The Theology of Martin Luther

By Paul Althaus; Robert C. Schultz | Go to book overview
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IN PREVIOUS chapters we have repeatedly spoken of law and gospel. Luther's doctrine of justification in particular completely expresses his understanding of law and gospel and their relationship to each other. These two themes of his theology are very closely connected. This is the appropriate place then, immediately following our discussion of justification, to present Luther's doctrine of law and gospel as a whole. Many things already specifically referred to or only hinted at will be discussed once again.1

The word of God comes to men in the twofold form of law and gospel. According to Luther, the preservation of pure doctrine absolutely depends on the accurate theological statement of the nature and meaning of both law and gospel; they must be carefully distinguished and their true relationship to each other must be rightly understood.2


Man has known God's law since his creation. God's finger has written it into the heart of every man through creation, that is “by nature.” Luther teaches this, agreeing with and referring to what Paul says in Romans 2:14. Even if God had never given the written law through Moses, the human spirit still would know naturally that he should worship God and love his neighbor.3 The revelation and knowledge of God's will thus antedates Moses' Decalog and differs from it as the “living” law in man's heart.4 Its content is the same as Moses' law and as the moral admonitions of the gospel, that is, the rule in Matthew 7:12 which commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. “There is thus a single law, effective in all

1 Cf. Gerhard Heintze, Luthers Predigi von Ctsetz und Evangelium (Munich:
Kaiser, 1958.)

2WA 7, 502. Cf. WA 18, 680; BOW, 163. WA 39I, 361 f.

3WA 39I, 374, 454, 478, 539, 540. WA 17II, 102.

4WA 39I, 352, 402.


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