30 July 2009

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

For this makes the difference between those who are Christians and are holy, and the others who are without faith and the Spirit, or have ceased to care and have lost them. For, though the faithful still suffer from sinful lusts of the flesh as the others do, yet they continue in repentance and in the fear of God and keep their faith, so that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, because they resist and do not give way to sin. Therefore they continue in forgiveness, and their weakness is not unto death and condemnation as with the others, who without repentance and faith go wilfully in their lusts, contrary to their conscience, and thus thrust away both faith and the Holy Ghost. -- Blessed Martin Luther, Sermon for Trinity 8, 1535 (*Day by Day* p. 285)


Anonymous said...

Pastor Weedon -- is this from "Day by Day We Magnify Thee" and which edition, please? I'd love to get another copy. I see it's been re-released by Augsburg Fortress by I fear the text may be somewhat different from the Fortress edition I once had.

I'd love to get another copy of the original.


Stephen said...

Pastor Weedon - I was interested in the connection with your post on misconceptions regarding 'simul iustus et peccator'. There you affirm the life-long struggle that the Christian is to be involved in. The forgiven man receives the Spirit to work in him against sin. Here Luther seems to focus not so much on the struggle against sin (sanctification) as being a good thing in and of itself, but on sin's relation to faith and justification: if we persist in sin, we lose faith and hence forgiveness. Can you help me to understand the connections between justification and sanctification here?

Stephen (learning about Lutheranism)

William Weedon said...


One and the same! I have a very old copy from Muehlenberg Press.


I think you already expressed it well. The forgiven man does have the Spirit within to fight against this corruption for the whole of life. Where the corruption is not being fought against but indulged and given free reign, there faith and the Holy Spirit are driven forth and the saving connection to Christ (justification) is lost. The one way of putting it is actually a Gospel comfort - you'll have the struggle to the grave but the struggle itself is a sign of the life of God within you. The other way of putting it is actually a Law warning - when the struggle ceases and you no longer fight the corruption, you've driven the Spirit and faith from your heart.

We need to hear both - the Law to keep us from all presumption and the Gospel to give us all comfort.

Stephen said...

Pastor Weedon - Thank you. I suppose my question really concerns the Lutheran understanding of sanctification. (Big topic, I know!) When I read the Luther quote, what struck me was how the transformed life (repentance/resistance against sin) here supports justification (through preserving our faith), rather than the usual sequence of justification leading subsequently to sanctification. But maybe I am reading too much in, and both are true? In faith we receive forgiveness and the live-transforming work of the Spirit - but to hinder this work within us is to lose our faith, and therefore justification too.

The above could be seen as close to saying 'we are justified by faith and our human cooperation'. But I presume the answer lies in seeing our actions (good or bad) as preserving or severing our connection to Christ (i.e. faith) without having inherent justifying value? Though he did not say it here, could Luther have expanded to say "... yet they continue in repentance and in the fear of God and in good works and keep their faith, ..."? Or does the (negative) avoidance of sin have greater implications for faith than the (positive) doing of good works?

I found the following quote from a Lutheran article: "Lutherans recognize that Christians as sinners are never immune to the Law's moral demands and its threats against sin, but in the strictest sense these warnings do not belong to Christian sanctification, the life believers live in Christ and in which Christ lives in them. In Roman Catholic and some Protestant systems, the Gospel brings the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, but is replaced by the Law which sets down directives for Christian life and warns and threatens the Christian as Christian. Law, and not the Gospel, becomes God's last and real word for the believer." Would you agree with this? Does the Law warning you mention address us as sinners, to drive us to Christ in faith, or does it also inform our lives as Christians? (I am very much a learner in Lutheran theology, so thank you for bearing with my no-doubt confused questions..)

William Weedon said...


I wouldn't have phrased it exactly like that quote; for the Law is also eternal and becomes through the Gospel a gift to be celebrated and rejoiced in. The Law very much gives the description of what life in Christ is and will be - for He IS love! But the POWER to fulfil the law never comes from the law itself, but always and only from union with Christ through believing the Gospel. Thus, St. Paul can speak of the word of the cross as the power of God at work in us who are "being saved."

Stephen said...

Pastor Weedon - To adapt your wording, could we say the Law is first and foremost a description of Christ, and by extension of us in whom his power is working?

You are saying, I think, that while the power to keep the Law does not reside in itself, it has a regulative role in convicting the Christian of those sins that need repenting of. This use of the Law will not comfort us, it will always convict of our shortcomings. I read somewhere that Luther described the Christian life as one of continual repentance; I guess this is the place of the Law?

Out of interest, would you agree with the 2nd paragraph in my last post?

Blessings to you in your ministry,

William Weedon said...


It would take a longer post than I have time now to write. Trying to take some vacation! Will try to remember to get back to this after 16th.

Stephen said...

Pastor Weedon - of course, you should enjoy your vacation! (I will be away too last 2 weeks of Aug.) Blessings