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Category: Devotional Writings

How Luther Shared the Creator's Comfort

By Ryan C. MacPherson, Ph.D.

Lutheran Sentinel (Evangelical Lutheran Synod), Jan. 2006.

 

In Luther’s German catechism, Schöpfung is the title of the First Article of the Apostle’s Creed. In our English catechism, it is translated “Creation.” When Luther wrote about God’s work of creation, he emphasized above all that God is loving and merciful to his most special creatures, human beings.

The First Article states quite briefly, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” Luther searched the Scriptures to explain what the Church confesses with these words. His catechism provided this summary:

I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still preserves them; that He richly and daily provides me with food and clothing, home and family, property and goods, and all that I need to support this body and life; that He protects me from all danger, guards and keeps me from all evil; and all this purely out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me; for all which I am in duty bound to thank and praise, to serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.

Luther’s summary of the Bible’s doctrine of creation is rich in meaning. For now, three phrases will be emphasized.

 

“and still preserves them”

The Bible teaches that God the Creator keeps Himself close to us. Some religions speak of a deity who formed the universe and then backed away; not so for God the Creator. One of God’s names is “Immanuel,” a Hebrew expression meaning “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). He remains close enough to number the hairs on our head as He preserves us, body and soul (Matthew 10:30). The Bible tenderly invites, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). If our Creator ever seems like a distant and uncaring deity, it is only because we have pushed the true God out of our hearts.

 

“He richly and daily provides”

God the Creator provides for us richly. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17). He gives us good and perfect gifts, sustaining our life that He created. As the Psalmist celebrates, “The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food at the proper time” (Psalm 145:15).

God the Creator supplies our needs daily. Jesus instructs us to pray “Give us this day our daily bread” so that we remember God’s blessings each day (Matthew 6:11). On the third day of creation He made the sun as a source of light for the earth (Genesis 1:14–19). Every morning since then, God has caused the sun to rise (Matthew 5:45), providing our daily needs of light and warmth.

 

“purely out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me”

Our Creator does a lot for us, every single day. But why? It certainly is not because we have asked for it, for God blesses us even on the days that we neglect to ask Him. (When was the last time you prayed for a sunrise?) As Luther noted regarding the Fourth Petition, “God certainly gives daily bread without our prayer, even to all the wicked.”

Even to all the wicked? Let the question be asked more honestly: Even to me? We dare not exclude ourselves from the Holy Spirit’s teaching, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Humbly, we confess with Joseph to our Creator, “I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness You have shown Your servant” (Genesis 32:10). Being sinners who constantly fail to appreciate our Creator’s love, not one of us deserves daily bread, sunlight, or any good gift.

Thankfully, we know that God loves us and provides for all our needs, temporal and eternal. Just as God lovingly created Adam and Eve “in His own image” (Genesis 1:27) so He also makes each of us “a new creation in Christ Jesus” (2 Corinthians 5:17). God creates us anew in Christ “not because of righteous things we have done, but because of His mercy” (Titus 3:5). If this new creation depended upon us, we would be left to despair because we know we have not lived up to God’s standard. But salvation comes from God, who is faithful to complete His work. This gospel comfort is at the heart of the Bible’s doctrines of both creation and redemption because our gracious God is as much our Creator as He is our Redeemer.

Gospel comfort from God the Creator—that’s what Schöpfung meant in Luther’s German catechism. “Creation,” the translation in our English catechism, means far more than “against evolution.” The Christian doctrine of creation is first and foremost a positive proclamation of God’s love for all people. Let us never be ashamed to confess that God is our Creator.