Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Rereading Luther

There is a wonderful depth to Luther that comes out in rereading him when your situation in life has changed. As my Seminarian, Jay Hobson, has returned, we are planning on discussing Luthers' 1535 commentary on Galatians together - and so I am rereading this. I hadn't since the Seminary - 2nd or 4th year, I can't remember which. It has been a while, at any rate. And many things now have a depth and a poignancy that I get to see and understand in a new way.

As a sample - the following has more impact upon me now.

"Therefore even though the Galatians had been led astray, Baptism, the Word, the name of Christ still continued among them. Besides, there were still some good men who had not defected from Paul's doctrine and who had a proper understanding of the Word and the sacraments, which could not be defiled by those who did rebel. For Baptism, the Gospel, etc., do not become unholy because I am defiled and unholy and have a false understanding of them. On the contrary, they remain holy and exactly what they were, regardless of whether they are among the godly or the ungodly; men can neither defile them nor hallow them. By our good or evil behavior, by our good or evil life and morals, they are defiled or hallowed in the sight of the Gentiles (Rom 2:24) but not in the sight of God. Therefore the church is holy even where the fanatics are dominate, so long as they do not deny the Word and the sacraments; if they deny these, they are no longer the Church. Wherever the substance of the Word and the sacraments abides, therefore, there the holy church is present , even though the Antichrist may reign there; for he takes his seat not in a stable of fields or in a pigpen or in a congregation of unbelievers but in the highest and holiest place possible, namely in the temple of God (2 Thess 2:4). Thus our brief answer to the question is this: The church is universal throughout the world, wherever the Gospel of God and the sacraments are present. The Jews, the Turk, and the fanatics are not the church, because they oppose and deny these things."

Note what Luther does - he links three together - the Jews, the Turk, and the fanatics - the radical protestants. Why? Because unlike Rome they have no sacraments - they reject these. Wherever the liturgy is proclaimed, there the Gospel is proclaimed, there the Sacraments are administered.

What then are we to make of places where the Sacraments are denied? Where a Social Gospel has replaced the Gospel of Christ? Where Baptism is altered to where it is no longer done in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost? Where the Supper is said to be nothing but human re-enaction? They are no church, and are on par with the morass in the middle east - ignoring Christ and His power for the sake of human works and vain self-righteousness.

But it also warns us of what is happening in our own midst. What are our influences that we are seeing today? We are told we ought to replace the liturgy, and by whom? Folks who have no regard for the Sacraments. We are told that we need to be more open and socially minded by those who doubt the Word. We must be on guard lest in our own arrogance and folly we abandon the Word and the Sacraments.

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