We are both/and sinner and justified

Therefore, when Luther says that a Christian is at the same time sinner and justified, he does not mean in terms of an open-ended circle, but he adds that the “both/and” of these two powers (i.e. God and sin) is ever an “over/under” in our lives. We live, to be sure, in the twilight and the shadows of the night are ringed with the glow of light. However, it is not the glow of sunset, but rather the dawn of the morning. The power of sin is already weakened and it has already lost the battle. But the new righteousness of God has been raised and we already live in its hope: “The night is advancing, the dawn is almost nigh.”*

The Righteousness of Faith According to Luther
Hans J. Iwand
p. 33

* Iwand is quoting from WA 2:586. 9; LW 27:363-364: “Accordingly, one must not imagine that these are two distinct human beings. But it is like a morning twilight, which is neither day nor night yet can be called either one. Nevertheless, day, as that toward which it is tending after the darkness of night, is more appropriate. By fat the most beautiful illustrations of both truths is that half-alive man in Luke (10:30ff.) who, on being taken up by the Samaritan, was indeed being healed but still was not fully restored to health. Thus we in the church are indeed in the process of being healed, but we are not fully healthy. For the latter reason we are called “flesh;” for the former, “spirit.” It is the whole man who love chastity, and the same man is titillated by the enticements of lust. There are two whole men, and there is only one whole man. Thus it comes about that a man fights against himself and is opposed to himself. He is willing, and he is unwilling. And this is the glory of the grace of God; it makes us enemies of ourselves.”


Preaching is always to the dead and raises them.

Preaching to bound wills means that the dream of being a potentialist, an optimist or pessimist, a delayer and denier is over. God died by a homicide that was religious, state sponsored, and irrevocable, and this historical accident changed everything. God has an accusation to bring, that the sin against the Holy Spirit has been committed with universal complicity. Humans are not right; in fact, they are irredeemable and unforgivable by any measure of justice or any leniency of mercy. The wages of sin is death, so the sinner must die. Categorical preaching concedes no neutrality to the will nor does it concede that the will has any time remaining to change itself once the preacher arrives. That means preaching is always preaching to the dead.

There is no other rhetoric in the world that assumes bound wills who cannot hear because they will not to hear and so willing cannot hear. Preaching is therefore utterly unique as categorical speech, not as some supernatural form of communication called “revelation,” but precisely because it does the impossible in the most down-to-earth way– it gives something that cannot be heard unless God creates a new person to hear it. Preaching also raises the dead.

“Categorical Preaching” by Steven D. Paulson
Justification is For Preaching edited by Virgil Thompson
p. 142

Preaching both the law and gospel is a unique and unsettling occupation

Preaching is the DNA structure of the gospel that selects who shall inherit eternal life, and so if you are determined to preach, you will do so in the face of the world’s worst nightmare: that eternal life hangs upon an historical contingency of an alien person’s choice that excludes self-selection and is absolutely lawless. What are we left with, but only the whims of this particular person, Jesus of Nazareth? If that is not bad enough this person, Jesus, believes himself to have been universally wronged, and may well be correct in that assumption, from what we know about his cross; he is therefore primed for revenge according to the simplest laws of nature or by the law of Israel into which he was born. What hope is there in that?

To get a sense of what is meant in preaching in this way; consider that the Apostle Paul spent little or no time thinking according to the strange category Christians called “conversion,” which begins with a false premise about Jews and is usually confused about what makes a sinner sinful. The Apostle Paul did not so much convert as have his vocation changed from a scribe to a preacher. Moreover, that change was violent to his person, such a change in vocation also meant a total death to the old man. A scribe deals with the law alone and that in terms of what is written. Writing’s conservation of being, of what originally was and will so remain, or even writing’s cohort that tries to make what is written “live” by translation into new contexts, was Paul’s prior occupation as defender of God. Paul, however, was called out of this work to become a preacher for whom the living word beyond the law was set to be the falling and rising of many––his vocation radically changed and so the old Paul was dead leaving only the Christian.

Preaching both the law and gospel is a unique and unsettling occupation. It is the work of withdrawing another person’s freedom in relation to the law in order to give a freedom apart from the law in faith itself. The withdrawal of freedom is a terrible thing to behold, and is naturally opposed with every animal instinct for survival. This requires preachers to recognize how their work systematically emerges out of the doctrine of election, and election is the worst human spectacle imaginable. To take up this vocation is to enter this fearful spectacle of preaching, and to ask, if God indeed does us this means to withdraw freedom according to the law…

“Categorical Preaching” by Steven D. Paulson
Justification is For Preaching edited by Virgil Thompson
p. 125-126