Each year I recommend a handful of Luther’s Works to help readers go deeper into Luther’s corpus and move beyond the famous works in order to dig deeper into some of Luther’s other writings. This year I decided to focus on Paul since he is the apostle who had such a massive influence on Luther’s theology. Here are three volumes I commend to you:
Volume 28 includes Luther’s commentary on 1 Corinthians 7, sermons on 1 Corinthians 15, and lectures on 1 Timothy. The issue of celibacy and marriage was extremely controversial in the 16th century and Luther revolutionized the family by bringing dignity back to the institution of marriage. Nevertheless, he still had to wrestle with how to correctly/biblically understand celibacy. His commentary on 1 Corinthians 7 sheds light on Luther’s developing thought on this issue.
The sermons on 1 Corinthians 15, as you might have guessed, focus on the resurrection of Christ. Luther was struggling with certain physical ailments when he wrote these sermons and one might even see in them his longing for the future resurrection of the body.
Finally, in his lectures on 1 Timothy Luther reveals his thoughts on the office of pastor. More specifically, Luther comments on the responsibility each pastor has to faithfully minister the gospel.
Luther’s lectures on Galatians 1-4 usually get all the attention and for obvious reasons. But we cannot forget his lectures on Galatians 5-6 which only continue his thoughts on justification sola fide. These lectures, however, were delivered much later (1535) than his lectures on Galatians 1-4 (1519). Did this time gap improve Luther’s commentary on Paul now that Luther had come through the heat of controversy and become a seasoned theologian? I’ll let you decide.
If you are going to understand Luther’s conversion, you must read his work on Romans. After all, this is the “place in Paul which was for me truly the gate of Paradise,” Luther recounted. Therefore, his lectures on Romans are no ordinary lectures, but have a certain biographical theme to them. Again, this is a crucial volume to understanding Luther’s doctrine of justification.
Well, that’s it for this year. I’ll be back next year to recommend a bunch more. Until then, keep reading Luther.
Matthew Barrett is Tutor of Systematic Theology and Church History at Oak Hill Theological College in London, as well as the founder and executive editor of Credo Magazine. He is the author of several books, including Salvation by Grace, Owen on the Christian Life, God’s Word Alone: The Authority of Scripture, and Reformation Theology. Currently he is the series editor of The 5 Solas Series with Zondervan. You can read more about Barrett at matthewmbarrett.com.