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The Cross and the Sword

Rev. Edward Bryant

1985 Synod Convention Essay


Since the fall into sin, God, in His wisdom, has ordained two powers to help remedy the situation into which sin has placed the world. These are the power of the keys,1 or, if you will, the power of the cross; and the power of the sword.2

The office or power of the keys “is the peculiar church power which Christ has given to His church on earth to forgive the sins of penitent sinners, but to retain the sins of the impenitent as long as they do not repent.”3

The power of the sword is the rightful use of forces by those in authority to protect the just and to punish the unjust.4

In a perfect world, neither power would be necessary. In our fallen world both are necessary. And the same sinful nature that makes them necessary also brings them into conflict. At present, more than 2000 cases involving apparent conflict between the two powers are pending in courts. Many such cases quite directly involve us. In fact our sister synod went all the way to the Supreme Court within the last few years. One city in Washington was reproved by the courts for using its building codes to keep Christian schools out of the city. Several cases are pending which involve personal Christian expression on the campuses of state-owned schools. A judge in Michigan faces removal from office because his refusal to order an abortion for a pregnant thirteen year old was ethically based. Ethics have been equated with religion in some cases, as subscription to codes of ethics have been opposed as qualification for public office. It goes on and on.5

When we see opponents of Christianity dominate our culture and bring about death and unbelief, it is natural to look for an earthly power sufficient to reverse this. This is what introduces the question of the two powers.

How does God intend that the two powers be used?

The Church’s Power and the Government’s Power

The Power of the Cross

Each Christian has the power of the keys, individually.6 We also follow Christ’s command and gather together for the purpose of worship and work, and for the broader reach of the gospel. Our objective in this part of our Christian lives is to apply the remedy for sin to souls everywhere. This power of the keys is the power to apply law and Gospel; on the one hand to retain sins, to confront a person with his lost condition; and, on the other hand, to forgive sins, to comfort the repentant sinner with the good news of Christ’s redeeming work.7 The Office of the Keys is at the heart of the daily life of Christians in their relationships with each other; it is the power behind all evangelism, and it is at the heart of the public ministry. Christians call pastors and teachers in the church to exercise the Office of the Keys on their behalf.

Having been given this power of the keys, we are to use it properly. Individually, and when gathered together as a church, there are things we must do, things we must not do, and things we may do, relative to the use of this power.8 This is because God’s Word commands some things, forbids some things, or leaves some things open. It is through His Word alone that He governs and directs the power of the cross.

Because the power of the cross lies purely in the Word, it is useless to coerce a person to behave morally as a means of converting him. A well-behaved unbeliever is no closer to the Kingdom than the most corrupt rogue.

The Power of the Sword

While each of us bears this power of the keys wherever we are in society, and uses that power by rightly using law and gospel, there is another power wherever we are in society, ordained by God, but for a different purpose, namely, for the protection of people from the gross outbursts of sin. This power involves the use of force and other means of coercion to control the outward behavior of people.9 In a very real way, this power is held by parents and their representatives, such as teachers, school administrators, college deans, etc.; by employers; and by any who are in authority over others in such a way as to be responsible for their behavior.10 But in its most basic form, as the power of life and death, it belongs to the government.11

The identifying feature of the power of the sword is the use of force by authority.12 What that force is used for determines whether or not it is a right use of the power of the sword.13

Having ordained this power, God in His Word tells us what governments must do, must not do, and may do.14 But unlike the church, God does not direct the government by His Word. Instead the government is directed by reason and the natural law.15

But reason and the natural law are clouded by sin;16 and sin may at various times so capture the hearts of people that government is powerless to prevent it. Even worse, government may at such times promote sin, rather than protect people from it; this last situation God permits as a judgment upon a people.17

The Church a Blessing to a Country

When government permits, protects, and promotes sin, we Christians are likely to be frustrated, for many of the ethical questions people try to grope through, using the natural law and reason, are crystal clear to people who know their Bible. God did not give the Bible as a handbook for governments, but Christians who govern can certainly use it to test their understanding of what is right.18 Because of the corrective influence this has on the way reason and the natural law are used in society, truly, “Blessed is that nation whose God is the Lord.”19

The Church Does Not Have the Sword

But while any Christian is in a position even to judge governments,20 God does not give him authority over the government, or the authority to use force to correct the course of a government. In the business of dispensing vengeance upon the unjust, God has placed only Himself above the government. It is He who thrones and dethrones kings and topples empires, and it is to Himself, not to us Christians, that God holds governments and rulers accountable.21

Scripture Not per se Enforced

But when a nation’s God is the Lord, and many of the people are Christian, then many of the rulers will surely be Christian. What then? Should Christians use Scripture as the basis for government? The answer is “no.”

The purpose of the Scriptures is to lead people to Christ, our Savior.22 The purpose of Government is to enforce justice23 (not “social justice,” by the way). The basic principles found in Scripture and the premises that the Scriptures reflect about such things as justice and the nature and imperfectability of man, and property rights and rights to life and freedom etc. COULD be of great help in the government of a country.24 But that is not what God gave the Scriptures for. The guidance of Scripture is most practical for Christians, not governments, for Christians are free of the condemnation of the law,25 and their behavior is (imperfectly) a function of internal motivation prompted by the love of Christ. Governments, on the other hand, rely on the coercion of the law.26

A Scriptural Example

Even so, when a Christian can tell from Scripture that his reasoning is right, that does not necessarily determine what government does. An oft-referred-to example of this is divorce. According to Scripture, divorce is wrong. Man is not to break what God has joined.27 Even a valid Scriptural divorce only recognizes the divorce, or break, that occurred when the other party deserted or committed adultery.28 The church therefore knows nothing of “no-fault” divorce, and, will discipline a member who divorces a spouse without Scriptural cause.29

The government, on the other hand, is not bound to enforce Scripture. Government, (by reason and the natural law) can surely recognize the immorality of adultery, and to preserve the fabric of society could surely make every effort to preserve its families.30 So much the more, if legislators are Christians who see the validity of such reasoning confirmed in Scripture.31

Yet Moses, in the same situation, granted divorce, and that in divinely inspired law.32 Why? Jesus explained that: “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives.”33 The government does not rule only Christians, even in Moses’ theocracy. So government may do much to discourage divorce, while finally relenting because the hardness of man’s heart is so great. People will sin after all, and government may have to regulate divorce to keep track of who the car and the kids belong to. We therefore conclude that, while Scripture may enable some individuals to correctly evaluate moral conclusions reached on the basis of natural law and reason, still Scripture is not as such a basis for law.34

This is easier to understand when we consider two things. First, no law can force two people to love each other. The law is not apt to lead people to want to do what is right;35 it can only hope to prevent or to punish the wrong.36 Second, the obedience to God, for the Christian, does not require civil laws. True obedience to Scripture is a matter of faith and the heart, not a result of coercion.37 The power of the sword is altogether incompetent to achieve such obedience.


1. The church is not coercive, but can only preach the truth.

2. The state coerces, uses force.

3. The church is not concerned with controlling behavior, but does identify what is right or wrong behavior, that people might be forgiven of the wrong and be free to do the good, out of love.

4. The state is not concerned with the eternal consequences of behavior, but with the temporal ones, so that what is bad will be prohibited, as much as can be by force, and so that people will be free to do what is good.

5. The church is directed by God through His Word.

6. The government is directed by reason and the natural moral law.

Powers Of Realms

Different Uses of Words Noted

As we continue our study of the two ‘powers, it is appropriate that we clarify just what we mean when we speak of the two kingdoms or the two powers. B. W. Teigen, in his 1976 Reformation Lectures on the two kingdoms, noted the significance of the fact that the two kingdoms are two powers, not just two areas of activity.38

In theology we use the term “kingdom” in different ways, as does Scripture (See Appendix II). In one sense, we speak of it as a power (The powers that be are ordained of God).39 In another sense we use it as referring to a realm, an area or sphere of activity which includes the governed (Christ’s kingdoms of grace, power, glory).40 In still another sense, we speak of it as a condition common to certain people (The kingdom of God is within you).41

The Differences are Significant

The way in which we think of Christ’s kingdom will affect the way we approach the issues that confront the church in the latter half of the twentieth century. For example, if we say that the church is not to take control of the secular kingdom, and by “secular kingdom” we mean government authority, then this is certainly a correct statement. If, on the other hand, we accept the same proposition, but by “secular kingdom” we mean the world at large, then the statement would be incorrect. The way we use the term “kingdom” makes all the difference.

(Further discussion of terms is found in Appendix II.)

Christ’s Word on the Two Kingdoms

For us Christians, the guide for the distinction between the two kingdoms is Christ’s succinct statement, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” The law and the gospel apply to Caesar and to all his subjects. The law judges the works of governments, for the works of governments are the works of men.42 The preaching of law and gospel has the power to lead any and all to repentance and faith, Caesars and magistrates and senators and congressmen. But while the preaching may judge them or lead them to repentance and faith, it does not coerce them, nor usurp what is Caesar’s (government’s) alone: The authority to govern.

What is owed to Caesar is obedience to his authority, for he is God’s avenger of the just. What is owed to God is faith and obedience of the heart. Where I may obey Caesar, perfunctorily, just because he is Caesar, and be critical of his misgovernment, obedience to God is a matter of the heart. “Obedience” to God resulting from the force of government is no obedience so far as God is concerned.43

The Term “Secular” as it Relates to the Two Kingdoms

The question may be asked, “Is the kingdom of the sword secular and the kingdom of the cross religious?” To begin with, the question really makes no sense if we think of it in terms of realms. If by “secular” we mean “non-religious,” then to have a secular realm (area or group) is to have a realm in which religion is not to be applied, or about which Scripture says nothing. Such an area does not exist. There is no secular part of the world.44 There is no intrinsically secular activity.45 All parts of life are approached by the Christian in a Christian way, including government.4647

On the other hand, there is a secular power. This is power exercised not on behalf of the church, not on behalf of the Gospel, not on behalf of religion. This is the only way it is secular, for it is still ordained by God,48 used by God for His purposes,49 intended to provide a good climate for the Gospel,50 and judged by His Word.51


We, the members of that portion of the kingdom of Grace which is on earth, (the church militant) exercise the power of the keys in the world, Christ’s kingdom of power. In this same kingdom of power we pursue all of our activities in a Christian way. Also, within this kingdom of power the kingdoms of men (governments) exercise the power of the sword. Our purpose for living in this kingdom of power is to (1) proclaim the law and the gospel so that we and others might eventually enter the kingdom of glory, (2) glorify God in our lives, (3) be good stewards of the gifts of God, and (4) do good to our neighbors.

The Power of the Sword

With the Fathers First

The State is Divinely Ordained

The state, although it is a divine ordinance, was not ordained in a direct way by God; rather it gradually developed from the family.52 Fathers have the authority to regulate and control the behavior of their families.53 As these families developed in size and the natural course of sin led to disagreements and to crime, a greater authority had to be invested in one person or entity. In various cultures this took various forms. In some there was the tribal chief; in others there was king; in others a ruling council, etc. It really made no difference what form there was, for in all, God’s sanction was placed upon the ultimate expression of this power of the sword, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.”54

It makes no matter that these developments followed different paths, or that they were apparently the works of men, for behind it all was God. By His providence and by the law written in the hearts of men, God accomplished His objective of hindering the work of evil people without personal vengeance.55 The general principle referred to in the Apology shows how this natural development is consistent with divine ordination: “A natural right is truly a divine right, because it is an ordinance divinely impressed upon nature.”56

There is No Divinely Ordained Form

In the same way, there is no divinely ordained form of government. A Christian would not judge a government morally good or bad on the basis of its form, but on the way that it carries out God’s intent for it. It is to be “the minister of God to thee for good”; “the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”57 Some forms of government more naturally lend themselves to this.

As there is no divinely ordained form, so there is no strict definition of legitimacy for a government. In Romans 13 Paul directs our obedience to “the powers that be.” There were serious questions about the legitimacy of the government of Nero, who was emperor at that time. His way to the throne had for generations been doused in blood, the Roman conquests had often been without justification, and the whole empire was built on the ruins of the presumably more legitimate republic. But he was, tyrant and all, still the one in authority.58

Back to the Father—an Analogy

An analogy could here be drawn between the power of the sword in the hand of the government and the power in the hand of a father in a household. Fathers do not hold the ultimate power of the sword, the right of life and death, because now there are governments. Nevertheless, there are many times when there is no appeal from an unreasonable decision of a parent. For the child, the father is the end of the line, and the fact that the child may judge the father unreasonable is no excuse in the eyes of God or of the state for overthrowing the father.59 The father is analogous to the state. God has established its authority and has instituted no higher power to which appeal can be made.

But the analogy can be drawn further. There are fathers who make such unreasonable demands that they lose the respect of their families; then rebellion sets in. Rightly or wrongly, such fathers are subverted and run out of power. Their children run away, their wives divorce them, and they may even face charges of child abuse. So it is with the state. As Theodore Hoyer wrote:

There may come a time when a government violates all principles of right and justice, so that they cease to be revengers to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil and become a terror to good works and not to evil. Governments have not only rights, but duties and responsibilities; when they totally fail to meet these, there may come a time when Christians may join with their fellow citizens to call the government to account and bring about reform. When that time comes is a question which must be considered and decided in every individual instance.60 (Emphasis his.)

Whether Scripture leaves any room at all for a Christian to rebel is moot for our purposes. The point is that in God’s providence evil governments are, after all, overthrown. It is certain that at least some aspects of the power of the sword remain with the individual.61

Judged, Not Overthrown

The Christian Judges Government. But how, in any case are governments or the actions of governments to be judged evil? This is a serious question for many Christians today, and it is more important all the time as governments permit and promote more and more of what is forbidden by God. The accommodation by so many churches to divorce, state-sponsored gambling, and even state-supported abortion is chilling to think about.62 We should know in what way we should judge governments if (1) we are not to join in sin sponsored by or approved by our government, if (2) we are to preach the law unto repentance in a concrete and specific way, and if (3) we collectively as a church, and individually, are to uphold what is good for our neighbor.63

There are really two questions here. In the first place, “How are we to judge a government?” In the second place, “On what basis are we to appeal to a government, lobby, apply pressure or what have you?”

We (Christians) know what is right and wrong for governments by the revealed Word of God. But it is on the basis of natural law that we appeal to government.

The Christian Appeals to Government. This difference between revealed and natural law created no problem for our predecessors. What they knew on the basis of God’s Word could easily be appealed on the basis of the natural law. A good example of the situation in the past is to be found in Hoyer’s essay, “Church and State.” In this essay he considers the matter of public and parochial schools; he remarks:

Before leaving this subject, we should note that any legislation aiming at the suppression of religious schools is a violation of the principle of separation. In such a case we rightly go back to the original rights of parents, they have the responsibility for the children and the right to decide where to send them so that they may be trained to be good citizens.64

Earlier in the essay he laid a basis for his claim: “It is now perhaps universally accepted in our land that education of children is the duty of parents, not the state.”65

So, in the past, it was easy for the Christian to know when the state had overstepped its bounds in the matter of Christian education. In one stroke we knew that the state was wrong if it suppressed Christian schools and also had a basis of appeal to the state—the universal acceptance of a basic principle which reflected the natural law.

In 1985 we Christians still know that the state is wrong to suppress Christian education, whether by overburdening regulation or by prohibiting the free exercise of our religion. But gone is the “universally accepted” idea that education is the duty of parents, not of the state. So while we know the state is wrong on one basis, we must argue the case before government on a different basis. In the first place, we can judge the government that usurps the rights of parents, for Scripture says, “Ye fathers, … bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”66 But how shall we argue the case before a government which cares nothing for Scriptures? Let us look at some of the alternatives.

The Nature of the Alternatives<

There are three main alternatives presented today by which an appeal can be made to government; an appeal from sociological consensus, an appeal from natural law and reason, and an appeal from Scripture.

An Appeal from Sociological Consensus

At present there are several cases under consideration that hinge upon a sociological consensus. In these cases parents are objecting to state intrusion into their exercise of their parental responsibilities. The focus of the cases is the issue of state teacher certification. The reason this is such a sticking point is that in certain states a thorough indoctrination in a naturalistic (secular humanist) credo is a requirement for the certificate.67 Parents who are opposed to the influence of this philosophy in their child’s classroom then purposely select those teachers for their schools which are NOT certifiable by the state.

The contention of the state is that if the state does not have control over teacher certification, it cannot guarantee the desired educational results; the implication is that the parents can not be expected to select teachers as well as the state can. The state’s argument is one of sociological consensus. It does what it does because it appears to bring the greatest good to the greatest number from the viewpoint of the social planners.

Our Appeal from Natural Law and Reason

This appeal is two-fold. On the one hand, it makes an appeal on the basis of the knowledge of right and wrong in the human heart. On the other hand, it makes an argument on the basis of practicality.

The Christian knows that the state should not oppress the Christian schools with humanistically-oriented teachers. But the Christian also knows that the state is blinded toward appeals from Scripture. So, the Christian is going to appeal to conscience and plead the rights and responsibilities of parents over their own offspring. The Christian will also appeal from reason, showing the practicality of parents being free to select standards for their children and to select schools that meet those standards. After all, studies show that parents with children in non-public schools are most likely to have the best interests of their children at heart, and are most likely to make the schools accountable, since they pay the bills directly.68

An Appeal from Scripture

Another route to follow is to appeal from Scripture. Those who urge this point out that reason, after all, is fallible. It was perverted reason that gave rise to the social planners and that replaced the moral law with a sociological consensus. There are many who firmly believe that Scripture alone can provide the basis of absolutes necessary to guide government, and that Scripture must be the basis of any appeal to government. They would argue that it was a Scripture-based consensus that resulted in the earlier “unanimous agreement” that parents are responsible for educating their children. Further, Scripture is the only source and norm of truth about God and His will, and therefore gives us certainty that our positions, based on the clear Word of Scripture, are the right ones. At the very least, people who would make this appeal to government believe that the Christian should present the appropriate Scripture passages as a testimony to a rebellious government. Others would go farther and use whatever coercive measures are at hand to force the government to relent.69

A Critique of the Alternatives

Of the three bases of appeal to government, only the appeal on the basis of natural law and reason is correct. The establishment of law on the basis of sociological consensus is, of course, a deplorable reality. No doubt many would equate this with true democracy. So, as the number of homosexuals and abortionists increase, they are treated with greater and greater regard by the courts. But Christians are not given the same treatment even if the majority is “moral” Sociological consensus makes decisions without reference to an absolute.

The establishment of law on the basis of Scripture has more appeal, but as we have seen earlier in the paper, that is not what God intended Scripture to be used for. A rigorous application of Scriptural principles of law and gospel, such as God expects us to use in the church, would not serve the cause of justice, for in the church the goal is forgiveness of sins, not justice. It is not important whether the previous generation had a sound basis of law because they were moral people according to civic righteousness, or because they were Christians in tune with the Word of God; either route establishes the same principles of common law. The role of the church is still to proclaim the law and the gospel. If enough people believe the law, then once again a sound basis of civil law will be established. (Note that this is not to say that the civilization even is “Christian.”)

Those who would oppose reason and the natural law in favor of either Scripture on the one hand or sociological consensus on the other miss an essential feature of the natural law—its universality. Scripture plainly teaches that man has no excuse for being ignorant of the law. Even though conscience is only the capacity to distinguish right from wrong, and may be mis-trained, it can still be trained well enough by our own judgments of the way others treat us. This is how principles of basic morality become universal, and why man is without excuse.70 These principles of morality are discoverable apart from Scripture, as the confessions plainly teach.71 So it is perfectly appropriate to demand morality from government, without feeling that we are imposing religion on government. As a case in point, one does not have to be a Christian, or indeed profess any religion, to be appalled at a society engaged in wholesale slaughter of its own offspring.

Those who oppose a moral standard for law, however, often do so on the basis that morality and religion are equivalent. To such people, creationism is essentially religious, evolution essentially scientific; condemnation of abortion is essentially religious, abortion a matter of personal privacy; opposition to pornography is essentially religious, obscenity essentially freedom of expression. They label a particular position on an issue “religious,” so that it is out of bounds as public policy.72

But the equation is not reflexive; religion expresses morality, but morality does not necessarily establish religion, because religion requires revelation, while natural law does not. Christians need not be shy espousing what is moral just because God’s Word says it is moral. To refuse to urge government to be moral is to deny the reason for which God ordained it.


God ordained a power that ultimately possesses the option of life or death over people. Since it is an ordinance of God, we are not at liberty to overthrow it, for even when perverted, it serves His purposes. We are not, on the other hand, at liberty to enforce Scripture with the sword.

The Power of The Cross

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”73

Christ’s Conquest is Inexplicable to the World

There are two commonly observed situations that help illustrate the relationship of the two powers.

The first of these occurs quite commonly during recruitment for the Christian day school. Quite commonly prospective parents are very concerned about our rules and the way we enforce them. Some of them question the ability of the school to function when we emphasize other things (especially Christian instruction) so much more than rules.

The second situation, probably observed by many pastors, is that when someone is under church discipline there is much concern about reforming the behavior of the person, but much less concern about seeing the person forgiven.

The common denominator in both of these cases is the idea that if we are to succeed in our mission as a church, we must DO something to MAKE people do what they are supposed to. Even a cursory glance at religious news will show the extent to which this idea has overtaken the liberal church bodies. Picketing the South African consulate, giving sanctuary to illegal aliens, bishops’ letters to put pressure on congress for more social programs and less defense-time and again the social gospel entails a predominance of (selected) law and coercion by the church to MAKE others do good.74

The Power of the Cross: Law and Gospel

For this paper I have been using the terms “Power of the Cross” and “Power of the Keys” interchangeably. The cross is a symbol for the forgiving work of Christ: The Office of the Keys is that part of Christian doctrine regarding the personal remission or retention of sin. Both are names for the power of God that brings people into the kingdom of Heaven. They are the means whereby God answers our prayer that His kingdom come. They can be summarized in two words, “law” and “gospel.”75

Christ’s commission of His disciples in the upper room after His resurrection straightforwardly emphasized the centrality of law and gospel in the work of His disciples,

Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when He had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosoever sins ye retain, they are retained.76

And Paul’s encouragement to Timothy followed the same theme, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”77

It is this power alone that the Church has to call sinners to repentance and faith and to guide them in the Christian life.78

The Power of the Cross is Great

It is typical of man to think that the cross has no power. For to speak of sin and grace is not to coerce or to force or to enjoin any one to do anything. What kind of power is that? How could it possibly do all that people want it to do?

That, of course, is part of the problem. What God accomplishes by the preaching of the Word is not all that people want to accomplish. Reforms in government, cures for disease, economic well-being are all worthy goals, and are often by-products of Christianity. But they are not the main objective.79 For “What does it profit a man if he should gain the whole world, but lose his own soul?”80

In his dealings with the congregation at Corinth, Paul wrestled with the tendency of the Corinthians to think lightly of the power of the cross. Paul upbraided them, “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”81 “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”82

Just how powerful is the power of the keys?

Most importantly, it is powerful enough to give spiritual life to beings spiritually dead. It is powerful enough to make people who were blind, dead, and enemies of God to see, to have life, and to become friends and children of God. And as a result, creatures who deserved hell inherit heaven. This power is there because the Holy Ghost uses such preaching. Describing all manner of iniquity, Paul says, “And such were some of you: But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”83

History attests to this power. From a quivering handful of frightened disciples to a church numbering billions over the centuries, this seemingly weak declaration of sin and grace has brought life and salvation and transformed the world in the process.

The Power of the Cross in its Proper Contexts

As Exercised by the Churches. But while the exercise of the keys is the primary function of the church, the visible, corporate body of the church may, due to its corporate nature, take upon itself additional functions as well, from ministration to the sick, relief of the poor, and education of the young; to fielding a state champion volleyball team.84 In addition, as a corporate body in the state, it may call upon the power of the sword to preserve its property and to protect its people.85 These corporate functions of the church are secondary, but some of them are important if the church is to proclaim the law and the gospel. Thus the church body itself may wield both the cross and (indirectly at least) the sword. It is in this situation that the temptation may grow to make use of the sword to do what the cross alone can do. We will explore this more in the next chapter.

The activities which the corporate body of the church may be urged to undertake are numerous. Some are “musts” some are “mays” and some are “must nots.”86 Good judgment is needed if the church is not to lose sight of what it is to be doing and what power it has to accomplish it. The church is to be preaching the law and the gospel and it has the power that is in the keys for that preaching to be effective.87 This is why activities that are not centered around the Word are not so important in church bodies that value the gospel, and conversely, why activities not centered around the Word are important in churches which subscribe to a social gospel.

As Exercised by Individuals. In the life of the Christian the cross is at the center. Christians rebuke and absolve (especially absolve) each other all the time. In this alone they exercise great power. But they also have power as they reach out and establish the kingdom of God in the world. As Peter tells us and all Christians, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, and holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”88 We are royalty, with great power, for as we, on the basis of the Word of God declare a soul to be damned, he stands condemned; as we, on the basis of the Word of God declare a soul forgiven, he is forgiven. This is, in essence, what we do when we follow the Lord’s great commission to make disciples of all nations and to baptize and to teach—we confront people with the law so that they become aware of their lost condition, and we reassure those who are repentant with the good news of God’s grace and forgiveness.

To proclaim the law and the Gospel to others is like being the personal representatives of a monarch, with the power to express the monarch’s will in matters of life and death. That is power indeed.89

If the Christian properly appreciates this power he will use it as a means of warning and (especially) as a means to comfort many, and he will use it in all aspects of his life. For as Luther pointed out, we must all apply God’s Word according to our estate of life, as father, mother, citizen, subject, magistrate, employer, employee, professional, husband, wife, son, daughter, etc.90


1. The power of the cross is a meager power by man’s estimation.

2. Yet the power of the cross is truly great, giving life in place of death.

3. The power of the keys is the business of the church and at the heart of the Christian’s life.

4. In practice, the corporate assembly of Christians does other things by which it participates in the power of the sword, and the individual Christian, too, participates in this power. From this there is a temptation to confuse the use of the two powers.

The Scriptural Guide

How the Christian Avoids Misusing the Cross and the Sword

In one old history book is a picture of a Crusader holding aloft a two-handed broadsword. He held it by the blade so that it looked like a cross. Under the picture, incongruously, is the phrase which had supposedly been heard by Constantine several hundred years before — “In this sign conquer.” The sign meant was the sign of the cross, but the Crusader was holding a sword. This little scene is a fitting symbol of the confusion that exists with regard to the power of the Christians in the Gospel and the power of the government, the power of the cross and the power of the sword. How is such confusion to be avoided?

The Doctrine of Law and Gospel is the Touchstone

If we are to avoid misusing the sword as a church, we must avoid misusing it in our own lives. To that end we will look at some basic principles and then apply them to some cases. In doing so we will see that the way we use the law and Gospel will affect the way we view the cross and the sword in relation to each other.

Show me a person who is more interested in correcting, condemning, or changing the behavior of his fellow Christian than in forgiving him, and I will show you someone who is easily tempted to get the power of the sword into the hand of the church and “make some real changes.” The fundamental problem is a misunderstanding of the proper use of law and Gospel.

People Naturally Emphasize the Law

Perhaps one source of the confusion is that in both the cross and the sword the law is involved. Both law and Gospel are under the cross. Both must operate on our hearts if we are to come to faith. Both must be part of our Christian life.91 Only the law, however, is involved with the sword.92

In our daily lives at the workplace and in society, coercion of force, together with the law, is the basis of motivation. It is therefore natural for us to rely on the law for motivation in the Christian life as well. This is a grave error. Even though the law is necessary to put down the old man in us, it is not the motivation of the new man in us. It is the Gospel that the Holy Spirit uses to convert us, and by which He motivates the new man in us Christians. For the Christian, then, the law is not the motive to do good.93

A person who properly understands the working of law and Gospel will recognize the uselessness of the power of the sword, any exercise of authority, force, or coercion, to bring a person to faith. The best that can be hoped for is that the power of the sword would create a situation in a society in which the Gospel would, as we pray, “have free course and be preached.” In order to illustrate how the powers of the cross and the sword work side by side, we will look at a number of situations which will show the interrelationships of the right use of the law and the Gospel and proper separation of the two powers.

The Question: Which Applies — The Cross or the Sword?

As Individuals

SITUATION I: I come home in the middle of the afternoon while my wife is gone and find a stranger carrying off the family silver. I pull in behind the thief’s car and corner him in the garage.

SOME THINGS TO REMEMBER: Jesus said, “… and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.”94 Paul wrote to Timothy, “neither be partaker of other men’s sins.”95 Paul also wrote, “For he [the power] is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: For he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”96

POSSIBLE ALTERNATIVES: I could evangelize him and let him go, not forbidding him to take my TV set also. I could use the minimum force necessary to hold him for the sheriff. I could grab a piece of pipe and bash his head in.

ANALYSIS: The confessions give us a clear answer as to what is right in this case: “… private redress [beating up the thief] is prohibited not by advice, but by a command Matt. 5:39; Rom. 12:19. Public redress, which is made through the office of the magistrate, is not advised against, but is commanded, and is a work of God, according to Paul, Rom. 13:1 sqq.”97

CONCLUSION: I would hold the thief, which is an exercise of the power of the sword that I as a citizen hold, until the sheriff arrives. He will then exercise the power of the sword on the public behalf. This does not rule out the obligation to evangelize, an obligation which I owe the thief as much as any person. (Every so often we hear of some person who refuses to prosecute a criminal, but forgives “instead.” Such a person confuses the two powers; one does not rule out the other.)

The principle demonstrated here is the difference between the power of the cross (evangelism) and the power of the sword (citizen’s arrest). Both involve the use of the law. The former uses no force; the object is repentance. The second uses force; the object is to control behavior.

SITUATION II: The creation/evolution controversy has made headlines in the local papers. I am invited to a biology class to explain the Scriptural position regarding creation. Do I accept?

SOME THINGS TO REMEMBER: “… and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” (I Peter 3: 15) On the other hand, we have already shown that government (in this case government schools) are not to be used as an instrument to enforce Scripture.

ANALYSIS: There are several considerations that would prompt a particular course of action. (1) The schools teach on the issue of origins, which is a religious issue. (2) Orthodoxy, adherence to evolution, is required, often by law. (3) To speak to a biology class does not involve coercion, because as a guest speaker I would have no power to grade or to otherwise discipline those who did not agree with me.

CONCLUSION: I would most certainly accept the invitation. In the first place, it gives an opportunity to proclaim my faith. Secondly, I really have more right then the teacher to speak on the subject. While the teacher is in a position to enforce agreement with his doctrine, I would rely only on the proclamation of the Word. While the police power of the state enforces attendance at class for the vast majority of students, I would have no power to require that my voice be heard.

Compulsion to pay respect at least to a particular belief is the responsibility of parents and of those in the place of parents.98 But it is wrong for government to do so. For in the final analysis, the power of the sword cannot control the conviction of the heart.

SITUATION III: In our parochial school a child is caught with drugs, and there is evidence that he uses them or sells them or both.

SOME THINGS TO REMEMBER: The principal of the school is an agent of the state (depending on various states’ laws), an agent of the parents/congregation, and a servant of the Word.

ANALYSIS: The principal’s relationship to the child is at least three-fold. He has an obligation to the state and to the community to see that drug pushers and users are prosecuted. He has an obligation to the congregation/parents to see that their school is not a harbor for drug users and pushers.99 He has a spiritual responsibility for the child according to his; call as the child’s principal. The first circumstance involves the power of the sword, proper. The second involves the power of the sword in a limited way, the third involves the power of the cross. All involve the law (And the last one the Gospel, too).

CONCLUSION: How the principal carries out the obligations to the state will depend largely upon the statutory requirements of the state; but the principal is not at liberty to simply ignore the fact that he carries the power of the sword just because he also the carries the power of the cross. A similar situation exists with regard to the congregation. Circumstances and good judgment will dictate whether the child remains in the school. The third obligation of the principal still remains; here again, he is not at liberty to ignore that he carries the power of the cross just because he carries the power of the sword.100, 101

As Churches

The role of the church in society is more limited than the role of the individual. It is analogous to the role of a pastor toward his members. The pastor will not arrest me or imprison me for my sins; he will reprove, rebuke, exhort, and absolve me if. I am repentant. So, too, the church will not set out to right the wrongs of society, but will, as it preaches the law, reprove all those wrongs, and absolve all who repent of them. Teaching “All things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20) makes up the substance of the church’s activity.

Not so with the individual. As a citizen, the individual shares in the power of the sword. As a Christian who is “good Samaritan” to his fellow man, he will right whatever wrongs that he can. He will not expect society, which may not give a fig for God’s Word, to follow his lead for the Word’s sake. But the Word will enable him as a Christian to have a basis for wise citizenship. But along with being a citizen, the Christian is a member of the church militant, an evangelist, bearing the power of the cross.

As we have examined how the individual uses the power of the cross and of the sword, let us also take a look at different kinds of situations in which the church today finds herself.

When the State Fosters Immorality

SITUATION: The issue of abortion is on the ballot in the State of Washington in the early seventies. To what extent should the church take a position?

ALTERNATIVES: (1) The church should take no position because protecting people born or unborn, is a matter of secular realm. (2) The church should take no position, because if the state law reflected the position of the church, then in essence the power of the sword would be in the hands of the church. (3) The church should take a position on abortion, just so far as Scripture does. It should teach the obligation to do good to our neighbor, born or unborn, with “problem pregnancies,” or whatever. (4) The church takes a position in the ballot issue and organizes projects which coerce the “wrong people” to stay home and the “right people” to vote.

ANALYSIS AND CONCLUSION: The first position is in error because it neglects to teach the Christian how he is to live in the world, and what God would have governments do. The second alternative is in error because the concern about the church’s position being enforced by law is misplaced: If government does what it should, even on the basis of natural law and reason, it will frequently concur with Scripture. The fourth position is also in error. Although it demonstrates a laudable concern for human life, it is assuming authority which God has not given it, and resorts to force, which is reserved for government. It is analogous to braining the thief in my garage: If I do not, the state might not punish him and he might get away scot free. That still does not give me the right to act for the state.

The third position is the appropriate one. (A) God’s law about abortion is part of the whole council of God, which the church is to proclaim. This is enough justification to address abortion. (B) Legalized abortion presents greater opportunity for sin; so a wise pastor will carefully instruct his members in those matters where popular opinion is contrary to Scripture. This is the same problem faced when “no-fault” divorce was first permitted, or when gambling and lotteries were legalized, or if marijuana should be completely decriminalized. Making it legal makes it more of a temptation. (C) It is a terrible sin of omission to keep silent while others are being appointed for destruction.102

When the State Establishes Religion or Philosophy Contrary to Scripture

SITUATION: The establishment of certain features of secular humanism within the public schools and, in some cases, within the non-public schools is required by law.

ANALYSIS: A religion has taken the power of the sword in hand, a religion that, due to its background and development, is at odds with the moral law. The law requires that teachers are taught that it is wrong to make absolute moral distinctions, and the teachers pass this on to the children. The law forbids certain ideas in the schools on the grounds that being in agreement with Christianity, they are religious and thus by definition contrary to reason.

The entrenchment of naturalistic religion in the schools highlights several important considerations for the church in society. (1) The Lutheran church has long recognized that education without religion is an impossibility.103 (2) There is therefore an intrinsic danger in the state’s going beyond simply requiring that parents prepare their children for life with a proper education. (3) Requiring prayer and Bible reading in the schools is no solution, that just places the sword in the hands of the church.

CONCLUSION: The approach of the church to this situation is basically the same as with the institutionalization of the abortion, for both situations involve the power of the sword protecting the evil rather than the good. It is necessary for church members to be instructed in the errors of the various philosophies and religions, perhaps even more than before, because the information explosion sets a thousand false ideas before us all the time. The Christian must be prepared to avoid being deceived, even if the false religion is government sponsored.104

When the Church is Urged to Take Positions on Mere Public Policy

SITUATION: A leading church figure asks the conservative churches to urge their people to support the XYZ weapons system (or a specific abortion amendment, or tuition tax credits, or a Middle East policy favorable to Israel, etc.).

ANALYSIS: There are two facets to this situation. One has to do with the relationship between application and principle under Christian liberty. The other has to do with knowing which power and which office we are exercising.

In the first case, it is not always the responsibility of pastors and teachers to apply a principle. When God speaks through His Word, He provides a principle. It is a principle of God that government is instituted to protect its citizens. He does not specify how this is to be done, and the choice of the XYZ weapon system or some other is an exercise in Christian liberty.105 This is a case in which there are various ways to carry out God’s will.

There are other cases in which it is the responsibility of the teachers in the church to make applications, namely when some applications proposed violate the principle. Gambling is one example, abortion is another. Such application requires vigilance and study on the part of our pastors and teachers because issues are not always obvious. For example, there is a new generation of birth-control pills on the market that works primarily by preventing the implantation of the new life, the fertilized ovum, and not by preventing ovulation in the first place. It takes real diligence in applying God’s Word for our people to be adequately prepared to live in this age of the world. Birth-control methods that actually cause very early abortions are just one example. The areas of genetic engineering, bio-ethics, artificially-maintained life, changes in family structure, all are areas in which the application of the principles of God’s Word to life is essential if our people are to be guided by that Word. There are many other areas as well. The second aspect of this situation has to do with recognizing the office in which God has placed us. For example, the individual citizen may lobby for the XYZ missle, because that is a prerogative of his office as a citizen. The church normally does not hold such an office. Rendering judgments on weapons systems is not part of its purpose.

At times the church’s office DOES require that it be active on “secular” issues. In its position as corporate citizen the Wisconsin Synod recently took a case to the Supreme Court to protect its schools (and ours) from an unwarranted intrusion and tax. In that case, holding the office of corporate citizen, and being affected by a certain law, the synod was free to directly pursue remedy at law.

CONCLUSION: The church does not normally involve itself in matters of public policy. But it does (1) apply God’s word in matters not involving Christian liberty and (2) exercise its prerogatives as a corporate citizen.


1. As individuals we must frequently consider whether our office dictates that we exercise the power of the sword or of the cross.

2. The power of the sword is to control behavior. The power of the cross is to lead to repentance and faith.

3. The church’s role is much more narrow, to exercise the power of the cross.

4. Because the church exists in visible, corporate bodies, it has some prerogatives due to its corporate nature which may involve the power of the sword.


In the world today governments are using the power of the sword to bind people to one creed or another. At the same time churchmen clamor for governments to MAKE people do this or that good. As Christian citizens we carry both swords, directly or indirectly. Which shall we use when? As we have shown, the ability to answer that question comes with the ability to rightly divide law and Gospel.

If we realize that the law has no power to save, we will know better than to use the power of the sword to try to build the church. If we know that the Gospel works entirely by the power of the Holy Ghost in the Word, then we will know better than to try to rule unruly humankind with it.

We have seen that the power of the sword was ordained by God for all nations, Christian or otherwise, and since He has not given us dominion over them we cannot expect the “powers that be” to rule on behalf of the Word. By appealing to government on the basis of natural law and reason, we can do much to encourage justice and to spare our neighbor injustice. And by prayer and by diligent attention to being a true salt in the earth, we can, by God’s grace, enjoy the blessings of good government.

May God grant us the wisdom, individually and collectively, to so regard the two powers that the grace and mercy of our loving God might shine forth to the world through us and through our churches.



1 Martin Luther, An Explanation of Luther’s Small Catechism (St. Louis: Concordia, 1943), p. 18.

2 Romans 13:4.
Apology to the Augsburg Confession XVI, Triglotta, p.331.

3 Luther, op. cit.

4 I Peter 2:13-17. Large Catechism, Commandment IV, par. 141 ff., Triglotta, p. 621.

5 Kenneth S. Kantzer, “The Issue at Hand: ‘The Christian as Citizen,” The Christian As Citizen (Christianity Today Institute. NC., N.D), p. 2

6 John 20:22-23.

7 A. L. Graebner, Outlines of Doctrinal Theology (St. Louis: Concordia, 1910), p.212.
Apology Art. XII, Triglotta, p. 265.

8 Ibid., p. 213.

9 Romans 13:4-7
Theodore Hoyer, “Church and State,” The Abiding Word, Vol. II (St. Louis: Concordia, 1947), pp. 564-565.

10 Large Catechism, Commandment IV, pars. 145-148, Triglotta, p. 623.

11 Genesis 9:6; Romans 13:4.

12 Hoyer, op. cit., p. 569.

13 Matt. 26:52.

14 See Appendix 1.

15 Bjarne W. Teigen, “The Lutheran Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms and Its Significance for the American Bicentennial,” Lutheran Synod Quarterly (Mankato, Evangelical Lutheran Synod), Vol. XVI, No. 1. Fall, 1975. pp. 38-39, par. 72.

16 Apology, Art. IV, 7, Triglotta, p. 121.

17 Romans 1:24.

18 Graebner, op. cit., p. 11.

19 Psalm 33:12.

20 Teigen, op. cit., pp. 21-22, par. 39-40.

21 Psalm 2; Romans 13:2.

22 Graebner, op. cit., p. 13.

23 Teigen, op. cit., p. 22, par. 40.

24 Small Catechism, Preface, pars. 17-18, Triglotta, pp. 535-537.

25 1 Timothy 1:8-11
Formula of Concord, Epitome, VI, 6, Triglotta, p. 807
Augsburg Confession, XXVIII, 51, Triglotta, p. 91
Epitome X, 12, Triglotta, p. 831.

26 Epitome VI, 5, Triglotta, p. 807.

27 Matthew 19:6.

28 R. C. H. Lenski, Interpretation of I & II Corinthian$ (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1937), p. 295.

29 Ibid.

30 A good example of the fact that reason and the natural law lead people to positions similar to those of Scripture is the book Sexual Suicide (George F. Gilder, New York Bantam Books, 1975).

31 Teigen, op. cit., p. 21.

32 Deuteronomy 24:1-4.

33 Matthew 19:8.

34 This position is one that creates a problem for many today. With the ascendance of relativism, sociological law, and naturalism (secular humanism) in government, the natural law has been rudely dismissed from consideration. Reasoning from a naturalistic premise, there is no basis for any absolute law. John Warwick Montgomery and others [John Warwick Montgomery, The Law above the Law, (Minneapolis, Dimension Books, 19751, pp. 37-45] therefore also find natural law wanting as a basis for governmental law. Because it comes through men, natural law lacks absolute authority. Since Scripture is the only absolute authority on morals, they reason, it must be the basis for law if law is to be just. They are too quick to dismiss the natural law, however, for even though natural law does not derive from a naturalistic premise, even though it is not inevitably a product of man’s philosophy, still even naturalists, generally speaking, know what it is and even hold to it. This is because it is written in the heart of man [An Explanation of Luther’s Small Catechism, op. cit., p. 44, Q. 19] as Paul explains in the first chapters of Romans.

The existence of natural law is very well expressed by C. S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man (New York: MacMillan, 1947) and discussed by Teigen lop. cit., pp. 35-36, par. 68].

35 Romans 4:15.
Dr. C. F. W. Walther, Law and Gospe1 tr. W. H. T. Dau (St. Louis: Concordia, n. c.), Thesis XXIII, pp. 381-392.

36 It is a point well taken that good laws are the negative ones, preventing the evil, not the positive ones, compelling the good.

37 Hebrews 11:6
Walther, op. cit.

38 Teigen, op. cit., pp. 20-21, par. 37.

39 Romans 13:1.

40 An Explanation… op. cit., p. 155.

41 Luke 17:20, 21.
An Explanation… op. cit., p. 133.

42 Ibid., p. 22.

43 Hebrews 11:6.

44 Romans 8:22.

45 I Corinthians 10:31.

46 I Timothy 4:5.

47 I Timothy 4:8.

48 Romans 13:1.

49 Acts 17:26-28.

50 Galatians 4:4; Romans 8:28; Matthew 24:14.

51 Psalm 2; Revelation 12:5.

52 Large Catechism, Commandment IV, Triglotta, p. 621.
Hoyer, op. cit., p. 563.

53 Colossians 3:20.

54 Genesis 9:6.

55 Apology XVI, 59, Triglotta, p. 331.
Formula of Concord, IV, 1, Triglotta, p. 805.
Apology IV (II), Triglotta, p. 127.

56 Apology, XXIII, 12, Triglotta, p. 367.

57 Romans 13:4.

58 Paul L. Maier, First Chri$tians (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1976), p. 148.

59 “Third let me provide the results of our recent investigative report on the subject of ‘parent abuse.’ As you recall, we devoted an entire week of programming to actual incidents wherein child protective service workers took boys and girls away from their parents for spanking their children. These loving parents were charged with child abuse, and in some cases, lost their children without an opportunity to defend themselves in court. After these parent abuse broadcasts were aired each day, our telephones rang off the wall! The common theme among callers was, ‘You think you’ve heard it all; let me tell you what happened to us!’ The mail is now pouring in with the same message expressed by parents from across America and Canada. It is obvious that we have uncovered a problem of enormous dimension.

“… Some social workers are taking advantage of that situation to impose their child rearing philosophies on good parents.” (Focus on the Family Newsletter, P.O. Box 91006, Arcadia, CA: March 15, 1985).

The basic principle of parental authority is coming under severe attack through the abuse of the child abuse laws. There is a certain element that wants all aspects of the power of the sword to be renounced or to be placed exclusively in the hands of the state. While we must express outrage at the incidents of this abuse, it must also be recognized that the rights of parents must be firmly guarded.

60 Hoyer, op. cit., p. 566.

61 The relationship between the power of the sword in the hands of the state and the power of the sword in the hands of individuals is an interesting study. In the absence of a representative of the government, the power of the sword reverts to the individual, primarily in the matter of self-defense, but beyond that, too. To underscore this, consider the fact that in 1981 (the last year for which figures are available) fewer than 400 people were shot by police officers in the course of their duties, but more than 1,200 people were justifiably shot by individuals [Fred Kavey, “Knowledge, Your Best Anti-gun Defense,” Guns & Ammo (Los Angeles: Petersen Publishing Co.; May, 1985), Vol. 29, No.5. pp. 84-85].

The extension of the individual’s possession of the power of the sword is also seen in the development of law in the American West, in which, though preferring to wait for the established order, citizens themselves seek out to protect themselves against oppression by lawless elements.

62 The Christian News Encyclopedia, ed. Herman Otten (Washington, MO: Missourian Publishing Co.; 1982), pp. 88, 951, 1287, 1290.

63 Teigen, op. cit., p. 42.

64 Hoyer, op. cit., p. 602.

65 Ibid., p. 600.

66 Ephesians 6;4.

67 (WAC 180-80) The Washington Administrative Code serves as an example.

68 Dan Ayrault, for Washington Federation of Independent Schools, Testimony before the House Education Committee, Session of 1984.

69 Many Christians today actively promote this view because they observe the uselessness of appealing to relativists on the basis of principle. A relativist denies absolutes; indeed, arguing from a naturalistic base he can demonstrate that there are no absolutes. The only dependable basis for absolutes is the revelation of God. For this reason Montgomery (op. cit.) questions the use of anything other than Scripture as a basis for law. Pleading vagueness, inconsistency, and human origination of natural law, those who adopt this view argue that’ only God’s Word is a sufficient basis for law.

What these critics miss, however, is the fact that even those relativists who deny any basis for moral law still have it. John Dewey, the American pragmatist is a good example of a man who debunked every basis of morality—but who himself led an impeccable life. Paul tells us why this paradox can exist, in his epistle to the Romans (Romans 2:1), “Thou art inexcusable oh man, whoso. ever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself. “

70 Romans 2:1.

71 Apology, IV (II), 7, Triglotta, p. 121.

72 When we speak of creationism, or the right to life, or opposition to pornography as not essentially religious, we mean that we can expect people to arrive at these positions on the basis of the natural law and reason, apart from revelation. Of course, since Christianity applies to all of life, and speaks more clearly on these issues, they are religious in that sense.

Creationism is an issue that is especially prone to being labeled religious; this is what the courts are presently trying to determine. It should not be that creation is labeled religious and evolution scientific, while they are really the same. Both begin with a postulated answer to a question such as, “Is the universe eternal or finite in existence?” From a scientific viewpoint, “finite” is just as legitimate a postulate as “infinite” because in neither case can an observation be made for confirmation. The best that Can be done is to observe natural laws in effect and then to argue their implications.

73 I Corinthians 1:18.

74 The Religious Newswriters Association picked the top ten stories of 1984. Of the ten, only one had to do strictly with the power of the cross [Christian News (New Haven, MO: Lutheran News, January 7,1985)], Vol. 23, No. 1, p. 1.

75 An Explanation. . . op. cit., pp. 42, 185.

76 John 20:21-23.

77 II Timothy 2:15.

78 Graebner, op. cit., p. 12.

79 Ibid., p. 13.

80 Matthew 16:26.

81 I Corinthians 1:21.

82 I Corinthians 1:25.

83 I Corinthians 6:11.

84 Acts 6;1 ff.

85 St. Martin’s Evangelical Lutheran Church vs. South Dakota (451 US 772) (449 US 950).
In this case the Wisconsin Synod took a case all the way to the Supreme Court in order to protect their schools (and ours) from improper taxation.

86 See Appendix I.

87 Apology, Art. XII (V), 40, Triglotta, p. 261.

88 I Peter 2:9.

89 Smalcald Articles, Of the Power and Jurisdiction of Bishops, Triglotta, p.523.

90 There are many examples of this, but his “Christian Questions and their Answers” and his section on confession in the catechism will serve as good examples.

91 Formula of Concord, Thorough Declaration; Art. V, Of the Law and the Gospel; Article VI, Of the Third Use of the Law. Especially p. 963 in the Triglotta emphasizes the freedom of the Christian.

92 Augsburg Confession, Art. XXVIII, Triglotta, p. 85. 98. Thorough Declaration, Art. VI, Triglotta, p. 963.

93 We can pursue this further. The purpose of the law is three-fold; to curb the outbursts of sin that are naturally prompted by the old Adam, to show us our sin and need for a Savior, and to guide us in Christian living (Epitome, Art. VI, 1, Triglotta, p. 805). The purpose of the Gospel is to bring the good news of the forgiveness of sins and thus to kindle faith and trust in Christ and in His promise of salvation (Apology, Art. IV (II), Triglotta, p. 121). The law is common to all men, all know that there is right and wrong, that there is a God to whom they are accountable, and who is wise and powerful; so all men know the law, even though it is dimmed and twisted by sin (Apology, Art. IV (II), 7, Triglotta, p. 121). The Gospel is known only by revelation, however, for it is the account of what God has done for us at a certain place and time, distant to us. Without an account from something outside ourselves, we could not know of it. Scripture is the only sure record of the Gospel. We can sum up the two by saying that the law tells us what we are to do and not do; the Gospel tells us what God has done to keep that law and suffer punishment for us in the person of Jesus Christ (Thorough Declaration, Art, V, Triglotta, p. 951).

The effects of the law are self-knowledge and conviction of sin which work wrath and rebellion in the old man (Walther, op. cit., pp. 13-14 ff) and guide the new man (Walther, op. cit., pp. 89 ff; Thorough Declaration, Art. VI, Triglotta, p. 965 ff.); the law cannot provide any spiritual life, faith, or motivation. The Gospel alone works faith in the promises of God and motivation for the Christian life. Repentance and faith are the result of the work of the Holy Ghost so that by the law we are brought to a knowledge of sin, by the Gospel we are given saving faith, and motivated in the sanctified life (Epitome, Art. II, Triglotta, p. 787; Small Catechism, Creed, Art. III, Triglotta, p. 545).

94 Luke 6:29.

95 I Timothy 5:22.

96 Romans 13:4.

97 Apology, Art. XVI, 60, Triglotta, p. 331.

98 Edward L. Bryant, “Are You Teaching Behavior Mod or Law and Gospel?” The Lutheran Synod Quarterly, Vol. XXIV, No. 4, Dec., 1983, pp. 68-89.

99 Ibid.

100 Ibid.

101 If we put the pastor in the same case, we would observe a different array of responsibilities. The pastor has only one relationship to the student—and that under the Office of the Keys. It is not of primary importance to the pastor what punishment the child receives; of primary importance to the pastor is the matter of sin and grace. Thus it appears wise to me that when the church, to carry out its responsibility in one sphere (training of the young), is involved in another (discipline of students), that it apportion responsibility among staff accordingly.

102 Proverbs 31:8.

103 Hoyer, op. cit., pp. 600-602.

104 We can point out in passing that the church, too, as a corporate entity, has every Scriptural right to appeal to the government as a citizen, and on the same basis of natural law and reason.

105 Augsburg Confession XXVIII, 51, Triglotta, p. 91.
Epitome, Art. X, 12, Triglotta, p. 831

106 An Explanation. . . op. cit., p. 155-156.

107 Ibid., p. 108.

108 Robert Young, Analytical Concordance to the Bible (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Repr. 1969), pp. 573, 574, Index-Lexicon pp. 6, 24

109 Romans 13:1.

110 Teigen, op. cit., p. 21.

Appendix I

The Power of the Cross


Preach the law

-to all men Luke 24:47; Acts 17:22-31; Acts 24:25
-to government Dan. 4:27; Dan. 5:18-28; John 19:8-11
-to unbelievers Luke 24:47; Acts 24:45
-to Christians Matt. 5-7; Eph. 1:1; Eph. 4:1-3; Eph. 5:1-6; Eph. 6:1-18

Preach the Gospel

-to all who repent Prov. 18:13; Luke 11:28; Acts 16:30, 31; I John 1:9
-to all Christians Eph. 1:1-7; Col. 1:2, 13; Col. 14:20-23


Make use of the corporate body to . . .

Promote common goals, e.g.

–schools Matt. 28:18-20
–relief of the poor I Cor. 16:1
–good of the family Gal. 6:10
–the arts
–the humane letters


Attempt to use force to convert people Zech. 4:6; John 10:27; Rom. 10:17
Resort to force to prevent evil Zech. 4:6; Luke 9:51-56; John 18:36; II Cor. 10:4
Equate morality and wisdom Prov. 9:10
Submit to laws condemning what God commands Acts 5:29

The Power of the Sword


Defend the innocent Gen. 9:5, 6; Rom. 13:f; Aug. Conf. Art. XVIII 10-12, Trigl. p.85
Punish the guilty Gen. 9:5, 6; Rom. 13:4
Protect life Gen. 14; Rom. 13:4; Aug. Conf. Art. XXVIII 10-12, Trigl. p. 85
Use force to prevent manifest injury insofar as is possible Rom. 13:4; supra, Trigl. p. 85
Base its judgments upon reason and the natural law Matt. 19:8; Apology, Art. XXIII 12, Trigl. p. 367

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Make use of the organization of government to…

Promote common goals, e.g., All of these: Rom. 13:4: I Tim. 2:2
-relief of the poor
-good of the family -the arts
-the humane letters


Put innocent people to death I Kings 21:17-19; John 19:10-11
Deprive people of their property to distribute to others I Kings 21:17-19; Matt. 19:18
Further any injustice Rom. 13:3,4
Use force to foster faith in a god or gods Acts 18:12-17; Aug. Conf., Art. XXVIII 10-12, Trigl. p. 85
Use force to remove religion from society Romans 13:3,4
Refuse to encourage morality Romans 13:3,4


These various kingdoms to which Scripture refers, either by name or otherwise are these:



These are, with some exceptions, the same as the kingdom of grace and the kingdom of glory. These are what we speak of when we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” namely, that God would extend the Holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, and hasten His coming in glory.106




These three refer to Christ in His office of king. As king, He rules His kingdom of power, which is all creation, over which He has dominion. As king, He rules His kingdom of grace, which is all believers, both here and in heaven. Also as king, He rules His kingdom of glory, which is heaven.107


I have found no place in which Scripture uses the word “kingdom” to refer to the world in general. (MELUKAH, MALEKUTH, MAMLAKAH, MAMLA, KUTH, BASILEIA, are all words which are translated “kingdom.”) The term “kingdomS” of the world is used.108 Scripture does not, therefore, speak of a realm or area that is secular, but is referring to powers, that is, governments.


A very significant word in this context is the word “power” which is also used synonymously for “authority,” (EXOUSIA). This is the word used in Romans 13 in reference to government authority.109

Because Scripture does not present the world in general and the holy Christian Church as mutually exclusive areas of activity, it would be an error to conclude that there are any areas of life in which the church is not to apply the Office of the Keys, the law and the Gospel There is no realm set aside in which the members are beyond the reach of God’s Word. By the same token, by virtue of being active in the world at large, one is not to be less active in the church.110

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