The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church (1887) [Selected Chapters]

[Articles in the Summed Up series are intended to be summaries of chapters of selected theological books. The author(s) will be quoted verbatim for the purposes of ensuring accurate representation]

A) About the author of the book:

“George H. Gerberding was born in Pittsburgh in 1847. He served as a missionary and pastor in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Fargo, North Dakota, and as president of the Lutheran Synod of the Northwest and of the Chicago Synod. He was a professor at the Chicago Lutheran Seminary and Northwestern Lutheran Seminary.” [1]

The following are his educational qualification: “Graduate Thiel College, Greenville, Pennsylvania, 1873. Bachelor of Arts, A.M., Muhlenberg College, Pennsylvania, 1873. Doctor of Divinity, Muhlenberg, 1894. Doctor of Laws, Lenoir College, 1915.” [2]



Chapter IV: Baptism, A Divinely Appointed Means of Grace


“Our Catechism here also teaches nothing but the pure truth of the Word, when it asserts that baptism “worketh forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and confers everlasting life and salvation on all who believe, as the Word and promise of God declare.” Our solid and impregnable Augsburg Confession, also, when in Article II. it confesses that the new birth by baptism and the Holy Spirit delivers from the power and penalty of original sin. Also in Article IX., “of baptism they teach that it is necessary to salvation, and that by baptism the Grace of God is offered, and that children are to be baptized, who by baptism being offered to God, are received into God’s favor.””[1]

“Is baptism so absolutely essential to salvation, that unbaptized children are lost? To this we would briefly reply, that the very men who drew up our Confessions deny emphatically that it is thus absolutely necessary. Luther, Melanchthon, Bugenhagen and others, repudiate the idea that an unbaptized infant is lost. No single acknowledged theologian of the Lutheran Church ever taught this repulsive doctrine.

Why then does our Confession say baptism is necessary to salvation? It is necessary in the same sense in which it is necessary to use all Christ’s ordinances. The necessity is ordinary, notabsolute. Ordinarily Christ bestows His Grace on the child through baptism, as the means or channel through which the Holy Spirit is conferred. But when, through no fault of its own, this is not applied, He can reach it in some other way.”[2]

Chapter V: The Baptismal Covenant can be kept unbroken—Aim and Responsibility of Parents


“Our Church does not teach with Rome that “sin (original) is destroyed in baptism, so that it no longer exists.” Hollazius says: “The guilt and dominion of sin is taken away by baptism, but not the root or tinder of sin.” Luther also writes that “Baptism takes away the guilt of sin, although the material, called concupiscence, remains.””[3]

Chapter XVIII: Conversion, It’s Nature and Necessity


“The original and simple meaning of the word convert is to turn—to turn about. This is also the meaning of the Latin word from which the English comes. The Greek word, which in the New Testament is translated “convert” or “conversion,” also refers to the act of turning.”[4]

“Applying this word now to a moral or religious use,it means a turning  from sin to righteousness, from Satan to God. The transgressor who had been walking in the way of disobedience and enmity against God, and towards eternal death, is turned about into the way of righteousness, towards eternal life. This is a change of direction, but it is also something more. It is a change of state—from a state of sin to a state of Grace. It is still more. It is a change of nature—from a sinner unto a saint. It is finally a change of relation—from an outcast and stranger unto a child and heir. Thus there is an outward and an inward turning, a complete change.”[5]

“If we now inquire more particularly into the nature, or process of this change which is called “conversion,” we find in it two constituent elements. The one is penitence or contrition, the other is faith. Taken together, they make up conversion. In passing, we may briefly notice that sometimes the Scriptures use the word “repentance” as embracing both penitence and faith, thus making it synonymous with conversion.

Penitence or contrition, as the first part of conversion, is sorrow for sin. It is a realizing sense of the nature and guilt of sin; of its heinousness and damnable character. True penitence is indeed a painful experience. A penitent heart is, therefore, called “a broken and a contrite heart.” It takes from the sinner his self-satisfaction and false peace. It makes him restless, dissatisfied and troubled. Instead of loving and delighting in sin, it makes him hate sin and turn from it with aversion. It brings the sinner low in the dust. He cries out, “I am vile;” “I loathe myself;” “God be merciful to me a sinner” …


But penitence must not stop with hating and bemoaning sin, and longing for deliverance. The penitent sinner must resolutely turn from sin towards Jesus Christ the Saviour. He must believe that he took upon Himself the punishment due to his sins, and by His death atoned for them; that he satisfied a violated law, and an offended Law-giver; that thus he has become his Substitute and Redeemer, and has taken away all his sins. This the penitent must believe. Thus must he cast himself upon Christ, and trust in Him with a childlike confidence, knowing that there is now, therefore, no condemnation. Having this faith, he is justified, and “being justified by faith, he has peace with God.””[6]

Chapter XIX: Conversion – Varied Phenomena or Experience


“We inquire now as to the agencies or means by which this change is brought about. For it is a change which man can certainly not effect by his own efforts. Of this change it can certainly be said that it is “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.” To have this change brought about in the heart, all need to pray in the words of the Psalmist, Ps. lxxxv. 4, “Turn us, O God of our salvation;” or as Ephraim in Jer. xxxi. 18, “Turn thou me and I shall be turned, for thou art the Lord my God;” or as Judah in Lamentations, v. 21, “Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned.”[7]

It is God the Holy Ghost who must work this change in the soul. This He does through His own life-giving Word. It is the office of that Word, as the organ of the Holy Spirit, to bring about a knowledge of sin, to awaken sorrow and contrition, and to make the sinner hate and turn from his sin. That same Word then directs the sinner to Him who came to save him from sin. It takes him to the cross, it enables him to believe that his sins were all atoned for there, and that, therefore, he is not condemned.”[8]

Chapter XXI: Justification


“Among all the doctrines of our holy Christian faith, the doctrine of Justification by Faith alone, stands most prominent. Luther calls it: “The doctrine of a standing or a falling church,” i.e., as a church holds fast and appropriates this doctrine she remains pure and firm, and as she departs from it, she becomes corrupt and falls. This doctrine was the turning point of the Reformation in the sixteenth century.”[9]

“Justification is an act of God, by which He accounts or adjudges a person righteous in His sight. It is not a change in the person’s nature, but it is a change in his standing in the sight of God. Before justification he stands in the sight of God, guilty and condemned. Through justification, he stands before God free from guilt and condemnation; he is acquitted, released, regarded and treated as if he had never been guilty or condemned.”[10]

“The original source, or moving cause of justification, is God’s love. Had God not “loved the world” there would have been no divine planning or counseling for man’s justification. Truly it required a divine mind to originate a scheme by which God “could be just and yet justify the ungodly.””[11]

“There was only one way. “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.” That Son, “the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of His person,” “in whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily,” came into our world. He came to take the sinner’s place—to be his substitute.

Though Lord and giver of the law, He put Himself under the law. He fulfilled it in every jot and tittle. He did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. Thus He worked out a complete and perfect righteousness. He did not need this righteousness for Himself, for He had a righteousness far above the righteousness of the law. He wrought it out not for Himself, but for man, that He might make it over and impute it to the transgressor. Thus then while man had no obedience of his own, he could have the obedience of another set down to his account, as though it were his own.

But this was not enough. Man had sinned and was still constantly sinning, his very nature being a sinful one. As already noted, the divine Word was pledged that there must be punishment for sin. The Son, who came to be a substitute, said: Put me in the sinner’s place; let me be the guilty one; let the blows fall upon me. And thus, He “who knew no sin was made sin (or a sin-offering) for us.” He “was made a curse,” “bore our sins” and “the iniquity of us all.” He, the God-man, was regarded as the guilty one, treated as the guilty one, suffered as the guilty one …

By His death or suffering obedience He wrought out a negative righteousness, the forgiveness of sins. By His life, or active obedience, He wrought out a positive righteousness. The former releases from punishment. The latter confers character, standing and honor in the kingdom of God.”[12]

“This justification has been purchased and paid for. But it is not yet applied. The sinner has not yet appropriated it and made it his own. How is this to be done? We answer: BY FAITH. Faith is the eye that looks to Christ. It sees His perfect atonement and His spotless righteousness. It is, at the same time, the hand that reaches out and lays hold of Christ, and clings to him as the only help and the only hope …

This faith justifies. Not because it is an act that merits or earns justification. No! In no sense. Christ has earned it. Faith only lays hold of and appropriates what is already purchased and paid for.”[13]

Chapter XXII: Sanctification


“In justification, God imputes or counts over to the sinner the righteousness of Christ. In sanctification, God imparts the righteousness of the new life. Justification is what God does for the believer; sanctification is what His Spirit does in him. Justification being purely an act of God, is instantaneous and complete; sanctification being a work in which man has a share, is progressive.

Justification takes away the guilt of sin; sanctification gradually takes away its power. Sanctification begins with justification. So soon as the sinner believes he is justified; but just so soon as he believes, he also has the beginnings of a new life.”[14]

“Let us understand clearly what we mean by sanctification. The English word comes from a Latin word that means sacred, consecrated, devoted to holy purposes. The Greek word translated sanctify in our English Bible also means to separate from common and set apart for holy purposes. The same word that is translated sanctify, is in many places translated consecrate, or make holy. The English word saint comes from the same Latin root, and is translated from the same Greek root, as sanctify. It means a sanctified one, or one who is being sanctified. Thus we find believers called saints, or sanctified ones.”[15]

“If then saints means sanctified ones, or holy persons, do not the Bible and the Apostles’ Creed demand perfect sinlessness? By no means. Christians are indeed to strive to constantly become more and more free from sin. They are “called to be saints,” are constantly being sanctified or made holy. But their sanctity or holiness is only relative …

The Bible does indeed  speak of those born of God sinning not, not committing sin, etc. But this can only mean that they do not wilfully sin. They do not intentionally live in habits of sin. Their sins are sins of weakness and not sins of malice. They repent of them, mourn over them, and strive against them. They constantly pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us.””[16]

“Sanctification is gradual and progressive. We have seen that Paul thus expressed himself. He was constantly “following after,” “reaching forth,” “pressing toward” the mark. He exhorts the Corinthians, 2 Cor. vii. 1, to be “perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord,” and again, 2 Cor. iii. 18, to be “changed into the same image from glory to glory.” He tells them in chapter iv. 16 that “the inward man is renewed day by day.” He exhorts the saints or believers, again and again, “to grow,” “to increase,” “to abound yet more and more.””[17]

“In the chapter on the Word of God as a means of Grace, we showed that the Holy Spirit sanctifies through the Word. In the chapters on baptism and the baptismal covenant, we showed how that holy sacrament is a means of Grace, whose efficacy is not confined to the time of its administration, but that it is intended to be a perennial fountain of Grace, from which we can drink and be refreshed while life lasts. In the chapters on the Lord’s Supper, we learned that it also was ordained and instituted to sustain and strengthen our spiritual life.”[18]


[1] p.49

[2] pp.49-50

[3] p.54

[4] p.152

[5] p.153

[6] pp.154-155

[7] p.158

[8] pp.158-159

[9] p.176

[10] p.177

[11] p.178

[12] pp.179-181

[13] p.183

[14] p.188

[15] p.189

[16] pp.190-192

[17] p.192

[18] p.194

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