06 August 2012

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The secret of God is the simplicity of the holy gospel by which the Holy Spirit for Jesus' sake forgives sins. He reorders the whole life with God on the basis of a gift, where no money is needed to buy our life. From this simplicity of the gospel there grows a wealth and abundance of holiness of living. —Dr. Kenneth Korby, Lord Jesus Christ, Will You Not Stay?, p. 366.


Unknown said...

“The secret of God is …” Did he really mean “secret of God”, or is it just a way of saying “most people do not know …”? Because if it is a “secret of God” then how does the writer know it? Did he receive a special revelation, or did he find it in Scripture? We do not seriously consider it to be the former, but if the latter, than it is no longer a secret, but there for anyone to read, and for those who “hear His voice”, to understand.

“The simplicity of the holy gospel …” If we assume that the entire Gospel consists of the fact that our Savior lived, suffered, and died for our salvation, then it is indeed simple. But during our Lord’s earthly pilgrimage, He also proclaimed “the Gospel of the Kingdom”. The Synoptic Gospels refer to “the Gospel” in connection with our Lord 14 times; of these 4 times our Lord spoke of the “Gospel of the Kingdom.” Not once did He speak of the Gospel in connection with His suffering and death. In Luke 4:43 He said, “I must preach the Gospel of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” When you read the many Parables about the Kingdom, that Gospel becomes more and more complicated. Only rarely did He speak about the suffering and death He was to undergo. So was this a different Gospel?

“by which the Holy Spirit for Jesus' sake forgives sins.” Presumably, in this case, “by” means “according to which” in the sense that this is what the Gospel says. It does not mean a use of the Gospel that forgives sins, inasmuch as only God can forgive sins. But do Jesus and God the Father not also forgive sin? When we pray, “Our Father”, does the Father then ask the Holy Spirit to forgive us? I am not saying that the Holy Spirit cannot forgive sins, because He is equal to the Father and the Son; moreover, we confess in the Small Catechism that the Holy Spirit indeed does “daily and richly” forgive our sins. But that is done within the context of the Church, and again things become a bit more complicated. Because “the Church” is nothing else but “the Kingdom of God” according to our Confessions.

“He reorders the whole life with God on the basis of a gift…” What is the gift? Salvation? Salvation is indeed a gift, but there are other gifts without which the Gospel looses Its meaning. When, in Acts 2 Peter responds to the crowd’s plea, “what should we do?” he says, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” So are Salvation and the Holy Spirit one and the same gift?

“From this simplicity of the gospel there grows a wealth and abundance of holiness of living.” From a secret? This formulation reflects the proclamation of the Lutheran Church for many decades. Scripture and our Confessions, on the other hand, insist that a new creature, in which the Holy Spirit dwells, rises out of the waters of Baptism. It is this new creature that desires to do the will of God, albeit imperfectly, because of its nature. We don’t live holy lives because the Gospel very simply explains to us that we should be good, or even grateful. Or am I misunderstanding something here? Maybe so, but it does not appear to be all that simple.

I am convinced that part of the problem is that we Lutherans have for years neglected the fullness of the Gospel and the true teaching of the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (an argument Sasse made about the latter, so don’t come after me). As to the Gospel, “Certainly we must never conceive ‘salvation’ in purely negative terms, as if it consisted only of our rescue from sin, guilt, wrath and death. We thank God that it is all these things. But it also includes the positive blessing of the Holy Spirit to regenerate, indwell, liberate and transform us.” (John R. W. Stott, Baptism and Fullness. The Work of the Holy Spirit today. Inter Varsity Press, P. 25, 26.)

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

William Weedon said...

Secret in the sense that Paul speaks of the Gospel being a mystery hidden until it was revealed!

The gospel ALWAYS includes both what we have been saved from AND what we are saved for: being temples of the Spirit, heirs of the Kingdom, children of the Father's house, etc.

The mystery of God's merciful embrace of us in Jesus is what produces the holiness in our lives. Or, as St. John said so well that none have said it better: we love because He first loved us. In the embrace of His love, we are set free to love.

Over all, I think you'd largely be on the same page as Dr. Korby, George, though you'd have a rip roaring argument about God's wrath. I'd love to hear that!


Unknown said...

Dear Rev. Weedon: Because I was over the 4 thousand or so characters the blog allows, I had to cut the part where I admitted that I hesitate to make these comments, knowing that Dr. Korby was a great teacher, preacher, and theologian. The fact is that I struggled for a long time, both in preparing the post, and then deciding whether to send it.

It bothers me when beautifully phrased pious statements are posted and nobody cares that their meaning gets to be a little murky. We tend to be dazzled by the metaphor.

Knowing that you are a working man and have other things to do than argue with me, I will confine myself to one brief counter comment on the subject of what produces holiness in our lives. Scripture and our Confessions are clear: it is the fact that God makes us new creatures in Baptism, and the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us. Thereafter God in His mercy sees to it that this new creature is raised by devout parents, taught by faithful teachers and pastors, and has opportunity to hear the saving Gospel throughout his life and to be strengthened in the faith by the Body and Blood or our Savior. Indeed John said, “We love because He first loved us,” but that does not cover everything that God has revealed about salvation and sanctification. Although it is a cause and effect statement, it does not cover in that one word, “love”, all of the details of what God did for us in loving us. If all it took to make someone a loving person is for God to love him, then everybody would be loving, for “God so loved the world …” Just 5 verses earlier, John says, “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” St. Paul, in Romans 5 also writes about how we came to love, and he also says that God loved us first, but he writes, (v5), “…because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” As much as I love the Parable of the Gracious Father (my own name for what most people call “The Prodigal Son”), it was not intended to even imply that because of all that embracing, dressing, and ring-giving, the son who had returned immediately became a loving person. There are other passages in Scripture which cover that without taking away anything from the mercy and grace of God with which He embraces each one of His children.

But you will not disagree with this: Sawyer is an unbelievably beautiful little baby. Blessings on him, his parents, grandparents and extended family.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart