Thursday, July 30, 2009

A hundred years ago Diderot, the notorious French encyclopedist, wrote: "Better times will not come for the world until the last king shall have been hanged with the guts of the last priest." [...]

If only theologians and teachers of religion would not make themselves so contemptible and hated by their own fault! Alas! this sad fact is recorded not only in the annals of the history of the Church, but it is also confirmed by our own experience. There are too many teachers of religion who misuse their sacred office, their sacred profession and calling, for the gratification of their worldly minds, their greed of money and glory, and their love of domineering. They do not only hush and even deny the truth continually, partly from a miserable fear of men, partly from an abominable favor of men, but instead of preaching the pure Gospel, they proclaim the very opposite and spread lies and errors. Why, there is no vice too shameful, no crime too awful, but teachers of religion have desecrated their office with it and have given the world offense, grievous beyond utterance.

Is this fact to deter you, my friends, from continuing your devotion to the study of theology? God forbid! Consider, in the first place, that the omniscient God has foreseen these sad events and has nevertheless in His infinite wisdom adopted this order of administering the sacred office, not through the holy angels, who did not fall from their holy estate, but through fallen men, who are subject to sin.

--- C.F.W. Walther, "Thirty-Ninth Evening Lecture (November 6, 1885)", The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that." 1 John 5:16 [ESV]
This passage contains important information for us, but we cannot act upon it. For we can say of no person before his death that he has committed the sin against the Holy Spirit. [...] This is a shocking statement, and yet it contains a great comfort. Some one may come to you and say: 'I am a wretched man - I have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost. I am quite certain of it.' The afflicted may well tell you of the evil he has done, the evil he has spoken, and the evil he has thought. It may really look as if he had blasphemed the Holy Ghost. Now remember the weapon which Heb. 6 furnishes for attacking a case like this: That person is not at all rejoicing over what he tells you; it is all so awfully horrid to him. This shows that God has at least begun to lead him to repentance; all that he need do is to lay hold of the promise of the Gospel. [...] A case like this is indeed not to be treated lightly; the sufferer must be shown that, since there is in him the beginning of repentance, he has an indubitable proof that he has not committed the sin against the Holy Ghost. In general, when preaching on this subject, the minister must aim at convincing his hearers that they have not committed this sin rather than warn them not to commit it. To a person who has really committed this sin preaching is of no benefit. Whoever is sorry for his sins and craves forgiveness should be told that he is a dear child of God, but is passing through a terrible tribulation.

--- C.F.W. Walther, "Thirty-Eighth Evening Lecture (October 23, 1885)", The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel

Sunday, July 26, 2009

This tension between God's electing love and his holy justice is resolved at the cross: there one who embodied faithful Israel - one who had himself been all that God had intended for Israel to be, God's chosen one, his own Son - bears the penalty of divine judgment for sin.
-- Tremper Longman III and Raymond B. Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 2nd ed, 165.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

H.M. Orlinsky maintains that if it were not for the vicarious element in Christian theology (derived from Hellenism according to him), no one would have ever thought of seeing anything substitutionary in this passage [Isaiah 52:13-53:3]. But I suspect the opposite is true: if it were not for the vicarious element in the sufferings of Jesus Christ, which has so many analogues in Isa. 53, there would be no barrier to recognizing the obvious substitutionary elements in that chapter.
-- John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah Chapters 40-66, page 377, note 71

Sunday, July 19, 2009

It seems equally likely that the import of the section is that the Israel of [Isaiah] 2:6-4:1 can only fulfill the dstiny given her in 2:2-4 by experiencing the judgment expressed throughout 2:6-4:1 and the purification described in 4:2-6. This schema would correspond well with the thought of ch. 1 and indeed the whole book: proud, self-sufficient Israel can become the witness to the greatness of God only when she has been reduced to helplessness by his just judgment and then restored to life by his unmerited grace.
-- John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah Chapters 1-39

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"Dannhauer, in his Hodosophia, uttered an important axiomatic truth by saying: Sin is as great as He is who is offended by it."
--- C.F.W. Walther, "Thirty-First Evening Lecture (June 12, 1885)", The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"In your sermons you like to treat subjects like these: 'The blessed state of a Christian,' and the like. Well, do not forget that the blessedness of Christians does not consist in pleasant feelings, but in their assurance that in spite of the bitterest feelings imaginable they are accepted with God and in their dying hour will be received into heaven. That is indeed a great blessedness."

-- C.F.W. Walther, "Twenty-Ninth Evening Lecture (May 29, 1885), The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Salvation is not just future, as in Pharisaic Judaism, nor an enhancement of the present, as at Qumran, nor so strongly present, as in Gnosticism. It is present, for with Christ the new aeon has come and believers are drawn into it as they die and rise again with him. Yet their hope is set on future salvation when their transformation comes, creation is freed, and God’s rule over every power is manifested. Negatively salvation is deliverance from wrath, and positively it is the attainment of glory. Either way the message of Christ crucified and risen fixes the content. NB: All emphases mine.
-- Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. (1995, c1985). Theological dictionary of the New Testament. Translation of: Theologisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament. (1137). Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

"Knowing the works and history of Christ is not yet knowing the true Gospel; for that does not embrace the knowledge that He has conquered sin, death, and the devil. Even so, knowing the doctrine and commandments recorded in the New Testament is not yet knowing the Gospel; but this is the Gospel, when you hear the voice which tells you that Christ is your own with His life, teaching, works, His dying, His rising from death, and everything that He is, has, does, and is able to do."

-- C.F.W. Walther, "Twenty-Seventh Evening Lecture (May 8, 1885), The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

"[They] stumble at our doctrine that God has not foreseen anything in the elect that could have prompted Him to elect them, but that His election is one of unconstrained mercy. They are shocked because [...] we teach that there are only two causes of salvation, namely, the mercy of God and the merit of Christ. They imagine that God is partial, saying He elects some and neglects others, reprobating them. This is an inference which they draw, and it is one for which they deserve no commendation. Instead o trying to save God from the charge of partiality by assuming a difference in the person whom He elects when compared with the others, they should consider that man is justified and saved by faith, not on account of faith."

"To cite Gerhard once more, he writes (Lov. de justific., para. 179): 'It is one thing to be justified on account of faith and another to be justified by faith. In the former view, faith is the meritorious, in the latter, the instrumental cause. [There must be an organ by which I come into the possession and enjoyment of what someone offers me.] We are not justified on account of faith as a merit, but by faith which lays hold of the merit of Christ.' It is not my own merit that saves me, but the merit of Christ.

"[...] When I hold out my hand, I make a motion. This point must not be pressed in the case of man's faith. For it is God who prompts the holding out of the hand after He has prepared a sinner for the Gospel by means of the Law."

-- C.F.W. Walther, "Twenty-Fifth Evening Lecture (April 24, 1885), The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel

Monday, July 6, 2009

"A preacher must be able to preach a sermon on faith without ever using the term faith. It is not important that he din the word faith into the ears of his audience, but it is necessary for him to frame his address so as to arouse in every poor sinner the desire to lay the burden of his sins at the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ and say to Him: "Thou art mine, and I am Thine. [...]

"Suppose you were picturing to a horde of Indians theLord Jesus, telling them that He is the Son of God who came down from heaven to redeem men from their sins by taking the wrath of God upon Himself, overcoming death, devil, and hell in their stead and opening heaven to all men, and that every man can now be saved merely accepting what our Lord Jesus Christ has brought to us. Suppose that you were suddenly struck down by the deadly bullet of a hostile Indian lying in ambush. It is possible that, dying, you would leave behind you a small congregation of Indians though you may not even once have pronounced the word faith to them. For every one in that audience who did not wantonly and wilfully resist divine grace would have to reason that he, too, has been redeemed.

"On the other hand, you may spend a lot of time tellingmen that they must believe if they wish to be saved, and your hearers may get the impression that something is required of them which they must do. They will begin to worry whether they will be able to do it, and when they have tried to do it, whether it is exactly the thing that is required of them. Thus you may have preached a great deal about faith without delivering a real sermon on faith. [...] To be saved by faith means to acquiesce in God's plan of salvation by simply accepting it."

-- C.F.W. Walther, "Twenty-Fourth Evening Lecture (April 10, 1885), The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel

Saturday, July 4, 2009

"Zuntz speaks of his 'strong impression' that 'something very important was being put forward here with a superior purpose and concentration throughout the book... The style and content of the story arouse a feeling of otherness, a feeling that this is not history like other histories, not a biography like other biographies, but a development of the actions, sayings, and sufferings of a higher being on his way through this anxious world of human beings and demons.'"
-- R. T. France in The Gospel of Mark quotes Gunther Zuntz's account of his experience from H. Cancik (ed.), Markusphilologie, 207. Zuntz was a German classical scholar who was, but his own admission, familiar with the literature of the Roman empire, but quite unfamiliar with Christianity and its literature.