Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Keys

The following is from Luther's dissertation on the Keys. It is common, and an error, to preach the gospel in such a way that it does not freely reach the ungodly, sinning sinner, but places conditions on it, such as a proper repentance or reformation of life. The awakened see nothing in themselves by which God should show favor, but see only sin and God's judgment because of their very real sin. Therefore we must preach the gospel in such a way that even ungodly thieves and harlots can enter in.

[Pope] "What should we give you?"
[Luther] "Absolution."
[Pope] "But is absolution really certain? In case you repent and if our absolution is valid in heaven, then you are absolved; if not, you are not absolved. For the key can miss."
[Luther] "Here I am again told that the key depends upon my repentance and worthiness before God. And I can become such a skilful locksmith with my repentance that I can manufacture for my Lord God from his (selection of) keys both right and wrong keys. If I repent I make his key the right one; if I do not repent I make of it the wrong one. That is to say, if I repent then God is truthful, if I do not he lies. Things are going along real well! But how do I know whether my repentance and worthiness before God are sufficient? Shall I stand there, open-mouthed, gaping toward heaven and wait until I learn and become convinced that my repentance is sufficient? When will I really get to know?"
[Pope] "You have to worry about that."
Martin Luther
LW AE vol 40 pp 339, 340
The Keys

The third result of such teaching is the establishment of human endeavor and self-righteousness in opposition to the righteousness of Christ, given to us by grace through faith. In this matter one can forcefully convict them because of their abomination. For with their spurious keys they not only destroy God's Word, but also distract people from God's Word, referring them to their own works and merits, saying, if you are repentant and pious and upright the keys will benefit you, otherwise not. Is not this to say, you must earn grace and become worthy of the same through you own works before God, and then the keys also will benefit you? Tell me how could one more thoroughly leave  a Christian to his own works and entice him to a reliance upon his own merits, thus driving him farther away from God's mercy and Christ's blood, than with such a teaching? Further, they teach us how to turn God into a false judge who is a respecter of persons and is bound to look upon our own works favorably, thereby selling his grace instead of giving it freely through his mercy. If I am first to earn grace before God with my own endeavors, of what use, in the devil's name, are the keys to me, since they cannot give me grace unless I have earned it first before God? But if I forst obtain grace I need heed neither keys nor pope. For, "If God is for us, who is against us?" [Rom 8:31].
Martin Luther
LW AE vol 40 p 349
The Keys

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Born of Water and Spirit

Listen, even though you do not understand this. The sound of the wind is also heard in this Word of God: "I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Furthermore, you also have the wind in the baptismal water; the Holy Spirit is blowing there. You cannot understand how a man can be renewed by water and the Holy Spirit, nor how one who has died can live anew. But believe it, accept it, and content yourself with hearing the sound of the water and  with feeling the water and the the sound of the Holy Spirit. It matters not that you cannot understand how you are renewed. Just say: "I will believe it. I do not know either whence the wind comes; and still I know that it exists, for I can hear and feel it. Thus I will also believe God when He says that Baptism initiates a new birth, even though I cannot understand how it can renew me, keep and preserve me for eternal life. I will simply hear the Word, accept the water of Baptism, and believe. After all, I have to accept far lesser things without understanding them. The fact that I was born anew this way is just as true as the fact that I hear the word. Just as I know that I hear and feel the wind but do not know whence it comes, so I shall also believe that I am born anew by water and the Holy Spirit and that the old man in me must die if I wish to enter eternal life."
Martin Luther
LW AE vol 22 p 295
Sermons on St. John, 1539

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Free Will - BOC

Affirmative Theses.
The Pure Doctrine concerning This Article, according to God's Word.
2] 1. Concerning this subject, our doctrine, faith, and confession is, that in spiritual things the understanding and reason of man are [altogether] blind, and by their own powers understand nothing, as it is written 1 Cor. 2:14: The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them when he is examined concerning spiritual things.
3] 2. Likewise we believe, teach, and confess that the unregenerate will of man is not only turned away from God, but also has become an enemy of God, so that it only has an inclination and desire for that which is evil and contrary to God, as it is written Gen. 8:21: The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth. Also Rom. 8:7: The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the Law of God, neither, indeed, can be. Yea, as little as a dead body can quicken itself to bodily, earthly life, so little can man, who by sin is spiritually dead, raise himself to spiritual life, as it is written Eph. 2:5: Even when we were dead in sins, He hath quickened us together with Christ; 2 Cor. 3:5: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything good as of ourselves, but that we are sufficient is of God.
4] 3. God the Holy Ghost, however, does not effect conversion without means, but uses for this purpose the preaching and hearing of God's Word, as it is written Rom. 1:16: The Gospel is the power of God 5] unto salvation to every one that believeth. Also Rom. 10:17: Faith cometh by hearing of the Word of God. And it is God's will that His Word should be heard, and that man's ears should not be closed. Ps. 95:8. With this Word the Holy Ghost is present, and opens hearts, so that they, as Lydia in Acts 16:14, are attentive to it, and are thus converted alone through the grace and power of the Holy Ghost, whose 6] work alone the conversion of man is. For without His grace, and if He do not grant the increase, our willing and running, our planting, sowing, and watering, all are nothing, as Christ says John 15:5: Without Me ye can do nothing. With these brief words He denies to the free will its powers, and ascribes everything to God's grace, in order that no one may boast before God. 1 Cor. 1:292 Cor. 12:5Jer. 9:23.
Formula of Concord

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Means of Grace

Christ has two functions: mediation, or redemption, and a testimony about the forgiveness of sins and mediation.This, too, our Enthusiasts do not understand. The one is an act; the other, the use of the act. I have written against the Enthusiast Carlstadt in a book to answer his charge: "You new papists, you make new mistakes. You teach that there is remission of sins in Baptism, in  the Gospel. But Scripture says something else. The only thing we know about the forgiveness of sins is that it occurs on the cross, not in Baptism." That is where he misleads the naive. Note well this passage and others like it. They distinguish between redemption as an actual act and redemption as it is preached. Had Christ been crucified a hundred thousand times and had nothing been said about it, what profit would the act of His being brought to the cross have brought?

There is a testimony in Baptism. We are baptized into Christ. His Word is present. I am baptized into Christ the Crucified. In Baptism, therefore, there is a use of redemption - an application of its use. In this way the Gospel is the spoken Word, but it gives and brings this that Christ is, etc. Thus the Word of God brings out the remission of sins. Therefore there is remission of sins in the Gospel. This one fact - that Christ once, etc. - is divulged and spread in the Word. Thus there is remission of sin in the Sacrament. No one says that Christ is crucified in the Supper and in Baptism, but we say that in the Eucharist His body crucified for is is given to us, as the words say: And He said: "Take this.'" This word "Take" - this word offers me Christ crucified.

Therefore, Christ redeemed us once with a single work, but He did not pass out redemption with a single means. He gave it out through the medium of washing in Baptism, through the medium of eating in the Sacrament of the Altar, through the media of comforting the brethren, of reading in the Book, that the fruit of His passion might be spread everywhere.
Martin Luther
Commentary on 1 Timothy
LW AE Vol 28 pp 268, 269

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Faith of God's Elect

["]So the Gospel suffers slander, and from our school there arises heretics. Nevertheless, I do not for the sake of all this stop preaching the Gospel, even though Jews blaspheme, heathen persecute, and heretics arise. Nevertheless, I shall go on teaching because I know that the elect will accept it." With this word he looks into the tragedy which the Word of God suffers. They will fall by the wayside. "I am doing everything for the sake of the elect." We ought to be acting the same way. The papists slander us. They are stubborn and attack the manifest truth, and still they slander us. Moreover, those who have worked with us and planted with us are stirring up sects. The Anabaptists, the Sacramentarians, original sin (presumably Luther is referring to those who denied original sin, viz., certain of the Anabaptists who opposed infant Baptism on the ground that it was not necessary),  and many such fanatics have come. Thank God that He did not disclose to me that such heresies were to follow, for I would never have begun. We have this comfort: "We did not begin this for the sake of you who are stubborn nor for the sake of the Sacramentarians, and we shall not quit for your sakes. We began for the sake of those who are yet to come." Thus the Word of Christ is full of sects and stumbling blocks; that is, it stands in the midst of these things, and sects arise; but it prevails. The enemies of the Gospel throw up this objection to me: "What good is arising from your gospel? The people are degenerating into beasts. It is accomplishing nothing that is good. Wars and all sorts of evil are being provoked. Heresies and discord arise." Let it happen as it is happening. I preach the faith to the elect. Therefore let no one be offended if he sees that persecution follows the Word or that sects arise. "Not all have faith" (2 Thess. 3:2) is our consolation, as Paul certainly consoled himself with this word. If the others do not accept this faith, it is still present among the elect of God. He has said a great deal in a few words. Faith prevails against all works, efforts, the stumblings of the elect, persecutions, the cross, etc.
Martin Luther
Lectures on Titus