Luther & Walther: “The enmity of all heretics against the grace of God…”

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Two of the great ‘Thers of late Western Christendom…

All selections from C. F. W. Walther’s The Proper Distinction Between Law And Gospel, tr. W. H. T. Dau (St. Louis: Concordia, 1929).

According to the Holy Scriptures the Lord’s Supper is not an earthly feast, but a heavenly feast on earth, in which not only bread and wine, or only the body and blood of Christ are given us, but together with these forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation is given and sealed to us. For, distributing the bread which He had blessed, Christ said: “This is My body, which is given for you; this do in remembrance of Me.” By the words “for you” He invited the disciples to ponder the fact that they were now receiving and eating that body by the bitter death of which on the cross the entire world would be redeemed. He meant to remind them that they ought to break forth with joy and gladness because the ransom that was to be paid for the sins of the whole world was, so to speak, put in their mouths. Offering the disciples the cup which He had blessed, Christ said: “This is the cup, the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you.” Why did He add the words “shed for you”? He meant to say: “When receiving the blood of redemption in this Holy Supper, you receive at the same time what has been acquired on the cross by means of this sacrifice.” (152)

 

 

Observe, then, the depreciative, contemptuous, and scorning ring in the words of the Reformed when they speak of the sacred means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments, and the grand majestic ring in the words of the Lord and the apostles when they speak of these matters. Now, who is right, Christ or the Reformed, the holy apostles or the ministers of the Reformed Church? I should feel ashamed to give the answer. You all know the answer.

 

The true reason for the Reformed view is this: They do not know how a person is to come into possession of the divine grace, the forgiveness of sin, righteousness in the sight of God, and eternal salvation. Spurning the way which God has appointed, they are pointing another way, in accordance with new devices which they have invented. We gained this conviction in the last evening lecture. May the Lord grant us His Holy Spirit to the end that tonight we may be strengthened and confirmed in our conviction and be blessed with a cheerful faith. (152-153)

 

 

Luther’s remark about the enmity of all heretics against the grace of God is an important axiomatic statement. Every heresy that has sprung up was caused by the heretic’s inability to believe that man becomes righteous in the sight of God, and is saved, by grace alone. That is the real rock of offense against which all heretics, all false teachers, dash their head. But there is no escape from this dilemma: either you believe this truth or see what will become of you. For since the great God came down from heaven, I may not treat this matter lightly.

 

But must I not add something to make God’s work complete? No; you are to fall prostrate before God as a poor sinner, like the leper in the Gospel, and praise and magnify the abounding grace of God. When you do this, you will perceive the fatuity of the fanatics’ insistence on having the Spirit. You will then receive the Spirit of God and become ardent in your love of God. You will perceive that this is not a mechanical way of getting into heaven, but the most spiritual way that can be pointed out. This Spirit is no delusion. Spirit and life spring from the Word of God.

 

Luther touches the main point of the controversy when he speaks of the bridge to Christ that has been demolished by the Anabaptists and the Sacramentarians. It is a useless tale when I am told about a precious treasure which I am to fetch and have for my getting if the way to the treasure is not shown me and the means for lifting it. Such talk will seem sheer twaddle. But that is exactly the fanatics’ way of talking about the great treasure that lies concealed in the Christian religion. When they are asked about the way by which to get to it, they cannot tell it. It is a true sentiment that is expressed in one of the Lutheran hymns: —

 

Thy Baptism, Supper, and Thy Word

My consolation are, O Lord,

For they contain my treasure

 

Whoever does not go to these places to lift the treasure will not fetch any gold. What he gets may look like gold, but it is mere tinsel. Would that I could press this truth deeply into your hearts and that the sound of my words would not simply sweep past your ears, but bring energy and life to you! Oh what witnesses you would become by refusing to deny the grace of God in Christ as the fanatics do! (163)

 

 

BrandenburgJoachimIIb
Elector Joachim II of Brandenburg becomes a Lutheran at Spandau.

True, the Lutheran Church speaks of the Sacraments in terms of such high esteem that fanatics become disgusted with it. The Lutheran Church holds to the word of the Lord: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” That is the reason why it condemns all false teachers which say that Baptism is merely a ceremony by which a person is received into the Church. According to Lutheran teaching, Baptism “works forgiveness of sins,” delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe, as the words and promises of God declare.” The Lutheran Church maintains that Baptism is “the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost”; that the water in Baptism, as Peter says, “saves us”; and that those “who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” As regards the Lord’s Supper, the Lutheran Church, resisting all attempts to mislead her into doubt, maintains the truth of the Lord’s words when He says: “This is My body, which is given for you”; “This is My blood, which is shed for you.” The Lutheran Church regards the holy Sacraments as the most sacred, gracious, and precious treasure on earth and is firmly convinced that God is not a miserable master of ceremonies, who decrees what rites we are to observe when receiving a person into our communion. Christianity is not a Masonic society. When God commands a sacramental act, He commands something upon which our salvation depends. (354-355)

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