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Sanctification: Theologically Speaking

Since converting to Lutheranism I have been questioned by several friends as to why? How do I reconcile what I taught, wrote and spoke on when I was Dutch Reformed with what I believe now. That’s easy. God also sanctifies your theology.

Chatting with friends a few years ago I noted how as we come to read God’s Word, understanding it for what it says, God actually cleans up our theological understandings and we tend to then move along this doctrinal road. Hopefully, we come to where we read God’s Word for what it says, believing that it says what it means and means what it says without trying to jump through theological hoops.

This week I have been working on what the Scriptures teach about the Lord’s Supper. I am not writing about what I think Jesus meant when He said, “This is my Body…this is My Blood…” rather, I am searching God’s Word and taking it for simply what it says. As I work on this chapter for the upcoming book (The Accidental Lutheran) I was reading Hermann Sasse’s book This is My Body, which deals with Luther’s teaching on the Lord’s Supper. Focusing on Luther’s early period and thinking on the Sacrament of the Altar I came across two statements.

The first is a response to Dr. Carlstadt, who denied the True Presence in the Bread and Wine. Luther writes,

“But I am captured by the Word of God and cannot find a way out.

The words are there, and they are too strong for me…[1]

Sasse then writes,

“These are the words of a theologian for whom the only source of Christian doctrine was God’s Word. He would have given up the Real Presence as easily as Zwingli, had it not been for the Word of God, which offered no other choice.[2]

Further, he writes, “…in some cases Luther’s development was very slow…(he) tried to keep what could be kept, until he was convinced that God’s Word demanded a different course of action.[3]

I will admit, I have been very slow in learning that God’s Word says what it means and means what it says. Over the decades I have moved, as I said, slowly, from holiness Pentecostalism to charismatic to reformed charismatic then reformed Baptist to Dutch Reformed and now Lutheran. Always, in these moves along the theological road, it was the Scriptures which directed my steps. In fact, when we moved out of the charismatic movement and away from Arminianism and decisional theology, it was because God’s Word says if anyone adds any prophecy to the Word that all the curses in Revelation are going to be brought to bear on them.

Also, Deuteronmy 18 reminds us that if a “prophet” says anything that does not come to pass that they were never sent from God to begin with. God’s Word and any new revelation are diametrically opposed. Today’s modern prophets, seers and sages are contra Scriptura, against Scripture. Also, one of Luther’s quote, “I am captured by the Word of God” brought this to bear in my own life in such a way I ended up writing it inside my Bible. However, it was God’s Word that was changing us, directing us and teaching us. It was Scripture that was correcting tears of, in some ways just bad theology and in many other heresies. It is Scripture that today speaks to us, cleaning up and sanctifying not only our life but our doctrine as well.

In a group on Facebook I remember writing that God not only sanctifies our lives, how we treat others, how we are to love one another, bear one anothers burdens and also how we should live Coram Deo (before the Face of God), how God’s Spirit produces fruit in us (they are, afterall called the Fruits of the Spirit in Gal. 6) but also how He straightens out our understanding of His Word. This is the journey I have been on and continue to travel.

It is comforting to know that I am not alone on this journey but the great Reformer, Martin Luther, traveled on the theological sanctification road as well; conforming all doctrine and practice to what the Word of God plainly says. Unless he was convinced by God’s Word, Luther would not bend; would not compromise; would not yield even if it meant at a great cost.

Imagine if all believers brought their doctrinal positions and church practices to the bar of God’s Word?

[1] Hermann Sasse, “Luther in His Early Period,” in This Is My Body (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1959), 81.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 83.

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