Sunday, September 30, 2012

Most of Christianity Today Is Little More Than Rehashed Law Pounding

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It is difficult to get through Luther's commentary on Galatians. The reason for this is the manner in which he expounds on almost every passage. He keeps reiterating the Law and Gospel. It is very comforting to read these segments here at Ichabod. Most of what tries to pass as Christianity today is just rehashed Law pounding. A repentant sinner is terrified even more by this. Luther's Large Catechism is written in a similar fashion.


GJ - Luther's Galatians Commentary is more of a one-volume commentary on the entire Bible. It is a mature work, as one can see from the date. The Augsburg Confession was already published. Many of Luther's best work came after Augsburg in 1530.

Like the Book of Concord, Galatians should be read and appreciated in small sections at a time.

VirtueOnline - News - Exclusives - New GC2012 Resolution could force PA Bishop Charles Bennison out of office

VirtueOnline - News - Exclusives - New GC2012 Resolution could force PA Bishop Charles Bennison out of office:

New GC2012 Resolution could force PA Bishop Charles Bennison out of office

By David W. Virtue
August 27, 2012

The 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church passed an historic resolution in Indianapolis recognizing that when the relationship between bishops and dioceses is severely strained, sometimes to the breaking point, there is a way out that includes getting rid of the diocesan bishop. The canonical process of Resolution B021 prescribes methods for ending an episcopal relationship.

This now allows the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, if it so chooses, to finally get rid of Bishop Charles E. Bennison without using any of the Title IV disciplinary canons.

Resolution B021 was the result of a call (via Resolution B014) from the 2009 meeting of General Convention on how to help dioceses and bishops resolve their differences.

The failure of dioceses stuck with bad or deficient bishops (and there are a slew of them) has been a sticking point for years as there has been virtually no way of getting rid of a bishop except for public adultery which is still deemed scandalous. (What you can do is divorce your wife, take her to the altar and ecclesiastically unmarry her, then run out and find a man to marry if you are of the same sex.) But good old fashioned adultery is still a no-no in The Episcopal Church even though the late Bishop of New York, Paul Moore, engaged in an extensive homosexual affair while married with nine children. It was known by many that Moore committed adultery, but he was never exposed. He was inhibited by his successor, Bishop Richard Grein, though the charges against Moore were never made public. Grein was caught in an adulterous relationship, divorced his wife, and married another woman. 

As well as pansexuality, gross incompetency has been the hallmark of many a bishop. The good folk of Western Michigan are just waiting for Bishop Robert Gepert to go having left in his wake busted churches and a financial deficit.

The passage of Resolution B021 Convention offers a way to help bishops and dioceses reconcile or dissolve an episcopal relationship.

Resolution B014 (from 2009) noted in its explanation, The toll of that lack is "enormous," and comes in the form of "bishops and their families leaving stigmatized and without the gratitude and caring of the dioceses they have served, members of Standing Committees exhausted and ill-used, dioceses being left demoralized and split by factions, and the name of the church often compromised for lack of a more humane process." A better description of the situation in The Diocese of Pennsylvania could not be found.

If a diocese and bishop do decide to invoke the canon, such a decision allows any party to ask the presiding bishop to intervene and assist in resolving the disagreement or dissension. The presiding bishop then begins a process - including the possible use of a consultant or licensed mediator - meant to lead to reconciliation. If the parties agree to reconcile, they must define the "responsibility and accountability for the bishop and the diocese," according to the new Section 9.

In addition, the bishop, or two-thirds of the Standing Committee or a two-thirds majority vote of the Diocesan Convention can begin a process to dissolve the episcopal relationship. The reasons for the dissolution must be given in writing to the presiding bishop, along with a report of any mediator or consultant who might have been engaged. That notice sets in motion a series of steps that would last a matter of months. The presiding bishop may require further attempts at mediation and reconciliation. If there is still no resolution, a committee of one bishop (appointed by the presiding bishop) and one priest and one lay person (appointed by the president of the House of Deputies) from outside the diocese is to be convened to recommend a resolution of the matter. The committee could recommend that the episcopal relationship continue or that it should be dissolved.

The recommendation would have to be approved by two-thirds of the members of the House of Bishops present and eligible to vote at the house's next regularly scheduled or special meeting. If that majority does not agree, the committee would have to recommend another resolution to the same meeting, which would then be voted on at that meeting.

"In terms of church time, this thing moves at lightning speed," the Rev. Ledlie I. Laughlin, a Pennsylvania deputy and chair of the diocese's Standing Committee, told the Episcopal News Service.

Laughlin, the rector of St. Peter's Church in Philadelphia, said he followed the formulation of the eventually approved process "and was invited to participate in some of the conversations as edits were being made along the way.

"My guess is that the exercise of this canon will be rare, but in cases where it might be necessary, it could help spare undue damage to a diocese and the episcopal relationship," Diocese of Ohio Bishop Mark Hollingsworth, who proposed B021, told ENS. "Most likely, having the canon will incent a speedier resolution before having to invoke it."

The Pennsylvania Standing Committee has been at odds with Bishop Charles Bennison since the mid-2000s over concerns about how he has managed the diocese's assets and other issues.

More than once the Standing Committee has called for Bennison's resignation, including the day he returned to work in August 2010 after the church's Court of Review for the Trial of a Bishop overturned a lower church court's finding that he ought to be removed from ordained ministry because he had engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy. The review court agreed with one of the lower court's two findings of misconduct, but said that Bennison could not be deposed because the charge was barred by the church's statute of limitations.

In September 2010, the Standing Committee asked the House of Bishops for its "support and assistance" in securing Bennison's retirement or resignation. The bishops later that month called for Bennison's "immediate and unconditional resignation." The next day, Bennison refused. He remains the diocesan bishop.

Bennison has no guilt or shame. As a sociopath, he feels no compunction to resign despite his appalling behavior concerning his brother's sexual abuse of a minor and the way he has treated Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals in the diocese. He rides rough shod over the Standing Committee, his behavior ameliorated only marginally by bishops Rodney Michel and Alan Turner.

The process agreed to by this meeting of convention in B021 is akin to the mechanism for a parish that finds itself in serious conflict with its rector (Title III.9.12-13). It will be added to the "Of the Life and Work of a Bishop" canon of Title III, the church's policies regarding ordained ministry. The addition becomes effective Sept. 1.

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Church of England Archbishop Selection Stalled

Decision on Anglican archbishop may be months away - Yahoo! News:

LONDON (AP) — The Church of England says that a decision to select the new archbishop of Canterbury — the spiritual leader of the 80-million-strong global Anglican communion — could still be months away.
Attention had focused on a private meeting held last week by the Crown Nominations Commission, a group which will choose a successor to Rowan Williams, who is retiring from his post at the end of December.
But the meeting ended Friday with no announcement, leading to speculation that senior clergymen were at an impasse.
The commission said in a statement Friday that an announcement was expected "during the autumn," a period which stretches until late December.
Church of England spokesman Arun Arora said Sunday that there was no set timetable for an announcement.

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Can the SynCon Leaders Post Their Agreement with Luther on Galatians 2?

Rambach's false doctrine of universal justification
is hailed by many so-called Lutherans today.

Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity. Ephesians 4:1-5.
The Seven One's

The Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time

The Hymn #  44                    Ye Lands             2:41
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual       
The Gospel              
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed             p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #203            Morning Breaks            2:70     

Seven One’s of the Reformation

The Communion Hymn # 315            I Come O Savior             2:66
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn # 467     Built on a Rock                   2:83

KJV Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

KJV Luke 14:1 And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him. 2 And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy. 3 And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? 4 And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go; 5 And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day? 6 And they could not answer him again to these things. 7 And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them, 8 When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; 9 And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. 10 But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. 11 For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Seventeenth Sunday After Trinity

Lord God, heavenly Father: We beseech Thee so to guide and direct us by Thy Holy Spirit, that we may not exalt ourselves, but humbly fear Thee, with our whole hearts hear and keep Thy word, and hallow the Lord's day, that we also may be hallowed by Thy word; help us, first, to place our hope and confidence in Thy Son, Jesus Christ, who alone is our righteousness and Redeemer, and, then, so to amend and better our lives in accordance with Thy word, that we may avoid all offenses and finally obtain eternal salvation, through Thy grace in Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God. world without end. Amen.

The Seven One’s of the Reformation

Luther’s Sermon on Ephesians 4

KJV Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

1) First, doctrine which consists of the clear statement of the divine facts on which alone faith rests. Next, admonition which presents the obligations involved in the faith that relies on the doctrine and thus deals with life and conduct in detail. The two stand in a vital connection, which fact also appears where the admonitions are supported by brief doctrinal additions.
After having set forth the great doctrine of the Una Sancta‚ Paul now tells his readers how their lives should be shaped in order to accord with the facts of this doctrine. This is very fitting after having shown that by faith in Christ they are all one in Christ in the Una Sancta although they were formerly Jews or Gentiles. Paul’s first admonition to the Ephesians is an exhortation that they keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (v. 1–3). He elucidates and strengthens this first admonition by an explanation of the organism of the church which is so fitted together as to constitute a great unity in its members, their activity and work producing and conserving unity (4–16).
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians and to the Philippians. Columbus, O. : Lutheran Book Concern, 1937, S. 504.

Lutherans tend to stir themselves a bit and remember the Reformation with a few formalities, now that October has arrived. This passage from Ephesians teaches the unity of the true Church, using a total of seven one’s to define this unity.

The lesson falls into two parts. The first one is an exhortation about the Christian life.

KJV Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

The second part defines the unity of  Christianity with seven one’s.

4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

Verses 4-6 could be a confession or hymn, perhaps one with a few words added. For example, Paul would first be urging the conduct of their lives as believers, then reminding them of their early catechism, something easily memorized or even sung as a hymn.

One body,
And one Spirit.
One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism.
One God the Father of all,
Above all, through all, and in all.

One Body

The Lutheran Reformation emphasized the Biblical view of the true Church, as the Body of Christ, invisible, made up of all sincere believers in the Gospel of Christ.
This view was emphasized in Augustine’s great classic – The City of God. In Civilization IV, Leonard Nimoy read Augustine’s summary –

There are two cities. The City of Man is built upon love of self. The City of God is built upon love of God.

“The Heavenly City outshines Rome beyond comparison. There, instead of victory, is truth; instead of high rank, holiness; instead of peace, felicity; instead of life, eternity,” 
― Augustine of Hippo, City of God

The Biblical view of the true Church is often distorted by the institutional churches. During the Middle Ages the papacy and priesthood filled in the power structure when the Western Roman Empire fell apart around 400 AD. The government officials abandoned their posts. The Christian Church had educated people who all spoke the same language – Latin. They filled in and did not like giving up their worldly power and luxuries, just like today.

The true Church is made up of people all over the world. They belong to various denominations or none at all.  One Roman Catholic member passed all the doctrinal questions for being a Lutheran. The institutional types say, either, Hurray, she is a Roman Catholic, so we don’t care what she believes. That is a papal attitude. Or – the institutional Lutherans – “She would have to join our church body to be recognized as one of us.” That is the Lutheran papacy.

I belong to Sam’s Club and the American Auto Association. Those organizations should not be the model of the true Church or mold our attitudes toward the Church.

This is significant for the Reformation because the Book of Concord is not a user’s manual for a brand name, but the confession of truth for all Christians, all eras. That is why Augustine, Jerome, and Ambrose are quoted in the Book of Concord, to show everyone that this confession is not new, not contrary to Christian orthodoxy.

It was Rome that merged the City of God concept into the City of Man. Therefore, everyone must agree with their latest findings, discoveries, and inventions – a common problem with the Lutheran synods of today. They say, “We alone voted on it, after lots of politicking, so this will be true and established doctrine, even if it is only a few years old.”

I have the old books that go with The Lutheran Hymnal. There the references are to loyalty to the “Evangelical Lutheran Church,” which was not a denomination then and is not one now (as far as I know). This is a telling detail because children being confirmed or pastors being ordained and installed were not sworn to visible church organization but to the true, invisible Church.

Today, when there is conflict, WELS leaders say, “But you have sworn loyalty to the synod.” I have that from many sources. Their swaggering interpretation of the Book of Concord has turned the Lutheran Symbols into Roman Catholic canon law – not that anyone needs to believe, teach, or confess its truths.

One Spirit

The Spirit is mentioned twice in these verses. The previous verse says – “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

In many places in the Scriptures we can use Spirit or Word, one for the other, because the Spirit works only through the Word and the Word is never lacking in the Holy Spirit. To claim that God acts otherwise is Enthusiasm, which Luther and the Confessions condemn as the foundation of all error, in all religions.

Half-educated Lutheran leaders like to say that “Luther restored the Scriptures,” trying to use Luther for denominational one-upmanship. That is a smokescreen, because everyone saw the Bible as God’s Word at that time. There is definitely a great divide between those nominal Christians who see the Bible as just a book about God and those who teach that God’s Word is inerrant and infallible. However, that does not define the issues well and misses the point about Luther. We attended the Chicago Inerrancy conference, decades back, which included many denominations. “The only thing they agreed on was inerrancy.”

The real issue is the Word/Spirit unity, because all error comes from divorcing the two. When the Roman Catholic pope or the Lutheran District Pope claims authority for what he thinks, says, and writes – that person is an Enthusiast. The Pope is the lawgiver who makes something true, in his opinion, because he has said so. The District Pope is a lawgiver too, when he says his authority makes any declaration to be true, especially when he teaches about God and against God.

The lowliest sheep in the Kingdom, who trusts in the Word, has more knowledge about God than the most powerful leader in the visible church.

Baseball is a good analogy here, since some specialize in watch sports all through school. A baseball game is easy to watch, even though a lot of players are on the field every moment. Nothing happens without the baseball present: strikes, fouls, walks, base runs, outs, scores. Imagine the baseball being grabbed by the ref because it is worn and scruffed. He puts it away and gets another out of his supply. During that, someone says, “Two strikes, one ball, and four outs.” Impossible. There was no ball and therefore no action.

Yet people say, without the Word, everyone is forgiven, justified, and saved – without the Word. A Hindu is worshiping several of 300 million gods in his culture – he is forgiven, justified and saved, although he has never heard the Word of God in his life. A woman is lecturing on atheism at The Ethical Society in St. Louis. She is forgiven, justified, and saved, even though she makes a career out of repudiating the Word of God.

Meanwhile, the Pope in Rome says, “Five hundred years are taken off your punishment in Purgatory because you witnessed a papal mass in St. Louis. This is God’s word from the shrine of my heart.”

The division in the Christian Church has come from Enthusiasm, from people divorcing the Spirit from the Word. Therefore unity comes from viewing them together, treating them together, and repudiating any variation upon that truth.

In these two passages alone, along with many others, the power of the Holy Spirit is always present and active in the Word. Sadly, that is not taught among many Christian today.

KJV Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: 11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

KJV Hebrews 4:12 For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

This Spirit/Word unity tells us why the Word is always effective, clear, powerful, and authoritative. That is also why one person armed with the Word is more of a teacher than an entire faculty armed with degrees but lacking this knowledge.

One Hope

Because there is one truth, there is also one hope – everlasting life. My wife and I were talking about that yesterday. Suddenly everything changes when death is a constant reminder of how frail we are.

This one hope teaches us about our purpose in life, to be faithful to the Word and enjoy the spiritual benefits of the faith. The one holy (justified by faith) Christian and apostolic Church is united by salvation through Christ alone, receiving God’s grace from the Means of Grace (the Spirit always at work with the Word).

One Lord

Although man divides and falls into factions and heresies, there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ. As Paul said to the Corinthians, Jesus is not divided.

The great heresy of today is saying that your truth is just as valid as my truth, deriving unity from a supposed tolerance that denigrates God’s Word. One journalism student said, “All truth is God’s truth and all paths lead to God.” But Luther said, “The Roman Empire worshiped every god but the One True God.”
The Pantheon in Rome is testimony to that. The architectural wonder venerates every religion on earth, but that same Empire persecuted the Christian faith and killed its adherents, including most of the apostles.

This one Lord, Jesus Christ, divides between believers and unbelievers. The unbelievers cannot abide this one truth and must persecute and silence it at all costs. This is the cross He bore, which He lets us bear in pale imitation of His life and death. Because falsehood hates this one truth of the Gospel, the cross we bear from teaching the Word is always at work purifying us from the dross of materialism and making the truths of the Scriptures more apparent.

But this one Lord, Jesus, is the source of all forgiveness and all blessings. He sent the Holy Spirit so the Word would convey Him and His blessings to us in the Gospel. When there is confusion, division, and dismay, the entire Book of the Holy Spirit is ours to study, to learn from, to divide truth from error. Nothing makes that study more interesting than an effort to take it away.

One Faith
There are only two approaches to “one faith.” The favored one is gathering everyone into the same organization and letting various opinions exist no matter what. Those people teach that it is a scandal that everyone is not gathered into the same visible organization or at least worshiping together. The Roman Catholic Church is not so much interested in agreement as submission to its ultimate authority.

The other approach is see unity only through teaching the same truth of the Scriptures, which are authoritative. Today, that assertion alone is radical and dangerous. If church leaders believed it, they would have the same message in all circumstances, but they do not. They contradict themselves at every turn, seeking to take advantage of each opportunity. They see themselves as managers of a business that needs to be kept calm and peaceful.

This one Faith is taught clearly in the Word of God. Every single point is offered so plainly and so simply that everyone can understand it. The Gospel transcends all cultures and classes because it teaches that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for our sins. Because all believers receive forgiveness through the Gospel, we are given the hope and promise of eternal life.

One Baptism
Our entry into the Kingdom is through Holy Baptism. Babies and adults are given this sacrament of unity. As a Means of Grace, the Word is united with the universal symbol of cleansing. The Word is never without the Spirit, so baptism gives us the Spirit. That is why a baptized child loves to hear the Gospel. That is also why adults long to hear, once again, the comforting message of Jesus’ love and forgiveness.

As Luther says, our imperfect faith receives the perfect righteousness of Christ.

One God the Father of all,
Above all, through all, and in all

The Holy Trinity is a mystery, revealed by the Holy Spirit. We can see how clearly the Spirit teaches this to us in these few verses. Each member of the Trinity is mentioned, unity is emphasized, and this triadic structure is used for God the Father – emphasizing the Trinity once again.

Or – the Threeness of the One God, the unity of the Three Persons. This cannot be reduced to human logic. It is God revealed as He is.

We can start at any passage in the Word of God and trace its message throughout the Bible, unified by the same concepts, the same doctrine, across the ages.

Justification by faith is the same in the Old Testament as the New Testament, except the promised Savior is completely realized and described in the New Testament.  Isaiah 53 is just as much the Gospel as Paul’s letter to the Galatians or the Gospel of John.


“The ground of all doctrine, of all right living, the supreme and eternal treasure of him who is a Christian in the sight of God, is faith in Christ. It alone secures forgiveness o£ sins and makes us children of God.
Luther’s Trinity 17 sermon, Lenker edition.

“24. But they are not members of the true Church of Christ who, instead of preserving unity of doctrine and oneness of Christian faith, cause divisions and offenses — as Paul says ( Romans 16:17) — by the human doctrines and self-appointed works for which they contend, imposing them upon all Christians as necessary. They are perverters and destroyers of the Church, as we have elsewhere frequently shown. The consolation of the true doctrine is ours, and we hold it in opposition to Popedom, which accuses us of having withdrawn from them, and so condemns us as apostates from the Church. They are, however, themselves the real apostates, persecuting the truth and destroying the unity of the Spirit under the name and title of the Church and of Christ. Therefore, according to the command of God, all men are under obligation to shun them and withdraw from them.
Luther’s Trinity 17 Sermon, Lenker edition

"Since, therefore, so much depends upon God's Word that without it no holy day can be sanctified, we must know that God insists upon a strict observance of this command-ment, and will punish all who despise His Word and are not willing to hear and learn it, especially at the time appointed for the purpose."
            The Large Catechism, Preface, #95, The Third Commandment, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis:  Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 607. Tappert, p. 378. Exodus 20:8‑11.                

"Since it is God's gracious purpose to remove every hindrance to conversion by the means of grace, and it is still possible for a man at every point to continue in his opposition to God, a man is never without responsibility over towards the grace of God, although he may mock and say that, since God is the one who does everything for our salvation, then a man has no responsibility himself, as we see in Romans 9:19.  Cf. Theses 17 and 18."
            U. V. Koren, 1884, "An Accounting," Grace for Grace:  Brief History of the Norwegian Synod, ed., Sigurd C. Ylvisaker, Mankato:  Lutheran Synod Book Company, 1943, p. Romans 9:19.              

"It is God the Holy Ghost who must work this change in the soul.  This He does through His own life‑giving Word.  It is the office of that Word, as the organ of the Holy Spirit, to bring about a knowledge of sin, to awaken sorrow and contrition, and to make the sinner hate and turn from his sin.  That same Word then directs the sinner to Him who came to save him from sin.  It takes him to the cross, it enables him to believe that his sins were all atoned for there, and that, therefore, he is not condemned. In other words, the Word of God awakens and constantly deepens ture penitence.  It also begets and constantly increases true faith.  Or, in one word, it converts the sinner."
            G. H. Gerberding, The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church, Philadelphia:  Lutheran Publication Society, 1887, p. 145f. 
 Law Causes Contrition          
"In like manner Moses must precede and teach people to feel their sins in order that grace may be sweet and welcome to them.  Therefore all is in vain, however friendly and lovely Christ may be pictured, if man is not first humbled by a knowledge of himself and he possesses no longing for Christ, as Mary's Song says, 'The hungry he hath filled with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away,' Luke 1:53."
            Sermons of Martin Luther, ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids:  Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 149.

Gospel Only for Humble Sinners
"All this is spoken and written for the comfort of the distressed, the poor, the needy, the sinful, the despised, so that they may know in all times of need to whom to flee and where to seek comfort and help."       
Sermons of Martin Luther II,  p. 149.

Luther's Sermon on Ephesians 4



EPHESIANS 4:1-6. 1 I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you to walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called, 2 with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all.


1. This, too, is a beautiful sermon, delivered by Paul to the Ephesians, concerning the good works of Christians, who believe and are obedient to the doctrine of the Gospel. In the knowledge of good works Paul desires Christians to grow and increase, as we learned in the epistle for last Sunday. The ground of all doctrine, of all right living, the supreme and eternal treasure of him who is a Christian in the sight of God, is faith in Christ. It alone secures forgiveness o£ sins and makes us children of God.

Now, where this faith is, fruits should follow as evidence that Christians in their lives honor and obey God. They are necessary for God’s glory and for the Christian’s own honor and eternal reward before him.

2. Paul, remembering the imprisonment and tribulations he suffered because of the Gospel and for the advantage, as he before said, of the Ephesians, gives the admonition here. He would have them, in return for his sufferings, honor the Gospel in their lives. First he names a general rule of life for Christians. “To walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called.”


3. The chief thing that should influence a Christian’s outward walk is the remembrance of his calling and appointment by God. He should be mindful of why he is called a Christian, and live consistently. He must shine before the world; that is, through his life and God’s work, the Word and the name of Christ the Lord must be exalted. Christ exhorts his disciples: “Even so let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16.

4. Similarly, Paul would say: “You have received God’s grace and his Word and are a blessed people. In Christ all your needs are blessedly supplied. Be mindful of this and remember you are called to a far different and vastly higher life than others know. Show by your manner of living that you seek a higher good than the world seeks — indeed, that you have received far greater blessings. Let your lives honor and glorify the Lord who has given you such blessings. Give no occasion for dishonoring your treasured faith, or for scorning his Word. Rather, influence men by your godly walk and good works to believe in Christ and to glorify him.”

5. Let the Christian know his earthly life is not unto himself, nor for his own sake; his life and work here belong to Christ, his Lord. Hence must his walk be such as shall contribute to the honor and glory of his Master, whom he should so serve that he may be able to say with Paul, not only with respect to the spiritual life — the life of faith and of righteousness by grace — but also with respect to its fruits — the outward conduct: “It is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me.” Galatians 2:20. The Christian’s manner of life may be styled “walking in Christ”; yes, as Paul elsewhere has it ( Romans 13:14), “putting on” the Lord Jesus Christ, like a garment or an ornament. The world is to recognize Christ by his shining in us.

6. But the so-called Christian life that does not honor Christ makes its sin the more heinous for the name it bears. Every sin the people of God commit is a provocation of Jehovah; not only in the act of disobedience itself, but also in the transgression of the second commandment. The enormity of the sin is magnified by the conditions that make it a blasphemy of God’s name and an occasion of offense to others. Paul says in Romans 2:24: “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” So a Christian should, in his life, by all means guard the honor of God — of Christ. He must take heed that he be not guilty of blaspheming that name and of doing wickedness. The devil, aided by the world, construes every act, when possible, to reflect upon God’s honor and glory. His purpose is to manifest his bitter hatred against Christ and the Word; also to injure the Church by charging offenses, thus deterring unbelievers from embracing the Gospel and causing the weak to fall away.

7. To guard against such disaster, Christians should be particularly careful to give, in their conduct, no occasion for offense, and to value the name and honor of their God too highly to permit blasphemy of them. They should prefer to lose their own honor, their wealth, their physical wellbeing, even their lives, rather than that these, their most precious possessions and greatest blessings, should suffer disgrace. Let them remember that upon keeping sacred the name and honor of God depends their own standing before God and men. God promises ( 1 Samuel 2:30), “Them that honor me! will honor.” But pursuing the opposite course, Christians bring upon themselves God’s sternest wrath and effect their own rejection and shame. For he says further: “They that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.” And in the second commandment God threatens certain and terrible punishment to abusers of his name; that is, to them who do not employ it to his honor and praise.

8. Well may every Christian examine his own life to see if he is careful to guard against offense to the Gospel and to regulate his words and conduct by God’s first commandment, making them contribute to the honor and praise of the divine name and the holy Gospel. Weighty indeed and well calculated to cause complaint are the sins to which every Christian is liable in this respect; well may he avoid them lest he heap to himself the wrath of God. Especially need we be careful in these last and evil times when the Gospel is everywhere suppressed by great offenses. Man was created to be the image of God, that through this his image God might himself be expressed. God’s image, then, should be reflected in the lives of men as a likeness in a glass, and a Christian can have no higher concern than to live without dishonor to the name of God.


9. Such is the first part of Paul’s admonition concerning the general life of Christians. He goes on to make special mention of several good works which Christians should diligently observe: humility, meekness, longsuffering, preservation of the unity of the Spirit, and so on. These have been specially treated before, in other epistle lessons, particularly those from Peter. Humility, for instance — mentioned in today’s lesson — is taken up the third Sunday after Trinity; patience and meekness, the second Sunday after Easter, and the fifth Sunday after Trinity.

10. The text here presents good works sufficient to occupy all Christians in every station of life; we need not seek other nor better ones. Paul would not impose upon Christians peculiar works, something unrelated to the ordinary walks of life, as certain false saints taught and practiced. These teachers commanded separation from society, isolation in the wilderness, the establishment of monkeries and the performance of self-appointed works. Such works they exalted as superior to ordinary Christian virtues.

Indeed, their practice amounted to rejection of the latter, and they actually regarded them as dangerous. The Papacy has in the past shamelessly styled the observance of Christian good works as worldly living, and men were compelled to believe they would find it hard to reach heaven unless they became ecclesiasts — for they regarded only the monks and priests worthy — or at least made themselves partakers of the works of ecclesiasts by purchasing their merits.

But Paul — in fact, the entire Scriptures — teaches no other good works than God enjoins upon all men in the Ten Commandments, and which pertain to the common conditions of life. True, these make not such brilliant show in the eyes of the world as do the self-appointed ceremonials constituting the divine service of hypocrites; nevertheless, they are true, worthy, good and profitable works in the sight of God and man. What can be more acceptable to God and advantageous to man than a life lived, in its own calling, in the way that contributes to the honor of God, and that by its example influences others to love God’s Word and to praise his name?

Moreover, what virtues, of all man possesses, serve him better than humility, meekness, patience and harmony of mind?

11. Now, where is a better opportunity for the exercise of these virtues than amidst the conditions in which God destined us to live — in society, where we mingle with one another? Upon these conditions, self-appointed, unusual lives and monastic holiness have no bearing. For what other person is profited by your entering a cloister, making yourself peculiar, refusing to live as your fellows do? Who is benefited by your cowl, your austere countenance, your hard bed? Who comes to know God or to have a peaceful conscience by such practices on your part, or who is thereby influenced to love his neighbor? Indeed, how can you serve your neighbor by such a life? How manifest your love, humility, patience and meekness if you are unwilling to live among men? if you so strenuously adhere to your self-appointed orders as to allow your neighbor to suffer want before you would dishonor your rules?

12. Astonishing fact, that the world is merged in darkness so great it utterly disregards the Word of God and the conditions he designed for our daily living. If we preach to the world faith in God’s Word, the world receives it as heresy. If we speak of works instituted of God himself and conditions of his own appointing, the world regards it as idle talk; it knows better. To live a simple Christian life in one’s own family, to faithfully perform the duties of a man-servant or maid-servant — “Oh, that,” it says, “is merely the following of worldly pursuits. To do good works you must set about it in a different way. You must creep into a corner, don a cap, make pilgrimages to some saint; then you may be able to help yourself and others to gain heaven.” If the question be asked, “Why do so? where has God commanded it?” there is, according to their theory, really no answer to make but this: Our Lord God knows nothing about the matter; he does not understand what good works are. How can he teach us? He must himself be tutored by these remarkably enlightened saints.


13. But all this error results from that miserable inherent plague, that evil termed “original sin.” It is a blind wickedness, refusing to recognize the Word of God and his will and work, but introducing instead things of its own heathenish imagination. It draws such a thick covering over eyes, ears and hearts that it renders men unable to perceive how the simple life of a Christian, of husband or wife, of the lower or the higher walks of life, can be beautified by honoring the Word of God. Original sin will not be persuaded to the faithful performance of the works that God testifies are well pleasing to him when wrought by believers in Christ. In a word, universal experience proves that to perform really good works is a special and remarkable grace to which few attain; while the great mass of souls aspiring after holiness vainly busy themselves with worthless works, being deceived into thinking them great, and thus make themselves, as Paul says, “unto every good work reprobate.” Titus 1:16. This fruitless effort is one evil result of the error of human ideas of holiness and the practice of self-chosen works.

14. Another error is the hindrance — yes, the suppression and destruction — f the beautiful virtues of humility, meekness, patience and spiritual harmony here commended of Paul. At the same time the devil is given occasion to encourage fiendish blasphemy. In every instance where the Word of God is set aside for humanly-appointed works, differing views and theories must obtain. One introduces this and another that, each striving for first recognition; then a third endeavors to improve upon their doctrine.

Consequently divisions and factions ensue as numerous as the teachers and their creeds; as exemplified in the countless sects to this time prevalent in Popedom, and in the factious spirits of all time. Under such circumstances, none of the virtues like humility, meekness, patience, love, can have place.

Opposite conditions must prevail, since harmony of hearts and minds is lacking. One teacher haughtily rejects another, and if his own opinions fail to receive recognition and approval, he displays anger, envy and hatred. He will neither affiliate with nor tolerate him whose practices accord not with his own.

15. On the other hand, the Christian life, the life of faith with its fruits, controlled as it is by the Word of God, is in every way conducive to the preservation of love and harmony, and to the promotion of all virtues. It interferes not with the God-ordained relations of life and their attendant obligations upon men — the requirements of social order, the duties of father and mother, of son and daughter, master and mistress, servant and maid. All life’s relations are confirmed by it as valid and its duties as vital.

The Christian faith bids each person in his life, and all in common, to be diligent in the works of love, humility, patience. It teaches that one be not intolerant of another, but rather render him his due, remembering that he whose condition in life is the most insignificant can be equally upright and blessed before God with the occupant of the most significant position.

Again, it teaches that man must have patience with the weakness of his fellow, being mindful of how others must bear with his own imperfections.

In short, it says one must manifest to another the love and kindness he would have that other extend to him.

16. To this Christian attainment, contributes very largely the single fact that a Christian is conscious he has, through Christ, the grace of God, the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. And these not for his own merits or peculiar life and works, but because he is, no matter how insignificant in condition before the world, a child of God and blessed; a partaker, if he but believes, in all the blessings of Christ, sharing equally with the most eminent saint. So, then, he need not look about for works not enjoined upon him. He need not covet those wrought in prominence and by the aid of great gifts of God — of unusual attainments. Let him confine himself to his own sphere; let him serve God in his vocation, remembering that God makes him, too, his instrument in his own place.

Again, the occupant of a higher sphere, the possessor of higher gifts and accomplishments, who likewise serves in his vocation received from God, should learn and exhibit harmony of mind. So shall he continue humble and be tolerant of others. He should remember that he is not worthier in the eyes of God because of his greater gifts, but rather is under deeper obligation to serve his fellows, and that God can use the possessor of lesser gifts for even greater accomplishments than himself can boast. Having so learned, he will be able to manifest patience, meekness and love toward his weak and imperfect neighbors, considering them members of Christ with him, and partakers of the same grace and salvation.


17. Now you have the reason why the apostles Paul and Peter everywhere so faithfully enforce this virtue, the unity of the Spirit. It is the most necessary and beautiful grace that Christians possess. It holds together the Christian community, preventing factions and schisms, as before explained.

So Paul here admonishes men to be careful for harmony, making every endeavor to preserve it. The term “unity of the Spirit” is used to make plain the apostle’s meaning. He would thus emphasize oneness of doctrine — the one true faith. Since the Holy Spirit is present only where there is knowledge of and faith in the Gospel of Christ, “unity of the Spirit” implies a unity of faith. Above all things, then, the effort must be to preserve, in the Church, the doctrine of the Scriptures, pure and in its unity.

18. One of the wickedest offenses possible to commit against the Church is the stirring up of doctrinal discord and division, a thing the devil encourages to the utmost. This sin usually has its rise with certain haughty, conceited, self-seeking leaders who desire peculiar distinction for themselves and strive for personal honor and glory. They harmonize with none and would think themselves disgraced were they not honored as superior and more learned individuals than their fellows, a distinction they do not merit. They will give honor to no one, even when they have to recognize the superiority of his gifts over their own. In their envy, anger, hatred and vengefulness, they seek occasion to create factions and to draw people to themselves. Therefore Paul exhorts first to the necessary virtue of love, having which men will be enabled to exercise humility, patience and forbearance toward one another.

19. The character of the evils resulting to the Church from divisions and discords in doctrine is evident from the facts. Many are deceived; the masses immediately respond to new doctrine brilliantly presented in specious words by presumptuous individuals thirsting for fame. More than that, many weak but well-meaning ones fall to doubting, uncertain where to stand or with whom to hold. Consequently men reject and blaspheme the Christian doctrine and seek occasion to dispute it. Many become reckless pleasure-lovers, disregarding all religion and ignoring the Word of God. Further, even they who are called Christians come to have hard feelings against one another, and, figuratively, bite and devour in their hate and envy. Consequently their love grows cold and faith is extinguished.

20. Of so much disturbance in the Church, and of the resulting injuries to souls, are guilty those conceited, factious leaders who do not adhere to the true doctrine, preserving the unity of the Spirit, but seek to institute something new for the sake of advancing their own ideas and their own honor, or gratifying their revenge. They thus bring upon themselves damnation infinitely more intolerable than others suffer. Christians, then, should be careful to give no occasion for division or discord, but to be diligent, as Paul here admonishes, to preserve unity. And this is not an easy thing to do, for among Christians occasions frequently arise provoking selfwill, anger and hatred. The devil is always at hand to stir and blow the flame of discord. Let Christians take heed they do not give place to the promptings of the devil and of the flesh. They must strive against them, submitting to all suffering, and performing all demands, whether honor, property, physical welfare or life itself be involved, in the effort to prevent, so far as in them lies, any disturbance of the unity of doctrine, of faith and of Spirit. “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.”

21. Christians should feel bound to maintain the unity of the Spirit, since they are all members of one body and partakers of the same spiritual blessings. They have the same priceless treasures — one God and Father in heaven, one Lord and Savior, one Word, baptism and faith; in short, one and the same salvation, a blessing common to all whereof one has as much as another, and cannot obtain more. What occasion, then, for divisions or for further seeking?

22. Here Paul teaches what the true Christian Church is and how it may be identified. There is not more than one Church, or people of God, one earth.

This one Church has one faith, one baptism, one confession of God the Father and of Jesus Christ. Its members faithfully hold, and abide by, these common truths. Every one desiring to be saved and to come to God must be incorporated into this Church, outside of which no one will be saved.

23. Unity of the Church does not consist in similarity of outward form of government, likeness of Law, tradition and ecclesiastical customs, as the Pope and his followers claim. They would exclude from the Church all not obedient to them in these outward things, though members of the one faith, one baptism, and so on. The Church is termed “one holy, catholic or Christian Church,” because it represents one plain, pure Gospel doctrine, and an outward confession thereof, always and everywhere, regardless of dissimilarity of physical life, or of outward ordinances, customs and ceremonies.

24. But they are not members of the true Church of Christ who, instead of preserving unity of doctrine and oneness of Christian faith, cause divisions and offenses — as Paul says ( Romans 16:17) — by the human doctrines and self-appointed works for which they contend, imposing them upon all Christians as necessary. They are perverters and destroyers of the Church, as we have elsewhere frequently shown. The consolation of the true doctrine is ours, and we hold it in opposition to Popedom, which accuses us of having withdrawn from them, and so condemns us as apostates from the Church. They are, however, themselves the real apostates, persecuting the truth and destroying the unity of the Spirit under the name and title of the Church and of Christ. Therefore, according to the command of God, all men are under obligation to shun them and withdraw from them.