Thesis Thursday

In Lecture 34, Walther continues rejecting Ex Opere Operato:


At our last meeting we barely began to discuss the important contents of the twenty-first thesis, viz., that Law and Gospel are not properly divided, the one from the other, when it is claimed that by the mere performance of the act of being baptized and going to Communion, salvation can be obtained. This is a most abominable way of confounding Law and Gospel.

One would indeed think it to be utterly impossible for a Christian minister to teach that the Sacraments produce salutary effects ex opere operato; still, that is what happens again and again. This awful error is taught by the very men who wish to pass for genuinely strict Lutherans, every time they discuss the Sacraments. When they have finished unfolding their doctrine of Baptism, every hearer has received the unmistakable impression that, in order to get to heaven, it is merely necessary to submit to the act of being baptized. When they have finished their presentation of the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, the people are convinced that, to obtain the forgiveness of sins, all that a person has to do is to mount the altar steps and take Communion, because God has attached His grace to this external action.

Our Church is frequently charged with teaching that Baptism procures for us ex opere operato adoption as children of God and the Lord’s Supper ex opere operato the forgiveness of sins. False teachers din this falsehood into people’s ears, giving it out for Lutheran doctrine. If that were our doctrine, we should indeed not feel surprised if all true Christians were to shun us. It would be awful if we were to say first: “Man is not saved by works,” and next: “However, by these two paltry works men are to obtain forgiveness of sins.”

True, the Lutheran Church speaks of the Sacraments in terms of such high esteem that fanatics become disgusted with it. The Lutheran Church holds to the word of the Lord: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” That is the reason why it condemns all false teachers which say that Baptism is merely a ceremony by which a person is received into the Church. According to Lutheran teaching, Baptism “works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe, as the words and promises of God declare.” The Lutheran Church maintains that Baptism is the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost”; that the water in Baptism, as Peter says, “saves us”; and that those “who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” As regards the Lord’s Supper, the Lutheran Church, resisting all attempts to mislead her into doubt, maintains the truth of the Lord’s words when He says: “This is My body, which is given for you”; “This is My blood, which is shed for you.” The Lutheran Church regards the holy Sacraments as the most sacred, gracious, and precious treasure on earth and is firmly convinced that God is not a miserable master of ceremonies, who decrees what rites we are to observe when receiving a person into our communion. Christianity is not a Masonic society. When God commands a sacramental act, He commands something upon which our salvation depends.

However, at no time has the Lutheran Church asserted that men are saved by the mere external use of the Sacraments. That is a teaching against which it has always raised its voice, which it has always combated and condemned.

At this point modern theologians again reveal their papistic attitude, which is a strange thing to do for men who are more inclined to Rationalism. They declare that Baptism is regeneration, and from this false statement many form their wrong opinion of what the Lutheran Church teaches. Baptism, according to Lutheran teaching, is not regeneration, but effects it, produces it; it is a means of regeneration.

However, in order to make you see quite plainly that the Lutheran Church has nothing to do with the teaching of ex opere operato effects of the Sacraments, let me present a few testimonies from its Confessions.

In the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Art. XII (Mueller, p. 202 ff.; Trigl. Conc., p. 309 ff.) we read: “We condemn the whole crowd of scholastic doctors, who teach that the Sacraments confer grace ex opere operato, without a good disposition on the part of the one using them, provided we do not place a hindrance in the way. This is absolutely a Jewish opinion, to hold that we are justified by a ceremony, without a good disposition of the heart, i.e., without faith. And yet this impious and pernicious opinion is taught with great authority throughout the entire realm of the Pope. Paul contradicts this and denies, Rom. 4, 9, that Abraham was justified by circumcision, but asserts that circumcision was a sign presented for exercising faith. Thus we teach that in the use of the Sacraments faith ought to be added, which should believe these promises and receive the promised things there offered in the Sacrament. And the reason is plain and thoroughly grounded. The promise is useless unless it is received by faith. Yea, Augustine says that faith in the Sacrament, and not the Sacrament, justifies.”

When the attention of would be strict Lutherans is called to the foregoing statement, they regard it as Calvinistic. They claim that Baptism is regeneration and that the Lord’s Supper produces mysterious, but altogether gracious effects in us. Of course, those who know this declaration of the Apology do not say, but they think, that it is Calvinistic.

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This entry was posted in Calvinism, Church relations, Compare and Confess, Confessionalism, Confessions, Gospel, History, Law/Gospel Distinction, Lutheranism, Protestant preaching, Protestant slogans, Quotes, Thesis Thursday. Bookmark the permalink.

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