Tuesday, September 08, 2009

On the way home tonight, I started thinking about grace and mercy. Which would it be if someone gave time he did not really have so that I could have the distance I needed to swallow this day, at least enough to face its reality with the smallest measure of faith?

What do you believe about God's timing? Sometimes I wonder if I ascribe too much to Him, but at others I am absolutely certain that I do not give Him enough praise for His work.

Tonight, when I finally made it home, thinking deeply about what Pastor said to me and I to him, I found my new book waiting for me! It was not supposed to arrive for at least another week, being sent by parcel post!

First, it is an old book, so the smell alone is enough to bring about deep sighs of contentment. It also had a small booklet tucked between its pages, Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod, 1932. While I have spent many an evening plowing through the Missouri Synod's website, I really liked receiving this added bonus to my purchase. Within the pages are some notes by a previous owner, pointing out the differences between Luther and Calvin!

But, while Pastor's words about Preus and his book The Fire and the Staff have given me pause and left me with the belief that I should re-read his book, I can already tell you that I find my new one to be most marvelous. Sit down, get a hold of yourself, but I must admit that, right now, I am as happy as a pig in a warm mud sty!

The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel is a series of 39 evening lectures for students by the first president (I believe) of Condordia Seminary, Dr. C.F.W. Walther. Not exactly the tomb for me, eh? Ah, but it is! Oh, how I need to understand Objective Grace, and here, in these pages, I will get a proper dose of Gospel balanced with great reverence and respect for the Law. These were informal lectures, full of doctrine, yet laced with earnest passion.

I found the editors note of this 1928 edition (I believe), to be most humorous:

Every one who has ever attempted work of this kind knows that very often compound German clauses have to be recast, and German adverbial connectives at times require a circumlocution in English.

Ah, my kind of guy!

And I eagerly look forward to reading the lecture that accompanies Walther's Thesis IV: The true knowledge of the distinction between the Law and the Gospel is not only a glorious light, affording the correct understanding of the entire Holy Scriptures, but without this knowledge Scripture is and remains a sealed book. [No, I did not immediately skip to page 59!]

However, while I could very well stay up all night reading this book, I shall make every attempt to be patient. [Stop laughing, Bettina, you will hurt yourself with such loud guffaws!] With a herculean effort, I managed to read only the preface and introduction, the 25 Theses, and the first evening lecture. I shall endeavor to read them but one lecture at a time, and even re-visit the first one since I lapped it up like it was one of my beloved Dr. Pepper's--over three months now since I have been able to stomach one of them. SIGH.

Because of the reality of my childhood, my closest friends and true family were books. I read everywhere: at the table, in the bathtub, on the bus--I even kept a book tucked behind my textbooks every opportunity I could! My best teachers were the honest truth of Gene Stratton Porter, the familial love of Louisa Mae Alcott, the second chances of L.M. Montgomery and Kate Douglass Wiggins, and the beautiful intelligence and wit of Jane Austin.

Therefore, you might just guess why even the preface spoke to me. For words alone I could savor it. But the best part was this bit on Gospel:

The Gospel, then, represents a profoundly thoughtful, elaborate, and orderly scheme of God to bring renegade man out of his rebel condition under sin into a state of loyalty to God under the Gospel. The sinner's rescue from his wretched condition by God's Gospel plan consists in this, that the sinner is told not only that God loves him in spite of his sin, but that He so loves the sinner, who is by nature a child of wrath, as to sacrifice His own Son for him and to send the Holy Spirit into his heart to produce in him repentance over his sins and faith in the divine forgiveness of his sins. The love of God for sinners of which the Gospel speaks is not like the easy-going attitude which an indolent and indulgent parent assumes to his libertine son, when he tells him not to bother his mind about his wrong-doing and its consequences, to forget it, and to consider himself still loved by his doting sire. No; the redemptive love of God works in conjunction with the righteousness and holiness of God. These divine attributes which God expounded to man in the Law are not put out of commission by the love of God, but without destroying the sinner, as He has threatened to do, God by His redeeming love finds a way to meet the demands which God's righteousness and holiness make upon man and to execute the lawful punishment which the sinner has incurred by breaking God's Law. God sent His Son, coequal and coessential with Himself, on earth in the form of a human being. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was made man and placed under the Law that had been issued to man for the purpose of fulfilling it in man's place. Through the sinless life of Christ on earth under every condition and in every relationship which the Law of God determines for man, a treasure of righteousness has been accumulated that balances even with all the demands of the divine Law. This treasure Christ did not collect for Himself; for He was in no need of it, being both the holy and righteous God and a holy and righteous man, who never did the least wrong in thought, word or deed. This treasure was designed by God to be give away to every sinner as his won and to be regarded by God as the sinner's righteousness. In other words, God in His love decreed that the sinner, who has lost the original righteousness in which he had been created and who had spent his life in unrighteousness, should be made righteous by proxy, viz., by the foreign righteousness of the Son of God, who had spend His earthly life under the Law as the sinner's Substitute, in the sinner's place.

Furthermore, the sinless, impeccable Christ, at the end of His sojourn among men, suffered death, which no one has to undergo except sinners; for death is the wages of sin. There is only one explanation of the death of the incarnate Son of God--it is substitute, or vicarious, just like His life under the Law. Jesus died the death which sinners had deserved to die, and by His redeeming love, God purposes to regard the death of His Son as the death which He would have to inflict upon every sinner for breaking His Law.

The Gospel, then, embraces the entire work of Christ on earth, as the evangelical Teacher of men, as their evangelical High Priest, who makes atonement for their iniquities , and as their evangelical Regent, who sets up a new rule in their rebellious hearts by the power of His love. [emphasis mine]

Good stuff, eh? Just one more time...

Through the sinless life of Christ on earth under every condition and in every relationship which the Law of God determines for man, a treasure of righteousness has been accumulated that balances even with all the demands of the divine Law.

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