Official Publication of the LMS-USA
Volume 16, Number 2
In this Issue:
The last issue of Table Talk lifted up for us a problem... the problem of sin. As we saw, sin is a universal problem. It was, and it continues to be, an awful problem. It is a problem having dire consequences. It is such a devastating problem, that left to himself, man is helpless and without hope when it comes to dealing with it. But there is good news. There is an answer. By nature all of humankind - each and every one of us - is hellbound. But rescue from condemnation is possible!
"God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." (Jn. 3:16-17)
The apostle Paul speaks of this good news in his letter to the Corinthians. "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." (1 Cor. 15:3-4). Peter speaks of it also, "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit" (1 Pet. 2:18).
In this issue of Table Talk, we are going to look at the answer to the problem of sin. It is not insignificant that the definite article is used in the sentence above. Some might think, and some actually believe, that there are any number of answers to this problem. But that is not so. In what God has revealed to us in the pages of holy writ, there is only one answer. God sent his Son that whoever believes in him shall have life. Speaking of Jesus Christ we are clearly told, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). And Jesus himself said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).
It may be the case that there are those who think this to be such familiar material that there is no need to spend any time with it. However, this is something that needs to be gone over again and again. We need to go over it so we will not forget. We need to go over it because there will always be new things we will come to see, as well as those things we will grow in our understanding of. There is this also, if we do not know the story well, we can very easily, either consciously or unconsciously, begin to add to, or take away from, the central truth of the gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Christ Jesus.
The preaching of Christ crucified was central to all that Paul, and those who were with him, was about (1 Cor. 1:23). He admonished young pastor Timothy, "Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel" (2 Tim. 2:8). We should do no less.
First we will take a look at the saving grace of God in an article by Edward Koehler, and then we will turn our attention to the work of Christ in an article by Jacob Tanner.
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Announcing the 2009 LMS Annual Conference and Convention
June 20 - 21
Host Church - St. Matthew Lutheran
• Meeting of Ministerial, Fri., June 19
• Annual Conference, Sat., June 20
Theme: The Means of Grace
• Worship Service, Sun., June 21 10:30 a.m.
• Annual Convention, Sun., June 21 12:30 p.m.
Interested in what the LMS is all about? All are welcome to attend any or all of the sessions.
For information on location, lodging or any other question, call 1-317-637-8870 or email - email@example.com
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Salvation By The Grace Of God Through The Redemption In Christ Jesus
by Edward W. A. Koehler
From: A Summary of Christian Doctrine © 1972 CPH. Used with permission.
THE SAVING GRACE OF GOD
All men have sinned (Rom. 3: 23), and are, therefore, guilty before God (Rom. 3: 19) under the curse of the Law (Gal. 3: 10), and deserving of death (Rom. 6: 23). Left to himself, it is absolutely impossible for man to achieve his own salvation, for "by the deeds of the Law shall no flesh be justified" (Rom. 3: 20). Salvation by the merit of our works is impossible; hence, divine grace is necessary for us to be saved.
The grace of God is not an imagination or a possibility, but a divinely revealed fact. Moved by His love and compassion for man, God resolved to save him by the death of His Son (John 3: 16; Rom. 5: 8. 10). The grace of God, then, is the moving cause, and the redemption through Christ is the meritorious cause of our salvation. Man, lost by his own works, is saved by the grace of God in Christ. "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men" (Titus 2: 11). "By grace are ye saved through faith . . . not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2: 8. 9). Salvation by works is impossible, by grace it is sure. "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed" (Rom. 4: 16).
This doctrine of salvation by grace distinguishes the Christian religion from all other religions in the world. All others teach that, because man sinned, man must make amends and appease the wrath of God. While they differ as to method and means by which this may be done, they are agreed in principle that man must achieve his salvation by his own efforts and works. - The Bible teaches that man's salvation is achieved exclusively by the grace of God. Human ingenuity never could have devised the plan of salvation as it is revealed in the Bible (1 Cor. 2: 6-10); it runs utterly contrary to our way of thinking; it is "foolishness" to us (1 Cor. 2: 14). This doctrine, being the chief doctrine of our faith, marks the Christian religion to be of divine origin, while all others are human inventions.
In our definition of "grace" we do not include that goodness which God shows to all His creatures (Ps. 145: 9), but confine ourselves to the grace by which God saves sinners.
The word "grace" is sometimes used of a gift, quality, virtue, or power which God imparts to man gratuitously (Rom. 15: 15; 1 Pet. 4: 10). But when we speak of "saving grace," we do not mean any of these things, nor do we mean an "infused" or a "prevenient" grace, by the proper use of which man is supposed to be able to effect his conversion. The grace by which God saves us is a personal attribute or quality in God, which manifests itself in His attitude toward man and in His promises and gifts, but which is not imparted to man. (Example: We can show our love to our neighbor in various ways, but we cannot impart our love to him.) According to Romish teaching "grace" is not a quality in God, but an infused "quality inhering in the soul" of man, by the aid of which he is to do good and to obtain forgiveness. When the Romish Church says that we are saved "by grace," it means something entirely different from what we mean when we say that we are saved by grace. The grace of God by which we are saved is the "favor Dei," which is that merciful, affectionate disposition, that good will of God toward men, according to which He forgives sins to those who are worthy of eternal death. It is the unmerited love of God toward men (John 3: 16; Titus 3: 4.5) - From this concept of grace must be excluded every regard for the merit of man. God's grace is not in the least affected, motivated, or influenced by any worthiness in us; in fact, the slightest injection of man's merit and worthiness utterly destroys the concept of grace. "If by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace; otherwise work is no more work" (Rom. 11: 6). The grace of God and the merit of man are exclusive terms. Man cannot be saved partly by the grace of God and partly by his own merit; it might, conceivably, be the one or the other, but never both. As man cannot be saved by the merit of his works, it follows that his salvation is possible only by the grace of God.
It is a grace in Christ Jesus. While the merits of man are indeed excluded from the concept of grace, the merits of Christ must necessarily be included. "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3: 24). There could be no grace for sinners with God, unless the demands of His holiness and justice had been fully satisfied by the active and passive obedience of our Redeemer. Hence, we may not think of the grace of God apart from the redemption by Christ. God is gracious to sinners only in Christ and for Christ's sake. They who trust in the grace of God, but reject the vicarious atonement of Christ, trust in something that does not exist, and will some day find God to be a consuming fire (Hebr. 12: 29). The grace of God is given us by Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1: 4).
God's mode of operation is adapted, to the rational nature of man. It is a psychic process, which the Holy Ghost employs; in the work of conversion He uses man's intellectual, emotional, and volitional abilities, through which man is taught, moved, and converted. God makes use of this psychic equipment of man. He teaches man to know the Gospel; He impresses and moves his heart, and thus turns his will. The psychic process in conversion is the same as when in other matters a person is taught, moved, and turned. The difference, however, is this, that in order to effect the conversion of a sinner man is taught not secular, but spiritual things, which are the Word of God (1 Cor. 2: 6. 7). Furthermore, it is God who gives man knowledge and understanding (2 Cor. 4: 6); it is God who through such knowledge moves and opens the heart (Acts 16: 14); it is He who turns the will (Jer. 31: 18; Phil. 2: 13). While God makes use of the psychic functions, with which He Himself endowed the soul of man, it is He, and He alone, that turns the soul and draws it to Christ, creating a new life and bestowing spiritual powers.
"When we treat of the matter how God works in man, God and has nevertheless a way of working in man, as in a rational creature, and another way of working in some other, irrational creature, or in a stone and block" (F. C., Th. D., Art. II, 62, Triglot, p. 905).
There is a logical sequence in conversion. In this work of grace, by which sinners are saved, the Holy Ghost observes a very definite method, in which we distinguish the following steps:
While the external circumstances and conditions attending this work vary, the means employed and the method observed are always the same. There are not several different ways by which the Holy Ghost leads men to heaven, but only one (Eph. 4: 4. 5; John 14: 6).
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CHRIST - HIS WORK
by Jacob Tanner, A.M., S.T.D.
(From the volume, Ten Studies in Church Doctrines - Used with permission.)
Christ came to this world to re-establish the broken off relation between man and God. It was sin that had disturbed this relation, and it therefore became necessary for Christ to deal with the problem of sin.
The principle underlying the redemption is that the redeemer acts as a substitute for the sinner. This principle is one of the fundamental principles of life. We find it in the family as well as in society. The heritage that comes to the children is a result of the work of the parents. The good name of the family was established by the fathers. Everything we enjoy in our childhood home has been provided by the prayers, work, love, and sufferings of our parents.
It is the same in society. The rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness have come to us as a gift from our ancestors. It is a part of our heritage. But some one has paid for it. Precious lives were sacrificed in the struggle to establish these rights. The privilege was purchased for us by blood, the blood of substitutes. The same applies to all the political and social advantages which we possess. Mother sacrifices her life for the children. One generation dies for the benefit of another. The character, courage, work, and sufferings of the ancestors have accumulated the religious, moral, and material heritage of every new generation.
The substitute idea is as universal as life itself.
This principle of substitution God made use of to save man. The substitute acted not only for the benefit of fallen man, but also in his stead. The Redeemer took the place of the sinner and provided a salvation the sinner could not provide for himself. This salvation God offers to man. If man accepts, he is saved from the condemnation and power of his sin and restored a child of God. Back of sin in the human world is the devil. Christ in His work to save man must therefore overcome this old enemy.
Further, the work required that the eternal plan of God for the salvation of man be carried out in full. Christ therefore had to submit Himself obediently to the plan in order to fulfill His mission.
Again, the punishment for sin is death, and if Christ should remove the condemnation that rested upon man because of sin, He had to suffer the punishment for sin, namely death.
And again, it was necessary that man should be freed from the tyranny of sin, culminating in death. (Rom. 5:21.) It was therefore necessary for Christ to overcome death, that man could share His victory both over sin and death.
And finally, Christ had to establish that spiritual communion between the believers and Himself by which He could fill the souls with the abundant life He had provided and of which He was the source.
He had to go through a long preparation before He was ready to enter upon His work. This preparation lasted for thirty years. He was, no doubt instructed by His parents, especially His mother, and also in the synagogue school at Nazareth. He studied the Old Testament, which He, like other bright Jewish children, and especially the boys, extensively committed to memory at an early age. He early become conscious of His mission, as we can see from His words when he as a lad twelve years old, visited the temple. He increased, as Luke says, in wisdom as in stature. He came to a clearer and clearer understanding of God's plan of redemption and the work He had to do to fulfill this plan.
His ministry begins
His first public act was to be baptized of John. There seem to be several reasons why Jesus took this step. First of all it was God's will. It was a part of God's plan as we see from the answer Jesus gave to John. (Matt. 3 :15.) Then, it connects His work with the work of John, and thus He made it clear to Israel that He was the one of whom John was testifying, and for whom he was preparing the way. Then the Holy Spirit came upon Him at His baptism. He, of course, had the Holy Spirit before. But at His baptism the Spirit came upon Him in a fuller and larger measure, qualifying Him for His special work. Finally, it was at the baptism of Jesus that John found out that he was the Messiah, as John himself testified. (John 1:33.)
The next step was to meet the Devil and overcome him. The first encounter was the temptation in the wilderness. The victory was not a victory for Himself only, but one that had significance for mankind. The fact that Christ defeated the Devil was a prophecy and a promise that he would overcome him in the life of His believers.
From then on Jesus lives three years of the busiest life imaginable. He had to prepare those who were to become the nucleus of His New Testament Church. First among these were His apostles. But besides the apostles there was that larger circle to which the seventy belonged, and out of which the one hundred and twenty came, who were together in prayer during the days between His ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:14-15.)
There were three means which He used in this work: His teaching, His miracles, and the example of His life.
The teaching of Christ was centered around the subject, the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven according to Christ is God's rule in the hearts of men through Christ Himself. The laws of the Kingdom Christ explained in the Sermon on the Mount and other addresses. The nature and aim of the Kingdom He largely explained in the parables. The Kingdom is a spiritual rule of God in the hearts, brought about through the Means of Grace. The Kingdom begins like a small seed, but grows to a large fruit bearing plant. It is open to all people and all will be invited to come in. The only way to become a member is to accept God's grace in Christ Jesus. There will be both hypocrites and true believers in this Kingdom, and judgment day will bring about the final separation. In this Kingdom the believers shall live together as brethren in Christ, and they shall be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. Christ Himself is the King of the Kingdom. He will rule, guide, protect, and support His believers. The present state of the Kingdom shall end in the Kingdom of Glory, when Christ returns.
The miracles were also means of instruction. In the Gospels they are called powers, wonders, and signs. The name "powers" refers to the miracles as demonstrations of supernatural power. Only God could do such things. "Wonders" refer to the impossibility to explain the miracles, as a result of the use of natural means. As wonders they were also to make the people take notice and listen to the words of Jesus, that they might learn who He was and thus come to believe in Him. "Signs" is the name of the miracles used especially by John. The name designates the miracles as proofs. They should prove that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, as John puts it.
The miracles alone could not produce a saving faith in Christ. They were intended to make the people inquire about this Jesus and listen to His words and prove His claims. It was His words that brought the truth to them, and only in His words were life and salvation.
It is a significant fact that though Christ performed more miracles in those three years of His public ministry than has ever been performed before or after, the Jewish people as a whole, under the leadership of their spiritual rulers, rejected Christ.
The life of Christ was also a means of instruction. He said to His enemies: Which of you convicts me of sin? Such a life should make them realize that He must have come from God, because only one who is in fellowship with God can live such a life.
Especially was His life of great educational value for His disciples. "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you." (John 13 :34.) His life was. a practical demonstration of how the disciples should live.
The educational work of Jesus has permanent value. We have to sit at the feet of Christ to learn about the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven. His miracles even today speak loudly that God sent Him, and that we must believe in Him. His life will forever be an example that every believer will try his utmost to follow.
His vicarious work
In order to save man, Christ also had to keep the law. It is, of course, true that He also for His own sake had to be obedient to His Father, that is, keep the law. Nevertheless, Christ lived His whole life on earth in order to save man. It was for this reason He became the God-man, and therefore His whole life on earth is vicarious. The obedience to and fulfillment of the law was therefore in our behalf.
Then He had to suffer the punishment of sin. This punishment He fulfilled on the cross when He gave up His spirit into the hands of His Father. There He paid the penalty for sin and could proclaim unto the whole world that the work was finished. The cross of Christ therefore, testifies to the awfulness of sin, because it brought the Son of God upon the tree of the curse. (Deut. 21 :22-23; Gal. 3:13.) The cross also witnesses that a full atonement has been made for all sin, that a ransom has been paid, and that from the cross comes an everlasting forgiveness of sins.
Then Christ was buried and descended into hell, where He proclaimed His victory over sin, death, and the Devil. The Word of God gives us no ground for the teaching that this was a gospel preaching unto salvation. It was simply a manifestation even in the kingdom of the Devil, that the victory was so complete that the victor could enter even into the domain of the enemy and manifest Himself as victor.
The resurrection of Christ is God's seal upon the completeness of His redemptive work. He arose as a victor and became the living Savior, who revealed Himself to His disciples and changed their despair to a conquering faith. The resurrection proved conclusively that Jesus was the Son of God, that the redemption was completed, that the foundation was laid for the full forgiveness of sins, that as Christ arose from the dead, so the believers also will be able to walk in the newness of life, on the last day rise from the dead, and in a glorified body everlastingly serve God. Christ became now a living Savior, and a personal Savior who could fulfill His promises to be with them always.
Finally Christ ascended into Heaven. He as the God-man seated Himself at the right hand of God the Father Almighty to govern, protect, and support His believers, and to lead the historical events so that ultimately everything will serve to complete His plans with mankind and bring about the Kingdom of Glory.
What the Church teaches
The Athanasian Creed teaches regarding the work of Christ as follows:
"For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ;
Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead;
He ascended into heaven; he sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty; from whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies, and shall give account for their own works.
And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil into everlasting fire."
In Article III of the Augsburg Confession it is stated in this way:
"Who was born of the Virgin Mary, truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, that he might reconcile the Father unto us, and be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men.
He also descended into hell, and truly rose again the third day; afterward He ascended into heaven, that He might sit on the right hand of the Father, and forever reign and have dominion over all creatures, and sanctify them that believe in Him, by sending the Holy Spirit into their hearts, to rule, comfort, and quicken them, and to defend them against the devil and the power of sin.
The same Christ shall openly come again to judge the quick and the dead, according to the Apostles' Creed."
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The Hymn - O Day Full of Grace, Which We Behold
O day full of grace, which we behold,
Now gently to view ascending;
Thou over the earth thy reign unfold,
Good cheer to all mortals lending,
That children of light in ev'ry clime
May prove that the night is ending.
How blest was that gracious midnight hour,
When God in our flesh was given;
Then flushed the dawn with light and pow'r,
That spread o'er the darkened heaven;
Then rose o'er the world that Sun divine
Which gloom from our hearts hath driven.
Yea, were ev'ry tree endowed with speech,
And every leaflet singing,
They never with praise His worth could reach,
Though earth with their praise be ringing.
Who fully could praise the Light of life
Who light to our souls is bringing?
As birds in the morning sing God's praise,
His fatherly love we cherish,
For giving to us this day of grace,
For life that shall never perish.
His Church He hath kept these thousand years,
And hungering souls did nourish.
Pass on to thy close, O Whit-Sunday,
With sunlight about thee beaming,
And scatter thy blessings on thy way,
As brooks through the meadows streaming
E'er leave in their wake the woods and fields
In beauty and fruitfulness dreaming.
With joy we depart for our fatherland,
Where God our Father is dwelling,
Where ready for us His mansions stand,
Where heaven with praise is swelling;
And there we shall walk in endless light,
With blest ones His praise forth telling.
Anon. (Danish, 14th Century)
Nicolai F.S, Grundtvig, 1826
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The LMS-USA is a Biblical, Confessional, Evangelical, Liturgical, Congregational
expression of the universal (catholic) orthodox Church on earth. It is a
'Forum by Subscription.' As a 'Forum' the intent is that there will be an
ongoing discussion of theological issues and concerns among clergy and lay
alike. The LMS-USA meets annually for a Theological Conference and this
publication, besides carrying news of the Ministerium and Synod, functions
also as a vehicle for this continuing dialogue.
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