Author Archive -- Dr. Matthew Phillips

Is Every Christian a Minister?

The answer to this question may change depending on one’s understanding of minister.  If understood broadly, any Christian may serve others.  However, minister usually means someone whom Lutherans commonly call a pastor today.  Therefore, obviously, every Christian is not a minister or pastor.  In 1530 the first Lutherans understood this well when they confessed, “…no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called.” [1] It is possible to further explain the Augsburg Confession through an examination of the contemporary writings of Martin Luther related to this subject. Early in the Reformation Luther   More…

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Augustine, Luther, and the Sacraments

“Baptism is a very different thing from all other water, not by virtue of the natural substance but because here something nobler is added, for God himself stakes his honor, his power, and his might on it.  Therefore it is not simply a natural water, but a divine, heavenly, holy, and blessed water….all by virtue of the Word, which is a heavenly, holy Word that no one can sufficiently extol, for it contains and conveys all that is God’s.  This, too, is where it derives its nature so that it is called a sacrament, as St. Augustine taught, ‘Accedat verbum   More…

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“There Is No Middle Ground”: Martin Luther, Zwingli and the Lord’s Supper-Part II

This is part 2 of a 3-part series; part 1 is found here   In 1527 Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli both published significant works concerning the Lord’s Supper.  Both represented responses to writings from the previous year.  In his Friendly Exegesis, That is, Exposition of the Matter of the Eucharist to Martin Luther Zwingli claimed that he reluctantly debated against Luther.  Despite his stated irenic intentions, Zwingli incessantly pointed out the weaknesses of Luther’s teachings.  He identified Luther’s teaching on the physical presence of Christ as an error very similar to Rome’s doctrine of transubstantiation.  Zwingli resented Luther’s harsh   More…

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Great Stuff — No Thanks from the World

Found on Historia et Memoria: “In great part we serve, teach, admonish, suffer, give consolation, and do things commanded by God for unworthy men. Here we gain nothing for our services but hatred, envy, and exile; and our whole life is nothing else than the loss of kindness. Therefore, you must never hope that the world will acknowledge and remunerate your faithfulness and diligence; for it does the opposite….Set another goal, therefore, for your service and your life than the thanks of the world. Its gratitude is suddenly changed into fury.” Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, Luther’s Works, vol. 7,   More…

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Luther, Zwingli and Supper-Part I

March 21st, 2013 7 comments

Martin Luther and his colleagues in Wittenberg were not the only theologians to set forth a theological program of reform in the early sixteenth century.  In fact, many competing visions of reform emerged.  In the early 1520s Ulrich Zwingli led a religious reform in Zurich, one of the cantons of the Swiss Confederacy.  While he was not the only early Protestant reformer in Switzerland, Zwingli became the most significant religious leader of the Swiss Reformation until his death in 1531.  Zwingli won the support of the government of Zurich that led to significant changes in faith and practice.  These included   More…

Dare to Be Wise: The Early Reformation and Education

February 4th, 2013 2 comments

“When schools flourish, things go well and the church is secure. Let us make more doctors and masters.  The youth is the church’s nursery and fountainhead.  When we are dead, where are others [to take our place] if there are no schools? God has preserved the church through the schools.  They are the preservers of the church.”[1] In this quote we hear an older Luther (1542-43) commenting on the importance of schools for preserving the Christian faith and the church.  Here we will examine the relationship between the early Reformation and educational reform.  While most Lutherans are familiar with Luther’s   More…

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The Origin of Indulgences, Penance and the Crusades

November 6th, 2012 3 comments

Since we recently observed the 495th anniversary of Martin Luther’s publication of the Ninety-Five Theses, it may be instructive to understand the history of indulgences and the development of their use in the late medieval church. A close reading of Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Thesesdemonstrates that he was calling into question not only the doctrine of indulgences but also the late medieval sacrament of penance. Luther focused on the interior nature of repentance instead of sacramental penance administered by a priest. For instance, he wrote that truly repentant Christians already have complete remission of the penalty and guilt of sin without   More…

Becoming Steadfast: Politics and the Lutheran Reformation (Part 2)

August 3rd, 2012 2 comments

For part one of this series, click here. When Martin Luther departed Worms in May 1521 his earthly future seemed bleak.  According to the edict of Worms Luther was a heretical outlaw.   In order to protect Luther and his own interests, Frederick the Wise famously had Luther taken away to Wartburg Castle near Eisenach until March 1522.  During the early 1520s the establishment of the Lutheran Reformation was not a certainty.  However, the Wittenberg Reformers and the political leaders in Electoral Saxony did gradually implement reforms that culminated in the presentation of the Augsburg Confession to Charles V in 1530.    More…

Becoming Steadfast: Politics and the Lutheran Reformation (Part 1)

In his sermon given at the funeral of Duke John of Electoral Saxony (John the Steadfast), Martin Luther stated, “a prince is also a human being and always has ten devils around him where another man has only one, so that God must give him special guidance and set his angels about him.” (Luther’s Works, vol. 51, p. 236)  While the Lutheran Reformation revolved around the theological rediscovery of essential biblical teachings (i.e. justification by faith), political events played a major role in the Lutheran Reformers’ temporal success.  Most likely, Dr. Luther would have gladly embraced martyrdom in 1521.  However,   More…

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