Monday, October 17, 2005

Sin boldy: One of the most often misstated quotes of Martin Luther...


I found the explanation I was looking for. See the comments section below.

If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. 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. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices that through God's glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.

One of our pastors recently talked about this letter from Luther to Melancthon in Bible Study, in fact during our study of the Lutheran Confessions. This letter is the source of the oft wrongly quoted line "let your sins be strong". If I remember correctly, Luther wrote this in response to a specific concern/question from Melancthon. I hope that a viewer can fill me in on Melancthon's concern; I remember that it was key in understanding Luther's response. I will also email my pastor.

Luther to Melancthon, 8-1-1541


TKls2myhrt said...

From my pastor...

Luther often spoke in hyperbolic ways, exaggerated ways. Sin is real, mercy is real, both not imaginary. Luther's point; all the sin, all the sinners in the world, cannot outweigh, or overturn, the great love and compassion of our God. All sin is forgiven. Sin big, God is bigger. No one can take
this as a license to live as a swine because God will in the end clean us up. We also know the Bible has much to say to us about our Christian life, fearing God, hating what he forbids, purposeful sinning which not only harms
faith but will take it away, and loving God which is living by faith, not a slave to sin, etc.

I hope this helps.

Pastor Erwin Ekhoff

Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

I thought the key to it was "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."

Christ being more powerful than any sin, we need not worry about the magnitude of the sin. It's not license to sin but assurance that Christ's atonement is complete.

TKls2myhrt said...

ooohhh, word for word like my pastor, Dan. You are paying attention in church! I still need to ask my other pastor about the comments he made on Melancthon as he was explaining this quote. Maybe I can find my notes...

CPA said...

I think Luther said this in the context of the controversy over the German elector (kind of like a prince) Philip of Hesse's bigamous marriage.

His marriage was in a very bad way, but he could not divorce and did not wish to take a mistress (as pretty much all of the other crowned heads of the time, regardless of religion, would have).

Luther, reading the OT, said to marry a second wife rather than divorce the first or else take a mistress. Melanchthon I think was involved in passing this advice on to the Elector.

The firestorm of criticism burned everyone. Melanchthon felt terrible, as did Staupitz (this is mentioned also in C.F.W Walther's "Proper Distinction"). For the first time, he really felt himself to be a sinner -- really, not just in form. And that's when Luther wrote the letter.

Again, I'm doing this from memory, but any good Luther bio could be checked out for this.

TKls2myhrt said...

This is exactly what I was trying to remember:

Theresa -

Isn't that an interesting quote?

The setting: Philip M. was troubled by the fact that his preaching lacked the fire of other reformers, like Luther, in his own estimation and that of the hearers. Since Philip lived a rather tame life, never getting into trouble or sowing the wild oats of youth, etc. Luther's advice was that when he (Philip) would sin, he should sin mightily.

Now, he was not encouraging him to go out and get drunk and go to a brothel or anything like that, but to see his sin as great as the one who is offended by it. Even "tame" sins are damning, see James 2:10 and
Psalm 5:3, Philip should see his sins the same. When sin is poignant, the Gospel will be poignant. Unless a persons sins are bitter to him, the Gospel will not be so sweet.

So, there you go.

Pastor R.

disgruntled world citizen said...

ah, yes, we often thanked God for Luther and this phrase he made it all right. We certainly sinned bodly and drank boldly, too... how I miss my Con-You Austin days...