‘Yeah but’, Luther… just hold on a minute!

Luther said to Erasmus in his response, Bondage of the Will, concerning the fear of some form of societal and individual moral rMartin Luther by kimberlyfaye.eform, “Who, you say, will take pains to correct his life?  I answer:  No man will and no man can, for God cares nothing for your correctors without the Spirit, since they are hypocrites.  But the elect and the godly will be corrected by the Holy Spirit, while the rest perish uncorrected.”

 

Some interesting highlights in history seem to show that this is the greatest temptation of the church as a whole and Christians individually in changing the message of the Gospel to another gospel.  This temptation is greater even than a sword to the neck.

 

As opposed to the theology of the Cross, all theologies of glory wet the finger and stick it in the air of time and space to measure for a doctrines ability to bring about change (for the good, a good fruit or works producer so to speak).  This comes in many forms for example, “numbers and church growth, moral improvements both individual and societal, etc…”.  Even Melancthon fell for this in the end and almost overthrew what Luther left after his death.  History seems to repeat this.  Example, a 50,000  foot survey of the Thirty Year War from 1618-1648 seems to indicate that what brought about pietism in the Lutheran bodies themselves was the view that “if this is what the doctrine of Luther brings about, forensic justification unconditionally, something is wrong with the message and Spener is the rest of the story.  Can such an assessment be called Christian at all, when it is a rather pagan “finger wetting in the air”.  It seems that under the stress of great persecution, the worries of this world, this faith dwindled and died in this moment in this specific situation.  Yet, both Luther and Calvin in as much as they agreed on the pure forensic nature of the Gospel basically said, ‘let all hell break loose and the world go up into one conflagration, we cannot ever allow the Word of God to be changed on this.’

 

Repeatedly this seems to be the greatest of temptation for both the church as a whole and Christians in general.  If some visible peace or change is not measurable, but in fact the opposite appears everywhere, then the Gospel cannot be the gospel, goes the thinking of the theology of glory, and something needs be added to the message to ‘get it right’ and produce the desired change.  Yet, in fact shortly after Pentecost when the Gospel was highest all hell broke out in the Roman Empire.  Not to forget to mention before Pentecost that all hell broke out pretty much every where and every time Jesus opened His mouth, culminating at the Cross itself (the heartbeat of the Gospel).  The Roman Emperors, by the way, blamed the Christians, which is to say the 200 proof Gospel for the fall of society in their time.  Again, Stephen, when preaching a 200 proof totally unconditional Gospel, and what arose around him?  Peace and love?  Hardly, stones to the head as the fruit police and inspectors and good works merit- mongers gnashed their teeth at him.  Not all that different than the Lutheran pietist, Anabaptist and other enthusiasts of the time of the 30 Year War, and not all that different from the message changing – fruit inspectors of our day and age.  After all if the forensic unconditional message isn’t producing the desired affect surely we must change its forensic/unconditional explosion, should we not, goes the rational Aristotelian thinking.  This was the great temptation of the Puritans, Wesley, Conservative and Liberal Christians alike today.

 

Luther’s response to Erasmus is proved all the more and comes back to haunt us: “Who, you say, will take pains to correct his life?  I answer:  No man will and no man can, for God cares nothing for your correctors without the Spirit, since they are hypocrites.  But the elect and the godly will be corrected by the Holy Spirit, while the rest perish uncorrected.”

 

If the Gospel doesn’t work in any given time or place, either corporately to a society, to a church or group of churches or individually does that give license to change its unconditional message?  Does this ever give us right to so, “Free grace yes, but…”.  The ‘but’ is always the “tuck tail and run” sign of the fear of the persecution against the Gospel proclamation.  I’ve felt and tucked my tail and ran more times than I care to remember. 

 

Here is the GREAT temptation of the “seed sewn amongst the weeds and the cares of this world” that falls away. Here we are greatly tempted to tuck our tails and run for it is always easy to get a good, “Amen”, in affirming the “yea but…”.  Indeed if no man comes to faith by the 200 proof Gospel as far as we can tell our entire lives does that give us license to say, “hath God really said”, by altering the message?  Is not a pastor called to preach the Gospel even if everybody walks out of the church forever?

 

We like to say, “bear your/our cross”, when we mean fruit and law, which is no cross at all but self appointed good works and fruits that are actually quite easy to perform in our own strength.  However, we really don’t like that Cross very much when we have a cross laid upon us by the Word that is a Gospel Cross linked to Calvary itself?  We are like the first thief all too often, “Jesus if you are the Son of God, get us down off of these crosses”.  Or likewise, “Jesus if you are really God and have power get me to producing some fruit so I can get down off of this cross and not be so nakedly dependant upon you.”

 

Does such EVER allow us to change the Gospel’s utter unconditional forensic message the least bit in order to ‘firm up the fruit production’?  I ask a question that expects, obviously a resounding “no” answer.  Is it not the greatest sin of all to call God a liar and use men who are liars to prove the point?  

 

Larry Hughes

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86 Responses

  1. Larry,

    Funny thing about that 200 proof Gospel…we just don’t believe it.

    That ‘little you know what $%#$#!’ old Adam’ absolutely refuses to believe it, and therefore embarks upon his or her little godliness mission to prove just how sincere he or she really is.

    But our Lord will have none of it. “This IS my body. This IS my blood.” Broken and shed, for you.

    That is what He thought of our fruits and good works. That’s what He thinks of our sincerity.

    Our fruits and good works were exactly what got Him nailed to those bloody timbers to begin with.

    Thanks, Larry!

    Nice job!

    – Steve

  2. i tell my students all the time: dont try to do the good youve learned about tonight. pray that gods holy spirit will make you the person who does it.

  3. Read this passage with special emphasis on the personal pronoun “I”.

    Ezekiel 36:25-27, “Then “I” will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean, “I” will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from your idols. Moreover, “I” will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and “I” will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. “I” will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”

    Do you see any “doubt” in these words? There is no such thing as a continuously “carnal” Christian! Will you sin? Yes you will, but not as a lifesyle.

    Did you ever hear a preacher say that people know Jesus as Saviour but now they have to make Him their Lord? We don’t make Him anything. He is Lord of the most saintly person on earth……and He is Lord of the greatest sinner in hell. HE IS LORD OF ALL!!! We don’t make Him anything…..He makes us saved!

  4. 2 Corinthians 11:3-5 (New King James Version)

    But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!

    Galatians 1:6-8 (New King James Version)

    I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.

    ——————————————————-

    “If the Gospel doesn’t work in any given time or place, either corporately to a society, to a church or group of churches or individually does that give license to change its unconditional message?”

    …in any given time or place….

    Satan tried to pervert the Gospel then and still does today.

  5. Steve, on a side note:

    “Our fruits and good works were exactly what got Him nailed to those bloody timbers to begin with.”

    I thought our sin got Him nailed to the cross….

    I don’t see murder, adultery, stealing, coveting, etc. as good works.

    When Adam and Eve took of the fruit and sinned against God, they were not performing good works. They were deceived into thinking they could become like Him…..

    Dawg

  6. Ike,

    That Lordship or not crap is part of the whole baptist sacrament issue, really, I’ve been under that and well understand both sides stupidity on this. Lutherans that hear of it and never been part of it realy scratch their heads and say, “what in the hell are they talking about with this bifurcated nonsense”.

    By the way that passage is a baptismal passage, the one the Ethopian was reading when he realized he could be baptized by God, by God that is as the passage speaks.

    Also Paul under the same attack against the Gospel in Romans, shall we sin that grace may abound, never once returns to the law but to baptism, to the chagrin of the baptist.

    And it is Paul who confesses himself to be increasingly the worst sinner. The paradox is this, those who see themselves “getting better” are those cut off from Christ in fact not theory, and those who see themselves worse and worse are those actually growing in Christ. This is the paradox of faith.

    And last, “but not as a lifesyle”, how might that be, thought, word, deed. Do you think you do good, do you think your clean lifestyel whatever it is is good and pleasing to God…do you really think that. No you must confess yourself now as yesterday and as well as tomorrow to be entirely wholey a sinner or you have no part of Christ. The confession of the Christian is a constant baptismal, “Lord have mercy on me a REAL sinner”. Not this admixture pretend sins you invent. You are not have sinner and have holy, like salt and pepper. You (and me and everyone else, whether we believe it or not) 100% sinner by nature.

    If this is not one’s confession one is really not a Christian at all but a pagan who has procured for themselves “christian” terms and language.

    L

  7. “Repeatedly this seems to be the greatest of temptation for both the church as a whole and Christians in general”.

    When the faith becomes nothing more than defining of what should and should not be done – an arbiter of morality – then it can be nothing but one of the most debilitating ideologies known to men ; it takes the very apparatus which God has established to define our failure (the Law) and seeks to make this the means of deliverance. It is at its most cruel and deadly when it almost espouses commonality with the gospel (but then deviates at a pace from this). This is certainly the means which most effectively ‘paganizes’ the church.
    It is the very nature of Christian truth – the profound ‘mysteries’ and paradoxes which reside at the heart of the faith – concerning the nature of God, Salvation and the Justified sinner which are entirely rejected and continually wrestled against by the natural man.

  8. WayneDawg,

    “All our righteous deeds are as filthy rags.”

    Those are OUR fruits and good works.

    HIS fruit and good works, that He does through us…that’s another matter.

    But ‘ours’…it’s just sin.

    It is impossible to point to a good work (with any ceratinty) and say, “Now that is a Christian good work…and that is not.”

    That’s why the ‘Lutheran brand’ of Christian does not look to Himself to see evidence of Christ’s good work in us, but rather we look externally to the Word and sacraments.

  9. Howard,

    “It is the very nature of Christian truth – the profound ‘mysteries’ and paradoxes which reside at the heart of the faith – concerning the nature of God, Salvation and the Justified sinner which are entirely rejected and continually wrestled against by the natural man.”

    Nice one, Howard!

  10. Ike,

    “Did you ever hear a preacher say that people know Jesus as Saviour but now they have to make Him their Lord? We don’t make Him anything. He is Lord of the most saintly person on earth……and He is Lord of the greatest sinner in hell. HE IS LORD OF ALL!!! We don’t make Him anything…..He makes us saved!”

    That is a truism that I can say, Amen to!

  11. Howard,

    I agree that is a nice one. I’m keeping that one!

    Larry

  12. Ike,

    In a nutshell there are two and only two different religions out there.

    The difference may be seen this way:

    The religion of the Lordship debators both Hodges et. al. and MacAruther et. al. on one side versus the religion of Paul, James and Luther on the other side. Antichrist (false christ, spirit and gospel) versus Christ (true Christ, Spirit and Gospel).

    In antichrist’s religion no matter what name it fronts Islam or Christian in all that they do, whether it is the open sin of a say a homosexual or the conservative church yard pietist/dutiest say like missions and evangelism: one is bound to serve God and neighbor and free to serve sin and thus cut off from Christ altogether.

    In the religion of the Cross, true Christianity one is free to serve God and neighbor but bound to serve sin.

    The “bound to serve God and neighbor” religion reads Paul with a theologian of glory set of goggles and in the end Romans 6 – 8 is utterly incomprehensible to them except to interpret through this lens, which is utterly false.

    In the religion of the Cross, true Christianity where one is free to serve God and neighbor but bound to serve sin, Paul’s Romans 6 – 8 is Christ and Him crucified FOR THEM.

    The sacraments are NOT a light issue, once again the interpretation of Scripture ultimately weighs upon them rightly or wrongly.

    I suppose using the bifurcated paradigm of thinking of the pietist like Zane Hodges and John MacArthur” to express this it might go something like this:

    The one free to serve God and neighbor but bound to serve sin is in fact RULED by Christ as Lord but Christ’s rule in the heart is a “left handed” rule, that is unconditional Justification proclamation no matter what, even if you don’t get better, even if you get worse.

    But the one who is bound to serve God and neighbor and free to serve sin, Hodges/MacArthur’s et. al. religion, is actually, whether open sinner or church yard saint, actually not ruled from in the heart by Christ but from outside of Christ by the “right hand” of God under compulsion and wrath.

    The paradox being this: He/she who does not do good works or fruit does all good works and fruit. But he who does good works or fruit does no good works or fruit whatsoever. Or as Luther says that the law says “do this” and nothing is ever done, but the Gospel says “do nothing” and all is already done. Only faith sees this, it is quite incomprehensible to the bound will. Thus, you see what the real meaning of the bound will actually is.

    L

  13. Larry,
    It is a small thing, but I take it you like to be precise.

    By the way that passage is a baptismal passage, the one the Ethopian was reading when he realized he could be baptized by God, by God that is as the passage speaks.

    If you are referring to the story in Acts 8, the Ethiopian was reading from Isaiah, not Ezekiel. I think the Ethiopian asked about baptism because Philip had told him about baptism when he shared the gospel with him from Isaiah 53.
    Jeff

  14. “…But the elect and the godly will be corrected by the Holy Spirit, while the rest perish uncorrected.”

    I agree with the statement…

    ?”the elect and the godly”?…seems a bit difficult in wording… Surely two groups aren’t defined… but one…The godly elect…

  15. Jeff,

    You are correct the Ethiopian was referring to Isa. which refers to Christ baptizing. My mistake and I appreciate you catching that for me. However, that doesn’t change the fact that Ez. 36 is a baptismal passage.

    Ezekiel 36:25-27, “Then (the age to come during this prophecies time line or this age as we speak of it today being IN that age) “I” will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean, “I” will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from your idols. Moreover, “I” will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and “I” will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. “I” will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”

    This is of course the same prophesy and referring to baptism likewise. This is why Jesus could easily say to Nicodemas in John 3:10, “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?”

    “I think the Ethiopian asked about baptism because Philip had told him about baptism when he shared the gospel with him from Isaiah 53.”

    While that is certainly a speculative possibility in the realm of open ended and unlimited human speculation, its first of all just that, namely, speculation at best and clearly human reasoning (I think…), not to mention unlikely nor even referenced in Scripture itself. I understand the necessity of upholding that line of reasoning and clinging to it for dear life in order to uphold believers baptism both as to doctrine and the whole modal issue. In reality, however, it shows BBs weakness and utter lack of support in Scripture in its reaching.

    Rather since the Isa. 52/53 passage was what the EE was reading. Seeing himself one of the nations, asking who this was and that Christ would sprinkle the nations, he asks, “Then what prevents me (now)…”

    “I think the Ethiopian asked about baptism because Philip had told him about baptism when he shared the gospel with him from Isaiah 53.” Really doesn’t wash when you also realize the Spirit sent Philip just like Peter in the context of NOW, Pentecost, this prophecy is happening contemporary. And like Peter, Philip must be urged that baptism goes out to the nations and not just Israel, like Peter how can I withhold baptism seeing that God has brought salvation to the nations (the EE).

    Isa. 52:13-15, “See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness— so WILL HE SPRINKLE MANY NATIONS, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.”

    It is here, before chapter and verse writing not to forget, that the EE reads and into what we today, not the EE back then, call chapter 53. “I’m a nation person, the Messiah has come perhaps (or is there another – Acts)”. Phillip says, “yes it is He, Jesus the Christ/ Messiah”. The EE replies, “What prevents, then, me (a nation person) from being baptized (sprinkled by Him Who ‘will sprinkle many nations’). Seeing that the Christ/Messiah has come and is the baptizer of the nations now, this age (age to come from the perspective of the OT prophecy) his joy is this, “What prevents me from receiving the name and gift of God” Answer: “Absolutely nothing”.

    I appreciate you pointing that out for me.

    Yours,

    Larry

  16. Nancy,

    That is correct.

    Larry

  17. “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1John 3:9)

    The effect of the new birth is freedom from habitual sin (the meaning of the Greek present tense-‘he cannot sin’-means he cannot habitually or characteristically practice sin. Elsewhere, the Apostle Paul says, one who is ‘in Christ’ is ‘a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come’ (2 Cor. 5:17). We have a new freedom, a new liberty, and a new master in Christ.

    In Christ “the power of God is given”. Not only has something been taken away (the power of evil), but something else (the power of God) has been given. God has given us His Spirit, and ‘where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is a liberty.

    “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18)

    Notice the passive voice. We ‘sre being transformed.’ By whom? This is the work of the Spirit. Likewise, the Apostle Paul prays, ‘may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely’ (1 Thess. 5:23). God sanctifies. This is something He does.

    The Calvinistic/Augustinian tradition says more clearly than any other that we cannot live the Christian life in our own strength. We are too corrupt, too weak and too foolish.

  18. While that is certainly a speculative possibility in the realm of open ended and unlimited human speculation, its first of all just that, namely, speculation at best and clearly human reasoning (I think…), not to mention unlikely nor even referenced in Scripture itself. I understand the necessity of upholding that line of reasoning and clinging to it for dear life in order to uphold believers baptism both as to doctrine and the whole modal issue. In reality, however, it shows BBs weakness and utter lack of support in Scripture in its reaching.

    Larry,
    I don’t know why you insist on seeing the specter of BB in everything I say. I made no implications about believer’s baptism nor did I imply that the passage in Ezekiel didn’t speak of baptism in any way. I was just clearing up an incorrect statement for you that no one had mentioned yet. I honestly cannot figure out why saying that Philip had mentioned baptism as he explained the Gospel is a problem. Jesus command was to go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them. . .
    That is all I meant by it. I assume that Philip would mention baptism if he is sharing the gospel with anyone, regardless of what they are reading.
    At this point, I tend to hesitate before making any kind of comment here for fear of being pounced on as a BB heretic. I don’t believe that is your intention, but even my earlier statement somehow generated a rant against BB. I hope you can understand my frustration.

  19. I just summarized a sermon of Luther’s in a post on my blog. Maybe it connects to the subject at hand. From Lull’s Anthology titled: “Two kinds of rightousness”. On Phillipians 2:5-6.

  20. “And whoever does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (TNIV). Luke 14:27

    “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (TNIV). Luke 9:23

    Cross-bearing is the essence of discipleship…

    The follower of Jesus MUST deny himself. There is nothing self-indulgent about being a Christian. The disciples probably seen a man take up his cross, and they knew what it meant. When a man from one of their villages took up a cross and went off with a little band of Roman soldiers, he was on a ONE-WAY journey. He’d not be back. This is Luke’s first use of the word cross and it comes with striking effect (Lk.9:23). Christ’s follower has died to a whole way of life (Lk.14:27). Luke tells us that this is something that can be finished and got out of the way: it must be done DAILY.

    So, says Jesus, will he follow me.

  21. Jeff,

    No rant at all, that’s kind of the limit of electronic posting, it can seem like that when it is not.

    But just to make clear, ALL these issues, I realize in our day and age with its extremely low view of the sacraments (or ordinances if you wish) few bother to see the connections. But the connections are clearly there and what one thing is believed about another is rooted in the Sacraments.

    Sasse was spot on when he said that the way one goes, right or wrong in the sacraments (ordinances) is the way one goes with the rest of Scripture. That’s not a tangential issue. I good brother and friend of mine, a baptist minister where just discussing this in light of my post the other day at lunch. He understood and agreed that in principle Sasse is 100% correct – without filling in the content of “whose correct” if you will.

    The only reason I “spelled it out” was to not get lost in the reason that passage is baptismal and regarding how another person was using it.

    It’s never a “rant” against “you”, you are not the “victim” of a “rant” if you will. Rather to point out what is being missed when one doesn’t see the baptismal language there and state what you stated (I think…etc…). It might seem insignificant to you but such a small little gloss like that takes the Gospel fire out of the passage and one moves from God doing a work to “I think it was just mentioned”. As my Baptist friend/brother said to me last week, “An iffy pastor is more dangerous than a strong dead wrong pastor”. Which is in part Sasse’s principle and in principle what we agree upon.

    The crucial reason the sacraments “keep coming up” is the critical Gospel in them. To cover them up with language or soften them with explanation is in fact to cover up the Cross which is life to those being redeemed.

    So yes, I will unabashedly champion them at every turn, Lord willing, because there lay the Cross for us in the present tense and reality.

    So as before, just to be clear, it’s not about you, nor is it a rant.

    L

  22. I’ll bet if someone posted a “do good works/fruit” post under another name they’d get a bunch of “Amen brother X” accolades, that’s what we FINALLY needed to hear.

    Howard makes a good point on that above from the reverse angle, how the Gospel is verbally stamped out and toned down as soon as it is spoken – seal up all those cracks so the light can’t get into the darkness so to speak. But do a pro- “good works/fruit”, “you need to try harder”, “but…” post and I suppose there would be a good many “Amen brother, now that’s what I’m talking about.” Get them back in line with the law and the “amens” of praise from some will shower down upon you like a rain shower. Like my pastor/buddy and I have always said, “You could sneak the Law in any group pretty easy so easy it is to agree with, so thirsty for it is the old Adam”. Why you’d even have those Mormon guys back here “Amening” you to death, probably some ecumenical high fives, a few “together for the (other) gospel fist bumps, “James 2 Rules, James 2 Rules, James 2 Rules” victory chants with Rome, LDS and protestants all chanting it, maybe an ecumenical crowd wave for the law and something “to do”. But the Gospel 200 proof, they begin to fire against it hundreds of miles off with Scripture just like Satan does.

    I’m more amazed how people DON’T want to hear the Gospel but in fact gnash their teeth at it. I’ve known many such fruit inspectors and fruit police personally, and one thing is ALWAYS the same, their lives are not one damn bit different than any of those they like to preach the law too. That’s the great irony of it all, their pretty lives are pretty much skubala and it is explicitly shown that way. Not one pietist I’ve known in the tons I’ve known live anywhere near different than the others they think are not living up to their pietism. If I turn their own fruit inspection on them, they never pass, ever. Or they will then always “tone down the Law” so as to make it a “domesticated Christian house pet”, as if they can do that to the Holy Law. Which means they really don’t hear the Law at all.

    Larry

  23. “And whoever does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (TNIV). Luke 14:27

    “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (TNIV). Luke 9:23

    Once again theology of glory versus theology of Cross read these differently, as the former procures yet another work for it to do to save itself, the old Adam’s death rattle, “I still have something to do don’t I”. Taking up one’s cross is to take up that which in essence is laid upon you, not self appointed. Here the religious self appoint their “take up your cross” which is to in fact lay down your cross and deny Christ and not follow Him. They are like the first thief, “Jesus, if you are the son of God get me off of this cross with you and on to making myself better”. But the thief taking up his cross confesses, “Do you not fear God at all. Lord, remember me in your Kingdom”. And Jesus replies to the one bearing this cross, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise”.

    The death instrument of the cross is in the unconditional word of justification, when the Word says, “nothing to do”, “trust nakedly and passively in Christ alone” – that is the death cross to be taken up. It is quite literally a death word and stroke of grace that kills and simultaneously makes alive. To deny one’s self is to deny self salvation and so called growth in holiness that in essence is not unconditional justification and “getting use to that justification” but attempting to indulge one’s self in even “taking up one’s cross” as self appointed works. Here Jesus speaks of nothing less than the daily return to baptism, just like Paul in Romans.

    You know how you kill a “doer”, tell him there’s nothing left to do. Which is Christ’s cry from the Cross, the death Word, “it is finished” that kills and makes alive, the hidden God revealed.

    Larry

  24. Ok. I’ll bite…what is 200 proof Gospel? sounds like a whole bunch of sumthin’s been added…

  25. “I’ve known many such fruit inspectors and fruit police personally, and one thing is ALWAYS the same, their lives are not one damn bit different than any of those they like to preach the law too.”

    We can get into a whole lot of trouble when we compare ourselves by ourselves. I think it wise to examine ouselves but we better go to 1 John and not other people.

  26. “We can get into a whole lot of trouble when we compare ourselves by ourselves. I think it wise to examine ouselves but we better go to 1 John and not other people.”

    And we can get into a hell of a lot more trouble when we domesticate the Law and turn inward looking to our assurance with and about ourselves and worry and fret over our pretend holiness rather than getting use to our unconditional justification. So it’s better to stay at the Cross in all cases, Word and Sacrament where God gives His name, word and promise. So its much wiser and in fact Christian to go to the commandments then the Gospel.

    Your confession is not my confession, Ike, plain and simple, nor will it ever be, nothing personal.

    Larry

  27. Nancy,

    Good question for those who have not heard that usage. 200 proof Gospel is just another way of saying pure unadultrated without admixture Gospel – which is just another way of saying the Gospel because any admixture is in reality another gospel all together. “200 proof” is just a way to emphasize the purity of it. Likewise we would say 200 proof Law meaning, an undomesticated lowered law, third use or otherwise under a false scheme of sanctification or growth in holiness that is like an admixture gospel, not really the law. There is no “admixture law” anymore than there is an “admixture gospel, thus we might rightly say that any “admixture gospel or law” is both “another gospel and hence false and “another law” which is too false.

    When people add to the gospel or lower the law to a “doable” level either before or after conversion is both a blaspheme to the Gospel and to the Law, to stain it with our thinking we can do it if you will.

    Those captured by the Cross look at the Law and love it, but it is not as the “third use” types perceive it so. For it points to the restoration of redemptive relationships as fulfilled by Christ and not as Law. Thus, the Law is much higher than the “doers of law” preach it – if you have to be told what to do by the Law you’ve already fallen into sin. This is the Law NOT written on the heart. What the Gospel brings is an eschatological “taste” of the age to come in which the Law thus fulfilled by Christ is then done without the Law, that is to say by natural nature of the new creature in Christ. In this way via the Gospel the Law, like the decalog, become precious promises, “I will be your God and you my people, you will love your neighbor altruistically”. The Law terminates for the Christian forever in Christ but is also eternal in Christ. In the damned outside of Christ the Law never ceases to demand. What many describe as the “third use” of the law is in reality a description of the law outside of Christ. When the Law is written upon the heart truly, the guide is not needed. A fish is a fish by nature and does not need a “third use” of fishiness to be so – so it has begun in Christ for the believer and will be in final reality in the kingdom forever. And how sweet it shall be to be release in finality.

    Thus, you see one can only truly love the Law and confess with the Psalmist that they love the Law via the Gospel, but it is not as many suppose.

    Yours,

    Larry

  28. Larry,

    Maybe I’m not understanding you. Are you saying after regeneration there is no santification? Are you saying that it takes more power of God to save one dead sinner and than He sits up there wrenching His hands hoping we cooperate with His plan for our lives? Why is there disagreement that Christians should act like Christians? I don’t get what you are trying to say.

  29. Without…admixture? Wouldn’t that add up to 100% pure? Why the extreme? All of the whole with nothing added is 100% Just seems to “add” a bit of confusion so one might think they are missing something.

  30. I do think I understand what you are trying to convey Larry…but your words are many and difficult to follow.

    The “law”… about as doable as a map.

  31. Nancy,

    200 proof is 100%, “proof” is simply a term borrowed from the alcohol industry to express purity and strength. Proof is generally twice percentage.

    Hopefully that clears it up.

    Larry

  32. Nancy,

    The extreme is only “extreme” because it is extreme to the ears of the old Adam. It’s not just “extreme”, its alien. Extreme would be something like “turned up a notch or ten notches”, 10 instead of 2 on the volume or sky diving over sliding down a slide.

    No the Gospel is alien, it is like something landing on earth never conceived of before by men – out of concept of the old adam. It is like life to a corpse to which the corpse ponders, what is this thing called “life” I have no common touchstone to it.

    That’s why the Cross must first to the old man, the doer, look like wrath and death and attack and smell like death to him. But then to the naked truster it becomes grace and life and promise and the odor of life to those being saved. (Paul’s imagery).

    Yours,

    Larry

  33. Nancy,

    200 proof is not my term, I borrowed it from other Lutherans. And see, it caused us to talk fresh about the Gospel.

    Larry

  34. Ike,

    No, there IS sanctification but its not as most evangelicals teach. Sanctification in a nutshell is NOTHING less or more than “getting use to you unconditional justification”. Even your statement, “Christians should act like Christians” is outside of Christ and law for it implies by its “commanding ‘should’” gives power. Such a concept of Christians acting like Christians is precisely the OPPOSITE and produces pagans thinking they are acting like Christians. Even “act” like a Christian is dubious because the Law doesn’t wish to be enumerated, it’s pointing to something greater which is the relationships of redemption to which faith hopes.

    What you don’t understand is that what the Holy Law requires in any form is that it be done in such a fashion that it need not dictate it be done, without the Law. Using as examples from nature and the laws of nature or physics: The laws of physics and nature don’t say, “Do” and it is done, they just are done without the laws saying so. A fish is a fish not because it is told “be a fish” or “act like a fish” (your command of Christians should act like Christians), but he is by nature a fish. Likewise that which is real and true faith, the new man fixed on Christ alone for himself, “getting use to his justification”, that new man IS the Christian and is so by the Gospel, the unconditional word of justification and sanctification that is “getting use to that unconditional justification”. This creates the new being, that release the Gospel brings so that ALL he/she does is a good work: Eating, sleeping, sweeping the floor, standing still, doing his/her job, parent, child, candlestick maker, teacher, McDonald’s worker, etc…THIS IS A CHRISTIAN AND TO BE CHRISTIAN – to enter back into one’s vocations before them to serve their neighbor. This is what the Law is pointing to. This is what Jesus meant by the good tree which cannot but only bear good fruit all the time, not because its trying to (which is the thorn bush) but because it is “sprinkled and made clean” ALREADY by Christ (unconditional word of justification/getting use to that justification).

    When one rests in Christ alone, there is NOTHING, NOTHING EVER, left to do for ALL is already done period, end of the story, you are dead in Christ – “dead” here is not metaphor, you ARE DEAD, the doer is DEAD PERIOD. If you think there is something “left to do”, even “act like a Christian”, then you are thoroughly unchristian and in fact pagan just calling it “Christian”. Your concept of “regeneration”, and the general anabaptist/Baptist/Roman concept of regeneration is basically a resuscitation of the old man. True rebirth comes through that word of unconditional justification and is sustained by that alone. The death is the death of the “doer” and the rebirth is the birth of the naked nude passive truster. When you exhort men to “act like a Christian” all you are doing is giving CPR to the old Adam who needs no CPR but a fresh word of death, you are dead, nothing left to do. That’s why Paul doesn’t circle back around with the Law but plunges unabashedly forward in the Gospel in baptism.

    James himself is NOT saying, “Christians should act like Christians”, but rather that Christians will look like Christians”. “Christians should act like Christians” is just as absurd as saying “Frogs should act like frogs”, they ARE frogs and will look like frogs and display frogness. So will those captured by the Cross and remain in this getting use to that unconditional justification. To be captivated by the Cross IS faith and that faith cannot help to be what the new man, the naked passive truster in Christ alone, is. But that will not look like what pietism and those who vainly attempt to create Christians by “Christians should act like Christians”, which simply creates pagans and unbelievers under the name and moniker “Christian”.

    Example: What might a Christian look like? We see a man or woman who is baptized and taking a nap very peacefully. We see a Christian who displays faith. Conversely we see a man or woman busy at the church doing missions, we see a pagan who displays unbelief. We see a baptized mother or father changing a dirty diaper, we see a Christian who displays faith. We see a man or woman busy doing good deeds in order to “act like a Christian”, then we see a pagan exhibiting unbelief and that Christ is not nearly enough. We see a baptized alcoholic, we see a Christian who displays faith. We see a teetotaler not “ruining his witness”, we see a pagan displaying unbelief. We see a baptized boy complaining about mowing the lawn to his dad, yet he believes, we see a Christian. We see a boy mowing without complaint to his dad, yet he “tries to act like a Christian”, we see an unbeliever. We see a baptized man confess, “I’m getting worse”, we see a Christian. We see a man confess, “I’m trying to act like a Christian”, we see an unbeliever. We see a paganized Christian state to another “act like a Christian” and the other responds in a yawn, we see the former as an unbeliever and the later as a rich believer.

    He who trusts very nakedly in Christ alone and all is done is a Christian, but he who needs to “try to act like a Christian” is an unbeliever. He who tries to do good works and produce fruit is the thorny bush and does neither. He who rests in Christ alone passively and does nothing, then all that he does is a good work and fruit of faith. For the latter’s is fruit, the product or we might say in modern language, the by-product of that very naked passive trusting in Christ alone. So that such when he eats, sleeps, works and plays and even when he sins it is quickly forgiven – all that he does is a by-product (fruit) of that faith. That’s why this faith is a very busy thing that does nothing but produce fruit and its fruits are without enumeration thus we can give a few examples such as eating, sleeping, drinking, milking the cow, breathing, going to church, high and low things, great and small things, wide and narrow things all are the same fruit of this faith. You see we speak of a great deal of fruit and good works coming from this faith but it is not comprehensible to the old man who thinks “Christians need to ACT like Christians” for the thorn bushes “fruit” is not the good tree’s “fruit”, and the thorn bush calls its fruit “good fruit” but it is really thorns. And the thorn bush calls the good trees fruit, “thorns” but yet the good trees fruit is in fact fruit because it comes from the fount of faith that remains in Christ alone.

    Thus, the good tree always does opposite the devil’s side ways commands. Even sometimes, as Luther advised numerously, the good tree may sin a little so that unbelief does not arise, and the good tree may engage in frivolity so that unbelief does not come about. If the devil looking like God and bible says “don’t dance”, faith dances. If the devil looking like God and bible says, “don’t drink”, faith drinks. If the devil looking like God and bible says, “Act like a Christian”, faith responds, “no thank you, I’ll rest in Christ alone”. If the devil looking like God and bible says, “you need to grow in holiness that is sanctification”, faith says, “I’ll just get use to being already justified for nothing in Christ alone thank you very much” (which IS sanctification).

    This is why Luther could say men will speak much about faith and good works/fruit and actually know absolutely nothing about either. And that he could rebuke that when accused of teaching against good works and fruit he could say that ‘I’m trying to show men where they come from and ALONE come from’.

    Thus, faith NEVER gives in and ALWAYS draws the sword so that love ALWAYS gives in and NEVER draws the sword.

    So when I’m against “you must act like a Christian” (false sanctification and over throwing of Christ), I’m against that which does not produce the good works and fruit it superstitiously dreams it produces – so that true faith, naked passive trust in Christ alone remain and thereby true good works and fruit are produced. So that when a Christian is asked, “If Christ were coming tomorrow what would you do?” Their/our/my answer would be, “I think I will plant a tree” and thus true faith is displayed. But a paganized Christian answer would be, “I’d get busy doing XY and Z in order to ACT like a Christian”.

    To “ACT” like a Christian is pretty much self revelatory, it is just that ‘acting’ or in the old language shear ‘hypocrisy’. Such false faith is like that scene in “Cool Hand Luke” when CHL is trying to fool his guard while escaping in the bushes, “I’m shaking boss, I’m shaking it”, all the while attempting to escape. That is “acting like a Christian”, “I’m shaking it Lord, I’m shaking it” – unbelief.

    Larry

  35. Ike,

    In a nutshell. We are not against good works and fruit, just trying to show where it comes from and it does not come from threats of the law in ANY form. I don’t know if you have children or not but here’s an earthly example:

    Parent A has a recalcitrant child when asked to do things. Parent A punishes for failure and rewards for doing, and/or threatens and promises the like. Now Parent A gets results and the child is dutiful on the outside. However, the child is utterly under compulsion and actually hates the doing. This is the paganized Christian.

    Parent B has a recalcitrant child when asked to do things. Parent B forgives even in the face of the rebellion. Soon the child hears that “gospel” and though ever so little the child does, he does some things and also enjoys doing things he/she, the child, themselves likes to do. The child is free and all that the child does, even when they do bad, he is free in spirit to do them and thus when he does the right thing his/her heart is doing it to. This is the Christian.

    This by the way is the parable of the prodigal son so ill named.

    To protect the identity I will not give any names but a good Lutheran friend of mine once shared with me a particular Lutheran pastor’s experience with absolution. They had a church member in open adultery and that member knew it. Nothing was getting through and the problem was remaining. During confession and absolution, in this case the pastor would touch each one pronouncing absolution upon the member. As he came to this man he didn’t know what to do since he was aware of this open sin’s continuance. He decided that he was going to pronounce God’s forgiveness upon him for Christ’s sake regardless. As he approached the man the man leaned backwards and would not let the pastor touch him to pronounce it. The pastor thought, “You are not getting away from grace that easily”, so he reached over and grabbed him pronouncing forgiveness for Christ’s sake. The guy broke down and the adulterous affair ended.

    THAT is the power of the Gospel as Paul says, not exhortation unto the Law. We simply refuse to believe Paul on this.

    Yours,

    Larry

  36. I like what Luther says about sanctification in his explanation of the third article in the Apostle’s Creed.

    Here’s a really good sermon that explains this
    http://lightofthemaster.com/Sermons/Entries/2008/3/4__The_Holy_Spirit.html

    It’s not very long and worthy of a listen…even if you’ve heard it before.

  37. We stay at the Cross, we receive Gods grace and assurance in Word and Sacrament AND we examine ourselves to make our calling and election sure……

  38. When I examine myself, I’d better come up with a picture of ‘a failure’.

    If I think I’m doing pretty good job of it…then I am in real trouble.

  39. Larry let me see if I got this right…while you daren’t say sanctification is a “process”…you do say that we are getting used to our justification. As we “get used” to what has already been accomplished for us, we naturally take on the characteristics of the justification? The fruit of sanctification then is the understanding of what has already taken place. I have no problem with that…process…*; )

  40. Steve…

    Did you ever see a child try to follow their fathers footsteps in the snow. The fall down…..they can’t quite get their feet in their fathers steps because they are too far apart. They look silly at times. But there is no doubt that they are trying to be like their dad.

    This is much like us. Yes we will fall short. Yes we will fail. But we have a new heart and His Spirit to guide us. I do not disagree that we will always have our old nature in this life but it doesn’t have to dominate our lives.

  41. Ike,

    Very good analogy, Ike. I like the picture you painted.

    Trying is good. We ought always try our best.

    But, realizing who and what we are, and that we fail in thought, word, and deed, to be what God demands that we ‘be’, is important for the humility and repentance that is a necesary part of a living faith.

    That’s why keeping the law in front of us is so important. It is the mirror that exposes our true selves.

    The forgiveness of our sins in Christ Jesus is our New reality. You make another great point, Ike…although sin is always present, it no longer has dominion over us.

  42. Steve,

    Do I get a free week at those gorgeous apartments by the sea?

  43. Ike,

    That is exactly what your prize is!

    You have to bring your own earplugs, Ike.

    The train runs right beneath the apts and they are not shy about blowing their horns. There is always a catch!

    We think the tradeoff is worth it.

    Anytime you are in So. Cal. give me a holler…you are always welcome, Ike!

    – Steve

  44. Ike,

    That’s where we disagree your analogy and I do not confess your religion on this point in the least, I must be crystal clear about this. God is not in the renewing business but the killing and making alive business. Our simul Justus et peccator is not salt (the good) and pepper (the bad) with an ever increasing measure of salt. Sanctification that is a system or progress of improvement is to confound justification with sanctification. The SJEP is one of pure sinner proclaimed righteous. Your confession, as your analogy goes, is a confession of “I’m getting better and trying”, but Paul’s is one of a deepening epiphany of his sin unto being the ‘chief of sinners’.

    You are not far from Rome with its mortal sin/venial sin concept in that some things are not so bad as to be forgivable sins (or in protestant speak: the sin tainted good works that prove oneself in the examination to not be so bad as disproving salvation), and the others that are not up to the pietist snuff are the mortal sin (or in protestant speak: sufficient upon examination to show one to ‘not be saved’, elect or so forth). It’s the same Roman mortal/venial sin principle just shifted under the protestant OSAS paradigm whereby Rome’s purgatory is moved from the afterlife to the here and now for the protestant.

    But it is as Luther says in that those sins that are truly venial, that is not deadly and do not cut one off from Christ in fact are those sins that are confessed to be mortal and deadly sins, and those sins that are truly mortal that cut one off from Christ in fact are those thought to be venial.

    Your analogy does have one merit, but not the way you used it. That child walking in their dad’s footsteps, is not doing so in order to be their child. He already is and even if he runs off in the other direction to ‘not be doing his dad’s footsteps’, he is not abandoned by his dad ever.

    Dr. Martin Loyd Jones once observed, “If you’ve not been accused of being an antinomian as Paul was in Romans, then you’ve not ever given the Gospel” (paraphrase from memory).

    And I can certainly say this about you Ike, thus far, you will NEVER be accused of being an antinomian like Paul was.

    Larry

  45. Let me throw in a thought to stir up the pot a little bit:

    Even a sacrament like baptism can become an idol if it leads us to look to the sacrament instead of Christ. Maybe in some cases (depending on the invidual’s interpretation and use of the term) the word “sacrament” – which is not biblical – can already be a step in that direction.

    It’s the same fallacy as placing faith in faith in the Word of Faith movement.

  46. Josh,

    True enough. Baptism isn’t to be viewed as a ticket to heaven.

    It is the promises in baptism that we either trust…or not.

    Christ Himself is in those promises. If we believe them…then we’ve got it.

    If we don’t trust the promises that God gives us in baptism then we will fall back onto something else.
    ‘Our faith’, ‘our decision’, ‘our sincerity’, ‘our performance’, ‘our anything and everything’.

  47. “God is not in the renewing business but the killing and making alive business.”

    Let’s not overgeneralize this, Larry!

    If I’m not mistaken (in the daily application of the believer), Paul does speak about the renewing of our minds in Romans 12:2 (Gr. “anakainosis” – “renewal, renovation”). so at least in that aspect, there’s more than just killing and resurrecting going on!

  48. Steve, I understand what you’re getting at. I’m still not too hung up on placing so much emphasis on baptism. If God is making me a promise, He’s making me a promise, period! Baptized or not.

    When I hear Lutherans talk, it often sounds like the promise is tied so exclusively to the sacrament that OUTSIDE of it the same promise cannot be found.

    For me, the central promise of God’s grace and forgiveness IS exclusively tied to something, and that is the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Word and the sacraments are all pointing back to the salvation complete and finished there. In CHRIST all promises of God are YES and AMEN!

  49. Josh,

    The reason we are so strong on it (the sacraments) is because He was so strong on it.

    He commanded us to do it. He must felt very strong about His wanting us to do it.

  50. Josh,

    That’s because Paul understand the new and old man are still locked in battle in this age’s eschaton.

    That is not an over generalization.

    L

  51. Larry, a generalization that doesn’t account for the obvious exceptions to the rule, is an over-generalization in my mind.

  52. Exactly Josh…while the change was made and we are new creatures in Christ…our brain has to “catch-up” to reality by being renewed daily…or we are in the process daily of taking off the old man and putting on the new man of the heart.(killing the old man)

    Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

    2 Corinthians 4:16 NIV

    Or, if you like…we are constantly returning to the promises God made to us…and realizing who we are..

  53. Josh,

    The hope is not in baptism ex opera operato (Rome) nor ex opera operatis (Baptist), the Lutheran confession is very clear on this: “how can water work such great things” (I believe even Spurgeon unwittingly asked this once). Luther’s answer, “NOT just any water but water that has the Word in it”. The operative thing here is the Word of God, the name of God.

    To say baptism is little or indifferent or nothing or lesser than the Gospel is precisely saying that the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit is little or indifferent or nothing or lesser than the Gospel. And part of that Trinitarian name is God the Son, and that name includes Jesus/Joshua = Yaweh saves; Emmanuel = God is with us; and Hosanna = save us now. These and much more as there is “no other name under heaven by which men are saved”. You shall name Him Jesus for He will save His people from their sins. All this is the constitution of Holy Baptism. As the Psalmist sings in 54, “By thy name O’Lord now save me…” and many many others.

    However, if baptism is constituted upon faith, the baptist belief, then I can see clearly why you would call it is little or indifferent or nothing or lesser than the Gospel. If that was the constitution of baptism, then I’d agree with you. But it clearly is not.

    Thus, the issue has NEVER been about infants but what constitutes baptism and why I’ve asked over and over and over again about the “rebaptism” of the baptize adult who falls away, even such that they confess to have entirely being atheist later, and then comes back years later…do you rebaptize them? HERE and HERE ALONE you must admit the sine quo non of your doctrine on what actualy constitutes baptism. And such a constitution upon faith is ex opera operatis, which is a pre-reformational Roman concept.

    Thus, the baptist “trail of blood” leads back to sacred halls of St. Peter’s square.

  54. Steve,

    One of the difficulties we have in sifting through all this is the differences in paradigms.

    The difference in Lutheran preaching and service versus Evangelicals is how it is done. Luther identified that to preach Christ is to not do it in a conceptualization mode or manner, discussing all Christ did and has done, and not even historical. Rather, that it is an actual giving of the benefits of Christ to the hearer/receiver. Thus, they/we (as I’m becoming one) often use the term in discussions and in the service of “doing the Word” or “service of the Word”, and this extends to the sacraments in particular.

    This permeates the entire worship service and that is notably different from every Baptist, my experience with PCA and even what little Methodist I’ve been in. That “doing of the Word” to people versus conceptualize preaching we hear in evangelical circles in preaching in general and in the sacraments (ordinances in their language).

    It’s probably grasped better if you think of it as a distribution of the gifts like at Christmas time, we do more than just recall the concept of and historical nature of and recollection of Christmas when we distribute actual gifts during the holiday. Thus, and you know this better than I since you’ve been there longer, at the end after the Lutheran service after the Lord’s Supper and the liturgy laden service of the word we always finish with a praise saying something like, “Your Word has been done” (something like that). Meaning not that ‘we discussed what Christ did for us and recollected it in order to act upon it’ but that ‘what Christ did for us was distributed to us actually and really’. The evangelical asks me how I know I am saved, “I’ll do you one better, here let me show you as I take and eat and drink the bread/body and wine/blood of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness/remission of my sins”.

    In other words all is not done according to His Word if the preaching and sacraments are conceptualized and explained in that mode which is recollecting or symbolic, but rather is done according to His Word when it is actually distributed and given to the people, like distributing bread. So when baptism is performed it’s not a conceptualization but rather literally distributing per the great commission, “done according to your Word”, the command part comes in the command from Christ to DO THIS, this baptizing. Same with the Supper, “DO THIS…” and the “do” lay in the actual giving of the body and blood, the giving of the gift and benefits of the supper in the bread and wine. And thus is said, “All has been done according to your Word”. That’s “doing the Word” to people. And this is too what it actually means to be corem deo before the face of God in the DOING of His Word. His Word is more than just words, but action, His Word is actually an action of God working through them even though they come out of the mouth of a mere mortal pastor, water, bread and wine.

    This is in part driven by the entire paradigm behind one’s sacramental or lack thereof doctrine. Either God’s giving gifts (Christ) to real sinners (Luther) or God is not giving gifts and awaiting your response (merit, proof, etc…) to then “give you the gift”. This latter in evangelical circles would be some form of a gift of assurance ultimately determined not by Christ alone but Christ plus (the proof). Rome said ‘faith formed by love’ and likewise evangelicalism says, ‘faith proved by works/fruit’, basically the same thing the only subtle difference is Rome’s is ex opera operato (because of the work worked) and the latter is ex opera operatis (because of the work of worker). Thus, for Rome baptism is rooted in the work of the church flexing its muscle so to speak, and for a baptist baptism is real due to the value of the receiver (has faith). Ultimately both are rooted in pre-Reformational Roman theology.

    As Sasse said so goes one’s correct or false view of the sacraments drives everything else, and this in principle is obvious even to those who don’t agree with Luther.

    And thus neither Rome nor Baptist (and most Reformed) cannot root their assurance in the sacraments but ultimately in the works of what they call “fruit of faith”. Roman Catholics no more trust in their baptism than do Baptist and that’s why you have the entire penitential system. Evangelicals have their own penitential system, they just don’t label it as such because it “sounds Roman”, so they label it “spiritual growth”, “growing in the faith” or some other such system. Nonetheless it is in fact in principle exactly the same thing and the psychological and spiritual effect is exactly the same. Both Rome and Evangelicals find it utterly absurd to be assured of eternal life in the sacraments. There must be first some improvement or shortly there after, there is no room for a REAL sinner only pretend sinners.

    All of this boils down to the real insidious doctrine of not wanting to ACTUALLY GIVE Christ to sinners but make them jump through a hoop or few thousand hoops of ‘faith formed by love’ or ‘faith proved by works’ and STILL they never ACTUALLY GIVE Christ. You see He is always held at arms length, like a carrot on a stick. In Evangelicalism you never hear “You are forgiven, I in the place of Christ in the ordained office forgive you all your sins, here is His REAL body and blood for you for the forgiveness of your sins, you ARE baptized” – non of that gift language. Not even if you were to examine yourself and somehow, although it escapes me how, and discover you have these rock solid proofs of salvation, not even if you said, “Pastor I’ve examined myself for fruits of the faith per your instruction and doctrine, and found that I have them (yea I know its like fingernails on the chalk board, the very thought of saying that REEKS of just the opposite, not saved). EVEN if you could bring yourself to speak that without vomiting to an evangelical pastor, NEVER would he reply, “Well then in the office ordained by Christ you are forgiven, and ARE baptized”. Not even in their OWN paradigm will they tell or rather give Christ to you, NOT EVEN if you could somehow fulfill the self examination criteria.

    Think about that you have to examine yourself for assurance. Which means you must find the fruit criteria and then be able to say, “I’ve examined myself and find that I have the fruit necessary to be ASSURED I am saved”. That just reeks of the stench of the Pharisee does it not? I can’t even do it without laughing at myself’s own folly. Can you imagine the pride and delusion it would take to say that. Yet that’s the criterion. But STILL you will not hear from their pastors or elders “you are forgiven based on this criteria”. And why? Because they know the dirty little secret, they cannot use that criteria anymore than you can to tell if you are in the faith or elect. Yet, the Lutheran pastor who roots himself in the Word and Sacrament can because hilarity of hilarity of the Gospel, God said so.

    Larry

    Yours,

    Larry

  55. Steve, no argument there. But there’s a difference between “being strong on it” and the appearance of exclusivity I mentioned.

    If I decided to give one of my daughters a coupon for her birthday which makes the promise that I’m going to take her to Disneyland in 2010, I’ll do it so she can keep looking at it and be assured that this is really going to happen. I could give her the promise just verbally but I prefer her having something visible and tangible in her hand in addition to the words I’ve spoken. So in that sense I do place importance on the coupon.

    But the essence of the promise is in my heart. It lies in the fact that I am resolved to take her there even if she should lose the piece of paper some day or somehow didn’t get it in the first place.

  56. Great way of putting it, Nancy!

  57. Josh,

    I know of no Lutheran (that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist) that thinks that God does not act apart from baptism.

    Your daughter’s coupon for Disneyland gives her practical assurance of your promise.

    It is something tangible she can look at it and touch that is a validation of your promise.

    We believe this is why God has given us the gift of baptism and holy communion.

  58. If that’s all, Steve, then I’m with you 100%!

  59. Since that old Adam/Eve is a non-truster in God by nature…if they don’t have something tangible to take hold of, an actual event where God acted for them (baptism or holy communion), then they will endeavor to make themselves worthy of such a promise and start a holiness project which never ends.

    I believe that the Lord knew this about us, and gave us the gift of the sacraments to cut that type of performanced based, or feelings based faith, off before it could get going.

  60. Josh,

    When you say, “if that’s all”, I’m not sure what you mean.

    In what I described there (previous comment)there is nothing needed in addition, to the coupon (God’s promise)

    The coupon is good when it is believed to be good and trusted in.

    The “that’s all”, really is..ALL.

    Nothing else is required from us.

  61. Steve, I agree that nothing is required from us. But what I meant by “that’s all’ referred to “practical assurance” and “validation” (your words).

    What I sometimes seem to be hearing (from others) is that the coupon is the trip itself. But that may just be my hearing problem.

  62. Josh,

    God guarantees the trip in baptism. And, in the handing over of the coupon, you get included, absolutely free, the forgiveness of sins & the holy spirit.

    And it’s not a limited time offer!

    (Sorry no Ginsu knives) 😀

  63. Steve,

    The trip in my analogy was not refering to heaven. It stood exactly for the forgiveness of sins.

    I don’t believe that the gift of the Holy Spirit is necessarily tied to the act of baptism. That would be saying indeed: “the coupon IS the trip!”

    But we’ve had that discussion before.

  64. Josh,

    “go unto all the world and give people the Holy Spirit.”

    No, He didn’t quite put it that way, did He?

    OK, Josh…we may not see eye to eye on this and we may never.

    That’s ok. Clarity is the thing. And I think we understand each other a bit better.

  65. I’ve been talking to Josh here recently, but this is addressed to all.

    Do you really think that God would command us to do something for purely religious reasons?

    If God does not act for us when we do something that he commands and where he tells us explicitly to do it in His name…then we are in big trouble. We are basically alone in the God project.

    I think that our human reason tells us that God could not be present in a bowl of water accompanied by His Word of promise.

    But then our human reason throws that out the window when we say that He is actually present in our hearts. Because we FEEL that He is? Or because we have faith in our faith?

    I will rely on God for my sanctification, for my justification, for my salvation, and for every other ‘ -ation’ that God would ever want.

    OK…I’m done. (for the moment) 😀

  66. Steve,

    I wouldn’t call practical assurance and validation “purely religious reasons”.

  67. Josh,

    “Practical assurance and validation” must be tied to something.

    For us it’s tied to the work of God, and His promise to give us forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. And that includes the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    While those promises will be brought to fruition in the future, in baptism God actually does for us everything that is needful and He does it for us, right now.

    We will never be better Christians, or more of a Christian, than at the moment we are baptised.

    At that moment, we are Christians.

  68. Steve,

    Like I said, the coupon is tied to and speaking about the trip. It still isn’t the thing itself.

  69. Josh,

    I guess for us, trust in the trip, means surity of arrival at the destination, or surity of obtaining the ‘thing’.

    We believe we are given that necessary trust at baptism, outside of anything we think, say, do, or feel.

  70. Steve,

    To come back to the example one more time – if my daughter had no trust in me before, the coupon wouldn’t make any difference.

    But because there is already trust, she joyfully accepts both the gift and believes the promise. The coupon may help in making it even more real but it does not create trust where before there was none.

    That trust is created by what I have done for her to earn that trust. And giving coupons is part of what I’m doing but certainly by no means the only or the most important thing.

  71. Josh,

    Gotta head to church, so i’ll be quick and answer your response later or tomorrow.

    What did your daughter do to have that trust in you, before the coupon was given to her?

    Nothing.

    She had trust in you when you first held her in your arms.

    In baptism, God holds us in His arms and promises to be our God. And we have the ‘coupon’ the baptism that we can always turn to for assurance that He’s made that promise to us.

    Ciao, for now…

  72. Josh….

    Baptism is not something we “do”. Baptism is a work of God (and is closely connected to faith, repentance, and salvation). Baptism is a means of grace, where God communicated Christ and all His benefits to the believer. In baptism we are the recipients of God’s grace, we receive His Spirit and are placed inside the church. Baptism is commanded (along with faith, repentance, confession, regeneration) as being part of the conversion experience.

    Water baptism & Spirit Baptism are intimately connected in Scripture. The two cannot be separated. If you were to ask the Apostle Paul if he is referring to water baptism or Spirit baptism in Romans 6 (and elsewhere) he would have looked at you funny, because the two go together. You cannot divorce them and you cannot make baptism an option for salvation. There is no such thing as an unbaptized Christian in the N.T.

  73. Steve and Ike,

    I have no clue where you two got the idea that I’d suggest there is something we need to do. On the contrary, I clearly indicated that trust originates in and grows from the work of God.

  74. Josh,

    You say, “If that’s all, Steve, then I’m with you 100%!” But here is where we HAVE to get behind our words or we are in fact talking past each other.

    Take it back to the immersed adult who turned out to be a hypocrit in his immersion baptism in 1991, then in 2009 he comes to faith truly as much as he can confess not at all unlike the first time when he confessed.

    Do you rebaptize? A simple yes or no.

    Why?

    The answer to this tells you how you constitute baptism as a baptism. Lutheran confessions answer this clearly. But what do you answer. Do you agree with the Lutheran confession on what CONSTITUTES baptism as opposed to just “plain water”.

    Infants and children aside, we won’t argue that for now. This situation this kind of adult, that is a real situation that occurs all the time.

    Do you rebaptize him, yes or no?

    I’m not using tricks, just a plain simple question with a plain simple “yes” or “no”.

    Thanks,

    larry

  75. Larry,

    The analogy of my story leaves no doubt what I would do. Since the coupon expresses my desire and offer for my child and since nothing has changed in that regard, there is no reason to issue a second coupon.

    I personally was baptized as an infant in the name of the Triune God and never saw a need to be rebaptized again.

    Is that enough to answer your question?

  76. corr. “never saw a need to be rebaptized.”

  77. Josh,

    Just so I’m clear, bear with my stupidity, that would be a “no”.

    Thank you. So you constitute the baptism on the name and word of God.

    Ok that helps. So do you rebaptize at all and why if you do (infant and/or adult), here we assume at a minimum christian baptism and not say Mormon? If you don’t, then I guess I have my answer to that.

    So is it fair to say (you tell me, I don’t want to speak for you) that even if not formally your view of the sacraments in the present tense is Reformed/Calvin? Would that be correct? I’m trying to understand you sound like where I use to be when I moved from baptist to reformed.

    Especially when you made this statement: “Like I said, the coupon is tied to and speaking about the trip. It still isn’t the thing itself”. That’s standard Reformed sacramental language in which we (I) would have said and all Reformed do concerning a sacrament, “being the sign but not the thing signified”?

    I think we are at least getting to the crux of the issue (difference) that is.

    More thoughts to come.

    Thanks Josh,

    Larry

  78. A couple of things to analyze because in an odd sense I think I have some personal experience of what Josh is wrestling with:

    Josh said, “I don’t believe that the gift of the Holy Spirit is necessarily tied to the act of baptism. That would be saying indeed: “the coupon IS the trip!”

    First of all the Word of God answers us on this in that the Holy Spirit is indeed always in baptism without failure. Why? Because His name is there too. We tend to forget the Holy Spirit’s there because He so bears witness of Christ and His work and the Father it is all too easy to do. But we are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. God is where He puts His name. We find that in 1 Kings 8:27-30, where God has said, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built! “Yet have regard to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplication, O LORD my God, to listen to the cry and to the prayer which Your servant prays before You today; that Your eyes may be open toward this house night and day, toward the place of which You have said, ‘MY NAME SHALL BE THERE,’ to listen to the prayer which Your servant shall pray toward this place. “Listen to the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place; hear in heaven Your dwelling place; hear and forgive.”

    And so we find that in the NT we are the Temples of God in which He puts His name on us in our Baptisms. It doesn’t mean men do not resist the Holy Spirit for they do, scripture is very explicit on this, very explicit. So that when forgiveness if given they resist that very office of the Holy Spirit, indeed the Spirit Himself passing that gift out as it where. In fact Stephen explains this explicitly in Acts 7 and gets stoned for it under the approval of the future champion of this Saul/Paul. They resist the Spirit explicitly and show so by gnashing of teeth and stoning. When men who are “doers” by fallen nature, wanna save myself even if I say I don’t, here FREE forgiveness, it is at this point they gnash their teeth and ACTUALLY resist the Spirit. So the witness is against them, a witness of actual fact of forgiveness. Or in the language of the analogy being used here, “the coupon is the trip” itself.

    Also, you have to be careful with analogies for they are by definition like a thing in certain aspects and not like a thing in certain aspects, if they were like a thing in all aspects they would no longer be an analogy but the thing itself. The coupon analogy is not bad up to a point but it fails to see or show what Josh is missing regarding baptism itself which is constituted on the Word and what the Word and Kingdom of God are about and doing. It fails to present the eschatological reality of the dawning “in this age”/”these last days” what will be in fulfillment and completion in the “age to come”/”last day”. Dawning of the sun, an analogy, helps us here because upon the rising dawning of the Sun we have IN FACT and REALITY the Sun, the REALITY itself, the thing itself. But it’s fullness, like noon time, is still to come as the sun continues to increasingly dawn or rise. This is how the Kingdom comes and Word works, Word in baptism and LS alike. When Jesus came incarnate the King had come and with Him the dawning of the Kingdom, like the entrance of a conquering King. In the train of His robe His gifts came with Him, baptism and the LS. And like in the OT the wooden Ark (type and shadow of Christ) after that baptism (Peter) from heaven the dove (the Holy Spirit) found a place to land and put his foot and brings with Him the olive branch of peace. Delivering the message of peace from heaven, the kingdom toward man/sinners and the forgiveness of sins (type and shadow – OT). So when Christ was baptized the heavens were torn open and out poured the Holy Spirit upon Him in the baptism. We see this again in the book of Acts that baptism brings the Spirit always, and that it is the Spirit being resisted in the baptism, that is the Word of Christ is resisted, the free forgiveness and unconditional justification is being resisted by the old man, the doer who holds out to be his own salvation and own god. The old Adam resisting baptism, that is unbelief even though baptized is not just resisting mere water, but the ACTUAL, the thing itself, Word and Promise, in the baptism. Nobody is resisting just plain water, but the Spirit Himself. No where in Scripture does God say, “they resist the water”, but explicitly God says, “They resist the Spirit”.

    Therefore, the dawning eschatological nature of the Kingdom for in the train of the robes of the King He has brought many good gifts and they are not just “tickets” pointing to some other reality, but the actual down payments and sureties (guarantee, warranty, collateral, deposit – all language Paul uses) – they are in fact the THING itself in the dawning partial eschaton. They are both the King and the Kingdom PRESSING into this last age/day and will be PRESSED entirely on the last day/age. What will be vanquished will be the usurpers. As my good friend Five Pint Lutheran once pointed out those being taken away, to the chagrin of the dispensationalist, are not the Christians, but the unbelievers – as it was in the days of Noah (Noah stayed!!). So here we see that baptism for example is not a “ticket” to a trip elsewhere, but an actual pressing in of the Kingdom, with the Spirit TO LOCATION itself. The King is coming HERE to set up the Kingdom, and in fact already has. It is the devil and unbelievers who are taking a trip elsewhere, not us. Baptism is the actual POURING in, like Acts says it is, of the Spirit and Kingdom in reality and not symbol.

    Thus, no man can tear asunder by any doctrine what God has put together, in this case the waters of baptism with His name (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and the Spirit Himself. To do so is simply another, “Hath God really said…” from the enemy.

    Second: Josh said, “On the contrary, I clearly indicated that trust originates in and grows from the work of God.”

    This is true, but more precisely it grows and originates from the Word of God which itself WORKS. That’s nit picking but critical. Because it is the promise and Word of God that works and creates and sustains faith. When we bifurcate the Spirit from the means of Grace we run into that gnostic error of an operation elsewhere in the high stratosphere. This is of course where the Anabaptist went. Thus the work of God is not like the Baptist nor some Reformed (not all) formularies that basically say, “faith is required and God grants the faith that is required”. Which is just the same thing as Rome’s substance grace. This is the “if/then” theology that is a theology of fallen man. In this the concept of “promise” from God is “if/then” like, “IF you clean your room, THEN I’ll get you some ice cream”. Here they think they have plausible deniability and can give a tip to God for the “working” and say, “God did it all” when He gave the faith to fulfill the “if/then” you will be saved. Faith becomes the hidden merit or hidden money that buys the “if” in order to get the “then”. This is simply the same religion of all the fallen religion with the moniker “christian” slapped on the side.

    But the Christian faith is a “because/therefore”. There is no “IF” and “THEN”. It is a religion of “Because I cleaned your room, therefore you WILL get ice cream”. But “doers”, the old Adam, always holds out for something to do so that that ever so last piece, even with a tip of the hat to the Holy Spirit for the “power” or “force” to do it – holds out for that “thing to do”, even if he calls it faith, so that he can at last be his own salvation, the crucial element that tipped the bucket into the “saved” category and thus his own god to himself. These “doers” gnash their teeth at this “because/therefore” religion because they secretly want to have something to do. Here they resist the Spirit who is communicating that ACTUAL THING ITSELF in the sacraments (baptism and LS). Thus, when one says, “Because I cleaned your room, therefore you WILL get ice cream”, they reply, “Oh no you don’t, I’ll at least pick up one sock.” Because the old Adam, the doer, doesn’t like to be a beggar, the truster in God but likes to be god.

    The rebirth brought about is precisely the trust that comes out on the other side of the death from the “unconditional Word of justification” where at first this Word is an attack that kills the “doer” on one side and then the actual promise itself on the other side where the “truster” is. This Word as the parable of the sower shows is an actual Word and real thing itself and not a mere symbol, like a ticket, pointing elsewhere (the eschatological nature of the dawning kingdom). And sometimes it is snatched away and rejected. The Seed itself is the seed of the new man, the earthen soil is in a sense irrelevant.

    Yours,

    Larry

  79. I’m back.

    Suffice it to say (I think) that some believe that God does everything in baptism…and some don’t.

    I know that our Christian journeys bring us all to new places. There was a time, not all that long ago in the scheme of things when I had another view of baptism.

    There are some that now believe as I do about baptism that someday will not…and vice versa.

  80. Thanks, Larry, for your relentless pursuit of precision in the matter. It has helped me to clarify and verbalize my own understanding of the matter.

    To be honest, I am having trouble fully identifying with any theological tradition regarding baptism. I can’t fully agree with the Baptist view because there is too much emphasis on conditionalities that I don’t see as biblical. I can’t fully agree with a regenerational view of Baptism because the Biblical evidence is broader than that. I can’t even feel completely at home with the Reformed folks because their emphasis of symbol/sign versus substance misses the point of what the “substance” actually is – considering the relational framework of it all.

    And I think I have to correct the description of my coupon analogy a bit to bring out that point:

    Although the coupon is not the entire trip itself, for my daughter it is already the beginning of the experience and it would be an artificial act of separation to say: the coupon really means nothing compared to the “real” thing. No, the coupon is part of it, as is the plain ride, checking into the hotel, standing in line to go on rides, and then actually sitting in the rollercoaster screaming her head off in terror and delight.

    Maybe I should go even a step further and say, “In essence, it’s neither the coupon nor other aspects of the trip that matters most to my daughter, but the fact that her daddy loves her. Everything else is just an expression and outflow of that love!”

  81. corr. “PLANE ride …”

  82. Josh,

    Thanks for the kind words.

    “To be honest, I am having trouble fully identifying with any theological tradition regarding baptism. I can’t fully agree with the Baptist view because there is too much emphasis on conditionalities that I don’t see as biblical. I can’t fully agree with a regenerational view of Baptism because the Biblical evidence is broader than that. I can’t even feel completely at home with the Reformed folks because their emphasis of symbol/sign versus substance misses the point of what the “substance” actually is – considering the relational framework of it all.” –End Quote

    I understand THAT paragraph personally, I really do, every word of it. Our personal wrestlings are not that far apart and not at all different brother.

    Larry

  83. Thanks, Larry!

    It’s always encouraging to find both understanding and a bit of common ground!

  84. Great post. I like the way Luther uses the word hypocrite.

    Nomally, it refers to a person who says one thing but does something else.

    Luther takes a deeper definition of the word hypocrite as anyone who is not resting “in Christ” and their faith in Christ or as he says is not in the spirit.

    Philippians 3:7-12 tells us the purpose if the law is not so much to show us how to live a good life — or to such our worth from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The purpose of the law is to point us to how great our needs for Jesus Christ.

    We will never hunger for Christs’ beauty (the Gospel) until we have seen the filth of our own vain efforts to make ourselves beautiful.

    JS

  85. I meant suck… not such

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