Sunday, July 04, 2010

Forde offers Luther's definition of what makes a theologian:  the ability to properly distinguish between Law and Gospel, not ability and prowess in scholarly pursuits. (10)

Of course, you know where my mind went:  Walther!  Oh, how I have missed him.  Surely the confusion I have felt is because, in part, I have woefully neglected Walther!  So, I shall continue the 16th Evening Lecture.

The doctrine of our Church, then, is this:  The Word and the Sacraments operate in such a manner as to raise us up in faith and prompt us to lay hold of the blessings offered us.

In a general way Luther treats this subject in commenting on Deut. 4,28.  He writes (St. L.Ed.III, 1691ff):  "See whether our new schismatics and fanatics are not leading the people to trust in their own works.  Take the Anabaptists:  What are they doing, and what do they teach?  They declare that Baptism is worthless; they remove from Baptism the element of grace, so that there is no grace and mercy of God, no forgiveness of sin, in it, and baptism becomes an evidence of my own godliness, prior to my baptism, or a mark that I now possess godliness.  They separate grace from Baptism and leave us a mere external sign, in which there is not a grain of mercy; all grace has been cut away.  Now, if the grace of Christ has been removed from Baptism, there remains nothing but a mere work.  Likewise, in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper the fanatics remove the promise offered us in this Sacrament; they tell us that what we eat and drink is nothing but bread and wine.  Here, too, the proffered grace is cut away and renounced.  For they teach us that the only good work that we do by communing is professing Christ; as to the rest, we merely eat and drink bread and wine in the Supper, and there is no grace in it for us. (160)

A cutting away of grace.  That is harsh and horrid.  Just reading the word strikes fear in my heart at the thought.

I did not get to have the Lord's Supper today, something that has grieved me greatly, an anguish almost too difficult to bear.  The reasons wherefore are hard, too, but it is the loss, the absence of the grace and mercy and forgiveness I receive while taking in the body and blood of Christ that tears at me so.

How Zwingli and the reformers who picked up his words could do such a vile thing as cut away God's grace from the Sacraments is beyond me.  Truly, was there ever more an egregious act upon the Church?  I am surewere my blog the stuff of great public consumptiontheologians would come racing out of the woodwork to tell me of more egregious acts, but I honestly and wholeheartedly believe the distorting of the Sacraments is the most harmful act to the Church today.  All these believers out there have been cut off from the means of grace because false theology, meritoriousness on our part, was sown some five hundred years ago and the devil has joyfully preyed on our need to raise ourselves up by blinding us to the fact that Christ has already done so.

"Granted, then, that the fanatics talk a great deal about God, forgiveness of sins, the grace of God, and the death of Christ, still, when the question is raised how to come to Christ and obtain grace, how to effect a union with Him, they tell me that the Spirit alone must do this.  They make me step on a monkey's tail by saying that the external and oral proclamation of the Word, Baptism, and the Sacrament [the Lord's Supper] are worthless.  And yet they preach grace.  That amounts to proclaiming the existence of a treasure in fine terms, but taking away the key and bridge that would put me in possession of the treasure.  Now, God has ordained that this treasure is to be offered and conveyed to men by means of Baptism, the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, and the external Word.  These are the means and instruments by which to obtain the grace of God.  They deny this truth.

"I state these matters because the devil is so cunning that he professes the words of this truth, but renounced the means by which we obtain what the words declare. (161)

Christ be praised that I have found a home in the Lutheran confession where grace is never cut off, where the treasures of Baptism, the Lord's Supper, and the Word are cherished, championed, and shared richly and abundantly.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

No comments: