Sunday, August 23, 2009

ELCA Ordain Active Homosexuals

Pentecost 12
August 23, 2009

The Lord be with you

In the Herald-Journal newspaper (the main newspaper in Spartanburg, SC), an article appeared yesterday reporting on the decision of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to allow active homosexual individuals in “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships” to become fully ordained members of their clergy (the vote was about 55% for and 45% against). In the mid-west “heartland” of Lutheranism, everyone would know that the ELCA is not the only American denomination calling itself “Lutheran.” In the “salt-water” districts we are not so blessed with informed non-Lutherans in our communities, so confusion can exist as to what we believe, teach and confess.

I am a pastor in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LC-MS), the second largest American denomination bearing the name “Lutheran.” The church I serve, Lamb of God, is an LC-MS congregation. We do not ordain individuals commonly identified as homosexual. We believe the Bible teaches that such activity is outside the will of God, and therefore sinful.

Now we are all sinners (1 John 1:8). To deny this would be to call God a liar (1 John 1:10). But it is one thing to recognize yourself as a sinner and battle against that sin by the grace of God, and quite another thing to embrace one’s sin. The former sinner receives God’s grace and forgiveness, the later receives neither for they deem themselves not in need of forgiveness and grace (at least in reference to the embraced sin). For them, it is like asking for forgiveness for praying, singing a hymn, loving their spouse, etc. Such activities are not sinful; why would you ask for forgiveness? Those who voted for this resolution are like the hardened criminal who can’t see that what he did was wrong and therefore doesn’t see a need to repent.

My heart goes out to the many in the ELCA who do not support this resolution (my guess is somewhere around 2 million!). They are in my prayers in this troubling time. My heart goes out to the hundreds and hundreds of committed, caring pastors in the ELCA who do not support this resolution. They have difficult decisions ahead of them. They will be in my prayers. My heart also goes out to the many people who support this resolution. They will also be in my prayers, that they may repent (I know they don’t think they have anything of which to repent), and move back towards the 2,000-year-old consensus view of the Church Universal. My heart also goes out to the many people who have been deceived by current American culture into thinking that engaging in homosexual activity is a God-pleasing option. They too are in my prayers. May the Lord open their eyes to His Culture, a Culture that will last for all eternity!

Blessings in Christ
Pastor John Rickert

We should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ. Ephesians 4:14-15

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9

P.S. If you would like to read the message Rev. Dr. Gerald Kieschnick, President of the LC-MS, gave at the ELCA convention after their vote, click here.


  1. John,

    I definitely appreciate your defense of what's clearly stated in the Bible concerning God's hatrid of homosexuality. However, I am intriqued by your profile where you state: "I was blessed to have parents that had me baptized as an infant and I've been a Christian ever since."

    1. Where in the Bible does God command "babies" or young children to get baptized?

    2. Where in the Bible do you find an example of a baby or young child who gets baptized and is then recognized as a Christian?

    3. How can a baby repent of sin, have faith in Jesus Christ, and be baptized of the Spirit (which the Bible clearly tells us is the way to become a Christian)?

    If you don't have a Biblical answer to these questions (especially #3), how can you honestly say you were a "Christian" from the time you were a baby?

    I am genuinely interested in your response.

    Thank you.

  2. I wanted to clarify my questions.

    - While I understand there aren't necessarily any references to the "elderly" being baptized in the Bible, you would agree there are references to "adults" being baptized? I'm sure you would also agree that the elderly would be referred to as adults, right?

    - When Jesus states in Matthew 28:19, "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," you wouldn't think this means we should "force" an adult to get baptized (by water) because they are in these nations? Do you? What if we did force an adult to get baptized (and they didn't believe)? Would God recognize it? If not, then why should we "force" a baby to get baptized without his or her permission (or proof of repentance of sins)?

    - According to Mark 16:16, "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; he who believes not shall be damned." If a baby gets baptized and does not believe, how can they be saved? Besides a speculative interpretation of Luke 18 (which doesn't specifically say babies can believe in Christ), where does the Bible specifically say they can believe and have faith?

    - As for Colossians 2:11-12, you would agree that "circumcision made without hands" refers also to baptism of the Spirit instead of just a physical immersion or sprinkling of water? Without repentance of sins or faith in Christ, how can a baby be circumcised by the Spirit?

    I hope you do not think I'm trying to attack you. I'm genuinely interested in your position.

  3. Hello Chris,

    First, I’d like to speak to your phrase “God’s hatred of homosexuality” in your first comment. In our current times of hyper-sensitivity on this subject, when we speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15) we need to be careful to be clear. Your phrase could be misconstrued to mean that God hates people who engage in homosexual activity. In John 3:16 Jesus says, “For God so loved the world …” People who engage in homosexual activity are part of the world and as such are objects of God’s love. Indeed God desires all to be saved (1 Tim 2:4), which would include those who engage in homosexual activity just as it includes people whose sins include bigotry, avarice, hubris, lust, gossip, unrestrained rage, slander, lying, false doctrine, and on and on. Yes, God hates sin (Ps 45:7; Is 1:14; 61:8; etc.), but he loves sinners (Micah 7:18; Rom 5:8; etc.). I know that there are some passages that sound like God hates sinners, but in light of the passages that speak of God’s love for all humanity those “hate” passages are best understood as a common figure of speech where “a whole is named for a part, or a part is named for the whole.” So we may say, “I feel sick” when in reality only a part of us, say our stomach, feels sick. Our head, arms, legs all feel fine. Again Scripture says “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). That doesn’t mean that God is not also just. Here an attribute is named as if it were the whole. This is done to focus our attention on the attribute. When Scripture says something that sounds like God hates sinners (Prov 6:16-19), a part of us (sin) is being named for the whole. The truth is that God loves us sinners so much that he sent his Son to die for us so that the doors of paradise could be opened to us. I assume this is what you mean; I just wish to be clear.

    I will address your questions about baptism and salvation in another comment so these two issues are not confused. I will probably get to it tonight.

    Blessings in Christ

  4. Hey, John,

    Thank you for responding to my comment.

    While we definitely should speak the truth in love and be clear and coherent in our communication, we also have to be careful not to give unrepentant sinners a false gospel that God accepts them "just the way they are," and He doesn't care if they practice sin (such as homosexuality) because "He will love them anyway" (and by implication, they will inherit the kingdom of God).

    The Bible clearly tells us that unrepentant homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Scripture also clearly tells us that God hates "some" people (Psalms 5:5-6, Malachi 1:2-3). Which part says or implies He hates a "part" of them? Yes, God is love (1 John 4:8), but he is also a righteous judge (Psalm 7:11). When God destroyed mankind (common sense would also include babies) by flood, was He not love? When God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, was He not love?

    As for John 3:16 and 1 Timothy 2:4, what makes you certain "all" or "world" refers to every person in existence? John 12:19 says, "So the Pharisees said to one another, 'You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him.'" Does this mean everybody in the world has gone after Christ? 1 John 2:15 says, "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." If you love ALL people in the world, does that mean the love of the Father is not in you? 1 John 5:19 says, "We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one." Does this mean every soul lies in the power of Satan, when the previous verse says, "the evil one does not touch him (who is of God)"?

    I hope you don't mind my questions. As I said, I'm genuinely interested in your position.

  5. Hello Chris,

    Answering your questions about baptism and salvation could easily fill a book. I’ll try to be brief but it will take two posts in these comments due to the restriction on the number of words. So, on with part 1.

    The Bible teaches that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23);” that “all” includes adults, children and infants.

    The Bible teaches that we are “saved by grace through faith” in Jesus Christ (Eph 2:8-9). No other means of salvation is available, not for adults, not for children, and not for infants.

    If infants and children cannot believe, then infants and children cannot be saved. But Scripture teaches that infants and children can believe. Infant faith is depicted in Ps 8:2, which is quoted by our Lord in Matt 21:16. In Lk 18:15 we read that people were bringing “even infants” to the Lord. The Greek is ta brefā, which can only mean infants. When the adults tried to prevent this Jesus rebuked them and said, in referring to the children, “to such belongs the kingdom of God.” But the only way this response of our Lord’s could be accurate is if the children had faith. In Matt 18:6 we are warned to not cause “little ones” to stumble in their faith. More passages could be added to show that small children, even infants, can have faith.

    Repentance and faith in Christ are gifts from God, the work of the Holy Spirit. We contribute nothing to this work, as Scripture makes very clear in places like Eph 2:8-9, 2 Cor 3:5; Ro 3:27-28.

    Certainly a sound biblical message is one way the Holy Spirit works this miracle of salvation (2 Thess 2:14). In Lutheran circles, therefore, we call the Word of God a “Means of Grace.” That is, it is a means God uses to bring his grace to us.

    Another way the Holy Spirit can work faith in the heart is through Baptism. 1 Peter 3:21 says, “baptism now saves you.” You cannot be saved if you do not have faith in Jesus. If baptism saves you then baptism is a means the Spirit uses to give faith. Peter makes this clear that this is a normal baptism with water by referring to the effect of the water as not simply being the removal of dirt. Instead baptism guarantees a “good conscience before God.” A good conscience before God can only be received by grace through faith, therefore baptism must give the gift of faith.

    In Acts 22:16 we read, “Get up, and calling on His Name, be baptized and have your sins washed away.” In 1 Cor 6:11 we read, “but you have been washed (referring to baptism), you have been made holy, you have been justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” In Eph. 5:26 baptism is called a “washing of regeneration.” Passages like these can easily be multiplied.

  6. Part 2.

    The book of Acts covers the first couple of decades of Church history. During this time Christianity was a minority religion. Wherever the Gospel went, everyone was a non-Christian. Naturally it would be adults that were getting baptized. However there are the well-know “household” passages (Acts 11:14; 16:15, 33). In a world without birth-control, it is unreasonable to assume there were no small children or infants.

    There are also the words of Peter in his Pentecost sermon. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the Name of Jesus Christ so that your sins will be forgiven, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all who are far away, all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-39). The promise of baptism is not “for your children after they become adults.” The promise of baptism is not for “all the adults who are far off.” Notice also the connection between baptism and the reception of the Holy Spirit in Peter’s words.

    Jesus says in Matt 18, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them …” He did not say, teach and baptize, but baptize and teach. Also, children, even infants, are part of all nations. Jesus didn’t say, “Go and make disciples of all adults in the nations …”

    You speak of forcing someone to be baptized, as if baptizing a child is “forcing” something. God does not “force” us to faith. The Spirit gives us faith. Unless you feel all gifts are being forced upon you, then the connection of being “forced” to be baptized doesn’t apply. A baby being baptized is no more forced to faith than any adult that is equally dependent on the work of the Spirit. The Spirit creates in us a willing spirit (Ps 51:10), no matter what age we are when he works his miracle of faith. Would you say that a mother is “forcing” her child to eat? Neither does baptism force faith.

    As for Colossians 2:11-12, it is a reference to real baptism, with water and the Spirit, as Peter described in his Pentecost sermon. There is no biblical reason to separate the work of the Holy Spirit from baptism. Paul describes baptism in Titus 3 as a washing of water with the word. Through the word of God the Spirit puts God’s grace in it. Faith clings to those promises. I’ve only gone over a few of the promises.

    Actually baptizing infants is a powerful statement about being saved by grace through faith and not by our works. As we get older we try to take credit for our salvation by claiming we did something; (had a good disposition, said some kind of prayer, made a decision for Jesus, etc.) to become Christians. This can lead us to trust in whatever we “did” instead of trusting Jesus. A baby cannot claim they did anything. They simply receive God’s grace, the gift of faith.

    Finally, and I have to say this, it worked for me and millions of other alive today, and uncounted billions who have gone before. I, like they, trust in Jesus Christ, Second Person of the Triune God, as my Savior. He is our Lord. He granted us faith and salvation through the waters of baptism. We believe that we must stand with the overwhelming majority of Christians throughout the ages on this point.

    As the 300-year-old hymn put it:

    Baptized into Your name most holy,
    O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
    I claim a place, though weak and lowly,
    Among Your saints, Your chosen host.
    Buried with Christ and dead to sin,
    Your Spirit now shall live within.

    Blessings in Christ

  7. Hello John,

    Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I was saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ only three months ago and am unfamiliar with Lutheran doctrines. Like I said before, I hope you don't think I am attacking you with my questions. Sometimes it's difficult to hear someone's voice through a computer screen. I hope you don't mind if I ask you some additional questions after I study in more depth (and meditate on) the verses you quoted.

  8. The Lord be with you

    Hi Chris,

    I will answer you questions concerning God’s love for all people and “figures of speech” (as they are called) more carefully in a later response. However I though that you might value the following Bible passage:

    For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. 1 Timothy 4:10

    Here humanity is divided into two groups, those who believe (and therefore receive the salvation earned for them by Christ) and those who do not believe (and therefore have not received the salvation earned for them by Christ). However Jesus is the Savior of both groups. Christ died for all. Now why would he do that if God didn’t love them all?

    Blessings in Christ

  9. Hi John,

    Obviously, 1 Timothy 4:10 isn't a verse that supports universalism. All people will not inherit eternal life through Christ (Matthew 7:13-15, Mark 16:16, etc.). Therefore, in this verse, "Savior" can't mean Christ saves all from damnation. For unbelievers, Christ is their Savior because He is the ONLY way (John 14:6), preserves them by restraining sin (Romans 2:15) and judgment (Romans 2:3-6), maintains order in society (Romans 13:1-5), warns them to repent and believe (Mark 1:15), and invites them to partake of His eternal blessings (John 6:35-40).

    Does 1 Timothy 4:10 prove God loves all people? God is love, and He doesn't take pleasure in the damnation of anyone (Ezekial 18:30-32). But As God's wrath is love, is not also His hate?

    In Christ

  10. The Lord be with you

    Hello Chris,

    Part 1

    Due to the length of my answers to your questions, this will again be a multipart answer. I will consider your last question first, “What makes [me] certain ‘all’ or ‘world’ refers to every person in existence?” The first reason is that such an understanding is the natural reading of the text. The figure of speech of the world equaling all people in the world is the most obvious. The second reason is the tremendous amount of passages that support this view without requiring you to assume a figure of speech. A few are:
    Genesis 3:15 is the first promise of the Gospel. Though unusual wording to the modern reader, Christ (the seed of the woman) is promised who will crush the head of the serpent (Satan). This promise is for all the descendants of Eve, which are all people.
    In Genesis 12 the story of Abraham begins. In verse 3 we read “in you [Abraham] all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” That blessing for “all the families of the earth” was the promised seed of Eve, Jesus Christ.
    Psalm 25:10 reads, “All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.” The repentant sinner need not wonder if God loves him or if Christ died for him because “All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness,” not just some of them.
    In Psalm 33 we find such phrases like “the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD” (v. 5) and “Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!” “Fear” is here explained by the parallel line “stand in awe.” (Parallelism is the distinctive feature of Hebrew poetry.) This is a call to everyone to believe in the Lord instead of trusting in foolish human schemes.
    Psalm 36:5 reminds us, “Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.” Sure sounds like there is no limit on God’s love here. Verse 7 underscores this with the words, “How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”
    In Isaiah 55:6-13 we read about God’s compassion for the “wicked” (v 7). God calls them to repentance and there is no hint at all that God will be stingy in granting forgiveness to the repentant sinner.
    The love of God for the lost is seen in the story of Jonah. Jonah, of course, wanted to limit God’s compassion for these uncircumcised non-Jews, but God had a different agenda (4:11).
    I could keep on going, but I will cite only one more passage; Psalm 136. I can think of no more impressive way in the Old Testament in which God hammers home the point that His “steadfast love endures forever.”

    I have sought to mainly focus on passages that speak of God’s love for all humanity, not simply for the physical descendants of Abraham. Certainly when we see how often they spurned God’s love and still found a gracious God should encourage us, the New Testament children of Abraham.

    You have expressed concern that the non-Christian might misconstrue God’s love to mean that anything goes. This is not a new concern. God’s reckless love always seems to cause his fallen children anxiety. I’m reminded of Jesus’ parable of the “prodigal son” in Luke 15:11-32. The reckless love of the Father welcomed his profligate son back freely, with wide open arms. The older son, however, was upset that someone who had so wandered from the straight and narrow had found such a welcome. The welcome of the Father is such for all who come to faith in Christ.

  11. Part 2

    While there are plenty of Old Testament story that underscore this point, I really like the one concerning Ruth. To understand how great this story is you need to know a little about Israel’s history. When entering the Promised Land Moab fought against Israel. They hired Balaam to curse the Israelites. When that failed Balaam advised the Moabites to send their beautiful women in to seduce the Israelite men and get them to worship an Idol. The plan worked, until God intervened. As a result the Moabites were barred from every entering the assembly of the LORD (Deuteronomy 23:3-4). Now skip forward a few generations. It is the time of the judges. There is a famine in Israel. A man from Bethlehem, his wife, and two sons went to live in Moab to escape the famine. While there the two boys marry two Moabite girls. The husband and two sons die. The famine lifts in Israel and momma (Naomi) decides to return home. At first the two daughters want to go with her, but Naomi convinces one to stay in Moab. The other, Ruth, will not stay in Moab but is determined to stay with Naomi. Remember Ruth is a Moabites, and the Bible story doesn’t let you forget that. They are absolutely prohibited from every becoming part of Israel. What happens to Ruth? She marries another Jewish man, enters the “assembly of the LORD” (i.e. accepted the Jewish faith in the coming Messiah) and was graced by God to become an ancestor of Jesus! God’s grace overwhelmed his justice. God’s reckless love at work in Jesus’ ancestry.

    Now let us look at your world-doesn’t-mean-everyone passages. John 12:19 is a simple case of hyperbole. This is not a part for the whole or the whole for a part, it is exaggeration. This is done for dramatic reasons. Here the Pharisees were over-dramatizing in order to frighten some of their more reluctant co-religionist into action against Jesus.

    In 1 John 2:15 the word “world” is used in an ethical since. It is not referring to people, but the trappings, prestige, honor, etc. that are valued in our fallen world. So if anyone places the honor, prestige, trappings, etc. the “world” values so much above the Lord, then clearly that is their God. As Luther once said, anything you expect all good from is your god.

    In 1 John 5:19 we actually do have a similar figure of speech, where the whole is named for a part; however the context makes it obviously so unlike John 3:16. In 1 John 5:19 we have two groups identified, those who are “of God” and the “whole world.” Now John obviously is not saying that the moment a person becomes a believer they die in order to leave this world, so “whole world” cannot mean everyone in the world or everything in the world. It is contrasted with those who are of God and so those who are of God are removed from consideration as being part of the “whole world.”

    In each of these three passages the context leads you to a proper understanding. What in the context of John 3:16 or 1 Timothy 2:4 would lead you to think that these are not passages inclusive of all people? I don’t see it. Such an idea seems quite foreign to the texts to me.

  12. Part 3

    You say that unrepentant homosexuals will not enter heaven. To be honest, I have no problem with that statement. In the 1 Corinthians passage you quoted they are lumped together with drunkards, party-going people, greedy people, etc. So don’t stop at unrepentant homosexuals. Our society encourages greed, tough-luck for a lot of people. In Revelation 22:15 we find “everyone who loves and practices falsehood” don’t get into heaven. Ever tell a lie? In Matthew 5:22 Jesus says, “whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” Ever get angry with someone and call them a bad name like “fool”? Many of these “go to hell” passages include all forms of sexual immorality, like adultery. Jesus once said, “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27). Ouch! Better not watch much T.V. or look at many billboards, or subscribe to an awful lot of magazines out there. But Jesus puts the nail in our coffins when he said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). He even said that in the context of loving your enemies! The bar is impossibly high, if we intend to get into heaven by keeping the law. The law can only bars us from glory. That is true for liars, gossips, angry people, lustful people, greedy people, people who do not love their neighbor as themselves, people who do not love God above all else every minute of their lives, and of course, people who engage in sexual activities with people of the same gender.

    The fact of the matter is that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We like to focus on sins that are someone else’s because it makes us feel morally superior. Scripture, though, tells us that “the soul that sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). All sin is damming. That is why in our Sunday worship service we provide a time to confess our sins and receive forgiveness. We all need it. We all need to confess our sins and receive forgiveness (1 John 1:8-9).

    What follows is one of the confession of sins we use in the LC-MS. “P” stands for parts spoken by the pastor and “C” stands for parts spoken by the congregation.

    P: Beloved in the Lord! Let us draw near with a true heart and confess our sins unto God our Father, beseeching Him in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to grant us forgiveness.
    P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
    C: who made heaven and earth.
    P: I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord.
    C: and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.

    Silence for reflection on God’s Word and for self-examination.

    P: Almighty God, our maker and redeemer, we poor sinners confess unto You that we are by nature sinful and unclean and that we have sinned against You by thought, word, and deed. Wherefore we flee for refuge to Your infinite mercy, seeking and imploring Your grace for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    C: O most merciful God, who has given Your only-begotten Son to die for us, have mercy upon us and for His sake grant us remission of all our sins; and by Your Holy Spirit increase in us true knowledge of You and of Your will and true obedience to Your Word, to the end that by Your grace we may come to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
    P: Almighty God, our heavenly Father, has had mercy upon us and has given His only Son to die for us and for His sake forgives us all our sins. To those who believe on His name He gives power to become the children of God and has promised them His Holy Spirit. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved. Grant this Lord, unto us all.
    C: Amen.

  13. Part 4

    Now let us look at the two passages you cited to support the idea that “God hates ‘some’ people”. Psalm 5 was written by King David, an adulterous, murdering man (2 Samuel 11-12). If we take the words “you [God] hate all evildoers” in the way you suggest, then God hates David. Yet we are told that David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). Also, if you look at verse 4 (context is oh so important) you see the thoughts in verses 5 and 6 are introduced by saying God does not delight in wickedness. The focus is on sins. While verses 5 and 6 exclude the boastful, liars, bloodthirsty and deceitful from heaven and says God abhors such, verse 4 which set the stage for our understanding of 5 and 6, leads us to think of the sin in such people. They are unrepentant and therefore sin is all they have when they appear before God. It does not undo God’s love and his desire that they repent of their sin and trust in his grace.

    Malachi 1:2-3 is interpreted for us by Saint Paul in Romans 9 (:13). In this chapter Paul indicates a great love for the Jews who do not receive God’s grace in Christ Jesus and are therefore damned. He cites the Malachi passage to support the idea that salvation is a gift from God and not based on merit. So, according to Paul, God made this statement in Malachi so that we will not take credit for our salvation, not because in some absolute way God hated Esau. By the way, that love was manifested by Jacob being the one who received the promise to be the ancestor of Jesus, and God’s “hatred” of Esau was manifested by him not receiving the promise to be the ancestor of the Messiah.

    You have a great zeal for the honor of God. That is a good thing. But remember, Saint Paul had such a zeal before he became a Christian, and it lead him to commit terrible sins. The topics you are inquiring about are made much easier to grasp if you are able to make a proper distinction between the two major teachings in the Bible we Lutherans call Law and Gospel. As soon as you blend these two you are headed into troubled waters. I don’t have time to write about that now (another book I’m afraid), but I recommend the book by Dr. C.F.W. Walther titled “The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel”. Sometimes it is just called “Law and Gospel.” The book is actually a series of evening lectures given by Dr. Walther a hundred years ago to men studying to enter the ordained ministry. It is published by Concordia Publishing House (CPH) and translated into English by W.H.T. Dau. You can probably pick-up a used copy from You can certainly get a new copy from CPH.

    Well, that’s all. You sure have questions that require long answers. Thankfully, I like questions.

    Blessings in Christ

  14. The Lord be with you

    Hello Chris,

    I never said that 1 Timothy 4:10 supported universalism, which is the false idea that God ultimately will save everyone, not matter what. Origen (185-254 AD) was so enamored with this false idea that he though eventually even the Devil would be saved! Please do not misunderstand me. A parent loves their children, even when they punish them. That some go to hell is no evidence that God does not love them and no evidence that Christ did not die for them. When I say God loves all people, that statement in no way denies many people will be damned.

    Our Lutheran theologians call the Gospel God’s proper work. The Law is his alien work. To understand that concept better I again refer you to “The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel” by Dr. C.F.W. Walther. This book will clear up many of your questions.

    Blessings in Christ

  15. The Lord be with you

    Hi Chris

    As you brought up the idea of universalism, I was just wandering; Doesn't refusing baptism to babies imply some kind of mild universalism? After all, unless the parents are really cold fish, they assume their un-baptized infants will go to heaven if they die, even though they don’t have faith in Christ.

    Blessings in Christ

  16. The Lord be with you

    Apparently Chris has bowed out of this discussion and so I thought I’d make a final comment to pick-up a loose end or two and thus wrap things up.

    In his comment about 1 Timothy 4:10 Chris correctly observed that the passage does not teach universalism (the false idea that everyone will be saved regardless of how they lived or what they believed). This belief is just a veiled form of works-righteousness (either you do enough to be saved in this life or in the afterlife). I thought I was clear about this when I said one of the groups consisted of “those who do not believe (and therefore have not received the salvation earned for them by Christ).” If someone does not receive the salvation earned by Christ then they will not enter heaven.

    I suspect that Chris attends a church that has been influenced by the Reformed teaching that Jesus only died for those who are going to heaven. This view takes all passages like John 3:16 and interpret them to refer only those who go to heaven. That would explain why Chris understands “Savior” to mean things like Christ preserves unbelievers by restraining sin, that Jesus will come as Judge, and maintains order in society. (By-the-way, none of these passages refer to Jesus as Savior, nor are they part of His office as Savior properly speaking.) It is true that Jesus is the only way for anyone to be saved, including the unsaved. It is true that Jesus calls the unrepentant to believe in Him. It is true that Jesus invites the un-regenerated to partake in His eternal blessings. These are all genuine statements, even if the sinner does not receive the blessings offered. In-other-words, these statements do refer to Jesus in His office as Savior, and the fact that some reject His gift in no way negates the reality of the gift nor the fact that Jesus is their Savior in an objective sense. When I say that Jesus is the Savior of the lost, that does not mean that they are not dammed. It means that Jesus Has paid for their sins. That is what Paul means in 1 Timothy 4:10.

    Blessings in Christ