Diane asked me if Luther really wrote all that’s being attributed to him, so much Luther are we hearing! I trust this anniversary has given you some new insights not only into the Reformer but especially into our Savior and holy faith.
The most sobering thing I’ve learned is what Luther wrote on grace. Pauline scholar John Barclay wrote, “In (Martin) Luther’s eyes, those who are especially pious are liable to a kind of super-sized sin, because they are all the more confident that their excellent works of righteousness will obtain the favor of God” (Paul and the Gift, 104).
From Luther himself: “The man who imagines that he will come to grace by doing whatever he is able to do is adding sin to sin. Therefore he becomes doubly guilty. Nor is speaking in this way giving any cause of despair; it is rather moving men to humble themselves and to seek the grace of Christ. Certain it is that man must completely despair of himself in order to become fit to receive the grace of Christ,” (Heidelberg 16-18).
John Barclay again: “Paul’s theology of gift (grace) is re-preached (by Luther) to effect the perpetual conversion of believers, who need to learn over and again to receive the gift of God and to banish the false opinion that their works will merit salvation. The gospel constitutes a mission to the self and a daily return to baptism” (571).
Special thanks to Concordia Seminary’s world-class Department of Historical Theology for all they’ve done for Reformation 500. Drs. Charles Arand, Gerhard Bode, Timothy Dost, Erik Herrmann, Robert Kolb, Paul Robinson and Robert Rosin are a great blessing in this mission of our Savior.
If anyone is liable to a super-sized self-image, it’s we who work in the church. May we be graced to lead with the proper spirit, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13).
Dr. Dale A. Meyer, President
Concordia Seminary, St. Louis