Thursday, December 10, 2009

An Exhortation to Christians

We Lutherans (Evangelical Catholics) emphasize God's grace to us, the Good News that salvation is not by our works, but purely a work of God. The technical term for this is "monergism," and though it was revived and emphasized by the Lutheran reformers in the 16th century and beyond, and remains (or certainly should) front and center in our theology and preaching in the current age - it is certainly not the sole property of Lutherans. The Gospel is the jewel of the Church from every time and place, in whose shining facets we see the very face of God.

In the beauty of this treasure, we Lutherans must always be careful not to take its beauty for granted and become lax because of the lavishness of God's free grace. St. Paul warns us of this again and again in his epistles. The Gospel and exhortation to repentence and good works go hand in hand in the baptized life of the Christian.

Yesterday's Treasury of Daily Prayer reading includes a meditation from an early pope of Rome and father of the Church who not only preaches salvation by grace alone, but also balances this grace by pastorally exhorting us to good works flowing from this Gospel.

Here is an excerpt:

"Thus we also, called through His will in Christ Jesus, are justified not through ourselves nor through our own wisdom or understanding or godliness or works that we have brought to completion in piety of heart, but through faith, through which almighty God has justified all men from eternity; to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. What then shall we do, brothers? Shall we lie about and quit doing good and forsake love? May the Master never allow this to be so - at any rate not among us! Rather, let us hasten with eagerness and strong desire to bring every good work to perfection. We have seen that the righteous were adorned with good works; and the Lord Himself, having adorned Himself with good works, rejoiced. Therefore, since we have this pattern, let us go forward in His will without stint; let us work the work of righteousness with all our strength."

from his First Epistle to the Corinthians XXXII-XXXIII, circa 96 AD, translated by my friend and brother in the office of the holy ministry, the Rev. Heath R. Curtis, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Worden, Illinois, and Zion Lutheran Church in Edwardsville, Illinois.


Yorgos said...
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Yorgos said...
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Yorgos said...

"the Good News that salvation is not by our works, but purely a work of God"

Exactly. As an Eastern Orthodox Christian (Greek branch) I was overjoyed to read the about the Joint Commission of Lutherans and Orthodox meetings and joint statements (I only discovered them a few months ago). One of the agreed statements says:
"Lutherans and Orthodox both understand good works as the fruits and manifestations of the believer's faith and not as a means of salvation."
(from section c.5 last line )

I say this because of my love for my Lutheran brothers and sisters in Christ. You see, I believe God is using each expression of the Christian faith (Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant) by His Spirit to bring out the best in each other as His Spirit directs in special ways. Each member of christ's family has special abilities that the other needs.
I read your previous post about lutheran German immigrants being " tolerated and co-existed with the dominant Russian Orthodox Church" in a prevoious post. I pray that in the future God's Spirit continues to bring brothers in Christ much closer than mere "tolerating". Of course I understand you are speaking about the past and there has been a growith in communication since then. But it must become more than that if we are to work out our faith in Christ. Active, strong, real, Godly, brotherly, passionate love must flow from all churches to each other as Paul wanted between the churches in the New Testament. When I stumbled onto your blog I had to write and tell you that I'm Orthodox and appreciate you Lutherans. I love you guys! As well as the others in Christ, who stand up for Him in our dark little corner of the galaxies.
This is my prayer that we all be united in Christ because outside our "friends" the secular humanists and the God haters are watching. For its in a unity of love between the different churches that Christ is the most glorified as He said: "...May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. " (John 17:23)

I doubt Christ will accept anything less from the churches east or west or inbetween. The unity doesn't have to be institutional (the lowest kind in my opinion) but must be loving and real (the highest kind in my opinion)

After all, in the end we are all gentiles who have been grafted in to Abraham's promise of spiritual Israel. Lutheran, Anglican, Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, we all sit at the feet of the Master. God bless you for your blog. I salute you in Christ.

and Merry Christmas!