January 2008

I once heard a teaching series by way of internet radio from Pastor Tom Baker called “Renaming the Parables” (which you can order through here). In this teaching, he basically asserted 3 major points:

1. All scripture is written so that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ and have eternal life.

2. Christ’s Parables, therefore, are really about Christ so that we might hear the Gospel.

3. The Parables must be renamed so that they testify to the most important character in each parable, Christ.

The key word here is “Christ”. Take for instance the parable we are going to study, “The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard” in Matthew 20: 1-16. The parable needs to be renamed because the “workers in the vineyard” are secondary characters. If parables were to be named after secondary characters, then it would only seem logical that each of Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky” movies and sequals should actually be called “Adrian 1; Adrian 2; Clubber Lane; Ivan Drago; Tommy Gun, etc.”, but you see, they aren’t named after Rocky’s love interest or his foes, because these movies are about Rocky! So if we hold this standard for Hollywood thrillers, how much more should this be for the parables taught by Jesus. If you read my earlier post about “The Key to Scripture”, then you will recall that the key to opening the door of scripture is “Solus Christus” or Christ Alone. “Christ Alone”, therefore, is the key which must be used to understand the true meaning of the parables.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “So what is the point?” Well, to be blunt, we need to put the parables back in their proper place so that we keep in step with the purpose of scripture, “so that we might believe Jesus is the Christ and have eternal life”. Secondly, the Grace of God is radical as compared to the standards of the world. Where the world and the flesh teach “What goes around comes around” or “you get what you deserve”; the Gospel teaches the very opposite, that in Mercy we don’t get what we deserve (Death, final separation, hell, judgment, etc.), and on behelf of God’s love for us in Christ, in spite of what we deserve, we receive true life in the Fellowship of Jesus, peace of conscience, and life everlasting. Parables, then, are a testimony to “radical grace”, and the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard is the perfect example to this truth.

For instance, in this parable, we hear the story of how different workers were brought into a Landowner’s vineyard all throughout the hours of the day, and although each worked for a different amount of hours, all received the same pay. Of course the ones who were brought in to work the earliest were the most upset with the Landowner, and if this was a parable about how to run a vineyard, then they might have a case, but surely there is more to this parable than vineyard ethics?

If you have your Bible take a look at verse 4, “You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” Right from the start this parable gets very interesting, you see, the word used for “right” in this verse comes from the Greek word for “Justification”, being made just or righteous. The Landowner is really saying, “I will give to you what is ‘righteous'”. In light of “Solus Christus”, we know this “righteousness” is the gift of everlasting life in our Savior. The true and main character which we should be paying attention to is Christ the “Landowner”. This parable is John 3:16-17 fleshed out in story format; what we are reading is the Gospel! Pastor Beisel, a Lutheran Pastor out of Indiana had this to say about verses 9-12 of this parable:

Before we were called into this vineyard, which is the Church, we too were idle. We were sinful and unclean, by nature children of wrath, blind, dead, and enemies of God. But it was His gracious call, through holy Baptism, by which we entered His vineyard. It was by the toil and sacrifice of Jesus, God’s Son, that the inheritance of heaven now belongs to us. For it was Christ who “bore the burden of the day,” that is, Christ bore the weight and burden of the Law for us, so that we might bear his burden, which is easy and light. Christ bore the “scorching heat,” that is, he endured the fierce wrath of his heavenly Father which burned hotly on the cross, so we might be spared judgment. We are all “johnny-come-latelies” in light of the cross, for we receive equal pay as Jesus for truly unequal work. Christ does it all, He bears the burden of the law; He bears the weight and shame of the cross; He lives a perfectly obedient life in word and deed, not for his own sake, but for ours. He does the work, and we all get the same grade. He pleases His Father and in so doing wins His Father’s pleasure and favor toward us.

Amen. So what should be our new title for this parable? To avoid placing man as the center of scripture, it must no longer be called, “The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard”, but instead, “The Parable of the Generous Landowner”. With this new title, the focus is properly put back where it belongs, on Christ who unlocks the doors to scripture and pours forth His salvation.

For the next parable in our “Renaming Series”, we will take a look at Matthew 13: 44-46 called “The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl”. A little hint to wet your whistle: It’s not about the “treasure” or the “pearl”. 🙂


This is an excellent article about the good and bad of Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church. HT: The Wittenberg Trail

Joel Osteen’s “Success Christianity” has never sat well with me, and this is the best summation I have seen on what exactly is wrong with Joel and his ministry. I do not believe Joel is sending anyone to hell, but he sure isn’t doing much to change their direction.

Joel could go a long way toward enhancing his education (two years of studying television production and marketing) and ministry just by sitting down and reading 1 & 2 Timothy:

I charge [thee] therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 2 Timothy 4:2-5.

I always get the feeling Osteen is more concerned with itching ears than bearing the Word.

You’ve certainly heard of Luther as a Biblical Reformer and perhaps even a Reformer of Church and State, but a reformer of bowling?! That’s right, according to Lutheran Witness Magazine, Martin Luther had a say in the guidelines of Bowling:

Bowling as we know it began in Germany sometime during the fifth century. People pretended that the pins were devils and they used a round rock or heavy ball as a weapon to knock them down. If successful, it indicated they were overcoming the temptations of the devil in their lives. If not, their lives still had too many sins.

So maybe when Paul said, “Christ came for the sinners” he must have also meant “Christ came for very bad bowlers“, but there is more…

The number of pins used varied from three to seventeen. Martin Luther is credited with deciding on nine pins.

Unfortunately, Dr. Luther’s bowling reformation only lasted about 300 years…

In the 1800s, because bowling (or platzbahnkegln as it was then called Germany) was used for gambling, it was outlawed. But the law specified nine-pin bowling. Players added a 10th pin to avoid being illegal.

A life-size diorama at the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame in St. Louis portrays Martin Luther bowling on the single lane at the side of his home. A brochure from the museum states that Luther, an avid bowler, “once preached a sermon that proclaimd Christians ‘strive for perfection in life. But when we roll a gutterball, all is not lost.'”

So there you have it, Luther I believe, may very well be the first “Confessional Lutheran Bowler”.

Follow this link for a neat history lesson on one Lutheran Church in America that followed in the footsteps of our great Reformer!

Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America, is taking a lot of heat for suggesting the the opposition groups like Planned Parenthood present against federal funding for abstinence education is financially motivated.

National Review Online has an article on the subject. It quotes Wright.

Interviewed for a Dec. 31 Fox News segment on the debate over federal funding for abstinence education, Wright claimed groups that oppose funding for such programs really want teens to choose sex.

“In fact, they want to encourage that,” she said, “because they benefit when kids end up having sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancies, and then they lead them into having abortions. So you have to look at the financial motives of those promoting comprehensive sex ed.” Although Wright didn’t mention any specific abstinence opponent in the interview clip, there is little doubt she meant Planned Parenthood.

Ah, “Planned Parenthood,” could there be a more sinister name for an organization? I say, sinister because their name has absolutely nothing to do with their business: killing babies. Planned? Anything but. Indeed, abortion is the ultimate ending to an unplanned pregnancy. Only the termination of the child is planned (BTW, they performed a record 264,943 “terminations” last year). Parenthood? One would think PP would offer a variety of parenting classes, etc. Well, a whopping 3 percent of its services focus on something other than killing.According to the article, PP is a $908 million “non-profit” business that generated $55.8 million in income over expenses in 2006. $300 million of their funds came from taxpayer dollars (still think the only thing Presidents can do about abortion is appoint good judges?).

But, Wright’s point is that PP is using “sex education” to develop new business (i.e., new abortions). For this, she has been called the “Worst Person in the World” by Keith Olbermann. She’s been called crazy, delusional, and a disservice to women. Yet six in ten women having abortions experienced contraceptive failure. That’s not exactly a winning percentage. Meanwhile, PP does everything it possibly can to block funding for abstinence education. Why? What is inconsistent about “planned parenthood” and abstinence? Follow the money.

Critics of abstinence education always proclaim it to be completely unreasonable. The mantra is that all these teenagers are incapable of being responsible: they are going to have sex! You are an idiot if you do not think so! Therefore, we must teach them how to have sex “safely.” Please. If they going to be irresponsible about sex, what makes it so likely that they will be responsible when it comes to condoms, birth control, etc.?

What they need are parents and peers willing to set the example and give them leadership and support. They need to know what God expects of them and the blessings he has planned for them in marriage and family. If they fail, they need to know they are forgiven and that their response to that failure cannot be the death of an unborn child.

HT: Gene Veith

by Dan Colcer

Many people have keys. Keys to their houses, keys to their suitcases, keys to open lockers, and even keys to “success”; but did you know there is only one Key that unlocks scripture, and opens the door to Salvation? Luther had a name for this “Key”–Solus Christus (Christ Alone) or perhaps today we would say, “Jesus Only”. This is the “Key” that we inherited as heirs of the Reformation and of Christ, this is the “Key” that we were born under in the waters of Holy Baptism, this is the “Key” which daily preserves our life with God, and this is the “Key” which will open the Gates of Heaven when we breathe our last breath. For more about this “Key”, here is a chapter from Dr. Robert Preus’ “Luther: Word, Doctrine, and Confession” *See Below for Chapter excerpt from Dr. Robert Preus.

Christ, the Center of All Doctrine

One more statement from Luther must be cited before we respond to the question of the nature, the meaning, and scope of Luther’s solus Christus principle, the centrality of the doctrine of justification. I quote at length from Part II of the Smalcald Articles:

The second part treats the articles which pertain to the office and work of Jesus Christ, or our redemption.
The first and chief article is this, that Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, was “put to death for our trespasses and raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). He alone is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). “God has laid upon Him the iniquities of us all” (Is. 53:6). Moreover, “All have sinned” and “are justified freely by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus by His blood” (Rom. 3:23-25).

Inasmuch as this must be believed and cannot be obtained or apprehended by any work, law, or merit, it is clear and certain that such faith alone justifies us, as St. Paul says in Romans 3, “For we hold that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the Law” (Rom. 3:28), and again, “That He [God] Himself is righteous and He justifies him who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).

Nothing in this article can be given up or compromised, even if heaven and earth and things temporal should be destroyed. For as St. Peter says, “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). “And with His stripes we are healed” (Is. 53:5).

On this article rests all that we teach and practice against the pope, the devil, and the world. Therefore we must be quite certain and have no doubts about it. Otherwise all is lost, and the pope, the devil, and all our adversaries will gain the victory.

What, then, can we glean from the many, many citations from Luther concerning what we have called the solus Christus principle?

It is obvious that justification before God and the work of Christ as Propitiator and Redeemer belong extricably together and, so far as Luther is concerned, really constitute the same article (articulus, doctrina, locus)…. Luther’s solus Christus principle springs from his exegetical studies which conclude that the entire Scriptures were Christocentric in their content. How often does he make statements like the following,

“Christ is the sum and truth of Scripture”; “The Scriptures from beginning to end do not reveal anyone besides the Messiah, the Son of God, who should come and through His sacrifice carry and take away the sins of the world”; “Outside the book of the Holy Spirit, namely the Holy Scriptures, one does not find Christ.” Such statements make the Christocentricity of Scripture a hermeneutical principle for Luther. “One must not understand Scripture contrary to Christ, but in favor of Him; therefore Scripture must be brought into relationship to Christ or must not be regarded as Scripture.” To Luther Scripture cannot teach anything against the vicarious atonement of Christ and the doctrine of justification.

Since Scripture is Christocentric and therefore all Christian doctrine must center in Christ, the Savior; the purpose of Scripture and the purpose of all doctrine in the church is soteriological. It is for our comfort, our forgiveness, our union with God. Luther never tires of making this point. Scripture makes us happy, trustful, confident Christians and puts us at peace with God. It is our defense against temptation and the devil, the world, and our flesh. It instructs us in true worship and service of God and in how to be a good theologian. All these and other blessings Christian doctrine affords us because of the great power of Scripture which underlies all teaching in the church. And Scripture and Christian doctrine and preaching are powerful because they point us to Christ and His grace.

Christian doctrine and preaching not only point us to “Jesus only” but confer upon us sonship, faith in Christ, fellowship with Him, and all blessings which we have through Christ. [Christ is the only way to God.] “All the works which Christ performed are recorded in the Word, and in the Word and through the Word will He give us everything, and without the Word He will give us nothing.”…I am in Him and He is in me through faith. Amen.

Lo and behold the truth shines clear…I side with Luther! Click on the “Eucharist” link, and find out what you are! Just a side note: This is meant to be silly, so don’t read too much into the outcome of the quiz.

Eucharistic theology
created with QuizFarm.com
You scored as Luther

You are Martin Luther. You’ll stick with the words of Scripture, and defend this with earthy expressions. You believe this is a necessary consequence of an orthodox Christology. You believe that the bread and wine are the Body and Blood of Christ, but aren’t too sure about where he goes after the meal, and so you don’t accept reservation of the Blessed Sacrament or Eucharistic devotions.













Remember this post on our assurance of salvation?

Well, here is a different take, the Catholic viewpoint, via First Things and Avery Cardinal Dulles. Apparently, God grades on a curve:

Who, then, can be saved? Catholics can be saved if they believe the Word of God as taught by the Church and if they obey the commandments. Other Christians can be saved if they submit their lives to Christ and join the community where they think he wills to be found. Jews can be saved if they look forward in hope to the Messiah and try to ascertain whether God’s promise has been fulfilled. Adherents of other religions can be saved if, with the help of grace, they sincerely seek God and strive to do his will. Even atheists can be saved if they worship God under some other name and place their lives at the service of truth and justice. God’s saving grace, channeled through Christ the one Mediator, leaves no one unassisted. But that same grace brings obligations to all who receive it. They must not receive the grace of God in vain. Much will be demanded of those to whom much is given.

Gene Veith‘s comments on this were right on:

. . . [L]et me get this straight, and keep in mind that Cardinal Dulles is no touchy-feely Catholic but a conservative Catholic in close association with the Pope. To be saved, you do not have to have faith in Jesus Christ. You can have faith in God. Or, despite the first commandment, you can have faith in God under some other name. Or, if you don’t believe in any gods, you can have faith in something else, such as truth or justice. Or, if you don’t have faith in anything, you can be saved by your good works, though this seems to be the main point even for Christians.

Certainly, if salvation is by good works, anyone who does good works–people of other religions, atheists–will be saved. And since Catholics define good works as having been produced by faith, one can predicate some sort of efficacious faith to anyone who does them. But what an impoverished view of sin we see here! So even this blatantly human rationalization to make God seem nice turns out to be of little comfort to an actual sinner who is burdened by his bad works.

But more than that, if faith in virtually anything is enough or even optional for salvation, why do we need the church, why should anyone evangelize, and why did Jesus need to die?

Before we go all “Luther” on the Catholics for holding this view, we might reflect on the fact that this is probably what the vast majority of people out there who call themselves Christian believe. This is a perfect post-modern, non-offensive, non-threatening view. It is almost impossible to find someone going to Hell under this view. But, this just isn’t what the Bible teaches. How can you read the Gospels or Paul’s letters and come away with this view? Notice the work righteousness add on “if they obey the commandments” even for Catholics. Whew, it’s still 1517. What exactly has changed?

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