Pastor David Nehrenz
Dear Saints in Christ,
We will celebrate this month the October 31st, 1517 posting of the 95 Theses on the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany. Reformation Sunday is Oct. 27. Our motto is “Sola Scriptura -Sola Gratia -Sola Fides” (Scripture Alone – Grace Alone -Faith Alone) as professed in our confessional writings- “The Book of Concord.”
Our Lutheran forefathers in the faith wrote about “Justification” in the Augsburg Confession in Article IV (1530): “1 It is also taught among us that we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God by our own merits, works, or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith, 2 when we believe that Christ suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us. 3 For God will regard and reckon this faith as righteousness, as Paul says in Romans 3:21-26 and 4:5.”
This is explained in more detail about “Justification” in the Apology to the Augsburg Confession Article IV (1531): “ 43 Since we obtain justification through a free promise, however, it follows that we cannot justify ourselves. Otherwise, why would a promise be necessary? The Gospel is, strictly speaking, the promise of forgiveness of sins and justification because of Christ. Since we can accept this promise only by faith, the Gospel proclaims the righteousness of faith in Christ, which the law does not teach. And this is not the righteousness of the law.
44 For the law requires our own works and our own perfection. But to us, oppressed by sin and death, the promise freely offers reconciliation for Christ’s sake, which we do not accept by works but by faith alone. This faith brings to God a trust not in our own merits, but only in the promise of mercy in Christ.
45 Therefore, when a man believes that his sins are forgiven because of Christ and that God is reconciled and favorably disposed to him because of Christ, this personal faith obtains the forgiveness of sins and justifies us. In penitence and the terrors of conscience it consoles and encourages our hearts. Thus it regenerates us and brings us the Holy Spirit, so that we can finally obey God’s law, love him, truly fear him, be sure that he hears us, and obey him in all afflictions. It mortifies our lust.
46 By freely accepting the forgiveness of sins, faith sets against God’s wrath not our merits of love, but Christ the mediator and propitiator. This faith is the true knowledge of Christ, it uses his blessings, it regenerates our hearts, it precedes our keeping of the law.
47 About this faith there is not a syllable in the teaching of our opponents. Therefore we condemn our opponents for teaching the righteousness of the law instead of the righteousness of the Gospel, which proclaims the righteousness of faith in Christ.”
We can never turn away from our responsibilities to be true to Scripture, the Book of Concord, the preaching of the Gospel and administration of the Sacraments. The world does not realize it, but it needs what we have to offer. The divine service, liturgy, creeds, psalms, hymns and the proclaiming of the law and the gospel can truly meet peoples’ need for forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. We are not here to merely meet people’s “felt needs.” We are here to meet their “real needs” which are repentance, faith and a new life in Christ!
So let us continue to proclaim boldly to our world the glorious good news. We are justified and declared righteous before God the Father by grace alone through faith alone. In the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead, we have forgiveness, life and salvation!
Pastor David Nehrenz
Vicar Rob Schrader
As a new school year is now underway, I thought I would write to you about wisdom, which Paul writes about extensively in the first few chapters of 1 Corinthians. Paul talks about two kinds of wisdom: the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God; the two are directly opposed to each other.
Paul says that the wisdom of the world sees the cross of Christ as “folly” (1 Cor. 1:18). This is because “the world did not know God through wisdom” (1 Cor. 1:21); for God can only be known by the Spirit and through the Word. It is so often the supposed wisdom of the world that causes disbelief. It is a common sentiment in our culture that we are advanced, we are smart, we are wise; many believe that we will be able to figure everything out ourselves; many believe that given enough time, our scientific wisdom will uncover all the secrets of life and the universe. In their wisdom, many have become proud and believed they don’t need God. Yet Paul says that the wise “of this age…are doomed to pass away” (1 Cor. 2:6). No matter how smart we are or how advanced we get, we will never outsmart death – graveyards are full of incredibly intelligent people.
That is why Paul exhorts us on to another kind of wisdom, ultimate wisdom – the wisdom of God. This is “Jesus Christ, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). Jesus is wisdom incarnate, because knowledge of and faith in him is the only way around our greatest enemy: death. Though to the proud of this world it seems “foolish” (1 Cor. 1:27), God became humble that we might be exalted, he served that we might reign, and he died that we might live eternally. Like Paul, “we preach Christ crucified” which is “folly to the Gentiles,” “for the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:23-25). Don’t get caught up or puffed up in the so-called ‘wisdom’ of the world, instead humbly look to Christ our Savior for he is truth, forgiveness, and life. Let it be so “that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:5).
Vicar Rob Schrader