The Full Brunt of God’s Wrath

PythonGodIn his formulation of theologia crucis Luther understood that God arrived at his proper work only by way of his strange and alien work. Luther formulated this work in the Genesis lectures in describing the experience of Abraham, asserting that only in faith was Abraham able to hear the “deep, secret yea beneath and above the nay.” For, “in the trial of God-forsakeness,” this “faith is no mere trifle”; “it is nothing less than a struggle with God against God.” As Walther von Loewenich wrote:

“It is God himself who attacks man through trials. Luther also labeled the devil as the originator of trial. In that case it is not difficult to overcome the trial, for the devil no longer has any power over the Christian. He has been defeated by Christ. But Luther can also trace the trial directly back to God. Only in this way it receives its severity because God himself is ‘assailing’ man.”

That is why, as Loewenich clarified, “Luther explicitly turns against the view of James 1:13. The hidden God is a reality, not a mere pretense. The devil is only God’s instrument, while God himself is the one at work.”

And thus it was that in expositing the experience of Abraham, “Luther feels the full brunt of God’s wrath over him.”

For Luther then, in the experience of wrath, damnation and death the only solution to the problem of God is that one must cling to the Word of God. The Word of God which is none other than Christ Jesus. For, “we are in trials when that Word has been torn out of our heart. The trial is overcome when Christ again speaks to us, when we again hear the Word.”

In the particularity of this expression Luther insisted that sinners appeal especially to Baptism. That is:

“One should hold fast to this comfort, that what God has once declared, this He does not change. You were baptized, and in Baptism the kingdom of God was promised you. You should know that this is His unchangeable Word, and you should not permit yourself to be drawn away from it. For although it can happen – as with those who were on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:28) – that He pretends to want to go farther and seems to be dealing with us as though He had forgotten his promises, faith in the Word must nevertheless be retained, and the promise must be stressed – namely, that it is true and dependable – even if the manner, time, occasion, place, and other particulars are unknown. For the fact that God cannot lie is sure and dependable.”

Sinners must fight against God himself. That is, faith,  “presses through from the alien work to the proper work, from the hidden to the revealed God… For at the basis of the contrast of God’s Word and God himself there is no other contrast than the one between the revealed God and the hidden God. Thus the turning point in the trial has clearly arrived when faith recognizes the trial as an alien work.”

This is the final critical point is in his formulation of theologia crucis in  Abraham’s testing by God. God is the one contending against Abraham. Just at that point, where the alien work of God confronts the sinner, wearing the mask of the devil does Luther press forward, asserting:

“God is not a tempter for evil; that is, he does not test in order that we may fear and hate Him like a tyrant but to the end that He may exercise and stir up faith and love in us. Satan, however, tempts for evil, in order to draw you away from God and to make you distrust and blaspheme God. God sports with the children he loves and, as it seems, to the flesh, shows Himself angry and dreadful… but these are merely instances of sporting. God will not deceive or cheat you. Just hold fast to his infallible and unchanging promise. Even though you should lose honor, riches, and life itself you should nevertheless not maintain that God is angry with you and therefore has cast you aside; but you should expect other far more excellent gifts, honor, and a better life from Him, as Job 13:15 states: ‘Even though he kills me, I will hope in Him.’”

In Abraham’s, and in all Christians’ experience of wrath, damnation and death the only solution to the problem of God is that one must cling to the Word of God. The Word which is none other than Christ Jesus Himself.


All references from Walther von Loewenich are taken from his book, “Luther’s Theology of the Cross,” p.136-37.
All Martin Luther references are taken from Luther’s Works (American Edition), vol. 4.


The Full Brunt of God’s Wrath — 9 Comments

  1. This is a problem for me, and I believe anyone else who studies the post :

    That is why, as Loewenich clarified, “Luther explicitly turns against the view of James 1:13. The hidden God is a reality, not a mere pretense. The devil is only God’s instrument, while God himself is the one at work.”

    My problem is I can find plenty of Biblical support for the statement but not against, IE JAMES.

    How about this:

    The post IS LAW.

    The Child of the Living God is under Grace. 

    James is true for the Child of God.

    For those under the LAW……………….

    The Gospel:

    1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.
    2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
    3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.
    4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
    5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
    6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
    7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
    8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
    9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
    10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
    11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

    That whole post grates against me.

    The themes of the post are narrow. 

    This is just wrong on so many levels:

    Sinners must fight against God himself. That is, faith

    100% LAW !

    The work of the Holy Spirit is neglected.

    The Children are grafted into Our Lord. Not one is lost.

    Your thoughts?

    I do not agree with the post for reasons given above in my train.

    Backing away and looking at the whole, the Author mixes Law and Gospel to the detriment of both.

    He uses Law to interpret St. James. Wrong!

    His path is disingenuous in that he weaves through the Gospel leaving out criticle portions.

    There is a wall between us.

    Do not wonder why.

    The author has been placed on the scales of LAW / GOSPEL and been found wanting.


  2. this is off topic,

    @Rev Riley – i got a good laugh at the opening image. but then i thought – is that a public domain image? i know you can get it off the net anywhere with a simple google search, but still don’t know if it’s technically under copyright.

  3. @1 – I don’t understand the confusion — there has been a long distinction between the idea of temptation which is intended to entice towards sin (as per James and Luther in the 6th Petition – God tempts no one) and the idea of God using trial to bring about growth and reliance upon Him.

    For an example of the later, in addition to the ones mentioned in the article, consider Paul’s thorn in the flesh. That is a trial, allowed by God, so that Paul might learn that His grace is sufficient. Rather than looking to outward success and trying to find God there (the “Hidden” God), Paul is directed to God as revealed in His Word and His grace in Christ Jesus.

    Of course, here is another problem with your complaints – it is great that you cite John 15… but again, that is God REVEALED in His Word through His Son, not God as I perceive Him in terms of worldly success. If I look for worldly success, I will find only despair. Instead, I will listen to His Word, which repeated reminds me that even though in this life I suffer, I am blessed and forgiven in Christ.

    That’s the point – while our eyes would see suffering and think we are damned, we are pointed to Christ, and by faith we cling to Him, for faith is the conviction of things not seen.

  4. Perhaps we could say it: God tempts no one, but He does allow trials – refining gold, and all of that.

  5. πειράζω

    1) to try whether a thing can be done
    a) to attempt, endeavour
    2) to try, make trial of, test: for the purpose of ascertaining his quality, or what he thinks, or how he will behave himself
    a) in a good sense
    b) in a bad sense, to test one maliciously, craftily to put to the proof his feelings or judgments
    c) to try or test one’s faith, virtue, character, by enticement to sin
    1) to solicit to sin, to tempt
    a) of the temptations of the devil
    d) after the OT usage
    1) of God: to inflict evils upon one in order to prove his character and the steadfastness of his faith
    2) men are said to tempt God by exhibitions of distrust, as though they wished to try whether he is not justly distrusted
    3) by impious or wicked conduct to test God’s justice and patience, and to challenge him, as it were to give proof of his perfections.

    same word, different meanings. context clarifies, as set in the whole counsel of God.
    concordances R fun.

  6. My My

    Niemand sage, wenn er versucht wird, dass er von Gott versucht werde. Denn Gott kann nicht versucht werden zum Bösen, und er selbst versucht niemand.

    Sondern ein jeder, der versucht wird, wird von seinen eigenen Begierden gereizt und gelockt

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