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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Martin Luther on Preaching the Law, by David J. Lose

[Click on the title of this blog entry to see the journal article by David J. Lose, professor of homiletics at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota].

It should be noted that for Luther and Calvin there is a different ordering of the uses of the moral law. For Calvin there are three uses of the moral law:

1) To drive us to Christ for mercy. The Law reveals that we are damned from the get go.
2) The civil law restrains evil in society by judicial laws.
3) The moral law serves as a guide for Christian living. (See, The Threefold Use of the Law, by R.C. Sproul).

For Luther there are only two uses of the law:

1) Civil law compels us to live at peace with our neighbor.
2) The law of God condemns us and accuses us as the sinners we are by nature.

The article by David J. Lose points us clearly to the fact that Luther was not an antinomian. Even those Lutherans rejecting the third use of the Law as Calvin understood it were not antinomians. For Luther the third use of the moral law is unnecessary because it is already included in Luther's first use of the Law in civil law. The external restraints of the law show us our obligation to live at peace with our neighbor. But Luther's formulation guards against pride and legalism because Luther follows up with the pedagogical use of the Law. In other words, both the first use and the second use of the Law, according Luther cannot save us or make us right with God. The Calvinist "third use" of the Law naturally leads to Luther's second use of the Law. Calvinists would be much less confused if they were reminded continually, "You too are a God cursed sinner saved by grace alone! You are an object of God's wrath apart from His grace." No amount of the 3rd use of the Law can cancel out the 1st use of the Law in Calvin's formulation. The Lutheran view rightly guards against law keeping as a source of pride. We are both sinners and saints simultaneously.

Furthermore, the Gospel should naturally motivate us out of a grateful response to be concerned for our neighbor and do good. Even this is never consistent in anyone, according to Lose. That's why any idea of a progressive sanctification is misleading in the Lutheran view. Instead they simply acknowledge truthfully that even the best Christian is both a sinner and a saint and constantly fails to keep God's Law. Luther's view of sanctification is that it is dualistic rather than progressive. We often flip back and forth from one extreme to other rather than seeing consistent growth or a plateau. Luther would have argued strenously against any idea of reaching a state of sinless perfection or entire sanctification. Any idea of having assurance of salvation from our good works or even "evidence" of "true" faith would imply for Luther a works or condign merit based view of justification. It is to confuse justification with sanctification. Seen from that perspective Luther's formulation is superior to Calvin's view since some Calvinists or calvinistic Baptists tend to confuse "faithfulness" with "justification by faith alone". Two are diametrically opposed. In fact the "faithfulness" view or the "Lordship Salvation" view has more in common with Rome, the Federal Visionists, and the Arminians than with the views of the magisterial Reformers in the "Reformed" tradition or with the views of the Lutherans.

That does not mean that Luther did not preach Law, however. Both Luther's Larger and Shorter Catechisms have the Ten Commandments or "Decalogue" included. Some of his sermons were all Law. That was not meant to undermine the Christian's assurance or justification but to point out where the Christian has not loved his or her neighbor as he should. Our grateful response is obedience, however imperfect that obedience may be.

I highly recommend this article by David J. Lose, homiletics professor at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota. You can read the entire article by clicking on this link: Martin Luther on Preaching the Law




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