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Martin Luther Quotes

Updated on February 12, 2019
James A Watkins profile image

James A. Watkins is an entrepreneur, musician, and a writer with four non-fiction books and hundreds of magazine articles read by millions.


The Law

I recently wrote about the life of Martin Luther, the German Reformer. Today I have Martin Luther Quotes to share with you.

"The law is a light that illumines and shows, not the grace of God or righteousness and life, but the wrath of God, sin, death, our damnation in the sight of God, and hell. Such an awareness of divine judgment, which brought knowledge of oneself through the revelation of the law of God, is the basis of authentic repentance. Authentic repentance stands in contrast to the fictitious penance of the scholastics, as is taught to this hour."

The law is a divinely appointed instrument for exhibiting the wrath of God and the sin of man. "Once the repentant sinner has been awakened by the proclamation of the law to recognize his true condition before God, the law has performed its task and must yield to the promise of the Gospel, which the sinner accepts by faith alone, without any merit or reliance on the works of the law." "All men are under sin and worthy of eternal wrath and death. Thus we preach repentance."


The Papacy

Martin Luther came to deny that the papacy had any authority and to denounce it as Antichrist. He also denounced the sacramental system: "Baptism and the Eucharist are the only true sacraments of the New Testament Church. The church did not have the authority to institute new sacraments for which there was no explicit command and promise in Scripture."

"The pope is the Antichrist, seated in the temple of God. The Church in which he is seated is still the temple of God. Despite the corruption of both faith and practice, the reality of the body of Christ is still with the Roman Catholics. For the Church is the assembly of all believers. The Church is the daughter of the Word, not the mother of the Word. If I were the only one in the entire world to adhere to the Word, I alone would be the Church."

"A Minister is appointed by God and entrusted to preach the Word for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, rather than for his own glory."


The Word of God

Luther designated the Word of God in the Gospel as an oral Word.

"When I refer to the Word of God in the Gospel I am not referring to the written Word, but about the vocal one.

Christ himself did not write but he preached.

And he commanded his disciples not to write but to preach.

The Gospel should be brought out of the living voice and mouth.

All Scripture is inspired of God."


The Church

Luther valued continuity with ancient doctrine, the church fathers, and above all the creeds of the ancient church. "I stand with the true Christian Church, which has maintained these confessions until now, and not with the false, vainglorious church, which is the worst enemy of the true church and has introduced all sorts of idolatry alongside these beautiful confessions. The ancient creeds and councils did not spawn new dogmas but merely summarized Scripture."

"When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, 'Repent,' he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance." Luther saw the nature of the Church as functional rather than institutional.


Good Works

"We do everything by necessity and nothing by our free will, since the power of the free will is nothing and neither does the good nor is capable of it in the absence of grace. Free will is confined to natural matters, such as eating, drinking, procreating, governing, and the like."

Man possesses the capacity to respond to divine grace, for if men were not able to assent to the Word of God, they could not be held accountable for refusing to assent. But any notion of merit as the basis of man's relation to God is excluded.

"No good work is performed before grace, but only wrath, sin, terror, and death."

Obedience to the divine will was truly pleasing to God, but salvation is not by good works.

"Human traditions instituted to propitiate God, merit grace, and make satisfaction for sins, are opposed to the Gospel and the doctrine of faith. The proliferation of these human requirements about works that were thought to earn the favor of God had obscured the grace of Christ and the doctrine of faith."

"Faith must be the foreman behind works. Faith is not opposed to good works; on the contrary, it is only by the righteousness of faith that one could be set free from the anxiety of seeking to appease the wrath God by works and can go on for the first time to perform good works. The good works of faith are works for the benefit of the neighbor. It is not necessary to perform them for one's own benefit or to gain the favor of God."


Forgiveness of Sins

At the center of Luther's doctrine is the forgiveness of sins.

"The forgiveness of sins is the very voice of the Gospel. We do not depend on our own strength, conscience, experience, person, or works, but depend on that which is outside ourselves, that is, on the promise and truth of God. God averts His eyes from our sins, yes, even from our righteousness and virtues, and reckons us as righteous because of faith, which lays hold of His Son. Faith is our righteousness before God. Christ is our righteousness; as God and man he has by His perfect obedience redeemed us from our sins, justified and saved us. Salvation and forgiveness come solely by the grace of Christ and all toil and effort to seek other ways leading to heaven are futile and vain. This is vitiated when grace is interpreted as a disposition within man rather than as the unmerited favor and forgiving mercy of God. Faith is above all a firm trust for which Christ is the object of faith; believing that the life, death, and resurrection of Christ are historically true—but that above all that they are true for me."

The doctrine of justification by faith implies that the justified sinner is, throughout his life, righteous and a sinner at the same time. Righteous not because of a righteousness of his own, but the righteousness of Christ. Our confidence must be and remain in the cross.


The Truth

The truths of the Christian faith are not to be treated as objects of intellectual curiosity. To Martin Luther, these truths are:

"I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, delivered me and freed me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with silver and gold but with his holy and precious blood and with his innocent sufferings and death, in order that I may be his, live under him in his kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as he is risen from the dead and lives and reigns for all eternity."

Christ was what he was in order to do what he did. "Christ is the one who has made satisfaction, he is the one who is righteous, he is my defense, he is the one who died for me."

"God wants to remain hidden and do everything behind his masks; all of creation is such a mask of God. It is necessary to distinguish between God and his masks. God is a supernatural, inscrutable being who exists at the same time in every seed, whole and entire, and yet also in all and above all and outside all created things. Nothing is so small but God is still smaller, nothing so large but God is still larger. God strictly forbids the speculative investigation of his divinity, which will remain hidden except in Christ, through whom the unrevealed God became the revealed God."

The Gospel is the knowledge of the grace and mercy of God through Christ; the forgiveness of sins and the inheritance of eternal life through Christ. The Gospel is a promise.

These quotes are from the book by Jaroslav Pelikan Reformation of Church and Dogma


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