We're going to learn a little Latin today. The phrase I want to consider is extra nos. It simply means "outside ourselves." Something that is extra nos comes not from inside of us but from outside of us. Lutherans understand salvation to be extra nos, from the outside. We cannot by our own efforts generate faith in God. We cannot by our own efforts please God or draw closer to Him. No, he must come to us. Salvation from sin and death comes from God via Jesus' death on the cross and glorious resurrection. Likewise, faith to believe those promises comes to us from God. Baptism is something God does to us. It is extra nos. The Lord's Supper comes to us from the altar prepared by God through the pastor speaking the promises of Jesus. It is extra nos. As Luther puts it in the Small Catechism, "I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in my Lord Jesus Christ or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel..." The Holy Spirit, God's Spirit, comes from outside of us to dwell in us. God repeatedly pours out His Holy Spirit upon us through His word and the Sacraments. All of these things come from outside of us.
This extra nos of the Gospel should be a great comfort to us as Christians. Why? Think about those times when you don't feel particularly good about yourself, about your sin, or maybe just about your circumstances in life. How often are we like the father of the demon possessed boy who cried out to Jesus, "I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). Such difficult times can cause us to become despondent, to doubt God's care for us, or to rattle our faith in Him. If during such times we look inside of ourselves we will likely be disappointed in what we see. But God's grace and goodness comes from outside, extra nos. God the Son shed His blood on the cross to die for our sins, and the Holy Spirit delivers that forgiveness to us in God's Word, in your baptism, and in the Lord's Supper. All of those things come from outside of you. Therefore, you don't need to doubt them, since they are not from you but from God. God's word is unchanging and reliable, unlike our own words or the words of other people. Thanks be to God that He saves us extra nos.
More from the internet on extra nos:
- "Top Five Latin Phrases Every Lutheran Should Know" https://www.whatdoesthismean.org/top-5--bob-hiller/top-five-latin-phrases-every-lutheran-should-know
- Another article "Extra Nos (Outside Ourselves)" https://www.1517.org/articles/extra-nos-outside-ourselves
- If you're into rap music :) , Lutheran artist Flame has an album out actually titled "Extra Nos". You can find it various places. The lyrics are available here: https://clearsightmusic.com/wp-content/uploads/Extra-Nos-Lyrics.pdf
Consider the question "What is a Lutheran?" Here are three wrong answers. Lutherans worship Martin Luther. (No, we worship the Triune God.) Lutherans follow and believe every word that Martin Luther ever said or wrote. (No, we believe certain writings are correct because they agree with the Bible.) Lutherans just didn't want to be Roman Catholics anymore. (No, the early Lutherans sought to reform teachings and practices in the Roman Catholic church which they believed to be in error based on the Bible.)
If those are wrong answers, what are some correct ones? Well simply, a Lutheran is a Christian. During the 1500s the Lutheran Reformers wanted the church to believe, teach, and confess what the Bible teaches, and what the apostles taught in the New Testament. Period. They wanted to bring the church back to Biblical teaching and practice from which it had drifted over the centuries. The Reformers had hoped that the pope and other church leaders would see the errors that had crept in to the church's teaching and practices. When they realized that wasn't going to happen, they went out on their own.
Martin Luther never wanted this breakaway group of Christians to be named after him. In fact, the term "Lutheran" was a derogatory term invented by the Roman Catholics! Nevertheless, the name stuck. Churches in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod subscribe to the writings in the Book of Concord from 1580, usually referred to as The Confessions. These writings include the Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds and writings of the Lutheran reformers like Luther, Phillip Melanchthon, and Martin Chemnitz. Subscribing to The Confessions means that we hold that the doctrine taught in these writings is in accord with and agrees with the Word of God as contained in the Old and New Testaments. Other conservative Lutheran groups are similar though they may not subscribe to all the documents in the Book of Concord.
For more info on what's in the Book of Concord or to read it, check out bookofconcord.org.