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Romans 4:13-25


For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.


That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring - not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, "I have made you the father of many nations" - in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, "So shall your offspring be." He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was "counted to him as righteousness." But the words "it was counted to him" were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.





Nothing Has Changed

Tuesday of Pentecost 10

19 August 2014

Some things never change. Luther, in his day, grieved over those who gave lip service to the message that the death of Christ delivers us from our sin, but who then went on to also attribute to love the power of salvation. And as important as love is, and it is commanded by God, it cannot save. Only Christ can through His death on the cross. If love or any other virtue could be a cause of salvation, whether total or partial, Christ becomes theologically expendable, able to be traded away in favor of love, for draft choices to be named later. This is fatal to the substance of the Christian religion.


Love, our action, could never be put on par with Christ and His action to save the world by His death. How could they compare adequately? What shining beauty does our love have that would give it luster like the holiness of God's eternal Son, His extravagant sacrifice for poor sinners, and His willingness to lay down His life as a substitute under the wrath of God? What work of our own piety could ever shine like the perfect obedience of the Lord Christ, who under the burdens of suffering perfectly obeyed His Father's will, and so loved fully the world so that He had compassion on all. Any such claim smacks of self-worship and spiritual delusion. Such deluded people say, "Yes, yes, I know all about Jesus. He has done His thing. Now let me get on with doing the really important things; things that God really wants." This circumvention of Christ creates a false god, a heart-borne idol and an Adamic contagion, wickedly desiring to replace God.


A colleague of mind was working in his garage, when he smelled the unmistakable odor of natural gas. As he began to look for the cause, he was greeted by his three-year-old daughter who said, "Look daddy, I cook!" She had turned on the burner of their gas grill. The grill's starter was broken and so she was not able to ignite the fuel. Now the starter will never get fixed. We act like that three-year-old when we try to set before God our shining works and efforts, "Look, what I've done for you, God!" The problem is that our works are quite likely to blow up in our face. And no matter how sincerely we may be trying to entice our Father into appreciating our efforts, the results are dangerous, even downright deadly. Maybe our Father really does need to take care of us. That is what He wants to do and why He sent His Son to die for us.


Unfortunately, those who ought to know better often preach the beauty of our works and efforts, our love, and much puffed-up compassion in competition with the suffering and death of Christ. Over the last 500 years not much has changed. Preachers are still giving Christ the short shrift to flatter their hearers.


Martin Luther


"There are many today who want to be counted as evangelical theologians and who, so far as their words are concerned, teach that men are delivered from their sins by the death of Christ. However, they also teach the faith in such a way that they attribute more to love than to faith. They insult Christ in the worst ways and His Word they impudently and wickedly pervert. Indeed they imagine that God regards and accepts us on account of the love by which we seek to be reconciled to God and our neighbor. If this were true, then we would have absolutely no need of the work of Christ. In this way, they serve not God, but the idol of their own heart, which they dream up for themselves. But the true God does not receive or accept us on account of our love, virtues, or new life, but on account of Christ.


"But they object, that Scripture commands that we love God with our whole heart, etc. This is true. But just because God commands it, it does not follow that we do it. If we were to love God with our whole heart, then certainly we would be justified and live on account of that obedience, as it says, "if a person does them, he shall live by them" (Lv 18:5). But the gospel says, you are not doing these things, therefore you shall not live by them. For the statement: "You shall love the Lord, etc." requires perfect obedience, perfect fear, trust, and love toward God. These things can never happen. Neither can men do them in this corrupt nature. Therefore the principle stands that the command to love the Lord does not justify, but accuses and condemns all people, as Scripture says, "For the law brings wrath" (Rm 4:15). On the contrary Christ is the fulfillment of the law unto righteousness for everyone who believes (Rm 10:4)."  


Martin Luther
Lectures on Galatians, 4.8-9

Lord Christ, restrain us from making an idol of love in our hearts. Keep us steadfast in Your divine Word that Your suffering and death might continually be portrayed before us. Send us pastors who preach You alone. Help us to respect and honor them and hold up their arms when they tire. Amen.


For President Ken Hennings of the Texas District, that the Lord of the church would grant him wisdom and strength


For Christians who are suffering persecution at the hands of those who hate Christ and His mercy to sinners, that He would bring them the rescue they need


For the work of Issues, Etc., a Lutheran media ministry, that the Lord would grant success to the proclamation of the truth through electronic media
Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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