The Office of the KeyS — Notice the “s”

officeKeysOften times in pastoral ministry you find yourself in situations that are not pleasant.  There are times when you find a situation you have no good answer for and must just suffer it through with much prayer.  Sometimes it is a familiar situation but with a twist.  As an older, wiser pastor once taught me – “if there is one thing for certain in the ministry – each situation is different”.   This is why C.F.W. Walther wrote that the proper distinction between Law and Gospel is an art.  This is particularly the case in pastoral situations.  Is this a Law-moment?  Is this a Gospel moment?  Discernment is a gift from God and very necessary to the proper care of souls.

It is the greatest joy in the ministry to proclaim the Gospel to folks who need to hear it.  But that is a discernment issue in pastoral care – souls who need to hear it.  There are sad times when a soul needs to hear the Law, that is the Word of judgment and condemnation upon a person, given in the hope that they will realize their sin and come to repentance.  The fact of the matter is that most pastors I know do not like having to speak the Law to folks.  That dislike must never stop a pastor from sharing the Law though – for there are times when the medicine needed by the soul is exactly that harsh word.  A pastor can never forget that his task in the end is to prepare a person to die.  A soul dying in impenitence and false security is not an acceptable outcome for pastoral care.  That is why the Key of the Law must be used – binding that person to their sin – IN ORDER THAT they would come to see it as sin and finally confess it so that the Key of the Gospel may be used (motivation is key when binding sins to the sinner, this is for their good and with the hope of eventual repentance).

Not only this, but there is a relationship between the Law and Gospel.   The Gospel is not really the Gospel without the Law.  The Law is nothing but damnation or deception if there is no Gospel.  This is why I am so surprised when I find a lack of use of the Law in pastoral ministry.  Of course it is easier to just say the nice stuff and pretend you are speaking the Gospel, but in reality without the sting of the Law there can be no sweetness to the Gospel.

A fine example is a delinquent in church (inactive or whatever term you would like).  A person who has joined a congregation and vowed to be a part of her and regularly receive the means of grace in that fellowship is publicly and impenitently sinning when they refuse the means of grace for so long.  In general, noting that these cases too are unique, but in general how do we approach sin?  Often I have heard in these cases “love them back to church”.  I couldn’t agree more, but what does love for the impenitent sinner actually mean?  It means using the Law.  It means taking out the Third Commandment and talking to them about whatever violation of the First Commandment is getting in the way.  If the Spirit works in them to acknowledge their sin – praise be to God, time then to let the Gospel do its work.  If not, then that person needs binding to their sin so that they may know it and own it.

I recall in going through the new “Walther’s Hymnal” translated by Matthew Carver that it includes the absolution that also includes a declaration of binding to those who are not penitent.  I don’t have it in front of me as I lent it out to someone, but I think Bugenhagen used a similar type of absolution.  This is very strange to my ears, having only heard the general absolution (without any binding force upon the impenitent) in “The Lutheran Hymnal”, “Lutheran Worship”, and “Lutheran Service Book” during my life.  I am not suggesting a change in our absolution, but I did find it interesting the type of absolution found in the hymnal of Walther.

All of this is why it is good every once in a while to remember that there are two keys, one to forgive and one to withhold forgiveness.  Both are necessary, but each has its appointed time for use.  Pray God that pastors and congregations would both be given the wisdom and discernment to know each and know how to use each.

About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.


The Office of the KeyS — Notice the “s” — 76 Comments

  1. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #46

    Why did God reveal the Law to man then if natural law is enough?

    But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are SPIRITUALLY discerned. 1 Cor 2:14

    There is natural law romans 2:15 written in Reason. then there is spiritual law that can only be SUPER naturally known. It can only be known by the HS from the Word of God. what is the difference between these two laws (also cf FC art I )

    “Natural Law” is used polemically starting with the Apology to the Augsburg Confession.
    “Natural Law” delimits what the natural man can both know and do.
    Polemically, it also delimits what he cannot do per 1 cor 2!
    That is why natural Law is not enough.

    Question for you: What is the Supernatural (ie spiritual Law) in contrast to this?

    The Apology. The Formula of Concord should be read as a commentary on the Apology.

    7] Of these two parts the adversaries select the Law, because human reason naturally understands, in some way, the Law (for it has the SAME judgment divinely written in the mind); [the natural law agrees with the law of Moses, or the Ten Commandments] and by the Law they seek the remission of sins and justification. 8] Now, the Decalog requires not only outward civil works, which reason can in some way produce, but it also requires other things placed far above reason, namely, truly to fear God, truly to love God, truly to call upon God, truly to be convinced that God hears us, and to expect the aid of God in death and in all afflictions; finally, it requires obedience to God, in death and all afflictions, so that we may not flee from these or refuse them when God imposes them.
    9] Here the scholastics, having followed the philosophers, teach only a righteousness of reason, namely, civil works, and fabricate besides that without the Holy Ghost reason can love God above all things.

    And why is it that the natural Law is not enough? is there some Divine Law that is “peculiarly” or uniquely found ALONE in Holy Scripture? a “spiritual Law”? Yes! This Law is veiled to Reason by the veil of moses…read:

    nevertheless it appears from what we have said that those things which belong PECULIARLY to the divine [revealed] Law, i.e., the affections of the heart towards God, which are commanded in the first table, cannot be rendered without the Holy Ghost.

    12] And Paul teaches 2 Cor. 3:15 sq., the veil that covered the face of Moses cannot be removed except by faith in Christ, by which the Holy Ghost is received. For he speaks thus: But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. Nevertheless, when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 13] Paul understands by the veil the human opinion concerning the entire Law, the Decalog and the ceremonies, namely, that hypocrites think that external and civil works satisfy the Law of God, and that sacrifices and observances justify before God ex opere operato. 14] But then this veil is removed from us, i.e., we are freed from this error when God shows to our hearts our uncleanness and the heinousness of sin. Then, for the first time, we see that we are far from fulfilling the Law. Then we learn to know how flesh, in security and indifference, does not fear God, and is not fully certain that we are regarded by God, but imagines that men are born and die by chance. Then we experience that we do not believe that God forgives and hears us. But when, on hearing the Gospel and the remission of sins, we are consoled by faith, we receive the Holy Ghost so that now we are able to think aright concerning God, and to fear and believe God, etc. From these facts it is apparent that the Law cannot be kept without Christ and the Holy Ghost.

    And now what is the distinction between this “spiritual ” law and the “carnal or natural” Law?

    15] … the Law be begun in us, and that it be observed continually more and more. And at the same time we comprehend both spiritual movements and external good Works [the good heart within and works without]. Therefore the adversaries falsely charge against us that our theologians do not teach good works while they not only require these, but also show how they can be done [that the heart must enter into these works, lest they be mere, lifeless, cold works of hypocrites]. 16] The result convicts hypocrites, who by their own powers endeavor to fulfil the Law, that they cannot accomplish 17] what they attempt. [For are they free from hatred, envy, strife, anger, wrath, avarice, adultery, etc.?


    which is the basis for this…

    10] since the …preaching of the Law, without Christ,
    [1] either makes presumptuous men, who imagine that they can fulfill the Law by outward works, or
    [2] forces them utterly to despair,

    Christ takes the Law into His hands, and explains it spiritually, Matt. 5:21ff ; Rom. 7:14 and Rom 1:18, and

    thus reveals His wrath from heaven upon all sinners, and shows how great it is; whereby they are directed to the Law, and from it first learn to know their sins aright-a knowledge which Moses never could extort from them. For as the apostle testifies, 2 Cor. 3:14f, even though Moses is read, yet the veil which he put over his face is never lifted, so that they cannot understand the Law spiritually, and how great things it requires of us, and how severely it curses and condemns us because we cannot observe or fulfil it. Nevertheless, when it shalt turn to the Lord, the veil shalt be taken away, 2 Cor. 3:16.

  2. @Rev. McCall #50
    I don’t think it is an issue of trust, but respect for (and distinctions of) office. Men who become CC’s or DP’s submit themselves to certain rules of that office. CC’s are the DP in that circuit (as DPs are the SP in that district). The men who serve as CCs serve their laity not as CC’s (and thereby not constrained by the rules over CCs) but as pastors (the same as you and I). However, when a CC interacts with a pastor in his circuit, he does so with the constraints of the rules in full effect.

    I hope that is as clear in words as it seems to be in my head.

  3. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #46

    short answer (the long answer is under review since I posted lots of links to the online b of c…

    the natural law is not enough because only Christ himself and the HS can remove the veil of Mose from the Law, and the HS Works , alone , through the Word of God to reveal spiritual things.

    This includes revealing the spiritual law. what is the spiritual law and what is its opposite according to our confessions dear pastor scheer?

  4. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #2
    I see what you are saying, but I’m not sure what rules would constrain him from functioning as a pastor. Could you give me an example of such a rule? I’m looking for my district handbook to see if we have anything pertaining to rules for a CC, but can’t seem to find the book at the moment.
    We do have this statement under our ethical guidelines of the TX District and it pertains to all pastors and even other persons who work for the District who may happen to overhear or see confidential information:
    5.2 Confession
    An ordained servant of the Word does not reveal those matters that have been revealed to him as a consequence of the confession of an individual.

  5. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #49

    The confessions, everywhere, make a huge deal about the contrast between the natural law that is all natural man can sense and see and do, contrasted with the spiritual law, that we are told, alone can be unveiled, alone by Christ alone through Gods word. Please tell me how and why they push so hard to make that contrast. Your post seems to ignore it for practical purposes…

  6. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #49

    Apology art 18, on free will, lists the reasons why natural man does not actually DO what the law says. Neither ap art 18 nor Romans 7 (or especially Ch 2! ) say this is because the natural law, written in conscience is incomplete or unclear, thus needing revealed law to supplement and clarify.

    That is actually romes position. We say that natural law is Fully sufficient to know and do ALL righteousness except only, alone, one kind. An entirely invisible kind. A spiritual kind!

  7. @fws #1
    I will quote George Stoeckhardt on 1 Cor 2:14:
    “The Apostle here sets the natural man side by side with the spiritual man for purpose of comparison. In the natural man human reason is his life principle. Everything is judged by him in the light of human reason. But such an approach will never receive and accept matters presented by the Spirit. For the very Christ by whom we are saved, is foolishness to the natural man. Therefore such a matter needs to be approached and judged spiritually, a mode of which the natural man is incapable.”

    I don’t understand where we differ on that – I was asking for clarification that natural law is not enough – you have clarified that.

    I will say that I have not seen such use of “Spiritual Law” before (was it Luther who used that phrase for canon law?). I see you using that phrase, but I can’t recall it being used much elsewhere. I see the first table/second table being a division which you are calling spiritual/natural. Is that the distinction you are making?

    @fws #4
    Are you here referring to the Gospel in a wider sense?

    @fws #5
    I think your other quotes have cleared it up to me… I was thinking of Paul’s words about not knowing sin but for the Law (the Law being that which God used to reveal sin).

    @fws #8
    When I was referring to that I was thinking of the hardening that men do, not listening to conscience. This is also the way of a seared conscience – willfully sinning to the point that the conscience no longer screams against the wrong. This is the stuff of Romans 1:21 and so forth (1:28 and 32 especially)… the darkening and debasing of things. The inconsistency of it all, know what God’s law says but do it and promote it anyways (for examples just follow national news).

  8. Being a “Circuit Counselor”: If the pastors of my circuit see fit to come to me to receive absolution that is exactly what I give them. Their “sins” are buried in Christ and my mouth is a tomb. If the ramifications of that do not square with the “Bylaws” then so be it. I obey God, not man.@Pastor Joshua Scheer #46

  9. @Doug Thompson #10
    Thank you for your words. I would expect much of the same from faithful pastors who find themselves being CC’s also. That being said, I am writing from the perspective of a pastor not wanting to tempt or burden another to have to choose between God and man, especially when we are surrounded with pastors who could hear our confession.

  10. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #9

    I will say that I have not seen such use of “Spiritual Law” before (was it Luther who used that phrase for canon law?). I see you using that phrase, but I can’t recall it being used much elsewhere. I see the first table/second table being a division which you are calling spiritual/natural. Is that the distinction you are making?

    I am sort of taken aback dear pastor Scheer.
    It is to make this precise distinction that is the central thesis of the Apology, and the FofC is really just a commentary and reapplication of the Apology to Calvinism etc.
    This is the foundation for the Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms. It is really the entire point of the distinction in Romans 8 between flesh-body vs spirit-Spirit.

    Here is a place in our Confessions where Luther makes this all clear. I say this is part of the Confessions since our confessions (the FofC), at certain critical points, refers us to specific private writings of Luther telling us they are a further elaboration of what the FC says. My position is that those writings carry Confessional authority therefore. This is one such writing:

    Excerpt.. inserted all cap comments are mine…[along with bracketed comments]


    You must not understand the word law here ..[according to natural law], i.e., a regulation about what sort of works must be done or must not be done. That’s the way it is with human laws: you satisfy the demands of the law with works, whether your heart is in it or not. [This is what the Law,written in our Reason, veiled with the Veil of Moses informs our heart. This is the Golden Rule. “DO unto others…”].


    God judges what is in the depths of the heart. Therefore his law also makes demands on the depths of the heart and doesn’t let the heart rest content in works; rather it punishes as hypocrisy and lies all works done apart from the depths of the heart. All human beings are called liars (Psalm 116), since none of them keeps or can keep God’s law from the depths of the heart. Everyone finds inside himself an aversion to good and a craving for evil. Where there is no free desire for good, there the heart has not set itself on God’s law. There also sin is surely to be found and the deserved wrath of God, whether a lot of good works and an honorable life appear outwardly or not.



    Therefore in chapter 2, St. Paul adds that the Jews are all sinners and says that only the doers of the law are justified in the sight of God. What he is saying is that no one is a doer of the law by works. On the contrary, he says to them, “You teach that one should not commit adultery, and you commit adultery. You judge another in a certain matter and condemn yourselves in that same matter, because you do the very same thing that you judged in another.” It is as if he were saying, “Outwardly you live quite properly in the works of the law and judge those who do not live the same way; you know how to teach everybody. You see the speck in another’s eye but do not notice the beam in your own.”

    Outwardly you keep the law with works out of fear of punishment or love of gain. Likewise you do everything without free desire and love of the law; you act out of aversion and force. You’d rather act otherwise if the law didn’t exist. It follows, then, that you, in the depths of your heart, are an enemy of the law. What do you mean, therefore, by teaching another not to steal, when you, in the depths of your heart, are a thief and would be one outwardly too, if you dared. (Of course, outward work doesn’t last long with such hypocrites.) So then, you teach others but not yourself; you don’t even know what you are teaching. You’ve never understood the law rightly. Furthermore, the law increases sin, as St. Paul says in chapter 5. That is because a person becomes more and more an enemy of the law the more it demands of him what he can’t possibly do.


    In chapter 7, St. Paul says, “The law is spiritual.” What does that mean? If the law were physical, then it could be satisfied by works, but since it is spiritual, no one can satisfy it unless everything he does springs from the depths of the heart. But no one can give such a heart except the Spirit of God, who makes the person be like the law, so that he actually conceives a heartfelt longing for the law and henceforward does everything, not through fear or coercion, but from a free heart. Such a law is spiritual since it can only be loved and fulfilled by such a heart and such a spirit. If the Spirit is not in the heart, then there remain sin, aversion and enmity against the law, which in itself is good, just and holy.

    Apology: “God cannot become an Object of Love until the Law can no longer acuse us.”

    here he expands on this very contrast of natural law that is about thought, word and deed. ie what we can DO, vs Spiritual Law that demands fear, love and trust, and that is about NOTHING we can do and so must be, alone, about invisible, undoable, impossible to natural man…. Faith, alone, alone in the Works and DOing of Another.

    You must get used to the idea that it is one thing to do the works of the law and quite another to fulfill it. The works of the law are every thing that a person does or can do of his own free will and by his own powers to obey the law.

    And note that the Apology, along with FC II declares that Natural Man, with this Natural Law CAN do this . ALL of this. and KNOW all of this. “concerning morality nothing can be demanded beyond the Ethics of Aristotle” (Apology III) The Point of Art 18 of the Apology is to declare that Natural Man is capable of ALL righteousness in thought , word and deed, including Faith in what the Bible says and total purity or doctrine. There is , alone, ONE thing that natural man cannot Know or do. this is the Spiritual Law that can only be , alone, kept alone, by Faith, and by nothing we can …..DO!

    But because in doing such works the heart abhors the law and yet is forced to obey it, the works are a total loss and are completely useless. That is what St. Paul means in chapter 3 when he says, “No human being is justified before God through the works of the law.” From this you can see that the schoolmasters [i.e., the scholastic theologians] and sophists are seducers when they teach that you can prepare yourself for grace by means of works. How can anybody prepare himself for good by means of works if he does no good work except with aversion and constraint in his heart? How can such a work please God, if it proceeds from an averse and unwilling heart?

    But we cannot DO this. Even in believers , who are described, according to their Old Adams in FC I, cannot DO this. We cannot even “know and feel this in our hearts” (small catechism on confession). We can, alone, know this is true, by hearing God´s Revealed Word, the Bible, and simply trusting what it says as being true about us, even if we cant really feel or know it, ever, in our hearts. In our hearts we can only know and feel that other, natural law, that terrifies our conscience, based upon what we DO. That is what it is what we DO that becomes the major part of a private confession!

    Here the New Man is described. Sanctification. And sanctification, this spontaneous doing, we will NEVER, EVER see any sensible, tangible evidence of in this life. We believe this is so, in our new man, alone,by Faith, by trusting what the Word of God says about us. Faith alone. If by sight, then it is not by Faith! what we see… ALL we can ever see… is romans 7 and FC art I.

    But to fulfill the law means to do its work eagerly, lovingly and freely, without the constraint of the law; it means to live well and in a manner pleasing to God, as though there were no law or punishment. It is the Holy Spirit, however, who puts such eagerness of unconstained love into the heart, as Paul says in chapter 5. But the Spirit is given only in, with, and through faith in Jesus Christ, as Paul says in his introduction. So, too, faith comes only through the word of God, the Gospel, that preaches Christ: how he is both Son of God and man, how he died and rose for our sake. Paul says all this in chapters 3, 4 and 10.

    That is why faith alone makes someone just and fulfills the law; faith it is that brings the Holy Spirit through the merits of Christ. The Spirit, in turn, renders the heart glad and free, as the law demands. Then good works proceed from faith itself. That is what Paul means in chapter 3 when, after he has thrown out the works of the law, he sounds as though the wants to abolish the law by faith. No, he says, we uphold the law through faith, i.e. we fulfill it through faith. …

    Here now Luther hammers this contrast between spiritual law and natural law home. He destroys the idea that there is really any distinction between willful sins and unwillful ones that is the basis for Roman Catholic dogma about what sin is .Amazing. read on:

    Sin in the Scriptures means not only external works of the body but also all those movements within us which bestir themselves and move us to do the external works, namely, the depth of the heart with all its powers. Therefore the word do should refer to a person’s completely falling into sin. No external work of sin happens, after all, unless a person commit himself to it completely, body and soul. In particular, the Scriptures see into the heart, to the root and main source of all sin: unbelief in the depth of the heart. Thus, even as faith alone makes just and brings the Spirit and the desire to do good external works, so it is only unbelief which sins and exalts the flesh and brings desire to do evil external works. That’s what happened to Adam and Eve in Paradise (cf. Genesis 3).

    “That which is not of Faith is sin”. The opposite of sin is NOT virtue or goodness or reconformity to the Divine Law this means. the Opposite of sin is , alone, Faith, alone , in Christ alone. Thus Forde: “The movement in Romans 8, from flesh-body to spirit-Spirit is not the movement from vice to virtue… it is, instead the movement from Virtue to , alone, Faith, alone, in Christ , alone. Say what you will about Forde being antinomian ( he probably was…) He got THIS part exactly right! And it is this that makes him so good in spite of his errors.

    That is why only unbelief is called sin by Christ, as he says in John, chapter 16, “The Spirit will punish the world because of sin, because it does not believe in me.” Furthermore, before good or bad works happen, which are the good or bad fruits of the heart, there has to be present in the heart either faith or unbelief, the root, sap and chief power of all sin.
    That is why, in the Scriptures, unbelief is called the head of the serpent and of the ancient dragon which the offspring of the woman, i.e. Christ, must crush, as was promised to Adam (cf. Genesis 3).

    Here is an important point. Root and fruit. Good Works are a fruit of sanctification. they are not sanctification. and the Good Works done in santification are the SAME , IDENTICAL good Works done out of our old adam, driven by the Law to do them! (FC art VI )

    Grace and gift differ in that grace actually denotes God’s kindness or favor which he has toward us and by which he is disposed to pour Christ and the Spirit with his gifts into us, as becomes clear from chapter 5, where Paul says, “Grace and gift are in Christ, etc.”

    The gifts and the Spirit increase daily in us, yet they are not complete, since evil desires and sins remain in us which war against the Spirit, as Paul says in chapter 7, and in Galations, chapter 5.

    And Genesis, chapter 3, proclaims the enmity between the offspring of the woman and that of the serpent.

    But grace does do this much: that we are accounted completely just before God.

    God’s grace [and sanctification!] is not divided into bits and pieces, as are the gifts [the fruits of repentence] , but grace takes us up completely into God’s favor for the sake of Christ, our intercessor and mediator, so that the gifts may begin their work in us.

    here is the link to the complete text. This is one of most compact and powerful of Luthers writings, only the Galatians Commentary could be called better!

  11. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #9

    @fws #4
    Are you here referring to the Gospel in a wider sense?

    NO. I mean this in the “narrow Gospel meaning” described in FofC V “Law and Gospel”.


    1) Christ himself forbids us to separate wheat from looks-like-wheat, sheep from goats or to do soil or fruit analysis. He specifically, categorically, and emphatically reserves this task for himself. It therefore would be idolatry and sin to disobey. Therefore this passage MUST be about the Gospel in the narrow sense. Now, of course , the Gospel is about being freed FROM sin. So “i believe the Gospel” is to automatically say: “I wish to be freed FROM TE Bonds of sin, not be freed TO sin”. I have never heard even an antinomian say otherwise . Have you? The confessions say that ALL sinners, apart from Christ, fall into , ONLY, two categories…. pharisee-hipocrite, or despairing-epicurean judas. There is no third category of “Believer-in-Christ-epicurean-despairing-hipocrite-pharisee” is there? To produce another kind of forgiven sinner…. alone the Gospel is the power for that.

    2) Our Lutheran Confessions say this in Apology art VII & VIII:

    and this:

    It is to slander us to say that we believe otherwise!

  12. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #9

    @fws #5
    I think your other quotes have cleared it up to me… I was thinking of Paul’s words about not knowing sin but for the Law (the Law being that which God used to reveal sin).

    I think Lutherans here have adopted Romes position in a sense. Bear with me:
    Rome´s explanation looks like this:
    The Divine Law is the revelation of the very Image and Mind of God. God wrote the revelation of that Image Twice. He wrote it first, before the fall, in the hearts and reason of men. Then , after the fall, that Image of God was shattered like a mirror into shards. We can only catch glimpses of that Image and Divine Mind now. (note here, that the Image of God was not completely lost! This is where Thomist Natural Law fails. John Gerhard Loci: “To deny that the Image of God was completely lost is to exactly deny Original Sin”)

    For that reason, God was obligated to again issue his Law, this time upon tablets of stone. Therefore the bible is necessary because the revelation of the Image of God and Mind of God simply cannot be known or seen without this Revealed Word (along with the continuing revelation found in the traditions of the Church interpreting that Word inerrantly).
    How could we return to the Image of God without that Revelatiion of the Image of
    God being again restored?!

    Lutheran Position:

    The Image of God and Original Righteous is precisely that which Natural Man possessed before the fall and is absent after the fall. That is, alone, one thing, only. It is what is restored, fully , in the Waters of Holy Baptism. It is , alone, Faith alone , in Christ Alone.
    The Law, neither natural, nor spiritual nor revealed law is the revelation of the Image of God and Original Righeousness. That , alone, is the very Person of Christ and the work of Faith that , alone , is a work of the Holy Spirit.

    When this work of Faith is done, THEN , alone, can the prophecy of Jeremiah 31 be fulfilled: ” I will write my Law… upon their hearts!” (apology IV “love and the fulfilling of the Law”) THIS is why the Apology makes a HUGE deal of this distinction in romans 2:15:

    The Divine Law is written in the Reason of ALL men, but it is NOT written in the heart!
    It is rather the WORK of the Law that is written in the heart.
    The work of the Law is to do what? ONLY and ALWAYS acuse and kill.

    Only when first Faith is again restored in the heart, can the Law , as a consequence of restored Faith, again be also written, not only in Reason, but also in the heart.

    and in this way, both the spiritual law and also the natural law are both fulfilled in the very heart of men!

    bless you pastor Scheer!

  13. @fws #15

    @fws #5
    I think your other quotes have cleared it up to me… I was thinking of Paul’s words about not knowing sin but for the Law (the Law being that which God used to reveal sin).

    The Apology makes this be about the distinction between the Spiritual Law (fear love and trust , ie Faith) vs the Natural Law (thought word and deed, ie DOing) . They say that the Natural Man´s Natural Law is “Veiled with the Veil of Moses” and so is blind to the Spiritual Law. The “veil of moses” is define,by the confessions, as the opinion that the Law can be kept by doing, whether our heart is in it or not.

    Rome will level this argument:
    “If that is so, and Natural man CAN , fully, know and do the Natural Law, why is it that he doesnt do it?!! We say it is because his thinking is clouded and so man needs not just natural law, but also Divinely Revealed scripture and the teachings of the Church to know what he must do to be moral.” This is a direct attack upon the Lutheran understanding of the Divine Law.

    Lutherans, in conter response say this is the reason:

    For Scripture calls this the righteousness of the flesh which the carnal nature, i.e., reason, renders ALONE by itself, 71] without the Holy Ghost.

    Although the power of concupiscence is such that men more frequently obey evil dispositions than sound judgment.
    And the devil, who is efficacious in the godless, as Paul says, Eph. 2:2, does not cease to incite this feeble nature to various offenses.

    THESE are the reasons why even civil righteousness is rare among men, as we see that not even the philosophers themselves, who seem 72] to have aspired after this righteousness, attained it.

    [But these Works are missing the Spiritual Righteousness that is not about DOing because it cannot be done! And of what does that Spiritual Righeousness consist? This:]

    For human hearts without the Holy Ghost are without the fear of God; without trust toward God, they do not believe that they are heard, forgiven, helped, and preserved by God. Therefore they are godless. For neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit, Matt. 7:18. And without faith it is impossible to please God, Heb. 11:6.

    73] Therefore, although we concede to free will the liberty and power to perform the outward works of the Law, yet we do not ascribe to free will these spiritual matters, namely, truly to fear God, truly to believe God, truly to be confident and hold that God regards us, hears us, forgives us, etc.

    These are the true works of the First Table, which the heart cannot render without the Holy Ghost,

    as Paul says, 1 Cor. 2:14: The natural man, i.e., man using only natural strength, receiveth not the things 74] of the Spirit of God. (That is, a person who is not enlightened by the Spirit of God does not, by his natural reason, receive anything of God’s will and divine matters.]

    And this can be decided if men consider what their hearts believe concerning God’s will, whether they are truly confident that they are regarded and heard by God. Even for saints to retain this faith [and, as Peter says (1 Pet. 1:8), to risk and commit himself entirely to God, whom he does not see, to love Christ, and esteem Him highly, whom he does not see] is difficult, so far is it from existing in the godless. But it is conceived, as we have said above, when terrified hearts hear the Gospel and receive consolation [when we are born anew of the Holy Ghost].


    75] Therefore such a distribution is of advantage in which civil righteousness is ascribed to the free will and spiritual righteousness to the governing of the Holy Ghost in the regenerate.

    Now this distribution-distinction is elaborated, and justified:

    For thus the outward discipline [of Natural Law] is retained, because all men ought to know equally , both that God requires this civil righteousness [God will not tolerate indecent, wild, reckless conduct], and that, in a measure, we can afford it.

    And yet a distinction is shown between human and spiritual righteousness, between philosophical doctrine and the doctrine of the Holy Ghost, and …


    it can be understood for what there is need of the Holy Ghost.

    1) The Holy Ghost, is needed , ALONE, to create Faith (ie fear, love and trust) as a heart-knowing in the heart. This is the Spiritual fulfilment of the Spiritual Law found, “peculiarly” in the Revealed Holy Scripture.

    2) ALL other Righteousness can be FULLY known and DONE , ALONE! by the Natural Man, with the Natural Law of rom 2:15, with NO HS, No Christ and NO bible necessary.

    Here is the point they are making: If we do not uphold that ALONE! in 2), then we will lose the ALONE! in 1). Why? Natural man will sneak the righeousness of 2) into the article 1) calling it “spiritual, sanctification, third use law, etc etc”

    So in the Apology there is are TWO Alones! there is a Law alone! , without which, the Gospel Alone! WILL be lost!

    76] Nor has this distribution been invented by us, but Scripture most clearly teaches it.

  14. my-my—so much scholarship and so little application of the Keys when sins of laity and apathy of leadership are out of control as so many members lose hope and their churches die due to many apostates in LCMS as many observe the decay

  15. @ralph luedtke #17

    Brother Ludtke. I would beg of you not to judge me so harshly. Everything is at stake in what we are discussing. This topic is far from a mere abstract intellectual exercise.

    My writing might reflect less a desire to wrap this into scholarly abstraction than a belief that the solution was known to the Lutherans who came before us, and a desire to rediscover and reapply what they knew and we somehow have forgotten.

    That is why the radical focus on the Confessions. We claim to be confessional. But do they really challenge or change any of our thinking? Or do we read them and read into them what we already know and expect to find, and so miss what we need to see that would correct our errors?

  16. ok-then where are our leaders of truth and practice? have them follow your work and give us examples as to how they are working to put what is written into practice-ie,afflicting the comfortable including themselves

  17. @ralph luedtke #19

    Pray! God’s Word must make what you desire happen.
    And so it is for us to speak that creative Word to one another.
    As a Lutheran , I am appealing to that Word by means of what, alone, defines us as Lutherans and delimits what is, and what is not, Lutheran: Our wonderful and amazing Lutheran Confessions.

    Join me.

  18. Frank,
    I don’t understand what you are so upset about in this. I have researched it more, and though the concept you are describing is there, the name you have given it “Spiritual Law” is an innovation. That leads a whole lot of folks to confusion.

    @fws #13
    In wheat and weeds, the field is the world, not the church (according to Jesus’ own interpretation).

  19. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #21

    Aw pastor Scheer. I am not upset at all! What made you think that. This conversation would probably be better over a beer or two….

    Wheat and weeds, the field is the world according … to Jesus interpretation

    This is most certainly true dear pastor!

    Augustana and Apology art VII-VIII do something interesting with this.
    And it agrees with your assessment, only, I suggest, not quite in the way you would have it!
    This article puts forth, consciously as a conceptual framework, not as doctrine, the following idea:

    The “Holy Catholic Church” in the Apostles´Creed is an earthly (“of the world”) government, along with it´s external rites and ceremonies (which fully would include the administration of word and sacraments) in exactly the same way that the other two ordos of Family and civil-society are goverments.
    Consider the far reaching implications of that please!
    They are saying this:
    They are placing the Holy Catholic Church into the Romans 8 category of “flesh-body” that St Paul contrasts to “spirit-Spirit” and that he says is “of the world” , pertains, alone to it, and… will perish with the world!

    They then point out, repeatedly, that this very earthly government is “not only that”. In what way do they mean that? This one: One will find, in, with and under, invisibly, in this government, alone, also the “Communion of Saints”.

    I get my doctrine of the Church from our Augustana Apology art VII-VIII. That is because, but not only because, this article is titled “Of the Church”.

    I know that it is popular, for a large segment of our LCMS clergy to , instead, draw the doctrine of the Church , instead, leaning upon Art 28 “Of Ecclesiastical Power”. I suppose that that is because of how “separation of church-state” issues have needed to be dealt with. This is a most odd and unfortunate develópment I would suggest.

    Now one does not need to read Art VII and VIII in the Apology to quickly see that they are exactly saying that you are exactly right! The wheat vs looks-like-wheat along with the sheep-vs-goat IS , indeed, “of the world”. Further, they agree with you, fully so, with your assessment of the very Words of Christ.

    And they say then this: That place in the world, alone, where you will find BOTH wheat and looks like wheat, sheep and goats, is where? It is the Church-as-threshing floor, what they identify in the Creed as the “Holy Catholic Church”, where, this “of the world” situatiion , alone! can exist!

    This is nothing other than Law and Gospel, aka Two Kingdoms, applied to the Doctrine of the Church dear pastor Scheer!

  20. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #21

    I have researched it more, and though the concept you are describing is there, the name you have given it “Spiritual Law” is an innovation. That leads a whole lot of folks to confusion.

    The concept you are describing IS there

    It is not a concept. It is a contrast. The contrast is to ‘natural law’
    St Paul and Luther usually teach by such contrasts. Eg: Law and Gospel.

    So you see the concept, and don´t seem to yet see that this is THE central, and linchpin contrast that the argument of the Apology ENTIRELY is hinged upon.
    I am saying that one cannot understand the Apology without seeing this clearly, and just how very central this contrast is.

    You seem to brush the contrast quickly aside, admitting it is there, focusing on how “confusing” and “innovative” the term is. Maybe if you pondered the contrast, and challenged in your mind my assertion as to just how central it is to the entire Lutheran argument against St Thomas´s theory of Natural Law, then the term would not feel so disorienting?

    So then. “Innovative” is probably the one thing you could say to me that would most make me cringe and rethink! I would like on my tombstone “Frank never had even one single original theological idea in his entire life, that he did not completely repent of!”

    So is it an innovation to say “Spiritual Laws?” Is it wrong, and sorta a retread of Bill Bright and CCC with their “5 spiritual laws” and so a horrible confusion of Law and Gospel? That is the question right?

    St Paul makes this very same contrast, using the same wording I would suggest in Romans 7:14

    14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.

    Ah. But it does not say “Spiritual Law”does it?! Then St Paul says.

    22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind [ie the “natural law” Rom 2:15?] and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

    This STILL is not making the constrast I say that our Confessions make is it. Paul here seems to say that the Law is Always Spiritual. And then there is a Law, that is sin, that our flesh follows. So: 1) THE Law of God which is Spiritual, and 2) Sin-as-a-Law.

    I am saying our confessions distinguish between “1) Natural Law” ala Rom 2:15, which IS the SAME Divine Law as the Decalog, and then , veiled to reason, within this Law, is 2) a “Spiritual Law” , that is “peculiarly (uniquely)” found in the 1st Table of the Decalog. More importantly I am claiming that it is this contrast is THE central foundational contrast upon which the Apology erects and mounts it´s ENTIRE argumentative thread!

    That is quite an assertion isn´t it? I need to prove that from BOTH the Confessions and Holy Scriptures. Actually this is true: IF what I say about the Confessions is true, I could expect those same Confessions to provide me with the Scripture Passages to make such a case right!

    And they do!

  21. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #21

    How about this pastor Scheer, to avoid a logomachy over nothing:
    1) you agree that our Confessions employ the term “Natural Law” (even though you will not find that exact phrasing in Scripture….)
    2) How about “Natural Law” vs the “Law of Christ”? as found below:

    17] But when man is born anew by the Spirit of God, and liberated from the Law, that is, freed from this driver, and is led by the Spirit of Christ, he lives according to the immutable will of God comprised in the Law, and so far as he is born anew, does everything from a free, cheerful spirit; and these are called not properly works of the Law, but works and fruits of the Spirit, or as St. Paul names it, the law of the mind and the Law of Christ. For such men are no more under the Law, but under grace, as St. Paul says, Rom. 8, 2 [Rom. 7, 23; 1 Cor. 9, 21].

    But now…..lets see the passages our Confessions quote here:

    Rom 8:2 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[a] 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you[b] free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

    and now …

    “Spiritual Law?” Innovative?….and, now in context…

    Rom 7:22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

    Now…the Law of God vs Outside the Law vs being in…. the Law of Christ

    Cor 9:20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ ) that I might win those outside the law.

    THIS is how the Confessions drive the Contrast between the “Natural Law” (under which they place also the Jews who have the Decalog) that is the Divine Law written in Reason, and veiled by the Veil of Mose. This Natural Law is veiled to what? The “spiritual Law”! And that Law can only be written, once again , into the hearts of mankind only when?!

    Here is what our Confessions say! They will say it better than me….

    2] It is written in the prophet, Jer. 31:33: I will put My Law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts.

    And in Rom. 3:31, Paul says: Do we, then, make void the Law through faith? God forbid! Yea, we establish the Law. Matt. 19:17, …1 Cor. 13:3 …and similar sentences testify…. that we are to keep the Law when we have been justified by faith, and thus increase more and more in the Spirit.
    Moreover, we speak not of ceremonies, but of that Law which gives commandment concerning the [spiritual] movements of the heart, namely, the [First Table of the ] Decalog.
    4] Because, indeed, faith brings the Holy Ghost, and produces in hearts a new life, it is necessary that it should produce spiritual movements in hearts.

    What are these Spiritual Movements that are a keeping of the Law, spiritually?

    The prophet, Jer. 31:33 shows us this, when he says: I will put My Law into their inward parts, and write it in their hearts.

    Important Context: Earlier the Confessions (ap art III) contrast the Natural Law of Natural Man saying that THAT Law, which is the SAME Law as that found in the Decalog, is written, alone , in the Reason-Mind of all men, but NOT in the heart!

    Therefore, when we have been justified by faith and regenerated, we …

    begin to fear and love God, to pray to Him, to expect from Him aid, to give thanks and praise Him, and to obey Him in afflictions.

    We keep the first commandment, the spiritual law, that demands of us something that is … spiritual. It is , in contrast, not at all about any doing ! It is NOT about natural law demanding outward and correct thoughts, words and deeds. It is alone demands “heart movements”. “Good emotions”. But this heart, or spiritual, or inner law keeping, that is not at all about DOing, will then ALSO result in the SAME outward doing, automatically, that ALL men CAN do and is about…. DOing! watch:

    We begin also to love our neighbors, because our hearts have spiritual and holy movements. Because there is now, through the Spirit of Christ a new heart, mind, and spirit within.

    This is not just a description. There is an argument being made here. That argument is directly against the Natural Law taught by St Thomas and the scholastics.

    5] These things cannot occur until we have been justified by faith, and, regenerated, we receive the Holy Ghost:
    first, because the [spiritual] Law cannot 6] be kept without the knowledge of Christ;
    and likewise the [spiritual ] Law cannot be kept without the Holy Ghost.

    See Apology 18 here that says Natural Man, alone with Natural Law in Reason and Free will can keep ALL Law, except ONE. Faith! the spiritual first commandment demands a spiritual law-keeping that EXCLUDES Works and doing. That is the argument!

    The Lutherans enter into the Roman natural law game of Law-keeping in this way, and explode it from within! It is a brilliant argumentative method. This is because it is, precisely, also the argument of St Paul in Romans!

    But the Holy Ghost is received by faith, according to the declaration of Paul, Gal. 3:14: That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
    7] Then, too, how can the human heart love God while it knows that He is terribly angry, and is oppressing us with temporal and perpetual calamities?

    But the Law always [and only] accuses us, always shows that God is angry.

    And one of my favorite Confessional texts….

    8] God therefore is not loved until we apprehend mercy by faith. Not until then does He become a lovable object.

    So now they sumarize and drive home their contrast between the natural law that demands a keeping-by-doing, by thought, word and deed, versus the spiritual law of the first commandment that demands a keeping-by-faith. It excludes Works! It is about true fear, love and trust. new heart movements. Even : good emotions. It CANNOT be kept by doing, definitionally!

    So the contrast:

    9] Although, therefore, civil works, i.e., the outward works of the Law, can be done…without Christ and without the Holy Ghost from our inborn light [ie the natural law of Romans 2:15] , nevertheless…

    it appears from what we have said that those [spiritual] things which belong peculiarly to the [spiritual] divine Law, i.e., the affections of the heart towards God, which are commanded in the [spiritual] first table, cannot be rendered without the Holy Ghost.

    and this distribution , or distinction, is again taken up in Apology 18 “free will” which says this:

    75] Therefore such a distribution [distinction of Law and Gospel!] is of advantage in which…

    civil righteousness [natural law of natural man] is ascribed to the free will and….

    spiritual righteousness [that is keeping the spiritual law in the first commandment that demands Faith, alone] to the governing of the Holy Ghost in the regenerate.

    For thus the outward discipline is retained, because all men [according to natural law rom 2:15] ought to know equally, both that God requires this civil righteousness God will not tolerate indecent, wild, reckless conduct, and that, in a measure, we can afford it.

    And yet a distinction is shown between human and spiritual righteousness, between philosophical doctrine and the doctrine of the Holy Ghost, [between natural law and spiritual law, or .. between natural law and the law of christ] and…

    it can be understood for what there is need of the Holy Ghost.
    [and that NO HS or Christ are needed, at all, for anything other than, alone Faith!]

    76] Nor has this distribution been invented by us, but Scripture most clearly teaches it.

  22. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #21

    Romans 8:2 calls it “The Spirit´s Law” . How is this diferent from saying Spirit-ual Law?

    And this St Paul contrasts to that Divine Law that is written in the reason of ALL men in Romans 2:15.

    It is the contrast that we need to focus on dear pastor Scheer. Again: for St Paul and our Confessions, this is a keystone, linchpin argument they are making!

  23. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #21

    Your objection is no mere quibble as to the term spiritual Law pastor scheer.

    the scriptures and confessions refer variously to a keeping of the law while being under it, while being outside of it (out-laws), and while being in the law . They also talk about keeping the Law spiritually as opposed to keeping it according to the letter, etc.

    there are various ways St Paul slices and dices this , and we must not only consider these carefully, but, as you are urging, we must consider, carefully how we are to remain within the FORM of sound doctrine.

    I am not taking your suggestion that I am innovating here lightly in any way is what I am saying. It is good right and salutary to raise such objections.

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