Monday, November 11, 2013

Johann Gerhard on 1 Timothy 3:16

Those who teach that God has already absolved all people of their sins (e.g., Walther’s famous “Easter Absolution”) and declared all people righteous in Christ, whether they believe in Christ or not, have to take short phrases out of context in order to read their doctrine back into the Scriptures and the writings of the Lutheran Fathers.  As their proof passages for universal absolution apart from the Means of Grace and apart from faith fall one by one (e.g., Rom. 3:24, Rom. 4:25, Rom. 5:18, 2 Cor. 5:19, all of which teach justification by faith, not apart from faith or before faith), they are left grasping at straws to fortify their teetering teaching of an Easter Absolution of all men.  So some have isolated one phrase from 1 Tim. 3:16 to prove what they claim is the very foundation of our faith.  Following F. Pieper blindly and uncritically, they isolate one phrase from Johann Gerhard (which was repeated by Abraham Calov) on this verse (the same phrase being repeated in their commentaries on Rom. 4:25) to “prove” that the Lutheran Church has always taught that all men were absolved by God—apart from the Means of Grace and apart from faith—in the resurrection of Christ.

As usual, a simple glance at the Scriptural context reveals no such universal absolution.  And as usual, a look at the context of the Lutheran Fathers reveals that they did not teach such a thing, either.

The following is a translation of the section from Johann Gerhard’s commentary on 1 Timothy dealing with the phrase “justified in the spirit” in 1 Tim. 3:16.  It is the entire section that deals with that phrase, plus a translation of Gerhard's concluding analysis of the verse.


Adnotationes ad Priorem D. Pauli ad Timotheum Epistolam
Annotations on St. Paul’s First Epistle to Timothy
by Johann Gerhard (1582-1637)

Ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι (“He was justified in spirit”). (1) Theodoret, Primasius, Sedulius, Anselm, Thomas, Lyranus, Cajetan, Gagnaeus, Justininanus, etc., understand “spirit” as “Holy Spirit,” so that the sense is: Just as ὁ θεάνθρωπος (the God-Man) Christ Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, so from the beginning of His conception by the Holy Spirit He was made righteous and holy in such a way that He never had nor did He commit any sin. But “to be justified” is never attributed anywhere to Christ in the sense of “to be made righteous.”  Nor would it denote anything special in Christ, since it is common to all righteous men that they have been justified in the Spirit. (2) It is more correctly understood as the Deity of Christ, since whatever is beyond human in Christ is called “spirit.” Therefore, it says, “The Son of God was manifested in the flesh, justified by means of the spirit,” that is, His Deity, by the strength of which He performed miracles and raised Himself from the dead. Therefore, by means of His miracles, performed by the power of a holy spirit, but especially by means of the resurrection, He demonstrated Himself to be the Son of God against the calumnies of His enemies. (Rom. 1:4, 1 Pet. 3:18).

By means of the spirit He was shown to be righteous and true (Latin declaratus est justus et verax) in works and doctrine, and He was also set free (Latin absolutus - absolved) from all the calumnies of the Jews. This type of justification for God agrees with Ps. 51:6, Matt. 11:18, Luke 7:29.

“He was justified,” that is, He was shown to be righteous (Latin justus declaratus), since in and by means of the resurrection Christ was set free (Latin absolutus - absolved) from the sins of men that He took upon Himself as Guarantor in order to make satisfaction for them to the Father.

[commentary on the rest of the verse follows, concluding with the following:]

Observe the steps in the apostolic saying: (1) “God was manifested in flesh.”  This is the incarnation. (2) “Justified in spirit.” This is the policy (politia) or the conduct (conversatio) of Christ on this earth, in which, by means of various miracles, He demonstrated Himself to be the Son of God. (3) “Seen by angels.” This is the resurrection. (4) “Preached among the nations.” This is the preaching of the Gospel, which some received by faith.  (5) “Received in glory.” This is the ascension.


It is clear from his own exposition of 1 Tim. 3:16 that Johann Gerhard did not find in this verse a universal absolution of all men.  What he found was that, through the miracles He performed on earth and especially through His greatest miracle of raising Himself from the dead, Christ demonstrated His Deity.  Gerhard did not apply this “setting free” (“justification, vindication, absolution”) of Christ to all men.  He explicitly explains “this type of justification for God” in a different sense than the Book of Concord describes the justification of sinners.  In other words, Gerhard is not describing the article of justification in these words, nor is he referring at all to the “forensic (divine courtroom) justification,” either of Christ or of anyone else.

What Gerhard does say about Christ is the same thing we say about Christ who deny a universal absolution without faith.  Namely, that Christ “took upon Himself the sins of men as Guarantor in order to make satisfaction for them to the Father.” Indeed, Christ bore the sins of all and made satisfaction for the sins of all.  He served as Guarantor (or “Sponsor”) of all men.  And He was “shown to be righteous” in being “set free”(“absolved”) from sin's penalty, which is death.

But to make satisfaction for the sins of all does not result in the justification of all.  It is only through faith in Christ that His satisfaction is applied to sinners so that they are justified.  And to serve as Guarantor of all men does not result in the justification of all men.  It is only through faith in the Guarantor that His payment is applied to their account so that they are justified before God.  And Christ's being “set free” from sin's penalty, namely, death, is not a reference to any announcement by God that all sinners have been “set free” (absolved) from their sins, since all unbelievers are and remain dead and condemned.

However, those who believe in Christ do share in His resurrection and His life and have already escaped from death through faith in Him, and thus, as Calov/Gerhard point out, God “has absolved us in Him” (nos in ipso absolvit) not at the time of Christ's resurrection, but at the time when we were incorporated into Christ, namely, through Holy Baptism, which is consistent with all the Scriptures and the entire Book of Concord.


Christian Schulz said...

Great post. I've always been baffled when universal justification advocates use 1 Timothy 3:16 as a proof passage. This passage has never been interpreted by the universal Church as the Christ being justified in the same way as we sinners need to be, yet this passage is essential to the philosophy that the world was justified "in Christ." Novel indeed.

I think Chemnitz sums up the catholic meaning well when he says:

"This is the forensic or legal meaning of this word. But just as is the case in all languages, words are transferred from the specific to the general. Thus 'justify' is sometimes used to approve, testify to, recognize, acknowledge, confess, and celebrate the fact that someone is righteous—granting, conferring, and attributing praise to his righteousness. Luke 7:29: 'The people and the publicans justified God, but the Pharisees spurned the counsel of God.' Luke 16:15: 'You justify yourselves before men.' Luke 10:29: 'The scribe, wanting to justify himself …' Jer. 3:11 and Ezek. 16:51: 'You have justified your sisters.' 1 Tim. 3:16: 'He was manifested in the flesh and justified in the Spirit,' that is, the humility of His flesh offended many, and He was crucified as a misleader and a seditious man; but because of His divine works and the sending of the Spirit, He was declared and approved as the Son of God and the Messiah." (Loci Theologici [CPH], p.478)

I guess Chemnitz forgot the true meaning of the passage, namely, that Christ was absolved of all our sins and so the world stands righteous and sinless before God's eyes now. Chemnitz would never be able to serve on the faculty of WLS or the Concordias.

How about John Cassian (c.360 – 435)? Could he serve on the faculties of those seminaries?

"And so as for your assertions that He was justified by the Spirit...and that He was taken up by the Spirit into heaven, they are all blasphemous and wild: not because we are to believe that in all these things which He Himself did, the unity and cooperation of the Spirit was wanting— since the Godhead is never wanting to Itself, and the power of the Trinity was ever present in the Saviour's works— but because you will have it that the Holy Ghost gave assistance to the Lord Jesus Christ as if He had been feeble and powerless; and that He granted those things to Him, which He was unable to procure for Himself. ...For to begin with this assertion of yours that the Spirit filled with righteousness (justitia) what was created, and your attempts to prove this by the evidence of the Apostle, where he says that He appeared in the flesh, was justified in the Spirit, you make each statement in an unsound sense and wild spirit. For you make this assertion; viz., that you will have it that He was filled with righteousness by the Spirit, in order to show how He was void of righteousness, as you assert that the being filled with it was given to Him." (On the Incarnation, Book VII, Ch. XVIII)

John Cassian was right, what need does the Christ have to be absolved in any way like us? He was and is sinless. To say He needed to be justified in the same way we are justified is to assert that He was lacking righteousness. It's essentially a Trinitarian heresy -- that not all three persons were equally righteous.

The passage means as it has always meant, that Jesus was proven to be the Christ as opposed to just being a man. Bishop Hilary of Poitiers (c. 300 - 368) explains:

"For the Apostle leaves no doubt that all must confess that the hidden secret of our salvation...[is]...the mystery of great godliness, and a mystery no longer kept from our eyes, but manifested in the flesh; no longer weak through the nature of flesh, but justified in the Spirit. And so by the justification of the Spirit is removed from our faith the idea of fleshly weakness;..." (On the Trinity, Book XI)

Joe Krohn said...

You are just plain wrong. When Satan is poking me in the chest so hard when I am weakest and my faith fails me, I find comfort in this verse. Rather I turn to these statements regarding Justification and find comfort. Your Gospel is of no comfort.

"In his statement to the Board of Control Dr. Maier further stated: "When the Lord Jesus was ‘justified’ (I Timothy 3:16) in His resurrection and exaltation, God acquitted Him not of sins of His own, but of all the sins of mankind, which as the Lamb of God He had been bearing (John 1:29(, and by the imputation of which He had been ‘made….to be sin for us’ (II Corinthians 5:21), indeed, ‘made a curse for us’" (Galatians 3:13).

"In this sense, the justification of Jesus was the justification of those whose sins He bore. The treasure of justification or forgiveness gained by Christ for all mankind is truly offered, given, and distributed in and through the Gospel and sacraments of Christ."

"Faith alone can receive this treasure offered in the Gospel, and this faith itself is entirely a gracious gift and creation of God through the means of grace. Faith adds nothing to God’s forgiveness in Christ offered in the Gospel, but only receives it. Thus, ‘He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and He that believeth not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on Him’" (John 3:30).

"My reservation concerning some of the traditional terminology employed in expressing the doctrine of justification are fully covered by the following statements from the major essay delivered to the first convention of the Synodical Conference, assembled in Milwaukee July 10-16, 1872:

"When speaking with regard to the acquisition of salvation (by Christ), God has wrath for no man any longer; but when speaking with regard to the appropriation, He is wrathful with everyone who is no in Christ ("Proceedings," p. 32). Before faith the sinner is righteous before God only according to the acquisition and the divine intention, but he is actually ("actu") righteous, righteous for his own person, righteous indeed, first when he believes ("Proceedings," p. 68.""

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Joe, are you saying I'm just plain wrong with my translation of Gerhard on 1 Tim. 3:16? If so, please point out where I mistranslated.

What are you trying to demonstrate with this series of quotations? That the Synodical Conference always had this strange "God has wrath for no man / God has wrath for unbelievers" teaching floating around, contrary to Scripture and the Lutheran doctrine?

Daniel Baker said...

The irony is palpable when all Joe has left to defend his innovative doctrine is the fleeting citations he pulls out of Synodical Conference theologians, which stand in stark opposition to the slew of quotes from Orthodox Lutheran and Early Church Fathers in the comment and article that precede his.

Brett Meyer said...

Where Scripture refers to Christ as the Righteous One, UOJ refers to Him as the greatest sinner.

Joe, "my faith fails me" Joe are you saying the Holy Spirit's faith fails you? Or, are you saying your faith fails you?

The doctrine of UOJ teaches people not to look to their faith in Christ, worked graciously by the Holy Spirit, for assurance when doubts arise but in the supposed declaration of forgiveness declared before they believed,
before they were born. Scripture directs Christians to the Holy Spirit's faith: 2 Cor. 3:15, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith, prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves how that Jesus Christ is in you except ye be reprobates."

Daniel Baker said...

Brett, your comment brings to mind more fully the way that UOJ distorts the work of all Three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity. First, it distorts the work of the Father, making Him an impotent Judge Whose declarations have no effect until believed by Man. Then, it distorts the work of the Son, making His righteousness insufficient to swallow up the sins of the world, instead needing absolution from the Holy Spirit (which, obviously, is in turn a distortion of what the H.S. does). And then the work the Holy Spirit actually does, creating and sustaining faith in Christ through Holy Baptism, is relegated to a category of "uncertain," being an "insufficient Gospel." Indeed, the forgiveness He gives there is rejected by UOJ fanatics, who point us instead back to the impotent declaration of forgiveness they imagine comes from the Father on account of the righteousness-lacking work of the Son. A sorry sight all around, if you ask me.

Joe Krohn said...

"What are you trying to demonstrate with this series of quotations? That the Synodical Conference always had this strange "God has wrath for no man / God has wrath for unbelievers" teaching floating around, contrary to Scripture and the Lutheran doctrine?"

This is the crux of the argument/discussion. The truth of the matter is that scripture and the confessions do teach this "God has wrath for no man / God has wrath for unbelievers", Pr. Rydecki, and you deny it. It is what John 3 teaches. Why on earth would God send His only son if He had wrath for every man? God saved the world and yet men still go to hell. Scripture and the Confession exhort us not to go here. This is why you are wrong.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Joe, you are confused, and you are arguing against yourself. Would you equate the love of God for the world with the justification of the world? Should John 3:16 read, "God so justified the world that He gave His only-begotten Son"? Indeed, if God first had to justify the world and remove His wrath from it in order to love it and send His Son to save it, then why did He have to send His Son, if He had already removed His wrath from the world? And why do you speak of an Easter Absolution, if God had already removed His wrath from the world and justified it before Christ was born?

Yes, when Christ spoke these words in John 3, He had not yet gone to the cross or risen from the dead. If you say John 3 teaches the absolution of the whole world, then you deny the Easter absolution, since that is supposedly at that time and in that event when the whole world was absolved.

Notice the difference in John 3 between a purpose clause and an indicative clause. "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." These two clauses are called "purpose clauses." They express God's sincere purpose in sending His Son into the world. "Not to condemn the world." But "that the world might be saved through Him." How is God's purpose realized? Jesus tells us. "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."

To be sure, God's love extended to His enemies and to the "children of wrath" (Eph. 2), which we all were at one time. God had mercy on the "children of wrath" and sent His Son for the children of wrath. But they were still considered by Him "children of wrath" until they were adopted in Baptismal waters and reborn as "children of God."

LPC said...

This is what happens when at the first place the Atonement and Justification are held to be co-equal and equivalent categories. All sense and common sense go out the door by virtue of this fallacy called category mistake. UOJers have committed the first blunder and no wonder, it leads them to more category mistake, one blunder after another.

Notice "God has wrath for no man / God has wrath for unbelievers" is a contradiction as the meaning of wrath is taken in the same sense. Here it depicts God as having mixed feelings towards man. Yet UOJ accepts this depiction of God. Thus it is impossible to talk sense, unless the HS steps in.


Joe Krohn said...

Lito, for a man who espouses logic and makes a living among the disciplines of mathematics, I am astounded that you can dismiss "God has wrath for no man / God has wrath for unbelievers". God loves all men, yes He even died for them. He has in essence saved all men by accounting for their iniquities. And yet, some men are under His wrath. Why? Because those men CHOOSE to be there.

Brett Meyer said...

Joe Krohn states, "He has in essence saved all men by accounting for their iniquities. And yet, some men are under His wrath. Why? Because those men CHOOSE to be there."

So everyone who has died before they CHOOSE God's wrath over His forgiveness or, as you like to put it, CHOOSE to go to Hell over going to Heaven are saved eternally because they didn't CHOOSE wrath or Hell.

Jon Buchholz expresses the rationalism of UOJ this way:
Thinking people recognize that words are used in different ways. So it is with the words “saved” and “salvation”:
(1) All people were saved at the cross.
(2) “Brother, are you saved?”
(3) Not all people will be saved.
This isn’t paradoxical; it’s simply using the word “saved” in three different ways. In the first sentence it refers to the once-for-all, completed work of Christ at Calvary, through which the Savior of the world really did save the world through the shedding of his own blood and his glorious resurrection to life. In the second sentence, saved is used as a descriptor for a person who stands presently in a state of grace through faith (for reasons that should be obvious to Lutherans, we don’t customarily use the word saved in this way, preferring different terminology to describe believers in Jesus). In the third sentence it refers to the final result of his work, namely achievement of the eternal bliss that the Savior is even now preparing for his faithful believers when we are finally saved with him in heaven."

Rationalism is a religion.

Joe Krohn said...

All people are going to one of two places. What is the problem, Brett?

Anonymous said...

If you compare justification as a gift, which comparison is most accurate:

God purchases my forgiveness and puts it in the box of the Gospel with my name on it and offers it to me. If I receive it in thanks it is mine to keep. If I refuse it, then it's no longer mine, even though my name is on the gift.


God purchases forgiveness for all and tells people "who ever wants it can get it" (Gospel call). God only "personalizes" that gift to those who come to receive it?


Something else?

Michael Sullivan

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

How about this, Michael?

Christ purchases forgiveness, life and salvation for all. Every spiritual blessing and gift has only one name on it: "Christ." The Gospel calls all men to trust in Christ. Those who trust in Christ are incorporated into Him and share in every spiritual gift He has won.

Anonymous said...

Your answer leads me to ask another question. Is Christ's propitiation:

1) Universal (He died for everyone)
2) Personal (He died for me)
3) Both Universal and Personal. (Not only did Christ die for everyone, He died specifically with my personal propitiation in mind )
4) Something else.

In Christian love,

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Christ is the propitiation for the sins of all. Christ died for all. That's universal. What is true for all is necessarily true for every individual, so there is no separate category of "personal" in this regard. Died for all = died for all (including me and you and everyone else in the world).

"To believe in Christ" is to use Christ as Propitiator (as stated in the Apology), so that, in God's courtroom, I plead solely the merits of Christ and am thus justified. But not all people plead the merits of Christ in God's courtroom. Therefore, not all people are justified, although they all would be if they all were to plead solely the merits of Christ.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you that, logically speaking, if Christ died for all (universally) then he died for me (individually). However, a "universal" gift is not necessarily a "personal" gift.

Let me give you an example:

Let's say I want to feed my community Thanksgiving dinner. I buy enough bulk food for everyone and then advertise: "Free Thanksgiving dinner for anyone who wants it." The food would be provided universally and whoever would receive it would get it individually. But neither the gift nor the invitation is personal.

Now, let's say I know the dietary needs of every individual in my community and purchase food to meet all those individual needs. I do this for everybody in my community. And then, instead of simply advertising the Thanksgiving dinner in the newspaper), I also send a personal invitation to each person in my community inviting them to a dinner which I prepared specifically with each invitee in mind. Such a Thanksgiving meal would be both universal and personal in nature.

So my question is, when Jesus provided propitiation for the sins of the world, was it merely a universal propitiation or was it also personal in nature: that God was thinking about me and every single other person on this earth as an individual, and not just someone who is part of the mass of humanity he saved. Or (to show that I am not trying to trap you with a closed question) was it something else?

In Christian love,

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

I think I see where you're going with your question, but I think the analogy is getting too removed from the reality. The dinner or the "banquet" God has prepared is not different for each individual. The eternal needs of every individual are the same, and Christ's blood is the same and does the same thing for everyone who is washed in it. Likewise, His invitation (i.e., His Gospel call) is the same toward all, and sincere toward each individual. So, while no one could ever accuse God of being "generic" in His grace, what Christ has won is not tailored to individuals, but rather of the same usefulness to all. And when it says in Scripture that God wants all men to be saved, we must certainly understand it as every individual.

But we shouldn't confuse propitiation with election. Those whom God foreknew, He also predestined...called...justified...and glorified. This is entirely personal.

LPC said...


I am a mathematician and logician by training. We do not accept self contradictory statements. We recognise paradoxes, they are puzzlements, but we will not accept self contradictory assertions. Why? There is an axiom that says - ex falso quodlibet - from a contradiction, you can deduce anything you like. That makes your belief system nonsensical, which is what happens when one accepts the self contradiction and sophistry of UOJ teachers.

Romans 1:8/2:5 It is a drastic statement to say that God has no wrath for any man. The Book of Revelation has plenty to teach about the wrath of God. According to Scripture God is holding off his wrath, Romans 9:22. To withhold his wrath does not mean he has no more wrath. UOJers are guilty of making a jump from Atonement to Justification skipping faith in the process. You do the similar thing in jumping the gun in stating that God has no wrath for any man. UOJ is a rationalistic over statement, and so your statement is in keeping with your philosophical source.


Anonymous said...

If there is agreement that "Christ took upon Himself the sins of men as Guarantor in order to make satisfaction for them to the Father.” I think Paul, in Acts, is very clear that each person has to believe to be saved.
Acts 16:28-31 ESV
[28] But Paul cried with a loud voice, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here." [29] And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. [30] Then he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" [31] And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."
Jim Roberts

Brett Meyer said...

Mr. Roberts, why was Pastor Rydecki excommunicated from the WELS for teaching and confessing that men are justified solely by faith in Christ alone?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Meyer,
I cannot speak for the WELS on why they excommunicated Pastor Rydecki, but in my opinion, based on my observations and my own issues with the WELS, I believe they excommunicated Pastor Rydecki because he did not confess the WELS doctrine explicitly but instead, he actually preached true scripture from the Bible.
Pastor Rydecki's sermon on April 8, 2012 contained these statements:
"But for those who want a sure refuge from God’s wrath, for those who want to be reconciled to God, for those who want Jesus for a Savior, the gospel reveals this truth: that Jesus was delivered up for our sins and raised to life for our justification. His death was sufficient payment for all sin, for every sin, for the worst sinner, for his most bitter enemy; and his resurrection means that all who hope in him, all who trust in him, all who look to him for forgiveness of their sins are absolved before God’s courtroom in heaven. The empty tomb means the justification of all who believe in the risen One.
And with justification comes every gift and benefit of Christ: the adoption as God’s children, the full acceptance into eternal life, the daily forgiveness of sins in this Christian Church, and the promise of your own empty tomb when Jesus returns, for judgment against all who refused to repent, and with salvation for his believing people."
To me this is the same teaching Jesus gave in John 3:16-18
John 3:16-18 ESV
[16] "For God so loved the world,that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. [17] For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. [18] Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
If we examine the WELS doctrine, "This We Believe", there are many conflicting statements of faith. It is also curious that Pastor Rydecki was excommunicated for saying we must believe in Jesus, and the WELS doctrine is "This We Believe".
The WELS doctrine starts out:
"Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven" (Matthew 10:32). With these words Jesus indicates that he wants Christians to confess publicly what they believe in their hearts.
Under the Christ and Redemption section the WELS doctrine states:
5." We reject any teaching that in any way limits Christ's work of atonement. We reject any teaching that says Christ paid the penalty only for the sins of some peple. We reject any teaching that says Christ made only a partial payment for sins."
This appears to me to be the reasoning the WELS used to distort Pastor Rydecki's sermon and excommunicate him. This is even more confusing since the WELS doctrine disagrees with itself in other sections:
under section I. God and his Revelation, they state the following while quoting John 3:16:
3. We believe that God has given the full revelation of himself in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. "No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known" (John 1:18). In Jesus, God has revealed himself as the Savior-God, who "so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
Continued in a second post- Jim Roberts

Anonymous said...

Then under the section "IV. JUSTIFICATION BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH" statement 6, they focus on believing being the key difference between a soul going to Heaven or hell:
6. We believe that at the moment of death, the souls of those who believe in Christ go immediately to be with the Lord in the joy of heaven because of the atoning work of Christ (Luke 23:43). The souls of those who do not believe in Christ go to an eternity of misery in hell (Luke 16:22-24).
and then contradict that statement in the very next line:
7. We reject every teaching that people in any way contribute to their salvation. We reject the belief that people with their own power can cooperate in their conversion or make a decision for Christ (John 15:16). We reject the belief that those who are converted were less resistant to God's grace than those who remain unconverted. We reject all efforts to present faith as a condition people must fulfill to complete their justification. We reject all attempts of sinners to justify themselves before God.
If I must believe in Jesus to be saved, as Paul instructed the jailer, I must make a decision to believe, using the free will that God has given me. I also acknowledge that I am only able to make that decision because the Holy Spirit has lead me to Christ.
They again contradict in the section VI. The Means of Grace:
3. We believe that also through the Sacrament of Baptism the Holy Spirit applies the gospel to sinners, giving them new life (Titus 3:5) and cleansing them from all sin (Acts 2:38). The Lord points to the blessing of Baptism when he promises, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:16). We believe that the blessing of Baptism is meant for all people (Matthew 28:19), including infants. Infants are born sinful (John 3:6) and therefore need to be born again, that is, to be brought to faith, through Baptism (John 3:5).
I believe it to be the following,
Being "Lutheran," our congregations accept and teach Bible-based teachings of Martin Luther that inspired the reformation of the Christian Church in the 16th century. The teaching of Luther and the reformers can be summarized in three short phrases: Grace alone, Faith alone, Scripture alone.
Grace alone
God loves the people of the world, even though they are sinful, rebel against Him and do not deserve His love. He sent Jesus, His Son to love the unlovable and save the ungodly.
Faith alone
By His suffering and death as the substitute for all people of all time, Jesus purchased and won forgiveness and eternal life for them. Those who hear this Good News and believe it have the eternal life it offers. God creates faith in Christ and gives people forgiveness through Him.
Scripture alone
The Bible is God's inerrant and infallible Word, in which He reveals His Law and His Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. It is the sole rule and norm for Christian doctrine.
The WELS seems to focus on Grace Alone only. But just as God is three seperate persons in one, Grace, Faith and Scripture are three individual concepts in our redemption, salvation and entrance into Heaven.
Continued in a third post- Jim Roberts

Anonymous said...

As to my issue with the WELS, I will explain.
I was raised Catholic. I met my wife in college, she was raised in the WELS church and WELS schools in western Michigan. Before we got married we looked at multiple churches to find a church we could belong to together. We chose the WELS Church. I went through the adult classes and became a member of the WELS. We were married in a WELS Church and continued to be members. We moved to a different State and we were confronted with a dilemma, the nearest WELS church was over 45 minutes away, so we searched closer to home and found a conservative Missouri Synod Church that would allow us to participate in church activities and keep our children active in youth ministries. We joined this church after we determined the Pastor was teaching scripture in the way we believed. However, now we are prohibited from recieving communion and my in-laws WELS church. It was explained that since we do not confess to be WELS the pastors cannot give us communion.
I find this disturbing as I was always taught that I had to examine myself before I eat of the bread and drink of the cup, as in 1 Corinthians 11:28. And that it meant asking and answering yes to these questions.
Do I believe I am a sinner and am I sorry for my sins?
Do I believe that Jesus, by his death, offers me forgiveness of all my sins?
Do I believe that I receive he very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ; the same Body and Blood that lay in the manger, died on he cross and rose from death, in and with he bread and wine?
Do I seriously desire to turn away from my sinful ways?
I must have missed the adult confirmation class that added this as the most important question:
Before I can take communion and share the Body and Blood of my savior, do I profess that I 100% agree with the WELS leadership and their earthly doctrine? Because it appears I am not able to know Christ or have Christian fellowship with the WELS unless I answer yes.
So, I believe Pastor Rydecki is correct and the WELS excommunicated him because they (the WELS leaders) are straying from scripture.
Jim Roberts

Jon said...

Jim Roberts ...

So your issue with WELS is about close communion ... and as such you're a member of LCMS.

My issue with that excuse is the fact LCMS also formally holds to close communion as well.
From LCMS web site Q\A

Q: Is it wrong for a member of an LCMS congregation to receive Holy Communion at an ELCA church?
Is it wrong for an ELCA member to receive Holy Communion at an LCMS church?

A:The LCMS practices "close communion," which is summarized as follows by the Synod's Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR): In keeping with the principle that the celebration and reception of the Lord's Supper is a confession of the unity of faith, while at the same time recognizing that there will be instances when sensitive pastoral care needs to be exercised, the Synod has established an official practice requiring "that pastors and congregations of The Lutheran Church— Missouri Synod, except in situations of emergency and in special cases of pastoral care, commune individuals of only those synods which are now in fellowship with us." By following this practice whereby only those individuals who are members of the Synod or of a church body with which the Synod is in altar and pulpit fellowship are ordinarily communed, pastors and congregations preserve the integrity of their witness to the gospel of Christ as it is revealed in the Scriptures and confessed in the Lutheran confessional writings.


in case you missed the important wording, I'll repost it again:

(1) The LCMS practices "close communion," which is summarized as follows by the Synod's Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR):

(2) the Synod has established an official practice requiring "that pastors and congregations of The Lutheran Church— Missouri Synod,... commune individuals of only those synods which are now in fellowship with us."

How about JIm, ....... the WELS also "commune individuals of only those synods which are now in fellowship with us."

Anonymous said...

Wait, Pastor Rydecki was EXCOMMUNICATED? I've been following this somewhat closely, and I've never heard that. Is that true, or is that just someone's dramatic hyperbole of what happened? I will neither attack nor defend what happened between WELS and Pastor Rydecki, because there may very well be more to the story that I don't know about. But to say he was "excommunicated" - an unrepentant unbeliever and on the road to hell - would seem to be making WELS out to be saying something they never said, or at least, that I've never heard.

Rik Krahn

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

I would really prefer that the discussion deal with the original post rather than the details of the WELS's mistreatment of me. But to clarify...

Rik, I did not receive an excommunication letter, nor was there a church service in which a pastor proclaimed me to be excommunicated (unless they did it in Arizona in my absence and without my knowledge). Nevertheless, the district president and presidium called me to repent of my sin of teaching heresy (the heresy that sinners are only justified by faith in Christ). They specifically invoked Matthew 18 in the process, and insisted that they were following Matthew 18 in dealing with me, to the point that, having "rejected the truth" in their repeated attempts to call me to repentance, I had to be "brought before the Church" for the final step of Matthew 18.

The district actually called upon my congregation, in writing, to carry out that final step. When my congregation as a whole did not do so, then the district suspended me.

So, as far as the district was concerned, I was (and remain) an impenitent heretic who should have been excommunicated. But, for whatever reason, they chose to avoid using that word in the suspension letter. Their entire procedure was a farce.

Anonymous said...

I have concerns beyond closed communion, and yes I know many churches practice it. On reflection it was inappropriate for me to use this forum to raise those issues. Out of respect for Pastor Rydecki and the other people posting, I apologize for my contribution to the digression of this blog.
Jim Roberts

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