Martin Luther - Lesson 18

Luther's View of the Church

Luther gives a definition of the church and describes characteristics of the church.

Gordon Isaac
Martin Luther
Lesson 18
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Luther's View of the Church

Luther's View of the Church

Luther, the Pastor: Taken from 10 Sermons on the Catechism


Luther is interested in discussing salvation from within the context of the church.

I. The Word of God Constitutes the Church

A. The Smalcald Articles

1. "We do not concede to the papists that they are the church, for they are not. Nor shall we pay any attention to what they command or forbid in the name of the church, for, thank God, a 7 year-old child knows what the church is, namely, holy believers and sheep who hear the voice of their Shepherd. So children pray, "I believe in one holy Christian church." Its holiness does not consist of surplices, tonsures, albs, or other ceremonies of theirs which they have invented over and above the Holy Scriptures, but it consists of the Word of God and true faith." Part III Article XII

2. Nature of the church is defined by the Word of God. This runs contrary to apostolic succession.

B. The Larger Catechism

1. Neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ or believe in him and take him as our Lord, unless these were first offered to us and bestowed on our hearts through the preaching of the gospel by the Holy Spirit...For where Christ is not preached, there is no Holy Spirit to create, call and gather the Christian church, and outside it no one can come to the Lord Christ (LC II, 38, 45)

2. Church is both hidden and public

C. The Definition of the Church

Augsburg Confession Article VII - Melanchthon penned, "It is also taught among us that one holy Christian church will be and remain forever. This is the assembly of all believers among whom the Gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel. For it is sufficient for the true unity of the Christian church that the Gospel be preached in conformity with a pure understanding of it and that the sacraments be administered in accordance with the divine Word. It is not necessary for the true unity of the Christian church that ceremonies, instituted by men, should be observed uniformly in all places. It is as Paul says in Ephesians 4:4,5 'There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism.'"

D. Luther's Preferred Terminology

Church is not an institution or building but a gathering, assembly, community, fellowship


II. The Character of the Church

A. Community of Saints and Sinners

1. Simultaneously Saint and Sinner

2. Creation is past and redemption accomplished and Holy Spirit continues...

3. Forgiveness of sins is an ongoing need. Baptism is the daily drowning of the old Adam. You return to the living point of the word demonstrated in your Baptism.

4. Comprised both of wheat and the tares.

B. The issue with Rome

1. Roman Catholicism - The wicked are a part of the church in name and not truth, and the righteous both.

2. Making a determination in time of who is inside the church or who is outside is not our job as pastors.

3. In the church a battle is being fought

4. "If the church, which is truly the kingdom of Christ, is distinguished from the kingdom of the devil, it necessarily, follows that since the wicked belong to the kingdom of the devil, they are not the church. In this life, nevertheless, because the kingdom of Christ has not yet been revealed, they are mingled with the church and hold office in the church.... Christ is talking about the outward appearance of the church when he says that the kingdom of God is like a net (Matthew 13:47) or like ten virgins (Matthew 25:1). He teaches us that the church is hidden under a crowd of wicked men so that this stumbling block may not offend the faithful..."

5. the gospel and... GALATIANS

C. The issue with the Anabaptists

Schliethem confession, Sattler - Calls for a separation from anything worldly


III. The true and the false Church

A. The article of standing and falling

Where the word is heard and takes root

B. The Marks of the Church

1. The Word of God

2. Sacrament of Baptism

3. Sacrament of the Altar

4. Power of the Keys-

a. John 20:23 "If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

b. Matthew 13

c. Discussion of how this affects "Priesthood of all believers."

5. Calling and Ordaining of Pastors and Bishops

6. Prayer, Praise and Thanks to God

7. Enduring the Cross and Inner Conflict

C. The Organization of the Church

Wide diversity of church organizational pattern because the organization is determined by the united mission

D. The Issue Today

Have we turned Christ into Moses? Have we added new law to the role of the Church? requirements of Church membership?

All Lessons
  • Introduction to the life and theology of Martin Luther.

  • Luther expressed his views in a way that was shaped by his theology and the culture.

  • Martin Luther was born in Germany in the late 15th century, just after Guttenberg developed his printing press.

  • When Martin Luther posted the 95 theses, his intention was to discuss and debate the misuse of indulgences, but it was interpreted by the church heirarchy as an attack on the power of the papacy.

  • Luther's writings demonstrate his ability to understand and articulate issues that are at the core of the nature of God and man. His theology is distinct from philosophy and consists of many comments on passages in Psalms and Romans.

  • Faith alone justifies. By faith the Christian is made to love God, therefore a person does good works because they cannot remain idle.

  • The work of Christ when he allowed himself to be crucified on the cross, teaches us about God's nature, our nature and our relationship to God.

  • Luther's fourfold sense of scripture focused on historical (literal), allegorical (figurative), tropological (moral), and anagogic (future).

  • Luther's view of the atonement differs from classical views taught during his time and view held by the scholastic tradition.

  • Luther's teaching on justification by faith is central to his theology.

  • Theology of the cross assumes bondage and moves to freedom.

  • Four positions on predestination include the Calvinist, neo-Protestant, intuitu fidei, and Gnesio-Lutherans.

  • Luther's commentary on Galatians is an attempt to set "Law" in its proper setting.

  • The sacraments are an external expression of an internal reality.

  • Luther's teachings on the importance of baptism and arguments for infant baptism.

  • Luther's view of the theological and personal significance of the Lord's Supper.

  • The kingdom of God and secular government have areas of unity and areas of differences.

  • Luther gives a definition of the church and describes characteristics of the church.

  • Luther developed a catechism to help people focus on the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith.

  • Martin Luther's writings can encourage people to pursue their relationship with God on a deeper level.

This course is an introduction to the life and writings of the great German reformer, Martin Luther. There are 20 lectures totaling approximately 18 hours. These lectures were given at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts.