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Martin Luther on justification by faith

February 26, 2014 1 comment

This doctrine can never be discussed and taught enough. If it is lost and perishes, the whole knowledge of truth, life, and salvation is lost and perishes at the same time. But if it flourishes, everything good flourishes—religion, true worship, the glory of God, and the right knowledge of all things and of all social conditions. There is clear and present danger that the devil may take away from us the pure doctrine of faith and may substitute for it the doctrines of works and of human traditions. It is very necessary, therefore, that this doctrine of faith be continually read and heard in public.

Martin Luther, in the preface to his commentary on Galatians

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Chapter 7 — The Testimony of the Spirit Necessary to Give Full Authority to Scripture, sec. 1 & 2

January 18, 2014 Leave a comment

1. Before proceeding farther, it seems proper to make some observations on the authority of Scripture, in order that our minds may not only be prepared to receive it with reverence, but be divested of all doubt.

When that which professes to be the Word of God is acknowledged to be so, no person, unless devoid of common sense and the feelings of a man, will have the desperate hardihood to refuse credit to the speaker. But since no daily responses are given from heaven, and the Scriptures are the only records in which God has been pleased to consign his truth to perpetual remembrance, the full authority which they ought to possess with the faithful is not recognized, unless they are believed to have come from heaven, as directly as if God has been heard giving utterance to them. This subject well deserves to be treated more at large, and pondered more accurately. But my readers will pardon me for having more regard to what my plan admits than to what the extent of this topic requires.

A most pernicious error has very generally prevailed–viz. that Scripture is of importance only in so far as conceded to it by the suffrage of the Church; as if the eternal and inviolable truth of God could depend on the will of men. With great insult to the Holy Spirit, it is asked, who can assure us that the Scriptures proceeded from God; who guarantee that they have come down safe and unimpaired to our times; who persuade us that this book is to be received with reverence, and that one expunged from the list, did not the Church regulate all these things with certainty? On the determination of the Church, therefore, it is said, depend both the reverence which is due to Scripture, and the books which are to be admitted into the canon. Thus profane men, seeking, under the pretext of the Church, to introduce unbridled tyranny, care not in what absurdities they entangle themselves and others, provided they extort from the simple this one acknowledgement–viz. that there is nothing which the Church cannot do. But what is to become of miserable consciences in quest of some solid assurance of eternal life, if all the promises with regard to it have no better support than man’s Judgment? On being told so, will they cease to doubt and tremble? On the other hand, to what jeers of the wicked is our faith subjected–into how great suspicion is it brought with all, if believed to have only a precarious authority lent to it by the good will of men?

2. These ravings are admirably refuted by a single expression of an apostle. Paul testifies that the Church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” If the doctrine of the apostles and prophets is the foundation of the Church, the former must have had its certainty before the latter began to exist. Nor is there any room for the cavil, that though the Church derives her first beginning from thence, it still remains doubtful what writings are to be attributed to the apostles and prophets, until her Judgment is interposed. For if the Christian Church was founded at first on the writings of the prophets, and the preaching of the apostles, that doctrine, wheresoever it may be found, was certainly ascertained and sanctioned antecedently to the Church, since, but for this, the Church herself never could have existed. Nothing therefore can be more absurd than the fiction, that the power of judging Scripture is in the Church, and that on her nod its certainty depends. When the Church receives it, and gives it the stamp of her authority, she does not make that authentic which was otherwise doubtful or controverted but, acknowledging it as the truth of God, she, as in duty bounds shows her reverence by an unhesitating assent. As to the question, How shall we be persuaded that it came from God without recurring to a decree of the Church? It is just the same as if it were asked, How shall we learn to distinguish light from darkness, white from black, sweet from bitter? Scripture bears upon the face of it as clear evidence of its truth, as white and black do of their color, sweet and bitter of their taste.

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. I.7.1-2.

Chapter 14: Of Saving Faith (III)

III. This faith is different in degrees, weak or strong;(a) may be often and many way assailed, and weakened, but gets the victory:(b) growing up in to the attainment of a full assurance, through Christ,(c) who is both the author and finisher of our faith.(d)

(a) Hebrews 5:13, 14; Romans 4:19, 20; Matthew 6:30; Matthew 8:10
(b) Luke 22:31, 31; Ephesians 6:16; 1 John 5:4, 5
(c) Hebrews 6:11, 12; Hebrews 10:22; Colossians 2:2
(d) Hebrews 12:2

Chapter 14: Of Saving Faith (II)

II. By this faith, a Christian believes to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God Himself speaking therein;(a) and acts differently upon that which each particular passage thereof contains; yielding obedience to the commands,(b) trembling at the threatenings,(c) and embracing the promises of  God for this life, and that which is to come.(d) But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.(e)

(a) John 4:42; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 John 5:10; Acts 24:14
(b) Romans 16:26
(c) Isaiah 66:2
(d) Hebrews 11:13; 1 Timothy 4:8
(e) John 1:12; Acts 16:31; Galatians 2:20; Acts 15:11

Chapter 14: Of Saving Faith (I)

I. The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls,(a) is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts,(b) and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word,(c) by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened.(d)

(a) Hebrews 10:39
(b) 2 Corinthians 4:13; Ephesians 1:17-19, 2:8
(c) Romans 10:14, 17
(d) 1 Peter 2:2; Acts 20:32; Romans 4:11; Luke 17:5; Romans 1:16, 17

Chapter 1: Of the Holy Scripture (X)

October 25, 2012 9 comments

X. The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.(a)

(a) Matthew 22:29, 31; Ephesians 2:20; Acts 28:25

 

Chapter 1: Of the Holy Scripture (IX)

October 24, 2012 9 comments

IX. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself:  and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.(a)

(a) 2 Peter 1:20, 21; Acts 15:15, 16

 

Chapter 1: Of the Holy Scripture (VIII)

October 23, 2012 8 comments

VIII. The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which, at the time of the writing of it, was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and, by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical;(a) so as, in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them.(b) But, because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them,(c) therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come,(d) that, the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship Him in an acceptable manner;(e) and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.(f)

(a) Matthew 5:18

(b) Isaiah 8:20; Acts 15:15; John 5:39, 46

(c) John 5:39

(d) 1 Corinthians 14:6, 9, 11, 12, 24, 27, 28

(e) Colossians 3:16

(f) Romans 15:4

 

Chapter 1: Of the Holy Scripture (VII)

October 22, 2012 8 comments

VII. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all:(a)  yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due sense of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.(b)

(a) 2 Peter 3:16

(b) Psalm 119:105, 130

 

Chapter 1: Of the Holy Scripture (VI)

October 21, 2012 10 comments

VI. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture:  unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.(a) Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word:(b)  and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.(c)

(a) 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Galatians 1:8, 9; 2 Thessalonians 2:2

(b) John 6:45; 1 Corinthians 2:9-12

(c) 1 Corinthians 11:13, 14; 1 Corinthians 14:26, 40

 

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