The Second Martin
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
Five hundred years ago today, the Second Martin was born. Martin Chemnitz was born on November 9, 1522 in Treunbrietzen, Germany and baptized two days later on the Feast of St. Martin of Tours and the same day as the first Martin, 39 years earlier. The saying, “If it had not been for the Second Martin, the first Martin would not have endured” is a testament to Martin Chemnitz’s role in the publication of the Book of Concord and his faithfulness to the Scriptures and preservation of Luther’s legacy in the years after his death. Eugene F. Klug writes of Chemnitz, “He, more than any other constitutes the bridge and fills the gap between Luther and the third generation of Lutherans, chiefly the prolific and influential dogmaticians of the seventeenth century. This is not to say that he was the single, solitary figure of any importance in the generation following Luther. But it is to claim that Chemnitz, as no other, built the causeway that links the Reformation period with the seventeenth century, both in theological content and also theological method. Though his office in the church was pastoral and administrative rather academic, it is no exaggeration to state that he was without peer in breadth, depth, and contribution theologically.”
Chemnitz’s influence within Lutheranism through these last five millenia has shaped our teaching on Christology, Scripture, justification, and the Lord’s Supper in particular. Chemnitz’s writing was thorough and, at times, dense, but he was still able to apply the clear Scriptural teachings to the lives of God’s people. J.A.O. Preus Jr. wrote of him, “He was more than a theologian. He was a pastor.”
The best place for someone to read Martin Chemnitz is to start with the Formula of Concord, the last of the Lutheran Confessions, contained in the Book of Concord. Solid Declaration, Article V of the Formula states, “The distinction between law and gospel is a particularly glorious light. It serves to divide God’s Word properly and to explain correctly and make understandable the writings of the holy prophets and apostles. Therefore, we must diligently preserve this distinction, so as not to mix these two teachings together and make the gospel into a law. For this obscures the merit of Christ and robs troubled consciences of the comfort that they otherwise have in the gospel when it is preached clearly and purely.” (Kolb-Wengert, p.581)
Prayer – O Lord God, heavenly Father, pour out Your Holy Spirit on your faithful people, keep them steadfast in Your grace and truth, protect and comfort them in all temptations, defend them against all enemies of Your Word and bestow on Christ’s Church Militant Your saving peace; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan