The Random Thoughts of a Lutheran Parish Pastor
The Reformation was not about Repentance – it was about the Gospel. Lutherans knew that when we used to read Revelation 14: 6, “Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal Gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth--to every nation, tribe, language and people” on Reformation Day. John the Baptist did indeed preach Repentance. But what did our Lord have to say about that, Luke 16: 16"The Law and the Prophets were until John. Since that time the Kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.” Moreover, this is what He said about the proclamation of the Gospel, Luke 4:43, “But He said unto them, ‘I must preach the good news of the Kingdom of God to other cities also, for therefore am I sent.’" On Pentecost Peter also preached Repentance, Acts 2: 38,"Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call." Is this the Repentance to which Rev. Harrison is calling us? Should we then be baptized again and will we then receive the Holy Spirit?We Lutherans must learn that the Repentance we experienced when we were baptized and became children of God is not the repentance each Christian practices – sometimes daily, sometimes less often, and sometimes more than once a day. But if we neglect to express contrition to God, or if we are unable to remember one of the myriads of sins we commit every day, He still remains faithful and forgives us. We must also recognize that it is not how deeply we repent or for how long, but the fact that we have been made new creatures in the waters of Baptism, and that the Lord, the Holy Spirit dwells in each of the baptized, that is our assurance of forgiveness and membership in the Kingdom of God. This is not an insignificant part of what our Lord accomplished for us on the cross.Rev. Harrison writes, “If you meet Him secure in your sins, whether at the Communion rail or on the Last Day, you shall die in your sins, eternally.” Isn’t close(d) Communion supposed to prevent that? What are you then doing at the Communion rail? How do we know when we have repented long or deeply enough to become acceptable to God? How do we know when we are secure in our sins? If I were a betting man, I would bet that there are more people at the Communion rail unsure about God’s acceptance of them, than there are those who are secure in their sins. But these latter all will be saved, because of the gracious words of our Lord, Matthew 12: 31, “And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” It is the Lord, the Holy Spirit, who guards the souls of the children of God, so that they are not secure in their sins, but at the same time they rejoice in the grace of God. Further he writes, “So often our laity have an inclination that preaching could be better but have no idea what Lutheran preaching should be!” How can they know if their preachers don’t preach the Gospel as they should, and what preacher when told the truth about his preaching will repent, rather than say, “what do you know? You are just a layman.” Strangely enough, in a church where the Gospel was rarely found, Fr. Alexander Schmemann wrote this in his diary (12 Oct. 76), “The first, the most important, the source of everything is, “Let my soul rejoice in the Lord …” The fear of sin does not prevent one from sinning. Joy in the Lord does…. How, when and why, instead of freeing the tortured, did the Church begin to sadistically frighten and to terrorize them?”Peace and Joy!George A. Marquart
The previous commenter said,Rev. Harrison writes, “If you meet Him secure in your sins, whether at the Communion rail or on the Last Day, you shall die in your sins, eternally.” Isn’t close(d) Communion supposed to prevent that? I would ask how close(d) Communion makes any difference in this matter? Where does close(d) Communion affect salvation?Fr. DAnglican Priest
George,I've read Luther's 95 theses and the core issue there is repentance. And repentance is the Gospel. With such a word, Christ and St. John the Forerunner began their respective ministries. Repentance and the gospel are not contrary--they are the same message.
Hi ChrisRepentance and the Gospel are notthe same message. Repentance mustprecede the Gospel. The Gospel willhave no effect if you do not admityou are a sinner who repents of hissin. The Gospel does not depend onour repentance, but it is the freegift of God's forgiveness for thesake of Christ.
George,you should know better, go to the Greek, don't be a slave to the English, and you'll see your statements are off due to poor exegesis.What Chris is saying, I'm sure, is the power of the Word, (gospel)so the Holy Spirit (gospel), conceives faith (gospel) that brings knowledge of the Law that repentence comes forth. To mis-state repentance (like George) is to mis-state the gospel. The Gospel (in the wide sense) includes the Law, as Scripture, our Confessions show.
Fr. D.Closed Communion is about the oneness of confession of faith, that the Church exclusively observed from the time of the Apostles until mid 1500's. Judas took communion with Jesus. Closed communion doesn't prevent someone eating and drinking to their damnation as St. Paul in 1 Cor. states.
Chris: there are good reasons why the 95 Theses are not part of the Lutheran Confessions. They are very early Luther and at that time Luther had not had a chance to fully contemplate the true relationship between repentance and the Gospel. The Gospel is not repentance, and repentance is not the Gospel. There is a relationship between them. If we don’t get that right, then we do damage to the Gospel and to the correct teaching about repentance. The one thing I will continue to be adamant about is that the Repentance of a non-believer who becomes a child of God is not the same as the repentance the child of God practices as a member of God’s Kingdom.Peace and Joy!George A. Marquart
Anonymous December 17, 2011 6:36 PM: Actually, both Greek and English suffer from similar problems. The noun μετάνοια, repentance, is used 24 times in 24 verses – each time referring only to the repentance of the unbeliever. Various forms of μετανοέω and μεταμέλομαι, to repent are used in the New Testament, but each time the context has to tell you whether it refers to the action of an unbeliever or to that of one who already believes. But it is ultimately the Gospel, which defines what it means to be a child of God, and which tells you that there are two types of repentance. C.F.W. Walther makes it very clear that confusing the one with the other is to misinterpret the Law and the Gospel.Peace and Joy!George A. Marquart
Anon at 6:38 your description of close(d) communion as being what the entire Church practiced for the first 1500 years is really unrelated to the present practice of the LCMS. The practice of the whole Church was to exclude non-Christians; the practice of the LCMS is to exclude non-LCMS, but I don't think the LCMS has gone so far as to make those two equivalent.My original question still stands unanswered.Fr. DAnglican Priest
Fr. D, let me try to answer your question. In my posting I asked the question about close(d) communion because, if the communicant is know to the celebrant, it should be more difficult for the communicant to come to the rail “secure in his sins.” Inasmuch as 1 Cor. 11:28 reads, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself,” close(d) communion is supposed to help prevent a person eating and drinking “judgment to himself”. Please do not ask me to justify this practice, because I believe that it is one of which the church should repent, but few in the LCMS will agree with me. I do not object to unqualified people being kept from receiving communion; rather, I am concerned when someone is denied communion who is both qualified and needs it desperately. I am aware of numerous such instances.Peace and Joy!George A. Marquart
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