Sunday, December 26, 2010

On Grace, Predestination and Total Depravity

     26. An act of love is not the best way of doing "what in one lies." Nor is such a deed the best preparation for the grace of God. Nor is it a method of repenting and drawing near to God.
     27. But it is an act ensuing from a repentance which has already happened and is complete. It comes in its own good time and proper way, and is a result of grace.
     28. In the texts, "Turn ye unto me and I shall turn to you" (Zech. 1:3), or again, "Seek and ye shall find" (Matt. 7:7), or again, "If ye seek me....I shall be found of you" (Jer. 29:13 f.), and statements like these, if they are interpreted as implying that the first half of the activity is man's contribution and the rest is of grace, then what is asserted is only what the Pelagians said.
     29. The perfectly infallible preparation for grace, the one and only valid attitude, is the eternal election and predestination of God.
     30. The only contribution man makes is to resist it. In actual fact, rebellion against grace precedes any receiving of it.
     31. It is the most worthless of fabrications to say: a presestined man can be damned in sensu diviso (that is if the notion of predestination is separated from the notion of damnation), but not  in sensu composito (that is if the notion of predestination and damnation are taken together).
     [Thomists have tried to support their theory of efficacious grace by the distinction between sensus compositus and sensus divisus. Take a rather simple and non-philosophical statement: a blind man cannot see. This is a false statement if taken in the first sense sensus compositus, that is if the blindness is taken together  (compositus) with his alleged seeing. But it may be a true statement if taken in the second sense sensus divisus, that is if the notion of blindness is taken apart from (divisus) the seeing.
     [To apply this simple distinction to the ideas under discussion, that a predestined man may be damned in one sense but not in another: -- What is being asserted is that a predestined man could be damned if the predestination and the damnation are separated as blindness was separated from seeing in the example just given. This is manifestly absurd. Luther is challenging such obscurantist sophistry in the interests of a biblical theology. He is arguing that a man cannot be properly described as predestined if he is going to be damned. Ed.]
    32. Furthermore, it gets us no further to assert: predestination is necessary for the sake of logical consequences (consequentia), but not for the sake of casual consequence (consequens).
     [The distinction is between consequence in the sense of logical nexus or connection, and consequence in the sense of proposition resulting in the virtue of logical nexus or connection, i.e., the conclusion of a piece of reasoning. The sophists are trying to have it both ways, saying that predestination is a logical consequence of God's decrees, but yet the election itself does not necessarily take place. This is the same sort of absurdity challenged in Thesis 31. Luther is again criticizing the sophistry that seeks to explain away the Biblical theology of predestination and election rather than explain it. Ed.]
     33. And that is a false dictum, too, which alleges that to do "all that in one lies" is to remove the obstacles to grace (against certain teachers).
     34. In short, the natural man possesses neither a sound reason nor a good will.

Martin Luther, Library of Christian Classics, Vol. XVI, pp. 268, 269.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Letter On The Sacrament Of Holy Baptism

The Sacrament of Holy Baptism

A sacrament is the institution of God whereby a visible sign is connected with a divine promise. We recognize two sacraments in the Christian church: Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We shall here, by God’s grace, consider the blessed gift of Holy Baptism and the benefits which it confers.

God works among the lost and fallen children of Adam to reconcile and save them by the operation of His word and Spirit. Martin Luther, in his explanation of the Third Article of the Creed, states:

“I believe that there is on earth, through the whole wide world, no more than one holy, common, Christian Church, which is nothing else than the congregation, or assembly of the saints, i.e., the pious, believing men on earth, which is gathered, preserved and ruled by the Holy Ghost, and daily increased by means of the sacraments and the Word of God.

“I believe that no one can be saved who is not found in this congregation, holding with it to one faith, word, sacraments, hope and love, and that no Jew, heretic, heathen or sinner can be saved along with it, unless he become reconciled to it, united with it and conformed to it in all things.

“I believe that in this congregation, and nowhere else, there is forgiveness of sins; that outside of it, good works, however great they be or many, are of no avail for the forgiveness of sins; but that within it, no matter how much, how greatly or how often men may sin, nothing can hinder forgiveness of sins, which abides wherever and as long as this one congregation abides.” Luther’s Works, Phil. Ed., Vol II, p. 373.

Therefore we know that God works not only by the preaching of His word, but also by the sacraments. Christ gave command to His disciples, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Mt. 28:19. And in St. Mark, 16:15,16, “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
We shall ask the question, “Is baptism necessary unto salvation?” The answer according to the Augsburg Confession is, yes. “Of Baptism, they teach, that it is necessary to salvation, and that through Baptism is offered the grace of God; and that children are to be baptized, who, being offered to God through Baptism, are received into His grace. They condemn the Anabaptists, who allow not the Baptism of children, and say that children are saved without Baptism.” Article IX.

The question then arises concerning the state of a child of a Christian who dies before baptism can be administered. Luther taught that we can trust such a child is saved, but our aim here is not to treat of the exception, but to establish the rule according to the words of Christ. Therefore we still must say that Baptism is necessary unto salvation when we consider the stature and authority of He who ordained and commanded it, and we shall leave any exception in the hands of our gracious God, who has promised to be the God of our children also. Jesus commands us to both preach and baptize. Which of these can we say is unnecessary? Consider how He said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” Mt. 28:18. Shall we answer back to Him and say that one or the other is not necessary? Rather, let us rejoice in both preaching and baptism, for herein God has provided the remedy for sin. And because sin and its consequent judgment of eternal death pertains to all mankind, regardless of age, so also does both preaching and baptism. We dare not look lightly upon Christ’s command to baptize, when it is supported and proved by the examples of the Apostles who immediately administered water baptism each time a person received the gospel by faith.

Consider further the power of Christ and His will to save the sinner. Christ has said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Shall be saved. What a sure and concrete hope is here given unto us! Jesus, Who holds all power in heaven and in earth, said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Should we not with great joy and zeal both preach and baptize? Should we not trust the gospel preached by the Word, and also the Promise preached in Baptism? We can certainly trust the baptismal promise even unto eternal life!

Here is the right and scriptural teaching on Holy Baptism by our Elder, Martin Luther, whose doctrine shone at the time of the greatest awakening and reformation since the time of the Apostles. Let us now carefully pray, read, study, believe, comprehend and confess what is here taught by our Elder. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

This is taken from the Baker Edition of Luther’s sermons, Vol. VII, pp. 242 - 244. This extended quote will not be in italics:

“Christ comes, first, ’by water’; that is, by the holy baptism. He employs baptism as an outward sign of his work in the new birth of man and in man’s sanctification. This water by which Christ comes cannot be a mere, empty sign; for he comes not merely to cleanse or bathe the body with water, but to purify the whole man from all pollution and blemishes inherent in him from Adam. Christ has instituted a cleansing wholly unlike the Mosaic ablutions under the Old Testament dispensation. Moses came with various laws relating to washings and purifications, but they were only cleansings of the body or of the flesh and had daily to be repeated. Now, since these ceremonials contributed nothing to man’s purification in God’s sight - a thing to be effected by nothing short of a new birth - Christ came with a new order of cleansing, namely, baptism, which is not a mere external ablution from physical impurities, but a washing effective in man’s purification from the inward pollution of his old sinful birth and from an evil conscience, and bringing remission of sin and a good conscience toward God, as Peter says. 1 Pet. 3, 21. Paul, also (Tit. 3, 5), calls baptism the ‘washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.’

“Christ first instituted baptism through John the Baptist. To distinguish it from the Mosaic baptism, the old Jewish rite of washings, Christ styles it ‘a baptism unto repentance and the remission of sins.’ He designs that therein man shall perceive his inner impurities and know them to be, in God’s sight, beyond the power of outward Mosaic ablutions to reach; shall know also that purification of the conscience and remission of sins must be sought and obtained through the power of Christ the Lord, who instituted baptism.

“Secondly, that this cleansing of sin may be effected in us through baptism, something more than mere water must be present. Mere water could effect no more than do ordinary washings, and no more than Jewish and Turkish baptisms and washings effect. There must be a power and force accompanying the water effective to work inward purification, the purification of the soul. Therefore, John says, Christ came, not by water alone, but also by blood; not the blood of bulls, or of calves, or of goats, those Old Testament sacrifices, but his own blood, as Paul declares. Heb. 9, 12. He comes through the preaching office of the New Testament, which is his rule upon earth, imparts to us the effective power of his shed blood, his sacrifice for our sins, and thus applies to us the treasure wherewith he purchased our redemption.

“Hence there is now in baptism this efficacy of the blood of Christ. That is the true caustic soap which not only removes the uncleanness of the outer man, but penetrates to the inner nature, consuming its impurities and cleansing them away, that the heart may become pure in God’s sight. Thus, the blood of Christ is so effectively mingled with the baptismal water that we must not regard it as mere water, but water beautifully dyed with the precious crimson blood of our dear Saviour, Christ. Baptism, then, cannot rightly be regarded a physical cleansing, like the Mosaic ablutions, or like the cleansing the bathhouse affords; it is a healing baptism, a baptism or washing with blood, instituted by none but Christ, the Son of God, and that through his own death.

“In the record of Christ’s passion, careful note is made of the fact that blood and water flowed immediately from the spear-thrust in Christ’s side as he hung upon the cross; it is pointed out as a special miracle. The design there is to teach that Christ’s shed blood is not without significance, but stands for a washing or bath whose efficacy is present in the baptism with water; and that from the slain body of Christ issues an unceasing stream of water and blood, flowing on down through the entire Christian Church, wherein we must all be cleansed from our sins. What makes baptism so precious, so holy and essential is the mingling and union of the water with the blood of Christ; to be baptized into Christ with water is really to be washed and cleansed with the blood of Christ.“

And in the American Edition of Luther’s Works, Vol. 51, pp. 327, 328 we find:

“Nevertheless, at the same time the dear God is so concerned for us that we do not go astray and grope for him in vain, that he has given us outward, visible signs upon which we are to fix our eyes and ears. Otherwise we might object that we did not know how or where to find him, or go wandering and fluttering hither and yon after our own thoughts, as was done in time past in the papacy, some running to St. James, others to Rome, and so on…

“But you may say; I do not see such great and glorious things in baptism as you have been talking about. I said a while ago that Christians are people who should believe and not see. Even though God were to reveal visibly how the Holy Spirit and the whole Trinity works in baptism, as was said above, and how all the angels are present, you still would not be able to stand it, you could not endure such majesty for an instant.

“Therefore he must so cover and veil himself that you may be able to endure it and say; True, I see nothing in baptism except water, into which the baptizer dips the child or which he pours upon it, and I hear nothing but the words which he speaks over it, ‘I baptize you in the name, etc.’ This my eyes and ears tell me. but the Word and faith tell me that God himself is present, doing the work. Therefore it is such a potent fountain of youth that it causes a man to be born again, washes away and drowns every sin within him…

“We shall leave it at that now, and earnestly entreat Christ our Lord to preserve us in pure understanding of the Word and the holy sacrament and defend us from all error, and to this end may he grant us his grace. Amen.”

Finally I will quote from the Philadelphia Edition of Luther’s Works, Volume II, pp. 220, 221. So richly and beautifully does Luther write of faith that I must include this:

“Now, the first thing in baptism to be considered is the divine promise, which says: ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.’ This promise must be set far above all the glitter of works, vows, religious orders, and whatever man has added thereto; for on it all our salvation depends. But we must so consider it as to exercise our faith therein and in nowise doubt that we are saved when we are baptized. For unless this faith be present or be conferred in baptism, baptism will profit us nothing, nay, it becomes a hindrance to us, not only in the moment of its reception, but all the days of our life; for such unbelief accuses God’s promise of being a lie, and this is the blackest of all sins. If we set ourselves to this exercise of faith, we shall at once perceive how difficult it is to believe this promise of God. For our human weakness, conscious of its sins, finds nothing more difficult to believe than that it is saved or will be saved; and yet unless it does believe this, it cannot be saved, because it does not believe the truth of God that promiseth salvation.

“This message should have been untiringly impressed upon the people and this promise dinned without ceasing in their ears; their baptism should have been called again and again to their mind, and faith constantly awakened and nourished. For, just as the truth of this divine promise, once pronounced over us, continues unto death, so our faith in the same ought never to cease, but to be nourished and strengthened until death, by the continual remembrance of this promise made to us in baptism. Therefore, when we rise from sins, or repent, we do but return to the power and the faith of baptism from whence we fell, and find our way back to the promise then made to us, from which we departed when we sinned. For the truth of the promise once made remains steadfast, ever ready to receive us back with open arms when we return.”

There are presently debates concerning mode of baptism and at what age it ought to be administered. I will not make this letter too long, and so will state that Luther taught that both infant baptism and sprinkling were practiced at the beginning of the Christian church. This is witnessed also by St. Augustine. Both Luther and Laestadius were baptized by sprinkling in infancy, and God showed approval by granting to them His Spirit in such measure that great awakenings were effected, and a great harvest of souls was received into the kingdom of God. I, too, was baptized by sprinkling in infancy, and I confess that by the grace of God I too have received His Spirit, and have experienced both the awakening to the true knowledge of sin, and also the love and forgiveness of Christ in such measure that I have greatly rejoiced in spirit, and have even sat in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. I know there are many others who share this testimony. This assurance God has given that we have rightly received His word and sacraments, and we lack absolutely nothing. We lack nothing, but through these God has opened the windows of Heaven and has poured out blessing upon us.

Nevertheless, we will look briefly into Scripture to establish these matters. Plainly, the sacrament of Holy Baptism belongs to all disciples of Christ. Jesus instructs us to “teach all nations.” Disciples, by definition, are simply those who are taught of, and who follow, Jesus. He follows the instruction to teach with the command to baptize. Therefore, since little children are taught of God, and are His disciples, it is abundantly clear that the sacrament of Baptism belongs also to them. I once discussed with a Baptist, who told me that a person must mature and be able to comprehend the gospel and make a confession of faith. I simply told him that he had it backwards, for it is written, “And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Mt. 18: 2,3. I said that rather than becoming older, Jesus instructs us to become younger, and He established this fact beyond all controversy by embracing a small child and saying that the kingdom of God belongs to little children. And faith being the prerequisite for baptism, we simply adhere to the words of Christ who affirms that little children believe in Him [Mt. 18:6]. It is infinitely more certain to trust the words of Christ Who says that little children believe, than to trust the words of a sinful man who says that he has faith. Christ did not say, He that confesses faith and is baptized, but He said, He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. It is great error to base our baptism upon our faith or confession thereof, for the experience of true Christians is that faith seems to wax and wane (although faith is preserved in us by the Holy Spirit regardless of our feelings). Therefore we base our reception of the sacrament of Baptism upon the word and command of Christ, for His word and promise can never fail. Luther writes, “For faith doesn’t exist for the sake of baptism, but baptism for the sake of faith. When faith comes, baptism is complete. A second baptism is not necessary.” Am. Ed. Luther’s Works, Vol. 40, p. 246.

Luther writes in the same book, “I say the same thing about the baptized one who receives or grounds his baptism on his faith. For he is not sure of his own faith. I would compare the man who lets himself be rebaptized with the man who broods and has scruples because perhaps he did not believe as a child. So when next day the devil comes, his heart is filled with scruples and he says, Ah, now for the first time I feel I have the right faith, yesterday I don’t think I truly believed. So I need to be baptized a third time, the second baptism not being of any avail. You think the devil can’t do such things? You had better get to know him better. He can do worse than that, dear friend. He can go on and cast doubt on the third, and the fourth and so on incessantly (as he indeed has in mind to do), just as he has done with me and many in the matter of confession. We never seemed able to confess sufficiently certain sins, and incessantly and restlessly sought one absolution after the other, one father confessor after the other. Just because we sought to rely on our confession, as those to be baptized now want to rely on their faith. What is the end result? Baptizing without end would result.” [pp. 240, 241]
Scripture shows many examples of adult baptism, but this is to be expected for baptism was newly instituted. However, we can be certain that children were also included in baptism, for when Lydia received the gospel Scripture states, “And when she was baptized, and her household…” Acts 16:15. Also when Paul preached to the jailer it is written, “And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightaway.” 16: 32, 33. The plain language of “household” and “he and all his” is certainly inclusive. Furthermore, the early Christians looked for the immediate appearing of the Lord, and it is not reasonable to think they would have withheld Baptism from their children when they considered it unlikely they would have years in which to mature. The word “straightaway” shows the urgency with which they considered Baptism.

Concerning the mode of baptism, as stated above, sprinkling and pouring have been practiced since the time of the Apostles. Remember how at the Last Supper Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, and Peter objected to Christ abasing Himself so. It is written, “Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. for he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.” Jn. 13: 6-11. We see here that the cleansing which comes by Christ is not dependent upon the specific mode, but is dependent upon the Word, the promise, and the eternal cleansing power of the blood of Him Who is present and working in our Baptism. Jesus could have humored Peter’s request, but rather denied it, and turned Peter’s attention from outward form and washing, to inward faith and cleansing.

The cause of this current distress among us is partly because we have failed to teach and maintain right doctrine. This has opened the way for these blasphemers to begin to teach our young in those matters of which we have been far too silent. We learn in Catechism, “Baptism works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives everlasting salvation to all who believe what the words and promises of God declare.” Ponder for a while these two words: Baptism Works. This precious truth is then trampled upon in the pulpit, when the working power of Baptism is completely rejected, and this sacrament becomes nothing more than a tradition. Even worse, the gift of Confession and Absolution has been elevated by many to replace Baptism as a sacrament, for auricular confession, and even enumeration of sins, is often demanded, while Holy Baptism, that Sacrament commanded by Christ, is minimized and said to be unnecessary. How far have we fallen?

Now a word of serious warning to those who have been rebaptized,. Luther writes, “For whoever permits himself be rebaptized rejects his former faith and righteousness, and is guilty of sin and condemnation. Of all things such behavior is most horrible. As St. Paul, says, the Galatians have severed themselves from Christ [Gal. 5:4], even making Christ a servant of sin, when they circumcise themselves.” Am. Ed. Luther’s Works, Vol. 40, p. 249. Recognize by this that your soul’s salvation is in jeopardy, and pray earnestly to God that He would grant unto you the grace of repentance. Concerning those who teach and propagate this damnable heresy, we recall the words of Paul in the same Epistle, “I would they were even cut off which trouble you.” [5:12] Yet I would tell you to approach God with prayer and fasting and in earnestness such as you have never known, if perchance He will grant you repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.

In Christian love,
Steven E. Anderson

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Benefits Of Water Baptism

 "What benefits does Baptism confer? Baptism works forgiveness of sins, Delivers from death and the devil, And gives everlasting salvation to all who believe what the words and promises of God declare."  (Luther's Small Catechism).

These benefits, young people, we have received in our infant water Baptism. They are great and eternal benefits, made true and effectual by the Holy Spirit through the Word preached to us in our Baptism. Hold fast to the promise given by Christ in your Baptism, and know that what He promises, He will perform. Namely, He will incorporate you into Christ with all His benefits named above, and will also raise you, sinless and holy, unto eternal life at the fast-approaching last day! The gospel preached to you in your Baptism is in full force yet today. If any have strayed into sin and fallen from faith, only repent and all these benefits are again yours to the fullest.

To be re-baptised is only to prove one's unbelief.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Life-Long Baptism

This significance of baptism - the dying or drowning of sin - is not fulfilled completely in this life. Indeed this does not happen until man passes through bodily death and completely decays to dust. As we can plainly see, the sacrament or sign of baptism is quickly over. But the spiritual baptism, the drowning of sin, which it signifies, lasts as long as we live and is completed only in death. Then it is that a person is completely sunk in baptism, and that which baptism signifies comes to pass.

Therefore this whole life is nothing else than a spiritual baptism which does not cease till death, and he who is baptized is condemned to die. It is as if the priest, when he baptizes, were to say, 'Lo, you are sinful flesh. Therefore I drown you in God's name and in his name comdemn you to death, so that with you all your sin may die and be destroyed.' Wherefore St. Paul, in Romans 6[:4], says, 'We were buried with Christ by baptism into death.' The sooner a person dies after baptism, the sooner is his baptism completed. For sin never ceases entirely while the body lives, which is so wholly conceived in sin that sin is its very nature, as the prophet says [Ps. 51: 5], 'Behold I was conceived in sin, and in iniquity did my mother bear me.' There is no help for the sinful nature unless it dies and is destroyed with all its sin. Therefore the life of a Christian, from baptism to the grave, is nothing else than the beginning of a blessed death. For at the Last Day God will make him altogether new." Luther's Works, American Ed. Vol. 35, pp. 30, 31.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Lars Levi Laestadius on the Sacrament of Holy Baptism

Our Elder Laestadius writes in the New Postilla, "All parents prepare bath water for the newly born child and seek for one who performs baptisms so that the child would not die unbaptized. The heathen, however, do not heed this ordinace but permit their children to be without baptism for a long time."

Does not our Elder preach a strange word?

This is noteworthy, for Laestadius pointedly taught that the outward mechanism of baptism does not save, but faith must be present to receive the promise in Holy Baptism. Many among us stagger about, and as drunken sailors wave off the sacrament of Holy Baptism as not being necessary unto salvation, maintaining that the outward mechanism of baptism does not save. However, there appears to be a vast distance between our modern prophets and our Elder, for there is now no urgency in bringing an infant to baptism. It would appear we do not understand the teachings of our Elder. Are we of the same Spirit?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Laestadius On The Doctrine Of Original Sin

A Look At The Doctrine Of Original Sin

Here is a brief note from the Elder Laestadius concerning the scriptural doctrine of Original Sin. This truth deals with the evil nature of man, and if this knowledge is lacking, so will knowledge of Christ and grace be lacking. "The less the devil's power is brought forth in doctrine, the less urgent does natural man consider the salvation of his soul from the devil's power." The Voice Of One Crying In The Wilderness, pg 127.

Scripture says, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned…” Rom. 5:12. We here learn that all descendants of Adam are born with sin, and so are spiritually dead. The last part of the sentence, “for that all have sinned,” proves this fact, because all who reach the age where spiritual fruit becomes evident, show by their own thoughts, words and deeds that they are sinners. A tree is known by its fruit, and a sapling, though showing no fruit, is nevertheless an evil tree for it can do nothing but bear evil fruit, and will in time prove its parentage.

Laestadius, in the Voice Of One Crying In The Wilderness, writes concerning this: “Secondly: Although the sin or evil which is in a child has not burst out, there is nevertheless in the newborn child the seed or inclination of the positive evil, which in the course of time can burst out. And this inclination or inherited sin is already a transgression against the Infinite Righteousness, Who has created man, even though not as one positively good - none is good save God - at least pure and sinless. Therefore the child is not only undeserving of all reward, since it has not done any good, but even though it has done nothing evil, it has nevertheless merited eternal condemnation on account of the positive inclination“ toward evil; nor is there any help in this, that this little sinner defends itself, maintaining that a child is not responsible for inherited sin. For before God, all mankind is an evil and sinful mankind, whose sinfulness or guiltiness stems from Adam.” Pg. 129. So writes our Elder.

Steven E. Anderson

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hearken, Little Fold Of Zion

Hearken, little fold of Zion, All Her children now give ear,
While on earth the war is raging, Thy Defender shall be near,
He who formed thee for His glory, Shall not leave thee to the foe,
He will keep thee every moment here below.

He doth never sleep or slumber, He shall hear thy every cry,
All who lay a hand against thee, Touch the apple of His eye,
Thou art clothed with garments glorious, And adorned with jewels rare,
Oh, thou precious Bride of Christ, how art thou fair!

He beholdeth thee with favor, And rejoiceth in thy love,
Where was once the voice of mourning, Now is heard the turtledove,
Thou art not thine own possession, For He purchased thee with blood,
And hath drawn thee in with bands and cords of love.

He hath set His mark upon thee, And hath called thee by His name,
Tho' thou once wast termed Forsaken, Thou shalt nevermore know shame,
Thou art His Betroth'd forever, And thou evermore shall see,
His eternal lovingkindness unto thee.

When thou passest thru the waters, They shall not thee overflow,
When thou walkest thru the fire, Perfect safety thou shalt know,
Every weapon formed against thee, Shall be broken out of hand,
Who would harm thee, with Jehovah must contend.

Soon will be the consummation, Of the fullness of His love,
When the Lord His fold will gather, To the wedding feast above,
He who freely gave His life-blood, To betroth thee unto Him,
In His faithfulness shall keep thee to the end.


Monday, December 6, 2010

The Law And The Believer

The Law And The Believer

A brief look at the relationship between the Holy Ten Commandment Law of God, and the Believer according to Elder Laestadius and Martin Luther.

We find in the New Postilla, Sermon No. 5, where Laestadius specifically addresses this issue. He writes, “We hear from the testimonies of Stephen and Christ Himself that the Christians have honored John as a confessor of the truth and a spiritual teacher who has truthfully taught the way of God. They are not offended with John’s preaching of the law for they feel the word of the law is necessary, not only to the sorrowless, but also to the Christians for the awakening of the conscience and for consciousness of sin, as well as a plumb line for daily living. Therefore Stephen took John as a witness of what he had spoken, but even then the world would not believe that John was a spiritual teacher since they said he had a devil.”

We are not left with only one place where Laestadius addresses this matter, but he does so also in the Voice Of One Crying In The Wilderness when speaking of how J. Raattamaa teaches the confirmation children. “And here Raattamaa is a master, in that he first stirs up feelings, even if these feelings which begin to stir are, at the start, evil feelings, or passions, or devils. But it is just in this way that one becomes truly conscious of sin, that is, through the law, which incites all manner of lust. How else could the desire for grace and reconciliation awaken if the law, which is a schoolmaster unto Christ, were not first preached for awakening, and then to the graced ones for sanctification.” Page 32.

Again, when Laestadius suggests changes in the new books being used to teach children in the State Lutheran Church he writes, “If the pastor, instead of cleansing the outside of the drinking glass with the doctrine of virtue and sanctifying it with the preaching of the law- whereby only self-righteousness is raised up to be the foundation of salvation - if he would cleanse the drinking glass on the inside by preaching the law for awakening and the gospel for reconciliation with God (justification), he could then finally preach the law for sanctification to graced souls. Then it would happen according to the Savior’s words, ‘…cleanse first that which is within the cup…’ “ Page 137.

Luther writes thusly when referring to daily repentance, “And that we can do, he says, because we are in grace and not in the law. He himself explains that to mean that to be without the law is not the same thing as to have no laws and be able to do what one pleases; but we are under the law when, without grace, we occupy ourselves in the work of the law. Then sin assuredly rules by the law, for no one loves the law by nature; and that is great sin. Grace, however, makes the law dear to us, and then sin is no more there, and the law is no longer against us, but with us.” Luther’s works, Philadelphia Ed., Vol. 6, pg. 457. This is echoed in our doctrine as recorded in the Book of Concord concerning the third use of the law, where it tells us that to the Believer the Law is not coercive.

The Law of God is an expression of His holy and righteous nature. God never changes, therefore His nature never changes, and therefore this expression of His holiness is eternal. Should we foolishly deny either God’s love or His righteousness, both will yet stand true eternally.

I fear that many have sought to silence the Law because they are not yet awakened and converted. We must let each word of God, both Law and Gospel, stand forever. God’s word can never change. Instead, we must change. We must not seek to escape the condemnation of the Law by rejecting the Law, but rather by believing the Gospel!

Satan has been quite clever in working among us to again murder John Baptist, and he certainly has incited a great number of church-goers, in both Europe and America, to so do. Perhaps if some of years past who sought to reject the Law for the believer had seen the result today, they would have reconsidered their position. This horrible error has grown like a cancer among us to where it is now said that not only does the Law not pertain to the Christian, but neither does it pertain to the unbeliever for awakening. Luther, in the book Only The Decalogue Is Eternal, said men who hold such a doctrine are insane.

Steven E. Anderson 12/06/2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Laestadius Comments On The Will Of Man And Conversion Experience

The Elder Laestadius here addresses two important issues. The first is the will of man. It has been preached, and is a common understanding, that all people are born saved and that at the age of accountability a person has to stand on his own two spiritual feet. It is clear Laestadius taught that man does not have his own spiritual feet on which to stand, but if he will be saved must undergo the saving operation in the heart by the power of the Holy Ghost.

The second issue is the necessity of experiencing the awakening and conversion work within the heart. Those who speak of this experience, and inquire of others concerning their own experience, have been derided. However, the Elder here clearly speaks of this experience as being necessary. Future posts will confirm this.

Quote: "Furthermore, with regard to the doctrine of man's will, the pastor should explain as best he can to the confirmation children that the will has no power called liberum arbitrium (freedom to judge) in spiritual matters, and in conversion conducts itself pure passiv, that is, it has no power to make itself good, that man's will can not of its own power ever become good. And if before conversion someone imagines that he has a good will, this is self-deception. Even though a converted Christian could say wtih the Apostle: ' will is present with me...', it is nevertheless a false doctrine which has slipped into some spiritual books, that is, 'God beholds a good will.' It is written in the Bible that God looketh on the heart, not the will. Furthermore, the pastor should show the confirmation children that man is 'positively evil' and that man's evil nature is just that devil which has gained power over him, and that man can not by his own power tear himself loose from his evil nature or free himself from the devil's power, but that here is absolutely needed the grace and help of the Holy spirit, Who first through the law awakens his conscience and shows him the debt of sin and punishment or the curse of the law, God's wrath and eternal condemnation which in the awakened man must be feelable and perceptible in the pains of conscience and distress of heart, and not only a conviction in the intellect founded upon the testimony of the Bible, that man by nature is a child of wrath and that he has merited eternal condemnation. For through this 'faith in the understanding' or 'faith in the mouth' not one man becomes awakened, penitent, willing to repent, or broken; rather must the curse of the law and God's wrath be felt in the conscience and the heart."

So writes Lars Levi Laestadius in The Voice Of One Crying In The Wilderness, page 138.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

From Zion Still There Soundeth Forth

From Zion still there soundeth forth, Melodious songs of praise,
From sinners whom the Lord of love, From death to life hath raised,
To Heaven's realm they now ascend, Where jasper walls resound,
All praise of earth and Heav'n to Him, Whose love the sinner found.

Yea worthy is the Lamb alone, All honor to receive,
For sin the Book of Life had closed, Death reigned o'er Adam's seed,
Till here in Christ came counsels old, Of faithfulness and truth,
And He alone was worthy found, The mighty seals to loose.

What mighty battle He did wage, With garments rolled in blood,
And overhead, what banner fair, His never ending love.
Christ, our High Priest and Offering, Was wounded in our stead,
And with His Covenantal blood, The Book He sprinkled red.

A blest New Cov'nant now we own, His blood our cause hath sealed,
Our sins forever blotted out, Iniquity removed.
Of His travail upon the cross, The Father there did see,
His wrath poured out, His judgment now, eternally appeased.

Our light affliction we must bear, A few more steps below,
But be thou ever mindful of, The blessings now bestowed,
A mercy Fountain here doth flow, To wash away our sin,
Which groweth to a river great, waters in which to swim.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Few Thoughts On Holy Baptism


Dear Christian,
May grace and peace be yours through the knowledge of Christ Jesus!

I have received your letter concerning Baptism. I am happy to speak to this issue, as those writings I have sent out are for the purpose of encouraging and engendering a study of the Scriptures by which to examine, in minutia I hope, the foundation of our Apostolic Lutheran Fellowship. This, of course, leads to discussion of doctrine which I wholeheartedly embrace.

Please allow me to again lean heavily upon the writings of the elders as they expounded Scripture. As Laestadius did not write any new doctrinal theses but rather relied upon those written by the Reformers, neither need I write anything new, but as Laestadius wrote so many times, Our Lutheran doctrine teaches thus, and, As Luther wrote, etc, so do I also use the Reformers, and Luther in particular, as a teacher and elder manifestly used by God to clearly state the doctrines of Christ. I offer this quotation of Laestadius from the New Postilla, sermon 52, Fifth Sunday after Trinity, page 300, “Arise from sleep, and consider how this dark time is passing! The old Lutheran faith is being destroyed from the earth; man’s intellect is being made master!” As I have raised questions about the doctrines of our fellowship, whether they be Lutheran or not, some have suggested that perhaps we are a movement not tied to Luther. Let none doubt that the awakening movement seen in the north country at the time of Laestadius was indeed precipitated by the Holy Spirit with the proclamation of Lutheran doctrine. Laestadius was bold to proclaim Lutheran doctrine as being according to Scripture, and was well learned in it as he was an ordained minister in the Lutheran Church of Sweden. While I recognize the following example is not such as comprehends all of Luther’s teachings, let me offer this quotation of Laestadius from the New Postilla, sermon 87, Second Rogation Day, Evening Sermon “How is it you penitent souls? Is the gospel of Luther a true gospel? Are you able to believe that such a one is a Christian who commits adultery and murder a thousand time a day? I believe that all whores and murderers who believe this gospel shall be saved, but they who do not believe this gospel of Luther will fall into hell, even though they had not committed adultery nor murdered even once.” Again, I think this points out the willingness of Laestadius to boldly present the doctrines of Luther as being true. Finally, consider this description Laestadius gave of Luther, “Luther was one angel who cried from the ascending of the dawn.” New Postilla sermon 40. Laestadius was Lutheran.

I will in response to your inquiry first state that the language of Christ in calling little children unto himself and in describing His kingdom as being populated by such is not solely parabolic, but there is a real and evident physical meaning to His words. We read in Luke 18:15, “And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” A plain reading of the text shows that Jesus would have us to bring our infants unto Him, as He here uses the word “children” in a real and literal sense.

Again in regard to the word “children”, consider Acts 2:38,39 where Peter preaches thus, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Peter here calls the Jews to repentance and baptism, and includes children in both. The words, “every one of you,” excludes no one, and the words, “the promise is unto you, and to your children,” includes children. Here the word “children” does not mean offspring in the generational sense, but the Greek word in the text means the little children of the household.
I would go further to examine the blessings Peter here attributes to baptism; the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is New Birth. However, I will let Luther speak.

Luther in the Fourth Part of his Large Catechism examines the doctrine of Baptism, stating that baptism is that “by which we are first received into the Christian Church.” He uses the words of Christ from Mat. 28:19 to establish the command to baptize: “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” He uses also St. Mark last chapter v. 16, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Luther then writes, “In these words we must notice, in the first place, that here stands God’s commandment and institution that we shall not doubt that baptism is divine, and not devised and invented by men.”

Luther teaches that when the Word is joined to the element, it becomes a sacrament. Christ specifically and clearly teaches that this sacrament is unto salvation, for to be baptized is to be brought under, into union with, and to be made a partaker of that which is there offered, even as the children of Israel were “baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea, etc.” I Cor. 10:2. When the word of Christ preached in baptism is believed, life is engendered. Therefore to deny life, or New Birth in baptism, is to deny both the Word and faith. Rather let us give all honor and strength unto the Word by which we are regenerated when faith in the Word is engendered within us by the Holy Ghost. This accords with the Apostle Paul as he writes of this “washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5), and what is regeneration but to be born of new Parentage?

Consider what Christ means when He commands us to “teach”, in light of His command that disciples be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. We do not separate teaching and baptism, but the Word always accompanies the sacrament, for without the Word the sacrament is no sacrament. Herein the mystery is revealed and made plain, and here we see which words of promise are spoken, for in Baptism are proclaimed the will and nature of God, and man’s relationship to Him; also Christ is proclaimed, and His office concerning God and man; and also taught is the Holy Ghost, and how He makes effectual these matters in the heart of man. Therefore, when Christ commands us to teach, we must teach of sin and grace, death and life, the fall and the redemption. These matters, comprehended in the three articles of the Apostle’s Creed, are they which Christ commands us to teach in union with baptism, and comprehended in these are all the promises of God to sinner man through Jesus Christ. No greater words of promise are extant in heaven or on earth, than those which unite and reconcile God with sinner man, and when we consider the word “baptism” in this light, we see that we are by this sacrament made partakers of and united with the Father through Jesus Christ by the working of the Holy Ghost, thereby comprehending each in His office. And who would dare say that when the Godhead is present, new life cannot be engendered.

Luther states also in this article, “Thus, and much more even, we must honor baptism, and esteem it glorious, on account of the Word, as being honored both in word and deed by God himself, and confirmed with miracles from heaven. For do you think it was a jest that when Christ was baptized the heavens opened and the Holy Ghost descended visibly, and there was nothing present but divine glory and majesty?” And we remember that Christ our Forerunner was baptized to “fulfill all righteousness.” Mt. 3:15.

Let us also take a brief look at the Augsburg Confession as it treats of infant baptism. The Confession states, article IX, “Of Baptism, they teach, that it is necessary to salvation, and that through Baptism is offered the grace of God; and that children are to be baptized, who, being offered to God through Baptism, are received into His grace. They condemn the Anabaptists, who allow not the Baptism of children, and say that children are saved without Baptism.” The Apology then states, “The ninth article has been approved, in which we confess that ’baptism is necessary to salvation,’ and that ’children are to be baptized,’ and that ’the baptism of children is not in vain, but is necessary and effectual to salvation.” “For it is very certain that the promise of salvation pertains also to little children. Neither indeed does it pertain to those who are outside of Christ’s Church, where there is neither Word nor sacraments, because the kingdom of Christ exists only with the Word and sacraments. Therefore it is necessary to baptize little children, that the promise of salvation may be applied to them, according to Christ’s command (Matt. 28:19): “Baptize all nations.” Just as there salvation is offered to all, so baptism is offered to all, to men, women, children, infants. It clearly follows, therefore, that infants are to be baptized, because with baptism salvation is offered.”

Listen all you children of the last time! Turn to God’s word in earnestness and prayer that He would shield you from the strong waves of confusion now sweeping over Christiandom. God gives unto us in His word all that we need for our soul’s salvation: the Gospel, which is the true forgiveness of all our sins in the name and blood of Jesus, and this promise poured out upon us abundantly by the Spirit in Holy Baptism, and affirmed again in the Lord’s Supper. We need nothing more than to hear and believe this word and promise, both of which are bound together in the sacraments. Flee the preachers of re-baptism, for they would have you to doubt the gracious promises of God given you even in your infant baptism. Look only to the simple words of Christ, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” Jn. 11:25. Behold Him on the cross when He cries, “It is finished.” Only believe the record God has given of His Son, “Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.” “Incline your ear, and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.” Is. 55:3. The word does not say “do this or that work” and your soul shall live, neither “be rebaptized” and your soul shall live, but rather “hear” and your soul shall live. Know that God has already drawn nigh unto you in the Word and sacraments, and you lack nothing. Let us add nothing to that which God has Himself given unto us in His word, and let no man take away anything from it.

Hear, heavenly Father, the prayers of your poor sheep, and open our ears that we may hear and live.

God’s peace,
Steven E. Anderson