The mass, election, free will! Oh my!
Such a fun project. Look at all the topics this Sunday's readings bring up in the Book of Concord.
Verse 1 is cited in an editor's footnote in the Smalcald Aticles, Section 3: Concerning Repentance (SC 3.30 n. 118) as the place to find information about the fiery angel that call us to repentnace. Not particularly helpul in my opinion.
Verse 3 is cited in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 24: The Mass (AP 24.34). Here Melanchthon is responding to a particular argument from the papists that cites Malachi 3:3 in an attempt to show that the the ceremony of the mass functions ex opere operato. As he wries, "the reception of the Lord's Supper itself can be a praise or thanksgiving. However, it does not justify ex opere eperato, nor should be be applied to others as if it merited the forgiveness of sins" (AP 24.33).
With this presupposition, Melachthon then notes that Malachi 3:3 is not about the offerings of the priests making the people righteous, but instead is about God purifying the people until their offerings are given in righteousness. Melanchthon spins this in an interesting way. "For the sacrifies of the sons of Levi (that is, those in the New Testament who teach) are the preaching of the gospel and the good fruits of such a preaching..." (AP 24.34, parenthetical note in original).
Verse 6 is noted twice in the Formual of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 11: Election (SD 11.32 and 11.42), always a fun topic for Lutherans. The first citation is used in conjunction with several other passages to make the argument in brief that God's work will be completed in those who remain faithful through God's grace.
This idea is more fully explained with the second citation by runing to the Parable of the Sower. It is noted that there are those who receive faith "with joy" but then "fall away," which is not God's will, but the will of the individual. So the work that God has begun in us will not be completed if we "willfully turn [ourselves] away again from God's holy command and grieve and embitter the Holy Spirit" (SD 11.42). God wants to complete the work begun in us, therefore God promises grace.
Verses 9 and 10 are also cited in the Formula of Concord, Solid Declaraion, but in Article 2: Free Will (SD 2.15), another fun Lutheran topic. The argument being made is that we need prayer, like the saints before us prayed and as Paul prays in these verses, for God's grace. The prayers of others in the Bible "have been recorded that we should, above all, thank God from the bottom of our herats that [God] has liberated us from the darkness of our ignorance and from the prison of sin and death through [the] Son and that [God] has given us new birth and enlightened us through baptism and the Holy Spirit" (SD 2.15).
Verses 3 and 5 are cited in an editor's footnote in the Smal Catechism, Baptismal Booklet, on taking baptism seriosuly and not letting "drunken and boorish priests [sic] baptize nor to select good-for-nothings as godparents." Certainly Luther emphasizing the importance of baptism and encouraging us to take the rite seriously, but in Luther's colorful langauge.
Verse 5 is more helpfully cited in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 4: Justification (AP 4.31), where Melanchthon argues that since the new birth of the Holy Spirit is what gives the saving faith, then reason cannot justify—even if righteous—because reason "does not keep the law" (AP 4.13).
With this being the first of two John the Baptist Sunday's this cycle, there is a challenge with not rushing to the "What then should we do?" that we'll get next week. Given these texts and citations, I'm pondering these questions:
- From what is God currently calling us to repent so that God's work in us might be completed?
- What are we expecting to save us that is not the God who knows us in Jesus?