Here are ten simple points to remember in the current raging debate in the LCMS over preaching sanctification. They are sort of a “Dummies’ Guide” for people like me who need it.
1. Can I end a sermon with an exhortation?
2. Should I end a sermon with an exhortation?
Answer: Since it is the law, if that is the last thing you want your people to hear then go ahead. Remember though, it is powerless to create any sanctification.
3. Then should we exhort at all?
Answer: Yes. Just remember it is the law. It is the third use of the law but it is still the law. Luther reminded us that the law always kills. It is best, that if you want your people moved, regenerated and inspired to do good works, that you end your sermon with the gospel.
4. Then is there even such a thing as the third use of the law?
Answer: Of course there is. Martin Chemnitz wrote a thesis on it.
5. I have heard there is a primary use of the law, is that true?
Answer: Yes, it is the second use otherwise described as the mirror. Speaking of Martin Chemnitz, go read Article VI of the Formula (The Third Use of the Law) and ask yourself each time the word law is used if it is the second or third use. You will find that he is usually talking about the second use even though the article is on the third use. If that doesn’t convince you that the second use is primary and should be our focus, then I don’t know what will. If you want another fun and illustrative trick to do with the three uses of the law see my point 8 below.
6. So if it is OK to exhort then when should I do this exhorting?
Answer: Anytime. Do it in the beginning of the sermon, the middle, the end (just remember that the law always kills), during Bible class, catechesis, pastoral care, whenever you would like.
7. If I never exhort or preach sanctification does that mean that I reject the absolute moral truth of God’s law?
Answer: Of course not. You are probably just so taken with the Gospel that you think it is powerful enough to create sanctified living. Besides, when you killed the hearers with the law in your preaching you were proving that you do indeed uphold the law and besides, once your hearers have been killed by the most important use of the law, they will intuitively know the details of the sanctified life even if you never remind them again in the sermon.
8. What do you mean by this notion of intuitive law and how can I trust that they know it?
Answer: The law is very simple, almost intuitive: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. After you have killed them with whatever part of this simple law the text provides that day, when you preach some form of the Gospel from that same text, your hearers will remember the law you used to kill them and know that the Gospel has now freed them to follow that law. They will be set free to love God wholly and turn the other cheek, in all of its manifestations. Is that an amazing trick or what? You can actually preach the third use of the law without ever preaching it! It is sort of like Chemnitz writing an article on the third use of the law and talking more about the primary use. Here’s another fascinating take on this. Isn’t it interesting that there is more to the law than just the ten commandments? There are more good works, ones that I have not even imagined, than I could ever preach on. There is no way I could ever preach all of the law to my people and properly instruct them in it. When I preach the Gospel to them they take their new found Gospel regenerated power and find ways turn the other cheek that I didn’t even exhort them to, and even invent new good works that the third-users will have never even conceived. The law is fairly intuitive to the old sinful self. This is where the first use (the inborn conscience/curb) also serves the second use. It is not rocket science to know when I am not serving God with my all and what it means to turn the other cheek. The problem is not preaching enough of the third use. The problem is trying to kill the old self with the primary use and then preaching the Gospel sweetly enough that the new man goes out to create these good works.
9. Is this really going to be enough instruction in the law for my parish?
Answer: Preaching the second use of the law in the sermon, the same secondary use that Chemnitz keeps referring to in his article on the third use, is not the only time you are going to talk about the law. You have already instructed all your catechumens, junior and senior, for weeks on the Ten Commandments and you should be regularly preaching the Ten Commandments during Lent and don’t forget the opportunities you have during the other penitential season, Advent.
10. How do I know you are not just trying to turn me into a good-for-nothing, stinking liberal like Werner Elert?
Answer: Werner Elert taught some amazing things that make the Gospel really clear, like his teaching on faith as a mathematical point (Structure…, p. 81 f.). That does not mean that we devour Elert hook, line and sinker. That’s for people like the good-for-nothing, stinking, liberal Matthew “Hegel” Becker. Maybe now that you have learned how to handle sanctification like me and other dummies, you can spend your time on other issues in our synod like asking President Harrison and others why heterodox teachers like Becker and others are allowed in the fellowship of the true, visible, sanctified church on earth.