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Dr. Thrunk 03-21-2017 12:46 PM

Luther and Justice/Righteousness
Hello all.

I'm wondering if anyone can direct me where Luther writes about his understanding of justice and/or righteousness in the most concentrated forms. I imagine that commentaries on Romans and Galatians would house detailed discussions, but I am wondering if there are other writings where he deals with justice, especially in a systematic manner.

Ted Logan 04-11-2017 02:58 PM

You need to consult The Bondage of the Will. The table of contents will likely yield a few pages of info. In my copy, chapter V topics xii-xiii are titled "Of the potter and the clay" and "Of the righteousness of God in justifying and condemning sinners," and VII topic vii is "Rom. 4.2-3: the total irrelevance of works to man's righteousness before God."

You should also look at The Heidelberg Disputation and its proofs. For example, Thesis 25: He is not righteous who does much, but he who, without work, believes much in Christ. The proof is given:


For the righteousness of God is not acquired by means of acts frequently repeated, as Aristotle taught, but it is imparted by faith, for »He who through faith is righteous shall live« (Rom. 1:17), and »Man believes with his heart and so is justified« (Rom. 10:10). Therefore I wish to have the words »without work« understood in the following manner: Not that the righteous person does nothing, but that his works do not make him righteous, rather that his righteousness creates works. For grace and faith are infused without our works. After they have been imparted the works follow. Thus Rom. 3:20 states, »No human being will be justified in His sight by works of the law,« and, »For we hold that man is justified by faith apart from works of law« (Rom. 3:28). In other words, works contribute nothing to justification.

Therefore man knows that works which he does by such faith are not his but God's. For this reason he does not seek to become justified or glorified through them, but seeks God. His justification by faith in Christ is sufficient to him. Christ is his wisdom, righteousness, etc., as 1 Cor 1:30 has it, that he himself may be Christ's vessel and instrument (operatio seu instrumentum).
The Heidelberg Disputation (1518) is maybe the most amazing thing ever written by a man with irritable bowel syndrome and you should read all of it.

You could also look for Two Kinds of Righteousness, which he wrote the following year (1519).

Originally Posted by Two Kinds of Righteousness
There are two kinds of Christian righteousness, just as man's sin is of two kinds.

The first is alien righteousness, that is, the righteousness of another, instilled from without. This is the righteousness of Christ by which he justifies through faith, as it is written in I Cor. 1: "Whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption."... This righteousness, then, is given to men in baptism and whenever they are truly repentant. Therefore a man can with confidence boast in Christ and say: "Mine are Christ's living, doing, and speaking, his suffering and dying, mine as much as if I had lived, done, spoken, suffered, and died as he did."

The second kind of righteousness is our proper righteousness, not because we alone work it, but because we work with that first and alien righteousness. This is that manner of life spent profitably in good works, in the first place, in slaying the flesh and crucifying the desires with respect to the self, of which we read in Gal. 5...

But in all this stuff, you will not find the kind of "systematic" treatment that you will find in the scholastics or in modern systematic theologies. Luther never attempted to produce that kind of work.

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