Thesis Thursday

Moving on to Lecture 24 and

Thesis XIII.

In the ninth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when one makes an appeal to believe or at least help towards that end, instead of preaching faith into a person’s heart by laying the Gospel promises before him.

This thesis does not score as an error the demand on the part of the pastor, be it ever so urgent, that his hearers believe the Gospel. That demand has been made by all the prophets, all the apostles, yea, by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. When demanding faith, we do not lay down a demand of the Law, but issue the sweetest invitation, practically saying to our hearers: “Come; for all things are now ready.” Luke 14, 17. When I invite a halfstarved person to sit down to a well-furnished board and to help himself to anything he likes, I do not expect him to tell me that he will take no orders from me. Even so the demand to believe is to be understood not as an order of the Law, but as an invitation of the Gospel.

The error against which this thesis is directed is this, that man can produce faith in himself. Such a demand would be an order of the Law and turn faith into a work of man. That would be plainly mingling Law and Gospel.

Suppose you were picturing to a horde of Indians the Lord Jesus, telling them that He is the Son of God who came down from heaven to redeem men from their sins by taking the wrath of God upon Himself, overcoming death, devil, and hell in their stead and opening heaven to all men, and that every man can now be saved by merely accepting what our Lord Jesus Christ has brought to us. Suppose that you were suddenly struck down by the deadly bullet of a hostile Indian lying in ambush. It is possible that, dying, you would leave behind you a small congregation of Indians though you may not even once have pronounced the word faith to them. For every one in that audience who did not wantonly and wilfully resist divine grace would have to reason that he, too, has been redeemed.

On the other hand, you may spend a lot of time telling men that they must believe if they wish to be saved, and your hearers may get the impression that something is required of them which they must do. They will begin to worry whether they will be able to do it, and when they have tried to do it, whether it is exactly the thing that is required of them. Thus you may have preached a great deal about faith without delivering a real sermon on faith.

Melanchthon taught: 1. “There is, and must be, a reason in men why some are predestinated unto salvation while others are reprobated and damned.” … 2. “Since the promises of grace are universal and there cannot be contradictory wills in God, there must necessarily be some cause in us that accounts for the salvation of some and of the reprobation of others; in other words, there must be in each a different kind of action.”

The different kind of action is not the cause why any person finds himself in heaven. True, grace is universal. The reason why some are reprobated is that they wilfully resist grace. Here reason enters in with the claim that accordingly there must be a cause in the others why they are saved, and this must be because they did not resist grace. But we are at this point confronted with an inscrutable mystery, and any one who is unwilling to acknowledge this mystery is abandoning the Christian religion, the central teaching of which is that God has revealed to man a way of salvation which no man’s reason could have discovered nor is able to comprehend.

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.

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