John A. Braun
Over the past few years, I have grown closer to Luther than I ever imagined. Research, reading, writing, research again, reading more, and writing again have brought Luther into focus more clearly for me than ever before. For that I am grateful. I don’t consider myself a Luther expert, but the focus I have acquired is important.
I think that the greatest clarity comes from understanding the central principle Luther found in the Scriptures and on which he stood. It was Christ! He said and wrote as much often.
When he learned that so many of the common people in the churches in Saxony, had “no knowledge whatever of Christian doctrine,” he wrote the Small Catechism which has one of the greatest confessions of his faith in Christ: “I believe that Jesus Christ . . . has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver but with his holy precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death.” Luther captured the central message of the Bible. For Luther it was never a dry academic principle. Luther wrote personally; he said “me.” That’s the beauty of Luther. He points us to Christ because he treasures Christ. We too have come to treasure Christ.
This wasn’t an isolated incident. At home in Wittenberg, boarders, friends, and relatives often joined Luther at the supper table to listen to him and learn. Once he said, “If anybody strays from the center, it is impossible for him to have the circle around him, he must blunder. The center is Christ” (Luther’s Works [LW], Vol. 54, p. 45). Again Christ and, therefore, faith and forgiveness.
Luther had to struggle to discover the greatness of God’s grace in Christ. He was tormented by his unworthiness before a holy, just, and omnipotent God. When the Holy Spirit opened his eyes and enlightened him, he confessed it was as if paradise was opened for him. Then the words of Scripture became a clear message of Christ that Luther was not willing to abandon, no matter what the cost.
Perhaps we may consider Luther a kind of idol when we consider all that God brought to pass because of him. But human idols are not perfect, and neither is Luther. He was a sinner whose flaws are easy to discover. But Christ was his treasure and hope. He said, “The Christian faith differs from other religions in this, that the Christian hopes even in the midst of evils and sins” (LW, Vol. 54, p. 70).
Rather than being an idol to whom we give blind reverence, Luther is a signpost, pointing us to the Scriptures and to the message of the Scriptures—Christ.
In the past few months I also have read comments by my brothers and sisters in the faith about being Lutheran. A few of those comments are included in this issue. Some of them are in the special insert, and another page shares thoughts from confessional Lutherans around the world. As I read all of these comments, I stand in grateful praise to God for what he has done in bringing them also to be signposts pointing to Christ. As you read them, I suggest you consider how many times they point to the certainty of salvation in Christ.
Not only are they all signposts, but they are also examples that encourage us all to share our faith and to point others to Christ. For Luther, for these believers, for all of us, Christ is the center. Christ is still the message the world desperately needs.
John Braun is executive editor of the Forward in Christ magazine.
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Author: John A. Braun
Volume 104, Number 10
Issue: October 2017
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