Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Who Invented Your Means of Grace?

There is no such thing as a church without sacraments.

I'm serious. Every church has them. They may call them different things and they may morph and change on a whim, but no church is devoid of some kind of sacrament. The reason for this is that you cannot avoid it. You have to answer the question, "How does an individual receive the objective promise of the forgiveness of sins?" You can't ignore that question because even a young child will hear John 3:16 and impertinently ask "But how does that happen to us?"

Every church body that still remains remotely Christian explains how this objective promise is applied to the individual through some kind of "means". There is always a "Means of Grace" whereby you are given access to forgiveness. The reason for this need is the simple fact that you are separated from the cross by 2,000 years and over 2,000 miles. It's a fundamental question that must be answered. "How do I get this forgiveness of sins?"

Scripture is clear and the early church fathers confirm its truth: The means by which an individual encounters the forgiveness of sins are found in those times and places where God has promised to do so. He calls the shots, remember? These means are in those places where the Word is applied to poor miserable sinners by the power of the Holy Spirit. Where you find the gospel preached, the Sacrament of the Altar celebrated, Holy Baptism applied in the triune name, and the proclamation of Absolution, there you will find the means of God's grace. This revelation is supported by similar types and forms found in the Old Testament as God's chosen people await the coming messiah and are pointed towards His supreme and all-availing sacrifice on the cross. The Old Testament is filled with typological sacrafices and signs that reveal that this is how God choses to interact with His chosen people. In this way, the ways of God are consistant so that He--and He alone--declares His promises to us and gives them as gifts to His people all the way from Adam up to the present day.

There are churches that claim that they have no sacraments. This is not true. In fact, they simply ignore the means of grace that God instituted in favor of a man-made means that has no Scriptural support. They point you to "your decision" to "make Christ your personal Lord and Savior" as the means whereby the objective promise of the forgiveness of sins is applied to you specifically. That's important. It's not the Gospel that does this. Nor is it the Holy Spirit. Nor is it those things that God instituted in His Word that have His promise for the forgiveness of sins.

It's your decision that makes this forgiveness happen for you. That's what gives you access.

You do it.


Christ promises forgiveness, but you bring it into effect by your conscious effort. Grace is not given to you as a free gift and imparted to you through the means that God instituted. Instead, you summon grace to yourself by the power of your own independent, autonomous will. Of course you are saved by faith... it's just that this faith is something you muster up from within yourself and are expected to maintain through discipline, mysticism, and forced zealotry.

That is significant. That is an amazing, bold, and dangerous claim. It smacks of the Garden of Eden where the devil entices man with the promise that we, the creature, will "be like God". The Scriptural supports to defend such an unfounded invention are weak at best. Do the research and you will find that the "proof texts" are taken wildly out of context and interpreted broadly with sweeping assumptions and mental leaps read into the actual texts. In contrast, the sacramental proof texts are starkly clear and unmistakably obvious. The fact that this debate still continues is a testament to the strength of fallen human pride and ignorance.

Many people who have not really looked into decision theology with any honest analysis (and probably never had to tortuously labor under its unpredictable and tyrannical yoke) will dismiss opposition to it by saying that we are splitting hairs.

This isn't hair splitting. This is the difference between searching the Scriptures to believe and practice what they clearly say...... and gross, man-centered idolatry. It is the difference between pointing a sinner to Christ and turning him back in on himself.

There is no other way to put it. It really is that crass. It really is that important.


Dan said...

I would really like you to consider being an author on Missional Lutherans. This is outstanding.

Mike Baker said...


Thanks for the compliment.

What is a "Missional Lutheran" exactly?

Mike Baker said...

...and perhaps a better set of questions that will tell me more:

1. Why is Lutheran not enough? Why must someone add "missional"?

2. Who isn't a missional Lutheran? And why not?