Lutheran Gospel Proclamation in Idaho Falls

Lifted from Hope Lutheran‘s online April 2011 Newsletter . . . 

 From Martin Luther

Truly, our knowing is more passive than active; that is, it is more a matter of being known by God than of knowing God. Our ‘activity’ is to allow God to do His work among us. He gives the Word, and by apprehending a divinely given faith, we are born as sons of God. Therefore the statement, ‘You are known by God’ (Gal 4:9), means ‘You have been visited by the Word; you have been granted faith and the Holy Spirit, by whom you have been renewed.’ Therefore even with the words ‘You have come to be known by God’ he is disparaging the righteousness of the law and denying it is possible to attain the knowledge of God on account of the worth of our own works. ‘No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’ (Mt 11:27). And again: ‘By his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities’ (Is 53:11). Therefore our knowledge about God is purely passive.” Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians

Thoughtful exegesis.  Our men’s Bible study looked at Galatians 4:9 last Monday morning during Passion Week.  This week, we covered Galatians 4:12-20, line by line.  It is detailed gospel discussion every week.  Hope Lutheran’s newsletter has inspired me to dig out my Galatians commentary by Martin Luther.

Also, the Lutheran minister, Scott Murray shares:

Theologians of all generations have struggled to distinguish between law and gospel. One of the aspects of that struggle is simply the brute fact that the way of the law and the way of the gospel are contradictory. Luther says they are “non plus contraria,” that there is nothing more contrary or opposed to each than the law and the gospel. Certainly, that contradiction must be left to stand. The law must remain the law. The gospel must remain the gospel. There is no need to straighten out or rationalize what God can certainly take care of on His own. We should be found preaching the law and the gospel. He uses the law to destroy our impious self confidence that presumes we can avoid the punishments of the law by obeying it and keeping it. We cannot obey it or avoid its punishments. Because of its implacability, the law burdens us so that there must be a new way of righteousness that comes apart from the law. The law kills. Somehow there must be life. The law condemns. Someone must pardon. The law accuses. There must be a stilling of that accusation. The tribunal of the law finds us guilty. Someone must defend us against it. Only Christ and a different message from God will do. Only the gospel will suffice. The gospel proclaims us righteous. It cries that our warfare is accomplished. It speaks the law silent. It sings the verdict “not guilty.” This is the meaning of the Bible’s doctrine of justification. For Christ’s sake, our heavenly Father has proclaimed us righteous in His sight and He has done this without reference to the law. The law only shows our need, it does not bespeak us righteous. Only another word of God, the gospel, can do this. These are the two “high points” of what Paul writes to the Romans, not only that we are acquitted by the gospel, but also that such acquittal comes apart from the law. The righteousness we have is not our own, which would make it subject to the law. It is the righteousness of God; making it certain, because it depends on the divine promise. How can there be a righteousness apart from the law? With God there is nothing that is impossible. Paul is not making this up. He wants his readers to understand that this was the eternal faith of the church as testified to by the Old Testament. He is not just pulling this out thin air, but is claiming it was always the way of salvation. The God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever is standing behind this promise. The righteousness is none other than His own. This is why it is so dependable. It’s not ours, but His.

Not Ours, but His.  May the Gospel of Jesus Christ flourish in Idaho Falls.

10 comments

  1. What is the best way to fight against the sin?

    Believe you are dead to it.

    “Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.” – St. Paul

    God buried the old Todd Wood.

  2. You stopped at verse 11, Todd.

    Romans 6:12-14 CONTINUES:

    “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. ”

    And then:

    “So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh –for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.” (Romans 8:12-13)

    Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing.” Jesus did NOT say, “With me you need do nothing.”

  3. Did I say that ‘do nothing’ exempts us from believing?

    The daily gospel fight against sin is believing the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    What happened to that “body of the sins of the flesh”? It got taken care of through the circumcision of Christ (Col. 2:11). If I simply believe the message of Colossians 2:11-15, what else do I need to do, Greg?

    With Jesus Christ as the Sovereign Superhero, and with me completely in Him, legalism has no attraction for me in trying to take care of my sin problem.

  4. How about this? What if I applied another word to Paul’s language in Galatians 4:9:

    But now after you have found God, or rather are found by God . . .

    Through the years, I was in the corn maze of Southeastern Idaho in the midst of a lot of doing, trying to find God. But to make it more clear – God found me.

  5. “If I simply believe the message of Colossians 2:11-15, what else do I need to do, Greg?”

    Well, Todd. let’s start with a some things I’m virtually certain you already are doing: praying, studying Scripture, and assembling with other believers. Indeed, the Bible calls you to pray “without ceasing”, to “study to show yourself approved unto God”, and to not forsake the assembly (cf. Hebrews 10:25).

    So, if what you say above is correct, if “obey” can be reduced to “believe”, why does the Bible – in the New Testament – call you to do these three things as well as a host of others? To what end do you do them? Why would you do them, should you do them, if you were not a pastor?

    Note: I am fully aware of the fact that the answer is NOT, “to be regenerated” (only baptism does that, as your Lutheran friends will be happy to tell you – anyway, you do not baptize yourself).

  6. The works of grace genuinely authenticate the believer’s testimony before his skeptical peers. The works of grace foster growth in gospel love and bring glory to God. It is pure joy. Paul is exhorting the believer to be, to flesh out what he already is in Christ. You are this (totally accepted in the beloved), therefore, do this, in the light of His grace and for His glory.

    But good deeds, good works are nothing at all if they are not by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

    To obey the gospel is to believe.

    And yes, water baptism is not in opposition to or in separation from the spiritual baptism. But as the knife to the male reproductive organ has no power to take away sin, neither does the water.

  7. “The works of grace foster growth in gospel love and bring glory to God.”

    Yes, this is true. But if one can reduce obedience to believing, where then is the need for any kind of growth? Why then do we read in James that the demons believe and tremble? It seems that according to the New Testament, to believe is to obey instead of vice-versa.

    “It is pure joy.”

    Sometimes. Many times. But you know as well as I that this is not always the case. The NT writers are aware of this as well. See Hebrews 12:7-11 and 12:12-16, for example.

    To deny that the Christian life, the process of being crucified with Christ, can be a struggle is disengenuous, Todd, and if you haven’t had to struggle yet in your life with Christ – well, just wait: you will. Again, “Let those who stand take heed lest they fall.”

    What I am reading here, Todd, seems very much to be a spiritual form of the so-called “prosperity gospel” and it is probably that in which the latter is in fact rooted.

    Regarding baptism. Nowhere does the NT do anything but equate regeneration with baptism. Also, bear in mind that circumcision, while indeed replaced by baptism, is not precisely analogous with it. And, with regard to the water itself: well, I will just say that demons don’t like water blessed for use in baptism very much at all.

  8. Obedience to believing
    The two bookends of the epistle of Paul to the Romans come to mind – “obedience to the faith” (Rom. 1:5, 16:26). The demons do not have an obedience to the faith.

    Struggle
    I never struggle, Greg. Just ask my wife who knows me best. 🙂

    You know, when I wrote that comment, “It is pure joy,” I was thinking of Hebrews (ironic) – Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2).

    That kind of joy is not prosperity gospel.

    Holy Water
    Greg, I don’t put much stock in holy water. I’ve been to Rome, and felt the holy water from many fonts. No magic. No power. Just water to me. The power is in Christ. Christ makes the demons scurry. He speaks. They obey.

  9. “Obedience OF faith” in both cases, Todd. The demons show us that it is possible to believe, perhaps even to know, but to still not obey.

    Jesus indeed endures what He does in anticipation of future joy. He is not joyful in Gesthemani, nor on the cross. Also, one can find joy in struggle, but struggle it remains. Again, Jesus said, “Without me, you can do nothing.” Jesus did not say, “With me, you need do nothing”.

    Your response, or lack thereof, to holy water only proves that you are not a demon, which I think we already knew. 😉

    However, what you are saying about it ignores II Kings 13:20-21, John 9:6-7, Acts 19:12, James 5:14-15, even the fact of the Incarnation itself (not to mention the Eucharist as discussed in John 6 and I Cor. 10), all of which demonstrate that one can distinguish between, but not separate, the material and the spiritual.

    God does not neglect the material in saving us; our bodies are inherent parts of who and what we are as social creatures, and, of course, we shall have them forever in a glorified state when we come to fully share in the Christ’s resurrection. Our spiritual life impacts our physical and social lives and these also affect our spiritual existence.

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