Wednesday, April 6, 2016

On repentance and faith

An interLutheran/interWebs debate continues to rage on the topic of the antinomianism, or Law and Gospel, or Repentance and Faith, or the Third Use, or...whatever you want to call it. As with most debates in our Instant/Lite Culture, there is often more heat than light generated.

For example, how would you answer this question: "You don't even have to be sorry for your sins, you don't have to confess them, you don't have to do anything is that really what we are talking about with the Gospel of Jesus Christ?"

Precision of language is very important in any theological debate. What is sin? What is repentance? What is faith?

I submit that even most Lutheran pastors these days have an inadequate exposure to and memory of Lutheran theological terms. Ad fontes, fratres. Here is a standard Lutheran way of talking about repentance and faith from John Gerhard. It is from section 107 of his Theological Commonplaces volume On Justification. I'm currently editing the volume for CPH, and it's due for publication in 2018.

The article on the forgiveness of sins must be believed according to the interpretation of Scripture. But this shows that sins are forgiven to no one specifically unless he repents sincerely and embraces Christ in true faith. Therefore this precedes in the Creed: “I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, etc., suffered and died,” etc. But now, people who sin willingly do not repent sincerely nor do they embrace Christ in true faith. They should not promise themselves remission of sins. Therefore they should be called not heretics but unbelievers and wicked persons.. For a heretic is a person who does not believe what he should believe, but someone who sins willingly should not believe that his sins are forgiven him so long as he is and remains the sort of person he is.

Now, what does it mean to "sin willingly?" Gerhard is talking about mortal sin as opposed to venial sin. Faith cannot exist with willful, mortal sin. Faith does not subsist without repentance.

If this way of speaking sounds odd to you, I would submit that it is because in our day and age we settle for slogans and not good, historic, careful, Lutheran theology.

Here is a sure way to get yourself on the right track in regard to this entire set of topics regarding Law and Gospel, Repentance and Faith: Chemnitz' Enchiridion. Clergy or lay, this is a must read, and an easy read, from the chief author of the Formula of Concord.



  1. When I look at the matter of sin, faith, and repentance from the perspective of the Kingdom of God here on earth, I arrive at the following, based on Scripture:
    1. The world is divided into two kinds of people – those who are in the Kingdom, and those who are not.
    2. Those who are in the Kingdom have faith and the forgiveness of sins. Their sins are forgiven the moment they commit them; other wise there is no simul iustus et peccator.
    3. Those who are outside of the Kingdom have neither faith nor forgiveness.
    4. Those who are outside of the Kingdom have the potential of becoming members of the Kingdom through the work of the Holy Spirit.
    5. Those who have been members of the Kingdom and have left it will never return to the Kingdom. Hebrews 6:4, “For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit…”
    6. Lutheran theology, based on the notion that David lost faith and the Holy Spirit is not supported by Scripture. 1 Samuel 16:13, “…and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.” In the next verse we read how the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul. There is no such verse about David anywhere in Scripture. There is not instance in Scripture where anyone lost the Holy Spirit and He returned to that person. We are going to have to come to grips with the idea that God’s notion of justice and mercy is very different from that of people, even though our sometimes seems more correct.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

    1. Re: your point six.

      1 John 3:15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

      Jas 5:19-20 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

    2. Scott: I am not a specialist in the Greek language, but as I understand it the verb “hates” in the 1 John passage is a present participle. The present tense in Greek may indicate continuous action. I can assure you that there have been times when I hated my brother, but, by the grace of God, it was not continuous hatred. And that is what is meant here. Continuous hatred is a sign of loss of faith. But even a murderer; that is, one who murdered once, or even many times, has not necessarily lost his faith. Only God can judge whether he has or not.
      As to the James passage, what I have written is in complete agreement with that. We all wander, David wandered, and Nathan brought him back to the truth. But that does not mean all of us loose faith or the Holy Spirit. The whole point of giving us the Holy Spirit is to preserve us in the Kingdom despite our wanderings. If He were to leave every time we commit sin, what would be the point of remembering our Baptism? He only leaves when it is clear the we have hardened our heart against Him, and have thereby committed the Sin against the Holy Spirit. But people should be careful about making that determination about anyone, because this is God’s purview. We would have kicked Solomon out of the Kingdom long ago, but in spite of the abominable sins he committed, which God new beforehand, God said, 2 Samuel 7:15, “But I shall not take my steadfast love from him (or, my steadfast love will not depart from him) as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you.” This certainly does not mean that we should sin so that grace would abound, but it says something about the grace of God toward sinners.
      Peace and Joy!
      George A. Marquart

    3. George,

      Your theology under point 6 is even worse than Calvinism's "once saved, always saved" as it seems to be "once saved, you can lose the Holy Spirit, but then there is no chance to ever get him back: once re-damned, always damned."

      If Luther in the Smalcald Articles, Chemnitz in the Enchiridion, and Gerhard in the Loci can't convince you that what the Lutheran Church teaches is Biblical, then I am certainly not up to the task.

      Wishing you and yours all the best,

    4. Dear Pastor H. R.: I like to think that it is not “my theology” but that it is quite clearly Biblical theology. I know that Hebrews is antilegomenon, but the text seems not to allow for much doubt about its meaning. If you can point to any Scripture that shows that the Holy Spirit ever returned to anyone whom He had previously left, I will recant.
      I assume that when you refer to Luther in the Smalcald Articles, you are referring to this particular article: Of the False Repentance of the Papists. “It is, accordingly, necessary to know and to teach that when holy men, still having and feeling original sin, also daily repenting of and striving with it, happen to fall into manifest sins, as David into adultery, murder, and blasphemy, that then faith and the Holy Ghost has departed from them [they cast out faith and the Holy Ghost]. For the Holy Ghost does not permit sin to have dominion, to gain the upper hand so as to be accomplished, but represses and restrains it so that it must not do what it wishes. But if it does what it wishes, the Holy Ghost and faith are [certainly] not present. For St. John says, 1 John 3:9: Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, ... and he cannot sin. And yet it is also the truth when the same St. John says, 1:8: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” This is clearly not an argument, but an assertion, with seemingly contradictory Biblical proof. Are you able to resolve that seeming contradiction without coming to the same conclusion I did?
      I also call your attention to David’s son, Solomon. We know that toward the end of his life, David’s son Samuel committed some atrocious sins. I suspect if one were to rate the seriousness of sin, Solomon’s would be greater than his father’s, because they were direct transgressions of the First Commandment. Nevertheless, this is what God says to David in the “Davidic Covenant”, 2 Samuel 7:15, “But I shall not take my steadfast love from him (or, my steadfast love will not depart from him) as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you.” I am not claiming “once saved, always saved,” but here God seems to deal with the eternal welfare of a person quite differently from what we read in the Smalcald Articles.
      Thank you for your good wishes.
      Peace and Joy!
      George A. Marquart

    5. "On the ground of these and many other testimonies the Church has always taught with unanimity that, when a saint knowingly and purposely acts contrary to God’s command, he is no longer a saint, but has lost the true faith and cast away the Holy Spirit. But if he turns again, God will keep the gracious oath which He has sworn, saying: ‘As I live, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.’ Accordingly, for Christ’s sake God takes those people who turn to Him back into His grace and rekindles in their hearts the true faith through the Gospel and His Holy Spirit. He has not commanded us to inquire first whether we have been predestinated, but it is sufficient for us to know that whosoever perseveres unto the end in repentance and faith is certainly elect and will be saved, as Christ says: ‘He that persevereth unto the end, the same shall be saved!

      ...Luther speaks of the impossibility of joining faith with an evil conscience. Conscience is a damaging witness, which makes us shut our mouth when we start to explain any intentional wrong-doing. We are all indeed poor sinners; but when we undertake to sin purposely, our conscience warns us that we are enemies of God and intend to remain such. It tells us when we start to call upon God that we do not mean to come to God at all. Faith is, in this respect, a very tender thing, which is easily wounded.

      It is not the manifest enormity of their sin that casts such people out of their state of grace and puts out the heavenly light of their faith, but the *attitude of their heart towards their sin*. When I am suddenly overtaken by sin, God forgives me; He is not angry with me and does not charge that sin against me. Such acts do not extinguish faith. Or it may be that I am rushed into sin by my temperament. I do not want to sin, but I have been irritated to such an extent that, before I know it, I have sinned. That is not a mortal sin, which would take me out of the state of grace. But when a person persists in his sin against his conscience, though he knows it to be a sin, and continues sinning purposely for a long time, he no longer has faith and cannot truly pray to God; the Holy Spirit leaves his heart, for another spirit, the evil spirit, rules in it, whom the sinner has admitted into his heart. To him the Holy Spirit yields His place and departs."

      -CFW Walther, 20th evening lecture, Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel

      This particular lecture scared me to death the first time I read it, but I believe it to be true. We can always leave our salvation, but God still considers us sons and waits for us to turn back to Him.

      And I would posit that Hebrews 6:4-6 is describing the full apostate, one who knows about and knowingly rejects the salvation offered by God through Christ, and not the (willful or unwillfull) sinner.

    6. First, I agree with you on Hebrews 6:4-6.
      Secondly, I note that there is not a single passage from Scripture in your posting.
      Thirdly, I reiterate that there is no instance mentioned in Scripture of someone “being filled with the Holy Spirit”, loosing that Spirit, and then regaining Him. The Lutheran position that this is what happened to David is simply not supported by Scripture.
      Fourthly, please provide Scripture that shows the distinction between “willing” and “unwilling” sinner.
      Fifthly. If we cannot by our own reason or strength come to Him or believe in Him, how can we return to Him once He has left us? Since, according to Scripture, Acts 2:38, the gift of the Holy Spirit is given in Baptism, must those who have lost the Holy Spirit be baptized again? If not, how do they then receive the Holy Spirit?
      Sixthly. I know that we Lutheran distinguish between venial and mortal sins, the latter being those against the Decalogue. As our Lord interprets the commandment against adultery in Matthew 5:27-28, is there a heterosexual man among us who has not lost the Holy Spirit by breaking this commandment?
      Seventhly, and finally, is St. Paul differentiating between “willing” and “unwilling” sin in Romans 7:15-19, “15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing?” If he knows he does not want to do something and yet does it, is that not clearly “willing”?
      Lest anyone think that I want to open the floodgates of sin by allowing the “easy” forgiveness of all kinds of abominable sins; nothing could be further from the truth. On the other hand, for the Gospel to be true, the mercy of God has to be much greater than we limited people can imagine.
      Peace and Joy!
      George A. Marquart

  2. Hi George,
    I don't have time to respond to all of your points right now. But I will say, if you read the entire lecture by CFW Walther, you will find plenty of scripture quoted. I just didn't think it wise to post the entire lecture.
    As far as willing vs. unwilling sinner, I was referring more to the "distinction" (if there really is one) that Walther was making regarding sin sprouting forth out of a passionate/non-reasoned response (i.e. someone annoys me and I yell at them without thinking about it) vs. sin that we purposely commit, knowing full well we are breaking a commandment.
    Trust me, I'm a full grace type of guy. No cheap grace here! Grace is free. Big fan of Forde.
    On the other hand, I'm a big CFW fan, also.
    I've often wondered if the distinction can be made between the sanctified, truly good works the spirit works through us as a new creation vs. the "new obedience" wherein we will and work with the Holy Spirit to put the Old Adam to death daily...
    Anyway, I'll post more later this week when I have time to get into it. But you're better off working all this out with a pastor/theologian, not me! Luther, quoting scripture (lots of Psalm 51), made a very strong case for David losing the Holy Spirit, but I'm sure you've already read his stuff.
    P.S. Any relation to the sainted Kurt Marquart?

    1. Jwskud: I think that every time we make distinctions between sins we add little bits of Law to the Gospel, ultimately making the Gospel a subject only learned men can know for certain, and explain to us lay people. Since the learned men seem to be very devoted to the Law, we loose the comfort of the Gospel.
      I used to be a great fan of CFWW. I can honestly say that he gave me a lot of comfort in my youth. But as I begin to see more of his pietistic utterings, the more I begin to distrust him. There should be no sentence beginning with “but” after the definition of the Gospel.
      Peace and Joy!
      George A. Marquart
      P.S.: Brother

  3. George, trust me, I'm with you 100% on no "but" after the Gospel. No, "Yes grace, but!" It robs the Gospel of everything! And yes, I also find CFWW to be pietistic at times, as that was the tradition he left (although he has absolutely nothing on Starck! Egad!).

    Any way, back to the main issue. The LCMS website offers this insight on the issue in its Q&A on Salvation:

    [The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod believes and teaches that it is possible for a true believer to fall from faith, as Scripture itself soberly and repeatedly warns us (1 Cor. 10:12; 1 Pet. 5:8; 2 Pet. 3:17; Heb. 2:1-3; 3:12-19; 6:4-8, etc.). Such warnings are intended for Christians who appear to be lacking a right understanding of the seriousness of their sin and of God's judgment against sin, and who, therefore, are in danger of developing a false and proud "security" based not on God's grace, but on their own works, self-righteousness, or freedom to "do as they please."
    By the same token, the LCMS affirms and treasures all of the wonderful passages in Scripture in which God promises that He will never forsake those who trust in Christ Jesus alone for salvation (John 10:27-29; Romans 8; Heb. 13: 5-6, etc.). To those who are truly repentant and recognize their need for God's grace and forgiveness, such passages are powerful reminders of the true security that is ours through sincere and humble faith in Christ alone for our salvation.
    A person may be restored to faith in the same way he or she came to faith in the first place: by repenting of his or her sin and unbelief and trusting completely in the life, death and resurrection of Christ alone for forgiveness and salvation.
    Whenever a person does repent and believe, this always takes place by the grace of God alone and by the power of the Holy Spirit working through God's Word in a person's heart.]

    So, at least the way I've always understood it, in layman's terms, is that God never forsakes, but we are free to forsake God. In doing so, by rejecting the grace offered in Christ, we are telling God we no longer want the salvation offered to us in Christ and that we do not want the indwelling of his Spirit. An apostate knowingly rejects God's plan of salvation. It's hard to imagine such a person, but scripture seems very clear on this.

    More in a bit...and if I'm missing something, please chime in pastors!

  4. OK, now on to the preceding post.

    1. good - we agree!
    2. I addressed this - see the full lecture for the scriptures included
    2a. If one cannot lose their salvation, what do you make of the parable of the sower? esp. Mt 13:20-21. I know Reformed see this differently than Lutherans but I've forgotten their exegesis. These verses seem to indicate that those who receive the word (and Spirit with it) can and do quickly fall away; it seems like the Spirit is lost even without outright apostasy in these verses.
    3. There is no specific instance of infant baptism or women taking communion in the bible, either, but we believe these things are right and salutary. So this is an argument from silence, unless you see David's story the way Lutherans do. Ps 51:12, etc. indicate David lost the Spirit but God sent Nathan to restore him with His word.
    4. Addressed this one earlier. Was using CFWW's terminology there, not scriptural terminology. I would posit that anyone not lost in immediate passion (e.g. anger as result of inflicted pain), who is led by the Spirit, willingly commits sin every single day. So I'm more with you than Walther on this one. Perhaps that's why that particular essay scared me to death!
    5. Coming back - I would say, esp. based on the LCMS response above, that God and His word restore us through the preaching of the word, Law and Gospel, just as with an adult's first conversion if they were never baptized. We don't and can't restore ourselves any more than our initial conversion (I think...I need to give this more thought). But God wants us to be reconciled to Him, so he's happy to restore us (prodigal son). Thank God. Regarding a second baptism: not necessary (we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins - Nicene Creed). God's adoption of us still stands, one just leaves it. When restored by God, he's still in possession of the original adoption documents. At least, that's how I see it.
    6. Mt 5:27-28. That's tough. But I always go straight to Mt 5:48. This is pure Law in both verses. It's to show you your sin, not to set some challenge before you (although the new creation, empowered by the Spirit, can start making inroads on the lust and self-righteousness, however weakly). Mt 5:27-28 damns me daily. It shows me my very sinful nature! It thrusts me into the hands of a savior willing to die for me, to take these sins. And the outward acting upon these lusts (ogling, porn, etc.) are abated in the loving Christian response. But I would posit that these sins of thought and desire do NOT cast the Spirit from us. It's only when one openly and knowingly says, "God, I know it's wrong, but to hell with it. I'm going after that woman," that one casts the Spirit out. An open act of rebellion, of pushing God out, not of weakness in sin.
    7. I believe Paul is admitting that he openly sins here, but out of weakness and his sinful nature, NOT because he's rejecting God's gift of salvation.

    And last, I submit Romans 5:20-21. The mercy and grace of God has no limits, or else Christ died for nothing. All your sins, those of present and past, are forgiven! Cling to Christ!

    Again, I'm just a layman and typing hurriedly. I'm sure you know many great Lutheran pastors - they can address these questions better than me! I am curious - why do you question this doctrine of lost salvation? If there's something in you that fears you may lose your salvation, I'd say that's all the evidence you'll ever need that you have NOT lost your salvation!

    1. jwskud: You write: ”2a. If one cannot lose their salvation, what do you make of the parable of the sower?” Please point out where I ever wrote that you cannot lose your salvation. On the contrary, I firmly believe the words of our Lord, Matthew 12:32, “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” I just do not believe that faith and the Holy Spirit can pop in and out any number of times. As I wrote before, and reiterate, there is no instance in Scripture where anyone lost he Spirit and got him back.
      3. How you can assume from the fact that David asks God not to take the Holy Spirit from him that he had lost it before is beyond me. There is no excuse for this kind of Biblical interpretation.
      5. Truly, the Good Shepherd cares for His sheep more than we can imagine. Together with the Holy Spirit they continue to guard us and to keep us faithful to the Word. By no means do I encourage willful sinning, but on the other hand, we should not set limits for God about what He may or may not forgive.
      6. You write, “It's only when one openly and knowingly says, "God, I know it's wrong, but to hell with it. I'm going after that woman," that one casts the Spirit out. An open act of rebellion, of pushing God out, not of weakness in sin.” Where does Scripture say that in this situation “one casts the Spirit out”? Not that I encourage it, but put in terms of the Kingdom of God, which our Lord proclaimed, that means we are out of it. I believe Scripture allows us to repent even of such a sin; but we could not do that unless we are in the Kingdom and have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.
      7. Willful sinning is not necessarily rejecting salvation. I will go straight to another of your postings where you quote 1Corinthians 6:9 ff. Most interpreters feel that this refers to long term, habitual sinning from which a person never repents. If it referred to single instances, I certainly would not make it into Paradise.
      As to your last question, my concern from when I was a very young man has been for the purity of the Gospel. As one of the Preuses once said, in effect, “Every heresy impacts the doctrine of justification.” I believe, it impacts the Gospel. When the Gospel is diminished, the comfort it is intended to give to the people of God is also diminished. When we make the Gospel so complicated that it is difficult to know whether you are saved, then we have done a disservice to our Lord.
      Do I doubt my salvation? I don’t think I am very different from most people, so that from time to time doubts creep in. But so far I have been able to overcome these, by the grace of God, by remembering, with Luther, “I have been baptized.” God has done everything to make me one of His children, and His Word, His Sacraments, and His Holy Spirit will preserve me in that faith until I see Him face to face. Amen.
      Peace and Joy!
      George A. Marquart

    2. Hi again George,
      I am trying to catch up...

      2a. So we agree, one can lose their salvation. That's all I was trying to prove/show in this point - I'm trying to work through your points one by one, not all at once. I think we can also agree that the only sin that casts one out of the kingdom is unbelief, as Luther states so well in the Babylonian Captivity text cited below.

      And again, I would say that your point that scripture doesn't include a specific example of anyone losing and regaining their salvation (a point I disagree on) would be, if true, an argument from silence. Scripture doesn't have a specific example of a woman taking the Lord's Supper, but we can infer from the doctrines of scripture (in total) that it is good, meet, and salutary for women to receive Communion.

      3. You say, " How you can assume from the fact that David asks God not to take the Holy Spirit from him that he had lost it before is beyond me. There is no excuse for this kind of Biblical interpretation." I assume nothing. I take this as the interpretation of those who came before me, men who put their lives on the line with their exegesis. These guys studied scripture intensely, were masters of 4+ languages, and wrote a confession that still stands 500 years later. I'm just trying to work it all out for myself and relaying my findings to you. I'm selfishly serving myself here more than you, because you make good points and it's a doctrine I haven't given much thought!

      Besides which, I've been thinking about Ps 51 for a while now. When was it written? After David had been confronted with God's word by Nathan. After God had restored him by granting him repentance. David here (according to my view) is confessing and praying for God not to cast his Spirit away. Why would he ask God NOT to take his Spirit from him if it couldn't happen? I simply believe this is a plea from someone who had been cast out already and was crying for it not to happen again. But perhaps that's all wrong - as I keep saying, I am but a simple layman. Either way, David asks God not to take his Spirit, which at least reiterates point 2a above.

      5. Praise God. That's really all we need to know. I fear, love, and trust God to keep his Spirit within me, to keep me in the faith, whether sleeping, praying, or openly sinning against my better conscience. He converted me and he maintains me. It’s all the work of Christ, given to me and you and the whole world. Hallelujah!

    3. continued

      6. You write, “I believe Scripture allows us to repent even of such a sin; but we could not do that unless we are in the Kingdom and have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.” This is exactly the point! We can sin to such a degree, openly and in full rebellion (again, I won’t qualify “how much” sin is required to achieve this, but I’ll just say it’s possible and, thank God, seems to require some major, major ongoing sin heaped upon sin!), that we fall into unbelief and the Spirit leaves us. In a way, we reject Christ’s gift of salvation, which gives us everything we need, by grasping for something else…a form of self-justification. How is one then restored? God’s word crashes over us and we are regenerated, brought back to the faith. Only then can repentance be granted, after the Spirit is back. And God won’t let us leave – he will pursue us like a lone, lost sheep. I think the point is, IF we sin to such a degree as to fall into unbelief, restoration is there for us, and something the Lord desires. That's a real comfort.

      7. “Most interpreters feel that this refers to long term, habitual sinning from which a person never repents.” Yes, I think we can agree here as well, to a certain point. As above in #6, I believe this long-term sin casts us into unbelief. How else could we keep in it? We know God’s commands, we know his salvation. To sin long-term (and not simply due to weakness of the flesh) is to fall into unbelief at his words of Law and Gospel. But I don’t see how this means it is a sin for which there is no repentance. God is long-suffering. Christ died for us! How could he not want us back?

      Finally, “When we make the Gospel so complicated that it is difficult to know whether you are saved, then we have done a disservice to our Lord.” I agree. The Gospel says Christ died for us. He gave everything so we might have life eternal. This tells me that, even if we cast his spirit out, he will pursue us, so as not to have died in vain. It’s all to Christ’s glory, after all. I find that very comforting.

      It’s like if you were in a burning building and I suffered massive burns rescuing you from the flames…only to see you push me away and run back into the building, thinking you’d left something behind which you needed. Would I suffer the burns and just say, “Oh, well, I tried, but he’s lost now”? No! I’d go grab you by the neck and pull you back out again, over and over, because I love you and suffered for you.

      All this points us to this conclusion: we CAN lose our salvation. God will do all he can to restore us. Even as we push him away, he pursues.

      On to the next issues…and trying to tackle the troubling warning texts like Heb 6:4-6.

      Thanks for staying engaged. I’ve asked my pastor to review these issues but he’s out of country for the next ~10 days, so better explanations will be postponed.

  5. Thank you, jwskud, for your response. I am not sure that the Scripture passages that are quoted to support the “falling from faith” situation, really apply to “falling from faith.” “Take heed lest you fall?” “Falling” can be any sin. Right after this, St. Paul warns about idol worship. This is, of course, a rich field for analogies about which people should be warned, but loss of faith and the Holy Spirit is a more serious matter.
    Although sin is a serious matter, and no admonition against it should be dismissed as not being serious, the fact is, we all sin, but “falling from faith” and “losing the Holy Spirit” are about as serious as they come. I do not see the Peter passages or the first Hebrews passage addressing that problem. The second one certainly does. But the third Hebrews passage, 6:4-8, is the one about which I wrote above, “Those who have been members of the Kingdom and have left it will never return to the Kingdom. “ Is that not precisely what it says?
    What I think our Lord and the writers of Scripture want to do is to warn us that we do not get to the point where we lose faith and the Holy Spirit, because once we do, there is no hope for us.
    If it is true, as the LCMS officially teaches, that “A person may be restored to faith in the same way he or she came to faith in the first place: by repenting of his or her sin and unbelief and trusting completely in the life, death and resurrection of Christ alone for forgiveness and salvation,” that raises the question of re-baptism. A person who comes to faith for the first time, has neither faith nor the indwelling of the Holy Spirit before his conversion. He receives faith, the forgiveness of sins, and the gift of the Holy Spirit in Baptism. When he loses faith and the Holy Spirit, he becomes exactly what he was before his conversion. Does Scripture anywhere indicate that such people receive faith, the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit without Baptism? From the way Lutheran theologians write about this, it must be a frequent enough occurrence that you would think Scripture would say something about that?
    I think we have made up a doctrine about “losing faith and the Holy Spirit” that does not conform to Scripture. We have rationalized that the Holy Spirit cannot exist in a person who commits certain sins and that He therefore flees. Since a man cannot come to faith “by his own reason or strength,” the Holy Spirit must again “draw” him into faith. But He cannot do so until the person has “improved” himself to the point where the sin that caused the Holy Spirit to leave is no longer there? So is it works after all?
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart


      Scripture-laden study.

  6. Hi George,
    A bit more. I'm fairly certain you've researched all this before, but just in case....

    Lutheran Cyclopedia:
    Final Perseverance of the Saints.
    Scripture teaches that God's elect saints will not be lost, but obtain everlasting salvation (Mt 24:22–24; Ro 8:28–39; 1 Co 1:8–9; 10:13). This does not mean that the elect saints cannot fall from grace and so temporarily lose their faith (David; Peter); but it does mean that God's saving grace, without any merit on their part, will restore them to the state of faith, so that in Christ they finally die a blessed death. The doctrine of final perseverance of the saints is pure Gospel, designed to comfort anxious and doubting believers; it should not be misused in the interest of carnal security. Those inclined to fleshly security and sinning against grace should be warned by such earnest Law preaching as is found Ro 11:20; 1 Co 10:12. The doctrine of final perseverance glorifies divine grace, not human merit. The Ref. doctrine that the elect saints, once called, may lose the exercise of faith, but not faith itself, even if they commit enormous sins, is opposed to Scripture. See also Predestination.

    Also, the Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article IV has an entire subsection devoted to this doctrine. See paragraphs 30-36 especially. Many warnings in scripture indicate one may fall from faith. But we trust in a forgiving God, that he will restore us and bring us to repentance, in spite of ourselves. I find that very comforting.

    As far as someone being brought BACK to the faith, again I point to the prodigal son. Albeit a parable, why would Jesus include it if it didn't have worldly proof? That parable always accuses me of being either the younger OR the older brother, and that the Father is waiting to restore me whichever direction I fall.

    Again, although scripture doesn't appear to single out anyone falling and being restored (although Lutherans see David and Peter as excellent examples), neither does scripture lay out a specific example of an infant baptism or a woman taking communion. But we can infer that the text speaks to these groups through its overall message.

    Anyway, not sure any of that helps. Thanks for bringing this topic up - if nothing else, it's made me explore the doctrine and scripture closely.

    1. Dear Jwskud. Thank you. But I need to say that one thing that troubles me about these on line discussions is that there is no response to what I write, just piling on of new materials to support the position I oppose.
      Let me be clear, I have nothing against the doctrine of the elect, or predestination (single, not double). What I insist on is that there is no instance given in Scripture where the Holy Spirit left someone and then returned. Nothing in Scripture says that David lost the Holy Spirit; all Scriptural evidence shows that he did not.
      Now, the fact that you mention Peter shows one of the problems with the Lutheran understanding of the Holy Spirit and the Kingdom. The only time Peter received the Holy Spirit was on the Day of Resurrection, John 20:22, when our Lord appeared to ten of the eleven Disciples, and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” So that when Peter denied His Lord earlier, the Holy Spirit was not in him. Our Lord Himself testifies to that when, just before Peter’s denial, He said, John 14:17, “You know Him, because He abides with you, and He will be in you.” By his denial, Peter had forfeited his position as Shepherd of the People of God, and to this the Lord restored him (John 21:15-17), but he did not lose his place in the Kingdom. In fact, our Lord restored him to the office of Shepherd without Peter ever repenting of his denial.
      Clearly, the work of the Holy Spirit was different in the Old Testament from His work in the New Testament. John 7: 37, “On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38 and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, "Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.' " 39 Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” There are a few instances where the Old Testament says that the Holy Spirit was “in” someone, or that they were “filled” with the Holy Spirit. David was not one of them. About him it is written, 1 Samuel 16:13, “…and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.” In the very next verse it says, “Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul…” There is no such statement about David anywhere in Scripture.
      Peace and Joy!
      George A. Marquart

    2. Found this bit of wisdom on another site:

      "In The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, Luther wrote, "Even if he [the saint] wants to, he cannot lose his salvation, however much he sin, unless he will not believe. For no sin can condemn him save unbelief alone. All other sins—so long as the faith in God’s promise made in baptism returns or remains—all other sins, I say, are immediately blotted out through that same faith, or rather through the truth of God, because He cannot deny Himself."

      Having graduated from a Lutheran seminary, this is the position of the Lutheran Church. It is different than Wesleyism in the sense that it does not teach that one loses their salvation because of sin, but that sin may have such an effect on a person that one may lose their faith, thus, coming to a place of unbelief!"

      So the sin itself doesn't cast out the Spirit, but rather the unbelief that follows sin (in extreme cases; again - I'm not going to qualify it!).

  7. "I think we have made up a doctrine about “losing faith and the Holy Spirit” that does not conform to Scripture. We have rationalized that the Holy Spirit cannot exist in a person who commits certain sins and that He therefore flees. Since a man cannot come to faith “by his own reason or strength,” the Holy Spirit must again “draw” him into faith. But He cannot do so until the person has “improved” himself to the point where the sin that caused the Holy Spirit to leave is no longer there? So is it works after all?"

    I think this paragraph is summed up by Luther's 1st thesis:
    When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ``Repent'' (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

    God's word is constantly at work to restore us.

    By the way, I wrote a really long response to your seven questions in the post above but I guess it hasn't cleared yet. I hope it didn't get lost in cyberspace, as I could never rewrite it!

    1. jwskud: You wrote: “I think this paragraph is summed up by Luther's 1st thesis:
      When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ``Repent'' (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

      God's word is constantly at work to restore us.”
      There is a good reason why this Thesis did not make it into the Confessions. It is not Scriptural. The fact is, and there are numerous sayings of our Lord and the Apostles to support this: that He willed the entire life of believers to be one of SERVICE.” The same Luther, who wrote the 95 Thesis, wrote, after his “Tower Experience,” in the Smalcald Articles: in the Section “Of the False Repentance of the Papists”: “40] And in Christians this repentance continues until death, because, through the entire life it contends with sin remaining in the flesh, as Paul, Rom. 7:14-25, [shows] testifies that he wars with the law in his members, etc.; and that, not by his own powers, but by the gift of the Holy Ghost that follows the remission of sins.” You may say, “you are arguing against yourself!” But wait; here we have a problem in the translation from the German. By the time Luther wrote the Articles, he had a much better understanding of the Gospel. In German, part of the text reads, “40] Und diese Busse währt bei den Christen bis in den Tod;…“ The German word „währt“ does not mean “continues“, but “has an effect” or “is in effect.” In other words, the one Repentance at conversion, is valid, or works until death. That does not mean Christians should not be contrite about their sins on a daily basis; our Lord taught us that in the Lord’s Prayer. But we should be confident that God forgives us our sins in accordance with His Word and Promise, and not wallow in constant repentance as if that is what God demands from us.
      Luther recognized that the continual repentance he practiced as a monk brought him no peace until he became aware of the full comfort of the Gospel and God’s grace.
      Peace and Joy!
      George A. Marquart

    2. Hi again George,
      My long response to your 7 questions was cleared. Don't know if it will help.
      I think I'll try to approach this issue systematically, bit by bit, for my own sake. If it helps you, great!

      First: is it possible for one to lose the Holy Spirit, not just by outright apostasy, but through continued sin? According to Franz Pieper and the historic, catholic church, it is:

      "Scripture teaches most distinctly that evil works destroy faith. 1 Timothy 1:18-20 and 2 Timothy 2:16-18 state that those who by evil actions thrust aside their conscience have made shipwreck concerning their faith. 1 Corinthians 6, 9 ff. warns: “Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners shall inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:21, Ephesians 5:5, Romans 8:13, Colossians 3:6, make the same statement. Quoting these passages, the Lutheran Confessions declare: “The false Epicurean delusion is to be earnestly censured and rejected, namely, that some imagine that faith and the righteousness and salvation which they have received can be lost through no sins or wicked deed, not even through willful and intentional ones” (Trigl. 947, F. C., Sol. Decl., IV, 31–32). Faith cannot endure in the heart which is given to sin because, as Scripture so plainly tells us, the Holy Spirit, who is the causa efficiens of faith, is grieved by evil works and will finally depart from the heart. Hence the earnest admonition of Scripture: “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). The Holy Spirit is not only “the Spirit of faith” (2 Corinthians 4:13),29 but also the Spirit of sanctification and good works.30 He incessantly admonishes and urges believers to avoid the evil and perform the good.31 And if the Holy Ghost is persistently thwarted in this part of His work, He will cease to perform the other part, the preservation of faith. The Christian Church has always taught that evil works destroy faith."

      Why would there be all these warnings in scripture if this were not a possibility? So I think (at least in my mind) this first issue can be put to bed. A Christian, through ongoing evil, can cast the Holy Spirit out, and He takes faith away with Him. As to the question, "Which evil and sins are enough to do this?" I offer no answer.

      Next up: can a Christian, once faith is removed, be brought back to faith? Are the warning passages in scripture saying there is no repentance for those who are only outright apostates, or also for those who have cast the Spirit out through ongoing sin? I'll start researching that next.

      Finally, as regards Peter: can a distinction be made here, that while not FILLED with the Holy Spirit, Peter had the Holy Spirit dwelling in him pre-pentecost? The same Peter who in 10:1 is given the power to heal and cast out evil spirits, who in Mt 16 confesses Christ, which 1 Cor 12:3 seems to indicate that Peter had the Holy Spirit? The same Peter who then denied Christ and was later restored, ala the prodigal? I really think this is a strong case in support of your main concern, but I'll look into it more.

      More later as I have time.

    3. Jwskud: I think I responded to most of your concerns here in my reply to your 7 point posting. But the matter of Peter and the Holy Spirit deserves special mention.
      In an earlier posting, I quoted the words of our Lord, John 14:17, “You know Him, because He abides with you, and He will be in you.” This, and the other quotation, from John 7: 37, “On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38 and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, "Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.' " 39 Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified,” clearly indicate that the Holy Spirit worked differently in the people of the Mosaic Covenant than He does in the Covenant of Jesus Christ. From the moment that our Lord spoke the words, John 20:22, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” Peter was “filled” with the Holy Spirit, and was so until the day he died. When Acts and other Epistles speak of people being “filled” with the Holy Spirit, in almost all cases the word “filled” is in the Aorist form. As far as I know, that means that a state is being described, not an action. In other words, the people were not being filled with the Holy Spirit at that particular moment, but they were in a state of being full of the Holy Spirit. The notion that we can have varying amounts of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us is an un-Scriptural one. Just as Scripture nowhere says that anyone who as ever lost the Holy Spirit ever received Him again, so it is a stranger to the notion that we can get refills to what may have leaked out. To have the Holy Spirit is to be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” What clearly varies, are the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which He gives according to His choosing. After Paul lists the various gifts of the Spirit, he writes, 1Corinthians 12:11, “All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.”
      What Peter and the other 11 Apostles (I include St. Paul) had, and what nobody had before then or after than is the special power which enabled them, besides being effective preachers of the Gospel, to work miracles such as healing people and raising them from the dead. This is clearly taught in Scripture, Acts 1:6-8, “6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
      7 He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’” Note that at Pentecost the Spirit “came on” them; He was already in them.
      Of course, Peter thought he felt the power before it was actually given to him, so he meddled in God’s plan by getting Matthias appointed to replace Judas. Our Lord later showed what His will was, when He met Rabbi Saul on the Road to Damascus.
      Peace and Joy!
      George A. Marquart

    4. OK here we go. I've already posted a long response (2 parts) to your earlier post from May 3 (the one with numbered responses)...hopefully you've seen that.

      "he Holy Spirit worked differently in the people of the Mosaic Covenant than He does in the Covenant of Jesus Christ" - totally agree! "He ABIDES in you, and he WILL BE in you" - so the Spirit was abiding in OT saints, Peter, etc. The other text, "for as yet there was no Spirit" must therefore mean (if we let scripture interpret scripture) that there was not yet the Spirit "in you," but that doesn't mean He wasn't "abiding" in OT saints and the disciples pre-Jn 20. So I think this must mean Peter had the Spirit abiding in him. What's the difference between abiding in and having the Spirit in you? Golly, I don't know. All I know is one cannot have faith or confess Christ without the Holy Spirit, which Peter did.

      “The notion that we can have varying amounts of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us is an un-Scriptural one” Based on the analysis above, I can’t agree with this point. It just doesn’t make sense to me. I contrast the disciples pre- and post-pentecost. They had the Holy Spirit pre-, it just wasn’t filling them. Post-, they were filled, and able to perform acts of unbelievable faith, willing to risk their lives daily. Or what of the centurion (Mt 8). Of such great faith Jesus was astounded. Certainly the Spirit abided in this man? How could it be elsewise? I could share a link to a fantastic article by John Piper on this issue, but I won’t, because I don’t like mixing Baptist theology with Lutheran theology, but he makes a fantastic set of points on this issue.

      Now I agree one either has the Holy Spirit or has a Satanic Spirit. How that jives with all this is, well, something I haven’t worked out. But only those with the Holy Spirit can seek God and believe on his Son, no matter how small their faith may be. In those cases, I suppose the person’s carnal, original sin nature subdues but does not cast the Spirit out, thank God, else we'd all be lost!

      Also, in Jn 20:22, if Jesus gives them the Spirit, what happens at Pentecost? Doesn’t this prove that they have the Spirit pre-pentecost? So why not pre-crucifixion? Was the Spirit abiding in them? I see you agree with that point in the following paragraph. So in effect, as you say, “Note that at Pentecost the Spirit “came on” them; He was already in them.” So it’s both. He was in them AND he came on them, filling them. Doesn’t this necessarily prove that the Spirit can be in someone at different levels?

      As for the Matthias thing, not sure what you’re getting at here…

      More later, including my look at the warning passages of no repentance!

  8. Hi George,
    I did post a 7-point reply to your 7 questions, but it hasn't been cleared on this blog yet. I'm hoping it is! I saved a portion of it and can try to reformulate it later.

    And again, it seems like you have some really serious, probing questions. I'm not a pastor, nor a theologian. I am a layman with interest in this topic, and in trying to answer your questions, I am exploring my own doctrine and confessions. Please be patient with me.

    Regarding Luther's view on repentance: I think the distinction needs to be made that as Luther's theology developed, he came to see repentance not as some task/work/labor that robbed of comfort, but rather as Gospel, turning sins over to Christ. What could be better? Moreover, he knew repentance was no longer tied directly to justification, best of all. He is even quoted as saying if a man could have faith and not repent, he would be saved; but of course, repentance comes with faith (or something to that effect, I'm paraphrasing).

    More later if I have time. I will say a life of repentance is scriptural...Jesus said repent and believe. Although we are fully justified by God through faith, we all sin daily, so we are called to repentance daily. Not as a means of re-securing our salvation, however, but rather as a means of removing the guilt associated with sin and receiving the blessed words of absolution. Again, that's how I view it.

  9. Gentlemen: I have made several posts three days ago; apparently the gatekeeper decided not to publish them. As owners of the site, you have every right to do so. However, it leaves me in the uncomfortable position of having offended Jwskud, who may be thinking that I did not deem his postings worthy of a response.
    Could you post this, just to show that this thread is now finished, and that I did attempt to respond to Jwskud? Thank you.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

    1. George,
      This short video addresses some of the issues you bring up, including the apparent paradox between losing faith/being restored and the warnings of Heb 6:

      See also this video, from the 13:00-mark onwards:

      You may disagree with the conclusions, but this is how Lutherans view these issues. We let paradox stand and do not force scripture against scripture.

    2. Dear Jason: Thank you. I watched both videos. My first reaction is that I am put off by the preaching of God’s word in the form of stand-up comedy. It takes an effort to ignore the form and to concentrate on the substance. I am a Monty Python fan, but not as a form of theology.
      Secondly, I still prefer information in written form. It is much easier to go back to points that piqued your interest, than trying to find the same spot on a video.
      Thirdly, I found both presentations to by edifying, clear, presentations of the truth of the word of God. I did not find myself disagreeing with anything. I did sort of perk up at one point when the speaker, speaking about the sin of David, said something to the effect that, “…it destroyed the exercise of faith, not faith itself.”
      You should not think that there is a great deal in our Lutheran faith that I find objectionable. As to paradoxes, I believe we subscribe to a hermeneutical principle that says, “the Bible does not contradict itself.” I know that the mystics revel in paradoxes, but I think we should be slow to designate something in Scripture to be a paradox. Most often, it may be a paradox in the way the world thinks, but not one within the system of revealed knowledge about God, our salvation, and the Kingdom of God. Frequently, paradoxes can be resolved simply by a proper understanding of the language.
      My major problems with what our Confessions teach are:
      1. That David lost faith and the Holy Spirit when He committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed. With this, the idea that one may receive the Holy Spirit more than once, or lose Him and receive Him again.
      2. That when the prophet Jeremiah had God saying, “I will write my Law in their hearts,” the Decalogue is meant.
      3. Penal substitution. Clearly, Scripture teaches substitutionary atonement, and the two should not be confused, but just as clearly, Scripture teaches that our salvation was accomplished, in part, by the sacrifice of the Lamb of God offering Himself on Golgotha.
      4. There are a few others, but they are not worth bringing up as long as the infallibility of the Confessions is made a sine qua non of our faith.
      In all of this, my concern is not squabbling about words, but in the purity of the Gospel. You have to be a great sinner to understand that your only hope is in a pure Gospel, one in which God does not change, or require you to contribute to your salvation.
      I am leaving home tomorrow, and will not be back for a week; therefore, I will be unable to respond to anything until then.
      Peace and Joy!
      George A. Marquart

  10. George, there are no 'gatekeepers.' I changed the format to moderated to keep from posting the spam and pornography that was plaguing this site.

    I am extremely busy right now, and I apologize if I accidentally didn't publish something. When I get the opportunity, I will look over the thread and see what I omitted. I am working at three jobs today, and it is Ascension - we have services tonight. So I ask for your patience.

  11. Thank you, Rev. Beane and please accept my apologies for intruding into your busy schedule.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

    1. Dear George, no apologies needed, and you are not intruding!

    2. Hi Pastor Beane,
      Thank you so much for allowing us to use your blog site to discuss these issues! Not sure how it all started...I guess George and I were both captivated, for different reasons, by the original post. In any event, thank you for the time you've spent reviewing our posts and publishing them.

      God Bless,
      Jason (JWSkud)

    3. Dear Jason, we're honored that our site is a vehicle for fraternal theological discussion!

  12. More good stuff on this topic:

    Romans 11:23
    And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in AGAIN.

    13:00 mark onward talks directly about Hebrews 6 and its proper context/proper reading of the Greek.

    Also, Jn 14:17 - my study Bible makes the point that some manuscripts read, "he abides with you and IS in you." I don't put too much emphasis on "some manuscripts," but it does seem to indicate abiding with and being in are, at some mysterious level, equitable.

  13. One more, 6:15-mark onward. Excellent, scripture-laden discourse on the topic of losing one's salvation, and being reinstated by Christ:

    This series of videos I've linked pretty much lays the issue to rest in my mind, George, as Pastor Fisk clearly shows how the Law and Gospel seem to say paradoxical things in the Bible, but how we as Lutherans simply let the texts say what they say. We don't try to explain it away.

    Not sure if any of this has been helpful to you, but it's been an excellent doctrinal journey for me.

  14. Hi George,
    I will pray for safe travel.

    Regarding Worldview Everlasting (WVE): it is true, it is not everyone's cup of tea! Pastor Fisk and the other contributors to that sight try to put out entertaining/engaging materials. Personally, I enjoy it, but mostly I utilize it because it is a site which specializes in what I'll call "Lutheran Apologetics," for the purposes of making out doctrines clear, and for pointing out where we find fault with other churches' confessions. They also have many short articles in written form on the site, so I encourage anyone with questions to go there.

    As far as paradoxes in scripture go, of course you are right. We humans see paradoxes in scripture, but there are none. We simply can't fit all of God's pieces together as only he can, so our reason tells us we must somehow work out what we perceive to be paradoxes. But that's what I like about Lutheran theology so much - we allow it to stand as is and do not attempt to use human reason to explain something that doesn't make sense, that seems like a "contradiction."

    Perhaps we'll continue when you return; for now, I'm signing off, having left some more links to video content above.

    God Bless,


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