Thursday, February 28, 2008

Most offended

Isaiah 64:6
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Whenever I share the fact that for me, each time I hear the Law it brings me to despair or doom, (and I suggest that Luther too seemed to have believed that) my listener gets offended. When I hear the Law, it convicts me and tells me, I am not the person being described by it. Some have a more positive look at the Law. Some love the Law and they believe they are doing it or can do it each time it speaks. Do I love the Law? I think I do but it tells me what I am not. Perhaps I have a liking for being put down that is why I like it. It makes me uncomfortable yet I like to hear it. Perhaps, as a hint, may be I like it because it makes me run to where my resolution can be found.

I had a debate this week on the concept : can any man not love his neighbor from a pure heart, be he a Christian or not? My first answer was "no" - no one can. But of course, I was fronted with examples all over the place of people who have shown self-sacrificial love towards others and based on the outside, they seem to be loving their neighbor for their own sake.

Finally, I conceded and agreed. I will grant that an Atheist can show self-sacrificing love for his/her neighbor, for the neighbor's sake. I will grant that. The question is, what does God think of that, i.e. in front of Him, what value does it carry. None. Now that is hard to swallow. Our mind rebels against this. Some do get angry because this shoots down possibilities for self justification.

But I add, why not let God judge you and bring you to despair? Why not throw your hands up in the air and cry - "I am guilty". Because when you do -- you are ready to receive the joy of salvation -- The Gospel, that for Christ's sake God has taken the punishement for your sins and He placed it on Christ at the Cross --"paid in full".

One of our ladies in Bible Study shared the Gospel to her friend. The friend replied -- "I like a God who will let me pay for my sins"--huh? What duh?!!? How crazy is that?!!?

Why insist on paying for something that is being given/offered to you freely? That would be insane. We are talking about the future of our souls, we can not play nice and dice on this one.

Forgiveness is being offered freely- located in Chris, take it, it is yours.


Past Elder said...

Here's the deal, Lito.

All religion is works righteousness: there's something greater than we are, we are not in harmony with it, here's what you have to do to get in harmony with it. Man just doesn't have any other idea of religion.

So God says, OK, you want to get in harmony with me by doing something, here's what I want you to do, in fact, I won't even ask all of it of you, just the part I revealed to Noah, and for the rest I'm going to call a special people out to do it.

So what happens? Not only can the Jews not fulfill the Mosaic Law in all its 613 precepts, we Gentiles cannot even fulfill the 7 given us in the Noahide Law (which was retained for all Man by the Council of Jerusalem in Acts).

So that's it, here's what God wants and we can't do it.

There's only three responses. One is, say no that isn't what God wants, it's something else and go for some other idea that is supposed to be what God wants. That of course puts oneself out of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Another is, come up with an idea of how you actually can fulfill the Law, which is most forms of Christianity with Christ giving the turbo boost and then some sort of sanctification programme to complete it. Finally, there is Christianity, taught in Scripture and accurately stated in the Book of Concord, the Good News that Christ has paid our debt for us, there is nothing we can do to improve on it, and now being free, we are free to do good works knowing full well it won't be perfect which is OK because our good works do not justify us before God anyway, Christ's do.

The Law doesn't appear bleak at all in Judaism, BTW. One prays daily thanking God for the Law. There is a school of thought in Juadism that says we of course know our acts will be imperfect, and that God with perfect right could demand our lives for it, but, he accepts such payment of our debt to him as we can make and cancels the rest, showing therefore that while justice is a divine thing, mercy is moreso.

Frankly, to me that's the only other option to Lutheran belief short of rejecting that any part of anyone's Bible is from God, not any other form of what calls itself Christianity. He either cancels the debt because of Jesus, or cancels the debt for those who pay what they can because that's just how he is. All the rest is just getting works righteousness back into the deal, here's what I need to do to get right with God not what God does to get me right with him.

Past Elder said...

PS -- as you probably know, in Judaism Messiah has nothing to do with forgiveness of sins whatever as that is already accomplished in the Law. Messiah is a man who brings about the Messianic era.

This is the reason for the guld between Christianity and Judaism. We look at all the prophecies of the OT and wonder why they don't get it, as if they are waiting for something like Jesus claimed to be but don't see he is it. That's not the problem. The prophecies as understood in Judaism point to something completely other than what Jesus claimed, or is claimed, to be. Which is why he was executed under the Law, not because he said he was the Messiah, but because he said he was God. You can claim to be Messiah, and if you aren't, you're just wrong about that, no more. You cannot claim to be God, because no man is God not even Messiah and to claim to be so is blasphemy which is punishable by death.

Even the Akedah, aka the Binding of Isaac, is understood completely differently in Judaism. To Christians, it is a type of Christ, foreshadowing his sacrificial death for us. To Jews, it demonstrates that human sacrifice is the last thing God wants and to imagine God would become Man and engage in it is completely foreign to Scriptural prophecy.

I desire mercy and not sacrifice, so since the destruction of the Temple and the impossiblity of even sacrifice under the Law, our mitzvoth (good works) take their place. This was formulated by a contemporary of Jesus, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, who survived the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and more than any other established normative Judaism post-Temple. At the same time Orthodox Jews pray three times a day for the restoration of the Temple and the sacrifices.

Anonymous said...

Nag, nag, nagging on Luther's door.


1) What exactly is the meaning of, or how precisely are the passages that constantly speak of human weekness, frailness and powerless-ness understood in Lutheranism ?

2) Precisely what Luther was saying - you should do better and be altogether different but -- you don't do it at least not 24X7.

As far as I'm able to read and understand Luther, he makes it pretty clear that this is not up for grabs: as he says: one MUST become different and to otherwise.

I'm mentioning this because Your "should" seems to imply a rather different concept[ion] than Luther's "must" (though the two words are synonymous). Non idem est si due dicunt idem, perhaps?

3) As far the primary notion of the Law in Luther's mind is concerned, I agree with You, Past Elder, William Weedon and Herr Schuetz. (But is it me, or does primacy ["the first"] tend to be interrpeted as absolute ["the only one"] ?).

-- Past Elder, please feel free to "chime in" and "interfere" with the above, if You like. :-) Your comments are most welcome.

To Jews, it demonstrates that human sacrifice is the last thing God wants

The interpretation of the Akeda as putting an end to human sacrifices which were performed by the pagan culture from which father Abraham was called out is to be found in the Syriac Fathers as well. And it's faithfully continued by the Mosaic legislation by forbidding to offer one's children to Moloch.

I desire mercy and not sacrifice, so since the destruction of the Temple and the impossiblity of even sacrifice under the Law, our mitzvoth (good works) take their place. This was formulated by a contemporary of Jesus, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, who survived the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and more than any other established normative Judaism post-Temple.

The same is true of the Early Fathers, who took the meaning of the sacrifices allegorically to mean alms-giving, prayer, and a pure heart.

Rabbi Akiba, 70 AD. But some four decades before him lived another Rabbi, who not only prophesied the Temple's destruction, but who seemingly made also certain provisions regarding it. He said that He was God, and that His body is the Temple, and he identified Himself with the poor and needy, by saying: "if you do this even to the least among you, to Me you do". So, if He was God, then what we give Him or do to/for Him is a sacrifice. But He said: "what you do to those, to Me you do". So, sacrifices were to be replaced by alms-giving and acts of charity and mercy. Or maybe not? Looking forward for Your opinion about this

Carrie said...

The question is, what does God think of that, i.e. in front of Him, what value does it carry. None. Now that is hard to swallow. Our mind rebels against this. Some do get angry because this shoots down possibilities for self justification.

It is interesting how people insist on playing by their own rules. Could you imagine a professinoal football player insisting on playing by the rules of soccer during a game and refusing to listen to the referees or his coach (using American terms here)? We would laugh at the ignorance of such a player!

LPC said...


I just preached a sermon in a Penty church (those who still have not banned me) on John 4, the Samaritan woman.

It is interesting that the Samaritans accepted Jesus as their Messiah but by your comment, the Jews do not have the same understanding as Messiah. So the two have different concepts.

Would you have any thougths why it is always the Gentiles who get it?


LPC said...


Sometimes I am still astounded by that comment made to one of my members in our Bible Study.

So they prefer to make up the rules as they go along, i.e. not by gifts but by works.


LPC said...


My reply will be a bit long and I want to give it time, I am at work so I hope to reply more fully.

But of course, other Concordians reading this I am sure you will welcome if they respond.

Will be back, just at work at the moment.


Past Elder said...

The point is, as I understood it during my twenty years as a hanger-on to Orthodox Judaism, is that the Gentiles do not get it, and come up with another Greek mystery religion, this one loosely based on Hebrew prophecy twisted to fit Jesus so that the fact that what will happen when the Messiah comes did not happen when Jesus came is answered by changing what will happen when the Messiah comes to allow continuing belief in him.

Christians are accustomed to pointing out that many thought the coming of the Messiah would be a political deliverance from the Romans, but even if one as a Jew does not associate a political outcome with Messiah it still remains true that a Saviour from sin has absolutely nothing to do with Messiah in Jewish messianism.

That is why evangelism has been so fruitless among Jews, because we assume we're all looking for this same Messiah and they just miss that Jesus is it, whereas the Messiah expected in Judaism is not at all the Messiah Christians claim Jesus is, and for that matter not a terribly central aspect to Jewish faith either.

As Rabbi John (that's what Yochanan is in English) said, if you're planting a tree when the Messiah comes, first finish planting the tree then go greet the Messiah.

LPC said...


So why did the Samaritans get it? The closest thing to Jewish concepts would be these folks yet they 'got him'. Could it be that they only have the Pentateuch?


Past Elder said...

Who says they got it?

In Judaism, the idea is the Samaritans are a kind of hybrid and so is their religion -- a mixture of Jewish with what the Assyrians brought in, which accounts for their variances from Judaism. The Samaritans have a quite different view, seeing themselves as the original Judaism before its corruption.

As to having the true Torah, who knows any more than which mount is the true spot for the Temple. They don't accept the Mishnah or the Talmud, but these didn't exist in their classic form for Jews of Jesus time either.

Actually I think this is the essential one Jesus is making, not to ignore his reaching out to those outside his community. He didn't say which temple location was correct, but answered it in a completely different way, that the time is coming when the People of God will worship on neither but will worship in spirit and truth, which we call the Divine Service, his Word and Sacrament, which is dependant on him, the location will be wherever he is, and he will be in the preaching of the Word and the bread and fruit of the vine. The true temple mount is Omaha -- or Melbourne, or wherever the Divine Service is, well, served.

Stick Rome or Constantinople in there for locations and see what happens!

The Samaritan religion still exists, and Jesus went to the cross in Jerusalem.

Then again, maybe the Irish really are one of the Lost Tribes of Israel!

LPC said...

Dear Lucian,

Where do I start?

Some of our readers will not know what we are discussing so I refer to what I gave you at Shuetz's blog, namely ...

Firtsly on Luther's must and my should. I am not using it any different than him.

I do not understand Latin so much but when it comes to Luther, I do make him turn in his grave, and I am happy at times that I do that, because we are Lutherans -- we are not Luther himself, neither is he the pope but a church father just like Augustine etc was. So for me ...nosotros suscribimos al significado de las palabras pero nosotros no subscribimos a las palabras ellas mismas. (Babel Fish that) (:-).

1) What exactly is the meaning of, or how precisely are the passages that constantly speak of human weekness, frailness and powerless-ness understood in Lutheranism

They are taken as that -- that we are dead in trespasses and sin. Lutheranism affirms the total inability of man ala Augustine, to satisfy the demands of God without the Gospel.

Since you have read the Large Catechism...notice that the 10 commandments came first before the Creeds. This is not an insiginificant data, it is a very crucial manner that I believe Luther was presenting Law and then Gospel.

Here is what the LC
Apostles Creed For if we could by our own powers keep the Ten Commandments as they are to be kept, we would need nothing further, neither the Creed nor the Lord's Prayer. 4] adds 22] Therefore, this article ought to humble and terrify us all, if we believed it. For we sin daily with eyes, ears, hands, body and soul, money and possessions, and with everything we have, especially those who even fight against the Word of God. Yet Christians have this advantage, that they acknowledge themselves in duty bound to serve God for all these things, and to be obedient to Him [which the world knows not how to do

28] For when we had been created by God the Father, and had received from Him all manner of good, the devil came and led us into disobedience, sin, death, and all evil, so that we fell under His wrath and displeasure and were doomed to eternal damnation, as we had merited and deserved. 29] There was no counsel, help, or comfort until this only and eternal Son of God in His unfathomable goodness had compassion upon our misery and wretchedness, and came from heaven to help us. 30] Those tyrants and jailers, then, are all expelled now, and in their place has come Jesus Christ, Lord of life, righteousness, every blessing, and salvation, and has delivered us poor lost men from the jaws of hell, has won us, made us free, and brought us again into the favor and grace of the Father, and has taken us as His own property under His shelter and protection, that He may govern us by His righteousness, wisdom, power, life, and blessedness.

31] Let this, then, be the sum of this article that the little word Lord signifies simply as much as Redeemer, i.e., He who has brought us from Satan to God, from death to life, from sin to righteousness, and who preserves us in the same. But all the points which follow in order in this article serve no other end than to explain and express this redemption, how and whereby it was accomplished, that is, how much it cost Him, and what He spent and risked that He might win us and bring us under His dominion, namely, that He became man, conceived and born without [any stain of] sin, of the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary, that He might overcome sin; moreover, that He suffered, died and was buried, that He might make satisfaction for me and pay what I owe, not with silver nor gold, but with His own precious blood. And all this, in order to become my Lord; for He did none of these for Himself, nor had He any need of it. And after that He rose again from the dead, swallowed up and devoured death, and finally ascended into heaven and assumed the government at the Father's right hand, so that the devil and all powers must be subject to Him and lie at His feet, until finally, at the last day, He will completely part and separate us from the wicked world, the devil, death, sin, etc.

Here is now Smalcald by his own words 10] It was impossible that they should teach correctly concerning repentance, since they did not [rightly] know the real sins [the real sin]. For, as has been shown above, they do not believe aright concerning original sin, but say that the natural powers of man have remained [entirely] unimpaired and incorrupt; that reason can teach aright, and the will can in accordance therewith do aright [perform those things which are taught], that God certainly bestows His grace when a man does as much as is in him, according to his free will.

As can be read above, Luther rejects the notion of repentance that is tantamount to penance.

In short, the primary use of the Law is to show us our sin so that it can show us where our sin is solved, i.e., the Gospel. The Law also serves as our guide as to what is right and wrong. The Christian performs the Law imperfectly. We do what the Law says because it is right to do and not because we are eyeing that by our doing it we will gain favor with God. Why? Because we are tainted with sin.

The question is how is the Law used in front of God by us. We can not say to God I have done this, I gave alms here and there today and so give me brownie points. Whatever God gives us - it is given in the context of Jesus being our saviour who fulfilled the Law for us. We ask God to answer our prayer for the sake of Jesus' sacrifice and suffering for us and not on account of any seeming good we have done. That is faith, that is not based on works.

In fact, a Christian is not conscious of the good he is doing, he is only conscious that he is not good, but he is conscious too that there was one who was Good who answered for him - Christ.

Luke 17:10
So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.

Besides, I do not recall reading that Jesus now has superceded the Law by the giving of alms or acts of mercy. What passage are you sing to assert this?

Hope this helps,


Anonymous said...

Being a Romanian I have no problem understanding either Spanish or Italian (though I can't actually speak either of`em).

In this case, You're saying that "we subscribe to the meaning, not to the words themselves" -- yet, it seems to me, quite the opposite of that is true (Anglican style).

No matter, You have answered my question and I'm very greatful for that.

So, it's time for Q#2: what exactly is Lutheranism's stance on passages like:

Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 18:27; John 15:1-6; John 16:33; 1 John 5:4; Luke 1:34-35; Matthew 25:14-30; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Philippians 4:13; etc. ? (Thanks).

Anonymous said...

As for Luther not being Your Pope, I understand that. I also understand that You guys over here are confessional Lutherans, who subscribe to the same Book of Concord out of which the very passage that You cited came from. So, it's confusing. (Now, please don't say "the Book of Concord isn't our Bible": it's not, but You subscribe to it, so ... ).

Anonymous said...

As for Jesus' words, they are very plain: what You do to these lesser ones from among your ranks, to me you are doing. So, this means that if I would, say, give my two cents to a poor, to Christ I would give them. If I would give a lamb to a poor, to Christ I would give it. (Until now, nothing surprising). And, also, this Jesus is the Christ, Son, and Word of God, and One with the Father. (Until now, also nothing of spectacular). So, basically, if I would give my two cents, or two doves, or a lamb to a poor, it's to God that I'm giving them. (This conclusion follows from the previous two ideas). Now, what I give to God is, by definition, a sacrifice. (This sentence is obvious, I think). Now, by combining the conclusion of my first two ideas with this last idea, I get the understanding that such alms-givings are elevated by Christ himself to the level of sacrifice.

This, of course, is something which the first Christians immediately understood, and acted accordingly, living togetehr in tightly-knit communities based on self-sacrifice that led to mutual help, as we see this time and again being described on the pages of the NT.

Now, until now, nothing special. *BUT*, when the Temple building, together with all of Jerusalem came crushing down to the ground, this led the Jews into a state of confusion about what to do or how to act, etc. But, for the Christians, it was obvious what to do or how to act: instead of giving the-tenth-part for the [formerly existing, but now no-longer-standing] Temple at Jerusalem, they gave it for the sake of the poor and needy; instead of sacrificing lambs at the [destroyed and unexistent] Temple, they gave it to the hungry, to still thir hunger; etc.

But the Jews needed quite some time to figure this out and to reach this obvious conclusion. (Glad they finally did it, though!)

[And, of course, the whole thing about man being God's image also helps us better understand this aspect].

The same for circumcision and clean animals: big, bad Christians trampling down the Law of Moses... but when the knife reached the bone for them too: enter the seven Noachide Laws! :-) :D (Have You ever asked Yourselves WHY they finaly chose the Babli over and against the Yerushalmi?).

LPC said...

Dear Lucian,

Let me try in parts... first let me tackle these, comparing Scripture with Scripture.

re : Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 18:27;

It is impossible for man to achieve salvation on his own. Only God can do the impossible, so Jesus says. How does God do the impossible -- the forgiving of man's sins and hence, salvation. So long as there is an aspect that Man is left to do, he can fail in that aspect. So God does not come and help us achieve what he demands from us. He does not come and give us aid and the other portion is left for us to fulfill, because so long as there is an aspect of us left to do by ourselves, we can drop the ball on our end and so still results in a mess and failure. Rather we believe, in terms of our Salvation, God does everything from start to finish.

So God sends Jesus to become our Lamb, He is God's Lamb but his role was to be a Lamb of atonement for us. Jesus was the sacrifice. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. See too John 1:29 and Heb 9:28. So at the Cross, God pinned our punishment for our sins and imputes our sins to him. Now GOd comes around and offers to us this peace offering that as we trust on this fact that Jesus took and received our sins, we have the benefit of what he has accomplished -- our sins are no more, taken cared off hence, Yahweh Saves--- in fact that is Jesus' name - We must always ask the question when we are in doubt about us - what was Jesus doing at the Cross? He was finishing the work of salvation, finished in here means --- paid in full. Tetelestai.

NOw God is offering the sacrifice of Jesus for us to use in front of him. Hence, no one comes to the Father except by HIM (Christ).

re : John 15:1-6; John 16:33

How does one abide? First, again, it is GOd that causes us to abide in Jesus- he does this by the preaching of the Law that convicts us of our sins and the Gospel that says that for Christ's sakes our sins are forgiven. Abiding in the vine is to abide in faith in Christ, but what is this faith in Christ? It is faith in the fact that He is our Saviour assigned by God to be our mediator in front of him by virtue of his bitter suffering and death i.e. by virtue of his taking the wrath of God for our sins. So abiding in Christ is continually having faith in the GOSPel. See Col 1:23. As to peace -- see Rom 5:1. The real peace is peace with God, there is no other peace better than this - that God is now at peace with us and we with him, there is no other peace that can compare - 1 Cor 5:19-21.

re:(Have You ever asked Yourselves WHY they finaly chose the Babli over and against the Yerushalmi?).

I am out of my depths in here but Past Elder I think can answer this.



J. K. Jones said...

In the original post: “Forgiveness is being offered freely- located in Chris, take it, it is yours.”

Great statement. That some people on the web would argue with this astounds me.

I’m starting to feel like Andrew Fuller must have felt arguing against high-Calvinism (only I do not feel so smart as Andrew).

LPC said...


I had to research who Andrew Fuller was.

Some of us in the human race do not like free things, it sounds so easy and what is too easy seems to negate our usefulness.