Luther on turning the Scriptures into a lawbook.


“It has become a deplorable custom that the Gospels and the Epistles are treated like law books, in which one is to learn what we are to do, and in which the works of Christ are presented as nothing but an example held before one’s eyes.  Wherever this errant opinion remains within the heart, there neither gospel nor epistle can be read usefully and in a Christian way;  such readers remain nothing but heathen,  as before.”


>>>>> – Martin Luther                                                                                                    


From a work by Lutheran theologian Oswald Bayer, titled ‘Martin Luther’s Theology’, 2003

Here’s a link to Chapter 4 of that work, ‘What Makes the Bible Become Holy Scripture’:


Thanks to CrossAlone Lutheran District for making this available on their site.

And thanks also to flickr and armas_de, for the photo.


7 Responses

  1. Hi Steve,

    I don’t know why, but the above link doesn’t function properly with me. After four attempts always only a black monitor!?

    As for Luther’s quote – that’s absolutely right. I’ve just visited another Gospel site and – oh, it was dispiriting. Over there a pastor urged his congregation to be obedient to some Scriptures (a certain letter of Paul). The explanation he gave for this was “because it is written” (paraphrasing).
    Without the Gospel, without the experience of Christ’s love – nobody either wants or is able to fulfil anything that is written. It makes me sad that this pastor believes that he preaches the Gospel rightly. He can’t be helped but God can. Anyway, I pray…

  2. Hi Susanne,

    Sorry for the late reply. I just got home from a very long day.

    I tried the link and it worked for me. Hmmm. I’m not sure of the problem.

    If I can think of another way to post it, I will. I’m awfully tired and my brain isn’t working too well right at the moment.

    And you are right. It is sad when preachers use the law to try and make people better. That doesn’t work. it can only make them worse.

    Thanks, Susanne.

    – Steve

  3. Susanne,

    Try this link:

    Then go to Proper use of Scripture and click on Bayer; How the Bible becomes Holy Scripture (or something close to that).

  4. Thank you, Steve.

    The latter link works perfectly, and concerning the first – I don’t know (“There is a problem with Adobe Acrobat/Reader. It is running. Please exit and try it again.”)

    BTW, Steve…

    When you are overworked and exhausted, you don’t have to reply but recover. Don’t feel obliged to answer as soon as possible. I can wait because I rest in Him. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” (Eccl 3:1)

    Hoping that you soon feel well again, but not so that you can respond faster, but because He will give you rest.

    Have a blessed weekend,


  5. Steve,

    When I read the Luther Quote you posted, I immediately thought of a brief article written by Martin Luther (taken from Luther’s writings) that was printed in Modern Reformation Magazine a while back. The article is entitled “A brief instruction of what to look for in the Gospels.” Luther’s whole point in the article is that when we see Christ acting, speaking, thinking, or doing anything in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), we are to see Him earning our salvation for us in those very acts. Luther is very strongly dissuading his readers from looking for “Christ as my example” as the chief focus in the Gospels, for in so doing the reader will lose the Good News, and read only Law.

    Here’s the link:



    • Thanks, Jared.

      Sorry for the delayed respose. Moving a friend the last couple of days and have been away from the computer.

      I can’t wait to read the article (link you have provided).

      So much of the church today (and always) wants us to have some role to play in all of this. Even if it’s just a little bit.

      The little bit is the drop of poison in the pure clean glass of water.

      We can’t allow a drop of that stuff in the pure gospel. Those of us who know the complete freedom that Christ has so dearly won for us…will not.

      Thanks, my freind.

      – Steve

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