A Jagged Contention: The Word of Promise

“As we have said, God never has dealt, and never does deal, with mankind at any time otherwise than by the word of promise. Neither can we, on our part, ever have to do with God otherwise than through faith in His word and promise. He does not hold works in high esteem, nor does he need them. We use them in dealing with one another and with our own selves. But He does require that we should regard Him as faithful to His promises; we should pray without ceasing, and worship Him in faith, hope, and love. In this way He is glorified in us, since it is not of us who run, but of Him who shows mercy, and who promises and gives, that we possess and receive all good things. Lo, this is the true worship and service of God which we ought to offer in the mass. But when the words of the promise are not handed on, how can faith be exercised? And, without faith, what of hope? What of love? And without faith, hope, and love, what of service? Thus, without any doubt, all the priests and monks today, together with the bishops and all their other superiors, are idolaters and in a state of peril on account of this ignorance, abuse, and mockery of the mass, i.e, sacrament, i.e., promise of God.”

– Martin Luther, On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, in Martin Luther: Selections from His Writings, ed. John Dillenberger, pg. 277


What sort of teachings and practices have crept into our modern churches which get in the way of or undermine the word of promise?

share your thoughts in the comments 

8 thoughts on “A Jagged Contention: The Word of Promise

  1. Does our liturgy and hymnody speak in the same English language that our people speak? If not, why not?


  2. Let me posit that both the “question” asked by the writer, and Jean’s question, are quite imprecise. The topic question is made far too broad to even answer. “WHICH” modern churches would greatly narrow the field to something manageable, and answerable.

    Jean, in my opinion, the “if not, why not?” is overly suggestive and unnecessary, and as worded, would indicate that even before a word of discussion, your answer would be “No.”



    1. Jeff, of course I am being suggestive. The article concluded with a question. I offered one example.


  3. Martin Luther was not entirely accurate when he surmised that God, ” does not hold works in high esteem.” The Bible does not say God does not care about our actions or works. The entire Old Testament is based on the failure of the children of Israel to be obedient in their works as well as their hearts, and did not Luther himself distinguish Law and Grace. Additionally, the epistle of James very adroitly exclaims….”show me your faith by your works. ” Naturally, we are saved by grace, and by the sacrificial work of Christ alone, not works, but works…good works…should reveal themselves in our conduct and actions at some point. If not, we have neither a public profession of what we truly believe, and we have no witness that we are a child of God. We remain in an unchanged state, still removed from God, and we make a mockery of His grace…..wanting cheap grace. Sanctification in the life of a believer, through the word and the sacraments, and by the leading of the Holy Spirit, should cause the child of God to examine his or her hearts, actions, works, and attitudes.


  4. I do not think, as a general applied rule, that modern churches are all undermining the word of promise. However, a picture of the state of individual church bodies can be seen in Revelation, and many will fall into the categories depicted….but not just now in our day…..as it has always been that way since the beginning. Faithful churches, lukewarm churches, churches rich in resources yet poor in following the word of God. Working from the same Bible and reading the same verses, different churches seem to often view His promises with too much variety. The Calvinist churches have the puritanical approach, historically harsh and often severe, while the Baptists look at the promises and focus on decisional regeneration of the individual believer as the proper outcome. Each church denomination follows a course of truth mixed with error in some respects, but is this not true in each of us as well? Is God now, and was God throughout history so often misunderstood? His promises seem evident enough, but churches and individual interpretations often collide over the correct understanding. By reading the word of God diligently, we can understand it for ourselves, and we cannot assume all modern churches have it wrong, but in Luther’s day the clergy had been misled by years of Papist heresy, and it would take a long time for the Bible truths to reach the common people and educate the clergy.


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