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Commemoration of Martin Luther: Doctor and Confessor . . . Why is Martin Luther One of the Greatest Theologians in the Church’s History?

February 18th, 2014 7 comments

Lutheran theologian Hermann Sasse answers the question well:

“Why is Luther the greatest in what has been a long line of teachers in the church who have proclaimed the Word of God from generation to generation? It is because none of the others understood the Word of God so profoundly. The Word of God is greater than human words, which have limitations. The time will come when nobody remembers Homer, or Shakespeare or Goethe, but the Word of God will endure forever. Human words can certainly accomplish much – the command of a powerful ruler or of a general can decide the fate of nations, but sooner or later their power ceases to be. No mere human word is almighty. But God’s Word is always living and active because it is the Word of the eternal, almighty God, the Word through which all things were created. It is the Word of the Judge of all who live. It is the Word of forgiveness, the Word of redemption, the Word which no human word can contradict. It is the Word which, as John says, has become flesh in Jesus Christ. He is himself the eternal Word of God; ‘his name’, it is written in Revelation (19:13), ‘is called the Word of God’. To proclaim the Word of God is to proclaim Jesus Christ. ‘To him all of the prophets bear witness’, according to the apostle Peter (Acts 10:43). ‘We preach Christ crucified’ says Paul in regard to the preaching of the apostles (1 Cor 1:23). He, Jesus Christ, is the content of the church’s preaching – that he is the Redeemer and the Lord is the proclamation of the teachers of the church from its very beginning. That is the message which has been handed down from one generation to another. The proclaimers come and go, but the proclamation itself remains the same: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. That and nothing else is the content of the Christian proclamation. Luther again and again reminded the church of this – a church which had forgotten it, and indeed which had almost buried the one Word of God under so many human words of religion and philosophy.

Luther is one of the great Christologists, the great witnesses to Christ in the church. Like the great theologians of the early church – an Irenaeus or an Athanasius – he stood in reverence before the great mystery of God’s revelation: ‘the Word became flesh’ (John 1:14); ‘great is the mystery of godliness, that God was manifest in the flesh (1 Tim 3:16). All of his life Luther stood prayerfully and reverently before the incomprehensible mystery of the person of Jesus Christ, ‘where God and man meet and all fullness appears’. What the Greek fathers of the 4th and 5th centuries acquired by deep study of Holy Scripture with reverent and prayerful meditation, what the ancient church confessed in her ecumenical councils and stated contrary to the reasoning of philosophy – that Jesus Christ is true God, God from God, Light from Light, very God of very God, of one being with the Father, and at the same time true man – Luther thought through these powerful truths and took them even further in his theology in connection with the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. However, he tried to speak of these things so clearly and simply that even the simplest Christian – yes, even a child – could grasp them. ‘He whom the world could not contain, lies on Mary’s lap. He who upholds all things becomes a little child’. That is the teaching of Nicea. Or we think of how Luther expressed the doctrine of Chalcedon, the teaching of the two natures of Christ, in his catechism – ‘I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord…’ This explanation of the second article of the creed has been called by some the most beautiful sentence in the German language – it is the most beautiful sentence in the German language, but not only because of its structure, which reveals a master of language, but also because of its content. Here we find the eternal Word of God, the eternal Gospel: Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.

From a sermon given on Reformation Day 1943 in Erlangen, Germany.
HT: Pastor Mark Henderson

When Martin Luther Sets Fires …. Stuff Happens

December 10th, 2013 Comments off

On this day, in 1520, Martin Luther burned a copy of the announcement of his excommunication by the Pope, known as the “Papal Bull.” But perhaps even more importantly, he burned a copy of the Code of Canon Law.

 

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Categories: Martin Luther

A “Must Have” Book by Martin Luther

December 5th, 2013 Comments off

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A perfect Christmas gift for your pastor and/or for any Christian who wantsto read deeply Biblical and richly Evangelical sermons!

Buy a subscription to the Luther’s Works series for your pastor and your congregation.

As many of you know, Concordia Publishing House initiated a number of years ago now, a project to translate and provide even more of Martin Luther’s writings in English. These volumes have been appearing each year, adding to the body of Luther’s works available to English speaking pastors and laypeople. Simply put, they are tremendously well done. We are continuing to receive, quite frankly, rave reviews from around the world. You can read more about that here. The entire translation project’s prospectus is available here. You can see all the volumes released so far here.

The newest volumes in the series are particularly remarkable because they are providing, for the first time, the very best edition of Luther’s Church Postil, based on the edition that Luther himself personally worked on and approved of. The translation we have had until now is a rather clunky 19th English translation based on the far less reliable edition of the Church Postil.

Luther’s collected sermons for the church year were originally published in two series: the Church Postil and the House Postil. These were among his most popular works. Aside from his catechisms, they did more to teach people the Reformation than any other book. The new translation of the Church Postil follows the last edition of Luther’s life, from 1540–1544, and includes Luther’s often-extensive revisions to his own work, with significant variant readings from earlier editions translated in the footnotes.

The newest volume is now in print, Volume 76.

We are presently shipping the book, first, to subscribers to Luther’s Works, then to all standing orders, and then to any orders being placed via our web site or our 800 number: 800-325-3040. It is already available in KINDLE format at Amazon.com.

To obtain the best possible pricing on these new volumes of Luther’s Works, please consider becoming a subscriber to the series.You will receive a 30% discount and receive volumes automatically as soon as possible after we receive them at CPH. Here is information about how to become a subscriber.

You can take a look inside the newest volume in the Church Postils by clicking here.

This volume includes the sermons on the Epistle and Gospel readings from New Year through Holy Week, plus “Meditation on the Holy Suffering of Christ” and “Sermon on Confession and the Sacrament.” The appendix contains Luther’s prefaces to earlier editions of the Church Postil. All the sermons include footnotes indicating Luther’s edits over the course of his life, all rendered in clear, lucid English.

Benefits of Luther’s Works, American Edition, Church Postils: I & II (Volumes 75 & 76 in translation series)

Accurate and clear translation. (An early 20th-century version of these sermons was inaccurate and stilted.)

Presents the Church Postil as the mature Luther wanted it to be: Includes Luther’s often-extensive revisions to his own work, with significant variant readings from earlier editions translated in the footnotes.

Includes the version of the summer sermons that Luther approved (Cruciger’s edition, not Roth’s edition).

Epistles and Gospels are interspersed as they were originally printed, showing the progression of Luther’s teaching through the course of the church year. (The early 20th-century Lenker version followed the revisionist 1700 edition of Philipp Jakob Spener, not Luther’s mature, final edition of 1540 and 1544.)

Includes the careful, explanatory introductions and footnotes that have become a hallmark of Luther’s Works: American Edition.

Includes cross-references and a table showing where Luther’s sermons can be found in the German originals. Fully indexed.

Edited by Benjamin T.G. Mayes and James L. Langebartels.

 

Happy Birthday, Dr. Luther

November 10th, 2013 4 comments

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450px-BirthhousewindowToday is the birthday of Martin Luther, born on November 10, 1483. The photo above is a view out of a second floor window, across from the small room that scholars now believe is where Luther was born. I took the first photo in his birthhouse in Eisleben, German, ironically, the same town in which he died in 1546.The family, living in this home, though not owning it, would have had to stay in the colder rooms, in the top of the house, rather than in the lower level closer to a warming fireplace. Hans Luther took his son from this house, early on the morning of November 11, and bundled him off to be baptized in St. Peter and Paul Church, which you can see from the window, it was just down the street from where the Luther’s lived. At his baptism, he was given the name of the saint’s day on which his baptism day fell: Martin of Tours, a fitting name for one who would be a great soldier of Christ, used by God to reform the Church, a messenger proclaiming the ever-living Gospel (Rev. 14:6). This next photo is of the exterior of the house, the rear of the home.

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Categories: Martin Luther

How to Deal with Temptation and Trouble in Life

May 28th, 2013 3 comments

1 Peter 4 verse 19

Profound thoughts from Dr. Martin Luther, brought to us by Pastor Elmer Hohle, translating a German daily devotional featuring Luther’s comments on various texts of Scripture.

Those who suffer according to God’s will, they should entrust their souls to Him as a faithful Creator by doing good. 1 Peter 4:19.

This is the Christian skill which we all need to learn, that we look to the Word and turn our eyes far away from all adjacent oppressive need and suffering. However the flesh is incapable of such a skill; it sees no farther than the present suffering. And it is one of the devil’s skills that he rips the Word far away from the eye, so that a person sees nothing other than the need that is at hand. But that should not be; anyone who directs himself according to feelings, looses Christ. As much as you can, strike out of your heart and mind only the cross and suffering; otherwise, if one keeps on thinking about it for a longtime, the trouble becomes even more wicked and evil. Are you in temptation and trouble, then says this: Well then, I have not chosen this cross for myself, it is the fault of the beloved Word of God that I suffer such and that I have Christ and His teachings. So let it continue to go forth in God’s Name; I will let Him Who long before has designated such suffering and has promised me His divine, gracious help, carry and fight this out for me.

Daily Luther: The More You Pour Out, the More God will Pour In

August 3rd, 2012 3 comments

If faith is correct, then one will in turn act toward his neighbor as he believes that God has acted and does act toward him, that is, out of pure grace. He will forgive him, bear with and be patient with him, lift him out of his misery, give him his own possessions, let him enjoy all he has, deny him nothing at all, put down his body, life, property, and honor for him in the same way that God has done for him. He believes that God does this for him out of pure grace, regardless of his great lack of merit, and certainly does for him as he believes. Therefore, just as God pours out on him and covers him with His good things without regard for his lack of merit, so he in turn pours out on his neighbor, and covers him with what he has, regardless of the fact that he is an enemy or has deserved nothing. He is also certain that he cannot impoverish himself in this way, for the more he pours out, the more God pours in, and the more he fills his neighbor with what is his, the fuller he becomes of God’s good things.

From sermon for St. John’s Day, Dec. 27
Church Postils, 1522.
Forthcoming from CPH in a new edition of the Church Postil.
The sermon is on the Epistle lesson appointed for the day.
Ecclesiasticus 5:1-7

Daily Luther: What Will Life in Heaven Be Like?

July 31st, 2012 1 comment

Just as Adam lived the natural life with the five senses and all sorts of natural functions of the body, so all of his children from the beginning of the world to its end live, one just like the other. For the words “the image of the man of dust” mean that we all bear with us the same form and essence and live and do in every respect as Adam and Eve lived and did. They led the same kind of life, they ate, drank, digested, eliminated, froze, wore clothes, etc., as we do. Therefore, in external aspects there was no observable difference between them and us. Later, however, we shall divest ourselves of that image and essence and receive another’s, namely, the celestial Christ’s. Then we shall have the same form and essence which He now has since His resurrection. Then we need no longer eat, drink, sleep, walk, stand, etc., but will live without any creatural necessities. The entire body will be as pure and bright as the sun and as light as the air, and, finally, so healthy, so blissful, and filled with such heavenly, eternal joy in God that it will never hunger, thirst, grow weary, or decline. That will indeed be a far different and an immeasurably more glorious image than the present one. And what we bear there will be far different from what we bear here. There will be no dissatisfaction, no annoyances, no hardships to bear, such as we have in this lazy, lame image, where we must bear and drag this heavy, indolent paunch about with us, lift it, and have it led. No, there it will swish through all the heavens as swiftly and lightly as lightning and soar over the clouds among the dear angels. St. Paul was intent on impressing these thoughts on us so that we might accustom ourselves already to rising into that life by faith and remember what we are hoping and wishing and praying for when we recite the article: I believe in the resurrection, not only of the spirit—as the heretics said—but also of that very flesh, or body, which we bear on our necks. We believe that it, too, will become a celestial, spiritual body. For what St. Paul discusses in this entire chapter with so many words is only an explanation of this article. He teaches nothing but what these two words contain and convey: “resurrection of the flesh.”

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 28: 1 Corinthians 7, 1 Corinthians 15, Lectures on 1 Timothy, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, 1 Co 15:48–49 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).

Daily Luther: God Said It, That is Enough

July 30th, 2012 Comments off

Whoever will not believe or cannot be persuaded by God’s Word and the example or experience of the resurrection initiated in Christ, will very likely be preached to in vain by illustrations and examples. It should suffice a Christian to hear God’s Word declare that he will come forth from the earth alive, with body, soul, and all senses. He should regard that as true and certain because God said it. He should not inquire further how this will happen but should leave that to God. For He who is able to raise all the dead from the earth with one word will surely also know how to bestow a form and an essence that will serve and be appropriate to the heavenly, eternal life.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 28: 1 Corinthians 7, 1 Corinthians 15, Lectures on 1 Timothy, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, 1 Co 15:35–38 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).

Daily Luther: How to Make Sure Satan Can’t Sneak In

July 29th, 2012 Comments off

St. Paul says, we must watch so as not to sin. The world must watch against poverty, against disturbance of the peace, or against enemies, so that all may be well with people and country. But our watching serves to end sin and to prosper and preserve righteousness; it serves the reign of faith and of love and the extermination of unbelief. This demands that we earnestly occupy ourselves with and cultivate God’s Word always and everywhere, snatch it up avidly, hear it, sing it, speak and read it gladly against the despicable satiety and indolence of which I have spoken. Then we will have our castle and fortress well guarded and all holes closed to keep the devil from stealing in. Otherwise, if I or others fail to preach with diligence and if you do not hear it or are practiced in it, imagining that you are well acquainted with it—that is not watching or warding off but slumbering, letting your head droop, indeed, it is snoring right in the midst of the devil’s guns and spears and affording him a good and safe place for breaking in and ascending into the castle without difficulty.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 28: 1 Corinthians 7, 1 Corinthians 15, Lectures on 1 Timothy, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, 1 Co 15:34 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).

Daily Luther: What Difference Does Heaven Make To You, Now?

July 28th, 2012 Comments off

This is the consolation we derive from yonder life, that God Himself will be ours and that He will be everything to us. For picture to yourself all that you would like to have, and you will find nothing better and dearer and worth wishing for than to have God Himself, who is the life and an inexhaustible depth of everything good and of eternal joy. There is nothing more precious on earth than life. The whole world dreads nothing more than death and desires nothing more than life. And this treasure we are to have in Him without measure and without end. There the sky will rain down talers and gold, if you should choose, the Elbe be filled with pearls and other gems, the earth yield all kinds of delight, so that, at your word, a tree will bear nothing but silver leaves and golden apples and pears, the fields will bear grass and flowers which shine like emeralds and other beautiful gems. In short, whatever delights your heart shall be yours abundantly. For we read that God Himself will be everything to everyone. But wherever God is, all good things that one may wish for must also be present.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 28: 1 Corinthians 7, 1 Corinthians 15, Lectures on 1 Timothy, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, 1 Co 15:28 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).

Daily Luther: Christ’s and Our Three Enemies

July 27th, 2012 Comments off

We commonly speak of three enemies that are both Christ’s and ours: world, flesh, and devil, which we feel and understand. In Rom. 8:7 St. Paul says: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God.” Therefore God will also destroy it with its avarice and care, as he says 1 Cor. 6:13. Thus it is also certain that God will destroy the world. He has already ordered a fire in which it will be consumed and dissolved, as 2 Peter 3:10 tells us. In like manner He has also already sentenced and condemned the devil to eternal fire in hell, for he is God’s worst and chief enemy, who instigates every adversity and evil against God’s kingdom with lies and murder, also with terror, despair, and unbelief. God has these three foes, all of whom act and contend against Him. He in turn fights against them and arrays His whole kingdom solely against them. With His Word, Sacrament, and Spirit He holds the flesh in check. With these He also repels the devil and his venomous suggestions and all sorts of temptations, and also the world with its raging.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 28: 1 Corinthians 7, 1 Corinthians 15, Lectures on 1 Timothy, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, 1 Co 15:26–27 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).

Daily Luther: A Christian Only Has One Foot in the Grave.

July 26th, 2012 1 comment

A Christian has already been thrust into death by the very fact that he became a Christian. Wherever he may be, he occupies himself with this hourly. He expects death any moment so long as he sojourns here, because devil, world, and his own flesh give him no rest. However, he enjoys the advantage of already being out of the grave with his right leg. Moreover, he has a mighty helper who holds out His hand to him, namely, His Lord Christ; He has left the grave entirely a long time ago, and now He takes the Christian by the hand and pulls him more than halfway out of the grave; only the left foot remains in it. For his sin is already remitted and expunged, God’s wrath and hell are extinguished, and he already lives fully in and with Christ with regard to his best part, which is the soul, as he partakes of eternal life. Therefore death can no longer hold him or harm him. Only the remnant, the old skin, flesh and blood, must still decay before it, too, can be renewed and follow the soul. As for the rest, we have already penetrated all the way into life, since Christ and my soul are no longer in death.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 28: 1 Corinthians 7, 1 Corinthians 15, Lectures on 1 Timothy, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, 1 Co 15:26–27 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).

Daily Luther: Dead Without Christ, No Boasting Allowed!

July 25th, 2012 Comments off

I cannot boast that my holiness and merits persuaded Christ to reveal Himself to me, to accept me in grace, and to appoint me an apostle. No, I would have remained just such dead, rejected fruit like the others who remained in their Judaism. But if I was to become good fruit and fit for life, I had to be born in Christ through Baptism, being brought to this and reared and trained by the Gospel.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 28: 1 Corinthians 7, 1 Corinthians 15, Lectures on 1 Timothy, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, 1 Co 15:8–11 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).

Daily Luther: You Must Wear This Armor!

July 24th, 2012 1 comment

If I am not properly clad in my armor, such thoughts come to me, and I stand in danger of losing Christ and the Gospel. If I am to stand my ground, I must constantly adhere to Scripture. How, then, will a person fare who is without Scripture and proceeds equipped with nothing but reason? For what might I believe regarding this article, which teaches that another life follows the present one, if I were to listen to reason when it comes gushing along with its notions and says: “What becomes of him whom the ravens devour or of him who remains in the water and is eaten by the fish and is completely consumed? Where do the people remain who are burned to ashes, who crumble into dust, who are scattered over the whole earth and vanish? Yes, what becomes of every person who is buried in the ground and is consumed by worms?” I may entertain similar thoughts with regard to all the other articles of faith if I follow my reason, also those which seem very insignificant. I might, for instance, ask concerning the Virgin Mary how it was possible for her to become pregnant without a man, etc. But this is the rule: These articles of faith which we preach are not based on human reason and understanding, but on Scripture; it follows that they must not be sought anywhere but in Scripture or explained otherwise than with Scripture.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 28: 1 Corinthians 7, 1 Corinthians 15, Lectures on 1 Timothy, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, 1 Co 15:3–7 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).

Daily Luther: Look Nowhere Else But to the Scriptures!

July 23rd, 2012 Comments off

There is no other enduring way of preserving our doctrine and our faith than the physical or written Word, poured into letters and preached orally; for here we find it stated clearly: “Scripture! Scripture!” But Scripture is not all spirit, about which they drivel, saying that the Spirit alone must do it and that Scripture is a dead letter which cannot impart life. But the fact of the matter is that, although the letter by itself does not impart life, yet it must be present, and it must be heard or received. And the Holy Spirit must work through this in the heart, and the heart must be preserved in the faith through and in the Word against the devil and every trial. Otherwise, where this is surrendered, Christ and the Spirit will soon be lost. Therefore do not boast so much of the Spirit if you do not have the revealed external Word; for this is surely not a good spirit but the vile devil from hell. The Holy Spirit, as you know, has deposited His wisdom and counsel and all mysteries into the Word and revealed these in Scripture, so that no one can excuse himself. Nor must anyone seek or search for something else or learn or acquire something better or more sublime than what Scripture teaches of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, our Savior, who died and rose for us.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 28: 1 Corinthians 7, 1 Corinthians 15, Lectures on 1 Timothy, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, 1 Co 15:3–7 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).