Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Martin Luther and Galatians

Does the book of Galatians have any tie-in with Martin Luther? Yes it does! Here are a series of quotes from various sources. I conclude with some thoughts of my own.
“This was Martin Luther’s favorite epistle.  He said, “This is ‘my’ epistle.  I am wedded to it.”  It was on the masthead of the Reformation.  It has been called the Magna Carta of the early church.  It is the manifesto of Christian liberty, the impregnable citadel, and a veritable Gibraltar against any attack on the heart of the gospel.  As someone put it, “Immortal victory is set upon its brow.” 
"There is one book that Luther himself likes better than any other. Let us begin with that: his Commentary on Galatians. . .
"The Letter to the Galatians consists of six short chapters. Luther's commentary fills seven hundred and thirty-three octavo pages in the Weidman Edition of his works. It was written in Latin.... A word should now be said about the origin of Luther's Commentary on Galatians. 
The Reformer had lectured on this Epistle of St. Paul's in 1519 and again in 1523. It was his favorite among all the Biblical books. In his table talks the saying is recorded: "The Epistle to the Galatians is my epistle. To it I am as it were in wedlock. It is my Katherine." Much later when a friend of his was preparing an edition of all his Latin works, he remarked to his home circle: "If I had my way about it they would republish only those of my books which have doctrine. My Galatians, for instance. "The lectures which are preserved in the works herewith submitted to the American public were delivered in 1531. They were taken down by George Roerer, who held something of a deanship at Wittenberg University and who was one of Luther's aids in the translation of the Bible. Roerer took down Luther's lectures and this manuscript has been preserved to the present day, in a copy which contains also additions by Veit Dietrich and by Cruciger, friends of Roerer's, who with him attended Luther's lectures. In other words, these three men took down the lectures which Luther addressed to his students in the course of Galatians, and Roerer prepared the manuscript for the printer. A German translation by Justus Menius appeared in the Wittenberg Edition of Luther's writings, published in 1539.
At the end of his lectures in 1531, Luther uttered a brief prayer "The Lord who has given us power to teach and to hear, let Him also give us the power to serve and to do." and then dictated these two Scriptural texts:
Luke 2 Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, Good will to men.
Isaiah 40 The Word of our God shall stand forever.
THEODORE GRAEBNER St. Louis, Missouri "
http://www.bibleteacher.org/luthercom_1.htm: (Quote from Luther)
“We infer from this that the false apostles had depreciated the Gospel of Paul among the Galatians on the plea that it was incomplete. Their objection to Paul's Gospel is identical to that recorded in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Acts to the effect that it was not enough for the Galatians to believe in Christ, or to be baptized, but that it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses, for "except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved." As though Christ were a workman who had begun a building and left it for Moses to finish.
Today the Anabaptists and others, finding it difficult to condemn us, accuse us Lutherans of timidity in professing the whole truth. They grant that we have laid the foundation in Christ, but claim that we have failed to go through with the building. In this way these perverse fanatics parade their cursed doctrine as the Word of God, and, flying the flag of God's name, they deceive many. The devil knows better than to appear ugly and black. He prefers to carry on his nefarious activities in the name of God. Hence the German proverb: "All mischief begins in the name of God."
“Speaking of Luther's use of the book of Galatians, Godet says: This was the pebble from the brook which, like another David, he went forth to meet the papal giant and smite him in the forehead. In this epistle Luther found the secret of his own deliverance. Taking this as his weapon, he plunged into the fearful conflict with the Papistry and religious materialism of his time.”
“Perhaps a summary of the entire book of Galatians comes from this quote of Martin Luther: “Now the true way to Christianity is this, that a man first acknowledges himself by the law, to be a sinner and that it is impossible for him to do any good work. For the law says you are a corrupt tree, you can not bring forth good fruit, all that you think, speak, or do is against God. You cannot therefore deserve grace by your works: which if you go about to do, you double your offense: for since you are an evil tree, you can only bring forth evil fruits, that is to say, sins. ‘For whatsoever is not faith is sin.’ Wherefore he that would deserve grace by works going before faith, goes about to please God with sins, which is nothing else but to heap sin upon sin, to mock God, and to provide His wrath. The first part then of Christianity is the preaching of repentance, and the knowledge of ourselves, of what we are, namely sinners. The second part is: if you will be saved, you may not seek salvation by works, ‘for God hath sent His only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him’. He was crucified and died for you, and offered up your sin in His own body. There is no congruence or work done by grace, but wrath, sin, terror, and death. Wherefore the law did nothing else, but utter sin, terrify, and humble, and by this means prepared us to justification, and drove us to Christ. For God has revealed unto us by His word, that He will be unto us a merciful Father, and will freely give unto us remission of sins, righteousness, and life everlasting for Christ His Son’s sake.”
Dennis: As you probably know, Borders Bookstore just had a “Going out of Business” sale and I went there on 3 occasions to add to my History collection. One of the books I got was “Defenders of the Faith: Christianity and Islam Battle for the Soul of Europe, 1520-1536” by James Reston, Jr. It does an excellent job of tracing the panorama of personalities that dominated the religious scene during these pivotal years when Europe confronted the Ottoman Turks as they brought Islam to the gates of Vienna. 
Reston wrote of the intrigue which beguiled Europe as the Ottoman menace crept up the Balkans. As Martin Luther pestered the popes and emperors from the safe confines of Germany, other “Christian” forces were pillaging Rome and imprisoning the Pope. Meanwhile, Suleiman the Magnificent was leading his Ottoman armies from Constantinople to conquer the Christian strongholds of Belgrade, Rhodes, and most of Hungary before his conquests were checked at the Siege of Vienna in 1529. Against this backdrop of carnage and greed, I could see a plot developing with Heinrich and Luther’s Baggage. It inspired me to use these details in the resumption of my storyline. With God’s help and His intervention in my own distractions of job changes and moving details, I will hopefully get this going before long.

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