Full Text for Homiletics 2- Volume 6 - What are some of the more important of Walther's Law and Gospel theses? (Video)

Homiletics 2 File 6 Professor Carl Fickenscher II Question by: David >> DAVID: Dr. Fickenscher, my name is David. I want to follow up on that last answer. You said that the last 21 theses are examples of applying this. What are some of the more important of those? >> PROF. FICKENSCHER: Sure, David. Let's talk about some of those. We won't go through all of those remaining 21 theses, but let's at least look at 5 and 6 and then some more on down the line. Thesis No. 5 is an interesting one. It begins this set of 21 essential errors in confounding law and gospel. Walther says this: "The first manner of confounding law and gospel is the one most easily recognized and the grossest. It is adopted, for instance, by papists, Socinians, and rationalists and consists in this: That Christ is represented as a new Moses or law giver, and the gospel turned into a doctrine of meritorious works, while at the same time, those who teach that the gospel is the message of the free grace of God in Christ are condemned and anathematized as is done by the papists." Now, Walther says that's the most easily recognized but it's a lot of words. Look back and see what he says. He says this first error is one that is common to papists, Socinians, and rationalists. Who are they? Papists, of course, would be Roman Catholics. Socinians are actually a Unitarian group that named after a couple of Italian men of the 16th and 17th century, and Walther there may actually be speaking to include Unitarians of his own day and that would apply to ours as well. And finally, rationalists. Rationalists, of course, are those who would say that everything can be described or understood by human reason. The age of enlightenment was essentially a rise of rationalism, and the result of rationalism often was to deny such things as miracles in the biblical text. If it couldn't be explained scientifically, understood rationally, then it must not really have happened. So what's the error that Roman Catholics and Unitarians and those who depend on their reason have in common? That is, that Christ is represented as a new Moses or law giver, okay? What does that mean? Essentially, that would say that Christ's purpose in coming into the world was to show us what we are to do, to give us the moral example that we are to follow. You know, Mormons say, for example, very much this same sort of thing. "Oh, yes, we believe in Christ." "Well, but in what sense do you believe in Christ?" And each other religion of the world that in any way recognizes Jesus at all, apart from Christianity, essentially sees him as someone who is a very good man, a very good teacher, a man who is morally upright, and gave us words of wisdom and perfect or near perfect examples of what we also were to do. The Roman Catholic Church, of course, while recognizing that Jesus' death and resurrection is necessary for our salvation, also would say that our works following the example of Christ is necessary to complete our salvation. Unitarians, because they deny that Jesus really is God, would say that this man, Jesus of Nazareth, could not possibly have paid for the sins of the world himself. His death on a cross could never have been sufficient for anyone else because he was just a man. But, they would say, he was a very good and wise man who, by his life, was exemplary for us. And likewise, rationalists, by denying the miracles especially, in this case, the miracle of the resurrection would say that Jesus could not have been the virgin born God, living on earth, who died and rose from the grave, but, rather, just a man who lived in Palestine in a particular era of history and was, indeed, a very fine example for us to follow. In other words, each of these groups would see Jesus as a moral example. Now, think about what that means. That would place in each of the acts of Jesus no real salvific, saving significance for us. Take, for example, the case of Jesus feeding 5,000 people, okay? When we think of Jesus feeding 5,000 people, properly understood, we see God living here on earth, caring for the needs of those people who were really hungry, and because he was reconciled to them by his death on the cross, he would then dispense to them wonderful blessings, quite miraculously. Food for 5,000 men, and countless women and children as well, out of five loaves and two fish, okay? What's happening there is true gospel. God reconciled to man by the cross, sharing all the blessings that reconciliation brings in this particular tangible, visible form. Okay? Gospel. But if we are to interpret Jesus, instead, as a moral example, how would we see the feeding of the 5,000? Well, quite simply, it would be an example for us that we also should care for the needs of the hungry, share what we had with others to the best of our ability, which obviously would be less than the miraculous text. But by doing the same sorts of things that Jesus did in the text, we would be following his example. Remember that following an example always turns this event into a matter of law, because law, again, is what we are to do or not to do, and the result ultimately is that there can be no gospel at all if Christ is not doing things vicariously in our place. If everything Christ does is simply something for us to do, then everything in our faith is a matter of law. Us earning our salvation. And we know how futile that is. We will always fall short. Instead of the error in Thesis 5, what we trust is that these great works of Christ Jesus have been done not as examples for us, but in our place. When Christ, for example, fed 5,000, then as God sees it, we fed the hungry. When Christ kept the law perfectly, then as God declares it, we have kept the law perfectly. We don't have to do something in addition to what Christ has done. What he did actually is counted as ours. And then Thesis No. 6. Thesis 6 is one of those out of these 25 that you really want to have very clearly in mind, because people refer to it in passing. That's like Thesis 6, as you'll hear. "In the second place, the word of God is not rightly divided when the law is not preached in its full sternness and the gospel not in its full sweetness; when, on the contrary, gospel elements are mingled with the law and law elements with the gospel." That term, "the law in its full sternness; the gospel in its full sweetness" is one again that you'll hear quite frequently and well worth committing to your memory. What does that mean? Well, that essentially means that to minimize either the law or the gospel, to make either one less pointed, makes the other also less valuable. I like to illustrate it this way. Imagine that there is a sort of a spiritual equilibrium, if you will. If the depths of depression that one might hit are very shallow, then to be delivered from those depths of depression can be only somewhat thrilling. On the other hand, if we realize that we find ourselves spiritually in that kind of condition, that far below the equilibrium, then to be delivered from it is truly exhilarating. The law can rather, the gospel can never be sweeter than the law has been stern. In order for the gospel to be really sweet, it's necessary for us to be saved from something that is really treacherous. I remember an example of a very good friend of mine who was Roman Catholic. Very conscientious. Conscientious to a fault. Great guy. I was living with him one summer, and he came home one day and he said he was very, very excited, and he said that there was a new parish priest in his parish, one of several priests they had, a new young priest, and my friend decided he was going to ask that new young priest to be his confesser. I said, "Oh, that's great, Bob." I was really thrilled to hear that. And I said, "Why so? Why is this so attractive?" And he said, "Well, this young priest told us that there really is is no indication that God has ever really sent anyone to hell." Now, that gave my friend a great deal of comfort. But of course it was a false comfort, wasn't it. And not wanting to burst his bubble, hurt his feelings, nevertheless, thinking it was really the loving thing for a friend to do, I said, "You know, Bob, that's not true. For example, Jesus says, 'Wide is the way that leads to destruction and many are they who enter there.' The Bible definitely speaks of people being lost eternally to hell. But, Bob but you don't need to be afraid to go there because Jesus died on the cross for your sins. He's given you eternal life. Bob, I believe there's a hell but I'm not scared of going there, because Jesus has saved me and he has saved you." Unfortunately my friend recoiled at that. That he was not, at that point at least, able to be comforted by that. Why not? Because he had been so thoroughly taught that one could never really be sure of salvation, because Thesis 5, we saw a moment ago. Jesus wasn't seen in his church as having done the full work of salvation, but having done some and leaving some to him. And since he knew he could never be sure he had done enough, he was terrified of eternal damnation. He really was. He was like Luther. He took it that seriously. So when someone came along to him and said, "No, no, the downside isn't really so bad," he jumped at it. Because for him, the upside, the assurance of salvation, had never been given, he could not deal with the downside being such depths as eternal damnation. For him, to minimize the downside was necessary because the upside had been so terribly minimized. We know that the law is as stern as the word speaks; that, yes, everyone who falls short of the glory of God deserves eternal damnation. But we don't fear that. Because we know the assurance of forgiveness in Christ Jesus. We know how wonderful it is to be delivered because we know how severe our desserts really are. We tried certainly to share that with my dear friend, and we certainly hope that at some time in the future, that would also become really apparent to him that he would really trust that wonderful news of forgiveness in Christ Jesus. But Walther is saying here is that the law must be preached as sternly as, in fact, the scriptures really depict it, so that the gospel can be as sweet as, in fact, it really is. But obviously the other side is true as well. If the gospel is not preached in its full sweetness, then one cannot bear to hear the law in its full sternness.