Luther and Augustine
22 September 2016
Martin Luther was one of the foremost students of Augustine of Hippo, whom he read. Luther, the former Augustinian friar, never wandered far from the map provided by the North African master. And even if he disagreed with Augustine's views, he still had to reckon with the questions raised by him in the fifth century. In fact, all medieval theology was an extended commentary on Augustine. Luther, like everyone else, had to deal with the old bishop's views. But the intellectual heredity from Augustine to medieval theology and the Wittenberg Reformer probably had most to do with their shared theological source in the Bible. They spoke of the same things in the same ways, because Scripture normed and shaped their theology. It wasn't a matter of theological slavishness on Luther's part, but being captured by God's Word. What a concept!
I have been struck by the fact that Luther takes for granted a theme which often recurs in Augustine, that of the beatific vision (visio beata) of God by the blessed dead. It only arises in passing in the following section of Luther's lectures on Galatians, but the mention of it is all the more striking because it is simply taken for granted by Luther. Why? Not merely because Augustine spoke often of it, but because God Himself made the promise of this vision, "Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we will be like Him, because we shall see him as He is." (1Jn 3:2). Then we shall see Him as He is. Now we see through a glass darkly (1Co 13:12); the enigma of which Augustine often spoke.
Only in eternity will faith pass away. Only then will the enigma be resolved. Now that's all there is: trust Christ for righteousness in the presence of God. Through faith God does not count our sins against us. Luther calls this "non-imputation" of sin. God's gracious gifts are two-fold, we receive what is Christ's and also do not have what is ours (our sin) count against us. This is the Bible's continuous teaching. This is the confessed faith of the holy church, which knows that she can live in no other way until the new age is fully inaugurated in eternity. She can live only by faith. So, let us live by the Word of God, just as did Luther, Augustine, and the Apostle Paul.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
"When Paul says: 'He who does them shall live by them' (Gal 3:12), he is comparing the righteousness of the law and that of faith, as he also does in Romans 10:5 ff. It is as though he were saying: 'It would indeed be fine if someone kept the law. But since no one does so, we must take refuge in Christ, who was put under the law to redeem those who were under the Law (Gal 4:4). Believing in Him, we receive the Holy Spirit and begin to keep the law. Because of our faith in Christ what we do not keep is not imputed to us. But in the life to come believing will cease, and there will be a correct and perfect keeping and loving. For when faith ceases, it will be replaced by glory, by means of which we shall see God as He is (1Jn 3:2). There will be a true and perfect knowledge of God, a right reason, and a good will, neither moral nor theological but heavenly, divine, and eternal. Meanwhile we must persevere here in faith that has the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of righteousness through Christ. Therefore, no legalist keeps the law. Since he is without faith, he is under a curse.' Thus Paul clearly distinguishes the worker of the law from the man of faith. He is not speaking here about the believing doer of the law; he is speaking about the doer of the law who does not have the forgiveness of sins through Christ but wants to be justified solely by the law.
"It must be carefully noted that Paul calls only those righteous who are justified without the law, through the promise or through faith in the promise."

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 3.12
Galatians 3:7-14

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all the nations be blessed." So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them." Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for "The righteous shall live by faith." But the law is not of faith, rather "The one who does them shall live by them." Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us-for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"- so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (ESV)
Lord Jesus, give us the faith that trusts in Your reckoning that in eternity we might see what now You only promise. Amen.
For all those who are suffering the loss of loved ones to death, that they might be strengthened in their bereavement and confess the mercy of God
For Darrel Schepmann and the faculty and staff of Memorial Lutheran School, that they would be strengthened in their vocations as leaders in church and community
For Matthew Harrison of the LCMS, that Christ the Lord would help him to lead faithful people to their heavenly home
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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