A Brief Introduction to sola scriptura

By Dr Hans Wiersma

Sola Scriptura (Latin for “scripture alone”) is one of three or four—or five or six—“solas” that attempt to evoke the basic principles of Lutheran theology (or even Protestant Theology).[1] No matter how many solas you care to list, it would be difficult to deny that Sola Scriptura is an essential component of the Lutheran DNA.

Consider, for instance, the words of Jacob Andreae—words that were written as part of an attempt to unify “second generation Lutherans” in the late 1570s:  “We believe, teach, and confess that the only rule and guiding principle according to which all teachings and teachers are to be evaluated and judged are the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testaments alone…Other writings of ancient or contemporary teachers, whatever their names may be, shall not be regarded as equal to Holy Scripture, but all of them together shall be subjected to it…”[2]

In other words, if you can’t back it up with scripture, then it probably shouldn’t be part of the Christian faith and life.

The slogan Sola Scriptura developed out of the perception that certain Christian teachings and practices—especially some teachings and practices formulated during the medieval period of Western Christianity—had little or no Biblical basis.

For instance, in the 95 Theses of 1517, Martin Luther famously challenged the effectiveness of the “indulgences” granted by the pope.  Soon afterward, Luther and other reformers were not merely challenging the effectiveness of indulgences, but the entire system from which indulgences derived.  Centuries old traditions regarding Purgatory, the Treasury of Merits, and the Intercessions of the Saints were brought into question and finally discarded by reformers who discerned that such traditions were not supported by Holy Scripture. (Of course, the Roman Catholic Church drew upon and continues to draw upon scripture to support such traditions.)

On the other hand Sola Scriptura in Lutheran form is not against tradition per se.  While some brands of Christianity might insist that if it’s not in the Bible then it’s not Christian, Lutheran theology understands that a tradition is allowable when (a) it is not contradicted by scripture, (b) it serves a purpose that is scriptural, and (c) it is not enforced as a pre-condition for Christian unity.

It is nonetheless possible to assert the principle of Sola Scriptura in a manner similar to the bumper sticker that says: “The Bible Says It, I Believe It, That Settles It.”  However, a Lutheran theological approach resists simplification.  For Lutheran Christians, reading the Bible does not mean setting aside critical thinking skills.  Instead, the Lutheran understanding of Sola Scriptura includes certain rules for thought:

Understand that the Bible Is the Manger in Which Christ is Laid. The Bible (in both its Testaments) was inspired to reveal the crucified and Risen Jesus Christ, the one sent from God to justify and save the ungodly.  To understand that the Bible’s primary purpose is something other than the revelation of Jesus Christ (for instance, to understand that the Bible is primarily a book of rules for better living) is decidedly un-Lutheran.  Luther put a point on it when he wrote that if the Scriptures are quoted “against Christ,” then we should “urge Christ against Scripture.”[3]

Be aware that Some Books of the Bible are More Central than Other Books of the Bible. Luther saw that some Bible books were better at revealing Christ and his work than others.  In an introduction to one of his Bible translations, Luther explained that John’s Gospel, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, and 1 Peter contained all one needed to know about Christ.  On the other hand, the Book of James is “really an epistle of straw, when compared with these others, for it has nothing of the nature of the Gospel about it.”[4]

Recognize that Scripture Interprets Scripture. The Bible says a lot of things.  And, taken out of context, a Bible verse or passage can be used to support just about any crackpot notion.  On the other hand, the Lutheran approach understands that Scripture’s message is, generally speaking, easily apprehended.  When one encounters seemingly unclear or confusing Bible passages, then those passages need to be interpreted in light of (a) the clear passages and (b) the Bible’s overall witness to a gracious God who justifies the ungodly on account of Christ.

When reading and hearing the Word of God, Discern Law and Gospel. The art of discerning Law and Gospel, Command and Promise, is essential to an understanding of Sola Scriptura Lutheran-style.  “The understanding of nearly all scripture and all theology depends upon the correct recognition of law and gospel.”[5] It is, of course, possible to contend for the principle of Sola Scriptura but at the same time interpret and proclaim scripture incorrectly.  Most of the religious mischief and harm done in the name of Holy Scripture can be attributed to the improper discernment of law and gospel.  For more on the discernment of Law and Gospel, see “A Brief Introduction to Law and Gospel” on this website.

[1] Along with Sola Scriptura, two other solas are commonly identified as core Lutheran tenets:  Sola Gratia (“grace alone”) and Sola Fide (“faith alone”).  In addition—in order that the object, author, and finisher of Christian faith receives proper recognition—Solus Christus (“Christ alone”) is often included in the enumeration of solas.  Furthermore, those who want to emphasize the importance of God’s “Word Alone” will have Solo Verbo in mind.  And in some of the more pious lists of solas, one might even find Soli Deo Gloria (“to God alone the glory”).

[2] The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, eds. Robert Kolb and Timothy Wengert (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2000) 486.

[3] LW 34:112.

[4] LW 35:395.

[5] WA 7:502.  My translation.

“For the worthy reception, faith is necessary…”

By Bryce P Wandrey

This essay was originally published in the Spring 2010 issue of Lutheran Forum.

This past year I was caught off guard in conversation with a fellow curate in London. He was a former Reformed minister who had been ordained into the Church of England. I had served the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod for four years as a minister, but I too have been ordained into the Church of England. In the midst of our conversation, on learning that I had a Lutheran background, my conversation partner related to me what had once happened when he presented himself for reception of the sacrament of the altar at a Lutheran church. He said in astonishment, “I was asked if I would be willing to sign (not literally) the Augsburg Confession before receiving. I just wanted communion.”

This story raises the age-old question (at least since the Last Supper itself): who should be welcomed to the table? Who should be “allowed” to partake in the eucharist at a given altar? Most Christian denominations have pretty clear-cut, if not always easy to interpret or implement, answers to these questions. Traditionally, baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is a “requirement” for admittance to the holy supper. The logic typically runs that baptism is the sacrament that “makes” a Christian, initiating the recipient into the church and bestowing the everlasting benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection. But assuming the baptized person’s status as a full member of the church, how do we decide which members of the ecclesial community may worthily and rightly receive the sacrament of the altar? Which criteria are the necessary ones for giving a Christian the church’s meal?

For example, some communions require confirmation in order to receive the sacrament, though not all do. Those that do require confirmation do not necessarily believe that the rite of confirmation itself bestows worthiness upon the recipient to receive communion. And yet in this case the affirmation of faith, which is an integral part of the confirmation process, is a requirement for worthy reception of the sacrament of the altar, even if it isn’t meant to be. Confirmation is but one instance among many of ways of acertaining the “worthiness” of the recipient. What follows is an attempt to understand what Martin Luther intended as criteria for worthy reception, not to address any one specific communion policy in Christendom but with the hope that Luther’s criteria can address, confront, and challenge all the requirements of all communion policies across the board.

To begin with, in the papal bull Exsurge Domine, which condemned forty-one articles of Luther’s public teaching, the fifteenth article states Luther’s own position thus: “They are greatly in error who, when communing, rely on the fact that they have confessed, or that they are not aware of any mortal sin and have said their prayers. But if they believe and trust that in the sacrament they receive grace, this faith alone makes them pure and worthy.”[i] If one believes and trusts that in the sacrament she will receive grace, Luther teaches, then her faith alone makes her worthy to receive.

Luther’s contemporary application of this statement, as outlined in his “Defense and Explanation of All the Articles (1521)”, is directed at those “of timid conscience, who prepare themselves for the sacrament with much worry and woe and yet have no peace and do not know how they stand with God.”[ii] To those driven to doubt their own worthiness, based as it is upon their “deficient” contrition or confession, Luther gives these words of comfort: “Faith alone must always be the proper cleansing and worthy preparation.”[iii] Luther constantly spoke of justification by faith alone. Here we see that worthy reception of the sacrament is based upon just that same disposition towards God: faith alone.

It might be helpful to consider what Luther means when he uses the word “faith.” At the heart of the matter is the definition of faith as fiducia, “trust,” in opposition to other conceptions of faith as fides, “belief/cognition.” In his Defense, Luther writes:

For it is not possible for a heart to be at peace unless it trusts in God and not in its own works, efforts, and prayers. St. Paul says in Rom. 5[:1], “By faith we have peace with God.” But if peace comes only through faith, it cannot be achieved through works, prayers, or anything else. Experience also teaches that even though a man may work himself to death, his heart has no peace until he begins to yield himself to God’s grace, and takes the risk of trust in it.[iv]

There are two accounts of faith, faith as fiducia and faith as fides, which includes cognitively holding something to be true. Bernhard Lohse aptly summarizes Luther’s distinction: “Reason denotes the capacity for knowledge… Faith, on the other hand, is a matter of the ‘heart.’ It concerns chiefly one’s relation to God under the perspective of judgment and grace… In the midst of inner conflict caused by the threat of divine judgment, faith means to trust in God’s promise of grace… In faith, trusting in God alone, we let God be God.”[v] More statements like this could be culled from both Luther’s works and his commentators, but the picture is clear: faith is trust in God and in His promises, refocusing our trust away from ourselves and solely on God.

In the context of the question of whether we are worthy to receive the sacrament, faith alone deflects away from ourselves to another, to God and His righteousness. It is His alien righteousness that makes us worthy, because we approach the sacrament trusting in God and not in ourselves, not having faith in our “works, prayers, or anything else.”

What Luther definitely wants to exclude is any kind of human work when it comes to determining one’s worthiness to receive the sacrament. Logically, this means both mental works (confession, contrition, understanding, etc.) and physical works (pilgrimage, tithes, etc.) that give people a presumption of worthiness based upon their own efforts. Oswald Bayer reflects on this aspect of Luther’s conception of faith when he writes, “The moment we turn aside and look back at ourselves and our own doings instead of at God and God’s promise, at that moment we are again left alone with ourselves and with our own judgment about ourselves. We will then be inevitably entangled in ourselves. We will fall back into all the uncertainty of the defiant and despairing heart that looks only to self and not to the promise of God.”[vi] Faith is not a person’s work, something that the person can achieve and then boast about. Faith is a relationship with God, letting go of oneself and grasping instead God who acts on one’s behalf.

Returning now to the “Defense,” we find Luther reflecting upon the words of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:28, “Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” He writes: “They have interpreted this saying to mean that we should examine our consciences for sin, although it means rather that we should examine ourselves for faith and trust, since no man can discover all his mortal sins.”[vii] Instead of human efforts to prepare ourselves, instead of directing our focus inward, what is absolutely necessary for a worthy reception of the sacrament is faith: trust that the sacrament was given and shed “for you,” believing that in the sacrament we will receive God’s grace. Luther’s counsel in the “Defense” can be summarized as such: let no one drive you back to your own works, either mental or physical, to give you consolation that the sacrament is for you. Instead look to the words of Christ: given for you, shed for you. “I wish we would be driven away from works and into faith, for the works will surely follow faith, but faith never follows works.”[viii]

These works of which Luther speaks (and the consequent theology of faith alone), while they were most directly in reference to tasks such as penance, must be applied more widely today, to those “requirements” demanded of prospective communicants. And hence, is it not be a “work” of preparation (at least in some respect) to get one’s doctrine “up to par” or to “sign” a document in order to receive the sacrament? Is this not an example of blurring trust and cognition, of confusing faith and reason, of exchanging fiducia for fides? How much latitude can we allow in defining the “faith” in “faith alone”? Luther, I believe, would allow no such latitude: faith must be restricted to trust in God, trust in God’s promises.

Another instance of Luther explicating his understanding of worthiness in regard to receiving the sacrament came in March of 1521 when he wrote a “Sermon on the Worthy Reception of the Sacrament.”[ix] He began by stating that those who are living openly in sin shall not receive the sacrament.[x] He then proceeded to the two main points in his sermon (to which he returns throughout): 1) No one should come to the sacrament because he feels compelled to by law or command; 2) Only she who feels a great hunger and thirst for God’s grace should come to the sacrament.

Hunger and thirst, not compulsion, are necessary for a worthy reception of the body and blood of Christ. “There must be hunger and thirst for this food and drink; otherwise harm is sure to follow.”[xi] The beginning of such hunger leading to a worthy reception is “[t]o know and understand your sin and to be willing to get rid of such vice and evil and to long to become pure, modest, gentle, mild, humble, believing, loving, etc.”[xii]

Those who trust in their own worthiness should avoid coming to the sacrament. Here Luther combines a rejection of a false humility when approaching the sacrament with faith in Christ’s words. The focus is shifted away from the worthiness of the believer and instead to that which he believes: Christ and his words, most notably his words instituting the sacrament. “[E]very Christian should have these words close to himself and put his mind on them above all others.”[xiii] This is an obvious echo of Luther’s understanding of faith itself, here applied to a worthy reception of the sacrament of the altar, which centers a person’s gravity away from herself and on to another, namely Christ.

Luther is adamant that in order to receive the sacrament worthily we should never rely upon our own diligence or effort, work or prayers, fasting or other outward preparations, but instead should rely solely upon “the truth of the divine words.”[xiv] When we are driven to our own purity we are led down the wrong path, made shy and timid, and the sacrament is reduced from being a sweet and blessed thing to a “frightful and hazardous act.”[xv] Luther quips, “If you do not want to come to the sacrament until you are perfectly clean and whole, it would be better for you to remain away entirely,”[xvi] words echoed in his Large Catechism: “If you choose to fix your eye on how good and pure you are, to wait until nothing torments you, you will never go.”[xvii] Instead of a misguided purity, what is necessary is trust in the perfection of God’s righteousness, not our own.

Luther concludes his sermon by writing that “[t]he only question is whether you thoroughly recognize and feel your labor and your burden and that you yourself fervently desire to be relieved of these. Then you are indeed worthy of the sacrament. If you believe, the sacrament gives you everything you need.”[xviii] One should not commune in either open sin or under compulsion, but instead a worthy recipient of our Lord’s body and blood in the sacrament is that person burdened by their sin and hungering for God’s grace. In other words: the worthy recipient is that person who clings to Christ alone with faith alone.

This theology of grace is contained nicely in a prayer of preparation for the sacrament that Luther includes in the sermon.

Lord, it is true that I am not worthy for you to come under my roof, but I need and desire your help and grace to make me godly. I now come to you, trusting only in the wonderful words I just heard, with which you invite me to your table and promise me, the unworthy one, forgiveness of all my sins through your body and blood if I eat and drink them in this sacrament. Amen.

Dear Lord, I do not doubt the truth of your words. Trusting them, I eat and I drink with you. Do unto me according to your words. Amen.[xix]

The emphasis upon trust only in the words of invitation to receive the sacrament, trust in the grace of God offered in the sacrament, trust in God and not oneself, is unmistakable.

Once more, on 14 March 1522, Luther took up the issue of worthily receiving the sacrament of the altar in a sermon, this time on the Friday after Invocavit Sunday.[xx] He begins by distinguishing between an outward reception of the sacrament and an inner (spiritual) reception. It is by an outward reception that a person receives, with their mouth, the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament. Luther affirms that any person can receive the sacrament in this manner but without faith and love this outward reception does not “make a man a Christian.”[xxi] Hence, there must be faith to make the reception of the sacrament “worthy and acceptable” before God. “Christianity consists solely in faith, and no outward work must be attached to it.”[xxii]

Luther then helpfully defines faith for us when he writes, “But faith (which we all must have, if we wish to go to the sacrament worthily) is a firm trust that Christ, the Son of God, stands in our place and has taken all our sins upon his shoulders and that he is the eternal satisfaction for our sin and reconciles us with God the Father.”[xxiii] Faith for Luther, as illustrated earlier in this essay, is simply a trust that Christ has accomplished the unified act of bearing our sins, making satisfaction for our sins, and reconciling us with his Father. It is trust that God has “stepped in” for us and taken our place and offered his blood on our behalf.[xxiv] Faith is a shift in focus away from ourselves and on to Christ. And now, here in this sacrament, Christ offers his body and blood to us “as an assurance, or seal, or sign to assure [us] of God’s promise and grace.”[xxv] Finally, Luther echoes the same criteria that he laid down in his 1521 sermon when he writes, “This food demands a hungering and longing man, for it delights to enter a hungry soul, which is constantly battling with its sins and eager to be rid of them.”[xxvi]

We now come to the Small and Large Catechisms (1529), both foundational and instrumental documents for Luther’s theology. The “Small Catechism” states that the sacrament is “the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, given to us Christians to eat and drink.”[xxvii] Here we encounter, in a slightly implicit way, the “requirement” of belief in the “real presence” of the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament, something that is more explicitly stated in other writings of Luther’s. Earlier in his life Luther wrote in “Against the Heavenly Prophets”: “But I do know full well that the Word of God cannot lie, and it says that the body and blood of Christ are in the sacrament.”[xxviii] Luther’s requirement of this understanding of the “presence” of Christ in the sacrament becomes only too explicit in his adamant disagreement with Zwingli at the Marburg Colloquy, as Lohse highlights, “[O]ne may say that Luther’s Reformation theology took on particularly significant shape in the debate with Zwingli over the Supper.”[xxix] As a result, Luther said he would rather drink the blood of Christ with the pope than drink mere wine with “the fanatics,”[xxx] which lends weight to the “requirement” of recognizing Christ’s body and blood as present in the sacrament for a worthy reception.

In his “Large Catechism,” Luther once more addresses head on who should partake of the sacrament. “It is the one who believes what the words say and what they give, for they are not spoken or preached to stone and wood but to those who hear them, those to whom he says, ‘Take and eat,’ etc. And because he offers and promises forgiveness of sins, it can be received in no other way than by faith.”[xxxi] Interestingly, if Luther here pushes faith beyond simple trust and invokes a sense of “belief in” something, he does so only in reference to the focus or object of the words of institution. He writes, “This faith he himself demands in the Word when he says, ‘given for you and ‘shed for you,’ as if he said, ‘This is why I give it and bid you eat and drink, that you may take it as your own and enjoy it.’ All those who let these words be addressed to them and believe that they are true have what the words declare.”[xxxii] While it is possible that Luther here requires faith in the fides sense for a worthy reception, it is equally possible, based upon the for you-ness of Christ’s words, that Luther is actually requiring the fiducia sense of faith as looking away from oneself and to Christ.

This still begs the question: by insisting upon a certain element of “right belief” (a “right belief” of the presence of Christ in the sacrament) for a worthy reception of the sacrament, has Luther introduced an element that breaks asunder his “faith alone” criteria? No. As illustrated from the “Large Catechism,” that to which Luther directs a person’s attention in recognizing the mode of Christ’s presence in the sacrament is not his works nor his intellect but once again the promises of God and nothing else. That means: not a person’s worthiness, not even her doctrinal fidelity. Here we cannot allow the entrance of a doctrinal-faith dialectic when it comes to “faith worthiness” and the sacrament. This is because what Luther emphasizes is not a person’s worthiness as evidenced in his “right belief” but instead, once again, a trust in God’s word and promises. Luther’s main focus and emphasis in insisting upon “belief” in a certain mode of presence in the sacrament was not a case of believing in a right concept but instead trusting the words of Christ; once again, fiducia and not fides. In other words, Luther’s insistence on the real presence in the sacrament is not a fides addition required of the communicant but instead a logical application or outworking of his faith (=fiducia) alone principle.

Luther’s concern was to not make God out to be a liar, but to allow God’s words to speak, to be heard and trusted. Ultimately, it was an effort to free a Christian from any complex extra-biblical understanding of how Christ was present and to allow the clear words of institution to stand alone. One can quibble with Luther’s understanding of Christ’s mode of presence in the sacrament on the basis of the verba, but one cannot use his insistence upon the “real presence” of Christ in the sacrament to introduce the aforementioned “doctrinal-faith” element. As Lohse emphasizes, “As to the significance of the words of institution, from his early period onward Luther was concerned with a complex but materially necessary connection between Christ’s establishing or instituting the Supper, the sign of presence of the crucified and risen Lord under the bread and wine, and the meaning or promise as apprehended in faith.”[xxxiii]

Who worthily receives the sacrament? She who can intellectually assent to a set of doctrines and “sign on”? Or she who says, “I just want communion”? I think we can answer, based upon Luther’s theology, that the first requires too much, and is in fact a corruption of Luther’s understanding of faith as fiducia, while the latter, which is on the right track, needs more—but not much more.

Luther lays out three criteria for worthily receiving the sacrament of the altar over the breadth of his theological writings. He is worthy to receive the sacrament who 1) has faith[xxxiv] in Christ alone, 2) hungers for the sacrament as a means of receiving God’s grace, and 3) recognizes Christ’s body and blood in the sacrament under the elements of bread and wine, because that person trusts Christ’s words, “This is my body, this is my blood.” These are the criteria that should determine entrance to the sacrament of the altar (definitely no more but also no less), criteria that, yes, the church should insist upon, but more importantly, criteria that the baptized individual should use as a means to examine herself. And yet here we tread the slippery slope of promoting “self-examination” as a criterion, an exercise toward “worthy reception.” At times it is best to say little, only what is absolutely necessary, and leave it at that: “For the worthy reception, faith is necessary, by which one firmly believes Christ’s promise of remission of sins and eternal life, as the words in the sacrament clearly state.”[xxxv]

[i] Luther’s Works, American Edition, 55 vols., eds. J. Pelikan and H. Lehmann (St. Louis and Philadelphia: Concordia and Fortress, 1955ff.), 32:54 [hereafter cited as lw].

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] lw 32:55.

[iv] lw 32:54. My italics.

[v] Bernhard Lohse, Martin Luther’s Theology: Its Historical and Systematic Development (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1999), 201.

[vi] Oswald Bayer, Living by Faith: Justification and Sanctification (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 44.

[vii] lw 32:55. My italics.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Martin Luther, “Sermon on the Worthy Reception of the Sacrament,” lw 42:170–77.

[x] lw 42:171.

[xi] lw 42:172.

[xii] Ibid.

[xiii] lw 42:173.

[xiv] lw 42:174.

[xv] lw 42:175.

[xvi] Ibid.

[xvii] Martin Luther, “Large Catechism,” in The Book of Concord, eds. Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2001), v.57.

[xviii] lw 42:177.

[xix] lw 42:174.

[xx] lw 51:92.

[xxi] Ibid.

[xxii] Ibid.

[xxiii] Ibid. My italics.

[xxiv] lw 51:93.

[xxv] Ibid.

[xxvi] lw 51:94.

[xxvii] Martin Luther, “Small Catechism,” in The Book of Concord, iv.2.

[xxviii] lw 40:176.

[xxix] Lohse, 306.

[xxx] lw 37:317: “Against this someone will object once more, ‘But you yourself declare that the wine remains wine in the new Supper. These words of yours make you a good papist who believes that there is no wine in the Supper.’ I reply: This bothers me very little, for I have often enough asserted that I do not argue whether the wine remains wine or not. It is enough for me that Christ’s blood is present; let it be with the wine as God wills. Sooner than have mere wine with the fanatics, I would agree with the pope that there is only blood.”

[xxxi] “Large Catechism,” v.33–34.

[xxxii] Ibid.

[xxxiii] Lohse, 306–7. My italics.

[xxxiv] Importantly, this is faith defined as trust in God as “for us” and not faith achieved or proven on the battle grounds of “right belief.” In other words, as shown throughout this essay, it is faith defined as fiducia and not fides.

[xxxv] lw 34:355.

A Reformation Sermon

By The Revd Dr Carl E Braaten


I Corinthians 2: 2:  “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

I have chosen one verse from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, as the text for this sermon on Reformation Day.  It is a Bible verse that Martin Luther came back to again and again.  Church historians and polemicists have bequeathed to us many conflicting images of Luther.  For centuries Lutherans have made Luther into a hero, not surprisingly since he was the founding father of world Lutheranism, now numbering over sixty million adherents.  Then there is the other side of the story.  To Roman Catholics Luther has traditionally been viewed as a rebel who split the Catholic Church, called the Pope the Anti-Christ, and was rightly excommunicated.  Which image of Luther is historically the more accurate one?

Socialists have derided Luther as a nasty bourgeois man who called upon the  German nobles to put down the peasants’ rebellion.  In a heat of rage Luther screamed the words, “Stab, slay, and smite those murderous hordes fomenting an armed rebellion.”  A few historians have portrayed Luther as the spiritual ancestor of Hitler.  Luther urged the authorities to take swift and decisive action against the Jews — to burn their synagogues, raze their homes, seize their prayer books, and as a “final solution” send them back to the land of Israel.  Indeed, there are so many conflicting images of Luther; the most embarrassing ones we would like to forget.

However, I do not believe that Luther the man as such is a fit subject for a sermon, and Luther would be the first to agree with that.  We will leave the question of the real Luther to the historians to debate.  Rather, I would like to cut to the chase and focus on the permanent validity of Luther’s witness to Christ and his cross.

A New Way of Doing Theology

Luther called for a new way of doing theology.  Luther was by training and vocation a professor of the Bible.  As a twenty five year old student Luther wrote in a letter that “the only theology of any real value is what penetrates the kernel of the nut and the germ of the wheat and the marrow of the bone.”  After he nailed his 95 theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg (1517), he travelled to Heidelberg to hold a disputation with his fellow Augustinian monks (1518).  There he asserted: “The only theology of any real value is to be found in the crucified Christ” — a clear echo of the verse we read from I Corinthians 2: 2: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

For Luther the only theology true to the gospel is what he called a “theology of the cross.”  He contrasted that to a “theology of glory” that was being taught in all the schools at that time.  Popular theologians, not unlike many modern ones, were trying to get to God through a variety of other ways, teaching that people can come to know God through philosophy, mysticism, and morality, by means of reason, religious exercises,  and good works.  All of these ways lead heavenward to a glorious God of majesty, a God who wouldn’t be caught dead on the cross of that afflicted man of sorrows, in whom there was no “form or comeliness.”  (Is. 53: 2)

Luther was a follower of the apostle Paul’s theology.  Luther said:  There are two ways of doing theology, the way of the philosopher Aristotle who defined God as the First Cause of all things, an Absolute who could not care less about what is going on in the world, and then there is the way of the apostle Paul who decided to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  The two ways of doing theology are the way of glory and the way of the cross.  The way of glory rises up to meet God at the level of God in heaven.  The way of the cross looks for God in a down-to-earth manner, in things that are as lowly, weak, poor, and naked as the suffering man who died on a hill outside the gate.

God in the Flesh

The cross of Christ involves not only the death of a human being, one Jesus by name.  Rather, it is a God-event.  The person dying on the cross is not a mere man; he is God in the flesh.  This equation results in a strikingly new concept of God.  The very idea that God would allow himself to be crucified among criminals — it’s unbelievable!  The great religions of the world teach that God cannot suffer; God cannot bleed; God cannot die.  Because God is God he has no feelings at all; he has no passions; he has nothing in common with the suffering of human beings, in sharing their anguish, despair, and sickness unto death.  What happened to Jesus on the cross was something that presumably happened to Jesus only in his human nature.  This is what the theologians of glory taught, in order to exempt God from human deprivation and degradation.

For Luther the reformer and Paul the apostle what happened on the cross happened to God.  It is right to say that God himself is crucified, because Jesus is not only man but also God.  The crucified Jesus is “very God of very God.”  That is exactly what the Creed of Nicaea also says.  God is hidden in the cross of Christ.  Theologians of glory flee from the hidden and crucified God in favor of the omnipotent God of majesty.  Ashamed to find God in the cross of Christ, their pride tells them to look for God in loftier places, in  peak experiences, in which people scale the heights of their own human potential, their reason, creativity, and imagination.

What do we normally think of when we think of God?  Do we think of power, glory, wisdom, and majesty?  Of course, that is one way, the broad way, but Paul chose the narrow way, where God meets us in the cross of Christ.  Let us listen to some of Luther’s own words:

“We Christians must know that unless God is in the balance and throws his weight as a counterbalance, we shall sink to the bottom of the scale.. . .If it is not true that God died for us, but only a man died, we are lost.  But if God’s death lies in the opposite scale, then his side goes down and we go upward like a light and empty pan.  But God would never have sat in the pan unless he had first become a man like us, so that it could be said:  God is dead; here in Christ is God’s passion, God’s blood, God’s death.”

Such a theology of the cross is revolutionary in the history of religion.  When it comes to the nature and attributes of God, we are to think about Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Four hundred and fifty years later, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the martyr who died on Hitler’s scaffold, was saying the same thing as Paul:

“God allows himself to be edged out of the world onto the cross.  God is weak and powerless in the world, and that is exactly the way, the only way, in which he can be with us and help us. . . .Only a suffering God can help.”

The Jewish writer, Elie Wiesel, in his book Night, tells about an incident at Auschwitz:

“The SS hanged two Jewish men and one youth in front of the whole camp.  The men died quickly, but the death throes of the youth lasted for half an hour. Where is God?  Where is he?’ someone asked behind me.  As the youth still hung in torment in the noose after a long time, I heard the man call again, ‘Where   is God now?’  And I heard a voice in myself answer:  ‘Where is he?  He is here. He is hanging on the gallows. . . .’”

Could he perhaps have been thinking of the suffering God who humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on the gallows?

Only in Christianity do we find this idea that God and the gallows go together.  In other major religions, God is high in his heaven and far away.  We humans are supposed to go there on the wings of our own reason and experience, our religious rituals and good deeds.  Against this Luther said, “We should not try to penetrate the lofty mysteries of God’s majesty, but we should simply be content with the God on the cross.  Anyone who tries to find God outside of Christ will find only the devil.”

The Happy Exchange

Of what use is this theology of the cross for you and for me?  In his Letter to the Romans, Paul answers this question by expounding his doctrine of justification by faith apart from the works of the law.  The cross of Christ and justification by faith are not two separate things; they are two sides of the same coin.  Without the crucified Christ there can be no justification of sinners in the sight of God.  In the Lutheran tradition the doctrine of justification has been called “the article by which the church stands and falls.”  In light of this doctrine of justification, Luther found much to criticize in the church and theology of his day, from the Pope in Rome to the peddler of indulgences in his parish.  He claimed that they were teaching salvation by the merits of works and not by faith in Christ and the benefits of his cross.  “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.”  So said John Tetzel, the popular preacher, while selling certificates of indulgence to raise money to build St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome.

What is so great about this salvation that we receive through faith alone on account of Christ alone?  What hangs in the balance is the issue of bondage or freedom.  Freedom is the very essence of salvation.  In his wonderful treatise On Christian Freedom, Luther wrote:  “A Christian is free. . .and in bondage to no one.”  Yet, at the same time, he said, “A Christian is a servant, and owing a duty to everyone.”  Radical freedom was purchased for us by the cross of Christ and it means to be in bondage to no one, yet free to serve everyone.

The righteousness of God is revealed from heaven.  It is not something we render to God but what he gives to us.  “Lord Jesus,” cried Luther, “you are my righteousness, just as I am your sin.  You have taken upon yourself what you were not and you have given to me what I was not.”  This what Luther called the good news of the “happy exchange.”  God in Christ takes our sin, and we get his righteousness.  We are free, free at last, and off the hook.  Justification by faith alone means freedom from the way of works, which requires us to sweat for every inch of our stature in the face of God.  The cross is God’s way of shattering the way of works to make way for faith.  That is to let God be God who is in the business of saving sinners.  This frees us to receive his salvation as a gift and to live life to the hilt.

Luther wrote a letter to his friend, Philip Melanchthon, who was worrying about a dilemma:  If he did what he felt he had to do, he would be committing a sin, no matter how hard he tried to avoid it.  Then Luther said to his friend, “Pecca fortiter,” which means, “Sin boldly!”  Go ahead and do what you have to do, and then he added these words of qualification, “. . .believe in Christ even more boldly still, for he (Christ) is victorious over sin, death, and the world.”  Luther was assuring Melanchthon that Christ did not die for fictitious sinners, but for real sinners.  If it were possible for humans to be perfect on their own and avoid all ambiguities, then Christ would have died in vain.

Living Under the Cross

Finally, we must ask, what is the meaning of the cross for the daily life of ordinary believers in the world?  The cross is not only a way to be saved but a way to live.  Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me.”  To be a Christian is not only to believe in Christ but to follow Jesus.  To follow him where?  Into the world in solidarity with the least, the lost, and the last.

The cross is not a symbol for pious people meditating on things religious.  The people of Christ live their lives under the cross, in school, on a farm, in a family, in a business, at city hall, in the every day secular world, doing what needs doing at the moment.  That will sometimes entail suffering, humiliation, grief, disgrace, and maybe even martyrdom.  Not many of the disciples or apostles died of old age.  Bearing the  cross of Christ aroused conflict and opposition.  Christians ought to expect that they may be dealt with as sheep for the slaughter.  In Greek the word “martyr” is the same as the world “witness.”  Martyrdom means being a witness to the truth, willing to pay the price that one unavoidably pays in doing hand-to-hand combat with forces of evil in the world.

We confess in the Nicene Creed, “We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.”  Those are the four marks of the true church of Christ.  Luther placed on the par with these four marks the additional mark of the cross, of suffering, and martyrdom.  A church that wants to be great and glorious in worldly terms, that wants to be vocal and victorious in political terms, is deeply suspect.  Something is profoundly wrong with any church that wishes to be identified with the rich, beautiful, and powerful people.  That is the way of the theology of glory.  The church seeking glory tends to worship its own growth, success, popularity, and to peddle cheap grace to those who can afford to pay their way.

The reason that the Christian life under the cross brings suffering is that those who are set free by Christ go into the world to set the captives free.  That means to work for the liberation of the captives, to widen the range of freedom in every respect — in terms of freedom of the press, freedom of worship, freedom of assembly, and freedom of opportunity.  Almost every American will agree with that.  But it also means freedom from want, freedom from war, freedom from ignorance, and freedom from oppression. The way of the cross in the world — in political, social, and economic terms — means to liberate people from the prisons of class, race, wealth, ideology, and anything else that keeps people down.

Just as Jesus was nailed to the cross for setting people free, those who claim to be his followers will go the way of the cross in setting people free from suffering and degradation, from poverty and hunger, from ignorance and superstition.

All of these ideas flow from Luther’s theology of the cross.  Luther carried this theology to his death bed.  His friends asked him if he was prepared to die in the faith he had preached.  Throughout his career Luther had said, “Preach one thing: the wisdom of the cross.”  Now on his death bed Luther answered, “Yes.  We are beggars.  That is true.”

It is to be hoped that churches today will learn from Paul’s theology of the cross how to be faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ and him crucified;

that they might teach nothing but a theology of the cross;

they they might preaching nothing but the crucified God;

that they might trust, not in themselves, but solely in the benefits of the cross;

and that their mission will take shape in the form of the cross of Christ.  Amen!

A Brief Introduction to Luther’s theologia crucis

By Dr Ken Sundet Jones

          The language of Theology of the Cross comes to us from Luther’s 1518 Heidelberg Disputation.* After the explosion of the Ninety-Five Theses across Europe, Luther was asked to come to a meeting of his Augustinian order in the university city of Heidelberg and discuss his ideas. In the Disputation, Luther used Theology of the Cross and Theology of Glory as categories for how stances on free will can move us in opposite directions.

            Luther argues, “A ‘theologian of glory’ calls the bad good and the good bad. The ‘theologian of the cross’ says what a things is.” A Theology of Glory assumes free will as true: We can choose to do what is within us in order to advance toward what is good. Thus, we do good works, build ourselves up to our potential, and engage in religious practices that show forth our growing righteousness. When theologians of glory confuse the good and the bad, they look to their actions, status and worldly glory as an indication of their standing before God. But as good as these things appear, they actually hinder our righteousness and salvation. They turn us away from Christ crucified and risen as the source of forgiveness, life and salvation and fool us into believing we can make it on our own (or at least that God will reward our good intentions). As Luther argues, a Theology of Glory “puffs up, blinds, and hardens” us.

            The theologian of the cross, on the other hand,  regards free will as a fiction and knows that we sinners are captive to ourselves and bound to press our defense against an almighty yet hidden God. From our forebears in the Garden forward, we human beings have not been able to abide a God who refuses to allow us behind the veil. Such a God demands that ultimate matters like salvation, eternal life and our very future remain in divine hands. As sinners will, we insist on our autonomy and veer off down the path of visible, unveiled things in the creation. We apply Newton’s laws to our standing before God: If every action has an equal and opposite reaction, God must indeed help those who help themselves! The theologian of the cross sees such a move as unproductive flailing at best, and a worldly wisdom that brings the wrath of God at worst.

            So a theologian of the cross begins with a captive will, understanding that human beings are unable to let go of themselves. To become such theologians, we must utterly despair of our own ability to get things right with God. Theologians of the cross look not to visible things we can do (glory) but to the utterly unlikely possibility that God has done the work by taking on flesh in the one who was despised and rejected, “a man of suffering” (Isaiah 53). The theologian of the cross looks to Jesus and regards Christ’s cross not as an example for all of life’s what-would-Jesus-do moments, but instead sees it as the result of what happens when sinners lay their hands on God.

            For such a theologian, the cross speaks a resounding “No!” to the way of glory, striving and good works as the path to salvation. The Theology of the Cross recognizes that Jesus is a threat to the sinner’s spiritual and religious house of cards, for Christ claims all things for himself as the way, the truth and the life. All things have been put under his feet (Ephesians 1:22). A theologian of the cross, then, starts a consideration of ultimate matters with Jesus himself. And if Christ holds all within himself, that means we sinners stand empty-handed before God. As Luther argues, “The one who does much ‘work’ is not the righteous one, but the one who, without ‘work’, has much faith in Christ.” The theologian of the cross, with Paul, can say, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

            This is why words like suffering and loss flow so frequently off the tongues of theologians of the cross. It is those moments in life where we come up against the limits of our own power and possibility, where we face the hard truth that our lives are truly and only in God’s hands. It is death itself that becomes the ultimate mirror to our helpless striving and asks, “On whom does your next breath, your next heartbeat, your next moment depend?” The Theology of the Cross sees how the Law snatches self-management and self-continuity out of our grasp and how God’s mercy given in the crucified and risen one hands back the gift and joy of life in full measure. So Luther says, “The law says: ‘Do this!’, and it never is done. Grace says: “Believe in this one!’, and forthwith everything is done.” Thus the theologian of the cross regards proclamation of the gospel as bringing the good news of Jesus’ work to sinners wrecked on life’s shoals. Such proclamation pulls us away our self-obsession and captivates us with the picture of a God who saves fully and freely out of “fatherly and divine goodness and mercy” (Luther, Small Catechism) on account of Christ’s work and not our own.

            While the Theology of the Glory is rampant in a world rife with advertising (“Buy this or vote this way, or live in this suburb and your future will be assured.”), the Theology of the Cross is a little gem of proclamation that pulls the struts away from those houses built on sand. Those who become theologians of the cross make up what Luther later called the heuflein Christi, the little band of Christians (Sermon at Castle Pleissenberg). Luther’s last written words, found on a slip in his pockets at his deathbed, sum it all up, “We are beggars. This is true.” A Theology of the Cross stands with empty pockets pointing at Christ who desires to give all he has to us, sinners every one.

* All references to the Heidelberg Disputation from Martin Luther: Selections From His Writings, John Dillenberger, ed. (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1961), 500-503.

Theological Fragments: Christology and Soteriology

“The divinity of Jesus and his freeing and redeeming significance for us are related in the closest possible way. To this extent, Melanchthon’s famous sentence is appropriate, “Who Jesus is becomes known in his saving action.” Nevertheless, the divinity of Jesus does not consist in his saving significance for us. Divinity and saving significance are interrelated as distinct things. The divinity of Jesus remains the presupposition for this saving significance for us and, conversely, the saving significance of his divinity is the reason why we take interest in the question of this divinity.”

–Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jesus- God and Man, (The Westminster Press: Philadelphia, PA, 1968, 1977), 38.

Theological Fragments: Receive the Lord’s Supper by Faith in the Word

“The true preparation for this Sacrament consists of faith. There are two parts which you must believe. First, the bread and wine are the body and the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ….This faith is based on the words, “This is my body,” “This is my blood.” Do not fool with this faith! It has been the best thing about the papacy that this faith was preserved, that they did not doubt that the body and blood are present. Stick to the words!

“…But now in addition, a higher faith belongs to this and is more accurately called trust and is based on the words: “given for you,” and “shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” These words are the promise….There is a promise, and in the promise a gift. Now where a promise is present and a gift is offered, trust belongs to this, that is: a heart believes that this will happen.

“…This is the true faith and the proper preparation for the Sacrament: that your heart clings to the Word of Christ….Now you have the true use of the Sacrament. It may be enjoyed in no other way than in faith, that both Christ’s body and blood and the forgiveness of sins are present. When you receive it, you should be certain: you have received the seal that God will forgive your sins.

“…A twofold faith is necessary. The first part believes that the words [of institution] are true. The second part believes that both are given for you, that you have the forgiveness of sins that brings righteousness and eternal life. The one faith says: This is Christ’s body. The other: This body is mine. Do not come forward without this faith! You must have this faith or at least ask for it.”

–Martin Luther, “Wednesday Morning, Holy Week, March 24, 1529,” The 1529 Holy Week and Easter Sermons of Dr Martin Luther, (St Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), pgs 63-69.

A Brief Introduction to Faith & Works

By John D Koch, Jr

When approaching the topic “faith and works,” one is wise to heed the words of Gerhard Forde, who in his essay on the question, “Is forgiveness enough?” writes, “Speak for yourself! And beware! The answer will be something of a confession.”[1] As if that weren’t enough, as Carter Lindberg has remarked, this is extremely well travelled ground:

Indeed, the author of Ecclesiastes might have had our topic in mind when he wrote: ‘Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh’(12:12). Yet, the preacher also addressed our topic in the next verse where he concluded that our whole duty is to ‘fear God, and keep his commandments.’ How simple our duty is! Yet, the question of how to ‘‘fear God and keep his commandments’’ has fueled perennial theological controversy, social conflict, and personal anxiety.”[2]

Nevertheless, in regards to this question, there is something to say, to confess even, because the relationship between faith and works is neither, as some have argued, primarily a question of sequence—a theological chicken and egg—nor is it one of clean separation under then headings of “justification,” and “sanctification” (as tempting as that may be). Rather, the nature of this relationship has more to do with questions of life and death, because a living faith “works.”

Gerharde Forde explains:

’Faith without words is dead,’ we are reminded. Quite true. But then what follows is usually some long and dreary description of works and what we should be about, as though the way to revive a dead faith were by putting up a good-works front. If the faith is dead, it is the faith that must be revived; no amount of works will do it.[3]

In other words, faith and works are related organically: “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit.” (Lk. 6:43); and the key to this relationship is not to focus on the fruit, but on the “root of Jesse”(Rm. 15:12).

Far from a mere academic exercise, it was in an attempt to clarify none other than just this distinction that lead Luther and subsequent reformers to the rediscovery of the doctrine of Justification sola fide, because at the heart of a proper understanding of this relationship between faith and work lies the question, “how can I know I’ve done enough,” the impetus for Luther’s famous quest for a gracious God. In their book Lutheranism: The Theological Movement and its Confessional Writings,” Jenson and Gritsch explain that, “In the original Lutheran movement, the language of ‘justification’ was the locus of an epochal radicalization of the problematic character of human life,”[4] a problem radicalized by the pastoral (ie. existential) failure of the medieval penitential system’s ability to assuage fearful and guilty consciences.  In other words, the theology of the Reformation was, rightly understood, pastoral theology. It was on account of being forced back to the scriptures in search of the Gospel that Luther rediscovered the “God who justifies the ungodly,”(Rm. 4:5), whose righteousness was appropriated by faith.

So far, so good; we have outlined a narrative that many in the Reformation tradition would rightly affirm.  However, this is where the difficulties arise, because it is at just this point, when one (rightly) affirms the precedence of faith to works, that we are tempted to view the entire enterprise from the perspective of the Law. When viewed in this way, faith and works constitute a logical or temporal succession within the ordo salutus—the order of salvation. Here is where the problem lies. According to Forde, when this move was made (at least in Lutheran Orthodoxy) to reduce faith and love to subsequent events:

The way was open to the temporalization and indeed psychologization of the ordo…” A “dead” orthodoxy could be vitalized only in the same way an “arid” scholasticism could be appropriated: turn it into a “way” with a certain series of “steps” in the religious “progress” of the individual “subject.”[5]

In this way, and to varying degrees, “works” returned to their place as the standard by which one knew one had faith, and thus even Luther’s own reversal of the traditional Roman Catholic understanding of fides caritate formata (faith formed by love) to caritas fide formata (love formed by faith), was marshaled in defense of this new system. It really does not matter whether you preach works as necessary before or after faith, because different means all point to the same end: good works.

When the relationship between faith and works is seen as subsequent, then, particularly in the throes of Anfechtung, it is impossible not to look to one’s own works as proof or assurance that one does, in fact, have faith. The prayer, “Lord, I believe, Help thou my unbelief,”(Mk. 9:24) becomes, “Lord, I work, help thou my unbelief.” When reduced to a temporal description, “Justification is a kind of obligatory religious preliminary,” writes Forde, “that is rendered largely ineffective while we talk about getting on with the truly ‘serious’ business of becoming ‘sanctified’ according to some moral scheme or other.”[6] For Protestants committed to the reformation solas, this way of separating justification and sanctification—faith and works—often exacerbates the very problem Luther was intending to avoid: the inability to have any assurance of faith. This is a tragic reversal of the “whole point of the Reformation [which was] that the gospel promise is unconditional; ‘faith’ did not specify a special condition of human fulfillment, it meant the possibility of a life freed form all conditionality of fulfillment.”[7]

Instead of resting in the unconditional promise of the Gospel extra nos, now, it seems, the question is not “have I done enough?” but “do I really have faith? Do I really believe?”  Correspondingly, the argument that faith is a gift of God and such faith naturally performs good works seems impossibly cruel. “’God will be gracious, ‘we say, ‘if only you believe,’ thinking to follow the Reformation. Instead, [we] thereby usually proclaim a works-righteousness that makes medieval Catholicism seem a fount of pure grace.”[8] And so, still stuck with the “problematic character of human life,” we’ve returned to the initial problem which prompted Luther’s quest for a Gracious God: how do we understand the relationship between faith and works?

Faith is nothing other than the certainty of salvation, the confidence in God’s merciful disposition towards us, and works done in faith make the work good. Bayer explains, “Luther directs his attention against those theologians who demand good work but who are weak in matters connected with the question about the certainty of salvation. According to Luther, the best works do me no good if I do not know how I am doing in my relationship with God. Without faith the best work is dead.” [9] In other words, only work done in the faith and security of God’s promised mercy towards us is a good work. Period.

The seeming ambiguity of this position is profoundly unsettling, because it removes any ability we have to measure our “progress” in the Christian life, takes the ruler of introspection out of our hands and forces our eyes on the Cross. We can neither look to works as meriting our standing before God, nor can we rest in a false distinction between justification and sanctification, as if that helps. Now, we must face the fact that it is only on account of God that we are counted righteous, and that all of our best works are but “filthy rags,” to use one of Luther’s favorite images from Isaiah. According to Bayer, this is the passive righteousness of faith without works, “which can only be suffered . . . happens when all thinking that one can justify oneself, in a metaphysical sense, as well as when all acting, in a moral sense, together with the desire to unite the two efforts, are radically destroyed.”[10]

Here, we are at a turning point, because faith, even when placed as the fount of good works, is not primarily a power to do good works, but the living condition of new life. Luther explains:

“Faith is a godly work in us which changes us and brings us alive anew from God. John 1:13, and kills the old Adam; it makes of us a completely different human being in our heart, courage, senses, and all powers, and brings the Holy Spirit along as well. Oh, it is a living, creating, active, powerful thing, this business about faith, so that it is impossible that it does not do good deeds incessantly. It dos not ask whether there are good works to be done, instead, even before one asks, it has accomplished them and is always doing them.”(LW 35:370)[11]

And so we have reached the confession, which Forde predicted. Appropriately, it comes at the end of this essay on the relationship between “faith and works,” because we confess that Christ alone “is the end of the law of righteousness, for everyone who believes.” And this is no mere intellectual assent to the proposition of what happened 2000 years ago; this is the confession that holds onto the (seemingly morbid) promise that by faith we have died! With the Apostle Paul, we confess that we “have been Crucified with Christ and it is no longer [we] who live” (Gal. 2:20), and by faith—daily, hourly, minutely—we are dying and rising to new life. In faith, we live as people who affirm in the words of the Anglican prayer book, “there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us,” and are confident that He has.  When we approach this question, we are tempted, as always to look to ourselves as the measure of all things; however, we can confess Christ and his righteousness as the object of our faith, remain confident that such a faith “works,” and “go in peace, to love and serve the lord.” Thanks be to God.

[1] Forde, Gerhard O “Is Forgiveness Enough, Reflections on an Odd Question,” Word & World (St.Pauls; Luther Seminary, 1996) 302

[2] Lindberg, Carter. “Do Lutheran’s Shout Justification but Whisper Sanctification,” Lutheran Quarterly v. XIII (1999)

[3] Forde, Gerhard O. et al. Five Views of Sanctification (Downers Grove: IVP, 1988) 78

[4] Gritsch, Eric W., Jenson, Robert. W Lutheranism: The Theological Movement and Its Confessional Writings (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976), 38. For a further explanation, cf. the entirety of chapter 2:“A Christological Answer to a Radical Question,” 36-44.

[5] Forde, Gerhard “Forensic Justification and the Christian Life: Triumph or Tragedy?” A More Radical Gospel, Essays on Eschatology, Authority, Atonement, and Ecumenism. Mark C. Mattes and Stephen D Paulson, eds. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004) 132-133.

[6] Forde, Gerhard O. “The Lutheran View of Sanctificaiton. “The Preached God Mark C. Mattes and Stephen d. Paulson, eds. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007) 228

[7] Jenson and Gritsch. . . 37

[8] Jenson and Gritsch. . . 37

[9] Bayer, Oswald Martin Luther’s Theology: A Contemporary Interpretaiton trans. Thomas H. Trapp (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 284

[10] Ibid. 43

[11] Bornkamm, Luthers Vorreden zur Bibel, 182 quoted from. Bayer, Oswald Martin Luther’s Theology, 287