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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Luther: Christ, Spirit, Word

On a fairly regularly basis, I have someone question if commitment to the Scriptures, diminishes a commitment to Christ and the Spirit. Some speculate that a life that searches the Book must not be the life that lives by the Spirit. Others see a "freedom and liberty" in Christ and the Spirit that they think runs in opposition to the Scriptures.

Luther dealt with these questions as well. In an audio biography, Piper pointed out a couple of things.

On the Holy Spirit and the Word
He said in 1520, "Be assured that no one will make a doctor of the Holy Scripture save only the Holy Ghost from heaven" (What Luther Says: An Anthology, Vol. 2, p. 1355). Luther was a great lover of the Holy Spirit. And his exaltation of the Book as the "external Word" did not belittle the Spirit. On the contrary it elevated the Spirit's great gift to Christendom. In 1533 he said, "The Word of God is the greatest, most necessary, and most important thing in Christendom" (What Luther Says: An Anthology, Vol. 2, p. 913). Without the "external Word" we would not know one spirit from the other, and the objective personality of the Holy Spirit himself would be lost in a blur of subjective expressions. Cherishing the Book implied to Luther that the Holy Spirit is a beautiful person to be known and loved, not a buzz to be felt.
On Christ and the Word
Another objection to Luther's emphasis on the Book is that it minimizes the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ himself. Luther says the opposite is true. To the degree that the Word of God is disconnected from the objective, "external Word," to that degree the incarnate Word, the historical Jesus, becomes a wax nose for the preferences of every generation. Luther had one weapon with which to rescue the incarnate Word form being sold in the markets of Wittenberg. He drove out the money changers—the indulgence sellers—with the whip of the "external Word," the Book.
Some picture Christ and the Spirit sitting in the corner jealous, as a believer digs into the Word. But this picture is incomplete. The Word (book) was written to reveal the Word (Christ). He is the subject of the Book.

So one studies the Word (book) to study the Word (Christ). But what of the Spirit, is He upset with the lack of attention? Paul doesn't think so. Neither does John. The Spirit wrote the Word and He illumines the Word for the believer. In fact, as a believer is in the Book, he is communing with the Spirit.

Praise God for His grace to help Luther see His Son through the work of the Spirit in His Word!


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