“LOVE AND THE CERTAINTY OF SALVATION”
Luther's theology revolves around the assertion that we receive justification and therewith salvation through faith alone. God's promise applies to us apart from every condition on our side. We have only to trust ourselves to God's promise; this is what Luther calk faith. All this is true not only of the beginning of the Christian life but also of its continuation until the Last Day and thus also of the final judgment. Now it cannot be denied that in the New Testament the certainty of salvation is often connected not only to faith as pure receiving but also to love. The apostles know of a faith which fails to rescue a man from destruction because it lacks love (I Cor. 13:2; James 2). Such statements of the New Testament present a problem for the central theses of Luther's theology. And Luther constantly made new attempts to arrive at a true understanding of these passages which would bring them into harmony with his basic insight. It is significant that his interpretation of these passages changed in the course of his life. This reveals that he had difficulties with these passages. It is true, for example of I Corinthians 13:2 (“And if I have all faith… but have not love, I am nothing”).1 The same is true also of I John 4:17a. It is worth the trouble to consider Luther's interpretation of this Johannine passage in more detail
The passage reads: “In this is love perfected in [bei] us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment.”2 The context, particularly vss. 16 and 18, must be considered in the interpretation. The meaning appears to be that the complete reality of love manifests itself in the Christian's joyful expectation of the day of judgment. Exegetes have repeatedly asked whether such love is God's love to men as Christians experience it or whether it might at least also include the love of Christians.
1 See Appendix One.
2 The Greek text is:-
The Vulgate reads: in hoc perfecta
est cbaritas Dei nobiscum (since the revision of 1529: in nobis), ut fiducism
babeamus in die judicii.