97 Luther Thoughts for Preachers – Part 7

97LutherWe are moving into the sixties, at least in respect to Luther’s 97:

54-59   – Luther pursued the issue of the grace of God, not as a character quality, but as a spiritual presence.  Either we are self-determined individuals, or we function by the presence or absence of grace.  It is too easy, and natural, for us to preach the Bible in such a way as to make demands of listeners that pressure them to perform.  In preaching moralistically we deny the very core of the gospel itself.

(60-)62. And that therefore he who is outside the grace of God sins incessantly, even when he does not kill, commit adultery, or become angry.

Luther takes aim again at the desire to combine law and grace.  That is our human default so we need to think before dismissing him here.  Outside the grace of God we sin incessantly?  What about my upstanding neighbour?  While there are some non-Christians that have better morals than some who identify themselves with Christ, this is not the point.  Apart from me you can do nothing.  We have to watch our tendency to equate external morality with spirituality.

63. But it follows that he sins because he does not spiritually fulfill the law.

So someone may do the right thing, but not from the heart, not spiritually.  Preachers will always be tempted to preach toward the shortcut of behavioural compliance.  It is not a shortcut to anywhere good.

64. Spiritually that person does not kill, does not do evil, does not become enraged when he neither becomes angry nor lusts.

Luther is one of those people in church history who views the affections as the source of action.  If you chase others who thought the same, you end up with quite a hall of fame!

(65)-66 It is the righteousness of the hypocrite actually and outwardly not to kill, do evil, etc.

Choosing to not “do” a sin can be an expression of corrupt affections.  This is a warning to us preachers who might be tempted to settle for a compliant congregation who do not do wrong.  It is possible to fill a church with people who do the right thing, but do so from a hypocritical heart.  Is that the legacy we want?

67. It is by the grace of God that one does not lust or become enraged.

Hence we must preach Christ and him crucified, not moral codes and humans pressurized.

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