Monday, October 31, 2011

The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church

Dear Reader,

If you are a WELS Lutheran, it's quite possible that you've never heard of him. He's LCMS after all. It's also quite possible that you've never heard of this particular presentation of his, which has become something of a modern classic among confessional Lutherans in America. Regardless, it has come to our attention that Dr. Rod Rosenblatt's (Prof. Emeritus, Concordia-Irvine) The Gospel for those Broken by the Church, both an audio presentation and study guide, is now available for FREE from New Reformation Press. They had been selling it for a nominal fee, but through arrangements with a Lutheran congregation, along with an outreach organization, which found it important enough to distribute this presentation more broadly, it is now available free of charge. Dr. Rosenblatt is a well known confessional Lutheran and apologist from the LCMS. He was a close associate of Dr. John Warwick Montgomery and Dr. Walter Martin back when they all taught at Simon Greenleaf School of Law, and Montgomery and Rosenblatt remain associates to this day in their apologetic endeavors, along with Mr. Craig Parton, Esq. We at Intrepid Lutherans have in the past featured the works of Dr. Martin ('non rockaboatus' is an organizational disease: Lectures by Walter Martin) and Mr. Parton ("The New White-Wine Pietists," by Craig Parton).

Anyway, this particular presentation is directed at those embittered toward the Church through bad experiences of various kinds, who perhaps never really heard the Gospel or understood the Church's message. Its intended audience would include (former) Christians of "Bible-believing" churches, and has gained a good reputation over the years for communicating to such folks. We include the audio below, and links to the New Reformation Press sources for the Audio and Study Guide. As with all materials we reference, we expect that those accessing this presentation will exercise mature Berean judgment in assessing and making use of it.

Dr. Rod Rosenblatt: The Gospel for those Broken by the Church

The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church

Friday, October 28, 2011

Chemnitz and the Two Tribunals - a Fitting Meditation for the Reformation

The justification of the sinner through faith alone in Christ was the Gospel that thrilled Luther and that fueled the Reformation. Below is an excerpt from Chemnitz' Loci Theologici in which he beautifully pictures the "act of justification" as the Apostle Paul presents it in Romans 3.


Paul clearly describes the act of justification in this way in Romans 3:
  1. The conscience of the sinner is through the Law placed before the judgment tribunal of God (who is a consuming fire and in whose sight not even the stars are pure), is accused, convicted, and condemned, so that it is afflicted and pressed down by a terrifying sense of the wrath of God, Rom. 3:19 KJV: “… that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God”.

  2. The heart thus contrite does not entertain Epicurean thoughts but anxiously seeks whether and how it can be freed from the comprehensive sentence of condemnation. From such thoughts come such passages as Ps. 130:3: “If You should mark iniquities ….”; Ps. 143:2: “Enter not into judgment …”; Rom. 7:24: “Who shall deliver me …?” Paul, by listing these points, shows that if anything can justify before God, it necessarily would be either the ethical system of the philosophers, according to the teachings of men, or the works of the divine law, because the Law has the promise of righteousness and eternal life. But Rom. 1:18 ff. shows that the teachings and ethical principles of philosophers cannot justify. And Rom. 3:20 says: “By the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified.” For the Law shows and accuses the sin present even in our good works, because “the Law is weak through the flesh,” Rom. 8:3.

  3. Therefore God, “who is rich in mercy” [Eph. 2:4], has had mercy upon us and has set forth a propitiation through faith in the blood of Christ, and those who flee as suppliants to this throne of grace He absolves from the comprehensive sentence of condemnation, and by the imputation of the righteousness of His Son, which they grasp in faith, He pronounces them righteous, receives them into grace, and adjudges them to be heirs of eternal life. This is certainly the judicial meaning of the word “justification,” in almost the same way that a guilty man who has been sentenced before the bar of justice is acquitted.
It is manifest how much clarity this gives to the discussion of justification. The fathers in disputing this matter often spoke inadequately about justification. But in their devotional writings, when they were looking at the picture of the divine judgment or the divine judicial process, they handled the doctrine of this article very well.

The example of Bernard [of Clairvaux, 1091–1153] shows this clearly, because he was not involved in idle speculations but was exercising himself in the serious matter of repentance based on the doctrine and testimony of Paul. Gerson has some wonderful thoughts about the tribunal of God’s justice and the throne of His grace. For if we are discussing our common position before the tribunal of God, we are all subject to the tribunal of His justice; and because before Him no living person can be justified but all are condemned, therefore God has also set up another tribunal, the throne of grace. And the Son of God pleads for us the benefit of being called away from the tribunal of justice to the throne of grace. Therefore the Pharisee, because he was not willing to use the benefit of this calling, but wanted to enter into judgment before the tribunal of justice, was condemned. But the publican, who was first accused at the tribunal of justice, convicted and condemned there, later by faith called out to the throne of grace and was justified [Luke 18:9–14].

All these points so beautifully illustrating the doctrine of justification come from the correct linguistic understanding of the word “justification.”

Chemnitz, M., & Preus, J. A. O. (1999). Loci theologici (electronic ed.) (481–482). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Enchiridion - Faith

152 What is Justifying Faith, of Which Scripture Speaks?

    The definition of faith is well known; but to the unlearned it can most simply be explained thus: The object of faith in general is the Word of God; for we ought to apply faith to every Word divinely given and revealed. But justifying faith has its own and special object that it seeks in Holy Scripture and that it regards and apprehends, namely Christ our Mediator and the promise of grace, which is given for the sake of Christ. Rom 3:24-25; 4:13,16; Gal 3:22.

      [PAR – Chemnitz repeats yet again what the object of justifying faith is: “Christ our Mediator and the promise of grace, which is given for the sake of Christ.”]

153 But How Does Faith Apprehend and Embrace the Object that is Proper to It?

    First, it learns from the Word of God to recognize the person, office, merit, and benefits of Christ; all these things it holds to be altogether true and certain. Eph 1:17; 4:13; Col 2:2.

    Second, justifying faith apprehends all those things not as simple history, nor only insofar as they are in themselves true in general, but in such a way that it specifically includes the person of the believer in that promise of grace, so that each believer apprehends and receives Christ in the Word and the Sacraments with true confidence of the heart as given personally to him, and applies them to himself individually. And though this faith is often attacked by various temptations and of itself is weak and languid, yet it surely is faith by which each one specially or warmly believes and trusts that sins are forgiven him by God for the sake of Christ, that he is received into grace, [and] that he is adopted into the sonship of God. Jn 1:12; 3:15–16; Ro 1:16; 3:22; 4:16, 23-24; 5:1-2; 8:35, 38–39; 10:4,9; 1 Ti 1:16; Mt 9:22; Lk 7:50.

      [PAR – Just a note here on the three phrases toward the end: “that sins are forgiven him by God…that he is received into grace…that he is adopted into the sonship of God.” Chemnitz coordinates all three of these phrases. They accompany one another. God forgives a person his sins, God receives a person into grace, and God adopts a person as His son. Why? Because God examines a person's faith and then approves it and rewards it? No, but because through faith in Christ, we receive Christ and are clothed with Christ, and therefore God judges us, not based on our faith, but based on Christ, whom he graciously sees in us who believe. Just as our adoption as God’s sons takes place through Baptism and faith (Gal. 3:26-27), so also the reception of grace and having one’s sins forgiven take place through Baptism and faith.]

154 What If a Secure Epicurean, Without Repentance, Holding Fast to the Intent to Continue in Sins, Forms This Conviction, that He Nevertheless Has a Merciful God-is that Kind of Conviction True and Justifying Faith?

    By no means. For faith is not this kind of conviction, that it is immaterial before God to remain in sins or desist from sins, to love sins or detest them; true faith likewise does not seek this in Christ, that it dares to indulge in sins and give rein to them securely and freely, without any fear, in the hope of impunity. But the nature and property of true faith is seen and recognized in sincere repentance, namely when the heart acknowledges its sins in such a way that it seriously shudders in acknowledging the wrath of God, and no longer delights in sin, but is seriously and earnestly troubled, lest it fall into danger of eternal damnation. When faith, in such repentance or contrition, looks around for Christ, seeks [Him], looks to [Him] and apprehends [Him], desiring, seeking, believing, and trusting that sins are remitted to him for the sake of Christ, etc., this very thing is a very sure indication of true and justifying faith. Is 61:1; 66:2; Mt 9:12.

155 But You May Find Many Who Boast that They Have Faith, Though They Neglect and Despise the Word and the Sacraments.

    One departs from true faith also this way. Hearing the Word, and faith, are correlative, for faith is conceived, nourished, and increased thereby. He who wants to apprehend Christ by faith must know where he should look and [where] he can find Him, namely in the Word and the Sacraments. Likewise, if faith, as our hand, is to receive anything from God, we must not seek it outside the Word and without the Word, out of the air, as it were, but receive [it] from the hand of God, which He opens in the Word and the Sacraments, offering us the fullness of His grace. For God has determined to deal with us at this point through the Word of the Gospel and the Sacraments. Ro 10:17; Tts 3:5.

156 Can Man by His Own Free Will or by Virtue of His Own Powers Acquire This Faith?

    No. 2 Thess 3:2. It is a gift of God, Philippians 1:29, not of yourselves, Eph 2:8. By nature we are foolish and slow of heart to believe, Lk 24:25. God opens and enlightens the heart and mind and kindles faith in the heart. Lk 24:25; Acts 16:14; 2 Co 4:6; Eph 1:17–18. Faith is not wrought by our human powers, but according to the working of the mighty power of God, Eph 1:19.

157 Are There, Then, in the Activity and Exercise of Faith No Actions or Feelings of the Human Mind, Will, and Heart Whatever?

    The intellect, heart, and will of man (of whatever kind they are of themselves by the first birth, before they are illumined and renewed by the Holy Spirit) cannot contribute anything or cooperate in beginning and establishing faith. 1 Co 2:14; 2 Co 4:4; Dt 29:4. For reason is by nature in conflict with faith. Lk 24:25; 1 Co 2:14. Therefore it is to be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 2 Co 10:5. Yet faith does not exist without certain feelings or actions in the mind, will, and heart of man. For faith is nothing else than assent in the mind, and trust in the will, regarding, apprehending, accepting, and applying to itself the promise of grace. As for the rest, man cannot by his own natural powers conceive, begin, and perfect those feelings, nor does he have this of himself, but it is a special gift of God, who works that very thing in the intellect, heart, and will of man by the power and efficacy of the Holy Spirit.

      [PAR – It is often asserted that the teaching of “universal objective justification” is necessary in order to guard against synergism (that is, the teaching that faith is man’s contribution to his salvation). Likewise, it is asserted that the formulation of UOJ in the 19th and early 20th Centuries was vital in combating the synergists who gave at least some credit to man in producing faith. But already in the 16th Century, the notable theologian Martin Chemnitz had clearly shown that faith is in no way acquired by man’s own free will or by virtue of his own powers. It was not and is not necessary to formulate a new approach to teaching justification in order to guard against synergism. Already here in his 16th Century Enchiridion Chemnitz had defeated the 19th century synergists.]

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Enchiridion - Justification, Part 2

149 Are All Men Justified and Saved Because of This Righteousness of the Son of God?

    The way is broad that leads to damnation, and there are many that walk in it. Mt 7:13.

      [PAR – Here Chemnitz asks the very specific question: “Are all men justified?” He makes no distinctions, as modern theologians have done. He does not speak of an “objective sense” in which all men are justified, and then a “subjective sense” in which only believers are justified. Nothing of the sort. He simply responds to this simple question with a simple answer, “There are many who walk on the way that leads to damnation.” In other words, “No, not all men are justified. Far from it.”]

150 What, Then is the Reason? Did Christ Not Make Satisfaction for All? or Does the Heavenly Father Not Want This Benefit to Be Common to All?

    The cause or fault of damnation is by no means to be ascribed to God. For Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, 1 Jn 2:2. And the will of God is that no one should perish, but that all be saved. 1 Ti 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9; Eze 18:23; Mt 18:14. But it is by the fault of men that not all are saved, because not all accept that benefit. Jn 1:5, 10–11; 3:19. For it is necessary that the benefit or merit of Christ become ours (Ro 8:32), that is, that it be applied to us, so that each one accept and apprehend it (Jn 1:12), and thus Christ be in us (Jn 6:56) and we be found in Him (Ph 3:8–9).

      [PAR – Certainly Christ made atonement for the sins of the whole world, according to Chemnitz. And certainly God wants all men to be saved. Those who are not saved have only themselves to blame for not accepting “that benefit.” And what is “that benefit” that they do not all accept? “The benefit or merit of Christ,” that is, the righteousness of Christ and the satisfaction for sins that has been made by Christ. That is what is offered to men in the Gospel and applied to those who have faith.]

151 By What Means is Christ, or the Merit of Christ, Applied to Us?

    For that application two things are absolutely required: First, that God, through the Holy Spirit set forth, offer, present, and give to us that benefit. For this purpose God has established a certain means or instrument, namely the word of the Gospel and the Sacraments. That means is, as it were, the hand of God, which He extends and opens to us, offering and presenting to us the merit and benefits of His Son for our salvation. Ro 10:17; 2 Co 5:19–20; Titus 3:5.

      [PAR – So according to Chemnitz, in order for justification to take place, the merit of Christ must be applied to the sinner. The first necessary element in this application is the Means of Grace. Through the Means of Grace (“the word of the Gospel and the Sacraments”), God’s own hand extends to us sinners and offers and presents to us the merit and benefits of Jesus. The merit and benefits of Christ are complete for all. The righteousness of Christ is valid for all. But “justification,” that is, “the righteousness of Christ applied to sinner,” only comes through the Means of Grace. It does not occur without the Means of Grace as Chemnitz defines justification.]

    The other thing that is required for application is that we apprehend, receive, and apply to ourselves the benefit of the sons of God that is offered and presented to us in the Word and the Sacraments; this is done by no other means or instruments than faith. Ro 1:17; 3:28; 4:5; Jn 3:15–16; Gl 3:22, 24. For faith is, as it were, our hand with which we take, apprehend, and accept the benefits of Christ. Jn 1:12. And it is a kind of bond by which we are bound to Christ, that He might be and dwell in us (Eph 3:17) and that we might be found in Him (Ph 3:8–9).

      [PAR – Faith alone receives the benefits of Christ offered in the Means of Grace. Again, the “benefits of Christ” is not “the justification of the world.” Nowhere does Chemnitz assert such a thing. No, the “benefits of Christ” which the hand of faith receives is the perfect obedience of Christ and the innocent death of Christ. This faith, says Chemnitz, is the bond that unites us to Christ. This is the one and only way in which Chemnitz speaks of justification taking place – only by faith in Christ.]

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Enchiridion - Justification

145 In What, Then, Does Justification of Man the Sinner Before God Consist According to the Statement of the Gospel?

    In this very thing, that God imputes to us the righteousness of the obedience and death of Christ the Mediator and thus justifies us freely out of grace, without our works or merits, alone by faith that apprehends the grace of God the Father and the merit of Christ; that is, He forgives us [our] sins, receives [us] into grace, adopts [us] as [His] sons, and receives [us] to the inheritance of life eternal. Ro 4:24–25, 28; 4:5; 10:4; Gal 3:24; Eph 2:8–9; Titus 3:5–7.

      [PAR – Chemnitz makes no distinction at all here between “objective” justification and “subjective” justification. He speaks of the Justification of “Man the Sinner,” which, in UOJ terminology, is the same as saying “mankind / the whole world of sinners/ all people.” But there is no justification of “Man the Sinner” in Chemnitz’s definition except “alone by faith.”

      By definition, “justification” in Chemnitz’s language is the actual imputation of the righteousness of the obedience and death of Christ to the one who believes. Where there is no faith, there is no imputation of the righteousness of Christ, and therefore, no justification at all.

      Also important is Chemnitz’s constant repetition describing the object of faith. A sinner is not to have faith that “the whole world has been justified.” Instead, faith “apprehends the grace of God the Father and the merit of Christ.” Chemnitz appears to know of no other justification than this, no “objective righteous status of all people” assumed to be in the background. He fully defines justification here in this answer: “that God forgives us our sins, receives us into grace, adopts us as His sons, and receives us to the inheritance of life eternal.”]

146 But to Justify, by Reason of Etymology or Composition, is the Same as to Make Just; And Since the Holy Ghost Renews Believers, So that They Yield Their Members Instruments of Righteousness (Rom. 6:13), Surely Justification Consists in that Renewal of the Holy Ghost, or in the New Obedience of the Reborn.

    One must not determine the true meaning of the word justify by Latin usage, for it is a special word proper to the Holy Scriptures. For when Scripture wants to say that someone is cleared of a charge that was aimed [at him] and of the sentence of damnation, it uses the word justify in a forensic sense and often in antithesis, opposing damnation with justification. Dt 25:1; Prov 17:15; Ro 5:18; 8:33–34. Now, at this point the Holy Spirit was pleased [to use] the word justification in a forensic sense. For the whole process or act of the reconciliation of man the sinner with God is simply and clearly represented, as it were, with the word justify. For this matter is not handled incidentally or lightly, but seriously and, what is more, before the court of God and God Himself the judge. For the Law summons us to the tribunal of divine judgment, where it not only accuses us of sin, but completely convicts us. And since before that just court of God every mouth is to be stopped and the whole world [is to be] subject to God (Ro 3:19), therefore Moses pronounces against us the sentence of death and condemnation. 2 Co 3:7, 9; Dt 27:26. Therefore when our conscience, now convicted of sins and therefore made subject to eternal death and damnation, anxiously looks about for something with which to oppose this just judgment of God, so that it might avoid and evade the broad sentence of damnation, it finds nothing at all. But finally God Himself, rich in mercy, sets His Son before us in the Gospel as atonement. Ro 3:25. And those who through faith take recourse to that Son the Mediator, and apprehend Him by faith—those the Father justifies from the charge placed by the Law and from the sentence of condemnation; that is, He absolves [them] for the sake of Christ, and, by imputation of the obedience and death of Christ, declares [them] righteous and awards them life eternal. Ro 8:33–34. And this is the process or act of the justification of a sinner before the judgment seat of God, so that he appeals from the throne of the strict justice of God to the throne of grace in the blood of the Son of God, as Gerson describes the matter of justification by the apt simile of forensic appeal.

      [PAR – Chemnitz could not be clearer here. He describes the whole process of justification. According to his description, the world does not stand righteous before God. On the contrary, the world stands convicted by the Law before the “tribunal of divine judgment.” Far from being declared righteous, the whole world stands condemned. Only those “who through faith take recourse to that Son the Mediator – those the Father justifies from the charge placed by the Law…He absolves them…declares them righteous and awards them life eternal.”]

147 Does God, Then, Justify the Sinner Because of Sins, So that in that Justification No Righteousness Whatever Need Intervene in Respect to Which the Sinner is Pronounced Righteous?

    God Himself calls that kind of justification abomination. Ex 23:7; Pr 17:15; Is 5:22–23. Therefore the judgment of God must be met with such righteousness—or there must be interposed between God, the angry judge, and man the sinner [such righteousness]—through which and because of which God justifies the wicked. For justification cannot take place without righteousness. Ro 3:22, 24.

      [PAR – In summary, Christ himself has provided the righteousness necessary for the sinner’s justification to take place. It is the righteousness of Christ that the believer claims before the Judge. Those who do not claim the righteousness of Christ (i.e., all unbelievers) still stand before an angry judge. They are not justified.]

148 But What, Then, is the Righteousness that Faith Brings to the Judgment Seat of God, that God Might Justify the Miserable Sinner Because of It?

    The new obedience of the reborn is indeed also called a kind of righteousness; e.g., Ro 6:16; 1 Jn 2:29. But it cannot be that righteousness through and because of which we are justified before God unto life eternal. For before anyone might render that righteousness of new obedience, it is necessary that the person be reconciled to God, that is, be justified by God. 1 Jn 2:29. Moreover, because of sin dwelling in our flesh, the new obedience of the reborn is weak, impure, and imperfect in this life, so that we can by no means be justified by it before God. Ps 143:2; 1 Co 4:4. Since, then, faith instructed by the Word of God knows that it cannot find such righteousness—either in the nature or in any of the most sanctified life of any man, or in any other creature—by which a man might be justified before God, it therefore apprehends, in the Word and the Sacraments, Christ the Mediator with His most holy obedience and most innocent death, by which He satisfied the Law for us, having formed the resolute conviction that this is the true and only righteousness that avails and stands before God. And faith meets the judgment of God with this righteousness, wishing, desiring, praying, and in true confidence believing that because of it a sinner is justified by God, that is, absolved of sins, received into grace, and given life eternal. And since this righteousness of Christ, rendered for us, is perfect, sufficient and abundant and can stand before the judgment seat of God, therefore God has promised that He would impute it to believers just as if they rendered it themselves. Ro 3:22; 4:23–25; 5:18. And thus believers absolutely have, not indeed in themselves, but in Christ, true and genuine righteousness, through which they are justified before God.

      [PAR – The word “reconciliation,” both in the Enchiridion and in the Confessions seems to have a sense of "completion" in the vicarious satisfaction of Christ on the cross, and of "continuation" in the Ministry of Word and Sacrament. Some have concluded that "reconciliation" and "justification" are perfect synonyms. But this conclusion is not borne out by Chemnitz in this section, who associates "justification" with only the latter sense of the term "reconciliation" (i.e., in the sense of its "continuation," not in the sense of its "completion").

      Proponents of UOJ frequently make the argument that “faith must have something to believe; it must grasp something that already exists.” Here again in this section, Chemnitz describes what that “something” is. It is not “that all people have already been declared righteous. Believe it!” Instead, Chemnitz very graphically describes faith and its object above. The object of faith is the righteousness of Christ – not even the “justification” of Christ, but the righteousness of Christ. This is what God has “promised that He would impute to believers just as if they rendered it themselves.”

      Finally, note the passages Chemnitz cites above to prove that it is the righteousness of Christ that is imputed to believers: Romans 3:22; 4:23-25; 5:18. These are the very sedes that UOJ proponents point to in order to prove an objective justification of the world. But Chemnitz cites these passages as clear testimonies of the justification that only takes place when a person believes in Christ and thus has the righteousness of Christ imputed to him.]

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Enchiridion - The Gospel, Part 2

138 Is the Law Destroyed or Abolished by the Gospel?

    God forbid, says Paul, Rom. 3:31; but by the doctrine of the Gospel, or faith, the Law is rather established. See also Mat. 5:17.

139 But the Law and the Gospel Appear to Teach Complete Opposites. For the Law Sets an Angry and Offended God Before Sinners, But the Gospel [Presents] Him Gracious and Merciful. The Law Threatens Sinners with Punishment and Eternal Damnation; The Gospel Offers Them Remission of Sins and Life Eternal. The Law Promises Mercy, Life, and Salvation, But with the Condition of Fulfilling the Law; But the Gospel Promises Those Good Things Freely Without Our Works. These Things Truly Appear to Be So Contradictory that They Mutually Nullify and Destroy Themselves.

    This antithesis is to be carefully weighed and correctly stated on the basis of true foundations. For the true and sound understanding of the whole doctrine of the Gospel depends chiefly on this basis. And those profane and Epicurean fancies are to be completely taken away out of the hearts of men, that God in the Law only acts as if He is angered by sins, but that in the Gospel, with that statement of His mind and [with] His will changed, He thus nullifies and destroys the Law, that the statement of the Law concerning sin is now taken away and made invalid by the revealed Gospel, and that this is the position of the Gospel: God is now neither concerned about sin, nor hates nor abominates it, but loves and approves [it], and is so delighted by it that He wants to give the ungodly eternal life because of sins. For such opinions are not only false and ungodly but also blasphemous. For the divine law is and remains the serious, eternal, and unchangeable will of God, which the Gospel by no means either nullifies or destroys, but rather confirms and establishes, so that the rule might remain firm and unchangeable: Unless the law of God is kept with full and perfect obedience, God neither can nor wants to be merciful to any sinner. Matt. 5:18; Rom. 8:4; Rom. 10:5; Gal. 3:10.

140 But that Kind of Fulfillment or Satisfaction is Impossible for Us. How Then Shall We Obtain Either Righteousness or Salvation?

    As far as we are concerned, we would absolutely have to perish in eternal damnation. For if the divine law is not fulfilled, it can in no way be abolished or taken away. And for us its fulfillment is impossible. Therefore God, in his secret counsel regarding the restoration of the welfare of mankind, planned and determined, and made a decree, to send His Son into the flesh, who was not to abolish or destroy the Law, so that fulfillment would no longer be necessary for us, but who, made under the Law and subject [to it], would in our place perfectly render and discharge His fulfillment and satisfaction for our sins—indeed required of us by the unchangeable judgment of God, but impossible for us—and thus, since the Law would plainly be fulfilled for us, merit and obtain [this], that because of His obedience and satisfaction God would deign to be merciful and compassionate toward penitent sinners. And in this way the Gospel does not abolish or destroy the Law, but points out and testifies that Christ has fulfilled the Law for us by completely perfect fulfillment. Rom. 8:3–4; 2 Cor. 5:14; Is. 53:6; Gal. 4:4–5.

      [PAR – The Law and the Gospel are both fully in place. All people are born under the Law and stand unrighteous before God because they do not and cannot keep the Law. Those who hear the Gospel of Christ and believe in him are placed under the Gospel – under grace, having been credited with the righteousness of Christ who fulfilled the Law for them. Therefore, only those who have faith in Christ have a righteous status before God. Those who do not believe remain under the Law, and therefore, are not justified (in any sense), but rather still condemned (John 3:18).]

141 But, Someone May Object, What [Good Does It Do] Me, that Another Has Fulfilled the Law, Since the Law Makes Its Demands on Me, and How Can the Satisfaction of One Be Enough and Sufficient for All?

    Christ was made subject to the Law, was made sin and a curse, not because of Himself, but for us (Gal. 3:13; Gal. 4:4–5; 2 Cor. 5:21), and that by the decree and good pleasure of the will of God for our redemption (Eph. 1:5,7; 2 Cor. 5:14; Is. 53:6). And since this person is not only man, but God and man, that redemption is therefore so ample and great that it is sufficient propitiation for the sins of the whole world (1 Jn. 2:2); since Christ accomplished it in the flesh it provides us highest and sweetest comfort (Rom. 8:3,34).

      [PAR – This point must be repeated: Christ is most surely the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, whether people believe it or not. This is objectively true, and emphasized repeatedly by the Lutheran Reformers. This is properly understood in the context of the righteous requirements of the Law – that sin must be punished for God’s righteousness to be satisfied (propitiated). And indeed, it has been punished in Christ, sufficiently for every sinner who has ever lived or will ever live. The Law cannot require that any believer in Christ be further punished for sin or condemned, because those who believe in Christ have the God-Man as their Advocate. He has already suffered all the punishment their sins deserve.

      But those who do not rely on Christ are still under the Law. They do not rely on his propitiation for their sins, and therefore the requirements of the Law are still in place for them – punishment and condemnation for all their sins.]

142 But How Does Scripture Affirm that We are Justified and Saved Freely, Without Merits, If the Work of Redemption Cost Christ So Much, Namely His Own Blood and Death?

    With respect to us, this righteousness and salvation is and is called free grace, which comes to us without either our works or merits and without any payment or satisfaction from us.

      [PAR – It is not “our justification” that comes to us. It is “free grace”, “the righteousness of Christ” that come to us. And Chemnitz will explain shortly how this grace and righteousness come to us. It does not come to “all people” by objective imputation. It comes only through Word and Sacrament (which is why they are called the “means of grace”.]

    But with respect to Christ the Redeemer it is and is called redemption, lytron [in Greek], or satisfaction, something bought or merited. Rom. 3:24; 1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Pet. 1:18–19; 1 Tim. 2:6; Acts 20:28.

143 And What Kind of Satisfaction Does the Law Require that Christ Had to Render for Us?

    I. The Law requires complete, holy, pure, and perfect obedience. This Christ rendered fully and perfectly for us. Rom. 5:19; Heb. 10:9–10,14.

    II. The Law requires satisfaction for sins, that by passion and punishment divine wrath might be satisfied. And Christ accomplished this satisfaction for us by His passion and death. 2 Cor. 5:14; Gal. 3:13; Is. 53:5–6.

    And in this way Christ obtained this for us, that by His redemption we are justified freely, or by grace, without our merit. Rom. 3:24.

      [PAR – The phrase “we are justified” (here and in Romans 3:24) does not mean “all people have been justified.” It does not mean that “all people have a righteous status before God.” In Greek (and in German), this is a passive verb. The sense is that we “become justified” (werden gerecht) freely, without our providing any merit or righteousness of our own. As Chemnitz will point out in the next section, we “become” justified only in one way, that is, through faith in Christ’s completed redemption.]

144 What is the Difference Between the Law and the Gospel?

    I. The Law is to some extent known by nature. Rom. 2:14. But the Gospel is a mystery hidden to reason, which God has revealed only through His Word. Mat. 16:17; 1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 1:9; Rom. 16:25–26.

    II. The Law is a ministry pointing out, censuring, and rebuking sins, and pronouncing all men worthy of eternal death because of them; but the Gospel is a ministry that points to true righteousness before God through Christ and through it offers and bestows life eternal to all that apprehend it by faith. 2 Cor. 3:7, 9; Rom. 1:16–17.

      [PAR – According to Chemnitz, the Gospel does not point to an already-pronounced justification of the world. The Gospel points to the true righteousness that is the righteousness of Christ. Through the righteousness of Christ, the Gospel bestows eternal life, not on all men, but to all that apprehend it by faith.]

    III. The Law indeed itself also speaks of righteousness and salvation, but it has respect to us, and it seeks and requires to perfection that righteousness in us, in our nature, actions, and works, if we want to be saved by it. But since that cannot be rendered by us because of our corrupt nature, therefore the Gospel sets Christ before us, who by His obedience, passion, and death has purchased for us the true righteousness before God that is imputed and given to us freely, without our merit, solely for the sake of Christ and through faith. Rom. 1:4; Gal. 3:24.

      [PAR – Again, Chemnitz reiterates, the Gospel does not set before us our own pre-existing justification. Instead it “sets Christ before us,” with his suffering for sin and his own righteousness. His suffering and His righteousness were the purchase price for the righteous status that God credits (or imputes), not to all sinners, but to those who have faith.

      But note that faith is not the cause that makes God willing to credit the righteousness of Christ to the believer. It is credited through faith “solely for the sake of Christ.” Faith is certainly not a meritorious work. Faith is not that which makes God gracious to us. Christ is the cause that makes God gracious.]

Monday, October 17, 2011

Enchiridion - The Gospel

While a few of us are in pastors' conferences this week, we are posting some excerpts from Martin Chemnitz's Ministry, Word and Sacraments: An Enchiridion. The Enchiridion was a document written in Q and A format much like Luther's Small Catechsim, only instead of catechumens like children or new Lutherans, the Enchiridion was used for the periodic examination of Pastors, to see if they were still orthodox. This entire work is priceless and ought to be regular reading for every pastor... I'll interject a few comments of my own here and there, marked in red, to make clear what Chemnitz's position, and the position of the early Lutherans, actually was. Since we'll be in meetings and unavailable for commenting during the week, there won't be an opportunity for readers to comment on this series of posts, either. Sorry!



135 What is the Gospel?

    …The preaching of grace and of remission of sins is not to be set forth before either the proud Pharisees or the secure Epicureans, but the contrite or penitent…

      [PAR - This follows the proper distinction between Law and Gospel. Therefore, it is not right to announce grace and remission of sins to those who are impenitent and not contrite. They should never be given the message that, “they are already justified and forgiven, whether they believe it or not.”]

    And finally, those who neither believe nor obey the Gospel are and remain under the wrath of God and eternal damnation, unless they are converted. Mk. 16:16; Jn. 3:36; 2 Thess. 1:8–9.

      [PAR – That is to say, they are not justified, not in any sense of the word. They have not been declared righteous before God, but remain under his wrath.]

    …the Gospel (as the Apology says) is properly the promise of remission of sins and of justification for the sake of Christ, preaching the righteousness of faith in Christ.

      [PAR – Note that the Gospel is not essentially an assertion, but rather a promise based on an assertion. That is to say, the Gospel does not assert that people have already been forgiven. The Gospel asserts that Christ has obtained forgiveness and righteousness for all people, and on that basis, promises forgiveness and justification – a righteous status before God – to all who have faith in Christ. The promise-aspect of the Gospel is not that Christ has done something, but that God will do something for the one who has faith in Christ on the basis of what Christ has done. Justification is one of the promised gifts that accompanies or follows faith. It does not precede it.]

136 What are the Chief Parts in Which the Doctrine of the Gospel is Comprehended and Set Forth?

    The Gospel is properly the doctrine of the person and office or benefits of Christ. But this doctrine consists most of all in these chief parts:

    I. That the Son of God, before the world of time, was, by a wonderful decree made in the hidden counsel of the Trinity, appointed to be our Mediator, Redeemer, Reconciler, and Savior.

    II. That this decree was revealed by the word of promise immediately after the Fall, and the promise of the coming Messiah gradually renewed and repeated to the fathers during the whole time of the Old Testament.

    III. Likewise that the Son of God, according to the promise, was made man in the fullness of time and most perfectly completed the work of redemption and reconciliation by His obedience, passion, and death, and thus gained righteousness and life eternal, by His resurrection and ascension, for those who believe in Him.

    IV. The Gospel does not only set forth the account of Christ in story form, but the proper doctrine of Him is the promise of grace, by which God, in the Word and the Sacraments, sets before and offers to miserable sinners—thoroughly terrified by the knowledge of sins and of divine wrath and damnation—grace, remission of sins, adoption, and the inheritance of life eternal freely and out of pure mercy or grace, without our merit, only for the sake of the obedience, passion, death, and merit of Christ.

    V. The Gospel teaches that these benefits of Christ the Mediator are to be apprehended and applied by faith.

    VI. The Gospel declares those who believe righteous and saved.

      [PAR – Note that the Gospel promises and offers the benefits of Christ (“grace, remission of sins, adoption and the inheritance of life eternal”) to terrified consciences, for the sake of his “completed work of redemption and reconciliation.” Christ has indeed merited the remission of sins, adoption and eternal life for all people. But just as no one would dare to say that “all are objectively adopted into God’s family and have eternal life, whether they believe it or not,” so no one should say that “all people are forgiven, whether they believe it or not.”

      Note also whom “the Gospel declares to be righteous and saved." "...those who believe.”)]

137 Is the Gospel a New Doctrine, Which First Began at the Time of Christ and the Apostles?

    By no means. For as there is one faith of the pious both of the New and of the Old Testament (2 Cor. 4:13), so also is it one and the same Gospel of both people, those of the Old as well as of the New Testament (Rom. 1:1–2; Jn. 8:56; 1 Peter 1:10; Acts 10:43). For the doctrine of the Gospel was revealed by God immediately after the Fall and thereafter gradually repeated during the whole time of the Old Testament not less than in the New Testament. There is only this difference, that in the Old Testament it was the promise of the Messiah to come, who was to be a sacrifice for us; but in the New Testament it is truly Gospel, that is the joyful tidings of the Messiah who has been sent [and] who has completed the work of redemption. Rom. 1:1–4. There is also a difference in the mode of revelation, which was more obscure in the Old Testament, but is clearer and brighter in the New. But just as we in the New Testament are justified and saved by faith in Christ [who is] now revealed, so the fathers in the Old Testament were justified and saved by faith in Christ [who was] to come. Rom. 4:3, 6; Acts 15:11; Rev. 13:8.

      [PAR – Again, Chemnitz points to Christ’s work of redemption as that which was proclaimed both in the Old and New Testaments. That work was not yet completed in the Old Testament, but now has been completed. In either case, those who rely on the redemption of Christ are the ones who are justified and saved. Justification did not take place at the time of the redemption. Justification takes place through faith in the redemption, whether before it was completed or after. This is what Chemnitz is clearly saying.]

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Case of the Disappearing "Testament:" Modern Bible Translations and Covenantal Theology

[NOTE: This essay was originally published on Intrepid Lutherans in three parts: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. It is reproduced here in full for those desiring this essay as a single document.]

On Good Friday of this year, we at Intrepid Lutherans published a Good Friday sermon that was originally delivered by an important WELS theologian, Dr. Adolf Hoenecke, entitled, The Legacy of the Dying Redeemer. This sermon focuses on the seven last words of Christ on the cross as the seven provisions of His last will and testament, which are ours as His heirs.

It may have simply passed the reader’s attention, but the fact is Dr. Hoenecke’s sermon could not be preached today. It could not be preached. Why? Because the idea that God’s promise to mankind was given by Christ as a last will and testament – an idea which had been carefully guarded for almost two millenia – has been dropped from use in just the past 100 years. Completely dropped from use.

The complete disappearance of the term ‘testament’ from modern English Bibles... and from modern liturgies
Nearly five-hundred years ago, one of the greatest and most important works the English language, the King James Version of the Bible, conspicuously retained this idea:
    Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. (Luke 22:20)

    For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matt. 26:28)

    And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. (Mark 14:23-24)

    After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. (1 Cor. 11:25)

    And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. (Heb, 9:15-17)
Even the corollary of a ‘last will and testament’ is supported in this “old version of the Bible” – that such a bequest is left to heirs:
    The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. (Rom. 8:16-17)

    And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Gal. 3:29-4:7)
Such inheritance – the same inheritance, in fact – was even applied to Old Testament believers:
    By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise... (Heb. 11:7-9)
Such natural corroboration – that to be an 'heir' there must be a 'testator' who has recorded his 'last will and testament' – has disappeared from recent translations, however. Along with the rise of the historical-critical method in the 19th Century came the notion that the Bibles generally received in the various languages, like the King James Version in English and Luther’s Unrevedierte Ausgabe in German, needed significant revision, and that such revision ought to proceed under the peculiar academic judgment of the translator(s) regarding what the underlying text actually was (once the layers of “human error” had been stripped from it) and once that was determined, what the text actually meant to say. Since the “scholars” were not and have not been unanimous, this has resulted in a plethora of “new and improved” translations under the guise of a “better idea” or “deeper insight” into the texts, their meaning, and relevance to contemporary society. At least one thing has been consistent, however: the terms ‘testament’ and ‘testator’ have been virtually eliminated – and in seemingly dishonest ways, in some cases. In the familiar references of Christ’s institution of the “new testament in His blood,” the term ‘testament’ has disappeared and has been rendered as ‘covenant.’1 This may seem to be just an “update” in English usage – even though the term ‘last will and testament’ is still very much in common usage, and is easily distinguished from the term ‘covenant.’ The case of Hebrews 9:15-17, however, very much tells of the convictions of modern translators. The Greek word diatithemai in its noun form means ‘testator’, and in its verb form means ‘to dispose of by will’ or to ‘assign one’s possessions to another’. The meaning here is almost impossible to escape. Nevertheless, in two modern translations we see diametrically opposed interpretations:
    For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives. (Heb. 9:16-17, NKJV)

    For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives. (Heb. 9:16-17, NASB)
In the case of the NKJV, we see the only appearance of the term “testament” and “testator” in any modern translation that I am aware of (outside of the 1988 edition of God’s Word to the Nations [GWN]), in a way that is perfectly consistent with our common understanding of these terms. Anyone who has sat through the reading of a will understands the terms used in this reference, as they are common in matters of probate – matters which everyone must face. In the case of the NASB (a Baptist translation) however, we are confronted with utter incoherence. Here we have a ‘covenant,’ which is not a ‘testament’ at all. Moreover, in ancient usage, death does not validate a covenant; it terminates it. But look what happened to the term ‘testator:’ it is rendered “the one who made it.” And this is the pattern we see in all other modern translations striving to avoid even the suggestion that Christ, as divine 'Testator' of the 'New Testament in His Blood,' issued a ‘last will and testament’ at all:
    For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. (Heb. 9:16-17, ESV)

    In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. (Heb. 9:16-17, NIV 1984)
Oddly, in these newer translations, this is the only reference where a ‘will’ is suggested – a term which does not recall the consistently and long-used ecclesiastical term ‘testament’ – and the context does not drive the reader to conclude that Christ is a ‘testator’ who has made of His life's work a bequest to be received by His ‘heirs’ through faith. The choice of words in these modern translations makes clear that there is an apparent struggle to avoid what the Church has understood for almost two millenia – while they are technically valid, they are not entirely honest, being deliberately emptied of significant meaning.

And this is unfortunate, because these translations all still retain the notion of heir-ship, that we inherit something. It is unfortunate because when one who thus thinks he is an ‘heir,’ goes looking for the terms of his ‘inheritance’ in the ‘last will and testament’ of Christ, he will not find it – for in modern translations we have no idea who the ‘testator’ is (since He is not directly named), nor do we know when and where He gave His “last will and testament!” There is some mild suggestion that a ‘will’ exists, but what are the terms of this will? Modern translations simply do not say.

Some modern liturgies have gone the same way. The liturgies of former generations retain wording in the terms accepted and used by the Church for millenia. For example, in the “old” The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) we hear the words of institution as:
    Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread; and when He had given thanks, brake it and gave it to His disciples saying, “Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.” After the same manner also He took the cup when He had supped, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink ye all of it; this cup is the New Testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the remission of sins. This do, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
Likewise, in newer hymnals, in which a desire to “retain the pattern of sound words” accepted and profitably used by the Church for two millenia is evident, we read:
    In the same way also He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying: “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. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” (Lutheran Service Book, 2006)

    In the same way also He took the cup after supper, gave thanks, and gave it to them saying: “Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the New Testament in My blood, which is shed for you, and for many, for the remission of sins. This do as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” (Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary, 1996)
On the other hand, in cases where divergence from past usage seems to be prominent – perhaps dictated by a perceived requirement to quote verbatim from “officially adopted” translations of the Bible – we hear something quite different:
    Then he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hynmal, 1993)

The Terms diatheke and berith in the biblical languages
The Greek word translated exclusively in modern versions of the Bible as ‘covenant’ is diatheke. The Hebrew word is berith. The history and etymology of these words is important to understand as it has direct bearing on how we understand God’s relationship to and with us, and how modern dogmaticians use (or misuse) this term in the development of their theology.

The Hebrew term berith, means ‘covenant’, and is generally understood as a conditional, two-sided arrangement that cannot be broken and which is perpetually binding on the parties involved until one of the parties is deceased. This is how we see covenants between people carried out in Old Testament, and how it is understood in its application between God and man, particularly in the Mosaic Covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant, and the prophecy of the New Covenant in Jeremiah and Ezekiel are to be understood differently, however, as the qualifying language surrounding this term in those contexts directs the reader to understand its use in those contexts differently. This is important to note as we look at the use of the correlative Greek term, diatheke, in the New Testament.

The Greek term diatheke was established in its meaning up to 400 years BC as last will and testament2. A ‘last will and testament’ requires no participation of the bequeathed and cannot be annulled – it is the benefit of the testator’s life work to the bequeathed and it is in effect in perpetuity from the moment of the testator’s death. It represents the blessing of the testator upon the bequeathed, which blessing belongs to the bequeathed once it has been received by him. It is thus a non-conditional and one-sided arrangement – the bequeathed, as a passive recipient of the gifts given to him in the ‘last will and testament’ of the testator, benefits from the work and life achievements of the testator after his death, simply because the testator wills it.

There is little if any evidence in extant, extra-biblical literature to indicate that the term diatheke was ever used to mean ‘covenant’, in fact there is little evidence to suggest that the idea of ‘covenant’ existed in the Greek culture; however, scholars indicate that the definition of the term is not so narrow as to exclude the idea of a ‘covenant’, strictly speaking3. Nevertheless, the first time diatheke appears in reference to ‘covenant’ is in the Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, circa 250 BC4 – and we also see it used in the Greek New Testament, particularly as its authors quote the Old Testament from the Septuagint. This is where matters get difficult.

Old Testament covenants as ‘testamental’ in their descriptions
As we look at the language of the Old Testament describing the Abrahamic Covenant, and particularly the multitude of qualifications in the Old Testament surrounding the prophecy of the New Covenant, it is unmistakable that they are quite ‘testamental’ in nature.

Abrahamic Covenant
Genesis 17:1-12
    “And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.”
Here we see God making a covenant with Abraham and his seed. It is ‘testamental’ in nature in that God does all of the work (it is non-conditional and single-sided), while Abraham and his descendants merely observe the token of the covenant – circumcision. Observe:
    I will make my covenant between me and thee”,
    [I] will multiply thee exceedingly”,
    “a father of many nations have I made thee”,
    I will make nations of thee”,
    I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed”,
    I will give unto thee … the land wherein thou art a stranger”,
    “and I will be their God”.
It is also ‘testamental’ given its perpetual nature,
    “I will establish my covenant … for an everlasting covenant”.
Yet, it does seem that Abraham and his descendents were obligated in some form or another under this arrangement:
    “the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant…”,

    “[t]his is my covenant, which ye shall keep…
However, Hebrews 11:8-19, in commenting on God’s Covenant with Abraham, indicates that fulfilling the obligation to ‘walk before God and be perfect’ was accomplished in Abraham and his descendants through their faith, or belief in the covenant promises of God:
    “These all died in faith [Abraham and his descendants], not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them [through their faith] … wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city” (vv13,16b).
That is, God considered the faith of Abraham and his descendants as fulfillment of their obligations under the Abrahamic Covenant, through which He fulfilled his promises to ‘multiply them exceedingly’ (Heb. 11:12), and to ‘be their God’ (Heb. 11:16b). Furthermore, Galatians 3:6-18, also commenting on God’s Covenant promises to Abraham, makes it clear that these promises, in which Abraham and his descendants placed their faith, coalesced and were embodied in the Messiah, Jesus Christ (v16), and that such faith in God’s covenant promises is what constituted the righteousness God required of them (v6). And, thus, the circumcision required by God as a token of the Abrahamic Covenant, was nothing more than a token of the faith in God’s covenant promises that Abraham and his descendants were given by Him, through which God considered their obligations under His covenant fulfilled.

But they still had to ‘have faith’. Surely, this meant that they had to exercise some feat of intellect, or produce some profound work, to be confirmed in this faith and accredited the righteousness God required of them under the Abrahamic Covenant. Well, the so-called ‘work’ was circumcision, performed on 8-day old males by the hands of someone other than the one being circumcised, as a token of the faith (the fact that they were under the Covenant) that the circumcised already had (Gen. 17:11-12). The Covenant obligations of Old Testament believers were fulfilled by their faith (Gal.3:6-7; Heb 11:12-13), and the work of circumcision ‘sealed’ or marked the circumcised as having faith and thus under the Covenant that promised the Messiah (Rom. 4:11-13). Without circumcision, a man was in violation of and outside the Covenant (Gen 17:14).

So how did the circumcised receive faith? How did 8-day old males believe what they lacked the power of language and intellect to understand and affirm themselves? The same way that the New Testament believer receives faith through Baptism today: “Faith is the free gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).

Thus the Abrahamic Covenant is seen as ‘testamental’ in nature: God did all of the work, including the fulfillment of the obligations placed on man, by giving man faith and crediting it to him as the righteousness He required of him; and man was passive, receiving from God faith and the eternal blessings promised under His covenant as a result; and it is everlasting – all those with faith in the Messiah and His work were counted as children of the promise made by God to Abraham (Gal. 3:7,9,14).

Prophesies of the New Covenant
Jeremiah 31:31-34
    “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
Jeremiah 32:36-42
    “And now therefore thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning this city, whereof ye say, It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence; Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul. For thus saith the LORD; Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them.”
Ezekiel 37:21-28
    “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all: Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwelling places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God. And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.”
Here we see God promising to Israel a New Covenant. Again, it is ‘testamental’ in nature in that God does all of the work (i.e., it is non-conditional and single-sided), while Israel simply and passively is considered by God to be His people by His work and decree, as follows:

…from Jeremiah 31 (above)…
    I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel”,
    I will put my law in their inward parts”,
    [I will] write it in their hearts”,
    I will forgive their iniquity”,
    I will remember their sin no more”,
    [I] will be their God”,
    they shall be my people”,
    they shall all know me”…
…from Jeremiah 32 (above)…
    I will make an everlasting covenant with them”,
    I will gather them”,
    I will bring them”,
    I will plant them in this land”,
    I will cause them to dwell safely”,
    I will give them one heart”,
    [I will give them] one way”,
    I will not turn away”,
    I will rejoice over them”,
    I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me”,
    I [will] bring upon them all the good that I have promised them”,
    I will be their God”,
    they shall be my people”…
…from Ezekiel 37 (above)…
    I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them”,
    I will take the children of Israel”,
    [I] will gather them on every side”,
    [I will] bring them into their own land”,
    I will make them one nation”,
    I will save them out of all their dwelling places”,
    [I] will cleanse them”,
    I will place them”,
    [I will] multiply them”,
    [I] will set my sanctuary in the midst of them”,
    I the LORD do sanctify Israel”,
    I will be their God”,
    they shall be my people”,
    they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them”…
Yet here again, it appears that Israel owes God some obligation of works, other than to simply be, by His work and decree, His people, as we read in the final notes from Ezekiel (above) that “they shall also walkobserve … and do…” But is this dictating to Israel its material obligations under the New Covenant with Israel, or is it stating the result of God’s work and decree? Notice that ‘walking’, ‘observing’, and ‘doing’ are all activities describing sanctification. Who sanctifies Israel (Ez. 37)? For that matter, Who cleanses Israel (Ez. 37), and Who puts the fear of God in their hearts, ‘that they should not depart from Him’ (Jer. 32)? That would be God, as stated above. Thus, ‘walking’, ‘observing’, and ‘doing’, if they are obligations placed on Israel, are fulfilled by God’s work in and for them, not by their own works for God.

‘New Covenant’ prophecy as ‘testamental’, given its qualifications
Notice also, the qualification on the New Covenant with Israel in Jeremiah 31: it was “[n]ot according to the covenant that [God] made with their fathers in the day that [He] took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt”. That is, the prophet distinctly says that this ‘new’ covenant was not going to be like the conditional, two-sided Mosaic Covenant. God considered this ‘old’ Mosaic covenant to be deficient (Heb. 8:6-8), and the prophet Jeremiah goes to great lengths to inform us that the ‘new’, better covenant was not going to be like it at all. This is especially evident in the prophet’s choice of the word ‘new’ to describe it. The Hebrew term for ‘new’ (chadash) qualifying the ‘New’ Covenant, not only means recent in age, but principally means newness of nature – ‘new’, ‘fresh’, or ‘unheard of’. Was this to be the same type of ‘covenant’ common in Hebrew culture, of the same type they had understood since Moses – the point of comparison in this reference? It seems that it was not even going to be close.

Hence, the New Covenant is seen as ‘testamental’ in nature – God does all of the work, making it nonconditional and single-sided, and it is everlasting, consistent with the definition of a ‘last will and testament’. In addition, the language describing the prophecy of the ‘New Covenant’ shows that if it wasn’t a ‘last will and testament’ it certainly was not going to be like anything the Hebrews were familiar with according to their common usage.

Testaments in the Old Testament?
So if the prophets meant ‘testament’ why didn’t they just say ‘testament’? Because the concept of a ‘last will and testament’ did not really exist in Hebrew culture – it certainly does not appear in the Old Testament scriptures – making such a ‘New’ Covenant ‘unheard of’ indeed! Thus, there is ample evidence in the Old Testament to cause the reader of it to imagine that the ‘New’ Covenant was something other than what was commonly understood by the ordinary use of the term, and, in fact, the modern reader can see very plainly that it seems to be describing a ‘testament’.

‘New Covenant’ for all who believe, not just for the nation of Israel
Finally, it may be observed that in the Old Testament the ‘New Covenant’ was issued to Israel, not to ‘the Church,’ and so it may be argued that our consideration of it in application to the Church may not be entirely relevant. However, as in the case of the Abrahamic Covenant, we have the clear and direct testimony of New Testament Scripture that the ‘New Covenant’ was established and fulfilled by Christ on behalf of the whole world of sinners, not just for Israel. At the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus distinctly says that the ‘New Covenant’ was established in His holy and precious blood, given and shed for sinners for the remission of their sins (Matt. 26:26-28, Mk. 14:22-24, Lk. 22:19-20, 1 Cor. 11:24-25). Moreover, Romans 3:21-28 confirms that the “‘New Covenant’ in [His] blood” (Lk. 22:20) is valid for all those with faith in the propitiatory work His shed blood accomplished (v25), and that the righteousness of God is manifested (v21) unto and upon all them that believe (v22). Thus in the New Testament we are told, as the Old Testament also informs us, that God does the work of ‘walking’, ‘observing’ and ‘doing’ that is required under the ‘New Covenant’ (because mankind is unable to), that He did it in Christ for all of mankind (not just the nation of Israel), and that through faith mankind eternally benefits from Christ’s work (he is given Christ’s righteousness and his sins are forgiven):
    “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (v23-24, c.f. Rom. 4:5).
What is left for the sinner to “do” under the ‘New Covenant’? To passively receive the eternal blessings Christ’s work accomplished for him – in much the same way one would if named as the bequeathed in someone’s ‘last will and testament’. And so the Church is Israel now, the ‘New Covenant’ promises made to Israel having been fulfilled in the New Testament Church. Or is it a ‘covenant’ at all?

Is it a ‘covenant’ or a ‘testament’?
The question is, do the authors of the New Testament mean ‘covenant’ or do they mean ‘testament’ when they use the term diatheke? To answer this, one must ask, “What were the conditions at the time the ‘New Covenant’ was instituted?” On the night in which He was betrayed, did Christ institute a new ‘covenant’, or a new ‘testament’? Would a Man who knew He was about to die establish an agreement stipulating attending obligations and responsibilities that would, according to common usage and understanding, terminate with His death? Or would He write a last will and testament blessing the bequeathed with the benefit of His labour that would, according to common usage and understanding, be perpetually effectual subsequent to His death? It seems very likely that such a person would issue a ‘last will and testament’, not a covenant – and this fact was certainly not lost on the New Testament authors who were describing the events at the Last Supper according to terms that were in common usage at that time, and who were defining the nature of God’s relationship to man and to His Church.

History of Translation of the terms diatheke and berith
Understanding this then, when Jerome translated the Bible into Latin (~400AD) he translated the term diatheke as ‘testament’ exclusively. He even used the term ‘testament’ in the Old Testament, in places were the term berith was obviously ‘testamental’ in character. Thus, there seems to be evidence to suggest that the early church regarded the nature of God’s relationship with man as exclusively ‘testamental’. In fact, it was Jerome who gave us the titles “Old Testament” and “New Testament”.5

When Luther translated the New Testament into German, he had to wrestle with this issue. When did diatheke mean ‘covenant’ and when did it mean ‘testament’? Obviously, when the New Testament authors quoted the Old Testament, it meant ‘covenant’, but did they always mean ‘testament’ otherwise? His principle was, if diatheke referred to a promise not yet fulfilled, it was translated ‘covenant’, but if it referred to a promise fulfilled (like man’s redemption in Christ), it meant ‘testament’.6 Tyndale, whose translation of the Bible was the principle work consulted by the translators of the King James Version, was a student of Luther’s, and his translation follows Luther’s convention, as does the KJV.

So what? Theology. That’s what.
So what is the difference? So what if one term or the other is used? We see the difference very plainly in the development of theology, particularly in the difference between Lutheran and Reformed theology. Lutherans today use both terms; but are careful to note that the use of the term ‘covenant’, if used in reference to the ‘New Covenant’, is to be understood as a single-sided, non-conditional covenant (or really a testament) – something which is uncommon to Hebrew culture and thinking as we see it described for us in the Old Testament. Lutherans see God’s redemptive work as not only central, but necessary and exclusive. Man does not in any way participate in his own redemption – it is entirely God’s work. Thus, Justification is central to Lutheran doctrine, and all other doctrines depend on it.

Reformed and Baptists, however, use exclusively ‘covenantal’ language, and this is consistent with their understanding of God’s relationship to man. They admit that mankind enters into the ‘New Covenant’ by faith, but they insist that faith is insufficient to keep a person in that covenant. A person must produce works consistent with the mandates of the law, as proof to themselves and others that their faith is genuine. But they distinctly say that it is the works themselves that keep one within God’s covenant of grace, not the continuing faith of the believer which produces the works7. Thus, Sanctification serves as their central doctrine, all other doctrines conspicuously serving the necessity of human works, which explains their persistent focus on works and “Christian Living”.

The impact of Reformation issues on the adoption of ‘covenant’ or ‘testament’
It should also be noted that the character of Reformed/Lutheran theologies, and their adoption of covenant/testament or covenant-only language in contemporary times, is consistent with the conditions under which these theological systems were birthed. The German Reformation was lead by Luther, a monk and professional theologian who wrestled with the reality of his own salvation. When he discovered that the Church’s teaching under the Roman Pope was false and damnably misleading, he sought to return the Church to the true biblical and apostolic teachings. Thus the German Reformation under Luther was principally about man’s relationship with God (i.e., by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ’s redemptive work alone), the importance of pure Scripture doctrine to maintain the correct view of that relationship (Scripture alone), and the subordinate role of human reason to the authority of Scripture. The resultant separation from Rome and loss of visible unity was something that was necessary due to Rome’s obstinacy, but which was neither planned nor desired.

This was not the case in Zurich. The Swiss Reformation under Zwingli (and later under Calvin), being shielded in many ways by the ruckus in Germany caused by Luther, was about philosophy and social change as much as it was about doctrine. Thus Zwingli, a well known priest and activist in the Humanist movement of the time, planned from the start to separate from Rome, locking himself in his house in order to “develop a true philosophy of Christ” that would influence “social and political change”. Calvin, who was not a priest at all, but a lawyer and a radical activist in the Humanist movement prior to his participation in the Swiss Reformation, succeeded Zwingli, and was the principle systematizer of Zwingli’s theology. Hence, the hallmarks of Reformed theology are the exaltation of human reason, being carried over from the humanist activism of the Swiss reformers (demonstrated in their denial of the dual nature of Christ, their denial of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, their denial of the Means of Grace, their denial of baptismal regeneration, their insistence on double predestination and eternal security, and other ‘doctrines’ they hold or don’t hold because the dictates of human reason require/forbid it over against the clear testimony of Scripture), and a central focus on Sanctification rather than Justification – Sanctification centric teaching being more efficient at bringing about the human works necessary to realize Zwinglian social/political change.8

Such statements sound like they question the faith of the Swiss reformers. Even if they do, such questioning is not without precedent. Martin Luther, who was a contemporary of Zwingli, who had corresponded with him often and had formed a generally good opinion of him since they “agreed on so many good items”, also, in the end, questioned Zwingli’s faith when he discovered that Zwingli, in his Exposition of the Christian Faith, ranked “…Hercules, Theseus, Socrates, Aristides, Numa, et al., with the saints of the Old and New Testaments, with Isaiah and Elijah, with Peter and Paul, among the saints in heaven”, as follows:
    “Tell me, you who would be a Christian, what need is there of Baptism, the Sacrament, Christ, the Gospel, or the Prophets, and Holy Scripture, if such godless heathen, Socrates, Aristides, even the dreadful Numa, who through the devil’s instigation was the first to institute the idolatry of all nations at Rome, as St. Augustine reports in De civitate Dei, and Scipio, the Epicurean, are blessed and saints with the patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles in heaven, though they knew nothing of God, Scripture, the Gospel, Christ, Baptism, and the Sacrament, or the Christian faith? What can such a writer, preacher, and teacher believe of the Christian faith other than that it is on a level with all religions and that everyone can be saved by whatever he believes, even an idolater and epicure like Numa and Scipio?”9
Yet, Zwingli was just being honest regarding the theological consequence of the Reformed doctrine of ‘Immediate and Particular Grace’. This doctrine states directly that God specifically works apart from any means whatsoever (e.g. Word and Sacrament), and that the Word of God is merely “an attending circumstance” in the spiritual regeneration of man, not an instrumental means through which the Holy Spirit works. Such teaching, if believed, prevents man from positively identifying any divine antecedent to his regeneration or sanctified works, and forces him to look to himself as the sole operative agent producing them, to the Law for his motivation, and to the ‘inner illumination’ of Unconditional Election (e.g., strict Calvinism) or to his own manifest volition (e.g., Arminianism) for his security. This is consistent with an understanding of diatheke and berith as a two-sided, conditional ‘covenant’ between God and man, requiring mankind to perform according to his obligations under the ‘New Covenant’ – which is man's natural inclination even if such is not always confessed in so many words.

Observations on modern use of ‘covenant’ and ‘testament’ and theological impact
And so, the exclusive use of the term ‘covenant’ in modern versions of the Bible, being undoubtedly influenced by the domination of Reformed and Baptist exegetes in Bible translation and editorial committees (and with the complicity of minority representation by Lutheran exegetes who don’t consider the term ‘covenant’ to necessarily be an improper translation of diatheke, as long as it is understood correctly by the reader), has bred severe misapplication of the term ‘covenant’ in pop-church Evangelicalism of today, and conspicuously serves the modern aberrations of Reformed and Baptist theology. How many times has one heard, from Evangelical sources, the term ‘covenantal relationship’, referring to God’s relationship to man? How many times has this term been explained in terms of man’s obligation or debt to God for what He has done for mankind? – It's a covenantal relationship, you need to hold up your end of the deal if you expect to be honored by God! This is Law, pure and simple, being used to bind Christian consciences to its dictates and coerce specific Christian works out of fear, pious obligation, or hope for special reward – and worse, in many cases it is cast by pop-church Evangelicals as some sort of Christian privilege, turning God’s gracious Gospel into a billyclub for the Law.

A true Lutheran, on the other hand, understanding his relationship with God ‘testamentally’, as solely the result of God’s gracious attitude towards him and all sinners and of His atoning work on behalf of all of mankind, is motivated in his Christian works by the Gospel rather than the Law (his doctrine being centered on Justification rather than Sanctification), and looks solely to his joy and gratitude for the manifold blessings that are his exclusively through faith alone in Christ as his reason for labouring in the Lord. For the Lutheran, such works permissibly vary in expression from person to person (from obvious and unmistakable to virtually unnoticeable), based on the relative strength of the believer’s faith and his capacity and giftedness for specific forms of expression and service. He is saved, and remains so, by faith, and by His grace God’s Gospel promises are valid on this basis alone. The Lutheran does not have to frantically work to prove it – not to himself, to God, or to anyone else. The objective promise of salvation in Christ is his through faith, and this promise is sufficient surety, his works flowing from this blessed fact and giving cause to his brothers in Christ for rejoicing with him. This is true freedom in Christ.

A return to ‘testamental’ languge would be a welcome thing – not only for us Lutherans who are without such terms in our modern Bibles and liturgies, but for Evangelical Christianity itself, which has long been suffering under the onerous burden of Covenantal Theology.

Mr. Douglas Lindee

  1. Compare Luke 22:20; Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:23-24; 1 Corinthians 11:25:
  2. Biblion Publishing. (1988). The New Testament: God’s Word to the Nations (GWN). Biblion: Cleveland, OH. pg 532.
  3. Ibid. pp. 532-533.
  4. Ibid. pg. 533.
  5. Biblion Publishing. (1988). The New Testament: God’s Word to the Nations (GWN). Biblion: Cleveland, OH. pg. 533.
  6. Ibid. pg. 533-534.
      “Martin Luther followed Jerome’s diatheke or ‘last will and testament’ approach, but not blindly. He knew the writings of the church fathers well. Church fathers, such as Chrysostom, had spoken consistently of Christ’s ‘last will and testament.’ Reformers like Martin Chemnitz, ‘the Second Martin (Luther)’, continued this tradition. Though such reformers occasionally interchanged testamentum (when the wrote Latin) with pactum or foedus (the regular words for ‘covenant’), their writings clearly indicated why they were using testamentum in the narrow sense in particular contexts. In such passages, they contended, diatheke referred to a ‘last will and testament,’ not to a ‘covenant’ in the wider sense.

      “Luther, in his German Bible, displayed amazing insight as he skillfully moved back and forth between Bund (‘covenant’) and Testaments in his New Testament. (He did, however, consistently use Bund to translate berith throughout his whole Old Testament.) Luther’s writings ably explain his methodology. Whenever the diatheke was a mere promise, he used Bund that is, when the context implied that the promise had not yet been fulfilled. Whenever a context dealt with the fulfillment of a ‘covenant’ promise, especially in terms of Jesus’ death and His work as the God-Man, Luther used some form of Testaments.

      “For Luther the berith of the Old Testament was, in essence, the Gospel-promise of Jesus Christ, while the diatheke was the Gospel-promise completed in the Christ who was already born, sacrificed, risen, and who was coming again to give His people the ultimate inheritance: forgiveness of sins in heaven. This is why he writes: ‘And so that little word testament is a short summary of all God’s wonders and grace, fulfilled in Christ’ (LW:XXXV:84).

      “Luther knew that every faithful Bible translator also has to be a capable exegete. This means letting ‘Scripture interpret Scripture.’ Hebrews 9 and Galatians 3, therefore, settled much of the diatheke question for Luther: ‘Between a testament and a promise there is this difference: a testament is made by someone who is about to die; a promise, however is made by someone who expects to continue living... Since God in the Scriptures again and again calls his promise a testament he means to announce thereby that he will die;... A testament is nothing but the last will of one who is dying, telling how his heirs are to live with and dispose of his properties after his death... The testator is Christ, who is about to die’ (LW:XXXVI:179).

      “Luther clearly distinguished between the ‘old covenant’ and the new ‘last will and testament’ (cf. Ex. 24:8; Jer. 31:31; 1 Cor. 11:25). The ‘old’ was picturesque, physical, outward, and temporal; the ‘new’ was real, spiritual, inward, and eternal (LW:XXXV:84f). This comprehension was gained from the whole of Scripture in general and from 2 Corinthians 3:7-15 in particular”

  7. Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Intervarsity Press: Leicester, England; Zondervan: Grand Rapids Michigan. 1994 and 2000. pg. 519
      “The condition (or requirement) of participation in the covenant is faith in the work of Christ the redeemer (Rom. 1:17; 5:1; et. al.). This requirement of faith in the redemptive work of the Messiah was also the condition of obtaining the blessings of the covenant in the Old Testament, as Paul clearly demonstrates through the examples of Abraham and Avid (Rom. 4:1-15). They, like other Old Testament believers, were saved by looking forward to the work of the Messiah who was to come and putting faith in him.

      “But while the condition of beginning in the covenant of grace is always faith in Christ’s work alone, the condition of continuing in that covenant is said to be obedience to God’s commands. Though this obedience did not in the Old Testament and does not in the New Testament earn us any merit with God, nonetheless, if our faith in Christ is genuine, it will produce obedience (see James 2:17), and obedience to Christ is in the New Testament seen as necessary evidence that we are truly believers and members of the new covenant (see 1 John 2:4-6).”

    In all fairness to strict Calvinists, it should be pointed out that Grudem is a Reformed Evangelical, who, in the Preface to his Systematic Theology self identifies with what can be characterized as essentially a Calvinist, as opposed to Arminian, perspective.

  8. These issues were covered in greater detail in a relatively recent Intrepid Lutheran’s post: Differences between Reformed and Lutheran Doctrines
  9. Pieper, Francis. Christian Dogmatics, Vol 3. Concordia Publishing House: Saint Louis, Missouri. 1950. pg. 167.

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