Get back to work !

Summertime is the usual time of the year for Americans to go on vacation. A well needed rest. A time to forget the cares of one’s life and get out of the mundane. A time to envision dreams and experience, if even for a little while, what it might be like to live without the demands that our existence places upon us.

Could you imagine looking out from your balcony aboard a luxury cruiselineSunset Silhouetter at the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever seen, while sipping champagne and eating crab cakes as the beautiful blue ocean glides past and gently spashes the sides of the ship and then a voice from the loudspeaker comes on and says, “Don’t forget, you have to go back to work on Monday!”

That voice on the loudspeaker is the same voice that loves to quote from the Book of James. “But you just can’t live any way you want!” “Faith without works is dead.” “Get back to work.”

The law demands that we get back to work…and right now! The gospel promises us champagne and crab cakes…forever!

Can you actually feel the voice of the law as it does it’s number on you? Does the voice of the law give you comfort in it’s direction and demand?  What happens to you when you hear the libertating promises of the gospel?

Now…get back to work!

53 Responses

  1. “We say, besides, that if good works do not follow, faith is false and not true.”

    Martin Luther, Smalcald Articles XIII 4

  2. Good works will surely follow. It’s just that we will not be able to know what they are.

    Anyone that thinks they are able to judge a truly good work is kidding themselves.

    As St. Paul said, “I do not even judge myself.”

  3. For some reason I don’t remember champagne and crab cakes on Paul’s voyages…

  4. If we then MUST perform good works to demonstrate that we are justified and being sanctified, then ‘Get Busy”! Don’t just sit there reading this, get out there and ‘DO” something! How easily we justify the ‘need to do list’. When it comes to others, “yes THEY ought to be acting more ‘holy’, after all, the nerve of some ‘christians’ hmmph!” When it comes to me however, well….”‘God looks at the heart, blah, blah wah….” We just won’t accept what Christ has done for us very easily will we? We MUST add something to His work…… Christ sums up this whole law/Gospel, works/faith issue with these words..
    “I am the vine you are the branches, without me , you can do nothing”
    …”you can do nothing”.. we are dead, unable to perform, act, obey, heed… anything that acceptable to God where it comes to the law.
    “I am the vine”…. Gospel statement… Why would we imagine that God in Jesus Christ would have anything to do with us at all, considering what we have done to His creation?…The fact that He has grafted us ( who can do nothing) into himself and hence forth will produce life and fruit, is absolutely unimaginable. Yet, He has, He does, He will… How on earth can one who has been grafted into such loving kindness and forgiveness start talking about themselves and what they “DO” or perform or ANYTHING ?!?! All the glory belongs to Christ Jesus alone!
    Good works? Just LIVE! Trust Christ for everything! Good works will comes when He brings them from you.. Keep your eyes on Christ and not your navel.

  5. You are going to hate me for this, but I just came across this one: Luther’s works volume 21, Sermon on the Mount, pg. 149 (CPH, Pelican):
    But how is it that by these words He establishes such a close connection between forgiveness and our works when he says: “If you forgive your neighbor, you will be forgiven,” and vice versa? That does not seem to make forgiveness dependent upon faith. Answer: As I have often said elsewhere, the forgiveness of sins takes place in two ways: first inwardly, through the Gospel and the Word of God, which is received by faith in the heart toward God; second, outwardly through works, about which 2 Peter 1:10 says in its instructions regarding good works: “Dear brethren, be zealous to confirm your calling and election.” He means to say that we should confirm our possession of faith and the forgiveness of sin by showing our works, making the tree manifest by means of its fruit and making it evident that this is a sound tree and not a bad one (Matt 7:17). Where there is a genuine faith, there good works will certainly follow, too. In this way a man is pious and upright, both inwardly and outwardly, both before God and before men. For this follows as the fruit by which I assure myself and others that I have a genuine faith; this is the only way I can know or see this.
    … Where the outward signs and proofs are lacking, I cannot be sure of the inward, but I am deceiving both myself and others. But if I look and find myself gladly forgiving my neighbor, then I can draw this conclusion and say: ” I am not doing this work naturally, but by the grace of God I feel different from the way I used to be.” end of quote.

    I don’t like the part about checking myself for fruit, from a theological standpoint. I also don’t like it, because I might not be happy with what I see. Actually, I am not and I have to ask forgiveness (again). Yet, I guess, we should look and we can always do with a bit more genuine repentance, more begging of grace, and more creative and heartfelt starts, attempts, works to the benefit of our neighbor and relationships, all the while clinging to the cross.

  6. Nemo,

    Paul didn’t get them on his voyages, but he’s getting them now.

    If you’re not crazy about crab cakes I think you can have shrimp cocktails, as big as your fist and all you want.

    One of those T.V. evangelists that was actually up there for awhile told me so.

  7. Brigitte,

    No doubt that the law language you have mentioned is certainly in the scriptures.

    But, the theology of the cross makes a distinction between law and gospel, that each one can do it’s designated work on us.

    The law kills (as St. Paul reminds us in many places) and the gospel forgives and gives life.

    If the measure of our outward works plays a role in our justification and sanctification, then it seems as though Christ went through a lot of pain and suffering to the point of being staked to rough hewn wood and left to die…for nothing.

    He could have just lined us all up and start comparing our performances. No blood needed to be shed and no one needed to die for that in that case.

    What do you think, Brigitte?

  8. Brent,

    I think you might be on to something there.

    “Just LIVE! Trust Christ, and quit concentrating on your performance.”

    Didn’t Luther say (in a letter to P. Melancthon) , “Sin boldly, but believe in Christ more boldly still!”?

  9. Steve,
    Have you grown in holiness at all since you first became a Christian? Or are you about the same? Or are you worse? How did you determine this?

  10. Sounds too good Steve, apparently we’re still on the hook………
    So then the conclusion that I’m drawing is… if you’re not ‘feeling’ that you’re being saved, go out and perform ‘good works’ to assure yourself that you’re being saved? Well, Christ WILL get good works out of us… It’s His work in us..
    “It is no longer I who live but Christ in me”… It is my experience that the moment I focus in on how I am measuring up to the ‘christian life’, I become all to aware of how not up to the task I am! Where do I go from there? Bearing down and getting even more ‘into’ myself and how I spend/waste this gift of life, just brings me despair…. God help me! WHO will help me? I need help… Christ comes with His Word of forgiveness and restoration.. He once again brings hope, love, peace, rest into my heart again and I get up and live. The emphasis once again goes to Him and His work, not mine…
    Well this is too good not to share, so I find myself endeavoring to share throughout my normal days, quite unexpectedly.. (are those good works? maybe).. My point is if one is unsure if they are living up to what is expected of the christian life, the simple answer is no. No you don’t measure up; perform enough good works; etc. How do you even measure or record such a thing.
    Those that heap the demand for the christian to perform good works don’t do what they exhort other to do. I have a quote of Luther myself..
    “Abandon good and evil, trust in Christ”

  11. John,

    When I became a Christian I became as holy as I’m ever going to get, and as holy as I’m ever going to need to be.

    That is because when I became a Christian (in my baptism – as an infant I might add), I recieved the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:28), which is Christ Himself. I am clothed in the robe of Christ’s righteousness. You can’t get any holier than that.

    In our baptism’s we put on Christ (Gal. 3:27) I don’t care who you are…you cannot get any holier than that.

    Thanks John! Great question!

    – Steve

  12. Brent,

    I do believe the trouble here is the inability to seperate, or the ignorance of, the law/gospel paradigm. Most Christians that I know have never been taught this essential paradigm for reading scripture.

    Plus, often when the Bible is read through a more fundamentalist lens, you weigh every verse the same. What often results is a sort of schizophrenic view of the Christian faith….”I know I am saved by grace…but I still need to perform up to a certain level, or put forth an adequate effort (whatever that is).

    Another greart Luther quote is, “If they use the Bible against Christ, we will use Christ against the Bible.”

    Thanks Brent!

    – Steve

  13. An excellent post on this same topic is at ‘Five Pint Lutheran’

    Please take a couple of minutes to read St. David’s take on this.


    PS – I don’t know how to put the actual linf in my comment section…I learn how to do that soon (in a couple of years)…

  14. I guess I learned it quicker than I thought I would. That 6th grade edumacation is paying off…

  15. Interesting discussion, this…
    Luther indeed wrote to Melancthon when he was (once again) having assurance issues:

    ‘Go forth and sin bravely, then boldly go to the Cross and confess,
    The WHOLE GOSPEL is OUTSIDE of us’.

    It is God’s love, God’s reconciliation, God’s Redemption that counts and nothing else. The ‘good works’ we do that are worth anything are those which HE PREDESTINES for us to do, not those, like Cain, which we seek to register as meaning something. Christianity is all about the savor of the gospel becoming evident in life not by all manner of ‘do and don’t’ attempts by us, but by the world encountering the reconciling love of God, shed in our hearts, ‘savoring’ all that we are and do, even our failings.
    Certainly, we need to live life in such a manner, thereby ‘tasting’ of God reconciling the world to Himself.

  16. Here, Here Howard!

  17. …….or is it hear, hear..?

  18. It’s neither ‘hear’ nor ‘their’…

  19. Howard,

    Terrific comment, Howard.

    There is just one problem with it. It takes away my religious project and places everything upon the grace and mercy of a loving God.

    Now…what am I supposed to feed this ‘Old Adam’?

  20. St Steve,

    Drown that inner brat!

    Thank you for your kind words about my humble attempts on my blog.

    God’s peace. †

  21. Thank you Howard, Steve, Brent and David, your comments are all great and important and things that we know,, thank God. Especially justification has to be kept separate from everything else. And “extra nos” is 100% good news.

    The reason that Luther quote struck me and stuck with me is because of other discussions I am having on the net with non-Lutherans. These people seem to know no writings of Luther at all, but have certain set ideas about him.

    All they seem to know is that he had some kind of personal struggle for assurance that came from various medieval issues, including watching too many morality plays, and that “sin boldly” and “simul justus et peccator” means that we can just go out and do whatever we want, including sinning deliberately. Or else they think he is just one of the “reformers”, or carbon-copy of Calvin.

    I think this prejudices them against really learning what he is saying and against freedom in Christ. This is to their detriment and the detriment of the church as a whole. I think there is a unity issue here, where we can help to shed more light.

    One thing to correct is that we’re not going out “sinning boldly” as in– to go out sinning deliberately. Some educated people really think that’s what we are saying. That’s just one thing.

    When I read and hear (got myself the music CD’s and the catechism on CD from CPH) Luther, the law and the gospel are both strong. It has to be so. If the law is not strong, the gospel is not strong.

    I don’t even remember when I or my kids last heard something in church that dealt with any law with any kind of emphasis or clarity. And now that they are 18 and 20, they could really stand to hear some of it. I think you know what I mean. Luther wanted the catechism handled over and over again and composed songs on the commandments, etc. When I listen to one those CD’s I’ve heard more than anywhere else, in a long time. (Of course, I should apply it to myself, not just my kids) 🙂

    There are also long sermons on what good deeds are, truly good ones, not what was falsely considered good deeds under the papacy, and how they are properly motivated.

    Ok, where am I going with this.– I’m not sure yet. 🙂 I think basically, I wanted to try that quote out on you before I use it anywhere else.

    Overnight, I was thinking about this “checking for fruit” business. Yes, on one hand the “good deeds/fruit” should come supernaturally–naturally now, without me trying like mad. And I really don’t want to take my own spiritual pulse or anyone else’s all the time. Yet, there is such a thing as an “examined life”.

    The whole basic rhythm of repentance and forgiveness assumes self-knowledge and self-examination, struggling with temptations and not giving in, knowing our strengths and our weaknesses and asking for help.

    What do I see in myself that I think is “christian”? What could I see that would not be prideful or phariseeical? Do I forgive gladly from the heart, as in the Lord’s prayer, as mentioned here?

    We shy away from these questions. Are they ok?

    Or would it be better to notice what God is doing in our lives, keeping us growing and reaching out. If we examine ourselves, we should notice some of these things, too?! Yes, no?

    For now, Yours, Brigitte.

  22. Brigitte,

    You are so right about the Luther quote not meaning that we deliberately run out and trample on the neighbor with sin. He was telling Melancthon (and now us) to just live. Be free in Christ. Those in Christ will not want to run roughshod over their neighbors anyway.

    I liked what you said about the law needing to be presented in it’s fullness and harshness. When it is, we cannot help but examine ourselves and our performance in light of that law. And we will always come up short. If we don’t find ourselves lacking then we are in real trouble.

    I find that the longer I am in Christ the worse I get. The brighter the light of Christ, the more I am able to see my imperfections in that light. But also the gospel shines through to say to me, “it’s alright…you are forgiven.”

    Personally, I am not worried about the things that God is doing in my life. I trust that He is doing them. I trust that He is able to, and even uses my sin for His purposes.

    Now that I do not have to worry about pleasing God, I am free to help my neighbor to the best of my ability…or not!

    To be a Christian is to be declared righteous for Jesus’ sake. That’s the bottom line. (I believe)

    Thanks Brigitte!

    – Steve

  23. Hi Steve,
    “I am free to help my neighbor to the best of my ability…or not!”

    Isn’t it sinful to neglect your neighbor and one should try to recognize and repent of such sins of omission? I mean, I presume you would not say “I am free to murder or steal or lust after someone…or not”. Perhaps you mean that Christians would not want to do such things (in general or as a lifestyle, obviously people backslide or fall), and so they are free in that they will choose not to, so they will choose to help their neighbor and so on. And if they aren’t, or are becoming hardened, then should that give them pause since sanctification is a work of God and the lack thereof might indicate something?

    Or, put another way, in your paradigm how does one recognize himself as a hypocrite or falsely professing christian needing repentance and salvation?

  24. “The reason that Luther quote struck me and stuck with me is because of other discussions I am having on the net with non-Lutherans. These people seem to know no writings of Luther at all, but have certain set ideas about him”.

    Brigette – I’m not surprised about this. As someone who has come through both the Charismatic and Reformed camps of the church to a very different perspective thanks to (as Larry Norman put it) those ‘who really listen to the tune’, it’s very common to find almost total ignorance here, especially concerning the very key motivational differences regarding the kind of reforming faith which distinguish Wittenburg from Geneva. Alister Mc Grath in his book, ‘Roots that Refresh’ speaks of how there is a very real need today to enable Christians to discover an appetite for the faith expounded by Luther and his fellow workers.

    “All they seem to know is that he had some kind of personal struggle for assurance that came from various medieval issues, including watching too many morality plays, and that “sin boldly” and “simul justus et peccator” means that we can just go out and do whatever we want, including sinning deliberately. Or else they think he is just one of the “reformers”, or carbon-copy of Calvin”.

    Many believers are either trapped in the ‘Galatian heresy’ (Legalism) or ‘Colossian heresy’ (Dualism) cycle, and this inherently dis-enfranchises them from living life in a manner that is deeply meaningful and significant, both towards God and neighbor. The Freedom that is ours in the Redemption provided in the Gospel – that Creation was made ‘very good’ and is reconciled to God by Christ, and therefore can be used well – is the vital antidote to such maladies.

    John –
    We need to recognize just how ‘free’ the Christian is.
    “All things are lawful to me”, noted Paul, “but not all things are expedient”. Of all men, noted Luther, we are most free to do what we will – now what is it we wish to do? Should we continue sinning? Grace motivates us and Christ enables us to live above and beyond the misery of sin! God’s love will empower us to please God and serve others, but when we seek to merely ‘lower’ such grace to the level of ‘our’ deeds, that’s when we can quickly head into trouble (and if we’re not careful, begin to see ourselves as somewhat ‘better’ than others) – that’s when we need to see that if ‘we say we have no sin, then the truth is not in us’. The life we now live in the flesh we live by faith in (through) Jesus Christ – that’s what defines all that is good and just and pure in what we do -whether that is supporting a neighbor, creating a work of art or doing our best in a tricky situation at work. Do all to the glory of God.

  25. “I am free to help my neighbor to the best of my ability…or not!”

    Not quite the attitude I see in the The Defense of the Augsburg Confession, Article III: Of Love and the Fulfilling of the Law

    “15] We, therefore, profess that it is necessary that the Law be begun in us, and that it be observed continually more and more. And at the same time we comprehend both spiritual movements and external good works [the good heart within and works without]. Therefore the adversaries falsely charge against us that our theologians do not teach good works while they not only require these, but also show how they can be done [that the heart must enter into these works, lest they be mere, lifeless, cold works of hypocrites].”

    “68] For good works are to be done on account of God’s command, likewise for the exercise of faith [as Paul says, Eph. 2, 10: We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works], and on account of confession and giving of thanks. For these reasons good works ought necessarily to be done, which, although they are done in the flesh not as yet entirely renewed, that retards the movements of the Holy Ghost, and imparts some of its uncleanness, yet, on account of Christ, are holy, divine works, sacrifices, and acts pertaining to the government of Christ, who thus displays His kingdom before this world. For in these He sanctifies hearts and represses the devil, and, in order to retain the Gospel among men, openly opposes to the kingdom of the devil the confession of saints, and, in our weakness, declares His power.”

    “73] Here also we add something concerning rewards and merits. We teach that rewards have been offered and promised to the works of believers. We teach that good works are meritorious, not for the remission of sins, for grace or justification (for these we obtain only by faith), but for other rewards, bodily and spiritual, in this life and after this life, because Paul 74] says, 1 Cor. 3, 8: Every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labor. There will, therefore be different rewards according to different labors. But the remission of sins is alike and equal to all, just as Christ is one, and is offered freely to all who believe that for Christ’s sake their sins are remitted.”

    “154] And yet Christ often connects the promise of the remission of sins to good works, not because He means that good works are a propitiation, for they follow reconciliation; but for two reasons. One is, because good fruits must necessarily follow. Therefore He reminds us that, if good fruits do not follow, the repentance is hypocritical and feigned. The other reason is, because we have need of external signs of so great a promise, because 155] a conscience full of fear has need of manifold consolation. As, therefore, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are signs that continually admonish, cheer, and encourage desponding minds to believe the more firmly that their sins are forgiven, so the same promise is written and portrayed in good works, in order that these works may admonish us to believe the more firmly. And those who produce no good works do not excite themselves to believe, but despise these promises.”

    “227] But here again the adversaries will cry out that there is no need of good works if they do not merit eternal life. These calumnies we have refuted above. Of course, it is necessary to do good works. We say that, eternal life has been promised to the justified. But those who walk according to the flesh retain neither faith nor righteousness. We are for this very end justified, that, being righteous, we may begin to do good works and to obey God’s Law. 228] We are regenerated and receive the Holy Ghost for the very end that the new life may produce new 229] works, new dispositions, the fear and love of God, hatred of concupiscence, etc. This faith of which we speak arises in repentance, and ought to be, established and grow in the midst of good works, temptations, and dangers, so that we may continually be the more firmly persuaded that God for Christ’s sake cares for us, forgives us, hears us.”

  26. John,

    “Not quite the attitude I see in the The Defense of the Augsburg Confession, Article III: Of Love and the Fulfilling of the Law”

    “227] …Of course, it is necessary to do good works.”

    Either it is not necessary…or it is necessary. It can’t be both. The Augsburg Confession rightly says that it is not necessary, (lest Christ’s work be in vain).

    I have said this before and I’ll say it again, good works will come from the Christian, but depending on our gifts, they will be in a wide variety on manifestations. We cannot tell what a truly ‘good work’ is, either in ourselves or in others.

    We will continue to decline to live as Christ commands us to live (Luke 14:33) and therefore I am justified in adding the “or not” when I say that we are free to help our neighbor.

    When Howard points out that “all things are lawful to me” (St. Paul), all things includes murder, audultery, thievery, as well as not helping the neighbor.

    The emphasis on the performance of ‘good works’ makes it much harder that they actually be done. For now the act is contrived and the motive is shot to hell with a hope of reward or a fear of punishment.

    Better, I think, to preach the law and the gospel (and not add another law after the gospel) and let the Holy Spirit do the ‘good works’ in and through the person. I really think the Holy Spirit can handle this task without our prodding the person.

    I know this much about myself…if I don’t see myself in the ‘or not’ camp, then I am not being truthful about my stewardship of God’s gifts to me. For the list of my omissions when it comes to helping others probably would be quite long indeed.

    Thanks John.

    – Steve

  27. “227] …Of course, it is necessary to do good works.”

    Either it is not necessary…or it is necessary. It can’t be both. The Augsburg Confession rightly says that it is not necessary, (lest Christ’s work be in vain).

    On the contrary, both the Confession and the Defens of the Confession – both of which compose the Lutheran confessions – say it “is necessary” (I’m not sure where you’re getting the “not” from) to do good works. To quote from the Confession itself “1] Also they [referring to adherents to the Confession] teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good fruits, and that it is necessary to do good works commanded by God, because of God’s will, but that we should not rely on those works to merit justification 2] before God.”

    Granted, we are not saved by the works (I never said that we were), but they are necessary all the same.

  28. Nemo,

    I pulled that quote from John’s earlier comment and excerpt from the Defense of the Augsburg Confession.

    Nemo, you do realize that there are verses in scripture that back me up, don’t you? Such as “All our righteous deeds are filthy rags.” (Isaiah) The verses in The Sermon on the Mount show how we do not measure up. St. Paul tells how how he fails to do what it is he is supposed to do.(Romans 7) Both Jesus and St. Paul tell us that there is no merit for effort.

    “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.” I see nothing there about our doing.

    The Augsburg Confessions are great, but they are not scripture and wherever anything compromises the work of Jesus for our sakes, the grace of God will trump that demand.

    I never said that works don’t follow (the grace of God). I did say that there are no prescriptions and no way to measure such works. Therefore the emphasis on these ‘works’ does more harm than good, and shows a real lack of confidence in the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.

  29. Steve,

    Actually, I was the one who quoted the Confession.

    For the record, are you saying that the confession is wrong?

    Funny thing with Lutherans, if you try to pin them down in their confession, they resort to scripture. If you try to use scripture, they will tell you that you don’t understand it and point you to the confessions.

  30. Nemo,

    Melancthon was the main writer of the Confessions. He was bent towards a humanistic view of the gospel. This is reflected in the Confessions. Luther tried to straighten him out as much as possible. But with all the political concerns of trying to make peace and have some accord with THE power in the world at that time, concessions were made.

    The Augsburg Confessions are good. They could have been better. Where they place emphasis on man and what his role in all this is, I say it is much better to look at scripture and do theology from a cross, or Christ centered perspective.

    Like Luther said, “If they use the Bible (or the Confessions) against Christ, we will use Christ against the Bible (or the Confessions).” I added the parentheses.

  31. “We, therefore, profess that it is necessary that the Law be begun in us, and that it be observed continually more and more” (Apology of the Augsburg Confession).

    Nemo – how exactly do we marry this with the teaching of Luther:
    “Christ daily drives out the old Adam more and more in accordance with the extent to which FAITH and KNOWLEDGE of CHRIST grow.
    For this alien righteousness is not instilled all at once, but it begins, it makes progress, and is finally perfected in the end…
    we work with that first, alien righteousness”.
    (Luther on Righteousness).

    Surely, the promises of the ‘law written upon our hearts’, given through the Prophets, are an expectation of this redeeming grace.
    Surely, as Luther continues, it is THIS righteousness alone which can allow ACTUAL good works to be done, thereby ‘doing away’ (trumping the desire) and the propensity of the old nature (to sin), and bringing daily a death to the old and a birth of the new. Surely, it is this working of righteousness by grace through faith that ALONE makes us ‘spiritual’, and thereby those who ‘naturally’ (through the work of the Holy Spirit) express and convey the life of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us, saying and doing those things which genuinely express an abounding of God’s grace to the world.

    This, I believe is the ‘law’ of the Spirit of life (Romans 8:2), which has freed us, not only from the ‘law of sin and death’, but our own vain and so ‘near’ propensity (the venom of the serpent in Eden, which still runs in every natural human heart) to give place to the ‘persuasion’ that Paul notes had overcome the church in Galatia – to seek to fulfil ‘the law’ by the delusion of a ‘perfection’ inherently removed from the righteousness of Christ.
    This is, no doubt, why the actual article of the Augsburg Confession which addresses the matter of Good Works does so so carefully in the ‘cradle’ of faith and grace, NOT in any context of law.
    ‘Redemption by the blood of Christ would become of little value…if justification, wrought through grace, were to be not (defined) as the FREE gift of a donor, but the reward due to the laborer’.

    It is imperative that we earnestly declare that Christ has purchased us from a curse for acting beneath the law (Galatians 3:12), and that in consequence we understand concerning ourselves that, due to that liberty, that righteousness, ‘(we) need neither laws or good works, but on the contrary, we would be injured by them if they are in any sense responsible for creating a means of justification” (Luther on Christian Freedom).

    “It is a blind and dangerous doctrine which teaches that the commandments must be fulfilled by works. The commandments must be fulfilled BEFORE any works can be done, and the works proceed FROM the fulfillment of those commandments”.
    The life of the Christian must always begin and end from this ‘chief cornerstone’, for only then is Christ ‘the hope of glory’.

  32. Howard, I am not the Lutheran, and therefore do not hold that the Confessions are correct or even consistent. That said, I find it humorous when the defining document of the Lutherans isn’t Lutheran enough.

    Steve, I cannot find that quote about Christ and Scripture quoted by anyone other than yourself. Where is it from? Is it your paraphrase of the one in this article?

    Second, consider Luther himself, from The Smalcald Articles (another document in the Lutheran confession), “Of the False Repentance of the Papists”.

    42] On the other hand, if certain sectarists would arise, some of whom are perhaps already extant, and in the time of the insurrection [of the peasants] came to my own view, holding that all those who had once received the Spirit or the forgiveness of sins, or had become believers, even though they should afterwards sin, would still remain in the faith, and such sin would not harm them, and [hence] crying thus: “Do whatever you please; if you believe, it all amounts to nothing; faith blots out all sins,” etc.—they say, besides, that if any one sins after he has received faith and the Spirit, he never truly had the Spirit and faith: I have had before me [seen and heard] many such insane men, and I fear that in some such a devil is still remaining [hiding and dwelling].

    43] It is, accordingly, necessary to know and to teach that when holy men, still having and feeling original sin, also daily repenting of and striving with it, happen to fall into manifest sins, as David into adultery, murder, and blasphemy, that then faith and the Holy Ghost has departed from them [they cast out faith and the Holy Ghost]. For the Holy Ghost does not permit sin to have dominion, to gain the upper hand so as to be accomplished, but represses and restrains it so that it must not do what it wishes. But if it does what it wishes, the Holy Ghost and faith are [certainly] not present. For St. John says, 1 John 3, 9: Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, … and he cannot sin. And yet it is also the truth when the same St. John says, 1, 8: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

  33. Nemo – I am not a ‘Lutheran’, I’m simply a Christian who is seeking to ‘listen’ to those who earnestly contend for the Apostles doctrine, whatever (theological) creed or branch they belong to.

    Secondly, when I look at the list of the ‘men of faith’ (Hebrews 10), I see men who would, were it not for grace, have done ‘what they pleased’ (i.e. Moses’ killing of an Egyptian), but God’s sovereign work of grace intrudes upon such folly and changes us in spite of ourselves. It is because of that work alone that we are spared from all manner of folly – perfection is in Christ. In myself there is no good. Salvation is given to those who do not work, but who trust in His redemption.

    “The resurrection life in Christ is not an unnatural addition to what is truly human, but is the uncorrupted life of creation, and as such breaks through into this unnatural world where death holds dominion” (Wingren – Man & the Incarnation).

  34. Nemo,

    I first heard that Luther quote from my pastor. He has used it several times over the years. He (my pastor) is a pretty good authority on Luther as he has studied him fairly extensively over the course of thirty years in the ministry as a Lutheran pastor.

    The article that you provided seems like a good source as well.

    Now, Luther himself was not a god, but merely another earthen vessel of God’s use. I am a Lutheran, but I do not agree with everything that Luther said. That is why we study the scriptures and do theology.

    My counter to your paragraphs concerning sin and the believer would be to ask you to read Romans 7.(and also to honestly examine your own performance in light of the law).

    Good stuff, Nemo! Thanks!

    – Steve

  35. Speaking of working…I’ve got to go to work! I’ll be back later this afternoon to continue the discussion with all interested parties.

  36. I think there are a bunch of things going on here. Steve I will keep alluding to some things you wrote, because you brought these ideas up. No offense.

    1. Steve does not want to have a law after the gospel.

    I’ve heard the endless discussion about the third use of the law, is there one or not… I don’t get it. — The law and the gospel always apply to us both. We are all in a different place with this. As far as we are “justus” we have and need no law (always completely “justus”) and as far as we are “peccator” (always completely also) we need some flogging from the law. This is a paradox and the genius of the Lutheran confession. It explains a lot.

    2. Steve says the Holy Spirit can get things done without prodding. Yes, he moves where He wills. BUT he generally works through means, which is also the word. Otherwise we’d need no preaching at all.

    3. The “necessity” of good works (real good loving works as distinguished from monkish performance to get ready for grace) can mean different things. I am quite sure I don’t understand all the connotations and philosophical wrangling about what a “necessity” is. However, in the Bondage of the Will, there was a big deal about that necessity does not mean compulsion. Maybe that works for us: good works are necessary but not compelled. They are done freely according to God’s predestining and moving (as Howard said) (and using the word). Actual good works are necessary but without compulsion. Even when talking about “compulsion” there is the same semantic thing. We “feel compelled to do something”–really means to us that we had an internal drive and it was, in a sense, our own choice. We were not compelled from the outside with a whip. It is really another paradox. But I think we get it, because we’ve lived it.

    4. Steve will do good works to the best of his ability–or not.
    OK. Let’s agree on it this way: there are a lot of things we could be doing and we really can’t do it all. It is always a dilemma. Sometimes, I sit down and pray about what to do and I get an idea which way is the best to go under the circumstances. Sometimes, I get a “do whatever you want”. Often when I get the sense of do what you want, it turns out really well, because it was blessed either way. Sometimes, on the other hand, I don’t do what I got the sense I should do, out of forgetfulness, cowardice or laziness, and then I feel I failed and did wrong, even if no apparent evil came of the omission. We are always so limited. There is only so much we can do and we could forever fret, or we can live with hope in God.
    We will struggle and succeed at some times and fail at others. We will try to do what we are able to do, with God’s help and without compulsion, but in view of God’s grace, freely, relying on him.

    To conclude, what should come into our visor is not just my salvation but the need of the neighbor, family and the community. We should be talking together about those needs so we will be stirred to do something with each other and for each other. I think the book of Concord is right and other Christian denominations also, when it is said that we are saved for this purpose.

    for today, yours, Brigitte

  37. Brigitte,

    Wonderful comments. You laid out the scenarios very well, I thought.

    The 3rd use has been a bone of contention with Lutherans for hundreds of years. Many believe in it. Many do not. I do not.
    A brief description of the 3rd use is that ‘it shows us what a good work is.’ (then we’ll know what God is after)
    Well, I already learned what God is after from the first two uses. Plus, if the Holy Spirit is the One that is really doing the good works (as scripture tells us), then I doubt that the 3rd use is going to help me, help Him.

    I agree with you, Brigitte, that God works through His Word and sacraments…apart from anything we do, say, think, or feel.

    We all are in the business of ‘doing’. Our day is filled with works. But as you say, Brigitte, we have to make choices. Anyone that has watched television instead of helping the poor or reading the Bible has made a choice. They chose (by watching the T.V. for a couple of hours) to not help others in that time frame. I say so what? We are all derelict when it comes to the stewardship of our gifts. So what? Do we have a Savior…or not? That ought to resolve the ‘help your neighbor, or not, issue.

    Law / gospel /law is a formula for bondage. It rips the gospel back out of our hands and puts us back onto the religious treadmill.

    Law to kill, the gospel to raise again…from the dead. That is how the Word ought be properly handled.

    Thanks very much Brigitte, for helping me get this straight in my own mind (not always an easy task!).

    In His Grip,


  38. Steve,

    I am not asking you to agree with everything Luther said, merely the Book of Concord. First you tell me the Augsburg confession got it right, than you explained that it was erroneous because it had humanist leanings and differed from Luther. When I quoted Luther in agreement with the confession on the point in question, you reminded me that you don’t necessarily agree with Luther either.

    Do you believe the Scriptures as interpreted and explained by the Lutheran confessions?

  39. Nemo,

    The Augsburg Confession got it basically right, but it could have gotten it more right.

    While I agree with the Bible, I don’t agree with every line in there either.

    If an angel from heaven comes down and tells me that I need to do anything at all (works, efforts, feelings, decisions, etc.), that my faith in Christ be true…I would tell that angel to go to hell.

    Christ has done everything for me.I need add nothing to that cross. The word is nothing.

    Now, I do realize that I am in the minority with that belief. It has ever been so.

    In my baptism (at 2 months old), I was made as good as a Christian as I am ever going to be. And I had nothing at all to do with it.

  40. Nemo,
    Are we to conclude that you are proposing that Christ plus the ‘necessary’ works are what’s needed for salvation, justification, sanctification or any of the aforementioned? If this is your word to us, then I might ask you how you are doing with your ‘works’? Is there a list of ‘christian’ works you could share with us so that we can start doing our part to complete salvation, justification, sanctification for ourselves? What will happen if one of us fails to perform adequately? Will we then be in danger of not entering into God’s kingdom if one of those ‘works’ are not completed? How can we know if we’ve performed enough works or we were just one work shy of making it?
    I’m assuming you are a christian albeit not a lutheran christian… Maybe
    you’re proposing some ‘inward’ piety that we all ought to be feeling?
    It’s clear you’re playing the devils advocate, but I’m just unclear to what end you’re after? To undermine the readers confidence in Christ? To whip up our sense of morality?
    It sounds very much like the Roman Catholic-humanist view of the opponents to the reformation. “If grace is preached, what will inspire men to do good works?” Threats of hell will compel men to perform good works.
    The lash of the law has then never left our backs, we are still in ‘egypt’, this world’s tyrant still breathes threats and we have no Saviour. This can be the only conclusion from this path.
    Christ alone is the only proper response. You don’t earn any rewards for yourself.. He has won everything for us. Read what’s going on here…Steve, Howard, myself and others have been trying to lift up the glory of Christ and His saving work for the ungodly.. ‘Wordsmithing’ aside, the only other voice in opposition to this detracts from Christ for us and places US as the one who still has a pound of flesh to offer..
    All the glory MUST go to Christ, there is none other worthy of credit for anything.. we are simply beggars who have been handed the bread of life.
    If that realization doesn’t inspire one who has just tasted this life giving bread to ‘share this treasure’, I don’t know that any veiled threat of not measuring up will.

  41. “Christ alone is the only proper response. You don’t earn any rewards for yourself.. He has won everything for us”.

    And that, in a nutshell, is what all the Patriarchs, Prophets, Teachers, Apostles and Preachers of the truth have, in truth, to say – they point to Jesus Christ ALONE.
    To use a phrase from a favorite Sci Fi show of mine…
    ‘So say we all!’

  42. Howard,

    By His sheer grace and mercy, you can count me as one of your number.

    Thanks Howard!

    – Steve

  43. Brent,

    My purpose was multi-fold:

    1. First, I am convinced (and this confirms that conclusion) that the whole “doctrinal unity” argument ( that the Lutheran church relies so heavily on is a sham. Steve has just demonstrated it, disagreeing not only with the confessions, but also with Scripture. Steve, does your pastor know this?

    2. Lutherans take pride in that only they “get” the law/gospel distinction. I wanted to see how one responded to the actual text of the confessions (I have quoted nothing else). Result: the confession was denied.

    3. And to answer your central question, I also believe that we are saved by faith alone, not by works. I believe I have already stated this. We are now free from the law. However, does such freedom mean that we are now free to murder? Steve says yes, “When Howard points out that “all things are lawful to me” (St. Paul), all things includes murder, adultery, thievery, as well as not helping the neighbor.” Not only the Lutheran confessions, but Luther says no (as I have already pointed out). So also, does the apostle Paul—in the very chapter of Romans that Steve referred me to:

    “4Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”

    Furthermore, verses 21-24 show that Paul is still struggling with sin. But it is a struggle—he is not passively accepting the fact that it sins. It sill pains him, and bothers him, and he is at war with sin. Contrasting that is what I am hearing from Steve—a passive complacency with sin.

    “1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
    5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
    12Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” -Romans 6

  44. Nemo,

    I think the conclusions that you have drawn about what I believe and what I should believe are erroneous.

    You say I deny the Lutheran Confessions because I think that in a few areas they didn’t go far enough in trumpeting the grace of God in Jesus Christ alone. And then you say that I deny scripture. I really don’t think you heard a word that I said, Nemo.

    I think your aversion to listening to me is rooted in your staunch legalism and a wooden interpretation of everything you read.

    That you deny the ‘total freedom’ that Christ has won for you and others is a pretty good indicator that you haven’t heard the gospel yet and are still living under the law. That is all well and good (not really) for you, but you ought be a bit more subtle in your attempts to wrap the chains of performance onto others. Try doing it the way the non-denominational Christians do it…call it Biblical Principles, or something more palatable.

  45. Nemo,
    Why do you want to disprove the lutheran confessions? What are you after here with these christians who boast about nothing but the love of Christ for the unlovely? What is your motivation to discount luther amongst those who are grateful for his work in making Christ known to a dyeing world? Is this an example of one of your ‘christian’ works?
    How is your struggle going? Will you be able to provide some evidence for your ‘fruit’ and proof of your sanctification? You’re not just ‘living’ the way you want to are you?
    If this path is followed, grace will be set aside and the law will be brought out to see how one has performed…judgement will then be meted out according to this LACK of performance.
    This is NOT what we wish for anyone! We are endeavoring to bring the sufficiency of Christ to all who stubble onto this blog. Nemo, you and I simply don’t do what is right. We may have our moments.. when we might see that our actions have benefited others but for the most part we go about our lives taking care of # 1. We are in trouble.. we have a sickness that leads to death..
    God in His love was not content to let His creation be swallowed up in death. Christ Jesus, the incarnate God, took on everything needful for us. Just because. I don’t understand it. God knows that Steve, Howard, me and you are not up to the ‘christian’ life.. That won’t stop Him from doing for us what we could never do for ourselves. This FAITH that calls the human heart to trust that this is so, is what Paul talks about when he writes that SIN will no longer have dominion.. The power of sin to drag you into the grave (to stay) cannot win over what Christ has completed.’ Sins’ as we all know, continue… even against our best efforts and wishes.. sorrow for that those sins? Sure, that itself is the gift of repentance that the Holy Spirit brings us. We will never be able to conquer our sinning.. Christ has. Trust Him. The more you try not to sin and to do more good works, the more sin you will commit. Trust Christ for everything. In Him , you are no longer on the hook. You are free, free to just live your life in confidence of His grace, for you. You are free to step into the fray and do what needs to be done, not for God, but for your neighbor, family, co-worker etc. all the while, Christ intercedes for us. Christ will one day hand us over the glory, victory, riches, that HE alone has won, for us.. no thanks to our ‘struggle’. Simply let go of the religious project, trust that this is so.. and offer a prayer of thanks that He has also recognized you and me in His story.
    We have nothing to declare in our ‘christian’ walk except what Jesus has done, is doing and will do for us.

  46. Steve and Brent,

    After reading your last two posts, I feel some explanation (and an apology for my last response) is in order.

    Over the course of the past few weeks, I have been researching Lutheran doctrine with the intent to determine how theologically sound it is. As such, I have been attempting to interact with those of the Lutheran denomination on theological questions. Hopefully, Brent, this helps answer your question about my attempts to “disprove” the confessions. I would rather like to think of it as testing them, holding them against scripture, and trying to determine how they are interpreted by those who claim to follow them. Looking over my previous post, I believe my argumentative side got the better of me, and I apologize for that post.

    Having said that, Steve, I still think you are dangerously close to the error that Paul condemned in Romans 6:1-2. It isnot my intent to misrepresent you, but at the same time I have difficulty letting what I see as doctrinal error slide. But I should do so in a spirit of humility, recognizing my own sin, the “old Adam” so to speak in myself. I am not saved by my works (am not and cannot be), but by the grace of God through His Son Jesus Christ.

  47. Hey, I have another quote that should help. (Luther’s works, volume 26, commentary on Galatians, p. 137)

    ” ‘ But the Law is good, righteous, and holy.’ Very well! But when we are involved in a discussion of justification, there is no room for speaking about the Law. The question is what Christ is and what blessing He has brought us. Christ is no the law; He is not my work or that of the Law; he is not my love or that of the law; He is not my chastity, obedience, or poverty. But He is the Lord of life and death, the Mediator and Savior of sinners, the Redeemer of those who are under the Law. By faith we are in Him and He is in us (John 6:56) . This Bridegroom, Christ, must be alone with his bride in His private chamber, and all the family and household must be shunted away. But later on, when the Bridegroom opens the door and comes out, then let the servants return to take care of them and serve them food and drink. Then let works and love begin.

    … Victory over sin and death does not come by the works of the Law or by our will; therefore it comes by Jesus Christ, alone. Here we are perfectly willing to have ourselves called ‘solafideists’ by our opponents, who do not understand anything of Paul’s argument. You who are to be the consolers of consciences that are afflicted, should teach this doctrine diligently, study it continually, and defend it vigorously against the abominations of the papists, Jews, Turks, and all the rest.”

    P. 145
    But we do make a distinction here; and we say that we are not disputing now whether good works ought to be done. Nor are we inquiring whether the law is good, holy, and righteous, or whether it ought to be observed; FOR THAT IS ANOTHER TOPIC (my emphasis). But our argument and questions concerns justification and whether the law justifies. Our opponents do not listen to this. They do not answer this question, nor do they distinguish as we do. All they do is to scream that good works ought to be done and that the law ought to be observed. ALL RIGHT, WE KNOW THAT. (my emphasis). But because these are distinct topics, we will not permit them to be confused. In due time we shall discuss the teaching that the law and good works ought to be done.”

    I find the analogy of the marriage very good. There is the consummation, which is the defining and private act (justification), and then there is married life (daily life), which is more public and open to inspection, about which one could write various things. The two are not the same thing, but separate things, yet go together.

  48. Nemo,

    The antinomian heresy is easily confused with Christian freedom. They can come very close to each other. Those of us who believe that every jot and tittle of law will be upheld until Christ’s return and he ushers in His New Kingdom, do not believe that God winks at sin. Sin is serious business.

    In Romans 1 and 2 St. Paul answers the obvious question for those that do not understand the gospel and who are still living under the law.

    Those of us who have heard the gospel have no desire to run out and sin willy-nilly, running roughshod over the neighbor. We do, however, still sin. The difference now (St. Paul goes on to say in Romans 6) is that sin no longer has dominion over us, but the forgiveness of sins, in our baptisms, has dominion now.

    I also like to remind people of what comes after Romans 6…Romans 7. For a guy who just told us that we are not to live in sin, St. Paul tells us that he is sinning, basically all the time.

    How do we reconcile those two seemingly contradictory statements? We do theology. We discover
    in the searching of the scriptures that sin is not something that we step in and out of like a rusty bucket, but rather it is our condition.

    This is where simul ustes et pecator comes in. You know the rest of that story.

    Those of us who tout the freedom of Christ always sound like spendthrifts of God’s grace. But that is exactly what God’s grace is for. To spend (give away freely), without cost to the worst of the worst (all of us), and then let the chips fall where they may.

    It is in that freeing message
    forgiveness itself that God works His power to transform lives…and it is not readily apparent to us in all cases when and how it is happening.

    The law (what we should, ought, and must be doing) cannot make us better (in the long run) but only worse, as St. Pauls tells us.

    I am definitely not an antinomian, but I consider it a compliment compared with being called a legalist, or one who has to do X,Y,and Z to be in God’s favor.

    Nemo, I appreciate the fact that you have been trying to get us back on the right track. I guess we feel the same way when we proclaim the total freedom of Christ to you and others.

    I too have been studying the Lutheran Confessions lately. I have learned of Melancthon’s Aristotilian leanings, his close ties to Erasamus and the heated political situation which resulted in compromise in those documents. Was it the right thing to do? Maybe it was. People were losing their lives over these theological differences and the outcomes of whole kingdoms depended on what happened there.

    Those Lutheran Confessions are great documents and the backbone of the Lutheran Church. I believe in them to the extent which they extol Christ and the forgiveness of sins without our cooperation. In the areas where they get a little fuzzy, I will stick with Christ and Him alone.

    In any even, Nemo, whatever outcomes we figure out in our own minds, the free exchange of ideas in forums like this one, can be quite valuable in sharpening our metal , or opening us up to view things a little differentl.

    I was persuaded by some on this blog to look at apologetics a little differently.

    There is no doubt that in the future I’ll probably see many things about the Christian faith in a new light. But when it comes to the sufficiency of Christ work for us (alone), it’ll probably take the good Lord Himself to straighten me out.

    Thanks Nemo, for the great and passionate discussion. I hope we will have many more together.

    Yours in Christ-


  49. Brigitte,

    Great quotes from Luther! His commentary on Galatians ought to be required for every Christian (there’s the law again).

    I really liked how you emphasized the distinctions in topics (Luther did also).

    It is subtle, but yet critical that these topical arguments be keep where they belong, either God’s realm or our realm.

    ‘Truly good works’ …works of the Spirit is God’s realm. Doing out of a sense of obligation, or prodding by the law, or with tainted motives, is our realm. While this might be a good thing for our neighbor, it is never a good thing credited to our account.

    Thanks very much, Brigitte!

    – Steve

  50. Steve,

    Thanks for the clarification. However, I am still wondering, what do you do with the passages regarding church discipline? (Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5)?

  51. Nemo,

    Church discipline is another story. We cannot have open, unrepentant sin in our congregatuions or it will poison the well. Therefore we excercise discipline when needed, in a loving, correcting, way, when the time is right to do so.

    Asking someone to leave a congregation for the sake of the congreagation is quite within the scope of authority for any congregation.

    Pasors and lay people can and should exercise the office of the keys, but since we all could qualify (at times) to be on the wrong end of the witholding of forgiveness, we ought apply some real effort and care not to go there if at all possible.

    This is an area that I do not have much experience in, I am only relating what I think I have heard my pastor say about this topic in past classes and Bible studies.

    Anyone is welcome to correct me here if my understanding is a bit off.

    Thanks Nemo.

    – Steve

  52. Just fyi, a Lutheran blogger (Rev. Paul McCain who has somewhat of a presence on quite a few theological blogs I’ve run across) posted on “anti-sanctification” perspective that seem to pop up amongst some Lutherans – – the essay he cites gives an interesting Luther quotation stressing abstention from sin. I of course am not saying the contributors here are anti-sanctification or antinominians; just that the strong emphasis on one aspect of salvation can give some people that idea.

  53. John,

    Thanks for the link to Rev. McCain’s views on ‘anti-sanctification’.

    We have had the Rev. McCain make some comments here on the ‘old Adam lives’, a time or two.

    He and my pastor, Pastor Mark Anderson, had an interesting exchange on a post that was titled ‘Forde on the so-called “third use” of the law ‘.

    It’s back several pages of posts. It was a fun one, with interesting points on both sides.

    Thanks very much, John!

    – Steve

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