Sanctification in Lutheran Theology

By: David P Scaer

Concordia Theological Quarterly
49 (April-July 1985) no. 2-3:181-195.
©1985 Concordia Theological Quarterly

...there are certain items that do not belong to a Lutheran understanding of justification, at least as it is viewed differently from Calvinism. Thus, in Lutheran theology the Gospel cannot be preached in such a way that the Gospel's real purpose is the production of good works. Good works are preaching's result. Justification remains its only purpose. The Gospel is a complete message in itself. Good works result from the preaching of the Gospel, to be sure, but there can be no suggestion that the Gospel is to be preached as if its ultimate and essential purpose were to bring them about. The Gospel declares a completed atonement in Christ and shapes good works in the life of the Christian as a necessary reflection of God's love in Christ. The Gospel is not an opportunity for reinstating the religion of the law. The works produced by the Gospel conform to God's love in Christ and are not those of the law. People, identified as Christian or not, should not be viewed as living sanctified lives if they merely refrain from sin and evil. The sanctified life will eschew evil, but its characteristic mark is seen in that it adopts Christlike activities. 

The Lutheran doctrine of sanctification, which came to its classical expression in the Confessions vis-a-vis the Roman Catholic position, found the distinction between religious and secular works, as if the former were greater than the later, invalid and defined good works as those actions whereby one fulfilled the requirements of his calling. Whether Lutheranism has adequately defined its doctrine of sanctification over against Calvinism in a thoroughly adequate statement, especially in the United States, whose religions are predominantly Reformed, is another question. Any attempt to make Christology preliminary to theology, or even only its most important part, but not its only part, is a denial of Luther's doctrine and effectively destroys the Gospel as the message of a completed atonement.  Click here to read the whole article

To read more on this subject, may I suggest:
Sanctification: Daily Death and Resurrection (Wolfmueller)

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