Friday, September 30, 2011

Luther for Dummies

Originally posted on the aomin blog, 9/14/07

Whenever I go to the local bookstore, there seems to be a new volume in the "For Dummies" series. I have yet to see a "Luther For Dummies" volume, but there is The Complete Idiot's Guide To The Reformation and Protestantism. The question of good Luther books has been asked of me often, and it is not answered simply.There isn't one simple book like "Luther For Dummies" or "The Idiot's Guide To Martin Luther."

I consider myself a student of the Reformation rather than an expert. Recently, one of the guys from Triablogue asked me for my Luther recommendations, so in the spirit of friendly blog etiquette, and considering who was asking me, I figured I'd finally oblige the question. As a student, I can only point to those resources that have helped me (that is, until I get down to business and write my own book on Luther!).

Recently I was reading a book from 1959 that stated there were over 3000 biographies and studies on Luther. Now in 2007, I would probably be in error if I said the number is double. It is probably much more than that. I have lost count of how many Luther and Reformation books are in my own collection. I point this out because it is no easy task to navigate through the multitudes of books written on Luther. Why are there so many books on Luther? Besides the fact of his impact on church history and western civilization, Luther's actual written corpus is immense. It can sometimes seem as if everything he actually said was written down. This keeps biographers and theologians very busy.

With these considerations in mind, I'd like to offer my recommendations. Note, I have laymen in mind (If you're a scholar, you don't need my recommendations!). This is only a partial list, and a simple list. It is intended to give people a few reliable texts to begin learning about Luther and the Reformation.

Of course, the best thing to do is actually read Luther. This is much easier than it used to be. You can actually purchase Luther's Works on CD-ROM. The CD contains the 55-volume American edition. The price for the CD has been going down over the years as well. For those of you who want just a taste of Luther's writings, there is a good anthology edited by Timothy Lull, Martin Luther's Basic Theological Writings. Lull does an excellent job of collecting key texts, and presenting key snippets from Luther's Works. There is also an older anthology edited by John Dillenberger, Martin Luther: Selections From His Writings.

One of the most fascinating and helpful resources is What Luther Says by Ewald Plass. The book contains 1700 pages of quotes by Martin Luther arranged topically. This book is a masterful topical arrangement of Luther's opinion on a myriad of subjects: everything from practical matters to in-depth theological issues. There are 5,100 quotations on more than 200 subjects. A thorough index links to hundreds of other subjects. This book isn't cheap, but it is well worth it. Also this book makes a great gift for your pastor. There is a smaller volume similar in nature called A Compend Of Luther's Theology by Hugh Kerr. It is out-of-print, but easy to track down, and inexpensive.
Though these anthologies are great introductions, I always recommend people begin by reading some of Luther's Sermons. Recently, Baker books republished seven volumes of these entitled The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther. The set is inexpensive. I recommend this as a starting point because it gives one a feel for the pastoral heart and care of Luther. His sermons are much easier to read than his theological treatises, and will challenge and inspire you.

As to basic historical biographies of Luther, I recommend two books that compliment each other. The first is Roland Bainton's Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. The book is straightforward, and though criticized for being too lenient on Luther, it is a highly reliable historical work. The second is Heiko Oberman's Luther: Man Between God and the Devil. This biography is more daring. It presents more of a "Luther, warts and all". As with Bainton's book, the historical and biographical information is set forth accurately.

Here are some interesting historical treatments. Robert Kolb's Martin Luther as Prophet, Teacher, and Hero traces Luther's impact on Lutheranism, and explores the way Lutherans have understood who Luther was. Some early Lutherans went as far as calling him a Prophet. Martin- God's Court Jester by Eric Gritsch tackles some of the controversial subjects surrounding Luther, like the folly of using psycho-history to interpret Luther's life. Richard Stauffer has an interesting little book called Luther As Seen By Catholics, tracing the way Catholics have understood Luther for the past few hundred years. Similarly, if you can track it down, Luther Examined and Reexamined: A Review of Catholic Criticism and a Plea for Reevaluation by W.H.T. Dau gets into debunking the slanderous accusations Catholics have leveled against Luther.
But most people never move beyond the biographical with Luther. Luther was a theologian, and had distinctive theological paradigms. For the simplest overview of his theology, Steve Paulson has written Luther For Armchair Theologians, with the layman in mind. The book is by far the easiest text available on Luther's theology. For an advanced detailed treatment, The Theology of Martin Luther by Paul Althaus is, in my opinion, the definitive overview of Luther's theology. It is an in-depth analysis of Luther's thought, fully indexed, and documented with citations from primary sources. But the book that really takes Luther's theology and makes it practical is Gerhard O. Forde's, On Being A Theologian Of The Cross: Reflections On Luther's Heidelberg Disputation, 1518. This book endeared me to Luther, and really challenged the way I do "theology." Forde clearly puts forth what Luther meant by the theology of the cross. Out of all the books listed above, this would be my favorite, and the one I would promote as required reading.
Again, these are only a few texts I have found helpful. I should really do a follow-up entry on books you shouldn't read on Luther. I can mention one immediately: The Facts About Luther by Father Patrick O'Hare. This book is quite popular with Catholic laymen. It is poorly researched, and filled with distortion. I have spent a lot of time with this book, and can prove my case.

Addendum 09/30/11

Here's a few more.

For the most in-depth treatment of Luther, Martin Brecht's massive volumes are really the standard in terms of bibliography. They are now available for purchase by Google E-books for a meager price (here's an example).

For one of the best overviews I've ever come across on the different interpretations of Luther throughout history, Roman Catholic scholar John P. Dolan's History of the Reformation, A Conciliatory Assessment of Opposite Views (New York: Desclee Company, 1964) is extremely useful. Dolan is the author of the Luther entry in the New Catholic Encyclopedia, an entry far different than that in the old Catholic Encyclopedia.

If you've followed my blog entries, you've noticed how smitten I was by another Roman Catholic scholar's book: Franz Posset, The Real Luther. This was probably the most interesting Luther book I've read in years.

One my picks above, The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther, appears to have gotten a bit more expensive.

These are only a few books among many. Keep in mind as well, Concordia has been releasing one new volume of Luther's Works each year. They've put out two so far, both were volumes of sermons. Both books are well worth the investment. The newest volume should be out soon.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Two Great Needs

I confess I am dry and needy of grace and a deeper reality of the Lord in my life, and these 2 subjects I ran across today in looking at some good blogs:

Two great needs for Christians:
1. The Power of the Holy Spirit in our lives and ministry - Acts 1:6-8; Galatians 5:13-26; Ephesians 5:18; Acts 4:31. I don't know if Paul Washer used these passages in his sermon, but these are ones that hit me with conviction. Paul Washer exhorts us to cry out in fervent prayer and dependence on God and spend time with God in His word for His power to work in our lives and ministry. This is not something charismatic or goofy or emotional. Reformed folks - we believe this and need Him.

2. Realizing that when we cry out in prayer shaped by the Word, for this power and reality, the way God works it in us is usually by pain and trials. (hence the hymn below, "I asked the Lord", words by John Newton) (James 1:2-5; Romans 5:3-5; I Peter 1:6-7)

I had read this Hymn before by John Newton (author of Amazing Grace), I cannot remember where, but I saw it again at the Reformation 21 blog today.

I Asked The Lord

1. I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith and love and every grace
Might more of His salvation know
And seek more earnestly His face

2. Twas He who taught me thus to pray
And He I trust has answered prayer
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair

3. I hoped that in some favored hour
At once He'd answer my request
And by His love's constraining power
Subdue my sins and give me rest

4. Instead of this He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart
And let the angry powers of Hell
Assault my soul in every part

5. Yea more with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Cast out my feelings, laid me low

6. Lord why is this, I trembling cried
Wilt Thou pursue thy worm to death?
"Tis in this way" The Lord replied
"I answer prayer for grace and faith"

7. "These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free
And break thy schemes of earthly joy
That thou mayest seek thy all in me,
That thou mayest seek thy all in me."
©2004 double v music (ASCAP).
Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The song is found at Indelible Grace Music. words by John Newton, music by Laura Taylor

The Quotable Gerstner: Spoof-Texting

Here's one of my favorite quotes from John Gerstner's Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth (pp. 93-94):

I mention, finally, another of the Dispensationalists’ devices (though they have no monopoly) which I call “spoof-texting.” It is simply the cumulative effect of massive citation. The reader is so busy reading or listening to the volume of citations (each text carrying the solemn dignity of being the inerrant Word of God) that he has no time to ponder the meaning. He tends to assume they do teach what the dispensationalist says that they teach. John Nelson Darby himself may have been the pioneer: “I prefer quoting many passages than enlarging upon them.”

Bear has noticed this spoof-texting. Dispensationalists, he observes, are content to reiterate the catch-phrases which set forth their distinctive principles, supporting them by reference to Bible passages of which they do not stop to show the validity. They usually do not attempt in their books to follow out their principles to their logical conclusions, and one often wonders if many who call themselves “Dispensationalist” have ever actually faced the conclusion which must flow from the principles which they so confidently teach.

Sandeen, on the other hand, throws out the baby with the wash. He simply indicts dispensationalists for holding the classic orthodox view of inerrancy from which he himself has departed. Dispensationalism, he argues, has “a frozen biblical text in which every word was supported by the same weight of divine authority.” Luther, too, had an inerrant Bible, one word of which would “slay” the devil. We should praise the dispensationalists for their virtues and censure them only for their faults.

The vice of “spoof-texting” is not to be confused, as Sandeen and others do, with the virtue of proper proof-texting. Luther is right that one little word (rightly interpreted) will destroy the devil, but a hundred words used only for cumulative effect have no effect on any argument. At the same time, however, those who would interpret God’s Word have the duty to use it responsibly and not to trade casually on the authority of Scripture as a means of endowing dubious arguments with divine sanction.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Gerstner: Wrongly Dividing the word of Truth- Free pdf book

Someone, somewhere, signed me up to They've been sending me a bunch of e-mails for a while now. This e-mail finally caught my attention:

FREE eBook - Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth by John Gerstner

This was one of the first books I read as a Reformed person. While highly polemical, it was one of the first books that helped me sort out dispensationalism. What endeared me to this book was Dr. Gerstner's lengthy replies to a few dispensationalists at the end.

So, I followed the e-mail prompts, went through the registration process, and they did indeed send me a free pdf of the book.

Here's the link: FREE eBook – Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth: A Critique of Dispensationalism by John Gerstner

How Different Denominations See Each Other



Here's another mp3 lecture attempting to pull preterism apart.

Kim Riddlebarger: A Problem for Preterists

Kim's blog can be found here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Jonathan Edwards Had a Theology of Mary?

Here's an old paper of mine (2005) that was on Eric Svendsen's Ntrmin website (now defunct):

Jonathan Edwards Theology of Mary

If I recall, the paper was written for a class on Jonathan Edwards. In fact, I think the last time I read Edwards was in 2005.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Reminding Patrick Madrid of Rome's Blueprints

Originally posted on the aomin blog, 8/13/09

As far as I know, it was Patrick Madrid who popularized the description "blueprint for anarchy" in describing sola scriptura. Recently, Madrid posted Techno Apologetics: The "Sola Scriptura" Baptists-Can't-Dance Mix. He includes a mocking video against Dr. White. He also links to his oft-refuted article,The White Man's Burden. Yes, it's professional Catholic apologetics at its best, a dance mix video, and an article that was entirely dismantled by Dr. White.

In his recent blog article, Madrid states,
"By the way, the 'Sola Scriptura is a blueprint for anarchy!' line that Mr. White quotes contemptuously in this montage (actually, I think he may have quoted it contemptuously in our 1993 Sola Scriptura debate in Chula Vista, CA) is something I have been saying for years."
Contemptuously? The audio recording speaks for itself as to who responded and interacted politely, and who did not. It was actually Mr. Madrid in the 1993 sola scriptura debate who said in closing,

There is confusion reigning among Protestantism, all of them claiming to go by the Bible alone and none of them being able to meet entirely on what the Bible means. Now Jesus, pardon me, Paul said in I Corinthians 1:10, "I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought." Sola scriptura has been a blueprint for anarchy, folks. Just trace the historical record back to the time of the Reformation and look at all the competing sects that have arisen.
Remember, if the argument you're using works just as well against your own position, it's best not to use that argument. Over on my own blog, I have my own occasional feature called, Blueprint for Anarchy. What I've been doing is simply keeping track of all the times I come across Rome's zealous defenders disagreeing with each other, or pointing out the lack of clarity within Roman Catholicism as well as the confusion.

Robert Sungenis recently stated Rome's scholars are worse than Protestant liberals. Jimmy Akin recently chastised the interpretation of his priest saying, "This isn't exegetical rocket science." Steve Ray had some similar problems with a priest and concludes the church is "Always reforming, always in need of reform." Mark Shea accuses Robert Sungenis of lying. Sungenis says Scott Hahn misunderstands of the whole issue of justification. Over on the Catholic Answers forum, they recently had a heated discussion as to whether Scott Hahn teaches "prima scriptura." Tim Staples says he went to a mass in which the priest led the church in "the wave." Jimmy Akin says you can pray to whoever you want to, even if they aren't saints. Art Sippo says Mary should be Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of all Graces. Patrick Madrid disagreed with him. Karl Keating states, "Many Catholics are confused because some priests tell them contracepting is immoral, while others tell them the practice is morally neutral; some priests speak as though Mary had only one child, while others imply that she was the mother of the 'brethren of the Lord', some priests correctly explain the meaning of the Real Presence, while others refer to the Eucharist as only a symbol. Priests are authority figures, and lay people expect them to know and teach the faith accurately- not a safe assumption nowadays." Jim Burnham stated on Catholic Answers that Seventy percent of Roman Catholics do not understand the Eucharist.

I could go on and on. I didn't even mention any of my "We Have Apostolic Tradition"- The Unofficial Catholic Apologist Commentary " posts. In those posts, you can see that Catholic apologists disagree with each other when they interpret the Bible. Then there are the big issues, like evolution. If you want to see diversity of opinion, simply try and nail down a Catholic apologist or a Catholic theologian on it. You would think Catholic theologians could at least be unified on Luther and the Reformation. Some say Luther was sent by Satan, others think he wasn't such a bad guy.

Shall we conclude that an infallible interpreter + infallible tradition + infallible scripture = harmony? The facts speak for themselves. I've got to believe by this point that Mr. Madrid is aware that this is a false argument. The misuse of a sufficient source does not negate the clarity of that sufficient source. If he wants to argue differences among Protestants means anarchy, he should be willing to first clean up his own house before pointing any fingers, or posting dance mix videos.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Luther: Sleeping in the Snow?

Here's one that just happened to scroll by in the Prosapologian chat channel- someone mentioned that as a monk, Martin Luther slept out in the snow. Now for most people such a comment would simply pass by. But as I thought back through all the stuff I've read on Luther, I simply couldn't recall this fact.

Indeed, Luther did claim "I was a good monk, and I kept the rule of my order so strictly that I may say that if ever a monk got to heaven by his monkery it was I. All my brothers in the monastery who knew me will bear me out. If I had kept on any longer, I should have killed myself with vigils, prayers, reading, and other work." So I started digging around a bit, and while I couldn't find any actual helpful sources to document this fact, I found the following versions of this tale:


"As a young monk Luther was obsessed with atoning for his sins and went through vast lengths to punish himself. This ranged from extreme self denial and physical and mental tests to self flagellation. One such punishment consisted of lying in the snow, through the night at the height of winter until he would have to be carried back inside" [source] [source].

"These included fasting, manual labour and could include sleeping on hard benches, without any blankets on or in Luther's case sleeping or lying out in the snow" [source]

"Did you know...that as a young monk in Erfurt Luther was obsessed with atoning for his sins and went to ridiculous lengths to punish himself. This ranged from extreme self-denial and self- flagellation. One night, at the height of winter, he was found lying in the snow and had to be carried back inside the convent" [quote]

"In the monastery Luther was scrupulously obedient. He fasted. He prayed. He was diligent in his work. He sometimes slept in the snow without a blanket in order to mortify his flesh, so that he might be more pleasing to God" [source]

Now there may indeed be some sort of documentation for this tale, but in the 30 minutes or so I looked for it, I came up with nothing. If it does exist, my guess would be it's a Table talk statement. On the other hand, that some of the main biographies of Luther I checked don't mention it, this makes me just a bit suspicious that perhaps it's yet another Internet myth. That the story has multiple versions also is suspicious.

If anyone has any sort of documentation, please leave a comment.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Benedict XVI on Luther

I'm stealing this one from Cyberbrethren: The Pope’s Remarks at the Augustinian Cloister in Erfurt

September 23, 2011. ( Behind closed doors the pope met with representatives of Germany’s Evangelical Church. In a powerful speech the pope spoke about Martin Luther, who led the Protestant Reform. He encouraged the ecumenical dialogue to continue so both groups can strengthen their relationship even more.

Benedict XVI recalled the question once asked by Martin Luther, which gave rise to Lutheranism: “what is God’s position towards me, where do I stand before God.?” The pope went on to say, that this question is still relevant. It’s a question, he said, that each person should ask themselves.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I begin to speak, I would like first of all to thank you for this opportunity to come together with you. I am particularly grateful to Pastor Schneider for greeting me and welcoming me into your midst with his kind words. At the same time I want to express my thanks for the particularly gracious gesture that our meeting can be held in this historic location.

As the Bishop of Rome, it is deeply moving for me to be meeting representatives of Council of the Lutheran Church of Germany here in the ancient Augustinian convent in Erfurt. This is where Luther studied theology. This is where he was ordained a priest in 1507. Against his father’s wishes, he did not continue the study of Law, but instead he studied theology and set off on the path towards priesthood in the Order of Saint Augustine. On this path, he was not simply concerned with this or that. What constantly exercised him was the question of God, the deep passion and driving force of his whole life’s journey. “How do I receive the grace of God?”: this question struck him in the heart and lay at the foundation of all his theological searching and inner struggle. For him theology was no mere academic pursuit, but the struggle for oneself, which in turn was a struggle for and with God.

“How do I receive the grace of God?” The fact that this question was the driving force of his whole life never ceases to make an impression on me. For who is actually concerned about this today – even among Christians? What does the question of God mean in our lives? In our preaching? Most people today, even Christians, set out from the presupposition that God is not fundamentally interested in our sins and virtues. He knows that we are all mere flesh. Insofar as people today believe in an afterlife and a divine judgement at all, nearly everyone presumes for all practical purposes that God is bound to be magnanimous and that ultimately he mercifully overlooks our small failings. But are they really so small, our failings? Is not the world laid waste through the corruption of the great, but also of the small, who think only of their own advantage? Is it not laid waste through the power of drugs, which thrives on the one hand on greed and avarice, and on the other hand on the craving for pleasure of those who become addicted? Is the world not threatened by the growing readiness to use violence, frequently masking itself with claims to religious motivation? Could hunger and poverty so devastate parts of the world if love for God and godly love of neighbour – of his creatures, of men and women – were more alive in us? I could go on. No, evil is no small matter. Were we truly to place God at the centre of our lives, it could not be so powerful. The question: what is God’s position towards me, where do I stand before God? – this burning question of Martin Luther must once more, doubtless in a new form, become our question too. In my view, this is the first summons we should attend to in our encounter with Martin Luther.

Another important point: God, the one God, creator of heaven and earth, is no mere philosophical hypothesis regarding the origins of the universe. This God has a face, and he has spoken to us. He became one of us in the man Jesus Christ – who is both true God and true man. Luther’s thinking, his whole spirituality, was thoroughly Christocentric: “What promotes Christ’s cause” was for Luther the decisive hermeneutical criterion for the exegesis of sacred Scripture. This presupposes, however, that Christ is at the heart of our spirituality and that love for him, living in communion with him, is what guides our life.

Now perhaps you will say: all well and good, but what has this to do with our ecumenical situation? Could this just be an attempt to talk our way past the urgent problems that are still waiting for practical progress, for concrete results? I would respond by saying that the first and most important thing for ecumenism is that we keep in view just how much we have in common, not losing sight of it amid the pressure towards secularization – everything that makes us Christian in the first place and continues to be our gift and our task. It was the error of the Reformation period that for the most part we could only see what divided us and we failed to grasp existentially what we have in common in terms of the great deposit of sacred Scripture and the early Christian creeds. The great ecumenical step forward of recent decades is that we have become aware of all this common ground and that we acknowledge it as we pray and sing together, as we make our joint commitment to the Christian ethos in our dealings with the world, as we bear common witness to the God of Jesus Christ in this world as our undying foundation.

The risk of losing this, sadly, is not unreal. I would like to make two points here. The geography of Christianity has changed dramatically in recent times, and is in the process of changing further. Faced with a new form of Christianity, which is spreading with overpowering missionary dynamism, sometimes in frightening ways, the mainstream Christian denominations often seem at a loss. This is a form of Christianity with little institutional depth, little rationality and even less dogmatic content, and with little stability. This worldwide phenomenon poses a question to us all: what is this new form of Christianity saying to us, for better and for worse? In any event, it raises afresh the question about what has enduring validity and what can or must be changed – the question of our fundamental faith choice.

The second challenge to worldwide Christianity of which I wish to speak is more profound and in our country more controversial: the secularized context of the world in which we Christians today have to live and bear witness to our faith. God is increasingly being driven out of our society, and the history of revelation that Scripture recounts to us seems locked into an ever more remote past. Are we to yield to the pressure of secularization, and become modern by watering down the faith? Naturally faith today has to be thought out afresh, and above all lived afresh, so that it is suited to the present day. Yet it is not by watering the faith down, but by living it today in its fullness that we achieve this. This is a key ecumenical task. Moreover, we should help one another to develop a deeper and more lively faith. It is not strategy that saves us and saves Christianity, but faith – thought out and lived afresh; through such faith, Christ enters this world of ours, and with him, the living God. As the martyrs of the Nazi era brought us together and prompted the first great ecumenical opening, so today, faith that is lived from deep within amid a secularized world is the most powerful ecumenical force that brings us together, guiding us towards unity in the one Lord.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Calvin and Penance

Here's a quote which is supposed to be an example of a way in which Calvin and Romanism are in some sort of harmony:

"I will speak briefly of the rite of the early Church, ... By the order observed in public repentance, those who had performed the satisfactions imposed upon them were reconciled by the formal laying on of hands. This was the symbol of absolution by which the sinner himself regained his confidence of pardon before God, ... I consider that ancient observance ... to have been holy and salutary to the Church, and I could wish it restored in the present day." ("Institutes," IV, 19:14)

The quote in this exact form has since disappeared from the Facebook page I first saw it on a few weeks ago (or I simply can't find it). Other versions of the quote are floating around as well that are slightly longer, but don't add anything more to the point being made.

If all that's being asserted is that both Rome's teaching and Calvin both admit that the early church practiced public repentance, then indeed Calvin and Romanism are both in harmony on the facts of history. Then again, any historical source that mentions this tidbit could be said to be in harmony with Romanism.  On the other hand, if a Romanist were arguing that Calvin was some way in harmony with Rome's sacrament of penance or that Calvin's view of penance was somewhat like Rome's sacrament of penance, then that would simply be an error.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Rome teaches the following about penance (in part):

1446 Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification. The Fathers of the Church present this sacrament as "the second plank [of salvation] after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace."

1447 Over the centuries the concrete form in which the Church has exercised this power received from the Lord has varied considerably. During the first centuries the reconciliation of Christians who had committed particularly grave sins after their Baptism (for example, idolatry, murder, or adultery) was tied to a very rigorous discipline, according to which penitents had to do public penance for their sins, often for years, before receiving reconciliation. To this "order of penitents" (which concerned only certain grave sins), one was only rarely admitted and in certain regions only once in a lifetime. During the seventh century Irish missionaries, inspired by the Eastern monastic tradition, took to continental Europe the "private" practice of penance, which does not require public and prolonged completion of penitential works before reconciliation with the Church. From that time on, the sacrament has been performed in secret between penitent and priest. This new practice envisioned the possibility of repetition and so opened the way to a regular frequenting of this sacrament. It allowed the forgiveness of grave sins and venial sins to be integrated into one sacramental celebration. In its main lines this is the form of penance that the Church has practiced down to our day.

1448 Beneath the changes in discipline and celebration that this sacrament has undergone over the centuries, the same fundamental structure is to be discerned. It comprises two equally essential elements: on the one hand, the acts of the man who undergoes conversion through the action of the Holy Spirit: namely, contrition, confession, and satisfaction; on the other, God's action through the intervention of the Church. The Church, who through the bishop and his priests forgives sins in the name of Jesus Christ and determines the manner of satisfaction, also prays for the sinner and does penance with him. Thus the sinner is healed and re-established in ecclesial communion. 

Calvin argues in IV, 19:3 that the notion of seven sacraments was unknown in the early church.  He then goes on to argue that penance doesn't qualify as a sacrament (IV, 19:14-17).  In 19:14, Calvin notes the papists falsely use the history of the ancient church as the origin of the sacrament of penance: "I shall first say something briefly of the rite of the ancient church, which they have wrongly used as a pretext to establish their fiction." Ford Lewis Battles outlines Calvin's four points here:

1) originally after public confession and satisfaction for sin, the penitent was reconciled by a solemn laying on of hands
(2) to avoid excessive leniency, the responsibility came to be laid upon the bishops, although usually in concert with the other clergy
(3) after the rite of reconciliation the person was restored to communion
(4) later this practice deteriorated and the rite also came to be used for private absolutions as well

Source: Ford Lewis Battles, Analysis of the Institutes of the Christian Religion of John Calvin (Phillipsburg: P and R Publishing, 2001), p. 405

Calvin then gives the following opinion:

I judge the ancient observance, which Cyprian mentions, to have been holy and wholesome for the church; and I would like to see it restored today. This more recent practice, although I dare not disallow it or speak too sharply against it, I nevertheless deem less necessary. However it may be, we still see that the laying on of hands in penance is a ceremony ordained by men, not by God, one that ought to be classed among things indifferent and outward exercises — things that are indeed not to be despised, but that ought to occupy a lower place than those commended to us by the Lord’s word.

Calvin then goes on to argue that penance isn't a sacrament (IV, 19:15). If there's any similarity between Calvin and Romanism here, it isn't at all related to penance being a sacrament. True, Calvin here states he would be in favor of the ancient observance of public penance. To my knowledge though, Romanism isn't interested in reviving the practice in the form Calvin outlines. As to the "more recent practice" of penance, Calvin deems it "less necessary." Of that practice he states "the matter deteriorated to the point that, apart from public penance, they also used this rite in private absolutions. Hence arose that distinction in Gratian between public and private reconciliation." For Calvin, the recent practice was a deterioration. This would hardly be similar to what Rome believes about the positive development of doctrine.

In the Romanist version above of IV, 19:14, the selective citation appears to place an emphasis on "the formal laying on of hands" as "the symbol of absolution by which the sinner himself regained his confidence of pardon before God." The Romanist selective citation process chooses this as that which Calvin wishes restored. Is this the way in which Calvin and Romanism are similar? Note what Calvin says of the formal laying on of hands:
  "...the laying on of hands in penance is a ceremony ordained by men, not by God, one that ought to be classed among things indifferent and outward exercises — things that are indeed not to be despised, but that ought to occupy a lower place than those commended to us by the Lord’s word."

As I read Calvin here, he doesn't appear to think the laying on of hands is crucial to the practice of public penance, even if it were restored. He classifies it as "things indifferent and outward exercises." As I've searched around a bit, I couldn't find anything in current Romanism that typically says a penitent has to have hands laid on him. Perhaps then Calvin and Romanism share some similarities here as neither appears to think the laying on of hands in public penance is essential.

One other point of difference as well: According to this section from the Institutes, Calvin understood that "symbol of absolution" to be just that, a symbol. Calvin says:
The ancients observed this order in public repentance, that those who had discharged the satisfactions enjoined upon them were reconciled by the solemn laying on of hands. That was a sign of absolution by which the sinner himself was raised up before God with assurance of pardon, and the church admonished to expunge the memory of his offense and receive him kindly into favor. Cyprian very often calls this “giving peace.”(IV, 19:14).
Calvin also mentions that it wasn't simply the bishop who did this: "Cyprian, in another passage, shows that not only the bishop laid on hands but the entire clergy as well." As I understand Calvin,  he denies the Bishop is forgiving the sin, only Christ can do that. A clergyman only proclaims the forgivness of sins. Calvin says, 

To impart to us this benefit, the keys of the church have been given. When Christ gave the command to the apostles and conferred upon them the power to forgive sins [Matthew 16:19; 18:18; John 20:23], he did not so much desire that the apostles absolve from sins those who might be converted from ungodliness to the faith of Christ, as that they should perpetually discharge this office among believers. Paul teaches this when he writes that the mission of reconciliation has been entrusted to the ministers of the church and that by it they are repeatedly to exhort the people to be reconciled to God in Christ’s name [2 Corinthians 5:18,20]. Therefore, in the communion of saints, our sins are continually forgiven us by the ministry of the church itself when the presbyters or bishops to whom this office has been committed strengthen godly consciences by the gospel promises in the hope of pardon and forgiveness. This they do both publicly and privately as need requires. For very many,on account of their weakness, need personal consolation. And Paul mentions that not only in public preaching, but from house to house as well, he has attested his faith in Christ, and has individually admonished each man concerning the doctrine of salvation [Acts 20:20-21]. (IV, 1:22)

Contrast this with the Catholic Catechism:

1444 In imparting to his apostles his own power to forgive sins the Lord also gives them the authority to reconcile sinners with the Church. This ecclesial dimension of their task is expressed most notably in Christ's solemn words to Simon Peter: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." "The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of the apostles united to its head."
I've gone through this little exercise of compare / contrast not in any effort to prove the dishonesty of the quote being put forth on Facebook. Rather, I think the quote as selectively cited shows how a particular worldview, in this case, a Romanist worldview, sees what it wants to. It begins by presupposing the truth of Roman Catholicism, and then applies that template to Calvin. Calvin's words are put forth in some sort of ecumenical attempt to demonstrate Calvin's agreement with a distinctive of Roman Catholicism.  When one reads Calvin in context though, his entire presentation at this point is to distinguish the Christian faith from Romanism.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Systematic Theology and Catholic Converts

Originally posted on the aomin blog, 9/16/07

I've been reading Van Til's An Introduction To Systematic Theology. Van Til notes systematic theology seeks to offer an ordered presentation of what the Bible teaches about God. He says "the study of systematic theology will help men to preach theologically. It will help to make men proclaim the whole counsel of God. Many ministers never touch the greater part of the wealth of the revelation of God to man contained in Scripture. But systematics helps ministers to preach the whole counsel of God, and thus to make God central in their work."

Here was the point that I found most interesting:

"It is but natural to expect that, if the church is strong because its ministry understands and preaches the whole counsel of God, then the church will be able to protect itself best against false teaching of every sort. Non-indoctrinated Christians will easily fall prey to the peddlers of Russellism, spiritualism and all of the other fifty-seven varieties of heresies with which our country abounds. One-text Christians simply have no weapons of defense against these people. They may be able to quote many Scripture texts which speak, for instance, of eternal punishment, but the Russellite will be able to quote texts which, by the sound of them and taken individually, seem to teach annihilation. The net result is, at best, a loss of spiritual power because of loss of conviction. Many times, such one-text Christians themselves fall prey to the seducers voice."
Of course, I had the converts to Roman Catholicism in mind, rather than Russellites. I wonder how many of these Catholic converts actually attended churches that proclaimed the whole council of God? A question I would ask is how many Catholic converts previously went to churches with strong systematic confessions of faith, like the Westminster Confession, and how often were they taught the confession, like in a Sunday School class, and how well did their minister cover all the doctrines in the confession of faith? I would expect some rather weak answers.

Van Til states, "We have already indicated that the best apologetic defense will invariably be made by him who knows the system of truth of Scripture best." I would modify this a bit and make it a negative: "the best converts to false gospels will invariably be made by those who know the system of the truth of Scripture least."

Addendum 9/20/11
I don't recall writing the above post, but I still find it to be true for a number of garden variety converts.  There have been times I've dealt with people who are quite biblically knowledgeable, yet a serious heresy is being entertained. As I've considered what would lead these people to embrace such deviant theological positions, Van Til's words certainly ring true: there was a lack of a strong systematic theology.

There will of course be those that were previously catechized (or even had theological training) who convert to this or that. In fact, now we have the CTC blog which props up people from my own tradition that have made their way across the Tiber. CTC appears to be primarily picking people that were more than simply pew sitters in Reformed churches. As I've read through (or listened to) Roman Catholic conversion stories though, more often than not, one can usually sense a lack of systematic theology.

Monday, September 19, 2011


About ten years ago I did a study on preterism. I read a number of preterist books, mainly by Gary DeMar and Ken Gentry. I was never fully convinced of the preterist interpretation, although I grant some of their points are intriguing. 

While going through a box of old cassettes, I came across a brief review of preterism by Lee Irons that was part of the materials I used for the study. Back then, it was near impossible to find reviews of preterism. I re-listened to the recording, and I thought that others might find his review interesting. Lee gave me permission to post the recording:

A Review of Preterism by Lee Irons

Saturday, September 17, 2011

"Luther maintained a third use of the law, even if he did not always use that specific phrase"

A new book from Concordia is addressing the issue on Luther and the third use of the law: Friends of the Law: Luther’s Use of the Law for the Christian Life. The ironic thing is most of the folks I've come across saying Luther didn't believe or teach a third use of the law were... Lutherans!

Some years back I went through this topic: Did Luther say, “Be a sinner and sin boldly”? A Look at Justification By Faith Alone and Good Works in Luther’s Theology. In the last section, I provided an extensive list of quotes from Luther, many indeed which verify the conclusion of this new book:

a. Living Faith, Dead Faith, Works, and the Law

“I have often said that there are two kinds of faith. First, a faith in which you indeed believe that Christ is such a man as he is described and proclaimed here and in all the Gospels, but do not believe that he is such a man for you, and are in doubt whether you have any part in him and think: Yes, he is such a man to others, to Peter, Paul, and the blessed saints; but who knows that he is such to me and that I may expect the same from him and may confide in it, as these saints did? Behold, this faith is nothing, it does not receive Christ nor enjoy him, neither can it feel any love and affection for him or from him. It is a faith about Christ and not in or of Christ, a faith which the devils also have as well as evil men…That alone can be called Christian faith, which believes without wavering that Christ is the Saviour not only to Peter and to the saints but also to you. Your salvation does not depend on the fact that you believe Christ to be the Saviour of the godly, but that he is a Saviour to you and has become your own. Such a faith will work in you love for Christ and joy in him, and good works will naturally follow. If they do not, faith is surely not present: for where faith is, there the Holy Ghost is and must work love and good works.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 1:21-22]

“For it is impossible for him who believes in Christ, as a just Savior, not to love and to do good. If, however, he does not do good nor love, it is sure that faith is not present. Therefore man knows by the fruits what kind of a tree it is, and it is proved by love and deed whether Christ is in him and he believes in Christ. As St. Peter says in 2 Pet. 1, 10: "Wherefore, brethren, give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never stumble," that is, if you bravely practice good works you will be sure and cannot doubt that God has called and chosen you.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 1:40]

“But here we must take to heart the good example of Christ in that he appeals to his works, even as the tree is known by its fruits, thus rebuking all false teachers, the pope, bishops, priests and monks to appear in the future and shield themselves by his name, saying, "We are Christians;" just as the pope is boasting that he is the vicar of Christ. Here we have it stated that where the works are absent, there is also no Christ. Christ is a living, active and fruit- bearing character who does not rest, but works unceasingly wherever he is. Therefore, those bishops and teachers that are not doing the works of Christ, we should avoid and consider as wolves.”[Sermons of Martin Luther 1:93]

“But you say I would indeed await [Christ’s] coming with joy, if I were holy and without sin. I should answer, what relief do you find in fear and flight? It would not redeem you from sin if you were to be filled with terror for a thousand years. The damned are eternally filled with fear of that day, but this does not take away their sin; yea, this fear rather increases sin and renders man unfit to appear without sin on that day when it comes. Fear must pass out of the soul and there must enter in a desire for righteousness and for that day. But if you really desire to be free from sin and to be holy, then give thanks to God and continue to desire to be more free from sin. Would to God that such desire were so sincere and powerful in you as to bring you to your death.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 1:76-77]

“What Augustine says is indeed true: He who has created you without yourself will not save you without yourself. Works are necessary for salvation, but they do not cause salvation; for faith alone gives life. For the sake of hypocrites it should be said that good works are necessary for salvation. Works must be done, but it does not follow from this that works save… Works save externally, that is, they testify that we are just and that in a man there is that faith which saves him internally, as Paul says: ‘With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation’.” [What Luther Says 3: 1509]

“Though we see, hear, understand and must confess that Christian life is faith in God and love to our needy neighbor, yet there is no progress. This one clings to his religious ceremonies and his own works, that one is scraping all to himself and helps no one. Even those who gladly hear and understand the doctrine of pure faith do not proceed to serve their neighbor, as though they expected to be saved by faith without works: they see not that their faith is not faith, but a shadow of faith, just as the picture in the mirror is not the face itself, but only a reflection of the same, as St. James so beautifully writes, saying, "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deluding your own selves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a mirror: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth away, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was," James 1, 22-25. So also there within themselves many behold a reflection of true faith when they hear and speak of the Word, but as soon as the hearing and speaking are done, they are concerned about other affairs and are not doing according to it, and thus they always forget about the fruit of faith, namely, Christian love, of which Paul also says, "For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power," I Cor. 4, 20.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 1:112-113]

“But, as has often been said, faith changes the person and makes out of an enemy a child, so mysteriously that the external works, walk and conversation remain the same as before, when they are not by nature wicked deeds. Therefore faith brings with it the entire inheritance and highest good of righteousness and salvation, so that these need not be sought in works, as the false teachers of good works would have us believe. For he who is a child of God has already God's inheritance through his sonship. If then faith gives this sonship, it is manifest that good works should be done freely, to the honour of God, since they already possess salvation and the inheritance from God through faith.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 1:210]

“But this birth properly shows its power in times of temptation and death. There it becomes evident who is born again, and who is not. Then the old light, reason, struggles and wrestles and is loath to leave its fancies and desires, is unwilling to consider and resort to the Gospel, and let go its own light. But those who are born again, or are then being born again, spend their lives in peace and obedience to the Gospel, confide in and cling to the witness of John, and let go, their light, life, property, honour, and all they have. Therefore they come to the eternal inheritance, as real children.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 1:213]

“We must therefore most certainly maintain that where there is no faith there also can be no good works; and conversely, that there is no faith where there are no good works. Therefore faith and good works should be so closely joined together that the essence of the entire Christian life consists in both.” [Martin Luther, as cited by Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963], 246, footnote 99]

“Works are a certain sign, like a seal on a letter, which make me certain that my faith is genuine. As a result if I examine my heart and find that my works are done in love, then I am certain that my faith is genuine. If I forgive, then my forgiving makes me certain that my faith is genuine and assures me and demonstrates my faith to me.” [Martin Luther, as cited by Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963], 247, footnote 106]

“Works assure us and bear witness before men and the brethren and even before our own selves that we truly believe and that we are sons of God in hope and heirs of eternal life.” [Martin Luther, as cited by Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963], 247, footnote 106]

“Love is evidence of faith and gives us firm and certain confidence in the mercy of God; thus we are commanded to make our calling certain by good works (II Peter 1:10). When works follow it becomes apparent that we have faith…” [Martin Luther, as cited by Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963], 247, footnote 106

“True faith is not idle. We can, therefore, ascertain and recognize those who have true faith from the effect or from what follows.” [LW 34:183

“See, as now no one is without some commission and calling, so no one is without some kind of work, if he desires to do what is right. Every one therefore is to take heed to continue in his calling, look to himself, faithfully do what is commanded him, and serve God and keep his commandments; then he will have so much to do that all time will be too short, all places too cramped, all resources of help too weak.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 1: 243]

“Therefore we must close our eyes, not look at our works, whether they be great, small, honorable, comtemptible, spiritual, temporal or what kind of an appearance and name they may have upon earth; but look to the command and to the obedience in the works. Do they govern you, then the work also is truly right and precious, and completely godly, although it springs forth as insignificant as a straw. However, if obedience and God’s commandments do not dominate you, then the work is not right, but damnable, surely the devil’s own doings, although it were even so great a work as to raise the dead. For it is decreed that God’s eyes look not to the works, but to the obedience in the works. Therefore it is his will, that we look to his command and our calling, of which St. Paul says in Corinthians 7:17: “As God hath called each, so let him walk.” And St. Peter says, Ye are to be as faithful, good shepherds or administrators of the manifold grace of God; so that each one may serve the other, and be helpful to him by means of what he has received, 1 Peter 4:10. See, here Peter says the grace and gifts of God are not one but manifold, and each is to tend to his own, develop the same and through them be of service to others.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 1:244]

“Now let us turn to the second part, the outer man. Here we shall answer all those who, offended by the word “faith” and by all that has been said, now ask, “If faith does all things and is alone sufficient unto righteousness, why then are good works commanded? We will take our ease and do no works and be content with faith.” I answer: not so, you wicked men, not so.” [LW 31:357]

“Although, as I have said, a man is abundantly and sufficiently justified by faith inwardly, in his spirit, and so has all that he needs, except insofar as this faith and these riches must grow from day to day even to the future life; yet he remains in this mortal life on earth. In this life he must control his own body and have dealings with men. Here the works begin; here a man cannot enjoy leisure; here he must indeed take care to discipline his body by fastings, watchings, labors, and other reasonable discipline and to subject it to the Spirit so that it will obey and conform to the inner man and faith and not revolt against faith and hinder the inner man, as it is the nature of the body to do if it is not held in check. The inner man, who by faith is created in the image of God, is both joyful and happy because of Christ in whom so many benefits are conferred upon him; and therefore it is his one occupation to serve God joyfully and without thought of gain, in love that is not constrained.” [LW 31:358]

“Since by faith the soul is cleansed and made to love God, it desires that all things, and especially its own body, shall be purified so that all things may join with it in loving and praising God. Hence a man cannot be idle, for the need of his body drives him and he is compelled to do many good works to reduce it to subjection. Nevertheless the works themselves do not justify him before God, but he does the works out of spontaneous love in obedience to God and considers nothing except the approval of God, whom he would most scrupulously obey in all things.” [LW 31:358]

“Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works; evil works do not make a wicked man, but a wicked man does evil works.” [LW 31:360]

“But as faith makes a man a believer and righteous, so faith does good works. Since, then, works justify no one, and a man must be righteous before he does a good work, it is very evident that it is faith alone which, because of the pure mercy of God through Christ and in his Word, worthily and sufficiently justifies and saves the person.” [LW 31:361]

“Hence the beginning of goodness or godliness is not in us, but in the Word of God. God must first let his Word sound in our hearts by which we learn to know and to believe him, and afterwards do good works.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 2.2:339]

“Why then does Christ say here: "He went down to his house justified?" This is what I have often said, if faith be true, it will break forth and bear fruit. If the tree is green and good, it will not cease to blossom forth in leaves and fruit. It does this by nature. I need not first command it and say: Look here, tree, bear apples. For if the tree is there and is good, the fruit will follow unbidden. If faith is present works must follow.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 2.2:340-341]

“Thus faith casts itself on God, and breaks forth and becomes certain through its works. When this takes place a person becomes known to me and to other people. For when I thus break forth I spare neither man nor devil, I cast myself down, and will have nothing to do with lofty affairs, and will regard myself as the poorest sinner on earth. This assures me of my, faith. For this is what it says: "This man went down to his house justified." Thus we attribute salvation as the principal thing to faith, and works as the witnesses of faith. They make one so certain that he concludes from the outward life that the faith is genuine.”[Sermons of Martin Luther 2.2:341]

“This is why St. Luke and St. James have so much to say about works, so that one says: Yes, I will now believe, and then he goes and fabricates for himself a fictitious delusion, which hovers only on the lips as the foam on the water. No, no; faith is a living and an essential thing, which makes a new creature of man, changes his spirit and wholly and completely converts him. It goes to the foundation and there accomplishes a renewal of the entire man; so, if I have previously seen a sinner, I now see in his changed conduct, manner and life, that he believes. So high and great a thing is faith.”[Sermons of Martin Luther 2.2:341]

“For this reason the Holy Spirit urges works, that they may be witnesses of faith. In those therefore in whom we cannot realize good works, we can immediately say and conclude: they heard of faith, but it did not sink into good soil. For if you continue in pride and lewdness, in greed and anger, and yet talk much of faith, St. Paul will come and say, 1 Cor. 4:20, look here my dear Sir, "the kingdom of God is not in word but in power." It requires life and action, and is not brought about by mere talk.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 2.2:341-342]

“Thus we err on both sides in saying, a person must only believe, then he will neglect to do good works and bring forth good fruits. Again, if you preach works, the people immediately comfort themselves and trust in works. Therefore we must walk upon the common path. Faith alone must make us good and save us. But to know whether faith is right and true, you must show it by your works. God cannot endure your dissembling, for this reason he has appointed you a sermon which praises works, which are only witnesses that you believe, and must be performed not thereby to merit anything, but they should be done freely and gratuitously toward our neighbor.”[Sermons of Martin Luther 2.2:342]

“For thus God has also introduced works, as though he would say: if you believe, then you have the kingdom of heaven; and yet, in order that you may not deceive yourselves, do the works.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 2.2:342]

“As though [God] would say: Ye are my friends, but this the people will not know by your faith, but when you show the fruits of faith, and break forth in love, then they will know you. The fruits will not save you nor make you any friends, but they must show and prove that you are saved and are my friends. Therefore mark this well, that faith alone makes us good; but as faith lies concealed within me, and is a great life, a great treasure, therefore the works must come forth and bear witness of the faith, to praise God's grace and condemn the works of men. You must cast your eyes to the earth and humiliate yourself before everyone, that you may also win your neighbor by your services; for this reason God lets you live, otherwise nothing would be better for you than to die and go to heaven.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 2.2:342-343]

“For where faith is, there is no anxiety for fine clothing and sumptuous feasting, yea, there is no longing for riches, honor, pleasure, influence, and all that is not God himself; but there is a seeking and a striving for and a cleaving to nothing except to God, the highest good alone; it is the same to him whether his food be dainty or plain, whether his clothing be fine or homespun. For although they even do wear costly clothes, possess great influence and honor, yet they esteem none of these things; but are forced to them, or come to them by accident, or they are compelled to use them in the service of others.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 2.2:19]

“…[W]e must not judge poor Lazarus in his sores, poverty and anxiety, according to his outward appearance. For many persons suffer from affliction and want, and yet they gain nothing by it; for example King Herod suffered a great affliction, as is related in Acts 12:23; but afterwards he did not have it better before God on account of it. Poverty and suffering make no one acceptable to God; but, whoever is first acceptable to God, his poverty and suffering are precious in the eyes of God, as Ps. 116:15 says: "Precious in the sight of Jehovah is the death of his saints." Thus we must look into the heart of Lazarus also, and seek the treasure which made his sores so precious. That was surely his faith and love; for without faith it is impossible to please God, as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews says, 11:6. Therefore his heart also must have confessed that he even in the midst of such poverty and misery expected all good from God, and comfortably relied upon him; with whose blessings and grace he was so richly satisfied, and had such pleasure in them, that he would have heartily and willingly suffered even more misery, if the will of his gracious God had so determined. See, that is a true, living faith, which softened his heart by the knowledge of the divine goodness; so that nothing was too heavy or too much to suffer and to do. So clever and skilful does faith make the heart, when it experiences the grace of God.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 2.2:22-23]

“All believers are like poor Lazarus; and every believer is a true Lazarus, for he is of the same faith, mind and will, as Lazarus. And whoever will not be a Lazarus, will surely have his portion with the rich glutton in the flames of hell. For we all must like Lazarus trust in God, surrender ourselves to him to work in us according to his own good pleasure, and be ready to serve all men. And although we all do not suffer from such sores and poverty, yet the same mind and will must be in us, that were in Lazarus, cheerfully to bear such things, wherever God wills it.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 2.2:25]

“…[O]nly those things are good works which God has commanded, just as only that is a sin which god has forbidden. Therefore, he who wants to know and do good works need only know God’s Commandments… These Commandments of God must teach us how to distinguish among good works.” [What Luther Says 3:1499]

Luther composed a hymn on the Ten Commandments in which he states, “To us come these commands, that so- Thou son of man, thy sins mayst know- And make thee also well perceive- How before God man should live.”[LW 53:279.] Elsewhere Luther said of the Ten Commandments, “They are the true fountain from which all good works must flow.”[Martin Luther, as cited by Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963], 272, footnote 124]

“…[N]o man can progress so far in sanctification as to keep even one of the Ten Commandments as it should be kept, but that the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer must come to our assistance, as we shall hear, through which we must continually seek, pray for, and obtain the power and strength to keep the Commandments.”[What Luther Says 3:1501]

“God has given me his law like a mirror, in which I see what is good and evil. It says: Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself," Deut. 6:5, Mat. 22:37. Now the works of the publican praise God and benefit the whole world, because they teach us to know, and show us the way of God our Saviour. Therefore they are good because they praise God and benefit our neighbor. On the other hand, the hypocrite struts forth and blasphemes God, and with his corrupt life misleads the whole world.”[Sermons of Martin Luther 2.2:346-347]

“While we still sojourn here on earth, we have other teachings and ways to follow, such as the Ten Commandments, which inform us how to keep our bodies under discipline and in obedience, how to deal and live honorably and honestly with our neighbor while we are together. These things are pleasing to God.”[LW 24:50]

“The benefit and fruit of the Holy Spirit is, that sin will be changed to the highest and best use. Thus Paul boasts to Timothy, when he was converted, that whereas he had lived such a wicked life before, he now held his sin to be so contemptible that he composed a hymn and sang about it thus, in 1 Tim 1, 12-17: "I thank him that enabled me, even Christ Jesus our Lord, for that he counted me faithful, appointing me to his service; though I was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: howbeit I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord abounded exceedingly with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief: howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me as chief might Jesus Christ show forth all his longsuffering, for an example of them that should thereafter believe on him unto eternal life. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”[ Sermons of Martin Luther 2:250-251]

“It is this first kind of knowledge that some people have of God. They know very well how to say of him: I believe in God the Father, and in his only begotten Son. But it is only upon the tongue, like the foam on the water; it does not enter the heart. Figuratively a big tumor still remains there in the heart; that is, they cling somewhat to their own deeds and think they must do works in order to be saved--that Christ's person and merit are not sufficient. Thy work is nothing, thy wisdom is foolishness, thy counsel is nothing, thy truth also amounts to nothing, neither does the mass avail anything before God. Then they reply: Aye, the devil has prompted you to speak thus. They say, Christ has truly died for us, but in a way that we, also, must accomplish something by our deeds. Notice how deeply wickedness and unbelief are rooted in the heart. The puffed-up pride of the heart is the reason why man can know neither Christ nor the Father.”[Sermons of Martin Luther 2:252-253]

“Thus, faith must be exercised, worked and polished; be purified by fire, like gold. Faith, the great gift and treasure from God, must express itself and triumph in the certainty that it is right before God and man, and before angels, devils and the whole world. Just as a jewel is not to be concealed, but to be worn in sight, so also, will and must faith be worn and exhibited, as it is written in 1 Peter 1, 7: "That the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold that perisheth though it is proved by fire," etc.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 2:245-246]

“Again you say: What about the doctrine of good works? Shall this amount to nothing, or is it not a beautiful, praiseworthy thing, when a man endeavors to keep the commandments, and is obedient, chaste, honorable and truthful? Answer: Yes, surely; all this is to be done; it is also a good doctrine and life, provided it is left in the place where it belongs, and the two doctrines are kept distinct, how a man becomes pious and righteous before God, and how and to what end he is to do good works. For although it is necessary to teach the doctrine of good works, at the same time, nay, even before this also must be carefully taught (so that the doctrine of the Gospel and of faith be kept pure and unadulterated), that all our works, however good and holy they may be, are not the treasure and merit, by which we become acceptable to God and attain everlasting life. But it is this alone, that Christ goes to the Father and by his departure merits this for us, and gives and communicates to us his righteousness, innocence and merits; and so begins in us a kingdom that we, who believe in him, are redeemed by his power and Spirit from sin and death, and shall live with him forever. It must not be a righteousness that continues only here upon earth and then ceases; but a new righteousness, which endures forever in the life beyond with God, just as Christ lives and reigns above forever.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 2:147]

“For where the Gospel is truly in the heart, it creates a new man who does not wait until the law comes, but, being so full of joy in Christ, and of desire and love for that which is good, he gladly helps and does good to every one wherever he can, from a free heart, before he ever once thinks of the law. He wholly risks his body and life, without asking what he must suffer on account of it, and thus abounds in good works which flow forth of themselves. Just like Christ will not be compelled to pick up a straw, but without compulsion he permits himself to be nailed to the cross for me and the whole world, and dies for the lost sheep. This may indeed be called work above work.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 2.2.76].

b. Good Works: Serving Our Neighbor

“We now come to consider good works. We receive Christ not only as a gift by faith, but also as an example of love toward our neighbor, whom we are to serve as Christ serves us. Faith brings and gives Christ to you with all his possessions. Love gives you to your neighbor with all your possessions. These two things constitute a true and complete Christian life; then follow suffering and persecution for such faith and love, and out of these grows hope in patience. You ask, perhaps, what are the good works you are to do to your neighbor? Answer: They have no name. As the good works Christ does to you have no name, so your good works are to have no name. Whereby do you know them? Answer: They have no name, so that there may be no distinction made and they be not divided, that you might do some and leave others undone. You shall give yourself up to him altogether, with all you have, the same as Christ did not simply pray or fast for you. Prayer and fasting are not the works he did for you, but he gave himself up wholly to you, with praying, fasting, all works and suffering, so that there is nothing in him that is not yours and was not done for you. Thus it is not your good work that you give alms or that you pray, but that you offer yourself to your neighbor and serve him, wherever he needs you and every way you can, be it with alms, prayer, work, fasting, counsel, comfort, instruction, admonition, punishment, apologizing, clothing, food, and lastly with suffering and dying for him. Pray, where are now such works to be found in Christendom?” [Sermons of Martin Luther 1:34]

“If you have ears to hear and a mind to observe, pray, listen and learn for God's sake what good works are and mean. A good work is good for the reason that it is useful and benefits and helps the one for whom it is done; why else should it be called good! For there is a difference between good works and great, long, numerous, beautiful works. When you throw a big stone a great distance it is a great work, but whom does it benefit? If you can jump, run, fence well, it is a fine work, but whom does it benefit? Whom does it help, if you wear a costly coat or build a fine house?”[Sermons of Martin Luther 1:35]

“Keep in mind, that you need not do any work for God nor for the departed saints, but you ask and receive good from him in faith. Christ has done and accomplished everything for you, atoned for your sins, secured grace and life and salvation. Be content with this, only think how he can become more and more your own and strengthen your faith. Hence direct all the good you can do and your whole life to the end that it be good; but it is good only when it is useful to other people and not to yourself. You need it not, since Christ has done and given for you all that you might seek and desire for yourself, here and hereafter, be it forgiveness of sins, merit of salvation or whatever it may be called. If you find a work in you by which you benefit God or his saints or yourself and not your neighbor, know that such a work is not good.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 1:36]

“A man is to live, speak, act, hear, suffer and die for the good of his wife and child, the wife for the husband, the children for the parents, the servants for their masters, the masters for their servants, the government for its subjects, the subjects for the government, each one for his fellow man, even for his enemies, so that one is the other's hand, mouth, eye, foot, even heart and mind. This is a truly Christian and good work, which can and shall be done at all times, in all places, toward all people. You notice the Papists' works in organs, pilgrimages, fasting, etc., are really beautiful, great, numerous, long, wide and heavy works, but there is no good, useful and helpful work among them and the proverb may be applied to them: It is already bad.”[ Sermons of Martin Luther 1:37]

“As we have said touching the other Gospels, that we should learn from them the two doctrines of faith and love, or accepting and bestowing good works, so we should do here, extol faith and exercise love. Faith receives the good works of Christ, love bestows good works on our neighbor.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 1:109]

“Whoever does not receive salvation through pure grace, before performing any good works, will most assuredly never secure it; and whoever turns his good works to his own advantage and endeavors to help himself by them and not his neighbor does no good works to begin with.” [What Luther Says 3:1504.]

“…Christ teaches us rightly to apply the works and shows us what good works are. All other work, except faith, we should apply to our neighbor. For God demands of us no other work that we should do for him than to exercise faith in Christ. With that he is satisfied, and with that we give honor to him, as to one who is merciful, long-suffering, wise, kind, truthful and the like. After this think of nothing else than to do to your neighbor as Christ has done to you, and let all your works together with all your life be applied to your neighbor. Look for the poor, sick and all kinds of needy, help them and let your life's energy here appear, so that they may enjoy your kindness, helping whoever needs you, as much as you possibly can with your life, property and honor. Whoever points you to other good works than these, avoid him as a wolf and as Satan, because he wants to put a stumbling block in your way, as David says, "In the way wherein I walk have they hidden a snare for me," Ps. 142, 3. But this is done by the perverted, misguided people of the Papists, who with their religious ceremonies set aside such Christian works, and teach the people to serve God only and not also mankind. They establish convents, masses, vigils, become religious, do this and that. And these poor, blind people call that serving God, which they have chosen themselves. But know that to serve God is nothing else than to serve your neighbor and do good to him in love, be it a child, wife, servant, enemy, friend; without making any difference, whoever needs your help in body or soul, and wherever you can help in temporal or spiritual matters. This is serving God and doing good works. 0, Lord God, how do we fools live in this world, neglecting to do such works, though in all parts of the world we find the needy, on whom we could bestow our good works; but no one looks after them nor cares for them. But look to your own life. If you do not find yourself among the needy and the poor, where the Gospel shows us Christ, then you may know that your faith is not right, and that you have not yet tasted of Christ's benevolence and work for you.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 1: 111]

“If Christ has now thus become your own, and you have by such faith been cleansed through him and have received your inheritance without any personal merit, but alone through the love of God who gives to you as your own the treasure and work of his Son; it follows that you will do good works by doing to your neighbor as Christ has done to you. Here good works are their own teacher. What are the good works of Christ? Is it not true that they are good because they have been done for your benefit, for God's sake, who commanded him to do the works in your behalf? In this then Christ was obedient to the Father, in that he loved and served us.”[Sermons of Luther 1:145]

“Therefore since you have received enough and become rich, you have no other commandment to serve Christ and render obedience to him, than so to direct your works that they may be of benefit to your neighbor, just as the works of Christ are of benefit and use to you. For the reason Jesus said at the Last Supper: "This is my commandment that ye love one another; even as I have loved you." John, 13: 34. Here it is seen that he loved us and did every thing for our benefit, in order that we may do the same, not to him, for he needs it not, but to our neighbor; this is his commandment, and this is our obedience. Therefore it is through faith that Christ becomes our own, and his love is the cause that we are his. He loves, we believe, thus both are united into one. Again, our neighbor believes and expects our love, we are therefore to love him also in return and not let him long for it in vain. One is the same as the other; as Christ helps us so we in return help our neighbor, and all have enough.”[Sermons of Luther 1:145]

“These are the two things in which a Christian is to exercise himself, the one that he draws Christ into himself, and that by faith he makes him his own, appropriates to himself the treasures of Christ and confidently builds upon them; the other that he condescends to his neighbor and lets him share in that which he has received, even as he shares in the treasures of Christ. He who does not exercise himself in these two things will receive no benefit even if he should fast unto death, suffer torture or even give his body to be burned, and were able to do all miracles, as St. Paul teaches, I Cor. 13ff.” [Sermons of Luther 1:146]

“Christ is the priest, all men are spiritual lepers because of unbelief; but when we come to faith in him he touches us With his hand, gives and lays upon us his merit and we become clean and whole without any merit on our part whatever. We are therefore to show our gratitude to him and acknowledge that we have not become pious by our own works, but through his grace, then our course will be right before God. In addition we are to offer our gifts, that is, give of our own to help our fellow man, to do good to him as Christ has done to us. Thus Christ is served and an offering is brought to the rightful priest, for it is done for his sake, in order to love and praise him.”[Sermons of Luther 1:152]

“[Christ] had the special purpose of making mutual love a Christian obligation, and the continual forgiveness of the neighbor the primary and foremost duty of Christians, second only to faith and the reception of forgiveness. As we live in faith toward Him, therefore, so also we should live in love toward our neighbor. We should not bring annoyance or injury upon one another, but keep in mind always to forgive one another even though we have been injured, as is inevitable in this life; we should know that otherwise we shall not be forgiven either. Where anger and ill will are an obstacle, this spoils the whole prayer and prevents one from being able to pray or to wish any of the preceding petitions either. You see, this means we must establish a firm and strong bond that will hold us together. When we plan to come before God in prayer for what we are to obtain, we must not be disunited or divided into schisms, factions, and sects, but we must be tolerant toward one another in love and remain of one mind. When this is the case, the Christian man is perfect; he believes correctly, and he loves correctly. Whatever other faults he may have, these are to be consumed in his prayer, and it is all forgiven and remitted.”[ LW 21:149]

“But the external signs [of the Holy Spirit]… are these: to enjoy hearing about Christ; to teach, give thanks, praise, and confess Him, even at the cost of property and life; to do one’s duty according to one’s calling in a manly way, in faith and joy; not to take delight in sin; not to invade someone else’s calling but to serve one’s own; to help a needy brother, comfort the sorrowful, etc. By these signs we are assured and confirmed a posteriori that we are in a state of grace” [LW 26:378]

“A man does not live for himself alone in tiffs mortal body to work for it alone, but he lives also for all men on earth; rather, he lives only for others and not for himself. To this end he brings his body into subjection that he may the more sincerely and freely serve others, as Paul says in Rom. 14[:7–8], “None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord.” He cannot ever in this life be idle and without works toward his neighbors, for he will necessarily speak, deal with, and exchange views with men, as Christ also, being made in the likeness of men [Phil. 2:7], was found in form as a man and conversed with men…”[LW 31:364]

“…[A] Christian lives not in himself, but in Christ and in his neighbor. Otherwise he is not a Christian. He lives in Christ through faith, in his neighbor through love. By faith he is caught up beyond himself into God. By love he descends beneath himself into his neighbor. Yet he always remains in God and in his love, as Christ says in John 1[:51], “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.”[LW 31:370]

“For whoever feels the goodness of God, feels also for the misfortune of his neighbor; but whoever is not conscious of the goodness of God, sympathizes not in the misfortune of his neighbor. Therefore as he has no pleasure in God, he has no heart for his neighbor.”[Sermons of Martin Luther 2.2:20]

“For the nature of faith is that it expects all good from God, and relies only on God. For from this faith man knows God, how he is good and gracious, that by reason of such knowledge his heart becomes so tender and merciful, that he wishes cheerfully to do to every one, as he experiences God has done to him. Therefore he breaks forth with love and serves his neighbor out of his whole heart, with his body and life, with his means and honor, with his soul and spirit, and makes him partaker of all he has, just like God did to him. Therefore he does not look after the healthy, the high, the strong, the rich, the noble, the holy persons, who do not need his care; but he looks after the sick, the weak, the poor, the despised, the sinful people, to whom he can be of benefit, and among whom he can exercise his tender heart, and do to them as God has done to him.”[Sermons of Martin Luther 2.2:20-21]

“From [the faith of Lazarus] follows now another virtue, namely, love to one's neighbor, so that he is willing and ready to serve everybody; but since Lazarus is poor and in misery himself, he had nothing with which he could serve others; therefore his good will is taken for the deed. But this lack of service in temporal things he abundantly makes good by his services in things spiritual. For even now, long after his death, he serves the whole world with his sores, hunger and misery. His bodily hunger feeds our spiritual hunger; his bodily nakedness clothes (or feeds, as some editions read) our spiritual nakedness; his bodily sores heal our spiritual sores; in this way he teaches and comforts us by his example, how God is pleased with us, when we are not prosperous here upon the earth, if we believe; and warns us how God is angry with us, even if we are prosperous in our unbelief; just as God had pleasure in Lazarus in his misery, and was displeased with the rich man.”[Sermons of Martin Luther 2.2:23]

“What is the proof by which one may know that this heavenly bread is his and that he is invited to such a spiritual supper? He needs only to look at his own heart. If he finds it so disposed that it is softened and cheered by God's promises and is firm in the conviction that it may appropriate this bread of life, then he may be assured that he is one of the invited; for as one believes, even so is it done unto him. From that moment on, he loves his neighbor and helps him as his brother; he rescues him, gives to him, loans to him and does nothing for him but that which he would desire his neighbor to do for himself. All this is attributable to the fact that Christ's kindness to him has leavened his heart with sweetness and love, so that he has pleasure and joy in serving his neighbor; yea, he is even in misery if he has no one to whom to show kindness. Besides all this, he is gently and humbly disposed toward everybody; he does not highly esteem the transient pomps of the world; he accepts everyone as he is, speaks evil of no one, interprets all things for the best where he sees things are not going right. When his neighbors are lacking in faith, in love, in life, then he prays for them, and he is heartily sorry when anyone gives offense to God or to his neighbor. To sum up all, with him the root and sap are good, for he is grafted into a rich and fruitful vine, in Christ; therefore, such fruits must come forth. But if one has not faith and is not taught of God--if he never eats of this bread from heaven--he surely never brings forth these fruits. For where such fruits are not produced, there is certainly no true faith. St. Peter teaches us in 2 Peter 1, 10 that we should make our calling unto salvation sure by good works; there he is really speaking of the works of love, of serving one's neighbor and treating him as one's own flesh and blood. This is sufficient on this Gospel. Let us pray for God's grace.”[Sermons of Martin Luther 2:403-404]

“For if your heart is in the state of faith that you know your God has revealed himself to you to be so good and merciful, without thy merit, and purely gratuitously, while you were still his enemy and a child of eternal wrath; if you believe this, you cannot refrain from showing yourself so to your neighbor; and do all out of love to God and for the welfare of your neighbor. Therefore, see to it that you make no distinction between friend and foe, the worthy and the unworthy; for you see that all who were here mentioned, have merited from us something different than that we should love and do them good. And the Lord also teaches this, when in Luke 6:35 he says: "But love your enemies, and do good unto them, and lend, never despairing; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be sons of the Most High: for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil." Thus we have considered the first part of this Gospel.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 2.2:101]

c. False Works and Unbelief

“…[I]f anyone does anything which God’s Word has not prescribed, his work has no standing before God and is lost labor….The Psalter, too, and all the prophets complain that the people are doing ‘good works’ which they themselves have chosen and God has not commanded. For God can and will not allow those who are His to undertake to do anything that He has not commanded, even though it be ever so good. For the obedience which clings to God’s Word is of all works the noblest and the best.”[What Luther Says 3:1500]

“And to come to our Papists' work, what does it avail if they put silver or gold on the walls, wood and stone in the churches? Who would be made better, if each village had ten bells, as big as those at Erfurt? Whom would it help if all the houses were convents and monasteries as splendid as the temple of Solomon? Who is benefited if you fast for St. Catherine, St. Martin or any other saint? Whom does it benefit, if you are shaved half or wholly, if you wear a gray or a black cap? Of what use were it if all people field mass every hour? What benefit is it if in one church, as at Meissen, they sing day and night Without interruption? Who is better for it, if every church had more silver, pictures and jewelry than the churches of Halle and Wittenberg? It is folly and deception, men's lies invented these things and called them good works; they all pretend they serve God thus and pray for the people and their sins, just as if they helped God with their property or as if his saints were in need of our work. Sticks and stones are not as rude and mad as we are. A tree bears fruit, not for itself, but for the good of man and beast, and these fruits are its good works.”[Sermons of Martin Luther 1:35]

“Hear then how Christ explains good works, Math. 7, 12: "Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye unto them; for this is the law and the prophets." Do you hear now what are the contents of the whole law and of all the prophets? You are not to do good to God and to his dead saints, they are not in need of it; still less to wood and stone, to which it is of no use, nor is it needed, but to men, to men, to men. Do you not hear? To men you should do everything that you would they should do to you. I would not have you build me a church or tower or cast bells for me. I would not have you construct for me an organ with fourteen stops and ten rows of flute work. Of this I can neither eat nor drink, support neither wife nor child, keep neither house nor land. You may feast my eyes on these and tickle my ears, but what shall I give to my children? Where are the necessaries of life? 0 madness, madness! The bishops and lords, who should check it, are the first in such folly, and one blind leader leads the other. Such people remind me of young girls playing with dolls and of boys riding on sticks. Indeed, they are nothing but children and players with dolls, and riders of hobbyhorses.”[Sermons of Martin Luther 1: 36]

“You notice the Papists' works in organs, pilgrimages, fasting, etc., are really beautiful, great, numerous, long, wide and heavy works, but there is no good, useful and helpful work among them and the proverb may be applied to them: It is already bad. But beware of their acute subtleties, when they say: If these works are not good to our neighbor in his body, they do spiritual good to his soul, since they serve God and propitiate him and secure his grace. Here it is time to say: You lie as wide as your mouth. God is to be worshiped not with works, but by faith, faith must do everything that is to be done between God and us. There may be more faith in a millerboy than in all the Papists, and it may gain more than all priests and monks do with their organs and jugglery, even if they had more organs than these now have pipes. He who has faith can pray for his fellow man, he who has no faith can pray for nothing. It is a satanic lie to call such outward pomp spiritually good and useful works. A miller's maid, if she believes, does more good, accomplishes more, and I would trust her more, if she takes the sack from the horse, than all the priests and monks, if they kill themselves singing day and night and torment themselves to the quick. You great, coarse fools, would you expect to help the people with your faithless life and distribute spiritual goods, when there is on earth no more miserable, needy, godless people than you are? You should be called, not spiritual, but spiritless.”[Sermons of Martin Luther 1:37]

“But the Papists and their disciples, who would get rid of death, sin and hell by their own works and satisfaction, must remain in them eternally for they undertake to do for themselves what Christ alone did and could do, of whom they should expect it by faith. Therefore they are foolish, deluded people who do works for Christ and his saints, which they should do for their neighbor. Again, what they should expect of Christ by faith they would find in themselves and have gone so far as to spend on stone and wood, on bells and incense what they should spend on their neighbors. They go on and do good to God and his saints, fast for them and dedicate to them prayers, and at the same time leave their neighbor as he is, thinking only, let us first help ourselves! Then comes the pope and sells them his letter of indulgence and leads them into heaven, not into God's heaven, but into the pope's heaven, which is the abyss of hell. Behold, this is the fruit of unbelief and ignorance of Christ, this is our reward for having left the Gospel in obscurity and setting up human doctrine in its place. I repeat it, I wish all pulpits in the world lay in ashes, and the monasteries, convents, churches, hermitages and chapels, and everything were ashes and powder, because of this shameful misleading of souls.”[Sermons of Martin Luther 1:39]

“Thus you perceive how skillfully the rude Papists made this passage [Matt. 23:2-3] the foundation of their doctrine, lies and tyranny, though no other passage is more strongly against them and more severely condemns their teachings than this one. Christ's words stand firm and are clear; do not follow their works. But their doctrine is their own work, and not God's. They are a people exalted only to lie and to pervert the Scriptures. Moreover, if one's life is bad, it would be strange indeed if he should preach right; he would always have to preach against himself, which he will hardly do without additions and foreign doctrines. In short, he who does not preach the Gospel, identifies himself as one who is sitting neither on Moses' nor on Christ's seat. For this reason you should do neither according to his words nor according to his works, but flee from him as Christ's sheep do, John 10, 4-5: "And the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but flee from him." But if you wish to know what their seat is called, then listen to David: "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the wicked, nor standeth in the way of the sinner, nor sitteth in the seat of scoffers, Ps. 1,1. Again: "Shall the throne of wickedness have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by statute?" Ps. 94, 20.”[Sermons of Martin Luther 1:95]

“Paul says (Col.3:24): ‘Ye serve the Lord Christ.’ Ah, if priests, monks, and nuns were in such a state, how would they thank God and rejoice! For not one of them can say: God has commanded me to celebrate Mass, to sing matins, to observe the seven daily hours of prayer, and the like; for Scripture does not contain one word on the subject. Therefore if they are asked whether they are confident and assured that their state pleases God, they say no. But if you ask an insignificant maid-servant why she scours a dish or milks the cow, she can say: I know that the thing I do pleases God, for I have God’s Word and commandment…God does not look at the insignificance of the acts but at the heart that serves Him in such little things.”[What Luther Says 3:1501]

“Christ predicted that men would come who would do signs and wonders in order to lead even the elect into error, if that were possible. Therefore we must not rely on any works or miracles unless they are produced by faith and further faith.”[ What Luther Says 3:1502]

“Observe now from this how far those have gone out of the way who have united good works with stone, wood, clothing, eating and drinking. Of what benefit is it to your neighbor if you build a church entirely out of gold!? Of what benefit to him is the frequent ringing of great church bells? Of what benefit to him is the glitter and the ceremonies in the churches, the priests' gowns, the sanctuary, the silver pictures and vessels? Of what benefit to him are the many candles and much incense? Of what benefit to him is the much chanting and mumbling, the singing of vigils and masses? Do you think that God will permit himself to be paid with the sound of bells, the smoke of candles, the glitter of gold and such fancies? He has commanded none of these, but if you see your neighbor going astray, sinning, or suffering in body or soul, you are to leave every thing else and at once help him in every way in your power and if you can do no more, help him with words of comfort and prayer. Thus has Christ done to you and given you an example for you to follow.”[Sermons of Martin Luther 1:147]

“Now let every one examine himself in the light of the Gospel and see how far he is from Christ, what is the character of his faith and love. There are many who are enkindled with dreamy devotion, when they hear of such poverty of Christ, are almost angry with the citizens of Bethlehem, denounce their blindness and ingratitude, and think, if they had been there, they would have shown the Lord and his mother a more becoming service, and would not have permitted them to be treated so miserably. But they do not look by their side to see how many of their fellow men need their help, and which they let go on in their misery unaided. Who is there upon earth that has no poor, miserable, sick, erring ones, or sinful people around him? Why does he not exercise his love to those? Why does he not do to them as Christ has done to him?”[Sermons of Martin Luther 1:155]

“It is altogether false to think that you have done much for Christ, if you do nothing for those needy ones. Had you been at Bethlehem you would have paid as little attention to Christ as they did; but since is is now made known who Christ is, you profess to serve him. Should he come now and lay himself in a manger, and would send you word that it was he, of whom you now know so much, you might do something for him, but you would not have done it before. Had it been positively made known to the rich man in the Gospel, to what high position Lazarus would be exalted, and he would have been convinced of the fact, he would not have left him lie and perish as he did. Therefore, if your neighbor were now what he shall be in the future, and lay before you, you would surely give him attention. But now, since it is not so, you beat the air and do not recognize the Lord in your neighbor, you do not do to him as he has done to you. Therefore God permits you to be blinded, and deceived by the pope and false preachers, so that you squander on wood, stone, paper, and wax that with which you might help your fellow man.”[Sermons of Martin Luther 1:155]

“…[N]o blood, nor relationship, nor command, nor doctrine, nor reason, nor free will, nor good works, nor exemplary living, nor Carthusian orders, nor any religious orders, though they were angelic, are of any use or help to this sonship of God; but they are only a hindrance. For where reason is not first renewed and in agreement with the new birth, it takes offence, becomes hardened and blinded, so that it will scarcely, if ever, be able to be righted; but thinks its doings and ways are right and proper, storming and raving against all who disregard and reject its doings. Therefore the old man remains the enemy of God and of grace, of Christ and of his light, beheads John and destroys his testimony, the Gospel, and sets up his own human doctrines. Thus the game goes on even now, in full splendour and power, in the doings of the pope and his clergy, who together know nothing of this divine birth. They prattle and speak nonsense in their doctrines and commandments of certain good works, with which they hope to attain grace, though still clad in the old Adam. But what is here said remains unchangeable: Not of blood, not of the will of the flesh nor of man, but of God, is this new birth. We must despair of our own will, works, and life, which have been poisoned by the false, stubborn, selfish light of reason; in all things listen to the voice and testimony of the Baptist; believe and obey it. Then the true Light, Christ will enlighten us, renew us, and give us power to become the sons of God. For this reason he came and was made man…”[Sermons of Martin Luther 1:214-215]

“…[T]he Papists themselves have devised good works and divine worship with their outward deeds and laws, all of which, however, are faithless things, founded only upon works and without God’s command, mere human prattle. So we say, they do not serve God, but themselves and Satan, as is the case with all idolatry; and they only mislead the people from their Christian faith and common brother love; but they will not suffer us to say that, and thus begins the misery that reigns now. Both agree that they are to serve God and do good works; but as to the definition, what is the service of God and good works, they will never agree. For these say, faith is nothing, nature with her works is good and right. Moreover, they also agreed that the open coarse sins, as murder, adultery, and robbery are not right; but in the principal works that pertain to divine worship, there they separate as far from one another as winter is from summer. The first hold to God and his mercy, and fear him; the others run to wood and stones, food and clothing, days and seasons and wish to win the favor of God by building, by bequests, by fastings, by their blaring voices and by their shaven heads. They fear nothing, are impudent and full of every kind of presumption. Oh! what a holy, wise, learned people, for whom God himself is neither sufficiently holy, wise nor learned, with all his prophets, wise men and scribes.”[Sermons of Martin Luther 1:227-228]

“Any work that is not done solely for the purpose of keeping the body under control or of serving one’s neighbor, as long as he asks nothing contrary to God, is not good or Christian. For this reason I greatly fear that few or no colleges, monasteries, altars, and offices of the church are really Christian in our day—nor the special fasts and prayers on certain saints’ days. I fear, I say, that in all these we seek only our profit, thinking that through them our sins are purged away and that we find salvation in them. In this way Christian liberty perishes altogether. This is a consequence of our ignorance of Christian faith and liberty.”[LW 31:370]

“Let us now consider the fool, the Pharisee. Here are most beautiful works. In the first place he thanks God, fasts twice in the week, and all this to honor God, not St. Nicholas or St. Barnabas, he gives the tenth of all his goods, nor has he at any time committed adultery, has never done any one violence or robbed him of his goods. Thus he has conducted himself in an exemplary manner. This is a beautiful honest life, and excites our wonder and surprise. Truly, after the fashion of the world no one could find fault with him, yea, one must praise him. Yes, to be sure he does this himself. But God is the first to come and say, that all the work of the Pharisee is blasphemy. God help us, what an awful sentence this is! Priests and nuns may well be terrified by it, and all their bones quake, as you scarcely ever find one of them as pious as this Pharisee. Would to God we could have many such hypocrites and Pharisees; for then they could be taught better things. Well, what is the matter with the good man? Only this, he does not know his own heart. Here you see that we are our own greatest enemies, who close our eyes and hearts, and think we are as we feel.”[Sermons of Martin Luther 2.2:343-344]

“Now [the Pharisee] comes and praises himself that he is just. He has a poisonous, wicked heart, who praises himself most gloriously on account of his pretended good works, how he fasted and gave the tenth of all he had. Hence he is so full of hatred to his neighbor, if God allowed him to judge, he would plunge the poor publican down into the deepest hell. Behold, is not this a wicked heart and terrible to hear, that I would all men should go to ruin, if only I be praised? Yet all this is so finely decorated and adorned by external conduct, that no one can censure it. Here we see how we are to know the tree from its fruits. For when I view his heart with spiritual eyes, I recognize it is full of blasphemy and hatred to his neighbor. From these fruits I know that the tree is evil. For works would not be evil in themselves, but the evil root in the heart makes them evil. This is set before us that we may beware and guard ourselves against it.”[Sermons of Martin Luther 2.2:346]

“But the nature of unbelief is that it does not expect any good from God. By which unbelief the heart is blinded so that it neither feels nor knows how good and gracious God is; but as Psalm 14:2 says: he cares not for God, seeks not after him. Out of this blindness follows further that his heart becomes so hard, obdurate and unmerciful that he has no desire to do a kindness to his fellow man; yea, he would rather harm and offend everybody. For as he is insensible to the goodness of God, so he takes no pleasure in doing good to his neighbor. Consequently it follows that he does not look after the sick, poor and despised people, to whom he could and should be helpful and profitable; but he casts his eyes upward and sees only the high, rich and influential, from whom be himself may receive advantage, gain, pleasure and honor.”[Sermons of Martin Luther 2.2:21]

“So we see now in the example of the rich man [Luke 16:19-31] that it is impossible to love, where no faith exists, and impossible to believe, where there is no love; for both will and must be together, so that a believer loves everybody and serves everybody; but an unbeliever at heart is an enemy of everybody and wishes to be served by every person and yet he covers all such horrible, perverted sins with the little show of his hypocritical works as with a sheep's skin; just as that large bird, the ostrich, which is so stupid that when it sticks its head into a bush, it thinks its entire body is concealed. Yea, here you see that there is nothing blinder and more unmerciful than unbelief. For here the dogs, the most irascible animals, are more merciful to poor Lazarus than this rich man, and they recognize the need of the poor man and lick his sores; while the obdurate, blinded hypocrite is so hard hearted that he does not wish him to have the crumbs that fell from his table. Now all unbelieving people are like this rich hypocrite. Unbelief cannot do nor be different than this rich man is pictured and set forth by his life. And especially is this the character of the clergy, as we see before our eyes, who never do a truly good work, but only seek a good time, never serving nor profiting any one; but reversing the order they want everybody to serve them. Like harpies they only claw everything into their own pockets; and like the old adage runs they "rob the poor of his purse." They are not moved in the least by the poverty of others. And although some have not expensive food and raiment, yet they do not lack will power and the spirit of action; for they imitate the rich, the princes and the lords, and do many hypocritically good works by founding institutions and building churches, with which they conceal the great rogue, the wolf of unbelief; so that they become obdurate and hardened and are of no use to anybody. These are the rich man.”[Sermons of Martin Luther 2.2:21-22]

“There are continually before our eyes poor and needy persons, whom God lays before us as the greatest treasures; but we close our eyes to them, and see not what God does there; later, when God has done his work, and we have neglected the treasure, then we hasten and wish to serve, but we waited too long. Then we begin and make sacred relics of their garments, shoes and furniture, and make pilgrimages to and erect churches over their graves, are occupied with many like foolish deeds and thus ridicule ourselves in that we permit the living saints to be trodden under our feet and to perish, and we worship their garments, which is neither necessary nor of any use; so that indeed our Lord will let the judgment fall as he did in Mat. 23:29-33, and say: ‘Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and garnish the tombs of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we should not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye witness to yourselves, that ye are sons of them that slew the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye offspring of vipers, how shall ye escape the judgment of hell?’ ”[Sermons of Martin Luther 2.2:24-25]

“But that we should institute masses, vigils and prayers to be repeated forever for the dead every year, as if God had not heard us the year before, is the work of Satan and is death itself, where God is mocked by unbelief, and such prayers are nothing but blasphemy of God. Therefore take warning and turn from these practices. God is not moved by these anniversary ceremonies, but by the prayer of the heart, of devotion and of faith; that will help the departed souls if anything will. Vigils, masses, indeed help the bellies of the priests, monks and nuns, but departed souls are not helped by them and God is thus mocked.”[Sermons of Martin Luther 2.2:30.]

“…[T]hose who parade their own works, do not know Christ. Neither do they know what the Father has done through Christ. Nor do they know that God is not interested in their good works, but in his Son alone. Thus, they do not know the Father, neither do they know what they have received from the Father, through Christ. Therefore, they must fall and perish, and behold God in his severest aspect--as a judge. They try to silence the judgment with their good works, but they find no good work that is sufficient to do this, and then they must finally despair. When people see that they, themselves, are nothing, and establish the foundation of their hearts upon Christ, esteem him as the highest good, and know God as a Father in death and life--this is to ‘know God.’ ”[ Sermons of Martin Luther 2: 253-254]

“…[I]f anybody comes and tries to make a fool of you, makes much ado and tells you wonders about great exceptional holiness, and directs you to live after the example of this or that great saint, in order thereby to please God and become a Christian, you can say to him: Dear sir, I grant all that is good and I also would like to be pious, do according to God's commandments, and keep myself from sin; but you shall never persuade me, that in this way I become a Christian or attain to greater and higher things. They also, who fasted, labored and suffered so much, did not become Christians by that. For this were to encroach upon my dear Lord Christ, so that he would have gone away in vain and human work would be placed on equality with his. But I wish to be called a Christian, as he taught me and all saints have had to do, if they wished to stand before God, because I cling to this Saviour and, as St. Paul says in Phil 3, 9: "Be found in him, not having a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the law," but his, which he gained for me by this departure, by which he overcame my sin and death, and which he announces and grants to me through the preaching of the Gospel. When you once have this, then go and do as many good works as you can; however, do it according to the commandment of God, for without this and before him you will be able to do nothing good, because you are still in unbelief, and have and know not Christ, and therefore are under sin with all that you do…”[Sermons of Martin Luther 2:150-151]

“For, although a man has exercised himself in [works] during his whole life much and long, and has done everything that he was able to do; nevertheless he cannot thereby attain to certainty that God is pleased with it and is truly gracious to him. Hence in every such life the heart always remains uncertain and in doubt. All experienced consciences give evidence of this, and even the monks bear testimony to it in their books, in which they teach openly, that one must doubt, for no man can know whether he is in a state of grace, and it would be presumptuous in a high degree to make this boast with reference to one's self.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 2:148-149]

“…[I]t is manifest what a shameful, cursed doctrine the monks and the whole papacy have hitherto taught, whereby they have misled the world. They not only taught no word of Christ and faith, but they even claimed with impudence, that their monkery is a much higher, nobler and more perfect life than that of ordinary Christians, which ought to be an abomination to all Christians to hear. For one may exalt and extol the life and piety of all men, the chastity of virgins, the discipline and asceticism of hermits, the laudable deeds and virtues of great, excellent and pious lords and rulers, and whatever may be described to pious people, as high as one pleases; it never can equal a Christian, that is, one who has this Lord, sitting at the right hand of God, and his righteousness. We will gladly let that also stand for what it is worth and praise it as a precious gift; but a Christian is to be extolled as a lord far and high above all that, as one that has this eternal possession and inheritance in the kingdom of heaven at the right hand of God with Christ, his brother.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 2:149-150]

Primary Sources:

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works Volumes 1-55 (editors J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.) [Philadelphia: Fortress Press 1999, c1967] (Hereafter referred to as “LW”)

Martin Luther, The Sermons of Martin Luther Volumes 1-7 (Michigan: Baker Books, 2000)

Secondary Sources:

Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963)

Ewald Plass, What Luther Says Volumes 1-3 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing house, 1959)