Luther and Divine Calling

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In his magisterial work on Galatians, Martin Luther pours much of his personal work and life within the pages of his commentary. The work is revealing of his context in history and personal thoughts in ministry. Early on in his commentary, Luther remarks on the importance of the calling of the minister. Paul, an apostle called by God and not by men, distances himself from those who may wish to subvert the gospel and declare something false based on pretense.

Paul declares that which is true because he is an apostle, truly one as affirmed by Christ (v. 1). This calling is unique among leaders of Christ’s church. Luther affirms the special nature of the apostles’ call yet relates the call to the overall ministerial calling to declare the gospel of Jesus Christ . One called to preach the gospel should receive such call as a divine duty and wonderful weight to bear. Luther demonstrates to his readers that while Paul shows himself a humble servant, he boasts in the call to declare Christ to the gentiles. This is not a boast in self, but rather a humble recognition that the call received comes with Divine authority and thus is infinitely vital. Ministers of God’s word, while seeking humility, should never “take a back seat” when challenged, as Luther states. Paul did not back down when his authority and apostleship was challenged from mockers and scoffers (10).

Likewise, humble ministers of God must not shy away from the proclamation of the gospel in the face of scoffing. Luther affirms that a modern day minister’s calling is fundamentally different than that of the early apostles, yet the content of the call remains the same, to declare the gospel and call people to repentance. As Luther states,

“We exalt our calling, not to gain glory among men, or money, or satisfaction, or favor, but because people need to be assured that the words we speak are the words of God. This is no sinful pride. It is holy pride” (11).

May ministers of the gospel view their responsibility through the lenses of this “holy pride.” There is opposition to be suffered for sure, yet there is a God who strengthens those who proclaim his name boldly and without pretense.

 

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