Full Text for Dogmatics 2- Volume 68 - What is Grace? (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY CUENet AUDIO TRANSCRIPTION DOGMATICS 2 LESSON 68 Captioning Provided By: Caption First, Inc. 10 E. 22nd Street Suite 304 Lombard, IL 60148 800-825-5234 *** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. *** >> I see the word grace a lot in the Bible, including the passages you just talked about. But I'm not exactly sure what it means. How would I explain this concept to my congregation? >> DR. DAVID MAXWELL: Well, David, that's an important question. Because there are a lot of really words, if you will, like grace and faith. And I think we use them a lot. And we may not really know what they mean. We may think we know what they mean. But that doesn't mean that we're able to sit down and articulate that. And I think it's very good that you recognize that, you know, "Maybe I don't know what that means." Because the word grace actually has quite a history to it. And in the Bible it's used in more than one sense. What we mean by grace in Lutheran theology is -- in Latin we define it as ***favor daie. And that's the Latin for the favor of God. That is to say that God looks upon us with favor. It's another way of describing the forgiveness of sins. And when we talk about that, that is something that goes on in the heart of God, as I said before. It's not going on in our hearts. But rather, grace is something in God. It's his attitude towards us. Now, we can see that in II Timothy 1:9, for example, where Paul says, "God has saved us and called us to a holy life, not because of anything we have done, but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time." So in this passage you can see that God's purpose and grace are kind of linked together. That tells you that grace isn't something that's in us. It's something that -- it's God's intention. And you can further see confirmation for this position when you note that Paul says that this grace was given to us in Christ before the beginning of time. So obviously it's not something in our hearts. Because our hearts didn't exist yet before the beginning of time. This is something that's in God. It's his attitude of mercy towards us. Now, I should also mention that when we're discussing grace, that there are plenty of other biblical words that get at the same idea. So for instance, if you think of John 3:16, you can describe grace with the word love. God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." God's love for us is his favor daie. That's his looking on us with favor. That he loves the world. Or another scriptural term that's often used is mercy. In Titus 3:5, we read "He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy." So mercy would be another term that describes God's favorable attitude towards us. And the distinguishing characteristic of this sense of grace is that it is something that's in the heart of God. Not in our hearts. And that's important. Because when we speak of justification by grace, that's the sense in which we mean grace. Now, there is another meaning of grace in scripture. And that is grace can also refer to gifts which God gives us because of his favorable attitude towards us. And Luther's terms for this is donum. It's a Latin word. It just means gift. So we have grace as God's favor to us. But we can also discuss grace as a gift to us. So for example, in Romans 15 Paul says -- or Paul refers to "The grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ." Well, now in that sense, the grace that was given Paul doesn't refer to God's attitude towards Paul. It actually refers to the gift of being a minister that God gave to Paul. So grace can refer to gifts. Sometimes, especially in Roman Catholic theology, this second sense of grace is referred to by the term infused grace. And infused simply means grace that's poured into you. And there are -- sometimes that term shows up in Lutheran theology, too, to be roughly equivalent to donum. But the Latin for infused grace is not surprisingly ***gracia infusa, grace that's poured into you. And the characteristic, whether you want to call it infused grace or donum -- I would prefer donum actually because that sounds a little bit less than some kind of substance that's poured into you -- but the characteristic of this sense of grace is -- it's a gift which does, in fact, transform you. So here now we are talking about what happens to the Christian heart. We are talking about grace which leads us to do good works. And we are talking about sanification. But note that this is not what we mean when we say that we're justified by grace. We don't mean that kind of grace. We don't mean the gift in it, which is by grace. But what we actually mean is the favor of God in justification. Now, why is this distinction important? Well, it's important because if you confuse these two senses of grace, what you will end up doing is forcing your people to look inside of them to see if they are justified. And this is the thing that we want to avoid. If you want to give someone the Gospel, if you want them to be assured of their salvation, you cannot tell them to look at their hearts. Jeremiah tells us the heart is deceitful. And who can understand it? You know, our heart is not a sure reference point. So if you want to give someone the Gospel and if you want to preach justification, then you need to direct people's attention to Christ and to the cross, not inside of themselves. And if you confuse these two senses of grace and you say we're justified by grace by which I mean that -- which is poured into your heart and transforms your heart, see, then you're directing people inside rather than directing them to the sure foundation, which is the cross of Christ. So that's the reason why this distinction is important. Now, I mentioned earlier that the doctrine of grace has a long history. And I think it would be instructive and very helpful for us to understand the Lutheran position if we go through just a little bit of that history. And I would like to start with a Fourth Century British monk named Pelajus. Now, Pelajus is famous or perhaps infamous for his view that you can, in fact, earn salvation all by yourself. Okay. Now, that's maybe a little bit crass of a way to formulate his position. What Pelajus would actually say is "Oh, I believe in grace. But here is what grace means: Grace means God gives you your faculty of free will. And he gives you his law so that you know what to do." That's grace for Pelajus. And then it's up to you to do the rest. So you're able to decide. You know what God wants. And then it's up to you to do it. Now, as Lutherans, we hear this and we think "Well, that's not what grace means at all." I mean, that doesn't fit either one of the definitions that we were talking about. But that would have been Pelajus' view. Now, if you can -- perhaps we can appreciate what may have driven Pelajus. I mentioned earlier that one of -- the attractiveness of the idea that you can merit your own salvation is that it puts you in control. I mean, as long as you think you're up to it, then it puts you in control. And Pelajus was a monk. And you can imagine that if you are a monk, that means you are going in for above and beyond the call of duty. You are going to do fasting beyond the regular Christian. You are going to do ascetical practices. I mean, there's all kinds of different things monks did. They went without sleep. They went without food. They wouldn't bathe. All sorts of things to subdue their flesh. And if you're going to go through all of that, you want it to count for something, right? You don't just want to say that salvation comes as a free gift. And what are you busy fasting for and doing all of your monastic works? And that is the case especially in the earlier parts of the controversy. And I'm about to talk about the Pelajus parts, that the monks tended to side with Pelajus. Now, a few generations later that wasn't necessarily the case. But that's the way it tended to work at first. Now, I mentioned that there was a controversy. And, in fact, that implies that Pelajus had an opponent. And Pelajus opponent is St. Augustine, whom we met before when we were talking about how Augustine helped Luther come to some clarity on the meaning of the righteousness of God. Now, Augustine fiercely opposed Pelajus. Because Augustine correctly realized that salvation is a gift from God. That you cannot earn this yourself. Because Augustine had a very keen awareness of what we Lutherans call the second use of the law. That you're not going to be able to please God on your own. And so Augustine responds to Pelajus by saying, "Okay. If you want to say grace means God gives you free will, God gives you his law, okay. But you're leaving out the most important part. And that is the Holy Spirit." So for Augustine, grace means that God pours the Holy Spirit into your heart. And his favorite Bible passage -- he quotes this more than any other Bible passage -- is Romans 5:5 which tells us hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us. So that is Augustine's position. Now, I should mention that when Augustine talks about grace, he means infused grace. He does not mean the favor daie, the favor of God. Augustine's position is that God pours his grace into your heart transforming you and, therefore, enabling you to merit salvation. Now, unlike Gabriel Biel, Augustine actually thinks that God does this all. It's not the case that God is waiting for your initiation. But God takes you as a sinner. He gives you grace. He transforms you. He performs the good works through you. And then he crowns those good works with eternal life. So Augustine teaches what we call Monergism. That is to say God does it all. So it would be totally unfair to characterize Augustine as teaching some kinds of works righteousness because he didn't. And, in fact, in the book of Concord when the Lutheran fathers want to find a church father to support their position, they will cite Augustine. Not because Augustine agrees with Luther in every detail. Because as I said, he does not have the same definition of grace. But because Luther and Augustine both believe that salvation is completely a gift of God. Whereas Pelajus and somebody like Gabriel Biel would say to one degree or another salvation depends on human initiation or cooperation. So in that sense, Augustine is, in fact, on Luther's side. But I don't think that that should obscure for us the differences between Luther and Augustine. And I think these differences are very important. Because if you want to understand what Lutheran theology is, you need to understand the difference between Luther and Augustine. For Luther grace means favor daie. You are saved because of what God does in his heart. The way God looks at you. What God says about you. You are not saved because God transforms you. You are saved because of what God says about you. Now, I think sometimes Lutherans do themselves a disservice when they mischaracterize Roman Catholic theology by saying, "Well, Catholics teach that you can earn your way to heaven." Well, in fact, some of them did. Okay. We talked about Gabriel Biel. And there is a tradition in the Roman Catholic Church that does look very Pelagian. But there's another also in the Roman Catholic Church that's very Augustinian and which would, in fact, emphasize that God does it all. So we don't really clarify our position very well if our only two options that we can see are Lutheran theology and works righteousness. There is a third position. And that is a Monergism of God where God does it all. But the way he does it is by transforming you rather than forgiving you. That is a crucial distinction to keep in mind. And that's the difference between Luther and Augustine. Now, the reason that's important is because if God saves you by transforming you, how do you find out if you're saved? You look at yourself. "Is God transforming me?" If God saves you by forgiving you, how do you see if you're saved? You look at the promises of God. So here again, if we were to take the law seriously, if we were to take sin seriously, then we also ought to take seriously our need for a sure reference point outside of ourselves. To prevent people from having to look inside to find out what God thinks about them. That's not where you find it. You find it in his promises. And that is, in fact, the best way to give glory to Christ as Savior is to trust him for salvation. *** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. ***