I honestly can’t remember exactly what else I said to the young waiter who asked me the question “Why are you a Lutheran?” But I know I either said, or wish I’d said this:
One of the other reasons I am a Lutheran is that the Lutheran understanding of God’s Word is the most biblical of any of the theologies about God’s Word in the Christian Church. Luther understood that by the Word of God, God means first his Son Jesus, who is “the Word made flesh.”
Luther was also led to understand that the Bible is the Word of God because it bears witness to Christ. So the authority of the Bible is a “derived” authority rather than a “given” like the fundamentalists argue, or the Muslims about the Koran. And as our words and conversations bear witness to the Gospel, so Luther claimed that not only preaching, but “the mutual consolation (or conversation) of brothers and sisters in Christ” is also a manifestation of God’s Word.
Furthermore, the Word of God is a “living Word.” That means it does something; it creates effects. My professor described the difference between talking “about” love with someone, which can be done with almost anyone–and telling someone “I love you.” The former is simply a word that is descriptive in its nature and “costs” neither the speaker nor the hearer anything. The latter word is alive; by its very nature it evokes or creates a response; whether joy, confusion, disgust, or disappointment.
Luther also spoke about God’s living Word functioning as law or gospel. When we hear God’s Word as law it speaks to us about how we are to live, in such a way that we know we are sinners. When we hear God’s Word functioning as gospel, it raises us up and gives us hope and new life.
“Your sins are forgiven” is a living Word of God. So is “Jesus died for sinners.” To hear this sort of Word and know we are sinners is to know the Law. To hear that we are forgiven is to know the Gospel.
Next time I’ll say something about “vocation.”