28 February 2007

An Interesting Piece from Dr. Steven Hein

I post it here with his permission. I cannot and will not presume to speak for others, but I will say that I found his words quite insightful in reflecting some of my own inner turmoil on the question. If I have a caveat to what he's written here, it is simply this: I do not believe that the East gets justification wrong per se, but I do believe that it is not given the place in their doctrinal schema, liturgical and prayer life that it has among the Lutherans, and that its prominence in both the Sacred Scriptures and in the preaching of the Fathers warrants. The result is that it can come across as rather unimportant for our sisters and brothers in the Eastern churches. So with that caveat in place, here's Dr. Hein:

Going East?

There is an important lesson to be learned when we hear of another faithful servant of the Word vacating his ordination vow to join some heterodox communion. There is an unfortunate, but familiar pilgrimage that entirely too many have taken – men who have offered strong confessional Lutheran service in the Gospel - but who then have doctrinally gone astray. How does this happen? When the chief article of justification begins to wane in one’s thinking as the chief article; when it becomes just one among all the other articles of faith, the Devil can use whatever articles make up one's doctrinal passion (good in their own right) to replace it. Just because you are against the false teachers about whatever articles of faith are near and dear to you; this is no guarantee that the Devil must thrown up his hands and raised the white flag in seeking to separate you from a right faith and ministry in the righteousness of Christ. He has demonstrated ample ability to use your passions, your commitments against the false teachers, and your zeal, to dethrone the central significance of the forgiveness of sins in an all-sufficient cross of Christ.

Once dethroning the sufficiency of the righteousness of Christ as the chief article, he then works to drive a wedge between those articles of faith and issues of praxis that stir your passions, and the pure milk of the Gospel. When other heterodox traditions hold your views on your passionate articles of faith, the Devil will be at work to have you view their doctrinal errors as not so bad . . . even when they involve false understandings of justification, the central article of the Gospel.

Those who have been around a while have observed well how this played out over time with many champions of an inspired and inerrant Bible in the 1960s and 70s. Tragically over time, many of these faithful confessors sold out the pure Gospel in the name of passion and zeal for evangelism and the mission of outreach. Let’s get on with the mission of the Church was their cry. And they believed that the Baptists, Campus Crusade, and the church-growth authorities had what was needed to successfully undertake the Great Commission. Since these Protestants had it right with mission and evangelism, it could be minimized that they had faulty understandings of how sinners are justified before God. In the midst of their narrow-minded passions; the Church and her Ministry, the Means of Grace, the historic liturgy, and a totally monergistic understanding of the saving work of Christ could be compromised for the sake of an all encompassing, passionate vision of effectively saving souls.

But this is only the half of it. Many who entered the Ministry some time after the Battle for the Bible and the compromise with Protestantism in the name of evangelistic mission - members of the next generation – These men were especially nurtured to cherish the treasures of the Church, its Holy Ministry, and its historic liturgy. And many through the teaching they received came to appreciate these articles and practices as confessional Lutheranism historically retained and expressed them. But I believe that we are witnessing how the Devil can use a passion for the catholicity of the Church, its historic liturgy, and the Holy Office of the apostolic Ministry, to rend asunder the crown jewel of the Church - justification by grace through faith alone. The Devil can do it just as easily as he can use and pervert passions for an inerrant, fully authoritative Bible. The point that Jesus makes about he who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me (Matt.10:37) has application also for we who would hold and cherish the articles of faith in the Gospel of our Lord. If we miss-order these articles, cherishing any article more than the chief work of the Savior on the cross and in the Gospel; if we treat any other article of faith in our minds as the central article upon which the Church stands or falls . . . then we become vulnerable to a form of doctrinal idolatry that the Devil can use to wrench the righteousness of Christ from us and our ministry to others. Good Lord, deliver us!


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

We Orthodox also believe that justification is by nothing but Grace, through nothing other than faith.

Anastasia Theodoridis

Carl Vehse said...

"... another faithful servant of the Word vacating his ordination vow to join some heterodox communion."

"Faithful servant... vacating his ordination vow"? Is that like a faithful court witness vacating his oath to tell the truth?

Yeah, that's the ticket!

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

From Great Vespers for this coming week:

O Christ Savior, who didst become incarnate without leaving heaven, thee do we magnify with the voices of song; for thou didst accept the Cross and death for the sake of our human race; for thou art the Lord, the Lover of mankind. Thou didst demolish the gates of hades, rising on the third day, and saving our souls.

Thy side being stabbed, O Giver of life, didst nevertheless overflow for all with springs of forgiveness, life, and salvation. And accepting death in the flesh, thou didst bestow on us deathlessness. And dwelling in a tomb, thou didst free us and raise us in glory with thee, since thou art God. Wherefore, do we exclaim to thee, O Lord, Lover of mankind, glory to thee.

Wonderful is thy Crucifixion and thy descent to hades, O Lord, Lover of mankind; for thou didst lead it captive, since thou art God, raising with thee in glory those who of old had been chained. Thou didst open to them paradise and didst make them worthy to enjoy it. Grant us, therefore, forgiveness of sins, who glorify thy third-day Resurrection, and prepare us for dwellings in paradise, since thou art compassionate.

O thou who, for our sake, didst submit to sufferings in the flesh, and who didst rise from the dead in three days, heal the sufferings of our bodies and lift us up from our heavy sins, O Lover of mankind, and save us.
+ + +
The Orthodox Church proclaims the gospel clearly and beautifully, week after week, in every one of its parishes. For all those parishes speak the selfsame words--an excerpt of which I have cited above.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Oh, and Dr. Strickert--perhaps you'd care to comment on Pr. Weedon's post about the reliquae; especially since he mentioned you by name in the piece.

Chris Jones said...

I certainly concur with what Anastasia and Fr Gregory have said -- that the Orthodox do believe in justification by grace alone, through faith alone, and that that is the Gospel which is clearly and unmistakeably proclaimed in the liturgy in the Orthodox Church.

It was in the Orthodox Church, not in the Lutheran Church, that I learned what "by grace alone, through faith alone" means, and I could not have joined an LCMS congregation if I did not believe that the same Gospel was being proclaimed there that I had received in Orthodoxy. But for the life of me I can still not understand why justification must be regarded as "the chief article", more important than the Trinity or the Incarnation which the Fathers of the Church contended for, and more important than (and, in practice, to the exclusion of) the doctrine of sanctification, which is "the other side of the coin" of justification.

With due respect to Dr Hein and my good friend Fr Weedon, is it not possible that the Lutheran focus on justification tends to devalue other quite important aspects of our beloved Catholic faith? Granted that it was justification that the mediaeval Western Church got badly wrong, and so it was necessary -- at that time -- to put it in the forefront; but that does not mean that it is for all time "the chief article".

If that makes me less than "fully Lutheran," then I am sorry, but so be it.

Fr. Hank said...

Spot on, Chris.

The 'chief article' rhetoric/polemic against esp. the Jesuits, those nasty little black dogs of the Pope 8>} , is every bit as historically conditioned as the Pope/papacy as Antichrist polemic, which as you must know had a very long intellectual and polemical history before Luther,,,, over the top and a product of its time.

Without The Creed and Calcedon 'the chief article' doesn't have a leg to stand on.

Eric Brown said...

Again, the point isn't that the Greek don't believe Justification by Grace in and of itself. However, there are other points of Greek Theology that are problematic - and if pushed could end up endangering justification by faith. There are errors in Greek theology. If one maintains a firm focus on JbF then one will not fall into those errors.

Yes, Lutherans think that the Greek Orthodox are not completely orthodox -- just as the Greeks think that we are not completely orthodox. Duh.

That's the point. While there are many issues where I am glad to have the Greek Orthodox on my side and defending the faith along side of me -- that does not mean that in all areas they are correct. Some of those areas can shift the focus (in practicality) from the Action of Christ.

I love it when the Greeks quote the ancient fathers on Justification. Way to be. Liturgical statements - many of them are fantastic. But the center and main way to understand the Christian faith is Justification by fath - for Jesus is the image of the invisible Father. And why is He this image? Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven. That's the point - and that which endangers that isn't to be shrugged off - be it in the Greek tradition, or be it that which is false and popping up in Lutheranism. And while I will apologize that position in the classical sense, I feel no need to wring my hands because others do not share this focus.

William Weedon said...

Fr. Hank,

The language of chief article antedates the Jesuit polemic, I believe.

To speak of our justification as the chief article is just to confess along with the Sacred Scriptures that what is proclaimed in the name of our Lord is "repentance unto the forgiveness of sins." (Luke 24) That all the Law and Prophets (and certainly the NT too) bear witness that "everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." (Acts 10:43). And that "through this man [there's Chalcedon and the whole christological struggle] forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by his everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses." (Acts 13:38,39) Note how all that is confessed before in these sermon snippets from Acts drives toward and concludes in the good news of forgiveness through faith in Christ. That's what we mean by "chief article." It does not in any way denigrate Christology or ecclesiology or any other doctrine of the Church, but allows them to find their proper place: marshalling them all to bring to poor sinners the joy of forgiveness full, free and final through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever!

William Weedon said...

Or said another way: If our blessed Lord was raised *for our justification* as the Apostle teaches, then the goal of His death and resurrection IS our justification. Thus also the Apostle coordinates "justification" and "life" for all through the free act of Christ's self-giving into death.

Anonymous said...


I would wonder what was all the hoopla about the "Chief Article" and how that "trumped" the Trinity, Incarnation, etc. The best Lutheran theologian I have found who has been able to explain it in "nickel words" is a former St. Louis prof., Ed Schroeder. I hope you don't mind, Fr. Weedon, me plugging another site on your blog but crossings.org, especially Thursday Theology is in my opinion, an excellent site for both clergy and lay-persons alike. For a recent piece about the chief article see Ed's recent piece, http://www.crossings.org/conference/HTGG_lect.pdf
I wonder Fr. Weedon, did you have Ed as a prof or was he before your stint at Concordia?

d pfarr

William Weedon said...

No, Ed walked in 1974, and I didn't arrive there for another 8 years. But I did get to meet him once. A very kind man, and I do enjoy his Crossings from time to time. But I wouldn't be surprised if Dr. Hein had Ed as a teacher.

Chris Jones said...


there are other points of Greek Theology that are problematic - and if pushed could end up endangering justification by faith.

I think this is bogus, for two reasons: first, it's not enough to say that there's something "problematic" which if pushed could end up endangering justification by faith -- not if you're going to use that as the basis for refusing to be in sacramental communion with brother Christians. You have to show not that something "could be" a heresy, but that it is a heresy (that is, not that it could, but that it does endanger justification by faith), if you are going to make it Church-dividing. Anything less is a sin against the unity of the Church.

Secondly, the focus of attention ought to be on the dogma that is proclaimed by a Church body, not the fine points of how their theologians explain it. The issue is not "points of theology", but the way that the Gospel is actually delivered in the Church's ministry of Word and Sacrament. That is why the liturgical witness of Orthodoxy (or of any Church body, including our own) is so important in understanding what that Church body's actual teaching is, where the rubber meets the road.

It is very easy to go through the writings of any denomination's theologians (ancient or modern) and find things that are "problematic" from one point of view or another -- and that includes the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. But that is not the same thing as what is actually delivered liturgically, in catechesis, and in the confessional day by day and week by week in that Church.

That is why I don't give much weight to alleged "theological problems" that might endanger the doctrine of justification.

christopher3rd said...

The primary argument against justification by grace alone through faith alone as the "chief article" is that it was not defined as the chief article for centuries. Arguing that for Paul it "must have been" is ignoring the fact that those closest to him in time, language and culture did not focus on this as "the chief article upon which the Church stands or falls". This, to my mind, would undermine its being chief.

Now, salvation generally is discussed in the Ante- and Post-Nicene Fathers, but I understand this to be more related to salvation from death than a forensic, legalistic payment for sins. Saved by Christ's blood is also pretty clearly about the medicine of salvation, the Eucharist, and not about a blood price paid on the cross.

My godson, who received his MDiv at Yale, related one of his professors lamenting how difficult it was for us in the West to read anything apart from the particular lens that Luther brought to the Bible. She said that it was almost impossible, and yet the Fathers were so obviously not speaking in the same terms, or with the same paradigm. The difficulty is in understanding concepts for which our 'language' does not have words (anymore, in the West).

Adam Roe said...


As a recent Lutheran convert who has also taken a peek at Orthodoxy, I hope my comments don't come across as naively dogmatic. That said, I am quite glad the Lutheran Church focuses primarily on justification, for I have found that any other focus tends to lead the laity (me included) toward focusing too far inwardly. As I've studied Orthodoxy and listened to a number of homilies, the point that consistently comes across is that I must prove myself justified; as if justification is a thing that happened in the past and I must now move forward in my sanctification. I don't know if that's the message that's supposed to come across, but it's the message I receive. I happen to work with several Orthodox Christians and that also seems to be the message they receive. They consistently speak of the works they do as being salvifically meritorius, yet separated from the objective work Christ does.

When we focus on justification, however, it grounds our sanctification in Christ's objective work; work that manifests itself as true through the union that only an objectively justified person can receive. To state it another way, if we preach Christ's objective justification of the believer, then sanctification will be a necessary result. You can't have union with Christ and not be made more holy. You can, however, receive teaching on sanctification that leads you to a law based understanding of justification. At some point the practical outworkings have to come into play.

I hope I don't sound like an uninformed moron.


Fr. Hank said...

Oh, be still by panting heart, OP and Crazy Ed, our VU undergrad term of endearment for Ed Schroeder, all in one day.

Pastor Weedon, all Nicene Christians must agree with your responses to my remarks. The point I was trying to make, is that without the Niceoconstanipolitan Creed and the definitions of Calcedon, the doctrine of justification, rightly received, was in jeapordy. The Trinitarian Dogma, for Pelikan the only *dogma* of the Church, and it's extension in the decrees on the Incarnation at Calcedon, safegard and rightly define the *doctrine* of justification, whichever iconographic form it might take. Dogma 'produces' and comes before doctrine.
For a sneak peek at what an Arian doctrine of justification would look like, check out the Qu'ran.

William Weedon said...

Christopher Orr,

I don't buy that it wasn't a big theme. If you read the homilies of St. John Chrysostom, you see the large part it played. Or of St. Augustine. Or of St. Peter Chrysologus.

I grant that it is not as big a theme (but not totally absent either) in the apostolic fathers. What I wonder about - and I may be off-base on this - is whether the role that the Scripture played in the 4th century fathers differed a bit from that of the earlier period when the canon was being gathered together and not yet recognized as such. The famous statement of Augustine that I cited to you on your blog from Contra Crescionum would be hard to image, say, in the mouth of Ignatius or Ireneaeus, but not at all difficult to imagine in the mouth of Chrysostom or Ambrose.

Chris Jones said...


You are certainly neither naive, uninformed, or a moron; and in matters pertaining to the Gospel, "dogmatic" is not a bad thing. That was a good post.

I will, if I may, gently differ with you on a few points. Not "differ with," exactly; but perhaps to clarify, if I may.

You wrote:

... the point that consistently comes across is that I must prove myself justified; as if justification is a thing that happened in the past and I must now move forward in my sanctification.

I don't think "proving oneself justified" is any different from what St Peter counsels us to do: give diligence to make your calling and election sure. The Formula of Concord alludes to this when it says:

And since the Holy Ghost dwells in the elect, who have become believers, as in His temple, and is not idle in them, but impels the children of God to obedience to God's commands, believers, likewise, should not be idle, and much less resist the impulse of God's Spirit, but should exercise themselves in all Christian virtues, in all godliness, modesty, temperance, patience, brotherly love, and give all diligence to make their calling and election sure, in order that they may doubt the less concerning it, the more they experience the power and strength of the Spirit within them.

So there is a sense in which we are to "move forward in our sanctification". And there certainly is a sense in which "justification is a thing that happened in the past": it was accomplished by the Cross, the tomb, the descent into hell, and the resurrection on the third day.

You go on:

They [your Orthodox acquaintances] consistently speak of the works they do as being salvifically meritorius, yet separated from the objective work Christ does.

I think they are confused if they regard their works as "meritorious", but it is permissible to say that the works which are the fruits of our faith, which are done in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, as "salvific" -- not because they are justifying, but because they are sanctifying. And their sanctifying character is not because they are our works, but because they are the Holy Spirit working in us. Nor can the fruits of faith ever be regarded as "separated from the objective work Christ does," because Christian ascesis is always grounded in the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church, which is how we are definitively connected to "the objective work Christ does" (see Augustana V).

Finally, you write:

... if we preach Christ's objective justification of the believer, then sanctification will be a necessary result. You can't have union with Christ and not be made more holy.

Yes and no. "Sanctification will be a necessary result" if the union with Christ, through faith, is maintained and the believer does not fall away and reject Christ. That is why Christian discipline, centered in faithful participation in the means of grace, is necessary: to safeguard and strengthen our faith, our union with Christ, from which our sanctification flows. It's right to focus on the objective character of our justification; but a focus on justification that neglects sanctification entirely, or that dismisses the need for discipline and cooperation with the Holy Spirit, results in a complacency which puts the believer in danger of a weakening faith and the possibility of falling away entirely.

William Weedon said...

Dear Adam,

I agree with Christopher. Your comments were helpful and in general right on. I think the caveats that Christopher lists are important too. But the way of salvation coming to us from the outside in - that is a beautiful emphasis of our Churches - and it well accords with: "Come, let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God." Eyes fixed on Jesus are not eyes scrounging around inside self, monitoring self improvement. And yet, as you say, we are changed by this fixing our eyes on Jesus, or as St. Paul would say, "we are transformed from one degree of glory to another" as we "behold as in a mirror the glory of the Lord" - which is nothing less than the Crucified! "Now is the Son glorified."

Thanks for reading and for writing!

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Jesus Christ Himself is of course the central article of the Christian Faith. More specifically, the rock upon which the Church is built is the confession that Jesus Christ is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Without that, everything else unravels. Unless He is God incarnate, He never rose from the dead and there is no justification. Unless He is God incarnate, He had no ability to send the Holy Spirit. All our "sacraments" are null without the Holy Spirit to change the bread and wine, to descend upon and sanctify the water of Holy Baptism. Unless He is God incarnate, He was just a liar and the Church is a fraud and the Holy Scriptures are bunk.

"Thou art the Messiah, the Son of the Living God." That, or rather HE,is the central article.

love in Christ,

DRB said...

Chris, why did the Fathers of the Church contend for the articles of the Trinity and the Incarnation? Why were those articles of the Catholic faith so important to them? Perhaps the Fathers knew that were God not both Triune and Incarnate, then neither could he have been our Savior. That is why Pieper said that you cannot trust Christ alone for your justification if you do not believe that he is the Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, etc. In other words, all articles of the Catholic faith are essential for us sinners precisely because we need justification by faith in the finished work of the Triune God.

Past Elder said...

Perhaps we're all looking at the proverbial different sides of the same elephant. The creed says, qui propter nos homines et propter nostram salutem descendit de coelis. What possible interest would I have that God is triune or became incarnate in Jesus Christ -- apart from an academic or media career -- unless it impacts my life in a way unavailable anywhere else. It's without that that everything else unravels.

Bishop Sheen used to say that the life of Jesus was unique in that he did not come to live but to die. For the rest of us, death is an interruption, a stopping, of what we were doing in life, but for him dying was the whole point of his life. So that those who exercise his Office of Holy Ministry could say, not in subjunctives or pious hopes, but cleanly and clearly In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Or for that matter Take, eat, this is my body, which is given for you; Drink of it, all of you, this cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.

Nothing more incarnational or trinitarian than that. The triune God did not become incarnate so that we could argue whether God is triune or incarnate. Even the Apostles themselves walked and talked with the Risen Lord as he explained everything from the Law and the Prophets, but they did not recognise him until he took the bread, blessed it and broke it and gave it to them, the pledge and testament of his saving death by which we are justified before God!

So I do not thing the centrality of the doctrine of justification is either a Western thing arising out of the obscurity into which it fell in the Western church under Rome, or that it makes the doctrines of the Trinity or the Incarnation or sanctification somehow secondary.

What it does is make Christianity not just another of the world's religions, with its unique doctrines about God and observances and funny clothes to wear while doing them, all of them leading to the same place, all of them equally culturally valid, all of them inspiring us to lead good lives -- and none of them stating that doctrine, ritual, good works, or anything else is of no avail before God unless it flows from the only name given under heaven among men by which they must be saved.

Steven G. said...

It seems to me that Dr. Hein is not comparing the relevant importance of the Articles of Christian Faith as he is warning of letting a ferver for one aspect of the Christian life so overhelm us that we adopt practices that work against the Gospel which is more important than our mission programs or liturgical practice. After all, the Gospel encapsulates all of the Articles of the Christian Faith.

I think the reason that Luther and the confesssions place justification at the center is because Christ is the center. He is where God and man meet.

Anonymous said...

Steven Hein writes:

I appreciate the many fine responses to my observations about Justification as the central article. The burden of my thrust is observing what happens when it gets pushed to the side by Servants of the Word for other pet articles of faith of concerning in the life of the Church

I think that when Luther was speaking of the article of Justification and
that upon which the Church stands or falls and that it is the chief article
of the Christian faith, this is looking at the matter from the standpoint of
answering the most important question of human existence: how can we secure
the future? How can we obtain favor with the God who is there who happens
to be the God of Nicea, Constantinople, and Chalcedon? This is the question
to which the chief-ness of Justification is contextualized.

The issues of who is the true God and what is the revealed mystery of his
incarnate Son are certainly foundational to the Christian faith ("The
Church's one foundation is Jesus Christ, our Lord . . .") But I would submit
that the Devil has a perfect assent and confession of the true God according
to our credal formulations . . . but he lacks that by which fallen ones may
obtain the favor of God.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

"...the most important question of human existence: how can we secure
the future? How can we obtain favor with the God..."

There's the key difference, perhaps. This is not the question Orthodoxy is all about answering. For us, the key question is that of the lover concerning the beloved: "How can I become one with God?"

That's quite different in emphasis and implication and where the attention is focussed.

love in Christ,

LotzaStitches said...

Anastasia Theodoridis said...
There's the key difference, perhaps. This is not the question Orthodoxy is all about answering. For us, the key question is that of the lover concerning the beloved: "How can I become one with God?"

That's quite different in emphasis and implication and where the attention is focussed.

My question/comment:

And where *is* the attention focused?

When I read your key question it implies to me that there is something *I* have to do to be saved. I know that Jesus has done it all and that I am just a poor miserable sinner covered in Christ's righteousness.

If I focus on my good works it reminds me of the sheep and the goats being separated on Judgement Day. The righteous ones weren't aware of their good works. They didn't even know when the good works were performed. The unrighteous ones reply "when did we *not* help you?" They were keeping track of their good works. They were sent away.
Matt 25:31-46

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

"And where *is* the attention focused?

"When I read your key question it implies to me that there is something *I* have to do to be saved."

No more than, "...the most important question of human existence: how can *we* secure
the future? How can *we* obtain favor with the God..."

Perhaps in both cases, we would have done better to express the question in the passive voice, as in, "How can our future be secured?" or "How can communion with God be accomplished?"

But to answer your question, the focus must always be upon Christ. (NOT as a means to an end, such as securing our future, but because He IS the End, the Goal, the Alpha and Omega, the Belonved.)

Thing is, Christ is both outside of us and inside the Christian, according to His promises. So we pay attention to Him both inside and outside of us.

Good works are for exercising and thereby "growing" (strengthening) our spirit, just as a workout in the gymn is for developing and strengthening your body. Good works make us good athletes for Christ, which is what gratitude and love (not to mention the many Scriptural exhortations)impel us to be.

Good works are NOT meritorious!

Even if they were, we could never rack up enough of them.

Even if we could rack up an infinite number of them, we still hold that they wouldn't constitute a ticket into heaven because *heaven just doesn't work that way* any more than a church does. (You don't present a ticket to get into Sunday morning services.)

I hope this helps to clear up the misconception.

love in Christ,

Jeff said...

...The unrighteous ones reply "when did we *not* help you?" They were keeping track of their good works. They were sent away.

That's an interesting bit of exegesis. The Fathers of the Church saw in here the fact that the goats did not minister to the sick at all. To assert that what is really being said is that those on the left did good works but were tallying them is interesting but goes beyond the clear meaning of Scripture, and certainly beyond the Fathers.

William Weedon said...


I think the interpretation offered was in the spirit of the earlier passage in Matthew 6, where our Lord told us that in our giving of alms to the poor we were not even to let the right hand know what the left was doing. There's no dispute that the Fathers are right in encouraging us from the Matt 25 passage to have a care for the poor - and also we Lutherans sing about this: "Wondrous honor thou hast give to our humblest charity in thine own mysterious sentence: 'Thou hast done it unto me.' Could it be, O gracious Master, thou dost deign for alms to sue, saying through thy poor and needy 'Give as I have given to you.'"

So, indeed, let us care for the poor, and for all in need, and let us love them as Christ Himself, but let us not find in such treatment of the poor the least cause for boasting in the presence of God. Rather, say as we have been bidden: "We are worthless servants; we have only done what was our duty."

Jeff said...

One more quick question, if I might. This is something I've never understood very well. It seems to me that the Lutheran view of justification is that we are justified because Christ died for our sins. IOW, he paid the price we were unable. What I'm left wondering is what is the importance of the Resurrection in this view? If justification is the main article, and it is accomplished essentially through the crucifixion, why is Good Friday not the biggest Holy Day of the year?

William Weedon said...


The Blessed Apostle teaches us that our Lord was "put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification." It is specifically the resurrection itself which justifies the sinner, because the resurrection is the declaration to all the world that the sacrifice offered on Calvary was accepted and that it avails for all.

Think of it in Jewish terms. How did the people know that the sacrifice offered by the High Priest on the dread Day of Atonement was accepted? They knew when he came out alive from behind the veil. And so the resurrection of our Lord in a body made utterly incorruptible and so the very source of life and immortality for us is the sure and certain sign that our sins have been forgiven in the sight of God, that we have indeed been justified.

William Weedon said...


Think also of how the Apostle expresses the negative in 1 Cor. 15. If Christ has not been raised: "then you are still in your sins."