Monday, April 29, 2013

Third Use of the Law

My friend Cheryl recently pointed out a blog post.  In spite of trying to curtail my computer-time, I went and read.  I clicked on a link in the post, skimmed another blog post, clicked on another link, etc.  Apparently there is (again!) quite the ruckus in the Lutheran blogosphere about the place of "preaching sanctification."  But one thing became apparent to me in the 10 minutes that I bopped around a few sites (that is, before I grabbed control of myself and headed to the laundry room to wash sheets).

Much of the "Woe is us!  We need to preach more sanctification!" is motivated by the decaying culture out there in society.  There's political pressure for homosexual "marriage."  People kill babies unborn ... and born.  Foul language is prevalent.  Sleeping around is common.  Terrorists and madmen go on killing sprees.  This is terrible, and we want it fixed.  If the preachers preached more law, maybe it would change.

It sounds to me like what we're clamoring for is actually more "First Use of the Law."  Not more "third use."  But then again, maybe that's a clue that we don't use the law:  if it's preached, it will function as the Holy Spirit wills.


  1. Hi Susan,
    I realize this is in 2013 archives, but I need to get an answer to a question. They just finished up a post over at BJS by T.R. Halverson about theois, the mystical union and progressive sanctification WOW I listened to your Pastor Bender on Issues,Etc. the other week on good works. He is so great with his teaching. I also listened to Dr. Holger Sonntag on Issues,Etc. 4-?-2013 talk about the Holy Spirit and sanctification. These pastors seem to have differing views about sanctification. Pastor Sonntag saying that exhorting to do good works should be in every sermon and Pastor Bender saying that faith is the goal of the preacher and good works will follow. My question is: What is a person to do when they hear what seems to be opposing viewpoints? I have heard Pastor Bender preach over the years and I'm inclined to appreciate his point of view. However, I think Pastor Sonntag is correct with all his examples from the Bible (Paul) and our Confessions and Luther's writings about so called 'progressive sanctification'. I'm confused.

    Thank you,

  2. Hi, Diane --

    1. Talk to your own pastor. He knows you and he bears the responsibility of caring for your soul. Even if a [law-filled] statement is true in a dispassionate theological conversation, that doesn’t mean it should be applied to you if you are fearing the Lord’s wrath over your inability to measure up to Perfection.

    2. Consider where the speaker is placing your focus. Once upon a time, in our homeschool groups, I knew people who would encourage good works, strive after good works, pray for help doing good works, and emulate others who were seen as “more sanctified.” They of course said “All glory be to God” for whatever good they did. And yet, somehow their striving always seemed to be coming from their own efforts, and the glory seemed to go to themselves.

    3. I haven’t followed the discussion to which you refer, but I assume that all parties involved believe in the forgiveness of sin for Jesus’ sake, and believe that Christians do good works. When I’m listening to people who seem to disagree with each other, but both seem to be speaking truly, I try to figure out who is saying that the Law was given for the sake of the Gospel, and who’s saying that the Gospel was given for the sake of the Law. Is it the law or the gospel that is pre-eminent, that is the ultimate word of God?

    4. Is it possible for faith to NOT result in good works? A Christian is one who acknowledges that all his own righteousness is filthy rags, and that his only hope is in the Lord’s mercy and His atonement and salvation. Can you think of one person in the Bible (or even in non-biblical history) who believed that and did NOT abound in good works?

    I don't know if this helps any. Pray the Creed, pray the Lord's Prayer, and sing/pray the liturgy. Find your comfort in what Jesus has done FOR YOU. "I believe that I cannot, by my own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him. But the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, ... sanctified and kept me ...."

    1. Thank you Susan. After I sent the above off to you, I knew you'd tell me to discuss this with my pastor:) I guess it just makes me uncomfortable when I hear divergent viewpoints from LCMS pastors. I wish that they would all agree, especially on important issues. I suppose that won't happen this side of heaven. Thank you again. Hope you and your family are doing well.

      In Christ,

  3. There was a day when there was more unanimity of doctrine and practice within LCMS than there is now. But full agreement not going to happen as long as we're still on this earth, afflicted in our sinful flesh by false beliefs. Even Peter had to be upbraided by Paul. If the apostles had times of disagreement, so too will LCMS pastors.

    Pastor was saying on Friday night (when we had a presentation on different denominations, where they came from, and why it matters) that disagreement over doctrine provides an opportunity to discuss God's word, to delve into it, to uphold it before those who disagree, to refine what we say and how we say it, and to examine whether our belief is consistent with God's word.

    I wish you could've been here for Bible class this morning. Matthew 25 was the gospel reading today (if you're on 3-yr series; last week if you're on the historic 1-yr series). There was a lot of talk this morning about good works, and where they come from. Yes, every sermon has law. And that law shows us how to live, as well as how we fail to measure up. But the reason for preaching is to bestow Jesus and His forgiveness! That's the whole reason a preacher opens his mouth in the first place.

  4. Hi Susan,
    Wish I could have been in your bible class too. We did hear the Matthew 25 reading today and my pastor did a good job with the sermon on that text. We have such excellent preachers in the LCMS and now with the internet I get to hear a lot of superlative sermons during the week. Pastor Peter Cage out of St. Paul's Fort Wayne is one of my favorites. I will be talking to my pastor this week about this thing called 'progressive sanctification'.

    Thanks again for this conversation.
    In Christ,