Skip to comments.Luther: Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong (Reformation Day 2013)
Posted on 10/23/2013 5:57:06 AM PDT by Gamecock
The following is from the web page Luther, Exposing the Myth, under the heading "On Sin":
"Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides... No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day" ['Let Your Sins Be Strong, from 'The Wittenberg Project;' 'The Wartburg Segment', translated by Erika Flores, from Dr. Martin Luther's Saemmtliche Schriften, Letter No. 99, 1 Aug. 1521. - Cf. Also Denifle’s Luther et Lutheranisme, Etude Faite d’apres les sources. Translation by J. Paquier (Paris, A. Picard, 1912-13), VOl. II, pg. 404].
Luther Exposing the Myth says their stated purpose is to show that "from Luther’s own words we shall see him for what he really was, that is a rebellious apostate, who abandoned the faith and led many into apostasy from God under the guise of “reformation” in order to follow his perverse inclinations." With this quote, they attempt to show Luther promoted sin.
Luther, Exposing the Myth cites multiple references: " 'Let Your Sins Be Strong, from 'The Wittenberg Project;' 'The Wartburg Segment', translated by Erika Flores, from Dr. Martin Luther's Saemmtliche Schriften, Letter No. 99, 1 Aug. 1521. - Cf. Also Denifle’s Luther et Lutheranisme, Etude Faite d’apres les sources. Translation by J. Paquier (Paris, A. Picard, 1912-13), VOl. II, pg. 404".
The "Wittenberg Project" refers to Project Wittenberg, an on-line source for Luther-related documents. " 'The Wartburg Segment', translated by Erika Flores, from Dr. Martin Luther's Saemmtliche Schriften, Letter No. 99, 1 Aug. 1521" refers to this web page from Project Wittenberg. If one looks at the page carefully, it isn't "The Wartburg Segment" but rather It's a letter Luther composed "From the Wartburg" and only a segment is translated.
"Denifle’s Luther et Lutheranisme, Etude Faite d’apres les sources. Translation by J. Paquier (Paris, A. Picard, 1912-13), VOl. II, pg. 404" refers to Heinrich Denifle's second volume on Luther (not available in English). Luther, Exposing the Myth though probably didn't use this source, but rather fished this reference out of Antonin Eymieu, Two Arguments for Catholicism (Burns, Oates & Washbourne, 1928 ) p. 47. They actually mis-cited the reference, as Eymieu cited page 207 (note 4) of Denifle for this quote, and then cited page 404 for an entirely different quote. Luther, Exposing The Myth didn't even lift this quote correctly from a secondary source!
The context for this quote is easy to track down. It's found in WA, Br 2, No. 424 , DeWette 2, 34, and LW 48:277-282. On August 1, 1521 Luther wrote a letter that most scholars think was addressed to Phillip Melanchthon. The letter is now but a fragment. It has no address, salutation, or signature.
If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness, but, as Peter says, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. It is enough that by the riches of God’s glory we have come to know the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly—you too are a mighty sinner [LW 48:281-282].
I've written an extensive treatment of this quote: Did Luther say, “Be a sinner and sin boldly”? A Look at Justification By Faith Alone and Good Works in Luther’s Theology.
Luther was prone to strong hyperbole. It's his style, and this statement is a perfect example. The first thing to recognize is that the sentence is a statement of comparison. Luther's point is not to go out and commit multiple amounts of gleeful sin everyday, but rather to believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly despite the sin in our lives. Christians have a real savior. No amount of sin is too much to be atoned for by a perfect savior whose righteousness is imputed to the sinner who reaches out in faith.
But what then is the practical application of sinning “boldly”? What is at the heart of this comparison? Luther explains elsewhere how to take on the attitude of sinning “boldly”:
Therefore let us arm our hearts with these and similar statements of Scripture so that, when the devil accuses us by saying: You are a sinner; therefore you are damned, we can reply: The very fact that you say I am a sinner makes me want to be just and saved. Nay, you will be damned, says the devil. Indeed not, I reply, for I take refuge in Christ, who gave Himself for my sins. Therefore you will accomplish nothing, Satan, by trying to frighten me by setting the greatness of my sins before me and thus seducing me to sadness, doubt, despair, hatred, contempt, and blasphemy of God. Indeed, by calling me a sinner you are supplying me with weapons against yourself so that I can slay and destroy you with your own sword; for Christ died for sinners. Furthermore, you yourself proclaim the glory of God to me; you remind me of God's paternal love for me, a miserable and lost sinner; for He so loved the world that He gave His Son (John 3:16). Again, whenever you throw up to me that I am a sinner, you revive in my memory the blessing of Christ, my Redeemer, on whose shoulders, and not on mine, lie all my sins; for "the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all" and "for the transgression of His people was He stricken" (Is. 53:6-8). Therefore when you throw up to me that I am a sinner, you are not terrifying me; you are comforting me beyond measure[Ewald Plass, What Luther Says 3:1315].
The strong hyperbolic comparison Luther makes between “sinning boldly” and believing and rejoicing in Christ “even more boldly” comes clear. When assaulted by the fear and doubt of Christ’s love because of previous sins or the remnants of sin in one’s life, one is thrust back into the arms of Christ “on whose shoulders, and not on mine, lie all my sins…”. Rather than promoting a license to sin by saying “sin boldly,” Luther compares the sinner to the perfect savior. Left in our sins we will face nothing but death and damnation. By Christ’s victory over sin, death, and the world, we stand clothed in His righteousness, the recipients of His grace, no matter what we have done.
No historical information exists that indicts Melanchthon of ever murdering or fornicating, even once. The point Luther is making is not to go out and murder or fornicate as much as possible, but rather to point out the infinite sacrifice of Christ’s atonement. There is no sin that Christ cannot cover. His atonement was of an infinite value. That this statement was not to be considered literally is apparent by Luther’s use of argumentum ad absurdum: do people really commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day? No. Not even the most heinous God-hating sinner is able to carry out such a daily lifestyle.
Rather than promoting a license to sin by saying sin boldly, Luther compares the sinner to the perfect savior. Left in our sins we will face nothing but death and damnation. By Christs victory over sin, death, and the world, we stand clothed in His righteousness, the recipients of His grace, no matter what we have done.
No historical information exists that indicts Melanchthon of ever murdering or fornicating, even once. The point Luther is making is not to go out and murder or fornicate as much as possible, but rather to point out the infinite sacrifice of Christs atonement. There is no sin that Christ cannot cover. His atonement was of an infinite value. That this statement was not to be considered literally is apparent by Luthers use of argumentum ad absurdum: do people really commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day? No. Not even the most heinous God-hating sinner is able to carry out such a daily lifestyle.
1. What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
2. God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
3. Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?
11. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
One’s attitude toward sin changes when he is baptized, as he dies to sin and is made alive to God. The saint does, of course, have God’s promise of forgiveness, and he trusts fully and unreservedly in that promise.
But this doesn’t mean he takes God’s grace for granted, thinking he is therefore free to sin. How can he consider himself free to sin, when he has died to sin?
then why didn’t he say: “There is no sin that Christ cannot redeem”
but he didn’t
what he said was the same as the Mafia dude who kills in the morning and goes immediately to confession in the afternoon and then repeats
I think, and I say think because I do not claim to know, that you are mis-interpreting Luther’s words. Remember, this was an audacious man who used hyperbole and extreme statements to make a point. It’s like using absurdity to battle absurdity.
The absurdity Luther was exposing in this case was the issue of Christ’s grace not being sufficient...a tactic the enemy uses to hold down Christians. He didn’t really mean go commit a thousand sins a day....what he did mean is that the grace of the Cross is so sufficient that even if one did do that....our God is big enough to handle it. This is a key issue.
What Paul was referring to is another key issue...how we should act after accepting Jesus as Lord and Saviour. At first glance, the two might seem to contradict...but I submit that since they were making two totally different, yet equally important points....they do not contradict...though that interpretation is easy to see.
I wasn’t disagreeing with Luther. As you say, he was using hyperbole to make his point.
And his is a good point to make: Our sins cannot separate us from God’s love. The sacrifice of Christ and the righteousness by faith - in short, the gospel - is far too powerful to be defeated by sin. (Rejection or abandonment of the gospel will doom us, of course. But Paul, in Rom. 6, is speaking of those who accept the gospel.)
No, I wasn’t disagreeing with Luther’s point, but merely offering inpired “context” from God’s Word for those who might otherwise read Luther and misunderstand God’s grace.
But where does Luther encourage us to “Go your way and sin no more”? Where does he confirm the BIBLICAL emphasis that one must repent and reform their lives and be Christlike like the BIBLE (and the pre-Luther Church) emphasizes?
Great conversation!!!....and it shows the richness of the Gospel in a way.
Paul and Luther were both passionate - and used strong language and startling analogies and so on. Not to conflate inspired scripture with what Luther did and said, but I have to believe that Luther was doing God’s work as well.
Luther’s words are shocking at first and best taken by stepping back and looking at them in the bigger picture. As he said, pray boldly....which he must have known would be the antitode to thinking he was giving license.....
But let's look back at Luther. The point the author is making is that Jesus’s redemption is so rich we cannot comprehend it. Reading the entire Luther quote puts it all into context.
Are you saying that Luther never ever says that? Or are you trying to pigeon hole all of Luther with this singular quote? Do you not think that "go and sin no more" is part of reformed theology? Do you think perhaps he was tweaking the Church's practice of "selling" salvation?
Sorry yrdstk. A sin is a sin is a sin.
Incidently Luther didn’t say “There is no sin that Christ cannot redeem” because he was conversing in German.
Being perfect, that is; not sinning is a goal. If it were attainable we would not need Christ.
ANY sin is deserving of death. AND ‘For ALL have sinned’
I believe St John 3 covers it rather well.
I’m trying to say that you protesters are trying to pigeonhole Christianity with this quote. I am not that familiar with Luther. You seem to be. Give me some quotes to show that he agrees with the whole of Christian history and the BIBLE rather than the few quotes about faith alone as that is all I hear from you Luther disciples.
If you are not that familiar with Luther, and think the term “protestors” is somehow cute and pithy and helpful, and have such an infantile understanding of context and proportion - then you have major issues I am not interested in working with you on. Seek help. I am not that help.
Agreed, that is my take on what Luther is saying, and moreoever, whether Luther meant that or not, this is what I believe to be the case.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.
20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Thanks --- I rather enjoy Luther's sizzle in certain ways, not least because he was so unguarded and high-voltage, sparking this way and that like a downed live wire.
Still I'm amazed that Pope Francis gets into blow-all-the-circuits trouble with , um, "some people", for saying relatively mild things like, "You, too, must follow your conscience."
Oh dear, oh dearie dear!
I believe the answer lies in Luther being honest with himself, that he will sin. This was a man who tried very hard to not sin, and found that to be impossible. When I've asked people on this site if they are free to choose between doing the things of God or the things of man, why don't they ALWAYS do the things of God? I have yet to receive a reply to that question.
John points this out:
1Jn 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1Jn 1:10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
1Jn 3:9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.
Definitely a gift, no denying