Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Lutherans’ Category

by Garry Heintz

When Lutheranism 101 first came out, pictures floated about on Facebook of people “caught” with their nose in the book. LCMS President Matt Harrison; a pastor eating sushi; a bust of Luther; an Octoberfest band; people’s pets and children. Even a few Canadians were found reading it! So who should read this book?

Although the title implies it is an introduction for those with little exposure to the Christian faith, Lutheranism 101 is a great resource to help any Christian understand why historic, reformation Christianity believes, teaches, and practices the faith as it does.

The editors and authors (including LCC’s Rev. Michael Keith) have ensured that Lutheranism 101 is an easy read for anyone. There are margin notes with quotes from Luther, explanations of Biblical words, Bible verses, and insights into the practice of the faith. The book opens with a quick-start guide and throughout provides resources like “How Should We Pray,” “Christian Denominations,” and “Bible Study Tools.”

Getting into the text, Lutheranism 101 goes through the main teachings of Christianity, but it is not a Mere Christianity-type book. It doesn’t only deal with articles of the faith on which most Christians agree: Who is God?  What is sin?  Who is Jesus? What has He done for us? The authors deal with all these basics of the Christian faith with the Lutheran emphasis on the Gospel.

And like the Lutheran Church, Lutheranism 101 strives to keep Jesus at the centre of its teaching. For example, while many churches make prophecy a confusing maze to navigate, this book simply explains the return of Christ as a joyful hope of the resurrection.

While much of Christianity is trying to look indistinguishable from the world, this book isn’t afraid to say, “Here is what Lutheranism is.”  For example, the church isn’t just a group of like-minded individuals, but it is every redeemed sinner. God then gathers His Church to hear His Word and receive His gifts from men set apart for that task.

Lutheranism 101 is not designed to be a new edition of the Catechism

Lutheranism 101 offers no apologies when it presents the Word of God as the source for all Christian teaching, understood through the lens of Law and Gospel. The Word of God is applied to sinners, calling them to repentance and to the places where Jesus works through His Word to give forgiveness in Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper.

So how did the Lutherans start teaching these things? A look at Luther’s life and times presents Luther’s rediscovery of the Gospel and how the Church has continued in that message. Christ’s saving work prompts Christians to gather for the Divine Service, the weekly gathering of believers, to receive God’s gifts. Having received God’s gifts, Christians live out the life of faith to the glory of God.  Jesus’ saving work moves Christians to sacrifice for the sake of others and for the further proclamation of Jesus, visible for the entire world to see. That’s what you get in Lutheranism 101.

Some may criticize the book as being too traditional, spending too much time on things like history and worship. However, tradition is simply that which is handed on. The purpose of this book is to pass on that which is at the heart of the Christian faith. Likewise, some may gripe that this book doesn’t delve deeply enough into the core Christian teachings: it doesn’t look at each of the commandments; it doesn’t spend enough time focusing on prayer. But Lutheranism 101 is not designed to be a new edition of the Catechism.

However, in one of the appendices Lutheranism 101 points readers to other books which make up a Christian library.  Other valuable resources in the appendices include timelines for Biblical and Christian history, overviews of major events and people who have gone before us in the faith, and a glossary of important words.

Perhaps the best comparison for Lutheranism 101 is a retract-a-bit screwdriver. It isn’t a specialized tool. It doesn’t fit every situation, but it sure is handy to have.

Pick up a copy. Use it to help your children with their confirmation homework.  Use it for Bible study or adult instruction. Use it to remind yourself of the great good news of Jesus at work in your life.  And get “caught” reading Lutheranism 101, so you can pass it on to a friend, a family member, or a co-worker who would also benefit from a better understanding of God’s gifts for them!

Rev. Garry Heintz is pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Kakabeka Falls, Ontario.

 

Read Full Post »

Read Full Post »

EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH IN KENYA ON THE CHURCH APOSTATE

This is the statement of the executive committee of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya that met on the 12th November 2009, on the Apostasy of the church of Sweden to consecrate not just a woman to the office of bishop but a lesbian bishop on the 8th November 2009 in Uppsala cathedral.

We, in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya, are watching with shock, dismay and disappointment, the news about these recent developments on what we would call “ the mega” Church bodies in the world are up to, when they work so hard and tirelessly to lead the world into religiousless society (leave alone Christianity)

In addition to our statement on what took place in the USA when ELCA in its Church wide Assembly held on 21 August 2009, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, resolved officially to open the door of the office of the public ministry to those who are in “committed” same gender sexual relations, we further state that it beats our logics and saddens us very much that the church of Sweden, which at the reformation was the pillar of Biblical Reformation within Christendom has now decided to go apostate by consecretating a lesbian woman as bishop on the 8th November 2009 and indeed women in the office of the Ministry over and above its earlier decision to allow same sex partners to hold the Sacred office of Word and Sacrament.

We therefore again reiterate as we did in our statement condemning the decision of ELCA issued on the 25th of September 2009;

1. that we condemn in the strongest terms possible this unfortunate and anti-scriptural development in a church body that bears the name of the great reformer, Dr. Martin Luther;

2. that these Church Bodies have rejected the faith of Christendom as have been confessed all along starting with the Apostles and the fathers as is also confessed today in the three ecumenical creeds.

3. that these church bodies have out rightly rejected the Authority of the Scriptures as the Word of God 4. to the Lutherans, Dr. Martin Luther brought the Church from being under the authority of man and speculations of human

philosophies to be under the authority of the Scriptures. 5. that we want to remind those Lutheran Churches and others who ordain women into office of the Word and Sacrament that these

unfortunate practice is a novelty that just started some fifty year ago and indeed an epicenter of spiritual lesbianism in the Church

today. 6. that we condemn sexual perversion in all its manifestations; 7. that same sex marital union is not only contrary to God’s will as clearly expressed in the Holy Scripture, but also repugnant to the

natural created social order; 8. that God’s plan and purpose of marriage is fulfilled only in heterosexual (one man – one woman) life long commitment; 9. that this act by the Church of Sweden constitutes a loveless and callous disregard of the spiritual condition of those caught in

homosexual bondage; and 10. that, most seriously of all, it is nothing less than a denial of the transformative power of the love we know in our Savior Jesus Christ,

Who seeks all sinners in order to restore them to communion with the Father through the ministrations of His Holy Spirit in Word and sacrament.

Therefore, we must confess the Word of God and be faithful to it. In the name of our crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ, we call upon the Church of Sweden to repent of its apostasy from the truth. We feel compassion for those among us who are caught in homosexual bondage and want them to know the transforming power of God’s forgiveness and love. Thus we hereby dedicate ourselves anew into the service of Him Who came to serve us sinners, including those caught in homosexual bondage, and Who by the power of His cross and resurrection creates in us a new will to please Him in patterns of living that are chaste and pure. In saying these things, we are standing with our fellow redeemed in the great consensus of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church, particularly with those church bodies in the International Lutheran Council. We want to assure the remnant Church bodies in the world, that as much the apostasy may continue aggressively, we believe the Church will not be defaced from the face of the earth. We therefore want to encourage and stand with the remnant Church bodies in Europe like Mission province in Sweden, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod in America, Faithful Lutheran Churches in Africa and the rest of the World to stand up and take the Challenge to remain faithful to the Scriptures – for by the Scripture the Lord will save the Church in the World even unto end of the earth.

Signed this 13th day of November 2009:

Most Rev. Dr. Walter Obare Arch Bishop

Rev. John Halakhe General Secretary

Read Full Post »

I found this today from cyberbrethren.com.  Happy Anniversary!

Before we go further we need to clear up a common misconception. While insisting on the truth of Lutheranism, we can never allow ourselves to do so in an arrogant, haughty or self-righteous manner. People who are passionate about the truth of Biblical Lutheranism know that the Bible teaches often and clearly that we are all sinful human beings in need of God’s constant mercy, which He so lavishly gives in Christ. To be truly Lutheran is to receive the gifts of God with humility, repentantly recognizing our great need. It is tempting for Lutherans to be proud and arrogant of their great heritage, but this is a terrible evil! To be Lutheran is to be always mindful of our great sin and our great need for a Savior. To be a Lutheran is to be a sinner calling out to fellow sinners, “Come and see!” Furthermore, we would never want anyone to think that we Lutherans are saying, “We, and we alone, are the only ones who will be in heaven. In fact, you can’t be a Christian unless you are a Lutheran.” Not so! Not at all. We realize that the Word of God is powerful and active, wherever and whenever it is heard, read or meditated on. There are many Christians in other denominations and churches. They are not Christians because of the errors in their churches, but in spite of those errors. Let’s then have none say, “You Lutherans think you alone are Christians.” We have never said that, we have never believed it, and we never will. The reason we insist on Lutheranism for everyone who will listen is because we believe so passionately that it truly is the most correct and most accurate understanding of the Word of God. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Crucifix 1412-13 Wood Santa Maria Novella, Florence

I was reading some comments a person made about what represents Christ’s love best in Lutheranism. He said: “Christ’s love in Lutheranism is represented by the empty Cross…” Ah, no. There’s nothing wrong with a plain cross symbol, but the plain or “empty” cross is not somehow a “Lutheran” symbol, as opposed to the crucifix. In fact, the crucifix enjoys a very long use in Lutheranism. Here’s more information from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s web site.

Q.  Question: Is the use of crucifixes a Roman Catholic practice? Doesn’t the empty cross provide a better symbol for Lutherans? How does the LCMS feel about using a crucifix in church? [Note: A crucifix is a cross with a statue of the crucified Christ on it].

A.  A common misunderstanding among some some Lutherans is the opinion that a crucifix, or the use of a crucifix, is a “Roman Catholic” practice. The history of Lutheranism demonstrates that the crucifix was a regular and routine feature of Lutheran worship and devotional life during Luther’s lifetime and during the period of Lutheran Orthdoxy. It was also the case among the founding fathers of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. If you were to visit most of the original congregations of the LCMS here in the United States you would find lovely crucifixes adorning their altars, and in addition, beautiful statues on the altar of Christ and the four evangelists, or other such scenes. There is nothing uniquely Roman Catholic about this.  Many Lutherans and Lutheran congregations use crucifixes. Crucifixes are used in the chapels of both of our seminaries.

Lutheranism has always considered the crucifix to be a powerful reminder of the sacrifice our Lord Jesus made for us and our salvation, on the cross. A crucifix vividly brings to mind the Apostle Paul’s divinely inspired words, “We preach Christ and Him crucified”  (1 Cor. 1:23).

Interestingly enough, while there is certainly nothing “wrong” with an “empty” cross, the practice of using an “empty cross” on a Lutheran congregation’s altar comes more from non-Lutheran sources. At the time of the Reformation there was conflict between Lutherans and Reformed Christians over the proper place of pictures, images, statues and the like in the church. Lutherans stood with historic Christendom in realizing that such art in the church was not wrong, and was a great aid for helping to focus devotional thoughts on the truths of the Word of God, no greater truth can be found that the death of Jesus Christ our Lord for the world’s salvation. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Here’s a fascinating post that I would ask you to read, carefully, and consider how this speaks to the Lutheran Church trying to be something it is not, or trying to look like something it is not. I picked this up from the blog Conversation Agent.

When it comes to branding, less from you is more. An additional lesson for companies is to stop trying to be a bad copy of some other company. “Me too” is the biggest branding sin of all – you’re doomed for failure, especially when there are already two companies going at it in one category. The idea of picking one thing and sticking with it is valid on the service end of things. You position your company by making a statement with your message, and delivering on that statement with your service. It sounds simple, but we know it’s easy to get in trouble by over promising on both counts.

Al Ries provides plenty of examples of unfocused brands in a post at Brand Strategy Insider aboutsocial media not the answer to weak brands. A memorable example for those in the service business is:

What happened at Citigroup? Same old story. It started with Citibank, its consumer banking operation. Then it bought Travelers (insurance), Smith Barney (stock brokerage) and Salomon Brothers (investment banking.) In other words, Citigroup started as a bank in competition with the other major banks in America and then tried to fight on four fronts: banking, insurance, stock brokerage and investment banking. Not a good strategy.

They may seem like adjacent businesses to you, but to a customer, they spell very different support and service needs. Imagine your day job suddenly becoming so big that you cannot do it all. You’re stretched in so many directions that you’re at the point of losing track of what you’re doing.

The same happens with brands.

Today you can increase sales and profits by:

  • serving your existing customers better
  • trimming your product line and offering only what you can truly support well
  • being on the same page with customers as to what your product/service means to them

More focused means that you have one conversation going and many possibilities within it for your customers – and employees – to become evangelists on behalf of your brand.

Let’s say you started the company by dominating a category. Why did you stop embracing that position and moved away from what you did best? You did that despite the fact that even today customers continue to associate you with that brand position.

Companies do that when instead of innovating from the inside, they buy other companies that seem a good deal as a growth strategy in new directions. In other words, they think differentiating is a good strategy for the business, and neglect to take the existing brand equity into account.

To continue with the Citigroup example. If they had expanded on their consumer banking operations before Commerce Bank took the number one spot in retail banking for customer relationships (before the Bank’s demise and sale, they were considered a Maverick brand), they would have been able to get up close and personal and offer amazing service.

Instead, they expanded into insurance – not a core business, and with quite different customer needs – stock brokerage, and investment banking. What all of these service lines or lines of business have in common is money. But they express very differing models in terms of customer relationships and information needs. Not to mention that they speak to different customer segments in terms of value.

In the service business, when it comes to customers, it fundamentally comes down to two things:

  1. how you serve customers
  2. how you communicate with them

The more audiences and segments you have – which depend on your product or service lines –the higher the complexity in delivering to all the same standards when it comes to meeting customer service expectations and communication needs.

That in turns weakens your overall brand position. Customers are the best source of referral a business has. With social media, that can turn out to be a big win if your customers talk about your business in good terms, or loss if they’re at a loss on what to say about you.

The lesson: don’t try to be all things to all customers.

Do you think it’s the human innate desire to please all that comes into play here? Why is there still such a gap between what companies think they can deliver, and what they deliver?

© 2006-2009 Valeria Maltoni. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Whenever the question of why are some saved, and not others, comes up it is common for Calvinists who advocate for the view that God has predestined some to hell, and others to heaven, to try to drag Martin Luther into their argument and claim that they are actually being faithful to what Martin Luther taught. Let this much be clear: Martin Luther did not teach double-predestination. I’ve heard from a number of Calvinists who tell me that they don’t even think John Calvin taught it either, but, that’s for them to hash out. My interest here is in refuting the claim of the “Truly Reformed” or “classic Calvinists” or “T.U.L.I.P. Calvinists.” Here then are two critical points for Calvinists to keep in mind, which, unfortunately, they often do not.

(1) The doctrine of the Lutheran Church is not determined or normed by every writing of Luther. The proper understanding and interpretation of Martin Luther is reflected in the Book of Concord, which is the Lutheran Church’s normative standard of doctrine and practices that flow from this doctrine. This is hard for Calvinists to understand, since they are unable to point to one, unique, formal book of their confessions. They are somewhat scattered about, over time and place.

(2) Luther’s Bondage of the Will is not, and was not, his last and final word on the subject of the hidden will of God. When Calvinists appeal to this document in support of their doctrine of predestination, they do so most often taking this document in isolation from the rest of his writings and teachings. It is a common tactic among Calvinists, and sadly, a common belief that John Calvin and his heirs were actually the more faithful followers of Martin Luther than the Lutheran Church which followed Luther.

Here then is what Luther wanted people to know and understand about his position on the issue of predestination. This is from Luther’s last and final lecture series he gave during his life, his great Genesis lectures. Here is what he said while commenting on Genesis 29:9:

It pleases me to take from this passage the opportunity to discuss doubt, God, and the will of God; for I hear that here and there among the nobles and persons of importance vicious statements are being spread abroad concerning predestination or God’s foreknowledge. For this is what they say: “If I am predestined, I shall be saved, whether I do good or evil. If I am not predestined, I shall be condemned regardless of my works.” I would be glad to debate in detail against these wicked statements if the uncertain state of my health made it possible for me to do so. For if the statements are true, as they, of course, think, then the incarnation of the Son of God, His suffering and resurrection, and all that He did for the salvation of the world are done away with completely. What will the prophets and all Holy Scripture help? What will the sacraments help? Therefore let us reject all this and tread it underfoot.

These are devilish and poisoned darts and original sin itself, with which the devil led our first parents astray when he said (Gen. 3:5): “You will be like God.” They were not satisfied with the divinity that had been revealed and in the knowledge of which they were blessed, but they wanted to penetrate to the depth of the divinity. For they inferred that there was some secret reason why God had forbidden them to eat of the fruit of the tree which was in the middle of Paradise, and they wanted to know what this reason was, just as these people of our time say: “What God has determined beforehand must happen. Consequently, every concern about religion and about the salvation of souls is uncertain and useless.” Yet it has not been given to you to render a verdict that is inscrutable. Why do you doubt or thrust aside the faith that God has enjoined on you? For what end did it serve to send His Son to suffer and to be crucified for us? Of what use was it to institute the sacraments if they are uncertain or completely useless for our salvation? For otherwise, if someone had been predestined, he would have been saved without the Son and without the sacraments or Holy Scripture. Consequently, God, according to the blasphemy of these people, was horribly foolish when He sent His Son, promulgated the Law and the Gospel, and sent the apostles if the only thing He wanted was that we should be uncertain and in doubt whether we are to be saved or really to be damned.

But these are delusions of the devil with which he tries to cause us to doubt and disbelieve, although Christ came into this world to make us completely certain. For eventually either despair must follow or contempt for God, for the Holy Bible, for Baptism, and for all the blessings of God through which He wanted us to be strengthened over against uncertainty and doubt. For they will say with the Epicureans: “Let us live, eat, and drink; tomorrow we shall die” (cf. 1 Cor. 15:32). After the manner of the Turks they will rush rashly into the sword and fire, since the hour in which you either die or escape has been predetermined.

But to these thoughts one must oppose the true and firm knowledge of Christ, just as I often remind you that it is profitable and necessary above all that the knowledge of God be completely certain in us and that we cling to it with firm assent of the heart. Otherwise our faith is useless. For if God does not stand by His promises, then our salvation is lost, while, on the other hand, this is our comfort, that, although we change, we nevertheless flee for refuge to Him who is unchangeable. For in Mal. 3:6 He makes this assertion about Himself: “I the Lord do not change.” And Rom. 11:29 states: “The gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.” Accordingly, this is how I have taught in my book On the Bondage of the Will and elsewhere, namely, that a distinction must be made when one deals with the knowledge, or rather with the subject, of the divinity. For one must debate either about the hidden God or about the revealed God. With regard to God, insofar as He has not been revealed, there is no faith, no knowledge, and no understanding. And here one must hold to the statement that what is above us is none of our concern. For thoughts of this kind, which investigate something more sublime above or outside the revelation of God, are altogether devilish. With them nothing more is achieved than that we plunge ourselves into destruction; for they present an object that is inscrutable, namely, the unrevealed God. Why not rather let God keep His decisions and mysteries in secret? We have no reason to exert ourselves so much that these decisions and mysteries be revealed to us.

Moses, too, asked God to show him His face; but the Lord replies: “You shall see My back, but you will not be able to see My face” (cf. Ex. 33:23). For this inquisitiveness is original sin itself, by which we are impelled to strive for a way to God through natural speculation. But this is a great sin and a useless and futile attempt; for this is what Christ says in John 6:65 (cf. John 14:6): “No one comes to the Father but by Me.” Therefore when we approach the unrevealed God, then there is no faith, no Word, and no knowledge; for He is an invisible God, and you will not make Him visible.

Furthermore, God has most sternly forbidden this investigation of the divinity. Thus when the apostles ask in Acts 1:6, “Has it not been predestined that at this time the kingdom should be restored?” Christ says to them: “It is not for you to know the times” (Acts 1:7). “Let Me be hidden where I have not revealed Myself to you,” says God, “or you will be the cause of your own destruction, just as Adam fell in a horrible manner; for he who investigates My majesty will be overwhelmed by My glory.”

And it is true that God wanted to counteract this curiosity at the very beginning; for this is how He set forth His will and counsel: “I will reveal My foreknowledge and predestination to you in an extraordinary manner, but not by this way of reason and carnal wisdom, as you imagine. This is how I will do so: From an unrevealed God I will become a revealed God. Nevertheless, I will remain the same God. I will be made flesh, or send My Son. He shall die for your sins and shall rise again from the dead. And in this way I will fulfill your desire, in order that you may be able to know whether you are predestined or not. Behold, this is My Son; listen to Him (cf. Matt. 17:5). Look at Him as He lies in the manger and on the lap of His mother, as He hangs on the cross. Observe what He does and what He says. There you will surely take hold of Me.” For “He who sees Me,” says Christ, “also sees the Father Himself” (cf. John 14:9). If you listen to Him, are baptized in His name, and love His Word, then you are surely predestined and are certain of your salvation. But if you revile or despise the Word, then you are damned; for he who does not believe is condemned (Mark 16:16).

You must kill the other thoughts and the ways of reason or of the flesh, for God detests them. The only thing you have to do is to receive the Son, so that Christ is welcome in your heart in His birth, miracles, and cross. For here is the book of life in which you have been written. And this is the only and the most efficacious remedy for that horrible disease because of which human beings in their investigation of God want to proceed in a speculative manner and eventually rush into despair or contempt. If you want to escape despair, hatred, and blasphemy of God, give up your speculation about the hidden God, and cease to strive in vain to see the face of God.

Otherwise you will have to remain perpetually in unbelief and damnation, and you will have to perish; for he who doubts does not believe, and he who does not believe is condemned (Mark 16:16).

Therefore we should detest and shun these vicious words which the Epicureans bandy about: “If this is how it must happen, let it happen.” For God did not come down from heaven to make you uncertain about predestination, to teach you to despise the sacraments, absolution, and the rest of the divine ordinances. Indeed, He instituted them to make you completely certain and to remove the disease of doubt from your heart, in order that you might not only believe with the heart but also see with your physical eyes and touch with your hands. Why, then, do you reject these and complain that you do not know whether you have been predestined? You have the Gospel; you have been baptized; you have absolution; you are a Christian. Nevertheless, you doubt and say that you do not know whether you believe or not, whether you regard as true what is preached about Christ in the Word and the sacraments.

But you will say: “I cannot believe.” Thus many are troubled by this trial, and I recall that at Torgau a little woman came to me and complained with tears in her eyes that she could not believe. Then, when I recited the articles of the Creed in order and asked about each one whether she was convinced that these things were true and had happened in this manner or not, she answered: “I certainly think that they are true, but I cannot believe.” This was a satanic illusion. Consequently, I kept saying: “If you think that all these things are true, there is no reason why you should complain about your unbelief; for if you do not doubt that the Son of God died for you, you surely believe, because to believe is nothing else than to regard these facts as the sure and unquestionable truth.”

God says to you: “Behold, you have My Son. Listen to Him, and receive Him. If you do this, you are already sure about your faith and salvation.” “But I do not know,” you will say, “whether I am remaining in faith.” At all events, accept the present promise and the predestination, and do not inquire too curiously about the secret counsels of God. If you believe in the revealed God and accept His Word, He will gradually also reveal the hidden God; for “He who sees Me also sees the Father,” as John 14:9 says. He who rejects the Son also loses the unrevealed God along with the revealed God. But if you cling to the revealed God with a firm faith, so that your heart is so minded that you will not lose Christ even if you are deprived of everything, then you are most assuredly predestined, and you will understand the hidden God. Indeed, you understand Him even now if you acknowledge the Son and His will, namely, that He wants to reveal Himself to you, that He wants to be your Lord and your Savior. Therefore you are sure that God is also your Lord and Father.

Observe how pleasantly and kindly God delivers you from this horrible trial with which Satan besets people today in strange ways in order to make them doubtful and uncertain, and eventually even to alienate them from the Word. “For why should you hear the Gospel,” they say, “since everything depends on predestination?” In this way he robs us of the predestination guaranteed through the Son of God and the sacraments. He makes us uncertain where we are completely certain. And if he attacks timid consciences with this trial, they die in despair, as would almost have happened to me if Staupitz had not delivered me from the same trial when I was troubled. But if they are despisers, they become the worst Epicureans. Therefore we should rather impress these statements on our hearts, such as John 6:44: “No one can come to Me unless the Father draws him.” Through whom? Through Me. “He who sees Me also sees the Father” (cf. John 14:9). And God says to Moses: “You cannot see My face, for man shall not see Me and live” (Ex. 33:20). And we read (Acts 1:7): “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by His own authority. But go, and carry out what I command.” Likewise (Ecclus. 3:22): “Seek not the things that are too high for you, and search not into things above your ability; but the things that God has commanded you, think on them always, and in many of His works be not curious.” Listen to the incarnate Son, and predestination will present itself of its own accord.

Staupitz used to comfort me with these words: “Why do you torture yourself with these speculations? Look at the wounds of Christ and at the blood that was shed for you. From these predestination will shine. Consequently, one must listen to the Son of God, who was sent into the flesh and appeared to destroy the work of the devil (1 John 3:8) and to make you sure about predestination. And for this reason He says to you: ‘You are My sheep because you hear My voice’ (cf. John 10:27). ‘No one shall snatch you out of My hands’ ” (cf. v. 28).

Many who did not resist this trial in such a manner were hurled headlong into destruction. Consequently, the hearts of the godly should be kept carefully fortified. Thus a certain hermit in The Lives of the Fathers advises his hearers against speculations of this kind. He says: “If you see that someone has put his foot in heaven, pull him back. For this is how saintly neophytes are wont to think about God apart from Christ. They are the ones who try to ascend into heaven and to place both feet there. But suddenly they are plunged into hell.” Therefore the godly should beware and be intent only on learning to cling to the Child and Son Jesus, who is your God and was made flesh for your sake. Acknowledge and hear Him; take pleasure in Him, and give thanks. If you have Him, then you also have the hidden God together with Him who has been revealed. And that is the only way, the truth, and the life (cf. John 14:6). Apart from it you will find nothing but destruction and death.

But He manifested himself in the flesh to snatch us from death, from the power of the devil. From this knowledge must come great joy and delight that God is unchangeable, that He works in accordance with unchangeable necessity, and that He cannot deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:13) but keeps His promises. Accordingly, one is not free to have such thoughts or doubts about predestination; but they are ungodly, vicious, and devilish. Therefore when the devil assails you with them, you should only say: “I believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, about whom I have no doubt that He was made flesh, suffered, and died for me. Into His death I have been baptized.” This answer will make the trial disappear, and Satan will turn his back.

Thus on other occasions I have often mentioned the noteworthy example of a nun who underwent the same trial. For under the papacy there were also many godly persons who experienced these spiritual trials, which are truly hellish and thoughts of the damned. For there is no difference at all between one who doubts and one who is damned. Therefore whenever the nun felt that she was being assailed with the fiery darts of Satan (cf. Eph. 6:16), she would say nothing else than this: “I am a Christian.”

We must do the same thing. One must refrain from debates and say: “I am a Christian; that is, the Son of God was made flesh and was born; He has redeemed me and is sitting at the right hand of the Father, and He is my Savior.” Thus you must drive Satan away from you with as few words as possible and say: “Begone, Satan! (Matt. 4:10.) Do not put doubt in me. The Son of God came into this world to destroy your work (1 John 3:8) and to destroy doubt.” Then the trial ceases, and the heart returns to peace, quiet, and the love of God.

Otherwise doubt about some person’s intention is no sin. Thus Isaac doubts that he will live or have a pious host. About a man I can be in doubt. Indeed, I should be in doubt. For he is not my Savior, and it is written (Ps. 146:3): “Put not your trust in princes.” For man is a liar (Ps. 116:11) and deceitful. But one cannot deal doubtfully with God. For He neither wants nor is able to be changeable or a liar. But the highest form of worship He requires is your conviction that He is truthful. For this is why He has given you the strongest proofs of His trustworthiness and truth. He has given His Son into the flesh and into death, and He has instituted the sacraments, in order that you may know that He does not want to be deceitful, but that He wants to be truthful. Nor does He confirm this with spiritual proofs; He confirms it with tangible proofs. For I see the water, I see the bread and the wine, and I see the minister. All this is physical, and in these material forms He reveals Himself. If you must deal with men, you may be in doubt as to the extent to which you may believe a person and as to how others may be disposed toward you; but concerning God you must maintain with assurance and without any doubt that He is well disposed toward you on account of Christ and that you have been redeemed and sanctified through the precious blood of the Son of God. And in this way you will be sure of your predestination, since all the prying and dangerous questions about GOD’S secret counsels have been removed—the questions to which Satan tries to drive us, just as he drove our first parents.

But how great would our first parent’s happiness have been if he had kept the Word of God carefully in sight and had eaten of all the other trees except the one from which he had been forbidden to eat! But he wanted to search out why God had forbidden him to enjoy the fruits from that one tree. In addition, there was Satan, the malicious teacher who increased and abetted this curiosity. Thus he was hurled headlong into sin and death.

Thus God reveals His will to us through Christ and the Gospel. But we loathe it and, in accordance with Adam’s example, take delight in the forbidden tree above all the others. This fault has been implanted in us by nature. When Paradise and heaven have been closed and the angel has been placed on guard there (cf. Gen. 3:24), we try in vain to enter. For Christ has truthfully said: “No one has ever seen God” (John 1:18). Nevertheless, God, in His boundless goodness, has revealed Himself to us in order to satisfy our desire. He has shown us a visible image. “Behold, you have My Son; he who hears Him and is baptized is written in the book of life. This I reveal through My Son, whom you can touch with your hands and look at with your eyes.”

I have wanted to teach and transmit this in such a painstaking and accurate way because after my death many will publish my books and will prove from them errors of every kind and their own delusions. Among other things, however, I have written that everything is absolute and unavoidable; but at the same time I have added that one must look at the revealed God, as we sing in the hymn: Er heist Jesu Christ, der HERR Zebaoth, und ist kein ander Gott, “Jesus Christ is the Lord of hosts, and there is no other God”—and also in very many other places. But they will pass over all these places and take only those that deal with the hidden God. Accordingly, you who are listening to me now should remember that I have taught that one should not inquire into the predestination of the hidden God but should be satisfied with what is revealed through the calling and through the ministry of the Word. For then you can be sure about your faith and salvation and say: “I believe in the Son of God, who said (John 3:36): ‘He who believes in the Son has eternal life.’ ” Hence no condemnation or wrath rests on him, but he enjoys the good pleasure of God the Father. But I have publicly stated these same things elsewhere in my books, and now I am also teaching them by word of mouth. Therefore I am excused.

(From the American Edition of Luther’s Works 5:43-50; Luther’s Genesis Commentary, commenting on Genesis 29:9).

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »