The Theology of Martin Luther

By Paul Althaus; Robert C. Schultz | Go to book overview
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THE MEANS by which God encounters us is the word. For Luther the word is first and last the spoken word, that is, the living proclamation which takes place in any particular situation. But the living word is at the same time a limited word for its content is the apostolic word. Christ has commissioned the apostles to spread the news that he is the Savior and to preach the salvation he brings the world. For this purpose he has promised and has given them his Holy Spirit. Therefore the apostles are the legitimate and, in their proclamation of Christ, the infallible teachets of Christendom.1 All Christian proclamation can only transmit and explain this apostolic word. The preaching of the apostles is the source and constant standard of the word which the church proclaims.

The proclamation of the apostles was originally also a spoken word. This corresponds to the nature of the gospel. For the gospel is not simply the communication of a truth which one might also learn by reading it; it is rather a summons to men. For this reason, its primal form is the spoken proclamation. The spoken word is not the inadequate preliminary form of the Scripture and of the printed word, and the Scripture and the printed word are not an advance over and beyond the living word. The spoken word aLWays remains the basic form of the gospel. The Scripture has its source and exists for the sake of oral proclamation. It has come in between, as something which is necessary only because it is an indispensable aid in the proclamation of the word. Written Scripture is necessary because of the danger that preaching could be

1 Cf. p. 5, n. 4. Luther says of Paul, “He was not only a man like Caesar
or somebody else but he was destined and chosen by God.” Luther describes
the apostles as saying, “We have authority and power in this matter since we
are God's apostles and have the Holy Spirit.” WA 39I, 296 f.


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