Hearing God's voice is not as difficult as you may think. Some people think that they have to attend special classes or purchase an online course or apply spiritual techniques in order to hear God's voice. The slideshow below explains in simple terms how you can hear God's voice and know that He is speaking to you with 100% certainty.
When you've finished, please share this post with your friends on social media ;-)
By Chris Rosebrough
A lot of ink has been spilled regarding which day Jesus died. On the one hand, the Gospel narratives make it clear that Jesus died on the day before the Sabbath (Saturday).
“Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” (Luke 23:50–56)
But on the other hand, if it is true that Jesus died on a Friday then it appears as if there is a contradiction in the scriptures. Jesus Himself explained that He would be in the tomb for three days and three nights:
“For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40)
When someone quickly sums up the days and nights that Jesus was in the "heart of the earth", if he died on Friday, the math just doesn't seem to add up:
In order to resolve this problem, it is helpful to know that Jews do not count days according to a 24 hour time period. They count days according to night and day cycles. This way of counting days is revealed in Genesis 1.
“And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” (Genesis 1:5)
“And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.” (Genesis 1:8)
“And there was evening and there was morning, the third day” (Genesis 1:13)
“And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.” (Genesis 1:19)
“And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.” (Genesis 1:23)
“And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:31)
Note, scripture reveals that a new day begins at sunset, not midnight. But even knowing this information doesn't totally solve the apparent contradiction. The reason is that when you count up the days and nights that Jesus was in the "heart of the earth" if He died on Friday you come up short by 1 night.
Friday - Jesus dies during the day (+1 Day)
Saturday - Jesus is dead during the night (+1 Night) and during the day (+1 Day)
Sunday - Jesus is dead during the night (+1 Night) and rises shortly after sunrise (+1 Day)
Total = 3 days and 2 nights.
No matter how you add it up, we're missing a night. Yet, Jesus said:
“For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40)
Some have tried to resolve this seeming contradiction by postulating that Jesus had to die on a Wednesday and that there had to be some type of special "High Sabbath" brought about by that year's Passover. This attempt at resolving the seeming contradiction is overly complex and results in an excess of days and nights which requires one to believe that Jesus rose from the grave at twilight on Saturday night (this explanation actually creates more contradictions than it resolves). However, the solution to the apparent contradiction is actually very simple and it is hiding in plain sight.
Remember that scripture reveals that a new day begins with night. That's all you need to remember. Now let's look at a few passages of scripture.
We will begin with Amos' prophecy relating to Jesus crucifixion day:
“And on that day,” declares the Lord GOD, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.” (Amos 8:8–9)
Yep, you read that right. God, all the way back in the Old Testament told us that He was going to cause "on that day" the sun to go down at noon. What time of day, during Jesus' crucifixion did the sun stop shining? Answer:
“It was now about the sixth hour (noon), and there was darkness over the whole Earth until the ninth hour (3pm), while the sun’s light failed.” (Luke 23:44–45)
If God caused the "sun to go down at noon" and there was darkness from 12pm until 3pm because the "sun's light failed", did Jesus die at night or during the day?
Answer: Since God "called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night” (Genesis 1:5) the answer is obvious. Jesus died in the sunless darkness caused by God when he made the sun's light to fail at noon on 'that day', God calls darkness like that "night"!
With this data in hand we can now accurately make an accounting of the sequence of day and night which took place on Good Friday. Here is what it looks like:
Now when we add up the days and the nights, the math works perfectly:
Friday - Jesus dies during the night created by God (+1 Night) and sun resumes shining after Jesus' death (+1 Day)
Saturday - Jesus is dead during the night (+1 Night) and during the day (+1 Day)
Sunday - Jesus is dead during the night (+1 Night) and rises shortly after sunrise (+1 Day)
Total = 3 Nights and 3 Days just as Jesus predicted
The solution to the problem really is that simple!
Now you can have confidence that when you attend church for a Good Friday service and you remember Jesus' bitter suffering and death on the cross for your sins that you're doing so on the same day that He was crucified.
Sit down and have a conversation with a cutting edge innovative church leader or church growth consultant and they will likely tell you how the church, just like businesses, need to constantly innovate, change and adapt to changing market conditions or they'll die. They might even make a snide comment about the importance of churches not being stuck in the 1950's or how churches can't do church the way they did when grandpa came home from WWII or they'll become irrelevant and die. But, talk to someone whose actually been to business school, like I have, and they'll readily tell you that this idea of 'innovate or die' is only true for certain types of businesses and is FAR from being universally true. In fact, the world of successful corporations is filled with companies that rarely change and rarely tinker with their business model. When these companies do make changes they are done in such a way as to stay true to how they've always done things. These are some of the world's most successful companies precisely because of their consistency and utter lack of innovation. Here are just few examples of thriving non-innovative corporations:
I grew up in southern California and every time I visit my old stomping grounds I make a trip to In-N-Out Burger. The menu is exactly the same today as it was when I was 15 years old, 20 years old, 33 years old, and 40 years old. In fact, if In-N-Out decided to change things up I seriously doubt that I'd continue to eat there when I visit So. Cal.
Southwest Airlines is truly one of the most successful airlines in the world and they've achieved this success through a simple business model. They only fly 737's, they have 'open seating' and they don't utilize the traditional hub city model for their routes. This tenacity in sticking with their business model is what allows them to be a low cost airlines and maintain their profitability. If Southwest were to adopt the "innovate or die" mentality to their business it would destroy their brand and profits.
Nordstrom is not a department store that caters to everyone. Instead, they've been tenacious in going after only one segment of the retail market and that segment is high price, high quality with a heavy emphasis on great customer service. If Nordstrom decided to go after the same market segment as Walmart they'd destroy their brand and their customer loyalty in a very short amount of time. The people who shop at Nordstrom expect great customer service, high quality high end products and they're willing and able to pay for them. Nordstrom hasn't changed the way it does business since coming on the scene 1901 and that is exactly why they're still in business today.
I can provide hundreds of more examples like these from the Fortune 1000. "Innovate or Die" is not true for an extremely large segment of the corporate world. Instead, these corporations are more akin to institutions and they're guiding principle is "steady as she goes". Even Apple, the innovative leader of personal technologies, is successful because of their tenacious fidelity to their core principles. If Apple ever deviates from those principles they will cease to be Apple and risk losing their leadership in the personal technology market.
Voodoo Church Consulting
Those church consultants who claim to be implementing the lessons that have been learned in the world of successful corporations, especially when it comes to the slogan "innovate or die" don't know what they're talking about! Over and again we've seen examples from the business world of companies that have thrived as a result of their refusal to change and insistence on tenaciously sticking to the core competencies and principles that make them distinct in the market.
Similarly, the church is an institution that must tenaciously pursue its mission and reject chasing after innovations that would distract her from what she's been called to do. In other words, the Church was given a mission 2,000 years ago and the mission hasn't changed and the same core activities and core competencies that were needed 2,000 years ago to fulfill the mission are needed today.
When we look at the scriptures we learn that churches are called to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus' name (Luke 24:46–47), make disciples of all nations...baptizing and teaching all that Christ has commanded (Matt 28:19–20), preach the word in season and out of season (2 Tim 4:1–4), contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3), feed Christ's sheep (John 21:15–17), teach sound doctrine and rebuke those who contradict it (Titus 1:9). These are the things that the church must excel in and accomplish with excellence and they're not optional. Yet, these are the very things that those churches who've adapted their methodologies and messages in order to meet the felt needs of the ever changing market have abandoned. Which then leads me to ask, "How can a church claim to be a church if it isn't doing the things that God has called her to do? Isn't that like an In-Out-Burger that refuses to sell Double-Doubles or a Norstrom's store that sells cheap low quality merchandise"?
For further reading and research:
Just a few weeks ago Cru gave an non-endorsement/endorsement of the movie The Shack and even put together some study questions in the hopes that The Shack would be a great evangelism tool to introduce unbelieving friends and neighbors to Christianity. Now that the movie has been released how has the pagan world received The Shack? Have they thoughtfully begun considering becoming Christians as a result of this movie?
It would appear that the answer is an emphatic NO!
Here are just some of the reviews of the movie offered by secular critics:
"It's one of those movies where you'll either decide to give in right away and sob for two hours straight or opt to fight it while your resentment slowly simmers to a rolling boil." — Entertainment Weekly
"The Shack" wants to be a sincere exploration of faith and forgiveness but somehow manages to be both too innocuous and too off-putting for its own good. Since its publication, 'The Shack' has engendered a good deal of controversy within the Christian community for interpreting both the Bible and the Holy Trinity in ways that some consider to be heretical. Based on a viewing of the movie, I would label those charges to be nonsense; to be truly heretical would require a more cogent level of thinking than the awkward plotting and empty-headed New Agey koans offered up here." — Peter Sobczynski
"The Shack" is a grief-packed journey through loss, bargaining and acceptance that feels like an overly long church sermon." - Detroit News
"Most of its running time is taken with mollifying conversations between Mack and the movie’s New Age-meets-Bible Belt oversimplifications of the Holy Trinity. It fits right into a long tradition of quasi-mystical pseudo-parables." — AV Club
"copious amount of cinematic flaws that actually render it borderline incoherent and an absolute chore to sit through." — CinemaBlend.com
If you were thinking that The Shack would be a great discussion facilitator so that your pagan friends would be interested in becoming Christians, think again. You have a greater chance of annoying your pagan friends with The Shack than starting a meaningful conversation about Christ and Him Crucified for their sins.
If you want to evangelize your friends and neighbors use the Bible and one of the four Gospels in the New Testament. The Apostle John even says that the reason he penned his Gospel was for the purpose of evangelism, "these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31) Plus, if you share one of the Four Gospels with your pagan friends you don't have to worry about them being taught heretical doctrine. The same cannot be said about The Shack.
BTW Jorey Micah hates this critique of The Shack and thinks that it is racist and sexist ;-)~
The time has come again for the United States to inaugurate a new president. It has been eight years since we’ve had a new Commander-in-Chief and regardless of your politics inaugurations are important.
In this political season as we watch the new president take office, recall that our true citizenship is not in any of the nations of this earth. The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3:20 that “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ”. Since this is the case, let us reflect on Jesus’ coronation, the day He was officially crowned King. The scriptures record this for us in Matthew 27:27–31:
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.
Yes, that is correct. Jesus was crowned King in the midst of His suffering for our sins. The Church Father Chromatius reflecting on the deep truth and mystery of this reality wrote of this passage:
These things were done to mock Jesus. But now we know these things happened through a heavenly mystery. Wickedness was at work among the former; among the latter, the mystery of faith and the light of truth. In the purple tunic Christ is dressed as king; and in the scarlet robe, as prince of martyrs, he is resplendent as precious scarlet in his sacred blood. He receives the crown as conqueror, for crowns are usually bestowed upon conquerors. He is adored as God by people on bended knees. Therefore he is vested in purple as king, in scarlet as prince of martyrs; he is crowned as conqueror, is hailed as Lord and is adored as God.
After His coronation, Jesus’ first act as King as was not to assemble His cabinet, start a war or even send a strong warning to His adversaries. Instead, Jesus first act was to bleed and die for His enemies so that they could be reconciled to God. Romans 5:6–10 says:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son
Through His death Jesus canceled the record of debt that stood against us so that we could be forgiven of our sins (Col 2:13-14). In all of the history of human kings you will never read of one more selfless and loving than King Jesus. He laid down His life so that you could be forgiven and live.
Our King is nothing like the kings of the earth or even the President of the United States. King Jesus truly is the Prince of Peace.
So, as we reflect on the changing of the guard in the White House, let us use the occasion to ponder the great tragedy and beauty of Jesus’ coronation because He is our King.
We join with others in expressing our shared grief regarding these latest allegations, as well as our thankfulness for the courageous women who came forward to tell their stories. We join our prayers together that they will receive the care and support that they need to heal and move forward in their lives.
In the wake of the initial revelation in June of 2015 that Tullian Tchividjian had engaged in an inappropriate sexual relationship, a group of pastors and friends reached out to him in accordance with scripture’s clear admonition in Galatians 6:1–2:
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
In the months that followed, we were encouraged that Tullian seemed committed to walking a path of healing and renewal through repentance under the authority of his church of membership. However, later disclosures, and these most recent allegations, cast grave doubts over the sincerity of this commitment.
Inasmuch as Tullian Tchividjian has habitually and impenitently used his public platform, his family’s good name, and the name of Christ for his own selfish ends, we believe that he has disqualified himself from any form of public vocational ministry.
For the sake of his eternal soul, we implore Tullian Tchividjian to repent of his wickedness and demonstrate his repentance by submitting himself to the leadership of his church of membership, pursuing forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation with those whom he has sinned against.
We send our plea to Tullian in a spirit of gentleness and with broken hearts.
May Christ have mercy.
Pastor R.J. Grunewald
Pastor Kevin Labby
Pastor Matt Popovits
Pastor Donovan Riley
Pastor Chris Rosebrough
Paul David Tripp
Mrs. Elyse Fitzpatrick
Mrs. Kimm Crandall
What the N.A.R. Really Teaches
by Chris Rosebrough
For nineteen centuries the church has existed without any living apostles who operated in the same power, authority and office as Peter, James, John, Paul and the others whom Jesus sent into the world to make disciples. But for those who buy into the ideas and teachings of the New Apostolic Reformation (N.A.R.), this is a tragic turn of events and a grave error committed by the historic Church. Joseph Mattera, the head of The United States Coalition of Apostolic Leaders, writing in Charisma Magazine about the historical loss of apostles in the church explained the problem this way:
It is tragic when the vast potential of an individual or entity is limited or eliminated because there is no room for their gifts. In the case of a lion, when captured and encaged, it loses its aggressive roar because it is forced to be localized into the confines of a cage.
It may be a lion, but it is no different from a house cat because, like a house cat, it no longer has to claim its territory and hunt to satisfy its hunger, and is content to stay confined within a building!
To me, all of this is related to the condition of the local church after it ceases to recognize the ministry and function of apostles. This results in cutting off the pioneering spirit and apostolic call to conquer and expand kingdom influence.
(I don't necessarily think people have to use the title of apostle; the function is what is most important.)
In the case of church history, centuries ago we replaced the title (and consequently the function) of apostle and replaced it with the office of bishop. This vastly changed the nature and mission of the local and universal church. Apostles in the New Testament were the "sent ones" who, as military generals, were called to lead the church in mission as they were sent out to conquer new territories by planting churches and kingdom influence in key cities of the old Greco-Roman world. (For example, Paul the apostle started churches in over 30 key cities before the commencement of the first century!)
The office of bishop was primarily meant to oversee and administrate local churches: First starting in a local church (1 Tim. 3) which then evolved into overseeing a parish, then a diocese and then a region that included other bishops (hence they became archbishops or metropolitan bishops). However, as bishops became the apostolic successors it connoted a change from adventure, pioneering and conquering new territories (e.g., Paul, who prioritized going where Christ was not named as we read in 2 Cor. 10:10-14) to one of settling and maintaining the church and focusing primarily on church life, polity and politics.
Not only that, but after the Protestant Reformation many (in response to the abuse of the bishops and popes) even eradicated the office of bishop and opted instead for a Presbyterian form of government (whether for good or bad) which only recognizes pastors, elder and teachers in the church. The eradication of the bishopric further isolated and fragmented the emerging evangelical church and resulted in numerous denominations and independent local churches. (For example, when the Eastern Church split from Roman Catholicism in the 11th century, it remained virtually unified and intact because they kept the bishopric and/or the episcopate.)
Getting back to apostolic ministry, it is essential that we recapture the function (if not the title) of apostolic ministry once again so the lions of the church are released from their cages to go out and hunt (metaphorically speaking) and expand kingdom influence! The early church never saw their congregations as separate from the apostolic ministry and function of their recognized apostles. [emphasis added]
Mattera’s believes (and a significant number of Charismatics would agree with him) the Church has been stymied and limited by the apparent erroneous belief that apostles were no longer needed in the church. Note that Mattera’s explanation is that Bishops filled the role of the Apostle’s but according to Mattera with the change of title also came a change of function and eventually a loss of the apostolic function altogether. The solution to this problem according to Mattera is for the church to change course and return to apostolic ministry. To do that God would have to send a new crop of apostles into His church.
C. Peter Wagner and his associates in the New Apostolic Reformation, openly claim that God has already restored the office of Apostle, and there are men and women around the world today operating from within that office with more on the way. Wrote Wagner:
Are there apostles in our churches today?
Most Christians would affirm that they believe in apostles because Jesus led a group of 12 of them. However, apostles are generally seen as figures of a bygone age, like Vikings, Roman legions, Spanish conquistadors, or pioneers in covered wagons. They made their contributions to history, but the world has moved on.
One reason why this kind of thinking is so prevalent is that this is what most of our church leaders were taught in seminary and Bible school. I know— I was one of them. The notion that there could be contemporary apostles never came up in the seminaries I attended, not even as a suggestion. We were taught that the original 12 apostles had a singular, one-of-a-kind mission that was completed by the time of their deaths, and that was that— the end of the brief life of apostles on Earth. Consequently, I graduated assuming that apostles did not continue long after the first hundred years or so of the Church.
Not so! We are now living in the midst of one of the most epochal changes in the structure of the Church that has ever been recorded. I like to call it the “Second Apostolic Age.”…
The Second Apostolic Age is a phenomenon of the twenty-first century. My studies indicate that it began around the year 2001.[Emphasis added]
Wagner’s claims are breathtaking! Regardless of whether or not they’re true, the claim that they are true is having and will continue to have an immeasurable impact on the church.
This paper will examine the claims by Wagner and others that God has restored Apostles to the church and then provide a brief Biblical rebuttal.
Scriptural Foundation for the Return of Apostles
The claim that God has restored Apostles to the church is huge. So huge in fact that one cannot make a claim of that magnitude without attempting to back it up from scripture. C. Peter Wagner in his book Apostles Today tries to provide a Biblical foundation for this claim. Wagner offers three verses to back up his claims. They are Ephesians 4:11, Ephesians 2:20 and 1 Corinthians 12:28. In Wagner’s interpretation of these texts, it becomes clear that he believes that they reveal an ecclesiastical structure that God intended to continue throughout the history of the church. Below is Wagner's Biblical explanation for his claim that God has restored apostles to the church:
There are three Scripture verses that serve as the primary proof texts for recognizing the gift and office of apostle. Many other texts support this, but these three are core: Ephesians 4: 11, Ephesians 2: 20, and 1 Corinthians 12: 28. Let’s examine each of them.
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers (Eph. 4: 11).
As the verse indicates, the five foundational, governmental, equipping offices are apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. The “He” is Jesus, who gave these gifts to His people when He ascended into heaven after rising from the dead and spending 40 days with His disciples (see Eph. 4: 8). He subsequently gave gifted people to the Church on two levels: (1) the foundational or governmental level (see Eph. 4: 11), and (2) the ministry level through the saints (see Eph. 4: 12).
A common term for these five offices is “the ascension gifts,” because Jesus first gave them at His ascension. Many people refer to them as “the fivefold ministry.” However, this may not be the best term, because “ministry” is not mentioned in verse 11 but in verse 12, as the role of all of the saints, while apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are those who equip the rest of the saints to do their ministry. This may seem like a minor point, but it is the reason I refer to the five ascension gifts as “foundational” or “governmental” or “equipping” offices.
[The household of God, i.e., the church, is] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone (Eph. 2: 20).
A well-known hymn states that “the church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord.” This is obviously true in a general, theological sense because there would be no Church at all without the Person and work of Jesus Christ. However, in the nuts and bolts of the growth and development of the Church after He ascended and left the earth, Jesus apparently prefers to be thought of not as the foundation but as the cornerstone. The foundation of the Church through the ages is to be made up of apostles and prophets. The cornerstone is essential because it is the primary building block, the identifying, central stone that holds the foundation together and guides the laying of all subsequent blocks that go into constructing the building. If a church has Jesus without apostles and prophets, it has no foundation from which to initiate solid building. The two go hand in hand; there cannot be one without the other.
The wording of this verse—“ built on the foundation”— is another reason why I call apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers the “foundational” offices.
And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues (1 Cor. 12: 28).
The numbers in the verse, proton (first), deúteron (second), and tríton (third), indicate that this not simply a random selection of gifts and offices. Proton in this instance should be interpreted to mean that apostles are first in order or sequence, not necessarily in importance or hierarchy. Hierarchy is an old-wineskin concept. To put it simply, a church without apostles will not function as well as a church with apostles.[emphasis added]
It is significant to note that every time Scripture mentions the role of the apostles in the church that Wagner understands the texts to be discussing an ongoing set of offices in the church. This interpretation is accomplished by the changing of the noun “foundation” into the adjective “foundational”. Although at first glance this seems insignificant, Wagner’s changing of a noun into an adjective changes the whole sense and meaning of the texts. It is because of this shift in meaning that Wagner believes that these passages reveal an ongoing and never changing ecclesiastical structure for the church that Christ intended would remain in place until His return.
Wagner is aware of how the church has historically understood these texts, Protestants in particular. Wagner not only rejects this historical understanding, he believes that this misunderstanding has limited the church and held it back from fulfilling its mission:
The traditional Protestant Church has understood apostles and prophets to be offices relegated to the First Apostolic Age but not continuing in churches throughout history. Based on that understanding (that there are no longer apostles and prophets in our churches), then teachers, who are next in line according to l Corinthians 12: 28, would now be first in order. Obviously, this is not so.
Protestant denominationalism over the past 500 years has been, for the most part, governed by teachers and administrators, rather than by apostles and prophets. That means that denominational executives are actually administrators— good, godly and wise ones, but administrators nonetheless. Most pastors of local churches are assumed to be teachers (at least ever since the sermon became the central point of weekly congregational gathering), with the sermon being their primary vehicle for teaching their people. It is fascinating that even though we have had church government backward over the past two centuries according to 1 Corinthians 12: 28, we have evangelized so much of the world! Think of what will happen now that church government is getting in proper order. Administrators and teachers are essential for good church health and will function much better once the apostles and prophets are in place.[emphasis added]
Note that Wagner’s view assumes that we’ve been without apostles almost two millennia but in his mind that has already changed. Although the church has been effective in evangelizing much of the world it will be far more effective now that God has restored apostles and prophets and the Second Apostolic Age has begun.
In his discussion of the objections that some Christians may have to embracing the reality of the Second Apostolic Age, Wagner lays out his most significant interpretive point regarding Ephesians 4:11 and how he believes that this passage requires the church to always have apostles:
A major stumbling block in the minds of many who first hear this news of the Second Apostolic Age has been the assumption that once the apostles and prophets completed their work of laying the foundation of the Church in the first couple of centuries, that ended the divine assignment of apostles on Earth— as if they were no longer needed. This deeply entrenched notion cannot be biblically sustained, however, given the statement of Ephesians 4: 11. After saying that Jesus gave to the Church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, the length of time they would be needed is then stated: “Until we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4: 13). Who in their right mind can claim that we have arrived at that point? The only reasonable conclusion is that we are still in need of all five offices.[emphasis Wagner’s]
Wagner believes that because Eph. 4:13 states “until we all come to the unity of the faith” that God has revealed that His original intention (which has been clearly thwarted) for the church was to replenish the apostolic office and raise up apostles until the perfection of the church.
Sources of God’s Revelation
It is one thing to say that my interpretation of the Biblical texts states that God never intended for the church to be without apostles and something entirely different to say that God began restoring apostles around the year 2001 and we’ve now entered the Second Apostolic Age. The first is a matter of rightly understanding Biblical revelation while the second requires an extra-Biblical source of God’s revelation. It is important that the reader understands that C. Peter Wagner and the N.A.R. as a whole rejects the principle of Sola Scriptura. They instead believe that God is speaking in many ways today. As a result, determining what God is saying and doing, in their view, requires Christians to read their Bibles, listen to what God is saying to modern prophets and apostles as well as rightly interpreting the current works of God. Wagner calls this the phenomenological approach. His explanation for this approach is as follows:
I want to make it clear that my research methodology is not philosophical or theological (in the classical sense) nor exegetical or revelational, but rather phenomenological. I am not saying that any of these methodologies is right or wrong. Phenomenology clearly is not superior to exegesis. It is merely my personal choice. The phenomenological approach leads me to employ terms not found in the Bible, because I believe it is not necessary to only use the Word of God but to also combine the Word of God with accurate observations of the present-day works of God. I am not approaching this so much from the question of what God ought to do as much as what God is actually doing. What the Spirit has said to the churches is one thing, but what the Spirit is now saying to the churches is another.
In other words, Wagner claims that he is a careful student of multiple streams of God’s revelation and is asserting that a significant portion of what he is teaching regarding the restoration of apostles is not based on scripture but has been revealed by God in other places.
This view that God is currently speaking outside of His written word has significant implications in regards to the church’s doctrine. Bill Hamon, another major thought leader in the N.A.R. who also subscribes to the same formal principle as Wagner, in his book titled Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God: God's End-Time Plans for His Church and Planet Earth explains how this approach to understanding the multiple streams of God’s revelation impacts the church’s doctrine:
First of all, fivefold ministers are the headship directors for establishing Biblical principles, teachings and church doctrine. trine. New Testament doctrine was established by proper revelation and application of the Logos Scripture, which was the Old Testament at that time. There was no collection of writings by the apostles or church prophets that was acknowledged edged as equal to the writing of the Old Testament prophets and the Law of Moses. Church order, doctrine and practices were not established by prophecy, visions, dreams or personal spiritual experiences of any private individual (2 Pet. 1:20). Doctrine that would be applicable to the whole Church was not determined by one great apostle, who could make papal decrees that would become binding doctrine for the whole Church. The scriptures dealing with the Council at Jerusalem show that apostles, prophets, visions and personal experiences are Biblical means that the Holy Spirit can use to gain our attention, enlighten our understanding or prepare us to receive a doctrinal truth that God is about to reveal. But such personal spiritual experiences should not be the sole basis for formulating a doctrine.
Note that Hamon is arguing for the church to return to a pattern that he believes is revealed in the Book of Acts for determining doctrine. What is fascinating about his view is that while it acknowledges that there was a time in the church’s history that the Apostle’s writings and teachings hadn’t been collected he does not seem all too interested in putting much weight on what those Apostle’s later wrote. Instead, Hamon sees that time in church history reveals an ongoing pattern that the church should be currently emulating. Wrote Hamon:
I personally believe that in the 1990's and into the 21st century, as prophets and apostles are being restored back to proper order and function within the Church, many of these church councils of leading present-truth ministers will be necessary. One particular apostle or prophet or camp will never receive the whole revelation for the establishing of prophets and apostles back into the Church. Many will have visions (even of Jesus), dreams, rhemas, angelic visitations and supernatural personal experiences and sovereign moves of the Holy Spirit in their meetings. But doctrines that claim to be binding on all Christians must not be established by only one apostle, prophet or camp. There must be meetings of a church council with other leaders of past and present restorational streams of truth.
It is clear from this quote that Hamon is arguing that the church should expect God to be revealing new doctrine today and that he believes these new doctrines are binding on all of Christ’s church.
How exactly then is the church to determine which current day revelations from God rise to the level of binding doctrine? Hamon proposes five principles:
Five Principles for Establishing Doctrine. When the fivefold fold ministers come together to consider doctrines and practices this way, they will need to keep several areas of insight in mind: (1) the claimed revelation from God; (2) the fruit of the ministry among those who have received the doctrine or practice; (3) the supernatural working of God accompanying it; (4) the Logos and Rhema word of God application and authority for the doctrine or practice; and (5) the witness of the Spirit and the unified consent of those present.
In other words, Hamon, Wagner, and others believe that modern day apostles (just like Jesus’ apostles) not only have the authority but they also have a mechanism for establishing doctrines in the church. It is vital to understand this as the rest of this paper unfolds. The reason for this is that much of what follows regarding the definition and roles of modern day apostles does not come from scripture but is derived from the other streams of “revelation”.
Definition and Roles of an Apostle
Since Wagner, Hamon, and others in the New Apostolic Reformation believe that we have now entered the Second Apostolic Age and God has sent and continues to send Apostles into His church it is vital to understand how they define an apostle and what functions and roles they believe they fulfill.
Wagner, in describing the distinctions between ordinary believers and those holding one of the fivefold offices in the church explains the differences in terms of degrees and scope of direct revelation from God:
Whereas every believer can and should hear directly from the Holy Spirit, it is only the apostles, in proper relation to prophets, who hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Parents hear what the Spirit is saying to their families. CEOs hear what the Spirit is saying to their businesses. Teachers hear what the Spirit is saying to their classes. Pastors hear what the Spirit is saying to their church (singular). But apostles, along with prophets, are those who hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches (plural). That is what Paul means when he writes, “[ The mystery of Christ] which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” [emphasis was added by Wagner]
In other words, pastors should expect to hear directly from God revelations pertaining to his individual congregation. But prophets and apostles hear revelation from God that is meant to be believed and applied in many or even all Christian congregations. It is with this understanding regarding the type and scope of revelation that today’s apostles are to receive from God that Wagner proposes a definition of an apostle. Said Wagner:
An apostle is a Christian leader, gifted, taught, commissioned, and sent by God with the authority to establish the foundational government of the church within an assigned sphere of ministry by hearing what the Spirit is saying to the churches and by setting things in order accordingly for the growth and maturity of the church and for the extension of the kingdom of God.
It is important to note again that Wagner is relying on his change of the noun “foundation” to the adjective “foundational” to come up with this definition of an apostle. Although, Wagner provides a precise definition of what he believes an apostle is, the claim that apostles exist today opens up a whole host of questions, the most important of them being, “what are the duties and functions of the apostolic office that the church should expect the modern apostles to be exercising?” Wagner cannot point to a concise Biblical list of clear duties that those holding the apostolic office today are supposed to fulfill because, unlike the pastoral office, such a list doesn’t exist in scripture. Instead, Wagner, based on his observations from both scripture and what God is supposedly revealing in the church today has created a list of roles and functions that today’s apostles are supposed to accomplish. According to Wagner the duties of modern apostles are as follows:
• They receive revelation. Apostles hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Some of this revelation comes directly to them, some of it is received together with prophets, and at other times through proper relationships with prophets.
• They cast vision. An apostle’s vision is based on the revelation he or she receives.
• They birth. Apostles are self-starters who begin new things.
• They impart. God uses apostles to activate His blessings in others (see Rom. 1: 11).
• They build. Apostles strategize and find ways to carry a project along its intended course, including any funding that may be required. •
• They govern. Apostles are skilled in setting things in order. Along with prophets, they lay the biblical foundation of the Kingdom (see Eph. 2: 20).
• They teach. Early believers “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching” (see Acts 2: 42).
• They send. Apostles send out those who are equipped to fulfill their role in expanding the kingdom of God.
• They finish. Apostles are able to bring a project or a season of God to its desired conclusion. They are uneasy until the project is done. They seldom burn out.
• They war. Apostles are the generals in the army of God. They lead the church in spiritual warfare.
• They align generations. Apostles have a long-range perspective on the purposes of God, and they raise up second-tier leadership for the future. Another way of saying this is that they father or mother children in the faith. “For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers” (1 Cor. 4: 15). An excellent resource for this point is Larry Kreider’s book The Cry for Spiritual Fathers and Mothers.
• They equip. Ephesians 4: 12 says that apostles equip the saints for the work of the ministry.
From this list of roles and duties, it is clear that Wagner’s vision of what modern apostles are supposed to accomplish in their office today is much more expansive than the functions and roles that Jesus’ apostles were responsible for fulfilling. Clearly there has been an upgrade to the office and with the update has come new tasks. Not only has the Second Apostolic Age brought with it new apostolic functions, but it has also brought with it a variety of new types of apostles.
New and Varied Types of Apostles
In what could only be described as the most significant doctrinal “development” since Rome invented the doctrine of the Papacy, C. Peter Wagner, based solely on his observations of what God is supposedly doing in the church today, has discovered that not only has God restored apostles to the church, He’s also created new kinds and types of apostles. The three main types of apostles being:
• Vertical apostles: These apostles lead organizations, such as apostolic networks, and provide direct “spiritual covering” (counsel and correction) for those in their networks.
• Horizontal apostles: These apostles lead groups of peers— such as all the pastors in a city or all the apostles in a nation— to work together to accomplish specific purposes.
• Workplace apostles: These apostles provide leadership for Christians working in different sectors of society (for example, real estate, government, health care, or the media).
Wagner also claims that there are subcategories of both Vertical apostles and Horizontal apostles. The four subcategories of Vertical apostles are as follows:
• Ecclesiastical apostles: These apostles lead apostolic networks of churches and parachurch ministries; examples include Ché Ahn (Harvest International Ministry, based in Pasadena, California), Bill Hamon (Christian International Ministries, based in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida), and Naomi Dowdy (Global Leadership Network, based in Singapore).
• Apostolic team members: These apostles are part of a leadership team that supports an apostle in the governance of his or her ministry. They can be other apostles who minister under the ecclesiastical apostle. Having an apostolic team allows an apostolic network to grow much larger because a single apostle can’t provide direct oversight of hundreds or thousands of churches— and direct oversight is seen as crucial to the health of the network. 150 For example, HIM— an apostolic network of more than 20,000 churches— is led by presiding apostle Ché Ahn but also has an apostolic team under Ahn’s leadership made up of apostles Sam and Linda Caster, Brian and Candace Simmons, Charles and Anne Stock, Mark and Ann Tubbs, and Lance and Annabelle Wallnau.
• Functional apostles: These apostles lead individuals or groups working within a specialized area of ministry; an example is Jane Hansen (Aglow International, an organization for women based in Edmonds, Washington).
• Congregational apostles: These apostles lead large churches, such as pastors of megachurches.
The four subcategories of Horizontal apostles are as follows:
• Convening apostles: These apostles call together peer-level leaders who minister in a specific field. Wagner has acted as the convening apostle over a number of groups, including ICAL, the ACPE, and the International Society of Deliverance Ministers.
• Ambassadorial apostles: These are itinerant apostles who catalyze apostolic movements in nations and various regions of the world through activities such as convening regional apostolic summits or assisting apostles in organizing their networks. John Kelly— before becoming the convening apostle of ICAL— served as the coalition’s ambassadorial apostle.
• Mobilizing apostles: These apostles mobilize Christians for a specific cause or project. For example, Cindy Jacobs mobilizes Christians in prayer and spiritual warfare efforts to reform America back to its “biblical roots.”
• Territorial apostles: These apostles provide leadership in specific regions, such as cities, states, and nations. For example, John Benefiel is seen as a territorial apostle in the state of Oklahoma. Doug Stringer has been seen as a territorial apostle in Houston, Texas.
With all of these new and varied types of apostles along with Wagner’s further observation that apostolic hybrids are also possible (i.e. Ambassadorial-Territorial apostles) how one goes about discovering they’re an apostle and which type they are is beyond the scope of this paper. Suffice it to say that its complex and almost impossible to figure out on your own (don’t worry though the N.A.R. has living prophets that are all to willing to help you sort this out once you agree to recognize that God is speaking directly through them).
A Brief Critique
There is much that can be said by way of critique when it comes to these claims that God has restored apostles to the church and has inaugurated a Second Apostolic Age. However, what is most obviously in error is Wagner’s, Hamon’s and others’ presupposition that the church has been without apostles and prophets for nearly 2000 years. Nothing could be further from the truth.
For nearly two millennia the church has confessed the belief in “one holy, catholic and apostolic church.” In so doing, the church has confessed that Jesus’ apostles are still in the process of fulfilling their duty to “make disciples of all nations.” Lutheran dogmatician, Francis Pieper, in discussing what it means for the church to be apostolic states:
The Church is Apostolic (ecclesia apostolica) inasmuch as all its members to the Last Day come to faith in Christ through the Word of the Apostles (John 17:20: πιστεύσοντες διὰ λόγου αὐτῶν εἰς ἐμέ) and cling to the Word of the Apostles (Acts 2:42: προσκαρτεροῦντες τῇ διδαχῇ τῶν ἀποστόλων), and this over against all departures from the truth of Scripture. Rom. 16:17: “Avoid them,” namely, those who “cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned.” The endeavor of the Romanists and the Anglicans to derive the Apostolic character of the Church from the “Apostolic Succession” has correctly been termed childish folly, because Scripture (a) makes no distinction between bishops and teaching elders, or pastors (Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5, 7) and (b) tells us to avoid all teachers who depart from the Apostolic Gospel, no matter whether they are called bishops, elders, or otherwise (Rom. 16:17; Gal. 1:6–8)
In other words, confessing that the church is apostolic is to confess that she is built on the doctrine and words of Jesus’ apostles. Jesus, in the 1st century, speaking of the ones He would send (the apostles) said of them, “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16) Since Jesus never personally wrote any books or letters, the only way we learn of what Jesus taught and said is through the ones he sent to be his authorized envoys (a.k.a. apostles). This explains why scripture says that the earliest Christians, “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42). This understanding of the ongoing work of Jesus’ apostles then gives us the proper way to understand Ephesians 2:20. Rather than understanding it to be describing a ‘foundational’ governing structure in the church it instead reveals that the apostles are the ongoing foundation of the church with Christ as its cornerstone. Regarding this passage Francis Pieper wrote:
To be sure, Christ’s person is the cornerstone of His Church (Eph. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:6). But we find Christ nowhere else than in His Word. Only as we believe, and stand on, the Apostolic and Prophetic Word, which is Christ’s Word, are we built on Christ the Cornerstone. That is clearly stated in the words immediately preceding: “built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets.” Whoever pushes the Word of the Apostles and Prophets away is not standing on Christ; Christ is not there. “When I am without the Word, do not meditate on it, and occupy myself with it, there is no Christ at home” (Luther).
Ephesians 2:20 reveals that the church has never been without apostles. Instead, the church’s apostles have always been Matthew, Peter, James, John, Paul etc. This text also reveals that the church has always had prophets. They are Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, Hosea and the rest. Both the Apostles and the Prophets continue to teach us by virtue of the fact that their words have been written down and now comprise the living and active Word of God. Therefore, whatever part of the church that God is building today will always be built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets through the written Word of God which they left us.
Another insurmountable problem for those who believe in modern day apostles is the fact that the Biblical requirements for one to hold the Office of Apostle as laid out in Acts 1:21-22; namely that the man must have been a part of the group of Jesus’ disciples from the time of His baptism, until His death and be an eye-witness of His resurrection and then be chosen and sent by Him (Acts 1:26) make it painfully clear that no one living today can meet these qualifications and therefore categorically rules out the existence of modern day Apostles altogether. Furthermore, since the scriptures do not provide the church with a list of qualifications and duties for those who aspire to hold the Apostolic Office like it does for those who aspire to the pastoral office, the scriptures assume, by this vital omission, that the office itself is closed, and no one will be filling the Apostolic Office after the death of those whom Christ put into that office. The fact that C. Peter Wagner has had to concoct his own list of qualifications and duties for those aspiring to be apostles today, despite his attempts at appealing to alternative (dubious) sources of divine revelation, is further proof that God never intended the Apostolic Office to continue in perpetuity. If God had always intended that, then God would have provided the list of qualifications and duties for apostles in scripture 2000 years ago.
This paper has examined the claims of leaders in the New Apostolic Reformation like C. Peter Wagner and Bill Hamon that God has restored the Apostolic Office and has inaugurated a Second Apostolic Age and has found that these claims cannot be squared with scripture. Despite the fact that these claims cannot hold up even under the most basic Biblical scrutiny, it does not change the fact that there is now a small but growing army of men and women claiming to be apostles who’ve set up shop in the church today. Although they claim and believe that they are sent by Christ as His apostles, that is not the case at all. This means that at best they have sent themselves and at worst they were sent by the devil. This fact makes the New Apostolic Reformation one of the most dangerous and destructive movements in the visible church today.
 Mattera, Joseph. "The Tragic Elimination of the Apostolic From the Church." Charisma Magazine. May 15, 2016. Accessed May 18, 2016. http://www.charismamag.com/spirit/church-ministry/26376-domesticating-lions-the-elimination-of-the-apostolic-from-the-church.
 Wagner, C. Peter (2012-03-08). Apostles Today (p. 6). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
 Ibid. pp. 10-12
 Ibid. p. 12
 Ibid. pp. 12-13
 Wagner, C. Peter (2012-03-08). Apostles Today (p. 77). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
 Bill Hamon. Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God: God's End-Time Plans for His Church and Planet Earth (Kindle Locations 591-597). Kindle Edition.
 Ibid., Kindle Locations 615-620
 Ibid., Kindle Locations 620-623
 Wagner, C. Peter (2012-03-08). Apostles Today (p. 81). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
 Ibid. p. 27
 Ibid. pp. 28-29
 Geivett, R. Douglas; Pivec, Holly (2014-11-14). A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement (Kindle Locations 974-979). Weaver Book Company. Kindle Edition.
 Ibid., Kindle Locations 991-1000
 Ibid., Kindle Locations 1002-1012
 Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, electronic ed., vol. 3 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1953), 411–412.
 Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, electronic ed., vol. 1 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1953), 124.
Geivett, R. Douglas., and Holly Pivec. A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement. Wooster, OH: Weaver Book, 2014. Kindle Edition.
Hamon, Bill. Apostles Prophets and the Coming Moves of God: God's End-time Plans for His Church and Planet Earth. Santa Rosa Beach, FL: Christian International, 1997. Kindle Edition.
Joyner, Rick. The Apostolic Ministry. Fort Mill, SC: MorningStar Publications, 2006. Kindle Edition.
Mattera, Joseph. "The Tragic Elimination of the Apostolic From the Church." Charisma Magazine. May 15, 2016. Accessed May 18, 2016. http://www.charismamag.com/spirit/church-ministry/26376-domesticating-lions-the-elimination-of-the-apostolic-from-the-church.
Pieper, Francis, Christian Dogmatics, electronic ed., vol. 1 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1953)
Tappert , Theodore G., ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959)
Wagner, C. Peter. Apostles and Prophets: The Foundation of the Church. Ventura, CA: Regal, 2000. Kindle Edition
Wagner, C. Peter Apostles Today. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Publishing Group, 2006) Kindle Edition
Liberal theology is a funny thing. While claiming to be engaging in Christian theology, modernist liberals and postmodern emergent liberals both appear to be very busy deconstructing, denying and destroying the central doctrines of the Christian faith. One doctrine that is particularly offensive to liberal theologians is the doctrine of Christ’s vicarious penal substitutionary atonement for the sins of the world. Early adopters of postmodernity and recognized thought leaders in the Emergent Church Movement, Steve Chalke and Alan Mann, in their 2003 book The Lost Message of Jesus succinctly explain their disgust with the thought that Jesus’ death on the cross was the punishment for our sins:
The fact is that the cross isn't a form of cosmic child abuse—a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed. Understandably, both people inside and outside of the Church have found this twisted version of events morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith. Deeper than that, however, is that such a concept stands in total contradiction to the statement: ‘God is love’. If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his Son, then it makes a mockery of Jesus' own teaching to love your enemies and to refuse to repay evil with evil. 
Describing the belief that Christ died for our sins as a ‘form of cosmic child abuse’ pretty much captures their repulsion at the thought that Jesus death was vicarious. It 's hard to find a more vitriolic description of that doctrine. Along with the vitriol, the postmodern liberals have developed a sophisticated explanation for the doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement that includes claims that it is a man-made doctrine developed over a thousand years after Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.
This paper will examine the veracity of the claims of Emergent postmodern liberals that the understanding that Jesus’ death was a vicarious and penal substitutionary atonement was unknown to the early church and was a late theological development as an explanation of Jesus death on the cross. It will do this by evaluating Isaiah’s Suffering Servant Song in Isaiah 52:13-53:12 and how the Church Father’s understood this passage.
Did the Early Church Have No Concept Penal Substitution?
Tony Jones, one of the prominent leaders of the Emergent Church, a movement committed to redefining and reimagining Christianity for the postmodern generation, in his book The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier expressed his revulsion to penal substitution as a explanation of Jesus’ death on the cross. In the process he claimed that the first 1,000 years of Christianity contained no clear or robust articulations of penal substitution:
the atonement is the Christian doctrine that attempts to explain how Jesus' death on the cross amends for human sin and reconciles human beings to God. This pastor's understanding of the atonement is called penal substitution or propitiation, which is the theory that God's hatred of human sin was imputed to Jesus Christ, who then atoned for that sin with his death. Theologians call it a "forensic theory" since its evolution was concomitant with the development of the Western legal mind. The theory, based primarily on Paul's letter to the Romans and the anonymous letter to the Hebrews, is based on the idea that God's perfect justice demands an atonement for the egregious insult of human sin. Jesus, being sinless, is able to atone for the sins of humanity in his death, and that forgiveness is then available to any human being who accepts it. The first robust articulation of the penal substitution theory was Cur Deus Homo? (Why a God-Man?) by Anselm of Canterbury (1034-1109).(emphasis added)
A few years later, Jones wrote a book dedicated to a discussion of “atonement theories” in which he further developed his claim that penal substitution was not taught or embraced during the first millennium of Christianity and the cultural reasons why he believes that was the case. The context of his discussion of the topic is Jones’ recounting of a face to face conversation that he and his fellow Emergent leader Doug Pagitt had with the famous Reformed pastor, John Piper:
We met on a September afternoon. I brought Doug Pagitt, and Piper brought three of his co-workers. Piper said he’d never heard of me before and that he was only vaguely aware of Emergent Village. His beef is with the writings of Brian McLaren and Steve Chalke. He’s read Chalke’s book, and says that he was “personally hurt” by Steve’s characterization of the penal substitutionary theory of the atonement as “cosmic child abuse.” I didn’t get the impression that Piper has read anything by McLaren, but McLaren’s endorsement of Chalke’s book was enough to concern Piper. The lunch was nearly two hours long, so I am not able to recount everything that took place. I will reiterate what Piper said at the conference: we are all passionate persons, and the dialogue was predictably fiery. But it was also very respectful and generous, on both sides…
I do not think that one theory interpreting that event to be sufficient. Every theory of the atonement is 1) human, and 2) bound to a context. For example, the penal substitution—while there are seeds of it in Pauline writings—is tied to the development of the Western legal mind. Nor am I willing to condemn the billions of faithful Christians who have lived and died in the past two millennia with alternate understandings of the atonement. When I expressed these thoughts at the lunch, Piper looked at me and said, “You should never preach.” His point was that my ideas about historical context would merely confuse listeners. He said this with a smile on his face, but then he turned serious and said that people need “fixed points of doctrine” in order to believe in Christianity. Not only do I disagree with that statement, I most definitely disagree with Piper on which points are most important.
Most of us in Western Christianity were raised with one version of the atonement—the same one that John Piper holds so steadfastly: the penal substitutionary view. There are reasons, both cultural and theological, that this understanding of the atonement has been dominant for the past 1,000 years. While some might argue otherwise, PSA was unknown before its development by Anselm of Canterbury in his 1098 book, Cur Deus Homo (Why a God-Man?). Therein, Anselm introduced the first substitutionary explanation of the atonement. Anselm rejected versions of the atonement that give Satan a hand in the transaction. It’s not Satan from whom we must be rescued, Anselm posited, but our own sin. Or, thinking of it another way, from the anger that God justly holds against us because of our sin.
“Every inclination of the rational creature ought to be subject to the will of God,” Anselm wrote, but our sinfulness precludes this possibility. Further, among God’s eternal characteristics is justice. By this reasoning, God cannot possibly forgive human sin without some recompense, for to do so would undermine the eternal laws of justice. And since every human being is sinful, there’s not one human who can make this payment. Only a perfect, sinless God-man can pay the price. Anything less would be unjust.
Any honest look at the genesis of PSA must take account of the era in which Anselm was writing. He was on the front end of the development of the Western legal mind. Just a century later witnessed the writing of the Magna Carta in 1215, the predecessor of the constitutions that now govern Western democracies. The Magna Carta was an attempt to limit the power of King John of England, and to convince the people that his decisions were based on law, not on the arbitrary whims of a monarch who inherited his thrown. Of course, the English monarchy remained strong for centuries after this, but the beginnings of its eventual devolution to the symbolic function that it holds today were written into the Magna Carta.
It’s not that the belief in Satan, required by the Ransom Captive theory (see below), had weakened in the Middle Ages; instead, Anselm was ahead of his time, articulating a sense of justice that eventually led to us living in the most litigious society in the history of our species.
This isn’t (necessarily) a criticism of PSA or of Anselm. It’s merely an acknowledgement of the obvious: Anselm was a man of his time; and PSA appeals to us in large part because our lives are governed by laws that attempt to instantiate justice. Consequently, PSA also lends itself to metaphors, allegories, and parables that appeal to us. For example, this old standby: A judge passes a sentence of death upon on a criminal who deserves nothing less; the judge then stands, removes his robe, and goes to the electric chair in the criminal’s stead.
Now, overlooking the obvious point that no criminal justice system would allow this to pass as justice, can you imagine a preacher in the Middle Ages using this analogy for the atonement? No, of course not, because they had no sense of courts, laws, or criminal justice. For a majority of Christian history this explanation of the atonement was nonsensical, and it still is in many parts of the world even today, that lack functioning legal systems.
Fortunately for us, there have been many other explanations of the atonement developed over the years. (emphasis added)
Jones’ assertions and their implications are breathtakingly bizarre. The ones this paper will address are as follows:
- All Atonement Theories are of human origin and are cultural driven attempts to theologically explain Jesus death on the cross.
- Penal substitutionary atonement was unknown before it was developed by Anselm of Canterbury, who was the first to introduce a substitutionary explanation for Jesus’ death.
- The genesis of Anselm’s explanation was the historical/cultural development of functioning legal systems.
Isaiah’s Explanation of Jesus’ Death
Isaiah’s song of the suffering servant in chapters 52:13-53:12, which predates Anselm of Canterbury by more than 1,600 years, is one of the clearest Biblical explanations for the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ. This passage is graphic in its descriptions and explicit in its explanations that the reason for Christ’s sufferings was due to his substitutionary work. The text reads as follows from the ESV (key phrases that explicitly teach PSA are emphasized):
Is. 52:13 Behold, my servant shall act wisely;
he shall be high and lifted up,
and shall be exalted.
14 As many were astonished at you—
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
15 so shall he sprinkle many nations;
kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which has not been told them they see,
and that which they have not heard they understand.
Is. 53:1 Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Is. 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
Is. 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Is. 53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.
The phrases “he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (53:5), “his soul makes an offering for guilt” (53:10), he “was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many” (53:12) all are speaking of Christ’s substitutionary work. We will consider each of them in turn. But before that the question that must be answered is how do we know this passage is making reference to Jesus Christ?
Is Isaiah 52:13-53:12 About Jesus?
Isaiah’s prophecies were penned more than six centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ. Modern Jews who reject Jesus as the messiah do not believe that this passage in Isaiah is about Jesus Christ. How do modern Jews interpret this passage and who do they think it is about? The answer to that question is complicated. Michael L. Brown, in his book Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Messianic Prophecy Objections explains how there is no consensus of interpretation among Jewish scholars. Some interpret Isaiah 53 as referring the corporate people of Israel, while others believe it is referring to the messiah. Wrote Brown:
For the last thousand years, religious Jews have often interpreted Isaiah 53 with reference to the people of Israel, but that has by no means been the consensus interpretation, and it is not the interpretation of the Talmudic rabbis. So, for example, the Targum interprets the passage with reference to the Messiah—as a warring, victorious king, even to the point of completely twisting the meaning of key verses—while the Talmud generally interprets the passage with reference to the Messiah, or key individuals (like Moses or Phineas), or the righteous (for details on this, see 4.8). Note also that Saʿadiah Gaon influential ninth-century Rabbinic leader, interpreted Isaiah 53 with reference to Jeremiah. This means that virtually without exception, the earliest traditional Jewish sources—and therefore the most authoritative Jewish sources—interpret Isaiah 52:13–53:12 with reference to an individual, and in some cases, with reference to the Messiah. As stated above (4.5), this is highly significant.
While it is true that Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and Radak all interpreted the passage with reference to Israel, other equally prominent leaders, such as Moses ben Nachman (called Nachmanides or the Ramban), felt compelled to follow the weight of ancient tradition and embrace the individual, Messianic interpretation of the Talmudic rabbis (found in the Midrash, despite his belief that the plain sense of the text supported the national interpretation). Noteworthy also is the oft-quoted comment of Rabbi Moshe Alshech, writing in the sixteenth century, “Our rabbis with one voice accept and affirm the opinion that the prophet is speaking of the Messiah, and we shall ourselves also adhere to the same view.” This too is highly significant, since Alshech claims that all his contemporaries agreed with the Messianic reading of the text, despite the fact that Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and Radak had all come out against that reading. Could it be that Rabbi Alshech and his contemporaries came to their conclusions because the text clearly pointed in that direction? The Messianic interpretation is also found in the Zohar as well as in some later midrashic works.
Brown’s scholarship makes it clear that there is no agreement among Jewish scholars, ancient or modern, regarding who Isaiah was writing about in chapter 53 of his prophecy.
In Christian theological discussion of Isaiah 53 all Jewish debates and uncertainties regarding Isaiah’s referent are inadmissible. The reason for this is that the Apostles, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit explicitly and repeatedly make Jesus the subject of Isaiah’s prophecy. The most explicit New Testament reference to Jesus being the subject of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is found in Acts 8:26–35:
“Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” (cf Is. 53:7-8)
And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.”
In this passage Philip, clearly on a special assignment from God, is prompted by an angel and then Holy Spirit Himself to preach the gospel to visiting Ethiopian. As it just so happens, the visiting dignitary is reading from Isaiah 53 and inquires about whom the prophet is speaking and Philip, jumping on this opportunity explains that the passage is about Jesus.
If the passage in Acts 8 were not proof enough, in Luke 22:35–37 Jesus Himself, references Isaiah 53 and makes it unmistakably clear that it is about Him:
And he [Jesus] said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment. (cf Is. 53:12)
Since there is no greater authority in Christianity than Jesus Christ, a Christian theologian cannot deny that Isaiah 53 is referring to Jesus without risking discrediting himself. Other New Testament passages that reference portions of Isaiah 53 and connect the subject of that passage to Jesus are Matthew 8:14–17, John 12:36–38, Rom 10:14–17, and 1 Pet 2:18–25. The text from 1st Peter not only identifies Jesus as the referent of Isaiah 53 but also explicitly teaches Jesus’ substitutionary work. The passage states:
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth (cf. Is. 53:9). When he was reviled, he did not revile in return (cf. Is. 53:7); when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins (cf. Is. 53:11) in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed (cf. Is. 53:5). For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Peter’s quoting from Isaiah 53 is unique in that he has woven portions of that passage into his own eye-witness narrative about Jesus’ passion. In the resulting text Peter quotes from Isaiah 53 out of order while he filling in eye-witness details from Jesus crucifixion. What Peter produces is the perfect blend of prophecy and fulfillment along with theological commentary on the doctrinal meaning and practical implications for the life of all believers as it pertains to Christ’s suffering. G. F. C. Fronmüller in his commentary on 1st Peter not only writes about the explicit teaching of Christ’s substitutionary work in this passage, he ties Peter’s explicit teaching on substitution back to Peter’s use of Isaiah 53. Wrote Fronmüller:
All exegetical attempts to explain away the idea of substitution and the system of sacrifice closely connected with it, are altogether futile. As in the Old Testament, the expressions, “to carry one’s sin,” or, “to bear one’s iniquity,” are equivalent to “suffer the punishment and guilt of one’s sin,” Lev. 20:17, 19; 24:15; Ezek. 23:35, so “to carry another’s sin,” denotes “to suffer the punishment and guilt of another,” or “to suffer vicariously,” Lev. 3:19, 17; Numb. 14:33; Lam. 5:7; Ezek. 18:19, 20. Can this be done in any other way than by the imputation of the guilt and sin of others, as was the case in the sin and guilt-offerings? Weiss is quite arbitrary in persisting to exclude the idea of sacrifice from Is. 53, for v. 10 clearly refers to it. From a Jewish point of view such a separation of the doctrine of substitution from the idea of sacrifice is simply impossible, cf. Jno. 1:29; Lev. 16:21, 22.—The juxtaposition of ἡμῶν and αὐτός both here and in Is. 53 is not insignificant, but gives prominence to the idea of substitution. Calvin says: “As under the law the sinner, in order to become free from sin, offered a sacrifice in his stead, so Christ took upon Himself the curse which we have merited by our sins in order to expiate it before God.” Calov (emphasis added).
These passages in the New Testament make it unmistakably clear that Jesus is the subject of Isaiah 53 and a careful scholar of 1st Peter has noted the clear connection that has to concept of substitution. In the next section of this paper we will consider the exegesis of three key phrases from the text of Isaiah 53 and demonstrate that they explicitly teach penal substitution.
Exegesis of Key Portions of Isaiah 53
In Isaiah 53 there are three statements that are made that unequivocally teach penal substitution. They are:
1) “he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (53:5)
2) “when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days” (53:10)
3) he “was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many” (53:12)
We will examine each of these statements and consider what Old Testament commentators have written regarding them.
וְהוּא֙ מְחֹלָ֣ל מִפְּשָׁעֵ֔נוּ מְדֻכָּ֖א מֵעֲוֹנֹתֵ֑ינוּ מוּסַ֤ר שְׁלוֹמֵ֙נוּ֙ עָלָ֔יו וּבַחֲבֻרָת֖וֹ נִרְפָּא־לָֽנוּ׃
Translation: and he is pierced for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace [is] upon him, and by his wound is healing to us
This statement from Isaiah’s prophecy is the clearest of the three that we will examine. This statement is also the most well known when it comes to the doctrine of PSA. J. Alec Motyer in his commentary notes how the grammar and the construction of the sentence, especially as it pertains to the cause and effect implications from the Hebrew preposition min and its attachment to the words pesha and awanote(מִפְּשָׁעֵ֔נוּ and מֵעֲוֹנֹתֵ֑ינוּ) can only be understood according to substitution. Wrote Motyer:
The pronoun he is again emphatic, so as to bring the Servant sharply before us—‘He (and no other)’. Pierced: as in 51:9; when they called on the Arm of the Lord who dealt the monster Rahab a death blow, they did not know they were calling the Arm to his own death. Crushed: used of cruel agonies ending in death (Lam. 3:34). For … for: the preposition min means ‘from’, hence it is used of one thing arising from another, a relationship of cause and effect. Our transgressions were the cause, his suffering to death the effect. Like verse 4, this verse cannot be understood without the idea of substitution to which, here, the adjective ‘penal’ must be attached. Transgressions (peša’), wilful rebellions (1:2, 28; 43:25; 44:22; 46:8; 50:1); iniquities (‘āwōn), the pervertedness, ‘bentness’, of fallen human nature (1:4; 5:18; 6:7; 40:2; 43:24; 50:1). Punishment (mûsār): ‘correction’ by word or act, ‘chastisement’. Just as ‘covenant of peace’ (54:10) means ‘covenant which pledges and secures peace’ so (lit.) ‘punishment of our peace’ means punishment which secured peace with God for us. This peace was lost (48:18) by disobedience, and, since it cannot be enjoyed by the wicked (48:22), the Servant stepped forward (49:1) to bring us back to God (49:6). This is what he achieved by his substitutionary, penal sufferings. Upon: the same preposition as used in Leviticus 16:21–22. By: the particle of price, ‘at the cost of’. Wounds (ḥabbûrâ): used in 1:6 of open, untreated lacerations, hence the actuality of blows inflicted and experienced. Healed: (lit.) ‘there is healing for us’, the accomplished reality of restored wholeness. (emphasis added)
Motyer is far from alone in his assessment of this passage and how it unmistakably is revealing that Christ’s sufferings were penal and substitutionary. Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch in their acclaimed 19th century Old Testament commentary wrote about how this passage is teaching substitution:
The meaning is not merely that the Servant of God entered into the fellowship of our sufferings, but that He took upon Himself the sufferings which we had to bear and deserved to bear, and therefore not only took them away (as Matt. 8:17 might make it appear), but bore them in His own person, that He might deliver us from them. But when one person takes upon himself suffering which another would have had to bear, and therefore not only endures it with him, but in his stead, this is called substitution or representation,—an idea which, however unintelligible to the understanding, belongs to the actual substance of the common consciousness of man, and the realities of the divine government of the world as brought within the range of our experience, and one which has continued even down to the present time to have much greater vigour in the Jewish nation, where it has found it true expression in sacrifice and the kindred institutions, than in any other, at least so far as its nationality has not been entirely annulled. (emphasis added)
It is important to note that Keil and Delitzsch note only identify substitution being expressed in this passage but that they note that understanding, although unintelligible to other cultures was understood very well in the Jewish nation. That is significant because if true, that means that Tony Jones’ contention that PSA only arose as a cultural explanation of Christ’s death a thousand years after the fact is demonstrated to be false. If the citizens of the ancient Jewish nation of Israel understood and practiced substitution long before Christ’s death and resurrection, then PSA has its origins in the Biblical texts not the medieval cultural developments of Canterbury. Keil and Delitzsch in their careful exegesis of Isaiah 53:5 note how the grammar, especially the use of min, can only be understood to mean that Jesus was pierced and crushed for our sins, not His own:
In v. 5, וְהוּא, as contrasted with וַאֲנַחְנוּ, continues the true state of the case as contrasted with their false judgment. V. 5. “Whereas He was pierced for our sins, bruised for our iniquities: the punishment was laid upon Him for our peace; and through His stripes we were healed.” The question is, whether v. 5a describes what He was during His life, or what He was in His death. The words decide in favour of the latter. For although châlâl is applied to a person mortally wounded but not yet dead (Jer. 51:52; Ps. 69:27), and châlal to a heart wounded to death (Ps. 109:22); the pure passives used here, which denote a calamity inflicted by violence from without, more especially mechōlâl, which is not the participle polal of chīl (made to twist one’s self with pain), but the participle poal of châlal (pierced, transfossus, the passive of mechōlēl, Isa. 51:9), and the substantive clauses, which express a fact that has become complete in all its circumstances, can hardly be understood in any other way than as denoting, that “the servant of God” floated before the mind of the speaker in all the sufferings of death, just as was the case with Zechariah in Zech. 12:10. There were no stronger expressions to be found in the language, to denote a violent and painful death. As min, with the passive, does not answer to the Greek ὑπό, but to ἀπό, the meaning is not that it was our sins and iniquities that had pierced Him through like swords, and crushed Him like heavy burdens, but that He was pierced and crushed on account of our sins and iniquities. It was not His own sins and iniquities, but ours, which He had taken upon Himself, that He might make atonement for them in our stead, that were the cause of His having to suffer so cruel and painful a death. (emphasis added)
The grammar of Isaiah 53:5 is inescapably revealing penal substitution. There is simply no way of avoiding it. The grammatical construction of this text cannot be understood any other way. If all we had was this verse from Isaiah 53 we would have all that we needed to demonstrate that Tony Jones’ assertions are false.
אִם־תָּשִׂ֤ים אָשָׁם֙ נַפְשׁ֔וֹ יִרְאֶ֥ה זֶ֖רַע יַאֲרִ֣יךְ יָמִ֑ים
Translation: when his soul makes a guilt offering he will see his offspring, he will prolong his days
Although this statement by Isaiah doesn’t seem as clear regarding its implications regarding Penal Substitution, yet it can only be rightly understood as the servant acting as our substitute. Motyer explains it:
‘When his soul makes a guilt offering’: the precious reality at the heart of the saving work is the person (‘soul’) of the Servant. Because he was so uniquely fitted to be the substitute, his saving work was successful. (c) ‘When you make his soul a guilt-offering’: here ‘you’ is the individual drawing near to the Servant to nominate him as the needed offering for guilt, thus making his personal, individual response to what the Servant has done. Each of these is legitimate as a translation and significant as a truth. If we can see more than one meaning in what he wrote, we may be sure that Isaiah did too, and that he deliberately left it like that. The guilt offering is found in Leviticus 5:1–6:7. The heart of its distinctiveness is its insistence on minute exactness between sin and remedy. It could well be called the ‘satisfaction-offering’. It is used here not so much to affirm that the Servant bore and discharged the guiltiness of our sin, but that what he did is exactly equivalent to what needed to be done. (emphasis added)
Motyer in explaining how this text points out that the type of guilt offering being reference here is found in Leviticus 5 and 6. It is details of this type of offering that highlight the substitutionary work of Isaiah’s suffering servant. Keil and Delitzsch in their exegesis of this verse they not only provide the details of the sacrifice in question, they explain how these details then form the basis of Anselm’s explanation of the Christ’s death. Although their explanation is extremely long, intricate and full of details. What they note regarding the asham (אָשָׁם֙) in this verse makes scholarly denials of penal substitution nearly impossible. Wrote Keil and Delitzsch:
V. 10. “And it pleased Jehovah to bruise Him, to afflict Him with disease; if His soul would pay a trespass-offering, He should see posterity, should live long days, and the purpose of Jehovah should prosper through His hand…
But if we adopt the following rendering, which is the simplest, and the one least open to exception: if His soul offered (placed, i.e., should have placed; cf., Job 14:14, si mortuus fuerit) an ’âshâm,—it is evident that ’âshâm has here a sacrificial meaning, and indeed a very definite one, inasmuch as the ’âshâm (the trespass-offering) was a sacrifice, the character of which was very sharply defined. It is self-evident, however, that the ’âshâm paid by the soul of the Servant must consist in the sacrifice of itself, since He pays it by submitting to a violent death; and a sacrifice presented by the nephesh (the soul, the life, the very self) must be not only one which proceeds from itself, but one which consists in itself. If, then, we would understand the point of view in which the self-sacrifice of the Servant of God is placed when it is called an ’âshâm, we must notice very clearly the characteristic distinction between this kind of sacrifice and every other. Many of the ritual distinctions, however, may be indicated superficially, inasmuch as they have no bearing upon the present subject, where we have to do with an antitypical and personal sacrifice, and not with a typical and animal one. The ’âshâm was a sanctissimum, like that of the sin-offering (Lev. 6:10, 17, and 14:13), and according to Lev. 7:7 there was “one law” for them both. This similarity in the treatment was restricted simply to the fact, that the fat portions of the trespass-offering, as well as of the sin-offering, were placed upon the altar, and that the remainder, as in the case of those sin-offerings the blood of which was not taken into the interior of the holy place, was assigned to the priests and to the male members of the priestly families (see Lev. 6:22; 7:6). There were the following points of contrast, however, between these two kinds of sacrifice: (1.) The material of the sin-offerings varied considerably, consisting sometimes of a bullock, sometimes of a pair of doves, and even of meal without oil or incense; whereas the trespass-offering always consisted of a ram, or at any rate of a male sheep. (2.) The choice of the victim, and the course adopted with its blood, was regulated in the case of the sin-offering according to the condition of the offerer; but in the case of the trespass-offering they were neither of them affected by this in the slightest degree. (3.) Sin-offerings were presented by the congregation, and upon holy days, whereas trespass-offerings were only presented by individuals, and never upon holy days. (4.) In connection with the trespass-offering there was none of the smearing of the blood (nethīnâh) or of the sprinkling of the blood (hazzâ’âh) connected with the sin-offering, and the pouring out of the blood at the foot of the altar (shephīkhâh) is never mentioned. The ritual for the blood consisted purely in the swinging out of the blood (zerīqâh), as in the case of the whole offering and of the peace-offerings…In the sin-offering the priest is always the representative of the offerer; but in the trespass-offering he is generally the representative of God. The trespass-offering was a restitution or compensation made to God in the person of the priest, a payment or penance which made amends for the wrong done, a satisfactio in a disciplinary sense. And this is implied in the name; for just as חַטָּאת denotes first the sin, then the punishment of the sin and the expiation of the sin, and hence the sacrifice which cancels the sin; so ’âshâm signifies first the guilt or debt, then the compensation or penance, and hence (cf., Lev. 5:15) the sacrifice which discharges the debt or guilt, and sets the man free.
Every species of sacrifice had its own primary idea. The fundamental idea of the ’ōlâh (burnt-offering) was oblatio, or the offering of worship; that of the shelâmīm (peace-offerings), conciliatio, or the knitting of fellowship that of the minchâh (meat-offering), donatio, or sanctifying consecration; that of the chattâ’th (sin-offering), expiatio, or atonement; that of the ’âshâm (trespass-offering), mulcta (satisfactio), or a compensatory payment. The self-sacrifice of the Servant of Jehovah may be presented under all these points of view. It is the complete antitype, the truth, the object, and the end of all the sacrifices. So far as it is the antitype of the “whole offering,” the central point in its antitypical character is to be found in the offering of His entire personality (προσφορὰ τοῦ σώματος, Heb. 10:10) to God for a sweet smelling savour (Eph. 5:2); so far as it is the antitype of the sin-offering, in the shedding of His blood (Heb. 9:13, 14), the “blood of sprinkling” (Heb. 12:24; 1 Pet. 1:2); so far as it is the antitype of the shelâmīm, and especially of the passover, in the sacramental participation in His one self-sacrifice, which He grants to us in His courts, thus applying to us His own redeeming work, and confirming our fellowship of peace with God (Heb. 13:10; 1 Cor. 5:7), since the shelâmīm derive their name from shâlōm, pax, communio; so far as it is the antitype of the trespass-offering, in the equivalent rendered to the justice of God for the sacrileges of our sins. The idea of compensatory payment, which Hofmann extends to the whole sacrifice, understanding by kipper the covering of the guilt in the sense of a debt (debitum), is peculiar to the ’âshâm; and at the same time an idea, which Hofmann cannot find in the sacrifices, is expressed here in the most specific manner, viz., that of satisfaction demanded by the justice of God, and of paena outweighing the guilt contracted (cf., nirtsâh, Isa. 40:2); in other words, the idea of satisfactio vicaria in the sense of Anselm is brought out most distinctly here, where the soul of the Servant of God is said to present such an atoning sacrifice for the whole, that is to say, where He offers Himself as such a sacrifice by laying down the life so highly valued by God (Isa. 42:1; 49:5). As the verb most suitable to the idea of the ’âshâm the writer selects the verb sīm, which is generally used to denote the giving of a pledge (Job 17:3), and is therefore the most suitable word for every kind of satisfactio that represents a direct solutio. (emphasis added)
In other words, Anselm knew what he was doing and he didn’t get his ideas regarding penal substitution from his culture, he instead was rightly understanding Isaiah 53, especially in regard to the אָשָׁם֙.
וְאֶת־פֹּשְׁעִ֖ים נִמְנָ֑ה וְהוּא֙ חֵטְא־רַבִּ֣ים נָשָׂ֔א
Translation: and with the transgressors he was numbered and the sin of many he carried
This is yet another statement that can only me made sense of through Penal Substitution. In this portion of the text the suffering servant is being numbered with the transgressors. If he himself were a transgressor, then his being numbered with them would be the result of his own sin. Instead, the suffering servant becomes the sin bearer, just like the sacrificial sin offerings. Keil and Delitzsch highlight this fact in their commentary:
because He has suffered Himself to be reckoned with transgressors, i.e., numbered among them (niph. tolerativum), namely, in the judgment of His countrymen, and in the unjust judgment (mishpât) by which He was delivered up to death as a wicked apostate and transgressor of the law. With וְהוּא there is attached to וְאֶת־פֹּשְׁעִים נִמְנָה (He was numbered with the transgressors), if not in a subordinate connection (like והוא in v. 5; compare Isa. 10:7), the following antithesis: He submitted cheerfully to the death of a sinner, and yet He was no sinner, but “bare the sin of many (cf., Heb. 9:28), and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Emphasis added)
Motyer, in his commentary notes that a great victory on the part of the suffering servant is being described in this verse. He then explains the four facts the victory is the result of:
this great victory rests on four facts. (a) He poured out: the Servant’s voluntary self-offering even to the point of death (Phil. 2:8ff.); (b) was numbered: his identification with those in need of salvation (we could translate, ‘He allowed himself to be numbered’); (c) he bore the sin of many (i.e. of all whom he designed to save): his effectiveness as substitute; and (d) made intercession, probably better as ‘interposed’ but, of course, it could refer to his mediatorial intercession whereby he ‘saves to the uttermost’ (Heb. 7:25): his work as mediator. The latter verb, however, is used in verse 6 for ‘caused to meet’ (niv ‘laid’). Just as the Lord placed him in the mediating position, so he personally took it as his own. (emphasis added)
Motyer rightly notes that one of the four pillars of this victory was Christ’s effectiveness as our substitute. His understanding of this passage is based on what it so clearly says.
Over and again the careful exegete of Isaiah 53 will be confronted with the Biblical revelation that Jesus’ death on the cross was a punishment (penal) for our sins (substitution). Therefore, since doctrine is found in scripture which is the Word of God and since this doctrine was set forth over 600 years before Christ’s death and resurrection and more than 1,600 years before Anselm was born we can definitively conclude that Tony Jones’ contention that PSA is a man-made theory of the atonement that was developed a thousand years after Christ walked the earth is patently false. Technically PSA was revealed more than six centuries before Christ was born of the virgin.
In the next section we will examine some of the writings of the Church Fathers to test the veracity of Jones’ final claim that, “PSA was unknown before its development by Anselm of Canterbury.”
Penal Substitution in the Church Fathers Explicit References to Isaiah 53
Is it true, as Tony Jones contends, that PSA was unknown as an explanation of Christ’s death on the cross prior to the writings of Anselm of Canterbury? Considering the fact that Isaiah 53 clearly reveals PSA, it hardly seems possible that the early Church Fathers and every Christian theologian, bishop, pastor, and apologist for the first 1,000 years of the church never noticed what Isaiah said and taught. The truth of the matter is that the church was fully aware of Isaiah 53 and the doctrine it taught. Case and point, Clement of Rome, in his 1st Epistle to the Corinthians circa 90 A.D. – 99 A.D. wrote:
For Christ belongs to the humble-minded, not to those who exalt themselves above His flock. 2 The scepter of the majesty of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, came not in the pomp of boasting or of arrogance, though He was mighty; but he was humble-minded, as the Holy Spirit spoke concerning Him. For He says: 3 ‘Lord, who has believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? We announced in his presence—he is as a child, as a root in thirsty ground. There is no beauty in him, nor comeliness, and we have seen him, and he had neither form nor beauty, but his form was without honor, deficient in comparison with the form of men; a man living in stripes and hardships, and knowing how to bear weakness, for his face was turned away, and he was despised and not blessed. 4 This is he who bears our sins and is hurt for us, and we regarded him as subject to pain and stripes and affliction. 5 But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins. The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed. 6 We all went astray like sheep; everyone went astray in his own way. 7 And the Lord delivered him up for our sins, and he did not open his mouth on account of his affliction. As a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and as a lamb dumb before its shearer he opens not his mouth. In humiliation his judgment was taken away. 8 Who shall declare his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth. 9 For the iniquities of my people he has come to death. 10 And I will give the wicked for his burial, and the rich for his death; for he did no iniquity, nor was deceit found in his mouth. And the Lord wills to purify him from his wounds. 11 If you make an offering for sin, your soul shall see a seed with long life. 12 And the Lord wills to take from the labor of his soul, to show him light and to form him in understanding, to justify a righteous man who serves many well. And he himself shall bear their sins. 13 On this account he shall inherit many, and shall share the spoils of the strong; because his soul was delivered to death, and he was counted among the wicked. 14 And he bore the sins of many, and for their sins he was delivered up.’ 15 And again He says Himself: ‘But I am a worm and no man, the reproach of men, and the outcast of the people. 16 All who saw me laughed me to scorn, they spoke with their lips, they shook their heads [saying], “He hoped in the Lord; let Him deliver him, let Him save him, seeing that he delights in Him. (emphasis added )
In this portion of Clement’s epistle he lifts Isaiah 53 right out of the LXX and preaches it straight from the text with practically no commentary. Yet the clear teaching of Christ bearing our sins and dying in our place as our substitute is crystal clear in Clement’s letter. Clement may not have called it penal substituionary atonement but he full well knew he was proclaiming Christ substitutionary work.
Another Church Father who clearly taught PSA was Justin Martyr. In his “Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, a Jew circa early 1st Century Justin wrote:
“For the whole human race will be found to be under a curse. For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.’ And no one has accurately done all, nor will you venture to deny this; but some more and some less than others have observed the ordinances enjoined. But if those who are under this law appear to be under a curse for not having observed all the requirements, how much more shall all the nations appear to be under a curse who practise idolatry, who seduce youths, and commit other crimes? If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family, yet you did not commit the deed as in obedience to the will of God. For you did not practise piety when you slew the prophets. And let none of you say: If His Father wished Him to suffer this, in order that by His stripes the human race might be healed, we have done no wrong. If, indeed, you repent of your sins, and recognise Him to be Christ, and observe His commandments, then you may assert this; for, as I have said before, remission of sins shall be yours. But if you curse Him and them that believe on Him, and, when you have the power, put them to death, how is it possible that requisition shall not be made of you, as of unrighteous and sinful men, altogether hard-hearted and without understanding, because you laid your hands on Him? (emphasis added)
In this passage Justin Martyr only makes fleeting mention of Isaiah 53. But the context into which he weaves Isaiah’s words is his clear and concise claim that Jesus’ death was vicarious and His sufferings were the result of the Father will that the Son take our sins upon Himself so that He would suffer for us, in our place. If PSA were unknown to the church prior to Anselm, then why was Justin Martyr so familiar with it?
The last citation from the Church Fathers that we will consider is taken from the Demonstratio Evangelica of Eusebius of Cæsarea. In this passage Eusebius weaves together Isaiah 53 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 in order to explain the theological significance of Christ’s death on the cross:
And Aquila is in exact agreement with Symmachus. With regard first to the words which are apparently said in the Person of our Saviour: “Heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee,” you will notice in Symmachus they are not so rendered, but thus: “Heal my soul, even if I have sinned against thee.” And He speaks thus, since He shares our sins. So it is said: “And the Lord hath laid on him our iniquities, and he bears our sins.”  Thus the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world, became a curse on our behalf: “Whom, though he knew no sin, God made sin for our sake, giving him as redemption for all, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” But since being in the likeness of sinful flesh He condemned sin in the flesh, the words quoted are rightly used. [b] And in that He made our sins His own from His love and benevolence towards us, He says these words, adding further on in the same Psalm: “Thou hast protected me because of my innocence,” clearly shewing the impeccability of the Lamb of God. And how can He make our sins His own, and be said to bear our iniquities, except by our being regarded as His body, according to the apostle, who says: “Now ye are the body of Christ, and severally members?” [c] And by the rule that “if one member suffer all the members suffer with it,” so when the many members suffer and sin, He too by the laws of sympathy (since the Word of God was pleased to take the form of a slave and to be knit into the common tabernacle of us all) takes into Himself the labours of the suffering members, and makes our sicknesses His, and suffers all our woes and labours by the laws of love. [d] And the Lamb of God not only did this, but was chastised on our behalf, and suffered a penalty He did not owe, but which we owed because of the multitude of our sins; and so He became the cause of the forgiveness of our sins, because He received death for us, and transferred to Himself the scourging, the insults, and the dishonour, which were due to us, and drew down on Himself the apportioned curse, being made a curse for us. And what is that but the price of our souls? And so the oracle says in our person: “By his stripes we were healed,” and “The Lord delivered him for our sins,” with the result that uniting Himself to us and us to Himself, and appropriating our sufferings, He can say, “I said, Lord, have mercy on me, heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee,” and can cry that they who plot against Him, not men only but invisible dæmons as well, when they see the surpassing power of His Holy Name and title, by means of which He filled the world full of Christians a little after, think that they will be able to extinguish it, if they plot His death. This is what is proved by His saying: “My enemies have spoken evil of me, saying, When shall he die and his name perish?( (emphasis added)
One would be hard pressed to find a clearer and more detailed recounting of the doctrine of PSA in all of the writings of Christendom. Yet this was not written after Anselm of Canterbury it was written 600 years before Anselm’s parents ever met.
Contrary to the claims of postmodern emergent liberals like Tony Jones and Steve Chalke, Penal Substitutionary Atonement is not a man-made explanation of Christ’s death on the cross invented 1,000 years after the fact. This paper as weighed the assertions of men like Jones through a careful exegesis of Isaiah 53 that accords with the best Old Testament scholarship. It has also briefly examined some of the writings of the Church Fathers to see if PSA was unknown prior to Anselm. What we’ve learned is that PSA is a divine doctrine that was revealed centuries before Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary and that this Biblical doctrine was known and clearly taught in the early church.
 Steve Chalke and Alan Mann, The Lost Message of Jesus, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), pp. 182-183
 Tony Jones. The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier (Kindle Locations 2825-2831). Kindle Edition.
 Jones, Tony (2012-03-18). A Better Atonement: Beyond the Depraved Doctrine of Original Sin (Kindle Locations 364-406). The JoPa Group. Kindle Edition.
 Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Messianic Prophecy Objections, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2003), 49–50.
 John Peter Lange, Philip Schaff, G. F. C. Fronmüller, et al., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: 1 Peter (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 47.
 J. Alec Motyer, Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 20, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 378.
 Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 7 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 508.
 Ibid., p. 509
 J. Alec Motyer, Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 20, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 382.
 Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 7 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 516–520.
 Ibid., pp. 522–523
 J. Alec Motyer, Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 20, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 383.
 Francis X. Glimm, “The Letter of St. Clement of Rome to the Corinthians,” in The Apostolic Fathers, trans. Francis X. Glimm, Joseph M.-F. Marique, and Gerald G. Walsh, vol. 1, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1947), 22–23.
 Justin Martyr, “Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, a Jew,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 247.
 Eusebius (2015-09-17). The Proof of the Gospel: Being the Demonstratio Evangelica of Eusebius of Cæsarea (Illustrated) (Kindle Locations 7313-7333). Aeterna Press. Kindle Edition.
The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885)
Brown, Michael L., Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Messianic Prophecy Objections, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2003)
Chalke , Steve and Mann, Alan, The Lost Message of Jesus, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003)
Eusebius (2015-09-17). The Proof of the Gospel: Being the Demonstratio Evangelica of Eusebius of Cæsarea. Aeterna Press. Kindle Edition.
Glimm , Francis X., “The Letter of St. Clement of Rome to the Corinthians,” in The Apostolic Fathers, trans. Francis X. Glimm, Joseph M.-F. Marique, and Gerald G. Walsh, vol. 1, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1947)
Jones, Tony (2012-03-18). A Better Atonement: Beyond the Depraved Doctrine of Original Sin, The JoPa Group. Kindle Edition.
Jones, Tony. The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier. (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2008)
Keil , Carl Friedrich and Delitzsch, Franz, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 7 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996)
Motyer , J. Alec, Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 20, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999),
Pieper, Francis, Christian Dogmatics, electronic ed., vol. 1 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1953)
Tappert , Theodore G., ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959)
My apologies in advance for my readers who are not Lutheran. This post addresses a problem in Lutheran circles that is long overdue for being addressed. For those outside of Confessional Lutheranism, this post is going to be ponderous because of the "inside baseball" aspect of it.
In a recent blog post written by pseudonymous author John Philoponus which was posted at The Cellar-Door, Higher Things, an organization for which I sit on the Board of Directors, was charged with the very serious theological crime of being antinomian. The evidence that was put forth to substantiate the author's charge was an advertising blurb for an upcoming Higher Things retreat. Below is my response to this slanderous and sinful blog post.
A Call for John Philoponus to Repent
Despite the impressive use of Latin in this post, bene factum for that, the rest of this post is a case study on myopic hit pieces that employ the use of cherry picked quotes that intentionally ignore obvious data that contradicts the authors biases and intended outcomes.
Exhibit #1: The absurdity of this post’s methodology.
This post has taken the time to carefully parse the advertising blurb (not the actual teaching from the event) for ONE OF the upcoming Higher Things retreats and through this careful evaluation of the advertising verbiage come to the verdict that Higher Things is a hotbed of Antinomianism.
Wow! I had no idea that Higher Things could be found guilty of such high theological crimes based upon such scant evidence.
Clearly the author of this post, who unlike myself remains anonymous, needs to remove the blinders from his eyes so that he can consider some contradictory data that they either missed or were suppressing in regard to this matter.
Let's begin with the obvious, shall we:
The screen shot for the upcoming retreat "Accident or On Purpose?" appears on the Retreats page of the Higher Things website. Here is the link http://higherthings.org/retreats/ucevents
On that page we read about EVERY upcoming Higher Things retreat. Even a cursory skimming of that page reveals that there are several retreats that are coming up where doctrines flowing from the Third Article of the Creed will be explicitly taught. Here is one example:
Note that Rev. Fisk will be teaching through the Small Catechism and the Augsburg Confession with the goal of helping youth know that what they are living for is worth dying for. Hmmm, a retreat like that with teaching like that is hardly what one would expect from an organization that is supposedly drifting into Dinitarian [sic] Antinomianism (the correct theological word is Binitarian https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binitarianism).
Exhibit #2 (I can literally produce hundreds of these):
Higher Things publishes a daily devotional titled Reflections, if there was ever going to be proof of Dinitarian [sic] Antinomianism this would be the place. After all, organizations who are antinomian would NEVER publish or say anything that would embrace 3rd Use of the Law or the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Yet, day after day and week after week the Higher Things Reflections says what no respectable Dinitarian [sic] Antinomian would EVER say.
Take for example the Reflection for Friday August 12th, 2016:
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Many words could be used to describe us outside of Christ: fornicaters, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, coveters, drunkards, insulters, and extortionists. That's a pretty harsh list. And St. Paul says that such people simply will not inherit the Kingdom of God. (And once again, the Lord's Word answers what happens to those who want to cling to such sins).
But that's what you WERE. You are not that now. You have been washed, sanctified, and justified. You have been saved by Jesus Christ, for on the cross those ugly words above that describe you, describe Him instead. He is those things. He is the scum of the earth. He is the curse of sin. He is the one who suffers for these things. Why? In order that you don't have to.
By your baptism into Christ, all the evil and wickedness you have done has been washed away. It's gone. You won't answer for it. You won't be kept out of God's kingdom because of it.
But what if temptation seizes you and you give in and start sticking those labels back on yourself? Repent. Call it what it is: sin. Confess it. Hear your pastor absolve you of it. Run to the waters and name of your baptism and flee to the sanctifying power of Christ's holy flesh and blood put in you. In other words, when the sin that keeps people out of God's kingdom stalks you, hear the Good News that now, clothed with Christ in Baptism, that's not you. When the Lord looks at you, that's not what He sees. Instead, He sees Jesus, who paid the price for your sins.
And that is such a true freedom from such sins to which you really and truly need not ever return. Christ has rescued you from being what you were and made you what you are now: a child of God in Him.
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Hmmmm...Repent? Don't ever return to your sin?? An explicit warning of damnation to those who cling to sin?? This doesn't sound like any Antinomian that I've ever read or heard regardless of whether they are Dinitarian [sic] or Trinitarian.
Here's the link to the PDF for the current season of Reflections which is just teeming with good old fashioned Third Article devotional material.
Exhibit #3 - I put in a third exhibit for the sake of the Holy Spirit, the Third Article of the Creed and the 3rd Use of the Law.
Here is the link to the conference book from this year’s recently concluded Higher Thing summer conferences. In this conference book you will find a listing of ALL the catechetical teaching offered at our summer conferences. Please note the Catechesis that looks oddly out of place for an organization that is drifting into Dinitarian [sic] Antinomianism. I will list a few of the titles and their descriptions below:
TITUS, A BOOK OF FAITH AND WORKS
Rev. Keith GeRue
Furman Hall 311
St. Paul teaches Titus and us how faith cannot live without works and how works without faith is just as useless. Hear and see the instructions about Elders. See how sound doctrine and sound behavior go hand in hand. Finally, learn instructions for Godly living. We are to be strong in what we teach so that our lives and teaching will be known to others. May you be blessed and inspired as you see faith in action.
PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH
Rev. Dr. Ron Bogs
Wilson Hall 113
This session will take a new look at Matthew 28:19-20 to see if it really is a “Great Commission” or something else (spoiler alert – it’s something else). Learn how what we believe as Lutherans and what we preach is practiced in our daily lives. Or as one might say, the best way to practice what you preach is vocational evangelism, or sharing the good news as you go about your regular life.
THE MARRIAGE AND DATING BREAKAWAY
Rev. Mark Buetow
Wilson Hall 126
Guys. Girls. The dating game. Marriage. Sex. What does God’s Word have to say about all this stuff? How do young Christians navigate the dating waters in an ocean full of temptations and false pictures of what marriage is? Hear how Jesus is the Bridegroom and the church is His bride, and how, with that picture in mind, marriage and dating all fall into place.
A SERMON TO LIVE BY
Rev. Chris Hull
Alumni Hall – Lounge
What do you think a sermon is? Is it a long list of to dos that give you something to accomplish for the week? Is a sermon the voice of the living Christ freeing you from sin, death, world, and the devil? Come and hear how Christ frees you in the proclamation of the Gospel.
RAINBOWS & JESUS
Rev. George Borghardt
Wilson Hall 126
Guy meets girl. Guy asks girl out. Girl and guy fall in love. They marry in church and live happily ever after. It used to be so easy! What about alternate lifestyles? Our culture has changed radically on this even in the last five years! What do we have to say about that as Lutherans? How do we talk about this subject without sounding like racists from the 1800s? Let’s take a look at Jesus and what He has to say about same-sex marriage and our culture today. Where does Jesus fit in all of this, anyway?
COVERING NAKED NOAH
Rev. Michael Mohr
Wilson Hall 113
You become aware of someone's sin, either because they have sinned against you directly, you personally witnessed their sin against someone else, or someone told you about it. How do you respond? Noah's sons reacted to his sinful situation, and so we will also look at different ways people in our lives respond to sin. We will also explore our Lord's teaching about how we should respond to sin and see various ways that instruction is put into practice.
VOTES AND VOCATION: CITIZENSHIP AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
Dr. Barry Pyle
Sarratt Student Center 220
Can you be in two places at once? As Christians we are not of the world but we are in it. This condition creates interesting questions concerning the role of the state in our lives and our role as citizens within the state. Should Christians participate in politics? If so, how? What are the costs and bene ts to our neighbor and ourselves if we avoid political engagement? What about religious liberty and the two kingdoms? We address these all questions through the lens of vocation.
I truly wonder how John Philoponus explains how he missed all of these super easy to find examples of Higher Things’ teaching and resources that emphasize good works, 3rd Use of the Law, etc.
Based on the evidence that I have provided above, it is obvious that John Philoponus' post is an example of what Christ describes as “straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:24)
The bottom line:
At the end of his post, Philoponus' concluded that:
If Higher Things wants to regain status as a salutary confessional alternative to the annual LCMS Laser-Guided SMP Show, they might make a small and earnest beginning by leaving a little room for the Holy Spirit— in their adverts, yes, but much more so in the content of what they put out.
One has to wonder, if Higher Things is drifting into Dinitarian [sic] Antinomianism and needs to make a small and earnest effort to leave a little room for the Holy Spirit in their adverts and what they put out, then why on earth is it so ridiculously simple to produce example after example in Higher Things' content of the sanctifying work of the Spirit?
Despite Philoponus' claims that he was putting the “best construction” on his interpretation of the advertising blurb, it is clear that Philoponus has not truly done so. Instead, Philoponus has sinned and broken the 8th commandment.
I strongly admonish the author of this post to repent, seek out their pastor to confess this sin and be absolved for it and then bear fruit in keeping with repentance by immediately publishing a retraction.
What I find most fascinating about the current defenders of 3rd Use of the Law within Confessional Lutheran circles is that they frequently break the 8th Commandment in their efforts to unmask the antinomians in our midst. This is merely the latest example of this type of sinful behavior.
I suggest that if they want to level charges of antinomianism in the future that they first make sure that it isn't embarrassingly simple to produce examples of the teachings that they so loudly claim are missing in certain men's and certain organization's ministries.
Penal Substitution In The Writings Of The Church Fathers
Penal substitution has a long and distinguished pedigree, and was expressly articulated by many in the early Church. Sadly, the myth of the doctrine’s supposed ‘late development’ continues to be perpetuated in books and theological seminaries all over the world. To set the record straight, we have included a few extracts from ancient Christian writings here, all of which are discussed in more detail in the book, Pierced for Our Transgressions.
In many cases, the entire works from which the extracts are taken are available from those wonderful people at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library HERE.
Clement of Rome [c. 30–100.]: 1st Epistle to the Corinthians
The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume I: The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (A. Roberts, J. Donaldson & A. C. Coxe, Ed.) - Chap XVI
We have declared [our message] in His presence: He is, as it were, a child, and like a root in thirsty ground; He has no form nor glory, yea, we saw Him, and He had no form nor comeliness; but His form was without eminence, yea, deficient in comparison with the [ordinary] form of men. He is a man exposed to stripes and suffering, anti acquainted with the endurance of grief: for His countenance was turned away; He was despised, and not esteemed. He bears our iniquities, and is in sorrow for our sakes; yet we supposed that [on His own account] He was exposed to labour, and stripes, and affliction. But He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we were healed. All we, like sheep, have gone astray; [every] man has wandered in his own way; and the Lord has delivered Him up for our sins, while He in the midst of His sufferings opened not His mouth. He was brought as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before her shearer is dumb, so He opened not His mouth. In His humiliation His judgment was taken away; who shall declare His generation? for His life is taken from the earth. For the transgressions of my people was He brought down to death. And I will give the wicked for His sepulcher, and the rich for His death, because He did no iniquity, neither was guile found in His mouth. And the Lord is pleased to purify Him by stripes. If you make an offering for sin, your soul shall see a long-lived seed. And the Lord is pleased to relieve Him of the affliction of His soul, to show Him light, and to form Him with understanding, to justify the Just One who ministers well to many; and He Himself shall carry their sins. On this account He shall inherit many, and shall divide the spoil of the strong; because His soul was delivered to death, and He was reckoned among the transgressors, and He bore the sins of many, and for their sins was He delivered.”
Justin Martyr (c. 100-165), Dialogue with Trypho
Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, repr. 1969), sect. xcv, p. 247.
XCV — Christ took upon Himself the curse due to us.
For the whole human race will be found to be under a curse. For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them’ [Deut 27:26]. And no one has accurately done all, nor will you venture to deny this; but some more and some less than others have observed the ordinances enjoined. But if those who are under this law appear to be under a curse for not having observed all the requirements, how much more shall all the nations appear to be under a curse who practise idolatry, who seduce youths, and commit other crimes? If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family, yet you did not commit the deed as in obedience to the will of God. For you did not practise piety when you slew the prophets. And let none of you say: If His Father wished Him to suffer this, in order that by His stripes the human race might be healed, we have done no wrong. If, indeed, you repent of your sins, and recognise Him to be Christ, and observe His commandments, then you may assert this; for, as I have said before, remission of sins shall be yours. But if you curse Him and them that believe on Him, and, when you have the power, put them to death, how is it possible that requisition shall not be made of you, as of unrighteous and sinful men, altogether hard-hearted and without understanding, because you laid your hands on Him?
Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 275-339), Proof of the Gospel
Trans. and ed. W. J. Ferrar (London: SPCK; New York: Macmillan, 1920), vol. 2, bk. 10, ch. 1, p. 195.
So it is said: 'And the Lord hath laid on him our iniquities, and he bears our sins.' Thus the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world, became a curse on our behalf:
'Whom, though he knew no sin, God made sin for our sake, giving him as redemption for all, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.' [2 Cor. 5:21]
... And how can He make our sins His own, and be said to bear our iniquities, except by our being regarded as His body, according to the apostle, who says: 'Now ye are the body of Christ, and severally members?' [1 Cor. 12:27] And by the rule that 'if one member suffer all the members suffer with it,' so when the many members suffer and sin, He too by the laws of sympathy ... takes into Himself the labours of the suffering members, and makes our sicknesses His, and suffers all our woes and labours by the laws of love. And the Lamb of God not only did this, but was chastised on our behalf, and suffered a penalty He did not owe, but which we owed because of the multitude of our sins; and so He became the cause of the forgiveness of our sins, because He received death for us, and transferred to Himself the scourging, the insults, and the dishonour, which were due to us, and drew down upon Himself the appointed curse, being made a curse for us.
Hilary of Poitiers (c. 300-368), Homily on Psalm 53 (54)
Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ser. II, vol. 9 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, repr. 1976), sect. 1, p. 246.
For next there follows: I will sacrifice unto Thee freely. The sacrifices of the Law, which consisted of whole burnt-offerings and oblations of goats and of bulls, did not involve an expression of free will, because the sentence of a curse was pronounced on all who broke the Law. Whoever failed to sacrifice laid himself open to the curse. And it was always necessary to go through the whole sacrificial action because the addition of a curse to the commandment forbad any trifling with the obligation of offering. It was from this curse that our Lord Jesus Christ redeemed us, when, as the Apostle says: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made curse for us, for it is written: cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree [Gal. 3:13]. Thus He offered Himself to the death of the accursed that He might break the curse of the Law, offering Himself voluntarily a victim to God the Father, in order that by means of a voluntary victim the curse which attended the discontinuance of the regular victim might be removed.
Athanasius (c. 300-373), On the Incarnation
(New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1993), sect. 8, p. 34.
Thus, taking a body like our own, because all our bodies were liable to the corruption of death, He surrendered His body to death in place of all, and offered it to the Father. This He did out of sheer love for us, so that in His death all might die, and the law of death thereby be abolished because, having fulfilled in His body that for which it was appointed, it was thereafter voided of its power for men. This He did that He might turn again to incorruption men who had turned back to corruption, and make them alive through death by the appropriation of His body and by the grace of His resurrection. Thus He would make death to disappear from them as utterly as straw from fire.
Ibid., sect. 9, p. 35.
The Word perceived that corruption could not be got rid of otherwise than through death; yet He Himself, as the Word, being immortal and the Father’s Son, was such as could not die. For this reason, therefore, He assumed a body capable of death, in order that it, through belonging to the Word Who is above all, might become in dying a sufficient exchange for all, and, itself remaining incorruptible through His indwelling, might thereafter put an end to corruption for all others as well, by the grace of the resurrection. It was by surrendering to death the body which He had taken, as an offering and sacrifice free from every stain, that He forthwith abolished death for His human brethren by the offering of the equivalent. For naturally, since the Word of God was above all, when He offered His own temple and bodily instrument as a substitute for the life of all, He fulfilled in death all that was required.
Gregory Nazianzus (c. 330-390), The Fourth Theological Oration
Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ser. II, vol. 7 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, repr. 1974), sect. v, p. 311.
Take, in the next place, the subjection by which you subject the Son to the Father. What, you say, is He not now subject, or must He, if He is God, be subject to God? You are fashioning your argument as if it concerned some robber, or some hostile deity. But look at it in this manner: that as for my sake He was called a curse, Who destroyed my curse; and sin, who taketh away the sin of the world; and became a new Adam to take the place of the old, just so He makes my disobedience His own as Head of the whole body. As long then as I am disobedient and rebellious, both by denial of God and by my passions, so long Christ also is called disobedient on my account. But when all things shall be subdued unto Him on the one hand by acknowledgment of Him, and on the other by a reformation, then He Himself also will have fulfilled His submission, bringing me whom He has saved to God. For this, according to my view, is the subjection of Christ; namely, the fulfilling of the Father’s Will.
Ambrose of Milan (339-397), Flight from the World
The Fathers of the Church, vol. 65, trans. M. P. McHugh (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1972), ch. 7, sect. 44, pp. 314–315.
And so then, Jesus took flesh that He might destroy the curse of sinful flesh, and He became for us a curse that a blessing might overwhelm a curse, uprightness might overwhelm sin, forgiveness might overwhelm the sentence, and life might overwhelm death. He also took up death that the sentence might be fulfilled and satisfaction might be given for the judgment, the curse placed on sinful flesh even to death. Therefore, nothing was done contrary to God’s sentence when the terms of that sentence were fulfilled, for the curse was unto death but grace is after death.
John Chrysostom (c. 350-407), Homilies on Second Corinthians
Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ser. I, vol. 12 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, repr. 1969), Homily XI, sect. 6, p. 335.
If one that was himself a king, beholding a robber and malefactor under punishment, gave his well-beloved son, his only-begotten and true, to be slain;and transferred the death and the guilt as well, from him to his son (who was himself of no such character), that he might both save the condemned man and clear him from his evil reputation; and then if, having subsequently promoted him to great dignity, he had yet, after thus saving him and advancing him to that glory unspeakable, been outraged by the person that had received such treatment: would not that man, if he had any sense, have chosen ten thousand deaths rather than appear guilty of so great ingratitude? This then let us also now consider with ourselves, and groan bitterly for the provocations we have offered our Benefactor; nor let us therefore presume, because though outraged he bears it with long-suffering; but rather for this very reason be full of remorse.
Augustine of Hippo (354-430), Against Faustus
Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ser. I, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), bk. 14, sect. 6, p. 209.
If we read, ‘Cursed of God is every one that hangeth on a tree,’ [Gal. 3:13; cf.Deut 21:23] the addition of the words ‘of God’ creates no difficulty. For had not God hated sin and our death, He would not have sent His Son to bear and to abolish it. And there is nothing strange in God’s cursing what He hates. For His readiness to give us the immortality which will be had at the coming of Christ, is in proportion to the compassion with which He hated our death when it hung on the cross at the death of Christ. And if Moses curses every one that hangeth on a tree, it is certainly not because he did not foresee that righteous men would be crucified, but rather because He foresaw that heretics would deny the death of the Lord to be real, and would try to disprove the application of this curse to Christ, in order that they might disprove the reality of His death. For if Christ’s death was not real, nothing cursed hung on the cross when He was crucified, for the crucifixion cannot have been real. Moses cries from the distant past to these heretics: Your evasion in denying the reality of the death of Christ is useless. Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree; not this one or that, but absolutely every one. What! the Son of God? Yes, assuredly. This is the very thing you object to, and that you are so anxious to evade. You will not allow that He was cursed for us, because you will not allow that He died for us. Exemption from Adam’s curse implies exemption from his death. But as Christ endured death as man, and for man; so also, Son of God as He was, ever living in His own righteousness, but dying for our offences, He submitted as man, and for man, to bear the curse which accompanies death. And as He died in the flesh which He took in bearing our punishment, so also, while ever blessed in His own righteousness, He was cursed for our offences, in the death which He suffered in bearing our punishment. And these words ‘every one’ are intended to check the ignorant officiousness which would deny the reference of the curse to Christ, and so, because the curse goes along with death, would lead to the denial of the true death of Christ.
Gelasius of Cyzicus (fifth century), Church History
ii, 24, in Die Griechischen Christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte, vol. 28 (Leipzig: Preussische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1897–), p. 100
After a period of three years and at the beginning of the fourth he thus draws near to his bodily suffering, which he willingly undergoes on our behalf. For the punishment of the cross was due to us; but if we had all been crucified, we would have had no power to deliver ourselves from death, ‘for death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who did not sin’ (Rom. 5:14). There were many holy men, many prophets, many righteous men, but not one of them had the power to ransom himself from the authority of death; but he, the Saviour of all, came and received the punishments which were due to us into his sinless flesh, which was of us, in place of us, and on our behalf.
Gregory the Great (540-604), Church History
Morals on the Book of Job, vol. 1 (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1844), bk. 3, sect 14, p 148
‘Whereas this Man dies not on His own account, but on account of that other, thou didst then move Me to the afflicting of This one, when thou didst withdraw that other from Me by thy cunning persuasions.’ And of Him it is rightly added, without cause. For ‘he was destroyed without cause,’ who was at once weighed to the earth by the avenging of sin, and not defiled by the pollution of sin. He ‘was destroyed without cause,’ Who, being made incarnate, had no sins of His own, and yet being without offence took upon Himself the punishment of the carnal.
This morning the disheartening news broke that Tullian has lost his job at Willow Creek Presbyterian and that the majority of the board of the Liberate Network have resigned amid new allegations "of wrong doing involving another inappropriate relationship prior to the affair which led to his resignation at Coral Ridge."
This is a truly tragic turn of events and my prayers rise to God our Father on behalf of all who are involved.
This latest revelation sadly shows that Tullian still had some sin that he was running from rather than repenting of and being forgiven. God has now stepped in and has clearly ended Tullian's running. I pray that despite how painful this is that it will result in Tullian's repentance, forgiveness and him bearing true fruit in keeping with repentance.
My heart breaks also for Pastor Kevin Labby who has to be utterly heartbroken by these newest revelations and the decisions he's been forced to make in light of this new information.
Some are now calling on me and demanding that I admit that I was wrong in my support of Tullian (Ya gotta love it when someone wants to kick you when you're down. I'm pretty sure that's not one of the fruits of the spirit). When I question these people and ask them to be specific about what I was supporting Tullian for, it is clear that they've either been misinformed or have misunderstood the principle on which I have taken a stand regarding Tullian. Let me make this clear by giving three examples of my defenses of Tullian.
1. My public defense of Tullian after his removal from Coral Ridge Presbyterian began when he accepted the position on the staff at Willow Creek Presbyterian. Many were condemning Tullian and Willow Creek and accusing them of bringing Tullian into a ministry position. But these allegations were false. Tullian was not brought to Willow Creek to preach or to teach or to minister. He was brought on staff in a back office support role. There was a kerfuffle caused by my challenging the claims of those who were saying that Tullian was now doing ministry work. However, those making the claims that he'd been brought on staff at Willow Creek to do ministry work were wrong.
2. I was accused of being inconsistent with how I treat my friend Tullian as opposed to how I critique Mark Driscoll.
Comparing Driscoll to Tullian is like comparing grapefruits to bananas. Here's why:
a) Driscoll fled from church discipline and claimed he heard God's voice telling him that the discipline plan put in place by the board at Mars Hill was a trap and now he is restoring himself to ministry.
b) Tullian resigned and submitted to church discipline after his sin was brought to light and has since been under the watchful care of a PCA pastor and elders. The fact that Tullian has now been further disciplined by his pastor is undeniable proof that there is no comparison between Tullian and Driscoll and that I wasn't being inconsistent by not treating them the same.
3. I recently challenged yet another blogger's claim that Tullian had been restored to ministry despite the fact that nothing could be further from the truth. It is important to note that even at the time of the relaunch of the Liberate Network that Tullian was not a part of the network's leadership. When it was pointed out that Tullian had accepted a speaking engagement to discuss his book One Way Love I noted that he was doing so as a layman and not as a pastor. It was then that several people claimed that because Tullian had been defrocked that he could never again publicly speak authoritatively about Jesus or the Bible. When I challenged what these men were saying on Biblical grounds, Twitter melted down.
I still stand by my position that the Bible nowhere teaches that a layman who had formerly been a pastor but removed from the office with cause can never again publicly tell people about Jesus or teach anyone other than his immediate family what the Bible says.
My point in all of this is has been to admonish Christians to speak the truth.
If you don't like Tullian or disagree with the theology he espoused in his books you're welcome to do so. If you believe that he should never be restored to any kind of ministry, you're free to say so and make your case. If you think that it was far too soon after Tullian's sin for him to be appearing anywhere in public, you have a right to air that opinion. But where no Christian is free is to charge someone with something they have not done, demand that they repent of sins they've never committed or worse, demand that they obey a rule that you've invented that is not actually found in scripture. Rumors, false allegations and man made rules do not advance the truth, nor do they assist the work of the gospel. Instead, they only hinder them.
Tullian's actual sins are the thing he must daily repent of and be forgiven for. The crushing weight of the guilt of his actual sins is not made lighter by adding on to them sins that he has not committed. His load will only be made lighter through the forgiveness of his sins won for him by Jesus Christ who died in Tullian's place on the cross.
Although I am deeply saddened by these latest revelations, I am also thankful that God has intervened and ended Tullian's running from these other sins. Repentance can sometimes be a process. The difficulty of learning how to speak the truth about yourself in light of God's Holy Law can at times be daunting. But what Tullian was either fearful or unwilling for so long to confess to his pastor and his closest friends has now been brought into the light where it can be repented of and forgiven. Let us pray that He who began a good work in Tullian will bring it to completion.
Some things are too good to not pass on.
Have you ever read or heard the Biblical idiom "Gird Up Your Loins" and wondered what on earth that meant? Thanks to The Art of Manliness you can now know what it means to "Gird Up Your Loins".
On yesterday's Fighting for the Faith I reviewed a video put out by Perry Noble defending Mark Driscoll restoring himself back into ministry by starting a church.
Since then, former member of the leadership team at Mars Hill, Dave Kraft has weighed in and left a comment on Perry Noble's video. Here is what Dave Kraft told Noble:
Perry, I appreciate your heart in all of this, but do wish you had done your homework and exercised due diligence by finding out what really happened at MHC! I'm afraid you are in the dark about the truth of what transpired and why The Acts 29 network, Paul Tripp and 30 former elders believe that Mark Driscoll disqualified himself and needs to make some things right before stepping back into pastoral ministry! I appreciate your ministry, read your books and value your leadership wisdom.
This comment by Kraft is very telling and gives us a glimpse into the other side of the story, the part Mark Driscoll and Perry Noble are not telling
Lake Forest, CA -The board of directors for Mega Church Corp announced today that they were forcing the resignation of Jesus Christ as the head of their organization. The reasons cited for Jesus' abrupt departure from Mega-Church Corp included Jesus' increasing lack of understanding of the unique needs of 21st Century consumers as well as marketing data that clearly showed that Jesus' old school message of repentance and the forgiveness of sins was just not resonating with today's tech savvy religious customers.
Rick Warren, Chairman of the Board, for Mega-Church Corp in an email to the media said, "This was a tough decision to have to make. Jesus has been the head of our organization since it's inception. But, Jesus' insistence on sound doctrine and a core message that conjures up visions of sin, hell, God's wrath and that whole scandalous (and bloody!) death on the cross just isn't relevant anymore." Warren continued, "Despite our insistence at previous board meetings that Jesus get his head out of the First Century and update His messaging to meet the felt needs of today's religious seekers, Jesus stubbornly refused to heed our council. Ultimately, we had to think about the future of our organization, and it was all too clear that we could not meet our growth targets if we continued to use a 2000 year old message."
Bill Hybels, Senior Member of the Board of Directors at Mega-Church Corp, commenting on the forced resignation of the Son of God said, "This decision was long overdue. Strong and effective leaders make real and effective changes-no matter how difficult they may be. We've always valued excellence in leadership above everything. Truth be told, we didn't need Jesus to grow our organization, and everyone recognized it years ago. Now that Jesus is no longer at the helm of Mega-Church Corp we expect to see a consequential increase in growth, both numerically and spiritually."
(This satirical article was originally posted on Extreme Theology in 2009)
Christian faith has appeared to many an easy thing; nay, not a few even reckon it among the social virtues, as it were; and this they do because they have not made proof of it experimentally, and have never tasted of what efficacy it is. For it is not possible for any man to write well about it, or to understand well what is rightly written, who has not at some time tasted of its spirit, under the pressure of tribulation; while he who has tasted of it, even to a very small extent, can never write, speak, think, or hear about it sufficiently. For it is a living fountain, springing up into eternal life, as Christ calls it in John 4:1-45.
Now, though I cannot boast of my abundance, and though I know how poorly I am furnished, yet I hope that, after having been vexed by various temptations, I have attained some little drop of faith, and that I can speak of this matter, if not with more elegance, certainly with more solidity, than those literal and too subtle disputants who have hitherto discoursed upon it without understanding their own words. That I may open then an easier way for the ignorant--for these alone I am trying to serve--I first lay down these two propositions, concerning spiritual liberty and servitude:--
A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one.
Although these statements appear contradictory, yet, when they are found to agree together, they will make excellently for my purpose. They are both the statements of Paul himself, who says, "Though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all" (1 Cor. 9:19), and "Owe no man anything, but to love one another" (Rom. 8:8). Now love is by its own nature dutiful and obedient to the beloved object. Thus even Christ, though Lord of all things, was yet made of a woman; made under the law; at once free and a servant; at once in the form of God and in the form of a servant.
Let us examine the subject on a deeper and less simple principle. Man is composed of a twofold nature, a spiritual and a bodily. As regards the spiritual nature, which they name the soul, he is called the spiritual, inward, new man; as regards the bodily nature, which they name the flesh, he is called the fleshly, outward, old man. The Apostle speaks of this: "Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16). The result of this diversity is that in the Scriptures opposing statements are made concerning the same man, the fact being that in the same man these two men are opposed to one another; the flesh lusting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh (Gal. 5:17).
We first approach the subject of the inward man, that we may see by what means a man becomes justified, free, and a true Christian; that is, a spiritual, new, and inward man. It is certain that absolutely none among outward things, under whatever name they may be reckoned, has any influence in producing Christian righteousness or liberty, nor, on the other hand, unrighteousness or slavery. This can be shown by an easy argument.
What can it profit the soul that the body should be in good condition, free, and full of life; that it should eat, drink, and act according to its pleasure; when even the most impious slaves of every kind of vice are prosperous in these matters? Again, what harm can ill-health, bondage, hunger, thirst, or any other outward evil, do to the soul, when even the most pious of men and the freest in the purity of their conscience, are harassed by these things? Neither of these states of things has to do with the liberty or the slavery of the soul.
And so it will profit nothing that the body should be adorned with sacred vestments, or dwell in holy places, or be occupied in sacred offices, or pray, fast, and abstain from certain meats, or do whatever works can be done through the body and in the body. Something widely different will be necessary for the justification and liberty of the soul, since the things I have spoken of can be done by any impious person, and only hypocrites are produced by devotion to these things. On the other hand, it will not at all injure the soul that the body should be clothed in profane raiment, should dwell in profane places, should eat and drink in the ordinary fashion, should not pray aloud, and should leave undone all the things above mentioned, which may be done by hypocrites.
And, to cast everything aside, even speculation, meditations, and whatever things can be performed by the exertions of the soul itself, are of no profit. One thing, and one alone, is necessary for life, justification, and Christian liberty; and that is the most holy word of God, the Gospel of Christ, as He says, "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in Me shall not die eternally" (John 11:25), and also, "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:36), and, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4).
Let us therefore hold it for certain and firmly established that the soul can do without everything except the word of God, without which none at all of its wants are provided for. But, having the word, it is rich and wants for nothing, since that is the word of life, of truth, of light, of peace, of justification, of salvation, of joy, of liberty, of wisdom, of virtue, of grace, of glory, and of every good thing. It is on this account that the prophet in a whole Psalm (Psalm cxix, and in many other places, sighs for and calls upon the word of God with so many groanings and words.
Again, there is no more cruel stroke of the wrath of God than when He sends a famine of hearing His words (Amos 8:11), just as there is no greater favour from Him than the sending forth of His word, as it is said, "He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions" (Psalm 107:20). Christ was sent for no other office than that of the word; and the order of Apostles, that of bishops, and that of the whole body of the clergy, have been called and instituted for no object but the ministry of the word.
But you will ask, What is this word, and by what means is it to be used, since there are so many words of God? I answer, The Apostle Paul (Rom. 1:1-32) explains what it is, namely the Gospel of God, concerning His Son, incarnate, suffering, risen, and glorified, through the Spirit, the Sanctifier. To preach Christ is to feed the soul, to justify it, to set it free, and to save it, if it believes the preaching. For faith alone and the efficacious use of the word of God, bring salvation. "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved" (Rom. 10:9); and again, "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Rom. 10:4), and "The just shall live by faith" (Rom. 1:17). For the word of God cannot be received and honoured by any works, but by faith alone. Hence it is clear that as the soul needs the word alone for life and justification, so it is justified by faith alone, and not by any works. For if it could be justified by any other means, it would have no need of the word, nor consequently of faith.
But this faith cannot consist at all with works; that is, if you imagine that you can be justified by those works, whatever they are, along with it. For this would be to halt between two opinions, to worship Baal, and to kiss the hand to him, which is a very great iniquity, as Job says. Therefore, when you begin to believe, you learn at the same time that all that is in you is utterly guilty, sinful, and damnable, according to that saying, "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23), and also: "There is none righteous, no, not one; they are all gone out of the way; they are together become unprofitable: there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Rom. 3:10-12). When you have learnt this, you will know that Christ is necessary for you, since He has suffered and risen again for you, that, believing on Him, you might by this faith become another man, all your sins being remitted, and you being justified by the merits of another, namely of Christ alone.
Since then this faith can reign only in the inward man, as it is said, "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness" (Rom. 10:10); and since it alone justifies, it is evident that by no outward work or labour can the inward man be at all justified, made free, and saved; and that no works whatever have any relation to him. And so, on the other hand, it is solely by impiety and incredulity of heart that he becomes guilty and a slave of sin, deserving condemnation, not by any outward sin or work. Therefore the first care of every Christian ought to be to lay aside all reliance on works, and strengthen his faith alone more and more, and by it grow in the knowledge, not of works, but of Christ Jesus, who has suffered and risen again for him, as Peter teaches (1 Peter 5:1-14) when he makes no other work to be a Christian one. Thus Christ, when the Jews asked Him what they should do that they might work the works of God, rejected the multitude of works, with which He saw that they were puffed up, and commanded them one thing only, saying, "This is the work of God: that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent, for Him hath God the Father sealed" (John 6:27, 29).
Hence a right faith in Christ is an incomparable treasure, carrying with it universal salvation and preserving from all evil, as it is said, "He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16). Isaiah, looking to this treasure, predicted, "The consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness. For the Lord God of hosts shall make a consumption, even determined (verbum abbreviatum et consummans), in the midst of the land" (Isa. 10:22, 23). As if he said, "Faith, which is the brief and complete fulfilling of the law, will fill those who believe with such righteousness that they will need nothing else for justification." Thus, too, Paul says, "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness" (Rom. 10:10).
But you ask how it can be the fact that faith alone justifies, and affords without works so great a treasure of good things, when so many works, ceremonies, and laws are prescribed to us in the Scriptures? I answer, Before all things bear in mind what I have said: that faith alone without works justifies, sets free, and saves, as I shall show more clearly below.
Meanwhile it is to be noted that the whole Scripture of God is divided into two parts: precepts and promises. The precepts certainly teach us what is good, but what they teach is not forthwith done. For they show us what we ought to do, but do not give us the power to do it. They were ordained, however, for the purpose of showing man to himself, that through them he may learn his own impotence for good and may despair of his own strength. For this reason they are called the Old Testament, and are so.
For example, "Thou shalt not covet," is a precept by which we are all convicted of sin, since no man can help coveting, whatever efforts to the contrary he may make. In order therefore that he may fulfil the precept, and not covet, he is constrained to despair of himself and to seek elsewhere and through another the help which he cannot find in himself; as it is said, "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in Me is thine help" (Hosea 8:9). Now what is done by this one precept is done by all; for all are equally impossible of fulfilment by us.
Now when a man has through the precepts been taught his own impotence, and become anxious by what means he may satisfy the law--for the law must be satisfied, so that no jot or tittle of it may pass away, otherwise he must be hopelessly condemned--then, being truly humbled and brought to nothing in his own eyes, he finds in himself no resource for justification and salvation.
Then comes in that other part of Scripture, the promises of God, which declare the glory of God, and say, "If you wish to fulfil the law, and, as the law requires, not to covet, lo! believe in Christ, in whom are promised to you grace, justification, peace, and liberty." All these things you shall have, if you believe, and shall be without them if you do not believe. For what is impossible for you by all the works of the law, which are many and yet useless, you shall fulfil in an easy and summary way through faith, because God the Father has made everything to depend on faith, so that whosoever has it has all things, and he who has it not has nothing. "For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all" (Rom. 11:32). Thus the promises of God give that which the precepts exact, and fulfil what the law commands; so that all is of God alone, both the precepts and their fulfilment. He alone commands; He alone also fulfils. Hence the promises of God belong to the New Testament; nay, are the New Testament.
Now, since these promises of God are words of holiness, truth, righteousness, liberty, and peace, and are full of universal goodness, the soul, which cleaves to them with a firm faith, is so united to them, nay, thoroughly absorbed by them, that it not only partakes in, but is penetrated and saturated by, all their virtues. For if the touch of Christ was healing, how much more does that most tender spiritual touch, nay, absorption of the word, communicate to the soul all that belongs to the word! In this way therefore the soul, through faith alone, without works, is from the word of God justified, sanctified, endued with truth, peace, and liberty, and filled full with every good thing, and is truly made the child of God, as it is said, "To them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name" (John 1:12).
From all this it is easy to understand why faith has such great power, and why no good works, nor even all good works put together, can compare with it, since no work can cleave to the word of God or be in the soul. Faith alone and the word reign in it; and such as is the word, such is the soul made by it, just as iron exposed to fire glows like fire, on account of its union with the fire. It is clear then that to a Christian man his faith suffices for everything, and that he has no need of works for justification. But if he has no need of works, neither has he need of the law; and if he has no need of the law, he is certainly free from the law, and the saying is true, "The law is not made for a righteous man" (1 Tim. 1:9). This is that Christian liberty, our faith, the effect of which is, not that we should be careless or lead a bad life, but that no one should need the law or works for justification and salvation.
Let us consider this as the first virtue of faith; and let us look also to the second. This also is an office of faith: that it honours with the utmost veneration and the highest reputation Him in whom it believes, inasmuch as it holds Him to be truthful and worthy of belief. For there is no honour like that reputation of truth and righteousness with which we honour Him in whom we believe. What higher credit can we attribute to any one than truth and righteousness, and absolute goodness? On the other hand, it is the greatest insult to brand any one with the reputation of falsehood and unrighteousness, or to suspect him of these, as we do when we disbelieve him.
Thus the soul, in firmly believing the promises of God, holds Him to be true and righteous; and it can attribute to God no higher glory than the credit of being so. The highest worship of God is to ascribe to Him truth, righteousness, and whatever qualities we must ascribe to one in whom we believe. In doing this the soul shows itself prepared to do His whole will; in doing this it hallows His name, and gives itself up to be dealt with as it may please God. For it cleaves to His promises, and never doubts that He is true, just, and wise, and will do, dispose, and provide for all things in the best way. Is not such a soul, in this its faith, most obedient to God in all things? What commandment does there remain which has not been amply fulfilled by such an obedience? What fulfilment can be more full than universal obedience? Now this is not accomplished by works, but by faith alone.
On the other hand, what greater rebellion, impiety, or insult to God can there be, than not to believe His promises? What else is this, than either to make God a liar, or to doubt His truth--that is, to attribute truth to ourselves, but to God falsehood and levity? In doing this, is not a man denying God and setting himself up as an idol in his own heart? What then can works, done in such a state of impiety, profit us, were they even angelic or apostolic works? Rightly hath God shut up all, not in wrath nor in lust, but in unbelief, in order that those who pretend that they are fulfilling the law by works of purity and benevolence (which are social and human virtues) may not presume that they will therefore be saved, but, being included in the sin of unbelief, may either seek mercy, or be justly condemned.
But when God sees that truth is ascribed to Him, and that in the faith of our hearts He is honoured with all the honour of which He is worthy, then in return He honours us on account of that faith, attributing to us truth and righteousness. For faith does truth and righteousness in rendering to God what is His; and therefore in return God gives glory to our righteousness. It is true and righteous that God is true and righteous; and to confess this and ascribe these attributes to Him, this it is to be true and righteous. Thus He says, "Them that honour Me I will honour, and they that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed" (1 Sam. 2:30). And so Paul says that Abraham's faith was imputed to him for righteousness, because by it he gave glory to God; and that to us also, for the same reason, it shall be imputed for righteousness, if we believe (Rom. 4:1-25).
The third incomparable grace of faith is this: that it unites the soul to Christ, as the wife to the husband, by which mystery, as the Apostle teaches, Christ and the soul are made one flesh. Now if they are one flesh, and if a true marriage--nay, by far the most perfect of all marriages--is accomplished between them (for human marriages are but feeble types of this one great marriage), then it follows that all they have becomes theirs in common, as well good things as evil things; so that whatsoever Christ possesses, that the believing soul may take to itself and boast of as its own, and whatever belongs to the soul, that Christ claims as His.
If we compare these possessions, we shall see how inestimable is the gain. Christ is full of grace, life, and salvation; the soul is full of sin, death, and condemnation. Let faith step in, and then sin, death, and hell will belong to Christ, and grace, life, and salvation to the soul. For, if He is a Husband, He must needs take to Himself that which is His wife's, and at the same time, impart to His wife that which is His. For, in giving her His own body and Himself, how can He but give her all that is His? And, in taking to Himself the body of His wife, how can He but take to Himself all that is hers?
In this is displayed the delightful sight, not only of communion, but of a prosperous warfare, of victory, salvation, and redemption. For, since Christ is God and man, and is such a Person as neither has sinned, nor dies, nor is condemned, nay, cannot sin, die, or be condemned, and since His righteousness, life, and salvation are invincible, eternal, and almighty,--when I say, such a Person, by the wedding-ring of faith, takes a share in the sins, death, and hell of His wife, nay, makes them His own, and deals with them no otherwise than as if they were His, and as if He Himself had sinned; and when He suffers, dies, and descends to hell, that He may overcome all things, and since sin, death, and hell cannot swallow Him up, they must needs be swallowed up by Him in stupendous conflict. For His righteousness rises above the sins of all men; His life is more powerful than all death; His salvation is more unconquerable than all hell.
Thus the believing soul, by the pledge of its faith in Christ, becomes free from all sin, fearless of death, safe from hell, and endowed with the eternal righteousness, life, and salvation of its Husband Christ. Thus He presents to Himself a glorious bride, without spot or wrinkle, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word; that is, by faith in the word of life, righteousness, and salvation. Thus He betrothes her unto Himself "in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies" (Hosea 2:19-20).
Who then can value highly enough these royal nuptials? Who can comprehend the riches of the glory of this grace? Christ, that rich and pious Husband, takes as a wife a needy and impious harlot, redeeming her from all her evils and supplying her with all His good things. It is impossible now that her sins should destroy her, since they have been laid upon Christ and swallowed up in Him, and since she has in her Husband Christ a righteousness which she may claim as her own, and which she can set up with confidence against all her sins, against death and hell, saying, "If I have sinned, my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned; all mine is His, and all His is mine," as it is written, "My beloved is mine, and I am His" (Cant. ii. 16). This is what Paul says: "Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ," victory over sin and death, as he says, "The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law" (1 Cor. 15:56-57).
From all this you will again understand why so much importance is attributed to faith, so that it alone can fulfil the law and justify without any works. For you see that the First Commandment, which says, "Thou shalt worship one God only," is fulfilled by faith alone. If you were nothing but good works from the soles of your feet to the crown of your head, you would not be worshipping God, nor fulfilling the First Commandment, since it is impossible to worship God without ascribing to Him the glory of truth and of universal goodness, as it ought in truth to be ascribed. Now this is not done by works, but only by faith of heart. It is not by working, but by believing, that we glorify God, and confess Him to be true. On this ground faith alone is the righteousness of a Christian man, and the fulfilling of all the commandments. For to him who fulfils the first the task of fulfilling all the rest is easy.
Works, since they are irrational things, cannot glorify God, although they may be done to the glory of God, if faith be present. But at present we are inquiring, not into the quality of the works done, but into him who does them, who glorifies God, and brings forth good works. This is faith of heart, the head and the substance of all our righteousness. Hence that is a blind and perilous doctrine which teaches that the commandments are fulfilled by works. The commandments must have been fulfilled previous to any good works, and good works follow their fulfillment, as we shall see.
But, that we may have a wider view of that grace which our inner man has in Christ, we must know that in the Old Testament God sanctified to Himself every first-born male. The birthright was of great value, giving a superiority over the rest by the double honour of priesthood and kingship. For the first-born brother was priest and lord of all the rest.
Under this figure was foreshown Christ, the true and only First-born of God the Father and of the Virgin Mary, and a true King and Priest, not in a fleshly and earthly sense. For His kingdom is not of this world; it is in heavenly and spiritual things that He reigns and acts as Priest; and these are righteousness, truth, wisdom, peace, salvation, etc. Not but that all things, even those of earth and hell, are subject to Him--for otherwise how could He defend and save us from them?--but it is not in these, nor by these, that His kingdom stands.
So, too, His priesthood does not consist in the outward display of vestments and gestures, as did the human priesthood of Aaron and our ecclesiastical priesthood at this day, but in spiritual things, wherein, in His invisible office, He intercedes for us with God in heaven, and there offers Himself, and performs all the duties of a priest, as Paul describes Him to the Hebrews under the figure of Melchizedek. Nor does He only pray and intercede for us; He also teaches us inwardly in the spirit with the living teachings of His Spirit. Now these are the two special offices of a priest, as is figured to us in the case of fleshly priests by visible prayers and sermons.
As Christ by His birthright has obtained these two dignities, so He imparts and communicates them to every believer in Him, under that law of matrimony of which we have spoken above, by which all that is the husband's is also the wife's. Hence all we who believe on Christ are kings and priests in Christ, as it is said, "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light" (1 Peter 2:9).
These two things stand thus. First, as regards kingship, every Christian is by faith so exalted above all things that, in spiritual power, he is completely lord of all things, so that nothing whatever can do him any hurt; yea, all things are subject to him, and are compelled to be subservient to his salvation. Thus Paul says, "All things work together for good to them who are the called" (Rom. viii. 28), and also, "Whether life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours; and ye are Christ's" (1 Cor. 3:22-23).
Not that in the sense of corporeal power any one among Christians has been appointed to possess and rule all things, according to the mad and senseless idea of certain ecclesiastics. That is the office of kings, princes, and men upon earth. In the experience of life we see that we are subjected to all things, and suffer many things, even death. Yea, the more of a Christian any man is, to so many the more evils, sufferings, and deaths is he subject, as we see in the first place in Christ the First-born, and in all His holy brethren.
This is a spiritual power, which rules in the midst of enemies, and is powerful in the midst of distresses. And this is nothing else than that strength is made perfect in my weakness, and that I can turn all things to the profit of my salvation; so that even the cross and death are compelled to serve me and to work together for my salvation. This is a lofty and eminent dignity, a true and almighty dominion, a spiritual empire, in which there is nothing so good, nothing so bad, as not to work together for my good, if only I believe. And yet there is nothing of which I have need--for faith alone suffices for my salvation--unless that in it faith may exercise the power and empire of its liberty. This is the inestimable power and liberty of Christians.
Nor are we only kings and the freest of all men, but also priests for ever, a dignity far higher than kingship, because by that priesthood we are worthy to appear before God, to pray for others, and to teach one another mutually the things which are of God. For these are the duties of priests, and they cannot possibly be permitted to any unbeliever. Christ has obtained for us this favour, if we believe in Him: that just as we are His brethren and co-heirs and fellow-kings with Him, so we should be also fellow-priests with Him, and venture with confidence, through the spirit of faith, to come into the presence of God, and cry, "Abba, Father!" and to pray for one another, and to do all things which we see done and figured in the visible and corporeal office of priesthood. But to an unbelieving person nothing renders service or work for good. He himself is in servitude to all things, and all things turn out for evil to him, because he uses all things in an impious way for his own advantage, and not for the glory of God. And thus he is not a priest, but a profane person, whose prayers are turned into sin, nor does he ever appear in the presence of God, because God does not hear sinners.
Who then can comprehend the loftiness of that Christian dignity which, by its royal power, rules over all things, even over death, life, and sin, and, by its priestly glory, is all-powerful with God, since God does what He Himself seeks and wishes, as it is written, "He will fulfil the desire of them that fear Him; He also will hear their cry, and will save them"? (Psalm 145:19). This glory certainly cannot be attained by any works, but by faith only.
From these considerations any one may clearly see how a Christian man is free from all things; so that he needs no works in order to be justified and saved, but receives these gifts in abundance from faith alone. Nay, were he so foolish as to pretend to be justified, set free, saved, and made a Christian, by means of any good work, he would immediately lose faith, with all its benefits. Such folly is prettily represented in the fable where a dog, running along in the water and carrying in his mouth a real piece of meat, is deceived by the reflection of the meat in the water, and, in trying with open mouth to seize it, loses the meat and its image at the same time.
Here you will ask, "If all who are in the Church are priests, by what character are those whom we now call priests to be distinguished from the laity?" I reply, By the use of these words, "priest," "clergy," " spiritual person," "ecclesiastic," an injustice has been done, since they have been transferred from the remaining body of Christians to those few who are now, by hurtful custom, called ecclesiastics. For Holy Scripture makes no distinction between them, except that those who are now boastfully called popes, bishops, and lords, it calls ministers, servants, and stewards, who are to serve the rest in the ministry of the word, for teaching the faith of Christ and the liberty of believers. For though it is true that we are all equally priests, yet we cannot, nor, if we could, ought we all to, minister and teach publicly. Thus Paul says, "Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor. 4:1).
This bad system has now issued in such a pompous display of power and such a terrible tyranny that no earthly government can be compared to it, as if the laity were something else than Christians. Through this perversion of things it has happened that the knowledge of Christian grace, of faith, of liberty, and altogether of Christ, has utterly perished, and has been succeeded by an intolerable bondage to human works and laws; and, according to the Lamentations of Jeremiah, we have become the slaves of the vilest men on earth, who abuse our misery to all the disgraceful and ignominious purposes of their own will.
Returning to the subject which we had begun, I think it is made clear by these considerations that it is not sufficient, nor a Christian course, to preach the works, life, and words of Christ in a historic manner, as facts which it suffices to know as an example how to frame our life, as do those who are now held the best preachers, and much less so to keep silence altogether on these things and to teach in their stead the laws of men and the decrees of the Fathers. There are now not a few persons who preach and read about Christ with the object of moving the human affections to sympathise with Christ, to indignation against the Jews, and other childish and womanish absurdities of that kind.
Now preaching ought to have the object of promoting faith in Him, so that He may not only be Christ, but a Christ for you and for me, and that what is said of Him, and what He is called, may work in us. And this faith is produced and is maintained by preaching why Christ came, what He has brought us and given to us, and to what profit and advantage He is to be received. This is done when the Christian liberty which we have from Christ Himself is rightly taught, and we are shown in what manner all we Christians are kings and priests, and how we are lords of all things, and may be confident that whatever we do in the presence of God is pleasing and acceptable to Him.
Whose heart would not rejoice in its inmost core at hearing these things? Whose heart, on receiving so great a consolation, would not become sweet with the love of Christ, a love to which it can never attain by any laws or works? Who can injure such a heart, or make it afraid? If the consciousness of sin or the horror of death rush in upon it, it is prepared to hope in the Lord, and is fearless of such evils, and undisturbed, until it shall look down upon its enemies. For it believes that the righteousness of Christ is its own, and that its sin is no longer its own, but that of Christ; but, on account of its faith in Christ, all its sin must needs be swallowed up from before the face of the righteousness of Christ, as I have said above. It learns, too, with the Apostle, to scoff at death and sin, and to say, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15:55-57). For death is swallowed up in victory, not only the victory of Christ, but ours also, since by faith it becomes ours, and in it we too conquer.
Let it suffice to say this concerning the inner man and its liberty, and concerning that righteousness of faith which needs neither laws nor good works; nay, they are even hurtful to it, if any one pretends to be justified by them.
And now let us turn to the other part: to the outward man. Here we shall give an answer to all those who, taking offence at the word of faith and at what I have asserted, say, "If faith does everything, and by itself suffices for justification, why then are good works commanded? Are we then to take our ease and do no works, content with faith?" Not so, impious men, I reply; not so. That would indeed really be the case, if we were thoroughly and completely inner and spiritual persons; but that will not happen until the last day, when the dead shall be raised. As long as we live in the flesh, we are but beginning and making advances in that which shall be completed in a future life. On this account the Apostle calls that which we have in this life the firstfruits of the Spirit (Rom. 8:23). In future we shall have the tenths, and the fullness of the Spirit. To this part belongs the fact I have stated before: that the Christian is the servant of all and subject to all. For in that part in which he is free he does no works, but in that in which he is a servant he does all works. Let us see on what principle this is so.
Although, as I have said, inwardly, and according to the spirit, a man is amply enough justified by faith, having all that he requires to have, except that this very faith and abundance ought to increase from day to day, even till the future life, still he remains in this mortal life upon earth, in which it is necessary that he should rule his own body and have intercourse with men. Here then works begin; here he must not take his ease; here he must give heed to exercise his body by fastings, watchings, labour, and other regular discipline, so that it may be subdued to the spirit, and obey and conform itself to the inner man and faith, and not rebel against them nor hinder them, as is its nature to do if it is not kept under. For the inner man, being conformed to God and created after the image of God through faith, rejoices and delights itself in Christ, in whom such blessings have been conferred on it, and hence has only this task before it: to serve God with joy and for nought in free love.
But in doing this he comes into collision with that contrary will in his own flesh, which is striving to serve the world and to seek its own gratification. This the spirit of faith cannot and will not bear, but applies itself with cheerfulness and zeal to keep it down and restrain it, as Paul says, "I delight in the law of God after the inward man; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin" (Rom. 7:22-23), and again, "I keep under my body, and bring it unto subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway" (1 Cor. 9:27), and "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts" (Gal. 5:24).
These works, however, must not be done with any notion that by them a man can be justified before God--for faith, which alone is righteousness before God, will not bear with this false notion--but solely with this purpose: that the body may be brought into subjection, and be purified from its evil lusts, so that our eyes may be turned only to purging away those lusts. For when the soul has been cleansed by faith and made to love God, it would have all things to be cleansed in like manner, and especially its own body, so that all things might unite with it in the love and praise of God. Thus it comes that, from the requirements of his own body, a man cannot take his ease, but is compelled on its account to do many good works, that he may bring it into subjection. Yet these works are not the means of his justification before God; he does them out of disinterested love to the service of God; looking to no other end than to do what is well-pleasing to Him whom he desires to obey most dutifully in all things.
On this principle every man may easily instruct himself in what measure, and with what distinctions, he ought to chasten his own body. He will fast, watch, and labour, just as much as he sees to suffice for keeping down the wantonness and concupiscence of the body. But those who pretend to be justified by works are looking, not to the mortification of their lusts, but only to the works themselves; thinking that, if they can accomplish as many works and as great ones as possible, all is well with them, and they are justified. Sometimes they even injure their brain, and extinguish nature, or at least make it useless. This is enormous folly, and ignorance of Christian life and faith, when a man seeks, without faith, to be justified and saved by works.
To make what we have said more easily understood, let us set it forth under a figure. The works of a Christian man, who is justified and saved by his faith out of the pure and unbought mercy of God, ought to be regarded in the same light as would have been those of Adam and Eve in paradise and of all their posterity if they had not sinned. Of them it is said, "The Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it" (Gen. 2:15). Now Adam had been created by God just and righteous, so that he could not have needed to be justified and made righteous by keeping the garden and working in it; but, that he might not be unemployed, God gave him the business of keeping and cultivating paradise. These would have indeed been works of perfect freedom, being done for no object but that of pleasing God, and not in order to obtain justification, which he already had to the full, and which would have been innate in us all.
So it is with the works of a believer. Being by his faith replaced afresh in paradise and created anew, he does not need works for his justification, but that he may not be idle, but may exercise his own body and preserve it. His works are to be done freely, with the sole object of pleasing God. Only we are not yet fully created anew in perfect faith and love; these require to be increased, not, however, through works, but through themselves.
A bishop, when he consecrates a church, confirms children, or performs any other duty of his office, is not consecrated as bishop by these works; nay, unless he had been previously consecrated as bishop, not one of those works would have any validity; they would be foolish, childish, and ridiculous. Thus a Christian, being consecrated by his faith, does good works; but he is not by these works made a more sacred person, or more a Christian. That is the effect of faith alone; nay, unless he were previously a believer and a Christian, none of his works would have any value at all; they would really be impious and damnable sins.
True, then, are these two sayings: "Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works"; "Bad works do not make a bad man, but a bad man does bad works." Thus it is always necessary that the substance or person should be good before any good works can be done, and that good works should follow and proceed from a good person. As Christ says, "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit" (Matt. 7:18). Now it is clear that the fruit does not bear the tree, nor does the tree grow on the fruit; but, on the contrary, the trees bear the fruit, and the fruit grows on the trees.
As then trees must exist before their fruit, and as the fruit does not make the tree either good or bad, but on the contrary, a tree of either kind produces fruit of the same kind, so must first the person of the man be good or bad before he can do either a good or a bad work; and his works do not make him bad or good, but he himself makes his works either bad or good.
We may see the same thing in all handicrafts. A bad or good house does not make a bad or good builder, but a good or bad builder makes a good or bad house. And in general no work makes the workman such as it is itself; but the workman makes the work such as he is himself. Such is the case, too, with the works of men. Such as the man himself is, whether in faith or in unbelief, such is his work: good if it be done in faith; bad if in unbelief. But the converse is not true that, such as the work is, such the man becomes in faith or in unbelief. For as works do not make a believing man, so neither do they make a justified man; but faith, as it makes a man a believer and justified, so also it makes his works good.
Since then works justify no man, but a man must be justified before he can do any good work, it is most evident that it is faith alone which, by the mere mercy of God through Christ, and by means of His word, can worthily and sufficiently justify and save the person; and that a Christian man needs no work, no law, for his salvation; for by faith he is free from all law, and in perfect freedom does gratuitously all that he does, seeking nothing either of profit or of salvation--since by the grace of God he is already saved and rich in all things through his faith--but solely that which is well-pleasing to God.
So, too, no good work can profit an unbeliever to justification and salvation; and, on the other hand, no evil work makes him an evil and condemned person, but that unbelief, which makes the person and the tree bad, makes his works evil and condemned. Wherefore, when any man is made good or bad, this does not arise from his works, but from his faith or unbelief, as the wise man says, "The beginning of sin is to fall away from God"; that is, not to believe. Paul says, "He that cometh to God must believe" (Heb. 11:6); and Christ says the same thing: "Either make the tree good and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt" (Matt. 12:33),--as much as to say, He who wishes to have good fruit will begin with the tree, and plant a good one; even so he who wishes to do good works must begin, not by working, but by believing, since it is this which makes the person good. For nothing makes the person good but faith, nor bad but unbelief.
It is certainly true that, in the sight of men, a man becomes good or evil by his works; but here "becoming" means that it is thus shown and recognised who is good or evil, as Christ says, "By their fruits ye shall know them" (Matt. 7:20). But all this stops at appearances and externals; and in this matter very many deceive themselves, when they presume to write and teach that we are to be justified by good works, and meanwhile make no mention even of faith, walking in their own ways, ever deceived and deceiving, going from bad to worse, blind leaders of the blind, wearying themselves with many works, and yet never attaining to true righteousness, of whom Paul says, "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof, ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim. 3:5, 7).
He then who does not wish to go astray, with these blind ones, must look further than to the works of the law or the doctrine of works; nay, must turn away his sight from works, and look to the person, and to the manner in which it may be justified. Now it is justified and saved, not by works or laws, but by the word of God--that is, by the promise of His grace--so that the glory may be to the Divine majesty, which has saved us who believe, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy, by the word of His grace.
From all this it is easy to perceive on what principle good works are to be cast aside or embraced, and by what rule all teachings put forth concerning works are to be understood. For if works are brought forward as grounds of justification, and are done under the false persuasion that we can pretend to be justified by them, they lay on us the yoke of necessity, and extinguish liberty along with faith, and by this very addition to their use they become no longer good, but really worthy of condemnation. For such works are not free, but blaspheme the grace of God, to which alone it belongs to justify and save through faith. Works cannot accomplish this, and yet, with impious presumption, through our folly, they take it on themselves to do so; and thus break in with violence upon the office and glory of grace.
We do not then reject good works; nay, we embrace them and teach them in the highest degree. It is not on their own account that we condemn them, but on account of this impious addition to them and the perverse notion of seeking justification by them. These things cause them to be only good in outward show, but in reality not good, since by them men are deceived and deceive others, like ravening wolves in sheep's clothing.
Now this leviathan, this perverted notion about works, is invincible when sincere faith is wanting. For those sanctified doers of works cannot but hold it till faith, which destroys it, comes and reigns in the heart. Nature cannot expel it by her own power; nay, cannot even see it for what it is, but considers it as a most holy will. And when custom steps in besides, and strengthens this pravity of nature, as has happened by means of impious teachers, then the evil is incurable, and leads astray multitudes to irreparable ruin. Therefore, though it is good to preach and write about penitence, confession, and satisfaction, yet if we stop there, and do not go on to teach faith, such teaching is without doubt deceitful and devilish. For Christ, speaking by His servant John, not only said, "Repent ye," but added, "for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt.3:2).
For not one word of God only, but both, should be preached; new and old things should be brought out of the treasury, as well the voice of the law as the word of grace. The voice of the law should be brought forward, that men may be terrified and brought to a knowledge of their sins, and thence be converted to penitence and to a better manner of life. But we must not stop here; that would be to wound only and not to bind up, to strike and not to heal, to kill and not to make alive, to bring down to hell and not to bring back, to humble and not to exalt. Therefore the word of grace and of the promised remission of sin must also be preached, in order to teach and set up faith, since without that word contrition, penitence, and all other duties, are performed and taught in vain.
There still remain, it is true, preachers of repentance and grace, but they do not explain the law and the promises of God to such an end, and in such a spirit, that men may learn whence repentance and grace are to come. For repentance comes from the law of God, but faith or grace from the promises of God, as it is said, "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17), whence it comes that a man, when humbled and brought to the knowledge of himself by the threatenings and terrors of the law, is consoled and raised up by faith in the Divine promise. Thus "weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" (Psalm 30:5). Thus much we say concerning works in general, and also concerning those which the Christian practises with regard to his own body.
Lastly, we will speak also of those works which he performs towards his neighbour. For man does not live for himself alone in this mortal body, in order to work on its account, but also for all men on earth; nay, he lives only for others, and not for himself. For it is to this end that he brings his own body into subjection, that he may be able to serve others more sincerely and more freely, as Paul says, "None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord" (Rom. 14:7-8). Thus it is impossible that he should take his ease in this life, and not work for the good of his neighbours, since he must needs speak, act, and converse among men, just as Christ was made in the likeness of men and found in fashion as a man, and had His conversation among men.
Yet a Christian has need of none of these things for justification and salvation, but in all his works he ought to entertain this view and look only to this object--that he may serve and be useful to others in all that he does; having nothing before his eyes but the necessities and the advantage of his neighbour. Thus the Apostle commands us to work with our own hands, that we may have to give to those that need. He might have said, that we may support ourselves; but he tells us to give to those that need. It is the part of a Christian to take care of his own body for the very purpose that, by its soundness and well-being, he may be enabled to labour, and to acquire and preserve property, for the aid of those who are in want, that thus the stronger member may serve the weaker member, and we may be children of God, thoughtful and busy one for another, bearing one another's burdens, and so fulfilling the law of Christ.
Here is the truly Christian life, here is faith really working by love, when a man applies himself with joy and love to the works of that freest servitude in which he serves others voluntarily and for nought, himself abundantly satisfied in the fulness and riches of his own faith.
Thus, when Paul had taught the Philippians how they had been made rich by that faith in Christ in which they had obtained all things, he teaches them further in these words: "If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others" (Phil. 2:1-4).
In this we see clearly that the Apostle lays down this rule for a Christian life: that all our works should be directed to the advantage of others, since every Christian has such abundance through his faith that all his other works and his whole life remain over and above wherewith to serve and benefit his neighbour of spontaneous goodwill.
To this end he brings forward Christ as an example, saying, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death" (Phil. 2:5-8). This most wholesome saying of the Apostle has been darkened to us by men who, totally misunderstanding the expressions "form of God," "form of a servant," "fashion," "likeness of men," have transferred them to the natures of Godhead and manhood. Paul's meaning is this: Christ, when He was full of the form of God and abounded in all good things, so that He had no need of works or sufferings to be just and saved--for all these things He had from the very beginning--yet was not puffed up with these things, and did not raise Himself above us and arrogate to Himself power over us, though He might lawfully have done so, but, on the contrary, so acted in labouring, working, suffering, and dying, as to be like the rest of men, and no otherwise than a man in fashion and in conduct, as if He were in want of all things and had nothing of the form of God; and yet all this He did for our sakes, that He might serve us, and that all the works He should do under that form of a servant might become ours.
Thus a Christian, like Christ his Head, being full and in abundance through his faith, ought to be content with this form of God, obtained by faith; except that, as I have said, he ought to increase this faith till it be perfected. For this faith is his life, justification, and salvation, preserving his person itself and making it pleasing to God, and bestowing on him all that Christ has, as I have said above, and as Paul affirms: "The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God" (Gal. 2:20). Though he is thus free from all works, yet he ought to empty himself of this liberty, take on him the form of a servant, be made in the likeness of men, be found in fashion as a man, serve, help, and in every way act towards his neighbour as he sees that God through Christ has acted and is acting towards him. All this he should do freely, and with regard to nothing but the good pleasure of God, and he should reason thus:--
Lo! my God, without merit on my part, of His pure and free mercy, has given to me, an unworthy, condemned, and contemptible creature all the riches of justification and salvation in Christ, so that I no longer am in want of anything, except of faith to believe that this is so. For such a Father, then, who has overwhelmed me with these inestimable riches of His, why should I not freely, cheerfully, and with my whole heart, and from voluntary zeal, do all that I know will be pleasing to Him and acceptable in His sight? I will therefore give myself as a sort of Christ, to my neighbour, as Christ has given Himself to me; and will do nothing in this life except what I see will be needful, advantageous, and wholesome for my neighbour, since by faith I abound in all good things in Christ.
Thus from faith flow forth love and joy in the Lord, and from love a cheerful, willing, free spirit, disposed to serve our neighbour voluntarily, without taking any account of gratitude or ingratitude, praise or blame, gain or loss. Its object is not to lay men under obligations, nor does it distinguish between friends and enemies, or look to gratitude or ingratitude, but most freely and willingly spends itself and its goods, whether it loses them through ingratitude, or gains goodwill. For thus did its Father, distributing all things to all men abundantly and freely, making His sun to rise upon the just and the unjust. Thus, too, the child does and endures nothing except from the free joy with which it delights through Christ in God, the Giver of such great gifts.
You see, then, that, if we recognize those great and precious gifts, as Peter says, which have been given to us, love is quickly diffused in our hearts through the Spirit, and by love we are made free, joyful, all-powerful, active workers, victors over all our tribulations, servants to our neighbour, and nevertheless lords of all things. But, for those who do not recognise the good things given to them through Christ, Christ has been born in vain; such persons walk by works, and will never attain the taste and feeling of these great things. Therefore just as our neighbour is in want, and has need of our abundance, so we too in the sight of God were in want, and had need of His mercy. And as our heavenly Father has freely helped us in Christ, so ought we freely to help our neighbour by our body and works, and each should become to other a sort of Christ, so that we may be mutually Christs, and that the same Christ may be in all of us; that is, that we may be truly Christians.
Who then can comprehend the riches and glory of the Christian life? It can do all things, has all things, and is in want of nothing; is lord over sin, death, and hell, and at the same time is the obedient and useful servant of all. But alas! it is at this day unknown throughout the world; it is neither preached nor sought after, so that we are quite ignorant about our own name, why we are and are called Christians. We are certainly called so from Christ, who is not absent, but dwells among us--provided, that is, that we believe in Him and are reciprocally and mutually one the Christ of the other, doing to our neighbour as Christ does to us. But now, in the doctrine of men, we are taught only to seek after merits, rewards, and things which are already ours, and we have made of Christ a taskmaster far more severe than Moses.
The Blessed Virgin beyond all others, affords us an example of the same faith, in that she was purified according to the law of Moses, and like all other women, though she was bound by no such law and had no need of purification. Still she submitted to the law voluntarily and of free love, making herself like the rest of women, that she might not offend or throw contempt on them. She was not justified by doing this; but, being already justified, she did it freely and gratuitously. Thus ought our works too to be done, and not in order to be justified by them; for, being first justified by faith, we ought to do all our works freely and cheerfully for the sake of others.
St. Paul circumcised his disciple Timothy, not because he needed circumcision for his justification, but that he might not offend or contemn those Jews, weak in the faith, who had not yet been able to comprehend the liberty of faith. On the other hand, when they contemned liberty and urged that circumcision was necessary for justification, he resisted them, and would not allow Titus to be circumcised. For, as he would not offend or contemn any one's weakness in faith, but yielded for the time to their will, so, again, he would not have the liberty of faith offended or contemned by hardened self-justifiers, but walked in a middle path, sparing the weak for the time, and always resisting the hardened, that he might convert all to the liberty of faith. On the same principle we ought to act, receiving those that are weak in the faith, but boldly resisting these hardened teachers of works, of whom we shall hereafter speak at more length.
Christ also, when His disciples were asked for the tribute money, asked of Peter whether the children of a king were not free from taxes. Peter agreed to this; yet Jesus commanded him to go to the sea, saying, "Lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth thou shalt find a piece of money; that take, and give unto them for Me and thee" (Matt. 27:27).
This example is very much to our purpose; for here Christ calls Himself and His disciples free men and children of a King, in want of nothing; and yet He voluntarily submits and pays the tax. Just as far, then, as this work was necessary or useful to Christ for justification or salvation, so far do all His other works or those of His disciples avail for justification. They are really free and subsequent to justification, and only done to serve others and set them an example.
Such are the works which Paul inculcated, that Christians should be subject to principalities and powers and ready to every good work (Titus 3:1), not that they may be justified by these things--for they are already justified by faith--but that in liberty of spirit they may thus be the servants of others and subject to powers, obeying their will out of gratuitous love.
Such, too, ought to have been the works of all colleges, monasteries, and priests; every one doing the works of his own profession and state of life, not in order to be justified by them, but in order to bring his own body into subjection, as an example to others, who themselves also need to keep under their bodies, and also in order to accommodate himself to the will of others, out of free love. But we must always guard most carefully against any vain confidence or presumption of being justified, gaining merit, or being saved by these works, this being the part of faith alone, as I have so often said.
Any man possessing this knowledge may easily keep clear of danger among those innumerable commands and precepts of the Pope, of bishops, of monasteries, of churches, of princes, and of magistrates, which some foolish pastors urge on us as being necessary for justification and salvation, calling them precepts of the Church, when they are not so at all. For the Christian freeman will speak thus: I will fast, I will pray, I will do this or that which is commanded me by men, not as having any need of these things for justification or salvation, but that I may thus comply with the will of the Pope, of the bishop, of such a community or such a magistrate, or of my neighbour as an example to him; for this cause I will do and suffer all things, just as Christ did and suffered much more for me, though He needed not at all to do so on His own account, and made Himself for my sake under the law, when He was not under the law. And although tyrants may do me violence or wrong in requiring obedience to these things, yet it will not hurt me to do them, so long as they are not done against God.
From all this every man will be able to attain a sure judgment and faithful discrimination between all works and laws, and to know who are blind and foolish pastors, and who are true and good ones. For whatsoever work is not directed to the sole end either of keeping under the body, or of doing service to our neighbour--provided he require nothing contrary to the will of God--is no good or Christian work. Hence I greatly fear that at this day few or no colleges, monasteries, altars, or ecclesiastical functions are Christian ones; and the same may be said of fasts and special prayers to certain saints. I fear that in all these nothing is being sought but what is already ours; while we fancy that by these things our sins are purged away and salvation is attained, and thus utterly do away with Christian liberty. This comes from ignorance of Christian faith and liberty.
This ignorance and this crushing of liberty are diligently promoted by the teaching of very many blind pastors, who stir up and urge the people to a zeal for these things, praising them and puffing them up with their indulgences, but never teaching faith. Now I would advise you, if you have any wish to pray, to fast, or to make foundations in churches, as they call it, to take care not to do so with the object of gaining any advantage, either temporal or eternal. You will thus wrong your faith, which alone bestows all things on you, and the increase of which, either by working or by suffering, is alone to be cared for. What you give, give freely and without price, that others may prosper and have increase from you and your goodness. Thus you will be a truly good man and a Christian. For what to you are your goods and your works, which are done over and above for the subjection of the body, since you have abundance for yourself through your faith, in which God has given you all things?
We give this rule: the good things which we have from God ought to flow from one to another and become common to all, so that every one of us may, as it were, put on his neighbour, and so behave towards him as if he were himself in his place. They flowed and do flow from Christ to us; He put us on, and acted for us as if He Himself were what we are. From us they flow to those who have need of them; so that my faith and righteousness ought to be laid down before God as a covering and intercession for the sins of my neighbour, which I am to take on myself, and so labour and endure servitude in them, as if they were my own; for thus has Christ done for us. This is true love and the genuine truth of Christian life. But only there is it true and genuine where there is true and genuine faith. Hence the Apostle attributes to charity this quality: that she seeketh not her own.
We conclude therefore that a Christian man does not live in himself, but in Christ and in his neighbour, or else is no Christian: in Christ by faith; in his neighbour by love. By faith he is carried upwards above himself to God, and by love he sinks back below himself to his neighbour, still always-abiding in God and His love, as Christ says, "Verily I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man" (John 1:51).
Thus much concerning liberty, which, as you see, is a true and spiritual liberty, making our hearts free from all sins, laws, and commandments, as Paul says, "The law is not made for a righteous man" (1 Tim. 1:9), and one which surpasses all other external liberties, as far as heaven is above earth. May Christ make us to understand and preserve this liberty. Amen.
Finally, for the sake of those to whom nothing can be stated so well but that they misunderstand and distort it, we must add a word, in case they can understand even that. There are very many persons who, when they hear of this liberty of faith, straightway turn it into an occasion of licence. They think that everything is now lawful for them, and do not choose to show themselves free men and Christians in any other way than by their contempt and reprehension of ceremonies, of traditions, of human laws; as if they were Christians merely because they refuse to fast on stated days, or eat flesh when others fast, or omit the customary prayers; scoffing at the precepts of men, but utterly passing over all the rest that belongs to the Christian religion. On the other hand, they are most pertinaciously resisted by those who strive after salvation solely by their observance of and reverence for ceremonies, as if they would be saved merely because they fast on stated days, or abstain from flesh, or make formal prayers; talking loudly of the precepts of the Church and of the Fathers, and not caring a straw about those things which belong to our genuine faith. Both these parties are plainly culpable, in that, while they neglect matters which are of weight and necessary for salvation, they contend noisily about such as are without weight and not necessary.
How much more rightly does the Apostle Paul teach us to walk in the middle path, condemning either extreme and saying, "Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth" (Rom. 14:3)! You see here how the Apostle blames those who, not from religious feeling, but in mere contempt, neglect and rail at ceremonial observances, and teaches them not to despise, since this "knowledge puffeth up." Again, he teaches the pertinacious upholders of these things not to judge their opponents. For neither party observes towards the other that charity which edifieth. In this matter we must listen to Scripture, which teaches us to turn aside neither to the right hand nor to the left, but to follow those right precepts of the Lord which rejoice the heart. For just as a man is not righteous merely because he serves and is devoted to works and ceremonial rites, so neither will he be accounted righteous merely because he neglects and despises them.
It is not from works that we are set free by the faith of Christ, but from the belief in works, that is from foolishly presuming to seek justification through works. Faith redeems our consciences, makes them upright, and preserves them, since by it we recognise the truth that justification does not depend on our works, although good works neither can nor ought to be absent, just as we cannot exist without food and drink and all the functions of this mortal body. Still it is not on them that our justification is based, but on faith; and yet they ought not on that account to be despised or neglected. Thus in this world we are compelled by the needs of this bodily life; but we are not hereby justified. "My kingdom is not hence, nor of this world," says Christ; but He does not say, "My kingdom is not here, nor in this world." Paul, too, says, "Though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh" (2 Cor. 10:3), and "The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God" (Gal. 2:20). Thus our doings, life, and being, in works and ceremonies, are done from the necessities of this life, and with the motive of governing our bodies; but yet we are not justified by these things, but by the faith of the Son of God.
The Christian must therefore walk in the middle path, and set these two classes of men before his eyes. He may meet with hardened and obstinate ceremonialists, who, like deaf adders, refuse to listen to the truth of liberty, and cry up, enjoin, and urge on us their ceremonies, as if they could justify us without faith. Such were the Jews of old, who would not understand, that they might act well. These men we must resist, do just the contrary to what they do, and be bold to give them offence, lest by this impious notion of theirs they should deceive many along with themselves. Before the eyes of these men it is expedient to eat flesh, to break fasts, and to do in behalf of the liberty of faith things which they hold to be the greatest sins. We must say of them, "Let them alone; they be blind leaders of the blind" (Matt. 15:14). In this way Paul also would not have Titus circumcised, though these men urged it; and Christ defended the Apostles, who had plucked ears of corn on the Sabbath day; and many like instances.
Or else we may meet with simple-minded and ignorant persons, weak in the faith, as the Apostle calls them, who are as yet unable to apprehend that liberty of faith, even if willing to do so. These we must spare, lest they should be offended. We must bear with their infirmity, till they shall be more fully instructed. For since these men do not act thus from hardened malice, but only from weakness of faith, therefore, in order to avoid giving them offence, we must keep fasts and do other things which they consider necessary. This is required of us by charity, which injures no one, but serves all men. It is not the fault of these persons that they are weak, but that of their pastors, who by the snares and weapons of their own traditions have brought them into bondage and wounded their souls when they ought to have been set free and healed by the teaching of faith and liberty. Thus the Apostle says, "If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth" (1 Cor. 8:13); and again, "I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. It is evil for that man who eateth with offence" (Rom. 14:14, 20).
Thus, though we ought boldly to resist those teachers of tradition, and though the laws of the pontiffs, by which they make aggressions on the people of God, deserve sharp reproof, yet we must spare the timid crowd, who are held captive by the laws of those impious tyrants, till they are set free. Fight vigorously against the wolves, but on behalf of the sheep, not against the sheep. And this you may do by inveighing against the laws and lawgivers, and yet at the same time observing these laws with the weak, lest they be offended, until they shall themselves recognise the tyranny, and understand their own liberty. If you wish to use your liberty, do it secretly, as Paul says, "Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God" (Rom. 14:22). But take care not to use it in the presence of the weak. On the other hand, in the presence of tyrants and obstinate opposers, use your liberty in their despite, and with the utmost pertinacity, that they too may understand that they are tyrants, and their laws useless for justification, nay that they had no right to establish such laws.
Since then we cannot live in this world without ceremonies and works, since the hot and inexperienced period of youth has need of being restrained and protected by such bonds, and since every one is bound to keep under his own body by attention to these things, therefore the minister of Christ must be prudent and faithful in so ruling and teaching the people of Christ, in all these matters, that no root of bitterness may spring up among them, and so many be defiled, as Paul warned the Hebrews; that is, that they may not lose the faith, and begin to be defiled by a belief in works as the means of justification. This is a thing which easily happens, and defiles very many, unless faith be constantly inculcated along with works. It is impossible to avoid this evil, when faith is passed over in silence, and only the ordinances of men are taught, as has been done hitherto by the pestilent, impious, and soul-destroying traditions of our pontiffs and opinions of our theologians. An infinite number of souls have been drawn down to hell by these snares, so that you may recognise the work of antichrist.
In brief, as poverty is imperilled amid riches, honesty amid business, humility amid honours, abstinence amid feasting, purity amid pleasures, so is justification by faith imperilled among ceremonies. Solomon says, "Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?" (Prov. 6:27). And yet as we must live among riches, business, honours, pleasures, feastings, so must we among ceremonies, that is among perils. Just as infant boys have the greatest need of being cherished in the bosoms and by the care of girls, that they may not die, and yet, when they are grown, there is peril to their salvation in living among girls, so inexperienced and fervid young men require to be kept in and restrained by the barriers of ceremonies, even were they of iron, lest their weak minds should rush headlong into vice. And yet it would be death to them to persevere in believing that they can be justified by these things. They must rather be taught that they have been thus imprisoned, not with the purpose of their being justified or gaining merit in this way, but in order that they might avoid wrong-doing, and be more easily instructed in that righteousness which is by faith, a thing which the headlong character of youth would not bear unless it were put under restraint.
Hence in the Christian life ceremonies are to be no otherwise looked upon than as builders and workmen look upon those preparations for building or working which are not made with any view of being permanent or anything in themselves, but only because without them there could be no building and no work. When the structure is completed, they are laid aside. Here you see that we do not contemn these preparations, but set the highest value on them; a belief in them we do contemn, because no one thinks that they constitute a real and permanent structure. If any one were so manifestly out of his senses as to have no other object in life but that of setting up these preparations with all possible expense, diligence, and perseverance, while he never thought of the structure itself, but pleased himself and made his boast of these useless preparations and props, should we not all pity his madness and think that, at the cost thus thrown away, some great building might have been raised?
Thus, too, we do not contemn works and ceremonies--nay, we set the highest value on them; but we contemn the belief in works, which no one should consider to constitute true righ