Kruiz edited
Staunch the Bleeding
Friday of Lent 5
12 April 2019
Pelagians think of every word of God as having the same power and effect. Therefore the law has a gracious power to justify the sinner by enlightening him in the ways of the Lord. St. Augustine reported that the Pelagians of his day said, "We do praise God as the Author of our righteousness, in that He gave the law, by the teaching of which we have learned how we ought to live." Just because God spoke the law, the law is a gracious word of God. To the Pelagians every word of God then becomes a word of grace.
This presupposition that every word of God is a gracious word was repeated in the twentieth century, and perhaps in every century. One of the great proponents of this view in the twentieth century was the Swiss theologian, Karl Barth. Barth marveled at the ability of God to speak at all. He marveled so deeply that he was known as a theologian of the Word, and rightly so. But his contention that all words of God are gracious is at bottom a Pelagian view.
What if we had to try to hear every word of God as a gracious communication? How could we digest that? Suppose you lived in an abusive home as a child, where there was nothing but accusation and recrimination hurled at you; some justified and some not. Who would not prefer to hear nothing instead of a steady diet of invective? So, not every word is equally valuable. Some words are destructive. Some are edifying. Some tear down; others build up. The Word of God includes speech that destroys and some that redeems, some that kills and some that makes alive (Deut 32:39). God's Word accomplishes the purposes for which he sends that word (Is 55:10-11). The law is a killing word that accuses us of our sin and in so far as it is a preparation for the gospel it is a good and gracious Word, but only to that extent. Where the gospel does not come in to staunch the bleeding we will bleed to death, sliced through as we are by the sharp doubled-edged sword (Heb 4:12). Not every word of God accomplishes the same things in the same way.
Much of Barth's thinking has seeped into the consciousness of American evangelicals. This is why so many churches and preachers today have fallen into the pattern of telling people how to live their best life now. God has, after all, told us what to do in the law, let's get after doing it! Unwittingly, such preaching only makes the incisions and leaves the poor sinners to bleed out in their frantic attempt to do what the law has demanded. They run around like chickens with their heads cut off, and like those chickens there is an inevitable, if frantically active, end. Pelagianism is alive and well, despite St. Augustine. This is why it is so crucial that churches and preachers return to the gospel as the most important word of God; that they might preach it that those who have been split stem to stern by law preachers might have their poor bleeding hearts healed. Only the gospel can staunch the bleeding.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

  Augustine of Hippo
"That righteousness of God, however, is without the law, which God by the Spirit of grace bestows on the believer without the help of the law, that is, when not helped by the law. When, indeed, He by the law discovers to a man his weakness, it is in order that by faith he may flee for refuge to His mercy, and be healed. And thus concerning His wisdom we are told, that she carries law and mercy upon her tongue (Pro 3:16-17). The law convicts the proud. The mercy justifies the humbled. 'The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God' (Rm 3:22-23), not of their own glory. For what have they, which they have not received? Now if they received it, why do they glory as if they had not received it? (1Co 4:7). Well, then, they come short of the glory of God. Now observe what follows: 'Being justified freely by His grace' (Rm 3:24). It is not, therefore, by the law, nor is it by their own will, that they are justified. But they are justified freely by His grace, not that it is wrought without our will; but our will is by the law shown to be weak, that grace may heal its infirmity; and that our healed will may fulfill the law, not by constitution under the law, but not in the absence of law."

 Augustine, On the Spirit and the Letter, 1.15
Romans 3:19-31

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it - the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one. He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (ESV)
O Lord Jesus Christ, it is Your gracious will that none should perish, but that all should be converted and come to the knowledge of the truth. Send us shepherds who will proclaim the Word that accomplishes our salvation, that our hearts might be bound up by grace, and that made whole in You, live in peace and quietness until our rest is made complete in heaven. Amen.
For Ileene Robinson, that the Lord would shepherd her to the green pastures and still waters of His Word
For the family of David Sebits, whom the Lord took from this vale of sorrow, that they would mourn as those who are certain of the bodily resurrection and a reunion with their loved one who died in the Lord
For the people of God as they walk the way of the Crucified with Jesus during Holy Week, that they would take up their cross and follow Him
For President Matt Harrison and his staff, that the Lord would bless their efforts to provide leadership to the church
For all those who are unemployed that they might find work in keeping with their vocation
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias  Isenheim Altarpiece (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2019
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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