Official Publication of the LMS-USA
Volume 13, Number 4
In this Issue:
For most Lutherans the Reformation brings to mind a monk by the name of Martin Luther and his posting on the church door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, his challenge to the Church of Rome, the Ninety-five thesis. That posting took place on the eve of All Saints Day, October 31, 1517. Most consider that posting as marking the beginning of the movement known as The Reformation.
It seems that less and less is made of the celebrating of the Reformation today. In the eyes of many, for us as Lutherans to make something of its observance is to encourage divisiveness. We should rather be doing what we can to bring people and churches together. We should not focus attention on those differences that divide. Does this mean we should ignore history, and in this case, ignore all that went on in the years of the Reformation?
Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 10, makes mention of Moses and the Children of Israel. He writes of how what happened to those people "occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did." And he gives some examples. We should "not be idolaters, as some of them were... [we]should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did... [we] should not test the Lord, as some of them did... [and we should] not grumble, as some of them did." Time after time the children of Israel suffered the consequences of their unfaithfulness. "These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfilment of the ages has come."
The concern God had for the people back in the days of Moses, and that Paul had for the people of his day, should be a matter of concern for us today also. And if Paul felt the people of his day could learn from the many examples of unfaithfulness among God's people in the past, then should there not be lessons we can learn from our history too? Can we not learn from the examples of disobedience and unfaithfulness as well as from the examples of faithfulness and steadfastness that we find in the church of more recent centuries?
When it comes to the salvation of souls, it makes all the difference in the world what we believe, and what and who we hold to. Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:31-32). Paul was deeply concerned with the Galatian Christians in that they seemed to be so willing to turn from the Gospel he had preached to them. "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-- which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" (Gal 1:6-8)
The concern of Paul was the concern of the Reformers. This is why they took the stand for the cause of Christ that they did. It is the truth - nothing more and nothing less - that will set men, women, and children free from sin, death and hell. This is why we need in our day to lift up again and again all that the Reformers did for the cause of Christ. We are the beneficiaries of all they boldly fought for. We need to stand boldly in our day so that the next generation of the church might have the truth to share.
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From The Cost of Discipleship
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without Confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ living and incarnate. Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all he his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: "ye were bought at a price," and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.
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The "Solas" of the Reformation
by Kenneth Howes
Ken Howes is one of three seminarians currently with us in the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod - USA, each pursuing their theological education in a manner that is tailored to their needs and situation.
Notice that Martin Luther, as he pointed to the three solas, was in keeping with the simple genius of one of those solas, the written record in which they appear, Scripture - so that one cannot venture away in flights of thought in any ways meritorious, lest he miss that point of truth. Notice also, that Luther was on the same wave length with two important Church Fathers on the matter, Augustine and Anselm. Further, if the Catholic Church - Roman - had held to the purity of Faith and Grace taught by both Augustine and Anselm, the protest for Reform by Augustinian Friar Luther, may not have been so necessary in the 16th Century.
Mr. Howes has shown a real flair of ability for Lutheran studies having previously presented a worthy paper on the Lutheran Confessions at our Annual June Convention. We are therefore pleased to present his paper to you in this publication.
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"Solas" From The Life And Teachings Of Christ
[Alone is not alone, they unite of all things by their action - exclusively!]
by Rev. Ralph Spears
The Three Solas although mutually independent, build upon one another and help to clarify their common truth in a way similar to the three parts of the Trinitarian formula in our Chief Symbols, the three Creeds of our Christian Faith. The bond of Faith, Grace and Scripture likewise is bound to Our Lord, especially - the second person of the Trinity - who is sometimes referred to as the Fourth Sola, Christ alone! Actually, Jesus Christ subsumes and acts as catalyst for the other three as a part of the function of his Mystical body. How could we see Faith, Grace and Scripture functioning together - without Him? For "in Him all things - do indeed - hold together" as Paul observed in Colossians. This is only right owing to His unique role in creation from the very beginning - for "without Him was not anything made that was made" as observed by John the Evangelist while chronicling this unique role in the first Chapter of his Gospel. In fact - so important was this to John's thinking as an eyewitness observer and Apostle to Jesus, ["for we have seen..and touched" this ourselves] - that he made mention again in first chapter of his First Epistle also.
Rather than being a fourth wheel - Christ is the Wheel within which the other wheels revolve as "wheels within - the Wheel", able to "move in the four directions without turning" in the manner of Ezekiel 1 - "And the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels!" The Creature, he identified as "glory of God" at the end of the Chapter.
When the whole concept is assembled with the three solas within the one great SOLA, it is no less spectacular than Ezekiel's first Chapter vision of that other worldly entity. Was this the true nature of what it was the Prophet saw- "away up in the middle of the heaven"?
"Search the Scriptures" said Jesus to the Jewish leaders, "...it is they that bear witness about Me" - which you do "because you think that in them you have eternal life!"
And although they were right as Jesus said, they could not come to Him for that life. (John 5:39)
Of course those Scriptures (or The Scriptures as it would be from the Greek) - are referencing our Old Testament or original testament in the sixty cases mentioned in the New Testament which means literally: "Most Sacred Writings." Jesus IS the Scriptures - 'the Word which became flesh.' The Apostles searched the Scriptures for every detail of His life with them and they found those references which became the basis of their oral tradition - and then the written Gospels. By the Scriptures - ALONE was the Christ event known. It is a complete testimony. Many times did He "open to them the Scriptures" concerning Himself, in his initial teachings and on the road to Emmaus. What other source could begin to tell the story?
Faith in Christ was the whole point of the Way for the Apostles and Disciples which they felt duty bound to deliver to all of the saints. It was - and is - by Faith ALONE!
This was discovered and rediscovered from Habakkuk to Paul and then to Luther.
The author of Faith recognized and encouraged faith. If they had faith enough, He said they could be made whole and as one man confessed that he had faith with an equal part of non-faith what he prayed was granted him, nonetheless! For faith - full faith was not easy, just a little of it equal to a grain of mustard seed, could move mountains and transplant trees to unlikely places. So ended the short lesson of Jesus when his Apostles asked for an increase of their faith - not magic - nothing to be purchased as one New Testament character, Simon supposed, but faith. "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." And Christ, High Priest like Melchizedek, was so-called because He was the paragon of Faith. He learned and established obedience like Abraham - "though he was a son" through Faith. (Hebrews 5:6 & 8) The Kingdom which He described and taught depended on Faith and He might surely have agreed with Luther when the later said, "Believe and you have it!" Faith ALONE. Jesus defined, encouraged, recognized, applauded and embodied faith.
But Faith is by Grace! The preaching of the Kingdom being 'at hand' from both John and Jesus as each began their proclamations - was possible by Grace only. Grace put the whole process into motion and included ready Grace as sins were realized and confessed.
Once when the Apostles were troubled by His teachings about being saved, Jesus said simply, "With man it is impossible but not with God. For all things are possible with God!" (Mark 10:27 and Matthew 19:28) What better and more simple teaching is there of Grace? Grace was the father coming out to greet the prodigal son and explaining the reasoning to his brother. Grace was explaining ones sins to them and having them love it because he was the Christ. He IS the Righteous Judge.
Grace abounds in the New Testament - in fact grace is one of the most distinguishing factors between Old and New Testaments BECAUSE the Christ is really present. Never earned, even a little bit, never paid for, and always taught by parables and stories - by Jesus. And finally grace is given to a convicted criminal hanging on his right just before the death of both of them on the cross, just for the asking. Christ the Righteous Judge - indeed!
By Grace Alone are you saved through Faith and the Scriptures!
The three solas - do not just stand like some immobile doctrine - or even a beautiful hanging or clanging symbol. They are live and active principles of the Universe - the very foundations upon which everything rests. They are like those wheels of Ezekiel, 'Where ever they went they went in any of the four directions without turning as they went". . as the Spirit directed" (Ezekiel. 1:17ff) but only through Christ the directing Spirit and the encompassing wheel and key to it all.
I suspect that if the scientists who are still exploring the basic forces of the universe ever come across the secret to it all, they will be describing the SOLAS - all of them. Or they may be seeing wheels within a Wheel - "way up in the middle of the heaven"!!
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