Monday, January 19, 2015

Martin Luther: Ethical Actions stem from "real, true believers."

Martin Luther: Christians, “who have been redeemed through the blood and death of the Son of God, should live godly lives”

Luther goes even further in using Jesus as an example in his final sermon in Wittenberg (January 17, 1646), just a month before his death (Luther preached five other sermons in other cities before his death on February 18, 1646). The text on which the sermon is based is Romans 13:3, in which Paul bids his readers not to think more highly of themselves than they should, but to base that judgment upon “the measure of faith which God has assigned” them (LW 1955 51:371). Ethical actions are some of the “fruits of faith,” fruits that demonstrate we are not “false Christians . . . but rather real, true believers.” Christians, “who have been redeemed through the blood and death of the Son of God, should live godly lives” (372).
What makes this sermon especially interesting is that Luther incorporates aspects of earlier allegorical interpretations of the parable of the Good Samaritan, so, even at the end of his career, Luther was not beyond some of the “spiritual jugglery” of which he accused Origen and others in their interpretations:
After baptism there still remains much of the old Adam. For, as we have often said, it is true that sin is forgiven in baptism, but we are not yet altogether clean, as is shown in the parable of the Samaritan, who carried the man wounded by robbers to an inn. He did not take care of him in such a way that he healed him at once, but rather bound up his wounds and poured on oil. The man who fell among the robbers suffered two injuries. First, everything that he had was taken from him, he was robbed; and second, he was wounded, so that he was half-dead and would have died, of the Samaritan had not come to him (373).
Luther’s assumption that the man would have died if not the Samaritan had helped him is not explicit in the parable itself, but Luther states that view because of the theological point he makes next, and it follows the standard allegorical interpretations of the parable:

 Adam fell among the robbers and implanted sin in us all. If Christ, the Samaritan, had not come, we should all have to die. He it is who binds our wounds, carries us to the church and is now healing us. So we are now under the Physician’s care . . . . Therefore this life is a hospital; the sin has really been forgiven, but it has not yet been healed (373).

1 comment:

  1. Sorry for the (original) broken link for the photo caption. It's fixed now (I hope).


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