Reality Rests On The Word Of The Lord: Martin Luther’s Understanding Of God’s Word -- By: Robert Kolb

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 09:4 (Fall 2000)
Article: Reality Rests On The Word Of The Lord: Martin Luther’s Understanding Of God’s Word
Author: Robert Kolb

Reality Rests On The Word Of The Lord:
Martin Luther’s Understanding Of God’s Word

Robert Kolb

We must take note of God’s power that we may be completely without doubt about the things which God promises in his Word. Here full assurance is given concerning all his promises; nothing is either so difficult or so impossible that he could not bring it about by his Word.1 —Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, 1535

The thought of the sixteenth-century reformer Martin Luther has been encapsulated in a number of phrases, as a “theology of the cross,” a “theology of the justification of the sinner,” a “theology of God’s wrath and mercy,” or of “Law and Gospel.” These designations and many more can be used to summarize the Reformer’s approach to interpreting the Bible and applying its message to people’s lives. But the sinews that hold the body of his proclamation of the Gospel together—the nervous system that gives the impulses to make his public teaching function in the lives of his hearers—derive from his understanding of what the apostles and prophets meant when they spoke in various ways of the Word of God. Luther’s theology is above all a “theology of God’s Word.”

Luther acknowledged the many sides of the biblical concept “Word of God.” He treasured God’s revelation of himself in “the Word made flesh” (John 1:1, 14),2 and he recognized that God had begun to reveal himself and his will for humankind through the Old Testament prophets. But, as Hebrews 1:1–2 teaches us, his self-revelation came to

its completion and climax in Jesus—”in these last days God has spoken to us by a Son.” Beyond the Word made flesh Luther recognized that God’s communication of himself took place in human language through the proclamation of his prophets and through the Holy Scriptures breathed by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:19–21; 2 Timothy 3:15–17). From the pages of Scripture God’s people delivered his Word into the lives of others in oral, written, and sacramental forms. The fundamental reality of human life rests on God’s address to his people in these forms of the Word.

The Historical Setting Of Luther’s Concept Of God’s Word

Throughout human history people have had different concepts of what words—religious or non-religious words—are and can do. So...

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