#8 Our DNA: Free (Gospel) with Dr. Phil Haugen

The Lutheran Church Planter
The Lutheran Church Planter
#8 Our DNA: Free (Gospel) with Dr. Phil Haugen


[00:00:24] Andy: Welcome to the Lutheran Church Planter, a podcast exploring the theology, philosophy, and practice of planting new Lutheran congregations. I’m your host, Andy Coyle, church planter and director of Home Missions for the association of Free Lutheran Congregations, joined by my co host and fellow church planter, Matthew Ballmann. And last week we talked about, just as an introductory episode on our identity, a Free Living Lutheran. We’ve been talking a lot about in our episodes, just the importance of knowing who we are and the value of clarity on that and the value of living in that. And we talked about how our identity is a holistic unit. It’s a one. It’s not that we’re just free in polity, or it’s not that we’re just all about missions or all about word and sacrament. But really all these go together. They temper one another, they work together, they fulfill one another. It’s a beautiful package. And so what we’re going to be doing now is a series of episodes diving into each one of those just so that we understand them and see how they relate to one another. And I’m really excited about this because we are bringing in special guests to help us understand this better. And so today, our special guest as we get into the issue of the Gospel is Pastor Phil Haugen, a longtime New Testament professor at the so welcome, Pastor Haugen.

[00:01:40] Pr. Haugen: All right, thanks.

[00:01:41] Andy: It is good to have you here today. So we are going to get into this issue of the Gospel as the foundation for freedom. And so maybe just as a baseline, when we talk about the Gospel, could you explain what the Gospel is?

[00:01:59] Pr. Haugen: I think, simply put, the gospel is the declaration, your sins are forgiven you for Jesus’ sake. That would be a simple definition.

Scripturally, the Scripture defines the Gospel in two Corinthians 521, God made him Christ, who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in him. And so the Gospel consists of two aspects, consists of forgiveness of sin for Jesus’ sake, removal of guilt, that we don’t have to pay the penalty for our sin because Christ did. But it also includes the giving, the Declaration, the judicial declaration of Righteousness that we are declared righteous in the sight of God for Jesus’ sake because of what Jesus has done. And so that’s the gospel. And we distinguish then between law and gospel generally.

Usually the terms, so that the law is an expression of the will of God and the law always condemns us, but then it also becomes a guide as what God’s will is for our life and so forth. But the Gospel is the proclamation concerning Christ and what God has done in Christ.

[00:03:25] Andy: Yeah. Matt, you got anything to add to that?

[00:03:29] Matt: No, that’s really good. What’s the importance, though maybe of this? We often talk about as Lutherans, not confusing those or mingling those together. Could you talk a little bit about what does that look like to perhaps mingle those together?

[00:03:45] Pr. Haugen: What happens for us is we most certainly lose assurance of salvation. There’s no way to have assurance of salvation if long gospel get confused and get mixed. As soon as the focus becomes on us, if the focus becomes me and what I do or must do or whatever, I begin to lose assurance, because what I do is never sufficient, it’s never good.

It’s important that we not confuse, that we keep the two separate and that the law does its work, the Holy Spirit through the law does its work in our hearts and so forth. But that the Gospel, then the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation by which we come to faith and are saved.

[00:04:44] Andy: Yeah, we were just talking a few minutes before we got on air of just in a specific congregation context, when it is law and law, law in multiple ways, right? Even ways that sound good, it just produces a worn out, beat down believer and the freedom and the beauty of the Gospel. I love that about our heritage. I appreciate that more and more. The more that I’m in ministry of just seeing the simplicity but clarity in what that produces in people’s lives. Just the sweet Gospel flowing from also conviction of sin by the law. And so as we think about within the Lutheran world, as we are free Lutherans, just some of the nuance then of our understanding of the Gospel, as we see the way Scripture talks about it, is not something that we’re looking internally. There’s an objective nature of the Gospel. Can you speak to that a little bit about like when we talk about objective justification or objective salvation and subjective justification, subjective salvation, how do those work together? Define both maybe and just share a little bit like our understanding of how that works in a believer’s life?

[00:05:59] Pr. Haugen: Maybe first to define, when we use the terminology objective justification, we’re talking about the historical event. This is the act of God, where by his grace and mercy sent his son Christ. And the objective aspect involves the life and suffering and death and resurrection, the substitutionary life, death, suffering and resurrection of Christ on our behalf. And it is in that event, it’s in that event that my sins are forgiven, or your sins. And Scripture makes it clear, the sins of the whole world is forgiven. I John 2:2. His blood shed blood is the propitiation, the satisfactory payment. God was satisfied. The satisfactory payment for the sins of the whole world. Isaiah declares Chapter 53, the iniquity of all of us. Everybody was placed upon him and so forth. And then Paul in Corinthians, chapter five, second Corinthians, chapter five, he declares that God was in Christ, and that’s the historical event of Jesus.

God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself. And then he defines what that means because he says, reconciling the world, not counting their sin against them and so forth. And so the forgiveness of sin is won for us, granted for us. That’s why Jesus says it’s finished. That’s the Declaration. The subjective is the application of that. Or maybe a better word would be the receiving of that.

Yeah, that’s good for ourselves personally, which is by faith, both are absolutely necessary.

And so I would want to emphasize that, that the subjective, the reception by faith is absolutely necessary because God says so, having been justified by faith, he says, we have peace with God by grace. Are you saved through faith? There’s no other name under heaven given amongst men whereby we must be saved other than the name of Christ and so forth. So that subjective aspect is absolutely necessary. However, it’s really important for us to understand that the cause of justification is found in the cross event. The death, resurrection, the substitutionary life, death and resurrection of Christ. That’s the cause.

Faith receives that personally. That’s the subjective. But the cause is the objective, and that comes first. And it is the objective that makes possible the subjective, and that produces the subjective.

The only way a terrified conscience can come to faith is to hear the announcement, your sins have been forgiven. Your sins are forgiven by Jesus at the cross. And then that’s powerful. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.

[00:09:31] Andy: Yeah, I just love that. And when we talk about the objective nature of the Gospel, I love the fact that that happened, whether we believe it or not.

And it’s so great as a foundation for missions. It’s like I can go out and we can go out and proclaim the Gospel, fully believing that your sins have been covered in Christ at the cross.

[00:09:59] Pr. Haugen: Absolutely.

[00:10:01] Andy: What a foundation that is. But also for me personally, is that in my own life, to recognize that when I’m struggling with my sin or if I’m struggling with just the ups and downs of life, I don’t look internally, I go right back to that objective, historical work of Christ. And it’s so beautiful, it is so powerful, and it’s the foundation for my life. It’s the foundation for everything in our ministry and for our people, for mission.

And so I think this nuance within our heritage is so important.I think you mentioned even the nuance with long Gospel, and this is a nuance here is a connection to freedom. I think without that, it’s hard to really find true freedom. So maybe speak to that a little bit, too. And, Matt, maybe you can jump in a little bit as we go along here. But how does this nuanced clarity on the objective and the subjective or the general or the personal understanding of our salvation, how does that truly grant freedom in the life of an individual believer?

[00:11:16] Pr. Haugen: Yeah, first of all, obviously it gives us freedom from the accusation of the law, where we are set free from the guilt and the burden of being condemned. So we’re free from that in Christ. Christ sets us free. It sets us free as well, in the sense of not having to perform in order to be righteous in the sight of God, or in order to improve our righteousness in the sight of God or maintain our righteousness in the sight of God.

It’s foolish to even think that way, that somehow our poor performance can improve on what Jesus has already done. In Christ. We stand perfect by faith in him. God looks at us as though we are perfect. You can’t improve on that and so forth. And so we’re free from all of that. That there’s a freedom in this then, and then we are free. And part of the Gospel is the beauty of the work of the Spirit of God through the word and sacraments in our lives and so on, to empower us and to enable us to live and to do that which God would want us to do. And so we become, as Scripture says, we become new creatures in Christ as well. And there’s a freedom in that simply to live out that which we already are in Christ.

[00:13:06] Andy: Yeah. So, Matt, in your ministry there, Trinity, how have you seen the freedom of the Gospel at work in people’s lives? How do you share this with your people? How is this seen?

[00:13:25] Matt: When Pastor Haugen was sharing there, that kind of comes to my mind is also how our Lutheran theology, it all comes as a package, like how it works together. And I think this is worth noting that all evangelical churches affirm the Gospel, but there are these other layers to it that keep the focus on the Gospel example being unlimited versus limited atonement. This has been an issue that I have seen in pastoral ministry so many times where someone has maybe been taught the position of limited atonement, right? So they’re like, oh, yeah, Jesus died for you. That’s wonderful. But then they’re taught. But he only died for some people. And they have a deep angst, right? They don’t have an assurance, well, am I one of those? Am I one of those? And then what do they turn towards? They’re turned towards, well, am I doing enough works? Do I have enough fruit to prove that I have the Holy Spirit? And that becomes this vicious cycle. And even in just the last couple of months I have seen this as we’ve had some people come to our church, that that’s been their experience in their previous churches. And the freedom that they’re experiencing mean you can just see the joy and the peace that overcomes them as they realize, oh, I don’t have to prove that Jesus died for me because I have this objective promise that Jesus had died for all and that he died for me. And I was reminded of the song. I think this is in our ambassador hymnal, my hope is in the Lord. You know, the song, the first verse says, my hope is in the Lord who gave himself for me and paid the price for all my sin at Calvary. And the chorus is for me. He died for me. He lives and everlasting life and light he freely gives. And that so beautifully encapsulates this objective nature of the.

So maybe that kind of first observation as Pastor Haugen was talking was how all these really do go together, unlimited atonement. But then another kind of layer there is the sacraments. Like, yes, Lutherans, you’ll ask them, like, when were you saved? And some might say, oh, when I was baptized. But Lutherans sometimes like to joke and really put the emphasis on 2000 years ago when Christ died and Rose. Like, that’s when I was saved. Right? That’s again trying to really just drill down on that objective justification.

But there is a sense in which also that work is brought into our lives through the sacraments. And that as we receive this, we also are receiving the assurance of that work 2000 years ago that we can’t see or touch being brought right into our lives, right into our congregations, and we are receiving it. And again, how beautiful that is, how peace inducing that is. Yes, Jesus died for you, and you can know that as you receive these gifts in faith.

[00:16:18] Andy: Yeah, that’s really good. One of the things I love doing at Shiloh is welcoming people in with the Apostolic reading, which is pure Gospel. It is this life with God, this welcome of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, because I want them knowing they’re coming in beaten down from the world, they’re beaten up with their sin, they’re beaten up just with they. I want to welcome them in to not think they have to perform for God, as you talked about, Pastor Haugen, and not thinking that they have to, I got to show up for God and I got to do all these things to really earn my favor with him. But it’s like, no, just hear the Gospel. God is bringing you in. He’s welcoming you in to feed you and nourish you and just feed you through himself. And I love that.

[00:17:02] Pr. Haugen: One of the things perhaps to emphasize also in thinking about this is that this historic objective is delivered to us. And that, Matt, I think, is what you were saying. That’s the point. It’s delivered to us through the means of grace and the sacraments. There’s a visible, objective aspect to the sacraments, which is an encouragement and a comfort and so forth. The heart of the sacraments is the Gospel. And so the deliverance of this is also then, in the preaching and proclamation of the Gospel, that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ and so forth. And so we gleefully rejoice as a congregation thinking of congregational emphasis. As a congregation, we gleefully receive the sacraments. We gleefully receive the proclamation of the Gospel Sunday after Sunday, and the necessity of that, the importance of that. We hear the gospel in the absolution.

That’s part of the beauty of the absolution. As part of our worship services in a congregation, we gather together, we confess our sin because we come as sinners, but then we hear the Proclamation, your sins are forgiven you for Jesus sake. For Jesus sake.

[00:18:27] Andy: Yeah, that’s so good. So we think about it personally, and you’re kind of already thinking about it corporately. But what happens if I understand the Gospel for myself and I understand Christ died for me? How does that transform how I see other people in the congregation and even outside the congregation? What does that do? How does that give me a paradigm or a lens to see other people.

[00:18:52] Pr. Haugen: For sure thinking outside the congregation? It gives us a paradigm in the sense that as we recognize that salvation is by grace, that it is not what we do and so forth, then our attitude towards everybody else becomes not an attitude. Well, that person doesn’t deserve this, or I’m not going to bother with that person, but rather a joyful recognition. Jesus died for this one also. And to eagerly bring to that one the proclamation of what God has done in Christ. And so it should, hopefully, it does change our view of others, but within the congregation as well. Because within the congregation, the congregation here on this earth and so on, the local congregation, there’s flaws. We’re sinners as we gather together, but we view each other then in terms of what God has done in Christ, and then as well, it allows us, in spite of all of the flaws of our congregation as sinners. And there’s struggles and there’s this and that and other thing that happens, but it allows us to view the congregation, hopefully, the way God does, as his beautiful bride.

That’s what we are, but part of the bride of Christ that Jesus loves and that Jesus is clothed with his righteousness and so forth. And it changes the way that we view the people around us as well.

[00:20:38] Andy: Yeah. In our congregation, as we’re trying to help people understand this issue, one of the ways in which I’m trying to connect some dots for people is the value of the confession of sin. So speak to that. Why do we do that in our services? Have a confession of sin. What does that mean? Individually, but also corporately? How does that speak to this issue? We’re talking about of seeing the Gospel at work to bring freedom in our congregation.

[00:21:10] Pr. Haugen: The importance of the confession of sin is that we come recognizing that we’re sinners, come recognizing our need and so forth. This is our need that we are by nature sinful and unclean and so forth, and sin against God and word and thought, indeed, and so on. And we need to hear the proclamation of forgiveness.

This is something for us as Lutherans and as a congregation, as individuals. And so actually, this is something that by the grace of God should be, is taking place daily in the life of a child of God, that daily there is this acknowledgement, I am a sinner, but daily there’s this gleeful recognition, my sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake. And so that there’s a constant. In other words, in one sense, our faith is never older than one day. Every day it becomes new and afresh by the grace of God that it would be that living. And for the congregation then, too, as well.

[00:22:35] Matt: Pastor Hagen, what would you say to someone who says, I feel like having to confess my sins every day or on a Sunday? It just feels too negative. It just feels like a downer. What would you say? How would you encourage that person to maybe think about that in the role that it actually plays? Why should it not be a downer to us?

[00:22:56] Pr. Haugen: Yeah, I think a little bit, maybe I get uncomfortable sometimes when we use the word having to, because that places it under the law for us and so on. It’s that we’re invited to, by the mercy and kindness of God, we are invited as sinners to come to him and to confess our sin. And then his promise is given that as we confess our sins, he’s faithful and just. And he is faithful and just because of what Jesus did, he’s faithful and just to forgive us. Sometimes I think that passage in one John one nine, if we confess, we turned it into law almost. That law is something we, I mean, that confession is something that we have to do and so on. And if we do our part right, God will forgive us. The structure of that statement is a structure that simply acknowledges the condition of confession. And as that condition, as we agree with God, as we agree with what God says concerning our sin, the declaration is made that he is faithful and just for Jesus’ sake to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. So it’s not a negative thing.

It’s a beautiful invitation that God gives to us to be able to come daily we who are sinners, and to come daily and receive his forgiveness.

[00:24:36] Andy: Right. And that just grounds our freedom as we kind of are connecting dots here. It’s like the more that we are understanding the Gospel every day in our lives, that is constantly then doing battle with ourselves in our sinful nature, to have pride and arrogance, thinking that we’re something special, which then transforms how we see other people as we see other people in the same church confessing their sins like, well, they’re a sinner too, and they need Jesus, too, and they’re forgiven, too. And it’s just the lack of the gospel is only going to produce pride and arrogance and friction and division. The Gospel actually frees us to love them. Seeing them through the eyes of Christ, the Gospel frees us to serve them in all that. So the foundation of freedom in all of our congregations, personally and corporately, is the Gospel. And the more that that is beaten into our stubborn sinful hearts, the better God works in our lives. Right? So we’ve already kind of talked a little bit about how the Gospel connects to mission and evangelism. I mean, it is the reason. How does the Gospel connect to piety?

[00:25:52] Pr. Haugen: Yeah, I think a couple of things. First of all, it connects to piety in the sense that it allows piety not to be legalism. Legalism is obedience to the law for the sake of righteousness.

And piety is simply a respect for the will of God that we seek to honor the will of God in our lives and so forth. But we’re set free from doing that in order to be righteous. We don’t. And so the Gospel then empowers us in a life of piety. The fruit of the Spirit is, and we go through the list and so on. For example, the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes.

The Gospel is powerful to empower us to seek to be obedient to the will of God. God’s will continues to be expressed in the law. So we’re free from the condemnation of the law, but we’re not free from the fact that this is God’s will. This is what God wants for you as a Christian, for me as a Christian for his children.

He wants this, he desires this, and it’s for our good and so forth. And so the Gospel empowers us in that way. And then as well, the Gospel then removes the burden so that it’s not a burdensome thing. It’s a gleeful, joyful expression of the new life that God has given to us in Christ.

[00:27:55] Matt: I’m reminded of Basil of Caesarea. He gives illustration of slave, an employee or a son. A slave is motivated because he doesn’t want to get beat, right? He’s like, I’m going to do the right thing because I don’t want to get beat. The employee does the right thing because he wants to get paid, where a son does the right thing because he knows he is loved by the Father and he loves the Father. And I think that’s a beautiful kind of that picture of exactly what you were just saying there. In my own life, I think back when this kind of clicked, it was actually at a FLY, and the theme for the week was really just hitting the Gospel really hard. And it was this really turn of moving in some ways, I think from living as maybe a slave or an employee to some degree in my relationship With God, I was a Christian, right? And I think it’s important to note people can be Christians and still live with this burden, right? It’s possible to because it is all gift, and yet that’s not God’s heart. He wants us to understand. No, you are sons and daughters, and he calls us to live in that freedom. And that in my life, I have seen that man. What joy then, to serve the Lord, because now it’s out of just a completely different place of motivation than as a slave or a servant.

[00:29:16] Andy: Yeah. So as we kind of wrap up here a little bit, there’s a reason why, as we think about freedom in the AFLC, as we talk about being a free Lutheran, there’s a reason why this is the first one, the Gospel, I think, oftentimes, and we’re going to speak to this down the road about our polity and everything, but what happens when we only talk about freedom, freedom, freedom, and we forget the Gospel as an association within our congregations? What if we only define our freedom as mere polity? What happens? Why does it have to be so rooted in the Gospel? Why is that the final source of everything we do in the life of our congregation?

[00:30:05] Pr. Haugen: I think if it’s only polity, if that’s all it is, polity in and of itself, apart from the Gospel, becomes simply, I don’t know what you would call it, a political structure or organizational structure or something like that done maybe for whatever reason and so forth.

Part of the beauty of our polity is an acknowledgment of the presence and the work of the Spirit of God through the word of God, through the Gospel and so forth. And it’s because of confidence in that, in spite of the fact that the Spirit of God is working with us as broken creatures and we as broken creatures, we don’t do so good a lot of times and so forth. But nonetheless, there is a gleeful, joyful recognition of the work of the Spirit of God through the word of God through the Gospel, to lead us and to direct us. That’s how come congregation has the freedom we believe, has the freedom to make its own decisions and so on regarding calling a pastor or various things and so forth. That’s why we believe in lay preaching and lay testimonies and so forth, because we recognize and joyfully celebrate the work of the Holy Spirit through the word in the lives of people, and we trust that God does a good job. He’s doing a good job. Does that mean it’s perfect? Absolutely not. But we recognize the power and the work of the spirit.

So that’s the freedom as well. It’s not simply an organizational thing. It is directly based on and related to the Gospel and the spirit of.

[00:32:13] Andy: Yeah, yeah, that’s so true. Matt, you have any final thoughts or questions?

[00:32:21] Matt: I think that’s really good.

[00:32:23] Andy: Yeah, this is so foundational. This is so foundational as we think about just the identity of our congregations being so rooted in the Gospel, without it, nothing else really matters. And so thank you, Pastor Haugen, for joining us today and just sharing just your wisdom regarding the nature of the gospel and how it plays out in the life of individual Christians, but then also in congregations. And so thanks for joining us today. We’d love to have your help with this podcast. If you enjoy the show, please take a moment to subscribe and leave a review. It helps us to reach more people. But if you’re interested in exploring more about church planting within the Free Lutheran Church, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at aflchomemissions.org. I’ll see you next time.

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