What does somebody have to do to become a Christian?


“Oh come on! You just can’t do…nothing!

“You need to receive the gift, answer the call, make your decision, accept Jesus…right?!”


We are CALLED and CHOSEN. Anyways that’s what the Bible says.

The words “accept Jesus”  “make a decision for Christ” are not in the Bible.

But the words “CALLED” and “CHOSEN”…are.

What does a baby do when it is adopted?  Nothing. But drool over itself maybe.

St. Paul goes to great lengths in the Book of Romans to explain this, much to our chagrin.

Romans 9 is not an easy read for us enlightened, actualized, independent, rugged American types. We do want to tell the “Molder” how to shape the clay. We do want to talk back to God. We do want to call the shots and express our wills. But God will have none of it.   He actually still does call the shots.   All of them.

In his explanation of the third article of the Apostle’s Creed (in his Small Catechism), Luther lays this out quite nicely:

“I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy,and kept me in true faith, just as he calls , gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth…”

You mean we actually do nothing to become a Christian?

That’s right…and the word is NOTHING. 

If there was just one thing that we needed to do of our own accord, then we have a new gospel of works.

It might only be ONE WORK…but that is ONE WORK TOO MANY!

I have to admit, the first time I heard this, I didn’t believe it.  Maybe I still don’t. But thanks be to God He gives me the faith to believe it.

Do you believe it?

112 Responses

  1. A much better explanation of Luther’s explanation can be found here:

    It is not all that long and well worth the listen.

  2. Steve,

    You’re painting with very broad strokes.

    …if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. –Romans 10:9-10

    You have to do something and that is confess Jesus as Lord. If you do nothing, then what’s the difference? Then everybody just goes to heaven and that is clearly not what the Bible says.

    “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” –Romans 10:13

    In Christ,


  3. Here we go.

  4. The doctrine of justification is relevant to those who are already churched:

    “If this doctrine is lost it will be impossible for us to be able to resist any errors or sects. We can see this today in the Anabaptists. Now that they have fallen away from this doctrine, they will never stop falling, erring and seducing others ad infinitum.” L.W. XXVI, P176.

    You don’t “do”. You “are”.

    In the modern period we have a plethora of Christian groups who emphasise faith as a personal experience. That is not of itself a bad thing: faith should be personal but assurance of salvation here is often seen as the establishment of a personal relationship with God. The charismatic, Evangelical and house-church movements which seem to emphasise and elevate the emotion associated with religious experience as a sign of assurance itself, are examples. An inner personal experience is not the same as justification by faith.

    “This reduction of Christianity is an attractive and dangerous mistake. It is attractive because it fits in so well with the spirit of the age which leads to the cult of sincerity over against objective truth, the current emphasis on doing one’s own thing” . (Wright T, Justification: The Biblical Basis and its Relevance for Contemporary Evangelicalism, Collins, 1980, P19)

    Such Christians have often missed the assurance of salvation that Luther’s doctrine brings. If one’s sense of assurance is inextricably linked to an inner experience how is a sudden sense of the remoteness of God dealt with? Some Christians will respond by seeking in some external way to make themselves more acceptable to God. “I must be at fault. God has abandoned me because of my sin/unworthiness: I must do something to earn his favour again” would seem to be a common mindset and it is a mindset which leads us right back to justification: justification by works.

  5. It still baffles me, Steve, that receiving a free gift (a valid biblical metaphor and reality) would suggest that we contribute something. Sure, it describes the process how the transfer takes place rather than stating a condition to be fulfilled (and I’m sure you’ll have plenty of examples again how the evangelicals in your neighborhood portrayed it like a condition God is waiting for us to fulfill) but this doesn’t change the fact (from a proper biblical perspective) that unless the receiving takes place, nothing happens at all.

    According to John 1, some receive Jesus, some don’t. According to John 3, the rejection of Christ is not based on God not calling (or not choosing) them but on the fact that they love darkness more than the light.

    Why did Jesus weep over Jerusalem, stating that God desired to gather them but their willful rejection prevented them from receiving what God intended for them? How can Jesus call people to follow him and they choose to say “No” (a No that was fully respected by Him!) or “Wait, I first have to …” if God completely bypasses our will and decisions?

    I fully agree with Luther’s explanation of the 3rd article. It’s simply reiterating what Jesus said in John 15 “Without me you can do nothing!” That doesn’t mean that we are passive. Paul’s statement in Philippians “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” rounds up the picture. I believe that this doesn’t just apply to those who are already believers but also to those who hear God’s invitation for the first time. Without God’s call we cannot choose him but when He does call, an actual choice is possible and is made. And while He asks nothing OF us, His desire is still for us to give ourselves completely (Romans 12:1), in other words: He wants EVERYTHING, body, soul, spirit, time, money, abilities, and especially our sins.

    Yes, the danger is real that we see ourselves in charge. We are NOT! But to ignore the fact that actual decision making is part of the conversion process is in my view nothing but the human attempt to categorize and “explain” something that refuses to be neatly packaged in this way. Maybe God intended to keep the interactions of human will and the work of His Spirit within us a mystery to a degree so that we would not depend on our theologies but rather keep looking directly to Him!

  6. Mark 1:14-16
    14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom[a] of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

    Mark 2:17
    17 When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

    Mark 6:11-12
    11 And whoever[a] will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them.[b] Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!”
    12 So they went out and preached that people should repent.

    Luke 13:2-3
    2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.

    Luke 15:10
    Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

    Luke 16:30
    And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’

    Luke 24:47
    and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

    Acts 3:19
    Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,

    Acts 5:31
    Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.

    Acts 17:30
    Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent,

    Acts 26:20
    but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.

    Romans 2:4
    Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

    2 Corinthians 7:10
    For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

    2 Timothy 2:25
    in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,

    2 Peter 3:9
    The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

    I won’t apologize for quoting Scripture – The evidence is clear. Without repentance, there is NO forgiveness of sins.

    Keeping this in mind, to go along with what Steve has already said, we don’t ‘do’ anything to become a Christian. He is correct.

    Repentance is a work of God.

    But, we must still repent to have forgiveness of sins. The Scripture is crystal concerning this.


  7. Three problems with decision-making language:

    1) It gives the impression the sinner can play a part in his or her conversion, 2) it emphasizes inner renewal more than the change in status before God that forgiveness or justification brings through the objective action of Word and sacrament.
    3)It inherently diminishes or negates altogether the work of God in the sacrament of baptism.

    If the word that invites is the word that empowers, then no decision is possible or necessary.

    Far from making a decision for Jesus, the Lord’s people rejoice that He has made a decision for us, to die for us, to forgive all our sins, to baptize us into His family, and to call us through His Gospel and meet us in the sacrament of the Lord’s Table. Our faith is Jesus’ work, and this is our great comfort.

  8. Pastor Mark a few thoughts to your post.

    On your first point People are called by they do not necessarily accept it. The rich young man in Matthew 19 as one example.

    On your third point. Scripture gives the example of believing/repenting then baptism. Matthew 3 John calls people to repent. They are baptism as a symbol of their repentance. They do not get baptism as a result have repented.

    On your last paragraph how do you explain many of the scriptures listed above by Wayne Dawg. John 3:16 as another example. Jesus says that all who believe in him. There is something required.

  9. Actually another thought.
    Your third point makes reference to the work that God does in our baptism.
    So by that definition are you saying someone has to be baptized to be a Christian?

  10. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind but now I see.

  11. Whether God can make Christians apart from baptism is God’s business. Christ commands baptism in Matthew 28. If Christ commands it, that should settle the matter.

  12. Steve, since you started this conversation and asked questions regarding what must happen (or not) for someone to become a Christian, could you define for me who is a “Christian”?

  13. Belief is not a requirement it is a gift as is repentance. As far as the sacrament of baptism goes, we believe baptism is an act of God for us. What else would you expect a Lutheran to say? Luther was a conservative reformer who did not throw the sacramental baby out wit the bathwater.

  14. I’m thinking that all we can actively do is reject. That is, the gift is always there, so we don’t have to do anything to “accept” it.

  15. We are told in the word of God who is a Christian:Acts2:38-39

  16. How many of you go and invite your friends in when they are sitting on the couch waiting for a beer?
    This is the problem with the sinners prayer and other appeals to have people “accept” Jesus. By the time they can he is already there. But it leads them to suspect he is there because of there invitation. “accepting” Jesus is not confessing Jesus, So Romans 10 does not quite apply. “accepting” Jesus is really the opposite of confessing Jesus. It is denying Jesus is Lord, because it is making you lord, you are the one supposedly in control, Jesus in your heart, so you are led to believe is there because of something you did, invite him in. But in reality you are standing at the door, inviting him in, while he is sitting on the couch. You should be offering him a beer, but your not, and he is forgiving you for your awful hospitality.

  17. I’m not speaking against baptism in the slightest.
    I’m asking in your opinion if someone needs to be baptized in order to be a Christian.
    Can you be a Christian if you haven’t been baptized?

    If believe is not a requirement why does scripture talk so much about needing to persevere to the end? If it’s a gift from God not a requirement how could you possibly lose it?
    I also don’t believe repentance is a gift. It is a choice to admit mistakes. Repent is a verb. Something we do.

    I believe salvation is a gift but belief is the requirement.

    If we cannot chose or do anything to become Christian do you believe in mission activities or outreach?

  18. “You have to do something and that is confess Jesus as Lord. If you do nothing, then what’s the difference?”

    The panicky death rattle of the old Adam (in all of us, I’m not picking on one person here nor any person and include myself as having this cancerous old Adam in me too!). It really is impossible for us to trust God. So we ground ourselves in these shifty sands.

    But faith paradoxically confesses it has no faith. When the death word of justification comes and faith arises (rebirth) what it reveals is the reality – we don’t have faith. And Luther captures that reality beautifully.

    The assertion and question really reveals what we old Adams like to do does it not! Hold out to the bitter end for just one thing that we had hoped to smuggle in. Nude faith really is as Luther said, ““I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy,and kept me in true faith, just as he calls , gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth…”.

    To the bitter end I still myself feel I must bring something before God. Only a continual death/life word can save me as Luther heretofore captures, which is what Paul says everywhere.

    The death – life language is frightful, the old Adam doesn’t realize, he’s a dead man walking and when he does his face turns green and his stomach sickens, “theres at least something is there not…”. And then comes Christ for you with the a death blow, a blessed “No”.


  19. I’m thinking that all we can actively do is reject. That is, the gift is always there, so we don’t have to do anything to “accept” it.

    This cannot be correct. John 3:14-18 says this:
    14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
    16″For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

    The comparison to the serpent in the desert is an interesting one. In order to recover from the snake bite, God required the Israelites who were bitten to look at a bronze snake on a pole. It was a single simple act, but if someone refused to “look” at it, there was no deliverance. Based on the Bible, the default position of man is rebellion and condemnation because they won’t believe God or take Him at His word. And it is a work of God, because none of us seek after Him or look to Him on our own.

  20. Jeff,
    I think that was her point. Our default is to reject. Up to us that is what we do, if we do anything.

  21. Josh,

    “…could you define for me who is a “Christian”?”

    Those who believe in Jesus. How this happens is the question at hand.

    I believe it happens how the Bible says it happens. Gos calls us through His Word. He chooses us and makes believers out of us, totally apart from anything we do , say, feel, or think.

    What say you, Josh?

    – Steve

  22. Charilemcevoy,

    I think one can be a Christian apart from baptism. But one can be a Christian in baptism as well.

    But our Lord ahs commanded we baptise, so we do it. And we know He works faith in baptism. For a thousand years (roughly) nearly every single Christian was baptised as an infant. The Reformers were all baptised as infants and never rebaptised. God does work in baptism.

    God leads us to repent. Without HIs work of law and gospel within us, we would never repent of our own volition.

    In this sense, repentance is a work that God does.

    Good questions, Charlie. I know you may not agree with my answers…that’s why we have these discussions…to get these differences aired that some good might come of it.

    Thanks Charlie!

    – Steve

  23. Barb,

    You really are ‘The Evil Genius’!

    I like it! “The gift is ALWAYS THERE.”

    Thanks Barb!

    – Steve

  24. Bror,

    I didn’t know Jesus was a beer drinker!

    – Steve

  25. Dawg,

    So true, Waynedawg…so true. Repentance must take place. Our dear Lord leads us there though His law and gospel.

    Were it not for His work in doing this, we would not follow Him.

    Good points, Wayne!

    – Steve

  26. Larry,

    “And then comes Christ for you with the a death blow, a blessed “No”.”

    That’s the Word to the ‘old Adam’.

    In too many plcaes he is propped up, coddled, and given sway. He needs to be told, “NO”, and then sumarily executed!

    Thanks Larry!

    – Steve

  27. James,

    “That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind but now I see.”

    We can’t find ourselves, nor restore our own sight.

    This He does for us out of His amazing grace!

    Thanks james!

  28. Pastor Mark,

    “Far from making a decision for Jesus, the Lord’s people rejoice that He has made a decision for us, to die for us, to forgive all our sins, to baptize us into His family, and to call us through His Gospel and meet us in the sacrament of the Lord’s Table. Our faith is Jesus’ work, and this is our great comfort.”

    It is a great comfort! If I had to rely on my decision for God, I’d be in sore shape..for I know how far my sincerity with repect to wanting God, will take me.

    Not very far.

    Thanks Pastor!

    – Steve

  29. Joe,

    Very good point about confessing Christ!

    But doesn’t that happen after He has given us faith?

    St. Paul tells us that faith is a gift. Before faith…no confession of faith.

    Thanks a lot, Joe!

    – Steve

  30. Steve, I won’t have time anymore tonight to answer but I’ll be sure to get back to you tomorrow. In the meantime you can read my take on salvation. Please keep in mind that I’ve deliberately tried as much as possible to use language that is accessible to those without a Christian background:


  31. Steve,

    I was reading this tonight. Thought you’d like it. One thing, not brought out in this particular excerpt but earlier in the entire article was the direct link of absolution in its several modes to general Gospel to the world all, the Father reconciling the world to Himself. The Gospel is not “if/then” but “because/therefore”.

    “We preach the Gospel to the multitudes, as did Jesus. We specifically absolve certain individuals of whom we have reason to believe that they desire absolution. Thus did Jesus, and He has commanded us so to do. “As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.” This specific application of the Gospel to individual persons and to the sins of the individuals (“thy sins,” “thee”) is indeed a most blessed “aid and consolation against sin and a bad conscience.”

    Unconditionally absolved. “God was in Christ and has made it possible for man to save himself. God has done His part, and it is now up to the sinner to do his part, his share. He can do his share by fulfilling certain conditions. Stating to the sinner these God ordained conditions of reconciliation and forgiveness — that is the Gospel!” You will all exclaim: “From that kind of gospel preserve us, dear heavenly Father!” But this is the sum and substance of the “gospel” in the churches of Rome, Calvin, and the Synergists. “God will be reconciled unto you, forgive you, absolve you, if” — and now follow God’s terms! ? Their only difference is in the termswhich they proclaim: sufficient remorse, full enumeration and confession of sins, inner light, holy life, self-preparation for grace, etc.

    Jesus cried aloud: “It is finished!” There on Golgotha God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. And He has committed unto us the Word of Reconciliation. Since then our message to the sinner reads: “God is reconciled; be ye therefore reconciled to your reconciled God!” The Christmas-message of the angel, “On earth peace,” and Christ’s “Peace be unto you” on Easter Day is not a declaration of God’s peace terms; no, peace is declared, the war is over, all conditions have been removed on God’s side, and He has Himself signed the treaty of peace with the blood of His only-begotten Son. We therefore do not preach “about” forgiveness of sins, telling under what conditions it may be had, but we preach forgiveness of sins, — we impart it. “Remissions of sins should be preached.” Luke 24,47. Does Jesus say: “Whosoever sins ye remit after the sinner has accepted My terms and at least begun to fulfil My conditions”? No! Does He say to the man sick of the palsy: “Thy sins be forgiven thee if” — ? No! Are we to baptize and say: “I baptize thee if” — ? No! Administer Communion and say: “Take, eat, if”—? No! There are no “ifs” in universal grace, and there are none in the means of grace, therefore also none in absolution. And if these pernicious “ifs” are put there, they are not put there by God, but by the devil.

    The result? The “ifs” eat the sweet heart and kernel out of the Gospel, and nothing remains but husks. The alarmed soul must constantly be troubled by the questions: Have I done my share ? Have I removed all the “ifs” ? To Thee, Lord Jesus, thanks we give,Who diedst for us that we might live And with Thy holy, precious blood Hast made us righteous before God. Even repentance and faith are not conditions to be fulfilled by man before he can receive absolution. Faith receives what God gives. God does not say: “I shall give if you accept.” No! God gives, imparts, forgiveness, even though the sinner may refuse to accept what He offers and gives. It cannot be otherwise; for God gives what He has already prepared for the sinner, what belongs to him. All sins are forgiven in absolution: Jesus makes no exceptions. “Thy sins are forgiven.” “Who forgiveth all thy sins and healeth all thy diseases.””

    –Proceedings of the 65th Convention of the Michigan District of the Synod of Missouri, Ohio and other states. June 22-28, 1927. Excerpt from “The Means of Grace in the Form of Absolution. Essay read by REV. F . A. HERTWIG.

  32. larry,
    You bring up an interesting question for me with your statement:
    Administer Communion and say: “Take, eat, if”—? No! There are no “ifs” in universal grace, and there are none in the means of grace, therefore also none in absolution. And if these pernicious “ifs” are put there, they are not put there by God, but by the devil.
    Do Lutherans practice closed communion or do they allow anyone who attends to partake?

  33. Do Lutherans practice closed communion or do they allow anyone who attends to partake? Good question.


    Most practice closed, and rightly so, so there will be no “ifs” in the Lord’s Supper. For what is received is in FACT the body and blood of Jesus Christ and freely received – His body and blood in FACT are the end of the “ifs”, without it there are indeed “ifs”. He rejects that rejects that which is salvation or to apply the words; he rejects the “non-ifs”.

    As a side note but related (so you’ll know where I myself am coming from accurately): And I must reveal that we are at the beginnings of changing over to an LCMS church from PCA, so we come to the services and receive the wonderful Gospel freely in the liturgy and absolution, but do not partake of the LS presently out of respect for this. Even though theologically, we are in concord, the process has nontheless just started, and I respect that and am not offend by not receiving it. Although I/we long to, no doubt about that.

    If you went to a church in which the LS was being given and the pastor said as the institution of it, “This is NOT the body of Jesus Christ given for you. This is NOT the blood of Christ shed for your sins”. Would you take that bread and wine? No. Yet, that is exactly what all non real body and blood presence churches state. Either directly during its institution or by the doctrine of the church that makes it either pure symbol/memory or sign like Calvin does. Don’t let word games get in your way, ask the pastor bluntly what it is that he is putting into your mouth. If it’s not the body and blood of Christ, then his words of institution are as said above and it is pointless to take it. The “ifs”, then, are there since the body and blood is not.

    So one not believing that Christ’s body and blood are there cannot partake because to do so is to condemn himself. Again using the words we are using here; The pastor hands you and says “the true body and blood of Christ given for your sins” (no ifs), and you in your mind say, ‘this is not the real body and blood of Christ (assert the ifs)”. Thus, deny the free Gospel and assert another gospel which is no Gospel at all – chalked full of ifs.

    In the same way we say Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and that there “is no other name under heaven by which men are saved”. In the same way the church “practices closed Gospel” per se. There ARE no other “no ifs” than by Jesus Christ alone. To allow other ways in pretending to “remove all ifs” one reasserts the “ifs”.

    You see you cannot add the poison of “other ways” which by definition are poisonous “ifs” and pretend and delude one’s self that one is removing all the ifs.

    I hope that helps,


  34. Jeofurry,


    ALWAYS remember if this has not been clear. The HOPE of coming to the church that holds orthodox faith (pure Gospel) is that we ALL come to this, not be exclusive. I more and more see the great challenge, due to the devil’s tricks, of holding on one hand the pure truth of the Gospel, which the Gospel MUST be pure and free of “ifs” to BE the Gospel making it exclusive; and on the other hand giving it to all.

    It is exclusive (in Word and Sacrament) so that it IS the Gospel. It is inclusive to all mankind as it goes out. Yet those who want to make it inclusive as a heterodox message (in Word and/or Sacrament) are denying the very message by doing so.

    Back to our language at hand: The message of the Gospel to be Gospel and not works is “no ifs”. It’s a singularly exclusive message in and of itself. If we insert “ifs” to the message thinking it makes it more inclusive we’ve done nothing less than change the entire message thinking we’ve been more “inclusive”. In logic it is as simple as either X or not-X and there is no middle ground, we’d say.

    That applies to the Gospel in all its modes of administration (freely giving) as naked Word, or wet Word (baptism), or the Lord’s Supper Word (bread and wine). Take that back for example to “believers baptism”. There’s your “if”, “if you believe”, “if you repent”. If you can see that then you can grasp truly what Jesus said when he gave infants and children as owners of the kingdom of heaven and did not point to adults, in fact said the later must become as the former or they will in no way enter the kingdom of heaven. Thus, when one inserts the “if” (if you believe/repent) into the water of baptism, you’ve inserted another word against God’s Word, namely and concisely the “if”. Which is the word of fallen man’s religion and of the devil, “IF you will do X, THEN you will live/be saved”. It is indeed Satan who inserts it, no way around that.

    The devil is a strategist par none, we are foolish to ignore his reality and that we are wiser. We must flee as fools to Christ and not argue with the devil, we will loose every time.



  35. Larry,
    I wasn’t trying to open the whole communion can necessarily(there is plenty of discussion there as well), but to point out the attitude of the statement. Telling someone else that they are “unworthy” to receive communion, because they don’t believe it is exactly the same thing, is making a judgment on their behalf that Scripture doesn’t allow us to make. Paul says that the person who takes communion without recognizing the body and blood of the Lord brings judgment on himself (his own person and not the church who offered it to him), yet many churches instead put themselves in the position of judge to “save” the person from making this “mistake.”
    Compare that with Romans 14, where Paul is talking about food as an example, but tells us that we are not the one to judge our brother, he stands or falls to the Lord only.
    Closed communion indeed inserts the very if statement you are talking about. You may only receive this “if” you believe it is what we say it is. This takes the judgment in this matter into human hands.
    My intention is not to offend, but to try and reconcile the view. I agree with you that we cannot put conditions or “ifs” on the gospel or the church at any point, but I see in closed communion a great big “IF” in many churches.

  36. Jeff,

    You may not have intended that but these issues cannot be answered in beer commercial 30 second responses. There is a holistic problem here, not just a tweak here and there. Because theology of any flavor is centered and permeated on a central theme, if its not truly Christ alone for you, then its something else. The problem is not so simple as just tweaking a thing or two. We see this when Christ warns the Pharisees that it is not because they are lazy and not zealous but that they, “read the Scriptures and think that by them they have life, but it are these that continually bear witness of me”. They even had the right God breathed word and exegetes bar none. Their problem was theological, holistically a problem. The God breathed words meant something else to them, they deduced from them another word. It’s not that they were idiots or lazy or some other religion – they were the household of God.

    It’s not making a judgment if someone confesses it themselves to be so. How odd it is to turn the tables this way; “You tell me ‘you don’t believe X’ and then get offended at me because I say ‘you don’t believe X’”. What you fail to see is that it is a confessional body that confesses “this IS…” and it would be wrong to allow someone who does not confess that to be in that confession for that would be false and deceptive, not to mention disruptive to the congregation. E.g. One cannot let the confession: “Buddha is also a way” into a confession be it Augsburg, WCF, HCF, LBCF or the B F & M. Similarly one cannot let a “this is NOT the body/blood…” confession into the assembly of the confession that says it is. Just as Israel was not to allow the golden calf into the confession along side of Yaweh. It’s a two way protection. To the person and to the assembled body which is a confession. It protects the body by keeping the doctrine pure and true. It protects the opposing person by communicating to him/her what you say and do is deadly, rather than for the selfish reason of being peaceful so I don’t have to suffer the inconvenience of someone being mad at me.

    Paul’s in fact does bar them when he says that it is not the Lord’s Supper you are taking to which warning goes forth to assess.

    When you, me or anyone make the Lord’s Supper, baptism or the Gospel in general an “if” (to go back to the original thought) it is to be rejected point blank.

    In its attempts to reach the world the church is becoming the world, not in the immoralistic way, for “the world” is first and primarily the religion of fallen man that seeks to work his way to God, earn merit and/or favor for himself. That is to be truly OF THE WORLD. Thus, in such churches, what is called a heterodox church, we find in its attempts to “reach the world” it does as it’s fundamental error of heterodoxy (worldly mixture) makes it do, increasingly become the world (the mixture already there). Thus, works salvation (the world) in hidden and surreptitious ways (because they have departed from the Word of God), the heterodoxy, pulls in ever increasingly “the ways of the world”, that same works salvation. This is the tiny yeast at the beginning in the bread that eventually balloons over time. And remember heterodoxy primarily means “mixed praise” as orthodoxy means “right praise”. The mixed praise is giving praise, via the “if” doctrines, be it in Word or Sacrament, to other gods as if it is God or on par with God who alone saves. You will recall the heterodoxy of Aarron and Israel at the foot of Sinai giving praise both to God and the golden calf for being the one(s) who brought them out of Egypt (sign and type for the fallen religion and Satan’s religion/word = works salvation in a nutshell). Did works, the golden calf bring them out? Is God (Yaweh alone saves) to be mingled with Baal (works)? No Yaweh saves (Jesus’ name means Yaweh saves) did alone.

    No it should be as Luther said, “I feel that every Word of God makes the world too narrow for me.” That is rightly honoring God!
    As Franz Pieper said, “God also expressly requires that of Christians. “Beloved,” we read in I John 4:1, “believe not every spirit, but try the spirits; whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” And the Lord Jesus exhorts all Christians (Matt. 7:15): “Beware of false prophets.” So, those Christians who do not want to distinguish between true and false prophets, and, consequently, also not between orthodox and heterodox churches, are disobedient to an express command of God.
    In our day, people either do not make this distinction at all, or at least not in the right manner. They not only fail to declare it the Christian’s duty to distinguish between orthodox and heterodox church bodies, but they even declare it to be a Christian virtue when people pay no attention to the doctrinal differences. Yes, they call it presumptuous when a church body maintains that in all articles of Christian faith it has the revealed truth of God’s Word.” –End Quote



  37. Jeofurry,

    “Do Lutherans practice closed communion or do they allow anyone who attends to partake?”

    In our Lutheran congregation we announce that all baptised Christians who believe the Lord to truly present in the bread and wine are welcome to partake of the sacrament. They can be first time visitors.

    That we do not know all of their beliefs is secondary to God’s graciousness of God. We do know that they have received the promises of God and we do know that they believe Him to be present. For us…that is enough.

  38. Steve, I’ve tried to distill the essence from the many biblical aspects explaining what a “Christian” is and I came up (for now) with the following:

    A Christian is a person who by the grace and power of God has come to trust, love and follow Jesus Christ as his/her Savior and Lord, and through the indwelling Holy Spirit is a child of God – both in relationship and status.

    And if I may add a rather sad anecdote on that topic of conditionality in allowing access to fellowship at the Lord’s Table:

    When we were first married, my wife and I lived in an apartment building and got to know a retired Anglican minister who was best friends with a Missouri Synod Lutheran pastor. The two of them would get together frequently – eat together, golf together, even visit each other’s church services. But one thing the Anglican was never allowed to do together with his best friend was sharing communion at the Lord’s Table in that Lutheran church.

    I personally don’t care what rationalizations and doctrinal explanations this particular church may have brought forward to justify their exclusivity in this regard. In my opinion, if someone is a brother in Christ and sincere in His desire to receive Communion, I have neither right nor reason to refuse him.

    Decisions of a church or denomination need to be based on what pleases the Lord. I cannot see how the above behavior could have accomplished anything but grieve the Holy Spirit.

  39. Josh,

    Your definition of a “Christian” is a pretty good one I believe.

    I’m one Christian who often does not love, trust, and follow my Lord all the time…but he continually leads me to repentance (brings me home) and revives in me the faith that He has given to me.

    Your anecdote of the Anglican minister and the Missouri Synod Lutheran pastor is exactly the reason that we don’t close the Supper to baptised Christians who believe Christ to be present.

    Like you, we believe Christ wants HIs children to receive in faith, the benefits that He gives in the Supper.

    If a professing Christian did not believe Christ to be present in the meal, then that would be a reason to not allow him or her to partake. For then, what would they be partaking of? Nothing. Just a religious act. And that is not what we believe in..religous acts for the sake of making us “feel good”…or…whatever.

    Thanks very much, Josh!

    – Steve

  40. “In our Lutheran congregation we announce that all baptized Christians who believe the Lord to truly present in the bread and wine are welcome to partake of the sacrament. They can be first time visitors.

    That we do not know all of their beliefs is secondary to God’s graciousness of God. We do know that they have received the promises of God and we do know that they believe Him to be present. For us…that is enough”.

    In so doing, I can see how the marvelous and true spirituality of the faith is crystallized – the reality of God, acting objectively, draws close to us as we eat and drink of His body and blood – a truly profound moment of receiving – the life, given for us, marries us to the life made ours, freely, in Him. We simply receive what has, purely by the richness of His grace, been made ours. Surely the Lord is indeed here, with us, in such a moment. To seek to make this something other would be to leave Christ, again, outside of such a vital moment.

    “We call this food Eucharist, which no one is allowed to share unless he or she believes that the things we teach are true, and has been washed with the washing that is for the forgiveness of sins and second birth. For we do not receive them as common bread and drink, but as Jesus Christ our saviour”. (Justin’s 1st apology).

  41. Howard,

    “.. – the reality of God, acting objectively, draws close to us as we eat and drink of His body and blood – a truly profound moment of receiving – the life, given for us, marries us to the life made ours, freely, in Him.”

    Thank you, Howard.

    Good thoughts on the gracious nature of the sacrament of the altar!

    – Steve

  42. “I’m one Christian who often does not love, trust, and follow my Lord all the time …”

    Steve, you bring up an important observation. The old nature rears its ugly head again and again while we’re still living on this side of eternity. And that part of the “I”, described so poignantly in Romans 7 and Galatians 5, doesn’t change. It cannot be reformed, only put to death.

    So, in reality, it is only Christ in us who ALWAYS loves, trusts and obeys. The “flesh” ALWAYS lusts, doubts and rebels.

    If we factor this existence of “simul iustus et peccator” in, maybe the definition should say something like this:

    A Christian is a person who by the grace and power of God refuses to be defined by his/her old way and continuing desire of selfish living but instead desires to trust, love and follow Jesus Christ as his/her Savior and Lord, and through the indwelling Holy Spirit has the capacity to live out what it means to be a child of God.

  43. Josh,

    “A Christian is a person who by the grace and power of God refuses to be defined by his/her old way and continuing desire of selfish living but instead desires to trust, love and follow Jesus Christ as his/her Savior and Lord, and through the indwelling Holy Spirit has the capacity to live out what it means to be a child of God.”

    “…refuses to be defined by his/her old way and continuing desire of selfish living…”

    Better maybe…’ in spite of his/her old ways’.

    I like it, Josh!

    – Steve

  44. “Better maybe…’ in spite of his/her old ways’.

    I agree. Even better!

    “I like it, Josh!”

    Are you sure? The word “baptism” isn’t in it! 😉

  45. I don’t practice closed communion but it’s not a free for all either. Baptised Christians in good standing in their own congregations. I can’t be doing with this “If you love Jesus” business.

  46. Doorman-Priest, I respectfully disagree. And I can’t think of anything more central to the goodness of the Gospel (which is reiterated in the invitation to the Lord’s Table) that it is indeed proclaiming a gift that is free for all.

  47. Jeofurry,

    Perhaps I’m wrong, it sounds like it, concerning Lutheran congregations on this issue. If I have been then I owe you an apology.

    Honestly, now, I’m confused. It looks as if as long as one is, to paraphrase, a baptized Christian who believes the Lord to truly be present in the bread and wine can partake. So that would mean a Reformed Calvinist as to the generic language. Yet, there’s a difference between the true body and blood via Luther and the real presence of Calvin. I use to try to marry the two as saying the same thing, but apparently they do not.

    Even still where does that leave the Baptist visiting? What about a baptist or Zwinglian calvinist in which it is pure symbolic? That wouldn’t be “open communion” would it?

    I’m asking an honest question here of Lutherans too because it’s unfair to fuzz over the language to give the appearance of a “concord” having been reached. Jeofurry asks an honest question, and I respect that even if my answer will not be agreeable, he deserves a clear answer.

    Then let’s ask this ecumenical gathering the question in the reverse to the Baptist. Because the implication is that only the Lutheran’s practise such a closed communion. Because if the Holy Spirit is grieved with Lutheran’s closed communion then He is surely grieved with the Baptist closed communion as well. What is the baptist criteria? Of it and key to it is “one who is baptized” (all the baptist confessions explicitly require this without exception). So would you allow an infant baptized or an adult baptized by sprinkling or some other non-immersion mode to partake? Could RC Sproul, Luther, Calvin, Jonathan Edwards or even Zwingli himself come to the Lord’s Supper at one’s baptist church? John Piper at one time to no avail wrestled with this very issue. Either you have closed communion on this or your confessional statement is false.

    This brings up the most serious issue of all. This is a serious analysis of all involved and not just wrangling. It’s serious because of this; if any group has split out, baptist, reformed, Lutheran, Methodist, etc…for some other reason than an essential issue as to the Gospel and the Word, then by definition we are sectarian and divisive for non-essential confessional reasons, and that is the same condemnation that both Paul in 1 Cor. and James speak. It would be like splitting over the color of the paint in the building into factious denominations, if it’s not essential.

    We should desire one communion, that’s a given, I desire it. But I’m not at all sure that’s what we have nor arrived at as much as it appears thus far.


  48. Jeofurry,

    I would refer you to this short article by the LCMS to explain it best.

    Click to access wa_fellowship-lordssupper.pdf



  49. Sorry for doing a hit and run earlier. We had to travel to Grand Forks today and I just got back about 30 minutes ago. Steve’s answer is closer to what I was hoping to hear. My understanding of the Lutheran view of communion is that it is viewed on the same level of importance as baptism as a sacrament (I know the Catholics view it as a “means of grace” but I don’t know how closely the Lutherans follow that language or understanding). Would that be an accurate statement?
    Under that assumption, I am puzzled by the disconnect. Baptism is done to infants, who cannot by definition consent or understand what they are undergoing because it is a “means of grace,” but communion is withheld until understanding is “correct” even though it is also a sacrament. If I am in error please set me straight.
    In a sense, I see communion in this sense treated in much the way that Baptists treat both baptism and the Lord’s Supper(this is setting aside the issue of sacramental versus memorial/symbolic for the moment) as something that people who confess Jesus as Lord may participate in freely (baptism of course is different since it is a one time event). You are correct that many Baptists practice a similar closed communion, but the Baptist churches are also autonomous in polity and determine that at the level of the congregation. At my church for instance, I explain that those who wish to participate in the Lord’s Supper do so with understanding that they are accountable to God when they partake.
    Am I making any more sense in where the issue is that I am asking about?

  50. Let me ask a second question that is tangential to this discussion. Would you agree that baptism and the Lord’s Supper are essentially New Testament continuations of God’s plan for His people in the manner or circumcision and Passover respectively in the Old Testament?

  51. Sorry, should be manner of circumcision and Passover not “or”

  52. Larry wrote: “Either you have closed communion on this or your confessional statement is false”.

    And, in terms of the experience of the believer, the Lord’s Supper can then die a death of a thousand qualifications.

    I have not received this sacrament in nearly twenty years because of the practice of closed communion. When I attended Reformed churches in the 80’s, I was refused participation because I would not sign a piece of paper that stated only those baptized a particular way(by immersion) were right – I think Bunyan was certainly right here when he viewed the mode as secondary to fellowship in Jesus Christ. In the 90’s, I attended evangelical churches which encouraged participation, but only on the basis of it being a symbolic meal, so I passed (amidst some pretty candid discussions with the ministers). At the beginning of this decade, I attended my local Lutheran church, and again found myself delegated to the same status as those outside because I could not partake until I had received much instruction and became a ‘member’, so I was effectively back amongst the same camp – I must ‘become’ something, other than a Christian (a Reformed Baptist, or a Lutheran) to partake. I wholly agree with Paul’s earnest teaching on this matter in 1 Corinthians 10&11, so why is it that I’m denied the very food which the Lord has provided for me to feed upon?
    What ‘instruction’ is missing above that of the Apostles?

    My thirty years experience of much of evangelicalism (whatever its particular theological stripe) is that it simply does not engage with the Apostle’s doctrine here the way that the early church and the likes of Luther – Calvin, Zwingli and others merely construct a dualistic framework which denies us what we have been given.
    I know many brothers and sisters in Christ, in and out of all kinds of denominations, who passionately understand the sacraments in the Apostolic manner, but like me, there will never be an opportunity for us to come together in faith and share this precious meal.

    It’s good to know that there is at least one church (Steve’s) where we could meat and share this wonder.
    Many of us, I think, will have to await that day when we sit at table with the Lord’s people in freedom, before we are able to eat and drink.

  53. My experience here of what is often termed ‘second degree separationism’ (“guarding” the flock) has also proved that, in practice, it’s merely a device to prevent a believer from questioning bad teaching or practice. The examples I’ve seen of this in thirty plus years, corporately and individually, in the full spectrum of denominations, has been shocking and profoundly painful. If the ‘shepherd(s)’ of the flock essentially forget they to, are, in reality, merely the sheep of HIS pasture, then they quickly become those who use doctrine, position or presumed authority to rule in a manner contrary to the rule of Christ (to be the greatest, we must seek to become the least – truly serve others). I have witnessed many men, no doubt of good and sincere intent, wreck the church as they hid behind such status rather than simply face the possibility they could be wrong or needed to, themselves, face a correction, rather than seek to correct everyone/everything else.

    I am thankful and blessed by those who truly refresh the flock by their faithfulness to the Gospel, but there so many ‘devices’ out there that also do no more than revive and energize the old Adam, when here, especially, he must by properly dead and buried.

  54. Howard,

    I think you misunderstand me. I desire with great heart a complete united communion. It kills me that that does not occur. And I whole heartedly agree that there are those who close it for no reasons essential. Put those in another category for they close it on “my law is better than your law”, not the Gospel.

    My point in bringing up the baptist is critical to the Gospel though and to show why Lutherans do “close it”. Which by the way as to a few months ago I myself did not understand and disagreed with. So I’m pretty fresh on this myself and I don’t make a move myself, never have, unless I see that it is a Gospel move. I didn’t move from believers baptism until I saw where and where not the Gospel was. So, they would not allow a person baptized as an infant or by another mode partake, at least according to their confessions which are 100% united on this issue. Ask yourself: How does that deny the Gospel and strike the conscience of THAT believer? Now they hear the devil’s “if” and other gospel which is no gospel at all. They are told “you were not baptized”, “God didn’t give you anything”, “hath God really said you are baptized”, “and as proof of it you cannot partake of the Lord’s Supper”. Which by the way is not the LS in the baptist church for they confess, THEY CONFESS, “This is NOT the body of Jesus Christ” and “This is NOT the blood of Jesus Christ”. Which TOO looses the Gospel. That’s why we don’t mingle the confessions. The Gospel, the Gospel, the Gospel. It’s to protect the Gospel, not “my Law is better than your Law”, nor “I’m right and you are wrong”.


    You ask a really good question. I’ve asked that one myself. It seemed to lead to infant communion which I’m not certain I don’t disagree should be happening. As an ex Baptist I brought up the EXACT same point you did because as an ex Baptist I saw that too. So I want you to know it’s a good question to which I myself have not received satisfactory answer. I say that so you’ll know I’m honest in seeking and giving my answers. I seem to get the same “crickets and frogs” answers from Lutherans, not all but most, on this issue as I did with Baptist pastors on believers baptism. What I call a “theological punt”. I’m glad you’ve asked this and if you don’t mind, I’ll not use any names, I’m going to ask on another blog some Lutherans this very thing again and basically say, “see this is how a Baptist sees it…what’s the answer”. Because that’s what I asked before “as an exbaptist”. As a short answer all I have is this: It was practiced in the ancient church, infant communion, and Martin Luther himself though he did not practice it as far as we know, did not disagree with it and knew of its practice. Perhaps he did not live long enough to address it. I tend to be a pro-infant communion person. But I argue it this way, children as soon as they can speak, about a 1.5 years since for my children, have NO PROBLEM whatsoever believing Christ’s body and blood are there. I find, once again just like in baptism, it is the ADULTS who seem to not believe God on this, and on baptism. Which AGAIN makes Jesus’ words ring all the MORE true regarding suckling babes and children as being the owners of the kingdom of God/heaven and adults must become LIKE THEM (not vice versa as believers baptism contradicts and states against Christ) or WE CANNOT even enter the kingdom of God.

    So, I’m glad, TRULY, that you asked that. GREAT QUESTION, I mean that. I’m going to ask that around.

    Don’t touch that dial!



    PS: This is by the way, the way Christians work out the true doctrine. Even if it is spirited.

  55. Larry,
    Thank you for your reply, and I’m glad if it’s helped to clarify your own framing of questions to others.

    My reason for writing, however, was in no means to attack anyone personally (I don’t think you read it that way anyway), but merely to question several sections of the church ‘positionally’ with regards to their practice of closed communion. My reasons for doing so are simple – there are numerous believers who are, in effect, ‘dis-membered’ from the sacraments, not because they do not believe in the faith once delivered to the saints (which, I think, qualifies them as members of one another in Him), but because they question why we should need to add to that faith, especially when the practices and consequences of such additions (as touched on in my post on ‘level 2’ separationism) actually harm the church and place believers into a realm where they are no longer free to either question of freely receive from the Lord’s Table.

    I do not think it any co-incidence, as noted in Alan Jamison’s study, ‘A Church-less Faith’, that one of the major causes for disillusionment and departure from most churches here in the UK is the reality of the authoritarian role of leadership in many issues of life and instruction. By moving away from grounding its flock in the Apostles doctrine, we have essentially filled that vacuum with substitutes, and the actual practice of a closed table for many of us has been a very real and regularly acute consequence of such.

    The question remains -where are those who agree with the message of faith suppose to go because they do not wish to become deemed ‘members’ in a manner other than the scriptures warrant (the company of Christians of a particular town or place)?
    Why should they be forced to be anything more?
    Why, if they hold to the faith, should they be treated less?

  56. INFANT COMMUNION? Are you kidding me?

    This is not a question of limiting access or establishing conditions anymore. It’s really a question of what makes sense and what doesn’t.

    I would like to ask: what benefit would an infant receive from being fed in this way that the “refused” infant doesn’t? And if there’s no added benefit then why even consider such a thing?

  57. Pardon me for not keeping up with the discussion.

    It is an interesting discussion, to say the least.

    I don’t know as much of this topic as you guys do.

    I just know what kind of a God we have. He is gracious and merciful.

    He loves to give to His children. Even when they are not fully aware of it. Even when they do not fully understand what is going on.

    A baptised infant is a member of God’s family.

    I’m not advocating infant communion because much better minds than mine (in my church) have determined that there are better ways to go about administering Holy Communion.

    But it seems to me that a perfectly good argument could be made for it on the basis of God giving something to us in it, and not vice-verse.

  58. Steve,
    That last statement that you made is the heart of the issue. It is the dividing line between sacrament and ordinance. The Old Testament markers of circumcision and Passover (as well as the other feasts) were things that identified the community and communicated the truth of God’s plan. They weren’t what made the Israelites God’s people. They did those things because they were God’s people. He chose them before the first circumcision and long before the first passover. He chooses us before we are ever baptized or take communion. Those things don’t give us anything from God. He already gave Himself to us in His Son. I am not minimizing the importance of either baptism or communion by saying this. But by sacramentalizing them both, we start to erect those “if” barriers that were mentioned earlier. There are people who will come to the table of communion that God has chosen and saved, but who we then try to set aside because they don’t understand correctly. There were plenty of Israelites who didn’t “get it” when they observed Passover. I would feel very safe to say that none of the Disciples sitting at the table with Christ the night He institute the Lord’s Supper understood it very well either (I can also feel safe saying to you that they didn’t feel they were actually eating the Lord’s body and drinking his blood in either a Catholic or similar sacramental understanding in any fashion since He was sitting there).
    These acts are proclamations of the Gospel to a lost and dying world, but because the Church has used them as a dividing rod within, we have unwittingly crippled our witness.
    The issue isn’t about letting a Buddhist partake at the Lord’s Table, it is about letting a person who has confessed that Jesus is Lord participate whether his understanding is perfectly correct or not. It is a teachable moment if we will use it. If someone is wrong, the Lord will get through to them. Look at 1 Cor. 11 again, verses 28-32:
    28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.
    In verse 32, Paul makes it plain that if we don’t judge the matter correctly, the Lord himself will step in to correct us. Can we not trust that to be so and allow anyone who claims that Jesus is their Lord to come to the table?

  59. I am going to go the other direction just a “little”. Luther himself would have thrown the book of James out if he had it his way because it does say Faith without works is dead. I think its very biblical to encourage Christian to do good “stuff” — but its not tied to our salvation and we need to proclaim the freedom of the Gospel in Christ first.

    It also says in scripture to spread the Gospel and to go and make disciples of all nations. Yes, God chose us… but this is where I tend to allow mystery and be a bit more fundamentalistic…. although I am far from a Christian fundamentalist.

    Yes, the idea of working our way into Gods merit is a perversion of scripture, however, and you find Christians all the time, in their insecurity and fears, lean on this ALL THE TIME…. but James says???

  60. I hope this came across in the correct tone. I am not flinging stones here at sacramentalism or anything else. I used the word we intentionally, because I don’t think any of us in the discussion is 100% perfect or right on this, myself included. I am just working my way through these issues and continuing to honor God and give Him glory as I understand better day by day.

  61. I could throw out a Greg Boydism here where he believes the Chosen as defined in scripture as those who come to faith in Christ … in other words the word chosen is more of a corporate thing than it is individual…. but I as much as I like to read Greg I don’t always agree with him.


  62. Jon,
    I was doing some reading on Luther and James this past week. You are right that he had trouble with the book, but he did come to an understanding with it. It goes back to what I said about the Israelites. They didn’t do circumcision and Passover and sacrifices to “become” Jews; they did them because they were/are Jews. In a similar way, we don’t do the things that God commands to “become” His people; we do them because we “are” His people. I think that is why James uses the mirror analogy. God’s Word shows us what we look like before God. If we turn away and forget what we saw there, it makes as much sense as forgetting what color our eyes are.

  63. Jon,

    Greg Boyd writes:

    “I unequivocally affirm that the sovereign God “has mercy on whomever he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whomever he wants to harden.” I would simply add that the “whomever” he has mercy on refers to “all who choose to believe” while the “whomever” he hardens refers to “all who refuse to believe.” The passage demonstrates the wisdom of God’s loving flexibility, not the sheer determinism of God’s power.”

    “all who choose to believe” Huh?

    The Bible makes it perfectly clear that “no one seeks for God.”

    Jesus has a little talk with Niccodemus where He explains to Niccodemus that he can’t do this (be born gain). It must come from above.

    The gospel of John sayd that we were born not of the flesh, nor of blood, NOR OF THE WILL OF MAN…but of God.

    Free-will dies hard in the Old Adam. Real Hard!

    I don’t buy what Mr. Boyd is selling. It just preserves the Old Adam…when instead, God is trying to kill him off.

  64. Jeff,

    I do believe that God actually does something in baptism. (That’s why Christ commanded it)

    I do believe we partake of His body and blood…otherwise he would not have said it so.

    Not as the Roman church believes, but spiritually He is really there. We are partaking of Him, the King.

    He works in us that way. His Word just isn’t Bible, or hearing scripture preached, although it is those things too. His Word (Christ Himself) is in the supper.

    This view also keeps us from the spiritual progression project that we naturally want to engage in… towards the end of proving to ourselves and others that WE REALLY ARE Christians.

    I think this is a part of why He commanded us to do it (Lord’s Supper). That it might help to keep us from getting too religious and upity and prideful.

    Thanks Jeff!

  65. Howard and Jeff,

    Sorry for my departure. It’s my day to watch the kids at the house so I’m up to my arms (3). Let me try to pick up where we left off. Oh, thanks Howard, I think I understand what you are saying. I’ll attempt to break this down into parts the best I can to keep the “rabbit trailing” from continuing.

    Part 1 The Overall Tone and Analysis

    The set of the tone and analysis is important. It helps getting out of one’s denominational paradigm. So, let’s put all afterward in the realm of hypothesis and looking at it from a neutral observational position for a bit so we might better examine it with out denominational moorings hindering us and generating a gut reaction. So we all should say, “I’m not confessing anything yea or nea right now – just pondering and analyzing. For my part I will attempt as best I can to write in as neutral a language as I can. It has limits because there are only so many words to use but I shall try. If I slip or sound like I slip from neutral just chalk it up to “it sounds not neutral” or “Larry goofed it up there and perhaps meant something more neutral and ran out ways to say it”. Not all of this is my thoughts first and foremost but things I’ve digested and read over a number of years and months. I say that to not take credit were credit is due.

    Part 2 True Christians in Heterodox Churches (HC)

    Speaking of the external manifestation of the church both orthodox and heterodox and not the invisible church. While there are true Christians in HCs God only permits the HC to be, it is not His will that they are because they disdain His word. The HC is also there to test his people, will they listen to Him or another. We should desire that these dear brothers and sisters come out of that and into the OC where the Gospel is held pure. One is not saved by Christ + OC membership, that would be another gospel like Rome. And true Christians are saved and die in the HCs. But the desire is and why would it not be as we love the brethren – “come out dear brother and enjoy the enumerable treasures of grace”. It is like the challenge of a father to a child in protecting his child and to have his child enjoy the treasures and comfort of his father’s house – his child, however, perceives in ignorance that his father is simply heavy handed and is binding his perceived freedom (which is really bondage). So the child rebels. Sometimes the only thing the father can do is let the child go his way that he may come to his end and see the poverty of his bondage he calls freedom. This is true love. Perhaps then the richness of the overflowing abundance of the father’s grace in the word and sacraments will begin to be seen and desired.

    Part 3 Why an OC Believer Cannot and Must not attend a HC

    A OC believer should not attend the Lord’s Supper or services of a HC. Why? Spiritual snobbery? Hardly! Because all the Gospel heretofore spoken and heaped as treasure upon him in his OC confession will be spoken against and said it is not, especially the sacraments. The old saying, “sticks and stones…word will never harm me”, is utterly theologically false, in fact words are eternally deadly. The devil’s words kill and destroy, man lives by every word that precedes from the mouth of God alone. When as I have before said for example that in believers baptism (BB) they will in fact deny and say that A) your baptism is no baptism at all due to time (as an infant) or due to mode (non-immersion). B) That it is not God’s work or God baptizing you via the pastor’s hand. C) This even affects on baptized as an adult by immersion as baptism is said to be baptism only if faith is real and there. ALL of these deny you the critical “for you/me” that is in fact the Gospel and conversion. All of these deny the Gospel in this sacrament. One from the OC should not be hearing that and taking that INTO their ears anymore than going to a Mormon church where the Gospel is outright denied. Also, in the second sacrament of the Lord’s Supper (LS). For they say “This is NOT the body/blood of Jesus Christ shed/given for the forgiveness of your sins”. You see words do matter to the chagrin of the HC. When Jesus says, “I forgive you” in these the Word of Gospel, Absolution, Baptism and the LS the “pro me”, for me, IS in fact the Gospel. But when via doctrines of men the “for you” is removed this is in fact another Gospel, something is being added to the Gospel that makes it another gospel which is false. And as Paul makes clear in Gal. we should flee this cursed message lest it take hold of us like the Galatians. Such doctrines communicate to you “Jesus has not personally said TO YOU, “I forgive you””. This carries consistently through with their “gospel” which is conditionalized continuously with “ifs”. Therefore, the OC believer should NEVER attend a HC, without great danger to his soul. For slowly you will be convinced that the sacraments are not the priceless Gospel they are and you will slowly grow to despise the Gospel as they do and not even know it. As H. Sasse said how one views the sacraments, so goes the extension of that truth or error into the rest of scripture (ldh paraphrase). It is better for the OC believer to not attend a HC even if that is the only church viably around, but rather worship from home (F. Pieper).

    Part 4 Why Close the Communion?

    Definition (recall we are still in the neutral hypothesis area here): The LS necessarily means that the true body and blood of Jesus are truly present in the elements of bread and wine. It is a mystery in which what is hidden as my eyes and mouth perceive bread and wine, the WORDS spoken reveal the mystery that they are the true body and blood of Jesus Christ shed/given for me (the pro me = the essence of the Gospel to be Gospel).

    An adult comes to commune with a OC congregation and the OC pastor says, “the true body and blood of Jesus Christ given for the forgiveness of YOUR sins”. But he says in his mind and heart, “this is not really the true body and blood of Jesus but bread and wine”. Thus this person rejects the Gospel in the sacrament and denies the Gospel point blank here. When the OC closes the communion do you not see that it is to protect that person from denying the Gospel. It is to protect the believer himself from himself as a believer! Not as an unbeliever. Rather under DEEP love for your soul he’s acting as Christ to you covering up your weakness and NOT calling you an unbeliever. You see the OC pastor and church knows you are a believer and is guarding you against, albeit in ignorance, confessing against the Gospel and Christ. It is love of the brethren that compels this. I myself did not see this before. E.g. if as my brother you are stronger in the faith than me on something that would cause me to stumble, would you not come to my defense and cover up my naked weakness and shame? Rather than let me tumble and commit great sin! If I were getting ready to cave-in and not confess or even confess against Christ and the Gospel in a given situation and you saw it coming, would you not run to my rescue as your brother, put your hand over my mouth, so to speak, and then in your faith’s older strength confess the Gospel? I would surely hope so! So it is when we confess the Lord’s death until we comes, we hold true the Gospel by keeping “this IS My body/blood…given FOR YOU.” By not allowing otherwise to be said or grow. Even by the brethren, especially by the brethren. And unto these brothers and sisters this closed communion is a loving protection so that you will not confess against the Gospel and Christ.

    Part 5 More Specific to Jeff’s question

    To better pull apart Jeff’s question there are really two. A. Adults and infants concerning the LS, and B. Adults and infants concerning Baptism.

    Adults: It is NOT asserting a requirement that adults believe X about the LS, the if, in order to take it. Rather that to not, per our definition above, is to reject it themselves. It’s a rejection of the Gospel. Just as no adult is force baptized because such reject baptism, so to do such who reject the true body and blood of Jesus in the LS reject the LS. So it’s not an “if” but that such a one rejects it.

    That’s different than infants and baptism. Now infants and the LS this one to me is a contradiction in the modern Lutheran church and a debate. Because infants don’t reject the body and blood of Jesus. In fact my children since a year and half (now 3 and 4 thoroughly believe it). The ancient church practiced it, Luther knew of it and did not condemn it in fact in a Table Talk discussion lauded it. So on this part I see the disconnect but not on the part above.

    Part 6 Those Who Adhere to the Sacraments as Sacraments, an Encouragement.

    It is not by accident that many rage against these gifts from God for fallen man has raged against the incarnate God as pure gift from day one, we even crucified Him to get Him away from our fallen city. But what men mean for evil under the form of opposites, Christ crucified was for our benefit, God meant for good. The more such rage at the Gospel in water, bread and wine, these are the persecutions and afechtungen Christ and Paul promised that Christ’s people would receive. These trials, sufferings and persecutions are worse than if the entire world were to be in one big conflagration. When God says “for you” and the devil says, “hath God really said”, in the sacraments Gospel or otherwise Gospel to you for you – it is sure that the Word of God has come to you for you. That’s why the attack comes, the devil attacks first and foremost the Gospel, especially the precious “for you” that IS the Gospel. So even when they rage and attack your baptism, you are blessed by it for in your weakness you are strong.

    That’s enough for now. I hope I’ve helped at least some.



  66. I think Jeff has wonderfully crystallized our disagreement in his earlier comment: sacraments don’t make us into the people of God, we practice them because we are the people of God.

    I still have heard no real response to that point other than Steve’s comment that God “does something” in baptism. Now, “something” is a very vague word. What does God do in baptism – MAKE me a Christian / FORGIVE my sins – or what exactly?

  67. Josh,

    Acts 2:38 says that the something is ‘the forgiveness of sins and the receiving of the Holy Spirit.

    In Romans Paul says that we receive a death like Christs and a new resurrected life in Christ.

    And the promise is for you and your children. (the text goes on to say)

  68. Larry,
    Have you ever done much study of the Passover? I think it sheds some interesting light on the Lord’s Supper, since the Lord’s Supper was instituted from the Passover meal according to the gospels. I may just have to create post on my blog to deal with the implications, because it might be a bit wordy for a comments section.
    Let me ask a couple more questions. Is Jesus the “Lamb of God” of John 1:29? And further is He not also the “lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” in Revelation 13:8? And furthermore, He is our Passover according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:7. Would you agree that this is all true?

  69. Larry, Jeff, Howard, Jon,

    We Lutherans do guard the door to Holy Communion.

    We do want people to believe what we believe about it, otherwise they are just engaging in religion.
    Then, it is merely bread and wine and nothing else.

    Some Lutherans try and do this with certainty. We do not.

    We announce up front, what we believe. We leave it up to the conscience of each person as to whether or thay believe it or not. We don’t ask them to fill out a questionaire.

    We trust that God is at work (through faith) in the sacrament. If someone receives it as only bread and wine then we’ll leave it between God and the person, and pray that God will be merciful.

    We want to make Christ accessible to as many believers as possible. If we err on the side of God’s grace and God has a problem with that, well…we will just have to be accountablr to Him when we get up there.

    This stuff can be bantered about for centuries and never gotten just right.

    There are still mysteries going on here with respect to baptism and holy communion which no man can nail to the floor, but which many men try to.

  70. “We Lutherans do guard the door to Holy Communion.

    We do want people to believe what we believe about it, otherwise they are just engaging in religion.”

    So, in other words – all who don’t share the Lutheran view of communion are only engaging in religion?


  71. And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

    It really is that simple. Remember what the thief on the cross had to do. Repent and Believe.
    The Holy Spirit will take care of the rest. There will be a desire to follow Christ, in Baptism and doctrine, but for Salvation? Nothing else. It was done…tetelestai.

  72. Josh,

    If one does not believe that Christ is present in the sacraments, but yet participates (for whatever reason) in those sacraments…then thay are engaged in something other than what those sacraments were intended.

    You can call it religion.

    I believe that a good working definition of religion is ‘what people do to try and ascend to the Divine.’

    If God isn’t there, then what would you call it?

  73. Willohroots,

    The BIble says that baptism saves you. The bible says that we receive the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit. The Lord commanded that we baptise.

    I believe that He is active in baptism.

    I will not try and force others to believe it.

    One can be saved without being baptised. Sure. I believe it.

    The Lord can also make the stones shout if He wants.

    Thanks Willohroots!

    – Steve

  74. Steve, I’m well aware of what Acts 2:38 and Romans 6:3-4 say. I’m not so sure that baptismal regeneration follows logically from those 2 passages. Otherwise the gift of the Holy Spirit would be tied to EVERY instance where a person is baptized – whether there is evidence of true repentance or not. I personally do not believe that Scripture teaches that every baptized infant automatically has the Holy Spirit (or even every baptized adult).

    Let me tell you a little bit more about myself and our church. We have a Lutheran background but also strong pietist and revivalist roots in the Fellowship movement which in Germany has always operated within the Lutheran church, not as a seperatist church or organization.

    In North America, this system did not exist, so German immigrants with this spirital background and affiliation formed their own churches and Synods. In our churches we allow both (without pronouncing a preference): infant baptism, complemented later by confirmation classes and confirmation, and also child dedication , complemented later by baptism classes and baptism. Right now I’m teaching a combined Baptism/Confirmation Class with 7 energetic teenagers who all have lots of comments and questions.

    We do not refuse parents who want their children to be baptized because Jesus explicitely welcomed them. But we also see the need to emphasize that the extreme sacramentalist interpretation (that this act of baptism in itself constitutes a ticket to heaven) is a grave and dangerous misunderstanding.

    Yes, we cannot become God’s children without God first intervening and creating saving faith within us (through whatever means He chooses). But in my opinion, baptism is an illustration of that fact, not the exclusive instrument of salvation. I don’t have to give you the Bible references again that show the giving of the Spirit already while the Gospel was heard. We’ve established that already in an earlier discussion.

  75. “If God isn’t there, then what would you call it?

    He is there completely independent of our Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Reformed, Baptist, Pentecostal understandings of HOW He is present. And that’s the only thing that matters to me.

  76. Ok, another tidbit to throw out there. I am reading 1 Corinthians for my sermon prep and this verse has now caught my eye thanks to this discussion. Paul says, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.” (1 Cor. 1:17) Here it appears that Paul is specifically separating baptism from the Gospel. Am I seeing that wrongly? Paul has already mentioned that he did indeed baptize some of the Corinthians, but is chastising them for putting so much emphasis not only on their baptism but even “who” did their baptism.

  77. Mark 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”

    I can only give you my interpretation of this verse, Steve, (as you can only give me yours):

    Baptism is an integral part of a process that leads us to becoming children of God. No one should diminish baptism and make it look like an optional add-on. Jesus commanded to baptize in Matthew 28 as part of the process of people becoming His disciples. The grammatic form of the participle in the Greek original is used for BOTH activities there: baptizing AND teaching to obey Jesus’ words. Nothing is said about a temporal order, only that both are crucial parts how the church makes disciples.

    If salvation was as strongly tied to salvation as you say, Steve, I would expect the second half of Mk.16:16 to continue like this “… but he who does not believe and is not baptized will be condemned.” Jesus did not say that.

    Faith is essential for salvation, the administration of the sacrament is not (or the thief on the cross would be in bad shape right now).

  78. Sorry, that was supposed to say “If salvation was as strongly tied to BAPTISM as you say…”!

  79. Just one more biblical example and then I’ll be done for today: Philip and the Ethiopian (Acts 8:26-39). Can we really say WHEN this man was saved? When he understood the Gospel and His heart embraced the good news of Jesus? Or when asked to be baptized and was immersed in the water? Or in a much wider sense when he returned home and (I assume) sought to learn more about his newfound faith, beginning to live out what it means to belong to Christ?

    Any one answer to the EXCLUSION of the others is missing something, in my view.

  80. Jeff, Josh,

    We can go round and round with this.

    You guys feel that nothing special happens in baptism aside from what we say, think, feel, and do…and we (Lutherans) do feel that God acts for us in baptism.

    No doubt God saves when and where He wills…thief on the cross, etc..

    But we believe God has chosen to give Himself in baptism, also.

    The majority of the world’s Christians are with us on this score.

    I appreciate the debate. I’m always up to talk about the sacraments and how I beleive that Christ is in them.

    But, there comes a time when we might have to say that neither side is swaying the other.

    Since Lutherans are sacramental Christians and this is a big part of our theology, no doubt this will come up again (and often).

    You guys are always welcome to comment here. Just know that you might not be able to get us to go along with some of the ‘new fangled ways’ you ascribe to. 😀

    Thanks guys!

  81. “The majority of the world’s Christians are with us on this score.”

    “go along with some of the ‘new fangled ways’ ”

    Something Johann Eck could have said (and maybe DID say) to Martin Luther, don’t you think?

    And I’m not here to sway anybody. If we can better understand where we’re all coming from and clear up stereotypes and misunderstandings, much is won already.

  82. Josh,

    I guess you’re right, Josh. A new fangled way isn’t so bad…as long at it glorifies the work of Christ for us. The minute they try and boost the old Adam back into the saddle then they aren’t worth a second thought.

    Clarity is a good thing. We all should always shoot for clearity and let the truth do what it will do.

    If you ever make it down to San Clemente way…look me up and we’ll have lunch on the pier!

    Thanks Josh!

    – Steve

  83. If we ever make it down as far as California, I’ll definitely be there!

    (You didn’t throw this in as a tangent so you won’t have to answer Jeff, did you? 😉 )

  84. Steve,
    You are right about the discussion not changing much for centuries really. I am not out to dissuade someone from their convictions. It is one of the reasons that I try to ask more questions than I answer in these type of discussions. I am not trying to think for someone or change their mind. I presume that it is the Holy Spirit that does that work, as He has done it in me so many times. In that, I hope to model what Paul talks about in 1 Cor. 2:4-5, “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
    I try to share what I know and listen to others and I expect the Holy Spirit to work within us to bring us into the knowledge of the truth.
    I am not looking for converts to my point of view. I dare say that if Luther or Calvin Zwingli or some of those guys could have foreseen that groups would follow in their namesakes, they would have cringed at the thought.
    Thanks for opening the discussion Steve. I enjoy your blog very much and appreciate the chance to talk with brothers and sisters in the Lord about such things.

  85. Jeff,

    Of couse you are invited to lunch on the pier (anytime!) as well!

    I do appreciate your thoughtful comments and insight, as well, Jeff.

    I think we are of the same mind inasmuch as we are not out to convert Christians.

    Whenever the gospel of Jesus Christ and His great love for sinners can be brought to greater relief, then our discussions have been fruitful.

    I enjoy your blog as well Jeff, as well as the other good folks and Christian bloggers who share here on ‘the old Adam’.

    It is a terrific thing to be able to raise points and here points that maybe we are not so familiar with. This can only be a good thing as the truth will always make it’s own way.

    Thanks very much, Jeff!

  86. Jeff,

    Quote: (1 Cor. 1:17) Here it appears that Paul is specifically separating baptism from the Gospel. Am I seeing that wrongly? Paul has already mentioned that he did indeed baptize some of the Corinthians, but is chastising them for putting so much emphasis not only on their baptism but even “who” did their baptism. –end quote.

    Nothing could be more to the contrary here in what Paul is saying. You are reading that from the fundamental of the believers baptism which does not recognize it as God doing the baptizing with the pastor’s hand, God’s work, God’s name, God’s baptizing. In verses 13 – 15 Paul says very clearly: “Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or <<<>>>> (Paul expects a no answer here but the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, ergo Christ is not divided)? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name.” (Here Paul is being sarcastic, for they argue as if baptized into other names like Apollos, Cephas or Paul himself, Paul is glad they don’t add his to the mix. The answer still remains they were baptized into Christ’s name.) For this is what they are saying in verse 12, “Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.”

    FAR from Paul disdaining or warning against too much emphasis in baptism but is warning that they falsely perceive baptism. He is glad he was sent to preach the Gospel, to which the name of God is given in baptism, but that no one is baptized into Paul’s name verses 13 and 15 or any other name so that a division is done. His emphasis is NOT against baptism but baptism perceived in another name or word, which can happen. Baptism into a evil religion can and does occur. Paul’s anger is against them perceiving baptism in the name of Crispus, Gaius and/or Paul, not Christ.

    In fact there is hardly a better passage against the doctrine of believers baptism than this one in which another word, baptized in the name of faith, is asserted along side of and even prime unto God’s name and Word. And as such BB has caused a house of dividing, a “I am of the baptized by this mode” and “I am of the baptized of believers only”. It is why Baptist don’t accept baptized infants nor other modes as a whole, yet most of the Christian church, not just Lutherans, but others fully accept the baptism of a Baptist. The very thing Paul is upset with is this kind of sectarian splitting and using God’s baptism to do it. BB says, “you must be baptized by this way, in this name, because of faith” and not the name of God or word of God.

    Blessings in Christ alone,


  87. […] and praying as part of a discussion about the Lord’s Supper(or communion if you prefer) on a post over at The Old Adam blog.  It spurred some more thinking on my part about the connections between Passover and the […]

  88. I did the post that I was talking about to explain the connections I see between Passover and the Lord’s Supper if anyone is still interested in it. It may generate a pingback here, but if not you can see it at my blog by clicking on my name.

  89. “I was talking about to explain the connections I see between Passover and the Lord’s Supper”.

    Interesting blog post, Jeo. Have you noticed the reference in John19:29, where hyssop is used at the Crucifixion itself? Clearly connecting this to the actual passover event (Exodus 12:22) – the application of the blood to protect the people from judgment and death.
    God’s deliverance of the children of Israel by the means of passover (their partaking of sacrifice of the lamb) is indeed the forerunner to the true passover – the redemption made ours in Christ Jesus. This is the essential clarification expounded in the book of Hebrews, but I find it equally essential to notice in that book that would we might term the great ‘external’ works of God to rescue those in slavery (the sending of Moses, the plagues, the deliverance itself, and the provision in the wilderness) had to be married to the gift of faith (Hebrews 11) to actually be redemptive.

    One final thought, in relation to the above, upon the Lord’s Supper.
    Most of us are aware of Paul’s instructions upon this in 1 Corinthians 11, but his teaching upon this actually begins in the chapter before this, and is preceded by, once again, reference to the children of Israel, showing how both baptism and communion tie to their experience (Chapter 10:1-4). We share one bread, one cup, one baptism, and by so doing, we partake of the life of God in Jesus Christ (10:16&17). This make us participants of that life – the life made ours at the Cross, so when it comes to our faith and fellowship – our assembling together to continue in that faith – Paul warns us we cannot corrupt that with the ‘cup’ or ‘food’ that is foreign (alien) to Christ. That was the error of those in the wilderness, and the result was judgment.

  90. Jeff,

    My apologies, I had not meant to ignore your question about the PO. Just hadn’t got to it yet. I’ll bounce over there sometime today and look at it (I’ve done some studies on the PO, particularly in the Reformed realm, good stuff), I look forward to reading it.


    As usual, tremendous Gospel points! I’m always fed Christ by your words.



  91. Howard,

    I just looked over those passages. How timely and “incidental” this is. I’d been pouring over, a few weeks back, the OT Passover passages in connection looking for more links and had not seen that one. I suppose that also links to

    David’s Psalm 51 “sprinkle me with hyssop”. I wonder if that does not link or allude to both baptism and the LS? Because we see that the Ethiopian in Acts is reading about Christ sprinkling the nations, what he the Ethiopian is, and then asks, “what prevents me, a nation person, from now being baptized”. The Spirit showing Phillip the same thing He was showing Peter, it goes to the nations now! The Ethiopian is baptized after this and dances away joyfully.



  92. I agree with what you said regarding Gregs comments Steve….. I was just stating the other sides idea of a fairly brilliant guy. I went through a year process of trying to understand the other sides ideas a few years back, reading many of Gregs books, learning respect for the Arminian argument but eventually ending up more Lutheresque than I was before. Not many people have tried to read the others sided arguments as if they were true… most come in with already preconceived notions.

    Part of the Lutheran stance has always been that man can and does resist the Holy Spirit. Resist implies a will contrary to Gods will… free or not… but unable to do Gods pleasing.

    For me free will is too grandiose of a humanistic term to build any system of theology but its also too ummmm, practical to live without using in sometimes daily language. For example, how does one raise kids without talking about godly choices… you talk about the choices but also tell them that God unconditionally loves them and this was demonstrated on the Cross.

    How does one present James without talking about works and “doing” them… do we avoid James just to hang on to our particular brand of theologt. These are the things I ponder when I lay in bed at night. 8-).

  93. jeofurry,

    your right Luther finally came to grips with James but only after a lot of pondering. It was tough for him. This is why I see Luthers primary teachings as central essentials and other truths as supportive. Some as profound truths and others as practical truths,

    For me the idea of faith without works is a profound statement of mans relationship with God and James’ statement is practical statement of mans relationship with man — encuraging each other to do good things in the freedom of the cross and with respect and in view of the grace, mercy, and love jesus showed us on the cross. None of which is done to earn our way into heaven or to get a special spot in heaven.

    Hope that makes sense to others here… 8-).

  94. Jon,

    That our wills are bound to sin is the idea that rankles so many.

    We are born at emnity with God. Actively fleeing God.

    So that we in our lostness would suddenly size God up after being presented with good evidence,and make the proper choice is just a wrongheaded notion.
    It can’t happen. Dead men cannot choose to make themselves alive again. We have to born again from above.

    Luther wasn’t hot on James because James wasn’t hot on the gospel. Not that works are bad. They are good! And a Christian certainly ought do good works. But it is must be made quite clear and said quite often that our works in no way gain us any favor with God towards our righteousness.

    ” encuraging each other to do good things in the freedom of the cross and with respect and in view of the grace, mercy, and love jesus showed us on the cross. None of which is done to earn our way into heaven or to get a special spot in heaven.”

    A perfect explanation, Jon!

  95. Can we break 100 comments on this post? 😎

  96. Romans 9 is a very tough read. For the Calvinist is completely about predestination. I think those that see it as THE verse about predestination completely miss the point. Chapter 9 starts starts out talking about Israel and Gentiles and it also ends up talking about Israel and Gentiles.

    Whenever we are struggling to understand a complex line of reasoning such as we find in Romans 9, it is crucial to pay close attention to the author’s own summary of his argument, if and when he provides one. Paul makes his point about Gods sovereignt that was shown to us on the cross when he stated that God has extended his grace vis a vis Jesus Christ to the gentiles at the end of Chapter where he s

    Therefore I have always asked myself the question is how did God demonstrate his sovereignty? It was answered in the following verse:

    30What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. 32Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.” 33As it is written:
    “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble
    and a rock that makes them fall,
    and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”[

    Those that make this Chapter about individual predestination often miss Pauls point.

    Just trying to help us hit 100. 😎

  97. Jon,

    When you put the spotlight on Romans 9 in a post, post modern world, and in an “enlighted” determinitive culture like America…I think you could hit 200 comments with those that just wil not the ‘old Adam’ take a back seat to anyone (even God). 😀

  98. Jon,
    I like your point about trying to find the author’s summary. I just finished preaching through the book of Romans and I came to the conclusion that Paul’s discussion in chapter 9 actually extends all the way through chapter 11. He is wrestling with the understanding of God’s faithfulness to His chosen people while watching so many Jews reject God’s Messiah. He makes some statements that are impossible for us to completely grasp our minds around and apparently were impossible for him to grasp too, for he ends the section in 11:33-36 with this:
    33Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable his judgments,
    and his paths beyond tracing out!
    34″Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counselor?”
    35″Who has ever given to God,
    that God should repay him?”
    36For from him and through him and to him are all things.
    To him be the glory forever! Amen.

    On another note to something you said earlier. I read quite a bit of Luther’s book, The Bondage of the Will, and the impression I came away with from Luther’s argument is that our will is indeed bound to sin until Christ frees us. At that point I get the impression that he suggests our freedom that the Bible describes is the only true freedom of will that man can have. (sort of in the vein of Gal. 5:1)
    Has anyone here read enough of that book to give me their impressions on that?

  99. Jeff,

    34″Who has known the mind of the Lord?”

    I do think Paul has realized that our reason is no match for the inscrutable ways of God.

    I read Luther’s’Bondage of the Will’ about 10 years ago and don’t remember what he said about the freedom of our will being tied to the our freedom in Christ.

    Then again, I don’t remember what I had for breakfast!

    And to boot, I gave my copy away. I think it’s time I get another copy.

    I do remember that he laid out a very good argument on how our will is bound to sin. That we like to sin. That our sin nature makes our choosing anything of God, impossible. I didn’t remember that he said that or will is bound to sin until Christ sets us free. I thought he said the our will is bound to sin…period. Hence the simul iustus et peccator , totally sinful, yet totally justified.

    Thanks, Jeff, for the reminder that it is time to read it again!

  100. I guess I get to make the 100th comment. (Sorry Jon)
    That was the gist of what I got out of what I read. Our sin nature keeps us in bondage to sin until Jesus sets us free from that nature. When He does that, we become free as God intended us to be. We now have the capacity to choose the right, which we still don’t always do. We have that freedom when we are “in Christ.” But we don’t possess it apart from Him.

  101. We usually blow it in the arena of so called “free will”, because the statement itself is utter non-sense and an absolute absurdity. Augustine was correct to say that in the final analysis “free will” is the utter disintegration of the will and not of the will at all. So we fly off into hypothetical fancies that simply do not exist. Strict determinism and such nonsense. As if God prevents us from faith, double predestination, Calvin. Or we fall off, like a drunk, the other the other side of the horse as Luther use to say and then assert some kind of Arminian choice, “Well we can choose can we not” or its negative corillary, “Well we have the ability to not choose don’t we”. And those are simply the opposite errors and heresies that finally reveal the problem do they not? This is Romans 9 – 101. We don’t REALLY want a God who saves by FREE UNCONDITIONAL GRACE, Who saves AS GOD, Who LOVES without conditions. We always want the “ifs” because in the final analysis we want to save ourselves. In so “choosing” we unmask our secret desire, we don’t want God to save us by simply declaring its so on His part, HIS Gospel, HIS Grace which is HIS election and predestination to do in REALITY. We LOVE the BONDAGE of the Law, we really do, so we hold out some where some how in the Sacraments or false sanctification ‘getting better improvement schemes’ and AT LAST reveal in so many words, “no thank you Jesus” or “thanks for the boost Jesus but I’ll take it from here”. We reveal that there NEVER has been this superstitious fantasy and utter absurdity called “free will”, not TOO choose or TOO not choose, but that we already CHOOSE. That’s what it means to BE the will, it never sits in neutral deciding between A and B, that is as Augustine said the disintegration of the will not of the will at all.

    So the Word has to come and deal death to us, then life, a Divine declaration utterly free of conditions “NOT GUILTY, INNOCENT”. And so the old Adam hears that and rasps spitting up blood grasping at straws to live, “I don’t have a choice yea or nea”. “No, you must die and this is how, just die, the killing word has come upon you.”

    This is the second death that makes the first death, of the body, a childish death by comparison. And it scare the hell out of the old Adam because now he/she knows, “you really really really are not gods”, and THE GOD must operate on you. God does His business with us in this way. All resistance be it in the wranglings over false sanctification and the sacraments as proofs of “my faith” are nothing more than that old usurper the old Adam grasping at straws grabbing baptism or the Lord’s Supper for himself or sanctification for himself. ALL theologies of glory (the natural fallen religion of man) whether completely outside of the name “Christian” or that which parades itself around as “christian” are the same. Just the same old pig dressed in different suites. The theology of the Cross must necessarily be a war and death against them.



  102. Good point Jeo!

  103. Thats the point where I allow ‘some will” Jeo. With the assistance of the HS, we can choose to do good. Christ frees us. This is the part where I allow some ‘will talk’.

    No synergism… only monergism… definitely before justification but during sanctification it gets shady for me…. especially and even scripturally.

    My point here is scripture shows the opposite of sin and it never states my will. It contrasts sin with “being in the Spirit’.

    Therefore, I am always cautious to never over emphasize my will but at the same time I am cautious to never dismiss scripture just to hang on to a theological point.

    Jeo, I am in Minnesota… lets do lunch.

  104. I realize I contradicted myself a bit here… but I think the idea if cooperating with God, synergistically, during sanctification is something that you need to act as if its possibly true. God doing the work and man cooperating (synergism) in sanctification.

  105. If we only had some kind of chemical test to prove or disprove this. 😎

  106. Jon,
    You have a good point, because there are too many instances of Scripture that refer to the importance of our actions to dismiss them with a God that just acts as a responsible puppet master of some kind. The unchaining of our will to sin by Jesus Christ is the key. That is what I got out of Luther’s writings and it holds true in the face of Scripture everywhere I have studied it. I don’t pretend to know how God chose me or anyone else for that matter. That is what Paul spent many a chapter writing about without ever giving a “definitive” answer. It always left him marveling at how unsearchable God is and it does the same to me.

    Whereabouts in MN do you live Jon. Lunch would be fun sometime if we could work out logistics.
    P.S. You can call me Jeff. : )

  107. in acts when this very question is asked the answer is: trust jesus. doesnt this mean that hes already done everything? whats the issue?

  108. Graceshaker,

    Apparently not.

    There are plenty of people running around trying to get us to ‘do’ all kinds of silly things in order to qualify.

    Trust is all it takes. And He wants us to have that trust in Him so much, that He gives it to us as a gift.

    Thanks Graceshaker!

    – Steve

  109. Steve,

    Sorry it took me so long, I did read your reply.

    I whole heartedly concur with err on the side of grace, but it must be in fact grace in which side we err. I find myself wrestling with this all the time, if we require X is that erring on the side of grace.

    But it is a false dilemma that they present to us that by requiring orthodoxy unto the grace of the sacraments we are not erring on the side of grace. Why? That’s how the subtle coercing away from Christ, the Gospel and grace occurs. It is like in Jude where men coerce by abuse of grace the children of grace. Because It’s not grace if we let someone remain in error on the sacraments that is in essence teaching and preaching the sacraments as law. The absurdity of that is somewhat obvious: “You will not let me teach along with you in your confessions that in the sacraments, they are a law and is the way to heaven as a “proof sign of your faith”, but you insist that in the sacraments grace alone be taught, ergo you are teaching works”. It’s along the lines of the pluralistic absurdity of our day that says, “Well since everything is of grace, then I can have Buddha and you can have Jesus.” Because Jesus, that is to say pure Grace, IS the only way, truth and life, and that includes the sacraments too. And to allow Buddha to be “a way” who is not grace but a works and believers baptism which is the same thing only in the sacrament is to remove the grace, and so the meaninglessness of their cry.

    False accusations abound about me and you and others that we are saying “BE LUTHERAN” or you cannot be saved. But nothing could be further from the truth as has already been MUCH labored. It’s the confession (the proclamation of the Gospel in Word or in the water, bread and wine), what it says, that matters, not the outward moniker nor the outward church. It isn’t Jesus + church X, that would indeed be adding to Jesus which we’ve already said would be another gospel. But the confession which confesses grace nakedly and alone in Word and Sacrament should be the desire of every Christian on the individual and corporate level. And where the sacrament is Jesus + something, such Christians should be taught and desire Christ alone if indeed they confess and mean Christ alone. Else their point about “let it be grace alone and leave me to my law ordinances” is shown for the fallacy it truly is.

    Even the great Baptist pastor Charles H. Spurgeon made the point of not being yea or nea on the sacraments (he called ordinances) and in one’s teaching for that minister is false even above a minister who errs but insists on confessional bounds. My closest Christian friend, a baptist pastor, and I have discussed this enumerable times and he agrees, in fact as much or more than I do about the boundaries. E.g. Those who preach and teach to the sheep that baptism can be this or that, and up to how you believe them to be, teach and preach no truth whatsoever. For by definition they leave it utterly open ended and subjective, as if the Word of God can be that way. They teach those who are baptized as infants falsely that it is good for them if they believe it so, subjectivity – when in fact these should believe and trust that objectively God has done this. Then they come over and teach those who believe in BB only that what they believe is merely subjective too, yet if it is of the word of God or not they should say so. In this way they ultimately make the Word of God a pliable nose utterly malleable according to one’s own derivative whims.

    And we cannot miss this point: Those who complain, rant and rave over our insistence of the orthodoxy of God’s word as a confession rooted in clearly revealed truth: 1. Disdain and dishonor the word of God and 2. Are hypocrites because they insist upon everyone believing and trusting their surreptitious orthodoxy which is an orthodoxy of “insisted upon heterodoxy”.

    I do, Steve, with you like to err on the side of grace always, but not at the expense of that very same grace. And that’s what happens when ecumenical arrangements on the sacraments occur, a mingled witness. And what happens at length is that those adhering to the orthodoxy of the sacraments, i.e. as Gospel/grace, themselves begin to not consider it such a great thing nor food for the faith. E.g. A Reformed pastor makes a good point on this very danger concerning the Lord’s Supper and using it as a memorial meal and the infrequent use of it now days. He said basically that once you begin to infrequently take the Lord’s Supper and you say you believe it to be an efficacious sacrament, you have already, in spite of your official confession, fallen into the trap of it being a memorial meal. Why? Because if you really believed it to be efficacious in and of itself, a true sacrament, and you understand the deadly battle for the faith that rages hourly in the individual and corporate church, if you KNOW it is true food and not just some symbolic memorial you wouldn’t infrequent its use. Likewise and corollary to it, and this shows the works way in the memorial meal view, if you view that infrequency better gins up and stirs the people’s desire for, infrequency breads hunger so to speak and “makes it special”, you have already undefined the sacrament as its own based on the efficacy and power of the Word of God – because you speak of it as “made special” when men think and are made within themselves to think it so. And so, when we mingle the confessions, especially with believers baptism and memorial meal ordinances, we put ourselves in the danger of thinking or rather we are ALREADY thinking less of the sacraments by the very fact of the mingling. The sacraments, true to the Word of God, should not and are not to be considered a “nice appendage annexed to the Gospel”, but the dear Gospel itself that is in every hour in danger of being lost. The sacraments are not an appendage but of the essence of the Gospel. Thus, when they lull us to sleep or trick us into mingling the confessions with a false guilt of “separatism”, which is EXACTLY what that Anabaptist of Luther’s day did, they are drawing us away from the essence of the faith every so slowly. First, it is the sacramental issues are minor, just a matter of so many words. Second, we can mingle our confessions. Third, having a foot in the door they disarm us and make us think, “yea, its not that big of a deal” (and there we’ve ALREADY begun to fall away from the Gospel by way of falling away from the Gospel in the sacrament which is, again, not just so nice appended ceremony). Pretty soon the sacraments fall into disrepair and new enthusiasm, new measures, strange fire occurs and we are throwing our “gold rings” (tithing) into the pot to help fashion this new golden calf. Soon afterward grape juice slips in and infrequent use, and baptism is spoken of disparagingly, “it’s not that big of a deal”.

    It’s a very insidious leading astray. Beware of the white devil!



  110. Larry,

    You made a lot of good points. I do agree there is a danger in the way we do it (Holy Communion).

    But there is a danger also in baptism. We will baptise anyone, anytime, anywhere. We know that God is at work there. We also know that the parents bringing the child may ignore their responsibilities in bringing up that child as a Christian. It is the risk that we take. All the while praying that God will me merciful to that child and his parents.

    We do guard against bad doctrine. We are on guard for it. We listen for preaching that is law and gospel based. We always keep Christ and His forgiveness of sins central. Always.

    But the supper is from Him. We trust that He will do in it what He will do.

    We do allow believers in Him to partake. If they don’t believe Him to be in the supper we ask that they stay away.

    But like I said, we don’t pass out the questionaire each time.

    We’d be shocked at some of the answers on the questionaire from people who have been sitting in our pews for years.

    But we don’t throw them out the door. We want them to be in the path of the living Word. We want the Holy Spirit to work on them and in them.

    In my congregation we have been allowing all the baptised adults who beleive that Christ is present in the bread and the wine to partake, ever since I have been there…about 12 years.

    In 12 years, there has been no one trying to alter our view of what the sacrament is and what it means. Either from within or without. We would not allow it.

    We try and show some of the graciousness to believers all along their walk with the Lord that He shows to us.

    I realize that in other congregations this way has been a problem. Liberal pastors and congregations have misused the Supper and the Gospel itself.
    Those folks were going to throw it all away anyway. These types have thrown God’s law right out the window and now anything goes.

    I do see your concerns, Larry. But I believe it is worth the risk as long as you know the risks and are constantly on guard for the “white devil”.

    Thanks Larry!

    – Steve

  111. I think the problem people have is WHERE they find their righteoussness, If they find their righteoussness in workds then its really religious pride.

    If they find their righteoussness “in Christ” where it is imputed, given to us freely, on the cross then we are are free do “proper” works.

  112. A brave statement Peter, but one that needs to be said. Amen!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: