Luther: 'Miracles Are To Corroborate The Word'; 'Miracles Do Not Convert Anyone'; 'The Greatest Miracle'

In light of our recent entry on Ebola and how it got me thinking about the Lutheran view of miracles (specifically, "divine/miraculous healing" and how it is apparently so prevalent around the world today), here are a few more excellent thoughts from Martin Luther on this very important subject.

We need to prayerfully consider these truths since there are far too many false teachers out there who are using "false signs and wonders" (2 Thessalonians 2:9) to their advantage to deceive millions of the elect (Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22).

In fact, this sad reality seared my eyeballs the other day when I saw a friend's Facebook status that was all about how he was invited to "preach a sermon" and to then pray over many people with emotional and physical health issues after the sermon. Others in attendance "witnessed the miraculous healing" on display and had no doubts whatsoever since they "knew God would show up!" because He always does whenever this person is around...or so they say. Ugh.

In another attempt to speak "the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15), I think it's quite fair for us to ask why all the Christians (clergy and laity alike) who constantly make claims about "divine/miraculous healing" week-after-week aren't hopping on a plane to Africa right now to cure the sick, raise the dead, and rid the world of Ebola.

Some won't like me pointing this out I'm sure, but let's be honest. Wouldn't that be the most "loving" thing you could do for your neighbor, especially if you truly believe you have the power (a.k.a. the "spiritual gift") to legitimately heal people?

For that matter, why don't we see the self-proclaimed "Apostle"/"Faith Healer"/"Miracle Worker" serving in hospitals around the world today on a regular basis?

God's Word provides us with the answers to those questions (Matthew 24:24; Matthew 7:21-23). It's the Word of God that should be most prominent -- not the miracle itself even if it is real.



 
AS TO SUPERHUMAN performances in the physical world, Luther says in a sermon of March 1525, he text of which contains 1 Timothy 1:20, that they have no saving power. 
2998 MIRACLES AS SUCH DO NOT CONVERT ANYONE 
I would not want the grace to perform miracles; for those who pay no attention to the Word, against which the whole world has no reason to grumble, will not be moved by signs.

**************************************************************** 
THEREFORE Luther says that God is not ostensibly lavish with His miracles. So he tells the councilmen of Germany in 1524. 
2999 THE DIVINE ECONOMY OF MIRACLES 
God will perform no miracles so long as problems can be solved by means of other gifts He has bestowed on us.

**************************************************************** 
IN HIS EXPOSITION of John 14:11 (1537) Luther dwells at greater length on this relation between miracles and the Word. It was a subject of peculiar importance in those days. 
3002 COMPARE MIRACLES WITH THE WORD 
One must not believe every sort of miracle and wonder. For Moses predicted, (Deuteronomy 13:1-2) that false prophets would also perform signs and wonders; and St. Paul clearly prophesied of the reign of the Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:9) that it would come with all manner of signs and wonders through the working of the devil. For this reason we must judge and compare all miracles and wonders according to God's Word, in order to see whether they accord and agree with it. For if people direct you to something else for help than to the teaching and work of the Lord Christ, you may boldly conclude that it is the devil's work and false, lying signs, by which he deceives and misleads you, as he has hitherto done under the name of Mary and the saints, while Christ was never properly recognized and taught. Moreover, God allows such things to happen in order to try the false Christians, so that they will (as St. Paul says) believe a lie because they did not want to believe the truth. For this reason we should be wise enough to test and judge such signs, seeing that God has warned us that they will happen. And when we see that they are done apart from and without Christ, nay, against His Word and faith, we should be convinced that they are surely nothing but false signs of the devil.

*************************************************************** 
CHRIST HIMSELF says that there may be those ho boast of having performed miracles and yet are utterly disowned by Him. Luther unfolds the implications of this statement of our Lord in his exposition of Matthew 7:22-23 (1532). 
3003 MIRACLES SHOULD STRENGTHEN FAITH IN WORD 
Then we will not let ourselves be diverted by their claims of the signs and wonders that Mary and other saints have done, nor by the skillful way they throw dust into our eyes to lead us away from the Word. Since we hear this warning that these false signs have to happen, we shall be smart enough not to believe in any mere sign. When He discussed these miracles in Matthew 24, He warned them faithfully and seriously (Matthew 24:25): "Lo, I have told you beforehand"; as if He wanted to say: Beware and cling to My warning, for otherwise you will certainly be seduced. You have My Word, so that you know what the will of My Father is. Contrast these two. Here you have My teaching, which tells you how to live and act. There you see the signs that contradict this teaching. He wants you to draw this conclusion: Since I see such wonderful signs over there, while over here I have the teaching as well as the warning, I shall first examine the implication of the signs. I shall test them where they ought to be tested, as to whether they serve to strengthen my faith in the Word: that Christ died for me; that through Him I may obtain piety and salvation in the sight of God; and that I should carry out my station and pay faithful attention to it. I may discover the contrary, that by this they want to strengthen and confirm their own stuff and teach me to run to this or that saint who does so many signs and miracles every day, or to crawl into a hood because this is such a holy order. This would mean being led away from Christ, from my church, pulpit, Baptism, and the Sacrament, and from my station and the works demanded of me -- all things with which I should remain. Therefore I refuse to listen or to know any of this though an angel were to come from heaven (Galatians 1:8) and raise the dead before my very eyes. Christ has taught and warned me: Hold on to My Word, pulpit, and Sacrament. Where these are, there you will find Me. Stay there, for you do not need to go running or looking any farther. I will never come any nearer to you than where My Gospel, Baptism, and ministry are; through them I come into your heart and talk to you.

************************************************************** 
IN A SERMON on John 4:47-54 Luther points out that this was indeed the language of Christ's miracles. 
3004 THIS WAS THE PURPOSE OF CHRIST'S MIRACLES 
Christ says in effect that faith should not rest on signs and wonders alone but on the Word. For signs and wonders may actually be false and untrue; but he who builds on the Word cannot be deceived, because God's promise is certain and cannot lie. Although the Lord performed signs and wonders in order to let Himself be seen and move people to faith, He nonetheless wanted people to look more at the Word than at the signs, which were intended to serve as a testimony to the Word. For it was not His main purpose to give this or that sick person bodily aid; it was His most important office to direct people to the Word and to impress it on their hearts, so that they should be saved thereby.

************************************************************** 
BUT THE POWERS of darkness may mimic miracles and thus direct men to ruinous lies. In a sermon of 1537 on Matthew 24:15-28 Luther notes that Christ expressly warns against this strategy of the father of lies and his followers. 
3005 BEWARE OF "LYING WONDERS" 
We should learn to believe no miracle after the revelation of Christ, even though a person who had been dead for ten days were called back to life. If I now should see a priest or a monk raise a dead person in the name of St. Ann, I would say that it was the work of the devil.

************************************************************** 
IN HIS EXPOSITION of Matthew 7:22-23 (1532) the Reformer, therefore, draws the following summary conclusion. 
3006 THE WORD MUST JUDGE ALL MIRACLES 
In other words, the rule is this: Regardless of their size and number, no wonders or signs are to be accepted contrary to established teaching. We have God's commandment; He has commanded from heaven (Matthew 17:5): Listen to Him; Christ is the only one to whom you should listen. In addition, we have this warning, that false prophets will come and do great signs, but that they are all on the wrong track, away from Christ and toward something different. The only preventive is to have a good grasp of the doctrine and to keep it before your eyes continually. 
************************************************************** 
TO LUTHER the greatest of all miracles was, of course, Christ with His work of redemption. So he says in his exposition of Micah 1:15. 
3007 THE GREATEST MIRACLE 
What can be said that is more marvelous than this, that the Son of God assumes the flesh of man and is born of a virgin? What is more astounding than this, that the Son of God, battling with death and the devil, allows Himself to be overcome, offers His life to His enemies, and overcomes while being overcome? And the miracle supreme is this, that the man Christ, who died on the cross, rises from death and from the sealed grave on the third day, ascends to heaven and sits at the right hand of God with His flesh. What can possibly be said, nay, even conceived, that is equal to these miracles?


Now, if you're like me, then there's probably a part of you that still wonders why we don't still see genuine miracles today even after reading all of that. I mean, does everything we just read mean that miracles can never happen in this day and age?

Here's Pastor Karl Weber's response to that common question.


Why don’t we see miracles today like we see Jesus performing and those that flowed from the apostles’ hands (Acts 5:12)? Jesus answers this question a little later on in the fourth chapter of Luke after He healed Peter’s mother-in-law. By then people were flocking towards our Lord imploring Him to have mercy like they had just perhaps seen and certainly heard about. And when it was day, He departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:42-43). Jesus was sent to preach the good news. And the good news He preached reaches its culmination when our Lord was glorified. And Jesus was glorified when He was lifted up from the earth (John 13:31-32) to draw all people to Himself (John 12:31). It is through our Lord’s innocent bitter suffering and death that Jesus defeated sin, death, and the devil. As our substitute Jesus suffered our punishment for all the sins we have, are, or ever will commit in this life. Jesus did so for as our substitute, He loves sinners and does not want any to perish. Through Jesus’ work on your behalf death no longer can hold you down; sin has lost its power to create guilt; and the devil is now toothless having no teeth to sink into you; no force of creation is able to keep you in the grave. Jesus needed to preach the good news that through his suffering on the cross we have the full, complete healing of mind, limb, and spirit. And so Jesus performed miracles, yes, because He is merciful. But also to build—for lack of a better word—His resumé. “Resumé building!” you say. “For what purpose?” you ask. To build His resumé of authenticity—that He truly is God in the flesh and that we may believe His words that our souls live and receive complete healing from His greatest act of mercy; Jesus’ death on the tree in our place for the forgiveness of our sins. This resumé building is proclaimed by St. Peter in his Pentecost sermon. “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know …" (Acts 2:22). This was the same reason why the apostles performed their miracles. Yes it was because of mercy. But these acts of mercy pointed to the greatest act of mercy: preaching on Christ. It was to build their resumé so people would listen to apostles as they spoke by the Holy Spirit the words that Jesus gave them to speak (John 14:23).


Ewald M. Plass adds that "Luther grants that miracles are possible even today, though they are unlikely since we now have the written and preached Word to satisfy our every need. The miracles of Christianity are like bells which announce that the preaching service is about to begin. But when it has begun, they cease to ring, having served their purpose. So the miracles of the New Testament era called attention to the fact that the completed redemption was about to be proclaimed."

In a Lutheran layman's terms, it's always about Jesus and preaching Christ crucified for the sins of all mankind, always about His Word and Sacraments, and never about us let alone "Jesus working through me!" when it comes to so-called "miracles" today.

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

Share|

SERMON: We Are 'Free Indeed' Because 'A Mighty Fortress Is Our God' (John 8:31-36)

Today, we observed Reformation Day in our churches.


Prior to the Lutheran Church there was no denominational church in western Christendom. There was simply the Medieval Church, sometimes called the Church Catholic. You were either a member of the Church Catholic or, you were a pagan. There were only two options. 
An Augustinian Monk named Martin Luther began to see from Scripture that the teachings of the Medieval Church were not in line with Scripture. Over the course of time the first church to be formed in the West was the Lutheran Church. 
Many cite the founding of the Lutheran Church in 1517 when Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the church door in Wittenberg. Others cite the writing of the Small Catechism in 1529. Perhaps the most fundamental formation of the Lutheran Church occurred on June 25, 1530 when Lutheran Princes, that is laymen, presented their theological writing called the Augsburg Confession to representatives of the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy. 
The second church formed in the West was the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Church embraced in total the theology of the Medieval Church. The Roman Church was defined and formed with the completion of the Articles of Trent in 1563. The Articles of Trent were written specifically to refute Lutheranism. 
Lutheran Princes, that is laypeople, told representatives of the Emperor and the Pope what they believed, taught and confessed. They relied on the promise from Psalm 119:46, “I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame.” We just confessed these words in our Introit. 
Emperor Charles V and his brother Ferdinand, the King of Austria, met with the Lutheran Princes. They forbade Lutheran preaching in the city of Augsburg during the meeting. Emperor Charles the V commanded the Lutherans to attend the Corpus Christi festival the next day where the body of Christ in the host is paraded throughout the city. Corpus Christi is Latin and it means, Body of Christ. This is the name of a city in Texas. However, Jesus told us to take and eat, take and drink for the forgiveness of one’s sins. Jesus did not say, “parade about the town with the bread—the body of Christ—held aloft on a poll. 
When the Lutherans heard this demand from Emperor Charles V a layman George Margrave of Brandenburg spoke, saying, “Before I let anyone take from me the Word of God and ask me to deny my God, I will kneel and let them strike off my head.” Subsequently ALL the Lutheran Princes in attendance knelt before the Emperor and stretched out their necks. 
*- Pastor Karl Weber


This is the history behind the Reformation Day sermons heard in our churches around the world this morning and it helps to set the stage for our journey together in pursuit of the truth.

An acquaintance, Rev. Jared C. Tucher from Trinity Lutheran Church in Gillette, Wyoming, has been such an unexpected blessing to me over the last several months as his occasional emails and tweets, expressing concern for one of the Lord's sheep, always seem to come at precisely the right time, or just when I need them the most.

Last night, this faithful minister of God's Word and Sacraments took time out of his busy day (and just hours before he would be expected to fulfill his calling and deliver a sermon to his own congregation) to send me an email to, get this, apologize for not being able to share more of his recent sermons online so that people like me could be fed by them.

To express his regrets, he attached a copy of his sermon that he gave earlier this morning some 1700+ miles away on the other side of the country!

Imagine that. That is the heart of a true under-shepherd -- a called and ordained pastor to be exact -- and I'm eternally grateful that there are people like him out there who care about people like me and my family who are stuck in the spiritual wasteland that is the LCMS-Eastern District.

So, here's Rev. Tucher's sermon titled "Free Indeed" that he preached from the pulpit earlier today.


 
John 8:31-36 (ESV) 31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Free Indeed 
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier. To be a slave is not how anyone desires to live their life. It means that they belong to someone else. It  means that you are under someone else’s authority. You do not have your own say in things because your voice no longer matters, only the voice of the master counts. So how unfortunate for you that you are a slave. As Jesus addresses the Jews, He says something to them that shakes them to the very core of their being: He insinuates that they are slaves. To have someone, anyone, insinuate that you are a slave means that they are either ignorant of who you are or they don’t care who you are. Jesus was not ignorant of anything, since He is the all-knowing Son of God. The Jews can be set free from their slavery if they abide in His Word. However, instead of listening to what Jesus had to say, they immediately scoffed at Jesus, telling Him that they are offspring of Abraham and slaves of no one. For as right as the Jews were, they were also as equally wrong. Jesus did not mean they were slaves in a physical sense, but they were slaves in a spiritual sense. Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” This is the slavery Jesus is referring to -- the slavery of sin. The freedom Jesus speaks of is the freedom from the crushing, killing effects of the brutal and insatiable taskmaster that is sin. But the Jews didn’t get it. These Jews, we’re told, even believed in Jesus, and they still didn’t get it. The bondage of the Law -- the bondage of works righteousness -- ingrained into them since conception, had effectively blinded them to the life-giving freedom of the Gospel in Christ. 
They honestly thought of themselves as “free” in terms of their faith, and yet they were still bound down and weighed down by the impossible demands of the Law. Just  think of how foolish this must’ve looked and sounded. Here they are proclaiming their freedom all the while being scared to death that they may have not honored and kept all of the 600+ rabbinic laws. Poor, poor, foolish  Jews -- to think they were free when in reality they were slaves! But before we pity the Jews too much, listen again to what Jesus says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” Did you hear it, that one little word that Jesus said? That word was and is “everyone.” Every single person that has lived since Adam and Eve are slaves to sin. Despite all our efforts, there is nothing that we can do to change that fact. And so enters Jesus. He tells us what is necessary. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Now I know what you’re thinking. “But pastor, I’m not a slave. I’m a free Christian. I have been set free in the blood of Christ." And you know, you’re right. You are a free Christian and you have been set free by the blood of Christ. We are slaves to sin, even as faithful Lutherans. We are slaves to sin. That’s the brutally honest truth. We can easily find the sin in others, but we don’t want to acknowledge the sin that we possess, the sin that we commit. Our Gospel is indeed a fitting text as we celebrate the Reformation. Martin Luther was keenly aware of his sinfulness. He was fully aware that there was nothing that he could do to atone for his sins, despite what the Church was telling him. The Pope in Rome insisted that the truth was whatever he said it was. He insisted that the Church of Rome was the final judge of truth, especially the truth of what God said and what God meant. In a way both Jesus and the Pope claim to have the word of truth. Which should it be: the Pope’s words or Jesus’ words? 
For Martin Luther, he wanted to be free: free from the false errors that were being taught by the Roman Catholic Church. He criticized what was unbiblical, but at the time, he had no intention of splitting the Church. His goal was to reform the Church, to correct the abuses and make straight what had gone crooked over the past few centuries. At least, that’s how it began. Luther looked at the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and found flaws in them because they are teachings of man. He was a learned man with regards to the Scriptures and saw nothing in there about the practice of indulgences. Indulgences, as you may know, were the documents purchased from the Church that would take away the punishments for sin people thought they had to suffer after death in a place called purgatory. In the following years, Luther saw that the problems ran much deeper than just indulgences. The problems dealt with the liturgy, they dealt with leadership in the Church, and, even more central, they dealt with the certainty of salvation. They dealt essentially with these two questions: “Who rules the Church?” and “How can I find a gracious God?” That is, the questions were about God’s Word and God’s grace. Luther’s goal was to return authority in the Church to the Word of God. His goal was to return to the Word of God and find therein the grace of God. That was and still is the heart of the Reformation. It wasn’t about starting a new church. It was about going back to the Word of God. Only in the teachings of Christ will we know the truth and be set free. The freedom we receive from God’s Word is the freedom purchased by Jesus on the cross. It is freedom from sin, death, and the devil. It is freedom from eternal damnation. 
Jesus Christ has indeed set us free. If the Son frees us, we are indeed free; free from the compulsion and bondage of sin, free to serve God as He originally intended us to do and as Jesus did. Martin Luther, the great reformer, relied solely upon Jesus Christ and His teaching to free us, not the false teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church and of man. In looking at Scripture, He saw that outside practices, while they may be good, do not bring about salvation. Salvation has been won for us by Jesus Christ on the cross. Where did Luther get this? He got it from Scripture, namely Psalm 46, which  is the basis for his hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble…God is within her, she will not fall…The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Salvation is found only in Jesus Christ. He knew from what Scripture taught that one could not find salvation in an indulgence. He knew from what Scripture taught that one could not find salvation by praying “Hail Mary’s” and “Our Father’s.” He knew from what Scripture taught that one could not find salvation by any external practice which we do ourselves. Salvation has been won for us by Jesus Christ on the cross. There and only there can we be forgiven. It was here that Luther found freedom at last: freedom from sin, death, and the devil. Salvation came by faith, not by what we did, but by the grace of God. By grace alone, by faith alone, and by Scripture alone are we free at last, free by what Jesus Christ has done. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.


I hope you found that as edifying as I did.

Like so many today, the Jews with a weak faith in Jesus balked when He said that true freedom comes through Him and His teaching.

Humans are self-centered from birth and in bondage to sin, unable to please God (Romans 8:8). Through Jesus' sacrificial death and resurrection, He provides liberation from sin, death, and the devil to all who believe and are baptized into His name.

The words "abide in My word" are key.  Speaking to those whose belief in Him was superficial, Jesus explained that discipleship meant accepting all of His teaching and remaining faithful to it.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, because "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" and everything that such a reality entails from our conception to the cross of Chist, we can rejoice since we are "free indeed!" 
NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

Share|

The Confessional Lutheran 'Sleeping Giant' Is Waking Up!

Billy Graham once called the Lutheran Church in America the "sleeping giant," implying that if it woke, revival was sure to come to the whole Christian church in the U.S.

Use of the term "revival" aside, especially given what we believe, teach, and confess about the existence and growth of Christ's Church here on earth, I found myself thinking about that famous quote tonight -- on the eve of Reformation Sunday.

I've been away from my computer, the Internet, and the Lutheran Blogosphere for a couple of weeks now due to a new job that has me working the 3rd Shift for the first time in my life.

The little free time that I've had so far has been spent fulfilling my vocations as a husband, father, and neighbor with only intermittent access to all the wonderfully edifying Lutheran blogs, podcasts, and websites I have grown so accustomed to.

Tonight, I finally got a chance to "catch up" on some 2 weeks worth of listening and reading. In short? Although I have been just as angry by the "Five Two"/"Wiki 14" crowd as all of you have been, I'm starting to appreciate their misguided boldness for the impact it's having on us Confessional Lutheran types within the LCMS.


1 Corinthians 11:18-19 (ESV) 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.


That's because it seems like I've been hearing and reading SO MUCH MORE from Confessional Lutheran pastors and laity alike since Five Two's little false theology fiasco at Wiki 14 in Texas a few weeks back to the point where it seems like there are now more faithful Confessional Lutheran voices online than ever before since I've become one myself.

Friends, this is GREAT NEWS for many obvious reasons!


 
2009: A Confessional Lutheran Looks At Evangelism By Rev. Scott Blazek 
(Editor’s Note: We know Pastor Blazek for his cartoons but he is also a fine theologian. He wrote the following article to go along with this quarter’s cartoon. The next issue of the Steadfast Quarterly is being printed and prepared for delivery to our members. It is a special double issue about confessional Lutherans doing evangelism. Once it is mailed to our members we will make the pdf available here on the website.)

“Hundreds of other church bodies claim to believe in the Bible (to one degree or another). What makes your church stand out from the rest?” or words to that effect were posed by a married couple coming from a non-liturgical church background, but were looking for a “Bible-believing fellowship.” This family was military, and had been going to a local Baptist church. While they were getting comfortable in that church (liking the people and the pastor, singing in the choir) they had two basic questions: “Does this [Baptist] church have a statement that would help us know just what it believes?” and “How do we join?” To the first question the Baptist pastor responded that his church believed in the Bible, offering no other explanation beyond that, leaving the couple a bit frustrated. To the second question, the pastor told them that they had to be baptized in his congregation. To this the couple responded, “Oh, but we are already baptized!” But the Baptist pastor insisted that in order to join his church, they had to be baptized in his church. 
This sent the couple on the search for another church. The husband asked his father, who was a “leader” in the Plymouth Brethren Church, for advice as to what they might do and where they should go. The father’s answer went something like this: “I have a recommendation, but you’re probably not going to like it.” This only intrigued his son the more. The father continued, “I recommend the Lutheran Church, but it has to be Missouri Synod.” The young husband asked his father, “Why Lutheran-Missouri Synod, and why won’t we like it?” The father said, “It has to be Lutheran-Missouri Synod because it is solid in Biblical teaching, but you won’t like it, because it is liturgical.” 
The next Sunday, this family looked up and tried our church. Halfway through the Divine Service, the husband said to the wife that he was really uncomfortable with the formal liturgy and wanted to leave then and there. His wife quietly responded, “Come on, patience! We certainly can be polite and make it through the whole service.” After the service and having greeted the pastor, the young man wandered into the church library. Somehow he managed to find and pull the Book of Concord off the shelf. He opened to the Augsburg Confession and began reading its articles, thinking to himself, “These people know what they believe!” He then began to reflect on the liturgical service that he and his wife had just attended, realizing just how much of the liturgical components was solidly rooted in Holy Scripture. Fast forward a bit: the young man was deployed overseas, but took a Book of Concord with him. He and his wife were later confirmed in the LCMS and have been just as active as they can be in the Lutheran Church ever since. Oh, and the both of them seemed to have grown into an appreciation for the liturgical Divine Service. 
Some of us talk about and claim to be confessional Lutherans, but do we stop to realize what leverage in sharing the faith we may be neglecting by just leaving our confessions on the shelf? Is it our outstanding covered-dish dinners, or perhaps our overt friendliness, maybe our great choirs and outstanding youth programs that win people to our church? Sorry to say if this sort of thing happens to draw them and keep them, most of us are out-gunned by other denominational churches in our community. So what is it that we have to offer, about which the other guys on the block have no clue (including apparently the Church Growthers)? Being solid in the Holy Scripture and holding steadfastly to the Confessions of the Lutheran Church, from the correct balance of Law/Gospel to Sola Scriptura/Sola Gratia/Sola Fide to the sensitivity of adiaphora v. the integrity of the means of grace and especially the sacraments, we have a clear proclamation of salvation through Jesus Christ alone. There are those out there who are looking for something solid. They are tired of the cotton candy and sugar filled icing or Law-oriented, legalistic churches, yet are not quite sure they know for what they are looking. Perhaps the way to best examine effective outreach of the Gospel (evangelism) is to have those who joined the Lutheran Church as adults to tell us how and why? 
Perhaps the likes of Gene Veith (Spirituality of the Cross), Craig Parton (The Defense Never Rests), and others who were attracted to Confessional Lutheranism as adults ought to enlighten and instruct those of the home-grown variety as to just what value and appeal we really have to offer the world and our neighbor. Perhaps these folks ought to serve on a national Evangelism Board of Confessional Lutherans (the EBCL) to help us open our eyes to “the one thing needful” and help us all look afresh at the Lord Jesus Christ’s “Great Commission.” As if that would happen in the present LCMS! 
Back in the mid eighties, I was being interviewed for a synodical position (on the LCMS Board of Youth Ministry). Somewhere in the middle of the interview, which consisted of a large number of rapid fire questions on an array of topics, Will Barge (then LCMS Director of Personnel) commented that the LCMS has sometimes been referred to as the “sleeping giant” amongst Christian denominations. He followed this comment by asking me what I believed was the LCMS’s greatest asset and what was its greatest weakness. I told him and all those gathered for this interview that its greatest asset was its longstanding heritage on Scriptural solidity and Confessional integrity; its greatest weakness was in reality under the LCMS umbrella there was not one synod but at least two, that we as a church body were not “walking together” in unity of doctrine and practice, and that this unfortunate scenario caused confusion at best and division at its worst, all of which hampered the effectiveness of nurturing the faithful and giving a unified witness to the world. Needless to say, after the interview, I was not offered the position. Lest I only read between the lines with guess work, a member of the interview committee in confidence later confirmed that it was indeed my answer to this particular question that knocked me out of consideration for the position. Let the reader be assured that if I had it all to do over again, I would answer in just the same manner. And if this interview were today (ha!), I know this type of response would even moreso torpedo any chance of my ever serving in the present LCMS hierarchy of Executive Boards. Am I the only one who thinks this? 
So, if there is any validity to my answer about the strength and weakness of the LCMS, is not our evangelism outreach as a church body hamstrung because our confessional integrity has been seriously compromised? Wake-up O Sleeping Giant of Confessional Lutheranism, for the souls of men are aimlessly wandering and/or dying. You’ve been drugged on the sentimentalism of staying yoked to a synod which is now two synods and therefore no longer your grandfather’s synod. Not even a grand churchman, such as Dr. Al Barry, who had such a deep love for evangelism outreach, could unite this so-called synod. What is more important? Sentimentalism or Confessionalism? Do we find ourselves more tied to buildings and sentimental trappings to a Synod that has drastically changed, or are we, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to remain steadfast to Christ’s Word and truth and the integrity of the Confessions? Is it not the time for our divided “Synod” to take to heart the last verses of Acts 15 (36 – 41); and like Barnabas and Paul (who no longer saw eye to eye) sail our separate ways for the sake of the Great Commission and the sharing of the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ with this lost world? 
A few years ago, during a break between sessions at a District Pastoral Conference, one of the Presidents of a Concordia University told me that as we enter the 21st Century, denominationalism is over. In other words, the new generation of people have lost what we used to take for granted–denominational loyalty. Can you say “back door losses”? Yet many in this new millennium hunger for that which is Scriptural, along with that which is solid, consistent, and displays genuine integrity. They may not know it yet, but what they want and need is Confessional Lutheranism. Ask the likes of Parton and Veith.


Please note that I was the one who emphasized certain points of that piece for impact.

Maybe it's just me, but I'd like to think that my assessment here is accurate.

Here's how I'm feeling tonight...





So, I'm praying that we'll be witnessing (if not taking part in ourselves) a bolder, more courageous proclamation of what we Confessional Lutherans believe, teach, and confess within our local churches as well as within the public square.

Again, I want to be careful so that I don't use the term "revival" here, or suggest that something like that is even possible, especially given our clear views on the Holy Spirit's role in building Christ's Church, including the role the Doctrine of Vocation plays in our own private lives and in growing His Church.

But what I've heard and seen in catching up on the past 2 weeks tonight is very encouraging to me to say the least. It suggests that perhaps -- and I stress the word "perhaps" -- the LCMS is actually willing to repent and die (so that she might live), as Pastor Donavon Riley once urged us was desperately needed.


The call for renewal and regeneration, the call for reform, is necessary in every generation. It is the call for repentance which leads to death and new life. It is an error to think the Lutheran Reformers beginning with Luther himself set out to reform the churches according to some moral imperative, a need to renovate the status quo, or start a revival movement. No. The call to reform is the call to return to the source of the one truth of the one Gospel for the one Church: Jesus Christ crucified for the sins of the world and raised for our justification. 
Reform won’t be realized by relying on the Lutheran church’s earthly power and influence, by counting the number of bodies in her pews, or the tally of her Sunday morning offerings. Only a church that’s grown tired of the bloody business of dying and rising gauges her success and well-being by earthly standards. This is a foolishness. For the Church bears the same marks as her Master. She is hidden under suffering, weakness, tears, and death. The Lutheran church must sow with tears before she can sing for joy. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod must die to live, or we will continue clinging to a life that was, and is, and never will be truly, rigorously, Lutheran. That is, Apostolic. Christian. The Church. 
*- Pastor Donavon Riley


It's time we stopped apologizing for being Confessional Lutherans.

It's time we stopped living life with our brothers, sisters, family members, friends, and neighbors as though we're embarrassed that we're steadfastly Confessional.

It's time.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, the Confessional Lutheran so-called "sleeping giant" is waking up, and it's time to decide if we ourselves want to be sleeping or steadfast.

To borrow a quote from the ACELC, "If not now, when?"

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

Share|

What Luther Says About...MIRACLES

One very cool book I got for Christmas is titled What Luther Says: A Practical In-Home Anthology For The Active Christian compiled Ewald M. Plass.

Basically, it's a huge collection of all sorts of topics from A to Z and what Luther said or wrote about them, which is absolutely fantastic for me since I love good Christian quotes.

Perhaps this excerpt from the Foreword will excite you...


"Nothing like this anthology can be found anywhere in the English-speaking world. There have been one or two brief collections of Luther's most famous utterances. This present set, however, contains no less than 5,100 quotations on more than 200 subjects, from 'Absolution' to 'Zeal.'"

*- Martin H. Scharlemann Chairman, Committee For Scholarly Research


In addition, Plass wrote Introducing Martin Luther: "He Being Dead Yet Speaketh" as the Introduction and it contained these many gems...


"These people hold that in the course of history few men have more honestly and successfully set themselves to seek knowledge concerning the will and the ways of God, as Scripture reveals them, than did Martin Luther."


"Both friend and foe testify that Luther did exert an exceptionally strong influence upon all who met him. His was a personality so strongly marked that it was difficult to remain neutral toward him. Yet Luther's strength lay in what he said, not in what he was."


"A man may tell how far he has advanced in theology by the degree in which he is pleased by Luther's writings"
*- Martin Chemnitz (quoted in Krauth, The Conservative Reformation, p. 57)



"In subsequent generations the interest in Luther's writings was a veritable theological barometer which indicated the falling or rising interest in loyalty to Scripture. 'Back to Scripture' implied and involved, if it did not consciously call for, a return to Luther; for the two are often correlatives. The increased interest in the writings of Luther at the time of the revival of orthodoxy in the last century was, therefore, not a meaningless coincidence."


"Thousands have recognized in Luther the greatest witness of the truth since the day of the apostles and prophets"
*- C.F.W. Walther (quoted in F. Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, I, 290)



"It is true, Luther has been accused of being repetitious; and what seems to aggravate the charge is the fact that at times he himself makes it. Luther himself one day remarked concerning the doctrine of salvation by faith alone that a good song deserves to be heard more than once. So thought St. Paul (Philippians 3:1). But let us concede that at times Luther is repetitious to a fault. We hold that an investigation will reveal that the Reformer most frequently lapses into repeating himself when he treats of matters that are particular concern to him. Prominent in this group of topics were the sanctity of the Word, and salvation through faith in Christ alone. His repetitiousness at such times seems to have been largely the result of an intensity of conviction concerning which we may say that 'out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh' -- and the pen writeth."


"Martin Luther took no royalties; he neither asked for them nor received them. The fact of the matter is that he did not want them. He never wrote a book to make money on it. He took up his pen for the love of his God and His people; and he once said that the Savior had already repaid him a thousandfold for anything he might write."


"Probably to most people of his day Luther was, above all, the preacher of the Gospel, although he entered the lecture room before he ascended the pulpit."


"Martin Luther's supreme interest in life was to glorify the God of grace, whom he had finally found in Christ, and to lead men to His Word. We know of no man's writings that are more saturated with Scripture than those of this great champion of the Bible."


"The Reformer had no desire to impress anyone in or out of the pulpit with an air of professional dignity. There was nothing stiff or unctuous about the man. He was very human; and he could afford to be what he was. His character was great enough and his personality impressive enough to dispense with any artificial props. In consequence, a subtle humor now and then is at play in the discussion of the most serious matters, a humor that adds lightness but not levity to the subject."


"A voice and a pen -- this is all. But there is more power in this voice and this pen to shake and mould the world than in all the bulls of a pope or the armed strength of emperor and kings."
*- James Mackinnon in his Luther And The Reformation (III, 138)


"Luther never wrote anything merely to satisfy his scholarly urge, merely because his research in a field in which he was interested had discovered something of significance to the learned world. Luther held that God had revealed nothing merely to gratify the curiosity of man. He was sure that the Christian religion was, above all, practical and functional and that all the golden truths of Scripture were to be coined into conduct, were designed to make man not merely wiser but also better. A Christian's love is practical; it goes to work, and all the world becomes its beneficiary. These qualities made his writings not academic treatises but tracts for the times."


"Luther disavows everything and anything that does not square with Scripture. What is not Scriptural should not be considered Lutheran. In this respect therefore 'Lutheran' is in reality a personal and dated name for an impersonal and undated principle: unquestioning loyalty to Scripture as the Word of God."


"He wrote to direct men not to himself but to Christ in the Word."


"He meant, above all, to instruct and to inspire, to confirm and to comfort people in general; he addressed men as his fellow sinners rather than his fellow scholars. To Martin Luther learning was the means to an end, not an end in itself; it was the scaffolding, not the building."


"In his own days Luther expressed a complaint about Scripture study which is not out of place in our own times. He said that there was an unfortunate tendency to rush to commentaries before carefully studying Scripture itself and basing one's faith on its bare text without comment."


"We see, then, that Luther himself cautioned against a translation that is slavishly literal. But it is as necessary to avoid the other extreme, paraphrasing instead of translating."


"I am well aware of the fact that others might have handled the situation better than I did, but since they are holding their peace, I am doing it as well as I can. It is certainly better to have spoken on the subject, however inadequately, than to have remained silent altogether" *- Martin Luther (Weimar Edition 15, 49)



"'For the sake of my Lord Christ' is a fitting motto for the life and labors of Martin Luther. How the man learned to love Christ! How he glorified Him in his writings! He knew of no other God, wanted no other God, needed no other God. Indeed, 'there is no other God, He holds the field forever,' holds it forever also in the writings and in the theology of Luther. This intense love of the Reformer is infectious. Luther has a way of making you feel the nearness of God and filling you with the love of Christ. But this love is far from being a dreamy emotionalism that evaporates in rapturous phrases. It is decidedly virile; there is nothing morbidly maudlin or mystical about it. It makes me want to be something and do something 'for the sake of my Lord Christ.'"


"Truly, Luther's writings are never outdated; they are as modern as the love of God in Christ, which they glorify. 'He being dead yet speaketh.'"



I know that's a lot to digest (and we haven't even gotten to today's main quote from Luther yet!), but how great were those excerpts from that Introduction by Plass?

Anyway, now that the formalities are out of the way, please allow me quickly explain my intentions with lengthy and weekly posts like this one.

Simply put, I just thought it would be edifying and fun to share some of Luther's finest statements with all of you on a weekly basis.

Better yet, I also thought it would be a good way to help me to continue to learn Lutheran doctrine (a.k.a. orthodox Christianity) in the process.

So, here's today's offering for your enjoyment and prayerful consideration...



What Luther Says About...MIRACLES

Plass: IN A VERY REAL and blessed sense, then, the age of miracles is not over, the Doctor contends in his brief comments (1532) on Isaiah 35:5-6.
 

2997 MIGHTY MIRACLES STILL PERFORMED

Some fine folk, to whom all religion is a jest and a joke, ridicule us, charge us that the Lutherans have not even cured a lame horse and lack completely the gift of miracles. But it is written that "the wicked ... will not behold the majesty of the Lord" (Isaiah 26:10). For even nowadays the blind receive their sight when minds obsessed by Satan are brought to know Christ. The deaf hear the Gospel, the lame, who sat in their superstitions, and the idolaters arise with an upright faith and walk about happily. ... The dumb, too, now sing and proclaim the praise of God. Those who are not moved by these miracles would not believe even Christ if He were to perform these miracles bodily, for they are no less significant than raising the dead and restoring sight to the blind.


(Weimar Edition 25, 223 f -- Erlangen Edition op ex 22, 352 f -- Revised Halle or Walch Edition published at St. Louis 6, 426)


In a Lutheran Layman's terms, forget about figuring out what a fox says!

Spend some time figuring out what Martin Luther said about various topics, because he will always point you back to Jesus Christ, the Word of God, and the Lord's Sacraments.


NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a Lutheran-In-Name-Only at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that perhaps wouldn't be too big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in interpreting a specific portion of Scripture exegetically, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

Share|

Ebola Got Me Thinking: What Is The Lutheran View Regarding 'Divine Healing' Or 'Miraculous Healing'?

With the world's focus on Ebola right now, I found myself thinking about a subject that became quite prominent in my life around a year or two ago at this time.

In fact, as contentious and heated as it was at times, I can look back now and credit it with being instrumental in putting me on the path to becoming a Confessional Lutheran.

I was getting together regularly with a couple of guys who I became acquainted with (one a brother from my LCMS Church and the other a Teacher at the Lutheran Day School that my children attend, but a non-Lutheran, Non-Denominational, Assemblies of God/Charismatic/Pentecostal leaning type) to enjoy some good old male bonding over some cold beer and crispy chicken wings while also discussing our shared and cherished faith.

At first, I just naturally assumed we were all on the same page, especially when it came to the fundamentals. What I quickly learned was that we were like those corny jokes you hear all the time: "A Newtheran, A Lifelong-Lutheran-In-Name-Only, and a Charismatic-Pentecostal walk into a bar..."

What invariably happened each and every time we got together over the course of several months was me and the other Lutheran trying to explain to the Charismatic/Pentecostal why "being a Christian" was all about Jesus Christ FOR YOU as opposed to tapping into the power of the Holy Spirit as though He was a "Spiritual Red Bull" so that we could become little gods ourselves.

From there, we talked often of how we shouldn't idolize a guy like Todd Bentley or put our trust in dreams, feelings, and visions let alone the 4-hour "miraculous healing" worship services conducted each and every week by the local House Church where someone invariably "grows an arm (or a leg)" or is "cured of cancer...even though we're still waiting for her tests to come back just to be sure."
Over time, I discovered that neither wanted to spend much time with "Red, The Doctrinal Bloodhound" (the nickname they both gave me after only a couple of meetings together simply because I believe that "doctrine is heaven")

Actually, they soon decided not to spend any more time with me at all since I challenged their worldview by simply speaking "the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15) just like we're expected to. The Charismatic/Pentecostal has told me to my face that it's "pointless arguing with a Lutheran" because our insistence on pure doctrine all the time (mainly our insistence upon the objective over the subjective is what he really meant) does nothing except "intentionally divide the Body of Christ" and the "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" thinks I'm "too Lutheran" and need to be "less sarcastic" particularly because he's really an Evangelical wrapped in Lutheran packaging.

It's unfortunate to say the least, but it is what it is (1 Corinthians 11:19; Galatians 1:10). Believe it or not, I've learned quite a bit from them, and I thank the Lord for that. I also praise God for giving me a desire to remain steadfast to His Word and what it is we believe, teach, and confess when it comes to proclaiming Christ crucified for the sins of all mankind.

As mentioned, as challenging as those conversations were at times, the Lord used them to lead me to the Confessional Lutheran faith -- of that I have absolutely no doubts whatsoever! I know this simply because whenever I would get home from one of those get-togethers I would immediately jump on the Internet and begin looking for answers to the many questions I had that came up from our discussions about the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts, and miracles today.

It wasn't long before I began to find some gems that addressed the topic directly and succinctly.


Just as the Biblical concepts of resurrection and eternity are hardly any longer understood in modern Christianity, so also the understanding of the Holy Spirit has more and more disappeared. One does not yet know who the Holy Spirit is if one knows the workings of the Spirit or of spirits as reported in the epistles of Paul. He tells of speaking in tongues, of prophecy, of visions, of things heard, of gifts of healing, of the power to do miracles, and all sorts of gifts. Most of these phenomena do not belong only to Christianity but are found in many a religion. They are native to ecstatic religion, which is found all over the world. Here a person thinks of his powers and capacities as intensified into the supernatural because divinity is at work in him. Such primitive expressions of ecstatic religion were much prized in Corinth as evidence of possessing the Holy Spirit. Paul himself had experience of them, and yet he ranks them less than the silent working of the Spirit of Christ. In making this distinction, he does the same as the prophets of the Old Testament. They had such experiences too, and yet they decisively marked themselves off from the ecstatic seers and professional prophets. What is the significance of this distinction? It is connected with the distinction between true and false prophets and so also the scrupulous distinction between God and man – between what is truly God’s doing and what is not. 
*- Hermann Sasse, “Jesus Christ is Lord: The Church’s Original Confession,” in We Confess Jesus Christ, p.29


How applicable is that quote to much of what's masquerading as "Christianity" in the mainstream today? Still, I wasn't satisfied with that though, and so I went digging for more and ended up finding pure gold at Worldview Everlasting!


Q: I’ve been having discussions with a friend lately about miraculous healings. I do believe that God can and does miraculously heal people today, but I’m struggling with the idea that we can demand healing or expect it. That doesn’t seem to me to fit with a theology of the cross. My friend really likes Bill Johnson and what he teaches, but when I listen to his teaching on healing and Scripture in general, I am left with the impression that he is taking Scripture out of context at best, and perhaps just straight up abusing it. What answer could I give my friend regarding healing today that fits within a theology of the cross and isn’t centered on what I want or feel I “deserve” as a child of God? 
A: First, we demand nothing of God, we always pray for God to be merciful toward us for we deserve nothing but his present and eternal punishment. What we can expect of God are the promises that he gives us in his word and sacrament. The chief promise is the forgiveness of sins through his Son, Jesus Christ crucified for our sins. He also promises to hear our prayer. Though, again we deserve nothing for which we pray, yet out of his Fatherly goodness, God the Father gives us what we ask for in Jesus’ name. All prayer that is made in accord with God’s will are answered yes in Christ. Can one pray for a miraculous healing? Yes. Can one demand it? No. Does being a child of God guarantee a miraculous healing? No. Rather as a child of God we are sure of one thing: when Christ returns we will be completely healed body and soul when we are raised from the dead freed from the corruption of sin and death. Faith is given so that one may have trust that over and against their terror and sorrow over sin, that they have Jesus as their savior from their sin. They are freed from the most terrible tyrant, death. 
Now, personally I have never suffered a debilitating disease, yet my body is breaking down even at the tender age of 45. My eyesight is getting worse and I am on several medications. One week I had to sit and let a supply pastor preach because I had severe laryngitis, though I had prayed for God to give me my voice back. I cannot look beyond the cross to see why these things happened to me. They are reminders that I am a sinner, cursed to suffer infirmities and death. They are reminders that I am to daily repent: confess that I am a sinner, guilty of original sin along with my daily sins, and turn to Jesus alone for redress of my sinful estate. He has given me the greatest healing in baptism where all my sin was washed away, drowned in his blood and I was raised a new creation. In his word I hear how he promises to always deal with me mercifully, when his word of law accuses me, for he is a patient and long-suffering God. In his supper I receive his very body and blood given and shed for me to sustain my faith in the forgiveness of sins so that I can cling to the hope of everlasting life. These are the miracles I can expect from a merciful God. I can not demand them, but I can come every Lord’s day and trust they are there for me. 
Miraculous healings are not a mark of the church for they do not impart faith and forgiveness. They were a mark of Jesus’ messianic ministry and of the apostles (they were “apostled” to do them). And, those who followed in their footsteps were sent to proclaim the word of God (Law and Gospel) and administer baptism and the Lord’s Supper as the means of grace unto eternal life. Pastor’s are stewards of these mysteries through which the miraculous occurs. For sinners dead in their trespasses, the word they proclaim in Christ’s stead and the sacraments they administer in the stead of Christ raises those same sinners from death to new life (What else is resurrection but a miracle.) Neither you or I can demand this miracle for it comes apart from our will. Yet, it is the only miracle we can expect from God for that is the revealed will of God in his son, Jesus Christ, for sinners. 
********************************************** 
Q: In one of your previous videos, you answer an atheists assumptions about what the bible says about prayer, and how Christians don’t necessarily believe god will answer all prayers for healing. I noticed in the comments section someone brought up Mark 11:24, I looked it up, and now I’m uncertain about the matter. Can you please help me out? 
A: Although the author of the Scriptures is divine, they are written with human languages using human idiom. Jesus used hyperbole. It’s just that simple. This verse is only one of many examples. None of Jesus’ disciples would have understood this statement any other way. They did not hear Jesus say this, pray once, and then assume that Jesus was a liar. That would have been the number one, fool-proof test of Christianity. No one would have ever believed! Now, an atheist might just say that this is an excuse, but it’s not. Other speech is not held to this kind of standard. No one calls an undertaker when someone says, “I’m so embarrassed I could die!” Not even atheists… 
That takes care of Mark 11:24. Now, for the more the general question of healing. Christ does actually grant healing to all who ask for it in his name. Everyone who trusts in Christ has received eschatological healing. Miraculous healings are nothing more than an in-breaking of the eschaton. They should be welcomed with thanks, but not expected. Nor should one think that their level of faith somehow fuels God’s decision to grant such an in-breaking. All of the closest people to Jesus died — some in brutal ways. Every Christian will die of their final disease, even those with the strongest faith. 
Why pray? Because God commands us to pray, promises to hear our prayer, and responds to prayer. Jesus taught us to pray, and so we do, knowing that our prayers are heard because him. Notice that when he taught us to pray, he did not include a petition for healing. He did, however, include a petition asking that the will of the Father be done, and this is how he even prayed in the face of his own suffering and death. 
*- Rev. Robert O. Riebau 
[Via]


Fairly straightforward and easy to understand.

However, in light of this anniversary of sorts, I thought it might be interesting to see what else we Lutherans have traditionally believed, taught, and confessed when it comes to the subject of "Divine Healing" or "Miraculous Healings" (as in whether or not Martin Luther ever said anything notable about it), especially since the Ebola virus has been dominating the news headlines and capturing our attention to no end.

At first, I simply made a mental note to look into that on my own, but then I saw someone share the following meme on Facebook a few days ago and decided now was as good a time as ever to do some research and share it here.

Here's what I found on the subject...


 
Luther And Healing 
He Viewed Healing As An Integral Part of The Church's Ministry 
By Bengt Hoffman 
Under the impact of rationalism the church has often relegated spiritual healing to a bygone age. Healing miracles occurred when Jesus lived in history, it has been said, but no longer. Some theologians have been known to claim that miracles . . . perhaps never actually were historical facts but rather faith’s understandable adornment of the beloved memory of the Teacher. Martin Luther did not think that way, and it is futile to reconcile him with modernity in this regard . . . . 
To Gerhard Wilskemp, Luther wrote about an illness from which he was suffering: "Christ has so far triumphed, I commend myself to the prayers of yourself and the brethren. I have healed others, I cannot heal myself." In other words, Luther had placed himself at God’s disposal for spiritual healing of people sick in mind and body. At this particular juncture he despaired a little about the possibility of being healed himself. 
When Philip Melanchthon lay gravely ill, Luther turned to the window in the sickroom and poured out his soul in the boldest and most glowing prayer for his friend's recovery. About this occasion Luther wrote: "This time I besought the Almighty with great vigor. I attacked him with his own weapons, quoting from Scripture all the promises I could remember, that prayers should be granted, and said that he must grant my prayer, if I was henceforth to put faith in his promises." Luther then took the hand of the sick man saying: "Be of good courage, Philip, you will not die, although the Lord might see cause to kill, yet he does not will the death of the sinner, but rather that he should turn to him and live. God has called the greatest sinners unto mercy; how much less, then, will he cast you off, my Philip, or destroy you in sin and sadness. Therefore, do not give way to grief, do not become your own murderer, but trust in the Lord, who can kill and bring to life, who can strike and heal again."  
It is clear that Luther knew Melanchthon’s inner struggle at the time, namely, that Melanchthon was blaming himself for too little stoutness in the defense of the evangelical cause. Melanchthon would rather have passed away in peace than have to return to earthly strife. But the power channeled by Luther’s prayer recalled the sick man. Melanchthon recovered from what appeared to be the brink of death. He wrote later: "I was recalled from death to life by divine power."  
Let no one who still considers the healing services of the church a dubious undertaking from the vantage point of the Lutheran Reformation believe that Luther’s allusions to and recommendations of spiritual healing were incidental and thus not built into his concept of Christ’s power. There is among Luther’s letters a document which shows us beyond any doubt that he viewed spiritual healing as an integral part of the pastoral task of the church. 
He did not forget that medically trained people should be consulted. But especially when their counsels seemed at an end the constant necessity for intercessory prayer stood out plainly. The petitions should be regular and ritually ordered. Thus reads the letter from Martin Luther to Pastor Severin Schulze:

 


" . . . Venerable Sir and Pastor, . . . I offer some good advice and help for the afflicted husband of Mrs. John Korner. I know of no worldly help to give. If the physicians are at a loss to find a remedy, you may be sure that it is not a case of ordinary melancholy . . . . This must be counteracted by the power of Christ and with the prayer of faith. This is what we do – and we have been accustomed to it, for a cabinetmaker here was similarly afflicted with madness and we cured him by prayer in Christ’s name. 
You should consequently proceed as follows. Go to him with the deacon and two or three good men. Confident that you, as pastor of the place, are invested with the authority of the ministerial office, lay your hands upon him and say: ‘Peace be with you, dear brother, from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Thereupon read the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer over him in a clear voice, and close with these words: ‘O God, Almighty Father, who has told us through your Son, Verily, verily I say unto you, whatsoever you shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it to you;’ who has commanded and encouraged us to pray in His name ‘Ask and you shall receive;’ and who in like manner has said, ‘Call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you and you shalt glorify me;’ we unworthy sinners, relying on these your words and command, pray for your mercy with such faith as we can muster. Graciously deign to free this man from all evil, and put to nought the work that Satan has done in him, to the honor of your name and the strengthening of the faith of believers. Through the same Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, world without end. Amen. 
Then when you depart, lay your hands on the man again and say: ‘These signs shall follow them that believe; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.’  
Do this three times, once on each of three successive days. Meanwhile let prayers be said from the chancel of the church, publicly until God hears them. 
To the extent to which we are able, we shall at the same time unite our faithful prayers and petitions to the Lord with yours."

 

It will be noted that the kind of healing Luther described here was in part exorcism. If we recognize the likelihood or accept the certainty of a "peopled" dimension beyond the natural sphere determined by our senses, we have to reckon with the reality of obsession. Luther’s sermon on angels plainly does. It may seem an impossible idea in a modern scientific world. But then both western experiences on the mission fields and a new sense for the occult overtones of human existence in our day and age have altered some presuppositions. Not a few ordained clergy in the western world are "part-time exorcists," in the name of Christ. More of them are building into the curriculum of the parish services intercessory prayers for the sick. An equally growing number are laying hands on the sick in private pastoral encounters. 
*- Bengt R. Hoffman: Luther And The Mystics, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 1976), pp. 195-200.


So, it seems quite clear that there was a high view of spiritual, divine/miraculous healing in the Reformation period.

Let's quickly recap something from the above excerpt though -- the letter Luther wrote.


MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546) In Luther: Letters of Spiritual Council, the following letter of Martin Luther is recorded: “The tax collector in Torgau and the councillor in Belgern have written me to ask that I offer some good advice and help for Mrs. John Korner's afflicted husband. I know of no worldly help to give. If the physicians are at a loss to find a remedy, you may be sure that it is not a case of ordinary melancholy. It must, rather, be an affliction that comes from the devil, and this must be counteracted by the power of Christ with the prayer of faith. This is what we do and what we have been accustomed to do, for a cabinet maker here was similarly afflicted with madness and we cured him by prayer in Christ's name. 
Accordingly you should proceed as follows: Go to him with the deacon and two or three good men. Confident that you, as pastor of the place, are clothed with the authority of the ministerial office, lay your hands upon him and say, 'Peace be with you, dear brother, from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ.' Thereupon repeat the Creed and the Lord's Prayer over him in a clear voice, and close with these words: 'O God, almighty Father, who hast told us through thy Son, 'Verily, verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you'; who hast commanded and encouraged us to pray in his name, 'Ask, and ye shall receive'; and who in like manner hast said, 'Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me;’ we unworthy sinners, relying on these thy words and commands, pray for thy mercy with such faith as we can muster. Graciously deign to free this man from all evil, and put to nought the work that Satan has done in him, to the honour of thy name and the strengthening of the faith of believers; through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, world without end. Amen.' Then, when you depart, lay your hands upon the man again and say, 'These signs shall follow them that believe; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.'  
Do this three times, once on each of three successive days. Meanwhile let prayers be' said from the chancel of the church, publicly, until God hears them. 
In so far as we are able, we shall at the same time unite our faithful prayers and petitions to the Lord with yours. 
Farewell. Other counsel that this I do not have. I remain, etc. 
*- Martin Luther (Tappert, ed., Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel, nd. 18:52).


Fascinating, isn't it? I mean, after all, the Lutheran Church is not exactly known for being...public (if that's even the right word to use)...about their belief in and practice of prayers for spiritual, divine/miraculous healing.

Sure, we pray for the hurting and the sick all the time (day-to-day perhaps and definitely as a congregation each week during the worship service and sometimes even naming specific names too), but the above info would seem to suggest something a little more intense (if you will allow me to use an adjective at the risk of sounding like an Evangelical whose always going on-and-on about us needing to be more "radical" or something).

God willing, I'm sure there will be more to come, but we'll end here for now and prayerfully consider what we have just looked at together.

At first glance, it would appear as though Martin Luther had faith that divine/miraculous healing was still very possible on this side of the cross even if it wasn't the norm like in the early days of the Christian Church.

Perhaps the difference between the Lutheran view and the Charismatic/Pentecostal view so popular today is simply that our faith isn't misplaced like theirs is.

To put it another way, our faith is firmly placed in the power of the Lord to heal and to save us -- with the very clear caveat -- if He so chooses, but we would never believe, teach, or confess that we should place our faith in faith itself.

So, for me, when it comes to the topic of Ebola (or anything else) and the Lutheran view regarding divine healing or miraculous healing, I'll continue to put my faith where it belongs.


My Refuge And My Fortress 
Psalm 91 (ESV) 1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. 5 You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 8 You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. 9 Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place—the Most High, who is my refuge—10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. 11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. 12 On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot. 14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. 15 When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”


This strong confession of faith and example of a life entrusted to God's protective safety urges all hearers and readers to seek the Lord's refuge when fearful times arise.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, let's remember that "miraculous healings are not a mark of the church for they do not impart faith and forgiveness" because "they were a mark of Jesus’ messianic ministry and of the apostles (they were 'apostled' to do them)" and "those who followed in their footsteps were sent to proclaim the word of God (Law and Gospel) and administer baptism and the Lord’s Supper as the means of grace unto eternal life."

Please share any additional information that you might find in the Comments Section below.

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

Share|