Wednesday, February 07, 2007
This is a continued thought from a previous post....

For the proponents of Sanctification as "good works" motif, the 'ought' of the Law is incapable of motivating a believer to do anything, except cower in fear of a Holy and Perfect God. It most certainly does not imply the 'can'.

Sanctification as "good works" is learning what we are in Christ. It is most decidedly not about "not doing," but about accepting. (I confess, I was about to use the word "becoming" rather than "accepting," but I realized it would sound too much like Paul Tillich, and that can never be a good thing. Besides, it was the wrong word). I'm pretty sure it was Gerhard Forde who said that sanctification is "getting used to" justification. (Someone correct me if I am mistaken.)

Sanctification as "good works" looks outward, not inward. We don't spend time thinking about ourselves, we spend time thinking about how to help our neighbor -- our neighbor being our spouses, our children and the bald guy across the street who lets his dog poop on our yard.

How does the Law figure into this?

Does it ask the question, "What would Jesus do?" No. That is the ethicist's way of prodding sanctification. Does it put on a slightly meaner countenance and declare, "That's not what Jesus would do!" No, that's the moralist's way of prodding sanctification.

The ethicist and the moralist are just two sides of the same coin. Or, better stated perhaps, the moralist is the ethicist on a bad day.

The fact of the matter is, all that the Law can tell us is this: "You have offended a Just and Holy God, and will receive the penalty of death." The Law accuses, always: lex semper accusat. And, in fact, that is ALL that it does. That is all that it knows how to do, and all that it was designed to do. It is the standard against which we are judged.

But, then...what about good works? Where do they come from?

They come from being in Christ. With the life, death and resurrection of Christ, the New Covenant promised in Jeremiah has come (cf. Jer 31:31 ff & Heb 8). In the New Covenant, the Law was to be written on new hearts of flesh - rather than stone - which God would give us. These he gives us in our baptism. We who have been justified have the law written on our hearts. Our good works will flow freely from the faith God has granted us. As Luther said, "Faith] does [not] ask whether good works are to be done; but before the question is asked, it has wrought them, and is always engaged in doing them." (Intro. Ep. Rom., quoted in SD V)

The Biblical evidence of this is the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, when those who have been judged righteous ask, "But Lord, when did we....?" (Matt 25)

These works, as the Solid Declaration states, are necessary; and yet, as the Solid Declaration states, they are also not coerced:

But in this connection the following distinction must also be noted, namely, that the meaning must be: necessitas ordinis, mandati et voluntatis Christi ac debiti nostri, non autem necessitas coactionis (a necessity of Christ's ordinance, command, and will, and of our obligation, but not a necessity of coercion). That is: When this word necessary is employed, it should be understood not of coercion, but only of the ordinance of the immutable will of God, whose debtors we are... (SD V.12)

Good works are necessary, then, not in the sense that the Law coerces us to do them, but that in Christ, and in faith, we will do them. How could it be otherwise?

What causes this? Does the law have no place in producing good works?

Law -C and Law +C

Well that depends on which Law you're talking about. In Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, the Law has been fulfilled. All the demands have been met. Before it was merely an outline, a sketch. But in Christ, all the colors, depth and perspective are present. The Law itself has been transfigured. Now, instead of a black cloud hanging over us, it is a burning beacon, drawing us to it. We WANT it. We love it. (Psalm 119:97) We yearn for it, as a "doe longs for running streams." (Psalm 42:1) When Jesus came, when He died and rose again, the Law changed. (cf. Heb 7:12)

The problem, of course, is that we didn't. Yes, we have been declared to be righteous, but we are yet sinners. And with sinners still in this world, the Law-C still has a function. This is the "Second use of the Law." It works on unbelievers and believers the same. It condemns and terrifies. It drives us back to the Cross.

But the transfigured Law (Law +C) , this Law creates the very thing it asks for. (cf. Eph 2:10) It says, "Love!" and in the same moment creates the love; it says, "Follow," and provides energy to our feet. (I'm loosely quoting from David Scaer here, found on pg. 18 of this paper.) The transfigured Law does not command; it invites.

In our present condition, we just can't see it. We have to live by faith. The Law will ALWAYS bite, no matter what, because we are simul iustus et peccator. We will not grow in the love and knowledge of God by being prodded, or by diligently not doing the things we ought not do. Dilgently "not sinning" is rank Pharisaism. We don't go around picking weeds.

We do go around desiring to be what we are told we are. The Apostle says, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind..." (Rom 12:2)

"Do not be conformed": that's the 2nd use of the Law .

"be transformed": that's the transfigured Law speaking (although it, too, can be 2nd use, i.e., "but I know I'm not transformed!"). Like baptism in Acts 2:38, "be transformed" is a passive imperative. You accept it. You "get used to it."

In Him there is no darkness at all,
The Night and the Day are both alike,
The Lamb is the Light of the City of God,
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.

"Shine in my heart"... the same heart upon which you have written your Law.
posted by Kepler at 14:06 |


At 3/12/2007 04:55:00 PM, Blogger chris j pluger

Thanks. That was a great post.

So as not to appear "drive by," I will ask a relevant question...

do you know *where* Gerhard Forde made the statement you quoted? I love it and want to use it somewhere, but I don't want to say "Tarheel Lutheran said that Gerhard Forde said somewhere..."

But really, I'm commenting to say "great post." Wow.


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