Kolb, Robert & Charles P. Arand. The Genius of Luther’s Theology: A Wittenberg Way of Thinking for the Contemporary Church. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008.
Chapter 2 “The Core of Human Identity” pp. 33-52.
Christian culture leading up to the Reformation held a strong emphasis on God as the judge. The only hope provided was a lifelong habit of good works (Kolb & Arand 2008, 34). The prospect of Christ’s judgment was terrifying to consciences. Luther’s understanding of God’s righteousness which would call down judgment was not unusual (Kolb & Arand 2008, 35). His breakthrough, then, was in the realization that the righteousness of the just in Romans 1:17 was God’s righteousness given to the Christian (Kolb & Arand 2008, 36). Being in Christ, then, is to know that God has created us and sustains us by his mercy (Kolb & Arand 2008, 38). God’s judgment results in death, but it is the death of Jesus who takes our sin, giving us all the benefits of his perfect trust in the Father (Kolb & arand 2008, 40). The mercy of God in Christ is delivered to people through the Word of God, something outside of us, as opposed to some internal impression, as the more radical Reformation taught (Kolb & Arand 2008, 41). God’s creative word makes things happen (Kolb & Arand 2008, 42). From this understanding, Luther moved to a very sacramental view of baptism and communion, not as a sign of some reality located elsewhere, but as a vivid and active event (Kolb & Arand 2008, 44). It is necessary still to see the source of confidence. Kolb and Arand note that Luther and Melanchthon viewed the promise of God as demanding a response of faith. This is the way God’s promise is activated in the Christian, completing the circuit of redemption (Kolb & Arand 2008, 45). This faith is not our work but resides in us due to the promise of God. The righteousness of God then is able to dwell in the believer through faith which is itself a gift of God. This redeems the relationship. Though the believer remains a sinner, he is also a saint in God’s eyes (Kolb & Arand 2008, 49). He can gain confidence in his redemption by continuing to look to God’s promise (Kolb & Arand 2008, 50).