Aversion to Sanctification

It was suggested in a comment by Pastor Paul McCain that we re-post this post of his published back in 2005 that includes an article written by Doctor Kurt Marquart:

 

I was just in a conversation with two younger men who were seriously saying that listening to the audio pornography and vile filth of Eminem is appropriate for Christians. One suggested that because only what comes out of a man is what makes him sinful that it matters not what he sees, or hears, as a Christian. These two young men are sadly typical of a poorly formed understanding of the life of good works to which we are called as Christians that seems pandemic in the Christian Church, where apparently some can wax eloquent about how they are striving to be faithful to God’s Word, but then turn right around and wallow in the mire and squalor of sin. This all the more underscores for me the point that we have a serious lack of emphasis on sanctification in our beloved Lutheran church. There is much teaching that is not being done, that must done. Simply repeating formulas and phrases about justification is not teaching and preaching the whole counsel of God. Comforting people with the Gospel when there is no genuine repentance for sin is doing them a disservice. There is a serious “short circuit” here that we need to be mindful of. Let this be clear. Listening to the “music” of swine such as Eminem is sinful and willfully choosing to listen to it is sin that drives out the Holy Spirit. This is deadly serious business. Deadly. Serious.

Pastors who wash their hands of this responsibility claiming that they want to avoid interjecting law into their sermons when they have preached the Gospel are simply shirking their duty as preachers and are being unfaithful to God’s Word.

We have done such a fine job explaining that we are not saved by works that we have, I fear, neglected to urge the faithful to lives of good works as faithfully and clearly as we should. This should not be so among us brethren.

I’m growing increasingly concerned that with the necessary distinction between faith and works that we must always maintain, we Lutherans are tempted to speak of good works and the life of sanctification in such a way as to either minimize it, or worse yet, neglect it. I read sermons and hear comments that give me the impression that some Lutherans think that good works are something that “just happen” on some sort of a spiritual auto-pilot. Concern over a person believing their works are meritorious has led to what borders on paranoia to the point that good works are simply not taught or discussed as they should be. It seems some have forgotten that in fact we do confess three uses of the law, not just a first or second use.

The Apostle, St. Paul, never ceases to urge good works on his listeners nad readers. I recall a conversation once with a person who should know better telling me that the exhortations to good works and lengthy discussions of sanctification we find in the New Testament are not a model at all for preaching, since Paul is not “preaching” but rather writing a letter. This is not a good thing.

A number of years ago an article appeared that put matters well and sounded a very important word of warning and caution. It is by Professor Kurt E. Marquart of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I strongly encourage you to give it your most serious attention.

 

Antinomian Aversion to Sanctification?
By Doctor Kurt Marquart

An emerited brother writes that he is disturbed by a kind of preaching that avoids sanctification and “seemingly questions the Formula of Concord . . . about the Third Use of the Law.” The odd thing is that this attitude, he writes, is found among would-be confessional pastors, even though it is really akin to the antinomianism of “Seminex”! He asks, “How can one read the Scriptures over and over and not see how much and how often our Lord (in the Gospels) and the Apostles (in the Epistles) call for Christian sanctification, crucifying the flesh, putting down the old man and putting on the new man, abounding in the work of the Lord, provoking to love and good works, being fruitful . . . ?”

I really have no idea where the anti-sanctification bias comes from. Perhaps it is a knee-jerk over-reaction to “Evangelicalism”: since they stress practical guidance for daily living, we should not! Should we not rather give even more and better practical guidance, just because we distinguish clearly between Law and Gospel? Especially given our anti-sacramental environment, it is of course highly necessary to stress the holy means of grace in our preaching. But we must beware of creating a kind of clericalist caricature that gives the impression that the whole point of the Christian life is to be constantly taking in preaching, absolution and Holy Communion-while ordinary daily life and callings are just humdrum time-fillers in between! That would be like saying that we live to eat, rather than eating to live. The real point of our constant feeding by faith, on the Bread of Life, is that we might gain an ever-firmer hold of Heaven-and meanwhile become ever more useful on earth! We have, after all, been “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Cars, too, are not made to be fueled and oiled forever at service-stations. Rather, they are serviced in order that they might yield useful mileage in getting us where we need to go. Real good works before God are not showy, sanctimonious pomp and circumstance, or liturgical falderal in church, but, for example, “when a poor servant girl takes care of a little child or faithfully does what she is told” (Large Catechism, Ten Commandments, par. 314, Kolb-Wengert, pg. 428).

The royal priesthood of believers needs to recover their sense of joy and high privilege in their daily service to God (1 Pet. 2:9). The “living sacrifice” of bodies, according to their various callings, is the Christian’s “reasonable service” or God-pleasing worship, to which St. Paul exhorts the Romans “by the mercies of God” (Rom. 12:1), which he had set out so forcefully in the preceding eleven chapters! Or, as St. James puts it: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (1:27). Liberal churches tend to stress the one, and conservatives the other, but the Lord would have us do both!

Antinomianism appeals particularly to the Lutheran flesh. But it cannot claim the great Reformer as patron. On the contrary, he writes:

“That is what my Antinomians, too, are doing today, who are preaching beautifully and (as I cannot but think) with real sincerity about Christ’s grace, about the forgiveness of sin and whatever else can be said about the doctrine of redemption. But they flee as if it were the very devil the consequence that they should tell the people about the third article, of sanctification, that is, of new life in Christ. They think one should not frighten or trouble the people, but rather always preach comfortingly about grace and the forgiveness of sins in Christ, and under no circumstance use these or similar words, “Listen! You want to be a Christian and at the same time remain an adulterer, a whoremonger, a drunken swine, arrogant, covetous, a usurer, envious, vindictive, malicious, etc.!” Instead they say, “Listen! Though you are an adulterer, a whoremonger, a miser, or other kind of sinner, if you but believe, you are saved, and you need not fear the law. Christ has fulfilled it all! . . . They may be fine Easter preachers, but they are very poor Pentecost preachers, for they do not preach… “about the sanctification by the Holy Spirit,” but solely about the redemption of Jesus Christ, although Christ (whom they extol so highly, and rightly so) is Christ, that is, He has purchased redemption from sin and death so that the Holy Spirit might transform us out of the old Adam into new men . . . Christ did not earn only gratia, grace, for us, but also donum, “the gift of the Holy Spirit,” so that we might have not only forgiveness of, but also cessation of, sin. Now he who does not abstain from sin, but persists in his evil life, must have a different Christ, that of the Antinomians; the real Christ is not there, even if all the angels would cry, “Christ! Christ!” He must be damned with this, his new Christ (On the Council and the Church, Luther’s Works, 41:113-114).

Where are the “practical and clear sermons,” which according to the Apology “hold an audience” (XXIV, 50, p. 267). Apology XV, 42-44 (p. 229) explains:

“The chief worship of God is to preach the Gospel…in our churches all the sermons deal with topics like these: repentance, fear of God, faith in Christ, the righteousness of faith, prayer . . . the cross, respect for the magistrates and all civil orders, the distinction between the kingdom of Christ (the spiritual kingdom) and political affairs, marriage, the education and instruction of children, chastity, and all the works of love.”

“Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, unto Thy Church Thy Holy Spirit, and the wisdom which cometh down from above, that Thy Word, as becometh it, may not be bound, but have free course and be preached to the joy and edifying of Christ’s holy people, that in steadfast faith we may serve Thee, and in the confession of Thy Name abide unto the end: through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.”

Kurt Marquart
Concordia Theological Quarterly

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He’s responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.


Comments

Aversion to Sanctification — 76 Comments

  1. This is unfortunately all too often aided and abetted by pastors and professors behaving as though impious behavior were a mark of orthodoxy.

    Also, too often, hatred of evangelicalism or “protestantism” leads us to reject piety that is simply “Christian,” or to forget the reality that many, many people have weak consciences that they cannot simply dismiss.

  2. “There is a serious “short circuit” here that we need to be mindful of. Let this be clear. Listening to the “music” of swine such as Eminem is sinful and willfully choosing to listen to it is sin that drives out the Holy Spirit. This is deadly serious business. Deadly. Serious.”

    I think this comment needs a bit more explaining. Why is listening to Eminem sinful? Is it because of the lyrics? Is it the genre of music? Is it because of the musician’s lifestyle? In other words, precisely what makes Emniem’s music sinful?

    And how does listening to certain types of music affect our sanctification? That is, can I listen to music which increases it, if I can also listen to music which decreases it and/or ‘snuffs it out’?

    I appreciate the clarification.

    As a matter of disclosure… I don’t listen to Eminem and never have.

  3. @Jim Pierce #2

    But I regularly listen to classic rock – which has horrible moral messages and fully qualifies as music of swine.

    You ask a very good question. I’ve read many posts blasting contemporary pop chrisitan music because it contains theological errors. Several people on this site are more supportive of listening to swine music like classic rock as opposed to contemporary chrisitian music because classic rock doesn’t contain theological errors – rather it contains examlples sinful godless conduct.

    Would I be better listening to 50’s doo-wop? Is wasting my time with non-sense lyrics less sinful than listening to The Rolling Stones or Aerosmith? Should I just leave it on talk-radio?

  4. A very good post, and one that addresses a serious issue that can be misunderstood on both sides. One of the criticisms I have heard about Lutheranism (and to an extent Calvinism as well) by the wider evangelical community is that the push of faith alone creates antinomianism. Now certainly, they don’t help their argument by wallowing in hyper-Wesleyan/charismatic influenced pietism, but they do have a point, and Mr. Fisher does well in bringing up this post, as it brings relief to me (who is considering Lutheranism) that sound Lutheranism abhors Antinomianism and a lawless gospel.

    I think part of the problem is that Lutherans see the evangelical mindset of treating the third use of the law as something completely separate from the gospel and become reactionary against it (which is not entirely unjust). But in truth, the third use of the law should be incorporated while IN LIGHT of the gospel, not apart from the gospel. When St. Paul issues commands in the epistles, he quite frequently does it while referencing the already established fact of justification (In other words, he doesn’t say “Do this to be saved” but rather “Since you are saved, this is how your works should be flowing from your faith”). To be sure, the mortification of the flesh should not be (again, as evangelicals often unwittingly portray it) seen as solely a work of man with God acting as a passive spectator wringing His hands in hopes that we do the right thing. Rather, it needs to be taken into account that, while it is true we work out our salvation, that God works out that salvation in us (Phil 2:11-12). It should be made clear that our growth in grace is God empowered and God worked, while at the same time we are not lifeless mannequins or puppets in the process.

    Keep preaching, my brothers! Closer and closer to Wittenberg you pull me!

  5. This post does indeed seem to bring up more questions for me than it answers.

    The confessions do state that sanctification is cooperated with by the regenerate will (though NOT in the sense of being like two horses (our will and the Holy Spirit), side by side, pulling a carriage (the work of sanctification). To what extent does the human will cooperate? To use the horse analogy again, would it be like the Holy Spirit “horse” in front, us behind, pulled by the Holy Spirit and simply walking in the path He sets? Or is it something entirely different?

    I’ve heard that often Satan tries to hinder Christians by focusing us on the wrong battle; wanting us to work on behaving better instead of fighting our doubts of who we are in Christ. But then again, wouldn’t trying to believe in our identity as Christians be just like trying to behave better? Isn’t nourishing faith a form of “good behavior”? In other words, if we stop focusing on trying to “be good” and focus more on “believing faithfully”, isn’t that just an aspect of “being good”?

    Furthermore, what motivates the Christian to good works? I tend to believe that it is the Gospel, not the Law. I’ve heard the analogy that if the Christian life is like a space shuttle mission, the Law is the flight path, but the Gospel is the fuel. Without the Law, you may be motivated by the Gospel, but you won’t have any clue where to go with it. Without the Gospel, you won’t even get off the ground.

    Do we have to go into a Law-Gospel-Law approach to sermons like our Reformed cousins? I must say I am biased about this, because I have heard so many Law-Gospel-Law sermons and for some reason, I always feel like the Gospel should have the last word. In my opinion, we need to preach harder Law in our sermons. I love the faithful Lutheran pastors that I hear, but when I hear “we’re all sinners” instead of “you are a sinner. You do x, y, and z”, it feels like it’s just weak, like I’m being told a theological proposition instead of being confronted with my sin. If we have pastors who preach Law hard enough that I’ll remember it, even after I hear the Gospel, I’m more inclined to think, “Wow, I’m forgiven!! I think I’ll go and do what pastor was talking about at the end of his sermon!” No need for the pastor to burden me again. The Holy Spirit not only uses the Law as He wills, I think He can also “multi-task” with the Law. The second-use that the Spirit preached before the Gospel can be in my memory as third-use after the Gospel. Then again, I do note that Paul indeed exhorted the brethren to good works after preaching Gospel, so maybe that model should be followed.

    And on the question of media, that opens a whole law-based can of worms. If Eminem shouldn’t be listened to because it degrades women, should I not read Lovecraft because his portrayal of the universe is utterly nihilist? Should I avoid Tolkien because of the heavy influences of Romanism on his work (my brother actually credits his conversion to Romanism to Tolkien in large part)?

    As you can see, this brings up a ton of questions, but one final thought: perhaps we should urge the brethren to good works, but we should urge them to it not as works we should do and which are never done. Rather, maybe we should urge them as works which we believe are done already. I would think that would be a much easier yoke.

    I am a simple, 20 year old layman who thinks he knows far more theology than he actually does, so I welcome any correction to any proposals or statements I make here, and I also welcome, of course, any answers to the many, many questions I’ve brought up.

  6. Listening to the “music” of swine such as Eminem is sinful and willfully choosing to listen to it is sin that drives out the Holy Spirit. This is deadly serious business. Deadly. Serious.

    It would be helpful if synod would put together a comprehensive list of books, music, and other media which Christians are not supposed to consume.

  7. Hmm, at least once upopn a time, the LCMS in its constitution or something stated we should use doctrinally purre materials. Since CPH is in-house and a lot goes through doctrinal review, one would think that would be our primary source of mateiral. Now CPH may not be perfect (in the past, and even now) but still, it should be our main diet. And there can be other sources, as some of our own pastors publish elsewhere.

    But then that means pastors and congregations that actually WANT to be Lutheran. Then many would look to find some of the best stuff (maybe 80%+ CPH?). Instead it is sad that all too often it is abused adiaphora: what is the minimum we need, and how much can we get away with?

    Kitty has a certain point. We think about a list of banned books. Sound harsh? Yes. Smacks of Law, but then, for our unrepentant idolatry (I was just at an Isaiah continuing ed course) it is exactly what we need.

  8. The problem with most preaching of sanctification is that Jesus either becomes simply a ladder to help us climb higher higher to being better people or else he is basically dismissed entirely and the sermon simply becomes a motivational speaking engagement a-la Joel Olsteen. The third use of the Law is still the Law. Making a sermon a Lutheran meatgrinder (Law, Gospel, 3rd Use of the Law) still ends with the Law. Even if you call it Sanctification. The Law always says “do” and the Gospel always says “done”. The Confessions had this right. When the Law and Gospel are preached, when what has been “done” by Christ is emphasized, then the new creature does these good works without coercion or threat.

  9. @Rev. McCall #9

    “then the new creature does these good works without coercion or threat.”

    Yeah. No they don’t.

    For a couple of different reasons: first, because there is the battle of sinner and saint that continues to go on. Paul speaks about this often — I mean, it is why we learn the Catechism to a point.

    As well, it is not enough to just hear “You are forgiven—now go and live the Christian life!” because of the uncertainty of exactly what that life is. What does it look like? What is the model?

    For a long time, it was pretty obvious what the high point of the Christian life was: becoming a monk. Now, why is that? The Law and Gospel were still being proclaimed. Why didn’t the good works simply come? Because of the teaching and modeling going on that said “Being a monk is the highest form of being a Christian.”

    I mean…am I wrong about this? The position “the new creature does these good works without coercion or threat” does not fit in with this evidence.

    Finally, how do we discipline our children? Is it really wrong to end the sermon with “Don’t do that!” Really? Must it be “John! You are a sinner! But Christ died for you!” and expect them to stop running in the house?

    No. We all end sermons with our kids with the law. Sometimes with the Gospel, sure, but even then, the Law is pretty pointed. We don’t leave it up to their new creature to do what is right: we spell it out clearly as to what we expect from them.

    My final example is taken from Rev McCall’s post. Read it. What does it say? What does it end with? He certainly does not end with the Gospel and expect for the new creation to act. He ends with the Law and in a very clear way describes the behavior that he expects.

    If he doesn’t do what he says we should do, why should we?

    The fact is that we just can’t talk about sanctification too well. Partly I understand this. Partly I get tired of the people who are going to post “Sanctification is being made holy and is a work of the Holy Spirit and so it is justification” — which forces me to roll my eyes and sigh.

    That is, to respond with the Law.

  10. “I mean…am I wrong about this? The position “the new creature does these good works without coercion or threat” does not fit in with this evidence.”

    Yes, you are wrong. The *old adam* is the one who does his good works (worth filthy rags, mind you) by threat and coercion.

  11. @Mark Louderback #10
    If we preached the Law correctly (pointing out actual, not just original sin and exhorting to good works in the first portion of the sermon), the new creature will probably remember that when you give him the Gospel. My memory is not so short that I forget Law when I have Gospel preached to me afterwards. I don’t think other people’s memories are either.

    Law and Gospel were NOT being preached correctly in pre-Reformation. How does theology of ascent (I can show you portraits by devout Romanists showing the good “Christian” ascending a ladder to heaven) indicate a proper distinction of Law and Gospel at all? Monkery wasn’t a result of not knowing what the Law was. It was a result of thinking one had to reach God with “holy” works, and staying in a monastery seemed to put you on the fast track.

    I know this because I’ve hung out with Baptists and I’ve seen a kind of monasticism sprout up from the more liberal wings of Baptist circles. These people aren’t grateful for what God’s done. Their line of thinking is: “Pious worship = Pleased God, Lots of pious worship = More pleased God.” Mistaken attempt at third use? Properly preached Law/Gospel in need of some third-use directives? I think not.

    One last thing: the Law is written on the heart. That is why the Gospel must ALWAYS predominate in the sermon. My conscience already drives and accuses me. I can find Law, of a sort, within myself. I can only find Gospel in the means of grace.

  12. Carl Vehse :
    @#4 Kitty #6: “It would be helpful if synod would put together a comprehensive list of books, music, and other media which Christians are not supposed to consume.
    Oh, dear.
    I hope the comprehensive list doesn’t include the music of Scott Joplin, Brun Campbell, Kerry Mills, James Scott, Joseph Lamb, or Boots Randolph
    … or swing dancing.
    But I guess if C.F.W. Walther puts them on The List, that settles it.

    What do you think of the paper you pointed to (Dance and Theater – Walther 1886)? I don’t see Joplin nor ragtime mentioned. Can you cite anything of beauty produced by Eminem?

  13. @Mark Louderback #10
    “then the new creature does these good works without coercion or threat.”
    Yeah. No they don’t.”

    Really? Those crazy guys who wrote the confessions! Shame on them for saying such silly things!

    My post is not a sermon. I never intended it to be. If the point of any sermon is to tell people how to live, that is Law, pure and simple. I don’t care what “use” of it you claim to be using.

  14. Rev. McCall :
    The problem with most preaching of sanctification is that Jesus either becomes simply a ladder to help us climb higher higher to being better people or else he is basically dismissed entirely and the sermon simply becomes a motivational speaking engagement a-la Joel Olsteen. The third use of the Law is still the Law. Making a sermon a Lutheran meatgrinder (Law, Gospel, 3rd Use of the Law) still ends with the Law. Even if you call it Sanctification. The Law always says “do” and the Gospel always says “done”. The Confessions had this right. When the Law and Gospel are preached, when what has been “done” by Christ is emphasized, then the new creature does these good works without coercion or threat.

    I also was taught this during some of my preaching classes and other classes at the seminary. Never end a sermon with any Law, for that would only leave people broken and crushed and they would leave Church with Law ringing in their ears.

    It sounds like a good idea, sounds logical/reasonable and fits into a nice neat “Law-Gospel” little paradigm, in which one must assume that the proper distinction between Law and Gospel necessitates making sure the order of Law and Gospel is always, Law, then Gospel.

    The problem is as I began intensely reading and studying the sermons of all of the great Lutheran preachers from the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries is that this is nothing but a huge error, and a myth.

    I came to realize that if, in fact, what I had been taught was true, then all preachers, before we gained this “great insight” into how never to preach about good works after you have proclaimed “Gospel,” were poor preachers and were wrong, and even worse, were confusing Law and Gospel, and leaving people only with Law.

    So, as I read the sermons of Luther, Chemnitz, Gerhard down to, of course, CFW Walther, I realized how wrong they all were. They were poor Lutheran preachers! They did not properly distinguish between Law and Gospel. I actually believed this for I had been told this by people teaching about how to preach.

    Yes, I had professors and pastors in fact confirm my suspicions: Yes, Luther was a poor Lutheran preacher and Walther? Oh, he talked a good Law/Gospel game, but he blew it in the pulpit. Seriously, this is what I was explicitly told and taught.

    St. Paul? What about him? Oh, he was writing letters, he was not preaching sermons, therefore, the letters of Paul can never be used as any sort of model for Lutheran preaching.

    But then it dawned on me how utterly foolish all this was, that in fact, those proposing how Lutheran preaching was in “error” before we entered the enlightened age in which we never mention good works after proclaiming Gospel were the ones who were, quite entirely, and horribly, wrong.

    Here are the insights I gained when reading orthodox Lutheran sermons:

    Law and Gospel are to be *distinguished* but not separated or divided one from the other.

    Law is not the “negative/bad” parts in a sermon, and Gospel are the “happy/positive” parts.

    The Law always accuses, but it does not ONLY or MERELY accuse when preaching to Christians.

    The distinction between Law and Gospel is NOT a matter of making sure of Law and Gospel word counts, always making sure there are more words of Gospel, then you know it has predominated.

    The distinction between Law and Gospel is not a matter of sequence, but of emphasis, in a sermon.

  15. @Carl Vehse #8
    How rich! It’s fun to think that today’s Eminem was yesterday’s Scott Joplin.
    I imagine that if Dr Kurt Marquart was a contemporary of Walther we might be treated to the following:

    Listening to the “music” of swine such as Scott Joplin is sinful and willfully choosing to listen to it is sin that drives out the Holy Spirit. This is deadly serious business. Deadly. Serious.

  16. Rev. Karl Hess :
    This is unfortunately all too often aided and abetted by pastors and professors behaving as though impious behavior were a mark of orthodoxy.
    Also, too often, hatred of evangelicalism or “protestantism” leads us to reject piety that is simply “Christian,” or to forget the reality that many, many people have weak consciences that they cannot simply dismiss.

    Unfortunately, yes, this is true.

  17. J. Dean :
    A very good post, and one that addresses a serious issue that can be misunderstood on both sides. One of the criticisms I have heard about Lutheranism (and to an extent Calvinism as well) by the wider evangelical community is that the push of faith alone creates antinomianism. Now certainly, they don’t help their argument by wallowing in hyper-Wesleyan/charismatic influenced pietism, but they do have a point, and Mr. Fisher does well in bringing up this post, as it brings relief to me (who is considering Lutheranism) that sound Lutheranism abhors Antinomianism and a lawless gospel.
    I think part of the problem is that Lutherans see the evangelical mindset of treating the third use of the law as something completely separate from the gospel and become reactionary against it (which is not entirely unjust). But in truth, the third use of the law should be incorporated while IN LIGHT of the gospel, not apart from the gospel. When St. Paul issues commands in the epistles, he quite frequently does it while referencing the already established fact of justification (In other words, he doesn’t say “Do this to be saved” but rather “Since you are saved, this is how your works should be flowing from your faith”). To be sure, the mortification of the flesh should not be (again, as evangelicals often unwittingly portray it) seen as solely a work of man with God acting as a passive spectator wringing His hands in hopes that we do the right thing. Rather, it needs to be taken into account that, while it is true we work out our salvation, that God works out that salvation in us (Phil 2:11-12). It should be made clear that our growth in grace is God empowered and God worked, while at the same time we are not lifeless mannequins or puppets in the process.
    Keep preaching, my brothers! Closer and closer to Wittenberg you pull me!

    Well put, Dean, thanks.

  18. @Rev. McCall #15

    I don’t understand the distinction between your post and a sermon. Or at least a sermon in which the writer is intending to have the listeners change their behavior.

    Your post is intended to change people’s behavior. The writer of the sermon (who wants to change people’s behavior — not always the goal of every sermon) is doing the same thing.

    Ergo, we would expect the same technique to be used. But you do not follow that.

    So once again, your own example serves AS an example of how proclaiming Law and Gospel does not exactly bring out the change that one hopes for.

    If it did, that is how you would have written your post.

    Let me ask this in a different way: suppose you WERE writing a sermon. Suppose you were preaching to a bunch of pastors and wanted to make this point. As a rough sketch, how would you say this?

  19. @Rev. McCall #15

    Just to clarify something: my problem is that you seem to be saying “This is not legitimate inside the service, as a sermon; but it is legitimate outside of a sermon.”

    Which suggests that the actual work of forming Christians occurs outside of the Divine Service — you know?

  20. @mbw #12

    What do you mean? I have never listened to Eminem and never intend to, so I don’t know if he is a “scumbag” or not. Is it that the lyrics are blasphemous and sinful? (I suppose I will have to Google-up some of the songs from this group and find out for myself. :/ )

    I wish Rev. McCain would have just answered my questions; which are not rhetorical. For some reason he must have missed them, although he is responding to some who posted before and after me.

  21. @Mark Louderback #21
    Is the purpose of a sermon to change behavior? Again, then why not just go to the Mormon church, they do a much better job. Or maybe the purpose of the sermon is to proclaim the Gospel.

    @Rev. Paul T. McCain #16
    The Law says “Do”. The Gospel says “Done”. I’m not sure I said the sermon had to end on Gospel. I guess I can’t see how that would be a bad thing though.

    Were Paul’s letters all sermons?! I guess I missed that one! Also, which Walther should I believe then? The one from his writings or his sermons?

    Let’s make a distinction here. There is only one Law. “Gospel exhortation” is an attempt to mingle the two.
    “…the law is and remains one single law, the unchangeable will of God.” -FC VI.

    So why do we preach? I believe the purpose of a sermon is to proclaim the Gospel. What God has done for you in Christ. How do good works come about then? As an uncoerced response to the Gospel.

    “Believers, however, do without coercion, with a willing spirit, insofar as they are born anew, what no threat of the law could ever force from them.” -FC VI

    If by the end of our sermons we still need the Law to coerce people to live Godly lives then perhaps our Gospel proclamation needs a little work.
    The danger in what you describe is what I see all too often in sermons. Jesus and the Gospel are just an obligatory blip in the sermon because the real purpose is to point out how you have sinned and then how you should fix it/can live better. That is an emphasis of all LAW. Jesus is just a guy who helps you be a better person.

    “Proclamation gets displaced by explanation, teaching, lecturing, persuasion, ethical exhortation, or public display of emotion about Jesus. Proclamation…is explicit declaration of the good news, the gospel, the kerygma.”

    -“Theology is for Proclamation”, Gerhard Forde

  22. @NathanG92 #13

    You are right about not forgetting the Law after the Gospel has been preached — but there is also a distinction between talking about behavior as being sinful and giving a model of behavior that is the Christian life.

    And nor is your memory so short that you forget the Gospel when you hear the Law again, right?

    Law and Gospel were NOT being preached correctly in pre-Reformation.

    Never? Ever? Seems pretty bold. I mean, there were Christians pre-Reformation. They heard the Gospel. But they did not do the good works naturally. No, they did what they thought was a good work.

    Why is that?

    Take the Baptists you encounter: once again, they heard the Gospel, correct? Why then are they not doing the right good works? Why are they going astray? If they heard the Law and the Gospel that would be enough — but still they go astray. Why?

    And furthermore — what is your correction? How would you approach this?

    Finally, I agree with you about the predominance of the Gospel. My point is that we as Lutherans can’t seem to get an idea of how to talk to people about living a pious life. It is here that we allow misunderstandings of Law/Gospel distinction so that we eschew any proclamation of how now then a person should live, believing that the Gospel alone will bring about these good works.

    So, we hold pastors to “Law then Gospel” sermons (in structure) and don’t want them to preach specifically on sins (“Avoid crappy music” in this case. Although, a lot of Eminem is extremely perceptive. His is the example of Law written on the heart. And when he raps about it, it is actually very perceptive and touching and pertinent, which is why he is so popular.) because that is what Evangelicals do every single sermon.

    While at the same time, allowing for parents and the like — or posters on websites — to bring the Law very particularly to individuals. And not follow a “Law then Gospel and the New Man will do good works” paradigm.

  23. Where can we read Walther’s sermons? I have found a few here and there online–including a superb one on vocation that would really speak to the Law and Gospel issues discussed on this thread–but I don’t know of a book of collected works.

    Also, wouldn’t it be even better to start with Romans? Basically 11 chapters of making the case that we are sinners but that Christ has saved us, and how great the sin is and how great the gift is, wrapping up with a doxology, and then the rest of the book about what to do in response.

  24. @Rev. McCall #24

    Is the purpose of a sermon to change behavior?

    Yes. Some.

    If you do not believe this, you need to read more Confessional sermons. You need to read more Luther.

    Shoot, read more Jesus. Do you think when he says “Therefore do not worry…” that he doesn’t mean it? When he tells the woman caught in adultery “Go and sin no more” that he doesn’t mean it?

    Or once again: is it legitimate for parents — and you — once again, your own method of trying to convince me does not follow “Law then Gospel and Mark Louderback will naturally do good works.” — why? Why is that?

    Or is the point simply “The sermon is not designed to change behavior; that is for Christians to do outside of the worship service” — which I find problematic.

    Perhaps if we were a bit more serious about teaching the Word of God, we would have people actually willing to give up two years of their life for Mission work. Is that really so bad?

    How do good works come about then? As an uncoerced response to the Gospel.

    If you actually believed this, your posts would be different. Your posts are different because you do not actually believe this to be true. Your actions display what you truly believe. And it is not that good works come as uncoerced response to the Gospel.

  25. @Carol Broome #26
    “Where can we read Walther’s sermons? I have found a few here and there online–including a superb one on vocation that would really speak to the Law and Gospel issues discussed on this thread–but I don’t know of a book of collected works.”

    Carol–check this site out. Some collections on CD available here, some books including “Luther’s Family Devotions”, among other things.

    http://markvpublications.com/

    Go to “Strewn Leaves” tab for publications:

    http://markvpublications.com/documents/quick_directory.html

    Happy Reading!

  26. My experience and observations follow that of Rev. McCain … especially in the way I was taught to preach, and then reading the sermons of Luther, Chemnitz, Gerhard, and Walther, who did not “strictly” follow the Law/Gospel dynamic as I was taught. I especially find a lot of sanctification preaching in Luther. I will not belabor what was already well stated but would like to add this from Walther’s own lectures on Law and Gospel.

    Thesis VII : First Corinthians 1:30″He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” Here we have the true sequence. The first requirement is to obtain wisdom, [that is,] knowledge of the way of salvation. This is the primary step. Next comes righteousness, which we obtain by faith. Not until this has been obtained does sanctification come. I must first know that God has forgiven my sins, that he has cast them into the depth of the sea, before it gives me real joy to lead a sanctified life. Before that it was a serious burden to me. At first I was angry at God; I hated Him for demanding so many things of me. I would have liked to cast Him from His throne. I thought in my heart: “It would be beter if there were no God.” But once I was pardoned and justified, I delighted – not only in the Gospel but also in the Law. [Law and Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Gospel, CPH, 2010, p. 103]

    Thesis VII again : Let us move on to the apostolic Epistles, especially to the one addressed to the Romans, which contains the Christian doctrine in its entirety. What do we find in the first three chapters? The toughest preaching of the Law. The toward the end of the third chapter and in chapters 4 and 5, the doctrine of justification is addressed. Beginning at chapter 6, the apostle deals solely with sanctification. Here we have a true pattern of the correct esquence: First the Law, threatening men with the wrath of God; next the Gospel, announcing the comforting promises of God. This is followed by instruction regarding the things we are to do after becoming new people … I want to do as Luther did; for if I achieved anything worthwhile, I have learned it from him. [Law and Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Gospel, CPH, 2010, p. 105-106]

    Just yesterday I reprimanded my son for the way in which he at times responds to people greeting him, especially those who show an excitement in seeing him, such as classmates and his new teacher. He would act uninterested and as if he was brushing them off, not returning their greeting but looking down or away and giving a flippant hand wave. Of course this was unacceptable and rude behavior and we let him know it. We helped him to see our concern and what his actions were saying to others, even though he did not mean it that way. He repented of what he was doing. We then extended grace and forgiveness to him. But after that, I did not leave him to figure out what would be appropriate, like perhaps simply looking stone faced and speaking in a monotone voice and extending a rigid hand to shake, or any other less than salutary responses, but rather taught and modeled to him how to respectfully and properly return another’s greeting by looking them in eye, smiling and appreciating that person’s interest in him and giving equal if not more interest and attention to them.

    The point is that the Law, in addition to accusing us, does also serve to instruct us in the will of God and the Christian life, lest we fall prey to those things we think are good but are nothing other than the monkery in Luther’s day (who made up all kinds of “good works” apart from the commands of God), especially as we struggle as same time sinner and saint.

    In addition, Luther did write explanations to the Ten Commandments so that not only would we know NOT what to do as given in the commandments, but so also what we ought to do as the regenerate children of God. It looks to me that our Lutheran forefathers knew the value and biblical testimony of exhorting the saints to the sanctified life.

  27. James Gier :
    My experience and observations follow that of Rev. McCain … especially in the way I was taught to preach, and then reading the sermons of Luther, Chemnitz, Gerhard, and Walther, who did not “strictly” follow the Law/Gospel dynamic as I was taught. I especially find a lot of sanctification preaching in Luther. I will not belabor what was already well stated but would like to add this from Walther’s own lectures on Law and Gospel.
    Thesis VII : First Corinthians 1:30?He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” Here we have the true sequence. The first requirement is to obtain wisdom, [that is,] knowledge of the way of salvation. This is the primary step. Next comes righteousness, which we obtain by faith. Not until this has been obtained does sanctification come. I must first know that God has forgiven my sins, that he has cast them into the depth of the sea, before it gives me real joy to lead a sanctified life. Before that it was a serious burden to me. At first I was angry at God; I hated Him for demanding so many things of me. I would have liked to cast Him from His throne. I thought in my heart: “It would be beter if there were no God.” But once I was pardoned and justified, I delighted – not only in the Gospel but also in the Law. [Law and Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Gospel, CPH, 2010, p. 103]
    Thesis VII again : Let us move on to the apostolic Epistles, especially to the one addressed to the Romans, which contains the Christian doctrine in its entirety. What do we find in the first three chapters? The toughest preaching of the Law. The toward the end of the third chapter and in chapters 4 and 5, the doctrine of justification is addressed. Beginning at chapter 6, the apostle deals solely with sanctification. Here we have a true pattern of the correct esquence: First the Law, threatening men with the wrath of God; next the Gospel, announcing the comforting promises of God. This is followed by instruction regarding the things we are to do after becoming new people … I want to do as Luther did; for if I achieved anything worthwhile, I have learned it from him. [Law and Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Gospel, CPH, 2010, p. 105-106]
    Just yesterday I reprimanded my son for the way in which he at times responds to people greeting him, especially those who show an excitement in seeing him, such as classmates and his new teacher. He would act uninterested and as if he was brushing them off, not returning their greeting but looking down or away and giving a flippant hand wave. Of course this was unacceptable and rude behavior and we let him know it. We helped him to see our concern and what his actions were saying to others, even though he did not mean it that way. He repented of what he was doing. We then extended grace and forgiveness to him. But after that, I did not leave him to figure out what would be appropriate, like perhaps simply looking stone faced and speaking in a monotone voice and extending a rigid hand to shake, or any other less than salutary responses, but rather taught and modeled to him how to respectfully and properly return another’s greeting by looking them in eye, smiling and appreciating that person’s interest in him and giving equal if not more interest and attention to them.
    The point is that the Law, in addition to accusing us, does also serve to instruct us in the will of God and the Christian life, lest we fall prey to those things we think are good but are nothing other than the monkery in Luther’s day (who made up all kinds of “good works” apart from the commands of God), especially as we struggle as same time sinner and saint.
    In addition, Luther did write explanations to the Ten Commandments so that not only would we know NOT what to do as given in the commandments, but so also what we ought to do as the regenerate children of God. It looks to me that our Lutheran forefathers knew the value and biblical testimony of exhorting the saints to the sanctified life.

    That was superbly well put, interesting how we both apparently experienced the same faulty teaching about preaching and were “rescued” from it simply by paying attention to Luther and our other fathers in the Faith.

  28. “It looks to me that our Lutheran forefathers knew the value and biblical testimony of exhorting the saints to the sanctified life.”

    This is more important now than it probably was 50 years ago. We don’t have much of a moral consensus in society to back us up on this, so there is more need to teach it explicitly–both in the home and in church.

  29. @#4 Kitty #17: “It’s fun to think that today’s Eminem was yesterday’s Scott Joplin.”

    That may be a little extreme. I checked Youtube but I couldn’t find any audio/video links to “Eminem” or “rap” that could be regarded as “music”… or sentient for that matter.

    However I did find these quotes about “rap music”:

    “It is not uncommon thing in these days of rampant frivolity and seemingly almost universal imbecility to hear in hotels and other place of public gathering not only a continuous series of the trashiest rap music pieces played… which are a deliberate insult to all intelligent persons present.”

    “The counters of the music stores are loaded with this virulent poison which, in the form of a malarious epidemic, is finding its way into the homes and brains of the youth to such an extent as to arouse one’s suspicions of their sanity.”

    “Rap music is syncopation gone mad, and its victims, in my opinion, can only be treated successfully like the dog with rabies, namely with a dose of lead. Whether it is simply a passing phase of our decadent art culture or an infectious disease which has come to stay, like la grippe and leprosy, time alone can show.”

    Oh wait! Those quotes (among many!) came from early 20th-century writers about “ragtime,” not “rap music.” And here’s another complaint regarding ragtime:

    “I have often sat in theatres and listened to beautiful ragtime melodies set to almost vulgar words as a song, and I have wondered why some composers will continue to make the public hate ragtime melodies because the melodies are set to such bad words.”

    “I have often heard people say after they heard a ragtime song, “I like the music, but I don’t like the words.” And most people who say they do not like ragtime have reference to the words and not the music.”

    “So it is the unwholesome words and not the ragtime melodies that many people hate.”

    That complaint was from Scott Joplin (“Theatrical Comment,” New York Age, April 3, 1913, p. 6).

  30. @mbw #12

    Miles, I looked up some of Eminem’s songs and I am astonished by how vile what I read is. I can’t imagine listening to such “music” and that brings me to this point. My questions which I asked Rev. McCain above are not designed to defend listening to such vulgar and sinful lyrics such as those I read from Eminem. No wonder I have no interest in his music. But, I never liked rap to begin with (not all rap is the same I am sure).

    I apologize for any confusion my questions might be causing, but I want to be clear that I AM NOT defending listening to music which has incredibly vulgar lyrics such as the few I read from Eminem. Along with Pr. McCain, I can’t understand how a Christian would want to fill their heads with such filth.

  31. Luther, who, however, had merely stated that faith is never alone, though it alone
    justifies. His axiom was:
    “Faith alone justifies, but it is not alone–
    _Fides sola iustificat, sed non est sola._”

    According to Luther good works, wherever they are found, are present in virtue of faith;
    where they are not present, they are absent because faith is lacking;
    nor can they preserve the faith by which alone they are produced.

    Introductions to the SymbolicalBooks of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, by Friedrich Bente

    @Mark Louderback #27

    I know this is allot!

    But sometimes allot is needed.

    Jim, Your music question is answered here. It does not matter what the activity is, what matters is the induced result of an activity, as I am sure you will understand in reading the below.

    I have been maligned as liking too much LAW. Probably true, but I will not have someone call up from Gehenna and ask me why I did not preach too little law to go with The Lords euangelion!

    Hear the word of the LORD,
    you who tremble at his word:
    “Your brothers who hate you
    and cast you out for my name’s sake
    have said, ‘Let the LORD be glorified,
    that we may see your joy’;
    but it is they who shall be put to shame.

    “The sound of an uproar from the city!
    A sound from the temple!
    The sound of the LORD,
    rendering recompense to his enemies!

    [False Prophets and Teachers]

    But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

    And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.

    And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
    For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard);

    then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.

    Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.

    These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved.

    For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption.

    For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.

    What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

    (2 Peter 2 ESV)

  32. @Jim Pierce #34

    Jim, I know you are not defending it! I apologize if I implied that!

    As a recovering liberal, I can condemn myself for both antinomianism and pietism at the same time!

  33. @Jim Pierce #23

    > I wish Rev. McCain would have just answered my questions; which are not rhetorical.

    And my answer was hardly precise. I know your question was a good and sincere one.

    I delude myself that I am suffering from the same frustration with Lutheran antinomianism that Marquardt identified. I am probably suffering from it only as manifested in _others_.

  34. #4 Kitty :
    @Carl Vehse #8
    How rich! It’s fun to think that today’s Eminem was yesterday’s Scott Joplin.
    I imagine that if Dr Kurt Marquart was a contemporary of Walther we might be treated to the following:

    Listening to the “music” of swine such as Scott Joplin is sinful and willfully choosing to listen to it is sin that drives out the Holy Spirit. This is deadly serious business. Deadly. Serious.

    #4, you’re full of it on this one. You need a visit to the litter box.

  35. @mbw #37

    No apology is necessary and I didn’t think you were making the implication. I just wanted to be sure that those reading understood that I was in no way defending content such as I found in some of the songs of Eminem. However, I do appreciate your offering of an apology and thank you. 🙂

  36. Eminem = One way ticket to Hell!

    It is Damning for Christians to listen to and claim to “enjoy” the lyrics of Eminem.

    50 Shades of Gray = maybe

    Scott Joplin = Heavenly 😉

    Scott Joplin did not have lyrics

  37. @Mark Huntemann #44

    > Scott Joplin = Heavenly 😉

    Totally agreed, especially as rendered by Joshua Rifkin.

    I am waiting for specifics from Dr. Vehse on how Walther condemned Scott Joplin.

    The ragtime genre had plenty of genuinely bad associations and it would have been entirely reasonable to deprecate it in general. AS AN EXCEPTION to the bad culture and bad music, Scott Joplin intended to produce, and did produce, a refined and even classical variant of ragtime. And Joshua Rifkin restored Joplin most wonderully.

    The rhythmic patterns of ragtime, boogie-woogie, blues, then rock have always been criticized as being more of the flesh than, say, European classical works. For all I know, this has an element of truth. It depends upon the capabilities of music (without words) as a language. If music constitutes a kind of language, I wonder if it can express the Gospel.

    Very little music here on fallen Earth is totally above criticism. However, as the wood gets drier and drier and the world gets deader and deader and more and more evil, even some slightly earthy or fleshy things from decades or centuries ago begin to sound quaint at times. That in no way excuses deeper thrusts into apostasy and away from even natural law such as “Eminem” and numerous other copycat murdering drug abusing woman-abusing child-abusing rap scum thugs.

    BTW Beethoven invented boogie-woogie and kind-of invented ragtime. Check out Op. 111.

  38. @mbw #45

    I do agree with you.

    Joplin had no lyrics with most all of his music. His two plays were very temperate in their subject matter and execution. I too am very interested in hearing form my good friend on the subject and citations from where Walther condemned Scott Joplin.

    You are aware we are hijacking this thread?

    Oh well at least we beat Rev. McCain to it this time! 😉

  39. Who has adopted a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy about sanctification? I am not arguing in any way against sanctification or good works. Please don’t try to label me with that. Everyone keeps giving examples but none of them are specific to the “sermon”. Jesus taught and spoke a lot of things to a lot of people. The Samaritan woman was not a sermon. What I teach my children is not a sermon (even though they may think it is one!). What I teach in Bible class is not a sermon. So let’s be clear about that distinction. The point is, should the main thrust of a sermon be about what I must do and how I must live or about how Christ lived and what He did for me?

    If I make the purpose of the sermon about what someone should do, that is Law, pure and simple. It tells me what I must do. It also runs the great risk of distorting sanctification into something I do rather than what the Holy Spirit does. Many sermons that use “Gospel exhortation” fall into this trap. The sermon then becomes all about what I must do rather than about what Christ has done. Anyone can feel free to argue that that should be the point of the sermon. God bless you! I don’t feel that it is. And despite a lack of “Gospel exhortation” in my sermons, all the bad training I got from those homiletical profs, and the miusguided writings of Walther in “Law and Gospel”, I’ll still stick with the main point of a sermon should be to preach what Christ has done, not what I must do.

  40. Pr. Louderback @ #25,

    “They heard the Gospel. But they did not do the good works naturally. No, they did what they thought was a good work.

    Why is that?

    Take the Baptists you encounter: once again, they heard the Gospel, correct? Why then are they not doing the right good works? Why are they going astray?”

    I really wonder what is on your list of the “right good works” and, assuming your list is correct, how you know that those works are not being done by those you cite.

    Further, it would be interesting to know how you can tell the difference between good works (assuming they are on your list of the “right” ones) that are performed by those without faith and those same works performed by one who is presumably a person of faith.

    Or, for that matter, those same works performed by a person of faith whose old Adam is acting under the extortion of the Law as opposed to his new man responding to the Gospel. Such discernment! How does one come by it?

  41. I would ask in general why not just preach the Law and the Gospel. As long as both are preached and the Gospel is not overshadowed by the Law then let the chips fall as they may. The uses of the Law (I like ‘functions’ better) are decided by the Holy Spirit and how the Law (as well as the Gospel) falls on the ears of the hearer is in the hands of God.

    What a terrible burden it would seem to preach if one does not believe that.

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