Friday, March 02, 2012

Reformers Before the Reformers #2, The Marriage Analogy of Johann von Staupitz

Johann von Staupitz (1460-1524) was the vicar of the Augustinian order at the University of Wittenberg. He was the one to whom Luther confessed his sins, or as the Catholic Encyclopedia states, he "consoled the emaciated brother, who was torturing himself with his sinfulness, by speaking to him of the sin-remitting grace of God and man's redemption in the Blood of Christ."

Oberman's Forerunners of the Reformation includes a sermon from Staupitz. Oberman notes the similarities between it and Luther's sermon on The Two Kinds of Righteousness: "it is impossible to determine with certainty who is the teacher and who is the student. On internal evidence... we are convinced that a valid claim can be made that Staupitz's treatise reflects a theological position that shaped Luther's early thought and ultimately put him on the road to Reformation" (p. 140). While there are many similarities, here's one that jumped out to me.  Staupitz uses the analogy of marriage to describe a Christian's relationship with Christ:
Perhaps you would like me now to state briefly how the merits of Christ really become ours. As you know, between Christ and the Christian there is a true, nay the truest, marriage of which our earthly marriage is the sacrament, and but a shadow in comparison with the sacred marriage of Christ [with the Church]. Hence the uprightness of human marriage consists in conformity to the true marriage of Christ and the Church. For, as the Apostle said: "Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the Church."

In human marriage there are two in one flesh. In the marriage with Christ there are no longer two, but there is one flesh—Christ and the Christian are one flesh, one spirit. And just as Christ left his father and mother to join his spouse, the Christian, so the Christian leaves father and mother to join Christ.

For the following reason, however, the contract between Christ and the Christian differs greatly from that between man and wife. The contract between man and wife requires that each one gives himself to the other, so that the man belongs to the woman and the woman to the man by free consent, and man has power over the body of woman as woman has over the body of man. But they wield no power over each other's spirit, nor does the one have the other as a servant.Rather, they are partners and help each other in procreation. The marriage claim which the spouses have on each other is therefore limited and not all-embracing.

The contract between Christ and the Church is consummated thus: "I accept you as Mine, I accept you as My concern, I accept you into Myself." And conversely the Church, or the soul, says to Christ, "I accept You as mine, You are my concern, I accept You into myself." In other words Christ says, "The Christian is My possession, the Christian is My concern, the Christian is I"; so the spouse responds, "Christ is my possession, Christ is my concern, Christ is I." (pp. 186-187)
If you think that the mercy of the Lord has not been given its due by showing how He justifies us through His own righteousness and how He did not shun marriage with sinners, you must realize that He goes even further. He makes our sins His own. Just as the Christian is just through the righteousness of Christ, so Christ is unrighteous and sinful through the guilt of the Christian.

Whereas the Jew would say "blasphemy" and the Greek "madness the believer says, "You are right." The Jew is affronted, the Greek ridicules, the believer rejoices. Thus "we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power and wisdon God." For it pleased God to overcome strength by weakness, to subjugate wisdom by foolishness, to condemn righteousness by sin that no one might take pride in himself before God."

For the time being let us be silent about other issues and let us see whether He who is sinless by nature can be convicted as a sinner. He stands clearly convicted by his own confession: "God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from helping me who is involved in transgressions?"

How can these be Your words, dearest Jesus? I see the answer clearly: God has placed upon You the iniquity of all and You alone are the Lamb of God Who bears the sins of the world. You are like the two goats at one and the same time. In Your human nature you are sacrificed by lot to the Lord for sin; as immortal God You live in eternity and hence are like the goat that was sent out. They put on Your head all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their trespasses and sins. You were sent forth into a barren land where no one dwells except God.

You are that matchless Spouse that is my possession, that is my concern, that is I. Therefore, You are mine and everything You have is my own and I am Yours and whatever there is in me is Your own. And because we are one, things which are Yours become mine while yet remaining Yours, and, likewise, things which are mine become Yours while at the same time they remain mine.
Therefore I am righteous because of Your righteousness and a sinner because of my guilt." You are a sinner because of my guilt and righteous because of Your own righteousness. By the same token, I am strong through Your power but weakened by my own feebleness. You are weakened by my feebleness and strong in Your own power. I am wise in Your wisdom and foolish in my stupidity. You are wise in Your wisdom and foolish in my stupidity. (pp. 189-191)

Now, compare to Luther from his treatise, Two Kinds of Righteousness (LW 31):
We read in Rom. 6[:19] that this righteousness is set opposite our own actual sin: “For just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification.” Therefore through the first righteousness arises the voice of the bridegroom who says to the soul, “I am yours,” but through the second comes the voice of the bride who answers, “I am yours.” Then the marriage is consummated; it becomes strong and complete in accordance with the Song of Solomon [2:16]: “My beloved is mine and I am his.” Then the soul no longer seeks to be righteous in and for itself, but it has Christ as its righteousness and therefore seeks only the welfare of others. Therefore the Lord of the Synagogue threatens through the Prophet, “And I will make to cease from the cities of Judah and from the streets of Jerusalem the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride” [Jer. 7:34]. (LW 31:300)
And also Luther's The Freedom of the Christian 1520)
The third incomparable benefit of faith is that it unites the soul with Christ as a bride is united with her bridegroom. By this mystery, as the Apostle teaches, Christ and the soul become one flesh [Eph. 5:31–32]. And if they are one flesh and there is between them a true marriage—indeed the most perfect of all marriages, since human marriages are but poor examples of this one true marriage—it follows that everything they have they hold in common, the good as well as the evil. Accordingly the believing soul can boast of and glory in whatever Christ has as though it were its own, and whatever the soul has Christ claims as his own. Let us compare these and we shall see inestimable benefits. Christ is full of grace, life, and salvation. The soul is full of sins, death, and damnation. Now let faith come between them and sins, death, and damnation will be Christ’s, while grace, life, and salvation will be the soul’s; for if Christ is a bridegroom, he must take upon himself the things which are his bride’s and bestow upon her the things that are his. If he gives her his body and very self, how shall he not give her all that is his? And if he takes the body of the bride, how shall he not take all that is hers? (LW 31:351)

Who then can fully appreciate what this royal marriage means? Who can understand the riches of the glory of this grace? Here this rich and divine bridegroom Christ marries this poor, wicked harlot, redeems her from all her evil, and adorns her with all his goodness. Her sins cannot now destroy her, since they are laid upon Christ and swallowed up by him. And she has that righteousness in Christ, her husband, of which she may boast as of her own and which she can confidently display alongside her sins in the face of death and hell and say, “If I have sinned, yet my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned, and all his is mine and all mine is his,” as the bride in the Song of Solomon [2:16] says, “My beloved is mine and I am his.” This is what Paul means when he says in I Cor. 15[:57], “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ,” that is, the victory over sin and death, as he also says there, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law” [I Cor. 15:56]. (LW 31:352)


Martin Yee said...

Thanks! Again nothing new under the sun? This is the famous Sweet Exchange or Joyful Exchange that we Lutherans call it.

steelikat said...

I love this. I do need to get this book. Meanwhile, thank you for the excerpts.