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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Luther for the Armchair Theologian - Chapter 1

Every man-made religion in the world begins with the inside and goes out from there. “God helps those who help themselves” was just Benjamin Franklin’s way of saying “do what is within you” which was a popular medieval saying.

The problem with this advice is twofold. First, what is within you is why you are in the predicament you are in (Mark 7:21). Second, you can never truly say that you have done “what is within you.” No matter how hard you try, there is always some improvement that you could have made.

Jesus, therefore, points us to something altogether different. Not “what is within you” but “Who is outside of you.” God does what you cannot and God does it perfectly when you cannot. And what God does is to become a man — “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14).

God the Word is external to us. This is why salvation is through preaching and not through meditation. It is through eating and not ruminating (chewing cud). Salvation is through being washed and not washing ourselves.

And this external Word and preaching doesn’t just offer advice in holy living, or encouragement to try harder, it actually kills the old man and creates a brand new man.

Thus, the lies of the world are exposed and corrected.
  • The world is not progressing toward a higher goal...it is ending and being created anew.
  • People are not what they do...they are what God makes them by His creating Word.
  • Humans are never acting on their own as though independent from their creator...they are being acted on by God who kills us and raises us anew.
  • Freedom is not found in us creating ourselves by an act of free will...freedom is, rather, a total confidence in God who makes us who we are--Lords of everything and servants of everyone.
  • God does not rule His kingdom by the system of rewards and punishment that we see in the kingdoms of this world. God rules His kingdom by giving death and life to His adopted children just as He gave the cross and resurrection to His only-begotten Son.
  • Death cannot be overcome by good behavior or by thinking correctly...death is overcome by Christ who gives us to participate in Himself through His flesh and blood.

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