Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Righteous God

More from Luther on Psalm 51:1:

"Now we must consider whether it is appropriate for him to say, 'Have mercy on me.' If you look at the persons dealing with each other here, God and the sinner David, their great dissimilarity and an insoluble contradiction will appear. Is it not the feeling of all nature and a judgment of all men that God hates sin? As the blind man says (John 9:31), 'We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if any one is a worshiper of God and does His will, God listens to him.' In the Decalog it says (Ex. 20:5), 'I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God.' Yes, throughout Moses there is almost nothing but sheer threats against the wicked and disobedient, and the feeling of nature agrees with the Law of Moses, a feeling we cannot eradicate in any way. All men judge this way: 'You are a sinner, but God is righteous. Therefore He hates you, therefore He inflicts punishments upon you, therefore He does not hear you.' Nothing in our nature can deny this conclusion. Hence almost all the holy fathers who wrote about the psalms expounded 'the righteousness of God' to mean that He righteously avenges and punishes, not that He justifies. So it happened to me when I was a young man that I hated this name for God, and from this deep habit I still shudder today when I hear someone say, 'the righteous God.' So great is the power of wicked teaching if the mind is imbued with it from childhood. Yet almost all the early theologians expound it this way. But if God is righteous in such a way that He righteously punishes according to deserts, who can stand before this righteous God? For we are all sinners and bring before God a righteous reason for Him to inflict punishment. Out of here with such a righteousness and such a righteous God! He will devour us all like a consuming fire (Deut. 4:24). Because God sent Christ as Savior, He certainly does not want to be righteous in punishing according to deserts. He wants to be righteous and to be called righteous in justifying and having mercy on those who acknowledge their sins."

Luther's Works, 55 vols., Jaroslav Pelikan, ed. (St. Louis: Concordia, 1955) 12:313-14.

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