Luther on God’s Law

“After God had made all other creatures, He created man…with righteousness and true holiness after His image, having the Law of God written in their hearts (Genesis 1:26; Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 4:24; Romans 2:14-15)….   God gave to Adam a Law (Ecclesiastes 7:29)…. This Law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness and…was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai in Ten Commandments (James 1:25; 2:8-12; Romans 13:8-9)….  This Law [is] commonly called Moral…[and] doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof (Ephesians 6:2 & First John 2:3-8)….   Neither doth Christ in the Gospel any way dissolve but much strengthen this obligation (Matthew 5:17-19 & Romans 3:31)…, the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely and cheerfully which the will of God revealed in the Law requireth to be done (Ezekiel 36:27 & Hebrews 8:10 & Jeremiah 31:33).”   1646-47 Westminster Confession of Faith, 4:2 & 19:1-7.  

Luther died in 1546, a 100 years before British Calvinists at the Westminster Assembly wrote the above words.   Yet Luther, had he then still been alive, would, unlike many modern “Presbyterians” (sic), have endorsed every one of those words.  In this article, we shall prove it.

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Luther explains1 that “God said: ‘Let Us make man as an image like Us [cf. Genesis 1:26].” To Luther (and indeed to all other Christians):  this ‘Us’ is “the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” – with that pre-incarnate “Son” quite the Central Person in the Trine God.  

Now then, continues Luther: “God created man upright [Ecclesiastes 7:29, cf. Romans 2:14].  This uprightness was natural, in body and soul.”   Thus Adam first obeyed the Law of nature; that is, the Law of God the Son. 

 Luther further comments,2 on Ecclesiastes 7:29: “God has placed man into things; has given him certain works and a certain task….   God made man upright, straightforward…, and to be content [cf. the Tenth Commandment]….   But man forsakes this uprightness.”

Accordingly, Luther stated:3 “The Ten Commandments are not of Moses.   Nor did God give them first to him.   On the contrary, the Decalogue belongs to the whole World.   It was written and engraved in the minds of all human beings from the beginning of the World…. Later on, since men had finally come to the point of caring neither for God nor for men, God was compelled to re-new these laws through Moses and, after writing them with His fingers on tablets [of stone], to place them before our eyes in order to present to us what we were before the fall of Adam and what someday we are to be in Christ.”

These above words “from the beginning of the World” mean the substance of God’s Law of the Decalogue must have been given to Adam before his fall.   Cf. Ecclesiastes 7:29. Without such a prelapsarian Law, Adam’s fall from his primordial sinless condition could never at all have occurred.   For sin is the transgression of the Law.   First John 3:4.

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So Luther rightly translates Hosea 6:7, regarding the Ephraimites and the Gileadites, as follows:  “sie uebertreten den Bund wie Adam” (alias: “they transgress the covenant like Adam). Indeed, those who imitate Adam in this, similarly transgress God’s Law through their idolatry and murder and theft and adultery etc.   This is why Luther’s rendition of Hosea 6:7-10 has God saying even of the covenant people that “they, like Adam, transgress the covenant….   Gilead is a city full of idolatry and bloodguiltiness….   Like a troop of robbers…they murder on the road….. There is whoredom.”4

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