Search This Blog

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Thought on Justification

There are those Lutherans who inexplicably deny the teaching of the two kinds of righteousness (2KR), even though Luther himself gave a sermon on them. The following is the second section under "Fragments on Justification" by the first confessional Lutheran in America, David Henkel (1791-1831), founder of the first confessional synod in America, the Evangelical Lutheran Tennessee Synod. If such a staunch confessional Lutheran could argue in the 1800's for 2KR, perhaps it is legitimate.
I have slightly edited his text, updating punctuation and citation, altering his bible quotes to the ESV, and only changing those words which could be misunderstood today.

II. The two-fold justification, the one before God, the other before the world.
Without this distinction, the subject cannot properly be illustrated. There are sundry texts which exclude all good works with respect to our justification, whilst others include it as necessary. This perplexes some minds, and to reconcile this apparent contradiction, they conclude that both faith and good works are needed to justify a person in the sight of God. Nevertheless, this does not harmonize those different texts. For such a text as this- “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law,” Rom. 8:20- does not admit the least addition of works in the article of our justification. But as the Scriptures speak of a justification in the sight of the world, as well as in the sight of God, it is not difficult to discover a harmony between those apparent repugnant texts. This is elucidated by the following specimens:

1. “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in (God’s) sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin,” Rom. 3:20. This text speaks of a justification in the sight of God, which positively excludes all legal works.

2. “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God,” Rom. 4:2. From this text it may be concluded that there is a justification by works; but not before God; hence it must be before the world. Just as the justification before God is without works, even so the justification before the world cannot be otherwise, but by works. It is said “God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen by angels, etc.,” I Tim. 3:16. Christ was justified in the spirit, but not in the sight of God; because He knew His son as just and holy from eternity. Through the spirit He wrought miracles- Matt. 12:28- which were calculated to justify Him the Messiah in the sight of the world. He therefore says, “If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me and I am in the Father,” John 10:37-38. Again: “By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matt. 12:37. Now we know, that in the sight of God words are not necessary- either to justify or condemn us, because He knows all secrets of the heart before words are uttered- but so the world can be informed of the intention of the heart, words are necessary, and by which we either stand justified, or else convicted of an error.

3. It has been supposed by some that St. James- when he insists upon good works, in chapter 2, as necessary for justification- contradicted St. Paul, who excludes them. James does not allude to the same justification. “But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works,” James 2:18. As this text speaks of showing one's faith by works, it must be a manifestation of our justification; hence such justification as is in the sight of the world. For we need not to show our faith to God, because He is omniscient. Again: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?” James 2:21. Abraham, by yielding obedience to the divine mandate to offer his son Isaac, could not allude to a justification before God. Abraham was circumcised prior to the birth of Isaac, which is evident from the Scriptures; (see Gen 17) hence before he could offer him upon the altar. Now, Abraham received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised, Rom. 4:11. Hence, as Abraham was circumcised before he offered his son Isaac upon the altar, and as circumcision was a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had, it is evident that he was justified in the sight of God before he was about to sacrifice his son. As he was justified in God's sight before he performed this work, it must be concluded that he thereby showed himself as just in the sight of the world. This is confirmed by St. Paul: “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God,” Rom. 4:2. Since Abraham might glory by his works, but not before God, the conclusion is that he might have a glory in the sight of the world.
When St. Paul teaches that we are justified by faith, exclusive of all legal works, he does not by it mean an assent to any common truth, such as that God created the world, or the existence of angels; but a faith in Christ, not as a mere creator, but as a savior of sinners or, as he calls it “faith in his blood,” Rom. 3:25. But the faith which St. James denies as sufficient to justify one is not this faith, but the faith that there is One God, which he also represents as dead without works. “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe… and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?” James 2:19-20. What does St. James call a useless faith? Not the faith in Jesus Christ, as a savior; for he says, “My brothers and sisters, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory,” 2:1. This shows that the faith in Jesus Christ has no respect to persons; hence it cannot be dead, but living. But the faith that there is one God in and of itself is dead. Why so? The truth that only one God exists includes no promise of salvation. Hence simply to believe this cannot engender a living principle. Unless a promise be made, the guilty creature does not expect a favor, and without which he has no inducement to love. Whereas the truth that there is a savior includes a promise of life, and salvation; the sinner that believes this must rejoice; and they have an inducement to love God; hence it must, because of this promise, be a living faith.
To prove that the faith that there is one God is insufficient to justify, the apostle exhibits the example of devils, who are neither just nor happy, notwithstanding they believe this truth. According to the interpretation which the Jews gave of the idolatrous worship of the heathens, and confirmed by St Paul, I Cor. 10:19-21; it appears they invoked devils. The heathens did not consider their Gods as supreme beings, but as inferior mediators, called daimonia; nevertheless, those daimonia were devils. He must be an apostate spirit who requires divine honors from men, or will accept of such without reproving those by whom they are offered. Those devils that were honored by the heathens as Gods do not like them believe the doctrine of polytheism, but are convinced that there is but one God; and in this respect, are as orthodox as Abraham. But as they delight in being worshipped by humans, they are so far from being justified by this belief that their guilt is amplified; and they tremble, knowing that their usurped deities shall be destroyed, and they be punished. That such a faith as this should justify any one, St. Paul never taught. But St. James must have been acquainted with some who taught it; otherwise he would not so zealously have inveighed against it.

4. When our blessed Savior shall come in his glory to judge the world, he shall say to the saints, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me,” Matt. 25:34-36. In this text, good works are exhibited as a justification of saints on the Day of Judgment. But this judgment cannot be intended for God to discover the characters of men, because He is omniscient, and thus needs no information; hence it must be to reveal it to an assembled world. The good works of the saints will justify them in the sight of intelligent creatures. Nevertheless in the sight of God, they are otherwise justified. This is evident from our Savior’s declaration, for He calls them the blessed of His Father. But the Father has blessed them in Christ with all spiritual blessings, Eph. 1:3. “So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith,” Gal. 3: 9. Thus as they were blessed by God by faith, it is evident they were justified by faith in His sight; and as such, they inherit the kingdom. Hence this text beautifully shows how saints are justified by works in the sight of an assembled world; and yet, how they were well-pleasing to God, because He had blessed them in Christ by faith.


All people are sinners, and as such only they may be justified before God; for a just person cannot be justified, because they are such already. “And to the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, one’s faith is counted as righteousness,” Rom. 4:5. How clearly this proves that God justifies the ungodly! But it might be asked, how can this be? Must not a sinner repent and believe in Christ before they can be justified? I answer that this is the reason why God only justifies the ungodly. A penitent sinner is one who is sensible of their sins, and justly hears the wrath to come, if not relieved; and as a believer they depend on a help not their own: hence upon Jesus Christ. Although God justifies one that is penitent; He still justifies one that is ungodly. The penitent sinner only differs from the impenitent in so far as they are sensible of their guilt, and are willing to accept pardon; whereas the other is insensible of it; and hence, does not perceive the necessity of a savior. Should the person that is sensible of their guilt not be guilty? To be sensible of one's guilt necessarily presupposes that one is guilty. “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains,” John 9:41. If we were blind in our own estimation, we should be sensible of our guilt, and thus perceive the necessity of being saved by Christ; but whilst we imagine we see, our guilt must remain.
Where is the one who does not stand in need of this justification? Who are they that are not ungodly? Those who apparently are the vilest may be justified; for in the sight of God there is no difference: for all have sinned. How erroneous is the opinion, which many entertain, that they must prepare themselves with sundry good works, and a thorough reformation of the heart before they are entitled to believe, or hope to be clothed with God's righteousness. If this should be correct, then they would, as just people, be justified. How inconsistent!
Faith works thru love, Gal 5:6; hence good works are the blessed result thru which we are justified before others, who will glorify our Father in heaven. The one who boasts of an abundance of faith, and yet is destitute of philanthropy, may be pronounced a hypocrite. But let no one conclude that because the Scriptures recommend good works, and because they demonstrate our motives to others, that therefore they are necessary to justify us before God. They are properly the blessed effects of our justification before God. “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” Luke 17:10. If after doing all that we are commanded, we are to acknowledge ourselves unprofitable servants, it is evident that we are not thereby justified before God; hence we must be clothed with a righteousness which He Himself has prepared.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Supplemental Service Orders: 2. Grand Narrative

Long story short, last year I took a seminary class that had us get into groups and create a mock chapel service based on what we have learned. I was ambitious enough to come up with an outline, and my teammates filled in the details.
I wanted to have the worshipers relive the whole story of God and creation, not just "God and me." So, I designed a service that meditates on the four eras of history: pre-fall, fall, atonement, new creation.
What follows is actually an expanded version of what we came up with, since we only had 20 min to work with. However, most of the extra stuff we at least talked about before scratching. As always, thoughts and suggestions are sorely welcomed.

Perfect Paradise
1. Processional that focuses on creation, such as the Benedicte, omnia
2. Invocation
3. Reading: Genesis 1-2 (or at least 1:1, 31-2:3)
4. Meditation on the goodness of God's creation
5. Psalm 148

Suffering Sin
1. Song/Hymn on sin and its effects
2. Genesis 3 or other appropriate reading
3. Meditation on sin and its effects
4. Psalm 130
5. Confession

Restoring Rightness
1. Absolution
2. Song/Hymn on God's forgiveness and restoration
3. Reading Colossians 1:9-23
4. Meditation on God's forgiveness and restoration
5. Psalm 32

Perfect Paradise
1. Song/Hymn on the fulfillment to come
2. Reading: Revelation 21:1-6
3. Meditation on the fulfillment to come
4. Benediction
5. Recess with Psalm 67

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Supplemental Service Orders: I. Sing! A Song Service...

In my last post, I hoped that I would analyze other service orders trying to do other things. I thought that this would come a long while off, but lo and behold, in the mail the other day I got a CPH trinket from 1932, from one of my best supporters, Bruce Radtke. The full title is Sing! A Song Service Featuring Hymns by Great Lutheran Hymn-Writers. No doubt, orders like these will become everyday again, as we near the 500th anniversary of the nailing of the 95 theses.

1. Prelude.
2. Stanzas 1, 5-7 of "Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice," LSB 556 (ELHB 310). These verses tell the tale of Christ's incarnation and suffering on earth. This puts us in mind of what God in Christ has done for us.
3. Introit and collect. The introit (Make a joyful noise...) sets the tone of the whole service in the line "for praise is comely for the upright." Again this is a reminder that we have been acquitted and we are so thankful that we bust out in song.
Let me simply give the collect, updated, and then speak on it.
Lord God, heavenly Father, we come before Your presence with singing. You are our God: You- not we- have made us, redeemed us, and hallowed us. We are Your people and the sheep of Your pasture. Fill our hearts with true thankfulness for Your kindness and goodness, so that our hands and lips show forth Your praise continually; through Jesus Christ, our Lord... Amen.
The collect again highlights how and why we praise. It also- like the opening hymn- proclaims what God in Christ has done. "We are Your people..." even hints at the line in the Venite of the Matins Service, "we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand."
4. Stanzas 1-4 of "Now I Have Found the Firm Foundation," LW 360 (ELHB 312). This hymn also emphasizes acquittal. For some reason the last stanza (6 in LW) is excluded, even though it reads "I'll sing Your mercy great and true," which would continue to press the theme of "Our acquittal leads us to thank God."
5. Stanzas 1-4,6 of "Lord Jesus Christ, with Us Abide," LSB 585 (ELHB 110). This is a good hymn that asks Christ to be with us and preserve us through His Word.
6. All of "May God Bestow on Us His Grace," LSB 823-4 (ELHB 480). The hymn is a prayer that God's Word would bless His people into praising Him.
7. Scripture Lessons (Eph. 5:15-21 or Psalm 147 or Psalm 100)
8. All of "O Christ, Our True and Only Light," LSB 839 (ELHB 475). This hymn prays that God would shine His Word on people still "walking in darkness." Stanza five again highlights the notion of singing because of what Christ has done, saying "That they... such grace with wondering thanks adore...."
9. Address.
10. Offertory.
11. Stanzas 1-3, 12 of "Commit Whatever Grieves Thee," TLH 520 (ELHB 525). The idea, I think, is that we offer to God, not our works but our cares and burdens.
12. Lord's Prayer.
13. Benediction.
14. All of "All Glory Be to God on High," LSB 947 (ELHB 261). Again, the theme is praising God for what He has done in Christ.
15. Postlude.

Overall, this is an ok service. It emphasizes that since God has acquitted us, we sing His praises. It reminds us that we worship God for what He has already done for us. Yes, it could have been stronger, but compared to many hymn services I have come across this is not bad.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Understanding the Divine Service: Overall

It's been a while, but... looking at the Divine Service as a whole, 3 major themes emerge. First, the Divine Service celebrates the incarnation, when God the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Service of the Word builds up to the hearing of God's Word by greeting Him, praising Him, and asking the Holy Spirit to open our ears, mind, and body to Him. And yet the focus is very much on the fact that the Word is coming to us. (This is why it might be best to have the lessons read, and even the sermon given, from within the midst of the congregation.) Then the Service of the Sacrament builds up to the eating and drinking of the Word-Made-Flesh, again by greeting Him, praising Him, and asking the Holy Spirit to make us worthy partakers of Him. Again, the focus is very much on the fact that the Word-Made-Flesh is coming to us.

Second, the Divine Service models the life of the believer. Just like our baptism/acquittal shoves us into walking the path of righteousness, so also the Invocation is the catalyst for the rest of the Divine Service; like the Christian life is spent receiving Christ’s Spirit and doing His work, so also everything after the Invocation is for the believer’s sanctification. And what is sanctification, but seeing one's utter need for and full dependence on Christ? Thus, the back and forth rocking of the Law and Gospel, cradled in the many parts of the Divine Service (Confession then Absolution, Kyrie then Gloria, etc.), mimics the believers' acknowledgement of their need for Christ (hallowing) and the joy that comes from getting Him (hallowed living).

In this way, the Divine Service has a decidedly missional focus. Furthermore, the almost constant recitation of Who Christ is and what He has done for His people (in the Gloria/Hymn of Praise, Creed, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, Nunc Dimittis, Prayer of Thanksgiving, etc.) mimics the kind of witness that believers give, not merely in the layout of words or because the witness comes from the joy of getting Christ, but in the fact that since the witness is scripted, the worshiper need only read the words given them, so as to repeat them out loud. This is almost exactly like the Holy Spirit speaking words of witness, Mark 13:9-11.

So, if one were to summarize the whole Divine Service, one might say that Christ comes down into the midst of His people and changes their lives, turning them from looking down at their navels, and up, out at their neighbor in need.

(In posts to come, I hope to talk about other themes and doctrines, and orders of service that might portray them.)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Classic Mistake

A few years ago, a college professor gave me wise advise: when it comes to big holidays like Christmas and Easter, don't overdo it. Today, I saw why.

Now, in the mind of the worship planners- the pastor, the music minister/director, worship committee, etc.- holidays like Easter are the times to pull out all the stops (often literally), to really spice up the service with as much special music as can be. Afterall, it's Easter: who wants the same old, same old?
But also in the mind of the worshiper, holidays like Easter are the times to pull out all the stops. That is, people want to sing and sing loudly. They are filled with the glee of Easter morn and want to let it out.

Today, those two minds collided. I visited my roommate's church, here in the St. Louis area, full of the excitement of Easter, worshiping with my roommate, and getting to see a different church; I was bursting to sing. But there were so many choir anthems and so many verses of hymns sung by the choir, that the congregation only sang one piece of liturgy (that's another complaint for another post) and 5 hymns, two of which were "helped out" by the choir. So much for jubilation.

So, let me pass on the wisdom of my college professor to you worship planners (and you who know worship planners): if you want more music, that's great, but have it sung by the congregation.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Luther's Expanded Lord's Prayer

Here at the Sem, one of my classes has me reading a book on Luther's spiritual and devotional practices. When talking about prayer, Luther highly encourages his readers to, when they pray, pray the Lord's Prayer and then go back and expand on it. This is what he does in his Deutsche Messe; and those blessed with an LSB can find a decent translation of it on pages 215-216.

Just the other day, I came across another version of this same prayer. Back in the 16th century, the first person ever to publish the whole Bible in English, Bishop Matthew Coverdale, had to flee to Denmark for a few years when things got heated in England because of the Reformation. While there, he translated parts of their liturgy- including this prayer- from Danish into English.

As you read Coverdale's translation, I encourage you to do so out loud, since this is how Coverdale intended it to be read. If you are "lucky" enough to own an LSB and compare the two translations, see where you like Coverdale's more, and where you like the LSB's more. Then you can read below, where I've given my own "best of both worlds" version. As always, comments are welcome.
Let us heartily make our prayer to God the Father of all mercy, believing assuredly that He will graciously hear us thru our Lord Jesus Christ, Who commanded us to pray, and promised us saying, "Ask and ye shall have; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you." Wherefore, in consideration of the same commandment and promise, lift up your hearts, and say thus with me in your prayer:
O Lord God, our Father in heaven, we Thy miserable children upon earth beseech Thee, that Thou wilt mercifully look on us and lend us Thy grace; that Thy holy Name may be sanctified among us and in all the world, thru the sincere teaching of the Word, and thru earnest charity in our daily living, and our conversation. Seclude Thou graciously all false doctrine and evil living, whereby Thy worthy Name might be blasphemed and slandered.
Oh, let Thy kingdom come, and be great. All sinful, blind people, and such as are holden captive of the devil in his kingdom, those bring Thou to the knowledge of the true faith in Jesus Christ Thy Son.
Strengthen us, Lord, with Thy Spirit, to do and to suffer Thy will both in life and death, in weal and woe; that our will may alway be broken, offered up, and mortified.
And give us our daily bread. Preserve us from covetous desire, and carefulness of the belly; that of Thee we may be assured to have abundance of all good things.
Forgive us our trespass, as we forgive them which offend us; that our heart may have a sure and glad conscience, and that we never fear, nor be afraid for any sin.
Lead us not into temptation, but help us thru Thy Spirit to subdue the flesh, to despise the world with his vanities, and to overcome the devil with all his crafty assaults.
And finally, deliver Thou us from all evil, both bodily and ghostly, temporal and eternal. Amen.
They that earnestly desire all this, let them say, "Amen!" believing without any doubt that it is granted and heard in heaven, according as Christ promised us, saying, "When ye pray, believe assuredly that ye shall have it, and it shall come to pass." Amen.
 And now my melding of the two, minus the congregation response.
Friends in Christ, let us heartily pray to God the Father of all mercy, believing assuredly that He will graciously hear us thru our Lord Jesus Christ, Who commanded us to pray, and promised us saying, "Ask and you shall have; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you." Therefore, in consideration of the same commandment and promise, I urge you all to lift up your hearts and pray with me:
O Lord God, our Father in heaven, we, Your needy children on earth, beseech You to mercifully look on us and grant us Your grace; that Your holy Name be hallowed among us and in all the world, thru the pure and true teaching of Your Word and thru earnest love shown forth in our daily living, and our conversation. Graciously seclude all false doctrine and evil living, whereby Your worthy Name is blasphemed and slandered.
Let Your kingdom come and be great. Bring all sinful people, and those blinded and bound in the devil's kingdom to know Jesus Christ, Your Son, by faith. 
Strengthen us, Lord, with Your Spirit, to do and to suffer Your will, both in life and death, in weal and woe; that our own wills may always be broken, offered up, and mortified. 
Give us our daily bread. Preserve us from greed and selfish cares; that we may trust in You to have abundance of all good things.
Forgive us our sins and we forgive those who sin against us, so that our hearts may have a sure and glad conscience, and that no sin may ever frighten or alarm us.
Lead us not into temptation, O Lord, but help us by Your Spirit to subdue our flesh, to turn from the world and its vanities, and to overcome the devil with all his crafty assaults. 
P: Lastly, O heavenly Father, deliver us from all evil of both body and soul, now and forever. Amen.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Link: On Feelings and Emotions

In my google searches, today, I came across this excellent blog post by Rev. Woodford.

Lutheran worship (liturgy) intentionally reflects this. In fact, it rejoices in the reality that regardless if one is a distracted mother tending to her children, a day dreaming teenager, a burdened husband, or a hard of hearing 89 year-old, God still connects to them regardless of how they are feeling! He connects to them through His Word going into their ear holes. He connects to them through His Word that opens their lips in prayer and praise. He connects to them with the body and blood of Christ on their lips and in their mouths. Forgiveness is given. Love is declared. Salvation is granted. God is present!