Trinity B

There's a strong flesh-Spirit dichotomy this week. Probably worth leaning into it.

Romans 8:12-17

So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
-- Romans 8:12-13

Verses 12 thru 13 are quoted in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 4: Justification (AP 4.143) as one of two quotes from Romans 8 which show that faith frees us from the will of the flesh.

Verse 13 is cited twice in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 4: Good Works. First (SD 4.19),  this verse is cited near the conclusion of the discussion on the freedom of doing good works as a reminder that delighting in God's law and doing good works is a matter of faith enacted by the Spirit and not a matter of choice or freedom. Those who believe will do good works. A few paragraphs later (SD 4.32) this verse is quoted with several other passages as counterpoint to the idea that once a person is saved no desire of the flesh can condemn them. As verse 13 shows, the exact opposite is true.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
-- Romans 8:14-17

Verses 14 through 17 are cited through and editorial insert in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 11: Election (SD 11.73) showing that God moves through the Spirit to encourage the elect and bring them into a way of life that reflects God's faith because they are God's children.

Verse 14 is quoted in Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article 7: Holy Supper, Affirmative Thesis 5 (Ep 7.6) to show that good works are done in the Spirit, not under the Law, even though they follow the Law. Verse 14 is also quoted in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 2: Free Will (SD 2.63) to make much the same point, that "people do good only to the extent that and as long as they Holy Spirit impels them" (SD 2.63).

Verse 15 is cited in Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article 4: Good Works, Affirmative Thesis 7 (Ep 4.12) to explain the motivation for good works in those who have experienced the gospel, who act "not out of fear of punishment, like a slave, but out of the love of righteousness, as children" (Ep 4.12).

Verse 16 is cited through editorial insert in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 12: Repentance (AP 12.73) as Melanchthon quotes again from Bernard of Clairvaux (also from Sermon on the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary) to show the Lutheran understanding of forgiveness by God's mercy rather than by our own works. Verse 16 is also quoted in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 11: Election (SD 11.31) to show that the Spirit proclaims to the elect.

John 3:1-17

 Jesus answered [Nicodemus], “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”
-- John 3:3

Verse 3, along verse 5 below, is cited in a footnote to The Small Catechism, Baptismal Booklet (SC 9.8, n. 150) to help enforce the significance of choosing faithful and upright sponsors and a faithful and upright priest for your child's baptism. Those who don't take baptism seriously miss God's own honoring of baptism as the new birth, or being born again, or being born from above.

Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit."
-- John 3:5

Verse 5 is quoted in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 4: Justification (AP 4.31) as a reminder that not even reason can be so righteous as to make us acceptable to God. We must be reborn in our entirety, including our reason.

Verse 5 is also cited in a footnote to The Small Catechism, Baptismal Booklet (SC 9.8, n. 150). See verse 3 above.

[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

This goes one verse beyond the assigned reading for the week, nevertheless 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."


We don't often thing of reason, or our minds, or our souls as being part of our sinful flesh, but both Apology to the Augsburg Confession and Formula of Concord push us to remember that before a person is reborn of the Spirit, the entire person is sinful--body, mind, and spirit. Melanchthon and the Reformers push back against what they call an Epicurean thought that once a person is reborn, no sin of the flesh can then condemn a person. This thought, the Lutheran argument goes, show the flaw of unrepentant reason because this argument is not concerned with making as much of Jesus as God does but is only concerned with finding a way to give into the will of the flesh without feeling guilty. Only the unrepentant person fails to see the logic in this argument as the Lutheran Reformers point out and as the apostle Paul points out. God want to save all people, and not just part of each person but the wholeness of everyone--every body, every mind, every spirit--the entirety of all people.

Of course, this is Trinity Sunday, and the above thought seems to have little to do with the Trinity. Except, of course, that the desire to save all people is from God the Father, and the forgiveness of sin that keeps us from being saved is removed by God the Son, and that salvation is given to each person through the movement of God the Spirit. But sure, the failure of reason to save us has nothing to do with the Trinity. As you will.

Just try to limit the number of heretical statements and examples, please.

The problem with using analogies to explain the Holy Trinity is that you always end up confessing some ancient heresy. Let the patron saint of the Irish show you what I'm talking about.