Luther On What “Evangelical” Really Means

Thus there are many others today who want to be counted as evangelical theologians and who, so far as their words are concerned, do teach that men are delivered from their sins by the death of Christ. Meanwhile, however, they insult Christ most grievously by distorting and overthrowing His Word in a villainous and wicked manner. In addition, they teach faith in a way that attributes more to love than to faith; for they imagine that God regards and accepts us on account of the love with which we love God and our neighbor after we have already been reconciled. If this is true, then we have no need whatever of Christ. In this way they serve, not the true God but an idol of their own heart—an idol which they have made up for themselves. For the true God does not regard or accept us on account of our love, virtue, or newness of life (Rom. 6:4); He does so on account of Christ. But they raise the objection: “Yet He commands that we love Him with all our heart.” All right, but it does not follow: “God has commanded; therefore we do so.” If we loved God with all our heart, etc., then, of course, we would be justified and would live on account of that obedience, according to the statement (Lev. 18:5): “By doing this a man shall live.” But the Gospel says: “You are not doing this; therefore you shall not live on account of it.” For the statement, “You shall love the Lord,” requires perfect obedience, perfect fear, trust, and love toward God. In the corruption of their nature men neither do nor can produce this. Therefore the Law, “You shall love the Lord,” does not justify but accuses and damns all men, in accordance with the statement (Rom. 4:15): “The Law brings wrath.” But “Christ is the end of the Law, that everyone who has faith may be justified” (Rom. 10:4).

Martin Luther | Luther’s Works, Vol. 26: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4,  ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 26 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 398.


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Posted by Tony Phelps | Wednesday, May 1, 2024 | Categorized HeidelQuotes, Martin Luther, Scripture | Tagged Bookmark the permalink.

About Tony Phelps

Tony grew up in Rhode Island. He was educated at BA (University of Rhode Island) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He worked in the insurance industry for ten years. He planted a PCA church in Wakefield, RI where he served for eleven years. In 2015–18 he pastored Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Colorado Springs. He is currently pastor of Living Hope (OPC). Tony is married to Donna and together they have three children. Meet all the Heidelberg contributors»

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