Luther and Melanchthon on Merit for Works

As an addendum to the earlier post below, Dulles quotes Luther and Melancthon in a footnote in his Josephinum article:

Luther, in his 1535 Commentary on Galatians 3:10, distinguishes between faith in the abstract and concrete, embodied faith. Of the latter he writes: “It is no wonder, then, if merits and rewards are promised to this incarnate faith, such as the faith of Abel, or to faithful works” (Luther’s Works, vol. 26 [St. Louis: Concordia, 1963], 265).

Melanchthon in his Apology for the Augsburg Confession declares: “We teach that good works are meritorious — not for the forgiveness of sins, grace, or justification (for we obtain these only by faith) but for other physical and spiritual rewards in this life and in that which is to come” (Apol. 4:194; Book of Concord [quarto edition] [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1959], 133; cf. 4:367, p. 163). In another edition (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2000), the Book of Concord states: “Since therefore works constitute a kind of fulfillment of the law, they are rightly said to be meritorious, and it is rightly said that a reward is owed to them” (4:358, p. 171).

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6 responses to “Luther and Melanchthon on Merit for Works

  1. Yes, David, and your point is…what exactly?

    • Nothing in particular. Just that language about the “merit” of good works was not completely out of the ball park for Luther and Melanchthon. When did you last teach your folk about this important Confessional Lutheran concept?

  2. Quite recently, as it happens!
    That teaching was never forgotten by the orthodox Lutherans I learned my theology from.
    It was the neo-Lutherans of the 19th C. and after who played it down.

  3. Yes, the question of merit and reward will always be brought up in a discussion of justification with laity who know their Bible – that’s my experience anyway.

    I always remember my dogmatics lecturer in
    seminary saying c.1999 that the discussion leading up to JDDJ and the local discussions had led the Lutherans to rediscover the issue of merit and reward in our own theology. I thought to myself… “rediscover”! How long since you read the confessions or the orthodox Lutherans?

    I’m sure I’ve read the second Dulles article before but give me a week or so to digest them. Remember, I’m pastor of a 500 member parish, so I have a few other pressing things to attend to as well as reading theological papers!