The Means of Grace
WHAT ARE THE MEANS OF GRACE?
The catechism defines the Means of Grace in this fashion: "By the Means of Grace are meant those things by which God offers and gives His gifts of forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation" (Luther's Small Catechism [Gausewitz edition], 1956, page 191).
WHICH ARE THE MEANS OF GRACE?
Again the catechism says, "The Means of Grace are the Gospel in Word and Sacrament" ( ibid ).
WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?
The Gospel is the good news of universal grace and pardon (Luke 2:10). The message of forgiveness (Matthew 9:2), and salvation, and therefore of the certain hope of eternal life lies in the spoken Word as well as in the "visible word" in Baptism through which faith is created (John 3:5), and the Sacrament of the Altar through which faith is strengthened. The Gospel is not simply a message about God's grace; it is the very means by which grace and salvation are given (Romans 1:16).
The preaching, teaching and very life of the Lutheran Church centers around the Word of God, specifically the Means of Grace. The Lutheran confessions declare, "Therefore we ought and must constantly maintain this point, that God does not wish to deal with us otherwise than through the spoken Word and the Sacraments. It is the devil himself whatsoever is extoled as Spirit without the Word and the Sacraments." ( Smalcald Articles Part III, Art. VIII, 10).
THE SPIRIT DOES NOT WORK APART FROM THE MEANS OF GRACE.
One of the distinct differences between confessional Lutheranism on one hand, and protestantism, charismatics and fundamentalists on the other is the rejection by the latter of the truth that the Spirit works through the Means of Grace. The Spirit does not work through dreams, visions, inner feelings. The Spirit works through the Word of God (cf. passages below ).
It is a gift of God that the Christian is able to be confident of the abiding love of God, and of his salvation. Ask yourself:
"So today the Word itself, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper are our morning stars to which we turn our eyes as certain indications of the Sun of grace. For we can definitely assert that where the Lord's Supper, Baptism, and the Word are found, Christ, the remission of sins, and life eternal are found. On the other hand, where these signs of grace are not found, or where they are despised by men, not only grace is lacking but also foul errors will follow. Then men will set up other forms of worship and other signs for themselves" (What Luther Says, Vol. II, page 914, 2862).
Programs, campaigns, and such like, do not bear true and spiritually meaningful growth. The "church growth movement" is a deception. Church growth that is not a product of the Gospel is misleading and destructive to souls. We should also recognize that prayer is not a means of grace, a means to salvation. Prayer is a fruit of faith. One is not saved through prayer. The saved pray.
Salvation is a gift of God through, and as a result of, the meritorious life, and blood atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross. Man is justified before God for the sake of, and by the work of Christ. God's revealed Word is the both the bearer of the message of that objective fact, as well as the power to convert the heart. Without the Means of Grace man neither knows the love of God, or the power of God unto salvation. For that reason the Holy Ghost works through the Means of Grace alone! and the Lutheran Confessions say: "Likewise, we reject and condemn the error of the Enthusiasts who imagine that God draws men to Himself, enlightens them, justifies them and saves them without means, without the hearing of God's Word and without the use of the Sacraments." Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article II.
Any theology that denies the Means of Grace, or which diminishes the Means of Grace is neither Scriptural or Lutheran.
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