Martin Luther

I was reading my readings for HY2253 Christianity in World History and there were many interesting facts and quotes from Martin Luther which resonates with our church’s preaching on justification by faith and the gift of righteousness.

Excerpts from MacCulloch, Reformation, ch. 3 (“New Heaven, New Earth 1517-24”):

  • [Luther’s] realization centred predictably on seeing in a new light from Romans 1:17, which itself contains a quotation from the Hebrew Scripture Habbakuk 2:4: ‘the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith, as it is written “he who through faith is righteous shall live.” … In Luther’s understanding it rather meant the declaring of someone to be righteous: God ‘imputes’ the merits of the crucified and risen Christ through grace to a fallen human being, who remain without inherent merit and who, without this ‘imputation’, would remain unrighteous.
  • [Luther] had come to hate this God who had given laws in the Old Testament which could not be kept
  • It was entirely in the will of God to grant this gift – to declare someone to be righteous: that was divine grace. Luther made this delighted discovery himself, but he freely acknowledged that he also found it proclaimed in Augustine
  • “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent”, he meant that the whole life of believers should be one of penitence”. (contrast this to what we are taught)
  • [Luther] talked movingly about the suffering of God which showed divine love for fallen humanity…he called his convictions a theology of the Cross: a loving God becomes weak and foolish to save his people… In later years, he would more usually talk about gospel, which saves, against law, which condemns, but the paradox remained…For Luther, no eye was sound and no action was good. That was why God’s love was so astonishing.
  • Luther wanted to talk about grace, his opponents [in the Catholic church at that time] wanted to talk about [the Pope’s] authority.
  • (on the issue of whether laymen can be pastors, priests or bishops) Luther was emphasizing that even a bastard might represent God’s people: this was a deliberate injection of Christian freedom into the Church
  • The (Catholic) Mass could not be work…its performance could not be a sacrifice…A sacrifice is done by a priest, and so Christ had been the priest, sacrificing himself.
  • The Freedom of a Christian addressed the obvious question that has always perplexed those who take a grace-alone view of salvation: if human works or merits are worthless in the sight of God and have no influence on a destiny to heaven or hell, what is the point of being good – or perhaps,…what is the point of not being bad? …this was the problem of ‘antinomianism’…Luther, however, refused to see it as a problem…The freedom of a Christian consists in the knowledge that no commandments can be kept properly, but that God does not condemn us for that – indeed he has come to die in anguish to save our anguish…Good works come naturally to the saved Christian as an expression of love and gratitude for God’s saving and loving nature, as it is to be good and loving to the person whom we love passionately.
  • He did not say the last word on the Protestant problem of liberty versus licence, but he gave some profound answers for others to wrestle with…
  • “Here I stand; I can do no other”