Sermon for the First Sunday in Lent

Here’s a link to this Sunday’s sermon from Pastor Bror Erickson of  First Lutheran Church in Tooele, Utah:


Pastor Erickson says, among other things, that “repentance is believing” and that “believing is repenting”.

Do you believe this to be true?

26 Responses

  1. That’s what I’ve been taught, yup.

  2. Definitely a symbiotic relationship…

  3. They sure go hand in hand, can’t have one without the other, but I can say for sure that they mature at differing rates in the believer But I will not argue with a guy who carries a big shotgun.

  4. willohroots,

    I know Bror. He hardly ever uses that shotgun to win an argument…unless it’s with a grouse.

  5. Salvation is the understanding that through Christ we are no longer held captive to the bond of sin.

    If we “believe” this (freedom from sin).

    Then our repentance must be evident in “believing” we are saved.

    If we “believe” in Christ then we must “turn away” (repent) from the desires of this world!

  6. Jules,

    “If we “believe” in Christ then we must “turn away” (repent) from the desires of this world!”

    What if we continue to sin?

    Thanks, Jules.

    – Steve

  7. Yes, Luther’s mature thought on repentance was linked to faith. And that is believing the forgiveness that is already there. E.g. the returning younger son is repents, gives part of his speech, IN the arms of the already forgiving father. A beautiful picture of true repentance.

    It’s not really so much “turn away from the world” in the moral sense or at all. But the self saving way/religion of the world into the arms of the Father via Jesus that are already around us.

    Faith and repentance = realizing the way it IS already and not to garner it or get it or have it or receive it as is usually taught. It’s a kind of an “epiphany” if you will, an awakening from the dead when the message gets through – this is what God is like to me and for me.

    That awakening if you will to the reality already is the turning away from the world. It ultimately is not legal language but love language through death and life.


  8. “What if we continue to sin?”

    It is the human condition and we will definitely do such…It is our spirit that is regenerated and reborn (perfect)…our body and our mind, will and emotion…(TOA) will continue in sin, albeit less and less as they are slowly dieing and our spirit man is getting stronger and stronger…image to image and glory to glory until the day we see Jesus as he really is.

    Daily repentance and daily believing…a brushing your teeth kinda thing…*: )

  9. Nancy,

    I seem to be sinning more and more as I am in the Christian life.

    Maybe it’s not that I am sinning more, but my awareness of my sin seems to be much keener.

    It seems like that is all I am doing sometimes is repenting.

    Good thoughts, Nancy!

    Thank you!

    – Steve

  10. “What if we continue to sin?”

    It is the human condition and we will definitely do such…It is our spirit that is regenerated and reborn (perfect)…our body and our mind, will and emotion…(TOA) will continue in sin, albeit less and less as they are slowly dieing and our spirit man is getting stronger and stronger…image to image and glory to glory until the day we see Jesus as he really is.

    Daily repentance and daily believing…a brushing your teeth kinda thing…*:


    Hopefully this will help a bit. The concept quoted above, as it seems to read, is not what is meant by simul Justus et peccator, simultaneously sinner and saint. One cannot divide the “spirit/mind” from the “body”, this was the error of the Gnostics and of Aristotle, and really all other pagan religions that ever were, even that which parades itself around as “Christian” today. The ever present sinner and simultaneous saint is one of sinner by nature entirely body and soul, no better now than yesterday, and saint by nothing less than a forensic imputed declaration. It’s declarative for Christ sake, though I AM a sinner I’m declared for Christ’s sake not just “not a sinner”, but as if I fulfilled all the Law of love. Be ware of thinking in the mode of Aristotle as Luther put it. A man gets better and better like exercising a muscle or practicing the piano, of earthly things this is true. However, of heavenly things this is just the opposite, in fact the Cross is the death blow to THAT very philosophy (this is the precise offense and foolishness of the Cross).

    Thus, faith and repentance is “getting use to the fact of declared innocent, though continually guilty by nature, and declared having done the Law, though I never did, do or will by myself”. It is the cessation of all “getting better or improvement programs”, in fact those are the essence of the fall and sin, the inward curving of the man as opposed to outward altruistic love of neighbor given by purely already trusting God (love of God in all ways).

    The problem comes when sin is erroneously and unbiblically defined as the immoralities or so called “open sins” and not the inward curving of the man upon himself to become his/her own god for him/herself (the essence of the fall, we see this in the first commandment and in Jesus’ temptation by the devil paralleling Adam’s).

    Thus the answer to, “What if we continue to sin?”, is, “GOOD, because 1 John says if we say we have no sin the truth is not in us”. And here John is not bifurcating spirit/mind with the body, nor a mixture of saint/sinner like salt/pepper. Paul, the Apostle, continually confessed ever increasingly as he aged and progressed in the faith not “I’m improving” but rather “I AM the chief of sinners”. In fact those were some of his last words, “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I AM foremost of all.”

    Repentance is, thus, a returning to our baptisms, that is the unconditional declared word of justification that baptism is as death and life. The cessation of ALL “clean up” and “getting better” religious programs whether they be pagan labeled or Christian labeled (false Christian).



  11. We may just agree on this one, Steve, if I’m understanding you right 🙂

    There has been something of a firestorm in Evangelicalism that you are probably aware of, with one side (MacArthur, Piper, Mohler, etc.) insisting on repentance and the other side (Zane Hodges, Charles Ryrie, Greg Stier) insisting that to preach repentance is to add works to faith and so pervert the gospel.

    They are speaking of evangelism specifically, and the idea that a sinner must repent to be saved.

    I would modify that last statement a bit by saying that if a sinner does not repent, that sinner cannot be saved.

    Here’s what I mean:

    You cannot separate faith and repentance. While they are not exactly the same ting, they are two sides of the same coin, so to speak. In other words, I cannot trust Christ unless I stop trusting in me or my religion or my works or Allah whatever. So to repent is to “turn”.

    I turn from trusting myself to trusting Christ. I see, by God’s supernatural grace, that the way I was on was offensive to a holy God and would result in my death by wrath. So I turn from my way into Christ’s way.

    This is not a “work”.

    The way I see it, and here’s where we may disagree, is that regeneration comes first – I’m made alive in Christ by the Spirit of God, or born again – then I’m converted (I exercise faith and repentance), and then by faith I am justified, and sanctified positionally, and the process of practical sanctification begins.

    The very definition of “conversion” in Evangelical theology is exercising faith and repentance. “Repent and believe”.

    So yes, they’re inseparable. Either Ryrie & Co. have the definition of repentance wrong or they’re quite off on the theology of that issue.

  12. “What if we continue to sin?”

    “Simon the sorcerer”

    Acts 8:21-24, Was Simon really saved? Was his understanding of “salvation” evident?

    In Acts 8:21, Peter say that Simon’s “heart was not right before God.”

    Yet in Romans 10:10a says,
    “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness…’ (KJV).

    It is throught the “heart” man believes and is counted righteous!

    We move on then to Acts 8:22, Peter calls Simon to “Repent and pray to the Lord,’ was Peter exhorting Simon as a believer or someone lost? Repentance and Belief do go hand in hand.

    If Simon was “regenerated” by His faith, why was his old life and bond of sin still evident? In Acts 8:23 Peter says,

    “For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”

    Yet, in Romans 6:15-18 states,

    “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Dont you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him, you are slaves to the one whom you obey-whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that though you used to be slaves to sin , you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (NIV)

    When we are “truly” saved we are no longer slaves of sin but slaves of “Rightousness!”

    Simon’s belief in Christ stands pretty weak, his understanding of Christ’s love and forgiveness seems vague; his faith fearful when he says,

    Acts 8:24, ” Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”

    Did he forsee himself sinning habitually, falling short and fearing God’s wrath rather than feeling God’s forgiveness? Why didn’t he have faith to know that He himself can go to the father in prayer?

    Heb. 10:26-27, ” If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrafice for sin is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”

    Heb.10:37-38, ” For in just a very little while,”He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.”

    What if Simon continued to sin, does that prove his faith futile and his salvation questionable?

    If we continue to sin without mind to the one whom we follow we deceieve ourselves and need to question our assurance and faith in the One whom we surrendered all, Jesus Christ. We are then like Simon, our faith rests in signs and miracles, which is no faith at all.

  13. Steve,

    I don’t know how much of the anti-evangel evangelicalism you are familiar with but having been delivered from that clap trap after years of involvement in it I think I can cut the knife between them. It really boils down as usual of a theology of glory on one side MacArthur, Piper, Mohler, Zane Hodges, Charles Ryrie, Greg Stier (they are actually all on the same Gospel denying side) and a theology of the Cross (Luther) on the other. Luther was right, there are really only two religions in the world a theology of Glory on one side which is fallen religion that is both overt and obvious as well as that which parades itself around as “christian”, and a theology of Cross on the other. That’s one’s true plumbed dividing line. Being a Lutheran you’ll understand it by analogy this way: Both John Calvin and John Wesley were wrecking their theological cars on the same hellish road just one on the right side and the other on the left in reaction to the right’s error. The devil often applies a “push and pull” strategy as he did to Luther with Roman on one side and the Anabaptist on the other. The push and pull, as it were, is designed to look like opposites, but is in fact the same heresy every time. It’s the same “push and pull” when you have the immoral on one side and the very moral on the other, the later more blinding than the former.

    This is of course what happens when one’s theology is driven by the neo popish ordo salutus, the ordering of the steps of salvation. The puritans and the pope’s monks had a LOT in common. Paulson, a Lutheran, comments that you are always in DEEP trouble once you invest in the or a ordo salutus.

    The Zane Hodges, Charles Ryrie, Greg Stier side sees the MacArthur, Piper, Mohler making repentance a requirement as to salvation. And here they are correct, but they wreck over on the left side of the road and mean to say there is no repentance needed. BOTH have a pagan idea of “repentance” and it is best shown in MacArthur’s miserable anti-christic, other-gospel book “The Gospel According to Jesus”. The title is completely misleading, every Word of it is false.

    Both are wrong. Is repentance “required”? Yes, but not as Mac and crew define it or teach it – pietism simply is blind to the scriptures. So, Luther to the rescue. It’s required not to “get saved” as evangelicals ignorantly hide the Gospel but rather to NOT repent is another way of saying “I will not and refuse to recognize and accept the way things ARE” (the faith/repentance link). It goes all the way back to what is the unforgivable sin? Piestism is blind in answering this one. This is why John 3:16 for example is not taken as is as spoken by the Holy Spirit by neither strict and in particular baptist Calvinist and general arminians – both are pure synergist through and through.

    Again, as Sasse “prophetically” once said, “If one gets the sacraments wrong one will get the rest of Scripture wrong” (my paraphrase). It goes to the base theology again, a theology of Glory or a theology of Cross.



  14. Steve,

    The other thing to keep in mind is that it is impossible to marry the two paradigms together of “once saved always saved” or “can’t fall away” with the eschatological tenision of faith as Luther spoke: saved in hope not finality.

    This is where you get the hidden “when did you get saved” need to “get saved” in the subjective rather than 2000+ years ago. It’s sneaky way of turning the eyes off of Christ and Him crucified back onto YOU.

    People simply don’t believe Paul when he says the Gospel, not the Law, is the dynamite. So, they give the Law in various forms.

    Just another reason why we don’t mingle confessions or churches. Never forget the GREATEST sin is the sin against the first commandment, worse than the sin of murder. In fact murder comes from having already done the sin against the first commandment. Those who make the Word of God unsure, either Law or Gospel, to men are most assuradely speaking from the evil one. Deception number 1 has never really changed all that much, “Hath God really said”, never really changes fundamentally.


  15. Steve,

    If you really want to get a handle on this I’d read with great care, meaning hold firmly and be thoroughly schooled in the Cross theology so as to not endanger your soul MacArthur’s “The Gospel According to Jesus” and Hodges other folly (can’t recall the title right now).

    Then, read “Christ the Lord: The Reformation and Lordship Salvation” for some of the more Lutheran Reformed folks like Michael Horton’s response and rebuke of both parties. It includes chapter essays by many great Luthern theologians like Dr. Rosenbladt and Rick Ritchie.

    That will give you the best perspective of it all.



  16. Steve,

    Another point to ponder:

    Many folks so called monergistic confession, “Oh know, I didn’t do it, it was all God by grace”. Is in reality not all that different than the old excuse, “The devil made me do it.” Think about it.

    When Luther spoke of monergism he spoke of something most are not speaking about who say they speak about monergism. For even the Pharisee prayed, “I thank you God for…”

    There’s a difference in God doing Himself to us, “having His way with us” as Luther put it and what passes and is confessed as “I only repent and believe when I’ve first been reborn”. Beware of the ordo salutus!



  17. While repentance leading to belief or belief leading to repentance is the start of our journey…Salvation occurs in that
    1) we are saved by faith (transformation begins)…2) we are in the process of being saved by faith…3) we will persevere to final salvation by faith.

    2 Corinthians 3:15-18 (New Living Translation)

    15 Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand.

    16 But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

    Just as the caterpillar is not yet a butterfly and the acorn is not yet an oak…we are given the hope of glory that will not disappoint

    1 John 3:2 (New International Version)

    2Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is..

  18. Larry,

    “…pietism simply is blind to the scriptures. So, Luther to the rescue”


    Are you open to the possibility that YOU might have blind spots? Or that Luther didn’t necessarily get everything right, being human as he was?

    It seems pretty over the top to call me a heretic (your word – “…but is in fact the same heresy every time…”) if I’m not a Lutheran. Or at least that’s how I understood you.

    You are looking through a Lutheran lens, and that’s OK if you recognize that that is what you are doing. I am looking through an Evangelical lens and I hopefully can acknowledge that it leaves room for me to grow in my understanding of things.

    I appreciate your desire to make a point and I appreciate even more that you have such strong convictions. I find that quite refreshing in our current ecclesiological climate.

    However, to cast Evangelicals as people who pervert the gospel by making the same errors as the Roman Catholics, while understandably your opinion, is simply unfair. Too much good thought and careful study of Scripture has gone into Evangelical theology to simply write us off that way. Despite what you may think about how I think, I rely on Christ and the cross alone.

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, there are too many real heretics out there for us to be going after each other’s throats. As significant as I think your error is regarding baptism, I simply am not willing to call you a heretic. We are both looking to the cross.

    I appreciate you, brother and I truly desire to learn from you, but your tone perplexes me.

  19. RTS,

    Growth is one thing and I would never disuade it, don’t confuse erroneously “tone” and our whiny American sensativities (mine too) with speaking honestly and truthfully….nothing less should be expected of an honest man or woman whoever he or she be if he or she does not let lie a differing spirit as if it is the same spirit. It’s NEVER personal, but doctrinal. And by doctrinal I mean the Gospel first and foremost. We all suffer our internal heresies and idolatries, we all admit this. But that does not equate to the truth being somewhere obvious. In principle, in neutral, we both agree that truth is not pliable nor unknowable, these epistemologies die by their own assertions.

    However, it’s an absolute false dilemma to pretend that no church confesses all the truths of Scripture since Christ promised the gates of hell would not prevail against it. Heresies as Paul points out, must arise from among you and false prophets are to be marked. And Paul further warns that other gospels and christs and spirits will come under those names and monikers, not Allah or Bob or bad news. When Jesus sent the disciples out among the wolves and warned them, what is most revealing was it was to the household of the possesseres of scripture and the teachers and scribes of that day. As it was before the Reformation, during and is today. The battle never changes.

    It’s also a false dilemma for “a man” to assert “you are listening to another man (e.g. Luther)” who happens to be against the first man and falsely conclude in essence “who can know the truth” as if the Word of God is not clear on these things.

    Lutheranism is not a denomination but a confession, big difference.

    Thirdly, it is the quintessential essence of false religion to make the Word of God uncertain for men. God speaks all that He speaks for our salvation and desires Himself to be right in His Word, not unassured. Paulson beautifully and lovingly puts it this way distinguishing between speculation verses “doing/giving the Word”, “A preacher’s trade is not in ideas. Therefore I don’t stand in front of people and give you my thoughts on the text for example. Nor do you say, let’s have a little meditation today…I’d like to invite you in to my thinking during the week. No, our trade is not in ideas but in words. And because our trade is not in ideas but words, you are not going to be inspirers of people’s imaginations, you are not going to be motivators of people’s wills (try harder next time). Instead what you are going to be is a preacher of justification who gives those Words that God has provided for us, in order to change the world. That is in order to do something in the world, not sit by thinking about it…in doing so you will actually learn what it means to pray and to preach to real live sinners IN THE ACT OF THEIR SINNING. You understand that when you are preaching you are not preaching to sinners who sin during the week and now they are taking Sunday off. You are actually going to be preaching to them and they will be in an act of sin. They are not going to be believing as the Word comes and this is what it means to preach to bound wills.”

    As I’ve said a numerous times its not “Luther” per se but what He says, speaks God’s Words in proclamation in Word and Sacrament, not an iffy “this might be what is meant” throwing men and women back INTO themselves, the very essence of the fall and sin. By way of extreme, if Benny Hinn said what Luther said and Luther what Hinn says, I’d be quoting Hinn against Luther. Same with all others. “My sheep HEAR MY voice and another’s THEY WILL NOT FOLLOW”. So it’s truly a false dilemma to say, “you are just quoting and listening to a man”, in fact it’s a false accusation entirely. Examine the doctrine we are charged to do and examine it we must, painfully examine it. It’s not what LUTHER says, but of the Scriptures what he preaches, and so it continues today.

    Paulson powerfully concludes similarly on these matters of the surety of God’s Words, ““…that is He (God) wants to be right in His words and this is the exact quotation by Paul or rather use by Paul of the 51st Psalm. Where this particular phrase is found, ‘God seeks to be in His Words’ not just in His own self. And right in His Word means that He wants to pour out His words to you in such a way that you say that He is right in His words. Those are right, those words that are given are actually right words. And the right words need to be applied to particular people in particular places and in particular times, that’s your job (pastor). That’s your job to give to His people in these circumstances. So that in the face of bound wills we understand that God seeks to be declared right when He gives a particular word. Now I want you to think for a minute about Jonah. Jonah was given a word by God and what did Jonah do? He ran as fast as he could. Now when you run away from God in His Word where are you going to end up? You are not going to end up where Jonah thought he was going to end up, that is escaping from God. What are you going to find when you run from God in His word? Your going to find God NOT in His word. What are you going to do when you run away from God when He is preached, that is away from His word, you are going to find God not preached. And God not preached is no fun. As Jonah eventually finds finally in the belly of the whale. God who does not speak to you is right but you have no way of reconciling yourself to Him. In this way we want you to understand how you can make the opposite move. That is how does Jonah finally run away from an unpreached God speculating and wondering what he must be thinking about him – and coming back to God Who is in His Words specifically telling you what He thinks of you in this circumstances. Because this is what this issue is with the rationalist (Calvin and predestination) is finally going to be about. The issue here is to not to think about God’s will in general, or the mind of God in general or the third use of the law in general. It is going to be the specific matter of what God thinks about me in this place and in this time and that will never come by speculation. It will only come when you have a preacher. And the preacher gives words not ideas, specifically the words of God.” –End Quote.



  20. Point well taken.

    I make no apologies about what I preach. I believe the very words of Scripture are inspired, and woe to me if I preach my opinion in matters God is clear about.

    Nonetheless, you and I are both convinced that our message is the Scriptural one, yet there are some significant differences.

    It seems to me that you are equating those differences with heresy on my part. I could be reading you wrong.

    I guess that leaves me with some questions:

    Do you believe the Lutheran church is the only true church?

    Do you believe that people like Calvin, Wesley and Whitefield preached a false gospel?

    Even though I firmly believe that we are justified by faith in Christ alone, by what was accomplished on the cross, and even though I believe that God’s wrath was satisfied by the propitiation of Christ, and that I am a helpless sinner who can do nothing to save myself, would you still say that I hold to a false gospel?

    Do you consider baptismal regeneration an absolute, all-or-nothing cardinal doctrine?

    I really desire to know your take on those questions.

    Because while I believe you are in error with your sacramental theology, I also believe that every person who holds to your theology and has trusted in Christ is just as regenerate as I am. I consider such a person a brother. I think this way despite what I see as the seriously flawed idea that regeneration occurs when a pastor pours water on a baby’s head.

  21. One more thought…

    If you see me (as a Baptist) no differetly that you would a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness or a Catholic, I’m wondering how much common ground we have to stand on. It could potentially make dialogue difficult, I guess.

  22. We as Lutherans believe that we know the truth.

    We DON’T believe that we are the only ones that know it.

    We know that God works through His Word wherever it is found…in weak manifestations or strong.

    Our job is not to cast aspersions on anyone’s faith or lack thereof.

    Our job is to trumpet the gospel and the forgiveness of sins and the freedom that Christ has won for us on the cross.

    Where there is only a spark, we hope to fan it into a bonfire. Where there is no spark, we pray that God would give one.

    We believe quite strongly in the sacraments which Christ has given to the Church and we want to share the knowledge of those gifts with all who will hear about it.

    My Baptist friends and Calvinist friends and Roman Catholic friends and Pentecostal friends may not have the same understanding that I do of the faith…but that doesn’t mean that they are not my brothers in Christ.

    Where ANYONE tries to water down the gospel (present a different gospel) or disparage the sacraments, they will get an earful of why they are WRONG. That does not mean I am any better than they are. Not at all.

    The gospel is all about Christ and His work for us.

    Lutheranism (Luther’s theology anyway) is all about preserving Christ alone and doing away with the old Adam’s progressive, self willed, religious project.

    We realize that our view is not a popular view. It never has been.

    The old Adam will not settle for Christ alone…not without a fight.

    We are always up for the fight. In season and out. 😀

  23. Thanks, Steve

    I would expect that most of us here hold to our doctrinal convictions very strongly. One of the reasons I like to interact here is that we can in fact interact in spite of our sometimes very different convictions.

    I do draw lines, however. If I hear a gospel that is truly a false gospel (one that gets justification by faith wrong, or is about prosperity, for example) that significantly changes the way I interact with that person and their theology. I consider, for example, Mormons, JW’s, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, many Emergents and others to have different gospels than the one presented in Scripture. While we can certainly dialogue about any number of issues, we do not hold in common the gospel itself. I acknowledge that individuals from those groups might possibly be regenerate in spite of the theology they hold to at the moment, but the teaching of those groups regarding the central issue of the gospel is heretical.

    So yes, the gospel is worth fighting for, even if it means unpopularity, being misunderstood or even being persecuted.

    In reading through some Lutheran blogs, I have to say I have seen some very eloquent defense of the gospel. So much so that it surprises me when I see Calvin or Zwingli (or Piper for that matter) cast not as people who hold different views on Protestant theology, but as heretics.

    As much as I’m convinced that God means to be clear and means for His word to be understood, I’m faced with the reality that there are people who are truly born again who just see some things differently. The problem is not on God’s end, but rather on ours.

    I’m as convinced that my views are right as Larry is about his, and I believe Scripture vindicates me, but at the end of the day, I feel that I cannot be so dogmatic as to dismiss him.

    So indeed, Steve, I’m grateful for your words. I’m grateful that we can disagree quite strongly but count each other as brothers. Unless I’m mistaken (as I’m definitely a new student of Lutheran theology), we don’t preach a different gospel. At least not the essential Gospel message that sinful man can be reconciled to a holy God by faith in Christ alone, based on His atoning sacrifice on the cross.

    Thanks for the bracing, challenging dialogue!

  24. Steveorino,

    Anybody ever call you that?

    That’s a dumb question…of course they have!

    You are a good man, Steve, and I’m very glad to have your input and your perspective on matters of faith, here at ‘the old Adam’.

    Sure we differ a bit in our theology, but when we get to Heaven, Larry and I will buy you a beer (I hope they are free up there) and take you over and let Luther give you his take, personally.

    It won’t matter then anyway. 😀

    God bless you, my friend!

    – Steve

  25. RTS,

    A lot of what Steve says I’d agree with in general, but I’ll have to spell it out a bit. You ask the right questions and I deeply respect that. We don’t question another person’s faith. But do question or more forcefully utterly reject their doctrines and yes AS heresies. I know today that’s one of those “no no” words, but that’s simply an insidious error because people are playing with spiritual fire here, life and death of the believer is at hand and as Luther puts it well a pastor in particular ought to have teeth, for goodness sakes he’s a shepherd. And a shepherd defends the sheep of the good shepherd. So, Zwingli and the like are in fact heretics. A heretic is not like someone calling someone else a dirty dot but putting that mark on them. A heretic need not deny all truths of Scripture as the history of the church shows. They just need add a little to Jesus somewhere, it need not be everywhere in the articles essential to the faith. A mormon for example is much more than a heretic, they deny the faith in all articles, there is NO Gospel in that religion. On the other hand a heterodox church like Rome or Baptist can have many of the articles and be deny others such that they do have “some” Gospel and many come to faith in those churches. But it is not healthy for them to stay there. Also, we have a wrong nuisance understanding of a heretic. Generally they are not these people who think thus, “I’m dead wrong but I want to spread this deception I’m dead wrong on”. Even as a rank atheist I never thought I was wrong nor thought I meant ill, such is the insidiousness of our fallen disease. Zwingli, a heretic, thought he was right. And the orthodox church MUST mark the heretics for the sake of the flock, they must “put a mark on them” in such a way that they say to their flock, “stay away from those doctrines”, “don’t sit under that it’s a danger to your soul”. E.g. I MUST and damned if I don’t tell my children, “You must not listen to nor understand the doctrine of believers baptism espoused by the Baptist church in general and particular as true and in fact understand it to be a lie, a heresy, and from the devil”. Now am I saying those words just to be an ass? No, to protect my children so they are not robbed of the Gospel in their own baptisms. Forget for now that we disagree on this and look at this analogy: Neither you or I would say to our 4 year old running out into the street of on coming traffic, “Now I know we have a disagreement on this and a difference, you want to run out into traffic and think that’s ok and I just happen to think it is deadly. We both in general agree that life and living is better but this is just a significant difference on the matter.” No, we’d say, “That’s death!!!” You see there’s many ways to deceive and the most insidious is to pretend that a thing is either non-essential or be a bit more forceful and say “significant”, but quite another to say flat out “deadly” or “satanic” or “heretical”. Someone about to swallow a deadly poison is not in a “significant” situation, but a deadly situation. If you say 4+2=6 and I say 4+2=7, we don’t have a “significant” difference, we have an absolute and utter polar difference regarding the truth. For Jesus warns not of gross error but the subtle yeast of the Pharisees that spoils the lot. One has a wrong understanding of the Word of God right out of the box if we think such things are only “significant”. The Word stands as an entire system and to alter one thing, e.g. the sacraments, is to alter the whole.

    In our day and age it is more difficult, I suppose, because there is an air of ecumenical all togetherness and this is a DEADLY danger. This is where the temptation to back down is greatest and at length loose the Gospel is lost – e.g. if I back down here and just say we have only significant differences on the sacraments what does some person hearing that who has great hope that God has given them savingly of Himself objectively in them hear? They hear, “Oh no, it looks like now ______ so and so even thinks this matter non-essential and the sacraments are optionally thought of”. It tears the Gospel violently from them. This should not shock you for the Apostle Paul said very plainly that if ANY man, be it himself, another apostle or an angel from heaven brings forth another gospel he and that message is not “significantly” different, but cursed – and he rebuked Peter. If this applies to angels and called apostles, how much more lesser men through time unto today. Thus, to be forthright and perfectly honest a difference on the sacraments is NOT just a significant difference, but another gospel. And this difference manifests itself, eventually, in other aspects of such person’s preaching and teaching (e.g. “The Gospel According to Jesus” is in fact another gospel and it is ultimately linked to MacArthur’s understanding, false, of the sacraments. There is simply no way of getting around that and to attempt to is being false. Even when I was a Baptist and agreed with BB, I understood MacArthur’s view, and agreed with it, based upon what I understood or thought to be true about the “ordinances”).

    Another point teachers and preachers stand in a different office than laity on this issue, that’s why for them it’s very heavy.

    Perhaps it’s best to answer your questions to keep it in some order one by one:

    “Nonetheless, you and I are both convinced that our message is the Scriptural one, yet there are some significant differences.
    It seems to me that you are equating those differences with heresy on my part. I could be reading you wrong.” –END QUOTE

    Take these two together. You may have not meant it this way but notice the gravitation of the thought even from “significant differences” to just “differences”, the entire force of deadly is lost. Now we are not speaking of adiaphoria, can we drink a beer or not. We speak of things Law and Gospel, and in particular the sacraments. Those are not just “significant differences” much less just “differences” but heresies. The doctrines are period. Now I’m not saying that to call you a devil or a dirty so and so. We are both GREAT sinners we both admit. But I cannot in good and honest conscience for the sake of those “reading in” on this open conversation nor for you either leave it as if the difference, though significant, is at the end of the day of little matter. It’s not. It’s the difference between life and death, the difference and gravity is of the highest sort and not some lesser gradation. To put it another way, “I’m not calling you a name like on the schoolhouse play ground and taunting you. I’m saying you are in a heresy so you will know forthrightly that is so, in hopes you will grasp the gravity of it and come out. Even if you don’t think so right now, at least you may wonder why I say that and look into it deeper.” To put the reverse on it, when I was a baptist and began leaning Reformed and then Lutheran informerly, even without having any knowledge of formal Lutheran confessions – I would be told by my baptist pastor and teachers that on the issues of the “ordinances” Calvin and Luther were dead wrong and holding onto Roman heresy. Generally they would not call Calvin and Luther directly heretics but indirectly via Rome. They didn’t only say, “significant” differences, but “dead wrong” and “heretical doctrines”. And that served me well, because by not blurring the lines it forced me to get out and see what this critical weighty difference was, because I wanted to know deeply and be able to defend why BB was right. By clearly demarcating truth from falshood and by making that mark STRONG, even on the other side of the fence, it afforded me the ability to see why AND it showed that at least in principle the Word of God is not ambiguous on the matter.

    “Do you believe the Lutheran church is the only true church?” –End Quote

    This can be a loaded question and I don’t think you mean it to be. Rather than bungle it let me refer you to a treatment on the issue that you will find very helpful. The Distinction Between Orthodox & Heterodox Churches by Dr. Franz Pieper. Do a Google search and you’ll find it. It’s freely posted in several areas, oh, and get the entire piece not just the opening six thesis but their discussions. That will answer your question much better and not leave anything out that I would here due to my own ignorance and space.

    “Do you believe that people like Calvin, Wesley and Whitefield preached a false gospel?”

    Again, this could be a loaded question. Not entirely, there is some Gospel, but it gravitates to other gospels, for examples when the sacraments come up. I’ll give you a quick example on the area of absolution that both Calvin and Luther taught (I went from Calvinistic baptist, to PCA and now moving into Lutheran, so I’ve experienced a broad round of worship). In this Calvinist generally speak of absolution in terms of “may” God give you but never forcefully as in God forgives you in particular (Luther). There would be another gospel. You may say, “Well that’s splitting hairs”. But keep in mind that Paul rebuked Peter harshly for displaying another gospel merely for not eating pork in front of the Jews on one side and the Gentiles on the other. I love some of Spurgeon’s preaching, when he’s on the Gospel he’s on the Gospel, but there are times when, due to the sacraments, he preached another gospel. You might do well to go back and look at all the controversies surrounding Luther and the Roman church and the development of things, it will be very eye opening to you.

    “Even though I firmly believe that we are justified by faith in Christ alone, by what was accomplished on the cross, and even though I believe that God’s wrath was satisfied by the propitiation of Christ, and that I am a helpless sinner who can do nothing to save myself, would you still say that I hold to a false gospel?” –End Quote.

    No, not right there as stated. But as to for example believers baptism, yes and a symbolic Lord’s Supper, yes. It’s an inconsistency and mixture between the Gospel and another gospel. Also, are you only justified “IF” you believe or does faith simply recognize that’s the way it is. BIG difference, the former is false faith and the later is true faith, and depending on which side of that one comes down on is based upon the Gospel or another gospel.

    “Do you consider baptismal regeneration an absolute, all-or-nothing cardinal doctrine?” –End Quote.

    Yes, but that doesn’t mean there are not true Christians in those heterodox churches who really should come out (also remember heretofore why the stark distinction I mentioned above). But you are asking that question from a false error on regeneration that really boils down to a gnostic notion clinging to the flesh.

    “If you see me (as a Baptist) no differetly that you would a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness or a Catholic, I’m wondering how much common ground we have to stand on. It could potentially make dialogue difficult, I guess.” –End Quote.

    You really need to read that article I gave you above. It’s not surprising to me, being a former baptist, that you link a Catholic in with a Mormon or JW. There alone a Lutheran would not. There is a critical distinction needed here you don’t yet make. There are those entirely false visible churches outside of the faith that hold to no Gospel whatsoever in which no man can come to a saving faith, JW’s and Mormons. Then there are those who still have remnants of the Gospel in some articles (e.g. Roman Catholic, Baptist, etc…) in which a man may truly come to saving faith, but are not visible (and there is also a distinction between visible and invisible church) orthodox churches but heterdox churches. The former God commands, the later God merely permits for now in order to test His Christians if they will listen to His words and not anothers. Now salvation does not depend upon belong to the visible orthodox confessing church + Christ, that would be another gospel! True christians die and are saved in heterdox churches like Rome or Baptist or others, but it is dangerous to their souls and they are not rightly cared for in them. Truly, read that article I’ll blow it attempting to state it in too much brevity. I think you will find it exceedingly helpful on all fronts.

    You ask great questions. If it’s any help at all, I asked everything you asked above and more (and still do on things I’m not sure of – believe it or not it still comes up for me too!). And I asked them with less patience than you yourself have. I kept wondering why Lutherans seemed so dogmatic and didn’t mingle confessions as much as I saw in the Baptist/Reformed gatherings. At length I’ve seen in some of the PCA a compromise over the sacraments as ecumenical gathering creeped into the church. EVEN Spurgeon, the baptist of baptist, himself said that men should not mingle confessions, EVEN false ones – he understood the principle behind it. He called it “flying under false colors”. A good friend of mine, a baptist pastor, and a good one said he sees why one should not mingle and be iffy. Some of which I spelled out in the opening.

    I apologize for the length but its tough to answer in short bites because there’s a lot more than what appears at the surface here.



  26. Hey, Larry

    I appreciate your thoughtful response, and I think I understand you better.

    I also appreciate your zeal for the truth, despite the fact that I’m convinced that you are in fact the one in error.

    Because I see baptism as a secondary issue and neither a sacrament nor something that is integral with the gospel message, I am not willing to call your doctrines heretical, but I also see that we understand the idea of heresy differently.

    I have walked with Jesus many years and studied Scripture both formally and informally for a long time, and your theology does not square with Scripture in some key areas, but I have to allow you that. After all, you are a Lutheran and I am not. Nonetheless, I count you as a brother.

    Again, I appreciate the opportunity to spar with a brother of your caliber.


    Steve L

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