The Theology of Martin Luther

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

25
THE SACRAMENT

GOD CONFRONTS us in his word. We receive and accept his word in faith. God deals with men within the context of this correlation between the promise of the gospel and faith. And Luther understands the sacraments within this context1 This determines the evangelical character of his doctrine of the sacraments. We shall demonstrate this first in terms of the sacrament's relationship to the gospel and then in terms of its relationship to faith.


THE SACRAMENT AND THE GOSPEL

For Luther, a sacrament consists in the combination of the word of promise with a sign, that is, it is a promise accompanied by a sign instituted by God and a sign accompanied by a promise.2 This means, first, that a sign or a symbol by itself is not yet a sacrament. Luther explains that every visible act can naturally mean something and be understood as a picture or an analogy of invisible realities. This is not enough, however, to make a symbolic act into a sacrament.3 The symbolic act must be instituted by God and combined with a promise. Sacramental character ultimately depends on the presence of a divine word of promise.4

1 “For it is not a sacrament unless it is expressly given with the divine prom-
ise which demands faith, since apart from the word which promises and faith
which receives we are not able to enter into any kind of relationship with
God.” WA, Br 1, 595; S-J 1, 264.

2 “But our signs are sacraments as well as those of the fathers, and have
attached to them a word of promise which requires faith and cannot be ful-
filled by any other work.” WA 6, 532; LW 36, 65. WA 6, 572; LW 36, 124.
Luther frequently quotes Augustine's rule: “When the word is added to the
element it becomes a sacrament [Accedat verbum ad elementum et fit sacramen-
tum]
,” e.g., WA 30I, 214; BC, 438.

3 “We have said that in every sacrament there is a word of divine promise, to
be believed by whoever receives the sign, and that the sign alone cannot be a
sacrament… but figures or allegories are not sacraments, in the sense in which
we used the term.”WA 6, 550; LW 36, 92.

4 “For to constitute a sacrament there must be above all things else a word
of divine promise, by which faith may be exercised.” WA 6, 550; LW 36, 92.

-345-

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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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