THE PEOPLE OF GOD
Luther's Reformation took place in conflict with the church of his time. He was opposed not only to its empirical reality but also to the Roman concept of the church. He did not wage this battle, however, in the name of a churchless and individualistic piety but in the name of his own clear concept of the church derived from his understanding of the gospel.1 Luther thankfully and humbly knew he was a member of the church. He not only sang, “Our God He Is a Castle Strong,” but he could also boldly confess: “The church shall be my fortress, my castle, and my chamber.” He spoke these words in German in the midst of his Latin lectures on Genesis.2 He sang a hymn in praise of the church based on Revelation 12:
To me she's dear, the worthy maid,
And I cannot forget her…3
He directs the man who wishes to find Christ to the church: “Whoever seeks Christ must first find the church. Now the church is not wood and stone but the group of people who believe in Christ. Whoever seeks the church should join himself to them and observe what they teach, pray, and believe. For they certainly have Christ among them.”4 The reality of the church is thus an essential part of man's relationship to Christ. A man's relationship to the church obviously precedes even his relationship to Christ and does not follow that relationship as Schleiermacher
1 Cf. especially Karl Holl, “Die Entstehung von Luthers Kirchenbegriff,” GA
1, 288–325. On Luther's doctrine of the church, see Wilhelm Walther, “Das
Erbe der Reformation,” Luthers Kircbe, No. 4, (1917); E. Kohlmeyer, “Die
Bedeutung der Kirche für Luther,” Zeitschrijt fur Kircbengeschicbte, XLVIl,
Ntut Folge X, (1928), 94 ff.; Martin Doerne, “Gottes Volk und Gottes Wort,”
Luther-Jahrbuch, XTV (1932), 61 ff.
2WA 44. 713.
3WA 35, 462; LW 53, 293.
4WA 101,4, 140.