Archive for August 6th, 2012

I use spell check and one of the green-underlines that comes up many times in my own writing is “passive voice:  consider revising”.  It is not grammatically wrong to use the passive voice but there sure seems to be some sort of problem that the program writers see in the use of the passive voice and it comes up, “passive voice:  consider revising” for the Scriptures as in following Texts:

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (Romans 5:9)

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (Romans 6: 3)

Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.(Romans 6: 13)

 Obviously,  I see a boogie-man behind that spell-check.  Yes, the active voice is fine, as in changing the Scripture verse above to: He has brought us from death to life. This is a dangerous thing because the inspired Word is clearly here in the passive voice and for a reason.  Yes, the Lord is the Subject of our salvation, as many verses attest,  but the passive voice makes clear that we have been acted upon (oop! There I go again!).  This means  we can not actively obtain our own salvation. How actively can a dead person go from “death to life”?  Lazarus did not make a decision to come out of the tomb.

I see the problem is sinners, who think they are in charge, do not like the passive voice.  Adam and Even rebelled against the reality that they had been created, but wanted “to be like God”:  the subject of their own destiny.  They wanted to be ‘pro-active’ in their own salvation.  This was the devil’s lie.  Still is. In Confessional Lutheran  theology, the word “passive” comes up as in “passive righteousness” and the complementary “active righteousness.”  From the Scripture, Luther, in his commentary on Galatians, points out that whenmost people think of righteousness at all, it is the active kind.  What I do, what you do, what society does.  It is ruled by God’s Law in it’s first usage, the political or civil use.  This is a good thing and necessary for our physical well-being.  

The problem is that the Old Adam and Old Eve think that by actively doing good we can save ourselves.  Yes, in a temporal sense but even then we need law to protect ourselves from each other!  Do you really like to keep the speed limit?   Do you really have loving and warm thoughts about those around you at work, school, play…home 24/7?  Hardly.  “If they just knew what I was thinking!”  Just think of “Twilight Zone” type shows in which someone can read minds!  The Lord does.  As the old saying has it: “No one ever became good by an act of Congress”!

There is another righteousness, passive, received by faith through the preaching and teaching of the Gospel.  This is the righteousness by which we receive God’s salvation in Jesus Christ as a gift, by His grace alone through faith alone.  From Luther’s introduction to his commentary on Galatians:

“… this most excellent righteousness—that of faith, I mean—which God imputes to us through Christ, without works—is neither political nor ceremonial, nor is it the righteousness of God’s law, nor does it consist in works. It is quite the opposite; that is to say, it is passive whereas the others are active. We do nothing in this matter; we give nothing to God but simply receive and allow someone else to work in us—that is, God. Therefore, it seems to me that this righteousness of faith, or Christian righteousness, can well be called passive righteousness.

For the Church, His Body and the Christians, the passive righteousness comes first, then the active.  Faith working in love.  Just as you have been created, and have to be first created in order to live, you have been redeemed in Jesus Christ, received by faith, His gift also, that you are saved and can live again and can do His good works.  Even those good works He designed beforehand to your way of life in Him!

8For by grace you have been saved through faith. (again the passive voice)And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  10Forwe are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2)

Using the cartoon above, anti-passive, anti-Christ theology will make us compatible to it.  Then “Eileen” becomes “I lean”.  Not on the everlasting arms but in whatever the world,the flesh and devil says.  His Word and Sacraments alone passively received keeps us on the right path.  We are His workmanship.

 Merciful Father, You gave Your Son Jesus as the heavenly bread of life. Grant us faith to feast on Him in Your Word and Sacraments that we may be nourished unto life everlasting; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

(Opening Collect for the 10th Sunday after Pentecost)

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