Wittenberg, Germany, October 31, 1517.
Out of love for the truth and from desire to elucidate it, the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and ordinary lecturer therein at Wittenberg, intends to defend the following statements and to dispute on them in that place. Therefore he asks that those who cannot be present and dispute with him orally shall do so in their absence by letter. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, "Repent" ( Matthew 4:17 ), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
2. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.
3. Yet it does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner repentance is worthless unless it produces various outward mortification of the flesh.
4. The penalty of sin remains as long as the hatred of self (that is, true inner repentance), namely till our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
5. The pope neither desires nor is able to remit any penalties except those imposed by his own authority or that of the canons.
6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by God; or, to be sure, by remitting guilt in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in these cases were disregarded, the guilt would certainly remain unforgiven.
7. God remits guilt to no one unless at the same time he humbles him in all things and makes him submissive to the vicar, the priest.
8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to the canons themselves, nothing should be imposed on the dying.
9. Therefore the Holy Spirit through the pope is kind to us insofar as the pope in his decrees always makes exception of the article of death and of necessity.
10. Those priests act ignorantly and wickedly who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penalties for purgatory.
11. Those tares of changing the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory were evidently sown while the bishops slept ( Matthew 13:25 ).
12. In former times canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.
13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties, are already dead as far as the canon laws are concerned, and have a right to be released from them.
14. Imperfect piety or love on the part of the dying person necessarily brings with it great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater the fear.
15. This fear or horror is sufficient in itself, to say nothing of other things, to constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near to the horror of despair.
16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ the same as despair, fear, and assurance of salvation.
17. It seems as though for the souls in purgatory fear should necessarily decrease and love increase.
18. Furthermore, it does not seem proved, either by reason or by Scripture, that souls in purgatory are outside the state of merit, that is, unable to grow in love.
19. Nor does it seem proved that souls in purgatory, at least not all of them, are certain and assured of their own salvation, even if we ourselves may be entirely certain of it.
20. Therefore the pope, when he uses the words "plenary remission of all penalties," does not actually mean "all penalties," but only those imposed by himself.
21. Thus those indulgence preachers are in error who say that a man is absolved from every penalty and saved by papal indulgences.
22. As a matter of fact, the pope remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to canon law, they should have paid in this life.
23. If remission of all penalties whatsoever could be granted to anyone at all, certainly it would be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to very few.
24. For this reason most people are necessarily deceived by that indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of release from penalty.
25. That power which the pope has in general over purgatory corresponds to the power which any bishop or curate has in a particular way in his own diocese and parish.
26. The pope does very well when he grants remission to souls in purgatory, not by the power of the keys, which he does not have, but by way of intercession for them.
27. They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory.
28. It is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and avarice can be increased; but when the church intercedes, the result is in the hands of God alone.
29. Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed, since we have exceptions in St. Severinus and St. Paschal, as related in a legend.
30. No one is sure of the integrity of his own contrition, much less of having received plenary remission.
31. The man who actually buys indulgences is as rare as he who is really penitent; indeed, he is exceedingly rare.
32. Those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because they have indulgence letters will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.
33. Men must especially be on guard against those who say that the pope's pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to him.
34. For the graces of indulgences are concerned only with the penalties of sacramental satisfaction established by man.
35. They who teach that contrition is not necessary on the part of those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessional privileges preach unchristian doctrine.
36. Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters.
37. Any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters.
38. Nevertheless, papal remission and blessing are by no means to be disregarded, for they are, as I have said (Thesis 6), the proclamation of the divine remission.
39. It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the people the bounty of indulgences and the need of true contrition.
40. A Christian who is truly contrite seeks and loves to pay penalties for his sins; the bounty of indulgences, however, relaxes penalties and causes men to hate them -- at least it furnishes occasion for hating them.
41. Papal indulgences must be preached with caution, lest people erroneously think that they are preferable to other good works of love.
42. Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend that the buying of indulgences should in any way be compared with works of mercy.
43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better deed than he who buys indulgences.
44. Because love grows by works of love, man thereby becomes better. Man does not, however, become better by means of indulgences but is merely freed from penalties.
45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a needy man and passes him by, yet gives his money for indulgences, does not buy papal indulgences but God's wrath.
46. Christians are to be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they must reserve enough for their family needs and by no means squander it on indulgences.
47. Christians are to be taught that they buying of indulgences is a matter of free choice, not commanded.
48. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting indulgences, needs and thus desires their devout prayer more than their money.
49. Christians are to be taught that papal indulgences are useful only if they do not put their trust in them, but very harmful if they lose their fear of God because of them.
50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence preachers, he would rather that the basilica of St. Peter were burned to ashes than built up with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep.
51. Christians are to be taught that the pope would and should wish to give of his own money, even though he had to sell the basilica of St. Peter, to many of those from whom certain hawkers of indulgences cajole money.
52. It is vain to trust in salvation by indulgence letters, even though the indulgence commissary, or even the pope, were to offer his soul as security.
53. They are the enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid altogether the preaching of the Word of God in some churches in order that indulgences may be preached in others.
54. Injury is done to the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or larger amount of time is devoted to indulgences than to the Word.
55. It is certainly the pope's sentiment that if indulgences, which are a very insignificant thing, are celebrated with one bell, one procession, and one ceremony, then the gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.
56. The true treasures of the church, out of which the pope distributes indulgences, are not sufficiently discussed or known among the people of Christ.
57. That indulgences are not temporal treasures is certainly clear, for many indulgence sellers do not distribute them freely but only gather them.
58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, for, even without the pope, the latter always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outer man.
59. St. Lawrence said that the poor of the church were the treasures of the church, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.
60. Without want of consideration we say that the keys of the church, given by the merits of Christ, are that treasure.
61. For it is clear that the pope's power is of itself sufficient for the remission of penalties and cases reserved by himself.
62. The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.
63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last ( Matthew 20:16 ).
64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.
65. Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets with which one formerly fished for men of wealth.
66. The treasures of indulgences are nets with which one now fishes for the wealth of men.
67. The indulgences which the demagogues acclaim as the greatest graces are actually understood to be such only insofar as they promote gain.
68. They are nevertheless in truth the most insignificant graces when compared with the grace of God and the piety of the cross.
69. Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of papal indulgences with all reverence.
70. But they are much more bound to strain their eyes and ears lest these men preach their own dreams instead of what the pope has commissioned.
71. Let him who speaks against the truth concerning papal indulgences be anathema and accursed.
72. But let him who guards against the lust and license of the indulgence preachers be blessed.
73. Just as the pope justly thunders against those who by any means whatever contrive harm to the sale of indulgences.
74. Much more does he intend to thunder against those who use indulgences as a pretext to contrive harm to holy love and truth.
75. To consider papal indulgences so great that they could absolve a man even if he had done the impossible and had violated the mother of God is madness.
76. We say on the contrary that papal indulgences cannot remove the very least of venial sins as far as guilt is concerned.
77. To say that even St. Peter if he were now pope, could not grant greater graces is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope.
78. We say on the contrary that even the present pope, or any pope whatsoever, has greater graces at his disposal, that is, the gospel,spiritual powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written, 1 Corinthians 12:28 ).
79. To say that the cross emblazoned with the papal coat of arms, and set up by the indulgence preachers is equal in worth to the cross of Christ is blasphemy.
80. The bishops, curates, and theologians who permit such talk to be spread among the people will have to answer for this.
81. This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult even for learned men to rescue the reverence which is due the pope from slander or from the shrewd questions of the laity.
82. Such as: "Why does not the pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love and the dire need of the souls that are there if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a church? The former reason would be most just; the latter is most trivial.
83. Again, "Why are funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continued and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded for them, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?"
84. Again, "What is this new piety of God and the pope that for a consideration of money they permit a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God and do not rather, because of the need of that pious and beloved soul, free it for pure love's sake?"
85. Again, "Why are the penitential canons, long since abrogated and dead in actual fact and through disuse, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences as though they were still alive and in force?"
86. Again, "Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build this one basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?"
87. Again, "What does the pope remit or grant to those who by perfect contrition already have a right to full remission and blessings?"
88. Again, "What greater blessing could come to the church than if the pope were to bestow these remissions and blessings on every believer a hundred times a day, as he now does but once?"
89. "Since the pope seeks the salvation of souls rather than money by his indulgences, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons previously granted when they have equal efficacy?"
90. To repress these very sharp arguments of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies and to make Christians unhappy.
91. If, therefore, indulgences were preached according to the spirit and intention of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved. Indeed, they would not exist.
92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, "Peace, peace," and there is no peace! ( Jeremiah 6:14 )
93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, "Cross, cross," and there is no cross!
94. Christians should be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, death and hell.
95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations rather than through the false security of peace ( Acts 14:22 ).
Other than the Cross of Jesus Christ itself, there are few symbols in the Lutheran Church that are as commonly known as Martin Luther’s Seal, or Luther’s Rose.
In a July 8, 1530 letter to Lazarus Spengler, Luther interprets his seal:
Grace and peace from the Lord. As you desire to know whether my painted seal, which you sent to me, has hit the mark, I shall answer most amiably and tell you my original thoughts and reason about why my seal is a symbol of my theology. The first should be a black cross in a heart, which retains its natural color, so that I myself would be reminded that faith in the Crucified saves us. "For one who believes from the heart will be justified" (Romans 10:10). Although it is indeed a black cross, which mortifies and which should also cause pain, it leaves the heart in its natural color. It does not corrupt nature, that is, it does not kill but keeps alive. "The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17) but by faith in the crucified. Such a heart should stand in the middle of a white rose, to show that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace. In other words, it places the believer into a white, joyous rose, for this faith does not give peace and joy like the world gives (John 14:27). That is why the rose should be white and not red, for white is the color of the spirits and the angels (Matthew 28:3; John 20:12). Such a rose should stand in a sky-blue field, symbolizing that such joy in spirit and faith is a beginning of the heavenly future joy, which begins already, but is grasped in hope, not yet revealed. And around this field is a golden ring, symbolizing that such blessedness in Heaven lasts forever and has no end. Such blessedness is exquisite, beyond all joy and goods, just as gold is the most valuable, most precious and best metal. This is my summary of theology. I have wanted to show it to you in good friendship, hoping for your appreciation. May Christ, our beloved Lord, be with your spirit until the life hereafter. Amen.
This month of October brings with it the recognition of the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation that started on October 31, 1517, as Dr Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic monk and professor posted 95 theses for debate. These theses (or arguments) attacked the Roman Catholic practice of selling Indulgences, paper certificates that granted forgiveness and the hope of releasing a loved one from the false concept of “Purgatory.”
Although Luther was trying to improve a corrupted Christian Church at the time, inadvertently he caused Protestant churches to spit from Roman Catholicism and spring up all over. One of those Protestant church bodies became known as Lutherans. It seems to me that many Lutherans seem to have no idea why it is important to be a Lutheran. Or they don't understand why. Or they are just Lutheran because they were brought up that way. Those of us who are life-long Lutherans, especially, often take for granted what a Gospel-rich blessing it is to be a Lutheran. There are numerous reasons why it is good to be a Lutheran, (that is belong to a Lutheran church while being part of the greater Christian Church). Here are just a few:
Christ Always at the Center
Confessional Lutherans are clear that the test of our worship is, "Is it Christ-driven?" Though it is so common to the point of being cliché for Christians to speak of being "Christ-centered," Lutheran theology makes a careful distinction that I find to be absent in most other Christian churches. Lutherans distinguish between being faith-centered and being Christ-centered. Much of what passes for Christ-centered is really faith-centered. What Christ will do for us is often said to depend on the greatness of our faith. When talk of assurance of salvation ultimately comes to focus on the question “How do I know I have faith?" or "What is the evidence in my Christian living that I am saved?" one can be sure that the power of one's faith has become the center and taken priority over Christ. This is wrong.
We don’t gather together to celebrate our faith but to celebrate Christ as the object of our faith and to receive the grace he gives to renew and increase our faith.
Liturgy, sacraments, and absolution, and the preached Word all come together in Lutheran worship to more highly exalt Christ and his power.
Perhaps more significant than any other part of Lutheran theology is having a scriptural view of the sacraments. If we are to point to a single reason why we are Lutheran, it would be the sacraments. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are where God has chosen to reveal to us his grace and forgiveness. We need what the sacraments give. In the sacraments we have "forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation." In preaching, baptism, and the Lord's Supper, the Word of God comes to us. It is here that Christ is present and given for us. This is certainly the most difficult pill of Lutheran doctrine for other Protestants to swallow. Yet, the theology of the sacraments is far too vital for the life of Lutheran churches to be downplayed. The sacraments are means of grace (the ways in which God chooses to give us what he has to give) by which the work of Christ is further given to us.
When we reject those means of grace which God has identified, or we confuse the mystery of Christ and therefore make God fit into our reason, we substitute the sacraments with makeshift sacraments of our own device.
To be Christ-centered is to be sacrament-centered (though the reverse is not necessarily true). That’s why it is so important to receive all sinners to the Lord’s Table, yet teach why it is careful to know what you believe because many people may not acknowledge the same faith and understanding of the sacraments. If we want Christ alone, then we must seek him in those means which God has chosen.
A church without a structure or liturgy is too dependent on the preaching of one person. In the liturgy a Divine Service unifies each person who comes to church. Here we confess our sins, pray for each other, hear God’s word, sing, and confess our faith. Where preaching is clear, biblical, and instructional, a high dependence on one person's preaching is, of course, less problematic. But preaching that fits this description is far too uncommon in churches, and even the best preachers are prone to idiosyncrasies, tangents and weaknesses. Liturgy can guard us against all of this. Where liturgy is present, it guarantees that people will hear and confess the Word of God even when preaching is unsound and weak.
Traditional liturgy unifies the Church, present and past. Traditional liturgy keeps us from an individualistic, “my needs/my feelings first” spirituality that thinks only of a vertical relationship between us and God. Liturgy connects us to the heavenly worship of saints and angels. This is most clearly seen in confession/absolution, the Sanctus, and service of the sacraments. Liturgy also connects us to each other in worship. It's true that liturgy can become repetitious and lifeless, but that's no reason to fault the liturgy. Any activity in the church has this potential. Still, even in cases where the recitation loses its passion, liturgy is still advantaged, since what is confessed in the liturgy remains true and calls us to rejoice in the truth.
Though liturgy is closely related to creeds and historic confessions, liturgy may, however, be modern and does not necessarily indicate the confession of a historic expression of faith. For this reason, confessional Lutheran churches place a great deal of importance on historic creeds and celebrating theological heritage. The Apostle's Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed are all included in the Lutheran confessional documents known collectively as The Book of Concord. These historic documents along with the rest of the Lutheran confessions (Augsburg Confession, Small/Large Catechisms, Smalcald Articles, Formula of Concord), identify the theology of Lutheranism and unite confessing Lutherans around more than simply a particular view..
Though there are numerous aspects to Christian liberty, I'll look only at one matter that relates to this subject. Some church bodies for risk of being un-Christian become too legalistic and tell people that they cannot do things, for which Christ has set free. The role of women in worship, praying with other Christians, and namely the practice of the prohibition of alcoholic beverages. Today, Lutherans likewise see that we may rightly enjoy all gifts of God, but that we must not abuse them. Despising the good things of life and naming them as a sin is an attack on God’s grace. It is not only true that one is free to be a Christian, but it is also true that we are not to despise what God has called good (Psalm 104:15).
For further explanation on what it means to be Lutheran, I recommend checking out the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod website: www.LCMS.org, or the book: Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions: A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord.
What are the Lutheran Confessions?
Drawn from God's Word, the Lutheran Confessions are a true and binding exposition of Holy Scripture and serve as authoritative texts for all pastors, congregations and other rostered church workers of the LCMS (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod).
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod accepts the Scriptures as the inspired and inerrant Word of God, and subscribes unconditionally to all the symbolical books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as a true and unadulterated statement and exposition of the Word of God.
We accept the Lutheran Confessions as articulated in the Book of Concord of 1580 because they are drawn from the Word of God and on that account regard their doctrinal content as a true and binding exposition of Holy Scripture and as authoritative for all pastors, congregations and other rostered church workers of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.
Often times, the Lutheran Confessions are called the Book of Concord, when they are assembled in one volume. The Book of Concord contains documents which Christians from the fourth to the 16th century A.D. explained what they believed and taught on the basis of the Holy Scriptures. It includes, first, the three creeds which originated in the ancient church, the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. It contains, secondly, the Reformation writings known as the Augsburg Confession, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Smalcald Articles, the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, Luther's Small and Large Catechisms, and the Formula of Concord.
The Catechisms and the Smalcald Articles came from the pen of Martin Luther; the Augsburg Confession, its Apology, and the Treatise were written by Luther's co-worker, the scholarly Phillip Melanchthon; the Formula of Concord was given its final form chiefly by Jacob Andreae, Martin Chemnitz, and Nickolaus Selnecker.
Individually the Lutheran Confessions contain these documents:
2nd Century A.D.
Baptismal Creed used in Rome.
325, 381 A.D.
Assembled church leaders at the Council of Nicea (325) and the Council of Constantinople.
This Creed intends to clearly state on the basis of Scripture that Jesus Christ is true God equal with the Father and that the Holy Spirit is also true God, equal with the Father and the Son.
6th-8th Century A.D.
Unknown. Named after the great church father Athanasius, who was instrumental in the drafting of the Nicene Creed.
Confesses the teaching of the Trinity and the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
A short work that was to educate the laity in the fundamentals of the Christian Faith.
Though covering the same chief parts of Christian doctrine as the Small Catechism, the Large Catechism is really a series of re-edited sermons that Luther preached.
June 25, 1530
Often viewed as the chief Lutheran Confession; it was presented by the Lutherans to Emperor Charles V at the imperial diet of Augsburg as a statement of the chief articles of the Christian faith as understood by Lutherans; also contained here is a listing of abuses that the Lutherans had corrected.
Apology of the Augsburg Confession
After the Roman theologians had condemned many of the teachings of the Augsburg Confession (AC), Melanchthon authored this lengthy defense of AC. Rightly considered a Christian classic.
Articles of faith intended by Luther to be an ecumenical platform for an upcoming ecumenical council. Stated what the Lutherans could not compromise and why.
Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope
Was intended to serve as a supplement to the Augsburg Confession, giving the Lutheran position on the Pope.
Formula of Concord
A restatement of some teachings in the Augsburg Confession over which Lutherans had become divided. The Solid Declaration is the unabridged version. The Epitome is an abridged version intended for congregations to study. Over 8,100 pastors and theologians signed it, as well as over 50 government leaders.
Prior to becoming a pastor, a seminary student must complete a year of “student teaching” or in-the-field training if you were. This is called vicarage. Before completing my fourth year of my Master of Divinity degree, I myself was a vicar in a small church in Missouri from 2011-2012.
The word vicar itself, in its broadest sense actually means “a representative, or substitute.” Linguistically, “vicar” is the root of the English prefix, “vice,” meaning deputy. Many today even say, they live vicariously through something or one another. That is, serving instead of someone. In the Roman Catholic Church, The Pope uses the title Vicarius Christi, meaning, the vicar of Christ. In other words, the pope acts as the physical representative of Christ on Earth. That’s a pretty big claim!
During this month of October, we, as Lutherans, have means to commemorate Martin Luther’s challenge to the Roman Catholic Church.
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther (an Augustinian monk of the Roman Catholic Church and theology professor) wrote 95 concerns (or theses) about purgatory, indulgences, and other teachings of the Church—topics on which he wanted to debate. He then nailed them to the front door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. (In that day, it was common for professors of the University of Wittenberg, whom Luther was theological chair, to post complaints for debate on the Castle Church door.) Although it is speculated that Luther’s 95 theses were not actually nailed on October 31, they were in fact mailed in letterform by Luther. So either way you have it, Luther’s 95 theses were “posted.” It was an act that began the Reformation, led to many other “protest”-ant churches, and changed the Church forever.
The practice of selling forgiveness in the form of indulgences (paper certificates), enticed common people, most of whom were poor and uneducated, to dish out money that would, according to the Pope, buy their deceased relatives out of purgatory and into heaven. In accordance with Catholic teaching, purgatory (Latin, "purgare", to make clean, to purify) is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God's grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions). The proceeds from these sales lined the pockets of various princes and bishops while continuing the myth that forgiveness could be bought. The priests who wanted to reform the Catholic Church, believed this tradition and belief to be contrary to Scripture. In Martin Luther’s mind, the church had deceived the people. An illiterate populace depended on their educated church leaders to guide them in their faith.
As a young monk, Luther struggled with feeling good enough for God. He didn’t understand how God could or ever would accept him. Fasting, prayer, confession, even physical beatings, didn’t seem enough to please God. Luther spent years trying. During these years of struggle, he began a study of Romans.
In the first chapter, he found freedom to his conscience. Verse 17 reads, “...as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith.”
Luther came to understand that he could never earn forgiveness, never earn God’s love and grace, and never do enough to make himself right with God. Consider the truth he found in further reading of Romans: “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:22-24).
And again in chapter five:
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand (Romans 5: 1-2).
Justification through faith. Faith alone. AKA Sola fide. Christ paid the penalty for my sin because he loved me and knew that I could never pay that price outside of hell. All my good works emerge out of a heart of gratitude, not from obligation and certainly not as a means to evening the score between me and God. As if that were possible!
October is also month in which we celebrate the feast/festival days of St. Luke on Oct. 18, St. James of Jerusalem on Oct 23, and St. Simon and St. Jude on Oct 28. Most notably, we celebrate Reformation Day on Oct 31, when most in our secular community celebrate Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, the day before All Saints Day, Nov. 1.
While it is certainly more important that we remain Christians first and foremost, we especially value being members of the Lutheran Church (and members of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod) this month. We celebrate October 31 as Reformation Day, recalling the event that gave the Bible back to the people and giving us a rich tradition of basing our lives on Scriptural truth. However, if you choose to observe Halloween, (which actually is forgotten celebration of honoring loved ones who past, All Hallows, or All Saints) remember that Christ has freed you from the darkness of sin that these fall months exemplify, and brought you into his kingdom of light. He bought you back to be his own, not by gold or silver, but by the holy precious blood of Jesus and his innocent suffering and death. Believe in God’s Grace and Word alone through faith alone. Sola fide! Sola gratia! Sola Scriptura! Faith Alone! Grace Alone! Word Alone!
Recall Luther’s famous words as he testified before the Roman Catholic Church at the Diet of Worms, 1521:
“Unless I am convicted by the testimony of Sacred Scripture or by evident reason... my conscience is captive to the word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against my conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.
“My conscience is captive to the word of God.”
Luther's words should inspire all Christians to hold fast to this truth and the truth of Scripture. To study and know Scripture, to pray on and memorize it. And most importantly, to live and act in accordance with Scripture by acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our Lord.
~ Pastor Aaron Boerst
We’re nearly three-fourths through this year already with the start of September—a month which means “Seven” even though it’s really the ninth month (thank Julius & Augustus Caesar). It is a month which begins with Labor Day and ends with days marking off autumn and giving thanks for angels (St. Michael & All Angels on the 29th). I think it’s wonderful that this month which cools things off, ends summer, and brims with harvests points us to the number of Sabbath rest (Genesis 2: 1-3) and the number of months it usually takes for a child in the womb to get ready for birth. There’s the combination of labor and rest which we know every day and every week; of knowing how to steward (or manage) our time, talents, and treasures…and everything related to our lives.
With that in mind, take some time at this point to read and reflect on the following passages: Luke 12: 35-48, 1 Corinthians 4: 1-3, and 1 Peter 4: 7-11. Now, see if you noticed these truths which are to define us as people made servants of Christ in the new reality of Baptism.
1) Jesus says we’re to stay ready to greet him and do his work whenever he shows up, as well as to be making wise decisions with what he’s entrusted to our care.
2) Stewards are to be trustworthy servants who guard the holy mysteries of God. (Let me handle the mysteries of the Sacraments of Baptism/Lords Supper)!
3) We’re to practice self-control in every aspect of our lives, to be clear-minded, to live out sincere love to each other, to show hospitality to those in need without grumbling, and to serve one another with our particular gifts as good stewards of God’s varied grace.
Drawn from the Greek word oikonomos, which means “house manager” (the source for our word economy), our word “steward” comes from the Middle English word styward—meaning literally “the keeper of the (pig) sty.” That might not seem real impressive, but it reminds us that whatever has been entrusted to our care is what we are to manage wisely—whether it’s a treasure or a pig-slop—and that it matters. What has God given you to steward? God’s original intention was that humans would take care of this vibrant and abundant world he made (Genesis 2:15). And even though we’ve not treasured but wasted our devalued much of it, our Lord gives us his renewing Spirit to live out the newness Christ’s redemption, Resurrection, and renewal have brought into the world.
When talking about stewarding, most people think of “stewardship,” as purely about money matters. Martin Luther once quipped, “People go through three conversions: the conversion of their head, the conversion of their hearts, and the conversion of their pocketbook… Unfortunately, they do not happen all at the same time.” Money always seems to be on the minds of everyone. Ironically, money is one of the top things we steward poorly. Issues with money are the #1 cause of divorce. Starting this month, rethink how YOU manage what God has given you. What you will see is evidence of what your faith maturity looks like. Our choices about managing money are indicators of our spiritual condition. What can you spend money on effortlessly? What would your life look like if you cut some of those things out of your budget?
We are stewards but we’re also consumers. We are all people who purchase goods and services for personal use. But are you a consumer in the Church? Do you ask what your church can do for you? Or do you ask what you can do for your church? Are you a consumer with people?
Stewardship is about generosity, and stewardship has to do with relationships. Are you generous with giving yourself to others? Are you in need of reconciling differences with someone? Are you a consumer with relationships? Do you focused on what your needs are, or someone else’s? Some of us might be consumers instead of stewards. Therefore, the first question when stewarding your resources is to ask yourself, “Does this build a relationship?” When you spend money on someone…when you spend time with someone, does it build a relationship? If it doesn’t, what is it for? Stewarding is all about relationships—and the biggest relationship is the one we have with Christ. The Gospel of Grace and our generosity are tightly connected. The degree that you realize Jesus’ treasuring of you is the degree that you will welcome God to work His plan through you. Remember, “Never tell God what to do, and never tell God’s people what they are to give. You just might end up underestimating the generosity of both.” Money may not always be your idol in stewardship, but it will show you where your idols in stewardship are. Idols will demand everything from you, but Jesus treasured you and continues to treasure you enough to do everything for you, and give everything to you (Deuteronomy 7: 6-8).
Read and ponder a while on Ecclesiastes 3: 9-15—what really matters in life. And since this month also recognizes the anniversary of the September 11 tragedy, think and reflect on how we steward suffering as saints joined to the suffering and resurrection of Jesus (see 1 Corinthians 12:26, 2 Corinthians 1:3-8, and Romans 5: 1-5). Start praying and evaluating more and more how you (and we together) can steward September in a way that becomes a pattern for the whole year and all of life.
Teach us, O Lord, true thankfulness divine,
That gives as Christ gave, never counting cost,
That knows no barrier of "yours" and "mine,"
Assured that only what's withheld is lost.
Open our eyes to see Your love's intent,
To know with minds and hearts its depth and height;
May thankfulness be days in service spend,
Reflection of Christ's life and love and light. (Lutheran Service Book, 788)
Your Servant and Steward in Christ,
Pastor Aaron Boerst
August confronts us with change. It’s the month when school is back in session for students and teachers all the way from kindergarten through graduate programs. It’s the month when summer starts to wane with intense heat and shortening daylight. It’s the month when farms and gardens are producing bumper crops—if they survive the sun’s extremes.
There’s another way of looking at change, however, different from the one of lamenting how horrible it is. That way asks us to recognize the reason and purpose behind much change: growth and ripening. As Jesus said, if a seed remains a seed, nothing more will come of it—there’ll be no fruit to harvest (John 12:24). Growth and ripening are easier to see in a garden, or on the branches of fruit trees than in the lives of people. A teacher or coach often sees observable growth in a student’s or athlete’s skill and ability during the course of a year. Yet isn’t it true that we don’t always notice the growth and ripening happening in the people—ourselves included—we’re around day after day and year after year? We often freeze our images and perceptions of self and other in the convenient state of perfection or stunted growth.
Why am I bringing all of this up? Because it directly relates to what our Lord wants to see happen in our lives: Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Christ … so that the whole body grows and is built up in love (Ephesians 4:15-16), and Walk by the Spirit … and the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:16,22).
During the Summer months the church year continues to celebrate the Season of Pentecost., but most often we call the Summer-time months the “Time of the Church.” It is marked by growth. Just as the creation grows, so too our faith, and the body of believers that make up the Church-- (you and I included)-- we GROW. This is why all of our church paraments and banners are the color green. If you notice however some of our green church banners, you will notice that they have a lot to do with symbols of the Lords Supper. You can visibly see grapes, and sheaves of wheat, which make up the bread and wine we partake in. This is no mistake. At the altar of God, it is there we do the most growth.
We can give thanks that our Lord comes to our aid and doesn’t leave us to fend for ourselves. We can give great thanks that wheat and grapes grow to harvest and that Jesus takes the bread and wine made from them, blesses them, and gives them to us for the forgiveness of (or change from) our sins. At Jesus’ table of mercy, we are strengthened to grow and ripen in the love and service toward God and others.
May we remember that the Holy Spirit enables us to live and grow and show the patient love—embodied so perfectly in the life of Christ—in the unfolding and ripening of our days and years as brothers and sisters of each other.
In the growth of Christ,
We find ourselves in July at the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4 1776. And so, it would be appropriate that we take note on what that means for our lives as Christians in America. In a past issue of The Lutheran Witness, it was said:
Ever since the Declaration of Independence, America has been centered on the concept and consciousness of the individual and his or her life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. In some cases, it has served us well, especially in our radical aversion from any form of totalitarianism or tyranny. But in other cases, this concept has created an individualism that shuns any kind of community or any sense of communal well-being, including any concern for our neighbor. We are a society that admires the rugged individual, the “self-made” man or woman, the courageous, self-reliant soul who pulls himself up by his own bootstraps. At the heart of this is a do-it yourself spirituality. More Americans than ever name Jesus Christ as their Savior, while fewer Americans than ever go to church on a regular basis. Each of us is the judge of our own truth, the master of our own destiny, the god of our own religion.
We talk about independence. You can’t get any more American than that! Without the tenacity of the American colonists, we would continue to be at the mercy of a dictating monarchy. Independence was a good thing for America in that respect. But, for us as Christians, independence can be one of the worst things for us to have. When Christians are independent, it can leave us hopelessly to ourselves, and that’s not good because when we rely on our self-reliance there isn’t any room for anyone else in our lives. Especially God. The simple fact is we are dependent on Jesus. For everything. Hopefully dependent! And this is true not only for us as Christians, but us as Americans.
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13-14
We like to talk about rights. The problem with the notion of individuals having rights is that possessing rights ends up us demanding for entitlements. Instead of spending life defending one’s rights, we can better spend life ascertaining and then embracing the place that we have been given by God. We as individual Christians know that we don’t need rights. We have Christ. Being proud and thankful for this country is not a bad thing. You should be proud especially this month. Patriotism is not a bad thing. But it shouldn’t be the only thing.
The genie god that we American Christians imagine, who promises to grant us our wishes of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is where Satan wants us to look to, because then the focus is off our God- Our God who doesn’t gloss over the dysfunctional realities of Creation, but instead defeats and restores them by suffering Himself. (Hebrews 2:14-15). For those of us who seek wealth, health, and happiness, God remains good, just, and kind, even when these prayers are denied. The Cross is all the declaration of independence we need!
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36
Below the Statue of Liberty reads this poem:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Funny, in a way, that’s what our Lord says to us. In the love of Christ, who reveals himself daily in the land of the free, and the home of the brave,
Pastor Aaron Boerst
The month of June for some reason reminds me of the Stevie Wonder song, "I Just Called to Say I Love You." For those not familiar with the tune, here are the first two stanzas:
No New Year's Day to celebrate,
No chocolate covered candy hearts to give away
No first of spring, No song to sing,
In fact here's just another ordinary day
No April rain, No flowers bloom,
No wedding Saturday within the month of June
But what it is, is something true,
Made up of these three words that I must say to you
I just called to say I love you
I think it has something to do with the line, “No wedding Saturday within the month of June.” June is often called the wedding month, probably because it’s finally warm and beautiful out, and there is more free time to be had. If you’re lucky, maybe you may have a June anniversary. So this June article, I’m going to talk a bit on marriage, but even if you’re not married, listen closely…The following are sermon excerpts from one of my best friend’s wedding:
There are some who would describe marriage as “getting hitched” or “tying the knot.” A previous generation called it “jumping the broom.” But in his letter to the Ephesians, chapter 5, St. Paul calls it a “mystery.” In the Greek of the New Testament, that’s musterion. In Latin, that’s ‘sacramentum.’ Sure has a different ring to it than “getting hitched,” doesn’t it. In fact, musterion and sacramentum are the words that the New Testament uses when it talks about Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
You want to be careful not to confuse a ‘mystery’ with a ‘secret.’ They’re two different things. A ‘secret’ lasts only as long as you don’t know it. Once you know the secret, it’s over. It’s not a secret anymore. But a ‘mystery’ is something that continues, even after you know the mystery. In fact, the more you know it, the more you experience it, the greater it becomes. There’s always more to a ‘mystery.’ No matter how deeply into it you get, it always goes deeper.
Paul says that marriage is a ‘mystery.’ A mystery has lots of levels to it. On one level, it’s all about the two people and just the two. And maybe that’s all newlyweds think about, which is okay. But, you’ll see that there’s another level to marriage that is about family. In marriage you get another mother and father and new sisters and brothers and relatives and who knows what the future holds. On another level it’s really all about society and the role that the marriage in general and yours in particular plays in maintaining a stable and orderly society.
Paul says that marriage is a “mystery.” And as ‘mysterious’ as all of this sounds so far, we haven’t even begun to touch on the level of the ‘mystery’ that St. Paul is talking about. Paul says that marriage is not just a ‘mystery,’ he says that marriage is a ‘profound mystery.’ In the Greek, that’s a mega musterion. Not even Holy Baptism or Holy Communion is called that. Marriage is ‘mystery’ on top of ‘profound mystery.’
To get a grasp of the level of mystery that Paul is talking about, you’ve got to go back to the beginning. In the beginning, God made a man. Not ‘man’ in general but a specific man, a male man. Not the kind that delivers letters but the kind that is of the male gender.
God put the man in the Garden of Eden and He gave him ‘dominion over it.’ That’s a fancy bible word that doesn’t mean that God gave the man permission to boss it around and bring him a beer and his slippers. It means that the man was given the responsibility of taking care of what God had entrusted to his care. “Dominion” is a word that is packed with a lot of responsibility and servant hood.
When God saw the man trying to do what he was charged with doing all by himself, God said, “it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper fit for him.” And so God made a helper for Adam. And here’s how He did it. He put the man whom He named Adam, into a deep sleep and opened his side and with what came out of the man’s side, He made a woman. Not women in general, but a specific woman of the female gender. And the Lord God brought the woman to the man and Adam immediately recognized himself in her, and said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” And just as he had given names to all of animals in the garden, Adam gave a name to his new wife. In fact, he gave her his name. “She shall be called ‘ishah’ (woman) because she was taken from “ish” (man).
Now, what God saw was “not good,” God sees along with all that He made and says, “It is very good.” To which Moses rightly concludes, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be ( united to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.” continued on page 5)
What that means is that marriage is rooted in the very creation of the world. Talk about a ‘deep mystery.’
But we still haven’t gotten to the ‘profound mystery’ that Paul is talking about. But now we’re ready for it so here it is. The Lord God took the Man, not the 1st Adam, but the 2nd Adam. And He put the Man into a deep, three-day sleep. And He opened the Man’s side with a Roman spear. And from the water and the blood that came from the Man’s side, He made a bride for the Man. And He brought her to the Man and the Man said, “I am bone of her bones and flesh of her flesh. And she is holy of my holiness and righteous of my righteousness and the love of my life.”
And the Man gave her His name. “She shall be called Christian because she was taken from Christ.”
This is the ‘profound mystery’ that you have entered into already through Holy Baptism. In your Baptism, you became the ‘bride of Christ.’ You became “one flesh” with your Lord and Savior. And Jesus Christ became your husband. And your husband, who was given dominion over you, in perfect obedience to His calling, in lowly servanthood, took care of all that God the Father entrusted to His care, to the point of laying down His life for His bride. And His bride does what any bride would do when loved like this. She honors and worships her husband and lives to glorify Him. Some of you have already entered into this level of the ‘profound mystery’ along with all who have been baptized.
“Husbands, love your wives.” Not the way that you think that you should love your wife or according to the example on TV, but “as Christ loves His church and gave Himself up for her.”
A pretty good summary of the way Christ loves His church goes like this; He nourishes and cherishes her as His own body. He loves her, honors her and keeps her, in sickness and in health, even in her sin; for better and for worse, for richer or for poorer until death parts them. For her sake, He has laid down His life for her and by His resurrection from the dead, even her death will never part them.
Men, this is what you are committing to here. “Love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Be a real husband to your wives because they need that from you.
So Men, let me ask you, will you love your wife as Christ loves the Church and give yourself up for her? Good. Then you will certainly be willing to do the dishes or the laundry or, if God so wills it, change a diaper. All great love is crucified love after the pattern of our crucified Lord. Just as Christ loved His own by washing their feet, you do the same with your wives. Forgive her all her sins against you and bring her to hear God’s Word and receive Christ’s body and blood, “so that you may present her to Christ as a radiant bride, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”
Women, let me ask you. If your man loves you like this, will you submit to him? Good. You be a real wife to him. He needs that from you. “Submit to your husband as to the Lord.” He needs real communion with you. He needs a wife. It is not good for him to be alone and sad to say, he can be just as alone in marriage as he can be alone apart from marriage. If he is going to be your head, then you be his body, united and joined to him as one. Honor him, strive to please him, make it your goal in life to bring out the best in him. The stronger and the happier you make him, the easier time he’ll have laying down his life in love for you. He won’t be the perfect husband just as you won’t be the perfect wife. So you forgive him all of his sins and bear with his faults as Christ forgives you and bears with you.
Be real husbands and wives to each other. Give us a real marriage. We all need that from you.
This is the ‘profound mystery’ that some of you have entered into and that some of you will enter into. Whether you’re married or not, you are joined with your husband, Christ. It’s a mystery that never ends until one of you dies. And even then, as we’ve said, it enters into an even deeper level. The excitement that you feel – that will end. The romance will fade, that’s okay. But the ‘profound mystery’ isn’t based on excitement, romance, or ‘marital bliss,’ whatever that is. It’s based on the love and faithfulness of your husband, Jesus Christ. And that will never end.
It doesn’t have to be a weeding Saturday in June to know that every day, Christ calls to say, “I love YOU.”
Submitted in love in the eternal love of Christ our Savior, †Pastor Aaron Boerst