Where We Can Screwup the Doctrine of Justification
Devotional Thought of the Day:
41 Jesus said, “Two people owed money to the same banker. One owed five hundred coins n and the other owed fifty. 42 They had no money to pay what they owed, but the banker told both of them they did not have to pay him. Which person will love the banker more?”
43 Simon, the Pharisee, answered, “I think it would be the one who owed him the most money.”
Jesus said to Simon, “You are right.” 44 Then Jesus turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I came into your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss of greeting, but she has been kissing my feet since I came in. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she poured perfume on my feet. 47 I tell you that her many sins are forgiven, so she showed great love. But the person who is forgiven only a little will love only a little.”
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The people sitting at the table began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Because you believed, you are saved from your sins. Go in peace.” Luke 7:41-50 NCV
42 As a deer longs for a stream of cool water, so I long for you, O God. 2 I thirst for you, the living God; when can I go and worship in your presence? Psalm 42:1-2 GNT
Let me illustrate this shift toward a spirituality disconnected from God’s story by comparing historic spirituality to this new intellectual embrace of forensic justification.
Historic spirituality looks like this: God became one of us in the incarnation. When the Word became incarnate in Jesus by the Spirit, God lifted all humanity into himself and, by his death and resurrection, reconciled all to himself (Rom. 5:12–21). Spirituality is therefore a gift of God’s grace. God has taken the initiative to unite with us so that we may be united with him. Baptism is the spiritual rite of conscious and intentional union with Jesus (Rom. 6:1–14) and reception of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). The spiritual life is the freedom to live in the baptismal pattern of his death and resurrection, dying to sin and rising to the new life in the Spirit. In this ancient model of spirituality, Jesus is our spirituality because we are in union with God through our union with Jesus by the Spirit. His entire life from conception to resurrection is on behalf of humanity. He reverses our belonging to Adam (Rom. 5:12–21). He overcame sin for us (Col. 2:13–15). He destroyed the power of death (1 Cor. 15:35–58). He begins the new order of creation (2 Cor. 5:17). He does all this in the power of the Spirit. Christ now dwells in us by the Spirit and we in him.
Spirituality rooted in justification without the connection to the incarnation and Christology looks like this: We are justified by Christ who has done everything necessary to reconcile us to God. Christ is our righteousness. God looks at us through the righteousness of Christ and imputes or declares us righteous in Christ. (This is called the forensic or judicial view of establishing our relation to God.) Now that God has made us spiritual through Jesus Christ, we are called to respond to God in thanksgiving by living the sanctified life. The new emphasis in spirituality within Protestantism, in general, is this justification/ sanctification model.
Sixteen years ago, I left the non-denominational brotherhood of churches I was trained and ordained by and became a Lutheran pastor. The Brotherhood had a broad diversity of theology, not just among church members, but in its Bible College and seminaries. There was nothing that tied the group’s theology together, which made for some interesting conversations over the years! but this isn’t about them, it is about Lutheran theology, and how it ((and most conservative theology today) screws up Justification.
One of the tenets of Lutheran Theology is that the Doctrine of Justification is the central doctrine of theology. The first couple of times I heard that I hesitated, and still do on occasion. Then a wise professor explained it to me this way. Picture a bike wheel, you have the hub, the spokes, and the actual tire. The hub is Justification, but it isn’t the only, nor the most important of doctrines, and if you remove any of them, the wheel will fail, sometimes faster, sometimes slower.
That makes sense, but I think today, as Webber points out, we have got the hub but forgotten the tire. We’ve forgotten the reason we are justified int he first place, to be in a relationship with God, to walk with Him, to know His love, to stop the fighting, internally and externally, and simply take refuge in God our Fortress, in God our peace.
This is the error of Simon the Simon, a leader in the Jewish religion. He had his hub set, the spokes tightened, the rim in place, but he forgot the tire. He didn’t recognize that God was there, not just to pronounce forgiveness, which is amazing. He was there to eat and drink with Simon, to share bread, to laugh, to cry, to be with him.
This is our God, whose come to us. God who wants to share our lives, even as we share in His, and dwell in His glory and peace. Christ’s death on the cross, enables God to declare us clean, righteous, holy, and that enables us to walk with Him (Or maybe to ride?) We need to keep this in mind, we need the entire wheel, hub, spokes, rim, and tire. Missing a part, or getting it out of line, is serious, but the goal is and always will be, to sit down, and eat and drink, to fellowship with Him.
May you enjoy that feast this weekend and always! AMEN!
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
Posted on June 17, 2017, in Ancient Future, Devotions, Theology in Practice and tagged apostolate, Doctrine of Justification, Eucahrist, hope, intimate relationship with God, joy, Lutheran Theology, Missional. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.