Melanchthon on Abrogation of the Law

From Melanchthon’s Loci Communes of 1519,

Therefore when we discuss the abrogation of the Law, we must concern ourselves with the question to what extent the Gospel has abrogated the Decalogue, rather than with the fact that ceremonies and judicial laws have been abolished. For from the abrogation of the Decalogue the fullness of grace can be known most intimately, since it proves that those who believe are saved apart from the Law’s demands and with no regard for our works. Therefore, the Law has been abolished, not so that it may not be kept, but so that it may not condemn when it is not kept, and also so that it can be kept.

Here Philip Melanchthon is discussing the differences between the old and new testaments, taking  Romans and Jeremiah 31 as the basic texts. The Law given to the Israelites consisted of the traditional three parts: judicial, ceremonial, and moral (Decalogue). When discussing Christian freedom during the time of the Reformation, Roman Catholic writers only spoke of the judicial and the ceremonial aspects. Melanchthon here differs, citing evidence from Peter in Acts 15 as well, “Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” Peter is speaking of the moral law as well, because those simple ceremonies of sacrifice were no yoke and burden, they were in fact incredibly easy to do. But willingly doing those ceremonies from the heart, along with perfect love of God and neighbor, was the impossible thing. In the New Testament, only the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus saves us. Through Baptism in his saving death and resurrection we are given His Holy Spirit so that we can willingly do from the heart all that is pleasing to God.

The Law serves to show the will of God, but the Spirit gives the power to walk in it, not with concern to threats, but from a willing heart out of thanksgiving to God. Yet we are sinners, and in so far as we do not believe the Gospel, we do things begrudgingly desiring others to admire and praise us. Focusing on our own selves is never the goal of good works.  Hence Paul in Romans 7, “Wretched man that I am who will deliver from this body of death. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So, then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” The Spirit is at work through the Word of the Gospel to restore our corrupted humanity that we would fear, love and trust in God and willingly do good we ought, all the while crucifying the old man in us through daily repentance and faith.

Translated by Christian Preus. CPH 2014


Liturgy as Means of Cultural Transformation

Instead of constantly asking “What’s wrong with the liturgy?” we should be asking “What’s wrong with the culture?”- concentrating our attention on the renewal of the culture through liturgy, not vice versa. The goal of good liturgy is always to transform the lives of people [the transforming of culture] by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is hardly accomplished if the liturgy is subjected to the whimsies of culture. Culture, untransformed by liturgy, in effect destroys that liturgy. The church becomes indistinguishable from the culture and the Gospel is lost. This is the real secularization and destruction of the Gospel.

From Lutheran Worship: History and Practice

Arthur A. Just
Professor and Chairman of Exegetical Theology

Were the Apostles the First Unbelievers?

“And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.” (Luke 24:1-12 ESV)

So you doubt Jesus’ Resurrection?

Well you’re not alone. The Apostles, who saw Jesus face to face for 3 years, who heard Him speak of His resurrection, who even knew that He could raise Lazarus from the dead, didn’t either!

Even Peter, who confessed Jesus as the Christ, did not believe. He had run to the tomb, and the Scriptures are still not clear if he believed right away.

We all doubt, but Christ sees to it that we don’t any longer. He appears to the Apostles. He dines with them and tells them, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Today He gives you His Word and His Sacraments. These are His promises that He is Real, that He is Crucified and Risen for you, and that His forgiveness is true! His life, death, and resurrection are real history!

Oh what joy! God has become man and died for you! Believe it! It’s the best news you’ve ever heard!

A Conversation with an Enthusiast

Here is the transcript of a lively conversation I had the pleasure of participating in.

There are many Christians today who hold to Enthusiast doctrine without knowing it. We as Lutherans and fellow brothers in the faith (“Jesus, the Crucified, is Lord” faith), should seek to placard Christ and Him crucified before their eyes, not their spiritual gifts or their own powers. Let us pray to our Father through Jesus Christ that a love for the truth and comfort of God’s Word would be engendered in all of us as we are reminded to look where God has revealed Himself.

I entered the argument with “Z” here:

Kyle: By the way, I love this whole argument because it is exactly what I would expect a “Pentecostal Leaning” individual to write. They always like to throw themselves into the scripture and make everything a precedent for themselves, rather than reading scripture didactically like the rest of the historic Christian Church. We would all benefit from some reading of Luther’s apologetic against the Anabaptists who argued the same way.

Kyle: Prophesy is always about Justification, and Tanner, you were truly prophesying. Here’s a prophesy, read the Apostles Creed.

Z: Kyle where is the applaud to my great confession? I don’t understand why you would applaud him and say that I am not didacticly reading the scripture.

Kyle: Tanner and I confess the Apostolic, Pauline, and Orthodox doctrine of the Holy Spirit working through objective means outside of ourselves. We know that God’s word confesses Christ and Him crucified, and does not glory in one’s own powers or gifts. Praise God that I do not rely upon myself, but that God works through PROMISED means to bring me daily back to Himself, Baptism, Preaching, the Sacrament, which Enthusiasts do not believe in.

Kyle: God has not promised to reveal His will to us directly and immediately (without means), as for example through visions and dreams.

Kyle: Special signs and wonders are not indispensable guarantees that the Spirit of God dwells within an individual.

Kyle: The gift of the Holy Spirit does not necessarily include extraordinary spiritual gifts.

Z: Okay wait first comment I believe like you do. I do not glory in my power or gifts because they are from God. So I glory in God! And the rest does not make sense to me at all. What is the difference between an extraordinary gift and a natural gift. All gifts given from God are supernatural in that He gives grace and apportions it to whomever He has given the gift too. So all gives are not ordinary but super since they are from God and of divine origin. I do not glory in the gifts but in God through Him all gifts are given. And God has shown us His Will through the bible. So are you saying God cannot speak to our hearts through His Word? And way too many people today are having dreams and visions from God. If you receive a dream or vision you must test it next to the scripture. If it does not line up then it is not from God but if it does then it is from Him. So first off dreams and visions do occur, secondly they must be tested according to the Word of God then you can tell that the Word Himself is speaking to you. And to be honest with you I believe that there are great indispensable signs in every believer whether they choose to recognize it or not. One being salvation, another being divine appointments with people, praying for someone to get saved and seeing that person saved or healed or delivered etc.

Kyle: ‎”Okay wait first comment I believe like you do” Are you a Lutheran?

Z: I am not a Lutheran but I am a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and He is both Savior and Lord of my life.

Kyle: So you do not believe exactly as I do, I now wish to go through and ask questions pertaining to your response. please allow me also to comment so that we may build each other up in the true faith, which is the work of prophesy.

Z: And I only believe partially like you do. This is the point I am trying to make here. Y’all seem to clump people together without first realizing common ground.

Kyle: ‎”What is the difference between an extraordinary gift and a natural gift. All gifts given from God are supernatural in that He gives grace and apportions it to whomever He has given the gift too. So all gives are not ordinary but super since they are from God and of divine origin.” This is basically a vocabulary issue, and you are just arguing semantics here. I said “extraordinarily”. I never said natural gift. “Extraordinary” gifts include tongues, miracles, miraculous healings, and prophecy. The point I was making was that God may choose various gifts at various times, and we have no reason to expect the power to heal or prophesy today.

Kyle: ‎”So are you saying God cannot speak to our hearts through His Word?” I never made that claim, and it is odd to me that you would say “to our hearts.” Nevertheless, I believe God communicates only through his Word, which is Scripture, the Sacrament, and Baptism.

Z: if I may let me respond back

Kyle: sure

Z: We do not have any reason to not expect such “extraordinary” gifts not to occur. and the Bible never says that the gifts were to be hindered or ended.

Kyle: An argument from silence is no argument at all, that is just logic. Indeed, but those gifts are changed with time and by His good pleasure.

Z: Sorry man but that doesn’t make sense to me.

Z: Also the next thing you said was that it is odd that God speaks to our hearts…okay well if this is so then why did He give us hearts. Why are we commanded to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, souls minds and strength. Also Hebrews 4:12 says that the Word is living and active sharper than any double edged sword and divides between soul and spirit judging the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Kyle: The point is that we are not ever expected to be able to heal someone, prophesy, or perform miracles like during apostolic times. There is no didactic teaching to expect to. The only thing we know is that God will provide in His good pleasure. So, doing my homework is a gift of the spirit, helping my mom is a gift of the spirit. I do not have to heal, perform miracles, or any such thing. This is what I am arguing against, and I am not sure if you are arguing for it.

Kyle: This comment relates to the “heart” subject. I was just making sure that you thought God only works through His Word to communicate to our “hearts,” which is just a way that scripture speaks. Many Enthusiasts like the “heart” talk because it gives them a bit of authority over the Word and makes Scripture mystical. Lutherans shy away from the heart, because we know that only evil comes from the heart as Christ plainly said to the Pharisees. We like God to speak to our hearts sure, but we do not rely on our Hearts to speak God’s Word. You see? I am not saying that you believe any of this, I am just hoping that you do not and will agree.

Z: You don’t have to do any of that but as you say God will provide in His good pleasure. God has provided me with gifts of the Spirit on which I have used with the grace apportioned to me. One of the gifts is healing and multiple people can attest to the fact that when I have prayed for them God healed them. This is not for my glory but for God. Also there is a prophetic gifting I have too and I have prophesied over people and this confirmed the word of the Lord in multiple people and was about the work of the Lord or direction of the Lord in their lives most of the time. I could go on but I don’t know if you would believe me.

Z: I believe that you are right in that evil does come from the heart…however when Christ came He came to save, heal and deliver spirit, soul and body. This encompasses all of us our heart is included and we are told to renew our minds in the word by the washing of the water of the Word. We have a new nature in Christ and we now have the mind of Christ and therefore can spiritually discern all spiritual things. God communicates through His Word to us. We read it but it goes into us, washes us, penetrates our hearts, and we commune with Christ and share His thoughts and His intercessions and His feelings etc. This means that we have complete fellowship and communion with Him it is not simply reading the Word but having a relationship with the Word Himself. Not simply the book but the author of the book. Jesus also said that the people were poring over the scriptures thinking that by it they could somehow attain salvation when He was right before them. He Was and IS and will always be the Word who came in the flesh. He desires intimacy with us. He has always desired this and has broken down the middle wall so that we could enter before the throne of God. From what I am understanding from you it seems that you do not believe that we can see heaven. This implies that you do not believe that the eyes of our hearts can be enlightened as it speaks of in Ephesians 1 because that would be classified as mystical and your position also shows that you do not believe what Jesus clearly told Nicodemus that those who are born of the Spirit or born again can see the kingdom of heaven which would mean that the eyes of their understanding i.e. spiritual eyes or eyes of the heart, or imagination or understanding which it speaks of in the Greek cannot be opened as they are sanctified in christ as a new creation.

Tanner: Thanks Kyle! I’m glad that u think I’m conveying my ideas well, that complement means a lot to me, and I can’t wait to see you at Christ academy either! This year will be awesome. I will comment further on the issue at hand, when I get access to a computer so I can type better!

Kyle: God’s healing is not your gift, that is sure. We are called to prayer, which is a blessed Gospel and comfort, as Christ prayed the Lord’s Prayer (Which is Scripture). I flat out don’t believe the “direction of the Lord in people’s lives” part, unless that included forgiveness of sins and that only. Prophesying is just basically proclaiming the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection for sinners. That’s Scripture, and Scripture stands.

Kyle: Wow, I love the second comment by the way. It really shows you care about what you are saying. However, this is where we must part ways. You misunderstand much of the Scripture, and therefore what our state is as fallen creatures redeemed by Christ. We are still fully sinners who are unable to accurately commune with God. You do not understand what it means to have the mind of Christ, which is the proclamation of the Gospel for the forgiveness of sins. You have also fallen into the same trap as Nicodemus, in which you do not understand what seeing heaven is. Just as you thought that you actually see heaven, Nicodemus thought that you actually must be born again. Seeing heaven equals Baptism, which was what Christ was referencing. Even Paul is referring to Baptism in Ephesians, which provides illuminations for the eyes of the heart.

Kyle Richardson: By the way, in biblical language, the heart is the seat of thought and will and not emotions. Paul goes on to talk about this in chapter 5. You must read Scripture with the knowledge that it points to Christ, and not to self. You focus too much on the “communion,” not in the light of the Gospel, but in the light of mysticism. It is what is taught in evangelical churches now, and it is not your fault. Please, pick up a book like The Spirituality of the Cross by Gene Edward Veith, and he can explain it better than I can. I hope to see you in a Lutheran church one day 🙂

Reading through the transcript, it becomes plain to “see” that we are a people who live by faith in the promise and not by sight. The Enthusiasts, along with every other heretical group, wished to see the hidden God in His glory. Christians must only see the revealed God, or God revealed for sinners.
This is who God is. We call a thing what a thing is. We are Theologians of the Cross and live under the Cross of Christ.

Herman Sasse on Human Reasoning in the Face of Death

Receive these words as comfort, for that is the great benefit of theology!

There can be no good, as we see things, in someone lying for years in a sickbed with an incurable ailment and then slowly and painfully dying. Yet God may see something very good in such an apparently meaningless fate. “When God makes alive, he does it by killing, when he justifies he does it by making men guilty, when he exalts to heaven he does it by bringing down to hell,” Luther says in The Bondage of the Will about God’s dealings that cannot be comprehended by our reason.

Praise God the Crucified One is Risen!