Thank the Lord for Pastor McCoy, who recorded the audio of Luther’s Genesis (1-4) Commentary. You can listen to it all here for free, or download the audio and listen on the go.
Thank the Lord for Pastor McCoy, who recorded the audio of Luther’s Genesis (1-4) Commentary. You can listen to it all here for free, or download the audio and listen on the go.
Here are a few of the highlights from Martin Luther’s commentary on the book of The Prophet Malachi. These are from volume 18 of Luther’s Works, which you can find here.
- 1.1 The stomach is the greatest idol in every religion.
- 1.2 To be sure, among His own people God always appears weak, caring little for them. Thus He wants our virtue to be hidden in Himself. The weaker we are, so much the more powerful does He want to be in us.
- 1:5 The sign of the presence of God is the presence of the pure Word and the pure use of God’s sacraments.
- 2.7 Certainly God could with His Spirit instruct and justify those whom He would, but it has pleased His wisdom more to instruct and save those who believe through the foolishness of preaching. The Word is the channel through which the Holy Spirit is given. This is a passage against those who hold the spoken Word in contempt. The lips are the public reservoirs of the church. In them alone is kept the Word of God. You see, unless the Word is preached publicly, it slips away. The more it is preached, the more firmly it is retained. Reading it is not as profitable as hearing it, for the live voice teaches, exhorts, defends, and resists the spirit of error. Satan does not care a hoot for the written Word of God, but He flees at the speaking of the Word. You see, this penetrates hearts and leads back those who stray.
- 2.10 “Have we not all one Father, etc.”; and with their unity in the worship of God: “Has not one God created us?” These are also two outstanding statements for correcting the cruelty of husbands, namely, if they look at their wives as God’s creation and as women who have a God in common with them. This is what Peter is saying in 1 Peter 3:7: “Let husbands live considerately with their wives, etc.” Here he also lifts their eyes to God and indicates that they honor God when they honor their wives as God’s creation.
- 2.11 11. [For Judah has profaned] the sanctuary of the Lord, that is, the Law. With a careful eye, then, the prophet takes a look at those who corrupt the Law. You see, as long as the teaching remains pure, there is hope for easily correcting one’s life. The rays of the sun remain pure even when they fall and shine on manure. And God keeps something holy in our midst through which we may be sanctified, even if we have fallen. This is His Word, by which we quickly condemn a sin that has been committed. The Lord magnifies this.
- 3.1 John, therefore, will see to it that the appearance of the way would look beautiful and unencumbered. After all, there are many things which hinder the “way,” that is, the work of the Lord. Those things must be removed, especially human reason, self-love, one’s own wisdom, one’s own righteousness, etc. That preparing, then, is to make humble and to arrange things so as to allow God to work in one. You see, the way of the Lord is where He Himself walks. The prophet mentions nothing about our ways except that we should abstain from them. After all, our works lie in His way, so that Christ cannot work or enter. John told all the Jews and those doing very fine works “Repent!” as if he were speaking to sinners. He is saying: “Let the Lord enter. He Himself will justify you and will do the will of the Lord. Neither you nor your works will do this.” This is what it means to convince the world of sin, of righteousness, etc. Those who believe, then, are those who are prepared to meet the Lord and to receive Him. In them He is able to work, that is, in those who have been brought back to a knowledge of their sins.
- 3.2 The kingdom of Christ is a mystical smelting furnace that purges out the impurity of the old Adam.
- 3.2 Christ is not merely the Purifier but also the purifying Agent. He is not only the Blacksmith but also the Fire; not only the Cleaner but also the Soap. He does not sit indolently at the right hand of His Father. Rather He is always working among us vitally, effectively, and uninterruptedly as He is spread abroad over His mystical body, as fire is applied to metal. So He is elsewhere called Salvation, and not just Savior. That is, He is Salvation itself and the Laboratory of salvation. This is what Christians sense. They have less affection for wealth; they are less afraid of death; they disregard everything secular. The power to do this is the “fire” and the “soap.”
- 3.3 And He will purify the sons of Levi. He is now explaining what that purifying of silver is, namely, the purifying of Holy Writ, for our sake. You see, here is where all the wise men of the world do battle and want to make this obscure. Yet, while their dung keeps smelling, the Word of God always becomes more clear. Finally “their folly will be plain to all.”
- Furthermore, the prophet is indicating that the kingdom of Christ will be totally sacerdotal, and that there will be no distinction or respect of persons. Everyone in this kingdom is Christ’s brother. Through Christ, each can come to God and pray and teach. There will be other, true Levites, namely, purified ones, and the old ones will have been rejected, for they were only purified outwardly but within were wicked and impure.
- And He will refine them. “He will purify, elevate, cleanse them. He will remove the dross of false doctrine to reveal the light of divine truth through the Word by which they themselves will be led. The kingdom of Christ is the exercise of Word and faith because of the perpetual harm of the wicked. Whoever, therefore, wishes to become a Christian must give himself over to being purified.
- 3.4 And the offering … will be pleasing to the Lord. When the persons are pleasant and pleasing, their sacrifices, too, are pleasant and pleasing.
As in the days of old and as in former years, that is, as in the days before the Law had been given. You see, all this has been said in reproach of the Law. After all, hypocrites started when the Law was given. Before the Law, sacrifices were sanctioned through faith. But the same faith, the same Spirit, the same grace which existed in the days before the Law will be in the kingdom of Christ. Faith makes voluntary offerings, while the Law compels them against the will.
- 3.7 Return to Me, and I will return to you. These words seem to support the free will of man. They are, however, words of the Law, upon which the ability to obey does not immediately follow. After all, He has already said that they had never kept the Law, even if they were eager to keep it. To be sure, God is a good Lawgiver, but we are lazy doers of it. The Law tells us what we should do. He says, “Return to obey Me, and I will return to you to bless you. I will be your kind Father of mercies.”
- 3.8 Furthermore, He reproaches their behavior no more than their doctrine, because they have been defending their sins, and that is the unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit. That is when one cultivates a lie for the sake of piety.
- 3.11 God grants and preserves all things, and He destroys them again when He wishes.
- 3.17 “I will spare,” He indicates that that kingdom would come not without sin. Therefore, it would be a kingdom of grace and forgiveness of sins, a kingdom of sparing.
- 4.2 And [the Sun of righteousness] will rise for you who fear. In the Mosaic kingdom there is pure darkness. All things are hidden in mystery and are confused. Then the wicked will be separated from the righteous by something shining—obviously, by the open truth of God through the Gospel of Christ. Here you see the kingdom of Christ again described in such a way that it is the ministry of the Word. He is saying: “Indeed, a new Sun will shine, and it is not that sun which also animals see. It is the Sun of righteousness, who justifies, who sends out the sort of rays that make men righteous and free from their sins, who drives out every harmful attitude of fleshly lust. Those rays are the Word of the Gospel, which penetrates hearts and is seen as that Sun only by the eyes of the heart, that is, by faith. It is closer to the righteous than is that visible, physical sun. You see, it shines by the Holy Spirit. It shines day and night. Clouds do not hinder it. It is always rising. ‘It will rise for those of you who fear’—who fear the name of God, obviously; that is, the humble, those who are not presumptuous, those who do not trust in their own works but recognize that they are sinners.”
- With healing in His wings. Here you clearly see that we cannot explain this as the Last Day, when judgment will come. But now there will be salvation and protection under the shadow of Christ. Such, then, is the rule of Christ that He Himself is the Mediator and Protector, the way a hen protects her chicks from the hawk. Therefore, let everyone who wants to be safe from the wrath and judgment of God seek refuge under the wings of Christ. This is what the Law urges. Under the Law there is weakness and condemnation; under the wings of Christ, under the Gospel, there is strength and salvation. The Sun rises when the Gospel is preached. One hides under the wings when he believes. Therefore, although you may be a sinner, yet you will be safe when you flee for refuge under His wings. You will not fear death. The lust of the flesh will not overpower you.
You shall go forth like calves leaping from the stall. Here is the fruit of faith and of the kingdom of Christ, a happy conscience, a public confession of faith, thanksgiving, joy in affliction, preaching and the conversion of others to salvation.
- Leaping. More accurately: “You shall be poured out, you shall be increased.” This is a property of joy. Sadness, on the other hand, confines. The Christian believes that the world is his. He goes out into the open. He does not head for the corners.
It was wonderful to be invited by the students of Lindenwood to reflect on the next 500 years of the Reformation. What a question!
In these videos I reflect on how the Christian should think about the future, and how the Christian can have a pure understanding of tomorrow. We push on the dominance of technology, the three estates, the role of faith, love, and hope in considering these things.
If you have the interest and time to watch, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
All the conference videos can be found on the conference YouTube channel.
PREFACE TO THE PSALMS. Martin Luther.
Many of the holy fathers have highly eulogised the Psalms, and preferred them to the other sacred books of Scripture. The Work, in fact, abundantly eulogises the Master. I will add now my own praise and my own gratitude.
So many legends of saints have been circulated in former days, and so many histories of sufferings and of works for our imitation written, that the Psalms at one time were quite neglected; they were involved in too much obscurity that scarcely one Psalm was properly understood, and yet they afforded such preeminent consolation as, even in their badly understood state, to influence and to strengthen the hearts of the pious and the devout. Their language was an object of veneration. But I maintain that no legend and no manual of devotion has ever yet appeared, or can, superior to the Book of Psalms; and if a man wished either to read or to select what is best, both in example, in legend, and in history, he could not do better than adopt the Book of Psalms. For we do not merely find here what one or two saints have done, but what the head of all saints has done, and what all saints still do.
We learn how we are to conduct ourselves with respect to God, to our friends, and to our foes, and how we are to act in all cases of danger and uncertainty. But the Psalms are especially dear and valuable from their detailing to us, so clearly and prophetically, the death and resurrection of Christ; and so declaring his kingdom, and the state and spirit of Christianity, that they may be fairly called a little Bible, in which everything that is in the whole Bible is contained in a beautiful and compendious manner; and they may be considered, therefore, a preparatory vade mecum or hand-book to it. It would seem to me as if the Holy Ghost had inspired the composer with the idea of a small Bible, or of an epitome of Christianity and godly men, so that those who have not the means of reading the whole Bible may find the summary and sense condensed in a small volume. But above all, there is a virtue and a soul which breathes throughout the Psalms, whilst in other religious books they are full, not of the words, but of the works of the saints. The Psalms are an ex ception. They breathe the very odour of sanctity : for they not only relate the works but the words of holy men, how they communed with and prayed to God, and how they still commune and pray to him. so that other legends and other examples, when placed in comparison with the Psalms, appear dumb, empty, and unprofitable. The Psalms repre sent to us the life and the image of sanctity. A dumb man, when placed in opposition to a man who can speak, may be considered as a man half
But above all, there is a virtue and a soul which breathes throughout the Psalms, whilst in other religious books they are full, not of the words, but of the works of the saints, the Psalms are an exception. They breathe the very odour of sanctity: for they not only relate the works but the words of holy men, how they communed with and prayed to God, and how they still commune and pray to him. so that other legends and other examples, when placed in comparison with the Psalms, appear dumb, empty, and unprofitable. The Psalms represent to us the life and the image of sanctity. A dumb man, when placed in opposition to a man who can speak, may be considered as a man half dead; for there is no more powerful or more noble distinction in man than that of speech, which elevates him above all other animals, more than form or any other action. Wood and stone may by the art of the engraver acquire a semblance of humanity; and an animal can hear, see, smell, sing, move, stand, eat, drink, fast, and suffer thirst, hunger, frost, and hard fare as well as a man. But the Psalms do more. They give us not only the daily but the best language of holy men, the language which they used in their applications to and intercourse with God, corresponding both with the gravity of the case and the seriousness of the subject. By these means, we have not only laid open to us their words and their works, but their very heart — the vital treasure of the soul, — so that we can look into the ground and foundation of their words and works, that is into their hearts. We know the thoughts they have entertained, the resolutions they have formed, and the conduct they have pursued in every state of doubt, danger, and difficulty. This, however, is not the case with the histories and the legends which describe the manners and the miracles of saints. It is impossible for me to dive into the heart of a man whose works I alone see, and of whose reputation I only hear. As I should much more prefer hearing the language of a saint to seeing his actions, so I would rather look into his heart and inspect his soul than hear his language. But the Psalms in this respect are copious, since they give us the certainty of knowing both how holy men thought and how they addressed their words towards God and towards man. For the heart of man is like a ship upon a troubled ocean, driven about by winds from every corner of the earth. Care and fear, under the apprehension of impending evils, impel it one
For the heart of man is like a ship upon a troubled ocean, driven about by winds from every corner of the earth. Care and fear, under the apprehension of impending evils, impel it one way; grief and fear, under the influence of present distress, impel it another; hope and presumption, and the prospect of future prosperity, another; the actual possession of prosperity and the breezes of security and of pleasure, another. But these tempests of the heart induce us to hold the language of earnestness, and to examine the bearings and the recesses of the soul. For he who is weighed down by fear and poverty speaks of misfortunes in a very different way from him who basks in the sunshine of prosperity; and he who is elated by prosperity speaks and sings of joys in a totally different strain from him who lives under the trammels of fear. It has been well said that it comes not from the heart when a wretched man is to laugh, and a happy man is to weep; the avenues to his heart are closed, and the whole effect is disappointment. But what is the chief subject of the Psalms, if it is not
But what is the chief subject of the Psalms, if it is not earnestness of language in all the storms and contradictions of life? Where shall we find words more adapted to express joy, than what are contained in the Psalms of thanksgiving and of praise? We see here the hearts of saints. Our thoughts are like the flowers of a beautiful and well-cultivated garden, and our gratification consists in a grateful adoration of divine goodness. Again, where do you find more profound expressions of melancholy and of sorrow than are contained in the Psalms of affliction and of mourning? You look, I say, into the very hearts of holy men; you become familiar with death, and the interior of the tomb is opened to you. We see it dead and dark, under a consciousness of the just wrath of God, and we perceive that His countenance is, as it were, turned away from us. In the two great passions of fear and hope, we find them depicted in language which no painter can embody, and which the greatest human actor would in effectually attempt to transcend.
But what is the most glorious of all is, that when they speak of the Deity they use language which is instinctive with a superfluity of life, and which gives an importance to words beyond the conception of man. In speaking with human beings upon these subjects we rarely succeed in reaching the heart. We feel a deficiency of fervour, and we acknowledge that there is not in ourselves an adequacy of devotion. The impression is different. Hence it arises that the Psalms are a book for all religious men, and that every reader, under every circumstance of life, meets with words which apply to his own situation, and which seem so adapted to his case that he could neither compose, discover, or desire anything which so little required alteration or improvement. And there is also this advantage, that when we are gratified by the
And there is also this advantage, that when we are gratified by the language, and sympathise with it, we are certain of being in the communion of saints; and that all saints must have felt as we feel, because we unite with them in uttering the same song of adoration. Singular ! that the Psalmist should have been able to make them speak in this manner to God, and which must have been the effect of their speaking in faith, because to a person without faith the Psalms are not a source of gratification.
Finally, an assurance is given to us, upon which we may confidently rely, that we may without fear and hesitation follow in the footsteps of the good men who have preceded us. Examples drawn from other books, and from the legends which are contained in them, describe the works of saints as far beyond our imitation; or else they relate to facts which it would be hazardous to apply to our own situation, because they frequently give rise to sects and to opinions which only end in contradicting or depreciating the greater part of those good men whom we have been instructed to revere. But the Psalms inculcate no such feeling of dissent or schism. They lead us to fear, to rejoice, and to hope, and to a serious coincidence of thought and of language with the good and with the wise. In short, if you wish to see the Christian church painted in the true colours of life and beauty, if you wish to possess it in miniature, take the Psalms, and you will find in them a faithful mirror reflecting with perfect purity the image of Christianity. You will find yourself in them, and also that great principle “Know thyself ” engraved in them, as well as God himself and the creatures whom He has made.
Let us, in consequence, be grateful to our Maker for this his unspeakable goodness, and let us accept and enjoy it with equal devotion and diligence, and so honour and praise him that we may avoid, by not being unthankful, the effects of his just punishment.
In former times, what a, treasure it would have been to have well understood the Psalms, and to have been able to have heard and read them in the common language of our own country. But this was a comfort which we did not experience. Blessed are the eyes which see what we see, and the ears which hear what we hear. But we are like the Israelites in the wilderness, blindly exclaiming, whilst the manna continued to nourish them, ” Our souls are disgusted with this insipid food.” But we should recollect how they were plagued and punished, in order that we ourselves may escape a similar punishment.
May the Father of all grace and mercy preserve us in this, through Jesus Christ our Lord. To him be praise and honour, thanksgiving and glory, both for this Book of Psalms and for his unspeakable, innumerable, eternal blessings. Amen! Amen!
Excerpted from The prefaces to the early editions of Martin Luther’s Bible (tr. by sir G. Duckett) ed. by T.A. Readwin (1863). Find the book on Google Books here.
Christ became the perfect antitype of the principal sacrifices : the sin-offering implied expiatio, the trespass-offering indemnificatio, the burnt-offering oblatio, the peace-offering conciliatio. The same holds with regard to the offering of the covenant in Ex. 24, the offering of consecration in Lev. 8, and the offering of the Passover, since Christ is our Passover (1 Cor. 5:7).
Alright! Here it is, the study edition of Luther’s Genesis Commentary, chapters 1-4.
400 pages with wide margins for notes, and, as always, you can download this for free, or spend $15 and pick it up from Lulu.
Martin Luther’s Genesis Commentary is the last (and perhaps greatest) work of Luther. Spanning the last ten years of his life and work, the Genesis Lectures capture the full wisdom of the Evangelical Reformer. This book is a publication of Luther’s comments on Genesis chapters one through four, copied from the public domain text of Lenker (1904).
Luther’s commentary is really phenomenal. Especially in these last days, we all do well to understand rightly the first days of the cosmos.
Please share this with your friends and family. And, as you engage with Luther, please post your thoughts and questions in the comments.
Let’s all hear Luther’s voice again, and rejoice in hearing of Jesus in Genesis.
Tucked away in a few footnotes in volume three of Pieper’s Dogmatics is this gem of comfort, both for pastors and die-ers: the sweet names of death.
Beautiful stuff. Pieper says in the text, “Every Christian, and especially every teacher in the Church, ought to know [the mortis dulcia nomia] well and use them” (Piepers Dogmatics III.511).
Here, then, is our comforting and lovely list of the “Sweet Names of Death”:
May God grant us joy in His victory over death.
Here’s another little gem from Lenker’s introduction in Luther’s Genesis, a quotation from Luther on having too many books.
“The aggregation of large libraries tends to direct men’s thoughts from the one great book, the Bible, which ought, day and night, to be in every man’s hand. My object, my hope, in translating the Scriptures, was to check the so prevalent production of new works, and so to direct men’s study and thoughts more closely to the divine Word. Never will the writings of mortal man in any respect equal the sentences inspired by God. We must yield the place of honor to the prophets and apostles, keeping ourselves prostrate at their feet as we listen to their teaching. I would not have those who read my books, in these stormy times, devote one moment to them which they would otherwise have consecrated to the Bible.” (Martin Luther, Table Talk)
The most recent volume of the Teaching Bible, with St. Paul’s letters to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, is published! The Teaching Bible formats the text of the Scripture with extra wide margins for notes and cross references. The English text is the World English Bible, the cross references are from the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, and the Greek version includes the text from the Society of Biblical Literature.
The volumes of the Teaching Bible may be downloaded as a PDF absolutely free. If you are interested you may also purchase a professional published spiral bound version. (Instead of offering lined and blank page offerings, I’ve added a light grid to the background of the pages. Let me know what you think.)
Other volumes of the Teaching Bible include Matthew, Acts, 1 & 2 Peter, and Revelation. Find them all here.
In Genesis 1:26 we hear the conversation of the Godhead about the creation of humanity:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
This text has long been treasured by Christians as the teaching of the Trinity in the Old Testament. But this confession has also been disputed.
In Luther’s commentary on Genesis he takes us the arguments for and against this text.
The word “Let Us make” is aimed at making sure the mystery of our faith, by which we believe that from eternity there is one God and that there are three separate Persons in one Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Jews indeed try in various ways to get around this passage, but they advance nothing sound against it. This passage bothers them to death, to use an expression of Occam, who applies it to irksome and difficult problems which he cannot solve.
Luther will then take up the objections against the Trinitarian reading. There are three other possibilities. God could be talking to the angels, to the earth, or to other creatures.
The Jews, then, say that God is speaking thus with the angels, likewise with the earth and with other creatures.
First, that God is speaking with the angels, Luther offers five points of rebuttal.
But I for my part ask: Why did He not also do this previously? In the second place: What concern is the creation of man to the angels? In the third place: He does not mention the angels but simply says: “We.” Therefore He is speaking of makers and creators. This certainly cannot be said of the angels.
In the fourth place, this is also sure: that it cannot be said in any way that we were created according to the image of the angels. In the fifth place, here both appear: “Let Us make” and “He made,” in the plural and in the singular; thereby Moses clearly and forcibly shows us that within and in the very Godhead and the Creating Essence there is one inseparable and eternal plurality. This not even the gates of hell (Matt. 16:18) can take from us.
Second, regarding the idea that the Lord is speaking to the earth, Luther argues
Next, when the Jews say that God is speaking with the earth concerning the earth, this is also worthless. For the earth is not our maker.
This also applies to the idea that the Lord was speaking to other creatures or parts of creation.
Moreover, why didn’t He rather speak to the sun, since Aristotle says: “Man and the sun bring man into existence.” But this does not fit either, because we were not made according to the image of the earth; but we were made according to the image of those Makers who say “Let Us make.” These Makers are three separate Persons in one divine essence. Of these three Persons we are the image, as we shall hear later.
Finally, another objection is offered, namely that to say “We” and “us” is a custom of royalty, and does not indicate plurality. Luther repsonds
It is utterly ridiculous when the Jews say that God is following the custom of princes, who, to indicate respect, speak of themselves in the plural number. The Holy Spirit is not imitating this court mannerism (to give it this name); nor does Holy Scripture sanction this manner of speech.
The conclusion, then, is a bold and comforting doctrine of the Holy Trinity. We rejoice in the “Let us make,” knowing that our first parents were created in the image and likeness of God.
Consequently, this is a sure indication of the Trinity, that in one divine essence there are three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Not even so far as Their activity is concerned, therefore, is God separated, because all three Persons here co-operate and say: “Let Us make.” The Father does not make one man and the Son another, nor the Son one man and the Holy Spirit another; but the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one and the same God, is the Author and Creator of the same work.
The quotations may be found here: Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 1: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 1-5, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 1 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 57–58. Order from CPH. Or you can read an older translation of the Genesis commentary online here.