Friday, 17 May 2013

Martin Luther's "sin boldly" quote in context

If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious31 sinners. Be a sinner and sin32 boldly,33 but believe and34 rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here [in this world]35 we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness,36 but, as Peter says,37 we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness38 dwells. It is enough that by39 the riches of God’s glory we have come to know the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world.40 No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins41 by so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly—you too are a mighty sinner.42
31 The translation here is based on the text offered by the manuscript copy of this letter; the printed editions have a text which can be translated as: “only fictitiously sinners.”
32 The manuscript copy of this letter has the following text: “et peccaris,” “and you will have sinned,” which makes little sense; therefore the translation is based on the text offered by the earliest printed edition.
33 Passages such as this were misunderstood and used as main arguments against Luther. Luther was interpreted as encouraging laxity and licentiousness. When the Peasants’ War broke out, this opinion was strengthened. Erasmus, for instance, constantly suspected that Luther was stimulating discontent and even rebellion with his ideas and work. For the proper understanding of this statement, see W. H. T. Dau, Luther Examined and Re-examined (St. Louis, Mo., 1917), pp. 111 ff. See also pp. 12 f.
34 The phrase “but believe and” is missing in the manuscript copy of this letter but is found in the earliest printed edition.
35 The word “here” is missing in the manuscript copy of this letter but is found in the earliest printed edition.
36 The manuscript copy of this letter offers instead animae, i.e., “of the soul”; the translation is based on the earliest printed edition.
37 II Pet. 3:13.
38 The manuscript copy offers instead anima, i.e., “soul”; the translation is based on the earliest printed edition.
39 The manuscript copy offers a text which has to be translated: “that we have come to know the riches of God’s glory”; the translation is based on the earliest printed edition.
40 John 1:29.
41 See I Cor. 6:20 and I Pet. 1:18–19. The printed editions of this letter offer a text which has to be translated: “think that the price and the redemption [paid and] completed for us by … is too small?” The translation is based on the manuscript copy of this letter.
42 So according to the manuscript copy of this letter. The printed editions offer a text which has to be translated: “for you are a mighty.…”
Martin Luther, vol. 48, Luther's Works, Vol. 48 : Letters I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther's Works, 48:281 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999, c1963).
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  1. I'm not exactly surprised that Luther was misunderstood. To be honest, I'm still not sure that I understood what he meant, and it is now 35 years since I came across the quotation. Yes - I know it is hyperbole. But it seems to me that is comes pretty close to "not expressing himself clearly."

    By curious co-incidence, these words of Luther popped into my head yesterday, in light of the vote at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to "Affirm the Church’s historic and current doctrine and practice in relation to human sexuality nonetheless permit those Kirk sessions who wish to depart from that doctrine and practice to do so."

    It seems to me that this says "Yes, same-sex sexual activity is sinful, but feel free to do it anyway." In other words (to use Luther's words, though meaning something rather different) sin boldly.

  2. What Luther means by sin boldly is, I think, live in the light of Romans 5:20: "where sin increased, grace increased all the more".

    As one of my lecturers pointed out many years ago, only when you've actually understood the scandal of what Paul is saying will you ask the question Paul addresses in 6:1, "Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?"

    The 'natural man' following 'natural religion' (Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, even Juda-ism) would never ask this question since it is obvious that sin will lead to punishment and rejection by God and that can only be addressed (according to 'natural religion') by stopping sinning and starting doing good.

    But Paul does not point us to ourselves, he points us to God's grace, which 'abounds' to sinners. Luther sees this, and says to the sinner, "Sin boldly" - stand before God, before the world and before the mirror as a sinner, because we have a Saviour.

  3. this entry has been here for a while but i wanted to comment. i believe you are correct Mr. Richardson in your above statement.
    The greatest proof in this is the way the world treats Christians. Take the Duck Dynasty crew for example. The world will find fault with them on moral grounds (duck hunting, opposing homosexuality, etc). And behind that is Satan's tactic of trying to put God's people on their heels. Its also to trap us into pretending to be righteous all the time, which is a terrible burden to ourselves and unsufferable to others.

  4. Luther was a disgusting heretic and liar.

    1. Agreed, in that Luther was a man thus he was a sinner. To the specifics of his sins, that is a matter for God.

  5. worse than wilful sin will send a man to hell. Luther hated the thought of that as it went against his gospel. he even wanted to rid the bible of some of the latter books in order to make a way for people to find forgiveness for wilful sin. but the evidence is overwhelming.... purposeful sin was not forgiven under the old covenant, and neither is it forgiven in Christ. If you know it is sin and do it all the same you have condemned yourself. Only those who overcome until the very end will be accepted. To paraphrase Justin Martyr- if every man knew that nothing can escape the Lords knowledge, he would live decently, not choosing sin even for a little, knowing the penalty involved. For the first five centuries of the church, wilful sin was fought against with passion. Sadly Gods holy gospel has fallen aways and few will make it. Even if you keep yourself from sin but lead others into it by teaching them that the Lord will forgive them in a "second repentance", well youve damned yourself as well. Luther was a liar who hated the gospel. He would rather God fill the Holy City with whores, liars, and evil men of all kinds, that strive to be one of the few that seek immortality and glory.

  6. Which examples more of the the polemical hyperbole of Luther, and not always in teaching correct doctrine. One cannot truly believe on the Lord Jesus with Scriptural saving faith if regularly impenitently committing such sins as fornication, even if "boldly" is dismissed as a mere rhetorical device. And which is contrary to other teaching by Luther.

    Christ is the priest, all men are spiritual lepers because of unbelief; but when we come to faith in him he touches us With his hand, gives and lays upon us his merit and we become clean and whole without any merit on our part whatever. We are therefore to show our gratitude to him and acknowledge that we have not become pious by our own works, but through his grace, then our course will be right before God..

    "This is what I have often said, if faith be true, it will break forth and bear fruit."

    “We must therefore most certainly maintain that where there is no faith there also can be no good works; and conversely, that there is no faith where there are no good works. Therefore faith and good works should be so closely joined together that the essence of the entire Christian life consists in both.”

    “Thus faith casts itself on God, and breaks forth and becomes certain through its works.

    "For if you continue in pride and lewdness, in greed and anger, and yet talk much of faith, St. Paul will come and say, 1 Cor. 4:20, look here my dear Sir, "the kingdom of God is not in word but in power." It requires life and action, and is not brought about by mere talk.”

    " is a living and an essential thing, which makes a new creature of man, changes his spirit and wholly and completely converts him. It goes to the foundation and there accomplishes a renewal of the entire man; so, if I have previously seen a sinner, I now see in his changed conduct, manner and life, that he believes. So high and great a thing is faith.

    .'Such a faith will work in you love for Christ and joy in him, and good works will naturally follow. If they do not, faith is surely not present: for where faith is, there the Holy Ghost is and must work love and good works.”

    "For it is impossible for him who believes in Christ, as a just Savior, not to love and to do good. If, however, he does not do good nor love, it is sure that faith is not present.

    Sources and more.

    And Scripture also warns believers, as believers, against having an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God, falling from grace, drawing back into perdition, making Christ of no effect/profit, falling from grace. (Heb. 3:12; 10:38; Gal. 5:1-4) Thus God works to chasten wayward souls to repentance, lest they “be condemned with the rest of the world.” (1Co. 11:32

  7. I did not realize there were people in this world who no longer sin. I thought Christ was the only man to walk on this earth without sinning. Sounds like some of you may be more like the Pharisees, rather than recipients of God's grace thru Christ.

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