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Luther: ‘the souls of men and women were a charge which came upon him daily’

I recently came across this comment from Luther scholar, Gordon Rupp. It contains a valuable challenge to any who are involved in biblical study and pastoral ministry.

“In the National Gallery there is a Flemish landscape. The artist, Patinir, had never seen real mountains, and he practiced with shards of rock which jut grotesquely from the level plain. Erasmus’s handling of the controversy was a little like that. His gospel was smooth and pleasantly even as his native Holland. When compared with Luther’s grim expositions of the tempted Christian … his “Enchiridion” is an arm-chair study of the Christian warfare. …

“He did not understand the great heights and depth of the Christian faith: What it meant, with Luther and Augustine, to peer steeply down into the nauseating “abyss of the human conscience,” with Luther and Bunyan to tremble in the Valley of Humiliation, and to weep upon the Delectable Mountains at the brave prospect of distant Zion. It cuts deeply between the two men that while Erasmus never exercised spiritual direction, never had cure of souls, for Luther the souls of men and women were a charge which came upon him daily ….”

-          Gordon Rupp, The Righteousness of God: Luther Studies (Hodder & Stoughton, 1953), 284-85.

We won’t understand Scripture well while peering in from the outside. Only when submerged in the travail of our own souls and burdened with the care of the souls of others will we truly know God and understand His word. Peering calmly from the outside will lead to the deadening deliberation of details which miss the point of God in Christ reconciling condemned souls, adopting them and holding them fast- truths which anchor the soul and allow us to rejoice exceedingly even in a fallen world. Let us be those who wade in.

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