The Theology of Martin Luther

By Paul Althaus; Robert C. Schultz | Go to book overview

12
MAN AS A SINNER

MAN'S KNOWLEDGE OF SIN

MAN DOES not, by himself, understand his own sinfulness, at least not in its real nature and depth. Admittedly he has by nature a partial knowledge of sin. God's law is written by nature in his heart. Insofar as he accepts it, he also knows from it that he transgresses it and sins.1 But just as without the word and the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit he cannot know the full extent of the demand God makes, so the sin in the depths of his heart and his inner impurity also remain hidden. “Man's heart is so deep that we cannot investigate it for ourselves.” The psalmist [Ps. 139:23] therefore asks the Lord to let him know his sin.2 Sin is infinitely great, especially sin against the First Commandment “What an abyss unfaith is!” How is it possible that a man could plumb its depths and express it by himself.3 By nature he perhaps recognizes certain individual sins but not the “basic, main, and really mortal sin,” the primal or original sin which is essentially unfaith toward God and his Christ, the sin against the First Commandment. Man also does not know where this sin comes from. He can know of all those things only after God's word has told him of them. The Scripture bears witness to him that he not only sins here and there but that there is little good in his nature and that whatever good there is is misused.5 Man becomes com

1WA 3911, 367.

2WA 3911, 323.

3WA 3911, 366. “Then you shall know that you cannot make this sin great
enough, for absolutely no man can ever discover or comprehend his wickedness.
since it is infinite and eternal.” WA 8, 113; LW 32, 240.

4 “Radical sin, deadly and truly mortal, is unknown to men in the whole
wide world.… Not one of all men could think that it was a sin of the world
not to believe in Christ Jesus the Crucified.” WA 391, 84; LW 34, 154. “A
man by his own nature does not know where sin comes from nor does he even
know sin itself. A knowledge of sin, however, remains in man through the
word of God.” WA 3911, 365. Cf. ibid., p. 366 and WA 8, 104

5WA 391, 86; LW 34. 156.

-141-

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The Theology of Martin Luther
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • From the Preface to the German Edition v
  • Translator's Note ix
  • Contents xi
  • Abbreviations xv
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The Authority of Scripture and of the Creeds 3
  • 2: The Subject Matter of Theology 9
  • Part One - The Knowledge of God the Word of God and Faith 13
  • 3: The General and the Proper Knowledge of God 15
  • 4: God in Himself and God as He Reveals Himself 20
  • 5: The Theology of the Cross 25
  • 6: The Word of God and the Spirit of God 35
  • 7: Faith 43
  • 8: Reason 64
  • 9: The Holy Scripture 72
  • Part Two - God's Work 103
  • 10: God is God 105
  • 11: God's Will for Men 130
  • 12: Man as a Sinner 141
  • 13: Man Between God and Satan 161
  • 14: Man Under the Wrath of God 169
  • 15: God in Jesus Christ 179
  • 16: The Trinity 199
  • 17: Jesus Christ as the Reconciler and Redeemer 201
  • 18: Righteousness in Faith 224
  • 19: Law and Gospel 251
  • 20: The Freedom of the Gracious God 274
  • 21: The People of God 287
  • 22: The Church as the Community of Saints 294
  • 23: The Office of the Ministry 323
  • 24: The True Church and the Empirical Church 333
  • 25: The Sacrament 345
  • 26: Baptism 353
  • 27: The Lord's Supper 375
  • 28: Eschatology 404
  • Appendixes 427
  • Appendix One - “and Though I Had All Faith” 429
  • Appendix Two - “love and the Certainty of Salvation” 446
  • Indexes 459
  • Index of Names 460
  • Index of Subjects 461
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