Lent 4 B

All the free will! Which by and large breaks down to the idea that outside of Christ, we are not free, but bound to sin. Another long post this week, but I think I've now found my favorite quote from Melanchthon...

Ephesians 2:1-10

You were dead through the trespasses and sins...
-- Ephesians 2:1

Verse 1 is cited along with verse 5 below as two instances of the Pauline connection between sin and death even though the person is alive as a way of showing that without the Holy Spirit human reason cannot grasp the gospel.

... in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient.
-- Ephesians 2:2

Verse 2 is cited three times. First, verse 2 is quoted in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Articles 7 and 8: The Church (AP 7&8.16) in Melanchthon's early discussion of the Church invisible or the true Church, which is the kingdom of Christ but will not be fully revealed until he returns. This matters because making a distinction between the invisible Church and the visible church recognizes that instances of Christian community in this work will include those who are not part of the invisible Church but are really part of the kingdom of the devil. The point here is that someone claims to be Christian or a member of the church does not mean that when Jesus returns they will be found in the kingdom of Christ.

Verse 2 is next cited a little late through editorial insertion into Article 18: Free Will (AP 18.5) as Melanchthon is arguing that it is at least conceivable that someone might fulfill the second table of the Commandments, which deal with how we are to live with each other, but such "civil righteousness" is rare because outside of God's grace in the Holy Spirit the devil is at work keeping people from following all the Commandments.

Verse 2 is also cited in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 2: Free Will (SD 2.7) as evidence of the devil's work in those who are not reborn. Why does this matter? Because when talking about free will, this is the crux of the issue. The first and last sentences of this paragraph sum it up well.

That in spiritual and divine matters, the mind, heart, and will of the unreborn human being can in absolutely no way, on the basis of its own natural powers, understand, believe, accept, consider, will, begin, accomplish, do, effect, or cooperate... Therefore, according to its own perverted character and nature, the natural free will has only the power and ability to do whatever is displeasing and hostile to God.
-- Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 2: Free Will (SD 2.7)
All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.
-- Ephesians 2:3

The "children of wrath" line in verse 3 is quoted in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 1: Original Sin (SD 1.6) to drive home the point that outside of Christ, none of us are or can be acceptable or righteous in God's sight.

... even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved...
-- Ephesians 2:5

Verse 5 is cites four times. First it is quoted in Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article 2: Free Will, Affirmative Thesis 2 (Ep 2.3) as a reminder that only God in Christ makes us spiritually alive. Anything that comes from only the human will works against God.

As noted above with verse 1, verse 5 is also cited in Solid Declaration, Article 2: Free Will (SD 2.10) to make the point that with God, no human can come to faith through the gospel.

A little later in the same article (SD 2.61), verse 5 is again cited to show that with God we cannot do anything good in divine matters because we are dead in sin.

Verse 5 is, lastly, quoted in Solid Declaration, Article 3: Righteousness (SD 3.20) for the last half of the verse. The power and effect made possible through hearing the good news proclaimed and experiencing the movement of the Holy Spirit is so dramatic that it is the difference between life and death. The rebirth we experience through faith is us being made alive.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast.
-- Ephesians 2:8-9

Verses 8 and 9 are cited throughout the Book of Concord. First off, these verses are quoted in The Augsburg Confession, Article 20: Faith (AC 20.11) to make clear early on that works do not save us, only faith can.

Melanchthon quotes these verses in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 4: Justification (AP 4.73) in defense of the word "alone" when we talk about justification coming through faith alone. He then quotes just verse 8 a bit later (AP 4.87) as he strives to clarify Paul's thought as it comes out through the reformers' thoughts that being declared righteous by God is not the same thing as actually being righteous. Salvation by grace through faith shows that our works cannot ever save us, so our own righteousness before God is never possible. This is why God has to declare us righteous. Melanchthon makes this point again a little later when is quotes both verses once more (AP 4.93).

These verses return in a quote in Article 15: Human Traditions in the Church (AP 15.6) as an argument against the idea that people earn God's forgiveness by fulfilling rites and rituals developed and proscribed by humans. The simple argument is that if there was a thing we could do to earn God's forgiveness, then Jesus would never have needed to die.

These verses next come up in Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article 4: Good Works as a quote in Affirmative Thesis 2 (Ep 4.7) making clear that good works, which flow out of faith, are in no way salvific.

The end of verse 8 is quoted in Solid Declaration, Article 2: Free Will (SD 2.26) along with part of verse 10 below to show that in spiritual matters, human will and reason cannot lead to conversion, but only the faith given by the Holy Spirit as a gift from God.

Finally, these verse are cited in Solid Declaration, Article 3: Righteousness (SD 3.7) along with a string of other references from Paul's letters to show that human works cannot lead to righteousness before God.

For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
-- Ephesians 2:10

Verse 10 is also cited some several times. First, it is quoted by Melanchthon in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 4: Justification (AP 4.189) to show that good works the intended byproduct of faith.

The same point is made when verse 10 is quoted along with verse 8 above in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 2: Free Will (SD 2.26)--good works flow out of faith because we are reborn in Christ to do them. A little later in the same article (SD 2.39) this verse is quoted again to point out that good works do not come from our will but from faith. For by faith we are given the chance to practice good works and find joy in them, but we cannot decide or will to do them.

This point is reinforced and clarified later in Article 4: Good Works where this verse is cited (SD 4.7) to make this argument:

...it is God's will, order, and command that believers shall walk in good works; that true good works are not those which people invent for themselves or that take their form according to human tradition but rather are those that God himself has prescribed and commanded in his Word; that true good works are not performed out of our own natural powers, but they are preformed when a person is reconciled with God through faith and renewed through the Holy Spirit...
-- Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 4: Good Works (SD 4.7)

The last citation of verse 10 is a partial quote in Article 6: Third Use of the Law (SD 6.12). This part of the article doesn't deal with the third use of the law so much as describing the life of those reborn in Christ when they do not do the good works they were reborn to do. Verse 10 is thus the starting point for clarifying that Christians will experience the reproof of the law through the Holy Spirit who will also comfort them with the gospel so that we might continue to die to our sin and rise up into Christ.

John 3:14-21

[Jesus said,] "And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life."
-- John 3:14-16

Verses 14 thru 16 along with verses 17 and 18 below are quoted in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 4: Justification (AP 4.95) in a section where Melanchthon is just quoting sections of scripture to make the point that the Bible itself presents the idea of justification by grace through faith.

Verse 16 is cited by itself in several places in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration. The first instance is a quote in Article 2: Free Will (SD 2.49) that serves as scriptural proof that "It is not God's will that any are damned but that all turn to him and be saved."

Verse 16 is then partly quoted in Article 7: Holy Supper (SD 7.70) as part of a thought about who is worthy to receive communion. This verse is used to show that what makes you worthy to receive is faith with no emphasis on the quality thereof.

The beginning of this verse is quoted twice in Article 11: Election: the first time (SD 11.28) as a reminder the promise of the gospel is for all people; and the second time (SD 11.67) as a reminder that salvation through Christ is God's will and enacted love.

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God."
-- John 3:17-18

Verses 17 and 18 are quoted twice in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 4: Justification. The first quote (AP 4.96) is in the same section as verses 14 thru 16 above. The second quote (AP 4, octavo edition, somewhere around paragraph 333) to show that "mercy has the clear mandate of God. For the gospel itself is the mandate that commands us to believe that God wants to forgive and to save on account of Christ."

Verse 18 by itself is quoted in Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article 7: Holy Supper, Affirmative Thesis 8 (Ep 7.18) to clearly state that what makes a person unworthy to receive the sacrament of communion is unbelief. Please remember here the citation of verse 16 in the Solid Declaration on this same article. What matters is that one believes that in communion they are receiving Jesus. Not how much they believe this, how well they can articulate it, or how good they are at being Christian. The key issue is faith in the promise of God. If you don't believe that, why would you want to receive? (I can think of plenty of reasons, by the way, but if we focus on God's promise, that can give people permission to no receive and be comfortable in that decision.


Mercy has the clear mandate of God.
-- Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 4: Justification

Just let that sink in.

Preach that.

Live that.