Prominent Reformation historian Timothy Wengert introduces the basic components of Martin Luther’s theology of the Bible and examines Luther’s contributions to present-day biblical interpretation. Wengert addresses key points of debate regarding Luther’s approach to the Bible that have often been misunderstood, including biblical authority, the distinction between law and Gospel, the theology of the cross, and biblical ethics. He argues that Luther, when rightly understood, offers much wisdom to Christians searching for fresh approaches to the interpretation of Scripture.
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“The second, or theological use, which is the chief use of the law as far as these early Lutherans were concerned, has to do with how God uses the law to reveal sin; to terrify the comfortable, self-satisfied person; and to put to death the old creature. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:6, ‘the letter kills’; or in Romans 3:20, ‘by the law comes knowledge of sin’; or in Galatians 2:19, ‘I through the law died to the law.’” (Page 31)
“Usually, when Lutherans now demand a third use of the law, what they want is Calvin’s approach. For Melanchthon and later Lutherans, however, the third use of the law was simply the first and second use applied to Christians.21 Believers are at the same time saint and sinner, believer and unbeliever, and thus they still need the law—first, to restrain them and reveal God’s good and gracious will and order for humanity and for all of God’s creation and, second, to kill the old creature and drive it back to the gospel, faith, and God-pleasing works and away from works-righteousness and ‘self-chosen spirituality.’” (Page 39)
“There is only one authority, and that is the crucified and risen One. Only that authority authorizes all subsequent authorities, scriptural or otherwise.” (Page 11)
“Luther, contrary to all of this, insisted that Scripture was self-authenticating. It is God’s Word because it ‘does God’ to me.” (Page 10)
“The gospel makes believers out of unbelievers—which is the same as raising the dead. This, then, is the heart of a distinctly ‘Lutheran’ interpretation of the Bible: distinguishing law and gospel and thus telling the truth about the human condition and about God.” (Page 33)