Posts from the “Theology” Category

Paying lip-service to the gospel

Posted on January 14th, 2015

In the following passage, Luther expounds on the words of 1 John 3:18, “My little children let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” The apostle is denouncing those false brothers and hypocritical Christians who only pay lip-service to the Gospel. They retain just the froth together with their presumption that faith and the Gospel are a mere matter of words … yet they believe that no-one else is as zealous as they are. You can see that their doctrines are mere husks and empty shells from the way these people conduct their lives. They have no intention of living in accordance with the Gospel nor do they intend to demonstrate Christian love to show that they…

Making one what was broken

Posted on January 7th, 2015

I love how Augustine finds the four corners of the world in ADAM, along with the hope that the first-formed is gathered in on the day of judgment: “For with righteousness shall He judge the world:” not a part of it, for He bought not a part: He will judge the whole, for it was the whole of which He paid the price. Ye have heard the Gospel, where it saith, that when He cometh, “He shall gather together His elect from the four winds.” He gathereth all His elect from the four winds: therefore from the whole world. For Adam himself (this I had said before) signifieth in Greek the whole world; for there are four letters, A, D, A, and M. But as…

God of the grasshoppers

Posted on December 24th, 2014

Isaiah pictures God sitting above the world, while we beneath Him appear like grasshoppers, small and numerous (Is. 40.22). Perhaps you’ve smashed a grasshopper before, an annoying creature who invaded your home. But He does not smash us. He comes down among us, comes to our home, makes His bed among the grasshoppers. Every single one, to Him, is significant. He comes to save us.

Christ in us by nature and substance

Posted on November 21st, 2014

In his great work That These Words of Christ, “This Is My Body,” etc., Still Stand Firm Against the Fanatics, the mature Luther speaks beautifully about the sacramental union effecting a real union (and not merely a metaphorical union or forensic identification) between Christ and the believer. In the section beginning on page 120 (AE 37), he focuses on St. Hilary of Poitiers, whom Luther calls one “of the ancient doctors and an excellent interpreter of Scripture.” Hilary writes, If the Word has truly become flesh, and we truly receive the Word which became flesh in the Lord’s food, how are we to believe that he does not dwell in us by his nature, he who, when he became man, has assumed the nature of…

Only the Decalogue is eternal

Posted on November 20th, 2014

In the First Disputation Against the Antinomians, Luther addresses the antinomian argument that the Ten Commandments are abrogated with the coming of Christ in the same way that circumcision (as a ceremonial requirement) has been abrogated. The Decalogue, however, is greater and better because it is written in the hearts and minds of all and will remain with us even in the coming life. Yet not so circumcision, as baptism also will not remain, but only the Decalogue is eternal—as such, that is, not as law—because in the coming life things will be like what the Decalogue has been demanding here. Only the Decalogue Is Eternal, p75

Prepare for the storm

Posted on November 19th, 2014

Luther comments on Peter’s sinking into the water because he lost the Word of Christ’s promise. The life of faith is nothing other than clinging to Christ’s Word. This is how it is when Christ comes into your ship. It will not stay calm for long. A storm will come. If you want to be a Christian then you should prepare for this storm and this discord…. Whoever wants to live blessed by God in Christ must suffer persecution, as Saint Paul says. Luther Brevier, p340

He abides in us physically

Posted on November 14th, 2014

In his glorious work “This Is My Body,” Luther speaks about the forgiveness of sins being a great benefit of the Supper. In addition to this, there is what he calls the “bodily benefit,” a union with Christ that is both spiritual and physical. Christ “wills to be in us by nature,” says Luther, citing Hilary, “in both our soul and body, according to the word in John 6 [!], ‘He who eats me abides in me and I in him.’” If we eat him spiritually through the Word, he abides in us spiritually in our soul; if one eats him physically, he abides in us physically and we in him. As we eat him, he abides in us and we in him. For…

Paradoxical Preaching

Posted on November 14th, 2014

Adolf Köberle’s classic The Quest for Holiness contains much helpful material that addresses some of the modern aversion to sanctification. In the chapter “Sanctification as the Answer of the Justified Sinner,” Köberle insists that the faithful Lutheran preacher will preach, in line with the Augsburg Confession, both justification (AC IV) and the new obedience (AC VI). Far-reaching consequences for Christian preaching spring from this paradoxical experience that conscience has made of God’s sole activity in effecting salvation and man’s sole responsibility for his own destruction. If preaching is to do justice to this paradoxical combination it must always speak both in dogmatic and ethical terms; in the indicative and imperative, not in the sense of synergistic combination but in the sense of that incomparable antinomy: “Work…

God is closest to the powerless

Posted on November 12th, 2014

Beautiful comfort from Luther: God often allows His children to be powerless and oppressed, so that everybody believes that they have no more hope and are going to perish, whilst it is in circumstances like these that God is actually closest to them. For where human strength fails, God’s power steps in: as long as there is Faith in attendance. -Luther Brevier, p333  

Dreaming of a Christian community

Posted on September 11th, 2014

Idealizing people, politicians, pastors, and churches leads to disillusionment. Some go from church to church searching for the perfect pastor or small group, then move on when they discover problems. The same is true on a denominational level. In Life Together, Bonhoeffer addresses these longings for the perfect church and how such longings can make things worse: Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial. God hates this wishful dreaming because it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. Those who dream of this idealized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others, and by themselves. They…