Volumes 22–24 of Luther’s Works did not give us all of Luther’s preaching on the Gospel of John. Now, in the new volume 69, we have Luther’s exposition of Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17, as well as his preached meditations on the entire passion and resurrection of our Lord according to John. In LW 69, Luther is an expert guide through the mysteries of Lent and Easter. Dr. Christopher Boyd Brown’s introductions and footnotes in many ways surpass the scholarly apparatus of the old series. Brown sets Luther's commentary in the context of patristic, medieval, and contemporary Reformation commentaries on John in order to show what was most important to Luther as he preached on Christ's passion.
The last part of the new volume is truly unique. For the first time, we have collected and translated all of Luther’s sermons on John 20:19—31, where Jesus breathes on His disciples, gives them the Holy Spirit, and bestows on them His authority to forgive and retain sins. This passage, which is quoted and explained in many editions of the Small Catechism, as well as in the twenty-eighth article of the Augsburg Confession, has been the center of not a little controversy over the years. The sermons here in LW 69 show in what ways Luther’s explanation of this passage changed through his career, and in what ways it stayed the same. In every sermon Luther’s concern to uphold the forgiveness of sins through the word of absolution is clear and heartening.
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“Faith, however, is not an idle, wavering concept but a living, serious, comforting, and undoubting confidence of the heart410 in this matchless glory whereby we become one substance411 with Christ and through Him with the Father—one substance in such a way that, just as little as Christ can be severed or isolated from the Father, so little is it possible for Christendom and each Christian | to be separated from Him.” (Page 108)
“Now, the Father (as has been said) cannot be glorified unless Christ be glorified first. That is, the Holy Spirit must come and preach the Gospel, without which no one can know the Father.” (Page 24)
“You see, this is what it means to ‘abide and be kept in His name’: to keep the Word pure and unadulterated in our heart.” (Page 75)
“We370 might well inscribe this text in letters of pure gold, as one that refers to us in particular” (Page 101)
“The Word carries Christ into our heart without opening anything. How does the Word come? It does not injure consciences, that is, it does not deceive consciences12 as the false apostles do, who break through doors and windows. His Word does not do this; rather, it comes in through the closed door. The ‘coming’ is preaching; the ‘standing’ is faith. It is not enough that it should stand on the tongue, in the mouth, but as John says [John 20:19], it ought to stand ‘in the midst’ of the heart. The fruit of faith, which is joy,13 is not external but rather is that ‘peace which surpasses all understanding’ (Philippians 4 [:7]).” (Page 335)
Among the greatest and most prolific theologians of Christian history, Martin Luther still speaks to us today. This 28-volume new series splendidly complements its 55-volume predecessor and offers a treasure-trove of writings never before available in English, writings crucial to understanding Luther’s life, thought, and profound influence throughout the centuries. Offering readable yet reliable translations, well introduced and appropriately annotated, this new series should delight scholars as well as engage laity and clergy.
—Mark U. Edwards, Jr., academic dean, Harvard Divinity School
Luther’s analysis of human life and his proclamation of God’s merciful deliverance of humankind from sin and evil through Christ ring true across the cultural boundaries of time and space. This supplement to the historic edition of the reformer’s writings, completed a quarter century ago, is bringing significant additions to the texts from his pen than are currently available in English. It will also provide English-language reader’s access to documents that aid in understanding Luther’s own life and the development of the Wittenberg Reformation. The volumes are being edited according to the highest academic standards and their introductions and notes offer readers helpful guides to the context and content of the reformer’s writings. Casual readers and those seeking to expand and deepen their knowledge of the Reformation will profit greatly from these carefully translated and edited volumes.
—Robert Kolb, professor emeritus of systematic theology, Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis
Martin Luther (1483–1546) was a key figure in the Protestant Reformation and one of the most significant figures in Western history. Over the course of his life, he was a monk, a priest, a professor of biblical literature, a Reformer, a husband, and a father.
Luther is most noted for his 95 Theses (1517), in which he argues that indulgences are not acts of penance which can replace true repentance. In 1520, Pope Leo X and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V demanded that Luther retract all of his writings. Luther refused. He was subsequently excommunicated and declared an outlaw.
Luther has been both praised and vilified for what he preached and wrote. His translation of the Christian Bible into the vernacular greatly influenced the church. His works continue to impact all Christians and animate the movement that bears his name. Many editions of his work have been produced, including The Precious and Sacred Writings of Martin Luther (14 vols.), Works of Martin Luther with Introductions and Notes (2 vols.), Henry Cole’s Select Works of Martin Luther (4 vols.), Select Life and Works of Martin Luther (4 vols.), and Selections from Luther’s Table Talk (4 vols.).