Monday, June 23, 2008
Martin Bucer on Rom. 2.13
Indebted to T.H.L. Parker, I was introduced to Martin Bucer's handling of Romans 2.13 which I summarize as follows:
Bucer identifies a ‘tacit irony’ (123a) directed against the Jews who presupposed their advantages but did not translate hearing the Law into practice of the Law. But the statement of 2.13 can be taken at face value because, for Bucer, the ‘doer’ of the Law is one who has a regenerate heart. The logic of Bucer’s argument is that those who do the Law in 2.13 are those who are genuinely ‘doers’ of the works of the Law and it is according to works that God will judge humanity. But to do the Law means to devote one self seriously to what the Law commands and not merely to perform some of the actions demanded by the Law. This can be done only by those who truly believe in the Lord. For Bucer, the actual deeds performed are not those of the believer, but the works of Christ in us! This is not simply Christ inspiring works of Law, rather, believers are justified by the merits of Christ (i.e. Christ’s life, death, and obedience) which become ours through union with Christ by faith. He writes: 'God saves us of his pure mercy and by contemplating the merit of Christ, which is given to us and becomes our own we believe in Christ. For the deeds [of the Law] according to which God justifies us … are Christ’s works in us, given with him, out of a sheer and gratuitous benevolence of God. So the goodness of God is always, per se, the first and complete cause of our salvation’ (129b).
1. It appears that in the early days of the reformation Rom. 2.13 was handled in basically three ways: (a) reconciled with Medieval catholic view of merit, grace, and penance (e.g. Cajetan, Sadoleto); (b) treated it as a hypothetical statement (e.g. Melanchthon, Calvin); or (c) God works his works in the believer through the works of Christ (Bucer).
2. When I read this, I automatically thought of Mark Seifrid's excellent lecture on Justification by Faith at SBTS in 2000 which is evidently Bucerian!