Martin Luther in His Own Words {review}

Martin Luther in His Own Words: Essential Writings of the Reformation Edited by Jack D. Kilcrease and Erwin W. Lutzer

This is a short (the book is 170 pages) selection of some of Luther’s work sorted into sections according to the the five solas of the reformation:

  • Sola Fide (“by faith alone”)
  • Sola Gratia (“by grace alone”)
  • Sola Scriptura (“by Scripture alone”)
  • Solus Christus (“Christ alone”)
  • Soli Deo gloria (“glory to God alone”)

Each section has multiple pieces or partial pieces of some of Luther’s writing prefaced by commentary from the editors.

I appreciated the commentary from the editors providing brief into the cultural and historical theological context of the work. Sometimes when reading work form so long ago it is so easy to lose the significance or get a little lost without knowing more of the surrounding details and importance of the ideas presented. I really appreciated the insight into how Luther’s work during the reformation compared to catholicism of the time, the medieval church, and the early church. It is very interesting to learn more details.

One thing I had to keep in the front of my mind while reading is that, while being important, Luther is human making sense of theology in his context. As a Lutheran, and someone who has grown up Lutheran, it can be easy plunk Luther’s words onto a level just a smidgen below the Bible. Talk about a special pedestal. Keeping in mind this is Luther’s commentary on the parts of scripture, theology, church, creeds, commandments etc and reading the editor’s commentary on Luther was a helpful reminder that we are all imperfect, but spirit-led followers of the one who actually wrote the book.

No pedestals necessary.

All in all this is a good resource for reading a variety of Luther’s work handily sorted into the key ideas introduced at the time of the reformation for easy reference. I found this extremely dense, but consider it was written about 500 years ago, that is probably to be expected. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Four freeing and thought-provoking quotes from the first chapter ‘On Christian Liberty’:

  • “Therefore the first care of every Christian ought to be to lay aside all reliance on works, strengthen his faith alone more and more, and by it grow in the knowledge not of works but of Christ Jesus, who has suffered and risen again for him, as Peter teaches, when he makes no other work [but faith] to be a Christian one.” p 18
  • “[…] Every Christian is by faith so exalted above all things that, in spiritual power, he is completely lord of all things, so that nothing can hurt him; all things are subject to him and are compelled to be subservient to his salvation.” p25 (emphasis mine)
  • “We are not only the freest of all kings but also eternal priests, a dignity far higher than kingship, because by that priesthood we are worthy to appear before God, to pray for others, and to teach one another mutually the things that are of God.” p 26
  • “Now preaching ought to have the object of promoting faith in him, so that he may not only be Christ but a Christ for you and for me, and that what is said of him and what he is called may work in us. p28 (emphasis mine)

What about you? Have you read anything by Luther specifically?

Besides this I had only read/studied/memorized pieces of his small catechism in preparation for my confirmation as a young teen.

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(Disclaimers: Thanks to Baker Books for my review copy! Post contains amazon affiliate links!)

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