Dear Members and Friends of our ELS:
We are concluding a year of commemorating the gifts God has passed down to us from the Lutheran Reformation. The 500th should not close without drawing attention to “the other Martin.” Martin Chemnitz (1522-1586) played a key role in preserving what we today know and confess as solid Lutheran doctrine.
Chemnitz is known mostly for serving as the chief author of the Formula of Concord (1577), but he contributed greatly in other ways. Just to cite a few:
- His comprehensive work in 1570, The Two Natures in Christ, sets forth the scriptural teaching of the incarnation of our Lord and how it must be upheld for us sinners to have the free gift of salvation. Chemnitz states:
It is proper, therefore, for God to cleanse and destroy sin (Is, 43:25), but Scripture clearly attributes this action not only to the person of the incarnate Christ according to the deity, but also to His blood according to the humanity.
(the J.A.O. Preus translation, p. 261)
- Another offering from his pen, The Lord’s Supper (1570), contains the orthodox arguments for the Real Presence of Christ’s body and blood under the bread and wine in the Sacrament of the Altar. On the word “is” in our Lord’s words of institution, he notes:
But if I say that the divine will does not wish that we understand the words of the Supper in their proper and natural sense, then I fear that I might be accusing the Son of God in His last will and testament of lying.
(the J.A.O. Preus translation, p. 207)
- Finally, we mention Chemnitz’s commentary on Melanchthon’s Loci communes (treatise on doctrine). On the topic of Justification, he demonstrates how Law and Gospel apply to each of us sinners very personally:
It is manifest that many do not persevere but fall from grace. But this is not because God does not will that believers, whom he at one time received into grace, should persevere unto the end, but it comes from the fact that many drive out the Holy Spirit and trample their faith underfoot.
And looking at the traps of the devil, the evil of the flesh, and the frightful examples of those who have lapsed, we ought to disintegrate with fear and trembling for our salvation. But when we look at the will of God revealed in the Word, and at Christ the Mediator, we can and must declare: “Who shall separate us?” “No one shall snatch them out of my hand.” Therefore, as it pertains to God, the perseverance of the godly is sure; and because it has been revealed in the Word, faith must believe this.
(the J.A.O. Preus translation, p. 123)
God be praised for the faithful and dedicated service of both Martin #1 and Martin #2! What a legacy they have left under the grace of the Almighty!
Rev. John A. Moldstad, ELS President