Thesis Thursday

We are still on:

Thesis I

The doctrinal contents of the entire Holy Scriptures, both of the Old and the New Testament, are made up of two doctrines differing fundamentally from each other, viz., the Law and the Gospel.

Last time, we started the second lecture with the 5th difference (of 6) between the Law and the Gospel, by looking at the effects of the Law. Now we round out that 5th difference by looking at the effects of the Gospel.

The effects of the Gospel are of an entirely different nature. They consist in this, that, in the first place, the Gospel, when demanding faith, offers and gives us faith in that very demand. When we preach to people: Do believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, God gives them faith through our preaching. We preach faith, and any person not wilfully resisting obtains faith. It is, indeed, not the mere physical sound of the spoken Word that produces this effect, but the contents of the Word.

The second effect of the Gospel is that it does not at all reprove the sinner, but takes all terror, all fear, all anguish, from him and fills him with peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. At the return of the prodigal the father does not with a single word refer to his horrible, abominable conduct. He says nothing, nothing whatever, about it, but falls upon the prodigal’s neck, kisses him, and prepares a splendid feast for him. That is a glorious parable exhibiting to us the effect of the Gospel. It removes all unrest and fills us with a blessed, heavenly peace.

In the third place, the Gospel does not require anything good that man must furnish: not a good heart, not a good disposition, no improvement of his condition, no godliness, no love either of God or men. It issues no orders, but it changes man. It plants love into his heart and makes him capable of all good works. It demands nothing, but it gives all. Should not this fact make us leap for joy?

Eph. 2, 8–10 we have a brief description of The Gospel as seen in its effects. The apostle says: By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. The Gospel does not say: You must do good works, but it fashions me into a human being, into a creature of such a kind as cannot but serve God and his fellow-man. Verily, a precious effect!

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This entry was posted in Christian life, Compare and Confess, Education, Gospel, Law/Gospel Distinction, Legalism, Liberty, Lutheranism, Protestant preaching, Protestant slogans, Quotes, Reformed Confessionalism, The Protestant Reformation, Thesis Thursday. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Thesis Thursday

  1. RubeRad says:

    Bunyan:

    “Run, John, run the law commands,
    But gives me neither feet nor hands;
    Far better news the gospel brings:
    It bids me fly; it gives me wings.”

  2. cath says:

    Hesitating to open up war on another front, but on closer reading, this isn’t quite right, is it:

    It is, indeed, not the mere physical sound of the spoken Word that produces this effect, but the contents of the Word.

    It’s not even the contents of the Word that give faith, but the effectual call of the Holy Spirit accompanying the external call of the gospel. Or..?

  3. RubeRad says:

    I remember noting that phrase myself, but you bring up a point I hadn’t considered. I’m thinking this is an artifact of Lutheran over-realized sacramentology. They often use “God’s word does what it says” in connection with Baptismal Regeneration (it is not the Water that regenerates ex opere, but it is the Word spoken by the duly ordained Minister of Christ. I don’t know if Lutes would be comfortable saying that the Word regenerates ex opere, but it sure seems like what they’re saying from where I’m standing.

  4. Nate Ostby says:

    Cath, I think you’re right that it’s both Word and Spirit. But, to be fair to Walther, it seems he affirms both, since he says above that “God gives them faith through our preaching.” Lutherans might formulate it a bit differently (I don’t know), but it doesn’t look like there’s a huge difference between us here.

  5. Katy says:

    I don’t have time (right now) to produce proof texts from Scripture and Concordia, but Lutherans hold that the external Word is extended to all people who hear the Gospel; the Holy Spirit is always attached to this external Word, so yes, Cath, when Lutherans say “the Word” we are also saying the Holy Spirit. The Word and Holy Spirit (always together, never separate–John 15:26; 16:13-15) create Faith (Rom 10:17).

    Of course, this opens up questions and reveals disagreements between the Reformation traditions, which I won’t bring up here.

    RubeRad: yes, it’s the Water combined with the Word (1 John 5:7). But we don’t simply see Faith being created at Baptism (although it normally begins there); Faith is sustained through the preaching of the Word, through confession and absolution, and through the Lord’s Supper (the latter two are efficacious because of the spoken Word, like Baptism).

    Hope this clarifies where Walther’s coming from (and other Lutherans lurking can speak up and correct me if I’m wrong!)

    Peace!

  6. Katy says:

    P.S. That was a perceptive catch, Cath! Also, I’m glad you all are doing these Thursday Theses; I read L&G only about 1/4 through a while ago, and never got back to it….maybe this will be an incentive to finish!

  7. RubeRad says:

    Thanks for dropping in to clarify Katy, and I hope you stick around to work through the theses with us.

    The Word and Holy Spirit (always together, never separate–John 15:26; 16:13-15)

    So as you note, the Reformed would not insist that the Spirit is always working (at least not effectually) with the Word (even stronger; we would insist that the Spirit is not always working…). I don’t see how your texts demonstrate “always/never”.

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