The Means of Grace
WHAT ARE THE MEANS OF GRACE?
The catechism defines the Means of Grace in this fashion: "By the Means of Grace are meant those things by which God offers and gives His gifts of forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation" (Luther's Small Catechism [Gausewitz edition], 1956, page 191).
WHICH ARE THE MEANS OF GRACE?
Again the catechism says, "The Means of Grace are the Gospel in Word and Sacrament" ( ibid ).
WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?
The Gospel is the good news of universal grace and pardon (Luke 2:10). The message of forgiveness (Matthew 9:2), and salvation, and therefore of the certain hope of eternal life lies in the spoken Word as well as in the "visible word" in Baptism through which faith is created (John 3:5), and the Sacrament of the Altar through which faith is strengthened. The Gospel is not simply a message about God's grace; it is the very means by which grace and salvation are given (Romans 1:16).
THE MEANS OF GRACE - DISTINCTIVE OF LUTHERAN TEACHING.
- I bring you good tidings of great joy. . . Luke 2:10
- Be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven thee. Matthew 9:2
- The words which I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life. John 6:63
- Being born again . . . by the Word of God, which lives and abides forever. 1 Peter 1:23
- Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit. . . John 3:5
- (The Gospel) is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes. . . Romans 1:16
The preaching, teaching and very life of the Lutheran Church centers around the Word of God, specifically the Means of Grace. The Lutheran confessions declare, "Therefore we ought and must constantly maintain this point, that God does not wish to deal with us otherwise than through the spoken Word and the Sacraments. It is the devil himself whatsoever is extoled as Spirit without the Word and the Sacraments." ( Smalcald Articles Part III, Art. VIII, 10).
THE SPIRIT DOES NOT WORK APART FROM THE MEANS OF GRACE.
One of the distinct differences between confessional Lutheranism on one hand, and protestantism, charismatics and fundamentalists on the other is the rejection by the latter of the truth that the Spirit works through the Means of Grace. The Spirit does not work through dreams, visions, inner feelings. The Spirit works through the Word of God (cf. passages below ).
THE MEANS OF GRACE PRODUCE CONFIDENCE OF SALVATION.
- They have Moses and he prophets; Let them hear them. Luke 16:29
- Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. Romans 10:17
- Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Acts 2:38
- Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. John 3:5
- . . . Being born again . . . by the Word of God. . . 1 Peter 1:23
- From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:15
- Peter preached the Word of God ," And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." Acts 2:47
It is a gift of God that the Christian is able to be confident of the abiding love of God, and of his salvation. Ask yourself:
Feelings? When one is concerned about his salvation and he is told to consult his feelings, he is looking at something that is changeable and fickle. Dreams? What objective proof is there that the dream is of God and not of emotion, or even of the devil? Visions? How does one verify the vision? Subjectivism lacks root.
- What confidence is there in one's feelings?
- What confidence is there in one's dreams?
- What confidence is there in visions?
"So today the Word itself, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper are our morning stars to which we turn our eyes as certain indications of the Sun of grace. For we can definitely assert that where the Lord's Supper, Baptism, and the Word are found, Christ, the remission of sins, and life eternal are found. On the other hand, where these signs of grace are not found, or where they are despised by men, not only grace is lacking but also foul errors will follow. Then men will set up other forms of worship and other signs for themselves" (What Luther Says, Vol. II, page 914, 2862).
THE CHURCH GROWS - EXTERNALLY and INTERNALLY (Spiritually) ONLY THROUGH THE MEANS OF GRACE.
- That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. 2 Corinthians 2:5
- He sent his WORD, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. Psalm 107:20
- This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy WORD hath quickened me. Psalm 119:50
- . . .To whom shall we go? Thou hast the WORDS of eternal life. John 6:68
- . . . My WORDS shall not pass away. Mark 13:31
- Therefore whosoever heareth these SAYINGS of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man which built his house upon the rock: And the rain descended and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell not: For it was founded upon a rock. Matthew 7:24,25
- When the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak. John 16:13
Programs, campaigns, and such like, do not bear true and spiritually meaningful growth. The "church growth movement" is a deception. Church growth that is not a product of the Gospel is misleading and destructive to souls. We should also recognize that prayer is not a means of grace, a means to salvation. Prayer is a fruit of faith. One is not saved through prayer. The saved pray.
Salvation is a gift of God through, and as a result of, the meritorious life, and blood atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross. Man is justified before God for the sake of, and by the work of Christ. God's revealed Word is the both the bearer of the message of that objective fact, as well as the power to convert the heart. Without the Means of Grace man neither knows the love of God, or the power of God unto salvation. For that reason the Holy Ghost works through the Means of Grace alone! and the Lutheran Confessions say: "Likewise, we reject and condemn the error of the Enthusiasts who imagine that God draws men to Himself, enlightens them, justifies them and saves them without means, without the hearing of God's Word and without the use of the Sacraments." Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article II.
Any theology that denies the Means of Grace, or which diminishes the Means of Grace is neither Scriptural or Lutheran.
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