Dr. Martin Luther of blessed and holy memory penned one of the most vast theological libraries in history. However, most parish Pastors don’t have time to read through the entirety of Luther’s Works. Here is a list of ten works that every Pastor amd layman should know and love.
The first work, published in 1535, is A Simple Way to Pray: For Master Peter the Barber. This is a short little treatise that Luther wrote after being asked by his barber how he should pray. Luther, using the first three chief parts of the catechism, guides Peter through a life of Christian devotion and prayer. A pastor prays for the flock, but more importantly, he teaches the flock how to pray. Rather than reading a 20th century evangelical instrument of piety, use this tool from Luther in order to educate yourself and the sheep who hear the voice of their shepherd in a healthy prayer life.
The second work by Luther that is vital for any Pastor is Luther’s Letters of Spiritual Counsel. The pastor is not a therapist or guidance counselor, but a Father Confessor. He is the earpiece of Jesus Christ and the very messenger of absolution. When guiding and delivering comfort to the terrified consciences of the parish, it is very easy to slip into secular comfort or condolences. This volume by Luther delivers one thing for comfort; Jesus Christ. With many different letters, the pastor and the layman can use this tool for daily devotion and guidance amongst the consolation of the brethren.
The third work which every Pastor and layman should read is Luther’s House Postils. Luther preached these sermons in his home, the Black Cloister, for every Sunday of the church year. These sermons proclaim Christ crucified for the sinners salvation more clearly than any other sermons. Luther’s objective is to help the pastor in forming a theme for the Gospel text. This tool will benefit the preacher, but more importantly, it will educate the laity in what the pastor should be proclaiming.
The fourth work is Luther’s commentary on Psalm 51. This penitential Psalm, which the Holy Spirit inspired David to write, asserts the central article of the Faith. The Justifying God, justifying sinners, is the central article of the Faith. Anything taught, preached, or believed outside of this article is nothing but poison. The only solution to the problem of sin is not exhortation by means of the law, but rather it is the proclamation of the Gospel that Jesus died in the stead of sinful men and He Himself has borne the burden of the law for His beloved creation. The commentary on Psalm 51 is a clear and concise confession of the Christian life as one of daily repentance by means of the proclamation of the law and the gospel.
The fifth work is Luther’s commentary on Psalm 90. This commentary on the Psalm of Moses asserts with great lucidity the wrath of God and Jesus Christ as the refuge in which man finds protection under the Father’s wrath. The pastor must not rip out the Father’s teeth, but preach the full severity of the Father’s wrath against sin. Only in the fullness of this proclamation can the completeness of Christ Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross be preached. This commentary exemplifies Luther’s ability to preach Jesus as the only answer to the Father’s eternal wrath.
The sixth work is Luther’s Greater Galatians Lectures of 1535. In this work, Luther works verse by verse through St. Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia. It is in this work where Luther most clearly illustrates the Christian passive righteousness in the doctrine of Justification by faith in Christ Jesus alone. These lectures are true gems and will enable the pastor to preach the blessed exchange in the fullness of its comfort.
The seventh work is, according to Luther himself, one of his greatest works, The Bondage of the Will. This work, written in reaction to Desiderius Erasmus’ assertion of the freedom of the will, was written in 1525, the same year in which Luther was married and dealt with the Peasant’s Revolts. In this work, Luther goes to work against the assertion that fallen man has the free will to make the choice in believing and therefore in living the Christian life. Especially in our current environment surrounded by the evangelical camps, this gift from Luther’s iron pen is essential for every Pastor in the Lutheran Church. No matter how many times you read this book, it still offers something new and comforting.
The eighth work is, The Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper. This work was written in 1528 amidst Luther’s battles with the likes of Ulrich Zwingli and Adreas Carlstadt. Luther noticeably asserts rather clearly the Lutheran confession of the Bodily presence of Christ’s Body and Blood in the bread and the wine. If any Lutheran pastor struggles in explaining the Lutheran understanding of the Lord’s Supper let him read this treatise. Also, this work ends with a short confession in which Luther asserts his beliefs on the doctrine of the Church. This last section is similar to the Smalcald Articles written in 1537. Luther wrote this little confession lest his teachings be misunderstood and therefore falsely taught after his death.
The ninth work is Luther’s lectures on the Book of Genesis. This is a six-volume section of the American Edition of Luther’s Works. This work is encouraged because of the richness and the depth that it offers. Luther teaches on topics ranging from creation to the sacraments. It may take a while to read them, but if they are used for a bible study on Genesis at the church, then it will benefit both the pastor and the laity.
The tenth and final work are the three treatises that Luther wrote in reaction to the Peasant’s Revolts of 1525. Luther wrote three treatises. One was in support of the peasant’s. One encouraged the actions of the nobility. One was a compromise or a peace offer between the two parties. These treatises are entitled, Admonition to Peace: A Reply to the Twelve Articles of the Peasants in Swabia; Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants; An Open Letter on the Harsh Book Against the Peasants. These works reveal Luther using not just the Scriptures, but natural reason to guide a nation in turmoil and chaos. These treatises are tremendous tools for any pastor, or layman, in a tumultuous congregational setting. These works reveal the articulation, which guided a nation through turbulent times, by means of both Holy Scripture and God-given reason.
These ten works of Luther do not summarize all of Luther’s teaching. I did not cite the Catechism’s or the Smalcald Articles with the assumption that every Pastor should read these because He swore by the grace of God to uphold these documents and to preach and teach according to them. Let us not lose the precious works of Dr. Luther to our gluttonous and idle vanity nor make them a cliché by misquoting them. Take time to read at least these ten works by Luther and may they enrich the proclamation and the hearing of the gospel for you.
Associate Editor’s Note: With this post we introduce our newest writer Pastor Chris Hull for “Steadfast Luther” in which he will be bringing Luther’s Works forward to us today an letting the good Doctor’s voice be heard. Here is some more about Pastor Hull:
Chris Hull is the Senior Pastor of Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church in Normal, Illinois. He was married to Allison Desiree Monk on June 3rd, 2006. They have been blessed with two boys, Lochlann Richard Patrick and Eamonn Julius Luther. Their third son is due in July. Pastor Hull graduated from Concordia University in River Forest, Il in 2006. He received his Master of Divinity from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 2010. Presently he is under the supervision of Dr. James Nestingen in the Master Of Theology program through the Wittenberg Institute. Pastor Hull has been at Christ Lutheran since July of 2010 where he was called as the Associate Pastor in July of 2010 and then called as the Senior Pastor in March of 2011. He posts his sermons, based on the historic lectionary, online and hosts Tuesdays With Luther which can be viewed on his youtube page.