Sunday, June 27, 2010
Preachers of holiness of the Christian life seem to have a point. Most certainly as a Christian one should desire to put away all manner of sin. Any sane and rational person in society would wish to do this as well. This way he or she can live peaceful and productive life. He will be well thought of by relatives, neighbors, friends and business acquaintances. She will be sought out for council by her peers. Through these means of self motivation God uses to control evil behavior, in the temporal realm, out of fear of punishment or hope of reward. In this way he keeps sinners from consuming one another on a daily basis. What would be proper motivation for a believer in our Lord Jesus? Sadly the before mentioned preachers of self holiness state that you know you are saved by keeping the law.
Galatians: 3:23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. ESV
We see by the above section that preaching of the law to “know” you are saved would be like having to ground all children confining them to their rooms to prove they are members of the family. The law is much more than a set of guidelines for behavior. It is a prison. It is a killer. It kills all hope we have to be in relationship with our Father in heaven by our own efforts. The standard is perfection pure and simple. No grading on the curve. No Mulligan to do it again. No good old college try. Perfect holiness from conception until death is the requirement. Death itself proves we cannot please God on our own. Death is the wages of sin so no matter how nice Auntie was she died because she was a sinner.
So why preach the law in this false way. One reason would be that many churches do not teach the Sacraments. The view of baptism in these congregations range from a rite of passage into the church to a work we do to show our faith in Jesus. Both instances take the work of baptism out of Jesus’ hands and places it into man’s hands. The real danger exists in that this style of obstructing the strong promises Jesus makes in baptism and focuses it entirely on the sinner. The faithfulness of the pastor and congregation one is joining with to show fidelity to Jesus is in view. Or perhaps the dedication one feels toward his or her Savior. Either one of those points can wax and wane over time. It is much more needful to keep the strong promises found in scripture in view with regards to baptism rather than the efforts of sinners to remain faithful.
Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. ESV
Sadly many Christians have not been taught and therefore deny the strong promises associated with baptism. The above verse shows the gift we get of the righteousness of Jesus put upon us. For this reason the believer who does not understand this will gather to him or herself all sorts of self holiness preachers in order to weigh whether the self holiness they demonstrate is sufficient to know how God regards them. That because of our baptism Our Father beholds us as holy children in Jesus. Why is it assumed that our Father in heaven is a worse parent then we had on earth or then we are for our children? Who would tell a child “Because you did not obey me perfectly you are no longer my child.“ If a parent would have that attitude he or she would be branded an abusive parent and should have the child taken away. How, ultimately could one trust in our Heavenly Father if he is perceived in this fashion? He would never reject one who is in Jesus for we are clothed with Jesus’ righteousness and are therefore holy in Our Fathers sight.
This false doctrine changes the focus of our gaze off Jesus’ finished work and places it solely on the believing sinner. This is to as much as to say Jesus left some of the Jesus job undone for us to finish. Many will labor under this delusion and some will even forsake the faith because it seems so hopeless. Christ have mercy!
C.F.W. Walther, first President of the Lutheran Church Missouri synod, speaks to the poison of false doctrine in the following text taken from his lectures. These lectures were given over 100 years ago but are still quite relevant to our present day.
From what has been said you can gather how foolish it is, yea, what an awful delusion has taken hold upon so many men’s minds who ridicule the pure doctrine and say to us: “Ah, do cease clamoring, Pure doctrine! Pure doctrine! That can only land you in dead orthodoxies‘. Pay more attention to pure life, and you will raise a growth of genuine Christianity.” That is exactly like saying to a farmer: “Do not worry forever about good seed; worry about good fruits.” Is not a farmer properly concerned about good fruit when he is solicitous about getting good seed? Just so a concern about pure doctrine is the proper concern about genuine Christianity and a sincere Christian life. False doctrine is noxious seed, sown by the enemy to produce a progeny of wickedness. The pure doctrine is wheat-seed; from it spring the children of the Kingdom, who even in the present life belong in the kingdom of Jesus Christ and in the life to come will be received into the Kingdom of Glory. May God even now implant in your hearts a great fear, yea, a real abhorrence, of false doctrine! May He graciously give you a holy desire for the pure, saving truth, revealed by God Himself! That is the chief end which these evening lectures are to serve.
Third Evening Lecture: Walther’s Law and Gospel September 26,1884
In the name of Jesus. Amen. †