Back in 2007 or so, New Reformation Press started marketing this shirt:
You’ve probably seen it before. It’s sort of emblematic of what some would call “the Lutheran view of sanctification,” and what others would call, “a dumb caricature, which, while intending to be funny, says more about the lack of understanding of sanctification on the part of the person wearing it than anything else.” De gustibus. Don’t shoot the messenger.
Anyway, I’ve got a great idea for my own version of a Lutheran sanctification T-shirt. I don’t generally wear T-shirts, myself, except as undergarments (no, I’m not sophisticated, I just like collars on my shirts), but I know that some people like them. Again, de gustibus. Anyway, here’s my idea:
This shirt has a couple things going for it. First off, it’s hilarious!
LOL! OMG! It’s so funny, because…because…
OK, so it’s not hilarious. It is, however, a quote from the Lutheran Confessions. In this it is markedly superior to the shirt sold by New Reformation Press, which promotes a message that is not only materially at odds with the Lutheran Confessions, but which seems to make light of the call of Christ to the Christian to take up the cross and follow Him, daily crucify the flesh, daily put on the new man, etc.
Anyway, who wants one?
Actually, here’s my real T-shirt idea:
But here again the adversaries will cry out that there is no need of good works if they do not merit eternal life… Of course, it is necessary to do good works. We say that, eternal life has been promised to the justified. But those who walk according to the flesh retain neither faith nor righteousness. We are for this very end justified, that, being righteous, we may begin to do good works and to obey God’s Law.We are regenerated and receive the Holy Ghost for the very end that the new life may produce new works, new dispositions, the fear and love of God, hatred of concupiscence, etc. This faith of which we speak arises in repentance, and ought to be, established and grow in the midst of good works, temptations, and dangers, so that we may continually be the more firmly persuaded that God for Christ’s sake cares for us, forgives us, hears us. This is not learned without many and great struggles.
How often is conscience aroused, how often does it incite even to despair when it brings to view sins, either old or new, or the impurity of our nature! This handwriting is not blotted out without a great struggle, in which experience testifies what a difficult matter faith is. And while we are cheered in the midst of the terrors and receive consolation, other spiritual movements at the same time grow: the knowledge of God, fear of God, hope, love of God; and we are regenerated, as Paul says (Colossians 3:10 and 2 Corinthians 3:18), in the knowledge of God, and, beholding the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, i.e., we receive the true knowledge of God, so that we truly fear Him, truly trust that we are cared for, and that we are heard by Him.
This regeneration is, as it were, the beginning of eternal life, as Paul says, Romans 8:10: “If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” And 2 Corinthians 5:2-3: “We are clothed upon, if so be that, being clothed, we shall not be found naked.” From these statements the candid reader can judge that we certainly require good works, since we teach that this faith arises in repentance, and in repentance ought continually to increase; and in these matters we place Christian and spiritual perfection, if repentance and faith grow together in repentance. This can be better understood by the godly than those things which are taught by the adversaries concerning contemplation or perfection.
Just as, however, justification pertains to faith, so also life eternal pertains to faith. And Peter says, 1 Peter 1:9: “Receiving the end, or fruit, of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” For the adversaries confess that the justified are children of God and coheirs of Christ. Afterwards works, because on account of faith they please God, merit other bodily and spiritual rewards. For there will be distinctions in the glory of the saints. (Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article III: Of Love and the Fulfilling of the Law, 227-234)