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Richard B. Hays and the fire of texts

… Despite all the careful hedges that we plant around texts, meaning has a way of leaping over, like sparks. Texts are not inert; they burn and throw fragments of flame on their rising heat. Often we succeed in containing the energy, but sometimes the sparks escape and kindle new blazes, reprises of the original fire.

That is a way of saying that texts can generate readings that transcend both the conscious intention of the author and all the hermeneutical strictures that we promulgate. Poets and preachers know this secret; biblical critics have sought to suppress it for heuristic purposes. At times, the texts speak through us in ways that could not have been predicted, ways that can be comprehended only by others who hear the voice of the text through us—or, if by ourselves, only retrospectively.

Such phenomena occur repeatedly in all significant discourse: “The word is near you, on your lips and in your hearts.” The texts that envelope us speak through us; resonant speech discovers typologies that interpret present experience through the language of predecessors. But these typologies come to us unbidden, impose themselves upon us in ways that we understand through a glass darkly. Anyone who has ever acted in a play knows the experience of discovering that lines from the play come unexpectedly to mind in real-life situations different from the original dramatic context. The aptness of the quoted line does not depend on exact literal correspondence between the original meaning and the new application. Indeed, the wit and pleasure of such quotations lie partly in the turning of the words to a new sense. In such cases, the act of quotation becomes an act of figuration, establishing a metaphorical resonance between drama and life. Paul’s uses of Scripture often have a similar character: Scripture is for him the text of the word-play in which he performs and from which familiar lines repeatedly spring to life in new situations.

To limit our interpretation of Paul’s scriptural echoes to what he intended by them is to impose a severe and arbitrary hermeneutical restriction. In the first place, what he intended is a matter of historical speculation; in the second place, his intertextual echoes are acts of figuration. Consequently, later readers will rightly grasp meanings of the figures that may have been veiled from Paul himself. Scripture generates through Paul new figurations; The Righteousness from Faith finds in Paul a new voice.

Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul, Richard B. Hays. Yale University Press: London, 1989. Print. 33.

REVIEW: ‘Introducing World Missions,’ Moreau et al.

Authors A. Scott Moreau, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee wrote Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey “for prospective missionaries as well as for those who are interested in missions but may serve in other capacities in God’s work.”[1]  That second target audience is the one which applies most neatly to my situation.  I do not perceive myself to be one who will spend most of his life “on the field,” although the editors of this volume do state carefully that the “missionary call” is not necessarily a call to a lifetime in one place.  Nevertheless, a quasi-transient life being spent between a few locations either abroad or domestic would not be unwelcome. For being written to both the sent and the senders, IWM accomplishes its task well.

The authors divided the text into five parts.  Summarized, they are written respectively about the theology of missions, the history of missions, the “call” to missions (and its attendants), preparing for missions, and the contemporary milieu of missions.  The most fruitful sections for me were the history, preparation, and contemporary milieu of missions.  Also, on page thirteen, the first chapter relates twenty-three definitions used in missiology, a helpful reference for my own structuring of the theology of missions.  Having been exposed to some of those terms, although certainly not all, I find myself able to more easily converse with others (especially those who have gone on mission) about missionary work.

Part 2 of IWM relates the history of mission work throughout the church.  Especially enlightening was the focus on how the church has historically been concerned with proclaiming Christ to all men everywhere over against the contemporary trope that true Christianity is just being a nice person and minding one’s business.  Further, the ecumenical inclusion of Roman Catholics, Pentecostals, and Evangelicals helped demonstrate that, despite otherwise deep and troublesome theological rifts, most self-identified Christian groups are concerned with spreading Christ throughout their contexts and foreign contexts.  Part 4 details how one can and ought to prepare for a missions experience, whether they are the one being sent or the one sending.  The practical wisdom contained in this section is great.  From replanting families abroad to creating relationships with those people to whom one ministers, this section opened my eyes to many unforeseen aspects of international missions, which I would have ignorantly glossed over.

Part 5 explicates the conduct and particularities of missions in the modern world.  This, in my opinion and for my own development, is the most importation section of the book.  I feel drawn to cross-religious dialogue and engagement.  In particular, the rise of Islam across the world, as well as the burgeoning problems in India between Hindus and Christians, compel me to understand, engage, and demonstrate the falsity of those false religions as opposed to Christ.  If such studies were to take me to the Middle East or to Indonesia, I would do well to honor those principles highlighted throughout the final chapters of this book. Particularly helpful were the characterizations given on pages 298 to 302 concerning the role of engaging another religion. I order, the authors listed the roles as Adherent or Insider, Seeker or Inquirer, Explorer, Reporter, Specialist, Advocate of a new religion, and Apologist or Antagonist.  I find myself drawn especially to the Specialist and Apologist or Antagonist roles. I can foresee future studies being devoted exclusively to Christian and Muslim engagement, for example.

Although IWM is not a work which I would otherwise have purchased for my library had it not been assigned reading, it will prove to be a valuable tool for future ministry. Whether this ministry is directed towards my fellow churchmen or to myself as I minister to those at variance with Christ, IWM will give tools and principles that will enable me to send others to and to myself reach the lost.


[1]Moreau, A. Scott, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee. Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004), 7.

Two cautions for the study of God

February 26, 2014 Leave a comment

The study of religious truth ought to be undertaken and prosecuted from a sense of duty, and with a view to the improvement of the heart. When learned, it ought not to be laid on the shelf, as an object of speculation; but it should be deposited deep in the heart, where its sanctifying power ought to be felt. To study theology, for the purpose of gratifying curiosity, or preparing for a profession, is an abuse and profanation of what ought to be regarded as most holy. To learn things pertaining to God, merely for the sake of amusement, or secular advantage, or to gratify the mere love of knowledge, is to treat the Most High with contempt.

J.L. Dagg, Manual of Theology

The Bible is not a dead document to be once and for all mastered and deposited in the reservoir of academic achievement. The Word of God is alive and powerful, and it must be owned and studied reverently and faithfully in every generation. Theology is a discipline of faith that must be pursued arduously but not dispassionately in the service of the church to the glory of God, its gracious and sovereign Object. From this perspective every act of biblical exposition is once an act of prayer.

Timothy George, in his introduction to the Galatians component of the New American Commentary.

Martin Luther on justification by faith

February 26, 2014 1 comment

This doctrine can never be discussed and taught enough. If it is lost and perishes, the whole knowledge of truth, life, and salvation is lost and perishes at the same time. But if it flourishes, everything good flourishes—religion, true worship, the glory of God, and the right knowledge of all things and of all social conditions. There is clear and present danger that the devil may take away from us the pure doctrine of faith and may substitute for it the doctrines of works and of human traditions. It is very necessary, therefore, that this doctrine of faith be continually read and heard in public.

Martin Luther, in the preface to his commentary on Galatians

Chapter 19: Of the Law of God (V)

February 23, 2014 Leave a comment

V. The moral law does forever bind all, as well justified persons as other, to the obedience thereof;(a) and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it.(b) Neither does Christ, in the Gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.(c)

(a) Romans 13:8-10; 1 John 2:3, 4, 7, 8
(b) James 2:10, 11
(c) Matthew 5:17-19; James 2:8; Romans 3:31

Chapter 19: Of the Law of God (IV)

February 23, 2014 Leave a comment

IV. To them also, as a body politic, He gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging under any now, further than the general equity thereof may require.(a)

(a) Exodus 21-22; Genesis 49:10; 1 Peter 2:13, 14; Matthew 5:17, 38, 39; 1 Corinthians 9:8-10

Chapter 19: Of the Law of God (III)

February 23, 2014 Leave a comment

III. Besides this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, His graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits;(a) and partly, holding forth diverse instructions of moral duties.(b) All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated, under the New Testament.(c)

(a) Matthew 22:37-39
(b) Hebrews 9; Hebrews 10:1; Galatians 4:1, 3; Colossians 2:17
(c) Colossians 2:14, 16, 17; Daniel 9:27; Ephesians 2:15, 16

REVIEW: ‘The Person of Christ,’ Donald MacLeod

February 17, 2014 Leave a comment

MacLeod published The Person of Christ in 1998, as the seventh installment of the Contours of Christian Theology series (ed. Gerald Bray). IVP Academic markets this series as “a series of concise introductory texts focused on the main themes of Christian theology,” which is a well-enough categorization. MacLeod, through ten chapters and 303 pages, offers a fairly standard evangelical account of the history of the doctrines of Christ–notably his preexistence, his relationship to and within in the Trinity, and his own nature and person.

I came to this text as one who desired to study the nature of Christ but who had never formally done so. MacLeod’s work does not read easily at times, although it is hard to believe that this is essentially his own fault. He spends most of each chapter detailing the ways in which both ancient and contemporary theologians have understood the various facets of Christ’s nature. He highlights the Gnostics, Docetics, the German liberals of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and others. It is almost inevitable in any text not devoted specifically to the different movements for the specifics and distinguishing marks to become muddled. MacLeod is no exception to that rule, and many chapters are nearly overwhelming dense to one who does not have prior training in both the questions and proposed answers that are given in each chapter. For this reason, The Person of Christ would do well as a book read under the direction (current or past) of an academic who has already studied Christology, unless one wants to spend an inordinate amount of time with this book. While the work has helpfully made me aware of certain readings of pertinent Christological passages (especially of those of the German theologians), The Person of Christ does not seem to warrant a slow and steady reading for one who is merely curious about the doctrines and would like individual study.

Final analysis: The Person of Christ is best read as a survey to one already familiar with the various theological questions or as an introduction to one under the tutelage of a person already familiar with Christology.

Chapter 7 — The Testimony of the Spirit Necessary to Give Full Authority to Scripture, sec. 1 & 2

January 18, 2014 Leave a comment

1. Before proceeding farther, it seems proper to make some observations on the authority of Scripture, in order that our minds may not only be prepared to receive it with reverence, but be divested of all doubt.

When that which professes to be the Word of God is acknowledged to be so, no person, unless devoid of common sense and the feelings of a man, will have the desperate hardihood to refuse credit to the speaker. But since no daily responses are given from heaven, and the Scriptures are the only records in which God has been pleased to consign his truth to perpetual remembrance, the full authority which they ought to possess with the faithful is not recognized, unless they are believed to have come from heaven, as directly as if God has been heard giving utterance to them. This subject well deserves to be treated more at large, and pondered more accurately. But my readers will pardon me for having more regard to what my plan admits than to what the extent of this topic requires.

A most pernicious error has very generally prevailed–viz. that Scripture is of importance only in so far as conceded to it by the suffrage of the Church; as if the eternal and inviolable truth of God could depend on the will of men. With great insult to the Holy Spirit, it is asked, who can assure us that the Scriptures proceeded from God; who guarantee that they have come down safe and unimpaired to our times; who persuade us that this book is to be received with reverence, and that one expunged from the list, did not the Church regulate all these things with certainty? On the determination of the Church, therefore, it is said, depend both the reverence which is due to Scripture, and the books which are to be admitted into the canon. Thus profane men, seeking, under the pretext of the Church, to introduce unbridled tyranny, care not in what absurdities they entangle themselves and others, provided they extort from the simple this one acknowledgement–viz. that there is nothing which the Church cannot do. But what is to become of miserable consciences in quest of some solid assurance of eternal life, if all the promises with regard to it have no better support than man’s Judgment? On being told so, will they cease to doubt and tremble? On the other hand, to what jeers of the wicked is our faith subjected–into how great suspicion is it brought with all, if believed to have only a precarious authority lent to it by the good will of men?

2. These ravings are admirably refuted by a single expression of an apostle. Paul testifies that the Church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” If the doctrine of the apostles and prophets is the foundation of the Church, the former must have had its certainty before the latter began to exist. Nor is there any room for the cavil, that though the Church derives her first beginning from thence, it still remains doubtful what writings are to be attributed to the apostles and prophets, until her Judgment is interposed. For if the Christian Church was founded at first on the writings of the prophets, and the preaching of the apostles, that doctrine, wheresoever it may be found, was certainly ascertained and sanctioned antecedently to the Church, since, but for this, the Church herself never could have existed. Nothing therefore can be more absurd than the fiction, that the power of judging Scripture is in the Church, and that on her nod its certainty depends. When the Church receives it, and gives it the stamp of her authority, she does not make that authentic which was otherwise doubtful or controverted but, acknowledging it as the truth of God, she, as in duty bounds shows her reverence by an unhesitating assent. As to the question, How shall we be persuaded that it came from God without recurring to a decree of the Church? It is just the same as if it were asked, How shall we learn to distinguish light from darkness, white from black, sweet from bitter? Scripture bears upon the face of it as clear evidence of its truth, as white and black do of their color, sweet and bitter of their taste.

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. I.7.1-2.

The Schleitheim Articles

October 26, 2013 Leave a comment

[Taken from:  Sattler, Michael. “The Schleitheim Articles.” The Radical Reformation. Ed. and trans. Michael G. Baylor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991. 172-180. Print. Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought.]

The brotherly agreement of some children of God concerning seven articles.

Among all who love God and are children of light may there be joy, peace, and mercy from our father, through the atonement of the blood of Jesus Christ, together with the gifts of the spirit, who is sent by the father to all believers for their strength, consolation, and perseverance through every grief until the end, amen. These children of light are dispersed to all the places which God our father has ordained for them, and where they are assembled with one mind in one God and father of us all. May grace and peace exist in all your hearts, amen.

Beloved in the Lord, brothers and sisters, our first and paramount concern is always what brings you consolation and a secure conscience, which has been misled previously. We are concerned about this so that you may not be separated from us forever like foreigners, and almost completely excluded, as is just. We are concerned that you might turn, rather, to the truly implanted members of Christ, who are armed with patience and self-knowledge, and so that you may again be united with us in the power of one divine, Christian spirit and zeal for God.

It is also evident that the devil has slyly separated us through a thousand tricks, so that he might be able to destroy the work of God which has partly begun in us through God’s mercy and grace. But the faithful shepherd of our souls, Christ, who has begun this work in us, will direct it until the end, and he will teach us, to his honor and our salvation, amen.

Dear brothers and sisters, we who are assembled together in the Lord at Schleitheim, are making known through a series of articles to all who love God that, as far as we are concerned, we have agreed that we will abide in the Lord as obedient children of  God, sons and daughters, and as those who are separated from the world — and who should be separated in all that they do and do not do. And may God be praised and glorified in unity, without any brother contradicting this but rather being happy with it. In doing this we have sensed that the unity of the father and our common Christ have been with us in spirit. For the Lord is the lord of peace and not of dissention, as Paul shows [1 Cor. 14:33]. You should note this and comprehend it, so that you understand in which articles this unity has been formulated.

Some false brothers among us have nearly introduced a great offense, causing some to turn away from the faith because they suppose they can lead a free life, using the freedom of the spirit and Christ. But such people lack truth and are given over (to their condemnation) to the lasciviousness and freedom of the flesh. They have thought that faith and love may tolerate everything, and that nothing will damn them because they are such believing people.

Observe, you members of God in Christ Jesus, faith in the heavenly father through Jesus Christ does not take this form. It does not result in such things as these false brothers and sisters practice and teach. Protect yourselves and be warned about such people, for they do not serve our father, but their father, the devil.

But you are not this kind of people. For those who belong to Christ have crucified their flesh with all its lusts and desires. You certainly know what I mean and the brothers we are talking about. Separate yourselves from these brothers, for they are perverted. Ask the Lord that they acquire the knowledge to repent, and that we have the steadfastness to proceed along the path we have undertaken, following the honor of God and his son Christ. Amen.

The articles which we have discussed and about which we agree are these: baptism, the ban [excommunication], the breaking of bread [Lord’s Supper], separating from the abomination [the existing polity], shepherds in the community [ministers], the sword, the oath, etc.

First, concerning baptism, note this. Baptism should be given to all who have learned repentance, amendment of life, and faith through the truth that their sin has been removed by Christ; to all who want to walk in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and to be buried with him in death so that they can be resurrected with him; and to all who desire baptism in this sense from us and who themselves request it. Accordingly, all infant baptism, the greatest and first abomination of the pope, is excluded. You have the basis for this in the testimony of Scripture and the custom of the apostles. Matthew 28[:19]; Mark 16[:6]; Acts 2[:38], 8[:36]; 16[:31ff.], and 19[:4]. We wish to maintain this position on baptism simply, yet firmly.

Second. We have agreed as follows concerning the ban. The ban should be used against all who have given themselves to the Lord and agreed to follow his commandments, and who have been baptized into the one body of Christ, letting themselves be called brother or sister, and who nevertheless sometimes slip and fall into error and sin, and have been unknowingly overtaken. These people should be admonished twice privately and the third time should be punished or banned publicly, before the whole community, according to the command of Christ, Matthew 18[:15-18]. This banning should take place, according to the ordinance of the Spirit [Mt. 5:23], before the breaking of bread, so that we are all of one mind, and in one love may break from one bread and eat and drink from one cup.

Third. We are agreed and united about the breaking of bread as follows. All who wish to break one bread in memory of the broken body of Christ, and all who wish to drink from one cup in memory of the blood that Christ shed, should previously be united in the one body of Christ — that is, God’s community of which Christ is the head — namely, through baptism. For as Paul shows [1 Cor. 10:21], we cannot simultaneously sit at the Lord’s table and the devil’s table. We cannot simultaneously drink from the Lord’s cup and the devil’s cup. That is, all who have fellowship with the dead works of darkness do not partake of the light. Thus, all who follow the devil and the world have nothing in common with those who are called out of the world to God. All who reside in evil have no part of what is good. And it must be thus. He who has not been called by one God to one faith, to one baptism, to one spirit, and to one body in the community of all the children of God, may not be made into one bread with them, as must be the case if one wants to break bread truly according to the command of Christ.

Fourth. Concerning separation, we have agreed that a separation should take place from the evil which the devil has planted in the world. We simply will not have fellowship with evil people, nor associate with them, nor participate with them in their abominations. That is, all who have not submitted themselves to the obedience of faith, and have not united themselves to God so that they want to do his will, are a great abomination before God. Since this is so, nothing but abominable things can issue from them. For there has never been anything in the world and among all creatures except good and evil, believing and unbelieving, darkness and light, the world and those who are out of the world, God’s temple and idols, Christ and Belial, and neither may have anything to do with the other. And the commandment of the Lord is evident — he tells us to become separated from evil [2 Cor. 6:17]. In this way he wants to be our God, and we will be his sons and daughters. Further, he also admonishes us to withdraw from Babylon and worldly Egypt so that we will not participate in the suffering which the Lord will inflict upon them [Rev. 18:4ff.].

From all this we should learn that everything which is not united with our God and Christ is the abomination which we should flee. By this we mean all popish and neo-popish works and divine services, assemblies, ecclesiastical processions, wine shops, the ties and obligations of lack of faith, and other things of this kind, which the world indeed regards highly but which are done in direct opposition to the commandments of God, as is the great injustice in the world. We should leave all these things and have nothing to do with them, for they are vain abominations which make us hated by our Christ Jesus, who has liberated us from the servitude of the flesh and made us suitable for service to  God through the spirit, which he has given us.

Thus, the devilish weapons of force will fall from us, too, such as the sword, armor, and the life, and all their uses on behalf of friends or against enemies; [such nonviolence is commanded] by the power of the words of Christ, “You should not resist evil” [Mt. 5:39].

Fifth. We have agreed as follows concerning the shepherds in the community of God [i.e. ministers]. According to Paul’s prescription [1 Tim. 3:7], the shepherd in God’s community should be one who has a completely good reputation among those who are outside the faith. His duties should be to read, to admonish, to teach, to warn, and to punish or ban in the community; to lead all sisters and brothers in prayer and in breaking bread; and to make sure that in all matters that concern the body of Christ, the community is built up and improved. He should do this so that the name of God is praised and honored among us, and the mouths of blasphemers are stopped.

Should this pastor be in need, he should be provided for by the community that chose him, so that he who serves the gospel should also live from it, as the Lord has ordained [1 Cor. 9:14]. But if a shepherd should do something requiring punishment, he should not be tried except on the testimony of two or three people. If they sin [by testifying falsely], they should be punished in front of everybody so that others are afraid.

But if a shepherd is banished or through the cross [execution] brought to the Lord, another should be ordained in his place immediately so that God’s little people are not destroyed, but maintained and consoled by the warning.

Sixth. Concerning the sword we have reached the following agreement. The sword is ordained by God outside the perfection of Christ. It punishes and kills evil people and protects and defends the good. In the law the sword is established to punish and to kill the wicked, and secular authorities are established to use it. But in the perfection of Christ, the ban alone will be used to admonish and expel him who has sinned, without putting the flesh to death, and only by using the admonition and the command to sin no more.

Now, many who do not recognize what Christ wills for us will ask whether a Christian may also use the sword against evil people for the sake of protecting the good or for the sake of love. Our unanimous answer is as follows: Christ teaches us to learn from him that we should be mild and of humble heart, and in this way we will find rest for our souls. Now, Christ says to the woman taken in adultery [Jn. 8:11], not that she should be stoned according to the law of his father (yet he says, “As the father has commanded me, thus I do” [Jn. 8:22]), but that she should be dealt with in mercy and forgiveness and with a warning to sin no more. And Christ says, “Go and sin no more.” We should also hold to this in our laws, according to the rule about the ban.

Secondly, it is asked about the sword, whether a Christian may pass judgment in worldly quarrels and conflicts at law such as unbelievers have with one another. This is the answer: Christ did not want to decide or judge between brother and brother concerning an inheritance, and he refused to do so [Lk. 12:13]. Thus, we should do likewise.

Thirdly, it is asked about the sword, whether a Christian may hold a position of governmental authority if he is chosen for it. This is our reply: Christ should have been made a king, but he rejected this [Jn. 6:15] and did not view it as ordained by his father. We should do likewise and follow him. In this way we will not walk into the snares of darkness. For Christ says, “Whoever wants to follow me should deny himself and take up his cross  and follow me” [Mt. 16:24]. Also, Christ himself forbids the violence of the sword and says, “Worldly princes rule,” etc., “but not you” [Mt. 20:25]. Further, Paul says, “Those whom  God foresaw, he also ordained that they should be equal to the model of his son,” etc. [Rom. 8:30]. Also Peter says, “Christ has suffered, not ruled, and he gave us a model, so that you shall follow in his footsteps” [1 Pet. 2:21].

Lastly, it should be pointed out that it is not fitting for a Christian to be a magistrate for these reasons: the authorities’ governance is according to the flesh, but the Christian’s is according to the spirit. Their houses and dwellings remain in this world, but the Christian’s are in heaven. Their citizenship is of this world, but the Christian’s is in heaven. Their weapons of conflict and war are carnal and only directed against the flesh, but the Christian’s weapons are spiritual and directed against the fortifications of the devil. Worldly people are armed with spikes and iron, but Christians are armed with the armor of God — with truth, with justice, with peace, faith, and salvation, and with the word of God. In sum, what Christ, our head, thought, the members of the body of Christ through him should also think, so that no division of the body [of the faithful] may triumph through which it would be destroyed. Now, as Christ is — as is written about him — so too must the members be, so that his body may remain whole and united for its own benefit and edification.

Seventh. We have reached agreement as follows concerning the oath [i.e. swearing oaths]. The oath is a confirmation among those who are quarreling or making promises.  And it has been ordained in the [Mosaic] Law that it should take place truthfully and not falsely, in the name of God alone. Christ, who teaches the perfection of the law, forbids his followers all swearing, either truthfully or falsely, either in the name of heaven or of earth or of Jerusalem or by our own heard  [Mt. 5:34f.]. And he does this for the reason which he gives afterward: “For you are not able to make a single hair white or black.” Notice this! All swearing has been forbidden because we cannot fulfill what is promised in swearing.  For we are not able to alter the slightest thing about ourselves.

Now, there are some who do not believe God’s simple command. They speak as follows and ask, “Did God not swear to Abraham on his own godhead when he promised that he wished him well and wanted to be his God, if he would keep his commandments? Why should I not swear also when I promise somebody something?”

Our answer is this. Listen to what Scripture says. Because God wanted to prove conclusively to the heirs of the promise that his counsel does not waiver, he sealed it with an oath, so that we could rely on the consolation received through two unwavering things [i.e. the promise and the oath; Heb. 6:17f.] about which it is impossible for God to lie. Note the meaning of this passage of Scripture: “God has the power to do that which he forbids you. For all things are possible for him” [Mt. 29:26, Mk. 10:27]. God sworn an oath to Abraham (Scripture says) in order to prove that his counsel never wavered. That is, no one can resist or hinder his will, and so he was able to keep the oath. But, as has been said above by Christ, we can do nothing to keep or fulfill an oath. Therefore we should not swear at all.

Some now say further, “In the New Testament it is forbidden by God to swear; but is actually commanded in the Old, and there it is only forbidden to swear by heaven, earth, Jerusalem, and by our head.” Our answer is this. Listen to Scripture – “He who swears by the temple of heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits on it” [Mt. 23:22]. Notice that it is forbidden to swear by heaven, which is a throne of God. How much more is it forbidden to swear by God himself? You fools and blind people, which is greater, the throne or he who sits on it?

Some say further, “Why is it now unjust to use God as a witness to the truth, when the apostles Peter and Paul have sworn?” Our answer is that Peter and Paul testify only to that which God promised Abraham through the oath. And they themselves promised nothing, as the examples clearly show. For testifying and swearing are two different things. When a person swears, in the first place he makes a promise about future things, as Christ – whom we received a long time later – was promised to Abraham. But when a person testifies, he is testifying about the present, whether it is good or evil, as Simon spoke to Mary about Christ and testified to her, “This child is ordained for the fall and resurrection of many in Israel, and as a sign which will be rejected” [Lk. 2:34]. Christ has also taught this same thing when he said, “Your speech should be ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ for anything else comes from evil” [Mt. 5:37]. Christ says, “Your speech or words should be ‘yea’ or ‘nay’,” so that none can understand it in the sense that he has permitted swearing. Christ is simply “yea” and “nay” and all who seek him in simplicity will understand his word. Amen.

Dear brothers and sisters in the lord,

These are the articles about which some brothers have previously been in error and have understood differently from the true understanding. The consciences of many people have been confused through this, as a result of which the name of God has been greatly blasphemed. Therefore it has been necessary for us to reach agreement in the Lord, and this has happened. May God be praised and glorified!

Now, because you have amply understood the will of God, which has now been set forth through us, it will be necessary for you to realize the will of God, which you have recognized, perseveringly and without interruption. For you know well what reward the servant deserves who knowingly sins.

Everything that you have done unknowingly or that you have confessed to having done unjustly is forgiven you through the faithful prayer which performed by us in our assembly for all our failures and our guilt, through the merciful forgiveness of God and through the blood of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Beware of all who do not walk in the simplicity of the divine truth which is encompassed in this letter from us in our assembly. For this so that everyone among us may be subject to the rule of the ban, and so that henceforth false brothers and sisters may be prevented from joining us.

Separate yourselves from that which is evil. Then the Lord will be your God, and you will be his sons and daughters.

Dear brothers, keep in mind how Paul admonished Titus. He said this: “The saving grace of God has appeared to all. And it disciplines us so that we shall deny ungodly things and worldly lusts and shall live chastely, justly, and piously in this world. And we shall await our same hope, the appearance of the majesty of the great God and our savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself to redeem us from all injustice, and to purify a people as his own who would be zealous for good works” [Tit. 2:11-14]. If you think about this and practice it, the lord of peace will be with you.

May the name of God be eternally blessed and highly praised, Amen. May the Lord give you his peace. Amen.

Enacted at Schleitheim on St. Matthew’s day [24 February] in the year 1527.

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