Friday, May 15, 2009

Sin Boldly?

Below I've quoted part of Martin Luther's famous letter he wrote to Melanchton in 1521.

One phrase in it has been sometimes translated, "Sin boldly", and some have called Luther an antinomian (against the law, or lawless) because of it.

But this is a slander that all true preachers of the Gospel of Grace may be occasionally subject to.

Luther loved the law of God, as all who are born again do.

But Luther also knew we could never keep the law with the perfection required by God, and so he "recklessly" pounded home the great truth of Grace, by which Christ on the cross paid for all of our sins.

How many of them?


Past sins.

Present sins.

Future sins.

"Should we sin then that Grace would abound," Paul asked on behalf of his imaginary audience.

"Of course not, you ignoramouses;" he responds to his own question, "don't you know you've died to sin and been born again? You love Jesus now, and hate your sins. What a dumb question!" --VERY loose paraphrase :)

And yet, when we do sin, we have an advocate with the Father. And so there is NO condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. And we can crawl in His lap and rest, and this resting will help us to walk in His

If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin.

God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.

We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter [2 Peter 3:13] are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign.

It suffices that through God's glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.

No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins?
-- Martin Luther


godwordistruth said...

Agree. Martin Luther was not an Antinomian. Far from it, he rebuked those who took the "lawless" position regarding sanctification.....

‘In [Romans] chapter 6, St. Paul takes up the special work of faith, the struggle which the spirit wages against the flesh to kill off those sins and desires that remain after a person has been made just. He teaches us that faith doesn’t so free us from sin that we can be idle, lazy and self-assured, as though there were no more sin in us. Sin is there, but, because of faith that struggles against it, God does not reckon sin as deserving damnation. Therefore we have in our own selves a lifetime of work cut out for us; we have to tame our body, kill its lusts, force its members to obey the spirit and not the lusts. We must do this so that we may conform to the death and resurrection of Christ and complete our Baptism, which signifies a death to sin and a new life of grace. Our aim is to be completely clean from sin and then to rise bodily with Christ and live forever.

St. Paul says that we can accomplish all this because we are in grace and not in the law. He explains that to be “outside the law” is not the same as having no law and being able to do what you please. No, being “under the law” means living without grace, surrounded by the works of the law. Then surely sin reigns by means of the law, since no one is naturally well-disposed toward the law. That very condition, however, is the greatest sin. But grace makes the law lovable to us, so there is then no sin any more, and the law is no longer against us but one with us.

This is true freedom from sin and from the law; St. Paul writes about this for the rest of the chapter. He says it is a freedom only to do good with eagerness and to live a good life without the coercion of the law. This freedom is, therefore, a spiritual freedom which does not suspend the law but which supplies what the law demands, namely eagerness and love. These silence the law so that it has no further cause to drive people on and make demands of them. It’s as though you owed something to a moneylender and couldn’t pay him. You could be rid of him in one of two ways: either he would take nothing from you and would tear up his account book, or a pious man would pay for you and give you what you needed to satisfy your debt. That’s exactly how Christ freed us from the law. Therefore our freedom is not a wild, fleshy freedom that has no obligation to do anything. On the contrary, it is a freedom that does a great deal, indeed everything, yet is free of the law’s demands and debts.’ Preface to the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans by Martin Luther, 1483-1546 Translated by Bro. Andrew Thornton, OSB

Terry Rayburn said...

Thanks for that insight into Luther's thinking.

Chris said...

Hi Terry - thanks for this post. I was just thinking about something to write for my own blog, and the phrase "sin boldly" jumped into my head (I work for a Lutheran church), and your blog is where my quick search led me.

I hadn't ever really thought about this quote until now, though I figured I had a general idea of what he meant. It's great to finally read it in its full context.

I also felt compelled to comment because I noticed in your profile that you live in Clarksville, and my brother just moved to Clarksville from Texas, to work at the university. I visited him last month, right after he moved in, and enjoyed the short tour of the town. My family and I will be taking a more extended trip to Clarksville this October, and I look forward to (perhaps) a real autumn.