1934 Synod Convention Essay
Christianity, to the Lutheran, is faith in Christ. This dependence is to him intensely real. He accepts heartily the value of the deed, the helpfulness of human brotherhood, in their own sphere, in the relation of man to fellow man. But to him his religion is one persistent protest against the adulteration of the divine salvation with human salvation, with human values, against the weaving in of character, love, brotherhood, into the texture of the Christian faith.
The current religious consciousness of our land is different. American Protestantism, and need I add, American Catholicism, has a distaste for faith. Religion must be visibly effective here on earth. No longer does it “look to the hills” from whence the fathers sought help. “Let us make of this earth a heaven.” It is inclined to find salvation in the green lowlands of social brotherhood. Christ, they say, walked in these lowlands. The one really essential fact in the Church is made to be that it teach a brotherhood of fellow-sympathy. Not essential is it that the Church represent the brotherhood revealed in the Gospel, the brotherhood of faith.
This difference is as the difference between heaven and earth. Are we brethren because we are of one blood, or are we brethren because we are blood-bought and justified by faith in His blood? To a Lutheran every one is a neighbor (compare Luther’s explanation of the commandments), but he notes that Christ when asked “Who are my brethren?” stretched forth his hand toward his disciples (Matt. 12,48), the same disciples for whom He in His night of agony said: “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” (John 17,3.) We are saved by grace. Oh the blindness of any other thought!
“False dreams deluded minds did fill,
That God his Law did tender,
As if to Him we could at will,
The due obedience render.”
(From “To us Salvation now has come.” Speratus.)
Grace implies mercy or the feeling of compassion for one who has by every right forfeited his claim upon our love. Such is the grace of God to the sinner. In the very first article of the Formula of Concord the Lutheran acknowledges the need for grace, in that he acknowledges original sin. “Knowledge of sin is necessary. For the magnitude of the grace of Christ cannot be understood unless our diseases be recognized. The entire righteousness of man is mere hypocrisy before God.” (Triglotta II. 33.) Original sin, and therefore the necessity of grace, not the evolution of man’s natural powers unfolding to perfection, is the Lutheran’s belief.
This first article in the Formula of Concord goes to the root of humanity’s plight. It discusses the source of all evil in man, original sin. To discuss original sin is to put the knife into a boil. But he who denies the malady denies he is a human, for Adam was the moral as well as physical father of the human race. And he who denies that original sin has been imputed or charged to him must, to be consistent, deny the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. (Romans 5,18.19.) No, we are saved, not by the perfection of our life, but by grace.
But not by infused grace. There is grace and there is grace. There is grace as taught by the Catholic Church. The word “justification,” around which cluster all men’s hopes of salvation, is taken by the Roman Church in its strict meaning according to its composition in both Greek and Latin, as signifying “making righteous.” But nothing can be clearer to the careful student of the epistle to the Romans than that St. Paul uses this word in the sense which the Lutheran uses it, in the sense of “declaring righteous.” In Romans 3,19 the world is represented as standing before the Judgment Seat of God and seeking acquittal. They would urge their works: but, “by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight,” that is, they get no acquittal in that fashion. In the same chapter, verse 28, we read, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Now he cannot therefore be made just, in the Catholic sense, and therefore the only consistent sense of the word is that “justifying” means “declaring” and not “making,” righteous. It is exceedingly important that the conditions of a mortal’s justification, that is, of his forgiveness, be kept absolutely distinct in the mind from all admixture with the question of sanctification or inward holiness.
The difference between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church is found in the different doctrines of saving grace. Therefore is the Pope the Antichrist, because he causes miserable millions to go to eternal damnation trusting this delusion that they have any righteousness in themselves. All other differences are but symptoms of the major disease.
Nor are we saved by absolute grace, that is, grace is not built on God’s perfect power, but, as we shall see, grace is earned by Christ. The old fashioned Reformed confession writes the doctrine of God, our sovereign and Creator, large, and makes it the center and goal of our faith.
It is interesting to compare the different churches in their emphasis of doctrines. The Roman confession writes the doctrine of the Church large, and makes it the visible center on which all else revolves. The original Reformed Confession writes God large. Many of the older sects exalted the doctrine of the individual and his freedom, as the large and controlling element in their faith; and many of the newer Reformed write the doctrine of Society of the Kingdom of God as it is to develop in this world, as the large central thing in religion, and permits the introduction of all kinds of false estimates of man’s goodness.
“The Lutheran Confession is the one Confession that writes the doctrine of Christ large. Protestantism either sets every revelation and faith under the centralizing influence of Divine Law, ‘it must be so,’ or it groups every element of faith around the center of human freedom, ‘it can be so.’ But evangelical Lutheranism groups every element of revelation and faith around Christ, the sacrificial source of divine justification and the substance of human faith. Our faith does not center its gravity either in the distant divine, or in the helpless human; but in the concrete, yet perfect divine-human person of Christ.”
Yes, we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ the God-man. Oh, the joyous tidings! Our hearts should be hushed as with the stillness of Bethlehem as we meditate on the Gospel.
“The eternal Father’s only Son
Now takes a manger for His throne
The everlasting fount of good,
Assumes our mortal flesh and blood.
(From “O Jesus Christ, all praise to thee.” Luther.)
How blessed we are if we believe this doctrine, for, as Luther says, “In all the histories of entire Christendom I have found and experienced that all who had and held the chief article concerning Jesus Christ correctly remained safe and sound in the true Christian faith. For it has been decreed says Paul, Col. 2,9, that in Christ should dwell all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, or personally, so that he who does not find or receive God in Christ shall never have nor find Him anywhere outside of Christ, even though he ascend above heaven, descend below hell, or go beyond the earth.”
In all simplicity let us in the Scriptures behold Him. While our Lutheran fathers were forced, because of attacks on this blessed doctrine, to treat this teaching in a very lengthy way, it is not true as these same opponents would have it, that the doctrine as taught by our forefathers is beyond the simple Christian.
The simple fisherman Peter confessed that doctrine, namely in the words: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matt. 16,17. The truth that Jesus Christ is true God, the Scriptures throughout emphasize, as did Peter. In very essence He is God, for Jesus says: “I and my Father are one.” John 10,30. Divine attributes are ascribed to Him, that is, the qualities to be found alone in God are His. For example, He is eternal, (“Before Abraham was, I am.” John 8,58; yea, before the foundations of the world He was, for He speaks of the glory He had with the father before the world was, John 17,5.) He created the world, testifieth the Father in Hebrews 1,10: “The heavens are the works of thy hands”; He preserves all things, we read in Col. 1,17; He knows all things as the humbled son of Jonas witnessed, John 21,17: “Lord, thou knowest all things.” He is almighty, for he promises: “I give unto them eternal life,” John 10,28. He is therefore to be worshipped by all as their Lord and God: “All men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father.” John 5,23.
That Jesus was truly human is just as plainly taught by God’s word. It not only calls Him “man” (I Tim. 2.5) and the “Son of man,” but describes Him as an essentially human being. Just as He is said to be, according to his Divine nature, the only begotten of the Father (John 1,14), so is He said to be, according to his human nature, come of men: “Whose of the fathers (the Israelites) and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came.” (Romans 9,5.) He is called Abraham’s seed (Gal. 3,16), “the Branch of David” (Jer. 23,5), “the Son of Mary” (Luke 2,7); He is said to have a body (John 2,21), and a soul (Matt. 26,38), a human will (Luke 22,42). As the sum of all, Hebrews 2,14 reads: “Forasmuch than as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself lifewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.”
Further He is God and man in one person. This is highly important. Luther says: “The devil attacks Christ with three storm columns. One will not suffer Him to be God; the other will not suffer Him to be man; the third denies that He has merited salvation for us. And He could not have merited salvation were He not God and man in one person. And the Christian does not doubt this unity of the person, for he sees one and the same person called God and man: John 1,14: ‘And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.’”
Yes, in Christ are united in one person God and man, and on this wise that the human nature, which before was not part of him, was in the fullness of time and in a wonderful manner received into the person of the Son of God. This is called the personal union. This personal union we must study in the light of God’s word. For all error in regard to Christ’s person comes from refusal to accept the Scriptural Christ.
God is indeed united with all human beings (Jeremiah 23,24): “Do not I fill the heaven and earth? saith the Lord.” In other words, God is in a real and essential sense in all creatures. That, however, is not the union Scripture means when it says God and Man are in Christ united in one person.
God is also in a special sense united with the believer. John 14,23: “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” But this mystical union is not the union of God and Man as is found in the sublime. person of Christ. Because we say, “God fills all things” we dare not therefore say, “That tree is God.” And because God dwells in a Christian we do not therefore dare to say, “That Christian is God.” But so we can and must say about Christ: “This man is God” and, “this God is really and truly man.” Luke 1,31.32: “And the angel said unto Mary: — Thou shalt bring forth a Son — and He shall be called the Son of the Highest.”
He is verily God and He is verily man and that without the least confusion of His two natures. When the Scriptures say that in Christ’s human nature dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, they use as a picture the intimate connection of the body and soul in an ordinary person, as soul and body are joined in us, the soul permeating the body, so is the communion of natures in Christ, the divine nature permeates the human nature.
But while the God-nature permeates the human nature they are not in any sense commingled or confused. Both remain intact. The human nature is not absorbed by the divine nature, nor the divine by the human. I John 1,1–3; “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us:) That which we have,seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”
So while the two natures personally united in Christ are and remain essentially distinct, there is nevertheless in Christ a communion of natures, so that the divine nature is the nature of the Son of Man and human nature is the nature of the Son of God. And since that is true, each nature also communicates its attributes (quality or property) to the other in the personal union. Reduced to the needs of our faith this means that a Christian believes the witness of the Scripture when it says the Lord of Glory was crucified. “Had they known it,” (that is, the wisdom of God,) “they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.” (I Cor. 2,8.) The Christian further believes the words of Scripture when they say that Christ according to his human nature has been given almighty power, all knowledge, and so on. This passage for example: “All authority has been given unto me in heaven and on earth.” Matt. 28,18. As God, He had power in all eternity, now in time it was given Him to have almighty power according to His human nature. And though the Christian may not know the technical terms for these many views and aspects of the same Christ, he has no hesitancy in believing that when Jesus saved him it was both as God and Man.
How impractical are not the objections to this Scriptural doctrine, namely, that in Christ are God and Man in one person. Impractical in that it robs us of a saving Christ. Those who deny the divinity of Christ do it usually from a Pelagian interest, that is, they have not learned the great lesson to despair altogether of their efforts to save themselves. If in Christ God Himself has appeared to be our mighty deliverer from all evil, the delusion of self help in salvation vanishes as a ghost before the light.
And impractical, because self-thought-out and self-confident are also the objections to the true humanity of Christ. When the miserable mortal learns he needs a substitute, then he will not longer object to this blessed doctrine of the God-man.
The Unitarians, and “their relations,” maintain that Christ is only called God, that He is not in the real sense God. Then there are those who say He is indeed God but in a lesser degree than the Father. What is it that but polytheism, having not one God but many? No, Christian faith believes that in Christ not only a part but all the fulness of the Godhead dwells. This the Christian accepts in grateful adoration.
The Catholic Church, because it is Pelagian, strenuously objects to Scriptural teaching of the person of Christ. It does not deny He is God, nor does it deny He is Man. But Luther points out their denial when he says, “Surely all three parts must be believed, namely that He is God, also, that He is Man, and that He became such for us. We in the papacy have confessed that He is God and man, but that He is our Seviour, who died and arose for us, etc., this we have denied and persecuted with might and main.”
And in regard to the Reformed Churches. By denying that Christ is present in the Sacrament of the Altar they lay bare their objection also to the Scriptural teaching of the person of Christ. They say Christ cannot be present in the Sacrament, and they say it is impossible on the basis of an argument of reason, not on the basis of an article of faith. They say that the “finite is not capable of the infinite.” That is, Christ’s body, being human, cannot at the same time that it is at the right hand of God be present in the Sacrament. If they were consistent, this error would lead to an outright denial of the incarnation of Christ.
In our Confessions the true Lutheran Church has forever guarded against such uncontrolled inconsistencies. Our Confessions make it an article of faith, not a toy of the mind: “Next to the article of the Holy Trinity this is the greatest mystery in heaven and on earth, as St. Paul says: ‘Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh.” (1 Tim. 3,16.) (Trig. I.27.) “There is and remains in Christ only one divine omnipotence, power, majesty, and glory, which is peculiar to the divine nature alone; but it shines, manifests, and exercises itself fully, yet voluntarily, in, with, and through the assumed, exalted human nature in Christ. Just as in glowing iron there are not two kinds of power to shine and burn, but the power to shine and burn is a property of the fire; but since the fire is united with the iron, it manifests and exercises this power to shine and to burn in, with, and through the glowing iron, and from this union also the glowing iron has the power to shine and to burn without conversion of the essence and of the natural properties of the fire and iron.” (Trig. 1099.)
We go on. We further say we are saved by grace in Jesus Christ not as our example, but as our substitute. The word “substitute” is not found in our Bible. And there are countless numbers of people who refuse to find even the thought of a substitutionary Christ in the Bible. We must be blind if we do not find here the real cause for the terrible falling away in our day from true Christianity. If we were to ask Mr. Average American what he must do to come to heaven, he would answer: “Be good, keep the commandments, do good works.” If we question the correctness of the answer we are met with surprise. If not godliness, you would be asked, what then? Should we be godless, in order to come to heaven? The average man knows no other alternative. Most are of the opinion that he who does not want to be saved by good works must of necessity be a godless person.
This general opinion of even many so-called Christians should not surprise us, for the pure Gospel is rarely heard in our land. Where should people learn any other salvation than that by works? That man knows by his reason, in that the law is written in the hearts of man. The Gospel, on the other hand, is a doctrine that has been hidden from eternity. Man by nature knows nothing of it whatsoever. Numberless people know no more of the essential teaching of Holy Writ than the heathen in Africa. It is an altogether strange thing for most people to learn that the sum and substance of the Bible is not the law of Moses, but the word of Christ. “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” John 1,17. Not that the Commandment is not the truth, but it is not saving truth. The word of Christ is distinctly different from the law. It is the glad tidings of the free grace in Christ Jesus.
Most people come to Jesus in the same mind as Nicodemus yon night in Galilee, expecting Him to prescribe to them duties which fulfilled will merit the pleasure of the heavenly Father. Jesus is but a better Moses. Better because of more difficult commandments, and better because He by His example showed the possibility of their fulfillment. At the root of this damning delusion is spiritual blindness to the cancer of our sinful depravity. One can look upon Christ as our Example and inwardly the old nature in us can remain the old scoundrel. Christ can be painted before our eyes as the perfect example and it will avail us nothing if we refuse to see our soul-need, if we refuse to see that other picture, of our depravity of heart, if we refuse to see how far away from God we are, yes, the angels could preach Him in the language of heaven and we would still be blind to the glories of Christ.
The emptiness of the teaching that Jesus is but an example, is stated very well by Bishop J.C. Hench: “When longing for salvation has entered the heart, then one is on the way to behold Christ. For then he will get to see that it is just Christ the lost needs. He does not need a teacher, ah, he knows the good doctrines by heart. Them he can teach others, but it does little good to know the way now that he has learned to know himself as a cripple that cannot go the way. He needs no example either. Ah, how many examples have they not shown him. But he has not been able to reach their perfection any more than the school boy with a few strokes of his pencil can imitate a master painting. And even at that he has the suspicion that even these glowing examples, if he could get near them, would turn out to have hearts of the same material as his. No, he needs a real Saviour one that does his work and suffers his pains for him, one that has the almighty power to be able, and the love to want to give him the forgiveness for sin and strength to love, — one that gives him a good conscience, love’s power unto life, a new heart.”
A substitute, not merely an example, is what we in the Scripture find Jesus to be. This doctrine of the Work of Christ is alone in comforting the sinner that has learned the truth of God’s Word as to his true condition. For not only was the guilt of Adam imputed to his descendants (Rom. 5,18) “By the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation;” but his children and children’s children have inherited from their first ancestor his corrupt nature. (Eph. 2,3.) “We were by nature the children of wrath;” being flesh born of flesh, wholly depraved, (Job 14,4): “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?” We are by nature totally blind of understanding in spiritual things, (Eph. 4,18): “Have their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” We were of perverse appetite (Gen. 6,5): “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Our will was opposed to the will of God and only prone to evil (Rom. 8,7): “The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” All our faculties were enslaved in the service of sin (Rom. 7, 14): “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal: sold under sin.” We are without any ability in any measure to work our own spiritual restitution (2 Cor. 3,5): “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.”
Yes, rich indeed is the doctrine of Christ’s fulfilling the holy law of God as our substitute. Not only when He suffered on the cross and died there, did He substitute for us, but from His conception, His birth, His circumcision, His obedience as a child and youth, and on to the holy hill of Ascension. Jesus went through all the stages of human life that He might cleanse our unclean conception and birth at the very source of impurity. Luther speaks especially well about this: “This is the right foundation for our salvation which joins Christ and the believing heart, so that they have all in common what they before had individually. What then did they have? Christ had a pure and innocent and holy birth; man had an impure and sinful birth, as David says in Psalm 51,7. Only the birth of Jesus can help our condition. And Christ took to Himself, from us, our birth and submerges our birth in His birth so that we become clean and new in His birth. As if His birth were our own. So now every Christian may rejoice in the birth of Christ as if he also were born of the virgin Mary. He that doubts this is no Christian.”
The idea that the Son of God would have become Man even if man had not sinned, is senseless philosophical specuation. The Scriptures mention no other purpose of the Son of God becoming Man than the saving of sinners. 1 Tim. 1,15: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
In saving mankind He not only suffered the punishment man merited, but fulfilled the law man should have kept. The duty as well as the guilt of all men were laid on Him. (Gal. 4,5: “To redeem them that were under the law.”) This fulfilling of duty as a part of Christ’s substitutionary atonement must not be shoved aside as unimportant. Some have even denied this part of Christ’s work, under the claim that Jesus, as every reasonable creature, was in duty bound to be obedient. But with singular sharpness and clarity does our Formula of Concord speak of Christ’s active obedience as an integral part of His substitutionary work: “Because Christ is not only Man, but God and Man in one inseparable person, He was in no manner subject to the law, — He is the Lord of the law — any more than He was obligated to suffer and die. Christ’s perfect Righteousness of life and conduct is not a mere example — it is that too, as we see in I Peter 2,21: “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.” Further, Jesus’ holiness of life is not merely a presupposition for His suffering. It was that too, in so far as only the death of a perfectly holy one has power to reconcile, (1 Peter 1,19): “Ye were redeemed — with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
But Christ’s Perfect righteousness of Life is an integral, an essential part of the work which Christ did to reconcile the world to God. This is very, very important in assuring the troubled soul. As Luther says: “He fulfilled the law altogether, for He loved God with all His heart and with all His soul m1d with all His mind, and His neighbor as Himself.” And then he continues, “Therefore when the law comes and accuses you that you have not kept it, then point to Christ and say, ‘There is the man, who has fulfilled it. I trust in Him, He has fulfilled it for me and has presented to me His fulfilling of that law; so then the law must shut up.’”
It does not therefore satisfy our conscience to be told that Jesus’ passive obedience, that is his suffering and death, was sufficient to still God’s demands upon us. Even according to human thought there is something lacking. The thief who suffers imprisonment for his offence, does not thereby fulfill the law. Much less is the suffering of punishment for transgressing God’s law a fulfilling of the law of God. Who dares say the damned in hell who suffer for the transgression of the law are thereby fulfilling the law?
And foolish as the last objection is found when tested by the needs of the soul, is the objection that the substitutionary fulfilling of the law destroys morals, that no one will earnestly strive to fulfill the law when it is published that Jesus has already fulfilled it. The objection reveals a complete ignorance as to what Christianity is. Rom. 6,1.2: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid! How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”
And now let us consider how Jesus is our substitute in having suffered the dread punishment of the offended God. “Thou shalt surely die,” God warned Adam. And the sacrifices of the Old Testament are all prophetic of the substitutionary atonement of the Seed of the Woman. When the Israelites brought a sin offering, the blood of the victim indeed did not have power to remove wrong-doings and remove God’s anger. Says our writer to the Hebrews: “For it is not possible that the blood of goats and of bulls should take away sins.” (10,4.) Still God forgave the sinners when that offering was made. That seems contradictory, but it is not. That sin offering in the Old Testament, useless, ineffective in itself, a shadow, prefigured the great sin offering which can remove all guilt and make payment for all debts; and hence God forgave when the sin offerings of the Old Testament were brought. To use an illustration of Professor Arndt: “The sacrifices of the Old Testament were not silver and gold, but merely paper money, currency. In themselves they were as worthless as the paper money in circulation with us. But just as our bank and treasury notes point to a deposit of a real value, so they. When we bear this in mind, then the Old Testament ritual will become full of meaning.”
How intensely real was not His offering! In Psalms 69,2–4 the Spirit of God contemplates the future agony: “I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep water, where the floods overflow me. I am weary of crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God. They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty: then I restored that which I took not away.” (Meaning, He, the Messiah, fulfilled God’s demands upon us.) By this intense suffering He made atonement for our disobedience. Is. 53,4: “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.” And also to restore to us eternal bliss. Gal. 4,5: “To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”
It was verily the God-man that died, for Luke, in Acts 20,28, writes of the “church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” His death was, further, not an end of a natural life, in the course of nature, for Christ says, “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself.” John 10,18. No, it was a violent death, Is. 53,8. “He was cut out of the land of the living.” But it was a voluntary death: “The Son of man came — to give his life a ransom for many.” Matt. 20,28.
“It is this vicarious satisfaction we need to give us a good conscience toward God. Our conscience can never be quieted by any teaching of works or by trust in our own morality. The verdict of condemnation within us can never be removed, except by a new divine verdict, to wit, God Himself for Christ’s sake absolves us from all sin. Man’s guilty feeling will never leave, before it has been soothed by faith in the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son. Men boast of daring to come with confidence directly to the Father, not having Jesus as an advocate, nor His blood as an offering. Never! Never! If man is to enjoy peace of soul, the Holy Spirit must write in our hearts the word ‘forgiven’ and erase the awful word ‘condemned.’ And the Holy Spirit was sent for that purpose. John 16,14: ‘He shall glorify me;’ and He glorifies Him as the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. What robbers the preachers of work righteousness are! Luther is not too harsh when he compares them to ‘doleful night owls,’ awakening fear, not allowing us to rest in the merits of Christ.”
Christ’s pure life and innocent death are then the sure foundation of our justification, as they indeed were declared to be by the Father when He raised Him from the dead; and not only of our justification also of our reaching heaven are they the sure pledge. We by faith also have, with Him, ascended to heaven. How highly exalted we are, by faith, we are told in Eph. 2,4–7: ”But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quiekened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” Already in heaven! Though our eyes are holden, our spirits have a foretaste of that which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, namely, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
Yes, here is strength for the pilgrimage, here is theme for our song:
“My merry heart is springing,
And knows not how to pine;
’Tis full of joy and singing,
And radiancy divine;
The sun whose smiles so cheer me
Is Jesus Christ Alone,
To have Him always near me
Is heaven itself begun.”
(From “If God Himself be for me.” Gerhardt.)
We cannot escape some reflections on this blessed doctrine of Jesus Christ as our substitute. First, perhaps, as individuals. This Doctrine concerns the question of Life. That we do not make it a secondary matter: “It is an old device of Satan that when he is beaten by the truth he diverts people’s attention to secondary matters, so preventing them from attending to the main thing.”
When we behold the glory of Christ our Saviour, do we not see more clearly God’s will for us to beware of unionism? Romans 16.17: “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them.” Warm faith, not cold reasoning, will save us from the sin of unionism, as we learn of David: “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.” Psalm 27,4.
To us as a Synod:
I) That our pastors may continue to delight in preaching Christ.
II) Our giving of money to the church must be moved by the knowledge that Christ gave Himself for us. “Ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” To the very tips of the fingers that place offerings on God’s altar, our beings should tingle with love for Christ and His Kingdom.