I was recently reading in volume five of the works of Martin Luther (A.J. Holman Company Edition, copyright 1931) and came across an exciting section. I’ve posted before about the three God-ordained institutions on earth here. These categories were tremendously helpful to learn a couple of years ago and have helped me think more biblically and clearly about family matters, politics, economics, ecclesiology and other matters.
Well, come to find out, Martin Luther already knew about these categories all the way back in history during the Reformation. Go figure. 🙂 I was excited to read the following on pages 298 and 299 of this volume from Luther:
The first government is that of the house, out of which come people. The second is the ruling of the city, that is, lands, people, princes, and lords, which we call worldly government. There everything is given, – children, property, money, beasts, etc. The house must build this; the city must guard, protect, and defend it. Then comes the third thing, God’s own house and city, that is, the Church which must have people from the house and protection and defense from the city.
These are the three hierarchies ordained by God, and we need no more; indeed we have enough and more than enough to do in living aright and resisting the devil in these three. Look only at the house and see what is to do there. There are parents and house rulers to obey; there are children to servants to support, train, govern, and care for in a godly way. We would have enough to do to keep the law of the home, even if there nothing else to do. Then the city, that is, the worldly government, also gives us enough to do, if we are, on the one hand, to be faithful in our obedience and, on the other, to judge, protect, and further the good of our subjects, lands and people. The devil keeps us busy enough, and with him God has given us the sweat of our brows and plenty of thorns and thistles, so that in these two kinds of law we have a rich abundance of things to learn, to live, to do, and to endure. Then there is, after these, the third kind of law and government. If the Holy Ghost rules[the church], Christ calls it a comfortable, sweet, easy burden; if not, it is not only heavy, sour, and terrible, but it is also impossible as Paul calls it in Romans 8:3 Impossible legis, and says in another place, “The letter killeth.”
Isn’t it exciting when you pick up something written in the 1600’s and find out people back then, even church leaders, were thinking (and writing!) about the same things you are discovering and learning about now? We surely stand in a long train of faithful men who have, by God’s preserving power, passed down lasting truth to each generation. I’m thankful I get to ride along in this train.