Full Text for Confessions 2- Volume 47 - The Formula of Concord on the Righteousness of God (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY LUTHERAN CONFESSIONS LC2 47 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. *** >> ERIC: Dr. Rast, I am Eric. I remember that the word "righteousness" was a big problem for Martin Luther before he came to understand the Gospel. Article III of the Formula is also about the righteousness of faith. Were Lutherans still having trouble with this topic? If so, in what ways? What does the Formula have to say to us today about this topic? >> DR. RAST: Well Eric, your history is correct. Luther really did struggle with this notion of righteousness. And the text from the scriptures, Romans chapter 1 verse 16 that we were discussing in the last little segment really bore down on this, that I'm not ashamed of the Gospel. It is the righteousness of God. Luther struggled with this so mightily. This was really in the center of everything for him. What was the righteousness that God demanded? And as you know the story, Luther himself, having learned this from medieval Roman Catholicism, strove to provide that righteousness from his own works and actions. He trusted, he hoped better yet, that God might save him if he had done enough. But he knew that the onus was really upon him. If he was going to be saved, it was going to be welcomed into the kingdom of God, it was his responsibility to do the good works that God had commanded him to do. Of course that manifested itself in Luther's life as he as he struggled with this notion of confessing his sins but making satisfaction for them. And in medieval Roman Catholicism confession and absolution had a third part that went along with it, namely, satisfaction. So you would go to the priest, confess your sins. The priest would absolve you, conditionally speaking, and then provide you with an act of satisfaction that you had to do in a sense to make the absolution effectual. So first off, you had to scour your mind and your heart to find every sin you had possibly committed within your life. And then having made that thorough purging within yourself, confess that to the priest who then would say to you what was required in terms of making restitution, making satisfaction. Not surprisingly of course, Luther came to hate this God who made such demands of him. The righteousness that God demanded simply terrified him and drove him into the depths of despair. Finally, Luther, shouting out in agony that this God who demanded so much in fact wasn't righteous at all in making such insufferable demands upon sinful people. Now, what was Luther's theological break through? To see that in the book of Romans when the word "righteousness" would appear, it meant the righteousness of God, the righteousness of Christ, the work of Christ on our behalf. To pay for sin, to live the law, and to do these things fully and entirely. This was the center. However, sadly, there were conflicts within Lutheranism over this particular point as well. And the Formula of Concord Article 3 concerning the righteousness of faith before God deals with some of the controversies that surrounded this question.. Here we're talking about an historical figure, a Lutheran pastor and theologian by the name of Andreas Osiander, who began to teach over against Luther a different doctrine of justification. Very simply, for Luther justification was forensic in character, that is, it involves God on the basis of the work of Christ he declaring us not guilty. Forensic having judicial character to it, a courtroom kind of scene where God is judge, declares us not guilty on the basis of the word of Christ. And all our guilt has been taken by him. Osiander, on the other hand, argued that justification was not forensic in character. Rather, it was more a process in which a person was involved. In fact, a person was justified on the basis of the indwelling of the divine nature of Christ who had made atonement for our sins. Now, in a very short sentence there, I said a couple of big things that involve both the person and the work of Christ. And later on in this course when we consider Formula of Concord Article 8, we'll talk more about the person of Christ. But it comes up here. Very simply Osiander taught that Christ paid for our sins, made the atonement for our sins on the basis of his divine nature only. That in a sense, the human nature simply carried the divine nature along and within the context of his life and ministry, it was the divine nature of Christ that did the work on behalf of human sin, making atonement for sin, suffering the penalty of death, and providing the linkage then we would have so we could approach God as his children. This then was transferred to us when Christ came to indwell us. And in the indwelling, between, only of the divine nature of Christ, said Osiander, we are little by little brought more and more into the image of God, into the image of Christ and therefore, are more and more justified in his sight. Now, what's the problem here? Well two things at least, number one Osiander falls into a terrible problem with regard to the person of Christ. Very simply when it comes to the person of Christ, it isn't proper ever to divide the two natures, the divine and the human. And, again, we'll come back to that in some detail with regard to article 8. But Lutherans are always steadfastly maintaining that Christ is truly God, truly man and that these two natures are united in one person so that what is described of one can be described of the other. That God is truly man and man is truly God. United in the one person Christ. And like I said, we'll come back to that in some detail. On the other hand, and perhaps in some ways more definitively for us theologically, Osiander changed the terms of the debate when it came to the work of Christ. By stating that Christ suffered, died, rose again for us only according to his divine nature, putting such stress on the divine nature of Christ, Osiander began to cutaway at one of the foundations of our assurance as human beings that our salvation is complete. Certainly turning justification into a process underscores that. But there's even a deeper issue at work here in my mind. Namely, think about the work of Christ on our behalf. What it is he does. We've already mentioned the text from the book of Hebrews that he was like unto us all things except sin. And that means from conception through birth and through his entirely ministry and life, Christ is truly God, truly man. So that as he works on our behalf, he is working in such a way as to be the God man. Now this is an older question. And it goes well back into the Middle Ages as well. There was a book written by Anselm many, many years before asking why did God become man? And the basic point was simply this: That man needed to live the law perfectly to fulfill it in its entirety as God demanded and so Christ had to be man. But no mere man could fulfill that law perfectly. So it was necessary for Christ to be God. God and man both. So why did God have to become man? To fulfill the law perfectly for us and in its entirety. We have often used the kind of technical theological language to describe this as the active obedience of Christ, that he actively takes up this necessity of fulfilling the law on our behalf. That is something that he does, that he works at. And something that characterizes his entire life as God and man for us. Now why is this important? Again, in the Anselmic categories, if he was mere man, then he wouldn't have been able to fulfill the law. If was merely God, well of course God can fulfill the law and where would be the human element in this in actually fulfilling the demands that the righteousness of God has. In regard to the law, it's necessary for both to be present. So the active obedience of Christ on our behalf demands this kind of activity. And it demands that the activity be undertaken on the part of both God and man. And that is united in the one person Christ. So the formulators say very clearly that this is about the person and work of Christ together. Now, why is this such a big deal? Well, part of the question here then becomes: What is it that you have faith in? Or maybe even more basically, what is faith? The nature of faith comes to the forefront here. Because if you are being indwelt by the divine nature of Christ and that is what is producing your justification, what is faith then? Is faith a process like justification is a process? Or is faith something different? Obviously, the answer of the Lutheran confessors here is that Osiander's understanding of faith is going to be skewed because of his faulty idea regarding the person and work of Christ. And that frankly, they are right in this regard. Faith for the Lutheran confessors here is that which looks outside of itself. That which looks to Christ. In fact, that which clings only to him. They put it very, very beautifully in the epitome of Article 3 concerning the righteousness of faith before God. Paragraph 6 when they say this: "We believe, teach, and confess that this faith is not a mere knowledge about the stories of Christ it is instead a gift of God through which in the word of the Gospel we recognize Christ truly as our redeemer and trust in Him so that solely because of His obedience by grace we have the forgiveness of sins, are regarded as Godly and righteous by the father and have eternal life.". So where Osiander sees this growth and justification by virtue of the indwelling Christ, instead what the formulators here are saying, when the word is preached and the Gospel is present and the spirit works through that Gospel, the spirit creates faith. And what faith does is look outside of itself to Christ. Faith always has an option. Faith always holds to something outside of itself. And that is of course the person and work of Jesus Christ. For us. Now, think about faith, if you would. What comes to mind when that word is dropped in front of you? What we have here in this brief paragraph from the Formula of Concord actually embraced three elements technically speaking, of what faith is all about. First off they say negatively, "Faith is not mere knowledge of stories about Christ." It's not mere knowledge. But it does include knowledge. We do need to know the story of Christ. We need to know what it is he has done. We need to hear that proclamation of the life, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ for us. But simply knowing the stories doesn't necessarily mean a person has faith. You need to know the stories to have faith, but the stories knowing them themselves is not equivalent to faith. There's something more. Because, after all, as the devil proves early on in the Gospel of Matthew, he knows the stories about Christ. He knows what Christ is going to do. There's a second element here and that is brought up as well when it says, "We recognize Christ truly as our redeemer." There is a sense in which we assent to the stories about Christ, that we know they are true. We know they are facts. And there is the yes in our mind to the statements in the proclamation that God makes about his son and his work on our behalf. So knowledge and assent. But is still that enough? Well, again, doesn't the devil believe that Christ is the redeemer? He doesn't like that fact, but he knows that fact. So what more is there? There's the final element of this. And this is what you hear so clearly in St. Paul in the Book of Romans and throughout the Lutheran Confessions. And that is when we trust in Him. So knowledge, assent, and trust. That's faith. And trust, you might say, is really the heart and soul of the thing. For we trust in Christ. We cling to him. We hold to him alone as the one who has suffered, died and risen again for us. That much, is indeed clear. Now, what does Osiander's perspective do to that? Well simply put, according to the Formula, as we trust in that proclamation of Christ crucified and risen again, we stand before God. Corum detto (ph) As Luther would have put it, before God apart from anything within us. We simply say nothing in my hands I bring. Simply to thy cross I cling, simply appealing and holding on to Christ alone. No other thing is appealed to. That is faith. That is trust. What Osiander said instead was there was a quality within the human person defined by the in dwelling the Christ that made you something different. And as you grew more and more into that image of Christ, then you were more and more justified, if you will Well, at what point, would answer the confessors, are you fully justified or sufficiently justified? Is it ever enough? They believed that Osiander's position undercut the assurance that the pure proclamation of the Gospel gave. Rather, said the confessors, what faith does is simply cling to the promise that God makes in Christ. Your sins are forgiven is an objective statement. Made real in the like, death, resurrection of Christ. Faith simply holds on to him. This is why Lutherans go to such extremes and following Paul in this respect, I think, in the Book of Romans, go to such extremes to make the case that it is not on the basis of anything that we do that we appeal to God. In fact, we don't appeal to God on the basis of our own faith. Faith points outside itself, points to the object which is Christ. Not me we say. Him alone. He alone is the one that I can turn to. And so we make all kinds of references to things liking exclusive particles as they are called. That's a unique element of the Formula of Concord. The solid declaration gets to it in paragraph 36, article 3. "This is the Apostle Paul's position when he so diligently and urgently insists on exclusive articles" or exclusive clauses "that is on terms that human works are excluded in the article on justification by faith." So, he says, "We are saved by grace without merit, apart from the law, apart from works, not by works. These exclusive terms are all summarized when one says by faith alone we become righteous before God and are saved. For in this way works are excluded." The point again is for the comfort of the human subject. And in this respect the Lutheran confessors are not doing anything that Paul himself had done much earlier in the Book of Ephesians. We began to read it when we considered the freedom of the human and the reality of original sin. Let me read the first section of chapter 2 as it gets to the points we've been talking about. "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the son's of disobedience, among whom we all once lived in the passions of our fresh carrying out the desires of the body and the mind and we're by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind. But God being rich in his mercy because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. By grace you have been saved. And raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. So that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace and kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." And then the Lutheran text. "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing. It is the gift of God. Not the result of works so that no one may boast." Purely the gift of God apart from works. God's promise to us. The confessors understood this. But they also understood that this grace of God and our receiving the gifts of God in faith had an effect in this life. And like Paul, they would go on to confess, in fact, the next chapter that we'll look at in the Formula of Concord deals with the relationship of faith and works. For as Paul says, "We are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." What is the relationship between faith and works? How do the two interrelate? That would be one of the other controversies that Lutherans faced. But happily, they had put this one to rest. We'll move on to the next short one.