KEY THOT: The psalmist David tells us that the Lord is “good and upright”. NLT translates Ps 25:8 as “The Lord is good and does what is right.” That is the starting of good theology—a right balance between saying God is good (so he shows grace towards sinners) and God is upright (so he teaches his truth to sinners and saints). His goodness is not self-indulging, overlooking our sins and transgressions. His uprightness ensures that we do not remain in our sins and transgressions. We are saved by God’s grace but transformed by God’s truth. Jesus came to bring God’s grace and truth: “For the law was given through Moses; GRACE and TRUTH came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Grace saves but truth transforms.
Lutheran theologians emphasize grace but soft-pedal truth. Reformed theologians also uphold grace but they are strong on expounding truth. A recent article by James Rogers (shared by Bishop Terry Kee: http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2014/01/lutheran-evangelicals ) examines why more American young adults evangelicals are influenced by Calvinism than Lutheranism. One reason offered is that unlike Calvin’s Institute of Religion which clarifies and expounds his theology in a systematic and rational way, Luther and his successors had nothing similar to Calvin’s Institutes, except a collection of confessional statements in the Book of Concord which addresses primarily historical doctrinal issues, some of which are irrelevant to us now. To strengthen the Lutheran churches, we need to emphasize the systematic teaching and exposition of God’s truth to help Lutherans live godly lives (discipleship). Perhaps, the weakness of Lutheran churches is the weakness in emphasizing discipleship training.
I notice some Lutheran churches are still uncomfortable with the emphasis on discipleship training. To them, it is like emphasizing human efforts rather than divine grace. But herein lies a possible reason why LCS churches are losing the second generation believers and not growing in tandem with 230% increase in Singapore population from 2.3 million in the 1980's to the current 5.3 millions. While grace emphasizes what God has done for sinners, truth emphasizes what God is still doing among his saints.
If we want to see our churches grow in quality (not just quantity), we need to emphasize both what God has done for us (at the Cross) and also what He is still doing in us through His Spirit and Word: “He instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way” (v.9). I found it very fulfilling and satisfying after each post-Alpha session, especially the one-on-one discipleship session with my mentee because I can see real personal transformation as the weeks progress. While it’s important to emphasize what God has done for us, it is incomplete if we do not emphasize equally what God wants to do in us and through us by leading and teaching us to walk in His ways.
Father, thank You that You are not only good but You are upright. You have saved us by Your grace and now You are transforming us by Your truth. Amen.