January 1546

What would Luther want us to know? To answer that question, we’re going to look at the final month that Luther spent in Wittenberg, the month of January 1546. At the end of that month, he traveled to Eisleben, where he was born and where he died.

In January 1546, Luther was preaching as he always was. He started preaching here in 1512, and this month would be his last month of preaching. In his sermons, he was encouraging his congregation to hold fast to the gospel; we might even say that he was chastising them for already feeling the temptation to slip back into old practices. So, one of the things that Luther would want us to know is that we can never lose sight of the gospel. We must always, as the saying goes, keep the main thing the main thing. At the center of the church is the gospel, and we must proclaim the gospel and preach the gospel. Otherwise, we should pack it up and go home. The other thing Luther would want us to know is that we cling to Christ. When he traveled to Eisleben, there were all sorts of harrowing events that met him on the way, and by the time he got to Eisleben he was literally at death’s door. All of this news got back to Katie, and she was anxious about her husband. Luther wrote her a letter and said, “I have a caretaker who is better than you and all the angels; he lies in the cradle and rests on a virgin’s bosom and yet, nevertheless, he sits at the right hand of God, the almighty Father.” So, Luther would want us to know that, no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in, we cling to Christ. And Luther, as you know, loved a good paradox, and isn’t that a paradox? This helpless infant who is also seated at the right hand of God. You see what Luther is doing there; he is teaching us that Christ is truly man and truly God and that we can trust in the God-man.

The other thing that Luther would have us know comes from a quote of his. He said, “Do not say on the last day, Dr. Martin taught me that, etc., etc. Instead, say, Jesus Christ taught me that through my pastor’s mouth. Say, I do not believe in Dr. Martin but I believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost who spoke though the apostles and speaks through preachers.” That has it right. Luther was the faithful preacher. Luther was the faithful theologian. And insofar as he was a faithful preacher and theologian, he pointed us beyond himself and beyond his teachings to the Word of God and to the teachings of God. Above all, he pointed us to the author of the Word, to God and to God Himself. So, as we celebrate Luther and all that he accomplished, we must remember his words and we must say on that last day, “I do not believe in Dr. Martin, but I believe in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” And that is what Luther would want us to know.

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