What red-blooded Reformational Christian doesn’t love Martin Luther? If you don’t, swim the Tiber already. Here’s why I do. Luther is a sinner. There is no pretense of piety in his writing. He is brutally honest. And he desperately depends on the sheer grace of God to him in Christ crucified. Luther is a true pastor to real sinners – and sinful pastors.
I’m a pastor. My entire Christian life, I’ve believed & confessed the doctrine of total depravity. As a pastor, I have seen the reality of sin and the deceitfulness of the human heart, up close & personal. My sin most of all. And so pretentious piety makes me gag. Especially when I’m guilty of it. You can play nice-nice as a pastor and a Christian. Or you can be honest about the reality of sin and our desperate dependence on God’s grace. Luther has taught me this more than anyone else.
Luther is my paper pastor. I know, I know, we’re not supposed to have heroes and all of that. Too bad. Luther is my hero. My sinful, Gospel-dependent hero. Pastors are lonely people. Pastors have bouts of depression, and dark hours of despair. The vocation of pastor is almost cruel sometimes. You preach. You teach. You administer the sacraments. You try to bring the Law & the Gospel from the pulpit to the living room. You call people to repent, to believe, and to live in accord with this repentant faith. This Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes! Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God! You believe it. But sometimes you don’t. Because simul justus et peccator isn’t just a fancy Latin phrase. It’s the sad, wonderful, depressing, hopeful truth. It’s my experience as a pastor – in my heart and in my ministry. Pastors know Romans 7:13-25 is not for hypothetical Israel, or pre-conversion sinners – but for real, right now sinners like Paul, like Luther, like me and those I serve.
And Romans 8:1 is my only hope – and theirs. I am a sinner. I am justified. By faith ALONE. And so are these precious, silly, wandering sheep that Jesus has called me to serve. I’m a sinful shepherd, and likewise prone to wander. Jesus alone is the Good Shepherd, who laid down His life for the sheep – and His sinful under-shepherds, too.
I love the Lutherans because of Luther. Luther the sinner, the justified. Luther the honest pastor of real sinners. Luther, who points real sinners to nothing but Christ and Him crucified.