Transfiguration C

All from one reading this week, and all one topic - the veil and the law. There are some fun ways to connect this with the transfiguration of Jesus.

2 Corinthians 3:13-4:2

Verses 13-16 are cited in Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article 5: Law and Gospel (Ep 5.8). The citation is in Affirmative Thesis 7 as an editorial insert. One line captures the sense of how the entire passage connects with the Lutheran argument:

the veil of Moses [2 Cor. 3:13-16] hangs in front of the eyes of all people as long as they only hear the preaching of the law and nothing of Christ, and thus they never learn to recognize the true nature of their sin from the law. Instead, they either become presumptuous hypocrites, like the Pharisees, or they despair, like Judas.
— Ep 5.8

This same section is also cited in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 5: Law and Gospel (SD 5.10) and gives the reason for the editorial citation in the Epitome—the verses are quoted here. The major point is that the law by itself results in either autolaborological fundamentalism or hopelessness. Only in Jesus can we see that the law cannot save us. Only in Jesus can we look upon the glory of God and thus reflect on the law in a way that drives us to Jesus.

Verse 13 by itself is cited a few places. First, in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 4: Justification (AP 4.21) as an editorial insert. Melanchthon is attacking the logic of the authors of the Confutation for their autolaborological fundamentalism. Later, still in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, in Article 12: Repentance (AP 12.78), this verse comes up as another editorial insert expanding on the AP 4 argument. "Even supposing that love and works are present, neither is able to be an atoning sacrifice for sin" (AP 12.78), which according to Melanchthon is the flaw in the argument of the Confutation.

Verse 15 by itself and verses 15-17 also come up in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 4: Justification (AP 4.133) all noting the same argument as above, that only the faith of Jesus can show us our sin and our inability to fulfill the law--and how this is good news!

Verse 18 is also cited in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, in Article 27: Monastic Vows (AP 27.27). The verse here is quoted to note the flaw in expecting matters not relating to salvation to bring us to perfection, a kind of morphological fundamentalism. "It is terrible to read and hear such Pharisaical and even Mohammedan expressions in the church, placing the perfection of the gospel and of the kingdom of Christ (which is eternal life) in these silly outward observances of vestments and similar trifles" (AP 27.27).


I feel that we need to keep coming back to this argument, and the church gathered in worship is the place to do it. So many voices try to convince us that we can do anything if we just do the right steps. The power of Jesus' faith shows us both the need for the law (order society and drive us to Jesus) and power of the gospel--that we cannot fulfill the law, which is why God came to us.

  • How do we proclaim the fullness of Jesus' faith in a culture of positive thinking?

  • How do we proclaim the fullness of Jesus' faith in a culture of despair?

  • What autolaborological and morphological fundamentalisms are drawing us away from Jesus' faith?