Home > Faith, Luther, The Article of Justification > Like a Loaded Gun Pointed At Your Face–Luther

Like a Loaded Gun Pointed At Your Face–Luther


martin-luther-152614.  …We must believe that our righteousness, salvation, and comfort lie outside of ourselves, namely, that we are righteous before God, acceptable to him, holy and wise, even though there is nothing within us but sin, injustice, and stupidity.  In my conscience there is nothing but an awareness and feeling of sin and of the fear of death; and, therefore, I must look elsewhere for help, and must believe that there is no sin and no death.  A person who refuses to see what he does see, and who refuses to feel what he does feel must be completely bewitched.  My eyes see a bronze gulden, a sword, fire, and yet I’m supposed to say, That is not a bronze gulden, no sword, no fire.  That’s how it is with the forgiveness of sins.  I feel that I have been a bad boy, that I still am a bad boy, and yet I’m supposed to say, All my sins are forgiven; for this is the message that has been proclaimed to me: “Your sins are forgiven.”

 

16.  But I repeat, flesh and blood have this affliction, that they are always trying to bring up something on which they can depend.  Human nature is defenseless against a bad habit; it cannot avoid an awareness of sins and yet cannot believe in pure grace and the forgiveness of sins.  If you have developed this skill, of not seeing what you do see, and of not feeling what you do feel, then let me tell you about something nobler and more majestic.  But I warn you, it will take you a long time to develop this artistic skill!  For this business of faith in the forgiveness of sins is just as if someone were aiming a loaded gun at your face and was ready to pull the trigger, and yet you are to believe and to say, Not to worry!

 

18.  Now there is no way of receiving forgiveness of sins except to simply close my eyes and believe that my sins are forgiven, as we pray in the Christian Creed: “I believe in the Holy Spirit…the forgiveness of sins.”  But by nature my reason would prefer to have this article avoid calling sin “sin”, and would instead describe it as an apparent but imaginary sin; in other words, that sin would be a word used only in a self-deprecating way to indicate humility.  In short, I would prefer to present myself to the Lord as a falsely accused sinner, and to confess myself to be a sinner but without feeling guilty of sin.  To me that would be the ideal kind of sinner.    …So, whoever wants to truly confess that he is a sinner must see to it that he is not confessing any dreamed up or imaginary sins.  He must confess that his sins are just as real as adultery, theft , murder, and the like, that is, that these sins are so great that they will take you to hell unless they are forgiven.  For even if we don’t commit all the gross, outward sins like adultery, theft, or murder, nevertheless, unless we have this benefit of believing in the forgiveness of sins, our sins will damn us to the abyss of hell.

 

…The uneducated masses have no idea of what either sin or the forgiveness of sins is.  But we who assume that we do know what forgiveness of sins is will have to keep on learning what it is as long as we live.  For it is our natural inclination to try to erase our sins by our own efforts and to minimize our sins by saying, “I’m not aware of having committed any special sins; I’m not an adulterer, or a thief, or a murderer, and so on.  Our confession of sins, however, must be genuine, so that before God we plead: Dear Lord, if you enter into judgment with me, what you will find is not imaginary, but genuine, great sins…That is the kind of confession of sins that is required, for if the forgiveness of sins is to be genuine, then the sins themselves must also be genuine.

 

21.  So Christ created this article, forgiveness of sins, in us through baptism but he also continues to maintain it through the Word, Sacrament, absolution, and the Holy Spirit whom he sends into the heart.  Sin is indeed present in us, but is forgiven, just as the snakes which some people carry about in their bosoms are indeed reptiles, but nonpoisonous ones.  That’s how it is with the sin that weights us down; it is truly sin, but it is not a damning kind of sin, because it is forgiven.  It is like death which destroys the Christian physically; it is truly death, but a death that has already been overcome…

Martin Luther, “Sermon on the 22nd Sunday after Trinity (1530)”, House Postil

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  1. September 15, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    what a profound words!
    ………………………………………………………….
    @Human nature is defenseless against a bad habit; it cannot avoid an awareness of sins and yet cannot believe in pure grace and the forgiveness of sins

    @In short, I would prefer to present myself to the Lord as a falsely accused sinner, and to confess myself to be a sinner but without feeling guilty of sin. To me that would be the ideal kind of sinner

    below really says it all. am i the only one hearing the apostle Paul here?
    …………………………………………………………
    @it is truly sin, but it is not a damning kind of sin, because it is forgiven. It is like death which destroys the Christian physically; it is truly death, but a death that has already been overcome…

    thank you for sharing

    • September 16, 2013 at 9:42 am

      I wish that I had heard this when I was younger. The fine art of “not seeing what you see” is what it means to be justified by faith; you have a struggle against the sin that you do see in yourself and must cling to Christ against that. When I was younger, and particularly when I was a semi-Calvinist, I thought if I was really converted I would automatically arrive at a higher level of sanctification that would assure me that my faith was not false faith.

      • September 16, 2013 at 7:12 pm

        hi rev. Karl,

        i share the same though when you said about the semi-calvinist. i grew up in the evangelicals. while i am thankful for the great bible stories they told me when i was a child but realizing that the sinners prayer does not save makes me wonder how am i save?

        hearing Luthers galatians commentary (thanks to Rod Rosenbladt), i think i understood the gospel, or should i say the gospel open my eyes

        i never understood Pauls phraseology like “the good i want i do not do, the evil i do not want to do, that i do” and “i die but i live but not me but Christ who died and live in me” and the likes

        one of the great time to be live was Luther’s time. he was Paul junior. i wish to see another in our wicked and crooked generation. wicked and crooked for ignoring the gospel.

  2. Marilyn
    October 29, 2015 at 11:12 pm

    I reread this tonight. I noticed a comment about “not knowing” this (about forgiveness) when young. It has to be learned and relearned all life long. One can only understand as a child when he/she is a child, so no matter what is heard or read, only a small amount will be remembered or understood. Also, our sins make us deaf and blind to the Gospel over and over again throughout our lives.

    • October 30, 2015 at 10:59 am

      It wasn’t your fault I didn’t understand this. I didn’t understand that faith believes in the forgiveness of sins against our feelings and experience. I thought you were supposed to feel saved. Anyway, it probably wasn’t when I was young, as in a child, that I didn’t get it. I didn’t start to experience the condemnation of the law until I was older, like approaching teenage years.

      Thanks for commenting on this quote because I forgot it was on here.

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