Virtue To Grace: Why The Converted Need To Be Converted!

“The Christian life is not an exodus from vice to virtue,
but rather from virtue to grace.”  -Gerhard Forde

Growing up as a child it was my perception that one needed to be converted. Yes, converted. Unconverted people were those that would smoke, drink, chew and date girls that do. Converted people were those that didn’t smoke, drink or chew. Converted people were those that went to church, tithed, said please and thank you and had an aura of cleanliness that was next to Godliness. Regardless if this was my own legalism informing my perception or if it was the fruit of my church’s material principle, the previous ideology sees conversion as converting from vice to virtue.

Vice to virtue conversions see conversion primarily in the external actions of the individual. “I used to be a drunk, now I am not a drunk. Praise God.” Vice to virtue conversions see people as a part of the flock based not upon a common confession but upon a common lifestyle or a preset list of social acceptable norms. In order to be converted in a vice to virtue conversion the individual must adhere to a specified set of standards and exhibit the proper fruit. The problem with this vice to virtue conversion mentality is that a person can externally exert all sorts of energy in order to rid himself of his immoral vices. He can polish himself up through effective alcoholic treatments from the doom of alcoholism. He can use effective accountability groups and internet filters to cut out the seduction of pornography. He can curb the sourness of his cursing tongue and the entrapment of gossip through carefully monitored speech. A person can externally rid himself of all of these moral deficiencies and still be eternally lost; that is damned.[1]  The reason for this is that mankind’s virtues cannot justify in the eyes of God.

Painfully I have witnessed countless well-meaning Christians, pastors and authors advocating for vice to virtue conversions. The problems with vice to virtue conversions are plentiful. For starters, how does one know if they have fully rid themselves of the vice and how do they know if they have fully embraced the new virtue? One can never have assurance. Secondly, this view of conversion points people to “self.” One will always be looking inward to rid vice and acquire virtue by the strength of their will. Thirdly, the vice to virtue convert will always seek a message/sermon that consists of steps, encouragements and principles to aid in the journey from vice to virtue… messages that are Christless or Crossless at best. Fourthly, the vice to virtue convert essentially needs to be converted yet again. Converted? Yes, converted because they are living not in grace but in an alternate reality of moralism.

The vice to virtue convert needs to be converted not from vice to virtue but from virtue to grace. This is a whole paradigm shift. While churches and ministries that encourage vice to virtue conversions can be commended in the realm of morality and external behavior modification, this journey from vice to virtue unfortunately misses the essence of Jesus and His grace. You may respond by saying, “But why not from vice to grace?” It is true that we need to be converted from vice to grace but equally important we need to be converted from virtue to grace. Ellie Corrow states,

“The trouble is that we need to be saved from our ‘good works’ as much as we need to be saved from our vices. In short we need to be saved from ourselves; our trespasses are not restricted to obvious vices, but also extend to our most pious good works. Why? Because we imagine that they are, indeed, good works that just might improve our standing before God. Our piety can actually stand between us and the Savior. No one says, ‘I’m too good to go to heaven’ but how many people, even those who should know better, think ‘I’m fine, at least I’m not like that tax collector over there.”

The problem with virtue is not that good works are inherently evil, rather it is what our sinful nature does with the good works. The Old Adam (i.e. sinful nature) grabs a hold of virtue for itself, raises it up and says, “Look at what I have done.” The Old Adam is always looking for a way to justify itself. Thus when we cling to virtue as assurance, worth and/or merit before God we are essentially stating that we don’t need Jesus. (See Galatians 5:2) If we can become so virtuous, why would we need Jesus and His cross? This is why Paul consistently condemns vices of all flavors in his epistles and it is also why he considers his virtues as rubbish in Philippians 3:4-9. Nothing, I mean nothing; can be a proper substitute for Christ crucified! Everything, both vices and virtues, is rubbish in justification compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ.

Conversion from virtue to grace is a conversion that is not void of virtue though, for virtues are present in grace! The virtues that are present in grace are Jesus’ virtues. Jesus who knew no sin was made to be sin on our behalf so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21) My vices, our vices, are taken up by Jesus and we are ‘gifted’ the virtues of Jesus as if they are our own. Imputed! Converted from our works to Jesus’ works. It is not about our works in justification but about Jesus’ work for us.

Virtue to Grace… Grace Alone. Amen.

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[1] Paraphrase of a C.F.W. Walther Quote

About Pastor Matt Richard

Rev. Dr. Matthew Richard is the pastor at Zion Lutheran Church of Gwinner, ND. He was previously a Senior Pastor in Sidney, Montana, an Associate Pastor of Spiritual Care and Youth Ministries in Williston, North Dakota, and an Associate Pastor of Children and Youth in Rancho Cucamonga, California. He received his undergraduate degree from Minot State University, ND and his M.Div. from Lutheran Brethren Seminary, MN. His doctor of ministry thesis, from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO, was on exploring the journey of American Evangelicals into Confessional Lutheran thought. Pastor Richard is married to Serenity and they have two children. He enjoys fishing, pheasant hunting, watching movies, blogging, golfing, spending time with his family and a good book with a warm latte! To check out more articles by Pastor Matt you can visit his personal blog at: www.pastormattrichard.com.

Comments

Virtue To Grace: Why The Converted Need To Be Converted! — 231 Comments

  1. John, this is not a personal exchange, it is a discussion of Frank’s public assertions. Ironically, rather than contributing anything of substance to the conversations you are engaging merely in personal criticism. And I notice you did not restrict yourself to private e-mails.

    Seems to be a double standard you are functioning with.

    On the other hand, if you actually have something of substance to contribute to the conversation, that would be helpful.

  2. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #49

    show me from the text.
    I have frequently quoted the text.
    You have so far never done so to make your point.

    DEADLY error. You just love hyperbole dont you?
    I agree that same gender sex in any context is sinful. I do not advocate for gay marriage.

    I simply say that our confessions tell us that if ANY man,, including gay ones, comes to the personal conclusion that he is not able to maintain sexual self control , that ONLY advice we are to give that man is to find a woman and get married.

    Again our confessions say that the ONLY biblical and natural remedy God has provided for sexual self control is marriage of man and woman. They say it is therefore wrong to look for a supernatural remedy, and that all men should be married with rare exceptions.
    THEREFORE pastors MUST be allowed to marry.

    the confutation disagrees how?
    they disagree that marriage is the ONLY remedy for sexual self control.
    they say that priests should rely on Christ for the strength to maintain sexual self control through prayer, fasting, avoiding the wrong company etc. Phil 4.
    THerefore marriage is not the ONLY remedy for maintaining sexual self control they say.

    again: those ARE the two sides of the argument as to art 23!

    SHOW me I am wrong, from the text!

    You refuse to answer which side of the argument you are on pastor Mc cain.
    You refuse to respond to even a single one of my questions.
    The other readers should note that.
    Especially on sanctiication and natural law.

    this is all a deliberate distraction on your part to avoid your having to expose your thomist theology on sanctification and the fact you deny that the Image of God was entirely lost.

  3. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #1

    Pastor Mc Cain. John is right.
    You are insisting on hijacking this thread focussing on my person and homosexuality.
    Slandering me.

    Why?

    You want to mask your errors on sanctification and your embrace of the Thomist Natural Law theory that denies that the Image of God was completely lost.
    It is really that simple isnt it.
    Why the dishonesty?

  4. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #1

    I think John is pointing out, politely, that you are really discussion me and my character, calling me a liar and dishonest and all.

    You are not really displaying any real interest in actually discussing doctrine.
    YOu just keep repeating either that **I** am wrong, dangerously wrong, ridiculously wrong, or some other such over the top gratuitous modifier. or that I am being less than honest .

    It is obvious to everyone here at this point that there is NOTHING I can say that is going to make you desist from this tack. Why is that?

    You are not actually discussing the text of the confessions or the roman refutation or the doctrine.

    Your animus is all aimed at me and not at all what I am saying.

  5. Frank, you said:

    “show me from the text.
    I have frequently quoted the text.”

    You have quoted the text. You are misapplying the text. You are misunderstanding the point of the text. You are deliberately doing so.

    This is why you are wrong, dead wrong.

    Further conversation with you, Frank, is pointless. You are using this web site to work out the personal issues you struggle with as a homosexual.

    This is not the place to do that. You should do that in private confession with your pastor.

    But you are spewing nonsense and intentionally now misinterpreting the Lutheran Confessions, trying to force them to fit into your tortured arguments.

    Telling a homosexual to refrain from any form of homosexual behavior has NOTHING to do with the subjects discussed in the Confessions about priestly marriage.

  6. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #1

    yes you are making this totally a personal exchange pastor Mc cain.
    You really dont care at all about what I have to say or wish to engage or “discuss” it in any way at all do you?

    So it is what John says.

  7. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #5

    You have quoted the text.

    You have not.

    You are misapplying the text.

    And you have not shown WHAT text I have “misapplied” and HOW I have misapplied it.
    You arent really interested in the text. Why not? Because you have clearly stated a position that agrees with ….what the Roman Confutation says.

    You are misunderstanding the point of the text.

    Again:
    Lutheran Confessions: Marriage is the ONLY natural, God commanded and possible means of sexual self control short of a “singular divine intervention”.
    THEREFORE ALL men are commanded to marry. Priests (and gays ) are men.
    THEREFORE Priests MUST be allowed to marry as the only available means to them of sexual self control.

    Roman Confutation: Marriage is NOT the ONLY means of sexual self control.
    Celebacy is possible by relying on the strength Christ provides, prayer and avoiding temptation ala phillipians 4.
    THEREFORE: It is NOT unreasonable to demand that priests (or gays) remain celebate since marriage is not the ONLY means of sexual self control.

    I would be happy to have you show me where the above very simply condensation of the arguments on both sides is in error.

    I keep repeating my exegesis here. You continue to tell us all that my exegesis is dangerous, wrong, error, rediculous, bizzare etc.

    Observation ONE: You would not be resorting to hyperbole if you actually had a basis for your telling me I am wrong from the text. Show me from the text that my simple analysis of the central point of argument is wrong. I have no real investment here one way or the other, except to attempt to be faithful to the confessional text. I would have no problem with your showing me , from the text, to be in error.

    Observation TWO: You are really merely wanting to distract readers here from my calling you out on your error that we can cooperate in sanctification, and that you cling to the error of st thomas natural law that says that the Image of God was not entirely lost.

    We should return to the main topic of this thread in courtesy to other readers pastor Mc Cain.

  8. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #5

    You are using this web site to work out the personal issues you struggle with as a homosexual. … you are spewing nonsense and intentionally now misinterpreting the Lutheran Confessions, trying to force them to fit into your tortured arguments.

    The fair readers here are smart enough to see this as the ad homen and slander that it is.
    My exegesis of the AC, Ap and Roman Confutation in my recent post at #7 is not unreasonable.
    Nor is there any room in my exegesis for pushing any homosexual agenda.
    You refusal to address the text shows you really know that eh?
    Why? You clearly are on the side of Rome when it comes to art 23!

    Telling a homosexual to refrain from any form of homosexual behavior is not insisting he be celibate.

    This would be true ONLY if:
    you also tell that homosexual that :
    1) St Paul has commanded him to find a female and marry her as the ONLY natural, biblically sanctioned form of sexual self control, and
    2) also tell him that it would be sinful and would dishonor marriage as the ONLY God sanctioned remedy by seeking the supernatural remedy described in the Roman Confutation.

  9. FWS:

    No, wrong again Frank.

    You are trying to make the Lutheran Confessions address an issue they did not have in view.

    It is absolutely absurd of you to suggest that it is contrary to the Lutheran Confessions to tell a homosexual to refrain from any homosexual behaviors. Or, put another way, to suggest that is akin to saying we should not tell a heterosexual to refrain from any heterosexual behaviors outside the union of marriage. We are no more doing something wrong by telling a homosexual not to engage in homosexual behavior than we do when we tell an alcoholic to abstain from alcohol.

    You are persisting in your foolish misuse of the Lutheran Confessions.

  10. Frank,

    I said:

    “Frank, you don’t seem to realize that many things in the Confessions are not covered as explicitly as you might think they should be because there were certain matters that were simply uncontested at the time. Have you considered that? Have you read this yet, and if you have not, what are you waiting for?: http://www.lutheranpress.com/sdea.htm

    Everything that I have said above is covered in these disputations, sometimes in great detail (of course, they are covered in the Bible as well, from where the Confessions draw their doctrine)…

    Also, the Church is always reforming. The time may indeed come when the Confessions will need to be supplemented again. That time may be fast coming, in which case you can make sure you will be on the right side by not only immersing yourself in the Confessions, but in the Scriptures, and the writings of Luther, particularly those commended in the Confessions.”

    You replied:

    “You seem to read the Confessions as a paper magisterium, or a compedium of historically settled doctrines.

    I believe the authors intended us to read the Confessions and look over their shoulders and learn how to distinguish and distribute Law and Gospel, also known by the name Two Kingdoms.

    If you focus on reading the Confessions as a way to learn better how to distinguish Law and Gospel, you will be able to take that and apply it to any current doctrine. There is more there to settle current issues of controversy than you think I suggest….”

    Frank, I’m not sure how your response addresses the point I made to you. If new confessions did need to be added in the future, how would that speak against their contemporary application? The Confessions are wonderful for helping us to learn better to distinguish Law and Gospel, and for teaching us more than this as well….

    Frank, what do you make of SD III: 25 (http://bookofconcord.org/sd-righteousness.php) : “For not everything that belongs to conversion belongs likewise to the article of justification, in and to which belong and are necessary only the grace of God, the merit of Christ, and faith, which receives this in the promise of the Gospel, whereby the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, whence we receive and have forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, sonship, and heirship of eternal life.”

    Therefore, we speak of ongoing conversion, which would belong to sanctification. “Only the grace of God, the merit of Christ, and faith” are involved in justification. This implies that there is something more that is involved in sanctification, does it not? Does this not go hand in hand with what I wrote earlier as regards going on to Christian maturity?: https://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=23604&cpage=3#comment-459436

    Quote from that:

    “So, how do we mature? The answer is as simple as it is profound: hearing the Word of God, participating in the sacraments, and exercising ourselves according to the whole counsel of God. This goes hand in hand with the drowning of the old Adam that is daily repentance. Knowing that we live by them, we seek out every word from his mouth, and these comfort and help equip us, so that we leave childhood behind and attain to the “mature manhood” mentioned in Eph 4: 13-15. Since “the word of God…is at work in you believers” (I Thes. 2:13), this is the kind of activity we actively run to, and initiate ourselves as well.”

    (also see SD III, 65-68 and 88, which are a good counter-balance to SD III, 34-43, which, if taken by themselves might give the impression that there is no synergism, or cooperation, in sanctification)

    I am also wondering what you think of this: http://bookofconcord.org/smalcald.php#excommunication

    Is there room for excommunication in your view? Why would a person be excommunicated?

    Also, Luther:

    Luther closes this part of the Smalcald Articles (Part III, Article III, Penitence):

    “It is, accordingly, necessary to know and to teach that when holy men, still having and feeling original sin, also daily repenting of and striving with it, happen to fall into manifest sins, as David into adultery, murder, and blasphemy, that then faith and the Holy Ghost has departed from them [they cast out faith and the Holy Ghost]. For the Holy Ghost does not permit sin to have dominion, to gain the upper hand so as to be accomplished, but represses and restrains it so that it must not do what it wishes. But if it does what it wishes, the Holy Ghost and faith are [certainly] not present. For St. John says, 1 John 3:9: Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, … and he cannot sin. And yet it is also the truth when the same St. John says, 1:8: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”

    Or as it says in SD III, 41:

    “when the person is justified, he is also renewed and sanctified by the Holy Ghost, from which renewal and sanctification the fruits of good works then follow…. That is: ***This should not be understood as though justification and renewal were sundered from one another in such a manner that a genuine faith sometimes could exist and continue for a time together with a wicked intention.***”

    Our good works do not save us. We are wrong also if we operate with the assumption that by doing good works we will be able to preserve our faith. But note what Luther is saying here in the Smalcald articles (which is echoed in the Formula). Why is what he says true? Is it true?

    +Nathan

  11. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #9

    Of COURSE we are to advise anyone to avoid sinning. Why would we not?
    Who is arguing that we should not do that?

    AGAIN:
    The central argument at issue between Rome and the Lutherans was simply this:

    Lutherans:
    Since Marriage is the ONLY natural God given means of sexual chastity.
    Therefore pastors (and by inferrence gays) MUST marry.
    It would be sinful for pastors (and by inferrence gays) to seek a supernatural means.
    To do that would be to dishonor and ignore the natural means that St Paul COMMANDS ALL men to make use of , who cannot maintain sexual chastity.

    Rome:
    Marriage is NOT the ONLY means to sexual chastity.
    We can also pray for super-natural christ-driven strength. And to prove this they quote: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phil 4
    Therefore: It is NOT wrong or unreasonable to demand that pastors (and gays) be celebate.

    AGAIN:
    Where is there any aid or comfort for a homosexual agenda in my exegesis?
    Why do you label my exegesis “dangerous” or “Bizzare”?

    If my outline of the main argument in art 23 and the Roman Confutation is wrong or defective, then….
    what is the correct outline?

    You refuse to tell us! YOu merely continue to bloviate and refuse to ever address the text itself

  12. @Nathan #10

    i was suggesting not just paragraph 48 but also all the paragraphs that follow.

    note that art VI makes this point that there is NO diference , in the Good works themselves, between those that are fruits of the spirit versus good works that are fruits of repentence or fruilts of the law.

    peace joy love etc are fruits of the Spirit They are also, identically so, fruits of the Law.
    The diference is in the doer not in what is done.

  13. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #9

    again, as far as I can tell, you seem to favor the position of the Roman Confutation as to art 23

    Rome argues that that marriage is not the ONLY means to sexual chastity, and that umnarried singles such as pastors and gays should seek the supernatural christ powered means outlined in the confutation. marriage is optional even for those who make the personal judgement that they are not succeeding at continence. .

    Would that be a fair assessment? i

  14. @Nathan #10

    it would be helpful for you to state a theisis or argumentative assertion.

    I cant answer you because i dont know what point you are driving towards that you feel is a difference we have.

    what would be the question that would frame what you perceive to be a difference between us?

    Maybe we agree in part on some point. narrowing things down to precisely where we disagree will save lots of time.

    and then quote the confessions where you feel they answer the question in the way you think it should be answered. I then can evaluate and discuss if the confessions you cite actually say what you think they are saying and so whether they support your exegesis or not.

  15. Frank,

    A person who is de-converted does not want to be reconverted. In sum, they don’t want to call “sin” what God calls “sin” (and hence whatever they call “grace” is not what God calls “grace”).

    Regarding: http://bookofconcord.org/sd-righteousness.php#para48

    Frank, this does not help because this is talking about how justification is not to be confused with sanctification. I agree with this (and all that follows, of course). Further, as you know, I agree with you that fruits of the Spirit and fruits of the Law are externally indistinguishable.

    Differences? First of all…

    Do you agree that the Law of God describes that objective form of life wherein (not whereby) our relationships with God and neighbor are nourished and are brought to fulfillment or not?

    You may say that this is not the language of the Formula. I agree. It did not have to be. Time will tell if it needs to be in the future (not because of “paper popery” because we live by every word that comes from the mouth of God and no error or deceit may obstruct these words as God speaks them and means for them to be understood)

    According to FC SD VI, we live and walk *in* the Law by the power of the Spirit (i.e, faith). The Law does work death in the one who lives *by* it as power (i.e. not by faith). Also: “…free from the curse of the Law, yet they should daily exercise themselves *in* the Law of the Lord” (http://bookofconcord.org/sd-thirduse.php#para18 )

    Do you believe that although God declares righteous (by faith, given as a gift) he makes righteous (faith + love), justification and sanctification are to be kept totally distinct in our theology for important pastoral reasons?

    Further, is it wrong to say that [subjective] justification (faith alone)= sanctification (faith +love)?

    Again, Confessions… This is all implicit and assumed in the Confessions! Everything that is in the Confessions is in order to safeguard justification for those with a terrified conscience before God, who justifies the wicked via the external righteousness of Jesus Christ given in his Word. We say we are reckoned righteous by faith in Christ, grasped in the external word – and ***not even because of the perfect righteousness of Christ that begins to dwell in our hearts when justified.***

    As to the issue of marriage, Pastor McCain is right: people with homosexual inclinations and strong sexual urges (i.e. they cannot identify with this: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/04/life-without-sex-the-third-phase-of-the-asexuality-movement/254880/ ) should learn to marry persons of the opposite sex (see http://www.peter-ould.net/2010/01/18/the-day-i-decided-to-stop-being-gay/ and http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/gay-mormon-unicorn/ )

    You want to make marriage totally about law. You can’t do this. Here is a reflection I did on this recently (based in part on my conversations with you): http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/09/21/regarding-jesus-wife-his-real-wife-that-is/

    A clip: “Some persons in the church have issues with the activities that bring forth procreative fruit and others have issues with marriage. Some would just presume sexual intimacy was a result of the fall (some theologians, particularly in the past, have expressed this view). Other would just assume marriage is given only because of the fall, or because the fall was coming….

    The Christian with homosexual inclinations, like any other Christian who fights with particular kinds of sin, should indeed mortify the flesh, daily drowning the Old Adam in repentance. This means that they should fight against their same-sex desires, of which there is no acceptable expression.

    Why is this so? Because we have and are to have the mind of Christ: His designs, desires, thoughts, words and actions. Nothing else is available to us. We are found in His life. Where He is, there we also shall be.

    But perhaps this objection arises: not even married men can think like Christ, who, after all, was never married.

    Of course, this is not true because we are the bride of Christ, our Husband.

    …There are indeed times when the doctrine of creation can becomes Law for no other reason that that it is not Gospel – that is Gospel in the very narrow sense of Jesus’ death and resurrection for sinners – for the infection of sin still weighs heavily upon us. At the same time, there is also a wide sense of the word Gospel, in which everything that God has given and gives us is seen as a gift from Him, as it rightly is. This is especially true of both marriage and sex, as both were given prior to the fall into sin. In this environment, Adam and Eve had original righteousness (in a child-like innocent stage) and everything was a “get to” (there was no law save the one God gave about the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil)!”

    This will have to be it for today. God’s blessings to you Frank.

    +Nathan

  16. Frank,

    Stay tuned… there is another comment that is in moderation due to lots of linkage.

    In our conversation here: http://www.geneveith.com/2012/06/20/the-law-in-the-life-of-christians/

    …the conversation stopped after I said this:

    “Agree that our love is always the Law and that we understand grace relationally (I’d say even when grace sounds like a thing in Scripture its probably not) Surprised you now seem to deny any growth in sanctification. Also, although those God declares righteous (by faith, given as a gift) he makes righteous (faith + love), justification and sanctification are to be kept totally distinct in our theology for important pastoral reasons, therefore we don’t say [subjective] justification (faith alone)= sanctification (faith +love). When we are talking about reconversion (after unrepentant sin has driven out faith, which we are told can happen), we are talking about justification again. Let me know if you’d like the longer explanations (or if you respond and I think you haven’t understood my points I’ll post them), or if anyone else is following this conversation, let me know if you’d like those.”

    Even though you have not asked, I’ve decided to post the whole thing, because I think it may be of help to you. If you disagree, maybe it will be of help to someone else:

    Frank,

    I AM ALL IN CAPS AGAIN. NOT BECAUSE I AM ANGRY BUT BECAUSE I WROTE THIS ON A WORD DOC THIS WEEKEND (WRITING COMMENTS AS I WENT, KEEPING MY COMMENTS IN CAPS TO KEEP THEM SEPARATE).

    “I think you are thinking that #2 comes about by infused grace.
    I believe that Confessions agree with that.
    They actually have no problem with the word infused.
    But the problem is this:

    Your definition of what infused grace is defined, exactly so, by how we are to acquire it.”

    WELL, I’M NOT SURE WHAT YOU MEAN. I DON’T THINK GRACE IS A SUBSTANCE, AND I, LIKE LUTHER DID POST-1520 (?) OR SO, DON’T TALK ABOUT IT BEING INFUSED AT ALL. IT IS RECEIVED IN A RELATIONSHIP AND IS A RELATIONAL TERM. AS REGARDS OUR JUSTIFICATION BEFORE GOD, IT IS RECEIVED PASSIVELY IN OUR PERSONS/WILLS BY FAITH, JUST AS OUR KNOWLEDGE OF GOD’S LAW (AND HENCE OUR SINFUL CONDITION) IS RECEIVED PASSIVELY IN OUR PERSONS/WILLS BY FAITH. THIS SAID, WE DO GROW IN GRACE AS WELL – HOWEVER THAT PLAYS OUT (I’M NOT QUITE SURE!), IT DOES SO RELATIONALLY.

    “The Image of God is COMPLETELY lost in man. This is FC art I.”

    AGAIN YES – EVEN IF EACH PERSON WHO EVERY LIVED WAS CREATED IN HIS IMAGE BEFORE THE BEGINNING OF TIME AND HENCE, THE FALL (SEE LW 1:75). SO WHILE WE CANNOT SAY OF EACH PERSON BORN THAT THEY ARE *IN* THE IMAGE OF GOD – AS ORIGINAL SIN MAKES IT SO THAT WE ARE CONCEIVED IN SIN (NO IMAGE) – WE CAN STILL TECHNICALLY SAY THAT EACH PERSON *IS CREATED* BY GOD IN HIS GOD, EVEN IF SUCH LANGUAGE DOES CAUSE CONUSION!

    “I suspect that we need more clarity to as to how that third form of righteousness comes about, and of what it consists.”

    AS FAR AS WHAT THIS THIRD FORM OF RIGHTEOUSNESS LOOKS LIKE, YES (YOU SAY ARISTOTLE AND I SAY ARISTOTLE IS AMONG THE BEST EARTHLY RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT MAN CAN COME UP WITH BY REASON (THIS IS WHAT I THINK MELANCHTON MEANS – HE DID NOT KNOW OF CONFUCIOUS YOU SEE!) ALL OF THIS WILL BE MISSING HERE OR THERE HOWEVER, SINCE NONE OF US HAS A COMPLETELY GOOD CONSCIENCE AS REGARDS THE LAW OF GOD WRITTEN IN THE HEART, PARTICULARLY PAGANS WHO ARE MOST LIKELY UNFAMIILAR WITH THE WRITTEN WORD AND THE COMMUNITY THAT LIVES BY IT. ON THE OTHER HAND, I THOUGHT I HAD BASICALLY CONCEDED TO YOU ALL YOUR ARGUMENTS ABOUT FC VI IN THE CONFESSIONS, THOUGH PERHAPS NOT. I DO AGREE THE BELIEVER DOES NOT NEED FORMAL TEACHING OR INCULCATION (WE NEED NO ONE TO TEACH US, THE SCRIPTURES SAY IN 1 JOHN), BUT WE SIMPLY DO RECOGNIZE WHAT IS AND IS NOT GOD’S LAW IN COMMUNITY (FOR NONE OF US IS AN ISLAND UNTO HIMSELF), AS WE OBSERVE IT AND HEAR ABOUT IT.

    “So do this: Go back and insert the word Law in all of your posts in the place of whereever you use the word Love.

    See how the meaning changes for you. Love is not infused grace. it is not gospel. Love is always the always and only accusing Law. Always. Only.”

    AGAIN, WE ARE NOT SEEING EYE TO EYE ON THE “ONLY”, BUT I THINK, FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT, I CAN CONCEDE THAT. I DON’T SEE WHY THIS WOULD AFFECT BY POSITION IN THE LEAST. AGAIN, I AM NO THOMIST. I AM FAMILIAR WITH AP. V. I DO BELIEVE YOU ARE EXACTLY RIGHT TO SAY THAT LAW AND LOVE ARE BASICALLY INTERCHANGABLE (EXCEPT THAT THE LAW ENFLESHED, JESUS, ESPECIALLY CHASES OUT THE AMBIGUITY IN THE LAW BY WRITTEN AND ORAL LANGUAGE ALONE). AS WE ARE TO BE LIKE JESUS, OF COURSE SEEING HIS LIFE IS ALWAYS LAW TO US IN OUR OLD MAN. OUR NEW MAN, WHICH REALLY IS US IN COMMUNION WITH CHRIST AND HIS SPIRIT (I.E. ITS NOT JUST JESUS) – EVEN IF WE DON’T FEEL THIS AND ONLY KNOW IT BY FAITH – IS EAGER TO PUTTHE OLD MAN DOWN, WHO IS CONSTANTLY ACCUSED.

    “We maintain this:
    Properly and truly, by faith in and of itself, we are for Christ’s sake accounted righteous, or are acceptable to God.”

    NOT REALLY WHAT OUR DEBATE IS ABOUT FRANK. I SAID #3 RIGHEOUSNESS IS THE RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT GROWS, PERIOD. NOTHING MORE BENG SAID THERE THAN THAT. SO THIS DOES NOT PERTAIN TO JUSTIFICATION IN ANY CASE (***AND HENCE OUR DEBATE***), BUT JUST CURIOUS, ARE NOW BEING CLEAR THAT YOU BELIEVE THAT THERE IS NO GROWTH IN OUR SANCTICATION? I THOUGHT WE BOTH AGREED THAT THIS EXISTS, EVEN IF IT CAN’T BE EMPIRICALLY OBSERVED OR FELT OR THAT IT HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH OUR JUSTIFICATION BEFORE GOD.

    AGAIN, I SAID THE DEBATE WAS NOT ABOUT THESE THINGS: BUT THE STUFF I TALKED ABOUT IN #161 – THOSE ARE THE ARGUMENTS YOU NEED TO ADDRESS, NOT THIS STUFF. AND NOW I READ ON….

    “Further, it is to be noted that also the effective agent in that third form of righteousness that is visible before men, is also the Word of God. But in that case it is the Word of Law, ALONE, that effects that righteousness in all men, believers, fake believers and pagans alike.”

    OK, NOW I SEE WHERE YOU ARE GOING. WELL, THE THIRD USE OF LAW DOES NOT PERTAIN TO OUR JUSTIFICATION ANYWAY – IT IS FOR CHRISTIANS. IT IS NOT ABOUT HOW WE ARE CONVERTED FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT, PERIOD. I AM TALKING ABOUT HOW WE ARE TURNED FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT. REGARDING SANCTIFICATION, AGAIN, I DO THINK WE ACTUALLY GROW IN THIS (LOVE FOR GOD FIRST OF ALL, AND NEIGHBOR), AS THE SCRIPTURES, LUTHER, AND THE CONFESSIONS INSIST. NOW, IT IS CLEAR THAT IF GOD REVEALS HIS LAW TO A CHRISTIAN AND HE SUPPRESSES THIS KNOWLEDGE, THEY MAY INDEED EVENTUALLY DRIVE OUT FAITH IN CHRIST,AS LUTHER SAYS. AT THIS POINT THERE IS CERTAINLY THE DANGER OF THEM HOLDING TO A JESUS WHO IS NOTHING BUT – “ANOTHER JESUS” (II COR 11). IN WHICH CASE, HERE WE ARE TALKING ABOUT THE NEED FOR TOTAL RECONVERSION. HENCE WE ARE TALKING ABOUT THE NEED FOR THEM TO BE JUSTIFIED. STRICTLY SPEAKING, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH CONCEPTS LIKE PERPETUAL JUSTIFICATION, AS THEY EXIST IN ORDER TO COMMUNICATE THE REALITY THAT THE CHRISTIAN NEEDS TO PERPETUALY HEAR THE WORD OF GOD’S MERCY IN CHRIST, IN ORDER FOR THEIR FAITH TO CONTINUE TO BE STRENGTHENED, BUT IN THE CONFESSIONS, JUSTIFICATION IS UNDERSTSOOD IN A VERY NARROW SENSE OVER AND AGAINST THE OPPONENTS OF THE LUTHERANS – AND FOR GOOD REASON. ALL THIS SAID, THIS JUSTIFICATION ALSO BEGINS (ALBEIT VERY WEAKLY) TO MAKE THEM RIGHTEOUS/SANCTIFIED, FOR THOSE GOD DECLARES RIGHTEOUS HE MAKES RIGHTEOUS. I REALIZE YOU WANT TO EQUATE SUBJECTIVE JUSTIFICATION WITH SANCTIFICATION HERE, BUT HERE IS WHY CAN’T MIX THE TWO THINGS LIKE THAT: SUBJECTIVE JUSTIFICATION JUST MEANS THAT A PERSON WHO FEARS GOD AND THE CONSEQUENCES OF THEIR SIN GRASPS CHRIST BY FAITH ALONE, NOT LOVE (LAW!) IS NOT TO BE TALKED ABOUT AT ALL AT THIS POINT *** … AGAIN, YOU ARE THE ONE WHO IS BEING THOMISTIC HERE, INSISTING THAT A PERSON IN SUCH A STATE OF TERRIFIED CONSCIENCE NEEDS TO BEGIN TO BE SANCTIFIED, I.E. HAVE THE BEGINNINGS OF LOVE IN THEIR HEART, IN ORDER TO BE JUSTIFIED/SAVED – THIS IS NOT THE CASE AND NEVER HAS BEEN, AS THE DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION WAS FORMED PRECISELY TO EXCLUDE THE NEED FOR LOVE IN A PERSON’S JUSTIFICATION, AS INSISTING ON THIS WILL CAUSE PERSONS OF PARTICULARLY SENSITIVE CONSCIENCES TO DOUBT WHETHER OR NOT THEY HAVE PUT THEIR FAITH CHRIST, SINCE YOU ARE SAYING LOVE MUST AND WILL BE THERE AS WELL.*** IF THEY DON’T FEEL THIS AT ALL, AND THEY ARE TOLD THIS WILL BE THE CASE (SINCE LOVE OF COURSE ACCOMPANIES TRUE FAITH), THAN THIS PERSON WILL BE THROWN INTO DOUBT AND BACK ON HIMSELF. SO, IN OTHER WORDS, IF THIS IS THE CASE, WE CAN’T EVEN GET TO THE THIRD USE OF THE LAW, BECAUSE THE PERSON IS NOT CONVINCED THAT THEY ARE EVEN A TRUE CHRISTIAN! YOU MAY RESPOND THAT IN YOUR INTERPRETATION OF THE THIRD USE, THE PERSON DOES NOT DETECT GROWTH IN LOVE FOR GOD/HOLINESS, BUT THAT IS BESIDE THE POINT, BECAUSE HERE WE DO NOT EVEN NEED TO TALK ABOUT GROWTH, BUT THE SIMPLE BASELINE OF “LOVE BEGINNINGS” THAT OCCURS IN JUSTIFICATION. SINCE THE LAW AND SATAN ALWAYS ACCUSE THE CHRISTIAN, THESE PRECAUTIONS ARE AN ABSOLUTE MUST. YOU CAN’T MIX JUSTIFICATION AND SANCTIFICATION, EVEN AS THEY REALLY ARE TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN.

    BY THE WAY, IF YOU DISAGREE WITH ALLTHESE THINGS I AM SAYING HERE, I AM EXCEEDINGLY HOW DO *YOU* HANDLE PASSAGES LIKE THOSE IN THE SMALCALD ARTICLES THAT DEAL WITH THE IMPORTANCE OF EXCOMMUNICATION FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD? (AND HERE, PLEASE REALIZE I AM NOT INTERESTED IN TALKING ABOUT YOUR HOMOSEXUAL TENDENCIES AND DEFENSE OF THEM IN PARTICULAR, BUT THE SIMPLE GENERALITIES SURROUNDING THE ISSUE OF EXCOMMUNICATION)

    As always love in Christ,

    Nathan

  17. @Nathan #19

    FRANK: Nathan, I don´t really understand most of what you wrote.
    Can you please reduce to one or two very terse bullet points what you think are the points we disagree on?

    Since I don´t really see any point you are trying to make, I am going to look for actual questions uin what you wrote, and answer those Nathan.

    NATHAN: Do you agree that the Law of God [is the Divine Revelation of] that objective form of life wherein (not whereby) our relationships with God and neighbor are nourished and are brought to fulfillment or not?

    FRANK: The ONE thing , ALONE , that ALONE, requires the Holy Spirit and Christ, is ALONE, to have planted into us a “heart-trust” in the two words “given and shed FOR YOU, for the forgiveness of sins. ” Love does not require the HS or Christ to happen in man. God fruits the same identical Love and Mercy in man by both Law and Gospel.

    It is important to make a distinction between Law and Gospel and what they DO on the one hand, and NO distinction as to the UNITARY and identical FRUIT that both Law and Gospel produce, which is Love and Mercy.

    CONFESSIONS: Thus in the preaching of repentance, the preaching of the Law, or the Word
    convicting of sin, is not sufficient, because the Law works wrath, and only accuses, only terrifies
    consciences,… (Bente PDF ap III 136])

    NATHAN: Do you believe that although God DECLARES righteous (by faith, given as a gift) he MAKES righteous by Gospel AND Law, ie Faith AND Love? [ie it is God´s doing to make the SAME Love happen in BOTH the new man AND Old Adam of the Believer, by BOTH the Law AND the Gospel, by extortion of the Law AND spontaneously by faith AT THE SAME TIME?

    Yup. CONFESSIONS: http://bookofconcord.org/fc-ep.php#part6.3

    NATHAN: Further, is it wrong to say that [subjective] justification (faith alone)= sanctification (faith +love)

    Yup. CONFESSIONS: http://bookofconcord.org/fc-ep.php#part3.8

    NATHAN: You want to make marriage totally about law. You can’t do this.

    CONFESSIONS:
    5] 3. We believe, teach, and confess that faith alone is the means and instrument whereby we lay hold of Christ, and thus in Christ of that righteousness which avails before God, for whose sake this faith is imputed to us for righteousness, Rom. 4:5. http://bookofconcord.org/fc-ep.php#part3.5 and…

    18] However, this is true likewise that the Law with its doctrine is illustrated and explained by the Gospel. [marriage is a good example of where this is done]. Nevertheless it remains the peculiar office of the Law to reprove sins and teach concerning good works. http://bookofconcord.org/sd-lawandgospel.php#para18

    NATHAN: At the same time, there is also a wide sense of the word Gospel, in which everything that God has given and gives us is seen as a gift from Him, as it rightly is.

    FRANK: God the Holy Spirit is the Author of ALL Goodness and Mercy that happens in the “unworthy, without our prayer… even for all the wicked” (SC 1st article and 4th petition).
    God the Holy Spirit works this SAME Goodness and Mercy and Love as BOTH a fruit of the Law extorted out of Old Adam AND , at the SAME time, as a fruit of the Gospel that just happens , without our even having to think about it or do anything, out of New Man, in each believer.

  18. @Nathan #18

    NATHAN: A person who is de-converted does not want to be reconverted.
    In sum, they don’t want to call “sin” what God calls “sin” (and hence whatever they call “grace” is not what God calls “grace”).

    FRANK ” there is NONE who seeks me no not one. … the natural man cannot receive the things of God…we ARE(!) ALL, by nature, enemies of God” . Is the situation of someone who is “de converted ” any different at all from any other unbeliever? No. And it would be wrong to quote that Hebrews passage to try to prove differently.

    NATHAN: I agree with you that fruits of the Spirit and fruits of the Law are externally indistinguishable.

    FRANK: No.
    FC art VI does not say that the fruiits are “externally indistiguishable”.
    The article says this: Good Works are IDENTICAL as to the actual works themselves.
    The difference is , alone, not at all in what is done, it is, alone in the doer not in the thing done.

    NATHAN: The Law does work death in the one who lives *by* it as power (i.e. not by faith).

    FRANK: NO.
    the law always and only works death.
    the law always and only terrifies the conscience .
    This is true for both the believer insofar as he is not regenerated, and the unbeliever identically.
    This is true even when it is instructing believers as to Good Works.
    In the Believer the Law is working the death of Old Adam. Alone.
    The same identical fruit of Law and Gospel is love mercy and goodness authored by God the HS.

  19. @Nathan #19

    FRANK : The Holy Gospel comes to us, alone, when the Holy Spirit sends a preacher who comes and preaches two words. By that external means, the HS plants into our hearts a “heart-trust”in two words “given and shed FOR YOU”.

    The preaching of Christ Crucified is the most terrifying Law . The Holy Supper is where we are to learn to be horrified at our sins. Those SAME identical words that ARE pure, terrifying Law are transformed into PURE Gospel how? ALONE, by the Holy Spirit using those SAME words to plant that heart-trust that is what ALONE the Holy Spirit and Christ are needed for.

    There is NO external discipline of thought, word or deed (yes thoughts are called EXTERNAL discipline by the confessions) that require the Holy Spirit or Christ.
    It is ALONE that heart-trust that requires the Holy Spirit.
    ALL other righeousness, good works , right thinking, believing that the bible is all true, and having absolutely correct doctrine, requires NO Holy Spirit or Christ to happen.

    NATHAN: AGAIN, WE ARE NOT SEEING EYE TO EYE ON THE “ONLY”, BUT I THINK, FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT, I CAN CONCEDE THAT.

    FRANK: Ap III Love and the Law, paragraph 139 Bente pdf: “The Law ONLY accuses, the Law only terrifies the conscience. You must believe that the Law ONLY accuses if you wish to call yourself a confessional Lutheran.

    NATHAN: REGARDING SANCTIFICATION, AGAIN, I DO THINK WE ACTUALLY GROW IN THIS (LOVE FOR GOD FIRST OF ALL, AND NEIGHBOR),

    FRANK: Yes we grow on sanctification. Of couse we do. And we can NOT cooperate in our enlighenment, sanctification or preservation in the faith in even the very smallest way.
    We MUST cooperate with the HS in our daily life of repentence, which is where we use the Law to kill our Old Adam and mortify our flesh. This is what FC art II SD says.

    NATHAN: AS FAR AS WHAT THIS THIRD FORM OF RIGHTEOUSNESS LOOKS LIKE

    FRANK: Where do the Confessions talk about a “third form of righeousness”? That is not a concept or category I am familiar with Nathan.

    NATHAN: I REALIZE YOU WANT TO EQUATE SUBJECTIVE JUSTIFICATION WITH SANCTIFICATION

    FRANK: NOPE.

    NATHAN: YOU ARE THE ONE WHO IS BEING THOMISTIC HERE, INSISTING THAT A PERSON IN SUCH A STATE OF TERRIFIED CONSCIENCE NEEDS TO BEGIN TO BE SANCTIFIED, I.E. HAVE THE BEGINNINGS OF LOVE IN THEIR HEART, IN ORDER TO BE JUSTIFIED/SAVED

    FRANK: NOPE. that is not what I said. Do this Nathan: download the pdf version of bentes book of concord. search on the part of the word “terr” to catch all the variations of the word terrified in your word search. read each instance in its context. It will set you free,
    You will read that they say that the Gospel simply cannot be understood outside of the context of a terrified conscience.

    NATHAN: IF THIS IS THE CASE, WE CAN’T EVEN GET TO THE THIRD USE OF THE LAW, BECAUSE THE PERSON IS NOT CONVINCED THAT THEY ARE EVEN A TRUE CHRISTIAN!

    FRANK: FC art VI third use says that the SAME Third use is to be preached and applied to unbelievers and not just believers. see the last paragraph of the article.

    NATHAN: How do you deal with excommunication in the smalcald [and catechisms]?

    FRANK: Excommunication excludes someone from a visible christian congregation ( small catechism). It is the same thing as having the ushers remove someone from the Divine Service because they are being disruptive. It is an external police action that is , alone, about maintaining external discipline.

    It does not exclude someone from the Communion of Saints. Only Christ can and will be able to do that . We are told, very specifically, that the church is a threshing floor that includes both saints and hypocrites. And we are commanded to not try to distinguish and separate the wheat from fake wheat, sheep from goats or do fruit or soil analysis to achieve such a thing.

    And, We are to do everything in our power to encourage and welcome especially the most hardened” lifestyle” sinners to come to church and hear a sermon that has those Two Words which are alone, able to save and sanctify. And man can use his free will and human powers to show up and hear a sermon. It is all he can actually do to “cooperate” in his salvation and sanctification. fc art II sd.

    We are not to be like jonah with ninevah and decide that we dont need to be welcoming and inviting to gays for example because they have chosen to “self exclude”. That would be a very wicked, sinful and evil way to believe. we are ALL, by nature, not merely blocks of wood and stone that the HS acts upon. We are far worse! we are ALL by nature, absolutely identical to the most hardened lifestyle sinner who has de-converted, or whatever, It is ALONE the hearing of Two Words that makes the difference.

  20. @helen #24

    The Original topic appears to be the conversion of the “converted ” . It is that we cannot cooperate in even the smallest way in our enlightenment, sanctification or preservation in the faith.

    And the post is about how many pastors instead teach a “vice to virtue” conversion that is where we MUST cooperate with the HS in the a life of continuous repentence which is for the believer to take the Law and apply it to the mortification of his old adam in exactly the same manner that any virtuous fake christian or virtuous pagan also can both know and do.

    This work of practicing virtue until the practice becomes second nature that God requires equally of ALL men, requires NO Holy Spirit or Christ.

    Any thoughts on all this sister Helen?
    It would be nice to return to this important topic.

    You will notice that in many of my responses, my final comment is a plea to return to this very very timely and important topic.

  21. Frank,

    The point of bringing up the deconverted is simply to say that Christians also sin, but fight vs. it via faith. Deconverted folks need justification again.

    Frank, do you have the reference to where the works are said to be identical? That’s fine – they are identical externally. Internally, however some are performed with the beginnings of fear, love and trust and others are not.

    I said: “The Law does work death in the one who lives *by* it as power (i.e. not by faith).”

    You said: “the law always and only works death.
    the law always and only terrifies the conscience .
    This is true for both the believer insofar as he is not regenerated, and the unbeliever identically.”

    Again, conceding the “only” for sake of argument (if it said always alone, I’d give this statement a 100% seal of approval! – the citation from the Confessions needs to be read in its context). The difference is that in the believer there is an old and new man. When the new man succumbs to the death being created in him by the law – i.e. where he starts, in order to compensate for the sin that he realizes infects him, to live solely from the Law and not from the Gospel – he is no longer a believer. The one who has ceased to live from the Gospel only has death – complete spiritual death – in him.

    “ALL other righeousness, good works , right thinking, believing that the bible is all true, and having absolutely correct doctrine, requires NO Holy Spirit or Christ to happen.”

    We agree here. Only God ultimately knows the heart, and our deceptions are manifold.

    “And we can NOT cooperate in our enlighenment, sanctification or preservation in the faith in even the very smallest way.
    We MUST cooperate with the HS in our daily life of repentence, which is where we use the Law to kill our Old Adam and mortify our flesh. This is what FC art II SD says.”

    I had said (post #10):

    “So, how do we mature? The answer is as simple as it is profound: hearing the Word of God, participating in the sacraments, and exercising ourselves according to the whole counsel of God. This goes hand in hand with the drowning of the old Adam that is daily repentance. Knowing that we live by them, we seek out every word from his mouth, and these comfort and help equip us, so that we leave childhood behind and attain to the “mature manhood” mentioned in Eph 4: 13-15. Since “the word of God…is at work in you believers” (I Thes. 2:13), this is the kind of activity we actively run to, and initiate ourselves as well.”

    And especially this:

    (also see SD III, 65-68 and 88, which are a good counter-balance to SD III, 34-43, which, if taken by themselves might give the impression that there is no synergism, or cooperation, in sanctification)

    Frank, could you go into more detail about why you insist on strictly separating sanctification from killing old Adam and mortifying the flesh? (I assume you do this because of a distinction the confessions themselves make?) Do these often not go together (not all the time, as it is not wrong for the Christian to apply the doctrine of justification to one’s self from the Scriputres…)?

    “Where do the Confessions talk about a “third form of righeousness”? That is not a concept or category I am familiar with Nathan.”

    This is simply the righteousness that grows in the Christian. You can clearly see it in SD II: 65 and 66 (the new powers *in* us), 68 (one is weak, another strong in the Spirit), and 71, 72 (these gifts – including virtues – are strengthened), for example.

    “the Gospel simply cannot be understood outside of the context of a terrified conscience.”

    Yes, I agree. Also glad to hear that you don’t see yourself equating subjective justification and sanctification – i.e. you don’t want to do this.

    Frank: “FC art VI third use says that the SAME Third use is to be preached and applied to unbelievers and not just believers. see the last paragraph of the article.”

    It says:

    “Accordingly, we reject and condemn as an error pernicious and detrimental to Christian discipline, as also to true godliness, the teaching that the Law, in the above-mentioned way and degree, should not be urged upon Christians and the true believers, but only upon the unbelieving, unchristians, and impenitent.”

    Frank, as the paragraph says, no one was saying that the unbelievers in the congregation should not have heard the law preached in a third use kind of way. When I say “THE DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION WAS FORMED PRECISELY TO EXCLUDE THE NEED FOR LOVE IN A PERSON’S JUSTIFICATION, AS INSISTING ON THIS WILL CAUSE PERSONS OF PARTICULARLY SENSITIVE CONSCIENCES TO DOUBT WHETHER OR NOT THEY HAVE PUT THEIR FAITH CHRIST, SINCE YOU ARE SAYING LOVE MUST AND WILL BE THERE AS WELL.*** IF THEY DON’T FEEL THIS AT ALL, AND THEY ARE TOLD THIS WILL BE THE CASE (SINCE LOVE OF COURSE ACCOMPANIES TRUE FAITH), THAN THIS PERSON WILL BE THROWN INTO DOUBT AND BACK ON HIMSELF. SO, IN OTHER WORDS, IF THIS IS THE CASE, WE CAN’T EVEN GET TO THE THIRD USE OF THE LAW, BECAUSE THE PERSON IS NOT CONVINCED THAT THEY ARE EVEN A TRUE CHRISTIAN! (what you quoted from me is in bold) ” we are talking about someone who genuinely thinks that they do not believe and is in desperate need of God’s mercy, not the unbeliever who sits in the pew day after day and feels no such need.

    Frank:

    “Excommunication excludes someone from a visible christian congregation ( small catechism). It is the same thing as having the ushers remove someone from the Divine Service because they are being disruptive. It is an external police action that is , alone, about maintaining external discipline.

    It does not exclude someone from the Communion of Saints. Only Christ can and will be able to do that . We are told, very specifically, that the church is a threshing floor that includes both saints and hypocrites. And we are commanded to not try to distinguish and separate the wheat from fake wheat, sheep from goats or do fruit or soil analysis to achieve such a thing.”

    Frank, excommunication is *not* only about external discipline. Although the pastor can never have absolute surety of who is “in” and who is “out”, excommunication is intended to be the pastor speaking for Christ himself, excluding someone from not only the visible Church but from the body of Christ – with the intent that they will repent and be saved (it is about “handing them over to Satan”). The pastor makes this difficult but necessary judgment based on the persons’ fruit (thoughts, words and deeds). Do excommunications happen that should not happen? Of course – but hopefully, with pastors who really know their people, this is generally not the case. So, you are incorrect – it is about far more than external discipline (you may be thinking of the doctrine of penance).

    “We are to do everything in our power to encourage and welcome especially the most hardened” lifestyle” sinners to come to church and hear a sermon that has those Two Words which are alone, able to save and sanctify. And man can use his free will and human powers to show up and hear a sermon. It is all he can actually do to “cooperate” in his salvation and sanctification. fc art II sd.”

    Frank, if we are speaking of the unbeliever, this is totally true – although they will never be seeking salvation the way that God means to give it! But if we are talking about the believer, again, there is much more that they can do as regards their sanctification.

    “We are not to be like jonah with ninevah and decide that we dont need to be welcoming and inviting to gays for example because they have chosen to “self exclude”. That would be a very wicked, sinful and evil way to believe. we are ALL, by nature, not merely blocks of wood and stone that the HS acts upon. We are far worse! we are ALL by nature, absolutely identical to the most hardened lifestyle sinner who has de-converted, or whatever, It is ALONE the hearing of Two Words that makes the difference.”

    Yes – come (I personally, being the pathetic people-pleaser I am, have no desire to exclude anybody from anything ever – a weakness of my flesh, even as I pray that according to my new man, I would, out of true love, desire to “please everyone as much as possible” as Paul says). But communing is a different matter.

    Glad we can talk. May the Spirit of Christ be upon you.

    +Nathan

  22. From Smalcald A:

    Part III, Article IX. Of Excommunication.

    The greater excommunication, as the Pope calls it, we regard only as a civil penalty, and it does not concern us ministers of the Church. But the lesser, that is, the true Christian excommunication, consists in this, that manifest and obstinate sinners are not admitted to the Sacrament and other communion of the Church until they amend their lives and avoid sin. And ministers ought not to mingle secular punishments with this ecclesiastical punishment, or excommunication.

    +Nathan

  23. Frank,

    You bet – and yet the general principles put forth here must be applied more broadly.

    Hope you are doing well Frank. It is always a pleasure to speak with you, and I would enjoy the continual opportunity to do so.

    +Nathan

  24. @Nathan #28

    We are Brothers Nathan bound up together tightly by both Blood and Water and hidden together in that wounded side along with all of our truly unworthy good Works tainted utterly and inseparably by our deep sin that is in our very essence , soul, will, heart, and intellect.

    I too am glad to practice with you in our discussions that virtue that requires no Holy Spirit or Christ that is about the discipline of binding ourselves to the form and content of the Law of God in the form of sound doctrine , rightly distributing Law and Gospel, and also in our prayers for each other that God would preserve us in that one thing that, alone, requires the Holy Spirit and Christ, which is that heart knowing and trusting of those Two Words.

    God Bless you Nathan! I am in Califórnia now up from Brazil and dealing with some personal matters, seeing all of my amazing friends here, and planning to see my dad who was diagnosed with esophagal câncer in South Dakota. Pray for me and my Family please Nathan!

  25. @Nathan #26

    @Nathan #28

    I am not sure what you mean by saying that the general principles need to be applied more broadly. “general principles”? (principles=law=Always and only accuses and mortifies). “applied more broadly”. Accuse and mortify is as broad as it gets! Nothing is more broad than death. I was told I would be dead in a year at one point in my life. It doesnt get more real than that Nathan.

    The Context here is not the distribution or distinction of Law and Gospel. It is rather a Law versus Law distinction. It is to dilineate the distintion between two ordos-governments of the visible Church that art 7 and 8 of the ac and apology identify as the Holy Catholic Church that is an earthly government in which God Rules by the Law, versus that other government that we know as Society.

    There is nothing at all here about the Communion of Saints, which is hidden only in with and under the Holy Catholic Church and is , alone, of invisible Faith, alone, and is not at all about anything sense-ible that we can see or are able to do.

  26. @Nathan #25

    NATHAN: …deconverted is simply to say…
    FRANK: I would urge you to consider using the terminology that our Confessions use. Why is there a need to be creative here? I suggest that this is a salutary disciplining of our Old Adam to practice this restriction.
    NATHAN:… reference to where the works are said to be identical? …they are identical externally. Internally, however some are performed with the beginnings of fear, love and trust and others are not.
    FRANK: No. This is simply wrong. The difference is not at all in the Works themselves. ALL Good Works have God as their Author regardless of who the doer is. God the HS Authors ALL Good Works either extorting them out of Old Adam with the carrot-promise-blessings or stick-mortification of the Law. The difference is, alone, in the doer and not in the done. But in what respect is this so? This way: It is the entire person who is declared holy. How? That person is entirely hidden in Christ. So his Good Works are also hidden! Why does that matter? God does not judge them! The idea of God judging even our most “spirit filled ” good works should absolutely terrify us.
    Here is the useful distinction: Here on earth, God does truly judge all men according to what we do and informs the Divine Law written in our conscience (rom 2:15) that it is the basest sin to judge any man according to who he is. On earth God judges all men according to the Law veiled by Moses, which is to say that God judges us reasonably according to what we DO! And that judgement demands, always and only justice. Justice is what we deserve for what we have done. And what justice demands is always and only that a sacrifice be made, For justice to be done, someone or something in someone must die. Someone must be found “dead to rights”. The baby must be cut in two. So justice is always and only about death. Your death or your neighbors.
    But in God´s court in heaven things are different. There God doesnt judge us at all according to what we DO. There we are judged strictly according to who we are! This is precisely why the parables twist us around. There God seems to be unjust. He is instead increadibly good and merciful. And reason says that there MUST be justice! and indeed there must be. But the entire point of the parables is that God himself receives the killing justice by becoming the Sacrifice, and so is free to give us the opposite of Justice. Justice is what we receive for what we have done. think of lady justice blindfolded and holding a scale, and then a sword in the other hand. That is really the perfect picture of justice. And so having become the Sacrifice, God is free to be all about giving us the precise opposite of what we deserve. Which is Mercy.
    And who we are is a matter of what heart we have. Sin in Romans is about a heart that has not been declared just and does not have a heart knowing and trust in those two words. What we do is a fruit or consequence of what kind of heart we have . And the kind of heart we need to stand before God is one that only Baptism can give us. It is not in anyway something we can do Nathan.
    The reference for this you can find in many places in the Confessions. Check out the Epitome for FC art VI. The translation is germanglish and sucks. But it says that the difference between fruits of the Spirit and Works of the Law is not in the works themselve but in what drives the doer. And we must not make the mistake that this difference is motive or an attitude of gratitude or some right motive. Reason and free will can work up all those motive-attitude stuff.
    It is urgent to see that when the Confessions say “outward works” they fully include ALL that reason , free will, and human powers can do not only in deed and word, but also in thought! There is only ONE thing that they tell us that Reason, free will and human powers cannot do. That one thing is to have that heart trust and heart knowing that , alone, the hearing of Two Words have the power to work. It is the trusting ,alone, in those Two Words that, alone, requires the HS and Christ. ALL other things we can do in thought word and deed therefore can be done , fully, and alone, by human powers of the “natural man”. This in fact is the core distinction or distribution of law and gospel that we must understand (apology 18 free will)

    NATHAN: Again, conceding the “only” for sake of argument…
    FRANK: Concede it because it is what the Apology and the rest of our Confessions along with Scriptures say. Download the PDF version of the book of concord. do a word search on the word “only”. You will find a passage in art III or IVof the apology that says “The Law only accuses and terrifies the conscience”. So you will need to adjust your theology accordingly. When you do that, I promise that that Law and Gospel distinction will appear to you in almost every passage of the Confessions. You need to now cross that theological bridge and pass to the other side dear Nathan. Kudos to you for realizing just how much saying not only alone but also only changes everything! It really does!
    NATHAN: …in the believer there is an old and new man. When the new man succumbs to the death being created in him by the law – i.e. where he starts, in order to compensate for the sin that he realizes infects him, to live solely from the Law and not from the Gospel – he is no longer a believer. The one who has ceased to live from the Gospel only has death – complete spiritual death – in him.
    FRANK: See what you did? You start out exactly where you should. Believer as Old and New man. This is to do Law and Gospel WITHIN the believer. And we are to separate , always, the Law from Gospel as far as the earth is from the furthest star. So to fix what you said requires very little. But in this case a hair splitting difference means everything! Your paragraph should instead read this way I suggest:
    “In the believer there is an old and new man. The believer, according to his Old Adam always wishes, in his will, reason, soul and entire being, to seek Life in doing the Law rather than seeking his Life by hiding all his works in Christ. At the same time, the New Man is terrified at seeing this doing of his Old Adam and accepts what God´s Judgement says about this. It is right in the middle of this terror of conscience that the faith in the believer´s New Man is nurtured and grows, alone, by showing up in church and hearing a sermon, and alone by hearing in that sermon those Two Words, that , alone, can enlighten, sanctify and preserve the believer in that invisible heart trust and heart knowing for which, alone, the HS and Christ are needed”.
    This all happens in parallel Nathan and not sequentially.

    NATHAN: Frank, could you go into more detail about why you insist on strictly separating sanctification from killing old Adam and mortifying the flesh
    FRANK: I hope that I managed to demonstrate that for you in a helpful way just now.

    NATHAN: “Where do the Confessions talk about a “third form of righeousness”? That is not a concept or category I am familiar with Nathan.”…This is simply the righteousness that grows in the Christian….
    FRANK: Again , I would urge you to discipline yourself not only to adhere to the content but also the very form of sound doctrine. “third form of righeousness”. Why is it necessary to innovate with new terminology here? How is it necessary or helpful or useful to others or useful in beating down your Old Adam when he does theology? I suggest that such creativity feeds our Old Adam. We need to beat him down!

    NATHAN: Frank: “FC art VI third use says that the SAME Third use is to be preached and applied to unbelievers and not just believers. see the last paragraph of the article.”…It says:…“Accordingly, we reject and condemn as an error pernicious and detrimental to Christian discipline, as also to true godliness, the teaching that the Law, in the above-mentioned way and degree, should not be urged upon Christians and the true believers, but only upon the unbelieving, unchristians, and impenitent.”
    FRANK: I love it when fellow Lutherans focus on exegeting the actual text! LOVE . IT. You made my day Nathan.

    NATHAN: … DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION WAS FORMED .. TO EXCLUDE …LOVE .. ..[TO AVOID CAUSING] PERSONS … TO DOUBT WHETHER OR NOT THEY HAVE PUT THEIR FAITH CHRIST,
    FRANK: Of Course they have not put their faith in Christ! Thank God that our salvation is not at all dependent upon anything at all we can do , especially including where it is we place our faith!
    NATHAN: YOU ARE SAYING LOVE MUST AND WILL BE THERE AS WELL.
    FRANK: “must ” here is a statement of fact, not a demand of the Law.
    NATHAN: *** IF THEY DON’T FEEL THIS AT ALL, AND THEY ARE TOLD THIS WILL BE THE CASE (SINCE LOVE OF COURSE ACCOMPANIES TRUE FAITH), THAN THIS PERSON WILL BE THROWN INTO DOUBT AND BACK ON HIMSELF.
    FRANK: They should trust their feelings in this case! They don´t have either the faith or the Love that God demands. So they should just hold God to his Promise, personally applied in their Baptism, in those Two Words. And they should honestly confess that they are entirely and utterly faithless and lacking most utterly as well in love.
    NATHAN: SO, IN OTHER WORDS, IF THIS IS THE CASE, WE CAN’T EVEN GET TO THE THIRD USE OF THE LAW, BECAUSE THE PERSON IS NOT CONVINCED THAT THEY ARE EVEN A TRUE CHRISTIAN! (what you quoted from me is in bold) ” we are talking about someone who genuinely thinks that they do not believe and is in desperate need of God’s mercy, not the unbeliever who sits in the pew day after day and feels no such need.
    FRANK: We are to never preach the Third Use apart from Christ and the absolutely unconditional proclamatiion of those Two Words. But neither must we separate the Gospel that is , alone, in the preaching of those Two Words from the Law preaching of repentence. They must always be done together Nathan. This is not an either or situation.

    NATHAN: Frank, excommunication is *not* only about external discipline. …the pastor speaking for Christ himself, excluding someone from not only the visible Church but from the body of Christ ..The pastor makes this difficult but necessary judgment based on the persons’ fruit (thoughts, words and deeds).
    FRANK: No. This is to separate Law from Gospel. it is to make Christ into Moses. The pastor is forbidden to make such a judgement. This is purely about external discipline. “..and excludes” from what? “from the christian congregation”. That is what the small catechism says. Note that it does NOT say “excludes from the communion of saints or excludes from the faith or….” Pay careful attention to what the small catechism says here. And yes, the pastor does indeed speak for Christ here. So does the government when they exercise the Law! or parents…. or …..

    NATHAN : “We are to do everything in our power to encourage and welcome especially the most hardened” lifestyle” …Frank, if we are speaking of the unbeliever, this is totally true – although they will never be seeking salvation the way that God means to give it! But if we are talking about the believer, again, there is much more that they can do as regards their sanctification.
    FRANK: The Old Adam still clings to each believer. and it is alone the SAME Law and Gospel that is to be preached to all. we simply cant distinguish between true believers and hipocrites. so what you are saying makes no sense at all Nathan does it?

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