"Over against all that reason suggests or would measure and fathom, yes, all that our senses feel and perceive, we must learn to cling to the Word and simply judge according to it."

- Martin Luther

Luther's Rose

I wish most importantly to state a case for Christ and His Cross for the unbeliever, but I also wish to make the case for both the unbeliever and the "blessedly inconsistent" towards the true apostolic and catholic teachings of the blessed and orthodox Lutheran Church.


If you read an article and wish to comment, then please do.

Do not worry about the date it was written.

I promise that I or the articles author will answer.

All Hail Caesar!

Perhaps you've seen this video recently:

Here are the lyrics:

Mmm, mmm, mmm, Barack Hussein Obama
He said all should lend a hand to make the country strong again

Mmm, mmm, mmm, Barack Hussein Obama
He said we must be fair today, equal work means equal pay.

Mmm, mmm, mmm, Barack Hussein Obama
He said take a stand, make sure everyone gets a chance

Mmm, mmm, mmm, Barack Hussein Obama
He said red, yellow, black and white, all are equal in his sight

Mmm, mmm, mmm, Barack Hussein Obama
Yeah! Barack Hussein Obama

…Hello Mr. President, We honor you today
For all your great accomplishments, we all do say hooray
Hooray, Mr. President you are No. 1
The first black American to lead this nation

There is another video that I saw this morning similar to this one. It showed a group of school-aged children on a stage chanting in unison. I've scoured the internet for it, I even found it on you-tube, but apparently whoever put it on there has set the video to private, in effect making it un-viewable without permission of the "videographer". If I remember correctly the chant went something like this:

Change has come. Change has come. The nations have hope. Education is the way. Education is the truth. Education is the secret. etc....
This was all in praise of Obama and the things he has achieved, by the means which he had achieved them. The writers of this liturgy employ Obama's campaign key words "hope" and "change" and laud our President, his accomplishments, and their faith in him to achieve what he has set out to do openly. I fine this...just...uh, it's, it's creepy.

Now, this lyric from the video above:

"...He said red, yellow, black and white, all are equal in his sight..."

...is a direct rip-off of the children's hymn; Jesus Loves the Little Children. Here's the from that song:

"...Red and yellow, black and white, they [i.e. children] are precious in His sight..."

Similarly you could take:

"Education is the way. Education is the truth. Education is the secret."

...excepting the last lyric, one could compare it to the scripture in John 14:6:

"...Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life..."

...with the word "education" usurping the subject "Jesus".

This smacks of caesarism, and it is wrong. Our leaders are not divine beings to be served, or anything of the sort; they are OUR public servants, and not vice-versa. And, furthermore, this really goes to show that education among secularists, is in practice, their church. Their means of grace: reading, writing, and arithmetic. Their hope is in the institutions ability of creating future leaders to cure the world's ills. So far, their track record hasn't been great, to say the least.

And, for anybody who thinks I'm playing sides here, please see this video of school-age children worship a cardboard idol of George W. Bush.

This is equally both, disgusting and disturbing! After all, these Christians are to direct their worship towards Christ, and not the President. Who has bewitched them?

In the end only one thing matters, and it is this:

"Jesus saith unto [Thomas], I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."

Jesus is Lord. He is our rightful Object of hope and faith, that makes all things new, you know, a genuine change! He will deliver us to Heaven. It is in Him that we should trust!

I was going to write something on why I personally prefer what is known and referred to as the "Ecclesiastical Text", "and which is also known as the Byzantine Text, the Majority Text, or the Textus Receptus" and its relationship to the plethora of translations of God's Word, and what those translations depend upon as their source text.

The argument for the Ecclesiastical Text is rather simple: God had felt it fit to provide His Church with this text after the first 3 centuries of the early church up until approximately the last 200 yrs. If this is what the Church has depended on since very early in Church history; what it has depended on to fight against endless heretical attacks, then why for Heaven's sake did we need to start tinkering with it and causing mass chaos in the process?

I believe this article; written by: Pr. William P. Terjesen, pastor of the Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer in Peekskill, NY to be a perfect summation of this argument. Please read and consider for yourself whether the translation of Scripture you trust really has the best text for it's source.

If you have made any extensive use of the variety of Bible translations available today, you may have noticed that the King James Version and the New King James Version include words, phrases, verses, and even whole paragraphs of text that are missing from other modern translations. You may have also noticed that many modern translations have marginal comments regarding ancient manuscript evidence for certaininclusions or deletions that sound, well, rather snippy.

What’s going on?You probably know that whatever English Bible you use is a translation from the original languages in which the Bible was written. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew (except for a few Aramaic chapters), and the New Testament was written in Greek. You probably also know that until the invention of movable type and the printing press in the 1400’s, publishing and preserving documents and books meant hand copying; a very difficult and expensive endeavor. So, from the days of the Biblical authors on until just prior to the Reformation, the Bible was published and preserved by being hand copied by scribes.

There are thousands of these hand copied manuscripts of the Bible in existance. There are also ancient translations of the Bible into Aramaic, Latin, Egyptian, etc., preserved in manuscript form, as well as hand copied church lectionaries (appointed readings for each day and each holiday of the church year), and quotations of Scripture in the writings of the ancient Church Fathers such as Augustine, Athanasius, Jerome, etc. So the evidence for the text of the Bible is very extensive and compelling. In the secular realm the text of an ancient book is accepted with confidence on far less than ten percent of the textual evidence that exists for the Bible.

Now, just about the time that Dr. Martin Luther was beginning to study and teach the Biblical truths that led to the Reformation, a humanist scholar by the name of Erasmus published the first printed and mass produced edition of the Greek New Testament. His printed text was based on the relatively small number of late manuscript witnesses that were available to him at the time. What has been discovered since his day dwarfs what he had available to him. Yet, we should not for this reason undervalue the manuscripts he worked with, or the text of his Greek New Testament. The manuscripts he used were late, but they were faithful exemplars of the vast majority of New Testament manuscripts used throughout the church since the apostolic era. Therefore Erasmus placed in the hands of the Reformers a printed Greek New Testament with genuine catholicity, which presented what had been preserved as sacred text in the church throughout its history.

It is important to realize, lest anyone deceive you in this regard, that the vast majority of ancient witnesses to the text of the New Testament favors this Ecclesiastical Text, Traditional Text, Majority Text, Received Text, or whatever else you want to call it. With Erasmus’ Greek New Testament, and with other editions of that basic text by editors who followed Erasmus, scholars had at their disposal a printed edition of the consensus of ancient witnesses to the preserved, catholic, sacred text of the New Testament. In time, these printed editions became known as the Textus Receptus, or, Received Text. When Luther and the Reformers urged us "Back to the Sources", it was to these extant texts, not to some hypothetically reconstructed original autograph. It was the texts in hand that the Reformers and confessors called inspired and infallible. Unlike the Anabaptists, who believed that we must reject everything in the western church and go back to the first century (primitive restorationism), Luther and the Reformers corrected only the errors that had crept into the church. Luther was a "catholic preservationist". Hence, all of the Bible translations produced during the Reformation and post-Reformation eras, were translations of the received Hebrew text of the Old Testament, and the received Greek text of the New Testament, not some hypothetical reconstruction of lost original autographs.

So, Luther’s 1545 edition, the Authorized (King James) Version (AV or KJV), and all of the updates of the Authorized Version such as the New King James Version, are based on the Ecclesiastical Text of the New Testament. Other modern translations of the Bible such as the New International Version, the Revised Standard Version, the New American Standard Version, and others, are based on a somewhat different edition of the Greek New Testament, based on a minority of witnesses. This text is called by some the critical text. The most common publised edition of this critical text is the 27th edition of the Nestle Aland Greek New Testament.

In the 1700’s and 1800’s, as more and more ancient manuscripts and sources became available, it was discovered that some few of these witnesses differed substantially from the Ecclesiastical Text in numerous places. These variant readings were siezed upon by rationalistic, sceptical scholars in order to attack the church’s doctrine of the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. Many conservative scholars responded to this threat by maintaining that the Ecclesiastical Text was the sacred text that God had preserved through the church throughout the centuries, and regarded the variant readings in the minority texts as either intentional or inadvertent corruptions. They were not overly intimidated by the variant readings.

However, some conservative scholars bought into the rationalistic argument that the Ecclesiastical Text was an ecclesiastical corruption of the text of the NT in the interests of orthodoxy. Conservatives began saying that the church had corrupted the NT by smoothing it out and taking out the rough edges. They began to assert that the inspiration and infallibility of the NT resided only with the original autographs, and that it was the task of conservative textual critics to use the "earliest and best" manuscripts and witnesses in order to reconstruct, as closely as possible, the text of the autographs. Thus conservatives turned against the Ecclesiastical Text and minimized the doctrine of divine preservation which had always gone hand in hand with the doctrine of inspiration. They felt safe in locating inspiration and infallibility in the (as far as we know non-existant) autographs, and they confidently began the quest for the original text.

It didn’t seem to bother them that behind their quest lay the idea that for 1900 years labored with a "weak" text while the "purer" manuscripts lay mouldering in forgotten corners, only to be brought to light in an era noted more for its apostasy than for its faithfulness. Is it an accident that the Reformation had the Ecclesiastical Text as its sacred text?

The nineteenth century culmination of the new approach to the text of the New Testament came with the publication of the English Revised Version of 1881. This granddaddy of all modern Bible translations reflects the text critical outlook of two famous English scholars, Messrs. Westcott and Hort. They and the translation committee that worked with them were charged by the Anglican Church to revise the Authorized version as gently and sparingly as possible, making only patently necessary changes. So what did they do?

Well, first they edited an altogether new edition of the Greek New Testament which reflected their preference for a small minority of ancient manuscripts that differ sometimes sharply from the Byzantine/Majority text. Then they translated their new text into English rather than following the text used by the Authorized Version translators. They made unnecessary changes to the wording of the AV, even when this made their version more obtuse and stilted, and unleashed it on the world.

How did the world react? First, the scholars. By and large they liked Westcott and Hort’s new Greek Text, but were mixed about the quality of the English translation. The nineteenth century was a time when people snapped hungrily at any novel new idea. And just as they had done with Darwin and evolution, so they did now with an amazing fascination for discarded old manuscripts dug out of monastery wastebaskets and cellars. In the scholarly world Westcott and Hort’s Greek New Testament, and the multitudinous revised editions of it throughout the 20th century, have become the almost universally recognized New Textus Receptus.

But among ordinary folk things were different. This newfangled revision was stiff and stilted, retaining little of the beauty of the AV. And many words, phrases, verses and even parts of chapters were missing or altered. Where disputed passages were retained, there were crabby little comments in the margins to aggravate the reader’s doubt. By and large, the laity would have none of it and continued to use the AV as if the Revised Version didn’t exist, and for the most part, forced the clergy to do likewise. The RV was dead at the starting gate.

It wasn’t until the Bible translation mania of the post World War II era that the AV slowly began to make room for various modern versions. The Revised Standard Version, the New English Bible, the New American Standard Bible, An American Translation, etc. all had their small niches in the Bible reading world. But it wasn’t until the publication of the long awaited New International Version that the AV was given a run for its money. Not that the NIV was so good; it wasn’t. It was dull and two-dimensional, wordy and unmemorable. But it was marketed like no other Bible in history. It became the Big Mac of the Bible publishing world. The Rupert Murdock owned Zondervan Publishing Co., which is the main publisher of NIV Bibles, claims that sales of their baby have outstripped the old AV. This is probably hype, but despite continued strong sales of the old AV, it looks as though we are entering a post-King James Version era. With the exception of the recent New King James Version, nearly all modern translations of the Bible are in the Westcott and Hort tradition of New Testament textual criticism.

But not everyone has jumped on the bandwagon. Back in the nineteenth century a small number of scholars contended vigorously for the Traditional Text; among them, John William Burgon and F. H. A. Scrivner, two massively gifted textual critics. Now, while their work has been largely ignored by the majority, there has always been a small but ardent group of scholars who have kept the home fires burning for the Traditional Text of the New Testament. Outstanding modern exponents of this outlook are Dr. Edward F. Hills (now deceased) and Dr. Theodore Letis (very much alive). Hills’ book, The King James Version Defended: A Christian View of the New Testament Manuscripts, and Letis' book, The Ecclesiastical Text are notable for their defense of the Traditional Text from an ecclesiological and theological perspective.

The work of Hills and Letis must be contrasted with other groups of scholars who support the Traditional Text for different reasons. One group has become known as the "King James Only" group. They believe that the AV is the perfect, preserved Word of God for the English speaking world. For them, the AV is equal in authority to the original Hebrew and Greek of the Old and New Testaments. The "King James Only" group generally consists of a small group of fundamentalist Baptists who have little positive impact on the world of scholarship with the exception that some among them have managed to keep the works of Burgon and Scrivner in print, despite the fact that Burgon and Scrivner would never subscribe to their views.

A second group of scholars that must be distinguished from the work of Hills and Letis is the Majority Text school. This school, again, mostly fundamentalist Baptist, have produced two recent notable editions of the Greek New Testament. Maurice Robinson and William Pierpont have edited The New Testament in the Original Greek According to the Byzantine/Majority Textform (1991). This is the Byzantine Greek Text found in many Bible Software programs such as BibleWorks, Logos, and the Online Bible. Zane Hodges and Arthur Farstad have edited The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text (1985). It is important to note that the Majority Text school is in no way made up of "King James Only" advocates. The fact is that the KJ-Only people consider the Majority Text people to be in league with the devil! Be that as it may, what the Majority Text school is up to is attempting to purge the Traditional Text of it’s slight "corruptions" in the interest of making it conform more closely to the hypothetical original autographs.

They, like the critical school of textual criticism, are primitive restorationists, with the exception that they hold that the Byzantine manuscripts and witnesses better reflect the originals than do the Alexandrian texts.

But like the critical school, they are attempting to get behind the church’s preserved texts to the posited originals. Both groups assume that the church, to some degree, corrupted the originals. Hills and Letis, like Burgon, are not primitive restorationists. They are, to use a term borrowed from Letis, "catholic preservationists". This means that they believe that God, who inspired the infallible Scriptures, has, through His church, preserved what he gave for the church’s use and benefit. The inspired, infallible sacred text is not some minority text hidden in a corner for 1900 years and only lately rediscovered. Rather, the inspired, infallible sacred text is the text everywhere preserved and used in the church throughout its history. The best text of the New Testament reflects the consensus of this catholicity of witnesses. Therefore the text of Erasmus and his successors, the text that formed the basis of all Reformation era Protestant Bible translations, which reflects this preserved catholic consensus; the text which Letis calls The Ecclesiastical Text, but which is also known as the Byzantine Text, the Majority Text, or the Textus Receptus, is rightly to be regarded and received as the sacred text of the churches of the Reformation.

As I said above, when Luther and the theologians of Lutheran Orthodoxy urged, "Back to the sources!" it was to the extant Hebrew and Greek texts in hand to which they were pointing, and not to some repristinated original autographs. When they spoke of the Scriptures as inspired and infallible, it was the texts in hand and in use to which they were referring. What God gave, He has preserved, not in a dark corner, but in the use of the church catholic.

Lutherans, both pastors and laity, should carefully read the section on "Holy Scripture" in Francis Pieper’s, Christian Dogmatics, Vol. 1, pp. 193-370. At a time when primitive restoration was being urged by such notables as B. B. Warfield, Francis Pieper wouldn’t bite. While he is neither threatened nor opposed to the use of modern critical editions of the New Testament, his comments on textual matters, and on divine inspiration, show that he was solidly in line with the catholic preservationism of our Lutheran forebears. This shows itself in his defense of the Traditional Text. His words, especially in our day, are judicious and wise.

Now in all that I’ve said above, it is not my intention to impugn the scriptural commitment of those who prefer the modern critical texts and the translations based on them, but to urge a reconsideration of a view that has a long and distinguished place in the churches of the Reformation. Nor am I urging the exclusive use of the AV. It would be nice to see some modern translations of the Bible based on the Ecclesiastical Text. The New King James Version is a good start. Indeed, the movement in this direction is encouraging. The number of Lutheran pastors who are rediscovering the Traditional Text is growing every day. In this day, when so many are gaining a new appreciation of catholicity on the one hand, and the failure of modernism on the other, it is a wonder that more scholars aren’t adopting catholic preservationism. Well, all in good time.

Finally, any discussion of these issues runs the risk of creating the impression that the differences between the various editions of the Greek New Testament are more numerous than they are. Therefore, we should keep in mind that the textual differences between any given edition of the Ecclesiastical Text amounts to no more than about two percent. And the textual differences between the Ecclesiastical Text and the modern critical texts amounts to no more than about fifteen percent. Therefore, over 85% of the text in all manuscripts and witnesses is identical. It should be obvious then, that we are not talking about two entirely different kinds of New Testament. The layman should keep this in mind while studying these matters. This amazing textual agreement, even between the divergent Ecclesiastical and critical texts, makes the New Testament by far the best attested ancient text ever.

But we must not be sanguine. While we do not want to be hysterical or to get caught up in wild conspiracy theories after the manner of our fundamentalist counterparts, neither do we want to minimize the fact that the modern critical texts, at certain strategic places in the text make omissions, or alterations that are far from innocuous. For approximately twenty five years the Revised Standard Version was published with the last half of Mark 16 relegated to a footnote in accordance with the then current edition of the Nestle Greek Text. Other translations, less bold, included the text but added marginal comments which cast doubt on it. This is not harmless. Neither should it be a matter of indifference when Paul’s words concerning Christ: "God was manifest in the flesh…" are changed to the more ambiguous: "He was manifest in the flesh" on the basis of a few paltry textual witnesses against the overwhelming majority (1 Tim. 3:16). Nor should we merely shrug our shoulders when the overwhelmingly well attested and orthodox rendering: "…the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father…" is replaced with the poorly attested and arguably Gnostic: "…the only begotten God, which is in the bosom of the Father…" (John 1:18). But enough.

We can be thankful that even in the most critically reduced New Testament text the doctrines of the Law and Gospel are still set forth clearly and accurately for the benefit of the church. But this does not mitigate the fact that in the 19th century the discipline of textual criticism went in the wrong direction; a direction that has had serious consequences with regard to faith in the authority of Scripture, even down to our day. Nor does it absolve us of the responsibility to study these matters carefully and return the discipline of textual criticism to the service of the church and its divinely inspired, infallible, and preserved sacred text.

The following is a list of Bible versions currently in print that are based on the Ecclesiastical Text:

• The Authorized (or King James) Version (Cambridge University Press, etc.)
• T he New King James Version (Thomas Nelson Publishers)
• T he 21 s t Century King James Version (Deuel Publishing)
• T he Third Millenium Bible (Deuel Publishing)
• T he Modern King James Version (Sovereign Grace Publishers)

If you are interested in doing further reading on this subject, I recommend the following books:

T he King James Version Defended, Edward F. Hills
T he Ecclesiastical Text, Theodore Letis
T he Traditional Text, John William Burgon
T he Last Twelve Verse of Mark, John William Burgon
T he Revision Revised, John William Burgon

* * * * * * *

Here is another solid source from Dr. Gregory Jackson's, Thy Strong Word, as a defense of the King James Version. Here is an apt quote for a sober analysis of the subject matter from this work:

"Having the best translation does not release a pastor or congregation from diligent study of the Scriptures. In fact, problems and conflicts in translations are good in keeping us aware of the difficulties and the doctrinal causes of variations from the truth. Some advocates of the Authorized Version get frothy about the implication of any difficulty in their favorite translation. That should not be. The same translation will not be equally clear in all places to every person. In addition, no translation has the unchanging clarity of the original text. English has changed for the worse in the last hundred years, but the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible remain exactly the same as they were in ancient times. Many people use the changing nature of our language as a warrant for new translations, and I would be convinced if they did not keep getting more Pentecostal, more gender bender, and more Churchgrowthy."

And a couple of more edifying sources worth looking over:



***Update: It seems the numbers of 1.5 million might have been a tad-bit overblown. Here is a much more reasonable and conservative estimate at the conservative compendium blog. The actual attendance could be anywhere between 240,000 to possibly 500,000 people (check out the comments on the article also). The voting public in America, at least according to this website, is approximately 130 million. That means the "912 tea-partyers" to voting public ratio, on the low end, is roughly 1 attendee for every 542 voters. On the higher end it is approximately 1 attendee for every 260 voters. Not as impressive as the original number, but that's still a sizable portion to say the least, and everybody seems to have a different method for their numbers, so who knows? However, tens of thousands as reported by the main stream media is undershooting it quite a bit.***

On September 12th 2009 My father and I attended the "912" march and rally on Washington DC.

We woke up at 3:45 A.M, ate breakfast, and out the door by 4:45A.M. We arrived at a local shopping center in Dover DE, where we met up with the "912 Delaware Patriots" group. I estimate we had about a hundred plus in our caravan alone! I can thoroughly affirm that this group was not bought and paid for by any corporation or anything of the sort. It was simply a grassroots operation from the bottom up, and nothing but concerned citizens, all. Also, I'm a born and raised citizen of New Jersey (please don't hold it against me), yet my father is a recent Jersey "ex-pat" to the "first state" because of the repressive taxation in NJ, hence the reason I went to DE. So, for the day, I was an honorary Delawarean.

(Inside our bouncy school bus.)

There were five buses altogether; three of them luxurious coaches, and two not-so-luxurious school buses. We, of course, rode in an extraordinarily bouncy school bus ( and yes, I was at times airborne, and, yes, my back still hurts).

We were supposed to set off by 5:30A.M., however, we didn't get moving until almost 6A.M. due to some minor unforeseen events. Yet, nevertheless, it took us about two hours to arrive in DC. We filed out of the buses and started to ascend onto Capitol hill via a march befittingly down Delaware Avenue.

When we arrived at the Capitol building we quickly assembled and then ironically divided. According to our bus captain we could either go do the "march", or just stay seated at the Capitol building. We chose the latter. Our bus captain jokingly informed us that the marchers would be referred to on the mainstream media as "the mob", and the people who stay seated would be referred to as the "tin-foil hat" wearers; I guess I'm of the tin-foil hat persuasion, and apparently so was he.

(This guy was singing as we arrived on Capitol Hill.)

(Our fearless leader, and yes, he's wearing a tin-foil hat.)

Their were speakers prior to the official start of 1:00P.M, when the place really began to fill up. We were informed about half way through the event that approximately 1.5 million were in attendance and that the beltway was shutdown. That was good news and received well by the crowd!

The people there were mostly comprised of our "seasoned" citizens, however, there were many young families, and many college students as well. The military was well represented, and to my surprise there were many medical professionals there too.

Most of the speakers at the event were pretty decent, some more so than others, but more than half the speakers were grassroots organizers who helped put together this gigantic event, so they were excused if they were, in fact, inferior public speakers. There were a couple senators, a celebrity or two, but most of the speakers were everyday ordinary people you'd meet at the grocery store.

Overall the event was wholesome and respectful. I never once heard anything from any of the speakers or the crowd condoning violence against authorities, speaking profanities, or anything of the sort. In fact the most extreme thing said was, "vote the bums out in 2010". That would be a bloodless and welcome revolution indeed!

The event wrapped up around 4:45P.M. and we began to make our way back to the buses. I must comment on something remarkable (and I wish I had captured a picture of it for proof). As the people assembled on the south lawn of Capitol Hill were able to disperse with little problem or resistance, we were able to see as we passed by, the state of it. One would expect as I surely did that the place would be filled with garbage. However, the lawn was spotless. Not a single piece of trash! After Obama's inaugural address it took cleaning crews about 4 days to clean the place. I wouldn't be surprised if the ground crews had to clean anything at all after the 912 event. I think it was another indicator of how respectful the crowd was that day. Someone even joked that we spent too much money on the place to junk it up!

We got onto our buses and headed home with no problems. We got back to the shopping center from which we originally departed at about 8:15P.M. My father and I at that point hadn't really had anything substantial to eat since about 4:00A.M, so we stopped to get some much needed grub, and boy did it hit the spot. Unfortunately for me I had about another one and half hour drive back up to Jersey. I didn't get home until about 11:00P.M. Yeah, it was a long day to say the least!

(This sign about says it all!)

Now, if the number of 1.5 million in attendance is correct, that means that roughly 1 out of every 300 people in America was at that rally. That's pretty amazing! Obama dismissed it today by saying that it wasn't indicative of the overall American opinion regarding his policies. I'm sorry, 1 out of every 300 people is a pretty good indicator that a sizable portion of the country believes our President is taking us in the wrong direction. As for congress, I wouldn't want to be an incumbent in 2010. I think there is going to be large turnovers in both parties. Nevertheless, it was an amazing day, and an amazing event to attend. I would gladly do it again!

That's all for now, until next time...

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dear Brethren in Christ, the Holy Scriptures use three terms in regards to our great salvation – justification, sanctification, and glorification. Justification has to do with the fact that we have been saved in time past. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” (Eph. 2:8). Sanctification refers to the fact that we are presently being saved from the experiential hold that sin has had upon us. Thus Paul writes, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil 2:12, 13). Finally, glorification looks to the future when we shall be saved from all aspects of sin – in body, soul, and spirit. Jesus said, “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Matt. 24:13). With justification, we have been saved from the penalty of sin. With sanctification, we are being saved from the experiential power of sin. And with glorification, we shall be saved from the very presence of sin.

Romans 6:3-11 begins a section in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans dealing with the doctrine of sanctification. The Apostle writes, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Now it is important to understand the context of this passage within the overall Book of Romans. The theme of Romans is the righteousness of God, as wrought by Christ through His perfect obedience, suffering, and death on the Cross, and as offered to us in the Word of the Gospel. Paul writes, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith.” (Rom. 1:16, 17). Paul points out that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom. 1:18). All men, both Jews and Gentiles, stand condemned before God, “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Therefore, the only way of salvation is through “the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference” (Rom. 3:22). Paul shows that it is by this foreign righteousness (as Luther called it), belonging to Christ but imputed to us by faith, that all men have ever been saved. He cites David and Abraham as examples of this way of salvation in Romans 4. Finally Paul shows how sure and secure this way of salvation is in Romans 5, concluding with the statement that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20).

In Romans 6, Paul imagines someone raising an objection to what he has just said. This critic thus questions, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” (Rom. 6:1). In other words, “if what you are saying, dear Paul, is true, that “where sin abounds, grace does much more abound”, then what is to stop a person from sinning? Why not continue in sin, that grace might all the more abound? Here we see the danger of fallen human reason. Reason will often take a truth of Scripture, and draw a reasonable deduction from it that violates other Scripture. It will say, “if this is true, then it follows that this too must be true”. As the Calvinists wrongly conclude, “if it is true that God predestines only some to salvation, then He surely does not love all people”. Or as the Arminians falsely reason, “if God loves all people, then He surely did not choose only some to salvation, etc.” This is the voice of fallen human reason. It insists that its deductions are true and right, even though the Word of God plainly teaches otherwise. This is why we are to be “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Reason would charge the freeness and abundance of God’s grace as an actual license for sin. “Let us do evil, that good may come.” (Rom. 3:8).

We should also underscore that when this objector speaks of “continuing in sin”, he is not talking about the fact that all Christians still sin daily due to the weaknesses of their faith and of the flesh. No, the real Christian is grieved by his own sins, and longs to live righteously before the Lord. Like Paul, he “delights in the law of God after the inward man” (Rom. 7:22). He does sin, but he also always repents. “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again” (Prov. 24:16). Rather, this objector is speaking about “continuing in sin” in an on-going unrepentant manner. Such a one is at peace with his sin, and has no intention of turning from it. To him the warning of Hebrews belongs, “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” (Heb. 10:26, 27).

Paul now gives his answer to this objection from the voice of depraved human reason. As to “continuing in sin, that grace might abound”, he says, “God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:2). Paul’s answer as to why a true Christian cannot continue in sin is that the Christian is “dead to sin”. This being “dead to sin” becomes the theme of the following verses, Romans 6:3-11. In verse 3 we see that we “were baptized into Christ’s death?” Verse 4, “we are buried with him by baptism into death”. Verse 5, “we have been planted together in the likeness of his death”. Verse 6, “our old man is crucified with him”. Verse 7, “For he that is dead is freed from sin”. Verse 8, “Now if we be dead with Christ, etc.”. And verse 11, “likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin”. Our death to sin is mentioned in just about every verse. Thus, we can see that this death to sin is the key to Christian sanctification. But we must now ask two questions – 1) How do we become dead to sin?, and 2) What does it mean to be dead to sin? It is these two questions that Paul now goes on to answer in Romans 6:3-11.

In Romans 6:3-5 Paul answers for us the question, how do we become dead to sin? He writes, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:3, 4). Here we see that we were made dead to sin by being joined to Christ in the waters of baptism. As Luther often pointed out, baptism is no empty sign. Rather it is the effectual means by which God applies to us the atoning blood of Christ and causes us to be born again. It is a true “washing of regeneration” (Tit. 3:5). By it we have the sure and certain knowledge that we have been joined to Christ and are made partakers of the benefits that He has wrought in our behalf. Paul tells us here that via baptism, we were joined to Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. This is not just true of some of us, but of all of us, for he says, “so many of us as were baptized”. The Greek word is “hosos”, and means “all collectively”. Thus, this entire passage and all of the blessings it describes applies to each and every one of us who have been baptized. The certainty of our state of grace is founded upon the objective fact that we were baptized in accordance with the Word of God for the remission of our sins.

In verse 5 Paul further shows the intimacy of this union that God has effected though the waters of baptism between the believer and Christ. He writes, “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” Paul uses an interesting Greek word here for the expression “planted together”. It is the compound word “symphytos”, taken from “sun”, meaning “with” or “together with”, and “phytos”, meaning “to make to grow”. So the word literally means that by baptism we have been “made to grow together” with Christ. This word is sometimes used for grafting a branch. For instance, Jesus said, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). When Jesus says that He is the vine, He means the whole vine, both stalk and branches. We are not just connected to Christ as branches, but He is in us as branches and we are in Him as the vine in the closest possible union. Paul says, “For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones” (Eph. 5:30). The members are not just connected to the body, but rather are inseparable from the body itself. Again, we are in Him, and He is in us in an incomprehensible, yet real and most intimate union. Our union with Christ is likened to the union of a wife with her husband. “They two shall be one flesh” (Eph. 5:31).

When Paul says that we are “planted together with” Christ, he used the Greek preposition “sun”, rather than the preposition “meta”, which also means “with”. He could have used either preposition, but “sun” expresses a stronger and more indivisible union. If I were to bake some biscuits, I might pull all of the ingredients out of the refrigerator and pantry and set them beside one another on the counter. Thus the ingredients would be “with” (meta) one another (in their own separate areas on the counter). However, if I were to get out a big bowl, and throw the ingredients all in together and mix them all up to make a single substance, then they would now be “with” (sun) one another in a more intimate and incomprehensible way. It is in this latter sense that we have been “planted together with (sun)” Christ. So in answer to our first question – how did we become dead to sin – the answer is by our baptism by which God joined us to Christ in the closest possible union. Thus His life is reckoned to be our life, His obedience our obedience, His death our death, His burial our burial, and His resurrection our resurrection.

Luther writes, “Christ is fixed and cemented to me and abides in me. The life I now live, He lives in me. Indeed, Christ Himself is the life that I now live. In this way, therefore, Christ and I are one… This attachment to Him causes me to be liberated from the terror of the Law and of sin, pulled out of my own skin, and transferred into Christ and into His kingdom, which is a kingdom of grace, righteousness, peace, joy, life, salvation, and eternal glory. Since I am in Him, no evil can harm me… But faith must be taught correctly, namely, that by it you are so cemented to Christ that He and you are as one person, which cannot be separated but remains attached to Him forever and declares: ‘I am as Christ’. And Christ, in turn, says: ‘I am as that sinner who is attached to Me, and I to him. For by faith we are joined together into one flesh and one bone.’” (LW, vol. 26, p. 167, 168).

We now want to turn to our second question – what does it mean to be dead to sin? We know that we became dead to sin when through the waters of baptism we were joined to Christ’s death on the Cross, and His death to sin is reckoned as our own death to sin. But what does this mean? Why is this important? Why does the knowledge of this death to sin help us to not “continue in sin”? In verses 4 through 11, Paul now gives us three practical benefits of this knowledge to help us in our own battle with sin. First, he tells us in verse 4 that death was not an end in and of itself. Rather it was a passageway by which we have now entered into a new kind of life. He says that the purpose of our being joined to Christ’s death was so “that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (6:4). This “newness of life” is taken from the Greek word “kainos”, meaning “a new kind of life”, that is, not a natural life, but a spiritual life. Just as we were “planted together” into Christ’s death, so we are now indivisibly joined to His resurrected life (cf. v. 5).

In a similar way Paul says to the Galatians, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Here again we see that Paul reckons himself as having died with Christ, but yet through death he says that he still lives. However, this new life (on the other side of death) is not solely Paul, but rather is a union of Paul and Christ, that is, “Christ liveth in me”. Elsewhere Paul writes, “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:3, 4). All of this is to say that through our union with Christ’s death (which occurred at baptism) we have now entered Christ’s resurrected life and do now walk in what Paul calls “the newness of life”.

Luther writes, “I am not speaking about my death and crucifixion as though I were not alive now. I am alive indeed, for I am made alive by the very death and crucifixion by which I die. That is, since I am liberated from the Law, sin, and death by grace and faith, I am truly alive. Therefore the crucifixion and death by which I am crucified and die to the Law, sin, death, and all evils is resurrection and life to me. For Christ crucifies the devil, kills death, damns sin, and binds the Law. As one who believes this, I am liberated from the Law, etc. Therefore the Law is deaf, bound, dead, and crucified to me; and I, in turn, am deaf, bound, dead, and crucified to it. Thus I live by this very death and crucifixion, that is, by this grace or liberty.” (LW, vol. 26, p. 165).

Now this “newness of life” in which we walk is none other than the kingdom of God, mentioned some 70 times in the New Testament. It is that spiritual kingdom of grace and life that we apprehend by faith in the trustworthy witness of the Word of God. It stands in contrast to this earthly kingdom of sin and death that we apprehend through our five natural senses. It is a heavenly kingdom of light ruled by the power of God, as opposed to this earthly kingdom of darkness ruled by the power of the devil. When we were baptized, God “delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:15). We were “turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God” (Acts 26:18). Christ “gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world” (Gal. 1:4).

Imagine two fields in the country, with a road dividing them from one another. We’ll call the field on the left the kingdom of this world, ruled by a king named “sin”. The field on the right is the kingdom of God, the “newness of life”, ruled by a king named “grace”. The road is “death”, yea, even infinite and eternal death. By natural birth we were all born into the field on the left, the kingdom of this world. We are by nature sinners and do the will of our sovereign lord sin. Jesus said, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34). No matter what we do we cannot escape our master except by the way of death. But as death is infinite and we are finite, we in our own persons would be swallowed up everlastingly in death if we go that way. But Jesus has provided the way out for us. Through His perfect obedience to the Law and His substitutionary suffering and death on the cross of Calvary for the sins of the whole world, He has opened a way of access through death into the field on the right, that is, the kingdom of grace. Through baptism, we are joined to Christ so that His death becomes our death and His life becomes our life. We are thereby transferred out of the old field and into the new field. We are no longer in Adam, but are in Christ. We are no longer in the kingdom of Satan, but are in the kingdom of God. We are no longer under the rule of sin, law, and death, but are under the rule of grace, righteousness, and life. Paul writes, “That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:21).

Luther writes, “When by this faith I am crucified and die to the Law, then the Law loses all its jurisdiction over me, as it lost it over Christ. Thus, just as Christ Himself was crucified to the Law, sin, death, and the devil, so that they have no further jurisdiction over Him, so through faith I, having been crucified with Christ in spirit, am crucified to the Law, sin, etc., so that they have no further jurisdiction over me but are now crucified and dead to me.” (LW, vol. 26, p. 165).

So the first benefit of our being “dead to sin” is that we have now entered the kingdom of God and walk in “the newness of life”. Just as sin was a very real power working in our natural man to make us do its will, so grace is an even greater power working in our new man conforming us to the very image of Christ. How can we “continue in sin” who have such a power now working in us? But there is a second great benefit of our being “dead to sin” that Paul now describes for us in verses 6 and 7. He writes, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.” The second reason why we cannot “continue in sin” is that we have been delivered from our sinful selves, our old man and our body of sin.

Now who is our “old man”? Jesus said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God… That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:3, 6). The “old man” is that natural man that is born of his mother’s womb, flesh born of flesh. It is all of who we are as in Adam. It includes not only our sinful body, but also our sinful mind, emotions, and will. It is the whole natural man. The “old man in Adam” stands in contrast to that second-born man, that “new man in Christ”, who is born not of flesh, but of the Spirit. This “new man” is holy and righteous, being born of a holy and righteous God. As the old man is ruled by sin, so the new man is ruled by grace.

Johan Gerhard, the great orthodox Lutheran theologian of the 17th century, gives a wonderful analogy of the old man and the new man. He points out that when Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday, He was displaying Himself as a king, but of a kingdom that was not of this world. In preparation of this event, Jesus sent his disciples to get a certain donkey “upon whom never a man had sat”. Matthew tells us that the disciples actually brought back two donkeys to Jesus, both a colt and his mother. Contrary to what we would expect, Jesus chose to ride on the little colt, towing the mother ass behind, rather than the other way around. Gerhard says that he did this to teach us about the “new man” and the “old man”. The “new man” is the little colt “upon whom never a man has sat”, but that the Lord Himself rules and directs according to His own power and will. The “old man” is the mother ass, whom we have to drag around with us in this life, but is no longer who we are. We are the colt, belonging to a new kingdom, and being ruled and directed by Christ our King. We are no longer the old ass, but must be tethered to her and experience something of her ornery and stubborn nature while we are yet in this world.

Paul says that our old man is crucified in order that “the body of sin might be destroyed”. The “body of sin” refers to our natural body as the domain in which sin still operates. Elsewhere, Paul calls it our “mortal body” (Rom. 6:12); “the body of this death” (Rom. 7:24), and “our vile body” (Phil. 3:21). The body is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it is not yet redeemed and currently belongs to the kingdom of this world, the field on the left. On the other hand, it is that which keeps us in this world, and allows us the opportunity to be lights in a dark place for the sake of others. Paul said, “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.” (Phil. 1:23-24). In our passage Paul writes that our body has been “destroyed”. The Greek word for “destroyed” is “katargeo”, meaning “to be made of no effect”; “to be rendered null”; “to be removed from influence”. The idea is that when our “old man” was crucified with Christ (via the waters of baptism), then the body with its sins were removed from their influence and effect upon who we are as “new men in Christ”. The “body of sin” belongs to the field on the left, while our life is now hid with Christ in God in the field on the right. And Paul now adds the reason why the body of sin can not touch us. He says, “For he that is dead is freed from sin” (v. 7). The perfect tense indicates that we have been freed and that we remain freed from sin and all of its power. Why would we ever want to “continue in sin”?

Paul now gives us the third benefit that we receive from knowing that we are “dead to sin”. Having entered into the resurrected life of Christ and having been completely freed from our former sinful selves, we are now able to walk accordingly. He writes, “Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 6:8-11). Paul says that if it is true that we are dead with Christ, then it shall necessarily follow that we do now live with Christ in an indivisible union. What is true of Him is true of us. Just as Christ has once and for all crossed the threshold of death and lives exclusively unto God, so we too are done forever with sin and death, and live with Christ in the kingdom of God. Sin and death have no more dominion over Christ, and thus no more dominion over us. “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Gal. 5:24). We are to “walk worthy of (literally, “in balance with”) the vocation wherewith ye are called” (Eph. 4:1). Paul says “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).

Luther writes, “[Paul says], ‘There is a double life: my own, which is natural and animate; and an alien life, that is of Christ in me. So far as my animate life is concerned, I am dead and am now living an alien life. I am not living as Paul now, for Paul is dead.’ ‘Who, then, is living?’ ‘The Christian.’ Paul, living in himself, is utterly dead through the Law but living in Christ, or rather with Christ living in him, he lives an alien life. Christ is speaking, acting, and performing all of his actions in him; these belong not to the Paul-life, but to the Christ-life… He does not deny that he lives in the flesh, for he is doing all the works of the animate man. Besides, he is also using physical things – food, clothing, etc. – which is surely living in the flesh. But he says that this is not his life, and that he does not live according to these things. He does indeed use physical things; but he does not live by them, as the world lives on the basis of the flesh and according to the flesh, because it neither knows nor hopes for any life besides this physical life… For this [alien] life is in the heart through faith. There the flesh is extinguished; and there Christ rules with His Holy Spirit, who now sees, hears, speaks, works, suffers, and does simply everything in him, even though the flesh is still reluctant. In short, this life is not the life of the flesh, although it is a life in the flesh; but it is the life of Christ, the Son of God, whom the Christian possesses by faith… [This] inner man, who owes nothing to the Law but is free from it, is a living, righteous, and holy person – not of himself or in his own substance but in Christ, because he believes in Him.” (LW, vol. 26, pp. 169 – 172, 164).

So how do we “walk in the Spirit”, that is, walk as new men in Christ in the newness of life? The first thing Paul says is to know and affirm who you really are as a child of God. He writes, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:11). The Greek word for “reckon” is “logitzomai”, meaning “consider”, “count” or “regard” something to be true. It is a word of faith, calling us to “consider it as so”, “count it as so”, because God has said it is so. The word “reckon” is a present imperative, meaning that we are to “continually reckon” that we are dead to the reign and rule of sin, and that we are indeed alive unto the reign and rule of God through our union with Jesus Christ our Lord which came about by means of holy baptism. This is actually the first imperative in the entire Epistle to the Romans. It is the first time Paul has told his readers that there is something that we ourselves are to do. And that thing we are to do is to believe the Word of God, reckon that what God has said about us is most certainly true.

It is well-known that before his conversion St. Augustine had lived a very worldly and sinful life, including living with a woman out of wedlock for a number of years. After his conversion Augustine repented of his sins, grew in his knowledge of the Word of God, and sought to bring forth true Christian fruit unto the glory of God. One day, however, he came across his former mistress on a busy street in Rome. When he turned and started to walk away quickly, she called after him, “Augustine, it’s me! it’s me!” Quickening his pace, he called back over his shoulder, “Yes, I know, but it’s no longer me!” Augustine had learned this truth of “reckoning himself to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord”. To the Galatians Paul writes, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” (Gal. 6:15, 16).

Knowing who we really are, in accordance with the Word of God, we are now to feed our new man in Christ and starve our old man in Adam. The food of the new man is the Word of God. Peter says, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:2). He says, “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). Paul adds, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Rom. 12:2). And just as we feed the new man so that he might increase, so we starve the old man so that he might decrease. Paul says, “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” (Rom. 13:14). The relationship of the old man to the new man is like an exceedingly dirty light bulb. The dirty bulb itself is like the old man. It is hopelessly bespeckled and besmirched with sin and is not able to be reformed. It is what it is. But when we are baptized, believing the Word of God for the remission of our sins, then this old bulb is as it were placed in the Gospel socket containing the power of the Word of God. By this power, our filament is lit and light begins to shine through the dirty bulb, even if ever so dimly. The lit filament is the new man, and as he feeds upon the power source (the Word of God) he begins to progressively increase in brightness. His nature ever remains the same. He is light by new birth, and continues to be light. But through feeding upon the Word of God, the new man is progressively manifested through the dirty bulb to the world. Paul writes, “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” (Phil. 2:15).

Finally, Paul implies that we are to keep our eyes upon Christ. Our true life is now “in Christ”. “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). If we have “put on Christ” (as a garment so to speak), then we are “in Him”. And since we are “in Christ”, we are to apprehend all things “through Him”. We do this via the Word of God, which as the Voice of the Shepherd, is indivisibly united with Christ. It is His Word, revealing Him as He really is. Thus, through occupation with the Word, having our minds renewed to a true knowledge, we thereby abide in Christ and he lives His life through us. Paul says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). This “faith in the Son of God” is ever directed to the Word of God, for “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).

We see a wonderful example of this in the account of Peter walking on the water in Matthew 14. You will remember that Jesus had sent His disciples before Him out into a boat on the Sea of Galilee while He went to a mountain and prayed. The wind was quite contrary and the disciples were being tossed with the waves in the midst of the sea. In the middle of the night Jesus came to them walking on the water. The disciples were greatly terrified, thinking that they were seeing a spirit. Jesus told them to be of good cheer for it was He. Peter said that if it was He, then to command him to come to Him on the water. Jesus commanded Peter to come, and at this Word Peter got out of the boat and actually walked on top of the water towards Jesus. So long as Peter kept his eyes upon Christ, believing His Word, he could do that which was contrary to and above and beyond nature. He could do what Christ Himself could do. But then the text tells us that Peter “saw the wind boisterous”, that is, he began to look at himself and the waves around him. And as soon as he did that, he became afraid (lost faith), and began to sink. Looking at the Word of God coming from the mouth of Christ, Peter did the works of Christ. Looking at himself and the world around him, he became as any other natural man. So we, too, must keep our eyes on Christ by occupying with and believing His Word, and Christ will live His life through us. “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Let us now summarize what we have learned in this important passage in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. We have seen that this passage deals with the doctrine of sanctification, written as a response to those who would charge the Gospel with providing an excuse to “continue in sin”. While this charge might seem reasonable to depraved human reason, it is not true to the revealed Word of God. Paul has shown that one who is a true Christian cannot continue in sin because he has become dead to sin. This death to sin occurred when we received holy baptism. It was in that event that God joined us to Christ and thus to His death on the Cross of Calvary. By means of this death we have passed out of the kingdom of sin into the kingdom of grace. As sin reigned over us as old men in Adam, so grace now reigns over us as new men in Christ. God’s grace is a very real power that will not allow us to “continue in sin”. Furthermore, we are no longer who we once were. Our old man has been crucified with Christ and we have been freed from sin in every respect. Just as Christ died to sin once and for all, so we too have finished our relationship to it. Just as death hath no more dominion over Christ, so it has no more dominion over us. And just as Christ now liveth forever unto God, so we too now live unto God. We cannot continue in sin because we are those who live unto God. The life we now live in the flesh we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us. We live by faith in Christ when we believe His Word, reckoning that what He has said is true is most certainly true. We are to believe what God has said about us, reckoning ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. As those who are alive in Christ, we are to feed the new man with the Word of God, and starve the old man, not making provision for its lusts. And we are to ever keep our eyes upon Christ as we apprehend all things through the trustworthy witness of His holy Word.

Now may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.

With labor day approaching, I began wondering where this holiday began in the first place. I've also been thinking about those who do not have a job, like myself, are feeling about an overwhelmingly dry jobs market. And, in summation, what does our employment status mean in relationship to our Christian faith. Oh, and did I ever tell you what a scatter brain I can be? (Sheesh!)

A Brief History of Labor Day:

Looking at this holiday, I began to wonder why America, a predominantly capitalistic nation, would celebrate a day solely dedicated to its labor force. It would seem more befitting for us to have a holiday honoring the small business owner, considering that they comprise 70% of the compacity within the entire U.S. labor market. (I'm just saying that without them there are no jobs available to 70% of U.S. workers, and maybe we should give them the honor as opposed to the American worker, yet, I digress.) So, it occurred to me that this may be rooted in socialism, and upon researching further, it appears my suspicions were warranted.

I will let a pro-socialist explain it in her own words:

Remember the socialist origins of Labor Day!

For those of you heading off to celebrate the three-day weekend — and for those of you just heading to the backyard barbecue grill –— here’s a little reminder of the origins of Labor Day and the labor movement that it represents.

Though the first U.S. Labor Day was celebrated in New York City in 1882, President Glover Cleveland instituted the first national commemoration as an act of penance.

In 1894, Pullman porters called a wildcat strike against the railroads to protest a pay cut — a strike which eventually involved about 250,000 workers in 27 states. (Among the leaders of the strike was Eugene V. Debs, an actual, card-carrying socialist.) Several workers were killed by soldiers, and Cleveland put reconciling with trades unions at the top of his agenda. He rushed through Congress a bill making Labor Day a national holiday.

So, as you’re enjoying your barbecue and cold beer, your baseball and your Labor Day sales, just remember that the labor movement brought you the eight-hour day, the five-day work week and institutionalized vacations. And remember the socialist whose actions helped bring about Labor Day!

The Job Market Outlook:

There is the "official" unemployment numbers released every month (which currently states we are at 9.7% unemployment), but what is released does not account for the individuals who's unemployment benefits have been exhausted, and also under the shadow of a poor jobs market, have given up the search for employment. This is what is called a "shadow stat", i.e. something purposely hidden. The real rate is estimated at 16.8%!

Now, I for one can anecdotally confirm that the state of employment "out there" is rough. It seems the only businesses hiring are in extremely specialized fields like medicine, etc., or, high turn-over jobs like telemarketing, etc. For many people in my situation right now, out of the two said job realms, I would only qualify for the high-turnover ones. So, to take one would definitely be a step down from what I was doing before. This trend is becoming legion, even among those employed who would be more than agreeable to a pay reduction than face a lay-off. The sole reason for this is because of the dire jobs market, and what other people they know, who happen to be unemployed, are telling them. Folks, it's scary out there!

(Just as an aside, there's an interesting article on Veith's blog regarding the vocation of the unemployed.)

Regarding Vocation in General:

I read an interesting article written by Mark Kolden on Gustaf Wingren's book Luther on Vocation. I haven't personally read it but it sounds like an interesting read.

Anyway, there are some real gems from Kolden's essay, I will list the best ones.

"Vocation belongs to our situation between baptism and the final resurrection—a situation in which there are two kingdoms (earth and heaven, in Luther’s terminology), two contending powers (God and the devil), two antagonistic components within the Christian person (the old self and the new self),and when Christians are involved in constant struggle. Vocation is our calling in our situation in life, through which we serve God’s creative work by being under the law. It is the place in which the person of faith chooses sides in the ongoing combat between God and Satan. The “old self” must bear vocation’s cross as long as life on earth lasts and the battle against the devil continues.After death there will be anew kingdom free from the cross, heaven will take the place of earth, and the “new self” will be raised from the dead. "In this summary “vocation” refers to more than mere dedicated service in one’s occupation. It refers above all to the whole theater of personal, communal, and historical relationships in which one lives. The eschatological situation of struggle and ambiguity, the sense of the need for the Christian’s sinful self to be put to death within and by the demands of daily life in vocation, the choice involved in life lived in the freedom of being called by Christ, and the way in which this view holds creation and redemption together if it is to make any sense at all—these themes give a most promising basis for understanding Luther’s position."


"On earth, the law (in its first use—guiding, compelling, leading us to good works, coercing, protecting, punishing) is a most excellent thing. It is the basis for a just and wholesome society. It is only where the law intrudes “in heaven” (that is, into our relationship with God in terms of our eschatological salvation) that Luther’s harsh criticisms of the law apply. Here it functions in a different way (in its second use—revealing our self-centeredness, our attempts to rely on our own works rather than on God’s free grace, our pride, and our rebellion against God). As long as the law remains “on earth” in our social relationships to our families, work, nation, etc., it is not only appropriate but necessary for the Christian and for all persons."


"Just as God’s redemptive act in becoming incarnate affirms that salvation is not an escape from creation but a restoration and fulfillment of it, so also the Christian life will not be an escape from creaturely life but a calling to it. The call to follow Christ leads not to any religious vocation removed from daily life, but instead it transforms the attitude and understanding one has of the situation in which one already is. Luther began his thinking in this regard with 1 Corinthians 7:20: 'Everyone should remain in the state in which he was called.'"


"If we read Luther with a naive literalness when he speaks of the Christian’s calling to family, work, and citizenship, then we might justify our modern irresponsible conformity. But in his day those were controversial words; they were the antithesis of the official Christian position, and they turned upside down many of the structures of society (cf. the destruction of much of the educational apparatus when the monasteries and cloisters were emptied). The need of the neighbor—and the neighbor as the one with the greatest need—was Luther’s criterion for making the calling a response to the God Who is doing new things, not a means of protection for oneself and one’s own group. That criterion could hardly be used to justify a way of life oriented merely toward surviving the coming lean years."


Here are some other edifying on-line articles about vocation:

Luther on Vocatio: Ordinary Life for Ordinary Saints - by: Steven A. Hein

The Doctrine of Vocation: How God Hides -by: Gene Edward Veith

Also, two prayers on this labor day, one for the employed and one for the unemployed:

For the Employed*

Heavenly Father, Thou art the Foreman and the Giver of our every duty. Teach us to go to our appointed tasks as working for Thee and not as mere men-pleasers. We ask Thee to let Thy Word have free course among all conditions of men that peace and good will may prevail in all places. May Thy grace create in us an undying faith in Thee, and make us willing, one an all, to render a greater service to Thee. Remove all discord and suspicion and dissension, all class conflict and hatred and race prejudice. Give us the necessary ability to render genuine service to Thee and our fellow men. Give us the grace to appreciate one another at work, and quicken our hearts with joy as we perform our daily tasks, mindful that we all are dependent upon one another in human society. Bless all efforts peaceably to allay strife. Destroy all selfishness, greed, and dishonesty. Give us the grace to respect the rights of others and give credit to whom credit is due. Above all remind us that here we build no enduring city, but are pilgrims and strangers in this world who must one day lay down our tools to appear before Thy judgment throne to give an account to Thee. May we then be found faithful stewards and live in Thy presence forevermore.


For the Unemployed*

Heavenly Father, I entreat Thine aid and encouragement in these days of unemployment. I beseech Thee to give me a fuller measure of faith in the promises of Thy Word. Grant that I may live trustingly one day at a time, knowing that thou wilt not fail me. Even the little which I receive I accept with grateful heart. Protect me from the dangers of enforced idleness, unnecessary worry, and sleepless nights. Restore to our community and land normal conditions that we all may find the necessary employment. Root out greed, selfishness, and all other social distress in human society. Grant success, earnestness, sobriety, and skill to those that are employed. Heavenly Father, Thou hast blessed man's labors, and even Thy Son dwelled in a workman's home an toiled in the carpenter shop and hallowed the simple duties of life. I pray Thee, satidfy the hungry with bread, and open Thy hands to give me my daily bread. In Jesus' name.


(*from, Lutheran Book of Prayer, Concordia Publishing House, 1951, 21st printing)