Thursday, January 24, 2013

distinguishing the merit of Christ from the distribution of merit

The day is far spent, so I assume you have read some Luther already today.  That's okay; read some more.  From, where else? the Great Confession of 1528. 
The blind fool does not know that the merit of Christ and the distribution of merit are two different things.  And he confuses them like a filthy sow.  Christ has once for all merited and won for us the forgiveness of sins on the cross; but this forgiveness he distributes wherever he is, at all times and in all places, as Luke writes, chapter 24, "Thus it is written, that Christ had to suffer and on the third day rise (in this consists his merit), and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name (here the distribution of his merit comes in)"  This is why we say there is forgiveness of sins in the Supper, not on account of the eating, nor because Christ merits or achieves forgiveness of sins there, but on account of the word through which he distributes among us this acquired forgiveness, saying, "This is my body which is given for you."  Here you perceive that we eat the body as it was given for us; we hear this and believe it as we eat.  Hence there is distributed here the forgiveness of sins, which however was obtained on the cross...
In the same way I carefully wrote against the heavenly prophets that the fact of Christ's suffering and the use of it are not the same thing: factum et applicatio facti, seu factum et usus facti.  The passion of Christ occurred but once on the cross.  But whom would it benefit if it were not distributed, applied, and put to use?  And how could it be put to use and distributed except through Word and sacrament?  But why should such great saints read my treatise?  They know far better.  Well, they have their reward, that they consider the fact and the application to be one and the same, and thereby reduce themselves to folly and shame.  They fail to see that in the Supper the application of the passion, and not the fact of it, is concerned.  It serves them right for never reading, or for reading superficially-so proud and presumptuous are they-what has been written against them.
(AE 37)

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