My Radical Marriage Proposal: What God has joined together

Recently, here on BJS, and others have stated that our churches get out of the state marriage business.  I concur.  This is in response to the onslaught of gay advocacy for pseudogamy and the possibility of the government sanctioning the same on the federal level, especially in the next four years. The prospect of government insistence of churches to preside at pseudogamous weddings looms. The best outcome may be the Supreme Court declaring that marriage in not listed in the enumerated powers of the Constitution and according to the 10th amendment, therefore, marriage is left to the states, including pseudogamy.  However, if the recent experience of 25 years of the ELCA is any indication, the gay activist lobby will pound away at that until a favorable court is in session to undo all marriage laws as it did with state abortion laws.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Vigen Guroian (he told me his surname rhymes with the playwright’s William Saroyan), at the time at Loyola College, Baltimore and now at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville.  Dr. Guroian is an ethicist and lay theologian in the Armenian Orthodox Church. Eight years ago, he gave me his address to a meeting of the prelates of his church:  Marriage and Family in Brave New America: On Gay and Same Sex Marriage, which was subsequently published in Touchstone. His original article for Touchstone was edited.  I will be using his original article.

 In his paper, Dr. Guroian writes a brief history of marriage in the West. Next he looks at marriage theologically and hence liturgically from his Orthodox theology and practice.  I will use his historical and liturgical insights, and then insights from Martin Luther, for this radical marriage proposal, as a faithful response to the seismic cultural shift in this day and time.  Both Dr. Guroian and Dr. Martin Luther draw their understandings from the Bible, in particular, St. Matthew 19: 6:

 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.

The introduction to “On Marriage Matters”, Luther’s Works: volume 46, states:  “For many centuries the Western church had accepted  and conformed to the Roman civil law and custom in problems related to marriage.”  Crucial to Roman civil law and the subsequent Western Church understanding and practice was consent between man and woman in the exchange of vows. Dr. Gurioian points out the same that the Western Church adopted and adapted Roman civil law regarding marriage.

To this day, Western Christian understandings of marriage continue to reflect the Roman principle of consent, of which I have made mention.  This consensual view of marriage dominated in Latin and Western Christianity as the church ingested Roman law.  The consent principle certainly contributed to the understanding of the Roman Catholic Church that the bride and groom are the celebrants and that they marry each other rather than being married by the church through the agency of the clerical officiate.  Many of our fellow citizens who regard themselves as Christian or religious assume that consent is the heart of marriage, this whether they conceive of marriage as a contract, covenant, or blessing conferred by the church.

The Church “ingested” Roman civil law, though in the first centuries it was different in the WesternChurch:

The early church saw no need to perform a special ritual for marriage.  Rather, it recognized the legal validity of marriage by the secular authorities and invited couples to share the Eucharist together as a sign of their union in Christ and commitment as a couple to the kingdom of God, above all earthly kingdoms. It is not until the ninth and tenth centuries that a complete rite of matrimony emerges. At this time, marriage was removed from the Eucharist and sharing of the common cup replaced eating of the eucharistic meal.

The reason why the separation of marriage from Eucharist occurred is of great significance, though that significance has the taste of a bitter irony. In the ninth century, Leo VI (Emperor from 886-912) mandated that all marriages henceforth be sanctioned by a church ceremony. A marriage that was not blessed by the church would “not be considered as marriage,’ but as illegitimate concubinage.  Some received this gesture as a great achievement toward the complete Christianization of the Empire.  But it presented serious problems with respect to church discipline, and it forced compromises upon the church that blurred the distinction between church and secular world and between marriage as a legal contract and marriage as a sacrament for baptized believers.  We have been living with these compromises for over a thousand years for better and for ill (and the pun is intended)

In a similar vein the wedding practice in Luther’s day was for the couple to be married outside the church doors after which the couple and the party went into the Sanctuary for the blessing of the Word in front of the Altar (See “The Order of Marriage for Common Pastors”, Luther’s Works, volume 53, page 111).  In my mind, this practice at that time still reflected the two-tiered understanding of marriage from the earliest centuries of the Church: civil marriage solemnized within the Eucharistic/sacramental communion of the Church.  I think this also reflects marriage as God’s gift in creation which in His redemption heals in Jesus Christ, marriage as the most apt reflection of Christ and His bride, the Church (c.f. Ephesians 5: 22-33)

The wedding rite, reflecting accurately that the Blessed and Holy Trinity joins the man and the woman, is not the same in the eastern churches. You are probably familiar with their much different rite: the couple drinking the common cup together, the priest leading the couple, with crowns over their heads, around the Table three times and the priest joining their hands. Dr. Guroian:

You and I will look in vain to find in the Byzantine (Greek) rite of holy matrimony, for example, the familiar exchange of vows.  And in all Eastern rites where this ceremony is present that is a late edition under the influence of Roman law and Latin Christianity… The Eucharist is our home as Christians.  And it is the home of Christian marriage.  In order to honor and secure its true meaning in the minds and hearts of the faithful, we must return marriage to that home immediately, where it obtains it sacred value and distinction and is most secure.

The Eastern Orthodox rite of marriage emphasizes the meaning of our Lord’s Word: “What GOD has joined together…” (Emphasis my own) The rite shows forth that it is  not the man or the woman (or for that matter 2 men or 2 women, or a man and several women, ad nauseum) who are doing the joining together.  The Lord alone joins the man and the woman.  Further, I agree whole-heartedly as a Lutheran and hence a catholic that, “The Eucharist is our home as Christians” still awaiting the kingdom come.  The Divine Service, the Gottesdienst is God’s service first to us, as is His matchmaking between man and woman whom God joins one to the other, as He join the man and the woman to Himself as His Bride through the washing and regeneration of the Word.

At the time of the Reformation, young couples were becoming engaged/betrothed by saying the vows to one another secretly and thus they considered themselves married.  Luther wrote “On Marriage Matters” as an evangelical response to the marriage crisis of his day:  secret engagements/betrothals.  I will not get into Luther’s  complicated response except to say it was the mere saying of the vows, in secret, without parents and the Church,  that supposedly  contracted the betrothal and hence the marriage. The question of this crisis:  Are those vows in secret valid? In response, Luther makes it abundantly clear the Identity of the central and only Agent in marriage:

 “…all will depend on sound knowledge and understanding of what this verse, “What God has joined together,” is trying to say.  It does not say, “What has joined itself together,’ but “What God has joined together.”  The joining together is easily seen, but men refuse to see that it is to be God who does the joining.  As soon as a joining together has come about by the parties’ own efforts, they immediately want to hang God’s Name over it as a cloak to hide their shame, and say that God did it.  This is misusing and dishonoring God’s Name and is contrary to the second commandment…Joining by God means that which is done by us according to His word and commandment; joining without God means that which is done by ourselves alone without His word and commandment.  Now we have taught so often that we should do nothing unless we have express approval of God’s word; God himself has nothing to do with us, nor we with Him, except through His word, which is the only means by which we recognize His will, and according to which we have to govern our actions.”(LW, volume 46, page 276;  emphasis my own)

Luther is so clear as the Scripture he interprets:  reread again the emphasized sentence above.  Scripture alone governs liturgical actions and words.  Confessional Lutherans live and die by sola Scriptura and the marriage rite should reflect God joining the man and woman by His Word, not the man and woman by their words in a vow. Note the degradation inherent in the wretched practice of writing one’s vows.  Further note:   vows, on sitcoms, are no longer vows but statements of affection, with friend(s) ‘presiding’ the ‘ceremony’. The actual Sacrament of the Altar is replaced by  the ersatz ‘sacrament’ of the unity candle (and since the couple have probably already consummated the ‘sacrament’ of one flesh before the wedding, this unity candle ceremony is especially phony:  do you really need two candles to light one candle? This insight courtesy of Pr. Louis Smith from a phone conversation).

Since the current government (and society and culture)  is inimical to the Church’s teaching, Dr. Guroian also points out that Orthodox priests no longer sign state wedding licenses.  As Dr. Guroian points out that  the Orthodox theology and practice of weddings and marriage is better defense against our neo-pagan society, than the Western rite with exchange of vows. He points out that our best defense is the first Amendment and the “free exercise” clause.  The Orthodox rite makes the Lord joins together as one the man and the woman…not the man and the woman. Dr. Guroian:

 In the United States Constitution, there exists the free exercise of religion clause. One day we might need to lean on it heavily, and the best position from which to do so will be in our claim that Christian marriage is wholly integral to our worship and is itself a eucharistic feast.

The government  should not interfere with the Church’s “free exercise” of religion in marriage especially of the rite of marriage is without vows and clearly shows forth the Word: What God has joined together.

Therefore and finally, my radical marriage proposal:

  •  Since  the clear and unequivocal meaning of St. Matthew 19: 6 is that the Lord alone joins the man and the woman, then The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod Biblically, confessionally, liturgically consider reordering the Rite of Marriage so that the rite does not include the exchange of vows.  The Synod should engage in prayerful and thorough consideration of this reordering primarily by catechesis, not by convention.
  •  Since it seems the Orthodox Churches’ liturgy of marriage reflects most closely Scripture in this regard, then we should study those as to the possibility of adapting their rites, or finding our own that reflect the Word of Scripture.  (The Blessed Reformers likewise cited favorably the “Greek Church” (Tappert;  236.4;  250.6;  265.88;  267.93; 263.79), especially in regards to the Liturgy).
  • Since the Divine Service is our home, His Temple of His Body and Blood, then the wedding services should only take place during the Holy Communion, therefore the bride and the groom are communing members of the Synod.


About Pastor Mark Schroeder

I am currently the Pastor at Concordia Lutheran Mission, authorized by Good Shepherd Lutheran, Roanoke, Virginia. I have been an AELC then an ELCA pastor since my Ordination April 24, 1983 until leaving the ELCA and being accepted by Colloquy, June 1, 2010. My wife is Natalie and we have three children, Luke, Talitha and Abraham.


My Radical Marriage Proposal: What God has joined together — 145 Comments

  1. Rev. McCall…does this mean that we’re actually in somewhat of an agreement after all of this discussion?! Was that a compliment?

  2. @Kathy L. M. #2
    “Yes” and “Yes”. 🙂

    Luther believed that the state alone should deal with marriage and that the church’s role was simply to bless the couple, pray for them, and remind them of the true meaning of marriage. (Luther’s Works, Volume 53)

  3. Dear Readers and Friends in Christ,

    It is clear that the need is expressed of a basic catechetical course in marriage. We have made quite a mess out of weddings and marriage. Here are a few points that may clear things up, or not!

    1. The Lord gives marriage before the Fall. Genesis 1: 28. It is God’s good gift so that the man is not alone. All the creatures Adam named but not one suitable helpmate was found. The Lord gives marriage before there were Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists and the like. Someone has said that family is ecumenical experience of all mankind.

    2. It is for proper desire of the man for the woman and vice versa. “We are not talking about sinful lust but about so-called “natural love,” the desire which was meant to be in uncorrupted nature. This love of one sex for the other is truly a divine ordinance.” (Apology of the AC, article XXIII, Sacerdotal marriage, Tappert). Marriage is for all creation and it’s continuance: be fruitful and multiply. “How is marriage a mystery? The two have become one. This is not an empty symbol. They have not become the image of anything on earth, but of God Himself.” (St. John Chrysostom, Homily 12)

    3. Later Lutheran theologians called marriage as part of the order of creation, as we read above, then in Christ, the order of redemption.

    4. Luther and the Reformers were radical by placing marriage in it’s God given place in creation and not as a sacrament. Anytime we live by Scripture alone it will be radical in this post-lapsarian world, this can not be avoided. This understanding radically changed the social order of the 16th century and ordering of marriage in a sinful world, with the government, in the civil realm, also as an order of creation, “Fatherhood” of a nation, protecting and promoting the first of institutions, marriage and family. (Large Catechism, 4th commandment, 150) Luther presupposed a state that would be helpful in that regard, we can not, at all.

    5. Marriage is not a sacrament yet the Lord highly values it. “God has…most richly blessed this estate above all other and, in addition, has supplied and endowed it with everything in the world in order that this estate might be provided for richly and adequately. (The Large Catechism, The Sixth Commandment). “(Marriage) is not an exceptional estate, but the most universal and the noblest, pervading all Christendom and even extending through the world.” (Ibid; emphasis my own) The eastern Orthodox liturgically signify this with the crowns over the head of the Man and Woman, king and queen of creation, as were Adam and Eve.

    6. In the 16th century, monasticism and conventual life were considered to be a sure way to honor and serve God and thus attain heaven by one’s “holy” way of living. Luther and the blessed Reformers read the Bible. “All heretics have denigrated matrimony and have sought for and begun some newfangled and bizarre way of life.” (Luther’s Sermon on John 2: 1—11, 1533, Luther’s House Postils). The Reformers pointed out that we read nothing about monks and nuns in the Scripture but on the first page we read about marriage. Marriage is a God pleasing, so much so, Luther preached: “’Let the marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled.’ Hold fast to that, those of you who are married. St. Augustine writes in one place concerning married people, that even if one of them is somewhat weak, etc., he should not be afraid of the sudden and infallible Day of the Lord; even if the day of the Lord were to come in the hour when man and wife were having marital intercourse, they should not be afraid of it. Why is this so? Because even if the Lord comes in that hour he will find them in the ordinance and station in which they have been placed and installed by God. (”From Luther’s Sermon ‘A the Marriage of Sigismund von Lindenau, 1545, LW 51)

    7. Marriage has two commandments: the 4th and the 6th. In Judaism, they include the 4th Commandment in the first table of the Law. Luther teaches as much.

    8. But since sin entered the world, marriage and family need two commandments (and in between them is the commandment for life!).

    9. Marriage has three purposes: a. Procreation: fatherhood and motherhood; b. Companionship. c. Fostering of chastity. These purposes are beautifully summed up in the Pastor’s Address in Holy Matrimony, page 275, The Lutheran Service Book. Based upon Scripture and Confessions, there is a fourth purpose: D. Living our first Vocation, that is faith lived in service toward the neighbor, beginning with our first neighbors, our husbands/wives and children. “How can you lead a more blessed and holy life, as your works are concerned? In the sight of God it is really faith that makes a person holy; faith alone serves Him, while our works serve the people.” (The Large Catechism 4th Commandment, 146-147)

    10. The Rite of Marriage is a worship service. My article caused my wife and I to reminisce about our wedding day 26 years ago. The service was Holy Communion with the Rite of Marriage. It was a full church (I was the assistant pastor and my bride and her family stalwart members). Afterwards, Maria, exclaimed to us, “It was actually a worship service! And not a showcase for the bride and her wedding party!” For Lutherans the Divine Service is the wedding service’s natural home. Please note the rubric on the top of page 275, LSB (rubric: from a Latin word meaning red, are liturgical instructions in red). Therefore, marriage is public for all to see. It is not private. The worship service with the Rite of Marriage is a public one. I have pointed this out to couples and one woman blurted out, You mean we have to invite everyone to the reception! No, I said, the service is open and public. It is for all creation to see and for the Church to rejoice in with Christ’s own blessing as at the wedding at Cana, remembering the Bible begins with marriage and the world will end with marriage, in the marriage feast of the Lamb.

    11. So what makes a marriage Christian? Two baptized sinners are married who need His forgiveness day by day poured out in the Lord’s own Supper because of His once and for all sacrifice upon the Cross for the life of the world.

    12. Some of you may remember a huge movie hit in the early ‘70s entitled “Love Story” and tag line for it was “love is never having to say you’re sorry”. What a crock. Engagement and marriage means confession and absolution, repentance as the Lord’s key to open souls locked in sin. Rev. McCall is so on target here. Before the wedding and especially after!

    13. It’s been asked here: when is it a marriage? Answer: finally and fully, when the two become one flesh and the marriage is consummated. This is why premarital sex is so wrong, since marriage is help-ful (as in help-mate) then pre-marital sex is harmful. A colleague used this illustration with his confirmation classes: he has two pieces of paper glued together and says marriage, the two becoming one flesh is like this. Now get those two pieces of paper apart. It’s a mess. Then glue the two torn halves with 2 other pieces of paper…then later, tear them apart. You get the picture: with the ‘winning’ of the sexual revolution everybody has been losing. “God will judge you at the last day not by the civil law but by His law.” (‘How to Choose a Wife’, St. John Chrysostom)

    14. In a very good article in Touchstone, “An Engaging Proposal”, by Campion College President Dr Ryan Messmore (which can be found here:—events/latest-news/latest-news.aspx/an-engaging-proposal.aspx), Dr. Messmore points out that in Jesus’ day the betrothal was the beginning of the marriage. The couple, with the families witnessing, exchanged vows and then about a year later it was consummated, when the joyous groom’s party would come to fetch his bride for the consummation, the two became one flesh A friend waited outside the door and when consummated shared the joyous news. Dr. Timothy Wengert (as in the Wengert/Kolb edition of the Book of Concord) said that in Luther’s day, same thing: when Fr. Luther and Katie consummated their vows, a friend was nearby to announce they were fully married. Then in Jesus’ day, the celebration lasted seven days. These wedding customs help us make historical sense out these Scripture passages: St. Matthew 1: 18-19; 25: 1-13; St. John 2: 1-11. My point is that marriage within the Church is not a destination, but a journey. “You must consider that marriage is not a business venture but a fellowship for life.” (ibid) It takes time and is public. Catechesis on marriage must begin at home and at church in Sunday School and confirmation. My last confirmation class we went over the rite of marriage and went into the sanctuary to act out a wedding to their utter embarrassment, including our youngest, Abe. In Luther’s intro to the Small Catechism, after visitations to parishes, wrote, Good God what wretchedness I beheld. People did not know the basic stuff of the faith. The world, aided and abetted overly much by denoms and Christians, have increased wretchedness in marriage and we do not know the basics and bases of weddings and marriage. In Christ, this need not be so.

    “The almighty and gracious God abundantly grant you His favor and sanctify and bless you with the blessing given to Adam and Eve in Paradise, that you may please Him in both body and soujl and live together in holy love until your life’s end. Amen.” (page 277, Holy Matrimony, LSB)

  4. Pastor Schroeder,
    What a beautiful post! I was so blest in having watched this, being taught this, and hearing this on all counts growing up. Sadly, we take for granted all Lutherans do. Many do not and rationals and excuses have eeked their way in.
    Parents, Pastors, and teachers, need to be reminded this starts early, not when oats have been sown, or wait until pre-marital counseling to begin.
    Marriage, is one of God’s greatest gifts to us, we need to treat, teach, and train to that end.
    Early, very early.

  5. @Rev. McCall #39

    Frank I’m starting to think the antinomianism charges against you are true.

    Pastor McCall, the Confessions define “antinomianism” this way:

    the Antinomians …abolish the preaching of the Law…
    and they wish sins to be reproved, and repentance and sorrow to be taught,
    not from the Law, but from the Gospel .
    FC, SD, Art V “Law and Gospel”

    Can you please point out something I have posted here that suggests I fit this Confessional defintion of “Antinomian”, or perhaps redirect and reshape your criticism so I can be helped by it?

    Pastor McCall:

    1) I have NO problem with pastors, atheists, buddhists muslims or philosophers demanding second table morality of anyone. God WILL reward and punish us for such morality! God demands it of ALL men. Our Confessions say that such carnal righteousness is “necessary”.

    2) But it must be clear that then we are urging what St Paul categorically calls a “carnal” righteousness.
    Such righteousness falls into the category of Romans 8 “carnal-flesh-body” that has, alone, one eternal consequence: death!

    3) Thus our confessons declare: “The Law only and Always mortifies and accuses!”

    You believe teach and confess this as do I pastor Mc Call.

    4) Further, NO bible, NO Holy Spirit and NO Christ are in any way at all needed to work this “repentence” in the FC V SD “narrow” sense of repentence.
    Romans 2:15 teaches this.
    The outward, sense-ible, righteousness of ALL our thoughts, words and deeds require, ALONE! human powers, free will, and the Divine Law that is written , not in our heart, but in the Reason of ALL men.
    So does our Apology art 18 also teach this, which article makes this exact point in order to show this:
    “the useful distribution that shows, alone (!) , where the Holy Spirit is necessary”.
    As does Apology III “love and the Law”:
    “concerning morality, NOTHING can be demanded beyond the Ethics of Aristotle”
    What part of the word “nothing” is unclear?

    5) Our Confessions define ALL we can do in sense-ible thought, word and deed with the following words with the following terms:
    “carnal righeousness, earthly righeousness, second table righeousness, philosophical righeousness, good Works (not just “good”works!) , virtue, justice, self-sacrifice, mercy, goodness, second table law, latreia, worship, doctrinal purity, administration of word and sacrament, etc”

    6) In our Earthly Life, God DOES judge us, according to what we DO. According to our Works.
    And God threatens to punish those who refuse to DO the mercy for others that is his will, and … God promises earthly rewards and even heavenly crowns for the Good Works WE do here on Earth that are to be all about doing Mercy for OTHERS by means of our OWN self-sacrifice.

    Therefore Luther says this:

    So, too, you must urge well the …Commandment[s] among the children and the common people,
    that they may be quiet and faithful, obedient and peaceable, and
    you must always adduce many examples from the Scriptures to show how God has punished or blessed such persons.
    Preface to the Small Catechism

    So I am insisting on a sharp distinction between a “righteousness ” and “repentence (in the FC V “narrow” sense) that the Natural Man can and must DO,
    as contrasted with a “repentence ” or “righeousness” that is impossible for even New Man to DO and utterly excludes any doing. This righteousness and repentence and sanctification comes to believers devoid of any cooperation with the Holy Spirit. (FC II SD).

    To make such a distinction between the carnal repentence God demands we DO and the spiritual repentence that is impossible to DO is not antinomianism. It is the precise opposite of that.

    Bless you pastor Mc Call.

  6. @jb #36

    Thanks for the kindness of your response. Forgive me for any lack of kindness in my previous response to you in turn. There is ALOT in what you wrote.

    THE LUTHERAN CONFESSIONS: V-18 ““It is true that the Law with its doctrine is illustrated and explained by the Gospel.
    it remains the Law’s peculiar office
    to rebuke sins and teach about good works.”

    1) The words “Peculiar office” (“exclusive function”) intend to, fully, exclude the Gospel.
    In other words:
    The Gospel NEVER instructs us in Good Works or points out our shortcomings (“rebukes sin”).
    “… the Gospel is such a preaching as shows and gives NOTHING else than grace and forgiveness in Christ” (ibid para 12).
    What part of the exclusive particle “nothing” in this quote requires further explanation?
    2) The Law, ONLY , and ALWAYS, alone and only: accuses, mortifies and terrifies our conscience. (Apology III “Love and the Law” and… many other places)
    This is true, most especially, when the Law is teaching us or is the Third Use of the Law or what the Reformed calls the “Indicative voice of the Law”.

    “the Gospel, which ALONE [and ONLY!] properly teaches and commands, alone, to believe in Christ, alone…. it is properly the Gospel, alone, which teaches , [only!], concerning saving faith in Christ. ”

    Now compare this to what you state JB:

    JB SAYS: where Ephesians 5 :22-33 [teaches] …via a comparison to the Gospel, therein is the Law, but the Gospel which [teaches about Good Works] …is by no means Law, never can be Law (emphasis added)

    FRANK´S COMMENTS: See what our Confessions say above dear pastor JB and consider rephrasing or rethinking what you wrote.

    THE LUTHERAN CONFESSIONS: Antinomians… abolish the preaching of the Law … and wish sins to be reproved, and repentance and sorrow to be taught, not from the Law, but from the Gospel. …

    FRANK´S COMMENTS: Neither of us are Antinomians.

    5) The SAME words in a passage can be BOTH Law AND Gospel:

    what more forcible, more terrible declaration and preaching of God’s wrath against sin is there than just the suffering and death of Christ, His Son?

    FRANK´S QUESTION FOR JB: Question for you JB: How is it that the SAME words here that are the most terrible Law become, and are transformed, alone by the Holy Spirit, into comforting Gospel? Note that the SAME words of Scripture can be BOTH Law and Gospel. What is it that turns Law into Gospel here?

    Good Works are ALWAYS carnal that are done by man in this life in sense-ible thought word and deed. They are ALL driven by the Law of God. So God is indeed the Author of carnal good Works! (apology III “love and the Law”, small and large catechism 1st article, also see the 4th petition)

    Bless you!

  7. @Pastor Mark Schroeder #4

    7. Marriage has two commandments: the 4th and the 6th. In Judaism, they include the 4th Commandment in the first table of the Law. Luther teaches as much.

    Indeed! It is importante to note why. Luther starts out the 5th Commandment explanation explaining why:

    180] We have now completed both the spiritual and the temporal government, that is, the divine and the paternal authority and obedience .

    In the 4th Commandment Luther has just defined matrimony, in it´s very essence, as the carnal “government of the household” and as the creche for the other two “orders” or carnal governments of the Church and Society.

    But here now we go forth from our house …..
    among our neighbors to learn how we should live with one another, every one himself toward his neighbor.
    181] Therefore God and government are not included in this commandment, nor is the power to kill, which they have, taken away.

    The idea here is this:

    the First Table is about how God rules through the carnal (romans 8 flesh category) governments of Church fathers, household fathers, and fathers of nations.

    The second table is about how we as individuals are to self-govern , exercising self-restraint and self sacrifice (“thou shalt not!”) in order to do mercy (“but we should!”) in our dealings with other individuals.

  8. Frank –

    In our discussion, at least, you and I played out Article V – a good thing.

    That behind us, FC SD V was the product of 50 years of expanding and working through AC, and the whole matter of the distinction between Law and Gospel. In my humble estimation, FC SD V is at the heart of a pastor/preacher’s entire work as under-shepherd.

    Which is why I specifically quote Ephesians 2:8-10 (an excellent conclusion to the wonderful division of Law and Gospel by St. Paul in the whole Chapter 2). Like every pastor who, prior to his exegesis of the text and working of theme(s) for doctrine and then theme(s) and eventual outline and actual text of a sermon, I first pray, in XP, specifically to the Holy Spirit for His guidance and wisdom, as I ask the Father, in XP, to forgive me my many shortcomings in imagining I can speak for Him. Yet, I have been ordained and possess a Divine Call, so God essentially said – “jb, you’re My go-to-guy here!”

    It’s simple, as we used to say in sales, it just ain’t easy. And I confess, as must every commenter and especially, every pastor, that sometimes we all get a little “fussed in the head” at times – we think we used the right words and said the right things, and then we have to back up and re-consider, or beg forgiveness with an apology – because sometimes in the midst of trying to make our points, we ourselves fail our very points. That nasty ole son with his front-door blown off its hinges since Golgotha, is determined to wreck the Gospel as the Gospel – the Person and Work of Christ, which shattered the gates of hell on Good Friday!

    Which brings me to a little quip the now-sainted Professor (the LCMS SHOULD, not ought, grant him a Doctorate, posthumously) Marquart once made in class: “Gentlemen, your tone of voice will often determine whether the Gospel is the Gospel, or is turned into Law.” Marquart was certainly a shining example of his own advice, but even the face of the Old Curmudgeon – Dr. Scaer, would soften way up in class when he spoke of the sheer Gospel!

    Every preacher has his own method, but on Saturday night, with no lights on in the sanctuary but my little pulpit light, I “preach” my sermon to the empty pews, over and over again. I walk in with a pristine manuscript, and leave several hours later after practicing with the pews, with pen and ink scratchings and scrawlings all over the sheets – trudging home to make “final corrections.” When I kneel at the rail during the last verse of the Hymn of the Day, my prayer is stark . . . “Lord, not my word, but Thine.”

    Then, all the work, all the practice with inflection and tone of voice and gestures, all the study, even hearing good or bad news from a member before the Divine Worship that always, it seems, impacts directly on what I am about to preach and must be incorporated on the fly, so to speak – all of that gets funneled into my one task/call/vocation/job –

    Get these folks to Jesus, to the Eucharist, and to Heaven!

    The Lord God Almighty – The Father and the + Son and the Holy Spirit – have put me right here at this moment to always be about converting my flock and getting them to heaven, be it via a heart attack 20 minutes after dismissal from the Blessed Sacrament, or 20 years hence. It is not merely an awesome task, it is fraught with my sinfulness and that of my flock, the hampering of the devil who truly does do his best work in the Church (he’s already got the world, we’re the souls he really wants!) and you know, Frank? . . .

    When I get home and settle in my desk chair in my miniscule home office for a cold one after all has been concluded Sunday morning, I am mentally and physically toast!

    Something and someOne way bigger and way beyond passed through me to the flock; I was but a conducter, and trying always to remember that bit of homiletical advice we all got one way or the another at the Sem: “Don’t screw up what the Holy Spirit is trying to say to His Church!” My prayer, even before I sip that beer, is “Forgive me where I messed up, because, as a fallible human being (pastor or not), Lord, I am sure I did somewhere somehow. Do not count my failing to their charge.”

    Frank, I got long winded here – I apologize – but I in my own usual “baxterian” way – as my buddy Paddy Sean would say, realize that as soon as I think I have a handle on it all – Law and Gospel, preaching and pastoring and all this Call entails, the devil finds a new way to somehow skew the works, and I am having to become a “student” yet again.

    So I use Ephesians 2:8-10 as my Northern Star, so to speak. Of course there are many more texts and pericopes that come into play, but the two greatest Doctrines of Scripture – Law and Gospel – must be served.

    It’s simple (on the face of it), but it sure ain’t easy. Pray for me, Frank, as I shall for you.

    Pax – jb

  9. @Pastor Mark Schroeder #4
    Thank you so much for the clarification here–at least I hope I understand now!

    To sum things up (I hope I got this right, please correct me where I’m wrong here):
    1. A marriage happens at the time when two people become intimate as this is the way that God joins couples in marriage.

    Does that mean in today’s society, promiscuous people having casual sex have “married” multiple partners–as marriage is God’s joining the two to become one in the flesh?

    2. The civil state of marriage and the ceremony was created by society to recognize and protect this union between a man and a woman and the way God has ordered His creation. Another reason is to recognizes a couple who has come together in this way as it is a public matter. Is that why the piece of paper is important? Otherwise, couldn’t a couple be shacked up together and say, “We’re married in God’s eyes, we don’t need a piece of paper.” The paper is a couple’s “profession” of marriage.

    And because of this, this is why we’re caring about gay marriage laws in our society–it’s society’s way of affirming God’s order…which is now changing with those states allowing gay marriage etc.

    If this is the case, then I’m of the opinion we should be just as concerned about ANY extramarital sex — especially those cohabitating as it is a public offence as is gay marriage. Both corrupts the order of creation and creates a “mess” as the wonderful illustration of pieces of paper glued and then ripped apart again.

    And because of this corruption, this paves the way for admonishing with the law which will hopefully result in repentance and forgiveness.

  10. @jb #9

    Jb: the preaching of Christ Crucified is terrible law until the Holy Spirit plants into a heart new heart movements that trust in Two Words “given and shed FOR YOU, for the forgiveness of sins”.

    “justification always happens in this way 1) God makes a Promise, 2) faith clings to the Promise [and personally applies it], 3) faith receives the Promised mercy right where it is offered.

    It is not the tone of the voice of the pastor that turns law into gospel. It is faith in a Gospel UNCONDITIONALLY offered. There is no pre condition of faith, repentence or moral reformation of life. Is what that means!

  11. @jb #9

    I suggest that every single article of the book of concord is very intentionally meant by their authors, to be merely and only a hands on demonstration and illustration of how to apply the distinction of Law and Gospell to bannish error in every part of both doctrine and practice.

    Test me. Pick an article. ANY article. I can show that this is true!

  12. @fws #11

    Frank –

    I did not say “tone” turned the Law into Gospel – you got it precisely backwards. Go back and read my words carefully – I said that Marquart said:

    “Gentlemen, your tone of voice will often determine whether the Gospel is the Gospel, or is turned into Law.”

    That’s what I wrote, Frank. The rest of what you said is a given.

    Pax – jb

  13. @jb #13

    dear pastor JB:

    Gentlemen, your tone of voice will often determine whether the Gospel is the Gospel, or is turned into Law.”

    i read this as:

    “the tone of the pastor´s voice often has the power to make the Gospel into Gospel, or turn Gospel into Law”

    What am I missing. That really does not sound right JB!

  14. @DK #10


    Question for Pastor Scroeder:

    St Paul says that sex with a prostitute creates a “one flesh union”.
    Therefore any sex creates a marriage?

    Question for others:

    Why dont the Roman Catholics and Lutherans behind NOM march against no-fault divorce? divorced re”marriage”? common law “marriage”? civil unions? domestic partnerships?
    Why only against gay “marriage”?

    Are not all of these issues current and burning issues?
    why the seeming inconsistency?

    Why ´t Nicholas and the others pushing to identify and excommunicate politicians who are not publicly taking a stand against these things?

  15. Brother Frank –

    I can see how you might arrive at such a re-phrasing, but here’s where you drifted . . .

    Don’t “re-phrase” it.

    Marquart was spot-on, as I would believe every preacher here would agree. It is a homilletical piece of advice, but very much to the point of how fine a distinction we are to understand and know of the division of Law and Gospel (Heb. 4:12). I am not talking “smiley-face” or “frown-face” stuff . . . I, as was Marquart, am saying that if you deliver the pure and sweet Gospel, remember your voice and tone should reflect the joy on your face and the heavenly gleam in your eyes – that lets your hearers know, in HOW you pronounce the Gospel, that you believe with all your heart, mind and soul and want to share it with them at whatever cost!

    That the wrong tone, or a failure to consider “tone” can cause, not necessarily intended by the preacher, a hearer to think there is an accusation the words, rather than an invitation to eternity with our Savior, is very much something against which to guard.

    If you had ever heard St. Kurt Preach, you would know precisely what I mean. Frank, any pastor who says he delights in preaching the Law – run away from him as fast as you can! But if you have a pastor who preaches – in appearance and tone of voice when proclaiming the sheer, undeserved grace and forgiveness of God in Christ that can light up the whole sanctuary, then sign that Ole Son up for a lifetime (not dismissing the call saying that 🙂 ).

    When I preach the Law, I have searched my own soul, found it wanting, and so I am preaching first to myself, and hardly happy about it. I love my flock, so I hate having to say it to them, too.

    But when I hit the Gospel, I am like the paralytic Jesus healed, dancing in the streets and telling everyone within earshot of the great deeds God has done for me. As such, one’s tone of voice is critical. If Mary had said to Gabriel, “Oh well, I guess my soul is kinda excited and all” – the Magnificat would hold no treasure for us whatsoever.

    She rejoiced in her response and by the very tone of her response!

    Let your voice tell those hearing you this is the best news you have ever heard and they need to hear it, too!!

    Lemon-suckers with scrunched up faces need not apply! Heh! 🙂

    Pax – jb

  16. @jb #9
    Which brings me to a little quip the now-sainted Professor (the LCMS SHOULD, not ought, grant him a Doctorate, posthumously) Marquart once made in class: “Gentlemen, your tone of voice will often determine whether the Gospel is the Gospel, or is turned into Law.” Marquart was certainly a shining example of his own advice, but even the face of the Old Curmudgeon – Dr. Scaer, would soften way up in class when he spoke of the sheer Gospel!

    jb, one of the Concordias did give Prof/Pastor Marquart an honorary doctorate. He preferred not to use it. He felt that use of the title, when you hadn’t done the work, was improper.
    [Now, you might well argue, as would I, that Marquart had done equivalent work and “lived out” his dissertation besides, but I think he meant to rebuke the little “i’m no theologians” who insisted on sporting their ersatz “Dr.’s” ! ] 🙁
    P.S. LCMS is not an institution of higher learning; it can’t grant Doctorates, posthumously or otherwise.

  17. Helen –

    The Seminaries are institutes of the HIGHEST learning, and if directed, the Church can declare matters such as a Doctorate in a heart-beat!

    But what you said sounds precisely Like St. Kurt. That is how he was – a man who baptized his grand-child in the morning of the day of his death. I confess, he was the humblest man I have ever known in my life, and likewise, perhaps the most attuned to the things of God.

    I knew it sitting in his classes – I remember telling myself – remember this, Jeffrey! I have, and I have been far richer for doing so.

    I sat at the feet of several amazing saints of the Kingdom. We Lutherans do not canonize such men, but then again, canonization does not a saint make, but only – faithfulness to Jesus and whatever task He alone has given each of us.

    Even the “least” of Heaven is greater than the greatest on earth, a point to which I am certain Kurt said to the Lord the eternal day in which he “arrived.” “Well done, good and faithful servant” – what better words to hear than those, rising from earthly death to the “real” life, eh, Helen?

    Did you ever hear him speak? I have a bit of a library of his recordings online. It is here – enjoy at your leisure!

    Pax Domini – pb

  18. @fws #6
    What Law would you have preached or spoken then to a couple living together before marriage? You suggested that what a couple living together needs is for a pastor to just marry them. You then gave an example of a drowning person needing rescued. A pastor is to come with the Gospel in your analogy, not the Law. (Page 2, post #3)
    Here is where your analogy breaks down.
    The person drowning doesn’t care and doesn’t even know they are drowning in sin. They think living together is good and God pleasing. Coming by and giving them the Gospel won’t likely even do anything as they don’t even think they need it. They’re treading water just fine thank you! They just want God to come bless their floundering (sin).
    This is what Walther refers to as giving the Gospel to secure sinners. You absolutely don’t do it. You preach them to hell first. You kill them with the Law. You show them their need for a Savior.
    You did not seem to be making any distinctions between any kind of righteousness or repentance in your posts. You simply suggested no Law and only the application of the Gospel. You suggest that the Gospel will bring about contrition. That is not true and is not a function of the Gospel, but the alien work of the Law. Unless you are meaning Gospel in the broad sense, which would include the Law, but I did not gather that you meant that. This is the same mistake repeated by Bror Erickson and others on the unionism post. The mistake that what secure sinners need to hear first and only is the Gospel and that by hearing that Gospel somehow they will be brought to contrition. This is false. The Law is to be preached to secure sinners first. Walther, Luther, you name it all say as such and reject what you have said in your post. Please correct me if I am wrong. (Page 2, post #3)
    The Law must come first to secure sinners, in this case people living together outside of marriage. The Law comes first in order to convict and bring the secure sinner to contrition. The Holy Spirit works through that Word of the Law to create this contrition. Sin must be condemned. Then the second part comes into play, faith. Faith that believes and receives the forgiveness of sins solely based on the merit of Christ. (Apology Article XII) They must come in that order: Contrition and then faith. Repentance and then forgiveness. Law and then Gospel. AP XII even uses the example of David and Nathan which I cited. (paragraph 56)

  19. @jb #18

    The synod could no doubt “declare” a doctorate, jb, but it wouldn’t mean any more than the “tin star” doctorates the Concordias decorate DP’s with, and Kurt Marquart would be the last to accept such a travesty! (Surely you must know that, if you sat in class under him.) And who needs such “honors” in heaven!?

    [Partly because I used to organize the “coffee”] I was privileged to attend summer Continuing Ed courses here and heard Professor Marquart lecture at two of those weeks. The last was July 2006; it was his last one, he said, and that was true as he died September 19.

    I shall bookmark your site; I have some recordings and papers collected but you have more. A Pastor friend of mine, while he was at Ft. Wayne, found a good friend in KEM. He will be interested in what you have, too.

    BTW, Austin is [as you have pointed out] 😉 only 168 miles up the road, and we will have Dr. Pless here at St Paul for C.E. in June this year. I think they have cut the sessions back to three days; do you think you could make it? See the CTS web site for details. Or ask Norm to forward an e-mail.
    [I am sadly off topic but the topic is wearing thin, I think. Anything that passes two pages usually is!]

  20. @Rev. McCall #19

    Soon 50% of all first births will happen out of wedlock pastor.

    So now we will allow homos to hear the Gospel “for you!” only IF they give evidence they have cleaned up their outward morals first.

    Soon we will allow over 50% of male-female couples to hear that Gospel “for you!” only IF they give evidence they have cleaned up their outward morals first.

    I am not saying we should condone or approve of sin.
    I am saying this: Where ELSE can a true end be put to sin in the lives of anyone if we turn away anyone from showing up where, alone, they can hear the Two Words that , alone, can put an real end, not just a moral end, to sin forever?

  21. @fws #21

    or try it this way:

    “The Law, apart from Christ, will produce only pride or despair” (Apology art III “love and the law”).

    EVERYone knows the the Law pastor. Romans 2:15 says it is written in the reason of ALL men.
    This teaches us, correctly, that on Earth God will judge, reward and punish us according to what we DO or neglect to DO.
    No Church, no Holy Spirit, and no Bible are needed for men to know this.
    “Concerting morality, nothing can be demanded beyond the Ethics of Aristotle” (ibid)

    Only Christ himself, only in the Word of God can tell us that the outward morality that is known by the Divine Law Divinely written in Reason is not the real problem.

    The Divine Law is not really about DOing . Why not? St Paul says this is because the Law is “spiritual”. What in the heck does that distinction mean for us?!
    Cf Luther´s preface to his 1545 romans translation. the 1522 preface is here:)

    Reason, apart from the Law as taught by Christ himself (FC art V) is blind to the Law as “spiritual” since it is veiled by the Veil of Moses (apology III), which is the opinion of Reason that the Law can be satisfied by what is DONE (opinio legis).
    Reason can know to live only either under the law or “outside”the Law.

    Only Christ himself, alone by the Word of God, can condemn our will, reason, essence, nature, soul (FC I) in a way that no amount of moral pushups or reformation can rescue us. This Law says this; “Even IF you are more virtuous than St Paul and all the saints outwardly, the Law still demands your death!”

    It is this “spiritual” Law that a pastor, alone, can teach sinners, alone , in church.
    Only then can one really hear the Gospel and only then can one live “in the Law but not under the Law”.

    so you are right that the Law must come first. But you miss two points in saying that:

    1) The Divine Law ALWAYS will be “preached” to sinners (rom 2:15) whether the pastor preaches it or not, and….
    2)It is not the Outward (Moral) Law of Rom 2:15 , that , alone, can be known from a Pastor! It is the Spiritual Law alone that cannot be kept by any DOing but alone by the heart reborn that can be known, alone, by the Word, and so alone, by the arrival of a Sent One.

  22. @fws #21
    Good works are not bad. There is nothing wrong with demanding good works. Good works are a testimony of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In the new creation they are spontaneous. In the Old Adam they are forced obedience to the Law. (FC Article IV)

    I think the distinction is not between Law and Gospel, but between sinners struggling with the Old Adam and those sinners who are deliberately and persistantly unrepentant. I believe the Confessions make such a distinction in FC Article IV.

    So in going through Confession and Absolution with a couple who are living together they would of course hear the Gospel! Then if they were repentant I would imagine they would have no problem with not living together anymore until their wedding day! We are to flee from evil and all temptation. Scripture tells us such. Sex outside of marriage would be such an evil and temptation. A couple who says, “Yes it is a sin, but I’m not going to stop living and sleeping with my girlfriend/boyfriend” leaves a pastor in a precarious situation. All I have to go on is their outward actions and statements. By all intents and purposes their actions say to me that their confession was a false one and that they were not sorry and have every intention of deliberately continuing in their sin.
    If a person is blatantly unrepentant like that then the confessions and Scripture are clear. The Gospel is not to be preached to them. Can I control who comes into my church? No. Should I? No! But if someone comes to me, like a couple living together, someone who is deliberately and persistantly continuing in sin and asks for God to bless them in their sin the answer must be “No”. I would apply the same to any sin. The order of Private Confession and Absolution asks this when it says, “I am sorry for all of this and ask for grace. I want to do better.” If a person refuses to want to do better, as a pastor I am left to believe only that they were not sincere in their Confession. A couple that refuses to want to do better would leave me reaching that same conclusion.

  23. @Rev. McCall #23

    Good works are not bad. There is nothing wrong with demanding good works.

    Amen! I will agree, match and raise the ante Confessionally:
    1) NO Good Work is a “good work”.
    2) The Good Works of pagans and believers are absolutely identical (FC art VI “Third Use”)
    3) There is NO difference in the Two Lists enumerating the “Fruits of the Spirit” and “Works of the Law” (ibid).

    God rules all, so he is the Author of ALL good Works, 1st, 2nd and 3rd article.
    God does them “indeed without our worthiness (for and to Old Adam!)…without our prayer (for the faithLESS!)… and even…. for all the wicked (even for those who actively seek to subvert Good Works being done!).

    And he WILL make Good Works happen in everyone, regardless of whether they wish that to happen or not! There is no distinction at this point between pagans, hipocrites or believers.

    Why is that so?

    Good works are a testimony of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

    In THIS way:

    21] Likewise the faith of which we speak exists in repentance,
    i.e., it is conceived in the terrors of conscience, which feels the wrath of God against our sins, and seeks the remission of sins, and to be freed from sin.
    And in such terrors and other afflictions this faith ought to grow and be strengthened. ( Ap III “Love and Law” Bente PDF

    NOT as something we can actually see as “Oh yeah, I see some fruits of the spirit poking through in my behavior! I did something with the appropriate atitude of gratitude!”


    I suggest this to mean this:
    1) Faith looks at it´s Good Works and is terrified because it believes what they can know, alone from Scripture says , which is this : “all our believer´s righeousness are as used tampons!”
    2) Faith is therefore terrified at what it sees, trusting the judgement of the Word!
    3) Faith does not flee God´s Judgement by self justifying and working harder at DOing.
    4) Faith instead hides its Good Works inside the Works of Another.
    5) The Law no longer can accuse Faith. So Faith can now truly fear, love and trust God.

    Only then…..

    6) Faith places the believer back INTO the Law for his death. But no longer under the Law since the believer already died! The Law no longer has a claim on him.
    So ALL things are now Lawful. But… not all things are useful!
    and so… Faith gets busy!

    But How?

    This way:
    Faith takes up the Law to mortify the flesh and make it serve others! (FC I)

    Casuistic Application:

    It is not useful for a man not to be married to his wife. She deserves legal protections and social status along with the children.
    It is also not useful for the church to not urge them to simply accept that they already ARE married in fact and now they need to formalize it.
    There is NO usefulness to threatening them if they dont first separate legalistically before a wedding to prove their sincerity.
    That looks exactly like Roman Catholic penance!
    Tell them this:
    they need to go down and get a marriage licence as soon as possible, and you will marry them straight away. Done!
    If the wife wants that but the husband doesn´t, accept the wife as a member or maybe both with the kids…. if the husband accepts membership, he is doing so knowing what you teach! The HS WILL work on him. So will the Law!

    In the new creation they are spontaneous. [art II and VI!]

    We cannot cooperate in our sanctification in any way. (FC II)

    In the Old Adam they are forced obedience to the Law. (FC Article IV) [and FC art I and VI !!]

    We MUST cooperate with the HS in our daily life of repentence. (FC Art II)
    Good Works are necessary. (AC-Ap III). God rewards Good Works (SC preface).

    Question for you Pastor:
    What is the sense-ible difference between “sanctification” and “daily repentence”?
    This is a Law Gospel distinction. Why does Art II drive that distinction home?
    What is the point they are making?

    You are pushing for outward repentence as a condition to personally applying the Gospel to someone unconditionally I am suggesting. Am I misreading you?

  24. @Rev. McCall #23

    Then if they were repentant I would imagine they would have no problem with not living together anymore until their wedding day!

    1) they live in ohio. constitutional amendment passed repealing civil unions for gays AND eliminating common law marriage.
    2) they have 10 kids and have been together for years.
    3) they are poor and cant afford to separate even for a bit.
    4) why is the the need to interfere in their personal life that way pastor?
    5) again, this looks alot like making someone do pennance. see what the Apology says about that please…..

    Why not just urge them to go get a license and marry them. What if the woman is cool with marriage and goes through with adult instruction but hubby isnt quite on board? UNwelcome the wife and kids? are you kidding? I hope you can live with that.

  25. Pot



    Marriage is one of those things belonging to the Kingdom of God that instead, we have rendered unto Caesar.

    Doesn’t work very well.

    Pax – jb

  26. @jb #26
    that does not agree with the Lutheran Confessions.
    please see the large catechism , 4th and 6th commandment.

    marriage is law. marriage is romans 8 flesh-carnal-body that will perish with the Earth.

    It is not spirit-Spirit that will endure forever.

  27. And what to do with Ephesians 5:32 – μυστήριον – sacramentum in Latin? – especially the context?

  28. @fws #24
    What is your response to sin? You still have not given one. If a woman is living with a man and he refuses to marry her, yet she chooses to continue to live in that sin and sleep with him outside of marriage, yes, that is still her sin and her fault. Is it easy to say? Is it easy to leave? No. But I’m not going to create a gray area where God is clearly black and white. They are always welcome to come to church. I have never once said that I would kick anyone out of church or not allow them to come. If they continue to be unrepentant then I would follow Matthew 18 and all the steps of church discipline that deal with unrepentance. What I have said is that I will not marry a couple that refuses to repent of their sin of living together.

    As to your earlier questions you answer the question yourself. Faith exists in repentance. “Likewise the faith of which we speak exists in repentance,
    i.e., it is conceived in the terrors of conscience, which feels the wrath of God against our sins, and seeks the remission of sins, and to be freed from sin.” A couple who refuses to repent and asks for a church wedding will not be given one.

    Now about the good works and fruits of faith. I have never said they are a condition for forgiveness. They are a condition however for me to perform their wedding. They should be done in order to keep the Old Adam in check. They are done freely out of a willing spirit by the new creation. Just as you say. So what harm is their in urging good works upon the repentant sinner? None! FC IV and VI say exactly that! So let’s make that clear distinction just as the confessions do. Good works are not necessary for salvation (or forgiveness) but yet all people are obligate to do them. (FC IV) As St. James says, “What good is it my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?…Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:14-26. Jesus even gives this 3rd use/good works stemming from faith example with the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and FROM NOW ON SIN NO MORE.” John 8:11. (emphasis on the 3rd use of the law mine.)

    So I ask you, what is wrong with the following statement:
    So you young couple living together before marriage, I am glad that you have come in this day and confessed your sin of premarital sex. You have confessed and repented before God and it is my joy to say to you that your sins are all forgiven in Christ Jesus! Having been forgiven and being loved by the Lord, now go and sin no more. Separate and abstain yourselves from pre-marital sex until you have entered into the estate of Holy Matrimony.

  29. @Rev. McCall #31

    What constitutes marriage pastor? is it the “one flesh union”? in that case, those two are already married. Many Lutherans here hold that opinion. What then?

    And welcoming? Come on. Lets be honest here and not just say words so we feel better.

    You will “welcome ” them to enter the church.
    But you will not welcome them.
    Only someone with really low self esteem would go where they are made to feel unwelcome.
    That is the reality. You know that.

    You will do a matt 18 on em!
    “Go ahead and come, but dont think we welcome you UNLESS…”
    “treat them as unbeliever” SHOULD look like missionary work. But it won’t, will it?
    Paint me a Picture of how you would make someone, and their children, feel welcome in such a situation. I just dont get that part. It sounds like saying something just to check off a box on a list of what to do.

  30. @Rev. McCall #31


    Now that IS the preaching of the Law “spiritually” by Christ himself.
    FC V tells us that it is only Christ himself who can preach THIS kind of Spiritual Law.
    This Law cannot be known through Romans 2:15 Law.
    This Law can only be known, alone, by Christ himself, by one of his “sent ones”.

    This is not : DO good Works!
    This is a Law that simply can´t be done!

    Note Jesus did NOT say “Go now and stop being a whore!”
    He could have.
    We must not read this preaching to be about a keeping of the Law we can DO.

    Your hypothetical unwed couple can hear this UNveiled Law of Moses, alone, in Church!
    And so … repentence, in the broad sense (FC V) can only happen in church. No where else.

    You continue to make repentence in the narrow sense that even pagans can do, a condition for welcoming someone INTO the Church. Welcoming cant be merely allowing someone grudgingly to enter a building pastor. Your conscience tells you this.

    Let´s keep it real please.

  31. @Rev. McCall #31

    if you have no overweight persons in your church pastor I would be surprised.
    And I am pretty sure you dont question them to determine if their “mainifest” condition is due to uncontrollable health issues or to what the bible calls the “deadly ” and “abomination” of a sin called gluttony.

    I am wondering why you treat sexual sinning like it is some sort of super sin and differently from other “manifest ” sins, like families who live immodestly materially rather than give to those who are in need. etc etc…

    I think your approach to the fat and greedy is the correct one.
    They come with repentence in the broad sense. That broad sense repentence looks like this:

    “I sin against God in my heart and am powerless to do otherwise! my arms ,legs and mouth are only taking directions from my heart, They are not to blame!”

    And it is THIS kind of heart-repentence that , alone, pavês the path for the Gospel.

    Then there is that outward repentence you insist upon, as a condition to be welcomed to personally hear , and personally apply, the Holy Gospel:
    God´s Law in Rom 2:15 will gradually mortify and work contrition in outward morality. Or not. In which case suffering, hospitals, and maybe death will await. And in the middle of that suffering, they will still have the Holy Cross.

    “This repentence, apart from christ, produces pride or despair. ” Apology III “Love and the Law”

    Increasingly, such common law couples (common law means they ARE legally married by the way) will simply say they are “married”. And so you won´t question them. Or will you? So , knowing this, they COULD merely keep silent, or lie. And you would be fine!

    This is the same lying method gays have also had to employ for years to gain access to the hearing of the Gospel. Lying Always leads to bad places.

  32. @Rev. McCall #31

    lets be clear here pastor mc call . you think matt 18 says this:

    “unless you manifest outward fruits of the Law, you must not be permitted to personally apply the Holy Gospel, unconditionally, with the two words “for you!”

    So you are, in fact, making the Holy Gospel personally conditional upon something someone must DO.

    I do not read matt 18 that way.

  33. @fws #35

    I read matt 18 as apology art VII and VIII would. That article does not quote this passage directly, but the first few paragraphs are clear as to how it is we are to exclude the wicked from the visible church.

    What does the article say is slander to acuse the Lutheran Church of doing with the wicked or fake christians who bear no manifest Godly fruit?

  34. Frank –

    Get thee to CTS. Do not take a Practical Theology course until your 4th year. Concentrated on Exegetical, Dogmatic and Historical Theology.

    I leave it at that. Pax – jb

  35. @Rev. McCall #31

    What is your response to sin? You still have not given one.

    You are right.
    I failed to do that.

    The ONLY end to sin is what God does in Holy Baptism.
    The opposite of sin is not Goodness or Good Works.

    Consider this pastor:

    “That which is not of Faith is sin”. what does this mean? It means this I suggest:

    The opposite of vice is not virtue.
    The opposite of sin is , alone, Faith, alone, that kills us and hides us in the Works of Another.
    This is the ENTIRE person. It is not about what we do or dont do.

    Take home point:
    What Believers do or dont do is IDENTICAL to what pagans also do or dont do.
    So what we do cant define who is welcome INTO the Church.
    Only Baptism can do that.

    This Baptism does, completely and instantly, to the Believer.
    The Old Adam clings to us still. He can only die. He can´t be cured or fixed.

    So what to do about the active sins of Old Adam?
    read aristotle to know what to do!
    NO Christ, and NO Holy Spirit are needed for that.
    This is THE point of Apology II, III and IV and especially art 18.

    ALL good Works must happen through the instrumentality of the Old Adam on this side of the resurrection.

    So what about Matt 18 then? and what about the binding of the Keys?

    The small catechism says the loosing key ushers men into the Communion of Saints.
    and the binding key does NOT exclude anyone from the Communion of Saints. Ever.
    It excludes from what then?
    The binding key excludes , Alone, from the carnal earthly government called the Chistian Congregation.

    The binding key is, alone, a police action to avoid scandal and disorder in the carnal and earthly government called the “Holy Catholic Church”. Apology VII and VIII says exactly that in its very essence.

    “The church is a threshing floor” It is alone, Christ alone, to whom is reserved the right to separate the wheat from the looks-like-wheat weeds at the end of the age. We must never think that it is for us to do this.

    Baptism , alone, is what ends sin.
    And so Baptism , alone, is the requirement to be welcomed INTO the visible church.

  36. P. S. Frank . . .

    After you get a call and deal with your first situation such as that about which yo are giving Father McCall such copious advice . . .

    Write us back and let the rest of us know how you handled matters in real life!

    All of us are open to learning! Pax – jb

    P.P.S. I distinctly made note of the fact that after you kinda went at me, and I answered with comment numbers 28-30, I seemed to have disappeared off your radar screen.

  37. @jb #39

    i actually wanted to respond to your comments on the doctrine of the church with pastor kempin. I am really busy this week.
    I wanted to point to apology VII and VIII in that.

    sorry for my failure to respond dear pastor.
    point well taken that I do not hold the office of pastor!
    and that I have not been subject to the mortification of the flesh that results from that!

  38. Frank –

    As a matter of fact, I shall put one very specific case before you. If you fancy yourself enough of a theologian to lecture to Father McCall, who like me, has been out here in the trenches, then let’s see what you do with this.

    When I arrived here at my miniature parish, I was serving a vacancy as “Deacon” – but awaiting re-certification (which was accomplished in something near record time). That notwithstanding, there was a young couple here, ya see . . .

    They had not had the LSB Agenda Book pronounced over them. But they had been together for three years. According to the “carnal law” as you put it . . . in Texas, sixth months does the trick. They were legally married.

    Young T-Guy entered the world. I baptized him as soon as possible (being the Ezekiel 18:20 kinda guy I am). Once he could crawl, he would do so forward under the pews and park himself on top of his diaper right below the pulpit when I preached. What a great object lesson, eh?

    Well, dag nab it, his Daddy (RCC – and previous to that point, not worshiping and not willing to take classes) told me I caught him WAY off guard.

    Since they were already married according the the “carnal” state of Texas, I let them take a little time to plan the wedding, even as we discussed what had been the sinful situation. Since I am also a bit of an Augustinian, who once famously said – “The best repentance is ‘don’t do it again‘” – we set a date, fixed all matters, and the whole family are members and in the Sanctuary every week! It brought a few somewhat delinquent members of her family back to worship as well. How about that?

    Good news, eh?

    By your logic and approach . . . well, since I did not go there, I don’t have to speculate. The goal of the use of Law and Gospel is to win the sinner – PERIOD! Had I opted to take your suggested course, I would have lost the family (especially the kiddies), and the additional family members now back and receiving Jesus every Sunday in Communion.

    Father McCall did what a “Pastor” has to do in a tough call. Your ragging on and on as if you wrote the marriage manual for Jesus and the whole LCMS reads very ragged and unloving and unforgiving. If you are as serious as you seem to appear, then give up your day job, move the fam as many of us did to Sem, and . . . “Go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Jesus – Matthew 9:13)

    Frank – what you will learn at Seminary is that theology – especially the use of Law and Gospel, is by no means a mathematical equation applied uniformly in every case or everywhere. It simply does not work as you imagine it does (or as several other commenters whom I have confronted before on this site imagine it works).

    I always remind my miniature flock when John 3:16 comes up in discussion, that verse 3:17 should be uttered in the very same breath! And as a bit of an aside, that was the summation of John’s great chapter on Baptism, which you referred to several times imagining you were correcting Father McCall.

    Lighten up, Frank . . . you are getting rather tedious. Pax – jb

  39. And. . . Frank . . .

    Not only do we backward collared types have a “busy week” this week as well . . .

    Our personal mortification in the flesh is no more or less than that of any of the faithful.

    We just tend to catch the first bullets of those who suppose they already have all the answers. We knew that taking our vows.

    All but a miniscule number among us have had to deal with the REAL ins and outs of Law and Gospel, which “seem simple, but just ain’t easy.

    I repeat/expand on what I said in my last comment – “Dude. you need to lighten way up, and consider maybe, perhaps – you yourself are getting it all wrong.”

    I will say this much . . . your words are not getting much of it right. And being Irish, I consider arguing to be the 8th “Sacrament.” Heh!

    Take a chill pill, Dude. Pax – jb

  40. @jb #41

    maybe I am missing something jb.

    I think i would have followed your approach, unless there is some detail you had left out.

    I would have started addressing the couple as a married couple simply expecting them to do what love would demand a married couple to do.
    And I would have telegraphed so much simply by saying “your wife” and “your husband” and “your marriage”. I actually DO do that with unmarried couples I know. It both embarrasses them a bit, and at the same time challenges them and flatters them. It is simply to affirm what they already know ! Romans 2:15.

    One of those things is to get married legally, another would be to publically notify everyone with a ceremony in church or some other way depending upon finances and circumstances.

    I don´t see the need to impose some rigid timetable on this. If one or both parties said that their arrangement was really only temporary, even with a baby, then that would be an entirely diferente matter. I cannot imagine such a situation actually. Maybe it exists.

    Pastor Mc Call said he would have asked the couple to live separately for some specified period that would define suficient repentence. I questioned the rigidity of that. Although I would not refuse to think that in some cases that would be best.

    Mc Call seemed to state that there are “black and White rules” on this casuistry.
    And he seems to say that, until they lived separately, there would be no communion given.
    I could have read him wrong. In that case I hope he would accept my apology.

    It feels like you did not understand what I wrote. Forgive me for not being more clear.

  41. @jb #42

    totally chill here jb.
    it is a Lutheran practice for one pastor not to question the casuistry of another.
    I am not a pastor.
    and my arguing , questioning or debating is not to be meant to question what pastor Mc Call , you or any pastor has, in practice done.
    Right or wrong it is all in God´s plan and he WILL use it for good.
    There is often no black and White , or one size fits all answer to casuistic questions.

    If God wanted perfection in the practice of the seelsorger, he would have sent angels rather than men to do that job. The 12 were pretty screwed up in their thinking. sorta like the 12 stooges. Israel is so not who I would have picked as THE chosen people. But God did.

    God uses the weak and insignificant and odd and discarded things and persons of this world to do his work. It is what he does. It should comfort us to know that.

    Peace back at cha!

  42. Can you point me to resources which give the history of how the solemnizing (signing) of the state-regulated civil marriage contract became the responsibility of the Lutheran clergy.

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