Based upon the opening verse of chapter five, Luther, Melanchthon, and Calvin all emphasize that the fruits of justification by faith alone are peace and a pacified conscience.
While Melanchthon also writes against the Catholic monks who teach Christ and not faith and accordingly insists that one needs both, he more heavily emphasizes that justification by faith alone does not come by fulfillment of the Law but through the actions of Christ the Mediator. Remission of sins, writes Melanchthon, needs both Christ and faith: sins are remitted on account of Christ and by faith in the Mediator. In addition to his emphasis on Law versus Gospel, Melanchthon adds two more aspects not touched upon by Luther.
He affirms that this peace and pacified conscience are bulwarks against doubt, henceforth providing a kind of certainty and assurance of salvation and the remission of sins. He writes that Christians can have peace and confidence even though they still struggle with sin. John Calvin also affirms that peace and a serenity of conscience are the fruits of justification by faith alone. The weight of his exegesis, however, falls upon the certainty of salvation that he finds taught in Rom His criticism of Catholic theologians is less about the inseparable connection between faith and Christ or their lack of distinction between Law and Gospel and more about their teachings that Christians are always in a state of uncertainty concerning their salvation.
Rom Role of Suffering in the Christian Life. Martin Luther spends a significant amount of time in his exegesis on Rom , which concerns the role of suffering in the Christian life. Indeed, this emphasis is only second to his teaching concerning original sin that occupies the focus of the remainder of his interpretation of Romans five.
He asserts,. If God did not test us by tribulation, it would be impossible for any [person] to be saved. Furthermore, Luther asserts that this suffering instructs Christians to despair of the created things in which they place their hope and trust in God alone. This, says Luther, is what Paul means when he writes that suffering ultimately leads to hope Rom Hence, this ability is a gift of God and not a result of human effort or practice.
Moreover, this love of God given by the Spirit into human hearts is a sign of the distinction between the free sons of God and bondservants.
Luther’s Breakthrough in Romans
Free sons of God accept suffering willingly and persevere in hope, while a bondservant runs away in fear. Melanchthon is much less concerned with the question of the role of suffering in the Christian life per se ; rather, his primary aim is to argue that suffering needs to be understood not under Law but under Gospel.
Thus, afflictions belong to Gospel, for they are not intended as punishment Law but as a means to bring about repentance, obedience, and faith. Calvin, unlike Luther, does not assert that Christians should seek suffering; rather, he admits that saints bitterly dread adversity. Instead, he points to the providential character of suffering for a Christian. Luther actually spends little to no space commenting on Rom One interpretation is to say that Christ according to his humanity died in time but is alive forever according to his divinity. Melanchthon interprets Rom as an amplification of the signs and testimonies of the love of God already set forth in Rom Furthermore, Melanchthon sees in Rom an expression of the certainty a Christian may have.
For the remainder of Romans five, Luther focuses upon four main points: 1. Luther sets forth ten reasons for why original sin is the correct subject matter of the last half of Romans five. He writes,. On top of this it is a propensity toward evil. Furthermore, Luther wants his readers to understand that the Law can never take away sin; it only serves to make sin manifest. The Law enabled the recognition of sin, but sin still existed even before the giving of the Law.
More importantly, the Law reveals the need for grace and faith. It is neither a help or a cure, asserts Luther, but it reveals that one can never keep the Law fully and is in the bonds of sin.
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Melanchthon reiterates all of the points made by Luther discussed above. He sets forth the teachings of these passages in terms of his trope of Law versus Gospel. To believe that some quality in ourselves can make us righteous or to not realize that the remission of sins and the imputation of righteousness are completely gratuitous is a doctrine of Law, says Melancthon.
But the Word of God declares the promises of the Gospel. Thus, he contrasts the effects of grace Gospel from the effects of the Law. Yet, this discussion of the effects of the Law, unlike Luther, leads Melanchthon to expound on the usefulness of the Law not just to lead to salvation i. Calvin also maintains that Rom concerns original sin, defines original sin as total depravity, and notes the role of the Law to reveal sin.
Calvin is particularly concerned about the possibility of people believing this passage speaks about universal salvation. Neither Rom nor Rom speak of universal salvation. Indeed, Luther is still very much writing as a Catholic monk , which can be seen particularly in his emphasis on the role of suffering in the Christian life.
However, one can see the seeds that will grow into his fuller doctrine of justification by faith alone.
Thus, Melanchthon writes more clearly and centrally concerning the ways this doctrine is found in Romans five. He also employs the characteristic Lutheran exegetical tool of Law versus Gospel throughout his reading of Romans five. Moreover, he adds emphases upon the certainty of salvation, the processes of sanctification, and the ongoing role of the Law in sanctification.
Martin Luther’s Definition of Faith
In these ways, Melanchthon has crafted a distinctively Lutheran reading of Romans, while also attending to aspects for which Luther has been criticized. Namely, Melanchthon inserts a greater emphasis on sanctification and allows for the ongoing role of the Law in sanctification. Calvin and Melanchthon exhibit in their exegeses the turn of second-generation reformers toward the focus on the certainty of salvation.
For Calvin, salvation can only be intended for the elect, and salvation is preserved safe and secure to the end i. Luther, Melanchthon and Calvin on Romans Both Melanchthon and Calvin find in Romans thirteen the teaching that governments and their officials are ordained and preserved by God and given for the common good. Melanchthon leaves little to no room for resisting tyrannical governments. Rather, he addresses this problem merely by arguing that a true magistrate should understand that this authority is given to him by God for the common good; thus magistrates who become tyrants and abuse this power for their own desires destroy the ordinance of God and are themselves guilty.
Nonetheless, the right of government is ordained by God for the common good.
Similar to Melanchthon, he simply deals with unjust rulers by saying that they are answerable to God. Even more explicitly than Melanchthon, Calvin even advocates obedience to wicked rulers, for that ruler acts as scourge to punish sin. First, he uses Rom to criticize the church leaders of his day. They are guilty of hypocrisy and judgmentalism, and they do not practice love of neighbor but, rather, love themselves too much. Indeed, says Luther, the secular authorities are fulfilling their duties more effectively than the ecclesiastical rulers. Next, Luther makes a surprising move. The body, says Luther, is subject to the state.
The spirit, however, is completely free and subject to no one but God. The soul, on the other hand, is that midpoint between body and spirit. Namely, Christians are to be servants to one another through love Gal Luther avows that this is both the highest form of freedom of a Christian and also the proper kind of servitude of a Christian. The absolute wrong kind of servitude for the Christian is slavery to the Law; yet Luther adds that in respect to secular authorities, Paul does not address the question of freedom.
According to Luther, obedience to governments is neither a matter of freedom nor a matter of servitude. If Luther finds theological instruction concerning freedom and slavery in Romans thirteen, Melanchthon and Calvin find very different theological teachings. While state governments do not belong to Gospel but to reason, these governments are supposed to serve the purposes of the Gospel and, therefore, are not opposed to Gospel.
He maintains that the fact that God is the one who is ultimately in control of all authorities is a source of comfort. Here he addresses a seeming contradiction that Christians are free from the Law and yet are commanded by Paul to be subject to the laws of the government. Melanchthon explains that this spiritual freedom i. Hence the spirit is free from Mosaic Law, but the body remains subject to those laws that concern the body i. Governments are under the sovereignty and providence of God. This means that civil rulers are ultimately answerable to God and their power is limited by God. He uses this text to warn against the pretense of love and to urge a practice of love that is not self-seeking but truly seeks the good of the neighbor.
They stress that everyone is justified by faith alone and not by works. Thus, Melanchthon argues that it is more accurate to say that faith is the true fulfillment of the Law. Calvin argues that when Paul writes that love fulfills the Law, he does not refer to the whole Law but only the to second table of the Law, since the commandments of the Decalogue cited by Paul are from the second table Rom Furthermore, Calvin ties this to the previous section of Romans thirteen concerning obedience to civil authorities.
Luther believes that Paul writes the final verses of Romans thirteen to lukewarm Christians.
Thus, Luther exhorts these Christians to arise from their smugness and lukewarm lives and lay aside their wrong and superficial penitential practices. Indeed, these lukewarm Christians sound very much like the ecclesiastical leaders he has been criticizing previously. The warning against vices in Rom provides instruction both for persons to flee personal vices, such as gluttony, and to guide them in proper relationship to their neighbors.
Luther then uses this passage as an opportunity to exhort people to devotion to fasting and temperance. Melanchthon, on the other hand, thinks these final verses are written to those ignorant of true doctrine and in need of knowledge. Melanchthon writes that believers now have the revealed Christ, whereas the Old Testament patriarchs only had the promised Christ; hence, believers have a clearer, closer revelation.
Calvin, on the other hand, simply explains the nearness of salvation in reference to the Romans themselves: now that they have faith, their salvation is nearer. While Melanchthon does not comment on the list of vices Rom at all, Calvin deals with this list by dividing them up into three general kinds of vices: 1. This is not an isolated idea in Romans see also , 20b; b, Paul is asking us to pray and live so that we do not turn ourselves into people God would not have us become.
Instead of thinking of ourselves too highly, we are to think of ourselves according to "the measure of faith that God has assigned" , which seems to be the general principle behind prophesying "in proportion to faith" Is this "measure" or "proportion" something that is the same for all or something that is different for all? Students of Romans differ on this.
Given the following context, in which Paul describes different roles within the body of Christ and differing amounts of faith , , however, it is best to read these expressions about faith in verses 3 and 6 as referring to differing amounts and kinds of faith. Paul is challenging readers to live out their faith in ways appropriate to the amount and type of faith that God has gifted to people.
When reading this text, I like to think of how bakers use different amounts and types of flour based on what they are producing--whether it's cake flour for pastries, self-rising flour for bread or all-purpose flour for cookies. Similarly, different amounts and types of faith may lead people to different roles. One person might have the kind of faith that leads her into a career as a missionary, and another may have the sort of faith that leads her to work as a corporate lawyer and use her expertise to serve others as God provides opportunities.
Both life models can be appropriate for people in the church. Paul's main point about spiritual gifts, mentioned in verse 6, is that God has given us these as members of the body of Christ.
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