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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Luther for the Armchair Theologian - Chapter 2

Two Words from God – not One only.

In chapter 1 we reviewed the basic fact that God and His salvation do not come from inside us but from outside. Thus a preacher is necessary. As St. Paul says it, “Faith comes by hearing” (Romans 10).

This leads to a second point. Anything that is already inside of us and can be learned, accessed, or figured out without a preacher is not that preached word which creates us anew and gives life. God’s Word which gives life (the Gospel) says something more than God’s Word telling us how we are supposed to be and behave. This Gospel alone has the power to rescue from death and the devil and give eternal salvation to all who believe it.

Thus there are two Words that the Bible teaches – both of which are from God. First, there is God’s Law teaching us how we are supposed to think and feel and speak and do. Second, there is God’s Gospel which literally creates us into this kind of person by giving us Jesus.

Knowing about these two different Words, we are now equipped to guard against two different falsehoods: Legalism and Antinomianism.

Legalism is the opinion that we can be saved by trying harder and harder to measure up to the Word of the Law. This opinion can be found both within the Church and outside the Church. Legalistic Christian teachers emphasize the Ten Commandments as the way of salvation as though that is all you need to be saved. Legalistic non-christian teachers say that “all you need is love.” You don't need preaching or sacraments or Christ, just do the god things that your consciences tells you to do. Both deny that it is God's Word of Gospel – and that alone – which saves.

Antinomianism is the opinion that God's forgiveness is so radical that any and all references to the Ten Commandments are no longer true. They treat Christ as a different kind of God than the One who gave the Ten Commandments and talk about the Holy Spirit doing a “new thing” as though we are saved to follow a completely different kind of life than the one taught in the whole of Scripture. Thus they deny that the Word of Law is from the same God as the Word of the Gospel and treat our re-creation in Christ as though we are made into something completely different than anything that has appeared on earth before.

We, on the other hand, believe that God speaks two Words: the Word of Law which forever describes the thoughts, words and deeds of Adam (true humanity), and the Word of the Gospel which makes us truly human by bringing us Jesus who is the New and True Adam.

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