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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Synodical Conference–1872, Part 4

This continues the series of blog posts (Table of Contents is in Part 1) publishing my translation of the published essay from the inaugural meeting of the Synodical Conference in 1872.  This covers pages 32-35 from the original German essay.
How exhausting this work of translation is, but Dear God!... what a heavenly joy it is to read from Luther and Walther on the heart of God!
Part 4
===============  Synodical Conference–1872  ===============
"Over the Doctrine of Justification."
by C.F.W. Walther
(cont'd from Part 3)

Luther says about this:

The dearest and most comforting doctrine of the Gospel speaks [SCR 33] nothing of works, which are commanded in God's Law or by men; but it preaches and teaches only of the incomprehensible, inexpressible mercy and love of God, which He has shown towards us unworthy and condemned sinners; namely that He, the most kindly, most merciful Father saw that we were so pitifully oppressed powerfully held down by the curse of the Law, so that by our own powers we could not have worked our way out in all eternity, nor redeemed or liberated ourselves from it. And therefore He sent His only-begotten Son into the world, threw all sins of all men on Him, and said to Him thus: You are Peter, who denied, Paul, who persecuted, blasphemed, and practised all violence, David, who committed adultery, etc., also the sinner who ate the apple in Paradise, the murderer who hung on the cross, in sum, You shall be what all men are, as if You alone had committed all men's sins; therefore consider now how You will pay and make satisfaction for them. There comes at once the Law, accuses Him and says: Here I find this One among the sinners, yes, Him Who has taken all men's sins upon Himself and carries them, and besides this I see no sin in the whole world, anymore, except on Him alone; therefore He shall yield Himself and die the death of the Cross. Thus the Law with its accusation and terror presses upon Him with full force and slays Him. Through this innocent death of Christ the whole world is purified and released from sin and thereby redeemed from death and from [KM 12] all evil. Since now through this one Mediator between God and men, Jesus Christ, sin and death have been taken away, the whole world would indeed be so pure that our Lord God could see nothing in it except pure righteousness and holiness--if only we could believe it. And even if something of sin should still remain, God still would not be able to see such sins for this clear, bright sun, which is Christ. There is no lack on that side; for Christ has carried the sin of the whole world, made satisfaction for it; but the lack is in us, who believe it weakly. If we believed it completely, we should indeed already be saved and in Paradise. But the old sack that still hangs about our neck does not let us come to such certain faith. Therefore it is highly necessary that we press unceasingly the article of the righteousness which we have in Christ, and make it great and glorious against the righteousness which comes out of the Law and works; although there is likely no language and rhetoric in the whole world, which can adequately grasp its greatness and glory, much less exhaust it. And just this argument which St. Paul treats here is very fitting and powerful against all sorts of righteousness of the law, not to mention the straw righteousness of human ordinances. For of these two things one must certainly and indisputably be true: Namely, if all the world's sins [SCR 34] lie on the single man Jesus Christ, as the Holy Spirit testifies through Isaiah 53:6, then of course they do not lie on the world; but if they do not lie on Him, then, without fail, they must certainly still lie on the world. Again, if Christ Himself has become guilty of all our sins, which we have ever committed, then we are indeed absolved, free, and acquitted of all sins; but this has not happened through ourselves, our works or merit, but through Him; but if He is innocent and does not bear our sins, then we must bear them ourselves, and die and eternally perish under them, as under a heavy and unbearable burden. To God be praise and thanks, Who has given us victory and conquest through Jesus Christ, our dear Lord, Amen" (Galatians Commentary 1535, St. Louis Edition 9, pgs 372-373, parags. 333-337; Walch VIII, pp. 2172 ff., parags. 333-337, American Edition 26, pg. 280).

The fanatics generally imagine the matter like this, that our dear Lord Jesus Christ suffered, died, and rose and in general brought about what Scripture calls reconciliation, so that the dear God might now be enabled to take a man simply for the sake of his conversion to heaven. They do not believe that through Christ everything without exception has happened what had to happen in order for God to be able to save us and give us eternal life; but that through Christ everything has happened and that God therefore gives us heaven freely without charge, without our contribution, that they do not believe.  Something, they believe, yet still remains for man to do, and this something, they believe, is conversion.  But Scripture teaches that Christ has done all, and has already acquired for us reconciliation with God, righteousness, entitlement to be children of God, that it lies there in readiness and is distributed in the holy Christian church through the Gospel.  Now no one has to do [KM 13] anything more than to accept salvation. For righteousness is there, the reconciliation of God with all men has happened, and now nothing more is to be done than that man comfort himself with what Christ has done.  This is what we wish to say when we speak of an complete redemption. Not that man is already in possession of something and that God only supplies the remainder, or that God has done something, and man supplies the rest, but that God has already done all.  When Lutherans who otherwise use Lutheran phrases, deny that God is reconciled with the whole world, then they must again and again deny what they have granted. The wrathful God after all cannot offer forgiveness, but only that God who, as He has revealed it in the Gospel, loves all in Christ, because they have been purchased by Him.  Of course the man who is to be saved must be converted, but this conversion is not the cause why God saves, but the way in which the man comes to faith, who does nothing but that he accepts the completed and already given redemption.
[SCR 35]
The blessings of the Kingdom of God are there not only are there not only for those in that Kingdom, but they are there for all and for all acquired. There is room for all, but all do not take possession of the room. Those who oppose the doctrine of the perfection of the redemption of Christ, usually say: Yes, Christ has redeemed us all, but we are not perfectly redeemed until we believe.  But those who say that do not at all consider what they claim.  For if I am to be saved through believing that I am redeemed, that I am reconciled with God, that my sins are forgiven me, so all that must already be there beforehand.  Nobody will be so foolhardy to think that [LS XXX/23, 178-2] through his believing that something happens, he causes it really to happen; whoever thought thus would be a superstitious man. But that is not a Christian, so he believes what has happened. Therefore as certainly as God's Word assures us that we are to become righteous, to be reconciled with God and be saved, so surely all these things must be there already before my faith, and they await only that I accept them.  When we claim: what you are to believe must already be previously there, we do not by any means want to give people the comfort: If you even do not believe, that won't do any harm, you can still slip into heaven regardless, because satisfaction has been made for you. No, rather we witness to them that their condemnation, if they do not believe, will therefore be all the more terrible, because God has already set the table and everything was prepared, but they would not come; therefore none of the despisers shall taste of His supper.  But that man through faith alone becomes righteous is possible because that which is necessary for being saved is already there and has been done, so that from my side only accepting is necessary.  But it is just this acceptance which Scripture calls believing.  The righteous God could take no man to heaven if He were not first reconciled with him; since He now receives into heaven all who believe, righteousness and reconciliation must already be there and have happened. That Christ has acquired for us by His life, suffering, and death, and God has confirmed it by raising Him from the dead, for that was the resurrection of our Substitute (Bürgen). [LS paragraph] The enthusiasts regard faith not as a mere hand, but as a condition, which man fulfills and for the sake of which God receives man into heaven, whereas faith is really nothing but an empty hand, which I put forth in order that God might fill it.  If therefore I had nothing more than faith, and not Christ (which of course is not possible), then I would go to hell together with my faith, because it is not the act of believing that makes me acceptable to God, [KM 14] but it is Christ and His righteousness, which I grasp with the hand of faith.  But that it is which all enthusiasts overlook.  They still want to find a place for the activity of man; so they locate this now in his faith, now in his repentance, now in his conversion, now in his sanctification. Of course, [SCR 36] as was said before, no man can enter heaven if he is not converted and has a new heart,...

= = = = = = continued in Part 5 = = = = = = = = =
In the next Part 5, ...

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