The Seeds of Lutheran Antinomianism

These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. – Deuteronomy 6:6


Martin Luther’s comment on the First Commandment of God’s Law, and on Deuteronomy 6:6 specifically, is a whopper. It’s also confusion begetting even more confusion. Read it carefully and take note of the seed of antinomianism, an anti-law position, which has no Scriptural warrant:

“He (Moses) wants you to know that the First Commandment is the measure and yardstick of all others, to which they are to yield and give obedience. Therefore, if it is for the sake of faith and charity, you may kill, in violation of the Fifth Commandment, just as Abraham killed the kings (Gen. 14:15) and King Ahab sinned because he did not kill the King of Syria (I Kings 20:34 ff.). Similar is the case of theft, ambush, and trickery against the enemies of God; you may take spoils, goods, wives, daughters, sons and servants of enemies. So you should hate father and mother that you may love the Lord (Luke 14:26). In short, where anything will be against faith and love, there you shall not know that anything else is commanded by either God or man. Where it is for faith and love, however, you shall know that everything is commanded in all cases and everywhere. For the statement stands: “These words shall be in your heart”; there they shall rule. Furthermore, unless they are also in the heart, certainly no one will understand or follow this epieikeia, or ever employ laws successfully, safely, or legally. Therefore Paul says also in I Timothy 1:9, that “the Law is not set up for the righteous,” for the reason that the fulfilling of the Law is love from a good heart and from faith that is not feigned (I Tim. 1:5), which uses law lawfully when it has no laws and has all laws – no laws, because none bind unless they serve faith and love; all, because all bind when they serve faith and love.

Therefore this is Moses’ meaning there: If you desire to understand the First Commandment correctly and truly not to have other gods, act so that you believe and love one god, deny yourself, receive everything by grace, and do everything gratefully.”

(Jaraslov Pelikan, Daniel Poellot, eds., Luther’s Works, vol. 9, Lectures on Deuteronomy (St. Louis: Concordia, 1960), p. 70.)