Tuesday, July 1, 2008

"'Core Values' for Christians: Original Sin"

(This article is taken from the July Newsletter of Concordia Ev. Lutheran Church of Sikeston, MO. That entire newsletter can be viewed as a pdf file at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/concordialutheran-sikeston/ . At the end of the below article I will include the text - and introduction - of Article II of the Augsburg Confession -- or, go to this link and read it yourself: http://www.bookofconcord.org/augsburgconfession.html .)

Okay, Okay. My wife wants to know how “Original Sin” is a “core value” of Christians. Granted that sin is NOT something that we want in our lives as Christians, BUT sin is a reality with which the Christian Church and every single Christian must deal! If you think about it, if it were not for sin there would not, of course, be any need for a Savior, and the Savior would never have needed to start His Church! So, do we believe in “sin?” Absolutely. Do we like it? Absolutely NOT.

This short article is the second in a series of “core values” articles for our monthly newsletter. Each of our “core values” will be based on an article of the Augsburg Confession.” BORRRIIINNNNGGG!!!, right? Wrong! The Augsburg Confession was written with two closely-related purposes in mind: [1] to demonstrate that the “Lutherans” were not a bunch of oddballs who should be labeled as a mere sect; and [2] to define what a “Lutheran” believes, teaches, and confesses. When Emperor Charles V permitted the Augsburg Confession to be read, it legitimized Luther and others. Because of that history, it may well be said that it represents the “core values” of Lutheran Christians.

As I wrote before, this is not a “core value” which we long to have. Rather, it is a “core value” which we believe and with which we simply have to deal! Please go read Article II of the Augsburg Confession (at the end of this article or go to the above link). Then come back here. Please? Thanks! I’ll wait . . .

So . . . assuming that you have read the Article, what does it mean? The authors of the Augsburg Confession are confessing, from God’s Word, that every man, woman, and child is born with a problem. Ever since the fall (into sin) of Adam in the Garden of Eden, everyone is afflicted with sin. Sin is rebellion against God. Sin is not just something that you do but it is something which you have. It is kind of the way it is when a person has a bad cough: the cough is both something which he does and which he has. He coughs because he has a cough. In the same way, every person in the world sins because s/he has sin. We believe that. Scripture teaches it.


The first question which we always find ourselves asking, whether about sin or a bad cough or a cancer, is “Where did it come from?” Many people — because of the disobedience and pride which is the result of original sin — point their accusing finger at God. They want to imagine that, since God is the creator of all things, He must also have created sin. How convenient to blame God thus! Then they can also accuse God of being inconsistent and even cruel! Nice try. It doesn’t work.

Sin comes from the devil. When God finished with His creating work, His opinion of the world which He had made (without sin!) was that it was “very good.” In other words, because it was without sin, it was perfect! But sometime between the creation of the world and the fall of Adam and Eve into sin, there was a war in heaven. One of God’s perfect angels, with help from some of the other angels, decided to rebel against God and usurp their Creator (oh, the arrogance of it all). Another of the angels, Michael, fought back. Satan (the one who rebelled) was cast out of heaven. Seeing that he was defeated, he went off to make war against those who are believers in God. He sought to mess things up good. And he did.

That is how sin came into existence! Remember who tempted Adam and Eve to sin against God in their perfect Garden of Eden? Yep. The same wicked angel. He’s a great deceiver, make no mistake about it. Want some proof texts for the above? Call me. Or, get out your Luther’s Small Catechism and look up “angels” in the back and read up on it. (Or, you can access a version of the Small Catechism and then follow the link to the explanation of the Small Catechism at: https://www.lcms.org/graphics/assets/media/LCMS/smallcatechism.pdf

+ + + SIN IN YOU AND OTHERS! + + +

Sin now gets passed on from one generation to the next. Here is the formula: Sinful Mommy + Sinful Daddy = Sinful Baby. If that seems simplistic, then so be it. Just as children inherit their eye color, hair color, and certain other physical characteristics from their parents, they also inherit this awful thing called “Original Sin” (aka “Inherited Sin”). It is not their (your, my, our) fault that they (we) have it. But we still have it. It is because someone before us was thoughtless and careless. And remember what it produces? As a cough will produce a cough, so original sin produces sins.

+ + + SIN AS A POISON! + + +
This sin poisons us inside and out. God told Adam and Eve that, as a result of their sin: [1] a woman’s child-bearing would not be as easy or as pleasant as it would have been by God’s original design; [2] a man would no longer find his work to be easy and enjoyable, but that now he would have to work with weeds, AND he would even sweat; [3] husbands and wives would no longer enjoy a perfectly happy relationship all of the time; and [4] DEATH had now entered into them and into God’s perfect creation! Sin had poisoned their lives and everything in it!

This pastor often uses the example of the child born addicted to crack or some other highly addictive drug. The mother uses the drug and the child ingests the drug in utero. Then the child is born, the umbilical cord is cut, and the truth is revealed: the newborn, so seemingly cute in the newness of his/her life, is nothing less than a drug addict! The doctors and nurses, recognizing that truth, need to deal with that baby’s addiction. If they don’t, the baby will die. When they save that child’s life, they remind that child — so that s/he can live a productive life — that s/he is a drug addict. S/He must learn that about him-/herself so that the drug does not control his/her life! This sin is a poison in our lives! It causes all kinds of other trouble, and dooms us to death.

+ + + SIN'S ANTIDOTE IS . . . + + +

. . . HOLINESS! BUT . . . NOT a “holiness” which comes from you! Rather, the righteousness (“holiness”) which comes from Christ and is put upon you. God gives you the holiness earned by the absolutely perfect life of our Lord Jesus Christ. Do NOT fall prey to those who think that you can somehow earn God’s favor by your goodness (as did Pelagius of old, and as do the different “holiness” groups of the present); that will cause you either to despair or — just as bad — to think that you do not really need God in your life (like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day).

GOOD NEWS! Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has become God’s holiness for you! He lived under God’s Law in a way which we could not (He never sinned!). When God brings us to faith in Christ and we are baptized, the perfect holiness of Christ, like a great big coat, is put over us. When God looks at us, then, though He knows that we are sinners, He sees the big coat of Jesus’ holiness and He declares us righteous, or holy, in His sight!

The antidote for our sins and sinfulness is the Lord Jesus Christ, and His holiness. Where there is sin, Christ — Who lived perfectly, and therefore died innocently, and arose again victoriously — is everything which we need!

+ + +

May God preserve us safe in the holy, true and Christian faith! Though we Lutherans do not “value” Original Sin, we do “own” that it exists, AND we own that it exists in every man, woman, and child in the world. And, because it does exist in every man, woman, and child in the world (except for our Lord Christ, obviously), we ask God to help us do what He wants us to do in order that every man, woman, and child will know and trust in the only antidote to Original Sin: Christ!

In Christ, Pastor Wollenburg

The Augsburg Confession
“Chief Articles of Faith”
Article II
Original Sin

Our churches teach that since the fall of Adam (Romans 5:12), all who are naturally born are born with sin (Psalm 51:5), that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with the inclination to sin, called concupiscence. Concupiscence is a disease and original vice that is truly sin. It damns and brings eternal death on those who are not born anew through Baptism and the Holy Spirit (John 3:5). Our churches condemn the Pelagians and others who deny that original depravity is sin, thus obscuring the glory of Christ’s merit and benefits. Pelagians argue that a person can be justified before God by his own strengths and reason.

In Concordia The Lutheran Confessions A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord, there is this “forward” which is intended to help first time readers of the Augsburg Confession understand the context in which it was written: “Sin is much more than thinking, saying, and doing things that are wrong. It is a terminal disease. We are all conceived and born in sin; we inherit it from our first parents, Adam and Eve. The disease of sin can be overcome, but only by one medicine: the cleansing, healing, and forgiving blood of God’s own Son. By rejecting Pelagian errors in Article II, the Augsburg Confression subtly refers to the Roman view of sin. The Roman Church taught and still teaches that concupiscence (the inborn inclination to sin) is not actually sin. By misdiagnosing our fatal illness, Rome leads people to blieve they are able to cooperate with God’s grace for salvation. Lutheranism rejects all teachings that imply we are responsible for or contribute to our salvation. (See also Ap II; SA III, I; FC Ep I and SD I.)"

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