Ministers of the Law

Paul has good reason for calling the minister of the Law the minister of sin, for the Law reveals our sinfulness. The realization of sin in turn frightens the heart and drives it to despair. Therefore all exponents of the Law and of works deserve to be called tyrants and oppressors.

The purpose of the Law is to reveal sin. That this is the purpose of the Law can be seen from the account of the giving of the Law as reported in the nineteenth and twentieth chapters of Exodus. Moses brought the people out of their tents to have God speak to them personally from a cloud. But the people trembled with fear, fled, and standing aloof they begged Moses: “Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” The proper office of the Law is to lead us out of our tents, in other words, out of the security of our self-trust, into the presence of God, that we may perceive His anger at our sinfulness.

All who say that faith alone in Christ does not justify a person, convert Christ into a minister of sin, a teacher of the Law, and a cruel tyrant who requires the impossible. All merit-seekers take Christ for a new lawgiver.

In conclusion, if the Law is the minister of sin, it is at the same time the minister of wrath and death. As the Law reveals sin it fills a person with the fear of death and condemnation. Eventually the conscience wakes up to the fact that God is angry. If God is angry with you, He will destroy and condemn you forever. Unable to stand the thought of the wrath and judgment of God, many a person commits suicide.

Martin Luther: Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians (1535)
Trans. Theodore Graebner

Luther on Law and Gospel

Gal 2:14a

VERSE 14. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel.

No one except Paul had his eyes open. Consequently it was his duty to reprove Peter and his followers for swerving from the truth of the Gospel. It was no easy task for Paul to reprimand Peter. To the honor of Peter it must be said that he took the correction. No doubt, he freely acknowledged his fault.

The person who can rightly divide Law and Gospel has reason to thank God. He is a true theologian. I must confess that in times of temptation I do not always know how to do it. To divide Law and Gospel means to place the Gospel in heaven, and to keep the Law on earth; to call the righteousness of the Gospel heavenly, and the righteousness of the Law earthly; to put as much difference between the righteousness of the Gospel and that of the Law, as there is difference between day and night. If it is a question of faith or conscience, ignore the Law entirely. If it is a question of works, then lift high the lantern of works and the righteousness of the Law. If your conscience is oppressed with a sense of sin, talk to your conscience. Say: “You are now groveling in the dirt. You are now a laboring ass. Go ahead, and carry your burden. But why don’t you mount up to heaven? There the Law cannot follow you!” Leave the ass burdened with laws behind in the valley. But your conscience, let it ascend with Isaac into the mountain.

In civil life obedience to the law is severely required. In civil life Gospel, conscience, grace, remission of sins, Christ Himself, do not count, but only Moses with the lawbooks. If we bear in mind this distinction, neither Gospel nor Law shall trespass upon each other. The moment Law and sin cross into heaven, i.e., your conscience, kick them out. On the other hand, when grace wanders unto the earth, i.e., into the body, tell grace: “You have no business to be around the dreg and dung of this bodily life. You belong in heaven.”

By his compromising attitude Peter confused the separation of Law and Gospel. Paul had to do something about it. He reproved Peter, not to embarrass him, but to conserve the difference between the Gospel which justifies in heaven, and the Law which justifies on earth.

The right separation between Law and Gospel is very important to know. Christian doctrine is impossible without it. Let all who love and fear God, diligently learn the difference, not only in theory but also in practice.

When your conscience gets into trouble, say to yourself: “There is a time to die, and a time to live; a time to learn the Law, and a time to unlearn the Law; a time to hear the Gospel, and a time to ignore the Gospel. Let the Law now depart, and let the Gospel enter, for now is the right time to hear the Gospel, and not the Law.” However, when the conflict of conscience is over and external duties must be performed, close your ears to the Gospel, and open them wide to the Law.

Martin Luther: Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians (1535)
Trans. Theodore Graebner

Easter and Baptism remembrance

He is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Is there a better sounding group of words in the English language than these simple words that convey so much? With these words we confess that our living Savior Jesus Christ has risen physically* from the grave. His flesh and blood exited the tomb three days after He committed his spirit to the Father when the penalty for the sins of mankind were paid in full.

After a very filling and tasty breakfast at the church, we celebrated Christ’s resurrection this morning at Bethany Lutheran with Divine Service V from the Lutheran Service Book, which is based on the Deutsche Messe by Martin Luther. In the service we received His body and blood, given and shed for us, in, with and under, the bread and the wine for the forgiveness of our sins.

Even though the sky was overcast with threats of thunderstorms, the day was beautiful. And it just got better. Right before we put the kids down for bed, after our family devotions, we had a family service to remember our son’s baptism and rebirth by water and the Spirit as a son of God. A beautiful night to end a beautiful day.

Now I’m going to relax, unwind and enjoy some much needed time with my wife and kids tomorrow.

He is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

* Yes I mean physically, just like you are physically wherever you are, touching your mouse and keyboard of laptap, using your eyes to read this post. He didn’t rise metaphorically, symbolically, spiritually or in my heart. If you think anything other than flesh and blood resurrection then you are wrong.

About the Tsunami and Quake from Pres. Harrison

Dear brothers in Christ,

As you are well aware, a deadly tsunami struck the coast of Japan in the early hours this morning.  Hundreds of people have lost their lives and many more are missing. As the morning progressed, the lethal waves moved across the Pacific Ocean striking other land masses in their path.  While the full effect of the tsunami is not yet known, the losses are expected to be great.

We have been in touch with our missionaries and partner church leaders in the affected parts of the world. At this time, we have been assured that our missionaries in Japan and the presidents of the two Japanese Lutheran churches are safe. We will continue to closely monitor the aftermath of the storm, and our disaster response team is preparing to respond.

We encourage you to visit the LCMS website, http://www.lcms.org, often for periodic news updates. Also, we will be posting links to worship resources later today that may be suitable for use this Sunday or at another appropriate time.

In closing, please join me in prayer for the victims of the tsunami and their families. I would suggest the Litany. And let us also during this Lenten season make use of the historic discipline of caring for the needy (Matt. 6:2-4).

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea.  Psalm 46: 1-2
In His peace,

Rev. Matthew C. Harrison, President
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

For Sunday Adult Bible Class

we’ve been going  though a CPH produced study on the Augsburg Confession (AC) and Apology of the Augsburg Confession (AP) that I’ve made some small changes to fit my congregation and those involved in the class. This is designed to be a thirteen week study and we began it three weeks ago. We got through the introduction study on the history of both the AC and the AP in about one and a half classes. In the second half of last weeks class we started AC I. Today we finished the study on AC I which was only four questions. Should I be worried about this? Absolutely not! We had a ton of great questions that led to some really good discussion. Sometimes I think the members of the class like to play ‘stump the Pastor’ without telling me in advance, which I don’t mind one bit because it can force me to leave my comfort zone at times by making me think on my feet.

Next week we’ll start AP I. At this rate I have feeling that instead of this class taking thirteen weeks it might take us until next year. And you know what, that’s a fantastic thing because these members are thirsty and hungry for the Gospel, what our Lutheran Heritage is and what makes our understanding of Scripture and the Law/Gospel dynamic distinct from other Christians.

Super Sunday = Porn Sunday

Today churches throughout the country are celebrating Porn Sunday. No, the churches are not celebrating pornography itself. They are instead going to try to get men in the pews by discussing the ‘problem’ of porn and why it’s a ‘problem’. Right there is the problem.

If you discuss porn as a problem that you can stop, then why are you in church? You obviously don’t need Christ if it’s only a ‘problem’. Now if porn is presented as a sin, which pornography is, then shouldn’t these churches discuss why porn is a sin and that Christ died to even forgive that sin. However, if a church focusses on only one sin, then the Law that is preached will fall on deaf ears of all who do not give into this temptation.

Instead, these churches should focus on how all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. Then proclaim Christ crucified to forgive all of those sins.

Following is Issues, Etc. open line discussion of this topic.

Issues Etc. Open Lines on the topic of Porn Sunday