Two Kinds of Righteousness

Written by, Martin Luther

righteousness

Brethren, “have this mind among yourselves, which you have in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of god, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped”
–Philippians 2:5-6

There are two kinds of Christian righteousness, just as man’s sin is of two kinds.

1   The first is alien righteousness, that is the righteousness of another, instilled from without.  This is the righteousness of Christ by which he justifies though faith, as it is written in I Corinthians 1:30:  “whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”  In John 11:25-26, Christ himself states:  “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me…..shall never die.”  Later he adds in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”  This righteousness, then, is given to men in baptism and whenever they are truly repentant.  Therefore a man can with confidence boast in Christ and say:  “Mine are Christ’s living, doing, and speaking, his suffering and dying, mine as much as if I had lived, done, spoken, suffered, and died as he did.”  Just as a bridegroom possesses all that is his bride’s and she all that is his—for the two have all things in common because they are one flesh –Genesis 2:24 —so Christ and the church are one spirit –Ephesians 5:29-32.  Thus the blessed God and Father of mercies has, according to Peter, granted to us very great and precious gifts in Christ –II Peter 1:4.  Paul writes in II Corinthians 1:3; “Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”

2   This inexpressible grace and blessing was long ago promised to Abraham in Genesis 12:3; “And in thy seed (that is in Christ) shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”  Isaiah 9:6 says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” “To us,” it says, because he is entirely ours with all his benefits if we believe in him, as we read in Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?”  Therefore everything which Christ has is ours, graciously bestowed on us unworthy men out of God’s sheer mercy, although we have rather deserved wrath and condemnation, and hell also.  Even Christ himself, therefore, who says he came to do the most sacred will of his Father –John 6:38, became obedient to him; and whatever he did, he did it for us and desired it to be ours, saying, “I am among you as one who serves” –Luke 22:27.  He also states, “This is my body, which is given for you” –Luke 22:19.  Isaiah 43:24 says, “You have burdened me with your sins, you have wearied me with your iniquities.”

3   Through faith in Christ, therefore, Christ’s righteousness becomes our righteousness and all that he has becomes ours; rather, he himself becomes ours.  Therefore the Apostle calls it “the righteousness of God” in Romans 1:17. For in the gospel “the righteousness of God is revealed…; as it is written, “The righteous shall live by his faith.” Finally, in the same epistle, chapter 3:28, such a faith is called “the righteousness of God”:  “We hold that a man is justified by faith.”  This is an infinite righteousness, and one that swallows up all sins in a moment, for it is impossible that sin should exist in Christ.  On the contrary, he who trusts in Christ exists in Christ; he is one with Christ, having the same righteousness as he.  It is therefore impossible that sin should remain in him.  This righteousness is primary; it is the basis, the cause, the source of all our own actual righteousness. For this is the righteousness given in place of the original righteousness lost in Adam.  It accomplishes the same as that original righteousness would have accomplished; rather, it accomplishes more.

4   It is in this sense that we are to understand the prayer in Psalm 30: “in thee, O Lord, do I seek refuge; let me never be put to shame; in thy righteousness deliver me!”  It does not say “in my” but “in thy righteousness,” that is, in the righteousness of Christ my God which becomes ours through faith and by the grace and mercy of god.  In many passages of the Psalter, faith is called “the work of the Lord,” “confession,” “power of God,” “mercy,” “truth,” “righteousness.”  All these are names for faith in Christ, rather, for the righteousness which is in Christ.  The Apostle therefore dares to say in Galatians 2:20, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”  He further states in Ephesians 3:14-17:  “I bow my knee before the Father . . . that . . . he may grant . . . that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”

5   Therefore this alien righteousness, instilled in us without our works by grace alone—while the Father, to be sure, inwardly draws us to Christ—is set opposite original sin, likewise alien, which we acquire without our works by birth alone.  Christ daily drives out the old Adam more and more in accordance with the extent to which faith and knowledge of Christ grow.  For alien righteousness is not instilled all at once, but it begins, makes progress, and is finally perfected at the end through death.

6   The second kind of righteousness is our proper righteousness, not because we alone work it, but because we work with that first and alien righteousness.  This is that manner of life spent profitably in good works, in the first place, in slaying the flesh and crucifying the desires with respect to the self, of which we read in Galatians 5:24, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”  In the second place, this righteousness consists in love to one’s neighbor, and in the third place, in meekness and fear towards God.  The Apostle is full of references to these, as is all the rest of Scripture.  He briefly summarizes everything, however, in Titus 2:12, “In this world let us live soberly (pertaining to crucifying one’s own flesh), justly (referring to one’s neighbor), and devoutly (relating to God).”

7   This righteousness is the product of the righteousness of the first type, actually its fruit and consequence, for we read in Galatians 5:22, “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”  For because the works mentioned are works of men, it is obvious that in this passage a spiritual man is called “spirit.”  In John 3:6 we read, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”  This righteousness goes on to complete the first for it ever strives to do away with the old Adam and to destroy the body of sin. Therefore it hates itself and loves its neighbor; it does not seek its own good, but that of another, and in this its whole way of living consists.  For in that it hates itself and does not seek its own, it crucifies the flesh.  Because it seeks the good of another, it works love.  Thus in each sphere it does God’s will living soberly with self, justly with neighbor, devoutly toward God.

8   This righteousness follows the example of Christ in this respect and is transformed into his likeness.  It is precisely this that Christ requires.  Just as he himself did all things for us, not seeking his own good but ours only—and in this he was most obedient to God the Father—so he desires that we also should set the same example for our neighbors.

9   We read in Romans 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” –Jeremiah 7:34.

10   This is what the text we are now considering says:  “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” –Philippians 2:5.  This means you should be as inclined and disposed toward one another as you see Christ was disposed toward you.  How?  Thus, surely, that “though he was in the form of God, –he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of servant” –Philippians 2:6-7.  The term “form of God” here does not mean the “essence of God” because Christ never emptied himself of this.  Neither can the phrase “form of a servant” be said to mean “human essence.”  But the “form of God” is wisdom, power, righteousness, goodness—and freedom too; for Christ was a free, powerful, wise man, subject to none of the vices or sins to which all other men are subject.  He was pre-eminent in such attributes as are particularly proper to the form of God.  Yet he was not haughty in that form; he did not please himself; nor did he disdain and despise those who were enslaved and subjected to various evils.

11   He was not like the Pharisee who said, “God, I thank thee that I am not like other men” –Luke 18:11, for that man was delighted that others were wretched; at any rate he was unwilling that they should be like him.  This is the type of robbery by which a man usurps things for himself—rather, he keeps what he has and does not clearly ascribe to God the things that are God’s, nor does he serve others with them that he may become like other men.  Men of this kind wish to be like god, sufficient in themselves, pleasing themselves, glorying in themselves, under obligation to no one, and so on.  Not thus, however, did Christ think; not of this stamp was his wisdom.  He relinquished that form to God the Father and emptied himself, unwilling to use his rank against us, unwilling to be different from us.  Moreover, for our sakes he became as one of us and took the form of a servant, that is, he subjected himself to all evils.  And although he was free, as the Apostle says of himself also, he made himself servant of all, living as if all the evils which were ours were actually his own.

12   Accordingly he took upon himself our sin and our punishment, and although it was for us that he was conquering those things, he acted as though he were conquering them for himself.  Although as far as his relationship to us was concerned, he had the power to be our God and Lord, yet he did not will it so, but rather desired to become our servant, as it is written in Romans 15:1-3, “We…ought…not to please ourselves…For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached thee fell on me.’”  The quotation from the Psalmist has the same meaning as the citation from Paul.

 . . . . The Apostle means that each individual Christian shall become the servant of another in accordance with the example of Christ.  If one has wisdom, righteousness, or power with which one can excel others and boast in the “form of God,” so to speak, one should not keep all this to himself, but surrender it to God and become altogether as if he did not possess it –II Corinthians 6:10, as one of those who lack it.

13   Paul’s meaning is that when each person has forgotten himself and emptied himself of God’s gifts, he should conduct himself as if his neighbor’s weakness, sin, and foolishness were his very own.  He should not boast or get puffed up.  Nor should he despise or triumph over his neighbor as if he were his god or equal to God.  Since God’s prerogatives ought to be left to God alone, it becomes robbery when a man in haughty foolhardiness ignores this fact.  It is in this way, then that one takes the form of a servant, and that command of the Apostle in Galatians 5:13 is fulfilled:  “Through love be servants of one another.”  Through the figure of the members of the body Paul teaches in Romans 12:4-5 and I Corinthians 12:12-27 how the strong, honorable, healthy members do not glory over those that are weak, less honorable, and sick as if they were their masters and gods; but on the contrary they serve them the more, forgetting their own honor, health, and power.  For thus no member of the body serves itself; nor does it seek its own welfare but that of the other.  And the weaker, the sicker, the less honorable a member is, the more the other members serve it “that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another,” to use Paul’s words –I Corinthians 12:25.  From this it is now evident how one must conduct himself with his neighbor in each situation.

14  . . . . Whenever we, on the ground of our righteousness, wisdom, or power, are haughty or angry with those who are unrighteous, foolish, or less powerful than we . . . —and this is the greatest perversion—righteousness works against righteousness, wisdom against wisdom, power against power.  For you are powerful, not that you may make the weak weaker by oppression, but that you may make them powerful by raising them up and defending them.  You are wise, not in order to laugh at the foolish and thereby make them more foolish, but that you may undertake to teach them as you yourself would wish to be taught.  You are righteous that you may vindicate and pardon the unrighteous, not that you may only condemn, disparage, judge, and punish.  For this is Christ’s example for us, as he says, “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17).  He further says in Luke 9:55-56, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of; for the Son of man came not to destroy men’s lives but to save them.”

15   But the carnal nature of man violently rebels, for it greatly delights in punishment, in boasting of its own righteousness, and in its neighbor’s shame and embarrassment at his unrighteousness.  Therefore it pleads its own case and it rejoices that this is better that its neighbor’s.  But it opposes the case of its neighbor and wants it to appear mean.  This perversity is wholly evil, contrary to love, which does not seek its own good, but that of another.  It ought to be distressed that the condition of its neighbor is not better than its own.  It ought to wish that its neighbor’s condition were better than its own, and if its neighbor’s condition is the better, it ought to rejoice no less than it rejoices when its own is the better.  “For this is the law and the prophets” –Matthew 7:12.

16   But you say, “Is it not permissible to chasten evil man?  Is it not proper to punish sin?  Who is not obliged to defend righteousness?  To do otherwise would give occasion for lawlessness.”  I answer:  A single solution to this problem cannot be given.  Therefore one must distinguish among men.  For men can be classified either as public or private individuals.  The things which have been said do not pertain at all to public individuals, that is to those who have been placed in a responsible office by God.  It is their necessary function to punish and judge evil men, to vindicate and defend the oppressed, because it is not they but God who does this.  They are his servants in this very matter, as the Apostle shows at some length in Romans 13:4, “He does not bear the sword in vain, etc.”  But this must be understood as pertaining to the cases of other men, not to one’s own.  For no man acts in God’s place for the sake of himself and his own things, but for the sake of others.  If, however, a public official has a case of his own, let him ask for someone other than himself to be God’s representative, for in that case he is not a judge, but one of the parties.  But on these matters let others speak at other times, for it is too broad a subject to cover now.

17   Private individuals with their own cases are of three kinds.  First, there are those who seek vengeance and judgment from the representatives of God, and of these there is now a very great number.  Paul tolerates such people, but he does not approve of them when he says in I Corinthians 6:12, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful.”  Rather he says in the same chapter, “To have lawsuits at all with one another is defeat for you.”  But yet to avoid a greater evil he tolerates this lesser one lest they should vindicate themselves and one should use force on the other, returning evil for evil, demanding their own advantages.  Nevertheless such will not enter the kingdom of heaven unless they have changed for the better by forsaking things that are merely lawful and pursuing those that are helpful.  For that passion for one’s own advantage must be destroyed.

18   In the second class are those who do not desire vengeance.  On the other hand, in accordance with the Gospel –Matthew 5:40, to those who would take their coats, they are prepared to give their cloaks as well, and they do not resist any evil.  These are sons of God, brothers of Christ, heirs of future blessings.  In Scripture therefore they are called “fatherless,” “widows,” “desolate”; because they do not avenge themselves, God wishes to be called their “Father” and “Judge” –Psalms 68:5.  Far from avenging themselves, if those in authority should wish to seek revenge in their behalf, they either do not desire it or seek it, or they only permit it.  Or, if they are among the most advanced, they forbid and prevent it, prepared rather to lose their other possessions also.

19   Suppose you say, “Such people are very rare, and who would be able to remain in this world were he to do this?”  I answer:  This is not a discovery of today, that few are saved and that the gate is narrow leads to life and those who find it are few –Matthew 7:14.  But if none were doing this, how would the Scripture stand which calls all the poor, the orphans, and the widows “the people of Christ?”  Therefore those in this second class grieve more over the sin of their offenders than over the loss or offense to themselves.  And they do this that they may recall those offenders from their sin rather than avenge the wrongs they themselves have suffered.  Therefore they put off the form of their own righteousness and put on the form of those others, praying for their persecutors, blessing those who curse, doing good to evil-doers, prepared to pay the penalty and make satisfaction for their very enemies that they may be saved –Matthew 5:44.  This is the gospel and the example of Christ –Luke 23:34.

20   In the third class are those who in persuasion are like the second type just mentioned, but are not like them in practice.  They are the ones who demand back their own property or seek punishment to be meted out, not because they seek their own advantage, but through the punishment and restoration of their own things they seek the betterment of the one who has stolen or offended.  They discern that the offender cannot be improved without punishment.  These are called “zealots” and the Scriptures praise them.  But no one ought to attempt this unless he is mature and highly experienced in the second class just mentioned, lest he mistake wrath for zeal and be convicted of doing from anger and impatience that which he believes he is doing from love of justice.  For anger is like zeal, and impatience is like love of justice so that they cannot be sufficiently distinguished except by the most spiritual.  Christ exhibited such zeal when he made a whip and cast out the sellers and buyers from the temple, as related in John 2:14-17.  Paul did likewise when he said, “Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness? –I Corinthians 4:21.         

FINIS

Luther’s faith in prayer

Quotation-Martin-Luther-faith-worry-god-Meetville-Quotes-198831

Just as a shoemaker makes a shoe, and a tailor a coat…

…the reformer once remarked, “so also ought the Christian to pray. The Christian’s trade is praying. And the prayer of the Church works great miracles. In our days it has raised from the dead three persons –viz., myself, having been frequently sick unto death; my wife Catherine, who likewise was dangerously ill; and Melanchthon, who was sick unto death at Weimar (1540). And though their rescue from sickness and other bodily dangers be but trifling miracles, nevertheless they must be exhibited for the sake of those whose faith is weak.’

When these words were spoken, a great drought was afflicting the country, and hence Luther lifted his eyes to heaven and prayed, ‘Lord God, Thou hast spoken through the mouth of Thy servant David, The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth. He will fulfil the desire of them that fear Him; He also will hear their cry and will save them. Why wilt Thou not give us rain now, for which so long we have cried and prayed? Well then, if no rain.

Thou art able to give us something better, “a peaceable and quiet life, peace and harmony. Now we have prayed so much, prayed so often, and our prayers not being granted, dear Father, the wicked will say, Christ, Thy beloved Son, hath told a falsehood, saying, Verily, verily, I say unto you, “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you.” Thus they will give both Thee and Thy Son the lie. I know that we sincerely cry to Thee, and with yearning. Why then dost Thou not hear us?’

This was in the year 1532, and in the course of that very night an abundant rain refreshed the face of nature.

Taken and adapted from, “Anecdotes of Luther and the Reformation”
Author Unknown

A Concise Statement Regarding the Relationship between the Law and the Gospel.

Taken from, Luther’s Table Talk
Written by Martin Luther
Edited for thought and sense

law_gospel

It is no small matter that we should rightly understand what the law is, what it serves, and what is its proper work and office.

We do not reject the law and the works thereof, but we confirm and erect the same, and do teach that we ought to do good works; and we also affirm that the law is very good and profitable, yet so far, that we give him his right, and suffer him to remain within his bounds, that is, by his own proper work and office; namely,

First, that thereby outward sins be withstood and hindered.

Secondly, that inward and spiritual sins may be discovered, confessed, and acknowledged.

Therefore the law is a light which lights everything, it opens and makes everything visible, –but not God’s grace and mercy, nor does it display unto us the imputed righteousness whereby we obtain everlasting life and salvation: oh, no! In no wise: but the law opens and displays unto us our sins, our weakness, death, God’s wrath and judgment.

But the light of the Gospel is far another manner of light; the same enlightens the affrighted, broken, sorrowful, and contrite hearts; it revives, comforts, and refreshes them. For it declares, that God is merciful to unworthy condemned sinners for the sake of Christ, and that a blessing thereby is presented unto them that believe; that is, grace, remission of sins, righteousness, and everlasting life. When seen in this way we distinguish the law and the Gospel, and then we attribute and give to each his right work and offices.

Therefore, I pray and truly admonish all the lovers of godliness and pure religion (especially those who in time are to be teachers of others), that with highest diligence they would learn this message, which I much fear, after our time, ‘will be darkened again, if not altogether extinguished.

We must also respond with the Ten Commandments in due time and place. The ungodly out of the Gospel do suck only carnal freedom, and become worse thereby; therefore not the Gospel, but the law belongs to them. Even as when my little son Hans offends, if then I should not whip him, but call him to the table, and give him sugar and plums; thereby indeed I should make him worse, yea, should quite spoil him.

The Gospel is like a fresh, mild, and cool air in the extreme heat of summer, that is, it is a solace. But we must also realize that as the heat proceeds from the rays of the sun, so likewise a terrified conscience must proceed from the preaching of the law, so that we may understand and know that we have offended against the laws of God.

And when our minds are refreshed again by the cool air of the Gospel, do not be idle, do not lie down and spiritually sleep; even though our consciences are settled in peace, and are quieted and comforted through God’s Spirit, no, this is the time that we must show and prove our faith by such good works as to that which God has commanded.

LUTHER, Personal Reflections on Shattered Dreams

Taken from, “The Great Renunciation”
Written by, W. H. T. Dau.

Also from, “initium negocii evangelici”
Written by Martin Luther.

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The place is Luther’s study at Wittenberg, and the time the summer of 1538…

Luther is writing the Preface to a collection of theses for theological debates on matters relating to the papacy which he had conducted at the University of Wittenberg, and which were published in the fall of that year.

Twenty-one years had passed since he had ventured into the arena of public debate as a timid searcher after light and truth. The questions which had agitated men’s minds at that time had meanwhile been brought to a decision. The Church which had been torn with the fiercest conflict in its history was settling, at least as far as the relation of the Evangelical party to Rome was concerned, into the condition of a permanent rupture. The decision had been reached; the schism had come, and Luther’s side had accepted it as a deplorable, yet unavoidable, solution of a baffling difficulty.

A small man looking backward over the illustrious path, that had been traversed during the last two decades might have been seized with the bragging spirit and given himself over to self-flattery. For the changes that had been wrought, not only in the external condition of the Church, but still-more in the inner life of its members, and in the social relations of mankind at large, were truly astonishing. A great blow had been struck in defense of the liberty wherewith Christ has made men free. The victor might have reclined on his laurels and condescended to receive the eulogies of his admirers.

In Luther’s instance the retrospect to which his mind was invited by the work before him in those dog-days of 1538 led to an introspection, and the somber reflections which crowding his thoughts were deposited into the Preface, in the form of the following confession:

“Dr. Martin Luther to the Pious Reader”

Greeting

I permit the publication of my Disputations, or Theses, which have been discussed since the beginning of my controversy with the papacy and the leading sophists of the time, chiefly to the end that I may not become lifted up with the magnitude of the affair and the success which God has bestowed on it. For in these Theses my disgrace is publicly exhibited, that is, my weakness and ignorance, which compelled me at the beginning to enter upon this business with the greatest trembling and misgiving.

I was drawn into this affair alone, and without having foreseen it. While I could not retrace my steps, I not only yielded to the Pope in many and important articles of faith, but also continued to worship him. For at that time, who was I? An altogether miserable, insignificant little monk, more like a corpse than a living human being. And I was to run counter to the majesty of the Pope, before whom not only the kings of the earth and the entire world, but also heaven and hell (the threefold mechanism of the universe, as it has been called) stood in awe, and on whose nod everything hung!

All that my heart suffered in that first year and the year after, and how great my humility, which was not feigned, and my near despair was, alas! how little of this is known to those who later began, in proudest fashion, to assail the wounded majesty of the Pope. Although, to use Virgil’s phrase –they did not compose these verses, but they carried away the laurels; which, however, I do not begrudge them.

But while those people were spectators and left me in the lurch alone, I was not so cheerful, confident, and certain; for many things that I know now I did not know at that time. Yea, what indulgences were I did not know at all, nor did the entire papacy know anything about it. They were held in reverence merely because of an established custom and from habit Accordingly, my disputation was not for the purpose of abolishing them, but because, knowing full well what they were not, I desired to know what they might be. And since the dead or dumb teachers, that is, the books of the theologians and jurists, did not satisfy me, I decided to call in the living for counsel, and to hear the Church of God itself, in order that, if perhaps there were remaining anywhere instruments of the Holy Spirit, they might take pity on me, and, while profiting all, might also render me certain regarding the indulgences.

Now, many good men extolled my Theses, but it was impossible for me to acknowledge them to be the Church and instruments of the Holy Ghost. I looked up to the Pope, the cardinals, the bishops, the theologians, the jurists, the monks, and expected the Spirit from them. For I had gorged and filled myself with their teaching to such an extent that I did not realize whether I was awake or sleeping. And after I had overcome all arguments with the Scriptures, I could in the end, even with the grace of Christ, scarcely get over this one point, except with the greatest difficulty and anguish, viz., that we must hear the Church. For the Church of the Pope I regarded (and that with all my heart!) as the true Church, with much greater stubbornness and reverence than these abominable parasites are doing who are nowadays glorifying the Church of the Pope to spite me. If I had despised the Pope as his eulogizers are now doing, I would have believed that the earth must swallow me up that very minute, as it did Korah and his followers.

But to return to my subject,while waiting for the verdict of the Church and of the Holy Spirit, I was forthwith ordered to keep silent, and my superiors appealed to the prevailing custom. Frightened by the authority of the name of the Church, I yielded and declared myself ready to Cardinal Cajetan at Augsburg to keep silent, begging him humbly to impose silence also on the clamorous opposition party. But he not only refused my request, but added that if I did not recant, he would condemn me and all my teachings, whatever they might be. But at that time I had already been teaching the Catechism with no little success, and I knew that the Catechism must not be condemned, and that I must not permit this to be done, lest I should deny Christ.

I did not, however, intend at this time to relate my history, but I confess my foolishness, ignorance, and weakness, lest any man –to follow the example of Paul, should think of me above that which he sees me to be, and in order that no one may entertain a doubt –if that should be possible –that in those great conflicts I was human, and am still human. At the same time I would by my example scare those foolishly brave, inexperienced (I had almost said conceited), miserable writers who have not learned to know the cross and Satan, and who think it nothing now to overcome the Pope, yea, the devil himself. They, consider it their duty to attack Luther, and when they have vanquished him, Satan is an object of ridicule to them.

There spoke a great heart. No note of triumph steals even faintly into this reverie, but only the awe of chastened sorrow is allowed to speak before the wreckage of one of earth’s greatest idols that surrounds the speaker.

Luther’s High Thoughts on Holy Scriptures

Taken and adapted from, “The Table Talk of Martin Luther.”
Written by Martin Luther.
Edited for thought and sense.

imagesThe Holy Scriptures surpass in efficaciousness all the arts and all the sciences of the philosophers and jurists…

…these, though good and necessary to life here below, are vain and of no effect as to what concerns the life eternal. The Bible should be regarded with wholly different eyes from those with which we view other productions. He who wholly renounces himself, and relies not on mere human reason, will make good progress in the Scriptures; but the world comprehends them not, from ignorance of that mortification which is the gift of God’s word.

Can he who understands not God’s word, understand God’s works? This is manifest in Adam: he called his first-born son, Cain –that is, possessor, house-lord; this son, Adam and Eve thought, would be the man of God, the blessed seed that would crush the serpent’s head. Afterwards, when Eve was with child again, they hoped to have a daughter, that their beloved son, Cain, might have a wife; but Eve bearing again a son, called him Abel –that is, vanity and nothingness; as much as to say, my hope is gone, and I am deceived. This was an image of the world and of God’s church, showing how things have ever gone.

The ungodly Cain was a great lord in the world, while Abel, that upright and pious man, was an outcast, subject and oppressed.

But before God, the case was quite contrary: Cain was rejected of God, Abel accepted and received as God’s beloved child. The like is daily seen here on earth, therefore let us not heed its doings. Ishmael’s was also a fair name “hearer of God” while Isaac’s was naught. Esau’s name means actor, the man that shall do the work –Jacob’s was naught. The name Absalom, signifies “father of peace.”

Such fair and glorious colours do the ungodly ever bear in this world, while in truth and deed they are condemners, scoffers, and rebels to the word of God. But by that word, we, God be praised, are able to discern and know all such; therefore let us hold the Bible in precious esteem, and diligently read it.

To world wisdom, there seems no lighter or a more easy art than divinity, and the understanding of God’s word, so that the children of the world will be reputed fully versed in the Scriptures and catechism, but they shoot far from the mark.

I would give all my fingers, save three to write with, could I find divinity so easy and light as they take it to be. The reason why men deem it so is, that they become soon wearied, and think they know enough of it. So we found it in the world, and so we must leave it

I have grounded my preaching upon the literal word; he that pleases may follow me; he that will not may stay. I call upon St. Peter, St. Paul, Moses, and all the Saints, to say whether they ever fundamentally comprehended one single word of God, without studying it over and over and over again.

The Psalm says: “His understanding is infinite.” The saints, indeed, know God’s word, and can discourse of it, but the practice is another matter; therein we shall ever remain scholars.

The school theologians have a fine similitude hereupon, that it is as with a sphere or globe, which, lying on a table, touches it only with one point, yet it is the whole table which supports the globe. Though I am an old doctor of divinity, -to this day I have not got beyond the children’s learning –the Ten Commandments, the Belief, and the Lord’s Prayer; and these I understand not so well as I should, though I study them daily, praying, with my son John and my daughter Magdalen. If I thoroughly appreciated these first words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father, which art in Heaven,” and really believed that God, who made heaven and earth, and all creatures, and has all things in his hand, was my Father, then should I certainly conclude with myself, that I also am a lord of heaven and earth, that Christ is my brother, Gabriel my servant, Raphael my coachman, and all the angels my attendants at need, given unto me by my heavenly Father, to keep me in the path, that unawares I knock not my foot against a stone.

But that our faith may be exercised and confirmed, our heavenly Father suffers us to be cast into dungeons, or plunged in water. So we may see how finely we understand these words, and how belief shakes, and how great our weakness is, so that we begin to think –Ah, who knows how far that is true which is set forth in the Scriptures?

What to take with you to Heaven!

download (1)On one occasion the Reformer, Martin Luther, paid a pastoral visit to a young scholar who was in his last illness, and one of the first inquiries made was…
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s010“What do you think you can take to God, In whose presence you are so shortly to appear?”

With striking confidence the youth at once replied, “Everything that is good, dear father, “everything that is good!”

“But how can you bring Him everything good, seeing that you are but a poor sinner?” anxiously asked the Doctor.

“Dear father,” at once added the young man, “I will take to my God in heaven a penitent, humble heart, sprinkled with the blood of Christ.”

“Truly that Is everything good,” answered Luther.”

Then good dear son; you will be a welcome guest to God.”

What a wise woman my wife was!

Katharina Von Bora Luther by Hollie DermerBe strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid or terrified because of them,
for the Lord your God goes with you;
he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

–Deuteronomy 31:6

At one time I was sorely vexed and tried by my own sinfulness, by the wickedness of the world, and by the dangers that beset the Church.

One morning I saw my wife dressed in mourning. Surprised, I asked her who had died. “Do you not know?” she replied; “God in heaven is dead.” “How can you talk such nonsense, Katie?” I said. “How can God die? Why, He is immortal, and will live through all eternity.” “Is that really true?” she asked. “Of course, I said, still not perceiving what she was aiming at; “how can you doubt it? As surely as there is a God in heaven, so sure is it that He can never die.” “And yet,” she said, “though you do not doubt that, yet you are so hopeless and discouraged.”

Then I observed what a wise woman my wife was, and mastered my sadness. —Martin Luther.