This week, Lecture 25. In the introduction, Walther gives an excellent justification for what is typically seen as stereotypically Calvinist aggression and arrogance, and continues with a fine discussion of what we Presbyterians know as LC73 (faith is an instrument):
Jesus Christ had said to His disciples, not only: “Ye are the light of the world,” but also: “Ye are the salt of the earth”; that is, you are not only to proclaim the truth, but you are also to salt the world with its sins and errors; you are to sprinkle sharp salt on the world to stay its corruption. … Preachers of the right character remember that the Church is not a kingdom that can be built up in peace; for it is located within the domain of the devil, who is the prince of this world. Accordingly, the Church has no choice but to be at war. It is ecclesia militans, the Church Militant, and will remain such until the blessed end. Wherever a Church is seen to be, not ecclesia militans, but ecclesia quiescens, a Church at ease, that — you may rely on it! — is a false Church.
But remember in this connection that errors are the more harmful, the more they are concealed. It is therefore necessary that they be dragged into the light and fought. Of this duty we are reminded by our
In the tenth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when faith is required as a condition of justification and salvation, as if a person were righteous in the sight of God and saved, not only by faith, but also on account of his faith, for the sake of his faith, and in view of his faith.
Suppose you say to a beggar who approaches you asking alms that you will give him something on one condition, and on his asking you what the condition is, you would tell him the condition is that he accept your gift. Would he not consider your condition a hoax and say, laughing: “Why, most gladly I shall meet your condition, and the more you give, the greater will become my joy in taking it”? True, if a person refuses to believe, nobody can help him. But he must not say that grace was offered with a condition attached to it which he could not meet. God attaches no condition to His grace when He proffers it to a sinner and asks him to accept it.
A person teaching that “faith is a condition which the Gospel stipulates” makes the promises of the Gospel conditioned promises like those of the Law and removes the distinction between the Law and the Gospel. The Law promises no good thing except on condition that a person comply perfectly with its demands, while the Gospel promises everything unconditionally as a free gift. In short, the promises of grace demand nothing of man. When the Lord says, “Believe,” He does not utter a demand, but issues an urgent invitation to man to take, to apprehend, to appropriate what He is giving, without asking anything in return for it. The gift must, of course, be accepted. Non-acceptance forfeits the gift, but not because there was a condition attached to it.
Gerhard writes: “The term ‘if’ is either etiological or syllogistic; that is, it signifies either a cause or a consequence. In the preaching of the Law the statement: ‘If you do this, you shall live,’ the term is etiological; it signifies the cause, or reason; for obedience is the reason why eternal life is given to those who keep the Law. But in evangelical promises the term ‘if’ is syllogistic; it signifies a consequence; for it relates to the mode of application which God has appointed for these promises, and that is faith alone.”
To cite Gerhard once more, he writes (Loc. de Justific., § 179): “It is one thing to be justified on account of faith and another to be justified by faith. In the former view, faith is the meritorious, in the latter, the instrumental cause. [There must be an organ by which I come into the possession and enjoyment of what some one offers me.] We are not justified on account of faith as a merit, but by faith which lays hold of the merit of Christ.” It is not my own merit that saves me, but the merit of Christ.
However, as regards the simile that has been adduced, the old axiom must be noted: Omne simile est dissimile (In every simile there is some element of dissimilarity). Otherwise it would not be a simile, but identity. When I hold out my hand, I make a motion. This point must not be pressed in the case of man’s faith. For it is God who prompts the holding out of the hand after He has prepared a sinner for the Gospel by means of the Law. Of course, God cannot prompt a person who continues, and is determined to continue, in his sinful life and makes a mockery of God’s Word.