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Sasse on the Reformed Teaching on Baptism
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Therefore we do not hold with Thomas and the monastic preachers or Dominicans, who forget the Word and say that God has imparted to the water a spiritual power which, through the water, washes away sin. Nor do we agree with Scotus and the Barefoot Monks who teach that by the assistance of the divine will Baptism washes away sins, and that this ablution occurs only through the will of God and by no means through the Word and water. (SA III,V 2-3)

For Luther, everything depends on the close connection of water and the


God, however, is a God of life. Now, because He is in this water, it must be the true aqua vitae that expels death and hell and quickens forever (WA 52.102.9).

But that this presence of God or Christ cannot be any other presence than that in his Word will not need to be proved, we trust, in the case of Luther. All effects of Baptism, in the view of Luther and the Lutheran Church, are effects brought about by the Word connected with the water.

Consequently, the Reformed objection to the Lutheran interpretation of Baptism is none other than the objection to the Lutheran doctrine of the means of grace in general. That God gives his Spirit—and with him forgiveness of sin, life and salvation—to no one without the external means of his grace, without the external Word, without Baptism, without the Lord’s Supper: that is the point against which this objection is directed. “The power of Jesus Christ, which is the only power of Baptism, is not bound to the execution of Baptism” (Barth, op. cit., 14f.). A favorite distinction made by the older Reformed theologians was the one between external baptism by water and internal baptism by the Holy Spirit and the blood of Jesus Christ, which cleanses us from all sin.[1] The reception of both, they said, does not always coincide; it is possible to have the one without the other. Whether an individual receives the Spirit-and-blood baptism together with the water baptism depends upon whether he is one of the predestined or not. This point of view also accounts for the objection to emergency baptism, which has been raised again and again since Calvin, especially against the Weibertaufe (baptism by women, midwives). Even so late a document as the Union Constitution of the Palatinate contains the sentence: “The Protestant Evangelical Christian Church of the Palatinate does not recognize emergency baptism” (E. F. K. Mueller, Die Bekenntnisschriften der Ev.-Reformierten Kirche, 1903, 871).

After all (they say) Baptism cannot give man anything he would not have without Baptism. Salvation and damnation do not in any sense depend upon Baptism, but only upon the question whether a man has been predestinated unto salvation or not. That is classic Reformed doctrine. And even where, as in the school of Barth, the old predestination doctrine has been softened up or surrendered, the conclusion still stands: Baptism has been instituted by Christ—Calvin agrees with Luther and the universal tradition of the Eastern and Western churches that the institution is identical with the baptism of Jesus—hence it must also be practiced as an ordinance of Christ, but it is not necessary for salvation. According to Karl Barth (op. cit., 15), one can only speak of a necessitas praecepti [necessity of command], never of a necessitas medii [necessity of means].


The Plastic Toyland

In the course of  listening to yesterday’s Issues, Etc. interview with Pr. Cwirla on “Forgiven and Forgiving,” Pr. Wilken recommended Dying to Live: The Power of Forgiveness by Pr. Harold Senkbeil.  I read this in college and haven’t really picked it up since, until now.

In this quote, Pr. Senkbeil diagnoses our chief problem at this time and in this place:

Christians at the dawn of the 21st century are faced with plenty of alternatives to the real God of heaven and earth.  But I would suggest that the chief false god of our age is pleasure…

Sadly, the world goes on chasing after the wind as the clock winds down.  It is a world of glitz and glitter, but it’s just a toyland.  Ultimately, even people with the most toys must die.

I would certainly include myself in “the world” that Pr. Senkbeil is discussing.  The problem is not that I don’t know better than to chase all the vanities the world has to offer, because I do  know better.  My problem is that I am not able to put that knowledge into action.  This is all a symptom of my sinful condition, which, as either Pr. Wilken or Pr. Cwirla (I can’t remember which) said in the discussion, sin is “a sickness unto death.”

At this point, when all hope is lost, I am reminded to look to the cross of Christ and the forgiveness He won there for the entire world, which includes me.  This forgiveness was given to me in my Baptism and continues to be delivered through Word and Sacrament.  I am forgiven, and am now free to forgive my neighbor.  Thanks be to God!

New Church Website

Grace’s new website just went live. Check it out at

Sine Nomine – John Weaver

This is a cool setting of Sine Nomine (For All the Saints) by John Weaver, performed by Felix Hell.  It’s just fun!

Love & Marriage

Rev. Jonathan Fisk of Worldview Everlasting discussed the topic in a video a few weeks back and then was also interviewed on the God Whisperers recently.

My favorite thought was that instead of dating, Christians should be trying to get married, meaning that they are looking for the person they want to marry and learn to love.

Check out both the video and the podcast for more great stuff!

The God Whisperers: Episode 134 – Love and Marriage


The History of LCMS Hymnals

We sang “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word” (LSB 655) at Lenten Vespers last night and after the service, a member and I had a conversation about the original Luther text of stanza one, which (in  English translation) says, “Lord, keep us in Thy Word and work, restrain the murd’rous Pope and Turk…”  The English translation comes from The Evangelical Lutheran Hymn-Book.  My edition of this has a publication date of 1931, but I thought it was earlier, so I Googled it.

In doing so, I discovered a page on the LCMS website I had not seen before.  It is titled A Brief History of LCMS Hymnals and gave me the answer I wanted (the music edition of ELHB is from 1912, with the text-only version being published in 1889).  So go and check out the website, if you are so inclined.  Here it is again: A Brief History of LCMS Hymnals.

O Christ, You Walked the Road

LSB 424 – O Christ, You Walked the Road

Text: Herman G. Stuempfle, Jr., b. 1923
Tune: Willam Daman, c. 1540-91; setting: New English Hymnal, 1986

1 O Christ, You walked the road
Our wand’ring feet must go.
You faced with us temptation’s pow’r
And fought our ancient foe.

2  No bread of earth alone
Can fill our hung’ring hearts.
Lord, help us seek Your living Word,
The food Your grace imparts.

3 No blinding sign we ask,
No wonder from above.
Lord, help us place our trust alone
In Your unswerving love.

4 When lures of easy gain
With promise brightly shine,
Lord, help us seek Your kingdom first;
Our wills with Yours align.

5 O Christ, You walked the road
Our wand’ring feet must go.
Stay with us through temptation’s hour
To fight our ancient foe.

Scripture References:
Matt. 4:1-11 (The Temptation of Christ)
Heb. 2:18 – For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Heb. 4:15 – For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Church Year:
In the Lenten section, this hymn is particularly useful for Lent 1 (A,B,C), which deals with the temptation of Christ.  In addition, this hymn works well near the beginning of Lent because we walk with Christ while he treads the road to Calvary where He will suffer and die for the sins of the whole world.

The first two stanzas use elements of the Temptation of Christ in Matt 4:1-11 and apply them to us, such as when He “fought our ancient foe” and stanza two, which paraphrases Christ when He says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

Stanza three brings to mind 1 Cor. 1:22-25: For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 3but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Stanza four once again refers to Christ’s temptation, where Satan tempts Him to take the easy way out and not suffer, but Christ chooses the difficult and right way.  We therefore pray Him to help us do the same.

Stanza five reiterates stanza one, but now prays that Christ be with us to fight Satan when we are tempted, just as He fought Satan during His own temptation.

Comfort from Johann Gerhard

I’ve heard Pastor Bill Cwirla (of Holy Trinity, Hacienda Heights, CA & The God Whisperers) mention Johann Gerhard’s Handbook of Consolations for the Fears and Trials That Oppress Us in the Struggle with Death several times, and so I asked for (and received) it for Christmas.  I was flipping through it today and found it to be very applicable in my life, even though I am several hundred years removed from Gerhard.  The book is written in the form of a dialog between the Tempted and the Comforter.

Here is #18 on The Weakness of Faith:

Tempted.  Faith is altogether required for the salutary use of the Lord’s Supper and enjoyment of the promises of the Gospel.  It is not sufficient for the sharing of alms to have only the hand of the giver but you must also have the hand of the receiver.  But truly my faith, which is to receive these gifts, is weak.  The tiny ship of my heart wavers greatly as it is tossed violently by the different storms of temptations and the firmness of my faith is overthrown.

Comforter.  Weak faith is still faith.  Faith does not apprehend Christ and in Christ the grace of God, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life, because it is strong but because it is faith.  Yes, strong faith clings firmly to Christ.  You must not think, however, that a weak faith is rejected by Christ, for it too clings beneficially to Him.  The faithful servant of God, Christ your savior, breaks not the bruised reed nor quenches the burning wick (Isa 42:3), but receives the weak in faith most cheerfully (Rom 14:3). The smallest spark of faith is the work of the Holy Spirit because by ourselves and from ourselves we are not able to think even something good.  Indeed, to will and to do is from God (Phil 2:13).  God will not refuse His own work, which He began in your heart by the Holy Spirit, but will perfect and strengthen it.  As a mother comforts her children, so God comforts us (Isa 66:13)….

Do not be dejected in spirits because of your weak faith.  Cast your gaze on the strength of God.  He is able to water what is dry, to cure what is ill, to bend what is rigid, to warm what is cold, and to recover what is straying.  Acknowledge the weakness of your faith and lean on the divine Word as your staff.  The Word is the seed of faith and its nourishment (Luke 8:11).  Pray with Christ’s disciples, Lord, increase our faith (Luke 17:5), and with the father of the boy with an unclean spirit, Lord I believe, help my unbelief (Mark 9:24).

Lenten Music: Ich Ruf Zu Dir [BWV 639]- J.S. Bach

This piece has become my standard Ash Wednesday Prelude.  It sets the tone for Lent well.

Here is a video of the piece:

Here is a video of the same piece played beautifully on one guitar:

Here is the text of the first stanza:

Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ,
Ich bitt, erhör mein Klagen,
Verleih mir Gnad zu dieser Frist,
Laß mich doch nicht verzagen;
Den rechten Glauben, Herr, ich mein,
Den wollest du mir geben,
Dir zu leben,
Meinm Nächsten nütz zu sein,
Dein Wort zu halten eben.

I call to You, Lord Jesus Christ,
I beg You, hear my cries,
grant me mercy at this time,
do not let me despair;
the true faith, Lord, I mean
that You would give me,
to live for You,
to be of use to my neighbor,
to keep Your word faithfully.

text & translation from Emmanuel Music

Lenten Music: Mendelssohn – From Depths of Woe (from Organ Sonata #3)

Felix Mendelssohn wrote a set of 6 great Organ Sonatas.  The third uses the hymn tune AUS TIEFER NOT as one of the themes.  We sing this as From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee (LSB 607), which is a hymn especially appropriate for Ash Wednesday.  Here is a video of that work: