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June 2018 (Vol. 63, No.5)

LUTHER'S TEACHING ON THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

  In the season of Pentecost, there are many Bible lessons that deal with the matter of the new life in Christ. What did Luther have to say on this subject? The Lutheran Formula of Concord (FC SD VI.9) points to the summer part of Luther's Church Postil, on the epistle for the nineteenth Sunday after Trinity, where he comments on Eph. 4:22-28. Luther writes:

"Here again is an admonition for Christians to follow up their faith by good works and a new life, for though they have forgiveness of sins through Baptism, the old Adam still adheres to their flesh and makes himself felt in tendencies and desires to vices physical and mental. The result is that unless Christians offer resistance, they will lose their faith and the remission of sins and will in the end be worse than they were at first; for they will begin to despise and persecute the Word of God when corrected by it. Yea, even those who gladly hear the Word of God, who highly prize it and aim to follow it, have daily need of a dmonition and encouragement, so strong and tough is that old hide of our sinful flesh. And so powerful and wily is our old evil foe that wherever he can gain enough of an opening to insert one of his claws, he thrusts in his whole self and will not desist until he has again sunk man into his former condemnable unbelief and his old way of despising and disobeying God."

"Therefore, the Gospel ministry is necessary in the Church, not only for instruction of the ignorant -- such as the simple, unlettered people and the children -- but also for the purpose of awakening those who know very well what they are to believe and how they are to live, and admonishing them to be on their guard daily and not to become indolent, disheartened or tired in the war they must wage on this earth with the devil, with their own flesh and with all manner of evil."

"For this reason Paul is so persistent in his admonitions that he actually seems to be overdoing it. He proceeds as if the Christians were either too dull to comprehend or so inattentive and forgetful what they must be reminded and driven. The apostle well knows that though they have made a beginning in faith and are in that state which should show the fruits of faith, such result is not so easily forthcoming. It will not do to think and say:'Well, it is sufficient to have the doctrine, and if we have the Spirit and faith, then fruits and good works will follow of their own accord.' For although the Spirit truly is present and, as Christ says, willing and effective in those that believe, on the other hand the flesh is weak and sluggish. Besides, the devil is not idel, but seeks to seduce our weak nature by temptations and allurements."

"So we must not permit the people to go on in their way, neglecting to urge and admonish them, through God's Word, to lead a godly life. Indeed, you dare not be negligent and backward in this duty; for, as it is, our flesh is all too sluggish to heed the Spirit and all too able to resist it. Paul says (Gal 5:17):"For the flesh lustech against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh ... that ye may not do the things that ye would." Therefore, God is constrained to do as a good and diligent householder or ruler , who, having a slothful man-servant or maid-servent, or careless officers, who otherwise are neither wicked nor faithless, will not consider it sufficient once or twice to direct, but will constantly be supervising and directing." (Lenker edition, vol.8:304-316).

  Do not be surprised, when I as your pastor "urge and admonish" you "through God's Word, to lead a godly life," and even at times tell you specifically how to do that. I would not be doing my job as a pastor and preacher if I fail to do that, especially when the Bible texts for the day call for it.

Yours in Christ,






 



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