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18 April, 2007 / theexpositor

Martin Luther on Spiritual Disciplines

Source: Apprising Ministries 

From Tabletalk, 1626 AD:

Idolatry is all manner of seeming holiness and worshipping, let these counterfeit spiritualities shine outwardly as glorious and fair as they may; in a word, all manner of devotion in those that we would serve God without Christ the Mediator, his Word and command. In popedom it was held a work of the greatest sanctity for the monks to sit in their cells and meditate of God, [solitude] and of his wonderful works; to be kindled with zeal, kneeling on their knees, praying, and having their imaginary contemplations of celestial objects, with such supposed devotion, that they wept for joy. In these their conceits, they banished all desires and thoughts of women, and what else is temporal and evanescent. They seemed to meditate only of God, and of his wonderful works.

Yet all these seeming holy actions of devotion, which the wit and wisdom of man holds to be angelical sanctity, are nothing else but works of the flesh. All manner of religion, where people serve God without his Word and command, is simply idolatry, and the more holy and spiritual such a religion seems, the more hurtful and venomous it is; for it leads people away from the faith of Christ, and makes them rely and depend upon their own strength, works, and righteousness. In like manner, all kinds of orders of monks, fasts, prayers, hairy shirts, the austerities of the Capuchins, who in popedome are held to be the most holy of all, are mere works of the flesh; for the monks hold they are holy, and shall be saved, not through Christ, whom they view as a severe and angry judge, but through the rules of their order.


One Comment

  1. Leslie / Nov 10 2007 21 43

    Initially I wanted to note that these were not the direct writings of Luther, who had passed away some years earlier, but were notes “gathered from the mouth of Luther, by his friends and disciples” and assembled for Tabletalk (

    Luther indicated his concern around spiritual disciplines was the motive of the practices. He was in the midst of turmoil given the Catholic church had distorted the disciplines to become a means to salvation rather than their use in, through, and under salvation through God’s mercy and grace in Christ. We cannot be trapped into thinking that because the church at the time had errant theology that all spiritual disciplines be thrown out for good! They are cited and expected of believers in scripture and Jesus himself practiced them. Having said that, we must practice them in a healthy and God-centered way as per Biblical direction. Proper doctrine must prevail so that no one is confused – they are NOT works unto salvation or for forgiveness – salvation is by God’s mercy and grace extended to believers, through Christ’s death and resurrection – it is on that I put my hope… humbly and with thanks!

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