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Martin Luther on The Church Father and Biblical Interpretation 

128756_imagnoTaken from Martin Luther’s Table Talk, p 352

May 7, 1539

No 4567

There was talk on May 7 about the clarity of the Scriptures in this age, though in former times much had been written and read but little understood. He [Martin Luther] replied, “Surely a great light has gone up, for we understand both the words and the content [of the Scriptures] according to the testimony of the ancient writers. None of the sophists [scholastic theologians of the Middle Ages] was able to expound the passage, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live’ [Rom. 1:17], for they interpreted ‘righteous’ and ‘righteousness’ differently. Except for Augustine, there was great blindness among the fathers. After the Holy Scriptures, Augustine should especially be read, for he had keen judgment. However, if we turn from the Bible to the commentaries of the fathers, our study will be bottomless. (more…)

Martin Luther Commentary on Galatians 6:5

ImageLuther on Galatians 6:5 “For each will have to bear his own load”

It is as if Paul were saying: “It is the height of insanity to look for the ground of your boasting in others, not in yourself. For in your death struggle and at the Last Judgment it will not help you at all that others praised you. Others will not bear your load, but you will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (Rom 14:10) and bear your own load alone. There your partisans will not be able to help you at all; for when we die the voices of those who praise us will be stilled ‘On that day, when God judges the secrets of men’ (Rom 2:16), the testimony of your conscience will stand either for you or against you: against you if you have your boast in others; for you if you have it in yourself, that is, if your conscience bears testimony to you that you have carried out the ministry of the Word properly and faithfully, with a concern only for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, in other words, that you have done your duty rightly, in accordance with your calling.” The words “Each mans ill have to bear his own judgement” are forceful enough to frighten us thoroughly, so that we do not yearn for vainglory.

It should also be noted that we are not dealing here with the doctrine of justification, where nothing matters except sheer grace and the forgiveness of sins, which are received by faith alone; there all works, even those that are the best and that have been done in accordance with a divine vocation, are in need of the forgiveness of sins, because we have not done them perfectly.

Luther’s Works Volume 27, Lectures on Galatians 1535, page 121

From the Depths of Woe (Psalm 130)

From the depths of woe I raise to thee a voice of lamentation

Lord turn a gracious ear to me and hear my supplication

If thou iniquities dost mark

Our secret sins and misdeeds dark

Who shall stand before thee

 

 

To wash away the crimson stain

Grace grace alone availeth

Our words alas are all in vain

In much the best life faileth

No man can glory in thy sight

All must alike must confess thy might

And live alone by mercy

 

 

Therefore my trust is in the Lord

And not in my own merit

On him my soul shall rest his word

Upholds my fainting spirit

His promised mercy is my fort

My comfort and my sweet support

I wait for it with patience

 

 

While though I wait the live long night

And till the dawn appeareth

My heart still trusteth in his might

It doubteth not nor feareth

To thus oh ye of Israel’s seed

Thee of the spirit born indeed

And wait till God appeareth

 

 

Though great our sins and so our woes

His grace much more aboundeth

His helping love no limit knows

Our utmost need it soundeth

Our shepherd good and true is he

Who will at last his Israel free

From all their sin and sorrow

From all our sin and sorrow

Martin Luther

Martin

“I frankly confess that, for myself, even if it could be, I should not want ‘free-will’ to be given me, nor anything to be left in my own hands to enable me to endeavour after salvation; not merely because in face of so many dangers, and adversities and assaults of devils, I could not stand my ground …; but because even were there no dangers … I should still be forced to labour with no guarantee of success … But now that God has taken my salvation out of the control of my own will, and put it under the control of His, and promised to save me, not according to my working or running, but according to His own grace and mercy, I have the comfortable certainty that He is faithful and will not lie to me, and that He is also great and powerful, so that no devils or opposition can break Him or pluck me from Him. Furthermore, I have the comfortable certainty that I please God, not by reason of the merit of my works, but by reason of His merciful favour promised to me; so that, if I work too little, or badly, He does not impute it to me, but with fatherly compassion pardons me and makes me better. This is the glorying of all the saints in their God” – Marin Luther, The Bondage of the Will (Grand Rapids: Revell, 1957), 313-314.