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What Luther Says

There's Something About The Simul Part...

There's something about the Simul part...

"Simul" is the Latin word from which we get the English word "simultaneously" (or it means "at the same time") and in Lutheran circles you always find it as part of the phrase "Simul Justus et Peccator" (or "Simultaneously Saint And Sinner").

And so, with this formula, Martin Luther reminded the world during the Reformation what the Holy Bible had already taught us from the very beginning (even though the Catholic Church had forgotten it) -- that in our justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone we are one and at the same time righteous (or just) and sinners.

In and of ourselves, under the analysis of God’s scrutiny, we still have sin; we’re still sinners. But, by imputation and by faith in Jesus Christ, whose righteousness is now transferred to our account, then we are considered just or righteous. This is the very heart of the Gospel.

There's something about the Simul part of this doctrinal truth that is ALWAYS magnified this time of year for me. For whatever reason, this time of year ALWAYS seems to bring out the worst in me as I am confronted with the realization of the depth of my sin let alone the revelation of the existence of sin in places where I never noticed it before (Romans 7:24).

(How's that for an admission and something you probably never expected to read in a blog post during Advent and this close to Christmas?)

Still, it's true.

As another year comes to a close, the "Old Adam" within me (particularly the "Old Evangelical Adam") invariably wants to stare at himself in the mirror.

However, at other times during the course of the year, this Old Evangelical Adam likes to stare at himself and admire all the changes he notices in himself and this is typically followed by several pats on the back too.

Yet, at this specific time of the year, the Old Evangelical Adam prefers instead to reflect on the parts of his reflection that hasn't seemed to change one bit.

This Man In The Mirror looking back at me often makes me feel like I'm a "worse sinner" than the convicted child molester and now deceased drug addict, Michael Jackson, who was responsible for that hit song so many years ago (remember that one?).

Notice the subtle dose of self-righteous piety inherent in such an admission though? As if "Yes, I'm A Sinner...But I'm Not As Bad As THAT Sinner Over There!" was a response and thought for me to be proud of in light of of God's Word.

Psalm 51:5 (ESV) Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Romans 3:10-12 (ESV) 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

Romans 3:23 (ESV) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

1 John 1:8 (ESV) If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

If I'm not careful, I can quickly become seduced by my own reflection -- just like Narcissus -- and I usually end up staring at myself to the point where I begin to flirt with doubting whether or not I'm even a "true" Christian since some sinful habits die hard (if at all!). Oh, and when I do perceive them to have "died," I then discover that they've been quickly replaced by others that I never knew existed until then.

Lovely, huh?

Like I said, it never fails, because this happens every year as Christmas season rolls around -- just like clockwork! Thankfully, just like clockwork, Advent reminds me to pray for faith and patience, or that "peace of God that surpasses all understanding" (Philippians 4:7), so I can look ahead with an expectant heart and mind to the coming Christmas morning, which, in turn, reminds me that my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ came once, and He is surely coming again...even for me the wretched sinner that I still am (Romans 7:14-25).

Notice I said that "I still am" a wretched sinner. That beings us back to that whole Simul thing again.

We Christians will struggle against the sinful flesh which does not want to hallow God's name or want God's will done (at least, not when it can compete with our own will day-after-day).

As I heard one Pastor put it, "Our sinful flesh is always at war with what the Spirit has made in baptism."

Why is admitting this unwelcomed truth actually a welcomed blessing?

Exposing The Wretch Within (Romans 7:14-25) 
Understanding Romans 7 is one of the keys to understanding Law and Gospel. If you miss this, you miss a major part of the Bible. In this episode, Pastor Fisk takes on the second half of the chapter in a lighting fast treatment of the simul -- at the same time sinner and saint. 

Hokey Religions And Self Righteous Works Are No Match For Trust In Christ (Romans 8:12-17) 
This last installment of Summer (Almost) Greek Tuesday finds Pastor Fisk expositing on Romans 8:12-17 and the ongoing struggle with our flesh. Rewards, persecution, despair and majesty all make an appearance. And for some reason so do Strongbad, Darth Vader and...Frankenstein??? Yeah, you’ll just have to watch and see how that all works out. 

More reasons for me to love Worldview Everlasting!

Yes, as painful a process as it is whenever I start to feel defeated by my sinful self, I can always take comfort in all of those divinely inspired words from the apostle Paul.

No, not so that I can justify or excuse my behaviors, my sins, but to merely better understand the spiritual reality of what the Lord says about His own being simultaneously saint and sinner until His return.

For me, I also like to meditate upon something we find in 2 Corinthians 7, where it is made crystal clear that we have the Lord to thank for any "godly sorrow" or "godly grief" that leads us to repentance, because even the fact that we are able to repent at all is a clear sign that the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives. What a reassuring truth!

2 Corinthians 7:9-11 (ESV) 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.

To put it another way, it's like an acquaintance on Facebook stated the other day...

"Real sanctification brings the awareness and desire to debate with the Apostle Paul on just who is the chief of sinners." 
*- Steven A Hein

Even so, it's extremely important that we also understand that the source of any repentance is not ourselves.

"Repentance is something that God Himself must give to a person. Any kind of repentance that we produce ourselves is false and God is disgusted by it." 
*- C.F.W. Walther (Law & Gospel: How To Read And Apply The Bible)

Believe it or not, there are many Christians who will not like this truth because the Old Adam in us is always trying to squeeze every ounce of glory from God's work for us so that he can get us to claim it as our own (that "semi-pelagian" heresy is so pervasive -- even among church growth Lutherans!).

Here's an excellent devotion from Higher Things that I think ties into all of this quite nicely.

Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 2:16-37; Matthew 6:16-34 
And lead us not into temptation. What does this mean? God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory. (Small Catechism: Lord's Prayer, Sixth Petition)  
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. We ask in this petition that God not lead us into temptation. Of course, God doesn't tempt anyone to sin and commit evil. So we pray that He will guard and protect us from our sinful flesh, the fallen world, and the devil. They lie to us, hide behind masks, and try to make evil actions appear good. They will lead us away from God to false gods. Then, when we've wandered far away from God's Spirit, we will suffer unbelief, hopelessness, and guilt so that we lose faith in God altogether. We pray that God keeps us safe from temptation, that when it comes we resist and overcome it and enjoy the victory over sin, the world and the devil that Jesus won for us on His cross. By Jesus' death in our name, and by our death in His Name in Baptism, we have gained the final victory. In God's baptismal promise we can rest, not chasing after our desires, which fade, wither, and wear out over time, but in the grace of God which guards and keeps us safe in His church until the Last Day. No uncertainties. No anxiety. Just God's abundant, unbreakable promise that He will deliver from all evil. We are therefore encouraged in these evil days to pray at all times that God's Spirit will give us His courage, joy, counsel, strength, and wisdom to resist our sinful desires, the world, and the devil until the day He comes in glory to welcome us into the eternal feast of the Lamb in heaven. 
Lead not into temptation, Lord, Where our grim foe and all his horde Would vex our souls on ev'ry hand. Help us resist, help us to stand Firm in the faith, a mighty host, Through comfort of the Holy Ghost. (Our Father, Who from Heaven Above, LSB 766:7) 
*- Rev. Mark Buetow, Reflections Editor 

At that point, after digesting all of the content from these helpful resources, I at least felt like I had arrived at a much better place emotionally, mentally, and spiritually as I looked ahead to Christmas morning next week.

But then I started to see and read all the debates online recently (either on Facebook or at my favorite Lutheran websites) about the subject of Sanctification and I was back to square one!

Thankfully, prayer and continued Bible study has continued to be a welcomed source of comfort and joy ("joy" = "relief"). Say what you will about Social Media and things like Twitter, but I have also been blessed and edified by the truth found in the occasional 140-character Tweet as well.

Regular readers should instantly recall our series on the dangers of Pietism.

Plus, it's like C.F.W. Walther pointed out: "If a poor sinner looks to himself, he will despair. But if he looks at Jesus, he will be made confident."

Boy, is that the truth! I know, because I have lived a life of doing just that all while being deceived into thinking that this "examining myself" unto self-righteousness was actually pleasing to God, and that it was what was drawing me closer to Him.


That quote we just looked at from Walther? Well, let's just say that I never get tired of hearing that blessed truth, which he confessed so beautifully!

It's just so incredibly comforting to me, especially in this era of the "Be Better!" "Do More!" and "WWJD?" style of preaching and teaching that's so prevalent in Christianity today regardless of denomination.

Want a little more before we say goodbye for the day? Well, I need more, so I'm gonna give you more if you don't mind (haha)!

"Our sinful flesh is always at war with what the Spirit has made in baptism. It is not a matter of HAVE TO versus GET TO. Wanting to go [to church] is not keeping the commandment. Because you don’t leave your sinful flesh at the door to the church. You carry it in with you. The struggle against the flesh does not stop at the church door. There is no switch for you to turn it off. But where the word is preached in all its purity (that is no ideas of man are added), where the absolution is spoken without strings, and the sacraments are given as pure gift, there you can ask God to deal with your sinful flesh. In the midst of your struggle you can cry out to God for mercy to save you from your rotten, stinking sinful flesh which does want to hallow God’s name or do God’s will. As Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:8-10: 'If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.' So, when we see what sinners we are, we have a place where we can go to hear the words of eternal life. 
So, don’t focus on whether or not your heart is right. If you think I cannot go because God will see my heart is not in it. Do not worry. Let God deal with your heart. You are his. He is for you even when you are your own worst enemy. As Paul says: 'What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?' (Romans 8:31-32 ESV) 
*- Pastor Gary Hall

Ok, so what's your best line of defense should you experience the same "ups-and-downs" and "highs-and-lows" that I go through every year at this time?

In a Lutheran layman's terms, there's something about the Simul part of the doctrine of Simul Justus et Peccator that reminds me how...

"Even if the devil whispers every kind of insinuation at [you], [you] can say to Satan: 'So what if your charges against me are quite correct? I have another doctrine that tells me something altogether different. I am glad that the Law has put me in such a woeful situation, for now I can appreciate the Gospel all the more.'" 
*- C.F.W. Walther (Law & Gospel: How To Read And Apply The Bible)

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!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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