Martin Luther’s Advice to Pastors-Elect


In 1512 Martin Luther became a doctor of theology.  He wrote a large number of theological works on various topics and participated in polemical debates through his published work.  During this time he also preached often in Wittenberg and whenever he traveled to other towns or cities.  However, he primarily lectured on the text of the Bible for his students.  Dr.  Luther trained many men to become priests, pastors, and teachers in churches and schools.  In the early 1540s, he explained to his students why they should seek no affirmation from the world:

“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, p. 97.]

Dr. Martin Luther gave sound advice in relation to worldly accolades in these lectures on Genesis.  Here he considers Genesis 39:19 and Joseph’s tribulations in Egypt. He particularly warns future pastors to expect some to be grateful but warned them that many others would seek to take their lives.  Simply put, the approval of worldly men and women should never be the preacher’s goal.  However, Dr. Luther exhorted his students (most of whom became pastors) to serve and teach even the wicked and ungrateful in imitation of God (Matthew 5:43-48).

Editor’s Note: The artwork is by Ed Riojas and is available through Emmanuel Press.

About Dr. Matthew Phillips

My name is C. Matthew Phillips and I am Professor of History at Concordia University, Nebraska. I completed my Ph.D. in medieval European history at Saint Louis University in 2006. My research has focused on medieval monasticism, preaching, devotion to the True Cross, and the Crusades. Additionally, I have interests in medieval and early modern European education and the writings and life of Martin Luther.

At Concordia I teach World Civilization I, World Civilization II, Europe Since 1914, Early and Medieval Christianity, Renaissance and Reformation, The Medieval Crusades, The History of Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union, and The Modern Middle East.

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