Good old Marty…

“If God promises something, then faith must fight a long and bitter fight, for reason or the flesh judges that God’s pro mises are impossible. Therefore faith must battle against reason and its doubts…………. Faith is something that is busy, powerful and creative, though properly speaking, it is essentially an enduring than a doing. It changes the mind and heart. While reason holds to what is present, faith apprehends the things that are not seen. Contrary to reason, faith regards the invisible things as already materialized. This explains why faith, unlike hearing is not found in many, for only few believe, while the great majority cling to the things that are present and can be felt and handled rather than to the Word.”

                                                                          ~ Martin Luther, ‘The Promises’


“Long and bitter fight”?   Huh?

Didn’t Luther realize that we were saved once, way back there at the cross (or when I made my decision) and that now I am on the Christian escalator…constantly moving upward and onward?

26 Responses

  1. “This explains why faith, unlike hearing is not found in many, for only few believe, while the great majority cling to the things that are present and can be felt and handled rather than to the Word.”

    Who are the ‘many’ here? The false convert or the unbeliever?

  2. The “many” here are neither false converts or unbelievers, but the true converts and believers who can and do fall away. NOT because as Arminians say they fall away due to a lack of good works, but they fall away from trusting nakedly in the Cross of Christ.

    That’s why the battle in all forms of OSAS becomes a battle for fruit production and works when all is laid in the balance and distilled. But for Luther and Lutherans the battle is ALWAYS nothing less than a battle for believing and nakedly trusting in Christ’s work.

    For reason, affections and experience all war against faith and the articles of faith because such are incomprehensible to them.

    The seed in the parable of the sewer did not fall away because they did not produce fruit, the devil’s religion. Rather they fell away because they slowly fell away from trusting Christ for them. Not so much an active “in your face” atheism, but rather quite feeding on Christ.

    Now one may begin to see the CRITICAL issue of hearing the pure Gospel, receiving absolution, the sacraments – all deliveries of Christ for you in the particular constantly refraining in your ears and soul, constantly coming to you. That is to remain in Christ.

    OSAS says, “I’ve crossed that line of saved, rebirth, conversion, election now I just need to get busy proving it with fruit”. Similarly arminian and Roman can fall away theologies just remove the “line in the sand” of “getting over to conversion” and say you have to work. The difference in both of these on one side of the aisle and Luther is the works versus faith alone without the support of works ever. In fact the falling away is not lack of fruit, but often the pursuit of fruit…which is reason, the devil’s mistress, leading a man back to that way of man that seem right, and away from Christ alone and faith alone.


  3. He’s not talking about salvation, but about the promises of God which are many…to the righteous in Christ. Our microwave society…and I would add, the society of the time of Job…find it hard to grasp the reality of God’s truth as our time clock of understanding and God’s are quite removed from each other.

  4. Thanks for your take on this Larry.

    “The seed in the parable of the sewer did not fall away because they did not produce fruit, the devil’s religion. Rather they fell away because they slowly fell away from trusting Christ for them.”

    One doesn’t produce fruit to ‘show’ they are saved, they produce fruit ‘because’ they are saved. If one falls away from from Christ it proves they never were of Christ to begin with; a false convert.

    1 john 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

    Of the OSAS logic……I don’t know that I have ever heard the reasoning to ‘prove’ ones self by creating man made fruit. The OSAS comes from Scripture and then not because of fruit bearing but because of the promise of not being snatched out of Jesus’ or the Father’s hand and also being sealed in the Holy Spirit until redemption (John 10:28,29 & Ephesians 1:12-14).

    I just cannot wrap my mind around this idea of a true convert ever falling away.

    Does a believer stumble? Yes, of course. But I see the Christian walk not as an escalator always on the upward, but rather a journey that has a few steps forward and then some back while we make our pilgrimage to the Kingdom (a la Pilgrims Progress).

    A true born-again believer will not and cannot fall away; he continues his journey (with some occasional set backs) but never gives up or falls away.

  5. Christ Jesus certainly won’t lose us.

    But we can choose to cut ourselves off from Him.

    The world, the flesh, and the devil are trying to rip us away from Him.

    Maybe that is why St. Paul says, “for those of us who are BEING saved”.

    Maybe that’s why the race analogy and all the ‘spiritual warfare’ language.

    I can tell you flat out that I know I’m in the battle.

    Thanks be to God that Jesus Christ is fighting for me!

  6. I have trouble with acronyms. What is OSAS?

  7. Once Saved Always Saved, right?

  8. I thought it was ‘Octapus Sausages Are Spicy’

    (naw…you are right R.L.)

  9. I agree with Nancy, that this quote is not necessarily talking about salvation. Although, salvation is one of God’s promises. I don’t think there is a true opposition between the approach that sees salvation as a process and a transactional approach, as Paul did provide support for both. The problem is in trying to fit a mystery into a modernist category.

    There is no further work to be done; Christ has done it all. However, Luther also held to a type of theosis or deification, which could be seen as salvation or as the Christian Escalator. Either way, it’s Christ, not us. Whether we are “being saved” or “sanctified” through our own struggles with faith (also a gift), we are indeed made more like Christ.

    I think when people feel the need to define mysteries in concrete terms, the result is always heresy (to some extent).

  10. If you could Say Luther did any sort of “works” it would have been the works of understanding the cross and what what Christ did for us, the Gospel, more deeply. To the degree that it impacted his culture and many cultures to follow very deeply.

  11. “But we can choose to cut ourselves off from Him.”

    Steve, this seems so inconsistent for a Lutheran to say. I think you agree that we don’t choose God, but then you say that we can choose to leave Him. This seems odd to me.

    • I find that odd as well….LIFE is always God’s choice…Once born of the Spirit of God, we are sealed by that very same Holy Spirit and fueled by the resulting faith gifted to us The result of that faith is the seeking of LIFE in and through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It will take us a lifetime of learn to walk in that faith. The Holy Spirit indwelling us is always teaching and guiding us; speaking to us…”This is the way walk here!”

  12. Darius,

    It does seem odd, but it is not. It is Lutheran doctrine.

    We believe that we are in bondage to sin. Because of our sinfulness (our fallen nature), we cannot choose God. We, in effect, rebel against God. That is our default position.

    So then, not wanting to follow God is our natural state. God gives us faith through the hearing of His Word, and also in Baptism (we Lutherans believe). But the old fallen nature still lives within us, that is why Christians continue to sin after they have faith in Christ.

    Now the battle begins. The spiritual warfare. The world, our sinful flesh, and the devil desire to rip us away from Christ. But Christ wants to keep us and so He gives us His Word and His Sacraments towards that end.

    Christ’s promises are sure and we can trust in them absolutely, but yet we have to recognize that the devil isn’t messing around with us for kicks, and for just something to do. He is after us and wants to spit into God’s eye with everyone whose faith in God he can destroy.

    I had a very hard time with this doctrine at first. I didn’t want to believe it. But the longer I live, the more I see how true it is.

    We shouldn’t worry about it. God WILL keep His promises to us, but we ought never take them for granted, and we ought realize that we ARE in the battle.

    In fact, my pastor will quite often start our conversation just that way, “Steverino”, he says, “how goes the battle?” And then away we go off into the slings and arrows of what is happening that week.

    • “We believe that we are in bondage to sin. Because of our sinfulness (our fallen nature), we cannot choose God. We, in effect, rebel against God. That is our default position.”

      Oh, but now the GOOD NEWS! Our nature has been changed! We have been given a new heart! Not only have our sins been washed away, we have been freed and are now able to follow the leading of the indwelling Holy Spirit!

      • This GREAT GOOD NEWS, does not in any way diminish the power and action of the Holy Spirit found in baptism and the sacraments…Being human, we always need to be reminded of what Jesus Christ has done and who we are because of it!

  13. Yes, we do have a new nature. But the old nature is still with us as well.

    Hence, the battle.

    • *: ) I can’t know the title of this song…but I hear the words…Acentuate the positive…eliminate the negative…don’t mess with Mr. In-Between!…*; )

  14. Nancy,

    I hear ya!

    That is part of the battle! We must stay in the Word of God. We must continue to receive the Sacraments.

    We can’t take our faith for granted, as so many do.

    I’m sure the devil has a field day with those who believe they are immune from his attacks and to the possibility of losing their faith.

    His promises are forever and they are True! But…the battle rages on. The race is to the end.

    Thanks, Nancy!

  15. The paradox always causes us to wrestle. One thing, and this is just my thoughts on the subject is part of the problem is that many of us come from more or less backgrounds in which we saw faith more or less otherwise given to us and not adhered to the Word, from the Word and of the Word. I see this in the parable of the sower most strongly concerning faith and the Word.

    Let me give it a try to spell out what I’m saying. Again, this is just my preliminary thoughts.

    All Christian denominations (i.e. a confession) would say they “stick to the Word”, but what does that mean in each situation? An analogy may help: In Reformed logic the two natures are more or less viewed, if we could put a visual to it, as the humanity kind of tacked onto the side of the deity, almost like a side car. Both Reformed and Lutherans would say they adhere and stick to the ancient confessions on this issue and against the two heresies. Yet, really one does and one does not, the one that does not does not NOT by open denial but ill conception of it. So the way the Reformed versus the Lutherans view the two natures is really utterly different. That is not our discussion here but allows us an analogy.

    The same principle occurs when differing confessions equally state in words, “we stick to the Word of God”. Its obvious that not all are equally doing this else there’d be unity among them and NOT separate confessions. This is where we must be Bereans and attempt to unearth who is and who, even ignorantly, is not. I lay this ground work for a reason, as mentioned above many of us come from backgrounds (Reformed, Baptist, other) that has a particular intrinsic view of how faith comes about and its relationship to the Word. The relationship to the Word is CRUCIAL! If I am relating two nouns or subjects by a pronoun I can in a generic sense say with another person doing the same state, “See I too relate X with Y and stick X with Y”. But I may be saying, “X with Y” and he be saying “X in Y”, and another “X for Y”, and another “X to Y” and yet another “X under/above Y”, etc… All can say in a form we all adhere to a relationship of X and Y. But not all are speaking the truth and only one is really TRUE.

    In other heterodox confessions generally speaking “faith” is related to the Word in a disconnected or other way than nakedly. The degree of separation, as it were, depends on the denomination/confession and ultimately is linked to the incarnation and sacraments. So that one “sees” conversion even though occurring in the presence of the Word somehow, disconnected. This is why for example Calvin would say that the Holy Spirit operates sometimes and sometimes not in the Word and the Sacraments, but not always. Faith is more or less given in a disconnected concept of the Spirit. The Word is in the mix but no through the Word is there. Thus, sometimes conversion, per se, occurs and others not. And this is how the parable of the sower is interpreted as such, in that those that fall away later never had real faith. It makes the Calvinistic, Roman and Weslyan systems work. And thus the nearly inexhaustible plethora of fruit production sermons preached on this parable, as if the soil does ANYTHING.

    Yet in Luther faith seems to operate “in, with and under” the Word (and Sacraments). Where the Word is not, neither is faith, nor the Spirit! It seems similar to the two natures of Christ. Faith is not operating above, around, below, to the side of or otherwise with the Word but is in, with and under the Word itself. This is truly how the parable of the sower shows. Note well that in the parable the soil really does nothing whatsoever, not even the fruit production. Rather the Word, the seed cast promiscuously does! The soil is quite nothing, even in the good soil the seed the Word is doing the production. Where the Word, the Gospel IS, there is too the real faith and NEVER a fake faith and from this comes the fruit. To say that the seed in the bad soils was false faith is really blaspheme against the Word. And here we begin to see what Paul meant when he said in Romans what do we say when men don’t believe? So what, it is not as if the Word of God is void, men are liars, God is true.

    That’s why the ones that truly fall away fall away because they ultimately disdain the Word, the Word of the free Gospel and do not continually come to it and feed upon it, in Word or Sacrament. The Gospel has within it that real faith every time. It is not as if the Gospel comes to one and there is faith and to another and there is no faith. No the parable of the sower is again helpful, the birds, the demons come and snatch it immediately! Thus, faith and the Spirit come in the Word and Sacraments (the Gospel with its critical “pro me”!), and not to the side, top, bottom, front or back of the Word and sacraments in some misty Gnostic mode of spirit.

    This was indeed the danger Luther saw with the sacramentarians and rightly called them along with the Pope enthused – for the Pope too thinks he interprets the Word otherwise, just like Zwingli, just like Calvin, just like Baptist doctrine and so forth. Because all see the “spirit” operating more or less nakedly on the heart at some point and at worse without the Word, or at best just kind of using the Word as a necessary tool.

    When the Lutherans confess WD/MA the Latin phrase that means the Word of God endures forever – they really mean it.


  16. Even though I spent over 20 years in the Lutheran church (the LCA, before it turned to the dark side), I was unfamiliar with the “Law and Gospel” concept until recently, and I still don’t really grasp it the way Luther meant it. I do understand Paul when he says “the law kills but the Spirit gives life.”

    If we have been crucified with Christ and the law nailed to the cross as well, then it seems that the only reason to preach the law is to show that it was powerless to save, that it has no further effect, and that our only hope is the Gospel.

    Is this correct, in Lutheran terms?

  17. Alden,

    I think that the preaching of the law, is actually ‘doing the law’ to the hearer. It is continuing to do the work needed to keep the person in faith.
    And of course, the gospel continues to do it’s work also.

    St. Paul says, “those of us who are ‘being saved’ …” (my emphasis).

    It’s not static. It’s an ongoing relationship, started by, continued by, and culminated by God.

    The law and the gospel are the means that he has chosen to do this.

    The law has no power to save, but it is an integral part of the salvation process.

    Plus, we still are subject to the law in the here and now, which is no small potato for all of us who are still breathing and who suffer all the consequences of the effects of a fallen world and a fallen self.

  18. In relation to the choosing to believe or disbelieve, etc. I noticed something during the last lenten season. Usually we read the passion from Matthew or John, but in the Treasury of Daily Prayer we had Luke. There Jesus says to Peter: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail…” (Luke 22:31). It shows us how our faith depends directly on God’s action and sustenance.

    From the Treasury, I’ve also learned the Compline (though it’s always been in the hymnal), which prays: “Keep me as the apple of your eye.” Wow. Do keep me, in your mercy. On this mercy all depends, and it is available always to all through the means of grace.

  19. Under the OSAS paradigm, someone who falls away was never saved in the first place. The problem is that you don’t really know with objective certainty whether or not you are one of those “true believers who can never fall away”. Maybe you were one of those people who was never saved in the first place and you’ll only find this out later. You could be “a spiritual defector who hasn’t defected yet,” in the words of John MacArthur. So much for any real assurance in that system.

  20. I think you are right , Dawn.

    There is no assurance there.

    I do believe it was to avoid such despairing, self-focused doubt, that the Lord instituted the Sacraments.

    Thanks, my friend.

  21. You Lutherans might find this interesting… yesterday, here in Minneapolis, the ELCA’s annual convention was being held here at the Convention Center to discuss and (likely) allow for the ordination of homosexuals. Meanwhile, we were having a typical summer day of rain, nothing severe or anything. Suddenly, unexpected to all the weathermen, a tornado formed just south of downtown Minneapolis, ripped into the Convention Center and the ELCA tents outside, and badly damaged a local Lutheran church… and then was gone. I hope the convention attendees make the connection that Piper did:

  22. Darius,

    Piper’s piece was very good. The ELCA ought to repent (as we all should) and this affirmation of homosexuality in the church will not bode well for the church (if it passes-which it probably will).

    The photo of the broken church steeple is a fiting picture of a broken church.

    Thanks for sharing that!

    – Steve

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