A well-aged dialogue on Old Man/New Man

Prs. Webber, Cooper, Cwirla

Well-aged, inasmuch as this discussion happened on March 13, 2014. The OP, quoting H. E. Jacobs, was by Pastor Jordan Cooper.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have made the following changes:

  1. I have changed the names of some people who I suspect would not want their names publicized, though not because they said anything wrong or untoward.
  2. I have combined consecutive quotations by the same person, unless doing so would obscure something.
  3. I have deleted some irrelevant side conversations and peanut-gallery comments.

Sometimes the elapsing of a few years grants a helpful shift in vantage, as one is able to read things which were composed without the memetic baggage of the present moment. Is this one of those times? I don’t know. Make your own judgment.

If I have any thoughts on the following content, I will enter them in the comment-section here, rather than as edits to the post.

“Has faith, then, more than one office? It has two, one receptive and apprehensive, by which man takes to himself the righteousness of Christ, and the other operative, by which the justified man is active in works of love.”


— Henry Eyster Jacobs, A Summary of the Christian Faith, 237


This distinction common in the dogmaticians is basically the same as the distinction between the two kinds of righteousness. Faith, in relation to God, is receptive. In relationship to the neighbor, faith is operative.

David Jay Webber: Joseph Stump speaks in a similar way about “the twofold effect and activity of faith”: The Twofold Effect and Activity of Faith

William M. Cwirla: Recognizing, of course, that faith must do these works of love through the old man. “2KR” without the “Simul” will not land you in a Lutheran place.

Jordan Cooper: What exactly do you mean by the above statement, that faith must do these works through the old man? If you are saying that all of our works of love are tainted with sin due to the presence of the old man, then yes absolutely.

William M. Cwirla: The new (inner) man must always work through the old (outer) man. It’s similar to the genus apotelesmaticum in Christology. The divine nature of Christ always works in, with, and under the human nature. I say this because many Lutherans, neglecting the Simul (as taught in Solid Declaration article VI) fall into pietism or perfectionism when they try to run the 2KR model.

David Jay Webber: I don’t think I would express this in the way Bill does. The “old man” is a metaphorical expression to describe that corrupted aspect of our human existence that has its origin in each of us through our natural conception and birth, and that is irredeemably hostile to the true God and the revealed things of God (even though it also has and employs— for its own self-serving religious and ethical purposes— a natural knowledge of God and of God’s law). The “old man” always resists, and never cooperates in, anything that flows out from the “new man” of faith, regeneration, and divine righteousness. So, I don’t know if we could say that works of love that flow from faith are performed “through” the old man.

William M. Cwirla: I think the “old man” is much more than a metaphor. Abstractions will get you nowhere except the Reformed camp on this one.

David Jay Webber: The phrase “old man” is a metaphor for something that is also described in other ways. The “old man” imagery does not fully capture every aspect of what it is describing.

William M. Cwirla: Old Man = Outer Man = Flesh. Watch the Pauline dichotomies: old/new; outer/inner; flesh/spirit.

David Jay Webber: If “old man” and “new man” are pressed too far, we have a certain kind of dualism that is not proper. In my sin, I am the old man. In the righteousness of Christ, I am the new man.

William M. Cwirla: Dualism only happens when you try to separate them.

Jordan Cooper: What David Jay Webber is describing is the manner in which Lutheran orthodoxy speaks of the old and new man distinction in the simul. I am generally in agreement with the 17th century Lutheran scholastics on most topics, and I have a hard time seeing how the language of doing good works “through the old man” is reflective of their teaching.
March 13 at 1:36pm · Like

William M. Cwirla: The scholastics departed from 16th century confessional Lutheranism. This is our unfortunate legacy, I’m afraid.

Jordan Cooper: Other than on the doctrine of election, I’m not sure that they did.

William M. Cwirla: I know.

David Jay Webber: Bill, can you find a place in Luther or the Confessions where it is taught that works of love which flow from faith are performed “through” the old man, or “through” the wicked sinful flesh, or “through” the nature of death, etc., etc.?

Jordan Cooper: And since you referenced Stump, I want to thank you David Jay Webber for telling me about his work in the past. I have benefited greatly from reading his “The Christian Faith.” It’s one of my go-to resources now.

William M. Cwirla: I most certainly can. I’ll collect them for you. There are reasons that Lutheran Scholasticism lead to Pietism led to Rationalism. “Head” vs “Heart” is just the tip of the iceberg.

Jordan Cooper: Do you believe that real Lutheranism was lost then after the 16th century?

William M. Cwirla: Rom. 7:21 ¶ So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members.

“Do you believe that real Lutheranism was lost then after the 16th century?” – No. Just messed up.

William M. Cwirla: It’s why Elert, et al seem foreign to some modern Lutherans. Our tendency is to read the Confessions through the 17th century Scholastics. Bad move.

Scott Stiegemeyer: Not trying to insert myself in this spirited discussion, but this is a sincere question. If we say that faith does good works through the Old Man, would we likewise say that unbelief commits sin through the New Man?

William M. Cwirla: No reciprocity! Also not possible, since the old man is “outer” and “flesh.”

Reepicheep: “Our tendency is to read the Confessions through the 17th century Scholastics. Bad move.” Pr. Cwirla, wouldn’t we want to read the confessions in the light of late medieval scholasticism and Catholicism? Would you say that Melancthon’s response to scholasticism is a response to ALL forms of it?

David Jay Webber: Bill: That passage from Romans 7— including also the surrounding verses that you did not quote— affirms what I said. Paul is here writing from the perspective of who he is in Christ. In Christ, Paul’s main emphasis is that he is the new man, with godly desires, godly wishes, etc. He does not say that the new man within him delights in the law of God; he says that he delights in the law of God (according to the new nature). Elsewhere in this passage he speaks according to the old nature, when he says: “I am of the flesh, sold under sin.” He does not say that the old man within him is these things, but that he is these things (according to the old nature).

Is there anywhere in this chapter, or in the entire book of Romans, or in the entire New Testament, or in the whole Bible, where it is taught that the works of love that flow forth from faith are performed “through” the old man, or “through” the wicked sinful nature, or “through” the nature of death,” etc., etc.? The old man/sinful nature/nature of death is always God’s enemy. Only evil can flow from it, or through it. God does often turn that evil to good, but the evil that God in this way manipulates for his larger purposes is always evil in itself. I think it is better to say that the Christian performs good works according to his new man in Christ, or according to the new nature in Christ, or according to the nature of life in Christ. The Christian, as he experiences his own existence, and as he is experienced by others, is always a conglomeration of old and new, sinful and righteous. But when we define what a Christian is apart from how we experience him, on the basis of God’s Word, we define him according to who he is in Adam and who he is in Christ.

William M. Cwirla: Gal. 5:16 ¶ But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. “Pr. Cwirla, wouldn’t we want to read the confessions in the light of late medieval scholasticism and catholicism?”— Yes. In light of but not through the lens of.

David Jay Webber: A flaw in the theology of the age of Orthodoxy is that it is too much influenced by Aristotelian causation thinking. We see this not only in the dogmaticians’ teaching on election, but also in their teaching on the Sacramental Union in the Lord’s Supper, in their teaching on the “order of salvation,” and even in some aspects of their teaching on the objective/subjective aspects of forgiveness and justification. For example, when Hunnius and others say that faith is a cause of a sinner’s justification, you know that something unsavory is in the air, even with their qualifications and contextualizations. They have lost the clarity of Luther’s insight that forgiveness, life, and salvation are objective realities in Christ, and are delivered to us through the means of grace. With Aristotelian thinking, however, something does not yet fully exist until it has been put to its use, which is the final “cause” of its existence.

Paul’s point in Galatians 5:16 is that he who is a new man in Christ walks by the Spirit and not by the flesh. His point is not that the person should walk by his new man and not by his old man.

William M. Cwirla:

18] But since believers are not completely renewed in this world, but the old Adam clings to them even to the grave, there also remains in them the struggle between the spirit and the flesh. Therefore they delight indeed in God’s Law according to the inner man, but the law in their members struggles against the law in their mind; hence they are never without the Law, and nevertheless are not under, but in the Law, and live and walk in the Law of the Lord, and yet do nothing from constraint of the Law.


19] But as far as the old Adam is concerned, which still clings to them, he must be driven not only with the Law, but also with punishments; nevertheless he does everything against his will and under coercion, no less than the godless are driven and held in obedience by the threats of the Law, 1 Cor. 9, 27; Rom. 7, 18. 19. (SD VI)

William M. Cwirla:

24] For the old Adam, as an intractable, refractory ass, is still a part of them, which must be coerced to the obedience of Christ, not only by the teaching, admonition, force and threatening of the Law, but also oftentimes by the club of punishments and troubles, until the body of sin is entirely put off, and man is perfectly renewed in the resurrection, when he will need neither the preaching of the Law nor its threatenings and punishments, as also the Gospel any longer; these belong to this [mortal and] imperfect life. 25] But as they will behold God face to face, so they will, through the power of the indwelling Spirit of God, do the will of God [the heavenly Father] with unmingled joy, voluntarily, unconstrained, without any hindrance, with entire purity and perfection, and will rejoice in it eternally. (SD VI)

William M. Cwirla:

21] So, too, the doctrine of the Law, in and with [the exercise of] the good works of believers, is necessary for the reason that otherwise man can easily imagine that his work and life are entirely pure and perfect. But the Law of God prescribes to believers good works in this way, that it shows and indicates at the same time, as in a mirror, that in this life they are still imperfect and impure in us, so that we must say with the beloved Paul, 1 Cor. 4, 4: I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified. Thus Paul, when exhorting the regenerate to good works, presents to them expressly the Ten Commandments, Rom. 13, 9; and that his good works are imperfect and impure he recognizes from the Law, Rom. 7, 7ff ; and David declares Ps. 119, 32: Viam mandatorum tuorum cucurri, I will run the way of Thy commandments; but enter not into judgment with Thy servant, for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified, Ps. 143, 2. (SD VI)

For those playing the home game, if the works of the new man do not involved the old man, they would, in and of themselves be pure and perfect.

David Jay Webber: I don’t see how the teaching that the old Adam must always be driven with punishments and coerced, means that the old Adam is the instrument through which works of love, which flow from faith, are performed. It seems to me that the old Adam would always be a hindrance to such works of love, and not their instrument. My creaturely humanity is the instrument through which works of love are performed for my neighbor. But creaturely humanity cannot be equated with the old Adam. That is the error which FC I rejects.

So you see “simul” as two natures in parallel, a “nestorian” sort of anthropology? Actually I see your view as Nestorianizing.

William M. Cwirla: Did not say “creaturely humanity.” *note to the viewers* This is where the baloney starts to get sliced very thinly.

How so? You seem to say that the new man and old man operate in parallel, so that good works are done entirely by the new man and evil entirely by the old man. If we were talking the two natures of Christ, that would be Nestorian.

David Jay Webber: You seem to be saying that the old Adam, a.k.a. the nature of death, a.k.a. the sinful nature, is an instrument “through” which the works of love that flow out from faith are performed. That is what I have been arguing against.

William M. Cwirla: Mine is “sacramental,” more of an “in, with, and under” not unlike the two natures of Christ.

Reepicheep: Does Pr. Wolfmueller’s article on sanctification have any bearing? That we have two wills?

The Bible teaches that the Christian has two competing and opposing wills, the will of the flesh (or the Old Adam), and the spirit (the new man, see 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ezekiel 36:26). This two wills are fighting against each other, opposing one another, locked in an ongoing battle.

and again

According to our sinful flesh we are not able not to sin, but according to the new man we are not able to sin. Consider that! The flesh can do nothing good, nothing right, nothing holy. The spirit can do nothing wrong, nothing sinful. And these to opposite and opposing wills are constantly fight against one another in the Christian’s heart. No wonder this life is so much turmoil.

David Jay Webber: Insofar as my good works are actually good works – pleasing to God, and flowing forth from faith – the old nature is not involved. Insofar as my good works are not experienced as completely good works – either by me as I perform them, or by my neighbor who benefits from them – the old nature is involved in hindering them and polluting them.

William M. Cwirla: So [you] would equate the old Adam/sinful nature with the inner will of Adam competing with the inner will of Christ for control of the outer man? So what do the Confessions mean when they say that the old Adam must be coerced by the Law with threats and punishments?

David Jay Webber: As much as possible the old Adam needs to be kept out of the way of good works.

William M. Cwirla: So when a believer helps a little old lady across the road, that’s entirely a good work. And when an unbeliever does the same, that’s entirely sin.

David Jay Webber: As God sees it— and therefore as it really is— yes. This way of speaking, by the way, is one of the things that got Luther condemned as a heretic.

William M. Cwirla: So the “body of death” in which Paul is held captive is a metaphorical body of death?

David Jay Webber: ?

William M. Cwirla: Well, Paul pleads to be rescued from this “body of death,” which you say is not the outer man, even though Paul calls it “body.” How many bodies does a believer have?

“You seem to be saying that the old Adam, a.k.a. the nature of death”— It’s not “nature of death” in the Scriptures. It’s “body of death.”

David Jay Webber: I haven’t thought through all the various terms Paul uses to describe various things whether literal or metaphorical. And I don’t have time to do that right now. But I am waiting for a Confessional or Luther-esque statement that works of love, which flow forth from faith, are performed “through” the old man, a.k.a. the nature of death, a.k.a. the sinful nature.

William M. Cwirla: That’s τοῦ σώματος τοῦ θανάτου for those keeping score. Not “nature of death.” Body of death. SD VI makes no sense any other way, I would maintain.

David Jay Webber: I was thinking more of this: 1 John 3:14: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.” The ideas of “passing out of” death, and “abiding in” death, seem to be describing something more than literal death as such.

William M. Cwirla:

4] 3. For although they are regenerate and renewed in the spirit of their mind, yet in the present life this regeneration and renewal is not complete, but only begun, and believers are, by the spirit of their mind, in a constant struggle against the flesh, that is, against the corrupt nature and disposition which cleaves to us unto death. On account of this old Adam, which still inheres in the understanding, the will, and all the powers of man, it is needful that the Law of the Lord always shine before them, in order that they may not from human devotion institute wanton and self-elected cults [that they may frame nothing in a matter of religion from the desire of private devotion, and may not choose divine services not instituted by God’s Word]; likewise, that the old Adam also may not employ his own will, but may be subdued against his will, not only by the admonition and threatening of the Law, but also by punishments and blows, so that he may follow and surrender himself captive to the Spirit, 1 Cor. 9, 27; Rom. 6, 12, Gal. 6, 14; Ps. 119, 1ff ; Heb. 13, 21 (Heb. 12, 1). (Epitome VI)

David Jay Webber: And this: 2 Cor. 2:15-16b: “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”

Bill, you keep posting these quotations from the Confessions that prove my point— namely that the old Adam is a hindrance to good works. I want to see something that says that the old Adam is the instrument of good works, “through” which works of love that flow forth from faith are performed.

William M. Cwirla: They actually do not prove your point. “so that he may follow and surrender himself captive to the Spirit.” Again, the outer/inner of St. Paul: Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day. (2 Cor 4:16) “outer nature” is ὁ ἔξω ἡμῶν ἄνθρωπος. Dead on the outside; alive on the inside. Kind of opposite the Pharisees.

David Jay Webber: That sounds a little bit Apollinarian.

William M. Cwirla:

7] However, believers are not renewed in this life perfectly or completely, completive vel consummative [as the ancients say]; for although their sin is covered by the perfect obedience of Christ, so that it is not imputed to believers for condemnation, and also the mortification of the old Adam and the renewal in the spirit of their mind is begun through the Holy Ghost, nevertheless the old Adam clings to them still in their nature AND ALL ITS INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL POWERS. 8] Of this the apostle has written Rom. 7, 18ff.: I know that in me [that is, in my flesh] dwelleth no good thing. And again: For that which I do I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that I do; Likewise: I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin. Likewise, Gal. 5, 17: The flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. (SD VI)

“That sounds a little bit Apollinarian.”— Or Pauline.

David Jay Webber: Taking all the various metaphors used by the various apostles into account, what they are all getting at, in my view, is that my humanity as a whole is the old man, in and according to my sin; and that my humanity as a whole is the new man, in and according to the righteousness of Christ.

William M. Cwirla: What is this “body of death” that Paul needs to be rescued from? “Humanity” is a rather abstract way of speaking, wouldn’t you say?

David Jay Webber: Well, it’s not his bodily life as such, since his ultimate hope is the resurrection.

William M. Cwirla: true, but a “spiritual body” (1 Cor 15). Both continuity and discontinuity here. “We shall all be changed.” 2 Cor. 5:8 “We are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

Phil. 1:22 “If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”

David Jay Webber: “Likewise, Gal. 5, 17: The flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. ” I see this as a total negation of your idea that the flesh is an instrument of good works, through which works of love that flow forth from faith are performed.

William M. Cwirla: 1Cor. 15:50 “I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”

“so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”— I say it supports my view nicely. The good that we would do by the mind and spirit of Christ we do not do, at least fully, because we must work through the flesh which is inclined to do the opposite and must be coerced by the Law.

William M. Cwirla: I think I will rest for the day on this verse: 2Cor. 4:16 “¶ So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day.”

Please note that the word “nature” is not in the Greek text. It’s outer/inner man. Outer you see, inner you don’t. One engages the “inner” only by way of the “outer.” I think this is consistent with Paul’s terminology throughout, whether outer/inner, flesh/spirit, old/new, body/mind.

David Jay Webber: In my opinion, the quintessential Lutheran definition and description of good works, why they are done, and where they come from, is the Luther statement as quoted in FC SD IV:

Faith is a divine work in us which changes us and makes us to be born anew of God [John 1:12–13]. It kills the old ‘Adam’ and makes us altogether different people, in heart and spirit and mind and all powers; and it brings with it the Holy Spirit. O, it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith. It is impossible for it not to be doing good works incessantly. It does not ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it has already done them, and is constantly doing them. Whoever does not do such works, however, is an unbeliever, who gropes and looks around for faith and good works, but knows neither what faith is nor what good works are. Yet such a person talks and talks, with many words, about faith and good works. Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that the believer would stake life itself on it a thousand times. This knowledge of and confidence in God’s grace makes people glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and with all creatures. And this is the work which the Holy Spirit performs in faith. Because of it, without compulsion, a person is ready and glad to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everything, out of love and praise to God, who has shown this grace. Thus, it is impossible to separate works from faith, quite as impossible as to separate heat and light from fire.

I just don’t see here any room for the idea that an intrinsic part of the definition of good works, is that they are performed through the old Adam, or through the sinful flesh, which must constantly be coerced and punished into allowing itself to be the instrument of them, and so forth. When we are talking about good works, the only time the old Adam would be mentioned would be in terms of its being a hindrance to them, and as that which must be killed and suppressed so that faith— and the works that flow from faith— can have their way to our neighbor.

William M. Cwirla: That would be fine had Article VI never been written. And just as in Christology, we may speak of one nature or the other in abstracto, we cannot when dealing with the action of Christ, separate these in concreto. Likewise the believer as “simul.” That the believer is a saint is hidden, it must be revealed by the Word and believed. That the believer is a sinner is apparent to all.

I think we’ve hit a suitable end point for this discussion. Anything beyond that would give opportunity to the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh. I’m content to close on this passage from the Solid Declaration, article VI (emphasis mine):

7] However, believers are not renewed in this life perfectly or completely, completive vel consummative [as the ancients say]; for although their sin is covered by the perfect obedience of Christ, so that it is not imputed to believers for condemnation, and also the mortification of the old Adam and the renewal in the SPIRIT OF THER MIND is begun through the Holy Ghost, nevertheless the old Adam clings to them still IN THEIR NATURE AND ALL ITS INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL POWERS. 8] Of this the apostle has written Rom. 7, 18ff.: I know that in me [that is, in my flesh] dwelleth no good thing. And again: For that which I do I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that I do; Likewise: I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin. Likewise, Gal. 5, 17: The flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

I will leave it to the reader to decide whether the Simul is best viewed as saint and sinner side by side or saint hidden in, with, and under sinner.

David Jay Webber: “saint and sinner side by side”… which is not something I ever said. Rather, my point is that according to our sin, we are— in our whole humanity— the old man; and that according to the righteousness of Christ, we are— in our whole humanity— the new man. There is a certain parallelism in how this is experienced in this world, but actually these are two fully overlapping and concurrent realities, not two parallel and side-by-side realities.

William M. Cwirla: I stand corrected. My apologies. Whole humanity and overlapping, concurrent realities it is. “these are two fully overlapping and concurrent realities”— So everything we do with our whole humanity is at once sinful and righteous?

John C. Drosendahl: It seems relatively simple to me. My hands are made of flesh. Christ Who dwells within me does good things, occasionally, using my hands. So it’s *me*, old Adam/flesh and new man/spirit in action together. So I repent daily of the fleshliness of my good works.

Wendy Heimling: I’d like to ask a question since I don’t know a lot about the differences here, but have read some people say the new man is Christ. The new man is Christ? Or the new man is me with Christ working through that new man?

William M. Cwirla: Oh, there’s always room for Luther’s 1535 Galatians Commentary, isn’t there? On Galatians 2:20, Luther writes:

From all this it is evident whence this alien and spiritual life comes. The unspiritual man does not perceive this, because he does not know what sort of life this is. He ‘hears the sound of the wind, but he does not know whence it comes or whither it gods’ (Jn 3:5). He hears the voice of the spiritual man; he recognizes his face, his habits, and his gestures. But whence these words come, which are not sacrilegious or blasphemous now, but holy and divine, and whence these motives and actions come – this he does not see. For this life is in the heart through faith. There the flesh is extinguished; and there Christ rules with His Holy Spirit, who now sees, hears, speaks, works, suffers, and does simply everything in him, even though the flesh is still reluctant. In short, this life is not the life of the flesh although it is a life in the flesh; but it is the life of Christ, the Son of God, whom the Christian possesses by faith. (LW 26:172)

Again Luther:

I cannot teach, preach, write, pray, or give thanks except by these physical instruments, which are required for the performance of these activities. Nevertheless, these activities do not come from the flesh and do not originate there; they are given and revealed divinely from heaven….


Thus the Christian uses the world and all its creatures in such a way that there is no difference between him and an ungodly man. Their food and clothing are the same; their hearing, vision, and speaking are the same; their gestures, appearance, and shape are these same. Thus Paul also says about Christ: “being found in human form” (Phil 2:8). Nevertheless, there is the greatest possible difference. I do indeed live in the flesh, but I do not live on the basis of my own self. The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God. (LW 26:171)

William M. Cwirla “The new man is Christ?”— The “new man” is you as you are “in Christ.” It is also, in this life, Christ in you, as Paul says in Galatians 2:20. You are dead but alive to God in Christ. You no longer live but Christ lives in you.

Wendy Heimling: Okay let me see if I understand (really I don’t understand all this so dumb it down for me). Wendy is dead. So when good works are done, they are done by Christ? Or are they done by Wendy working with the Spirit?

William M. Cwirla: You’re dead. Your life is hidden in Christ.

Wendy Heimling: So if I’m dead, the new man is Christ doing the good works?

William M. Cwirla: Yup. It’s a bit like Edgar the Exterminator in Men in Black I. You have an alien and spiritual life at work in you, but your adamic flesh isn’t terribly cooperative. In fact, it’s downright resistant. So as far as you’re concerned, the deader the better.

Wendy Heimling: Okay, then a follow-up question… if it’s Christ doing the work only (I’m not at all involved):

1. Why are we told to do good works?

2. Why are we told things like when we see Him, He will say “well done good and faithful servant” and such?

3. Why are teachers told they will have a stricter judgment?


William M. Cwirla: “It is extremely beneficial to the faithful to be aware of the uncleanness of their flesh; for it will keep them from being puffed up by a vain and wicked notion about the righteousness of works.” (LW 26:85)

1, 2, 3 – all to coerce the adamic flesh to cooperate with the Christ program against the will of the flesh. We are told to do good works because the sinful flesh does not want to do them. Teachers are held to a stricter judgment because they must use their flesh to teach (as Luther said above), and the flesh, like a stubborn ass, only understands threats, punishments, and rewards). When Christ says “well done,” the faithful will be as incredulous as the sheep who asked, “When did we do these things?” It is sheer grace upon grace that Christ deigns to give us His works and praise us for them.

But I’ve Bogarted Jordan’s wall enough here. Forgive my verbosity. The Simul is kind of a passion of mine.

Wendy Heimling: I understand. I will think about the answer you gave. It doesn’t make sense to me.

William M. Cwirla: Read Hal Senkbeil’s book Sanctification: Christ in Action. Also Luther’s 1535 Galatians commentary. And of course, Article VI of the Formula of Concord, which is less about some third, non-Law use of the Law, as it is about the Christian being Simul.

Wendy Heimling: Pr. Cwirla, let’s take this passage with the way you have explained that it is Christ working totally, not me at all:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

Does Jesus mean there:

“This is my commandment, that you let me love people through you as I have loved you.”

Or like:

Since you are dead, Wendy, and can’t love anyone at all, I command you to love others, but you can’t, so I’ll do it for you.

William M. Cwirla: Contrast Jesus with Moses:

Moses: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus: Never mind yourself. Love one another as I have loved you. Your love is worthless. My love is everything.

The most beautiful thing about the Law is that it deposits you dead at the feet of Jesus.

Wendy Heimling: So His command for me to love others is not really a command to love others?

Caleb Otto: So when Moses said “love your neighbor as yourself,” that wasn’t what God really meant for him to say.

Kelly Klages: I thought Jesus repeated Moses’ words, too, when asked about the Law. What exactly is at stake, here, either way? It seems like a large percentage of the laypeople trying to follow the conversation simply aren’t able, but we’re hearing— or at least I am— that mistaking this point will completely ruin all Lutheran orthodoxy for you forever.

Trying to sum up some of what I’m hearing (please correct, as I’m bound to get things wrong…)

1. Since the new man needs no Law, the Law serves as coercion for the old man, through whom good works are done, though grudgingly. This is how the flesh is mortified and the old man put down. The old man is also dead, and the good that proceeds from the new man (same good works as the old man?) is not actually us doing it, but Christ in us. Because we still have our flesh (old man), all works Christ does through that flesh are necessarily tainted with sin; thus we repent of our good works because even the best things we do are still sinful.

2. Good works flow from the new man, not the old man. The Bible uses “new man” as a visual of us declared 100% righteous for the sake of Christ. According to the new man, we still view God’s Law to observe what His will is, and our works according to the new man are declared righteous because of Christ. The Law is also used to mortify the flesh and put down the old man, not by getting him to do good works as such but by convicting of sin.

What are the points of overlap or agreement? Are these actually two completely different paradigms? Where does the divergence come from? And again, what exactly is at stake either way?

Wendy Heimling: It’s all very confusing to me, Kelly. I don’t understand at all what Pr. Cwirla is saying. I usually “get it” after being told a few times, but I don’t understand this at all. Very confused

It looks like your #1 is following what is being said here.

William M. Cwirla: Kelly’s got it. Jesus amplified Moses. He turned the Law up to 11 to make pharisaical ears bleed. Notice the “new commandment” as opposed to the old. “Love your neighbor as yourself”-Moses. “Love one another as I have loved you”- Jesus. I commend the following works of Luther for your reading on this topic:

The Bondage of the Will (1525). (Try not to read this through a Reformed presuppositional lens.)

Galatians Commentary (1535) (Much better than the 1519 version or the Romans commentary of which Wesley was so enamored. Remember, this and Bondage were the only two works Luther himself wanted kept for posterity.)

“How a Christian Should Regard Moses” (1525) (If the above conversation shorts your little circuits, this work will blow your mind.)

And yes, these are different paradigms for the Simul. I would submit that one is abstract and categorical, in the way of Lutheran scholasticism while the other is organic and incarnational in the way of Luther and the Confessions. Both attempt to be faithful to Romans 7, etc., and honor the Scriptures as inspired, inerrant, infallible, etc.

I believe this is the fundamental reason why you see disagreements among Lutherans regarding the so-called “3rd use” of the Law and “sanctification.” It is also why some “confessional” Lutherans have difficulties with theologians like Elert as well as Nagel, Sasse, et al and label them wrongly as “antinomian.”

How one interprets these things depends, in a great measure, on what one’s assessment is of 17th century Lutheran scholasticism. The 19th century “confessional revival” sought to “go back to Luther and the Confessions,” but many, if not most, went back to the 17th century. This would include the LCMS’ C. F. W. Walther, who was very beholden to the late Lutheran Orthodox for his system of theology. Those of us who were trained in the Elert/Nagel/Sasse school tend to look upon the abstract categories of Lutheran scholasticism with a large degree of suspicion. Our preference is to reach behind this period of development in Lutheran theology and go back to the confessional sources themselves.

Jordan Cooper: In some ways that is probably a fair distinction. I became Lutheran through reading Pieper, Chemnitz, Gerhard, Hoenecke, etc. and that is the Lutheranism I identify with. The first time I read Elert I was extremely confused to be honest, because it was very different from the Lutheranism I knew through these classical sources. The same happened when I read Forde and Paulson. The Lutheranism you find in the mid twentieth century onward is very different from that which you will find before this period, and I personally don’t see that as a positive change. And to be honest, other than Piepkorn, I haven’t found many Lutheran theologians I really enjoy reading after the time of Pieper.

Wendy Heimling: One thing I liked about being Reformed is the theologians knew how to teach the people instead of using Greek and Hebrew to make points. They made it simple for us to understand. I’m thinking more of people like Sproul. Very smart guy, but a new believer can understand him. That’s what people like me need. I know very little Greek and my question isn’t getting answered to where I can understand it (the last question I had): “So His command for me to love others is not really a command to love others?”

Oh well. I emailed my pastor and asked him to dumb it down for me. He’s a good teacher.

Kelly Klages: I don’t think I’ve actually “got it” as in “understood it”… I’ve heard aspects of both their comments in various places and times and didn’t realize that they were (apparently) so contradictory. If this is REALLY the reason we see Lutherans slagging on each other over sanctification and 3rd use, I wish someone would draw us up a little chart so we can understand and compare/contrast once and for all. Including timelines.

I think there are a lot of us “armchair theologians” out there who have kinda casually read Walther, Sasse, Luther, Nagel, and a motley assortment of well-known authors without fully grasping that there was any significant contradiction. I’ve read and shared “How Christians Should Regard Moses” without blinking.

Christopher Porter: I know more than a couple of people with advanced degrees who do not find the tradition that soldifies in Elert as being compatible with classical Lutheranism, so it isn’t simply a question of a lack of education. Although, there are times when I think an advanced degree is required for thoroughly confusing an issue.

Andrew Francois: Pr. Cwirla, Jesus said ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ too, not just Moses. The idea that there are old commandments and new commandments seems at odds with Jesus saying he did not come to do away with the Law, and that not iota of it will fade away before the end of all things.

Another bewildering comment from Pr. Cwirla: about good works he says, “we must work through the flesh”. Except Scripture says God gives us a new heart to obey him (Ezekiel 36) and the Holy Spirit (Acts 1-2).

Ken Howes: The use of Greek or Hebrew to make teaching points can be very useful or quite useless. If a teacher or pastor is dealing with a word or expression that, in English translation, is unclear or ambiguous (the two are not the same), it may be that the Greek or Hebrew phrase which the English word or phrase translates has a clearer meaning that, with a little explanation, can be made clear to the hearers. It is a good thing that Lutheran pastors learn Biblical languages (I’ll admit, I have Greek but no Hebrew). That can be of enormous assistance in understanding the Scripture. I know that when I first started reading the NT in Greek, I discovered that it was like watching a picture become 3-D. It can also be useful, as I said above, to make something that is hard to understand more understandable. On the other hand, it is not useful if, as some pastors (I do not mean anyone in this discussion) do, one is simply throwing the languages around to appear erudite. Then the languages are nothing more than a wall between the pastor and the congregation, erected by the pastor to defend his position and deflect challenges to his exegesis.