Newbold College

Department of Theological Studies




 Research Paper

 Presented in the Fulfilment

 of the Requirements of the Course

 BDTS 210 Reformation Theology



 Allan Falk

December 2005



I.    ASSIGNMENT  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


II.    INTRODUCTION  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


III.    SHAR'IAH LAW  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


IV.  THE FIVE PILLARS  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


V.   ARTICLES OF FAITH  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


VI.   THE ISLAMIC LIFSTYLE  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


VII.  AVENUES FOR COMMUNICATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . .


IIX.  CONCLUSION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


IX.  BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



To identify the role of Works within the Justification Concept of Martin Luther.


The role of works in the process of justification was not only debated at the time of reformation and before, it is still debated within the Christian community today. The term legalists are often used for Christians, who think that good works are part of the requirements for salvation.

        Due to the limitations on this paper it will only deal with Martin Luther’s view on good works in relation to justification, it will not include the view of other reformers or the Lutheran reformation in general. Dealing with Luther’s view and understanding, it will only briefly introduce justification, the weight will be put on good works.

        The task will be accomplished like this. First I will introduce Luther and his own spiritual struggle, which led to what we today see as an important reformation within the Christian world. Secondly I will give a very brief introduction to Luther’s view on justification. Thereafter I will go in more depth with Luther’s understanding concerning good works in a Christian’s life. Finally there will be a conclusion on the role of Works in Justification Concept of Martin Luther.


Martin Luther was born in 1483 in Eisleben, but already in 1484 his parents Hans and Margaretta Luther moved to Mansfeld to make a living in the copper mines.[1]

        As a young boy he did not know, that he lived in between the middle age and the renaissance, but every time he went to mass and heard the priest say “Hoc est corpus Christi”,[2] and he saw Gods eye over the altar, he felt this disapproving glance of God. Looking at the walls he had to shudder, there were pictures of monks and bishops being tortured by dragons and vampires in the purgatory, and in the ceiling he saw Christ with a lily growing from the right ear, and a sword from the left. The lily meant grace and forgiveness, and the sword meant condemnation. He has probably often thought about how he could earn the lily and escape the sword.[3]

        Growing up Luther’s father planned a good education for him, and after he finished his Masters in 1505 he got into the study of law.

        The 2nd of July the same year Luther had an experience which changed his direction in life. Travelling from home to Erfurt he was nearly struck by lightening, and promised St. Anne to become a monk if he was saved.[4]

        The 17th of July Luther became an Augustinian Hermit under the supervision of Father Staupitz. During Luther’s time in the Black Monastery he really tried to become a good Christian. He was hard to himself, prayed and confessed all his sins, but could still not find peace.

        Trying to help him Staupitz told Luther that. ‘God is not angry with you; it is you who is angry with God.’[5] Being Luther’s advisor he tried to make Luther understand that his own merits would not help him, he had to trust in Jesus Christ for his salvation. Accepting a lowing saviour was difficult for Luther as for many others at his time.

        Staupitz was not only Luther’s spiritual, but also his academic advisor, so he arranged for his theological studies, culminating the 19th October 1512 with a doctorate.[6]

        As a teacher Luther got his first challenge in Wittenberg during the winter 1508, and he became priest at Wittenberg City church in 1514.

        During the first years of Luther’s teaching he still hated the notion that God is righteous, he still felt that he could never be good enough. However while lecturing on the Psalms which he did from 1513 or latest during his second round lecturing on the Psalms[7] he finally came to grips with the words “righteousness of God”, which is found in Rom 1, 17. In what is later called his Tower Experience, Luther discovered that God is really merciful. He said: ‘I began to understand that in this verse[8] the justice of God is that by which the just person lives by a gift of God, that is by faith. I began to understand that this verse means that the justice of God is revealed through the Gospel, but it is a passive justice, i.e. that by which the merciful God justifies us by faith.’[9] After Luther discovered that salvation was a gift, and that his own merits were useless, he said: ‘This phrase of Paul was for me the very gate of paradise.’[10]

        With this newly found peace in his own heart concerning salvation, Luther began to teach it to his students and to preach it to the congregation in Wittenberg. He never intended to make a worldwide reformation, he just wanted to lead his students and congregation on the way God had revealed to him.[11] When Luther introduced his teachings he never imagined, that there would raise about 100 different Churches from it,[12] which is today joined in the Lutheran World Federation with approximately 58 million members. These humble intentions were also seen in many of Luther’s writings, which were addressed to the unlearned German people, not to the learned elite.[13]

        Having followed Luther’s spiritual journey, it would be interesting to know if his discovery in the Tower of the Black Cloister, was really new. It was not, Luther later discovered that St. Augustine explained Gods grace in a similar way. Today we know that John Wycliffe thought the same doctrines on justification and good works 150 years earlier than Luther.[14] Wycliffe’s teachings were again thought by John Hus, whom once said these words: ‘that though he – the goose – be burned at the stake, another will come – a swan – to teach and preach the doctrines of the bible.’[15] That swan most have been Luther.    


Before entering into the analysis of good works, it is needful to have a brief look at how Luther understood justification. According to Luther, how could a person become righteous before God? For the purpose of this paper I will find the answer in one of Luther’s sermons with the title, “Two Kinds of Righteousness”. When Luther wanted to spread his newly found theology, he often did it through preaching,[16] therefore a sermon with the intention of promoting the reformation is the right place to find Luther’s position.

        In this sermon Luther talks about two kinds of righteousness, let us deal with one at a time. The first one he identifies as alien,[17] coming from God. He supports that it is Gods righteousness with the words from Psalm 31. ‘deliver me in your righteousness.’[18] Luther sees this righteousness as instilled from without, and he emphasizes that it is without works, which means that it is given to us by Gods grace. From this it is seen that God himself meets the precondition for justification and not the sinner.

       Luther further identifies the righteousness as coming from Christ by quoting 1Cor. 1, 30. ‘It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-- that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.’[19]

        Luther sees faith as the method of getting righteousness; according to Christ’s own words in John 11, 25. ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;’[20]

        Luther summarizes the process with these words: ‘Through faith in Christ, therefore, Christ’s righteousness becomes our righteousness and all that he has becomes ours; rather, he himself becomes ours.’[21]

       This process of justification can according to this sermon take place at baptism or when people repent their sins.

        This first alien righteousness is according to Luther’s understanding the cause of the second righteousness, which is our own righteousness. This second righteousness is not worked by our self, but by the first alien righteousness.

        Luther suggests that this second righteousness is seen in the life of a Christian in three different ways.

1)      Gal. 5, 25. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.

2)      It will result in love towards ones neighbor,

3)      and it will result in meekness and fear toward God.[22]

        Quoting Gal. 5, 22-23 which reads: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Luther concluded that ‘This righteousness is the product of the righteousness of the first type, actually its fruit and consequence,’[23]    


In order to get some understanding of Luther’s concept of works, I have chosen to read and analyse two of Luther’s writings concerning works: 1) A Treatise on Good Works. 2) Treatise on Christian Liberty.


        When I read “A Treatise on Good Works”, I liked Luther’s way of thinking; his positive interpretation of the Ten Commandments was new to me. Even Melanchthon once called this treatise for Luther’s best book,[24] so it most be able to guide us towards Luther’s theology on works.

        The first thing Luther states in this treatise is, ‘that there are no good works except for those which God has commanded, even as there is no sin except that which God has forbidden.’[25] This statement gives us the reason why Luther writes this treatise on the interpretation of the Ten Commandments. When we read the Commandments it reads “you shall not”, but in this treatise Luther is not interested in all the prohibitions, but in all the positive instructions. In every command Luther sees a range of good works which can be performed.

         On the first pages Luther talks much about the relation between works and faith, and quoting John 6, 29 he says that the first work is faith in Christ, but it is his dealing with the first Commandment which really focuses everything. The Command is like this: Exodus 20, 3. You shall have no other gods before me. This for Luther meant. ‘Since I alone am God, thou shalt place all thy confidence, trust and faith on Me alone, and on no one else.’[26] Luther’s first conclusion was that faith is the fulfillment of the first Commandment, but in the same breath he agrees with St. Augustine that it is faith, hope and love. Luther said, I could not trust God if he had not loved me first.[27]

        Luther continues arguing that other works without faith would be like the last nine Commandments without the first Command, or without God. By this he seems to indicate that, without faith any kind of work would be without meaning. Two things are made very clear:

1)      Works without faith are not good works, they are only a show.

2)      Works can not justify anybody.

        Throughout the last nine Commandments Luther gives a wide explanation on all the good works which can be done to fulfill the meaning of them. However he continues to state, that all these works have to be done based on the faith required in the first Commandment.

        The relation between works and faith, and the origin of faith, Luther explains like this. ‘Faith, therefore, does not begin with works, neither do they create it, but it must spring up and flow from the blood, wounds and death of Christ.’[28]


The analysis of Luther’s concept concerning works and faith in the Treatise on Christian Liberty will be done through seven questions, answered by Luther himself. The answers will be found in the text. The questions are as follows.

1. Where faith does comes from?

‘It is a living “spring of water welling up to eternal life,” as Christ call it in John 4 @:14#.’[29]


In his introduction Luther said, that faith is a great strength that helps Christians through oppression. Anybody experiencing it would always talk about it. Through the quote he indicated that it comes from Christ.

2. What does faith do to the believer?

        ‘Faith alone is the saving and efficacious use of the Word of God, according to

        Rom. 10 @:9# : “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is lord and believe in your

        heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Furthermore, “Christ

        is the end of the Law, that every one who has faith may be justified” @Rom. 10:4#.

        Again, in Rom. 1 @:17#, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.”’[30]


This quote on faiths doings is only one out of many in the treatise, but it gives the answer. Faith justifies, saves and gives life.

3. Can good works make a man good?

‘Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works;’[31]

It seems clear in the treatise, that good works does not change the status of humans.

4. What happens when we work for our salvation?

‘Should he grow so foolish, however, as to presume to become righteous, free, saved, and a Christian by means of some good works, he would instantly lose faith and all its benefits,’[32]

Again and again in the treatise Luther makes clear, that humans working for salvation looses it, on page 363 there is another strong text.[33]

5. Can faith free us from works?

‘We do not, therefore, reject good works; on the contrary, we cherish and teach them as much as possible.’[34] ‘Our faith in Christ does not free us from works but from the false opinions concerning works, that is, from the foolish presumption that justification is acquired by works.’[35]

Luther’s opinion seems clear; a Christian’s faith can not free him from good works.

6. Will a Christian do good works?

        ‘We conclude, therefore, that a Christian lives not in himself, but in Christ and in

        his neighbor. Otherwise he is not a Christian. He lives in Christ through faith, in his

        neighbor through love. By faith he caught up beyond himself into God. By love he

       descends beneath himself into his neighbor.’[36]

In the view of the entire treatise, and this quote it seems that Luther is emphasizing at least two kinds of good works. 1) The worship of god. 2) Love towards our neighbors.

 7. Should Church ceremonies be abolished?

         ‘Hence ceremonies are to be given the same place in the life of a Christian as

         models and plans have among builders and artisans. They are prepared, not as

         a permanent structure, but because with out them nothing could be built or made.

         When the structure is complete the models and plans are laid aside. You see,

         they are not despised, rather they are greatly sought after; but what we despise

         is the false estimate of them since no one holds them to be the real and permanent


Luther seems to think that the Church ceremonies are useful in the development of a Christian experience, as long as we do not think they can bring us salvation.


Through the analysis of these three works of Luther, “Two Kinds of Righteousness”, “A Treatise on Good Works” and “The Freedom of A Christian”, his understanding of works and justification have been portrayed. Now it is time to look at the two concepts together and let Luther answer a few questions.

1. Did Luther really reject all kinds of good works, as some thought he did?

‘Hence it comes that when I exalt faith and reject such works done without faith, they accuse me of forbidding good works, when in truth I am trying hard to teach real good works of faith.’[38]

In the three works in general plus in this quote from “A Treatise on Good Works” it is seen that Luther never preached against good works in the life of a Christian, when they were a result of faith.

2. Can good works justify a person?

‘Although I am an unworthy and condemned man, my God has given me in Christ all the riches of righteousness and salvation  without any merit on my part, out of pure, free mercy, so that from now on I need nothing except faith which believes that this is true.’[39]

Luther saw justification as something Christ paid for through his own blood, which God gives freely to people, because of his love and mercy. Therefore good works can according to Luther not justify sinners.


 3. Does good works have any importance

        ‘Although the Christian is thus free from all works, he ought in his liberty to empty

        himself, take upon himself the form of a servant, be made in the likeness of men, be

        found in human form, and to serve, help, and in every way deal with his neighbor as

        he sees that God through Christ has dealt and still deals with him. This he should do

        freely, having regard for nothing but divine approval.’[40]

In “A Treatise on Good Works” Luther explains clearly that faith will result in good works, which is in good harmony with this quote. The justified will produce good works.

        Luther’s final answer to these three questions is, that good works can not justify a sinner, but a justified sinner will produce good works, as a thanksgiving and worship to his loving savior.

        This view of Luther is in full harmony with what I believe, if I as a Christian had to work for my salvation, I would hate God just like Luther did in his younger days. Working to achieve justification would be a very risky business. There would always be the question, are my works good enough. Another serious question would be. Why did Christ die on the cross, if I have to earn my own salvation?    


As a boy and a young man Luther really believed, that he had to do good works to please God. During his time as a monk, he did a lot of good works attempting to achieve salvation, but it never brought him peace. After he had lectured on the Psalms and the Romans in Wittenberg, and after much meditation, he finally discovered what he perceived to be the truth concerning salvation. This climax in Luther’s life is called his Tower Experience.

        After his Tower Experience Luther believed in justification by faith alone, which means that salvation is only achieved through faith. Whoever he still thought, that a Christian will produce good works, as a part of his or her Christian life. The good works would be a result of the second kind of righteousness, not a requirement for justification. 



Benny Alex, Martin Luther munken der revolutionerede den kristne kirke,

        (København: Forlaget Skandinavia, 1995).

Hall, Gary J., Johan Wycliffe, (

LADEMANS CD-ROM LEKSIKON 2003, (Egmont Lademan, 2002).

Martin, Luther, Luther’s Tower Experience,


Martin, Luther, Martin Luther’s definition of Faith of Faith,


Martin, Luther, A Treatise on Good Works,











Martin, Luther, ed. Oswald, Hilton C., Lectures on Romans,

        in Luther’s Works Vol. 25, (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1972).

Martin, Luther, ed. Grimm, Harold J., Two Kinds of Righteousness,

        in Luther’s Works Vol. 31, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971) pp. 297-306.

Martin, Luther, ed. Grimm, Harold J., The Freedom of A Christian,

        in Luther’s Works Vol. 31, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971) pp. 343-377.

McGrath, Alister E., Reformation Thought, (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004).

McMahon, Matthew, The Reformation, (

Short, Ruth Gordon, Meet Martin Luther, (MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959).

The Life of Martin Luther, (


[1] The Life of Martin Luther, ( p. 1.

[2] This is the body of Christ.

[3] Benny Alex, Martin Luther munken der revolutionerede den kristne kirke,

        (København: Forlaget Skandinavia, 1995) p. 4.

[4] The Life of Martin Luther, p. 2.

[5] Short, Ruth Gordon, Meet Martin Luther, (MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959) p. 23.

[6] The Life of Martin Luther, p. 3.

[7] 1519

[8] Rom 1, 17.

[9] Martin, Luther, Luther’s Tower Experience,

[10] Martin, Luther, Luther’s Tower Experience, p. 2.

[11] Martin, Luther, A Treatise on Good Works,

[12] LADEMANS CD-ROM LEKSIKON 2003, Lutheraner, (Egmont Lademan, 2002).

[13] Martin, Luther, A Treatise on Good Works,

[14] Hall, Gary J., Johan Wycliffe, (

[15] McMahon, Matthew, The Reformation, (

[16] Martin, Luther, ed. Oswald, Hilton C., Lectures on Romans,

        in Luther’s Works Vol. 25, (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1972) p. xxi.

[17] Martin, Luther, Lectures on Romans, p. 297.     

[18] Martin, Luther, Lectures on Romans, p. 299.

[19] Martin, Luther, Lectures on Romans, p. 297.    

[20] Martin, Luther, Lectures on Romans, p. 297. 

[21] Martin, Luther, Lectures on Romans, p. 298.

[22] Martin, Luther, Lectures on Romans, p. 299.

[23] Martin, Luther, Lectures on Romans, p. 300.

[24] Martin, Luther, A Treatise on Good Works, ( p 6.

[25] Martin, Luther, A Treatise on Good Works, ( p. 1.

[26] Martin, Luther, A Treatise on Good Works, ( p. 4.

[27] Martin, Luther, A Treatise on Good Works, ( p. 4.

[28] Martin, Luther, A Treatise on Good Works, ( p. 7.

[29] Martin, Luther, ed. Grimm, Harold J., The Freedom of A Christian,

        in Luther’s Works Vol. 31, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971) p. 343.

[30] Martin, Luther, The Freedom of A Christian, in Luther’s Works Vol. 31, p. 346.

[31] Martin, Luther, The Freedom of A Christian, in Luther’s Works Vol. 31, p. 361.

[32] Martin, Luther, The Freedom of A Christian, in Luther’s Works Vol. 31, p. 356.

[33] ’If works are sought after as a means to righteousness, are burdened with this perverse leviathan, and are done under the false impression that through them on is justified, they are made necessary and freedom and faith are destroyed; and this addition to them makes them no longer good but truly damnable works. They are not free, and they blaspheme the grace of God since to justify by faith belongs to the grace of God alone.’

[34] Martin, Luther, The Freedom of A Christian, in Luther’s Works Vol. 31, p. 363.

[35]Martin, Luther, The Freedom of A Christian, in Luther’s Works Vol. 31, p. 372.

[36] Martin, Luther, The Freedom of A Christian, in Luther’s Works Vol. 31, p. 371.

[37] Martin, Luther, The Freedom of A Christian, in Luther’s Works Vol. 31, p. 375.

[38] Martin, Luther, A Treatise on Good Works, ( p. 1.

[39] Martin, Luther, The Freedom of A Christian, in Luther’s Works Vol. 31, p. 367.

[40] Martin, Luther, The Freedom of A Christian, in Luther’s Works Vol. 31, p. 366.

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