Category Archives: Hans Iwand

Wanna Be Righteous? Become A Sinner First.

For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield. (Psalm 5:12 ESV)

Whoever would be righteous must first become a sinner; whoever wants to be well, good, and like God as a Christ-like member of the church must first become sick, bad, perverted, devilish, even heretical – as unbelieving as a Turk – as Paul says, “Whoever among you would be wise must first become foolish in order to be wise.” Let this statement stand, for it is God’s will in heaven that He has intended through foolishness to create wisdom; through wickedness to create the good; through sin to create righteousness; through folly, even through sickness to create health; through heresy to create churchliness; through unbelief the believer; and through the form of the devil to create godly people. You ask, “How?” It shall be answered briefly and quickly. You cannot become before God someone that you would like to be if you first have not become before yourself and before others the kind of person He wants you to be. God does intend, however, that you should become before yourself and others what you really are – namely, a sinner; bad, sickly, perverse, and devilish. Those are your names. Those are the things that you are in truth and they are your humiliation. As soon as that happens you are already before God what you wanted to be: holy, good, true, straight, and pious. On this basis you become a new person before yourself, others, and before God. Why are you surprised? Why are you bothered when you displease yourself and others? Because if you don’t displease them, them you can’t please God.

Martin Luther, “Operationes in Psalmos”, WA 5:195:41-196:15. Quoted in Hans Iwand’s “The Righteousness of Faith According to Luther”, pages 72-73

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Faith, Works, and Holy Apes

Luther understands works of faith as essentially no different from works of law, except that they are missing the glory that one seeks for oneself in one’s own works. Faith cannot live without actions, yet faith does not live from the actions that it effects, but lives because God is active and because Christ “is not idle.” Faith lives because one believes and so the believer does a good work, but he does not require the good work to be what he is already. That is why the death and the transformation – the coming-out-of-oneself – of a person is important, so that “the person learns to do good works not for his own sake, but out of the overflowing of mercy – the free and spontaneous action in response to God”s graciousness – without trusting in the works themselves.” Whoever acts in this way as an instrument of God because he has everything he wants from God and can give himself to his works without seeking his own self-interest in the works themselves. On the other hand, the person who does not do works in this way (as actions that are done simply and unselfconsciously in response to need) but who seeks in each action to make himself or herself good and pious – because they see that other pious people do them – these people Luther calls “holy apes.”

We are therefore able to say in response to the accusation that is made regarding Luther’s emphasis on good works (viz., that it produces the opposite of what it intends) that without despairing of oneself and one’s ability to truly do pure, good works, a person will never gain the  truth about himself or about God, which will prevent any action that he does from having any integrity and stability. Simply put, unless a person can stop himself from being the purpose and goal of his own actions and begin to seek God’s honor and not his own honor, there is no such thing as a good work.

Hans Iwand, “The Righteousness of Faith According to Luther”, pages 58-59

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Everything Rests on the Preaching of the Word

Therefore as you go about your business in this illustrious Synod, and as you arrange everything to your liking, leave this one thing alone: that the clergy are to be given the mission of teaching the people and that they stop what is not substantive and occupy themselves with the pure Gospel and with the holy interpretation of the Good News, and that they be mindful of it and that they proclaim the Word of Truth to the people with fear and trembling. Finally, let them stop giving worldly opinions or at least speak of them sparingly and so become the true servants of God through the work of the Spirit. And, so say I, if this is not done with the greatest industriousness on your part and with earnest prayerfulness, then I can tell you at the outset that nothing else is worthwhile and that we have come to nothing and have made absolutely no progress whatsoever. For everything rests on the preaching of the Word and with it stands or falls the decision of the legitimate reformation of the Church as well as the foundation of a pious life.

– Martin Luther, quoted by Hans Joachim Iwand in “The Righteousness of Faith According to Martin Luther”, page 19

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The Righteousness of Faith Is Never Self-Evident

An evangelical church that views the teaching of the righteousness of faith as self-evident – but about which no one should trouble himself further because other issues are more important – has in principle robbed itself of the central solution by which all other questions are illuminated. Such a church will become increasingly more splintered and worn down. If we take the article of justification out of the center very soon we will not know why we are evangelical Christians or should remain so. As a result, we will strive for the unity of the church and will sacrifice the purity of the gospel; we will have more confidence in church organization and church government and will promise more on the basis of the reform of Christian authority and church training than either can deliver. If we lose our center, we will court pietism and listen to other teachings and we will be in danger of being tolerant where we should be radical and radical where we should be tolerant. In short, the standards will be lowered and along with them everything that is necessary and correct in the reforms that we sing about now will be incomprehensible.

– Hans Joachim Iwand, The Righteousness of Faith According to Luther, page 16

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The Righteousness of Faith Is Never Merely Self-Evident

An evangelical church which looks upon the doctrine of justification by faith as a self-evident banality one no longer needs to dwell upon because other problems are more pressing has robbed itself of the possibility of arriving at solutions to such problems. It will only tear itself further apart. If the article of justification is removed from the center we will very soon no longer know why we are and must remain evangelical Christians. Then we will strive for the unity of the church and sacrifice
the purity of the gospel; we will expect more from church order and government, from the reform of ecclesiastical office and church discipline, than these can deliver. One will flatter piety and despise doctrine; one will run the risk of becoming tolerant where one should be radical and radical where one should be tolerant – in short, the standards will be skewed and therewith also what is necessary and right in all reforms for which we struggle today will no longer be comprehensible.

– Hans Joachim Iwand, The Righteousness of Faith According to Luther


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