A Jagged Contention: What God’s Word Gives

“One thing, and only one thing, is necessary for the Christian life, righteousness, and freedom. That one thing is the most holy Word of God, the gospel of Christ, as Christ says, John 11:25, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live’ and John 8:36, ‘So if the Son makes you free you will be free indeed’; and Matthew 4:4, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone but every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ Let us then consider it certain and firmly established that the soul can do without anything except the Word of God and that where the Word of God is missing there is no help at all for the soul. If it has the Word of God it is rich and lacks nothing since it is the Word of life, thrust light, peace, righteousness, salvation, joy, liberty, wisdom, power, grace, glory, and of every incalculable blessing.”

-Martin Luther


Question:

If the Word of God brings life, righteousness, and freedom, why then do so many describe the Bible as a book that binds and condemns?  How has God’s Word been misrepresented by the culture, those opposed to the faith, and even the church so that it is not understood the way Luther describes it?

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4 thoughts on “A Jagged Contention: What God’s Word Gives

  1. Law and Gospel are not properly distinguished so that the Gospel is all too often not delivered in purity, where it is perceived as dangerous.

    Secondarily, without the doctrine of objective reconciliation, faith is turned into a work.

    Thirdly, the bound human will is not properly understood or taught, so that people understand who they’re dealing with.

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  2. The Word of God is more than just the Gospel, as well. The Law that condemns and demands is there also. A person working with whatever the Bible offers, without the Spirit of faith, will be struck hardest at first by the impossible demands of the Law. Some will never move beyond that and are driven away. The Gospel is heard there by the penitent heart with the Spirit of God moving it aright to Jesus and salvation. The culture is worldly and will never get through that narrow door without God – no doubt intentional. Yet the invitation of the Gospel stands side by side with the Law.

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  3. A theology of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.

    Q: Why do the culture, unbelievers, and some Christians speak as if the Bible brings bondage, rather than freedom?

    A: They are theologians of glory, not theologians of the cross.

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  4. Too many people view the purpose of the Law as bringing people to faith through moral behavior or perfectionism and go on to demand morality in such a way as the purpose of the Church is to create Law-abiding people. When it is rightly perceived by opponents of the Church that it fails in this practical regard, they have no use for it. After all, if the goal of religion is a practical morality, it fails. If a church falls into the trap of expecting a moral transformation rather than a returning sinner, repentance being the only actual change, it hands out judgment instead of grace.

    The utilitarian nature of religion was relished by the Founders as part of Enlightenment thinking. Robert Bellah’s observations on American civil religion underscore this. But you can also find on youtube wonderful examples of Richard Dawkins knocking down religious moralists who claim a common sense toward the Law between Jews and Christians and him slamming an interfaith panel because neither nor God appears to be moral according to any rational expectation. We, after all, had British roots. So much for cultural expectations.

    Only if you preach the Law as demonstrating an inability to live properly by your own power, your inability to break the bondage of sin, can you actually seek something to counter the inevitable condemnation. The path to Gospel is not through good moral behavior, but a corrupt moral state which cries out to be saved. When the Church stops judging and attempting to fix lives by Law, it can repair brokenness by grace. Instead of pointing to the individual as the one responsible to work good, it needs to point to the One who has worked good. That is the only way to counter cultural preconceptions of what God’s Word is intended to accomplish.

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