Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Apostles' Creed Part IV The Third Article

The Third Article.

Of Sanctification.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; one holy Christian Church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

What does this mean?--Answer.

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.

Let me summarize this bit of a series on the Apostles' Creed and the discussion on monergism vs. synergism.  Most churches and pastors will teach, on the surface, that Creation and our redemption from sin was something that God did on His own.  God the Father created the heavens and the earth.  As a Christian, this is orthodox belief.  Additionally, because of our sin, we have separated ourselves from God and we are in need of redemption.  Many churches will, at least in passing, say something to the effect of Christ being crucified and resurrected for our sins to bring about salvation.

Here we get to the work of the Holy Spirit.  Luther's explanation of this article of the Creed is simple, to the point, and accurate.  It is the Holy Spirit that has called me to the Gospel.  It is He who enlightens, redeems, sanctifies, and keeps me in the true faith.  Paul summaries this point in Romans 10:10-21:
10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.”

19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”

20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”

21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”
This should be of great comfort.  Faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.  When ever God's law is preached along with comforting salve of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit brings about faith.  That is a promise.  His coming to us in the Word is all His doing, not ours.  It is something we completely receive.  We rely on God for our salvation and our sanctification.

This is what I found really intriguing.  Paul writes of Isaiah asking of God, "Have they not heard."  God responds:  "Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world."

God's word has gone out.  We have been commissioned to proclaim the gospel.  Repentance and forgiveness of sins.  But our job is not to proselytize, to convert others.  That's the job of the Holy Spirit.  I think it is fair to assume, He is more than capable of revealing the gospel.  God's law is proclaimed.  And then His gospel.  The good news that Christ has died for our sins.  The Holy Spirit gives faith through the hearing of the word, and through the Sacraments.

We, as believers, are to place #1 priority on God's action over our action.  Ours is a completely receptive spirituality that rejoices in receiving all the gifts of God on His terms.  Our role is to completely trust God.  And that is the thing we are unable to do without God extending His grace to us.  The reason we do not cooperate with regenerating grace before it acts upon us and in us is because we cannot. We cannot because we are spiritually, dead. We can no more assist the Holy Spirit in the quickening of our souls to spiritual life than Lazarus could help Jesus raise him from the dead.

In this series, I have belabored the point of monergism and how God acts on our behalf.  This is something that once we grasp and understand, the Gospel becomes so much sweeter.  I want to return to God's Word and then a quote from the Augburg Confession to finalize these thoughts:
   But God who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) . . . that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

From the Augsburg Confession from the Book of Concord, Lutherans believe, teach, and confess the following:
So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted.  Through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given [John 20:22].  He works faith, when and where it pleases God [John 3:8], in those who hear the good news that God justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ's sake.  This happens not through our own merits, but for Christ's sake.  (AC V 1-3)

Praise be to our heavenly father!  For while we were yet sinners and actively in rebellion towards God, in His most perfect love, Christ came and died for us!

Peace to you.

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