Augsburg Confession – Article 26 – The Distinction of Foods

Article 26 of the Augsburg Confession in the Book of Concord of 1580

(To read Article 25, click here.)

Previously people have taught, preached, and written that observing the distinction of foods and similar traditions instituted by men helps people merit grace and make satisfaction for their sin.1 On this basis people have come up with new fasts, new ceremonies, new orders and the like every day and have urged them fiercely and powerfully, as if these things were necessary forms of worship through which people would merit grace if they kept them, and would commit grave sin if they did not. This has led to a lot of pernicious error in the church.

First, it has the effect of obscuring the grace of Christ and the doctrine of faith, which holds the gospel before us with great earnestness and powerfully urges people to esteem and cherish the merit of Christ and to know that faith in Christ should be set far and away beyond all works. That is why Saint Paul has fiercely attacked the Law of Moses and human traditions, so that we might learn that we do not become pious before God by our works, but only through faith in Christ, and that we obtain grace for Christ’s sake. This doctrine has almost been completely extinguished through the teaching that people can merit grace by observing appointed fasts, distinguishing between foods, dressing a certain way, etc.

Second, such traditions have also obscured God’s commands, for these traditions are set far above God’s commands. This is all that people think the Christian life consists of: If people observe these festivals, pray these prayers, observe these fasts, dress this way—that’s called a spiritual, Christian life. At the same time, other good works that are actually necessary are considered to be a worldly, unspiritual existence, namely those that each person is responsible for according to his vocation, such as the head of the household working to support his wife and children and to bring them up in the fear of God, the mother bearing children and attending to them, a prince or ruling body governing land and people, etc. These works that are commanded by God had to be a worldly and imperfect existence, while the traditions had to have the sparkling reputation, so that they alone were called holy, perfect works. Accordingly there was neither limit nor end of making such traditions.

Second page of Article 26 of the Augsburg Confession in the Book of Concord of 1580

Third, such traditions have turned into a heavy burdening of consciences. For it was impossible to keep all the traditions, and nevertheless the people were of the opinion that they were a necessary form of worship. And Gerson writes that many have fallen into despair over this; some have even killed themselves on account of the fact that they heard no comfort from the grace of Christ.2 For one can see how consciences are bewildered from the scholastics and theologians who have attempted to compile all the traditions, and those who have sought some balance to help those consciences have had to spend so much time on it that in the meantime all beneficial Christian doctrine about necessary matters, such as faith, comfort in difficult trials and the like, was smothered. Many pious, learned people in the past have also complained loudly about this, that such traditions cause a lot of strife in the church, and that pious people are hindered with them and cannot come to the proper knowledge of Christ. Gerson and several others have complained fiercely about this. Yes, it even displeased Augustine that consciences were burdened with so many traditions. That is why he gives instruction along with them, so that people do not regard them as necessary things.4

Our men have therefore not taught about these matters out of insolence or contempt for spiritual authority, but dire need has required them to give instruction about the above-cited errors, which have developed from a misunderstanding of traditions. For the gospel compels us that we should and must promote the doctrine of faith in the church, but this doctrine cannot be understood if people are under the false impression that they can merit grace through self-chosen works.

And so we teach in this regard that a person cannot merit grace or appease God or make satisfaction for sin by keeping said human traditions. And therefore they should not be made into necessary forms of worship. The reason for this is drawn from Scripture. In Matthew 15 Christ excuses the apostles when they had not kept the customary traditions, and he says in addition, “They honor me in vain with human rules.” Now if he calls this an act of worship done in vain, it must not be necessary. And shortly thereafter: “What goes into the mouth does not defile a person.” Likewise Paul says in Romans 14: “The kingdom of heaven does not consist in food or drink.” Colossians 2: “No one should judge you in food, drink, Sabbath, etc.” Peter says in Acts 15: “Why do you test God by imposing on the disciples’ necks the yoke that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? No, we believe that we are saved by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the same way that they are.” There Peter forbids us from burdening consciences with more external ceremonies, whether they be of Moses or others. And in 1 Timothy 4 prohibitions like prohibiting food, marriage, etc. are called devil’s doctrine. For this is diametrically opposed to the gospel, when such works are instituted or performed in order to merit the forgiveness of sins, or the impression is given that no one can be a Christian without performing them.

Third page of Article 26 of the Augsburg Confession in the Book of Concord of 1580

But as for the accusation that our teachers forbid mortification and discipline, like Jovinian did,5 much to the contrary can be found in their writings. For they have always taught about the holy cross that Christians are duty-bound to suffer, and this is real and serious, not invented, mortification. In addition, we also teach that everyone is duty-bound to keep himself in check with physical discipline, such as with fasting and other works, so that he does not give himself occasion to sin, not so that he can merit grace with such works.6 Such physical discipline should not just be urged on certain appointed days, but constantly. Christ speaks of this in Luke 21: “Guard yourselves, that your hearts do not become weighed down by dissipation.” Likewise: “The demons are not expelled except through fasting and prayer.”7 And Paul says that he mortified his body and brought it into obedience.8 He thereby indicates that mortification should serve not to merit grace but to keep the body prepared, so that it does not keep anyone from doing what has been entrusted to him according to his calling. And so we do not reject fasting itself, but the fact that it has been turned into a necessary act of worship on appointed days and with certain foods, with the result that it confuses consciences.

We on our part also retain many ceremonies and traditions, such as the order of the Mass and other songs, festivals, etc., which help to preserve good order in the church. But in addition, the people are instructed that such outward worship does not make one pious before God, and that it should be observed without burdening the conscience, so that if someone gives it up without giving offense, no sin is committed in doing so. The ancient Fathers also preserved this freedom in outward ceremonies. For in the East Easter was observed at a different time than in Rome.9 And when some wanted to treat this difference as a rupture in the church, they were admonished by others that it is not necessary to maintain unity in such customs. And Irenaeus has this to say: “Differences in fasting do not rupture the unity of the faith.”10 So too it is written in Distinction 12 that such differences in human ordinances are not contrary to the unity of Christendom.11 And the Tripartite History, in Book 9, compiles many dissimilar church customs and sets down a useful Christian saying, “The apostles’ intention was not to institute festivals, but to teach faith and love.”12

Notes

1 Thomas Aquinas had written in his famous Summa Theologiae (composed from 1265-1274), Part 2, Section 2, Question 147, Article 1 (e.g. in the bottom of the left column in the 1512 Haguenau edition published by Heinrich Gran):

The practice of fasting is adopted chiefly for three reasons: First, of course, in order to keep the longings of the flesh in check. … Secondly, it is adopted in order that the mind may be more readily elevated to the contemplation of the sublime. … Thirdly, in order to make satisfaction for sins.

2 Melanchthon is citing Jean Charlier de Gerson (1363-1429), a French scholar, educator, reformer, and poet. Gerson wished to banish scholastic subtleties from the studies of the University of Paris, and at the same time to put some evangelical warmth into them, giving them a more spiritual and practical focus. Scholars are unsure which of Gerson’s works Melanchthon is citing here.

3 Liber de vita spirituali animae (The Spiritual Life of the Soul), in Joannis Gersonii Doctoris Theologi & Cancellarii Parisiensis Opera Omnia, ed. Louis Ellies du Pin, vol. 3 (Antwerp, 1706), Reading 2 (cols. 16-17); Reading 4, Corollary 11 (cols. 44-45).

4 Augustine treated the subject of traditions especially brilliantly in two letters he wrote in reply to a certain Januarius (Letters 54 and 55). Here is an excerpt from the former:

I desire you therefore, in the first place, to hold fast this as the fundamental principle in the present discussion, that our Lord Jesus Christ has appointed to us a “light yoke” and an “easy burden,” as He declares in the Gospel: in accordance with which He has bound His people under the new dispensation together in fellowship by sacraments, which are in number very few, in observance most easy, and in significance most excellent, as baptism solemnized in the name of the Trinity, the communion of His body and blood, and such other things as are prescribed in the canonical Scriptures, with the exception of those enactments which were a yoke of bondage to God’s ancient people, suited to their state of heart and to the times of the prophets, and which are found in the five books of Moses. As to those other things which we hold on the authority, not of Scripture, but of tradition, and which are observed throughout the whole world, it may be understood that they are held as approved and instituted either by the apostles themselves, or by plenary Councils, whose authority in the Church is most useful, e.g. the annual commemoration, by special solemnities, of the Lord’s passion, resurrection, and ascension, and of the descent of the Holy Spirit from heaven, and whatever else is in like manner observed by the whole Church wherever it has been established. There are other things, however, which are different in different places and countries: e.g., some fast on Saturday, others do not; some partake daily of the body and blood of Christ, others receive it on stated days: in some places no day passes without the sacrifice being offered; in others it is only on Saturday and the Lord’s day, or it may be only on the Lord’s day. In regard to these and all other variable observances which may be met anywhere, one is at liberty to comply with them or not as he chooses; and there is no better rule for the wise and serious Christian in this matter, than to conform to the practice which he finds prevailing in the Church to which it may be his lot to come. For such a custom, if it is clearly not contrary to the faith nor to sound morality, is to be held as a thing indifferent, and ought to be observed for the sake of fellowship with those among whom we live. … I answer, therefore, that if the authority of Scripture has decided which of these methods is right, there is no room for doubting that we should do according to that which is written; and our discussion must be occupied with a question, not of duty, but of interpretation as to the meaning of the divine institution. In like manner, if the universal Church follows any one of these methods, there is no room for doubt as to our duty; for it would be the height of arrogant madness to discuss whether or not we should comply with it. But the question which you propose is not decided either by Scripture or by universal practice. It must therefore be referred to the third class—as pertaining, namely, to things which are different in different places and countries.

5 The ascetic Jovinian (d. c. 405) was much maligned, and his views exaggerated, by Jerome’s later invective in his two books Against Jovinian, written in 393. Jovinian did not so much oppose mortification and discipline, as he did the idea that such measures were meritorious or possessed a character of moral elevation. Melanchthon’s characterization of him here is based on Jerome’s.

6 Modern-day examples would include self-imposed or mutually arranged accountability measures with regard to internet usage, consumption of food or drink, recreational pastimes, etc.

7 Mark 9:29

8 1 Corinthians 9:27

9 In Asia Minor Easter was observed on the Jewish day of Passover (14 Nisan), but in Rome and the rest of the Christian world it was observed on the Sunday after the first full moon on or after the spring equinox (see Eusebius, Church HistoryBook 5, Chapter 23).

10 Quoted in Eusebius, Church HistoryBook 5, Chapter 24, par. 13.

11 See Gratian’s Decretum, Part 1, Distinction 12, Chapter 10 here (type 98 in the “Jump to page” field and click Go). The excerpt cited there was penned by Gregory the Great to Augustine of Canterbury (Bishop of the Angli from 597-604) and reads as follows:

Thy Fraternity [dignified way of addressing Augustine] knows the use of the Roman Church, in which thou hast been nurtured. But I approve of thy selecting carefully anything thou hast found that may be more pleasing to Almighty God, whether in the Roman Church or that of Gaul, or in any Church whatever, and introducing in the Church of the Angli, which is as yet new in the faith, by a special institution, what thou hast been able to collect from many Churches. For we ought not to love things for places, but places for things. Wherefore choose from each several Church such things as are pious, religious, and right, and, collecting them as it were into a bundle, plant them in the minds of the Angli for their use.

The entire letter is available in its entirety in English here. (To distinguish this Augustine from the more renowned Augustine of Hippo, some choose to pronounce the former AW-gus-teen and the latter u-GUS-tin.)

12 Rf. Note 13 under Article 24. Melanchthon’s reference (from Book 9, Chapter 38) can be viewed on folio 78b here. It is based on Socrates Scholasticus, Ecclesiastical History, Book 5, Chapter 22.

Advertisements

Augsburg Confession – Article 24 – The Mass

Article 24 (misprinted as 23) of the Augsburg Confession in the Book of Concord of 1580

(To read Article 23, click here.)

Our churches are charged with supposedly having abolished the Mass,1 but unjustly so. For it is obvious – and we may say this without boasting – that we observe the Mass with greater devotion and seriousness than our opponents do. The people are also frequently instructed with the utmost diligence about why the Holy Sacrament was instituted and how it should be used, namely so that terrified consciences may be comforted with it. In this way the people are drawn to Communion and the Mass. Along with that, instruction against other incorrect teachings about the Sacrament is also given. Nor has any noticeable change been made in the public ceremonies of the Mass, except that in several places German songs are sung in addition to Latin singing, for the teaching and training of the people. After all, this is the chief purpose that all ceremonies should serve, that the people learn from them what it is necessary for them to know about Christ.2

But since in times past the Mass has been abused in a number of different ways (a fact as clear as day), so that it was turned into a retail fair where people were buying and selling them and the majority of masses in all the churches were said for the sake of money,such abuse has been rebuked by learned and pious people more than once, even before our time.3 Now when our preachers preached about this and the priests were reminded of that terrible threat, which really should stir up every Christian, that whoever uses the Sacrament in an unworthy manner is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of Christ,4 such masses for sale and private masses, which had hitherto been said out of compulsion for the sake of money and prebends,5 consequently fell out of use in our churches.6

In addition, we also rebuke the appalling error that has been taught, that our Lord Christ has only made satisfaction for inherited sin through his death and that the Mass was instituted as a sacrifice for the other sins, thus turning the Mass into a sacrifice offered for both the living and the dead that is used to take away sin and appease God. This has furthermore led to people disputing whether a Mass said for many people merits as much as if a special one were said for each individual. This has resulted in the countless multitude of masses, with people using this work to try to obtain everything they need from God, while at the same time faith in Christ and true worship have been forgotten.

Second page of Article 24 of the Augsburg Confession in the Book of Concord of 1580

Therefore instruction has been given about this, as necessity has unquestionably required, so that people may know the proper use of the Sacrament. We have taught them, first of all, that Scripture shows in many places that there is no other sacrifice for inherited sin and other sin besides the one and only death of Christ. For this is what stands written in the Epistle to the Hebrews, that Christ has sacrificed himself once and has thereby made satisfaction for all sin.7 It is quite an unheard-of innovation in church doctrine that Christ’s death was meant to make satisfaction only for inherited sin and not also for other sin besides. It is therefore to be hoped that one and all will understand that such an error is not rebuked unjustly.

Secondly, St. Paul teaches that we obtain grace before God through faith and not through works.8 This abuse of the Mass is obviously contrary to this, if people are imagining that they can obtain grace through this work. For it is well known that the Mass has been used for that purpose, to pay for sin and to obtain grace and every blessing from God, not just the priest for himself, but also for the whole world and for others, both living and dead.

Thirdly, the Holy Sacrament was instituted not to set up a sacrifice for sin – for the sacrifice has been made already – but so that our faith might be awakened through it and that consciences might be comforted when they perceive through the Sacrament that grace and forgiveness of sin is promised to them by Christ.9 This sacrament therefore requires faith, and without faith it is used in vain.10

Now since the Mass is not a sacrifice for others, living or dead, to take away their sin, but is meant to be a communion where the priest and others receive the Sacrament for themselves, this is the way in which we observe it: We hold Mass on holy days and other days when communicants are present, and all those who desire it are communed. In this way we retain the Mass in its proper use, the way it used to be held in the church, as one can prove from St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 and from the writings of many Fathers besides. For Chrysostom tells how the priest daily stands and summons some to Communion, while forbidding others to come forward.11 The ancient canons also indicate that one man officiated and communed the other priests and deacons. For this is how the words read in the Nicaean canon: The deacons should receive the Sacrament from the bishop or priest in an orderly way after the priests do.12

If then, in doing this, we have not undertaken any innovation that has not existed in the church of old, and if in the public ceremonies of the masses no noticeable change has been made except that the other unnecessary masses have fallen out of use, which were observed in addition to the parish Mass through an abuse somewhere along the line, it is therefore unjust that this way of holding Mass should be condemned as heretical and unchristian. For in the past, even in the large churches where there were many people, and even on the days where the people came together, Mass was not held every day. For Book 9 of the Tripartite History indicates that on Wednesday and Friday in Alexandria, Scripture was read and expounded and all other services were held without the Mass.13

(To continue to Article 25, click here.)

Notes

1 The term “the Mass” was and is sometimes used to refer to an entire service with Communion, but it is especially used to refer specifically to the rite of the Sacrament of Holy Communion, as it is in this article. The term comes from the Latin word missa, which was allegedly one of the concluding words of the ancient rite of the Sacrament: “Ite, missa est. [Go, the assembly is dismissed.]”

Melanchthon is referring to Dr. Johann Eck’s 404 Articles, a publication that lumped Luther together with Zwingli, Oecolampadius, Carlstadt, Pirkheimer, Hubmaier, and Denck, and charged them with every conceivable heresy. This publication had a significant influence on the final form of the Augsburg Confession. Depending on the edition and the numbering, the articles in which Eck dealt with alleged errors about the Mass began with either 269 or 270. You can read the original Latin here, a German translation here, and an English translation here.

2 1 Corinthians 14:26. The content of this paragraph in Latin is ordered differently and expanded upon:

Our churches are falsely accused of abolishing the Mass. For the Mass is retained among us and celebrated with the utmost reverence. And almost all of the usual ceremonies are preserved, except that here and there German songs are added to the Latin ones, which is done in order to teach the people. For that is what ceremonies are especially useful for—teaching the ignorant. Plus, Paul instructed that a language understood by the people should be used in church [1 Corinthians 14]. The people are accustomed to receiving the Sacrament together, as many as are fit for it; this also increases the reverence and piety of the public ceremonies. For none are admitted unless they have first been examined and heard. People are also reminded of the value and use of the Sacrament, how much comfort it affords to troubled consciences, in order that they may learn to trust in God and to expect and ask for everything good from God. This worship pleases God; using the Sacrament this way strengthens devotion to God. And so one cannot find masses among our adversaries that are conducted with greater piety than they are among us.

3 Such “learned and pious people” included Johannes Tauler (c. 1300-1361), Jean Charlier de Gerson (1363-1429), Nicolaus Cusanus (1401-1464), and Gabriel Biel (c. 1420-1495), among others; cf. Acts 8:20.

4 1 Corinthians 11:27

5 A prebend was the portion of the revenues of a cathedral formerly granted to a priest connected to a cathedral (serving under a bishop) as his stipend; cf. 1 Peter 5:2.

6 In the Latin version, a paragraph is added here:

Nor were the bishops ignorant of these abuses; if they had corrected them in time, there would be less dissension now. In the past, many vices were allowed to creep into the church through their negligence. Now, when it is too late, they are beginning to complain about the troubles in the church, even though this tumult had no source other than those very abuses, which were so obvious that they could not be tolerated any longer. Great dissensions have arisen over the Mass, over the Sacrament, perhaps as punishment for the way the world has been profaning masses for so long—a sacrilege that has been tolerated in the church for so many centuries by the very men who both could have and ought to have corrected it. For it is written in the Decalogue that the one who misuses the name of God will not go unpunished [Exodus 20:7]. And from the beginning of the world there does not seem to be any divine thing that has ever been exploited for gain the way the Mass has.

7 Hebrews 2:14-17; 7:27; 9:12,26,28; 10:12,14; see also 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 2:2.

8 Romans 3:21-24; 4:4-8; Galatians 2:15,16; Ephesians 2:8,9

9 Jeremiah 31:31-34; Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

10 The Latin version has a somewhat different train of thought here:

But Christ commands us to do this in memory of him. That is why the Mass was instituted, in order that faith in those who receive the Sacrament may recall the benefits it receives through Christ and may cheer up and console the troubled conscience. For to remember Christ means to remember his benefits and to sense that they are truly presented to us. Nor is it enough to recall the history, since the Jews and the impious are able to recall this too. This is therefore the purpose for which the Mass should be celebrated, that there the Sacrament might be distributed to those who are in need of consolation, just as Ambrose says, “Because I am always sinning, I should always be taking the medicine.”

Melanchthon is concisely paraphrasing paragraph 25 from De sacramentis, Book 5, Chapter 4 (original Latin in col. 452 here), the final two sentences of which read thus: “Whoever has a wound requires medicine. The wound is that we are subject to sin; the medicine is the heavenly and venerable Sacrament.” Ambrose’s authorship of this treatise continues to be debated.

11 Melanchthon is combining portions from two of Chrysostom’s homilies. In Homily 3 on Ephesians (delivered prior to 392 AD), Chrysostom says, “In vain is the daily sacrifice [θυσία], in vain do we stand at the altar; there is no one to partake” (original Greek in col. 29 here). In Homily 17 on Hebrews (many scholars think he delivered these in Constantinople, thus between 398 and 404), he says, “This is also why the priest calls out when it is time, summoning the holy, and through this call inspecting everyone for blemishes, in order to prevent anyone unprepared from approaching. … [W]ith a loud voice, with an awful cry, just like some herald raising his hand into the air, standing aloft, having been made visible to everyone, and after that awful silence shouting out his important message, the priest invites some, but wards off others, not doing this with his hand, but with his tongue more distinctly than with his hand” (original Greek in cols. 132,133 here). In both sermons – worthy of reading in their entirety – Chrysostom rebukes some of his members for sporadic Communion attendance, adding in the Ephesians sermon that many only come to Communion on Epiphany and during Lent. This is eerily similar to the present-day phenomenon of so-called Christmas and Easter Christians. He also rebukes his members who merely come out of “custom and form than [out of] consideration and understanding.”

12 Canon 18 of the First Council of Nicaea. The Latin version adds: “And Paul commands about Communion that some should wait for the others, so that there may be common participation.”

13 The Tripartite History of Cassiodorus (c. 485-c. 585) was his compilation of the church histories of Socrates Scholasticus, Sozomen, and Theodoret. Melanchthon’s reference can be viewed on folio 79b here. However, the original chapter on which it is based (Socrates Scholasticus, Ecclesiastical History, Book 5, Chapter 22) says that the Wednesday and Friday in question were only those of Holy Week. However, earlier in the same chapter Socrates also says that “almost all churches throughout the world” celebrate the Lord’s Supper on Saturday, but the churches in Alexandria and Rome had ceased to do so. (Presumably they still did so the following day.)

It is indisputable that the Lutheran Church in the United States and elsewhere today celebrates the Lord’s Supper less often than the Christians in earlier times did. This is due to primarily two factors. The first is the influence of Pietism. Pietism was a movement that both affected and infected Lutheranism beginning in the late 1600s, in response to what it perceived as a lifeless Christianity. To try to correct the error, Pietism created errors of its own. Instead of turning people outside of themselves to the means of grace, it turned people inside themselves to search and fix their own minds, hearts, and motives. Examining oneself before Communion ballooned from an important biblical requirement to an exacting and exhausting ritual. Regular communing was seen as a lifeless habit. It was better, the Pietists thought, to commune only a few times a year with the proper heart (which often ended up being a self-righteous heart) than it was to receive it every Sunday in a habitual way (a false dichotomy). Thus, the practice of every-Sunday Communion was in many cases virtually extinguished in favor of communing a handful of times a year. Pietism continued to have an influence on Lutheranism in America. However, especially in the last century or so, as Lutheran leaders and teachers in the United States have studied and taught the need for Communion, the blessings of Communion, and the Communion practice of the ancient Christians and Lutherans, this has had a trickle-down effect, so that the regularity of Communion has gone from a handful of times a year, to once a month, to twice a month (still a common practice in many American Lutheran churches), to the receiving of Communion on all Sundays and church festivals in some churches, as described by Melanchthon in this article.

The second factor is a more nuanced purpose of worship. In the past, worship was very rarely considered as a venue for evangelism, if at all. Evangelism almost always took place outside of worship. However, Lutherans have in many cases done their best to make their regular services another viable option for acquainting people with the gospel, without ignoring the fact that worship is primarily intended for believers (Matthew 18:19,20; Ephesians 5:19,20; Colossians 3:15,16; Hebrews 10:19-25). Where congregations make worship one of the avenues for evangelism, it makes sense that Communion would not be offered in every main service, in order to have some services that pose less stumbling blocks for visitors, since the Scriptures commend the practice of close Communion, i.e. Communion only for those united in the same faith (1 Corinthians 11:17-32; 1:10; 10:16-22; Romans 16:17).

Confessional Lutherans continue to wrestle with this tension—wanting to derive and receive all the benefits from corporate worship that Jesus wants them to have, while at the same time wanting also to attract others to those benefits, in a gentle and loving way.

Augsburg Confession – Article 20 – Faith and Good Works

Articles 19 & 20 of the Augsburg Confession in the Book of Concord of 1580

(To read Article 19, click here.)

The accusation that our teachers forbid good works is levied against them falsely. For their writings on the Ten Commandments and other writings prove that they have explained and promoted actual Christian stations and works profitably and well. Prior to this little was taught about these and instead the focus of all sermons, for the most part, was on childish and unnecessary works, such as the Rosary,1 worship of the saints, monasticism, pilgrimages,2 appointed fasts, holy days, brotherhoods,3 etc. Even our opposition no longer praises such unnecessary works as much as they once did, and they have even learned to talk about faith now. Formerly they did not preach about faith at all; now, however, they teach that we become righteous before God not just by works, but they add faith in Christ, saying that faith and works make us righteous before God. Speaking this way might bring a little more comfort than only teaching people to trust in works.

Now since the doctrine of faith, which is the centerpiece of Christianity, has been neglected for such a long time, as everyone must admit, and instead only works-doctrine was preached in all places, this is the instruction on faith that our teachers give:

First, our works cannot reconcile us with God or earn grace for us. This happens only through faith, when we believe that our sins are forgiven for the sake of Christ, the only mediator who can appease the Father. Now whoever mistakenly imagines that he can accomplish this by works and can merit grace despises Christ and is seeking a peculiar way to God contrary to the gospel.4

Second page of Article 20 of the Augsburg Confession in the Book of Concord of 1580

This doctrine of faith is clearly and plainly treated by Paul in many places, especially in Ephesians 2: “By grace you have been saved, through faith, and none of this is from yourselves, but it is God’s gift, not by works, so that no one may boast, etc.”

And we can prove from Augustine that we are not introducing some new understanding here, for he thoroughly treats this matter and teaches the same thing, that we obtain grace and become righteous before God through faith in Christ, and not through works, as his entire book On the Spirit and the Letter demonstrates.5

Now although this doctrine is much despised among untried people, the fact is that it is very comforting and healing for weak and terrified consciences. For the conscience cannot find rest and peace through works, but only through faith, when it can conclude for certain that it has a gracious God for Christ’s sake, just as Paul says in Romans 5: “If we have been justified through faith, we have rest and peace before God.”

This comfort used to be neglected in sermons. Poor consciences were instead directed to their own works, and many kinds of works were undertaken. Bad consciences have chased some people into the cloisters, where they were hoping to earn grace through the monastic lifestyle. Others have invented other works by which they might merit grace and make satisfaction for sin. Many of these people have learned from experience that there is no peace to be found in these ways. Therefore it has been necessary to preach and diligently promote this doctrine of faith in Christ, so that people may know that God’s grace is apprehended through faith alone, apart from merit.

The people are also instructed that here we are not talking about such faith as the demons and the godless have, who also believe the historical accounts of Christ’s suffering and rising from the dead.6 We are rather talking about true faith, which believes that we receive grace and forgiveness of sins through Christ.

Third page of Article 20 of the Augsburg Confession in the Book of Concord of 1580

Now the one who knows that he has a gracious God through Christ truly knows God, calls upon him, and is not without God like the heathens. For demons and godless people do not believe this article of the forgiveness of sins. Accordingly they are hostile to God, are unable to call on him, and expect nothing good from him. And thus, as has now been indicated, Scripture speaks of faith, but by “faith” it does not mean the kind of knowledge that the devil and godless people have. For this is what the Letter to the Hebrews teaches about faith in Chapter 11, that faith is not just knowing the historical accounts, but having confidence in God that we will receive what he has promised. And Augustine also reminds us that we should understand the word faith in Scripture as meaning confidence in God, that he is gracious to us, and not just knowing historical accounts the way even the demons know them.7

We furthermore teach that good works should and must be done, not so that we may trust that we have merited grace through them, but for the sake of God and to the praise of God. It is always faith alone that apprehends grace and the forgiveness of sins. And since the Holy Spirit is given through faith, the heart is thereby already equipped to do good works.8 For prior to receiving faith, the heart is too weak, since it is without the Holy Spirit; in addition, it is in the control of the devil, who drives the poor human nature to many sins. We see this in the philosophers; they strove to live honorable and blameless lives, but nevertheless did not succeed, having instead fallen into many glaring, open sins. That’s how it goes with a person when he is apart from the true faith, without the Holy Spirit, and governs himself only through his own human power.

Therefore this teaching about faith should not be denounced for forbidding good works. It should rather be praised for teaching how to do good works and offering help so that people can actually attain to good works. For apart from faith and outside of Christ human nature and ability is much too weak to do good works, to call on God, to have patience in suffering, to love one’s neighbor, to diligently carry out one’s entrusted responsibilities, to be obedient, to avoid evil desires, etc. Such high and proper works cannot be done without Christ’s help, as he himself declares in John 15, “Without me you can do nothing.”

(To continue to Article 21, click here.)

Notes

1 The Rosary is a collection of prayers, arranged in sets of ten Hail Marys with each set preceded by an Our Father and followed by a Glory Be to the Father. During recitation of each set, known as a decade, thought is given to one of the so-called Mysteries of the Rosary, which recall events in the lives of Jesus and Mary. The Glorious mysteries are said on Sunday and Wednesday, the Joyful on Monday and Saturday, the Sorrowful on Tuesday and Friday, and the Luminous Mysteries are said on Thursday. Normally, five decades are recited in a session.

2 One of the most common pilgrimages mentioned repeatedly by Luther is the Way of St. James, which ended at the Cathedral of St. James in Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The cathedral supposedly houses the earthly remains of James the apostle, the son of Zebedee and brother of John; his beheading by King Herod Agrippa is recorded in Acts 12. Such pilgrimages earned various indulgences.

3 Brotherhoods were associations of laypeople who organized for religious exercises and to participate in, support, and sponsor church-related work.

4 Paul says the same in Galatians 5:4.

5 Luther often spoke highly of Augustine’s On the Spirit and the Letter, a work Augustine penned in 412 AD against the Pelagians which is also readily available in English. For example, he writes in Chapter 22: “Accordingly, by the law of works, God says to us, Do what I command thee; but by the law of faith we say to God, Give me what Thou commandest. … Now, having duly considered and weighed all these circumstances and testimonies, we conclude that a man is not justified by the precepts of a holy life, but by faith in Jesus Christ,—in a word, not by the law of works, but by the law of faith; not by the letter, but by the spirit; not by the merits of deeds, but by free grace.”

Here the Latin version adds: “And Ambrose teaches similarly in On the Calling of the Gentiles and elsewhere. For this is what he says in On the Calling of the Gentiles: ‘Redemption through the blood of Christ would become worthless and human works would not surrender first place to the mercy of God, if justification, which takes place through grace, were due to merits that preceded it. Justification would not then be the gift of a bountiful giver, but a payment owed to workers.’”

This quote has more dubious origins. It has sometimes been attributed to Ambrose (c. 340-397), though it is now generally recognized not to be his (there is another, shorter work by the same name, On the Calling of the Gentiles, that is attributed to him). Sometimes it has been attributed to the well-educated layman and disciple of Augustine, Prosper of Aquitaine (c. 390-c. 455), though some still doubt this attribution too. Regardless, the work is of early origin and the excerpt Melanchthon quotes fits well in this article. (The original Latin quote can be found in col. 669 [Book 1, Chapter 17] here.)

6 James 2:19

7 Augustine does distinguish the faith of a Christian from the faith of a devil, for example, in his Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John (Homily X, 2), but he does not make the same point there as Melanchthon makes here. Augustine rather distinguishes the two by saying that Christian faith produces the fruit of love (which is of course also true). Some scholars also think that Melanchthon might have in mind the work De cognitione verae vitae, which was commonly attributed to Augustine, though now generally ascribed to Honorius Augustodunensis (12th century). Chapter 37 (in col. 1025 here) of that work answers the question: “Is there a difference between believing God and believing in God?” and thus also distinguishes between Christian faith and the faith of demons and pagans. But there too the author does not stress confidence in God as Melanchthon does here. Perhaps Melanchthon mis-cited Augustine here, or perhaps he has some other work(s) in mind with which we are simply not familiar.

8 In addition to the proof passage Melanchthon himself cites later, see Psalm 51:10-13; 119:32; Matthew 12:33.

Augsburg Confession – Article 15 – Church Rites

Articles 13, 14, 15 & 16 of the Augsburg Confession in the Book of Concord of 1580

(To read Article 14, click here.)

Regarding church rites established by humans, we teach people to observe those that may be observed without sin and that contribute to peace and good order in the church, as is the case with certain celebrations, festivals, and the like. Yet at the same time we instruct people that their consciences should not be burdened with such things as if they were necessary for salvation. Moreover we teach that all regulations and traditions established by humans for the purpose of appeasing God and meriting grace are opposed to the gospel and the doctrine of faith in Christ. Therefore monastic vows and other traditions concerning the distinction of foods, special days, etc., through which people mistakenly imagine that they can merit grace and make satisfaction for sin, are useless and contrary to the gospel.

(To continue to Article 16, click here.)

Note

For proof passages, see e.g. Acts 15:7-11; Romans 14:19; 1 Corinthians 14:26,40; Ephesians 2:8,9; Colossians 2:16.

Augsburg Confession – Article 5 – The Ministry of the Word

Articles 3, 4 & 5 of the Augsburg Confession in the Book of Concord of 1580

(To read Article 4, click here.)

In order that we may obtain such faith, God has instituted the ministry of the word [das Predigamt], namely the sharing of the gospel and the sacraments.1 Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit, who works faith where and when he pleases in those who hear the gospel, the good news that teaches that we have a gracious God through Christ’s merit, not through our own merit, when we believe this.2

And we condemn the Anabaptists and others who teach that we receive the Holy Spirit apart from the physical word of the gospel, through our own preparation, meditation, and work.3

(To continue to Article 6, click here.)

Notes

1 Since the concept of the ministry is such a warmly discussed and debated topic in Lutheran circles today, a translation of the Latin version is also included here: “In order that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the gospel and dispensing the sacraments has been instituted.”

2 Much emphasis is placed on what is termed objective or universal justification today within the Lutheran Church, which is indeed a scriptural teaching (Isaiah 53:11,12; cp. the use of “many” in this sense in such passages as Matthew 20:28 [which is explained in 1 John 2:2]; 22:14; 26:28; see also John 12:32). (Note, however, that confessional Lutherans reject what is termed universal salvation or simply universalism [Matthew 7:13,14].) However, this article shows that it would have been unthinkable to the Lutheran confessors to talk about the gospel and salvation without talking about faith. Melanchthon here defines the gospel as “the good news that teaches that we have a gracious God through Christ’s merit…when we believe this.” To put it another way, borrowing from a paper delivered by a Lutheran seminary professor: “Paul and Silas’s response to the jailer at Philippi’s question, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ (Acts 16:31), does not need any hyper-orthodox correcting from us a la, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved. Nothing. It has all been done for you by Christ. Away with this synergistic notion that you need to “do” something!’”

3 By the time this article was penned, Melanchthon (and to a greater extent, Luther himself) would have had a number of people in mind with this condemnation, including, but not limited to, Caspar Schwenckfeld, Thomas Müntzer, Nicholas Storch, Melchior Hoffman, Hans Denck, Ludwig Hetzer, Balthasar Hubmaier, and Ulrich Zwingli (on Zwingli, see here). Luther generally labeled people who believed that God operated outside of his Word and the sacraments, or communicated additional truth to themselves or others outside of his Word, Schwärmer or Rottengeister – fanatics or rabble-rousers. Anabaptist (German: Wiedertaufer) means “one who baptizes again,” a label that referred explicitly to the rejection of infant baptism and the resultant practice of being re-baptized as an adult. For more on the Anabaptists, see note 3 under Article 9.

Augsburg Confession – Article 4 – Justification

Articles 3, 4 & 5 of the Augsburg Confession in the Book of Concord of 1580

(To read Article 3, click here.)

We further teach that we cannot obtain forgiveness of sins and righteousness before God through our own merit, work, and satisfaction,1 but that we receive forgiveness of sins and become righteous before God by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith, when we believe that Christ has suffered for us and that for his sake our sins are forgiven us and righteousness and eternal life are given to us as gifts. For this faith is what God wishes to regard and impute as righteousness in his sight, as St. Paul says to the Romans in chapters 3 and 4.

(To continue to Article 5, click here.)

Note

1 Satisfaction comes from a compound Latin noun – facio, “to do,” and satis, “enough.” Here it means that we are not able to atone, pay, or make up for our own sins; only Christ can and did.

Finishing the Race

A Commentary on 2 Timothy 4:6-8

By Johann Gerhard, Th. D.

Translator’s Preface

The following was translated from Adnotationes ad Posteriorem D. Pauli ad Timotheum Epistolam, in Quibus Textus Declaratur, Quaestiones Dubiae Solvuntur, Observationes Eruuntur, & Loca in Speciem Pugnantia quam Brevissime Conciliantur (Commentary on St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy, in Which the Text Is Explained, Difficult Questions Are Answered, Observations Are Drawn Out, and Seemingly Contradictory Passages Are Reconciled as Concisely as Possible) by Johann Gerhard, Th.D. (Jena: Steinmann, 1643), pp. 78-86; available from the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. I also consulted the 1666 Jena edition, pp. 205-213.

This translation was prepared in connection with an exegetical presentation assigned to me for a circuit meeting in Merrill, Wisconsin, on December 7, 2015.

The footnotes are mine, and are for the most part an attempt to cite Gerhard’s sources more exactly. “PG” and “PL” stand for J. P. Migne’s collections of the writings of the church fathers, “Patrologia Graeca” and “Patrologia Latina” respectively.

May the Holy Spirit use the apostle’s Paul’s words to inspire us to contend honorably and well in the good contest in which God has graciously placed us, so that we finish our race as Paul did, satisfied with our earthly lot and confident of the crown of righteousness that awaits us.

2 Timothy 4:6-8

6. Ἐγὼ γὰρ ἤδη σπένδομαι, καὶ ὁ καιρὸς τῆς ἐμῆς ἀναλύσεως ἐφέστηκε.

ego enim iam delibor et tempus meae resolutionis instat

  • Ἐγὼ γὰρ ἤδη σπένδομαι

Paraphrase: I am being offered and poured out in the manner of a sacrifice.

This kind of metaphor is taken from the sacrifices of the Old Testament, to which drink offerings used to be added.

At the same time he is alluding to the punishment that he is going to undergo and its fruit, the verification of the truth of the gospel. For he says that he is being poured out [libari], that is, that he is about to be poured out [libatum iri], that is, that his blood is about to be shed in order to ratify the truth of the doctrine of the gospel, just as agreements were ratified with drink offerings [libaminibus], that is, with the pouring out of wine which the contracting parties had first sampled [libaverant], that is, tasted with the edge of their lips.

Certainly our death is a sacrifice that we offer to God, but that sacrifice ought to be a willing one. Therefore when the hour of death comes, let us follow after our Lord, not with reluctance and groaning, but with a ready spirit.

A passage parallel to this one is found in Philippians 2:17: ἀλλ᾽ εἰ καὶ σπένδομαι ἐπὶ τῇ θυσίᾳ καὶ λειτουργίᾳ τῆς πίστεως ὑμῶν, χαίρω [But even if I am being poured out on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice].

The little word ἤδη [already] means that it will not be long before he is carried off to punishment and he ratifies the truth of the gospel with the pouring out of his blood.

  • Καὶ ὁ καιρὸς τῆς ἐμῆς ἀναλύσεως ἐφέστηκε

“The time of my release [resolutionis],” namely from bodily fetters. Cyprian seems to have read ὁ καιρὸς ἐμῆς ἀναλήψεως [the time of my ascension].1 Some teach that Paul called it “release” [resolutionem] because through death the body is released (or dissolved) [resolvatur] into ashes, but the better reason was just given, namely that through death the fetter is loosened [solvatur] with which the soul was drawn together with the body.2

A parallel passage is Philippians 1:23: ἐπιθυμίαν ἔχων εἰς τὸ ἀναλῦσαι καὶ σὺν Χριστῷ εἶναι [having a desire for release and being with Christ].

Most interpreters conclude from this passage that out of all the Pauline epistles, this was the last one the apostle wrote, since the death he would suffer was already imminent. Rf. Eusebius’ Church History, Book 2, Chapter 22.3 Estius opposes this judgment in his section on the “Theme of the Epistle.”4 He is of the opinion that “this epistle is either the first or second of those that were produced in Rome, and was written many years before Paul’s death, namely in Nero’s third or fourth year, since Paul’s martyrdom occured during Nero’s thirteenth year.”5 He proves his opinion with the following arguments:

  1. Since Paul had just arrived in Rome, he wanted to inform his disciple Timothy right away how he was doing, since Timothy was his dearest friend, and in particular about the success of his first defense before Nero, which he does at the end of the epistle.
  2. He writes several things in this epistle which clearly show that he has just arrived in the city of Rome, e.g. “When you come, bring along the cloak that I left in Troas” (4:13) and, “Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus” (4:20).
  3. In this very epistle he indicates that he is still being reserved for fulfilling the office of preaching among the gentiles: “The Lord stood by me and gave me much strength, in order that through me the proclamation might be fulfilled and all the gentiles might hear it” (4:17).
  4. The epistle Paul wrote to Philemon, in which he asks that a guest room be prepared for him [vs. 22], implying that he would soon be released from prison, is much later than this one.6

In his exposition of verse 13 in this chapter, he strengthens his opinion with another argument: If [Paul] was thinking that the day of his death was already impending as he wrote this epistle, then what would be the point of his asking for the traveling clothes, or the box, or the scrolls that he had left in Troas some ten years ago, when they would not be of any further use to him?7

At the present passage he responds to the mainstream interpretation by saying that the apostle does not think “that he is already about to be carried off to martyrdom,” but that he is simply indicating that, “even though he is uncertain as to the time of his death or suffering, he is gradually being prepared for sacrifice through imprisonments and tribunals.”8 But this exposition does not capture the emphasis of the apostle’s words, and the strength of the arguments produced by Baronius and Estius is weak.

7. Τὸν ἀγῶνα τὸν καλὸν ἡγώνισμαι, τὸν δρόμον τετέλεκα, τὴν πίστιν τετήρηκα.

bonum certamen certavi cursum consummavi fidem servavi

This is a flowery and sort of triumphant συμπλοκή [combination] linked together by asyndeton, in which he describes the course of his life using three distinct metaphors.

The first one is borrowed from a strong athlete: Τὸν ἀγῶνα τὸν καλὸν ἡγώνισμαι, certamen bonum certavi, “I have contended in the good” – that is, the noble, distinguished, and excellent – “contest.” Some want this to be understood as a running contest here, since it is immediately followed by cursum consummavi, “I have finished the race.” But it is more correct to say that the metaphor is taken particularly from a wrestling contest, which metaphor is also used in 1 Corinthians 9:25.

The second metaphor is borrowed from a strenuous runner: τὸν δρόμον τετέλεκα. He compares himself to those who run in a racecourse, which metaphor is used in the same way as the first, and he links it together with the first one taken from an athlete. See 1 Corinthians 9:24,26. Some want this metaphor to be taken from a journey, but the first explanation fits the context better.

The third metaphor is borrowed from an honorable soldier: τὴν πίστιν τετήρηκα. By the faith he not only understands the confident apprehending of Christ’s merit, but also the faith of duty or the faithfulness with respect to duty that he owed and promised to God. For he compares himself to a soldier who has pledged loyalty [fidem] to the emperor or to the general and keeps it faithfully. “This is what is sought in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2).

Therefore Paul’s life has constituted the following:

  1. A good contest, since he has thus far been stationed in battle against sins, the world, the flesh, the devil, heretics, false apostles, and also enemies of Christ, both Jews and gentiles, and by the power of Christ, who has strengthened him, he has emerged the victor.
  2. A vigorous race, for on the racetrack of the public ministry and of private life, on which he has been running his heart out thus far, he has neither grown faint along the way nor lost faith, but has finished his race the victor.
  3. A continuous excercise of faith, since he has remained faithful to Christ his general all the way to his life’s final breath, and has kept the loyalty [fidem] pledged to Christ.

“[H]e says that he has [contended in the contest,] has finished [the] race[, has kept the faith], even though…the last act of his suffering and death still remained, because…he was already approaching the end of the contest and had firm confidence in the Lord regarding the part of the racecourse he still had to cover.”9 Cf. Augustine, A Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins, Book 2, Chapter 16.10

8. Λοιπὸν, ἀπόκειταί μοι ὁ τῆς δικαιοσύνης στέφανος, ὃν ἀποδώσει μοι ὁ Κύριος ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ, ὁ δίκαιος κριτής, οὐ μόνον δὲ ἐμοὶ, ἀλλὰ καὶ πᾶσι τοῖς ἠγαπηκόσι τὴν ἐπιφάνειαν αὐτοῦ.

in reliquo reposita est mihi iustitiae corona quam reddet mihi Dominus in illa die iustus iudex non solum autem mihi set et his qui diligunt adventum eius

  • Λοιπὸν, ἀπόκειταί μοι ὁ τῆς δικαιοσύνης στέφανος

Ambrose renders the Greek λοιπόν as quod reliquum est, “as for what remains.”11

He continues in the metaphor and calls the reward of the contest, race, and military service that have been completed commendably a crown, since it was customary for a crown to be given to those running in a racecourse and to soldiers.

But the happiness and glory of eternal life is called the crown of righteousness, not Paul’s righteousness, but God’s. And indeed the righteousness of God is understood not as that which judges according to the merits of works, but as that according to which God is steadfast in promises, and which does not pay a debt that has been earned, but a debt that has been freely promised.

Therefore it is the crown of righteousness because:

  1. Christ has won it for us by his perfect obedience and righteousness.
  2. God has promised it to those who serve him faithfully and pursue holiness and righteousness (1 Corinthians 9:25; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4).In the case of the former, the crown is earned by righteousness; in the case of the latter it is only a consequence of righteousness. It can also be called the crown of righteousness because:
  3. At that time Paul and all the elect will be fully and perfectly brought to that life where there is righteousness without sin. In this sense it is called “the crown of life” (James 1:12), “a beautiful crown” (Ezekiel 16:12), and “the crown of glory” (Isaiah 6:3;12 1 Peter 5:4), etc.

Estius asks how it can be called the crown of righteousness, since it is the crown of compassion (Psalm 103:4). He responds:

Those are no less compatible than the fact that eternal life is sometimes called a reward [merces] in the Scriptures, and at other times a favor [gratia] – a reward because it is given in return for the merits of good works, and a favor because these same merits are God’s gifts. So too eternal life is the crown of righteousness because it is owed to the one who contends according to the law, and it is the crown of compassion because a person would not be able to contend according to the law if God did not grant it, nor would a person attain to the crown if the same Lord did not mercifully pardon the failings and mistakes committed while contending.13

And later:

If Christ as the just judge is going to pay [redditurus] Paul and all the elect with the crown of righteousness in return for having kept the faith and having finished the race, there is therefore a kind [ratio] of merit in these works with respect to such a crown. Nor indeed do the Catholics frame these merits of works in opposition to the grace of Christ… For [they teach] that God’s kindness towards us is required just as much as our merits, which are his gifts. And it is in return for these merits, which he himself has generously bestowed, that eternal rewards are going to be given.14

We respond:

  1. It is not eternal life itself, the essential reward [praemium], that is called a reward [merces], but the accidental or secondary rewards [praemia] that are so called. In Matthew 5:12 and Luke 6:12, Jesus says, “Your reward [merces] will be abundant in heaven,” making a noticeable distinction between heaven itself or eternal life and the reward in heaven. Thus in 1 Timothy 4:8 piety is said to have “promises of the present life and of the life to come,” i.e. promises of the rewards [praemiorum] in the present and future life.
  2. If Scripture does call eternal life a reward [mercedem] sometimes, and a favor [gratiam] at other times, then it is not a reward of merit, but a reward of grace [gratiae], and consequently it is not given in return for the merits of good works, but out of grace. “If it is by grace, then it is not by works” (Romans 11:6).
  3. When the good works of the pious are called merits by the ancients – and indeed such as derive their origin from God’s gift and grace – then they are using the term merit in a broader sense and καταχρηστικῶς [improperly], as was clearly established at the proper locus.15
  4. We concede that eternal life is called the crown of righteousness because it is given to one who contends according to the law, but it still does not follow from this that the contest is deserving of eternal life, or that eternal life is a reward owed by merit in return for that contest. For it is one thing to ask to whom the crown of eternal life should be given; in that case it is correct to say that it is given to those who contend according to the law. But it is another thing to ask for what reason it should be given. The former describes the subject, the latter the meritorious cause.
  5. A debt owed with respect to justice, carefully considered and properly so called, is opposed to a reward of grace, but a debt owed with respect to a gracious promise, carefully considered and καταχρηστικῶς [improperly] so called, does not exclude grace nor is opposed to it. The reward of good works is said by the fathers (but nowhere in Scripture) to be owed by reason of the promise, but since that promise is purely gracious (Isaiah 40:23; Romans 11:35),16 it is therefore improper to call it owed. Augustine on Psalm 109: “God is faithful, the one who has made himself our debtor, not by accepting anything from us, but by promising so many things to us. … Whatever he has promised, he has promised to the unworthy, so that it would not be like a reward [merces] promised in exchange for works, but would be a favor [gratia] given gratis, as its name indicates.”17
  6. If “a person would not be able to contend according to the law if God did not grant it,” then there is no way that the contest can be a meritorious cause of the crown of glory or of eternal life. The reason is that, if the ability to contend according to the law is given by God, then a person is rendered God’s debtor for that, rather than that God should owe a person anything for that. If good works are God’s gifts, then, properly speaking, we are unable to merit anything with them.
  7. If “a person would not attain to the crown if God did not mercifully pardon the failings and mistakes committed while contending,” then there is no way that the contest can be a meritorious cause of the eternal crown. The reason for that is because that contest is not complete, perfect, blameless in all respects. And works that are going to be meritorious need to be perfect and pure, completely free of any defect.

As for the rest, the apostle says that that crown of righteousness has been “set aside for [him],” no doubt by God, by whom Paul was most confidently expecting to have it bestowed [reddendam] upon him. “I am certain that he is able to guard my deposit” (2 Timothy 1:12). That is why he immediately adds:

  • ὃν ἀποδώσει μοι ὁ Κύριος ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ, ὁ δίκαιος κριτής

Estius emphasizes that Paul does not say, “will give [dabit],” but “will give back [reddet],” “just like some debt, or a loan or deposit, which needs to be paid back by law,” and he cites Theophylact and Oecumenius.18

We respond:

  1. The little word ἀποδώσει has the free promise in mind; for what God has promised out of grace, he faithfully keeps. It is therefore not a debt of justice, but of promise.
  2. Basil, on p. 68 of his seventeen homilies on the Psalms, on Psalm 7 in the second homily, teaches that it is Scripture’s custom to say ἀνταπόδοσιν for δόσει and ἀνταποδοῦναι for δοῦναι, just as compound forms are used for simple ones in other cases.19
  3. In Colossians 3:14 the rewards [praemia] for good works are called ἀνταπόδοσις τῆς κληρονομίας, retributio hereditatis, the “repayment of the inheritance.” Just as a son is born an heir, and does not at some point need to earn the inheritance with works, so the pious have been born of God as cherished sons of God in Christ, and if they are sons, then they also have to be heirs. Yet just as a large inheritance is nevertheless at the same time a reward [praemium] for filial obedience, so also the rewards [praemia] of life in heaven compensate the pious for their works and afflictions most generously and far beyond what they deserve.

By ὁ Κύριος [the Lord] he understands Christ, whom he calls ὁ δίκαιος κριτής [the righteous judge], the one to whom the Father has given all judgment (John 5:22). The apostle notably says about this righteous judge that he is going to give the crown both to him (Paul) and to all who love his (the judge’s) appearing, from which it is clearly proved that the authority κριτικήν [to judge] is given to Christ as man.20

But Estius follows this up by saying that Christ is not going to present the elect with heavenly blessedness in any other way than by simply awarding the apostle Paul and the rest of the elect the crown that is owed to them through a judicial decision, since “to bless a creature effectively and properly belongs to uncreated authority alone.”21

We respond: But indeed that uncreated and infinite authority to bless a creature has been given to Christ the man through and on account of the personal union of the two natures in time. He will therefore not only pronounce a judicial decision with his external and audible voice, but he will also demonstrate his omniscience by exposing even the most hidden things of all people (1 Corinthians 4:5), and he will demonstrate his omnipotence with that which precedes the judgment – the resuscitation of the dead, the summoning and assembling of all people at the tribunal of judgment, and the effectual execution of the judicial sentencing. Power and glory that are truly divine are required in order to do all or any of these things, which is why Scripture says throughout that Christ is coming to judge in truly divine glory, power, and authority.

By ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ [that day] he understands the day of judgment, which is elsewhere called “the day of the Lord.”

Ἐναντιοφανές [Apparent Contradiction]: As far as his soul is concerned, Paul received that crown of righteousness immediately after his death. Why then does he say that Christ is not going to give it to him until the day of judgment?

We respond: He is talking about the fullest and most perfect blessedness, which will be bestowed not upon the soul, but upon the human consisting of soul and body.

From this passage it is concluded that the apostle was sure of his salvation. But Estius follows this up by saying that “Paul is not simply affirming here what is going to happen. Rather, he is either speaking optimistically [sermonem esse bonae fiduciae], as if to say, ‘I am certainly expecting and hoping to receive this crown from the Lord,’ or more likely, there is an implied condition, ‘The Lord will do this for me if I perserve all the way to my death.’”22 For Estius says that what Paul wrote in the letter to the Philippians “after this one to Timothy”23 stands against any certainty of salvation, “when he speaks as one who is still by no means completely certain: ‘if somehow I may attain to the resurrection which is from the dead’ (3:11).”24

We respond:

  1. The words of the text by themselves testify clearly enough that the apostle was most certain that the crown of glory would be bestowed upon him by Christ the judge. For he says that that crown of glory was set aside for him by the Lord and would be bestowed upon him on that day of judgment, and he does not employ verbs in the optative mood, but in the indicative.
  2. Many of the Pontificals concede that the apostle was certain of his salvation, but they add that that certainty came from some special revelation. See Duraeus in the eighth chapter of his book against Whitaker, folio 259,25 and Pistorius in his guide, p. 201.26
  3. The words of Romans 8:38, “I am certain that neither death nor life…,” are not merely optimistic, but are also words of unshakeable certainty and of the firmest conviction, with which these words in the present text are in perfect agreement.
  4. Certainly the condition of perseverance is also implied, but the apostle was certain of that very perseverance because of God’s kindness, faithfulness, and power, as was demonstrated at the proper locus.
  5. The particle εἴ πως in Philippians 3:11 does not express doubt, but alludes to the hardship and afflictions that weigh upon the pious in this life.

He is called the δίκαιος κριτής [righteous judge] because he will judge ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ [in righteousness] (Acts 17:31) and will execute that δικαίαν τοῦ θεοῦ κρίσιν [righteous judgment of God] which Paul describes this way in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7: “It is just in God’s sight to repay tribulation to those who are troubling you, and to you who are undergoing tribulation to repay rest, along with us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven…”

  • οὐ μόνον δὲ ἐμοὶ, ἀλλὰ καὶ πᾶσι τοῖς ἠγαπηκόσι τὴν ἐπιφάνειαν αὐτοῦ

Those “who love [Christ’s] coming” are those who are waiting for him as their Savior with longing and vigilance, who daily prepare themselves for Christ’s coming, and who demonstrate that they love him and are eagerly waiting for his coming by earnestly devoting themselves to piety.

Estius suspects that the “familiar distributive” πᾶσι in the Greek text was a later addition, because:

  1. Hentenius does not translate it in Oecumenius.27
  2. Ambrose and the other Latin ancients do not read it.28
  3. The Syriac translator also does not find it in his Greek text.
  4. It is easier to add this little word than to remove it, since the sense seems to require it.29

We respond:

  1. The main reason prompting Estius’ position that this particle was a later addition is that it is not included in the Vulgate version, which the Council of Trent pronounced the authentic one.30
  2. But what will be done with those same Tridentine fathers, who explicitly add that particle when citing this verse in the Sixth Session, Chapter 16?31
  3. Estius himself confesses that “the sense seems to require it.” It is therefore easier for it to have been omitted in the Latin version than added in the Greek, especially since other examples of this kind of omission can also be found in the Vulgate version.
  4. The Greek text of Oecumenius explicitly includes that particle, and Hentenius’ version cannot detract from it at all. In fact Oecumenius draws out this useful observation from that particle: “Here he also incites Timothy himself, for he says, ‘He will also bestow it upon you. For if he will give the crown to all [omnibus] who love his coming, then how much more to you!’”32
  5. Ambrose and the Latin ancients have followed the Vulgate version. The Syriac translator also ignored the Greek text and followed the Vulgate now and then, as several examples are able to confirm.

Endnotes

1 Gerhard may be referring to De Laude Martyrii (On the Glory of Martyrdom) 18 (PL 4, col. 828). This work is attributed to Cyprian with reservation.

2 Cf. Guilielmus Estius, In Omnes Beati Pauli et Aliorum Apostolorum Epistolas Commentaria (Paris, 1623), p. 852.2-853.1: “[Paul] calls death his ‘release’ [resolutionem] either because through death the body is released (or dissolved) [resolvatur] into ashes or, more likely, because through it the fetter is loosened [solvatur] with which the soul was drawn together with the body.” Cosmas Magalianus, Operis Hierarchici, sive, De Ecclesiastico Principatu, Liber II. in quo Beati Pauli Apostoli secunda ad Timotheum Ephesi Episcopum, & Primatem, Epistola, Commentariis illustratur (Lyon, France: Sumptibus Horatii Cardon, 1609), p. 180: “For death is the loosening [solutio] of the soul from the body, a departure, as it were, from the penitentiary in which it was being detained.”

3 PG 20, col. 193-196. Rf. also Magalianus, op. cit., p. 8, where he not only cites Eusebius as such an interpreter, but also Chrysostom in his homilies on this epistle (rf. e.g. PG 62, col. 601) and Jerome in his Lives of Illustrious Men (rf. PL 23, col. 615-618).

4 Estius’ opposition is really based on the arguments of Cardinal Caesar Baronius, in tome 1 of his Annales Ecclesiastici. (Cardinal Baronius undertook his Annales in answer to the Lutheran church history compiled mainly by Matthias Flacius, the so-called Magdeburg Centuries.) Magalianus (op. cit., p. 9) also cites Alfonso Salmerón the Jesuit, in Salmerón’s first discussion (Prima Disputatio) on 2 Timothy (Disputationum in Epistolas Divi Pauli Tomus Tertius), in addition to Baronius, as going against the judgment of mainstream interpreters.

5 Estius, op. cit., p. 825.

6 Ibid., p. 825-826. Estius does not actually include this argument in the “Theme of the Epistle,” as implied here, but in his comments on vs. 6 (p. 852.2), where he says that he will prove his assertion in his comments on Philemon 22.

7 Ibid., p. 856.1.

8 Ibid., p. 852.2.

9 Ibid., p. 853.1. In the original, it appears that Gerhard is citing Augustine (rf. next footnote), but he is actually citing Estius, who supports his interpretation by citing Augustine.

10 PL 44, col. 165-166. In English editions, the citation in question appears in Chapter 24. The “Cf.” does not appear in Gerhard’s original (rf. preceding footnote).

11 On the Duties of the Clergy, Book 1, Chapter 15 (PL 16, col. 40). The Latin phrase, like the English, is somewhat ambiguous, referring either to remaining subject matter or to what remains in the future. In Schaff’s Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (vol. 10, p. 11) the phrase is rendered henceforth.

12 This reference does not seem to fit.

13 Estius, op. cit., p. 853.2.

14 Ibid., p. 854.1.

15 Latin: suo loco. This phrase occurs again later; both times it seems to be a reference to Gerhard’s well-known dogmatic treatise and magnum opus, Loci Theologici (Theological Topics).

16 Perhaps Gerhard meant to cite 40:13 (which corresponds to Romans 11:34). The actual Old Testament parallel to Romans 11:35 is Job 41:11.

17 PL 37, col. 1445,1446. This corresponds to Psalm 110 in English Bibles.

18 Estius, op. cit., p. 853.2. Cf. Oecumenius in PG 119, col. 233,234; Theophylact in PG 125, col. 131,132.

19 “‘Lord my God, if I have done this, if there is injustice in my hands, if I have paid back [ἀνταπέδωκα] evil to those who pay me back [τοῖς ἀνταποδιδοῦσί μοι], may I then fall down empty at the hands of my enemies. May the enemy then hunt down my life and overtake it’ [Psalm 7:4-6a LXX]. It is customary for Scripture to apply the term ἀνταπόδοσις [repayment] not only to the usual circumstances, as repayment of something good or bad that already exists, but also to actions taking place first, as in the passage, ‘Pay back [Ἀνταπόδος] to your slave’ [Ps 118:17 LXX]. For instead of saying, ‘Give [Δὸς],’ ‘Pay back [Ἀνταπόδος]’ was said. Δόσις [giving], then, is the beginning of doing good; ἀπόδοσις [giving back] is the reciprocal measuring out of something equal for the good that one has experienced; ἀνταπόδοσις [paying back] is a sort of second beginning and going around [περίοδος] of the good and bad things being paid to certain people. But I think that, whenever the discourse is seeking repayment [τὴν ἀνταπόδοσιν], making, as it were, a sort of formal demand instead of a request, it yields something like the following sense: ‘Show me the same obligation of care that progenitors automatically owe their offspring by nature’” (PG 29, col. 233; translation mine).

20 “appearing” in this sentence is adventum, “coming,” in Latin, but Gerhard has the original Greek ἐπιφάνειαν, “appearing,” in mind. The authority to judge is clearly given to Christ as man, since Christ can only visibly appear to other humans as man, and not as God (rf. Col 1:15; 1Ti 1:17; Heb 11:27; Jn 4:24).

21 Estius, op. cit., p. 853.2.

22 Ibid., p. 854.1.

23 Ibid.

24 Ibid., p. 853.2.

25 Ioannes Duraeus, Confutatio Responsionis Gulielmi Whitakeri (Paris: Apud Thomam Brumennium, 1582).

26 Ioannes Pistorius, Wegweiser für all verführte Christen (Ingolstadt: Andreas Angermayer, 1600). Gerhard cites this book as “hodeget.”, which is an abbreviated Latin transliteration of ὁδηγητήρ, a Greek word corresponding to Wegweiser in German. Pistorius’ father, Johannes Sr., was at first a Roman Catholic and then a Lutheran. Johannes Jr. went the opposite direction.

27 Rf. Iohannes Hentenius, ed., Ennarationes vetustissimorum Theologorum (Antwerp: In aedibus Iohannis Steelsii, 1545), folio 169, Caput Nonum.

28 Rf. Ambrose, op. cit. (endnote 11).

29 Estius, op. cit., p. 854.1.

30 Rf. H. J. Schroeder, trans., Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent (St. Louis and London: B. Herder Book Co., 1941), p. 18 (English), 297 (Latin), Fourth Session, “Decree Concerning the Edition and Use of the Sacred Books.”

31 Ibid., p. 41 (English), 319 (Latin).

32 Hentenius, op. cit. (endnote 27), folio 170. At the head of each section of Oecumenius’ commentary, Hentenius includes his own Latin version of the verses being treated.