Thesis Thursday

We’re in the home stretch; this is lecture 30 of 39.

Thesis XVIII.

In the fourteenth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the universal corruption of mankind is described in such a manner as to create the impression that even true believers are still under the spell of ruling sins and are sinning purposely.

You will observe that I am speaking of the claim that the universal corruption of mankind embraces living in dominant and wilful sins on the part of believers. No one who is conversant with the pure doctrine will make the unqualified assertion that a christian can be a fornicator and an adulterer. Such a thought would not enter the mind of a true teacher of the Word of God. but a preacher trying to give a very drastic description of the universal corruption of mankind is easily tempted to deviate from the pure doctrine. I am speaking of mistakes that are frequently made by zealous ministers and also by theological students. In their first sermons submitted for review they quite frequently say that all mankind lives in this or that sin, mentioning manifest sins unto death as though Christians also were living in sins of that kind. What damage can be done when people are made to hear that we human beings are living in every abomination, shame, and vice, without the qualifying statement: “as we are by nature” or “as long as a person is still in the state of natural depravity and is unregenerate.” With these qualifiers, of course, you cannot overdraw the horrible qualities of man’s natural condition. However, when addressing a Christian congregation, you will have to be very careful not to speak as if also all Christians were living in shame and vice. It was a harmful and dangerous attempt on the part of the Pietists to divide mankind into so many classes that nobody was able to tell in which class he belonged. But this must not keep us from pointing out in our sermons the two great classes into which mankind is really divided, viz., believers and unbelievers, godly and ungodly, converted and unconverted, regenerate and unregenerate persons. This classification is current throughout the Scriptures. Christ always preached: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Mark 16, 16. “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Matt. 9, 13. God “maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matt. 5, 45. In each one of these texts Christ recognizes only two classes of human beings. Matt. 13, 38 He speaks of “the children of the Kingdom” and “the children of the Wicked One,” of wheat and tares. This thorough division, this aut-aut, either-or, must appear in every sermon of a sincere preacher. This is what your hearers must learn, viz., that they are either spiritually dead or spiritually alive, either converted or unconverted, either under the wrath of God or in a state of grace, either Christians or unchristians, either asleep in sin or quickened unto a new life in God, subjects in either the devil’s or God’s kingdom. It is a damnable heresy to speak of Hades, as modern theologians do, where man will have another chance to be converted. Incalculable harm is done by this doctrine. May God keep you from embracing it!

Make plain to your hearers in all your sermons that there are but two goals at the end of this life — heaven and hell. There will be only two sentences pronounced on men, either unto damnation or unto eternal life. Accordingly, there are only two classes of men in the present life; those of the one class are headed direct for hell, those of the other, straight for heaven. For Christ says distinctly: “Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matt. 7, 13–14. There are but two gates, two roads, and two terminals. To confound the two classes of men that are concerned in these two ways is an abominable mingling of Law and Gospel. The Law produces reprobate sinners, the Gospel free and blessed men.

Now, lest you think that we are vainly arguing about self-evident matters and to prove that the Calvinists have received into their doctrinal system the error rejected in our thesis, I wish to cite from the decrees of the Synod of Dort the following statement: “God, who is rich in mercy, according to His immutable purpose of election, does not wholly remove the Holy Spirit from His own even when they sin grievously, nor does He permit them to fall entirely out of the grace of adoption as children of God and out of the state of justification.” Now, any one who falls into a mortal sin slips — back entirely into the state of sin. According to the confession of the Reformed, then, Peter, David, and others were justified sinners while they committed mortal sins, remained in a state of grace as children of God, and retained the Holy Spirit. This we reject, while we indeed assert that the elect cannot until their death remain in a reprobate state, otherwise they could not be elect.

This entry was posted in Compare and Confess, History, Law/Gospel Distinction, Lutheranism, Protestant preaching, Protestant slogans, Quotes, The gospel, The Protestant Reformation, Thesis Thursday. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Thesis Thursday

  1. says:

    As a Lutheran who’s more like a Reformed, I am still so very confused about all of this – this apparent tension. If I’m elect I’m saved and saved by God’s choice alone, so I’m somewhat “once saved always saved”, right? God doesn’t change his mind about my salvation nor rely on my decision to save myself. I’m simul justus et peccator. No one can pluck from me from his hands. Once I’m Justified, that’s it, right? I’m still going to sin every day in thought, word and deed until I die, when the Already and Not Yet is finally over.

    Walther speaks of mortal sins but I thought that belonged only to Catholicism (?)

    “This we reject, while we indeed assert that the elect cannot until their death remain in a reprobate state, otherwise they could not be elect.”

    Wouldn’t this then mean we are elect because of something we do, not because of God’s perfect and Holy will? I’m confused.

  2. RubeRad says:

    Precisely. And that is why Calvinists are not Lutherans. That and idols in churches, and over-realized sacramentology.

  3. Matt (friendlylittlefinger) says:

    Oy, that’s a lot of homework but I’ll give it a shot as it’s quite important. Thanks.

  4. Matt says:

    For more knowledge, please. Is Baptismal Regeneration an idol? What are some other idols?

  5. RubeRad says:

    Well maybe it is, but I meant all the crossing and kneeling to crucifixes in worship. I should have linked here, but I forgot about that old post. I have edited the comment now though.

  6. matt says:

    I grew up in the Wisconsin Synod and we never made the sign of the cross nor did we kneel to crucifixes. In fact we had no crucifixes. I never saw anyone do such. We had a couple crosses and a big, colourful stained glass image of Christ which I’m sure many people looked at but never bowed to. Now I’m in the MO. Synod and at the church I attend, there is sign crossing by some but I haven’t seen any kneeling to crucifixes yet as I believe there are just a couple of crosses. We kneel when we take Communion but that’s it.

    I checked the link and will continue to read thru the comments. Thanks.

  7. RubeRad says:

    That’s interesting. Maybe it’s just congregational variation. Note when I said “kneeling” what I was thinking of was that little “curtsy” they make when they cross themselves, every time they cross stage left–>right or right–>left (i.e. whenever they pass the crucifix). (But in that other link, Scaer did recommend kneeling down before the creche)

  8. matt says:

    Ya, kneeling to the (a) family doesn’t seem right. And if it’s a curtsy style, it seems trite.

  9. Katy says:

    “Note when I said “kneeling” what I was thinking of was that little “curtsy” they make when they cross themselves, every time they cross stage left–>right or right–>left (i.e. whenever they pass the crucifix).”

    We Lutherans cross ourselves when the Trinity is invoked during service (er, some of us–probably 1/4 of my congregation, the really old folks and the really young folks. I would say it’s generally the Swedes and Baby Boomers who don’t cross themselves.) It’s not standard to cross oneself when walking in front of the altar, but it is standard to give a little head bow (not sure what you mean by curtsy) to acknowledge the bodily presence of Christ. When you witnessed this, perhaps it was coincidence that a crucifix was behind or on the altar.

    Scaer’s recommendation is completely his own opinion. It is not a common practice among American Lutherans to kneel at a creche, nor is it forbidden.

    Also, the Large Catechism has a longer explanation of Commandment 1:

    Just wanted to clarify. I’m aware of all the theological arguments on either side 🙂

  10. RubeRad says:

    Thanks for the feedback; it may well have been the altar, not the crucifix, that they were head-bowing to (that’s probably what I meant by “little curtsy”, not sure if there was actually any leg movement going on under the robe), because the crucifix was directly above the altar. From a Calvinist perspective, however, I think the reaction is the same; although some congregations may well come to partake of the Supper on kneelers, nobody would ever think of kneeling to the elements themselves.

    However, come to think of it, I’ve been to two “services” (if you can call them that; one was merely kicking off a conference, and may not have been considered “divine service”), one of them served communion, one didn’t. And the genuflection (maybe not the right word) was the same whenever crossing the middle of the platform.

  11. Katy says:

    Right–acknowledging where the elements are or were. So an acolyte will turn to the altar and nod as he’s crossing to snuff out candles, even though communion is over. Some genuflect (bowing one knee a bit), some nod (bowing head slightly). It doesn’t matter if the elements are there or not. Maybe you’ll find the comparison crass, but it’s a show of respect, like a man taking his hat off for a woman, or rising when she enters or leaves a room. This is where our Lord nourished us with all the benefits of the cross–hey, let’s acknowledge that.

    I also understand the “same difference” response. But Lutherans would NOT place a crucifix in the same category as the elements in the Lord’s Supper. I just wanted to emphasize that. Many of us have crucifixes in our homes, but I’ve never heard of anyone kneeling or bowing before it (!) We do not believe an icon imparts grace, like the Eastern Orthodox.

  12. RubeRad says:

    That’s helpful. Thanks for the insider info.

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