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September 29, 2009

Luther on Truth

by Rev. A. J. Iovine

(Reprinted from my personal blog —

luthervolume69Concordia Publishing House has started to release additional volumes to Luther’s Works, an extensive catalogue of writings of Martin Luther. CPH will be releasing one additional volume each year for a number of years that extend the 55 volume set of Luther’s writings. The cost for each volume is $49.99, or $34.99 if you set up a subscription (which I have).

Several years ago, I purchased an electronic copy of Luther’s Works when I was at seminary. This copy included every volume in the Luther’s Work catalogue to date prior to this latest publication.

Last evening, I found myself flipping through this latest volume, one that completes Luther’s sermons on Saint John’s Gospel, this volume containing sermons based on Chapters 17-20. I came to a stop on John 18:38:

Pilate said to (Jesus), “What is truth?”

To which Luther explains as such:

I do not know whether Pilate is being serious or whether he is mocking. But in my understanding, I take what he says as sheer mockery and a sarcastic way of speaking, for Pilate was a wise, shrewd Gentile. Therefore, he looks down on Christ and says: “Hah! If You will concern Yourself with the truth, then You are lost. Complaisance makes friends; truth make enemies. If You are the kind of man who deals in truth, it is no wonder that You have been taken captive and led here bound. If You want to live on earth, You must give up the truth.” Thus I understand what he says to be a heathen jest, spoken with a shameless conscience.

At the same time, this shows what the way of the world is. People cannot tolerate the truth. Whoever wants to live in the world must keep quiet about the truth and cheat, lie, and deceive. But if you want to bear witness to the truth, prepare yourself to be opposed by the devil with his angels, the world with its wisdom and lofty reason, yes, you will even be opposed by your parents, father, mother, and your best friends. There can be no other result.

This is powerful stuff, to say the least. Luther strips away any attempt by our sinful nature to try and make peace with the sinful world and instead reminds us truly that life under the cross is going to be hard.

Thus we all have a struggle and a challenge — do we stand with Christ or with the world?

When the world says one thing and God says another, with whom do we stand? Do we try and make excuses on behalf of the sinful world, or do we stand with Christ, prepared to take whatever slings and arrows the world will through at us?

This is why I love Luther. He never pulled punches and just told it like it is.


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