God Loves men:

1) Therefore when the text says: “And God saw that it was very good,” it refers to the preservation itself, because the creature could not continue in existence unless the Holy Spirit delighted in it and preserved the work through this delight of God in His work. God did not create things with the idea of abandoning them after they had been created, but He loves them and expresses His approval of them. Therefore He is together with them. He sets in motion, He moves, and He preserves each according to its own manner. I thought that this should be mentioned in brief words. It is worthwhile to learn these pious thoughts of those who have preceded us on the same course we are running now. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis: Chapters,” in Luther’s Works, 1:50.

2) This was a sure proof for Noah that God actually loves man, is well disposed toward him, and has now put away all wrath. He wants human beings to be propagated through the union of a man and a woman. He could have brought them into being from stones, as in the poet’s fable about Deucalion, if He had not approved of this lawful union. This passage, therefore, deals with the honorableness of marriage, which is the source of both the family and the state, and the nursery of the church. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis,” in Luther’s Works, 2:131.

3) Hence this, too, is a proof of the supreme love of God toward man, no less than is His promise that the Flood would no longer rage and His permission to use meat for sustenance. “For God made man in His own image.” This is the outstanding reason why He does not want a human being killed on the strength of individual discretion: man is the noblest creature, not created like the rest of the animals but according to God’s image. Even though man has lost this image through sin, as we stated above, his condition is nevertheless such that it can be restored through the Word and the Holy Spirit. God wants us to show respect for this image in one another; He does not want us to shed blood in a tyrannical manner. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis,” in Luther’s Works, 2:141. [C.f., Calvin on Genesis 9:5.]

4) These examples are the sources on the basis of which laws, ordinances, and decrees ought to be drawn up. For God gave this age a man of unqualified rectitude, in comparison with whom Aeneas, Achilles, Agamemnon, etc., those heroes to whom the heathen give much praise, are nothing. Here you see an inimitable example of great faith toward God and of perfect justice and love toward men. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis,” in Luther’s Works, 2:399.

God Loves the whole human race:

1) His way of speaking with the serpent is far different from His way of speaking with Adam and Eve, whom He affectionately calls back. “Where are you? Who told you that you are naked?” These words reveal God’s love toward the whole human race; even after sin the human being is sought and called, and God converses with him and hears him. This is a sure indication of His mercy. Although these are words which deal with Law and judgment, they nevertheless indicate a clear hope that Adam and Eve were not to be condemned eternally. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis,” in Luther’s Works, 1:186.

2) Hence the Holy Scriptures declare, in the first place, that we should love all human beings equally and that we should do good to all, not only to the good and to those whom we consider worthy because of their conduct but also to the evil. For this is God’s way; He pours out His benefits without distinction, and Christ Himself refers us to this example (Matt. 5:45). Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis,” in Luther’s Works, 2:299.

3) But the consoling of hearts is also related to this idea. For the conscience certainly grows white and quakes with fear at the name of God. It truly recognizes its sins and fears His wrath. For this reason it shudders at the voice of God and prefers to hear the Turk or Satan. For example, this very feeling is beautifully portrayed in the history of the giving of the Law, when the people exclaimed: “You speak to us, but let not the Lord speak to us, lest we die” (Ex. 20:19). For just as the Divine Majesty cannot be seen with the eyes of man, so our ears cannot hear His voice. Christ sees this and hence always refers whatever He says and whatever He does to God the Father, so as to drive out this terror from our hearts and remove from our eyes this sad picture which we ourselves have created. For what is there in Christ that is not full of consolation, lovable, and delightful? When you see Him hanging on the cross, dripping with blood, and when you refer these things, according to His own words, to the will of God, will not this make the name of God sweet instead of horrible? Not only will you fear no evil from God, who sends His own Son for this purpose; but will you not also be filled with a sure hope of His mercy and love toward you and the whole human race? This passage is useful and serviceable toward this end. The Holy Spirit attributes this voice to the Father: “You are My Son.” Christ Himself refers everywhere to the authority and will of the Father, not for His own sake, as if it were necessary for Him to speak that way, but on account of our conscience, in order that we may believe that we have a Mediator who places Himself between us and God, who as intermediary intercedes for us, who loves us, who dies for us?and all this according to the will of His eternal Father. Martin Luther, “Selected Psalms,” in Luther’s Works, 12:50.

4) In this way the Holy Spirit with one word gathers up the whole world with all its wisdom, righteousness, merits, services, adorations, and chastisements, and transposes it all into the Sons kiss. “If you kiss the Son, good. If not, you will perish in the way. For it will come to pass,” He says, “that the Son will at last be angry. Now He offers you a kiss so that He may receive your kiss in turn. Truly He embraces the whole human race with extraordinary love. For He comes in our flesh not to judge or condemn, but in order to kiss us and show us the love with which He surrounds us. If, then, you will not kiss Him in return, no religion, no righteousness, no wisdom will save you. You will simply remain under His wrath and perish in His anger.” But the world is not concerned with these threats. It imagines that things will turn out quite differently. It hopes for God’s grace through its own works and righteousness. Certainly the judgment is definite: “He who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Martin Luther, “Selected Psalms,” in Luther’s Works, 12:89.

5) This is the first sweet and delightful thing in this lyric, which sings about and promises a kingdom with such a King. There will be no imperfections in Him, but a will full of virtues and a mind full of wisdom, with glowing love toward all miserable, damned, and sorrowful sinners. Moses is not such a king. He is a tormentor and cruel executioner and torturer, who torments us and troubles us with his terrors, threatenings, and displays of wrath. He forces us to do good outwardly; or, if we do our best, he inwardly humbles us and makes us long for grace. But our King, who is celebrated here, is full of mercy, grace, and truth. In Him love for mankind is to be found and the greatest sweetness; a person who, as we find in Isaiah 42:2, does not cry in the streets,” is not austere and rough, but patient and long-suffering. He exercises judgment against the wicked and blasphemers, and shows mercy toward sinners. Therefore He is a most pleasant and fair King, and there is no one like Him in the whole world. In Him is to be found the highest virtue and the highest love toward God and men. It is with these adornments that His person is decorated, so that there is no overweening pride, desire, lust, or any other base affection in Him. We see Him described this way in the Gospels, and the facts themselves point to His having been so. He did not keep company with the holy, powerful, and wise, but with despicable and miserable sinners, with those ruined by misfortune, with men weighed down by painful and incurable diseases; these He healed, comforted, raised up, helped. And at last He even died for sinners. He did not frighten, and He did not kill, as Moses did, but He drew, gladdened, comforted, cured, and aided all who came to Him. He is therefore the King of kings, without equal. Yet this is true only if you look at the spirit and not at the external appearance of the flesh. This is simply one aspect of the description of His person, pointed out briefly and with few words. The holy Evangelists and St. Paul in his Epistles describe it more fully and enlarge upon it; they paint this King in His true colors and point out what kind of person He is, and these things are most helpful for those of us who find ourselves in difficulties and vexations of conscience. Martin Luther, “Selected Psalms,” in Luther’s Works, 12:207.

6) No. 5497: The Love of Parents for Their Children

September, 1542

Often he [Martin Luther] repeated the words given above: “I’d like to keep my dear daughter because I love her very much, if only our Lord God would let me. However, his will be done! Truly nothing better can happen to her, nothing better.” While she was still living he often said to her, “Dear daughter, you have another Father in heaven. You are going to go to him.” Philip Melanchthon said, “The feelings of parents are a likeness of divinity impressed upon the human character. If the love of God for the human race is as great as the love of parents for their children, then it is truly great and ardent.” Martin Luther, “Table Talk,” in Luther’s Works, 54:432.

Love to the whole human race implied:

1) The whole human race was worthy of hatred, and yet Christ loved us. For if he had not loved us, he would not have descended from heaven. For the prophet says in the psalm: “There is none that does good,” except one; “they have all become corrupt and sinners” [cf. Ps. 14:3] except Christ alone. So Christ loves the sinner at the command of the Father, who sent Him for our comfort. So the Father wills that we should look to Christ’s humanity and love him in return, but yet in such a way as to remember that he did all this at the bidding of Father’s supreme good pleasure. Otherwise it is terrifying to think of Christ. For to the Father is ascribed power, to the Son, wisdom, and to the Holy Spirit goodness, which we can never attain and of which we must despair. Martin Luther, “Sermons,” in Luther’s Works, 51:46.


Martin Luther on Ezekiel 18:23 and 32

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11


See now how the Diatribe treats that famous verse of Ezekiel 18: “As I live, says the Lord, I desire not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn and live.” First, Diatribe says: “In every case the words ‘turns away… has done… has performed…’ are repeated again and again, in the matter of doing good or evil, and where axe those who deny that man can do anything?” Notice, please, the remarkable consequence. She was going to prove endeavor and desire on the part of free choice, and she proves a complete act, everything fully carried out by free choice. Where now, I ask you, are those who insist on grace and the Holy Spirit? For this is the subtle kind of way she argues: “Ezekiel says, ‘If a wicked man turns away from all his sins and does what is lawful and right, he shall live’ [Ezek. 18:21]; therefore, the wicked man forthwith does so and is able to do so.” Ezekiel intimates what ought to be done, and Diatribe takes it that this is being and has been done, again trying to teach us by a new sort of grammar that to owe is the same as to have, to be required as to be provided, to demand as to pay.

Then she takes that word of sweetest gospel, “I desire not the death of a sinner,” etc., and gives this twist to it: “Does the good Lord deplore the death of his people which he himself works in them? If he does not will our death and if we nonetheless perish, it is to be imputed to our own will. But what can you impute to a man who can do nothing either good or ill?” This is just the song Pelagius sang, when he attributed not merely desire or endeavor, but the complete power of fulfilling and doing everything, to free choice. For it is this power that these inferences prove if they prove anything, as we have said, so that they conflict just as violently and even more so with Diatribe herself, who denies that free choice has this power, and claims for it only an endeavor, as they conflict with us who deny free choice altogether. But not to dwell on her ignorance; we will confine ourselves to the point at issue.

It is an evangelical word and the sweetest comfort in every way for miserable sinners, where Ezekiel [Ezek. 18:23, 32] says: “I desire not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may turn and live,” like Psalm 28[30:5]: “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime.” Then there is Psalm 68[109:21]: “How sweet is thy mercy, O Lord.” and “For I am merciful” [Jer. 3:12], and also Christ’s saying in Matthew 11[:28]: “Come unto me, all you who labor, and I will give you rest,” and that in Exodus 20[:6]: “I show mercy to many thousands, to those who love me.” What, indeed, does almost more than half of Holy Scripture contain but sheer promises of grace, in which mercy, life, peace, and salvation are offered by God to men? And what else do words of promise have to say but this: “I desire not the death of a sinner”? Is it not the same thing to say, “I am merciful,” as to say, “I am not angry, I do not want to punish, I do not want you to die, I want to pardon, I want to spare”? And if these divine promises were not there to raise up consciences afflicted with the sense of sin and terrified with the fear of death and judgment, what place would there be for pardon or hope? What sinner would not despair? But just as free choice is not proved by other words of mercy or promise or comfort, so neither is it proved by this one: “I desire not the death of a sinner,” etc.

But our Diatribe, again making no distinction between words of law and of promise, takes this verse of Ezekiel as an expression of the law, and expounds it thus: “I desire not the death of a sinner,” that is, “I do not want him to sin mortally or become a sinner liable to death, but rather that he may turn from his sin, if he has committed any, and so may live.” For if she did not expound it so, it would not serve her purpose at all. But this means completely throwing overboard the loveliest thing in Ezekiel, “I desire not death.” If that is how in our blindness we wish to read and understand the Scriptures, what wonder is it if they are obscure and ambiguous? For he does not say, “I desire not the sin of a man,” but, “I desire not the death of a sinner,” plainly showing that he is speaking of the penalty of sin, which the sinner experiences for his sin, namely, the fear of death. And he lifts up and comforts the sinner from his affliction and despair, so as not to quench the smoking flax and break the bruised reed [Isa. 42:3], but to give hope of pardon and salvation, so that he may rather be converted (by turning to salvation from the penalty of death) and live, that is, be at peace and happy with an untroubled conscience.

For this also must be observed, that just as the voice of the law is not raised except over those who do not feel or acknowledge their sin, as Paul says in Romans 3[:20]: “Through the law comes knowledge of sin,” so the word of grace does not come except to those who feel their sin and are troubled and tempted to despair. Thus in all expressions of the law you see that sin is revealed, inasmuch as we are shown what we ought to do, just as you see in all the words of promise, on the other hand, that the evil is indicated under which sinners, or those who are to be lifted up, are laboring. Here, for instance, “I desire not the death of a sinner” explicitly names death and the sinner, that is, the evil that is felt as well as the person who feels it. But in the words “Love God with all your heart,” we are shown the good we ought to do, not the evil we feel, in order that we may recognize how unable we are to do that good.

Hence nothing could have been more inappropriately quoted in support of free choice than this passage of Ezekiel, which actually stands in the strongest opposition to free choice. For here we are shown what free choice is like, and what it can do about sin when sin is recognized, or about its own conversion to God; that is to say, nothing but fall into a worse state and add despair and impenitence to its sins, if God did not quickly come to its aid and call it back and raise it up by a word of promise. For God’s solicitude in promising grace to recall and restore the sinner is a sufficiently strong and reliable argument that free choice by itself cannot but go from bad to worse and (as Scripture says) fall down into hell, unless you credit God with such levity as to pour out words of promise in profusion for the mere pleasure of talking, and not because they are in any way necessary for our salvation. So you can see that not only all the words of the law stand against free choice, but also all the words of promise utterly refute it; which means that Scripture in its entirety stands opposed to it.

Martin Luther, “Bondage of the Will,” in Luther’s Works, 33:135-138. [C.f., Calvin’s Commentary remarks.]


Martin Luther on Matthew 23:37

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in Matthew 23:37


[New Testament Passages: Matthew 23:37–Man Must Not Pry into the Secret Will of God]

We come now to the New Testament, where again a host of imperative verbs is mustered in support of that miserable bondage of free choice, and the aid of carnal Reason with her inferences and similes is called in, just as in a picture or a dream you might see the king of the flies with his lances of straw and shields of hay arrayed against a real and regular army of seasoned human troops. That is how the human dreams of Diatribe go to war with the battalions of divine words.

First, there steps forward as a sort of Achilles of the flies that saying from Matthew 23[:37]: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered your children together, and you would not!” If all is determined by necessity, she says, could not Jerusalem rightly reply to the Lord: “Why do you torment yourself with vain tears? If you did not wish us to listen to the prophets, why did you send them? Why impute to us what has been done by your will and our necessity?” That is what Diatribe says. And here is our reply. Let us grant for the moment that this inference and proof of hers is right and good; what in fact is proved by it? The probable opinion which says that free choice cannot will the good? It instead proves that the will is free, sound, and capable of doing everything the prophets have said. But that is not what Diatribe set out to prove.

Indeed, let Diatribe herself reply to the following questions. If free choice cannot will good, why is it blamed for not having given heed to the prophets, to whom as teachers of good things it could not give heed by its own powers? Why does Christ weep vain tears, as if they could have willed what he certainly knows they cannot will? Let Diatribe, I say, acquit Christ of insanity in order to maintain that probable opinion of hers, and our opinion will soon be quit of that Achilles of the flies. This passage from Matthew, therefore, either proves total free choice or it militates just as strongly against Diatribe herself and strikes her down with her own weapon.

We say, as we have said before, that the secret will of the Divine Majesty is not a matter for debate, and the human temerity which with continual perversity is always neglecting necessary things in its eagerness to probe this one, must be called off and restrained from busying itself with the investigation of these secrets of God’s majesty, which it is impossible to penetrate because he dwells in light inaccessible, as Paul testifies [I Tim. 6:16]. Let it occupy itself instead with God incarnate, or as Paul puts it, with Jesus crucified, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, though in a hidden manner [Col. 2:3]; for through him it is furnished abundantly with what it ought to know and ought not to know. It is God incarnate, moreover, who is speaking here: “I would you would not”–God incarnate, I say, who has been sent into the world for the very purpose of willing, speaking, doing, suffering, and offering to all men everything necessary for salvation. Yet he offends very many, who being either abandoned or hardened by that secret will of the Divine Majesty do not receive him as he wills, speaks, does, suffers, and offers, as John says: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not comprehend it” [John 1:5]; and again: “He came to his own home, and his own people received him not” [John 1:11]. It is likewise the part of this incarnate God to weep, wail, and groan over the perdition of the ungodly, when the will of the Divine Majesty purposely abandons and reprobates some to perish. And it is not for us to ask why he does so, but to stand in awe of God who both can do and wills to do such things.

No one, I think, will wish to deny that this will concerning which it is said: “How often would I…” was disclosed to the Jews before God became incarnate, inasmuch as they are accused of having killed the prophets before Christ, and so of having resisted his will. For it is well known among Christians that everything done by the prophets was done in the name of the Christ who was to come, concerning whom it had been promised that he should be God incarnate. Hence whatever has been offered to men from the beginning of the world through the ministers of the word is rightly called the will of Christ.

Here, however, Reason in her saucy, sarcastic way will say: This is a splendidly devised way out, if every time we are hard pressed by the arguments, we have recourse to that awful will of the Divine Majesty, and can reduce our opponent to silence whenever he becomes troublesome; it is just the same as when the astrologers with their epicycles dodge all questions about the motion of the heavens as a whole. Our answer is that this is not our invention, but a principle firmly based on the Divine Scriptures. Thus Paul says in Romans 11[9:19 ff.]: “Why, then, does God find fault? Who can resist his will? O man, who are you to contend with God? Has the potter no right…?” and the rest; and before him, Isaiah 58[:2]: “Yet they seek me daily, and desire to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness…; they ask of me righteous judgments, they desire to draw near to God.” I think it is sufficiently shown by these words that it is not permissible for men to pry into the will of the Divine Majesty.

Our present subject, however, is of a kind which most of all tempts perverse human beings to pry into that awful will, so that it is most of all in place here to exhort them to silence and reverence. In other cases we do not do this, where matters are under discussion for which a reason can be given, and for which we have been commanded to give a reason. But if anyone persists in investigating the reason for that will, refusing to pay heed to our warning, we let him go on and fight with God like the Giants, while we wait to see what triumphs he will bring back, certain that he will do no harm to our cause and no good to his own. For the fact will remain unchanged, that either he will prove free choice capable of doing everything or the Scriptures he cites will militate against himself. In either case he lies prostrate and vanquished while we stand up as victors.

Martin Luther, “Bondage of the Will,” in Luther’s Works, 33:144-147.

Compare Calvin on the same.

[to be continued]


Martin Luther on 1 John 2:2

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in 1 John 2:2


1) The text, then, means to say this: The old priests washed their hands and feet externally in their lavers; but now there is to be a washing in which not hands and feet are to be washed but all sin and uncleanness is to be washed away, so that, even if someone should sin and still have many of Adam’s and Eve’s other evil inclinations in him, everything should still become clean. For it is a daily, public, free washing, that is, an eternal forgiveness of sins, which is at all times open to all sinners and unclean persons; and we say this in the Creed: “I believe in the forgiveness of sins,” and in 1 John 2:2: “Christ is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world, etc.” Martin Luther, “Minor Prophets,” in Luther’s Works, 20:332.

2) Thus truth is faith itself, which judges correctly about God, namely, that God does not look at our works and our righteousness, since we are unclean, but that He wants to be merciful to us, to look at us, to accept us, to justify us, and to save us if we believe in His Son, whom He has sent to be the expiation for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). This is the true idea about God, and it is really nothing other than faith itself. By my reason I cannot understand or declare for certain that I am accepted into grace for the sake of Christ, but I hear this announced through the Gospel and take hold of it by faith. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Galatians,” in Luther’s Works, 26:238-239.1

3) Then we shall be as we have been redeemed and purified. There must be a careful distinction between the two. Thus Peter says (1 Peter 2:24): “He Himself bore [our sins]–that we might live to righteousness.” Now that Christ has suffered in the flesh, it follows: “As He has done, so we ought to do.” Thus John says (1 John 2:9): “He who says he is in the light.” He is speaking of the imitation [of Christ]. But, on the other hand, he says (1 John 2:2): “not for our sins only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Here he is referring to the gift. Therefore you must carefully consider these two things. Heretofore we have taught in the schools that Christ is an example and a lawgiver. But about the other part, how He has been given for us, they taught nothing at all. And yet this is the most important part and the summary of what ought to be taught and known in Christ; if this is not taught, faith perishes, because righteousness is not based on the teaching of the first part. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Titus,” in Luther’s Works, 29:67-68.2

4) 2. And He is the expiation for our sins.

He does not sit at the right hand of the Father to terrify us, but He is the expiation. Nevertheless, we seek other advocates, others to render satisfaction and make expiation for our sins. Our sins are too great. They cannot be atoned for with our works; this can be done only with Christ’s bitter suffering and with the shedding of His precious blood. Sin causes heartache and depicts Christ for us differently from what He is; it shows Him to us through a colored glass. Even some teachers have done this, even the very saintly martyr Cyprian. But these things must be proclaimed to those who have been terrified, not to those who are presumptuous. Christ, who does not spurn a contrite and humble heart, wants to be the Lord and Author of life, not of sin.

But also for the sins of the whole world.

It is certain that you are a part of the world. Do not let your heart deceive you by saying: “The Lord died for Peter and Paul; He rendered satisfaction for them, not for me.” Therefore let everyone who has sin be summoned here, for He was made the expiation for the sins of the whole world and bore the sins of the whole world. For all the godless have been put together and called, but they refuse to accept. Hence it is stated in Is. 49:4: “I have labored in vain.” Christ is so merciful and kind that if it were possible, He would weep for every sinner who is troubled. Of all men He is the mildest, of all the gentlest. With every member He feels more pity than Peter felt under the rod and the blows. Take any man who is extraordinarily kind and gentle. Then you would know that Christ is much kinder to you. For just as He was on earth, so He is in heaven. Thus Christ has been appointed as the Bishop and Savior of our souls (cf. 1 Peter 2:25). But at His own time He will come as Judge. Since we see this, let us give no occasion to gratify lust. Martin Luther, “The Catholic Epistles,” in Luther’s Works, 30:236-237.

5) Besides, some of them are now beginning to preach shamelessly the blasphemous doctrine that Christ has made satisfaction only for original sin and sins prior to baptism; for sins that follow baptism we must ourselves make satisfaction. This is simply to make Turks and heathen out of Christians. It does not take into account that John in the first chapter of his First Epistle clearly says about all Christians and about himself: “But if we walk in the light, … the blood of Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin” [I John 1:7]. And in the second chapter of the First Epistle of John: “But if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” [I John 2:1–2]. The Epistle to the Hebrews gloriously portrays Christ’s eternal priesthood, namely, how he intercedes for us before God [Hebrews 4:14], and Paul says to the Romans in the eighth chapter: Christ “intercedes for us” before the Father [Romans 8:34]. But what could such leaders of the blind and traducers of baptism understand about these matters? Martin Luther, “The Private Mass and the Consecration of Priests,” in Luther’s Works, 38:183-184.

1Galatians 3:7.
2Titus 2:14.


Part 1:

Early Luther: The “Many” as the elect:

1) The second argument is that “God desires all men to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4), and He gave His Son for us men and created man for eternal life. Likewise: All things exist for man, and he himself exists for God that he may enjoy Him, etc. These points and others like them can be refuted as easily as the first one. For these verses must always be understood as pertaining to the elect only, as the apostle says in 2 Tim. 2:10 “everything for the sake of the elect.” For in an absolute sense Christ did not die for all, because He says: “This is My blood which is poured out for you” and “for many”–He does not say: for all”–“for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 14:24, Matt. 26:28). Martin Luther, “Lectures on Romans,” [1515-16] in Luther’s Works, 25:375-376.

Mature Luther: The “Many” as all:

2) Christ, Like Adam, Affected All Men Isaiah here uses the word “many” for the word “all,” after the manner of Paul in Rom. 5:15. The thought there is: One has sinned (Adam), One is righteous (Christ), and many are made righteous. There is no difference between “many” and “all.” The righteousness of Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, our Lord and Savior, is so great that it could justify innumerable worlds. “He ‘shall justify many,” says he, that is to say, all. It should, therefore, be understood of all, because He offers His righteousness to all, and all who believe in Christ obtain it. (W 40 III, 738 f–E op ex 23, 523 f – SL 6, 720). Cited from: Ewald M. Plass, What Luther Says (Saint Louis, Missouri: Concordia Publishing House, 1959), 2:601. [Note: this lecture was first delivered in 1544, but only later put into print in 1550.]

The Latin from the Weimar edition:

3) ‘Iustificabit multos’. Loquitur more Pauli: Rom. 5. utitur hoc [Rom 5,15] vocabulo ‘multos’; Hoc loco: ‘omnes’; est in relatione: ‘unus peccavit’, ‘unus iustus’, et: ‘multi iustificantur’. Nulla differentia est inter ‘multos’ et ‘omnes’. Iusticia Christi, unigeniti Filii Dei, Domini ac salvatoris nostri, tanta est, ut infinitos mundos possit iustificare. ‘Iustificabit multos’, inquit, id est, ‘omnes’. Intelligatur igitur de omnibus, quod offerat omnibus suam iasticiam, quam omnes consequuntur, qui in Chrihtum credunt. D. Martin Luther’s Werke (Weimar: H. Böhlau,1930), 40/III: 738. [Note: I have not been able to find this quotation in the Pelikan English edition of Luther’s works.]

Sufficient Redemption:

1) But these five verses have been explained by some in many other ways, in a very labored way: Some in a farfetched way, some tropologically, some in a mixture of everything. Therefore some, according to the Hebrew, have put it thus: “Redeeming a brother, a man will not redeem a man,” if you will; that is, Christ redeeming His brother, namely, anyone chosen, for He is also a man in the church, though He is the Redeemer. He will not redeem, namely, the heel and those who boast, etc., or, a man, that is, Judas and his ilk. And He will not give God a ransom for him, namely, for Judas and his ilk, and the price of the redemption of their soul, but He will be quiet forever (that is, Christ Himself will rest) and live eternally. And He will not see destruction, though He sees the wise (according to this world) dying. But this explanation is a little too forced, because although Christ did not effectively give His ransom for Judas and the Jews, He certainly gave it sufficiently. It is rather that they did not accept it. Therefore it should not be denied that it was given, but rather it should be denied that the benefit of the propitiation was accepted. Again, putting “man” in the accusative in place of in the nominative is more a guess than an explanation. Again, construing the “wise” here as the wise of this world does not seem to make sense, since there follows immediately the senseless and the fool shall perish together. For that reason the former explanation seems better. Martin Luther, “First Lectures on the Psalms,” in Luther’s Works 10:228.

2) Through the help of the Holy Spirit, God’s saints understood what Moses was saying. Others, the boorish and carnally-minded mass of people, did not understand him for the reason that Scripture uses these same words with reference to a physical and particular deliverance. If one, therefore, does not pay attention to the context, one will never understand the burden of Moses’ petition: that Christ might come into the flesh and redeem the world from sins and death. This is that plenitude and abundance of mercy which Psalm 130 designates as “plenteous redemption” (Ps. 130:7). With this ransom, by which Christ made payment for sins, an endless number of worlds could have been redeemed. Martin Luther, “Selected Psalms,” in Luther’s Works, 13:134

Christ shed his blood and died for the world:

1) How, then, do we rid ourselves of the earthly? Our Gospel, which they condemn so deplorably, gives us the answer, namely, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, of whom we confess in our Christian Creed: “I believe in Jesus Christ.” He “comes from above”; He is not of the earth but from above, as we read in 1 Cor. 15:47. He was not conceived by an earthly being but by the Holy Spirit from above. He brings heavenly things with Him; He becomes man, dwells and lives on earth, prays, fasts, and does good to many. Reason, in its ignorance, says nothing about this. No man has ever descended from heaven, been conceived by the Holy Spirit, suffered under Pontius Pilate, or died for the whole human race. We must all join the little children in confessing: “We believe in Jesus Christ, who was conceived, was born, and suffered.” This Man’s work alone accomplished everything. All that we are and have is of the earth, but He who is from above does it all with His death and blood. Even one little drop of His blood helps the entire world; for this Person is very God, begotten of the Father from eternity. He holds the ransom money for me, not for Himself. He was not born, nor did He suffer and die in order thereby to become the Son of God; for He was this already. No, He suffered and died that I might become a son of God through Him and that I might derive my righteousness, wisdom, and sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30) from above. Martin Luther, “Sermons on the Gospel of St. John,” in Luther’s Works, 22:459.

2) This, too, is a comfort, as we have heard. Their hatred for you will not arise because of any evil deeds or sins, or because you might be scoundrels and thieves, murderers or adulterers. It will arise solely because you want to preach of Me and say that I shed My blood and died for the world, and that it cannot be, and must not attempt to be, saved otherwise than through Me. This will be the reason for all the hatred and persecution in the world, and it is surely a praiseworthy reason. Martin Luther, Martin, “Sermons on the Gospel of St,” in Luther’s Works, 24:279.

3) You hear “the merit of Christ” here. But if you weigh these words more carefully, you will understand that Christ is completely idle here, and that the glory and the name of Justifier and Savior are taken away from Him and attributed to monastic works. Is this not taking the name of God in vain? Is this not confessing Christ in words but denying His power and blaspheming Him? I myself was once stuck in this mire too. Although I confessed with my mouth that Christ had suffered and died for the redemption of the human race, I thought that He was a judge, who had to be placated by the observance of my monastic rule. Therefore whenever I prayed or celebrated Mass, I always used to add this at the end: “Lord Jesus, I come to Thee and pray that the burdens of my order may be a recompense for my sins.” But now I thank the Father of mercies, who has called me out of the darkness into the light of the Gospel and has endowed me with an abundant knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake, as Paul says (Phil. 3:8-9), “I count everything as loss, yes, count it as skubula, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on the rule of Augustine, but that which is through faith in Christ,” to whom, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be praise and glory forever and ever. Amen. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Galatians,” in Luther’s Works, 26:154.

World redeemed:

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