Full Text for Confessions 2- Volume 39 - Why the Table of Duties? (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY LUTHERAN CONFESSIONS LC2 39 Captioning Provided By: Caption First, Inc. P.O. Box 1924 Lombard, IL 60148 800 825 5234 www.captionfirst.com *** 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. *** >> NICK: I am quite fascinated by these concluding sections. Why did Luther provide us with a chart for Christian living? Is this still valuable? Can I use it as a pastor to teach my congregation members? >> DR. KOLB: I think so, Nick. As a matter of fact, I think, while there are so many very valuable aspects of Luther's theology, his understanding that God calls us to be his servants in the midst of the structures of life that he put together, I think that's one of the greatest things that Luther gives us. And something that helps people make sense of human life today. Let's go back for just a moment again to the medieval background. When what we might call Christian ethics or Christian morals was taught in the late Middle Ages, the Ten Commandments were used. But so were lists of virtues and vices. There were 7 cardinal virtues, 4 for everybody and 3 more for monks. And then there was a list of 7 vices. And the Christian life consisted of trying to stay away from all those bad things and trying to be as good as you could. If you were just a common ordinary layman, you couldn't be expected to do as much as if you were a monk or a priest or a nun. But you did as much and the best that you could. Well, Luther didn't do much with the lists of virtues and vices. He certainly did a lot with the concept of new obedience within the framework of virtues that God gives to us. But he put that also in a different structure than there had been in the middle ages. Most Christians, like most nonChristians, have thought of the world around us and they think of religion as a world that has two levels a sacred level, if we can use the language of modern anthropologists; and a profane level. Those are the terminol that's the terminology we would hear in an anthropology class, for instance, or the sociology class. The realm of the sacred and the realm of the profane. In the realm of the sacred we had religious activities. And, generally, people think of them as Godly activities. And then in the realm of the profane, not in the sense we use profane language. But simply in the sense of things that are secular, I suppose would be a good way of saying it. Things that don't make as much difference to God, just go about daily activities. He doesn't care so much what we eat. He doesn't care what we how we farm and so forth. But Luther didn't accept this distinction between sacred and profane that he encountered in the medieval church. Actually, he tried to live by the distinction at first. That's why he became a monk. But the medieval church taught that, if you have to be a peasant, you have to be a peasant. But it would be better if you go to the monastery or become a nun or maybe even become a priest. That would just give you a maybe a steeper way to heaven but a shortcut to heaven. It would make God more pleased with you. If you like to eat, it's okay to eat as long as you don't eat too much. But, if you want to be really Godly, do something religious like fasting. That torture of your body will make God happy with you. Or if you want to spend the next year staying home farming, taking care of the geese and the pigs and planting and harvesting grain, that's okay. But, if you really want to please God, if you want to make God really happy, why don't you take a pilgrimage. You can go down to Spain to see the bones of Saint James. Or you can go over to Cologne (phonetic) to see the bones of the three wise men. Luther said no. He used Romans 14:28 as a key passage and said that the difference is not between sacred activities and profane activities. The difference is between that which is done in faith and that which is not done in faith. Romans 14:28 reminds us that everything that is not done in faith is sin, is sinful. The orientation for evaluating what we do comes out of the person we are, the identity we have as children of God. And so faith in God is what makes the critical difference between God pleasing works and those that don't please God, even if technically they externally meet the demands of God's commandments. So Luther was really turning the sacred and profane distinction not exactly upside down. He didn't say all religious things are bad and all profane things are good. He sort of turned it on its side and turned it at a completely different angle for looking at the question of what constitutes a Christian life. There were actually three objections, I think, that Luther had to this sacred/profane distinction in medieval theology and piety, actually. First of all, Luther said too many of the commands that people were obeying thinking they were doing God pleasing religious activities weren't commanded by God at all, like going on a pilgrimage or fleeing to the monetary. They were the commands of men, as we said in our King James translation of that passage, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men. Secondly, Luther pointed out that so many of these things distracted us from the situations, the walks of life, the assignments that God gives us in our daily life. God sustains the world through marriage, not through monasteries. God wants us to stay home and tend the crops for the welfare of the whole village. He doesn't want us running off to Cologne (phonetic) or Compostela in Spain. And, thirdly, the works that we do for God in a way to please him and earn his salvation aren't really done for God's sake at all. They're done for our own sake. We're trying to please. We're trying really to save ourselves. So for those reasons, Luther said no, the only God pleasing works are those that are done by the children of God in faith. We might have an illustration. The neighbor's little five year old girl is just a terror. She pulled up my tulips. Last week she threw a rock through the window and laughed and laughed and laughed. She calls me names every time I'm out in the yard working. She's not one of my favorite people. But today she comes home from kindergarten. And this kid is a developing Michelangelo. She said, "Here, Mr. Kolb. Here's a picture of you." And it really was a wonderful likeness of me. I couldn't believe it. She may have a bad personality, but she's got great artistic talent. That was just a wonderful portrait of me. Well, three minutes later my own daughter comes home. She has inherited her father's artistic talents. And at first I thought it was an elephant. But no, she assured me it was her dad. No Michelangelo here. Which of the two pictures goes up on the refrigerator? Even our flawed and faulty works are works done out of love for our heavenly father. And, therefore, he accepts them. Now, of course, to speak about the works, we hope that the Holy Spirit improves us so that we really do serve our neighbor and serve our neighbor well with these works. But the point of this illustration is it is not the external appearance of the work that counts. But it is the heart of the child of God that is truly God pleasing. And so Luther saw that the Christian life is a life that's lived out in every situation of life, in every walk of life. In every moment of our lives, we hear God calling, God calling us to be his servants. God calling us in our faith not to try to please him, since he's already pleased with us for the sake of Christ. He is calling us to serve our neighbor, to focus on the needs of our neighbor, to reach out to our neighbor with his love. What that means, then, is that we're not trying to somehow serve God directly with our good works. We're not trying to serve ourselves with our good works. We are trying we are called to serve the needs of our neighbor. That means that we no longer make the neighbor an instrument of our own trying to look good in God's sight. We take seriously the real needs of the neighbor, not always what the neighbor thinks he or she wants, but what these other people within our grasp within our reach really need. Last week I helped 17 older people across the street. Only three of them actually wanted to go across the street. But I needed 17 points with God. So I took 17 of them across the street and pointed out to God what a good deed I had done, whether they wanted to go or not. My point is that we make the neighbor a tool of our own desire to save ourselves through our good works. If we are not freed up to see that God has forgiven us and given us life and salvation through Christ without any merit or worthiness in us. And God then sends us into his world called to serve him by focusing on the needs of our neighbors.