Saturday, November 4, 2017

Martin Luther on the First Commandment

I recently read Martin Luther’s profound treatment of the 1st Commandment (in a new translation) and was struck by his insights:

"You are to have no other gods...."

What is the meaning of the First Commandment?  It is God saying to us:   "You are to regard me alone as your God. What does 'to have a God' mean? Or, what is 'God'? 

Answer: God is that in which we are to look for all good and in which we are to find refuge in all need. Therefore, to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe in that one [entity: a god, person, thing, cause] with your whole heart. It is the trust and faith of the heart alone that make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true one.  Conversely, where your trust is false and wrong, there you do not have the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. Anything on which your heart relies and depends, I say, that is really your God. 

The intention of this commandment therefore is to require true faith and confidence of the heart, which fly straight to the one true God and cling to him alone. What this means is: 'see to it that you let me alone be your God, and never search for another'. In other words 'whatever good thing you lack, look to me for it and seek it from me, and whenever you suffer misfortune and distress, crawl to me and cling to me. I, I myself, will give you what you need and help you out of every danger. Only do not let your heart cling to or rest in anyone else.'

-- "The Large Catechism of Martin Luther" in "Word and Faith" vol. 2, Kirsi I. Stjerna, ed. (Fortress Press) p. 300

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