Thesis Thursday

Lecture 16 again; Luther vs. Zwingli, Go:


[from Luther’s commentary on Deut 4:28] “See whether our new schismatics and fanatics are not leading the people to trust in their own works. Take the Anabaptists: what are they doing, and what do they teach? They declare that Baptism is worthless; they remove from Baptism the element of grace, so that there is no grace and mercy of God, no forgiveness of sin, in it, and baptism becomes an evidence of my own godliness, prior to my baptism, or a mark that I now possess godliness. They separate grace from Baptism and leave us a mere external sign, in which there is not a grain of mercy; all grace has been cut away. Now, if the grace of Christ has been removed from Baptism, there remains nothing but a mere work. Likewise, in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper the fanatics remove the promise offered us in this Sacrament; they tell us that what we eat and drink is nothing but bread and wine. Here, too, the proffered grace is cut away and renounced. For they teach us that the only good work that we do by communing is professing Christ; as to the rest, we merely eat and drink bread and wine in the Supper, and there is no grace in it for us.

“That is the result of falling away from the First Commandment: a person promptly sets up an idol in the form of some meritorious work, in which he trusts. Therefore Moses says: My dear children, have a care to abide with God and follow Him. Otherwise you cannot avoid idolatry; you will fall into that sin, no matter how much you struggle against it. For the devil at all times assaults the grace of God; no heresy can bear the teaching of divine grace. The fanatics of our day all urge the First Commandment, saying: We, too, proclaim grace and mercy through Christ; we do not reject the doctrine of the First Commandment. They charge that I, Luther, am telling lies about them. However, put them to the test: True, they confess Christ who was crucified and died for us and thus saved us; but they renounce the means by which we obtain Him; they demolish the way, the bridge, and path leading to Christ.

“…To sum up, there can be no schismatic but must run counter to the First Commandment and stumble at Christ Jesus. All heretics meet in a grand ensemble at this article. Let us, then, abide by this article: ‘Thou shalt have no other gods,’ and let us diligently bear in mind its object and scope. For if we put it out of our sight, we are opening the doors wide to all schismatic spirits. God never proposed to set up His worship in this world without external means.”

This citation is taken from the sermon which Luther preached at the Marburg Colloquy. He speaks out against the fanatics, the Zwinglians, the Anabaptists. For although Zwingli admitted the correctness of Luther’s teaching, we have seen that half a year later he revoked his admission in a solemn address to the emperor. He desired that the emperor would have his confession read at an open session of the Diet of Augsburg. But this was not done, and not until after Zwingli’s death was this confession published by his son-in-law, who thought he must by this document rear a monument to his father-in-law. It is, verily, a sorry monument.

This sermon of Luther, then, was preached in 1529. Do not make a mistake about the chronology of the sermon. Did not Zwingli in 1529 unite with Luther in a confession? Did not Luther, then, do Zwingli a grievous wrong by preaching as he did? By no means; at the time when the sermon was preached Zwingli had not yet made this confession. That explains Luther’s language.

The fanatical Anabaptists caused a schism on account of Baptism, although they asserted that Baptism is useless; they said it was a mere act of outward obedience which — imagine their impudence! — a person must render in order to fulfill all righteousness. That is the Anabaptist way of coming to an agreement with the teaching of Christ. When they receive baptism, that is to be viewed as an act of kindness on their part: they are doing God a service by it. That is still their teaching, as I know from my personal experience and through my reading.

This is their terrible doctrine: Grace must have been obtained first; then Baptism is added as a sign that the person already possesses grace. Baptism, in their view, is nothing else than a work that man performs.

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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.

15 Responses to Thesis Thursday

  1. Tony says:

    Luther rules. Zwingli drools. 🙂

  2. RubeRad says:

    Calvin schools both them fools!

  3. John Yeazel says:

    I think Tony is Lily incognito!

  4. John Yeazel says:

    Luther and Melanchthon started the reformation of the true Catholic faith, Calvin and his associates tried to finish it, but the controversies between the Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists and Anabaptists were never settled and still linger among those involved in Christiandom today. I think there are errors on all sides of the controversies. The question that we want to ask is the same one that Joshua asked the man who was standing before him when he was about to go to battle in Jericho- “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he (the mystery man) said, No (meaning neither); but I am the commander of the army of the Lord, Now I have come.” Our proper and only response can be the same one as Joshua- “And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, ‘What does my lord say to his servant?’

  5. John Yeazel says:

    Going back a bit in the 16th lecture,Walther says this: “The ninth thesis which we are studying is one of the most important in the entire series. For the confounding of Law and Gospel that is common among the sects consists in nothing else than this, that they instruct alarmed sinners by prayer and inward wrestling to fight their way into a state of grace until they feel grace indwelling in them, instead of pointing them to the Word and the Sacraments.”

    A little later in the lecture Walther says this: “In what vulgar terms does Zwingli here speak of these sacred matters! When the Holy Spirit wants to approach man, He does not need the Word of God, the Gospel, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, for a conveyance; He can come without them! It must be a queer Bible which Zwingli read. — In speaking of external objects that are to convey the Spirit, Zwingli inserts the word “surely.” That is ambiguous. The means of grace actually convey grace, but not in such a manner as to coerce man to receive them. To the person receiving Baptism, God says: “I will be thy God, and thou shalt be in grace and favor with Me.” If the person refuses to receive this offer, he obtains no grace; but the reason for that is not because there is no grace for him to receive, but because he despises it. The whole Bible is full of testimonies to the fact that the Word and the Sacraments actually convey the Holy Spirit.”

    Is there anything, in these two paragraphs, that confessional Calvinists disagree with? From what I understand of confessional Calvinism, Christ (grace) is “conveyed” to the sinner through the preaching of the Word and the Sacraments. They reject the Anabaptist’s (and Zwinglian) idea of conveyed grace through other means- is that correct? What is it that confessional Calvinists disagree with Walther in this lecture besides being misrepresented and included with agreeing with Zwingli? What do confessional Calvinists agree with Zwingli about? From what I have read of Michael Horton, Scott Clark and Darryl Hart they would not disagree with much of what Walther stated in this lecture expect the baptismal regeneration idea. Since regeneration is such a controversial subject, and somewhat of a mystery in regards to when and how it actually takes place, should’nt we allow some leeway to each other when the scriptures are somewhat unclear about it and varying conclusions could be taken from the relevant scriptural texts?

  6. John Yeazel says:

    I think both confessional Lutherans and confessional Calvinists would agree that no one can wrestle their way into the grace of God- is that correct? We find grace in Word and Sacrament- what do we make then of the conflict we inevitably face with the continuing struggle with our sin and the conflict we face with others? What does our fighting and struggling entail? It has to be rooted in Word and Sacrament and standing on the promises when everything around us seems the opposite. There has to be a time when passive reception of the grace turns into outward action, but what are the means we struggle with? These types of questions are not so easily answered and one gets varying advice from whomever he may ask.

  7. "Michael Mann" says:

    JY, what, particularly, are you asking when you say “what are the means we struggle with?”

  8. John Yeazel says:

    MM, I am asking how much our wills are involved in our struggles with our flesh, the world and the devil? What if we get little victory in overcoming our sin and the various other struggles we face in this life? I find great comfort in listening to the Gospel and partaking of the Sacrament each Sunday. I do have a tendency to get discouraged when the overcoming is slow in coming- I then ask myself perhaps I am not doing enough to overcome the things I know I should be overcoming and which Christ already overcame for me. The means I am asking about are the things we can do which are not passive reception but active doing and how much we can actually generate this within ourselves. We are still dependent on the Holy Spirit to generate these desires to overcome within us- and, from what I understand, the feeding on Word and Sacrament is where these desires are produced.

  9. "Michael Mann" says:

    John, the Puritans spend a lot of time on the nuances of our behavior, our constitutions, sin, and motives. I spend a lot of time reading them, but one can get terribly introspective and tentative going down that road. Certainly there are circumstances that are more prone to sin and others that are more conducive to overcoming sin. You have already mentioned sitting under the word & sacraments; certainly the means of grace should not be neglected. But, on the whole, I have to say “just do it.” Whether virtuous behavior is due to good habits, after great struggle, with the will, or some other faculty, just do it and give God all the credit for whatever meager good works we produce.

  10. "Michael Mann" says:

    “spent” a lot of time reading them. Past tense, for the most part.

  11. John Yeazel says:

    MM, basically, that is the way I have been approaching it; I thought others might give me some ideas which I have not been privy to which may give me greater insight into how God sanctifies us (I do wear a weak on sancitification T-shirt at times; but that is a Lutheran thing which you Calvinists might not think that funny) I think it might be best to not complicate the matter. And I thought you might go into how Plato, Aristotle, Kant and Neitszche might differ from the Apostle Paul in how virtue is built into our characters- just kidding, mainly. I can’t help but to be somewhat of a smart aleck towards you. You bring it out of me.

  12. "Michael Mann" says:

    John, I guess my only “cred” on this issue is that I say “just do it” after – not in lieu of – reading all those guys.

  13. John Yeazel says:

    So, you’re a Nike and Miami Vice guy- you do have a demon avatar!! Seriously though, I think you do agree with me that it is a rather confusing concept to know how it works (the sanctification process) and what we can do to make it happen the way we desire it to happen. Maybe that is the key to it- to trust that God puts circumstances in our lives that we cannot control and have to trust Him to work it out somehow, while we kick and scream throughout the whole process. Of course, you Calvinists are much more more trusting (read: mature) and do not act out as much as we Lutherans do.

  14. RubeRad says:

    I think I commented on that other lecture back there too; other than being misrepresented, the confessional calvinist’s biggest beef with all of this is the Ex Opere Operatum-ish view of the sacraments. But I think confessional calvinists would agree that actual grace is actually conveyed to those who partake in faith. Zwingli’s problem was he was a mere memorialist. I’ve heard that Zwingli’s situation was more sophisticated than that, or perhaps he changed late in life, but mere memorialism is what he is famous for.

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