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What Luther Says

When The Reality Of The 'Simul' Strikes At The 'Recalcitrant Ass'

I gotta admit, lately, I've been having an incredibly impossible time with a specific set of sins!

Yes, I said "sins" as in "sin" with an "s" at the end of it meaning there's more than one sin that I'm struggling with these days.

That prompted me to wake up this morning and tweet the following...

We've examined this distinctly Lutheran (a.k.a. Biblical) concept called "Simul Justus Et Peccator" before and commented how completely foreign it is to much of what calls itself "Christian" today.

If you're looking for a quick summary, then just read Romans 7 followed by "There's Something About The Simul Part..." which was our last study on this subject.

I also found this brief commentary from 2012 by Pastor Donavon Riley...

Luther's "Simul" Distinction In Lutheran Pastoral Care 
“But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness…” [Romans 4:5] 
God justifies the ungodly. Who are the ungodly? The atheist? The lesbian? The abortionist? The pornographer? Christians? Many Christians ignore that they too are in the company of the ungodly who need justification by God’s grace. 
Too easily we imagine that we at one time were among the ungodly, but now enjoy our own inherent righteousness, or “sanctification.” We behave as if that’s what keeps us right in God’s eyes. Far too many Christians, even those in the churches who bear Luther’s namesake, ignore the dual reality that the German reformer articulated in his famous dictum that we are simultaneously justified and ungodly: fully sinner and wholly saint at the same time. 
For Lutheran pastoral care this means the key to the proper application of the “simul” distinction is acknowledging that the sinner cannot be rehabilitated by the Law, or good works. He can’t be coerced to do them by threats either. Death and resurrection is the mechanism by which God saves him. There’s no progress in holiness. There’s no ladder to climb. There’s no becoming less a sinner and more a saint. Every day the old man in Adam must die; the new man in Christ must rise. This is also key to understanding the proper function of the Law. It curbs, mirrors, and instructs the old man in Adam, the sinner. It does so to his death. 
Distinct from this the new man in Christ needs no law. He needs no instruction. He perfectly knows and does the will of God because he has the mind of Christ. It is solely the old man in Adam who needs instruction. He needs to be shown what God’s will is for him. The Law must demand, coerce, and even bribe him to go along with God’s will. Why? Because, as Luther said in the Large Catechism, the old man in Adam is, “like a recalcitrant ass.” Thus, to return to the thesis, the Latin phrase “simul iustus et peccator,” that a Christian is “simultaneously justified and a sinner,” is the hinge on which not only Lutheran pastoral care hangs, but Lutheran theology as a whole, especially as regards justification. 
This formulation distinguishes Lutherans from the Roman Catholic and Reformed understanding of justification and sin in a particular way. For Lutherans, without this “simul” distinction pastoral care lapses into moralism. Salvation is reduced to a process of self-improvement in which God and man each contribute their fair share and man’s progress is measured against a scale of increasing holiness. To Lutherans this is totally unacceptable as it is incompatible with Scripture. It terrifies consciences because it doesn’t hold the old man in Adam and the new man in Christ in tension. Pastors then don’t treat the people under their care, as Luther wrote, “… according to the Divine reckoning,” that, “we are in fact and totally righteous, even though sin is present. So we are in fact at the same time and altogether sinners.” [Third Antinomian Disputation, 1538] 
That’s the root of the Gospel. The good news about God’s justification of the ungodly in Christ. That, as Luther wrote, “Whatever sins I, you, and all of us have committed or may commit in the future, they are as much Christ’s own as if He Himself had committed them.” [Galatians Lectures, 1535] 
This means there’s a difference when Lutheran pastors counsel a Christian “in concreto,” as distinct from, “in abstracto.” In the abstract, we may speak of the Christian as being a total sinner under the Law and a total saint under the Gospel. But in concrete reality it’s simply a both/and. Therefore, in this life, the “improvement” we pastors listen for and diagnose is nothing other than a death rattle, the daily death of the old Adam and the rising of the new man in Christ.

I have to say that that's one of the best and most concise explanations of this topic that I've read in quite some time and I hope you found it as edifying as I did.

Sure, that's from a "pastoral care" perspective, but there's so much truth we can take from it and apply to ourselves I think.

For instance, Rev. Jacob Ehrhard then commented...

One thing that I’ve discovered in just over 5 years in this Office is that a lot of pastoral ministry is waiting. When you get the call at 9 p.m. that your member took a turn for the worse, you go to the hospital, and you wait. Minutes turn to hours. You talk with the family, you wander the halls, you get some coffee and play a game of cards. You pray. You wait for death. 
The same is true of sanctification. It’s a lot of waiting for the old Adam to die. We are sinners at the same time justified, but both are not working their way toward the same thing. The sinner is working his way to the grave; the saint toward the resurrection. From baptism to committal, we are in that transitions phase as the old man and the new man are passing each other on the road. 
I think St. Paul is refering to in 1 Cor 7, when he says that the present form of this world is passing away. Right smack in the middle of his exhortation, he reminds the Corinthians that the old creation is heading toward the grave. That’s your old way of life, but for you who are baptized into Christ, there is a new life that has already begun. You won’t see it perfectly, but don’t be surprised if it peeks through every now and again and you happen to do a good work -- it’s the power of God working in you!

All good stuff -- and quite helpful too when you're in the midst of despair and a crisis of conscience over your "pet sins" that keep coming back to sit on your lap even after you put them outside and tried to starve them to death.
The good news in all of this is that there is Good News we need to remind ourselves of.

Yes He does! Thanks be to God! "This is most certainly true!"

Remember, St. Peter even points out to us in 1 Peter 2:11 that no believer is ever completely perfect and pure.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, and as I heard one Pastor put it, "our sinful flesh is always at war with what the Spirit has made in baptism" but this unwelcomed truth is actually a welcomed blessing, especially when we are given the grace and wisdom to recognize the war that's constantly raging within us.

NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism almost 2 years ago now. 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 inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. 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 they are not blasphemous/heretical, 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). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha!). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm experiencing and/or studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. 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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