Thesis Thursday

Moving on to lecture 13, continuing to discuss:

Thesis VIII.

In the fourth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the Law is preached to those who are already in terror an account of their sins or the Gospel to those who live securely in their sins.

We finished our consideration of the first part of Thesis VIII, which declares that the Word of God is not rightly divided if the Law is preached to such as are already alarmed over their sins. We proceed to the second part of the thesis, which tells us that the Word of God is not rightly divided if the Gospel is preached to such as live securely in their sins.

The latter error is as dangerous as the former. Incalculable damage is done if the consolations of the Gospel are offered to secure sinners, or if one preaches to a multitude in such a manner that secure sinners in the audience, by the preacher’s fault, imagine that the comfort of the Gospel is meant for them. A preacher who does this may preach crowds of people into hell instead of into heaven. No, the Gospel is not intended for secure sinners. We cannot, of course, prevent secure sinners from coming into our churches and hearing the Gospel, and it devolves upon the preacher to offer the entire comfort of the Gospel in all its sweetness, however, in such a manner that secure sinners realize that the comfort is not intended for them. The whole manner of the preacher’s presentation must make them realize that fact. Let me offer you a few proof-texts from Scripture for what I have said.

Matt. 7, 6 our Lord says to His disciples: Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet and turn again and rend you. A remarkable utterance! What is meant by “that which is holy”? Nothing else than the Word of Christ. What is meant by “pearls”? The consolation of the Gospel, with the grace, righteousness, and salvation which it proclaims. Of these things we are not to speak to dogs, that is, to enemies of the Gospel; nor to swine, that is, to such as want to remain in their sins and are seeking their heaven and their bliss in the filth of their sins.

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. “No, the Gospel is not intended for secure sinners. We cannot, of course, prevent secure sinners from coming into our churches and hearing the Gospel, and it devolves upon the preacher to offer the entire comfort of the Gospel in all its sweetness, however, in such a manner that secure sinners realize that the comfort is not intended for them.”

    — Corporate confession then, I would think? At least it leads the secure sinner in me to lose his spine every Sunday.

  2. John Yeazel says:

    I know exactly what you mean Robert.

  3. John Yeazel says:

    Mark McCulley sent me a few articles which would be helpful to those who are following Thesis Thursday- The Distinctions between the Law and the Gospel. One of the articles gives backround information on Walther and summarizes the lectures made by Walther in a helpful way. It will give you more appreciation for Walthers thinking. I especially liked the story of how the Missouri-Synod was birthed. You won’t believe what happened when the first 700 Missouri-Synod folks came to the USA from Germany. It was an amazing story.

    Prues claims the meat of the lectures are found in lectures 14-19 when Walther takes on pietism. So, we are coming into these lectures in the upcoming weeks.

    The other article is about Luther and Melanchthon which I found interesting too.

  4. John Yeazel says:

    Sorry to add a bit more but I was surfing through Issues, etc. and Todd Wilken just interviewed Pastor Matt Harrison (the new LCMS president) about Walther which gives a little more insight into the man. I also read lecture 13 in full and became very uncomfortable with his talk on repentance; like I always do when I read the epistle of First John. That book always gets to me. Here is the interview at Issues, etc.;

  5. Echo_ohcE says:

    I think this lecture overstates its case. I’m not even sure if that’s the right criticism. Its approach seems wrong to me.

    To begin with, Mat 7:6 might appear, when simply quoted out of context, to fit reasonably well with the claim. After all, what better pearl could Jesus be speaking of than the gospel, and what greater unclean animal could there be than an unrepentant sinner? So clearly, this is an instruction for preachers, right?

    But if you look at the context, it’s not at all clear that this is the meaning. I’m not sure I know exactly what the meaning is – it’s pretty cryptic – but it’s not cut and dried that it means what’s being said in this lecture. In the verses preceding these, Mat 7:1-5, Jesus is speaking against hypocrisy. Take the log out of your own eye, hypocrite, before taking the spec out of your brother’s eye. That’s when he says not to give pigs a pearl necklace.

    Probably his meaning has to do with not giving what is costly to self righteous hypocrites, meaning the Pharisees. But that’s the best guess I can offer. What’s the pearl, what’s holy? Maybe it’s the Word, but it may also refer to the kingdom as well. Maybe Jesus is saying that he won’t give the kingdom to those who act like unclean animals by being smug, self righteous hypocrites.

    At any rate, as a general truth, is it true that some people need to be comforted especially with the promises of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone? Are some people so overburdened with a works-based way of thinking that they just need this simple truth drilled into their heads for a while? Yes, absolutely. Conversely, are there some people who really need to wake up and repent? Again, yes, quite true.

    But it is overstating things to say that to preach the law to the former is wrong and to preach the gospel to the latter is wrong. In both cases, when tailoring what you say to an individual Christian (perhaps in counseling) you might emphasize the one more than the other, but you’re still going to need both. You can’t separate law and gospel this absolutely. They always come together.

    The very same Word of the cross of Christ preaches comfort to the afflicted and afflicts the comforted. Why? Because in the cross, believing sinners find a promise of salvation through the merits of another. And in the cross, unbelieving sinners find a promise of what will happen to them on judgment day, when that very same wrath is poured out on them forever. It’s the same word of Christ crucified that is the aroma of life to those who are being saved, and the stench of death to those who are perishing.

    For those who are more scientifically minded, separating the law and the gospel is kind of like taking a cross section of human tissue. You can do it for artificial, scientific, analytical purposes, but you have to realize that living tissue in real life isn’t like that. In the same way, the Word of God is living and active. It cannot be separated and dissected like that. Law and gospel cannot be separated.

  6. RubeRad says:

    I agree that his handling of the pearls/swine verse is somewhat facile, he slaps down a specific interpretation as authoritative with no justification.

    Also, I think I like the general concept that Law and Gospel are different instruments with different uses is valid, although practically speaking, how can you preach a sermon that offers the Law to the right people that need it, but offers the Gospel to the right people that need it? How can you even preach to two people?

    And as for separating Law and Gospel, I think Walther would agree that you cannot separate them; they are a one-two punch, a tag-team in which the “job” doesn’t get done if you only use one; his point is not to separate them but to distinguish them, to keep them in their proper order (law before gospel) and with their proper uses (law for conviction towards repentance, gospel as assurance towards perseverance).

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