05 December 2008

Divine Favor's Paradoxical Prerequisite

From Luther's 95 Theses, here's #63, concerning Christ's statement that the first will be last and the last first:

The gospel destroys those things which exist, it confounds the strong, it confounds the wise and reduces them to nothingness, to weakness, to foolishness, because it teaches humility and a cross. . . . [I]t is not surprising that this saying of Christ is most odious to those who desire to be something, who want to be wise and mighty in their own eyes and before men, and who consider themselves to be ‘the first.’

--LW 31:232.

I'm working on a project currently called 'Strength through Weakness: Divine Favor and Its Paradoxical Prerequisite,' tracing a theme all through the Bible: the theme of paradox, the counterintuitive way in which God blesses people, the way the weak triumph and the strong are shamed. I detect two sub-strands: (1) God's approval comes to those, counterintuitively, who admit they ought not to have it; and (2) God's power comes to those, counterintuitively, who divest themselves of self-dependent effort. In other words, at the inauguration and in the course of the Christian life, both positionally and existentially, in justification and sanctification, new birth and growth, the initial blessing and ongoing blessing, God for us and God in us--in both dimensions, God's favor comes not to those who think they qualify but to those who know they don't. It's shot all through the Bible. And still sinking in to my own heart.

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