Voices of Our Past: Martin Luther | By Scott Culclasure
Week 1, Day 6 | December 4
The great Reformer, Martin Luther, once feared the righteousness of God.
Like the psalmist, Luther prayed to be delivered from God’s righteousness, which he understood to be, in his words, “the grim wrath of God with which he punished sin.”1 Paul’s assurance that the righteousness of God lives in the gospel only worsened Luther’s sense of guilt. And yet, what did Paul mean when he quoted the prophet Habakkuk to conclude that “the righteous shall live by faith”? Luther had a startling insight that not only comforted him, but also formed one of the core concepts of the Reformation. God is for us, Luther declared, and by grace God clothes us in a righteousness that left to ourselves we could never attain. Through the baby Jesus, God experienced all it means to be human—even to the bitter end—showing that he came not to judge but to redeem us through his love. One of Luther’s students remembered how, on Christmas Eve of 1538, a cheerful Luther suddenly grew solemn as he thought, 1“Oh, we poor men that we should be so cold and indifferent to this great joy which has been given us. This, indeed, is the greatest gift, which far exceeds all else that God has created. And we believe so feebly even though the angels proclaim and preach and sing, and their song is fair and sums up the whole Christian religion, for ‘glory to God in the highest’ is the very heart of worship.”2 For Luther, that the God of creation chose to live with us, even in lowliness and humility, is worthy of our highest praise. Sinful as we are, the angels summon us to faith in Christ and to love even as we have been loved.
PRAYER: Emmanuel, help us remember this Advent that all the things that make us glad for this season come from our joy that you are for us! Amen.
Scott Culclasure and his wife Nancy joined First Baptist soon after they married, and it is with this congregation that they have raised their children Alice and David. Scott currently teaches the church’s Covenant Class.