Historical Development Of The Lutheran Doctrine Of The Lord’s Supper -- By: J. W. Richard

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 044:176 (Oct 1887)
Article: Historical Development Of The Lutheran Doctrine Of The Lord’s Supper
Author: J. W. Richard


Historical Development Of The Lutheran Doctrine Of The Lord’s Supper

Prof. J. W. Richard

In studying the historical development of the Lutheran doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, we begin with the principle which is fundamental in the Lutheran system, viz., that the Word of God alone can make articles of faith.1 This principle, acted on by Luther from the beginning of his reform, was more fully enunciated by him in his Liber De Servo Arbitrio, IV. Sec. iii.: “We ought everywhere to stick close to the simple, pure, natural sense of words, which both the art of grammar and the common use of speech as God has created it in man, direct us”….otherwise “nothing certain can be affirmed or proved, as touching any article of faith.” Says Dorner, Hist. Prot. Theol. I. p. 150:

Luther lays the foundation-stone of an evangelical doctrine of the means of grace, in that he conceives of the Word of God, after a lively manner, as a speech of God continually sounding through the world, as it were, ever proceeding anew out of his mouth—conceives of it, as it were, sacramentally, but without anything magical. The mere empty doctrine transforms itself for him into deed, into a dealing of God in Christ with man, which continues throughout time, and forms and governs the history of religious life.

That is, the Word of God, which is an objective reality, must be fixed upon by the subjective faith of the individual, and must be absorbed into his living experience, so that he can be conscious of its power. “The basis,” says Dorner again (Ibid. p. 151), “which Luther in this manner obtained

for the objective Word of God, comprehended in the Scriptures, from nothing else than the personal movement of faith towards certainty, proved besides of explicit advantage for the conception taken of the sacraments: “But before faith can reach “certainty” and assured conviction, it must have a sure, simple, unchangeable, intelligible Word of God to which it can attach itself—it must feel that this which it reads, or sees, in the sacraments, is the veritable Word of God, and conveys no other meaning than that which “the art of grammar and the common use of speech require.” And such must be the case preeminently and emphatically in those portions of Scripture which are testamentary, and which contain special promises of grace, as for instance in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, a verbum visibile, which contains the promise of the forgiveness of sins. Now, when, in the application of this principle of “the simple, pure, natural sense of the words,” Luther comes gradually to construct a doctrin...

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