Wednesday, May 7, 2014

That no one is or can be godly under the Law terrifies consciences, but the consolation of the Gospel is the promise of Christ...

The New Testament keeps and urges this office of the Law, as St. Paul does when he says, "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" (Romans 1:18). Also, "the whole world may be accountable to God ... No human being will be justified in His sight" (Romans 3:19-20).  And, Christ says, the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin.

This is God's thunderbolt.  By the Law He strikes down both obvious sinners and false saints.  He declares no one to be in the right, but drives them all together to terror and despair.  This is the hammer.  As Jeremiah says,  "Is not My word like ... a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?" (23:29).  This is not active contrition or manufactured repentance.  It is passive contrition, true sorrow of heart, suffering, and the sensation of death.

This is what true repentance means.  Here a person needs to hear something like this, "You are all of no account, whether you are obvious sinners or saints (in your own opinions).  You have to become different from what you are now.  You have to act differently than you are now acting, whether you are as great, wise, powerful, and holy as you can be.  Here no one is godly."

But to this office of the Law, the New Testament immediately adds the consoling promise of grace through the Gospel.  This must be believed.  As Christ declares, "Repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15).  That is become different, act differently, and believe My promise.  John the Baptist (preceding Christ) is called a preacher of repentance, but this is for the forgiveness of sins.  That is, John was to accuse all and convict them of being sinners.  This is so they can know what they are before God and acknowledge that they are lost.  So they can be prepared for the Lord to receive grace and to expect and accept from Him the forgiveness of sins.  This is what Christ Himself says, "Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in [My] name to all nations" (Luke 24:47).
~BOC, SA, III, III, 1-6

Monday, April 28, 2014

To reject the promise that sins are freely forgiven for Christ's sake is to abolish the Gospel...

In order for the subject to be made quite clear, we have shown well enough so far, both from testimonies of Scripture and arguments derived from Scripture, that we receive forgiveness of sins for Christ's sake through faith alone.  We have shown that through faith alone we are justified, that is, unrighteous people are made righteous, or regenerated.  How necessary the knowledge of this faith is can be easily judged.  Because Christ's office is recognized in this alone, we receive Christ's benefits by this alone.  Only this teaching brings sure and firm consolation to pious minds.  In the Church there must be teaching by which the pious may receive the sure hope of salvation.  For the adversaries give people bad advice when they tell them to doubt whether they receive forgiveness of sins.  How will such persons sustain themselves in death who have heard nothing of this faith and think that they ought to doubt whether they receive forgiveness of sins?  Besides, it is necessary that the Gospel be kept in Christ's Church, namely, the promise that sins are freely forgiven for Christ's sake.  Those who teach nothing of this faith we speak about, completely abolish the Gospel.  But the Scholastics mention not even a word about this faith. Our adversaries follow them and reject this faith.  Nor do they see that by rejecting this faith they abolish the entire promise about the free forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of Christ.
~BOC, AP, IV (II), 117-121.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Faith is a work of the Holy Spirit, by which we are freed from death and terrified minds are encouraged and brought to life...

Truly it is amazing that the adversaries are in no way moved by so many passages of Scripture, which clearly credit justification to faith.  Indeed, Scripture denies this ability to works.  Do they think that the same point is repeated so often for no purpose?  Do they think that these words fell thoughtlessly from the Holy Spirit?  But they have also come up with sophisticated tricks by which they escape these passages.  They say that these passages of Scripture (that speak of faith) ought to be received as referring to faith that has been formed (fides formata).  This means they do not credit justification to faith in any way, but only to love, because they dream that faith can coexist with mortal sin.  Where does this go?  They again abolish the promise and return to the Law.  If faith receives forgiveness of sins because of love, forgiveness of sins will always be uncertain, because we never love as much as we ought to.  Indeed, we do not love unless our hearts are firmly convinced that forgiveness of sins has been granted to us.  So the adversaries, in forgiveness of sins and justification, require confidence in one's love.  In this way, they completely abolish the Gospel about the free forgiveness of sins; although, at the same time, they do not offer this love or understand it, unless they believe that forgiveness of sins is freely received.

We also say that love ought to follow faith, as Paul says in Galatians 5:6: "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love."

Yet, we must not think that by confidence in this love, or because of this love, we receive forgiveness of sins and reconciliation, just as we do not receive forgiveness of sins because of the works that follow.  But forgiveness of sins is received by faith alone.  Indeed, this is properly called faith because the promise cannot be received except by faith.  Faith, properly called, is what believes this promise.  Scripture speaks of this faith.  Because faith receives forgiveness of sins and reconciles us to God, we are (like Abraham) counted as righteous for Christ's sake before we love and before we do the works of the Law, although love necessarily follows.

Nor, indeed, is this faith an idle knowledge, neither can it coexist with mortal sin.  It is a work of the Holy Spirit, by which we are freed from death and terrified minds are encouraged and brought to life.  Because this faith alone receives forgiveness of sins, makes us acceptable to God, and brings the Holy Spirit, it could be more correctly called "grace making one pleasing to God" (gratia gratum faciens).  It could not be called an effect following faith (i.e., love).
~BOC, AP, IV (II), 107-116

Thursday, April 10, 2014

To deny that faith justifies teaches nothing but the Law, setting aside both Christ and the Gospel...

... Just as it is necessary to keep this statement—Christ as Mediator—so it is necessary to defend that faith justifies.  For how will Christ be Mediator if we do not use Him as Mediator in justification, if we do not hold that we are counted righteous for His sake?  To believe is to trust in Christ's merits, that for His sake God certainly wishes to be reconciled with us.  Here is a similar point:  Just as we should defend that the promise of Christ is necessary apart from the Law, so also should we defend that faith justifies.  For the Law cannot be performed unless the Holy Spirit is received first.  It is, therefore, necessary to defend that the promise of Christ is necessary.  But this cannot be received except through faith.  Therefore those who deny that faith justifies teach nothing but the Law, both Christ and the Gospel being set aside.
~BOC, Apology, IV (II), 69-70

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Virginity is a more excellent gift than marriage, but for Christ's sake each person receives the forgiveness of sins and through faith is regarded righteous before God...

We are justified neither because of virginity nor because of marriage, but freely for Christ's sake, when we believe that for His sake God is merciful to us.  Here perhaps they will cry out that, like Jovinian, marriage is made equal to virginity.  But, because of such racket, we will not reject the truth about the righteousness of faith, which we explained before.  Yet we do not make virginity and marriage equal. For just as one gift excels another, as prophecy surpasses power of speech, the science of military affairs excels agriculture, and power of speech excels architecture, so virginity is a more excellent gift than marriage. Just as a public speaker is no more righteous before God because of his ability to speak than an architect because of his skill in architecture, so a virgin does not merit justification by virginity more than a married person merits it by conjugal duties.  Each person should faithfully serve in his own gift and believe that for Christ's sake he receives the forgiveness of sins and through faith is regarded righteous before God.

Neither does Christ or Paul praise virginity because it justifies, but because it is freer and less distracted with domestic occupations, in praying, teaching, and serving.  For this reason Paul says, "The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord" (I Corinthians 7:32).  Virginity, therefore, is praised because of mediation and study.
~BOC, AP, XXIII (XI), 36-40

Thursday, March 20, 2014

We receive justification by faith in Jesus Christ, through the Word of God and as a Work of the Holy Spirit...

Christ, in the last chapter of Luke, commands "that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name" (24:27).  The Gospel convicts all people that they are under sin, that they are subject to eternal wrath and death.  It offers, for Christ's sake, forgiveness of sin and justification, which is received through faith.  The preaching of repentance (which accuses us) terrifies consciences with true and grave terrors.  In these matters, hearts ought to receive consolation again.  This happens if they believe Christ's promise, that for His sake we have forgiveness of sins.  This faith, encouraging and consoling in these fears, receives forgiveness of sins, justifies, and gives life.  For this consolation is a new birth and spiritual life.  These things are plain and clear and can be understood by the pious.  They also have testimonies of the Church.  The adversaries cannot say how the Holy Spirit is given.  They imagine that the Sacraments give the Holy Spirit by the outward act (ex opere operato), without a good emotion in the one receiving them, as though, indeed, the gift of the Holy Spirit were a useless manner.

We speak of the kind of faith that is not an idle thought, but that liberates from death and produces a new life in hearts.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit.  This does not coexist with mortal sin.  As long as faith is present, it produces good fruits, as we will explain later.  About the conversion of the wicked, or about the way of regeneration, what can be said that is simpler or clearer?  Let the Scholastics, from so great a host of writers, produce a single commentary upon the Sentences that speaks about the way of regeneration.  When they speak of the habit of love, they imagine that people merit it through works.  They do not teach that it is received through the Word.  They teach just like the Anabaptists teach at this time.  But God cannot be interacted with, God cannot be grasped, except through the Word.  So justification happens through the Word, just as Paul says in Romans 1:16. "[The Gospel] is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes."  Likewise, he says in 10:17, "Faith comes from hearing."  Proof can be derived even from this:  faith justifies because, if justification happens only through the Word, and the Word is understood only by faith, it follows that faith justifies.
~BOC, AP, IV (II), 61-68

Thursday, January 23, 2014

God draws the elect through His Word and Sacraments...

Furthermore, the declaration in John 6:44 is right and true, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who send Me draws him."  However, the Father will not do this without means, but has ordained His Word and Sacraments for this purpose as ordinary means and instruments.  It is not the will of the Father or of the Son that a person should not hear or should despite the preaching of His Word and with for the drawing of the Father without the Word and sacraments.  For the Father draws indeed by the power of His Holy Spirit.  However, He works according to His usual way.  He works by the hearing of His holy, divine Word, as with a net, by which the elect are plucked from the devil's jaws.  Every poor sinner should therefore attend to the Word, hear it attentively, and not doubt the Father's drawing.  For the Holy Spirit will be with His world in His power, and will work by it.  That is the Father's drawing.
~FSD, XI, 76-77