“The Doctrine of God” – class #1 in the 10 part Fall teaching series


Here’s class #1 of Pastor Mark’s 10 part series (outlined a couple of posts back) :


 class #1 – ‘The Doctrine of God’


Share it with someone whom you think might be the least likely to be interested. Why? Because I think God enjoys the ‘hard cases’.  Look at St. Paul.  Or…better yet, look at yourself!




Thank you, Pastor Mark.

And thanks to flickr and kccuk, for the photo.












21 Responses

  1. terrific stuff! especially when Mark emphasizes Luther’s point that whereas we speak SYMBOLS, God speaks THINGS, elsewhere known as performative speech or speech-acts. (Lazarus being called back into life always seems a perfect example of ex nihilo with nothing forensic about it!!).

    So when God says we are forgiven, then that reality comes about. Presumably therefore this takes us away from the more common idea of justification as a forensic, primarily legal, act.

    (steve – labelling in future, maybe you will be calling the next one ‘doctrine of god 2’ otherwise we will have ten identically titled! keep up the good work!)

  2. Thanks, Richard!

    Yes, I too liked that part very much about God not being in the ‘debating’ business… but the ‘creating’ business.

    And I will label them differently so they won’t all run together. I appreciate the suggestion!

  3. Richard,

    I think Bill has it right. Clearer? Shorter maybe.

    I’ll try:

    All are forgiven. But not all come to faith. Some hear it (the gospel), but yet do not believe (trust). Others hear it and come to faith. Why? We can’t know why. God knows.

    Even after we receive faith, we are still in bondage to sin as we read in Romans Chapter 7 and look at our lives.

    Do we walk away from our Baptisms and our trust of God? Sure. Every day. We need to be kept in faith. “For those of us who are BEING saved…” Paul wrote. We are in a battle, that’s for sure. But the outcome is sure (He has promised us). Hear the Word (the law and the gospel)…return to our Baptisms daily, as Luther said, and receive the Lord’s Supper and stoke the fires of faith with Bible study and a concern for the neighbor, and pray for world that we live in…and pray that when the Lord brings His New Kingdom, that He will have mercy on us and include us in it.

    That probably didn’t help (more than Bill’s explanation) too much.

    • As you know, I am highly attracted to the Lutheran position (and may be one without realising!?) but there remains one long-standing question


      If Jesus’ atoning death does something massive for ALL men, then why are some men sent to hell as a punishment for their sins?


      PS – You say all are forgiven; Bill says all are justified but only those who receive faith are forgiven. I am not unduly worried which, but both fail to answer my question?

      PPS – My lesser question is about the sacraments; Bill seems to TIE forgiveness to these events – a little too Roman

      • Richard,

        God will save whom He will save.

        Ultimately, it is up to Him. He hardened Pharaoh’s heart. He saved Paul. Who are we to tell Him what to do?

        But our ‘reason’ dictates to us, that there ought be some way to figure it (Him) out.

        God can surely forgive and save in the sacraments. He commanded them.

        But He can surely save apart from them, as well.

        I think that I am a Lutheran because (finally) of the assurance that God gives me in those sacraments. They make concrete and tangible the Cross of Christ (forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation) in real time, in my personal timeline, that I need not look anywhere to anything that I do, say, feel, or think…for assurance of my salvation.

    • My last comment to Bill was as follows as you might be able to address this precise question head on


      Bill, I think you are now giving me too much to digest!

      I am trying to do one thing only – to examine the relative merits of the (lutheran) position whereby you pronounce the actuality of the forgiveness of sins to each and all men, and that declarative use of the keys then creates faith in the elect – as against the reformed position where they declare that Christ died for sinners but only when the hearer believes that, is the forgiveness of his sins reassured.

      You say forgiveness comes before faith, and they say the opposite.

      My concern with your (lutheran) position is that, logically and judicially, once a man has had his sins forgiven (30 AD) then he cannot go to hell to pay for those sins and that is still true even if he does not have faith.

      So again I ask you an earlier question – for lutherans, is salvation dependent on the forgiveness of sins (an objective, historical fact), or only on the individual’s (subjective, inner) acceptance of that fact?”

      (Part of me thinks the Reformed position is consistent but not biblical, whereas the lutheran position is not yet consistent in my mind!)

      • Steve hi

        My overriding support for lutheranism comes from their clear statement of the law-gospel divide. But my two problems with lutheranism are (i) Universal v Limited atonement where, see my response to Bill above, I do not think lutherans are consistent/coherent, but also (ii) their sacramentalism, which you address above in “God will save..”

        I would like to affirm some Real Presence as opposed to Zwinglian memorialism but I am nervous that your statement is too close to catholic ex opere operato however much you emphasise also the need for faith.

        We recently over here discussed the basis for our assurance and what we would say to the Judge if ‘being called to give an account’ were to mean this. I decided I would simply say ‘Christ died for sinners of whom I am one’. Tell me if this is inadequate theology but it ‘works’ for me for assurance, at least so far!

        By contrast a reference back to one’s baptism or partaking of the lord’s supper is insufficiently Christocentric and allows the enemy to reply ‘well, maybe you were one who drank damnation on himself in doing so’ etc etc. I know Luther used to revert to ‘I have been baptised’ but I am not sure that his faith was actually that thin!! I suspect much more of his faith was based on Rom 1 v17

        Can you help me on this issue?!

  4. There’ll be plenty of people whose sins are forgiven, in hell.

    That forgiveness touches down in faith, trust. No faith, no trust, then that forgiveness falls flat. It’s like that Baptized person who walks away from the promises made by God in that Baptism. The promises are still good and valid…but we ignore them in favor of other words, so no benefit is derived.

    Faith comes by hearing and the Word of God. Why some hear and some don’t is THE QUESTION. And we just can’t resolve that mystery this side of Heaven.

    We just have to take God’s Word seriously, and trust that He will be able to handle the job of deciding whom He will save…or not save.

    God’s ways are not our ways, that’s for sure.

    • I’m afraid you are moving away from explaining anything to me!!

      Man goes to hell for his sins

      If his sins are forgiven, why would he be sent to hell?

      You say ‘Forgiveness touches down in faith’. then, without faith, it was not really forgiveness? It was conditional forgiveness? Conditional on faith. So we cannot say to man, ‘Your sins are forgiven’

      I keep asking the same question. Nobody answers

      I give up

  5. Richard,

    Sometimes there is no answer that will satisfy our ‘reason’.

    All are forgiven, but not all hear of that forgiveness (really hear it) and come to a living faith.

    No one can tell you why not. Some things REALLY are a mystery. Some things concerning God and His ways are unanswerable.

    We just trust that He knows what He is doing, and we trust His promises are enough for us, those who have faith.

    • I am sorry to have been badgering you and anyone about this; it just seems critical

      I have no problem with the mystery of election. Rom 9, Job etc show that on some issues God says Mind Your Own Business (or do not test me)

      My question is about forgiveness, not about election (Romans goes on about forgiveness from start to finish). And specifically the lutheran doctrine of ‘forgiven sinners in hell’. I am sure you can see the tension within that notion.

      Bill elsewhere has sought to explain that tension in two ways (i) Limited Atonement interpreted quite differently and meaning that man has been forgiven a limited number of sins – all sins bar the sin against the Holy Spirit; a creative idea but achieving little because those in hell are not then really forgiven; (ii) forgiven sinners have not accepted their forgiveness. This is a variation on the above and with greater problems. It transfers the ‘active salvific ingredient’ from God’s action to man’s response. Nor am I sure this semi-pelagianism can be rectified by saying that God’s second sovereign, elective act is to give the faith necessary to accept, because – without that faith – man’s failure to accept is still a sin. It is a rejection of Christ and His redemptive atoning work (John 5) – so we cannot say those in hell really had been forgiven.

      But don’t worry!! The Reformed position is IMHO equally precarious. They seem to say you can only know you are ‘truly’ saved if you are producing the right fruit. Thus, while trying to deny it, they have essentially espoused the equally semi-pelagian catholic notion of making justification dependent on sanctification (or growth in holiness). By including the restoration of free will as part of regeneration, they slide into Perfectionism

      Bill has today kindly sent something new on the other site which I’ll turn to

      • Gonna be very brief, Richard( about go start work)

        We are ALL forgiven, Scripture is quite clear about it.

        The other stuff is a bit mysterious.

        More brief than I had hoped.

        Gotta run

        Sent from my iPhone

      • Who exactly is justified ?

        Bill, having consulted a pastor, now quotes me Rom 3 v22-, to which I have replied

        nope, sorry

        Rom 3 v23 ‘for all have sinned..and v24 are justified’ does not relate to all the world, but to all those people who are the subject of v22a ‘all those who believe’. So the v22-24 passage should (amplified) read

        ‘This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all WHO believe. There is no difference [among them, those who believe] for ALL of them [those who believe] have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and [they, those who believe] are justified freely by his grace through the redemption [of those people] that came by Christ Jesus.


        Limited Atonement

        Don’t worry – lutheranism does not hang on this!

  6. On the Cross, He forgave His murderers. Those who believed, and those who did not.

    But not all whom He has forgiven will benefit from that forgiveness. For faith comes by hearing…and we know that many just don’t hear it.

    We don’t buy limited atonement. “Oh how I would gather you as a hen would gather her chicks. But you would not.”

    He loves all. He forgives all. But….

    • Jesus prayed for the cup to pass from Him, but He knew that it could not

      Jesus prayed ‘Father, forgive them…’ but maybe He equally knew that this was not to be

      Why did Jesus not forgive Jerusalem? The ‘Oh how’ actually points to the deeper picture that the Father does not forgive the sins of all

      Don’t take me for a calvinist; I am trying to get my head round the lutheran paradigm of ‘forgiven sinners in hell’. The forgiveness of sins is at the heart of the gospel; we protestants call it justification. The shorthand phrase ‘justification by faith’ has always been unhelpful. Faith is not the agent. We are justified by grace (the agent) through faith (the medium) – not JBF but JBGTF

      Put another way, we are NOT justified by our God-given faith in God’s forgiveness of our sins (which has an internal basis – faith); we are just plain justified by God’s gracious forgiveness of our sins (which has an external basis – God)

      I personally think that Luther was clear on this but it was subsequent German pietism that over-emphasized the ‘inner’ component for various well-intentioned reasons

  7. I think the “Oh how…”,points to the love of God but to the determination of many to be their own gods. To not hear. To not see.

    Grace is the agent, but the conduit of that grace is faith. “Faith comes by hearing”.

    I just never could get my head around the notion of telling someone that ‘Christ may have died for you’. Or…’you know..you’re sins may be forgiven.’

    Of course many within Lutheranism have taken it the wrong way (the pietists – the anti-nomians )

    I agree that grace is an external reality, but faith is a gift of God, as well. He gives it, and He keeps us in it, through external means…alone.

    However we boil this down, the answer, of course, is that God will be God. And He will save whom He will save. But we try and stay true to the Scriptures in saying that God loves all…died for all…forgives all.

    Why some believe…and not others, is the head scratcher.

    Thank you, friend.

    Off to the salt mine.

    • To the salt miner !

      I think the crux is – are we actually biblically justified is saying to an individual ‘Christ has died for you’? (Of course that does not mean we must crassly say ‘may have’)

      Can you give me some defining passages about universal forgiveness of sins?

      Jesus did not tell Nicodemus or the Pharisees or the rich, young ruler that He was dying for them or forgiving their sins

      (PS – neither of us is doubting election, but our understanding of soteriological doctrine will helpfully guide our teaching and evangelism).

      • In selecting passages, I should just add use of ‘all’ (Greek – pan/pantes etc) must be read in context – eg Jesus will restore all creation; yes, but not the evil angels

  8. Richard,

    Did triple duty today at work, had to go back to job #1 because someone didn’t show up for their shift. So I haven’t had time to look up and send you the passages that speak of Christ’s love and forgiveness for the whole world…but, I probably would have (to save time) gone to some of the pieces written on these blog posts by a Lutheran who was debating a (os some) Calvinists.


    Anyway, he’s cited most or all of the Scripture verses that I would have. Some posts are better than others. You may want to peruse a bit.

    Thanks for understanding my lack of time.

    • Not at all, not at all – indeed I’ll be going a busy patch very shortly. I found that post, which says

      Romans 3:23-24; but you left out verse 22 and 25-26 . . . The text does not say that “every single individual was justified in Christ by His death on the cross”.

      But it does: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace . . . .”

      “All” is the subject of the second part of the compound predicate also. Paul was good with words. If he meant to limit the number of people justified (declared “innocent”) by Christ’s blood, he would have.

      COMMENT – You won’t mind me saying that both sides are in danger of proof-texting. The context from Rom 2 v17 is that the Jews are no better than the Gentiles and having the Law is of no use to them. All have sinned (Rom 3 v23). But now there is another way apart from the Law (Rom 3 v21) and sinners will be justified in this way, by grace (Rom 3 v24), yes ALL of them, in the sense that every sinner who is justified will have been justified in this way.

      I know it will.look as if I fudged the text but I want to show that Paul’s point is to warn the Jews against any reliance on the Law, not to reassure them that everyone will or has been forgiven.

      In fact, if I proof-texted v22, I would say that the chronology shows that you must believe first and then righteousness follows, whereas you would say that righteousness comes first (in the form of the forgiveness of sins), THEN there must be faith (then there is salvation).

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