The Second Table of the Law and Sanctification by Martin Luther

Beyond these seven chief ways of Christian sanctification there are also additional external marks by which the holy Christian church is recognized. Put another way: The Holy Spirit sanctifies us also according to the Second Table of the Law.

The Holy Spirit does this by helping us to honor father and mother wholeheartedly. They in turn raise children in a Christian way and lead honest lives.

This occurs similarly when we serve our princes and lords faithfully and obediently and they in turn love their subjects and protect and defend them. Likewise, when we dore_mozes_tafelen_grtare not resentful against anyone, bear no anger, hatred, envy or vindictiveness but gladly forgive, lend, help and counsel.

The Holy Spirit also sanctifies us according to the Second Table when he helps us not to be unchaste and drunkards, prideful, arrogant and conceited, and instead to be chaste, disciplined, sober, kind, meek, mild and humble. This also occurs when we are encouraged not to steal, practice usury, be greedy and gouge prices, but instead are mild, kind, content and generous.

Finally, the Holy Spirit urges us not to be deceptive, lie and commit perjury. Instead he urges us to be truthful, constant and whatever else is taught about such commandments, as St. Paul richly teaches in many places.

For this is also why we need the Ten Commandments: Not simply so that they teach us in a juridical way what we are duty-bound to do, but that we might also see thereby how far the Holy Spirit has brought us with his sanctifying. By means of the Ten Commandments we also are shown how much we still lack, so that we might not become secure and think that we have now done everything perfectly.

It is along the lines of the Ten Commandments that we are constantly to grow in sanctification, always becoming more and more a new creature in Christ. The Word of God says “grow” and “abound more and more” (2 Peter 3:18; 1 Thess. 4:1, 10).

However, such Second-Table marks are not to be regarded to be as certain as the above-mentioned First-Table marks. Why? Many pagans also do such Second-Table works. At times, pagans might even seem to be holier than Christians!

Yet the pagan manner of life is not as pure and simple from the heart for God’s sake. Rather because they have neither true faith nor knowledge of God, pagans seek something else in Second-Table marks.

In the church, however, is the Holy Spirit. There he is constantly sanctifying the heart, and producing Second-Table fruit from a good, fine heart, as Christ says in the parable in Luke 8:15.

And even though the First Table is a greater and a more important relic than the Second Table, I wanted at least to summarize the contents of the latter. Otherwise, I could have divided the Second-Table as well into seven relics, chief parts, or simply according to the seven commandments.

There we now have with certainty what, where and who the Christian holy people is. We cannot go wrong here. Of this we are certain. Everything else beyond these parts may be absent, and it will certainly be lacking, as we shall hear in part.

Editor’s Note: This is taken from Lutheran Press’ marvelous translation of Luther’s On the Councils and the Church called A Christian Holy People (chapter 7). You can download the full work here for free.


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