Thesis Thursday

This week, Lecture 26.


Thesis XV.

In the eleventh place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the Gospel is turned into a preaching of repentance.

To understand these words correctly, you will have to bear in mind that the term Gospel has a usage similar to that of the term repentance. In the Holy Scriptures the term repentance is used in a wide and in a narrow sense. In the wide sense it signifies conversion viewed in its entirety, embracing knowledge of sin, contrition, and faith. This meaning occurs in Acts 2, 38, where we read: “Repent and be baptized every one of you,” etc. The apostle does not say: “Repent and believe.” Accordingly, he refers to conversion in its entirety, inclusive of faith. Nor could he have said: “Be contrite and then be baptized.” He must have conceived of contrition as joined with faith. What he means to say is this: If you acknowledge your sins and believe in the Gospel which I have just preached to you, then be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.

The term repentance is used in a narrow sense to signify the knowledge of sin and heartfelt sorrow and contrition. In Mark 1, 15 we read: “Repent ye and believe the Gospel.” In this statement Jesus evidently did not include faith in repentance, otherwise his statement would be tautological.

There is a similar usage as regards the term Gospel; sometimes it is used in a wide, then again in a narrow meaning. Rom. 2, 16 we read: In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my Gospel. Here the apostle cannot refer to the Gospel in the narrow sense, for that has nothing to do with the Judgment, since Scripture declares: “He that believeth on Him is not condemned” — “shall not come into condemnation.” John 3, 18; 5, 24. By Gospel in this text, Paul understands the doctrine which he had proclaimed and which was composed of both Law and Gospel.

The term Gospel is unquestionably used in the narrow sense in Rom. 1, 16: I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. It is called, first, a Gospel of Jesus Christ; next, a Gospel that saves all that believe it. No such demand is made upon us by the Law, which requires that we keep it. Accordingly, the apostle is here speaking of God’s gift to the world and of faith, hence of the Gospel in the narrow sense, to the exclusion of the Law.

…The worst of these fanatics [followers of Melanchthon] was Caspar Cruciger the Younger. His father had been an excellent theologian, and Luther had at one time desired him to become his successor. But this son of old Cruciger did not turn out well; he wrote a treatise on justification in 1570 in which he said: “In this office [of the Gospel] God wants to terrify men by the preaching of repentance, which reveals both, all the sins that are set forth in the Law and this saddest of all sins which is really shown up in the Gospel, namely, the failure to know the Son of God and the contempt of Him.” Though we must conclude that contempt of the Gospel is the most horrible sin, still it is not the Gospel that teaches it, but it is an inference drawn from the Gospel. Certainly I can, by inverting it, turn the most comforting doctrine into a comfortless one. No; it is the Law that reproves unbelief. Where? In the First Commandment, which signifies that “we are to fear, love, andtrust in God above all things.” Unbelief, no matter in what relation it is viewed, is forbidden in the First Commandment. When I commit the sin of unbelief, I sin because I break the Law, which requires me to trust in God and believe His Word.

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This entry was posted in Compare and Confess, History, Law/Gospel Distinction, Lutheranism, Protestant preaching, Protestant slogans, Quotes, The gospel, The Protestant Reformation, Thesis Thursday. Bookmark the permalink.

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