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.]

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