Missing Parts?
Wednesday of Pentecost 23
15 November 2017
Martin Luther saw with crystal clarity the unity of the Christian faith. He saw that all the articles of our religion hang together, or they will surely hang separately. There can be no talk of believing this and rejecting that, as though Christianity were a doctrinal buffet at which the believer chooses to eat only those articles of faith that are appealing to him. The Christian faith is an organic whole; a body, a corpus, not disparate and disconnected parts. The amateur mechanic who is attempting to rebuild an automobile engine is deeply alarmed when he thinks he has the engine back together and finds some unaccountable part on the garage floor. "Where does that belong?" He doesn't dare start it up for fear of doing irreparable damage to the rebuilt engine.
The Christian religion is irreducibly christological, that is, it is about Christ. All the articles of the faith relate to and teach Christ or emanate from Christ. When the apostle Paul says that we preach Christ crucified (1Co 1:23), he does not mean Christ is one component part of the faith. He means that every article is about Christ the crucified. Doctrinal interpenetration means that the whole corpus is suffused with Christ and suffuses Christ. The article of justification, then, is not a discrete and separate doctrine as distinguished from the person and work of Christ, but is deeply christological, proclaiming Christ to the sinner. Indeed the article of justification is not a distinguishable doctrinal criterion separate from the regula fidei, "rule of the faith" as is sometimes presumed by Roman Catholics attempting to understand the Lutheran confessional position.
The christological teaching of the Bible is also deeply trinitarian. All three persons work harmoniously together to accomplish the divine will in the world. The external works of the three persons are undivided. Sanctification is a divine work of God the Holy Spirit; however, not in isolation from either the Father or the Son. The Spirit is the Spirit of Christ (Rm 8:9). Thus the christological reality always implies a wholeness of all three articles of the Creed.
Justification brings with it free obedience to the unchangeable divine will and law of God. To slice sanctification from the body of teaching is to do fatal harm to the corpus of Christianity. It may not be fatal immediately, but by lopping off parts of the body of teaching Monty Python-style, the body of faith is in danger of bleeding to death. This has actually happened where those who deny that the law should be preached in the church have triumphed in "churches." These antinomians, as those who reject the law are called, have let the body of doctrine bleed to death, so that now more attention is paid to sexual politics than Christ, the forgiveness of sins, or the death of the old Adam. We cannot give sin a wink and a nudge, if we are to remain a christologically complete church. The work of the Spirit in the third article of the Creed emanates from Christ and justification. Without it the body will bleed to death. God has given us the faith, whole and undefiled. We dare not perpetrate our amateur surgery on that body.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"No one should at the same time say yes and no about the same thing, unless he is an utter ignoramus or a desperate scoffer. That is what my Antinomians, too, are doing today, who are preaching beautifully and (as I cannot but think) with real sincerity about Christ's grace, about the forgiveness of sin and whatever else can be said about the doctrine of redemption. But they flee as if it were the very devil the consequence that they should tell the people about the third article, of sanctification, that is, of the new life in Christ. They think one should not frighten or trouble the people, but rather always preach comfortingly about grace and the forgiveness of sins in Christ, and under no circumstances use these or similar words, 'Listen! You want to be a Christian and at the same time remain an adulterer, a whoremonger, a drunken swine, arrogant, covetous, a usurer, envious,vindictive, malicious, etc.!' Instead they say, 'Listen! Though you are an adulterer, a whoremonger, a miser, or other kind of sinner, if you but believe, you are saved, and you need not fear the law. Christ has fulfilled it all!'
"Tell me, my dear man, is that not granting the premise and denying the conclusion? It is, indeed, taking away Christ and bringing him to naught at the same time he is most beautifully proclaimed! And it is saying yes and no to the same thing. For there is no such Christ that died for sinners who do not, after the forgiveness of sins, desist from sins and lead a new life. Therefore, they preach Christ nicely with Nestorian and Eutychian logic that Christ is and yet is not Christ. They may be fine Easter preachers, but they are very poor Pentecost preachers, for they do not preach 'about the sanctification by the Holy Spirit,' but solely about the redemption of Jesus Christ, although Christ (whom they extol so highly, and rightly so) is Christ, that is, he has purchased redemption from sin and death so that the Holy Spirit might transform us out of the old Adam into new men. We die unto sin and live unto righteousness, beginning and growing here on earth and perfecting it beyond, as St. Paul teaches (Rm 6-7). Christ did not earn only 'grace,' for us, but also 'the gift of the Holy Spirit,' so that we might have not only forgiveness of, but also cessation of, sin. Now he who does not abstain from sin, but persists in his evil life, must have a different Christ. He has that of the Antinomians; the real Christ is not there, even if all the angels would cry, 'Christ! Christ!' He must be damned with this, his new Christ.

Martin Luther, On the Councils and the Church
Psalm 4:1-8
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer! O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him. Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD. There are many who say, "Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!" You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. (ESV)
Lord Christ, through Your Spirit You grant the body of truth to Your holy church. Grant that we may listen to this truth in humble faith and confess in fullness You, who have given us Your body in the body of the faith. Amen.
For all those who serve the church's proclamation of Christ in the visual or plastic arts, that Christ might be glorified in the world through their work
For Christian Education Night tonight, that those who received instruction in the Word would share what they have learned
For all those who are suffering through cancer therapy, that they would be strengthened in body and soul
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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