, the Christian is in constant need of Law and Gospel, no different than the unbeliever.
    Unashamedly Missourian,
    Your Brother in Christ,
    Bror Erickson the Utah Lutheran

  18. Bror,

    “I in theory don’t disagree with the “Third Use of the Law” or promoting good behavior amongst Christians.”

    I think the question is how does one promote good behavior?

    All of the things that you say the law does, or is supposed to do, it does through the first two uses just fine. What ‘we ought do’ is contained within the first two uses, and that accusing and condemning voice is in the forst two uses.

    What I’m still not convinced of is what does an advocate of the third use ‘get’, that an advocate of ‘two uses ‘not get’?

    And if the H.S. is not capable of bringing forth goodness, or God’s desired action out of the sinner, then what is?

    I guess my main fear in this area would be slipping into semi-Pelagianism.

    Thanks Bror!

    – Steve M.

  19. Steve,
    Essentially I agree. 2nd use and third use are both Law. I tend to consider them more as 2 aspects of what the law does, more than 2 ways to use the law.
    your brother in Christ,
    Bror

  20. I guess someone would have had to been dropped off here from the planet Zortron to not realize that there are good and faithful pastors and congregations.. and also errant ones within the different Lutheran Synods.

    To the extent that I have been guilty of looking askance at another’s synodical affiliation and not their arguments, I do apologize.

    Hopefully we can keep these discussions free of that kind of finger pointing with respect to individuals.

    Of course we are free to generalize and point out historical facts and documents, and individual practices for the sake of good argument, but I know we can continue to do it in a respectful way and a civil tone.

    I am speaking to myself, before anyone else here.

    Thanks!

    – Steve M.

  21. Bror,

    Thanks very much. That helps me understand a bit better where you are coming from.

    I’d say I’d agree with that description of the law.

    Thanks Bror!

    Hey, you don’t have any Mormons in your neck of the woods, do you?

    – Steve

  22. No, no Mormon’s that I know of. But if I did that would explain all the crossless church-like buildings, and the funny laws that close the liquor store at 7.
    How about you, any down there?
    -Bror

  23. I didn’t think you’d have any there. But this place is crawlin’ with ’em.

    Two by two, uniformed, uninformed, ready to take San Clemente by storm.

    They just built a new building (If I ever call it a ‘church’…shoot me) in town.

    I was very disappointed. I thought we were getting a new steakhouse.

    In their building they are doing a lot of cooking, but it is just their own gooses.

    No crosses…no death. No death…no life.

    Thanks Bror. Keep a lookout in case any of ’em turn up around there.

    – Steve

  24. Howard,
    I would say no. As far as I can tell from these quotes, these authors seem to be saying that the Christian has one nature not two.

  25. Repentance pertains to the Christian as per his/her old self/Old Adam. Without repentance, there is no klling of the Old Adam. Without the death of the Old Adam, there is raising up of the New Adam. So, repentance is, as Luther says, the Christian life as the Christian life is the daily dying of the old and resurrection of the new.

    The Christian life is from the eschatological perspective, a total state. We are totally depraved and totally renewed at the same time. We repent and are forgiven at the same time.

    From our temporal perspective, it is natural to think sequentially. That would be the pastoral approach. But the theological method is to treat the total states as simul. Indeed the total states as TOTAL states can only be SIMUL, since justification is EXTRA NOS.

  26. Bro. Jason,

    You picked up on repentance which is what I also replied to Steven M in my blog.

    I think repentance should be brought to the discussion here.

    The Law always accuses, but for the Christian – it always accuses at the same time it also instructs.

    To put it in another way – the Ten Commandments is in a form of imperatives but they become indicatives as well to the Christian.

    From the command “You shall not” to a declaration “You shall not”. From the command – that you are breaking, to the declarative of what you will become.

    This parallels simul iustus et pecator.

    If the HS wants to accuse us, he can always do that, in fact we are at his mercy, because should God mark out our inequeties – who can stand? But there is forgiveness with him — so that he might be feared.

    It is more how the HS uses the Law towards a believer. He totally uses the Law to accuse and totally use the Law to instruct.

    Works have nothing to do in gaining favor with God, absolutely — prior to justification and even after justification.

    LPC

  27. Steve G wrote:
    “I would say no. As far as I can tell from these quotes, these authors seem to be saying that the Christian has one nature not two”.

    Interesting. So where would they place the state of a believer being consumed with lust (Goodwin) or well nigh overcome with corruption (Sibbes)?

    Luther understood passages such as Romans7 as the continuing conflict with remaining sin (i.e. after conversion, we remain sinners, though regenerate). Calvin also applied such passages to the believer, and understood that such scriptures spoke of ‘the remains of the flesh’ (the old nature). The Reformed confessions of faith all follow suit speaking of this conflict, and the Puritans also (Goodwin included) endorsed this line of exposition.
    (See Benjamin Wicker’s work, ‘Delight of a Wretched Man’ for further study).

    This indicates to me that there is an inherent continuity in the Reformation understanding of simul iustus et peccator.

  28. All,

    Sorry to come to the conversation late and let me say right up front that my study of the “third use” is pretty bare (read deficient). I have always been of the opinion that the proper view is one in which whatever we do as Christians is subsumed in the life that Christ has given. In other words, if I were a pastor, I might preach in such a way that delivers the forgiveness of sins and encourages the laity to lay hold of the life they’ve been given through the Holy Spirit. You wouldn’t, therefore, end the sermon with “Now that you’ve been forgiven, go and do your good works.” It would be more “Christ has crushed death. He has set you free from the bondages of sin and infused you with new life. Thanks be to God that we can take that life and pour it into love for our families, neighbors, friends, and especially our enemies.”

    To me, this approach crushes any appeal to law because it deals primarily with the life we’ve been given in Christ. Take away the life and you have nothing. With the life, we are freed to love and serve as Christ loves and serves us. The caution is in ensuring that you don’t make love a law. If it turns into “you must do good things for your neighbor because Christ has saved you in love” then it’s no different than telling a person to go and do 30 Hail Mary’s in order to get back in the good graces of God. If you instead always keep the message focused on the life Christ has given us and show people how such life frees us (with no appeal to specific acts), I think it makes for a healthy approach. It’s the life given through the gift of the Holy Spirit and in that life we are freed to love and serve.

    Again, I’m no expert, but that’s my very simple take.

    Adam

  29. Howard, Steven G.,

    If ever I doubt Romans 7, I just look in the mirror.

    If I am to trust Christ and what He has done for me in the light of my performance, I will certainly have to reconcile to my ‘double life’.

  30. Very nicely done Adam,
    The focus of your contribution is Christ and His life that He gives (note the pronouns?) Christ and what He does for us is central. That just spells freedom for the christian. Any attempt then to start speaking of a ‘3rd’ use of a LAW, takes the emphasis off of Jesus and puts it back on my performance. (Sort of like putting salt in lemonade) . Here’s a rhetorical question for those hanging on to the law, just how gracious do you want Christ to be with you? Do you only need a hand up in the saddle? I mean come on! We (in adam) are WAAAY beyond just needing a tune up or some good intentioned improvement! We need salvation. The freedom that Christ accomplished for us and that the Spirit gives to us through faith is enough. He is able to accomplish His work just fine without our cooperation. We then, as Adam has rightly stated, are then free (that means free) to look around and see what needs doing. I can for example, help my neighbor fix his roof, just because his roof needs fixing. No ‘spirituality’ attached. No self interested thoughts of ‘getting a reward’.
    Thanks,
    Brent

  31. Adam,

    “Christ has crushed death. He has set you free from the bondages of sin and infused you with new life. Thanks be to God that we can take that life and pour it into love for our families, neighbors, friends, and especially our enemies.”

    I do like that approach much better.

    Being one who is very sensitive to the demand of the law, the second sentence in your example still give me a twinge of the law.

    It would be like saying to your son, “Son, I love you like crazy, there’s nothing that could ever change that. You are now free to paint the fence, if you feel like it.”

    That’s maybe not a great analogy, but do you see what I mean?

    “…we can… love…especially our enemies.”

    I would prefer to preach your first sentence (after the law has made it’s accusations) and just leave it at that.
    “Christ has crushed death. He has set you free from the bondages of sin and infused you with new life.”

    Leave the hearer with pure gospel and total relief from accusation and condemnation and let the Holy Spirit go to work in the life of that believer to do the things that the Holy Spirit wants done. No strings, even thin soft ones, attached.

    Thanks very much for your insight Adam.

    – Steve

  32. Brent,

    I think you are on the right track. Keep working on it and get back to us when you’ve refined your argument a bit better.

    By the way, Brent, I could use a hand fixing my roof this weekend.

    Your Pal,

    – Steve

  33. May I make an amendment to my previous post?

    There are SOME neighbors who upon asking for assistance in repairing a roof, heap nothing but the burdon of the law on you!

    Sheesh!

    Brent

  34. Brent,

    Does that mean you WILL help me?

    – Steve

  35. To Howard and Steve M.,

    I am not doubting the reality of Romans 7. In fact what Romans 7 and Gal 5 describe is the conflict between the New Adam and the Old Adam.

    What I am doubting is how these two Calvinists undrstand the dual nature of Christian as bot total sinner and total saint

  36. Steven G,

    I venture to opine that as Puritans, Goodwin and Sibbes would not emphasised the dual nature of the Christian as much as confessional Lutherans would. In Puritanism, sanctification is as much the work of the Spirit as it is the work of man. Such “synergism” of course is not to be confused with the monergism of justification with faith as the “organic instrument”. This quite unlike confessional Lutheranism where sanctification is as much the monergistic work of God as justification is.

    For Forde, sanctification is simply the existential aspect of justification. Sanctification is included in justification as a total gift. Unlike Puritanism, sanctification is not an immanent moral PROGRESS, but the movement of the GOAL towards the “starting-point” of the Christian’s journey or pilgrimage. Under this scheme as so able articulated by Forde as Luther’s modern-day interpreter, it is impossible to think the self as a continuous existing subject. He cannot remain intact. Grace is not ontological, i.e. infused into man, but eschatological, i.e. re-claims man. So, Puritanism follows Romanism in principle on the issue of gratia infusa. Strictly speaking, the Christian as simul iustus et peccator does not exactly sit comfortably with the Puritan vision of the Christian life.

    With infused grace, believe it or not, the priority is not the Sacramentum (Jesus as Sacrament), or at least the emphasis, but the Exemplum (Jesus as Exemplar). For infused grace by its very nature is meant to provide divine aid to the Christian in the life of faith, hence imitation is the key.

    But with simul iustus et peccator, the Word and Sacraments takes precedence as the means of grace to kill the old man and raise up the new man as TOTAL states. Absolution is not given to beef up our resolve to live the life of faith but precisely to kill the old man in us and raise up the new man. The Lord’s Supper is given not so that we can increase our stockpile of grace but to kill the old man and raise up the new man in us. This is why it’s called rightly, the “medicine of immortality”. Only thing that it is administered not to a sick person, but a dead one.

    This is predicated upon the bondage of the will. Infusing grace would not help because the sinner would not receive help. The sinner must be delivered FROM sin and be destroyed together WITH sin so that only then the sinner can be set free. Such is the dire situation sinners are in. Which means that the Sacramentum principle must first have its effect of freeing the bound, and only then can the freed look to Jesus as Exemplum.

  37. Rather than receiving Jesus as Exemplum so that only then can Jesus as Sacramentum take effect which is what is the theological approach, however implicit or tacit in other traditions.

  38. Here are some wise words on this issue of good works, sanctification, etc.

    Antinomian Aversion to Sanctification?

    An emerited brother writes that he is disturbed by a kind of preaching that avoids sanctification and “seemingly questions the Formula of Concord . . . about the Third Use of the Law.” The odd thing is that this attitude, he writes, is found among would-be confessional pastors, even though it is really akin to the antinomianism of “Seminex”! He asks, “How can one read the Scriptures over and over and not see how much and how often our Lord (in the Gospels) and the Apostles (in the Epistles) call for Christian sanctification, crucifying the flesh, putting down the old man and putting on the new man, abounding in the work of the Lord, provoking to love and good works, being fruitful . . . ?”

    I really have no idea where the anti-sanctification bias comes from. Perhaps it is a knee-jerk over-reaction to “Evangelicalism”: since they stress practical guidance for daily living, we should not! Should we not rather give even more and better practical guidance, just because we distinguish clearly between Law and Gospel? Especially given our anti-sacramental environment, it is of course highly necessary to stress the holy means of grace in our preaching. But we must beware of creating a kind of clericalist caricature that gives the impression that the whole point of the Christian life is to be constantly taking in preaching, absolution and Holy Communion-while ordinary daily life and callings are just humdrum time-fillers in between! That would be like saying that we live to eat, rather than eating to live. The real point of our constant feeding by faith, on the Bread of Life, is that we might gain an ever-firmer hold of Heaven-and meanwhile become ever more useful on earth! We have, after all, been “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Cars, too, are not made to be fueled and oiled forever at service-stations. Rather, they are serviced in order that they might yield useful mileage in getting us where we need to go. Real good works before God are not showy, sanctimonious pomp and circumstance, or liturgical falderal in church, but, for example, “when a poor servant girl takes care of a little child or faithfully does what she is told” (Large Catechism, Ten Commandments, par. 314, Kolb-Wengert, pg. 428).

    The royal priesthood of believers needs to recover their sense of joy and high privilege in their daily service to God (1 Pet. 2:9). The “living sacrifice” of bodies, according to their various callings, is the Christian’s “reasonable service” or God-pleasing worship, to which St. Paul exhorts the Romans “by the mercies of God” (Rom. 12:1), which he had set out so forcefully in the preceding eleven chapters! Or, as St. James puts it: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (1:27). Liberal churches tend to stress the one, and conservatives one the other, but the Lord would have us do both!

    Antinomianism appeals particularly to the Lutheran flesh. But it cannot claim the great Reformer as patron. On the contrary, he writes:

    “That is what my Antinomians, too, are doing today, who are preaching beautifully and (as I cannot but think) with real sincerity about Christ’s grace, about the forgiveness of sin and whatever else can be said about the doctrine of redemption. But they flee s if t were the very devil the consequence that they should tell the people about the third article, of sanctification, that is, of new life in Christ. They think one should not frighten or trouble the people, but rather always preach comfortingly about grace and the forgiveness of sins in Christ, and under no circumstance use these or similar words, “Listen! You want to be a Christian and at the same time remain an adulterer, a whoremonger, a drunken swine, arrogant, covetous, a usurer, envious, vindictive, malicious, etc.!” Instead they say, “Listen! Though you are an adultery, a wordmonger, a miser, or other kind of sinner, if you but believe, you are saved, and you need not fear the law. Christ has fulfilled it all! . . . They may be fine Easter preachers, but they are very poor Pentecost preachers, for they do not preach… “about the sanctification by the Holy Spirit,” but solely about the redemption of Jesus Christ, although Christ (whom they extol so highly, and rightly so) is Christ, that is, He has purchased redemption from sin and death so that the Holy Spirit might transform us out of the old Adam into new men . . . Christ did not earn only gratia, grace, for us, but also donum, “the gift of the Holy Spirit,” so that we might have not only forgiveness of, but also cessation of, sin. Now he who does not abstain fro sin, but persists in his evil life, must have a different Christ, that of the Antinomians; the real Christ is not there, even if all the angels would cry, “Christ! Christ!” He must be damned with this, his new Christ (On the Council and the Church, Luther’s Works, 41:113-114).

    Where are the “practical and clear sermons,” which according to the Apology “hold an audience” (XXIV, 50, p. 267). Apology XV, 42-44 (p. 229) explains:

    “The chief worship of God is to preach the Gospel…in our churches all the sermons deal with topics like these: repentance, fear of God, faith in Christ, the righteousness of faith, prayer . . . the cross, respect for the magistrates and all civil orders, the distinction between the kingdom of Christ (the spiritual kingdom) and political affairs, marriage, the education and instruction of children, chastity, and all the works of love.”

    “Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, unto Thy Church Thy Holy Spirit, and the wisdom which cometh down from above, that Thy Word, as becometh it, may not be bound, but have free course and be preached to the joy and edifying of Christ’s holy people, that I steadfast faith we may serve Thee, and in the confession of Thy Name abide unto the end: through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.”

    Kurt Marquart

    Concordia Theological Quarterly

    July/October 2003
    Pages 379-381

  39. Jason wrote:
    I” venture to opine that as Puritans, Goodwin and Sibbes would not emphasized the dual nature of the Christian as much as confessional Lutherans would”.

    The Puritans taught:
    1. That the truth of Justification by Faith alone is a Divine revelation of grace, which cannot by worked out by ‘unaided religious reason’ or the moral pride of the natural man. This propensity with men to religion without such grace is the greatest and constant treat to this precious truth.

    2. That all truth points to the doctrine of Justification of a sinner by the imputation and application of Christ’s work, and that all heresy regarding salvation derives from a deconstruction of this essential revelation.

    3. That Justification by grace through faith alone is the source of all true peace of conscience, hope, joy, comfort, genuine holiness and assurance. They understood that any threat to this truth was a satanic hostility to prevent the Gospel amongst men.

    4. That a doctrine of justification by works is the natural de-fault position amongst fallen men, and any teaching which encourages such propensity (Pelgianism or Arminianism being the key modes they critiqued outside of Romanism) was viewed as the bastard offspring of natural religion.

    In response to the Roman claim that Justification can occur without renewal (subjective righteousness), the Westminster Confession, after stating “faith” is the “alone method of Justification” noted “it is not alone but it ever accompanied by all over saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love” (WC XI:ii). Puritan divinity has therefore been described as “a theology of regeneration”.

    “I am not a Christian with great faith or with praiseworthy character, but a Christian who is confident that I share with every regenerate Christian ‘every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ’. I am simultaneously sinful and justified, as I am simultaneously at peace with God because of Christ’s imputed righteousness but at war with myself because of Christ’s imparted righteousness. I am not a successful ‘runner’, but I am looking to Jesus, the author and the finisher of faith” Michael Horton. Christ the Lord:Introduction).

  40. Rev. McCain,

    I wouldn’t call myself an Antinomian because to me the Law does have value in civic use and also theologically to accuse and condemn me.

    But with respect to my sanctification I would deem it an honor to be called ‘Antinomian’ rather than a ‘moral achiever.’

    In these parts (Orange County, CA), we are surrounded by those who have made a cottage industry out of their sanctification. They drip piety and battle hard to keep their pride from showing.
    I think these poor folks would be much better off if the preaching they were exposed to focused not so much on the self, but more on Christ and what He is doing.

    The problem is focus. You can tell someone all day long, every day, that they are saved by grace alone, but you tell them one time about the jewels in their crown(or any such sanctification lingo) and suddenly the focus is now on their performance.

    Give me a real sinner who is not watching their P’s and Q’s at every moment and is free of ANY demand of any particular use of any law… any day of the week.
    And whatever the Holy Spirit brings forth out of him will be what the Spirit brings forth out of him.

  41. Jason Loh,

    I liked very much what you had to say about the Sacraments, the bondage of the will,and the simul, with respect to our sanctification.

    There is no way we could do this ourselves, EVEN IF we wanted to.

    – Steve M.

  42. Steve M wrote:
    “The problem is focus. You can tell someone all day long, every day, that they are saved by grace alone, but you tell them one time about the jewels in their crown(or any such sanctification lingo) and suddenly the focus is now on their performance”.

    Spot on, Steve.

    As noted several times on the White Horse Inn, Christ has done everything necessary for salvation in His life, death and resurrection – OUTSIDE of us – and He has come to dwell within us in the person of His Holy Spirit. Our assurance is rooted in the finished, objective work of the one who Justifies the wicked, who will bring that work to completion.

  43. Thanks Howard!

    I owe you another pint!

    – Steve

  44. I’ve seen more than a few Lutherans caught up in this off-kilter attitude toward sanctification lives lives that excuse their sinful behaviors and choices. They defend it and even boast of their “sinning boldly.” Dr. Marquart’s sage words are an antidote to the aversion to sanctification that is the ditch on the other side of the road where people fall when they stagger out of the legalism ditch.

  45. So Rev., it’s back to Jesus + huh?

    No thanks, I’ll rely on Christ if it’s all the same.
    “Lord I thank thee that I am not like these others who
    aren’t working are their sanctification like I am”….

    Dear Rev. You get no extra points. (you’re better off helping someone fix a roof).

    Brent

  46. Howard,

    Precisely what I have said. But where the rubber meets the road is sanctification. And infused grace is the nub of it all – the quest for full assurance and *personal* holiness.

  47. Steve,

    Thanks. I find what Forde writes about ministers getting nervous about preaching the Gospel in all ITS radicalness rings true. It’s not a caricature after all. All because the radical nature of the Gospel is not fully appreciated.

  48. Jason,

    ” All because the radical nature of the Gospel is not fully appreciated.”

    Right!

    What I’d like to ask someone …” who’s rules and who’s going to enforce them?”
    And what is gained from the whole exercise?

    Christ is enough… and let the chips fall where they may.

    ‘As the Church, what do we do with unrepentant sinners?’ We deal with them. But we don’t prescribe behavior.

  49. Steve,

    I believe that the balance between legalism and antinomianism is to be found in the proper distinction between Law and Gospel. Confusing Law with Gospel is a sure recipe for legalism or antinomianism, which at the of the day, basically boils down to the same thing. This is what I have found in many churches which claim the name “Evangelical”.

    Proper distinction between Law and Gospel means that the Law binds at the same time the Gospel frees the Christian.

    The Law binds the Christian as per the Old Adam in the 1st and 2nd use. The Gospel frees the Christian as per the New Adam from the Law.

    The New Adam does not need the Law because s/he does not sin. The Old Adam needs the Law precisely s/he is sinful.

  50. Personally I have no aversion to sanctification. I recognize it is God woking in me to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Phil 2:13

    In much of evangelicalism it is treated as a oneupmanship exercise which ends up in impenitent sin. The impenitent sin is the idea that one’s works have any effect whatsoever how Father feels about him or her. This is due mostly to hearing preached how the law is our cheerleader saying “You can do it! You can become a better you!” Hmmm sounds familiar.

    I too am accused to being antinomian. However, I love the law of God. It taught me and teaches me how much I need Jesus each and everyday. It also keeps me from the mixed up mudpie humanist ethics produces which ends up calling evil good and good evil.

    The other killer atttude life long Lutherans have is an attraction to the law which does no accuse. Unforturnately we see that playing itself out as some drift more and more toward vanilla evangelicalism.

    Christ have mercy!

  51. Nicely put David!

    ‘Mein Reden!”

    Brent

  52. Jason wrote:
    Howard,
    “Precisely what I have said. But where the rubber meets the road is sanctification. And infused grace is the nub of it all – the quest for full assurance and *personal* holiness”.

    and also (previously) wrote:
    “Puritanism follows Romanism in principle on the issue of gratia infusa. Strictly speaking, the Christian as simul iustus et peccator does not exactly sit comfortably with the Puritan vision of the Christian life”.

    So would this equate to the Puritan understanding of Grace and Sanctification being in error, and could this be because of the inherent distinction in the source of the two ‘springs’ of reform – Witttenberg (doctrinal) and Geneva (philosophical)?

  53. Steve M.,

    What do you think of this quote from Forde:

    Here we simply have to face the fact that there is no cure other than a more radical proclamation of Christ as the end of the law who becasue he is the end establishes the law prior to the end. When the end is given we no need to be antinomians. This, it seems to me, was Luther’s point in all his writings on the matter. Because the end is given we can enter gladly into life under law for the time being, to care for the world, for others, and do battle with sin and the devil.
    (Fake Theology: Reflections on Antinomianish Past and Present)

    This is in my opinion exactly what the third use of the law is. Compare that quote to the 17th paragraph of Article of the Formula of Concord: Solid Declaration:

    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].

  54. Steve M.
    And whatever the Holy Spirit brings forth out of him will be what the Spirit brings forth out of him.

    Will not what the Holy Spirit bring out of them conform with the Law of God, which was given by the same Holy Spirit? If doesn’t, can we really say that it came from the Spirit?

  55. Howard,

    The puritans maintained with Calvin that the obedience of the Christian came from both the law and faith. They understood the third use of the law has a whip to motivate the Christian because he is lazy.

  56. Steven G.,

    I agree with all those quotes. But I do believe that these things happen as a result of God working His power through the first two uses of the Law.

    I hear pastors speak of the “3rd use’ as a “guide.”

    In the scenarios described in the quotes you included in your comments, no “guide” is necessary.

    Guides require lists. Lists require checking.

    Like I said earlier, the scenarios painted in the quotes you mentioned, require no guides, no checking, no law.

    We are getting closer.

    – Steve M.

  57. Steve G Wrote:
    “The puritans maintained with Calvin that the obedience of the Christian came from both the law and faith”.

    The Puritan understanding of Faith and Sanctification, as noted by the sources both Jason and I have touched upon, did not develop within a vacuum. The article in the Westminster Confession, as noted by Packer and others, was related to Rome’s opposition to the doctrine of Justification as stated by Luther and the early Reformers – hence my interest and query on Jason’s observation of the parallel on the matter of infused righteousness. Mc Grath notes in his work on Reformation thought that there is a distinction in both source and direction in the manner of Reform that occurred under Luther and Melancthon in Wittenburg – the essence being doctrinal and soteriological – and Geneva under Zwingli and latter Calvin – the focus here being moralistic. There is little doubt that such variation in approach and goals has a direct impact upon the nature of reform and the manner in which the Christian life is viewed in the light of this.

  58. Steven M.

    So you agree that the Christian is to order his/her life by the Law i.e. the 10 commandments.

  59. “So would this equate to the Puritan understanding of Grace and Sanctification being in error, and could this be because of the inherent distinction in the source of the two ’springs’ of reform – Witttenberg (doctrinal) and Geneva (philosophical)?”

    Howard,
    Puritanism is a product of *post*-Reformation context which have had to confront and settle the deviations from the principles of the Reformation such as the priesthood of all believers and not least, antinomianism. Indeed, antinomianism was a major pastoral concern for both Puritans and Churchmen (i.e. conformist Anglicans) alike. Though both differed radically on philosophical approaches which impacted upon their political and liturgical proclivities, both parties, intriguingly, shared a common approach to sanctification which is conceived of as personal holiness. This necessarily implies “immanent moral progress”, which is set against the backdrop of the neccesity of assurance as being a true Christian.

    The emphasis then, especially with Puritanism, shifts to introspection rather than extrospection. The Christian life becomes “psychologised”. Hence, Puritanism is a variant of Reformed Scholasticism. The ordo salutis (i.e. “steps of salvation”) becomes a theological preoccupation to discern one’s calling and election.

    This historical process is paralleled in the case of our Lutheran Orthodoxy and Pietism for both share a common theological method in so far as the ordo salutis is concern. The work of the Holy Spirit is broken up according to theological categories which imply “immanent moral progress”. Justification becomes relegated to the “first order”; it loses its focal point; justification no longer is the Christian life but a necessary foundation for sanctification as it is subsumed to the ordo salutis. The role of justification is reduced to one phase in the ordo salutis rather than covering the entire Christian life. Under this scheme (of ordo salutis), it is difficult to maintain the simul factor since Luther’s vision is that of the totus/totus – total man as righteous or sinful.

    So, following Forde, the ordo salutis can be incompatible with the totus/totus conception of the Christian life. But both aspects of Lutheran theology have co-existed side by side for a long time now. So, I guess the ordo salutis in line with customary confessional Lutheran practice is still a sacred cow, unlike Pietism.

  60. Steven G.,

    The Christian is not ‘to do’ anything. Thr Christian is perfectly free. If not, then why did Christ dir for us?(read Galatians 5:1 again)

    The 10 Commandments DO NOT apply to Christians. They apply to creatures. My old self, the old Adam is bound to them. The real me, the new me in Christ…is not. Read Romans 6, again.

    Steven G., what is it with you that you have some sort of desire to follow everyone around to make sure they are living the way they ought be living?
    Isn’t it enough to take care of yourself? Why should my performance as a Christian, or lack thereof, get you so upset? If you are worried about my soul…you needn’t. I have a savior in Jesus Christ and He has done everything required of me…for me.

    Christian freedom is not too popular these days…it never has been. But take it from me, once you’ve really tasted it…you’ll never again go back into the yoke of slavery which is your own performance.

    Thanks my Friend.

    – Steve M.

  61. Jason Wrote:
    “Puritanism is a product of *post*-Reformation context which have had to confront and settle the deviations from the principles of the Reformation such as the priesthood of all believers and not least, antinomianism”.

    No doubt, but whilst Romanism (in Trent) and deviation in other fields had in respects moved on, was there that much difference between such ‘developments’ and the various ‘fringe’ groups which Luther and fellow theologians had witnessed in his day? Again, why was it that a formalizing of theology ensued which, in so many respects with regards to soteriological and ontological issues, effectively gave ground to the very philosophical notions which had menaced the church for the prior millenia?

    “Hence, Puritanism is a variant of Reformed Scholasticism”.

    And therein lies a truth which has wounded the Western church for a great deal of time.

    “Justification becomes relegated to the “first order”; it loses its focal point; justification no longer is the Christian life but a necessary foundation for sanctification as it is subsumed to the ordo salutis”.

    And following through on my earlier referral to Mc Grath, this truly identifies the marked difference which has been evident in the ‘two streams’ of (non Roman) theology begun in the 1500’s. The assumptions made by the Genevan ‘school’ of Reform were inherently humanistic and philsophical in nature (Northcott) and this rapidly developed into a form of Christian culture (often expressed, for example, in Puritanism) which perpetuated earlier errors and detracted from the focal calling of the faith (Ellul: The Subversion of Christianity). The consequence has been an inherent loss of true expression of our life and freedom in the Gospel in every generation since.

  62. Steve M.
    The Christian is not ‘to do’ anything. Thr Christian is perfectly free. If not, then why did Christ dir for us?(read Galatians 5:1 again)

    I agree that Christian does not do anything to earn his salvation. The Christian faith is passive towards God but active in love towards His neighbor. Sanctification is received from Christ freely. Luther’s explanation of the Tird Article clearly demonstrates this, but Luther also states in the second article that we “serve Christ in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness…”

    The Christian is also the dutiful servent of all. (Read 1 Cor. 9:19)

    Christ died to free us from sin, death, the power of the devil, and the curse of the Law.

    The 10 Commandments DO NOT apply to Christians. They apply to creatures. My old self, the old Adam is bound to them. The real me, the new me in Christ…is not. Read Romans 6, again.

    Christians are creatures, too. The 10 Commandments apply to us because they are they reveal us to the “immutable will of God”.

    We both agree that the Law applies to the CHristian in the first two uses becasue the Christian remains a sinner, but the Law in its third use also applies to the Christian but only in so far as he is a saint.

    and because

    there is no higher or better teacher to be found than God, there can be no better doctrine, indeed, than He gives forth. Now, He teaches fully what we should do if we wish to perform truly good works; and by commanding them, He shows that they please Him. If, then, it is God who commands this, and who knows not how to appoint anything better, I will never improve upon it.”

    Luther made it very clear that when the Apostle PAul says that we not under but grace, St. PAul means by this that we are freed from the curse of the law not from obeying the law.

    Why should my performance as a Christian, or lack thereof, get you so upset? If you are worried about my soul…you needn’t. I have a savior in Jesus Christ and He has done everything required of me…for me.

    Come now, we can be civil towards one another, right?

  63. Steven G.

    First off, If I offended you, I apologize. You have taken some pretty tough shots in many of the other comments by myself and others, so I didn’t think that was going to bother you one bit. I was wrong. I’m sorry.

    Steven, the whole problem with the third use is that you can’t prescribe it, you can’t check on it, no one does it anyway, even those that say they are for it ,don’t do it, it is a total waste of focus. Who’s checking on whom, anyway?

    There is nothing in the ‘third’ that is not in the first two.

    I don’t live by any third use and I would bet that I’m not any less sanctified than you are. I’d also bet that I help my neighbor in about the same frequency and strength that you do. I will tell you this, however, I am not focused on keeping any laws, I just do it.

    I live in freedom. I sin boldly, believe more boldly still (Luther’s often misunderstood quote).

    I just live. That’s enough!

    Thanks Pal!

    – Steve

  64. I really wan’t offeneded. I was more or less teasing. With that being said, I forgive you, and you surely forgiven in Christ. If I have offened you or anyone, I too am sorry.

    I think that on this issue, we will both have to pray that the Spirit of truth will open the other’s eyes to the truth. 🙂

  65. Steven G.,

    You are a good man, Steve. My kind of guy.
    If we never meet (on this side), I’m buyin’ whatever you’re drinking (on the other side).

    I’ve really enjoyed our discussions on this topic. You have been more than a worthy opponent, and I hope we’ll have plenty more opportunities to sharpen each other’s iron, and encourage each other in the faith.

    Your Friend,

    Steve M.

  66. Same here.

    Just for the record I like Forde. I think his voice is definately needed as a corrective to the Pietism in American Evangelicalism and even in the LCMS. It was through his books that I became aquainted with Luther and Lutheranism.

  67. Meant definitely. I am always making that mistake

  68. Hi Steve M,

    It is amazing at how many responses come out on the 3rd use of the Law issue. You’re right Old Adam Lives!

    If the Holy Spirit through preaching or reading the bible brings forth a conviction in ones life to change a behavior so be it. But to open the scriptures and look for laws to live by….well good luck. You will become proud and judgmental of those who outwardly struggle with sin more than you or you will come to despair and dread your miserable life “The Anfechtung.” The just shall live by faith and faith is apart from the law. If you want to keep the law you must keep the whole thing or you are toast. I am spiritually too weak to look at the law for a “guide to Christian living” I can only live this Christian life by being told, through great preaching, that my sins are forgiven and I am free to love and serve my neighbor. Yes free to love that neighbor because I don’t have to perform before God for his approval. I have his approval through baptism! I am his son and I am no longer under the law. If you want a 3rd use go ahead and chase it down. I must live under the cross.

    Craig D

  69. Craig D.,

    You may go to the head of the class! You are now confirmed!

    I know died in the wool Lutherans of 40 years that don’t get this stuff. But (as you said) that’s that old stinking Adam that refuses to die.

    Thanks very much for that, Craig!

    – Steve M.

  70. Hi Steve M,

    I have still been thinking about this topic and I am perplexed by Rev. Paul McCain’s comments. I love his blog and his great work at CPH.org. He brings a lot of benefit to the Lutheran bodies. I do know Rev. Mark Anderson and I know that he is the most committed man to the gospel that you’ll ever meet. I would love to be a fly on the wall and hear Rev. McCain and Rev. Anderson discuss and debate the 3rd use of the law. I know that Rev. Anderson does not in anyway encourage immoral behavior; in fact he is often telling people that there are a lot of good works out there to be done. I think that it would really benefit us if we could get a recorded phone conversation between them on this topic. Maybe Rev. Wilkins can get them on his new show….now that would be a great conversation.

    Steve, keep up your passion for the freedom that we have in Christ! Don’t let anyone shackle you with the law. Kill you with it yes, but follow it well read Galatians 3: 10-14. That is one of the many reasons why I left Reformed theology. Christ is never enough…Law-Gospel-Law is a difficult hermeneutic to live by. Anyway, I’ll talk to you soon.

    Craig D

  71. Craig,

    Thanks for the encouragement! You are a good brother in Christ!

    That would be an interesting conversation, Mark and Rev. McCain.

    I have pretty much heard conversations like that though, between others. You have complete freedom in Christ, or…not. Personally, I’ll stick with the freedom guys. Even if I wanted to, I could never go back anyway. Once you’ve been freed and tasted that all encompassing freedom, you just don’t go back…whatever the cost. I think you know what I’m talking about.

    Craig, take care Pal, and God bless you and the family.

    – Steve

  72. McCain’s remarks is a convenient diversion from the Romanising tendencies and inclinations amongst certain clerics within the LCMS. The answer to “Ablaze” is emphatically not Piepkorn and the Liturgy but Walther and the Gospel

  73. Howard,

    The problem with the Reformed is, unlike the Lutheran, it did not formally possess theological categories which expressed the distinction between the two kingdoms. And this coupled with a legalistic streak (perhaps a balance or counter-balance against its strict emphasis on double predestination?) which was inherent in its conception of the covenant. The key to understanding the Reformed mindset is the covenant. Other critiques of the Reformed would miss the mark if not zoomed in into the covenant. So, there is the always the theological problem of fitting double predestination and the covenant together because the latter almost inevitably speaks of obligations, duties, hence human response, even if it is conceived as unilateral.

    This is why the trajectory we are witnessing today in the Reformed such as the controversy involving Norman Shepherd, the Auburn Avenue theology, and even the New Perspective of Paul (NPP) have their roots in an over-emphasis on the human side of the covenant to the detriment of predestination, not to mention Christian Reconstruction which has at its aim the “Christianisation” of the left–hand kingdom. In other words, predestination as an eternal decree is interpreted or set it light of the covenant as a temporal arrangement. The solution to the theological “impasses” would be to break away from legal categories towards a more organic understanding. This would entail speaking of the covenant as a “bond”.

  74. Jason,
    Many thanks for your reply and all of your interesting correspondence in this posting.

    I have no doubts that the issues you touch upon above are indeed apposite to the contemporary nature and debates within the Reformed strand of theology, which most certainly causes all manner of troubles, especially when coupled with an often austere legalism, but my own studies have caused me to reflect that the very reason that so much of this is so is because of the inherent divergence between Wittenburg and Geneva which occurred at the very first. Luther’s correct emphasis on the soteriological nature of our faith simply did not find (as we noted in our discussion on the Puritans) the essential role it truly must have amidst the humanist-inspired ‘adjustments’ for the moral good which became the hallmark of much which occurred under Zwingli. The Christian and the church can so easily fall into the mire of mis-placed, moralistic piety if the essential nature of the message of ‘Christ Crucified’ becomes a truth deposed by a ‘reform’ of a thousand qualifications.

    Thank you again for your most engaging thoughts on this.

    In His Righteousness,

    Howard.

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