Luther On Preaching-Part 2

Yesterday, I shared that I was going to be doing a 6 part series going over Luther’s view on preaching.  After I introduced what I was going to be doing, I posted Part 1 of the series which simply consisted of the introduction. Today, we get to the good stuff though. I say that because today we get to look at how Luther believed that preaching was to be Word driven. 

A Quick Word

We need to take heed to Luther’s admiration for the Word of God. A lot of these men in church history equated how much one loved the Word of God to how much one actually loved God. Now some may say that is idolatry of the Bible. Okay, so I do believe that some people can make the Bible an idol (KJV ONLY PEOPLE!!). But that is not what the reformers were saying when they equated ones love for the Bible as ones actual love for God. 

You see, they knew and understood that God has chosen to make himself known through the Bible. As we look into the pages of sacred Scripture, we see a testimony to who God is. In our day, some people are prone to say, “Well, I believe God to be a God of mercy and not a God of justice.” Or some may say, “To me, God is like …..” That is not how it works though. 

When it comes to who God is, the only correct way to think is, “In the Bible, the Holy Spirit testifies that God is merciful and just.” Everything we believe about God must be grounded in the Bible or it is false. The reason for this is because the Bible is the way in which God has made himself known.

Also, we believe that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. The Scriptures are what testify to the the person of Jesus Christ. It is in the Bible that we see Christ. It is in the Bible that Christ is revealed to us. That is the only place he is revealed. 

So when the reformers equated how much one loved the Word of God to how much one actually loved God, they simply meant that if you love God then you will love the Word because the Word is a testimony of the one whom you love. I think they are absolutely right.

With that being said, let us now turn to part 2 to see what Luther has to say about Word driven preaching.

Part 2-Word Driven

For Luther, preaching was first and foremost Word driven. A preacher’s authority does not lie within himself, but rather in the words in which he speaks. Therefore, if he is to have any authority in the pulpit, he must be speaking from the authoritative Word of God. This is why Luther is considered to be an expositor of the Word. He sought to preach expositionally, and he sought to get preachers to preach expositionally. With this being the case, he “elevated biblical exposition to its grandest height since the early church.”[1] The amazing extent that Luther was dedicated to the text in his preaching is seen all throughout his writings and sermons. It is in all of his writings and sermons that will lead some to say that it was not only Luther’s conscience that was captive to the Word of God, but it was his preaching too.[2]

When Luther was preparing a sermon, he wanted to find the main point of the text.[3] The main point of the text is what he wanted to focus on and stay on. He wanted it to be the central theme of his sermon. This is, in a sense, why he did not like elaborate introductions. He felt as though that would distract the congregation. Therefore, in the beginning of his sermons he would just simply state the text’s main point.[4] After stating the main point of the text, he would then labor to stick to the text the entirety of the sermon. Regarding this, Luther said, “In my preaching I take pains to treat a verse of the Scriptures, to stick to it, and so to instruct people that they can say, ‘That’s what the sermon was about.’”[5] Thus, he wanted the God inspired text to be so engrained in the minds of his hearers that they could undoubtedly recall the text that the sermon was on. Luther did not simply want this to be a merely academic process though. In other words, he did no want his congregation to feel as though they were listening to a commentary being read. Rather, he believed that the exposition of the Scripture should be clearly articulated in a simple manner so that all could understand.

[1]Steven J. Lawson, The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther, 28.
[2]Fred W. Mueser, Luther the Preacher (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1983) 41.
[3]Ibid. 47.
[4]Fred W. Mueser, Luther the Preacher, 48
[5]Martin Luther, Luther’s Works: Table Talk, ed. Theodore G. Tappert and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54. American Edition (Philadephia: Fortress Press) 160.

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