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Ephesians
6:10-20

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (ESV)

Mistress of Doctrine

Wednesday of Epiphany 4

3 February 2016

The retired pope, Benedict XVI, while he was a Cardinal, did confessional Lutherans and enormous favor by pointing out that no matter what the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification meant, it could not and did not resolve how justification might function to shape either theology or church life and practice. Some months after the Joint Declaration was signed, some Lutherans were quite deflated when then Cardinal Ratzinger offered the opinion that justification would not be permitted to reform the Roman Mass or other significant Roman distinctives, such as the sacrament of reconciliation or penance.
 
To say that the Roman Church and the Lutheran Church agree on the doctrine of justification is true only if justification is treated as merely one among many teachings of the Christian church. However, this is not the Lutheran teaching on justification. It is the Roman Catholic doctrine. For Lutherans, justification is not just one doctrine; it is the paradigmatic case. It is the theological measuring stick by which all doctrine and every practice are measured. Everything the Lutheran Church teaches must square with the comforting message of God's reconciliation with humans accomplished by Christ without works of the law. In that way the person and work of Christ, certainty of salvation and eternal life, and all the gracious work of God would be preserved among us.
 
Justification cannot remain for the comfort of the sinner who needs God's mercy, unless justification is the queen and mistress of all teaching in the church. Thus everything Lutherans do, teach, and believe must undergo the scrutiny of this queen and mistress of doctrine: justification. To know it, teach it, and retain it in the church's life is to see to it that the rest of Christian doctrine is preserved faithfully among God's people.

 

Martin Luther

"As I often warn the doctrine of justification must be learned diligently. For in it are included all the other doctrines of our faith; and if it is sound, all the others are sound as well. Therefore when we teach that men are justified through Christ and that Christ is the Victor over sin, death, and the eternal curse, we are testifying at the same time that He is God by nature.
 
"From this it is evident enough how horribly blind and wicked the papists were when they taught that these fierce and mighty tyrants; sin, death, and the curse, who swallow up the whole human race, are to be conquered, not by the righteousness of the divine law (which, even though it is just, good, and holy, cannot do anything but subject one to a curse) but by the righteousness of human works, such as fasts, pilgrimages, rosaries, vows, etc. But, I ask you, who has ever been found who conquered sin, death, etc., if he was equipped with this armor? In Ephesians 6, Paul describes a far different armor to be used against these savage beasts (Eph 6:13-20). By putting us, naked and without the armor of God, up against these invincible and almighty tyrants, these blind men and leaders of the blind (Mt 15:14) have not only handed us over to them to be devoured but have also made us ten times greater and worse sinners than murderers or prostitutes. For it belongs exclusively to the divine power to destroy sin and abolish death, to create righteousness and grant life. This divine power they have attributed to our own works, saying: 'If you do this or that work, you will conquer sin, death, and the wrath of God.' In this way they have made us true God by nature! Here the papists, under the Christian name, have shown themselves to be seven times greater idolaters than the Gentiles....
 
"With gratitude and with a sure confidence, therefore, let us accept this doctrine, so sweet and so filled with comfort, which teaches that Christ became a curse for us, that is, a sinner worthy of the wrath of God; that He clothed Himself in our person, laid our sins upon His own shoulders, and said: 'I have committed the sins that all men have committed.' Therefore He truly became accursed according to the law, not for Himself but, as Paul says, in our place. For unless He had taken upon Himself my sins, your sins, and the sins of the entire world, the law would have had no right over Him, since it condemns only sinners and holds only them under a curse. Therefore He could neither have become a curse nor have died, since the cause of the curse and of death is sin, of which He was innocent. But because He took upon Himself our sins, not by compulsion but of His own free will, it was right for Him to bear the punishment and the wrath of God-not for His own Person, which was righteous and invincible and therefore could not become guilty, but for our person." 
 
Prayer
O Lord, let Your gracious verdict of righteousness ring throughout the world, that hearts would be set at peace and that sinners stand before You justified in Your sight. Defend the church that she might always be shaped in her life and teaching by Your declaration of justification. Amen.
 
For the wives of all pastors, that God would preserve them as helpmeets so that they would support and encourage their husbands in their calling
 
For church musicians, that God's Word would be supported by singing and music
 
For Pastor Bart Day, Executive Director of the Office of National Mission of the LCMS, that Christ our Lord would uphold and encourage him in his work
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias  The Crucifixion (c. 1515)

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