I enjoy sitting at my desk, with Luther on the screen, fresh coffee in the mug, Sassy at my feet, and UOJ Stormtroopers at my throat.
Luther's Second Sermon for the Fouth Sunday after Easter is found here.
This is a great, powerful passage in Luther, because it concerns Jesus' final instructions to His disciples, when they were grieving and sorrowful in advance of His death. How can anyone escape the meaning of these words, when the Savior Himself explained them and Luther interpreted them?
KJV John 16:8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
Nevertheless, when I brought this up, among Lutherans on Facebook, the UOJ crowd began accusing me, just as the Appleton Lutheran (sic) crowd does. It has been a good day. On Facebook I objected to SP Harrison's campaign manager, Paul McCain, posting Roman Catholic material on his blog and being less than candid about his source, a website designed to support and recruit papists. Another pastor sanctimoniously cited the Eighth Commandment against me - the first time today, but probably not the last.
Things are so bad in Lutherdom that these two sermons are considered "distorting Luther" by the UOJ Enthusiasts. Rather than read and study the demonstrable facts about Luther's doctrine, they sail off from the lift of their own hot air, enraged that we are justified by faith alone. This point is pivotal - they insist that everyone is justified, forgiven, declared righteous, and saved - without faith. The second part of their dogma is just as bizarre, because they say, "This is true but not true until you say it is true. That is justification by faith, acknowledging that we are born forgiven, confessing that Hitler and Mao are guilt-free saints in Hell, like the Sodomites who perished under God's wrath.
4. However, here the Lord speaks quite differently, and says: “The Holy Spirit will convict the world in respect of sin, because they believe not on me.” Unbelief only is mentioned here as sin, and faith is praised as suppressing and extinguishing the other sins, even the sins in the saints.
Faith is so strong and overpowering that no sin dare put it under any obligation. Although sins are present in pious and believing persons, they are not imputed to them, nor shall their sins condemn them. This is Paul’s meaning when he says in Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Their hearts are cleansed by faith, as Peter writes in Acts 15:9. Therefore, whatever they do in this faith, in this assurance is all good, pure and pleasing to God. On the contrary, without this faith all their doings are sin and destruction, though their good works may shine and glitter as beautifully as they will, and ever though they raise the dead. For Paul says: “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin,” Romans 14:23.
I gradually learned that the Synodical Conference (tm) types love to rave against faith. There was a certain speech that erupted from them, and it always sounded the same, like the verbatim explanations from tour guides in Washington D.C. Now I realize that the UOJ faction, started by Walther, gradually took over and put a headlock on all discussions. Anyone who parted with them was a heretic and kicked. Their speech included such outbursts as "don't make faith a work" and "we are saved by GRACE through faith," arguing a point I did not see at first. They keep the main agenda off the radar screen, because everyone would reject it immediately if they knew.
Jesus' teaching about the work of the Holy Spirit is too unnerving for them, but here it is - the only sin is unbelief. That does not mean, as some hedonists and Antinomians wish, that the Ten Commandments are voided. Instead, unbelief in Christ is the foundational sin. Faith in Him as the Savior overpowers sin through the righteousness of Christ. Faith receives the forgiveness earned by Christ, but there is no forgiveness without faith, no righteousness without faith.
That is the beginning of sanctification, the Christian life, because the believer is motivated by the Gospel rather than the Law. But there is also a paradox. We remain sinful and weak, because of the Old Adam in us all, but Christ gives us His forgiveness through the work of the Holy Spirit in the Gospel.
II. THE HOLY SPIRIT CONVICTS THE WORLD OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.
6. Here all the learned come armed, yea, the whole world besides, and tell us what kind of righteousness this is. Yes, and they shall err. For the world has never known this righteousness; it does not yet know it, and it does not wish to know it. Hence, the Lord says here that the Holy Spirit will convict the world of this righteousness.
7. But what are we to understand here by “the world?” We dare not understand by it the coarse, outward sins, as adultery, murder, stealing and theft. There are instituted for such characters the wheels and gallows, with which the worldly powers, the kings, emperors and princes, have to do.
But we will interpret “the world” as the subtle and secret sins, of which the Holy Spirit convicts, which the world does not know as sin. Yea, it pronounces them divine works; it applauds them and will not permit them to be called sins. How else can unbelief and other secret sins live in the heart while the heart itself is not conscious of them and knows not that they are sins? But those who convict the world must, on that account, be reviled as heretics and be banished from the country, as we see at present.
That is why the best job in the world is to be a professor or minister of religion while going against this basic Biblical teaching. Some call it ecumenism. Some aspire to great influence within the visible church, but that is only allowed as long as faith in Christ is not taken seriously. The unbelievers know at once. They spot it, ask a few questions, and take action.
I ordered some books on justification, modern ones, and both used this kind of language - "this work might offer some useful tools for examining certain aspects of the work of..." The professor types are welcome at all the great universities and teach at many tax-supported schools, too - as long as they do not express faith in Christ alone as the Savior. What Luther said about Rome is true about America - they tolerate every god except the One True God, Christ Jesus.
Faith in Christ, support for Creation - those are the marks of an ignorant person. Working with every type of religion and philosophy, every expression of Christianity - both are considered marks of a sophisticated intellect, because "we are all one in Christ." Or, even better, "all paths lead to God." I asked one student, "Cannibalism, too?"
Burning people at the stake is no longer considered polite in Western society, so now there is a better way to induce docility and apathy toward the truth - ecumenism. To be a "conservative" and participate is a great item to include on a resume.
Update - I was just told I was wrong to call justification without faith "toxic" because "it endangered the fellowship of this group."
Therefore, the Holy Spirit must convict the world.
8. The rod, however, by which the world is convicted and punished, is the divine Word and the holy Gospel, proclaimed by the apostles and preachers, as God the Father says to his Son in Psalm 2:9: “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” That is, you shall humble them with the holy Gospel. But the world resents such conviction and punishment; yet it punishes severely, and even more severely than the Holy Spirit does. The Holy Spirit takes rods, but the world uses swords and fire. Isaiah also speaks in like terms of Christ our Lord in Isaiah 11:4: “He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth; and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.”
9. What is now the righteousness the Lord means here? Some say righteousness is a virtue that gives to every person his own. Although this is a fine definition, yet it is misleading, in that we do not know how we are indebted to every one, to God and to man. This God desires and demands of us. Therefore, his righteousness is nothing more than the faith and grace of God, by which God makes us pious and righteous. Such righteousness we must have and thus be righteous, if we are to be found righteous and unblamable before God, and not only before man. For the smallest letter or tittle of the Law shall not fail, but all will be fulfilled.
10. Noah was found to be such a righteous man. It is written of him in Genesis 6:8-9: “Noah was a righteous man, and blameless in his generation; he walked with God. Therefore he found favor in the eyes of Jehovah.” It is also written of Job, in Job 1:1, that he was a perfect and upright man, one that feared God and turned away from evil. But that is done only by faith, when one believes that God has strangled and swallowed up one’s sins in his righteousness. For this righteousness is nothing but to believe that Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father; that he is equal with God, possessing equal power; that he has become Lord by virtue of his passion, by which he has ascended to the Father, reconciled us with God and is there as our mediator. This is what the prophet means in Psalm 110:1. “Jehovah saith unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” Therefore, St. Paul calls Christ now a mediator, 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 8:6; then a throne of grace, Romans 3:25; a propitiation,1 John 2:2, and other like names. God requires this honor from us and faith demands it that we possess him as our Lord and Savior; and this glory he will not concede to any one else, as he says through the prophet: “My glory will I not give to another,” Isaiah 42:8.
|Father Mapple preached from a ship-pulpit in Moby Dick.|
Herman Melville was a free-thinker who loved to tease his conservative Christian readers, but he has powerful passage about a minister who preaches from the prow of a ship in his mariners' chapel.
Melville says -
Nor was the pulpit itself without a trace of the same sea-taste that had achieved the ladder and the picture. Its panelled front was in the likeness of a ship's bluff bows, and the Holy Bible rested on the projecting piece of scroll work, fashioned after a ship's fiddle-headed beak.
What could be more full of meaning? -- for the pulpit is ever this earth's foremost part; all the rest comes in its rear; the pulpit leads the world. From thence it is the storm of God's quick wrath is first descried, and the bow must bear the earliest brunt. From thence it is the God of breezes fair or foul is first invoked for favorable winds. Yes, the world's a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow.
In fact, the pulpit has led the Western world and had a prominent role in the Third World as well. Missionaries brought food, medicine, and education to every corner of the world, but their work is castigated today as Western imperialism. In Britain, the Gospel motivation of Wilberforce got rid of the slave trade without a bloody war.
As ChurchMouse would probably agree, that motivating faith in British leaders is so diminished now that it is more like complete passivity in the face of polytheistic tolerance and ecumenical apostasy.
So now, the most basic teaching of the Bible is assaulted by various forces inside and outside the visible church. The Gospel of John teaches faith in Christ so often and so clearly that we rejoiced over those passages in Greek class. Nothing was simpler to translate for us beginners. And if someone misses the point (since faith and believing are taught so many times), the Gospel has this as one conclusion:
KJV John 20:30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
11. His way to the Father is his glory. For “to go” means to die, and to pass through death to the Father and enter upon another existence. He glories in his future course when he says: “I go unto the Father.”
Therefore, here righteousness is nothing more than traveling by faith the road through death unto the Father. This faith makes us righteous before God, this faith by which we believe that he delivered us from sin, death, Satan and hell, through his passion, and that thereby God, the Father, is reconciled and our sins are blotted out by his blood. This is also the reason that he mentions his going, when he says, in respect of righteousness, not that he is with the Father, but that he goes to the Father. In this going, sin is swallowed up in righteousness and Christ passes cheerfully through death, so that no one is even aware of it. Therefore it follows: “And ye behold me no more.”
12. The nature and art of faith are here set forth: Faith neither feels nor gropes, nor do the things connected with it require a science; but it bestirs itself cheerfully to believe the things it neither feels nor ‘can measure with all its powers inwardly or outwardly. Paul says in Romans 8:24: “Who hopeth for that which he seeth?” Therefore, the Lord aptly says: “And ye behold me no more.” As if he would say that this way of good works which he is traveling, will not be seen nor grasped by the senses, but it must be believed. Now follows the third and last part of our Gospel.
Before anyone can say more, the UOJ Hive buzzes against faith and starts delivering the stings. "Your faith is in faith." That is called a Straw Man logical fallacy, and it is absurd, since faith in the Bible means faith in Christ or faith in the Word of God - which conveys Christ to us, the Gospel in the Instruments (Means) of Grace.
The UOJ Hive is always ready to pounce and sting. They are always angry and accusing, but the true Gospel is comforting and peace-giving. Nothing is more tormenting than the terrors of the conscience. One can have everything the world admires--wealth, power, possessions, glory--but suffer the torments of Hell because of a guilty conscience, even if no one knows.
What better way to start and end the day than by realizing and thanking God for forgiveness through Christ? Does the Christian sit up in bed in the morning and say, "And not because I believe in Christ. I just want to point that out"?
I have asked people to show me where the traditional liturgy and great hymns of Christendom teach forgiveness without faith. The list does not have one item on it. That is why we have to be wary of new teachings and new translations that find insights never before taught or imagined. Newness is not an argument for Christian doctrine, but serious evidence against it.
The Lutheran Reformers did not invent a new brand. Chemnitz went to great lengths in the Book of Concord to show through his vast knowledge of patristics that the Evangelicals (as the Lutherans were once called) taught faithfully what the Church had always taught - faithful to the Scriptures but also to the best teaching of the Faith.
III. THE HOLY SPIRIT CONVICTS THE WORLD OF JUDGMENT, OR THE CROSS.
“Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.”
13. The prince of this world is Satan, and his members include all unbelieving and godless persons, all flesh with all its powers is condemned by these words, and what the world praises is condemned by God, including both the godly and the ungodly, believers and unbelievers, friends and enemies, as St. Peter cites in his first Epistle ( 1 Peter 4:17), when he says: “For the time is come for judgment to begin at the house of God,” that is, with the elect, in whom God dwells. The righteous, while they live here, have flesh and blood, in which sin is rooted. To suppress this sin God will lead them into great misery and anxiety, poverty, persecution and all kinds of danger (as Paul writes to the Romans 7:18ff; 8:4; and to the Corinthians) until the flesh becomes completely subject to the Spirit.
14. That, however, does not take place until death, when the flesh is completely turned to ashes. We must be in all points like Christ. Since he was here despised, mocked and tried, so that, as the prophet Isaiah ( Isaiah 53:3) says, he was esteemed and held as one stricken and smitten of God, the most despised and unworthy, full of grief and sorrow.
His disciples must also go through the same experiences. Everyone should carefully consider this. It is so decreed, as Christ himself before declared to his disciples, saying: “Remember the word that I said unto you, A servant is not greater than his lord. If they persecuted me they will also persecute you.” John 15:20. Hence Paul says in very plain words in 2 Timothy 3:12: “All that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
15. Therefore, St. Peter carefully discriminates and says: “If judgment begin first at us, what shall be the end of them that obey not the Gospel of God? And if the righteous is scarcely saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?” 1 Peter 4:17-18. This discrimination is between the sufferings of the godly and of the wicked. Godly and believing persons know their sins; they bear all their punishment patiently, and are resigned to God’s judgment without the least murmur; therefore, they are punished only bodily, and here in time, and their pain and suffering have an end.
Unbelievers, however, since they are not conscious of their sins and transgressions, can not bear God’s punishment patiently, but they resent it and wish their life and works to go unpunished, yea, uncensored. Hence, their punishment and suffering are in body and soul, here in time, and last forever beyond this life. The Lord says here, “The prince of this world is already judged.” As if he were to say, All that the world and humanity in the world discover, praise and condemn, amounts to nothing; and whatever God judges the world cannot suffer nor bear, but rejects, repudiates and condemns.
16. Thus, three thoughts have been presented to us in this Gospel: Sin, righteousness and, finally, the cross and persecution. We shall be freed from sin through faith. If we believe that Christ made satisfaction for our sins and that his satisfaction is ours, that is then the righteousness. When we are free from sin, and are just and pious, then the world, Satan and the flesh will arise and contend and battle against us. Then come persecution and the cross. This we wish to have set forth in brief at present from this Gospel. May God grant his grace that we learn it thus, and know how to govern ourselves by it when we need it.
If people get justification by faith wrong, they will also misinterpret everything else taught in the Scriptures. If this foundational concept grasped through the clear, plain words of the inspired Word, everything else in the Bible will make sense. The Word conveys forgiveness to us through the Gospel in preaching, teaching, and the Sacraments. Unbelief is scandalized by this. Faith in Christ rejoices over the truth.