Have you seen this before? I have, and I was wondering about that today.
Luther’s theology of preaching can be summarized by his assertion that preaching is God's own speech to people. For Luther, preaching is "Deus loquens" or a Latin phrase that means "God speaking" ("God is speaking").
The greatness of preaching, Luther maintained, lies in the fact that God Himself is active insofar as the preacher remains obedient to the Word and seeks nothing but for the people to hear the Word of God (from The Heroic Boldness Of Martin Luther - A Long Line of Godly Men Profile, by Steven J. Lawson).
Let's dig into this a little though. Here's what Dr. Robert Preus once wrote about Luther's stance on the beautiful reality of Deus loquens...
In common with his day, Luther simply and ingenuously identifies Scripture with the Word of God. "You are so to deal with the Scriptures that you bear in mind that God Himself is saying this."1 We fear and tremble before the very words of Scriptures because they are God's words, all of them, for "whoever despises a single word of God does not regard any as important."2 Speaking against the Enthusiasts Luther insists that one cannot have the Spirit of God who does not have the visible, external Word; "For it will surely not be a good spirit but the wretched devil from hell. The Holy Spirit has embodied His wisdom and counsel and all mysteries of the Word and revealed them in Scripture and so no one needs to excuse himself or took and search for anything else."3 Speaking again in the same vein against the Enthusiasts Luther says, "God speaks to us through Scripture and through the man who teaches Scripture. He who hears is not deceived but we are to flee from special revelations concerning the faith which are satanic delusions."4
In all his many writings against the Enthusiasts, as he insists that the Holy Spirit always works His blessings and salvation through the Word, Luther is thinking ordinarily of the preached Word, as based upon the Scriptures. This fact is made dear in the Smalcald Articles (III, VIII. 3f.) where he extols the external spoken Word, averring that God gives no one His Spirit or grace except through it. The external Word comes before the Spirit is given. Luther rejects the Schwaermer and Munzer who boast that they possess the Spirit without and before the Word and thus interpret and distort the Scriptures and the spoken Word according to their pleasure. The papists too, at bottom, are Enthusiasts in this sense, for the pope boasts that "all laws are in the shrine of his heart," even when his commands are "above and contrary to the Scriptures and the spoken Word." It is safe to say, therefore, that there is no preached Word of God which is not based upon the Scriptures, and that because the Scriptures are the Word of God.
Luther is most insistent that God actually speaks in the Scriptures. The Scriptures are Deus loquens. "It is cursed unbelief and odious flesh which will not permit us to see and know that God speaks to us in Scripture and that it is God's Word, but tells us that it is the word merely of Isaiah, Paul, or some other man who has not created heaven and earth."5
The above citations prove, along with innumerable others, that Luther believed in what has more recently been called verbal inspiration, as Michael Reu has amply documented.6 For instance Luther says, "The Holy Scriptures are the Word of God, written (I might say), lettered and formed in letters, just as Christ is the eternal Word of God veiled in human nature."7 To Luther, calling Scripture God's Word, meant that it was word-for-word divine.
Actually, Luther has so much more to say on this subject though!
Much of it is pretty powerful stuff and worth our time, especially as we prepare to hear the Word of God preached each and every Sunday let alone as we prepare to read and study it on our own time throughout the week.
You are not reading the word of a human being but the Word of God, the Most High. He desires pupils who diligently note and observe what He says. Moreover, if it is well said that the letters of princes should be read three times because they must speak with deliberation in order not to be considered fools, how much more necessary it is for one to read the letters of God, that is, the Holy Scriptures, three, four, ten, a hundred, a thousand, and many thousand times. For God speaks with deliberation and weight, nay, He is the eternal Wisdom itself. Whoever does this becomes better and more learned from Scriptures. Whoever does not do so earns nothing, nay, becomes the worse for it. (Notes on Matthew 24:15, Plass, What Luther Says)
One should have a pure faith, one that believes nothing that is not grounded in Scripture. All that we are to believe, aye, more than enough, is in Scripture. (From a Christmas sermon on Luke 2:33-40, Plass)4
Luther comments on this passage that the Holy Scripture is “inspired and taught by God Himself” (2 Peter l: 21). And to have this faith in Scripture as God’s own Word is to Luther part of our Christian faith. “Oh, if we could only believe that God Himself is speaking to us in the Scripture!” In all of this Luther shows how completely he rejects the popular contemporary idea that the Bible is merely a human book. It is a human book, but much more, since the men whom God chose to write it were under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and were “moved” by Him as they wrote. Hence it is also a divine Book, “the verbum Dei infallible,” as Luther calls it. Since it is God’s Word and since God is speaking through it, Luther can come to no other conclusion than that it is infallible, without error. In fact, he makes no problem of this. He takes it for granted, taking Scripture’s own testimony at face value. With this article of faith, together with the fact that Scripture is “the manger in which Christ lies,” we can understand Luther’s utter dependence upon Scripture as the absolute truth, the final and absolute authority.
This did not mean that to Luther the Bible was a static sort of encyclopedia, a musty sourcebook where he could find the answer to all questions. No, the written Word like the preached Word, is the dynamic and powerful Word of God which is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). It is the power of God whether it is written or spoken, read or heard. Luther condemns those who call the written Word a dead thing. He railed against the spirits “swarming everywhere...who regard Scripture as a dead letter, extolling nothing but the spirit and yet keeping neither the Word nor the spirit. But there you hear how St. Paul uses Scripture as his strongest witness and shows that there is nothing solid to support our doctrine and faith except the material or written Word, put down in letters and preached verbally by him and others; for there it is clearly stated. ‘Scripture, Scripture.’” (Preus, Hermann. A Theology to Live By. St. Louis. CPH 1977, p.137-138) Therefore, he says, it is necessary to “listen to and to read the Word, which is the vehicle of the Holy Spirit. When the Word is read, the Holy Spirit is present; and thus it is impossible either to listen to or to read Scripture without profit.” (Ibid., p. 138) Luther then quotes John 20: 31 (“These are written that you may believe”) and explains: “Accordingly we should know that God’s testimony does not come to us except through the spoken Word or through Scripture.” The apostle too bears witness to the Scripture as the “living Word”: “Till l come, attend to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching, to teaching” (1 Tim. 4:13). (Ibid.)
May we all prayerfully consider Deus loquens whenever we approach the Word of God to hear it preached or to read it ourselves.
In a Lutheran layman's terms, remember, if you want to hear the voice of God speaking to you, then simply open your Bible and read His Word our loud.
NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism almost 2 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha!). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm experiencing and/or studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!