It’s instructive to see how Luther moved from tolerance to dogma as his power and certainty grew. One comes across many contradictions along the way and sees that his teaching is not to be easily understood.
He proclaimed freedom of conscience in matters of faith, and the right of every individual to interpret the scriptures, and then repudiated this when, as a result of such policy, many sects arose. Then he instituted and enforced a new dogma to insure unity.
He opposed most violently and successfully the distinction between priest and layman, to then later on preserve or create a priesthood in the Lutheran church.
He proclaimed the integrity of the secular order and then supported the princes in their struggle against the supreme secular head.
He stated that the commands of law have no divine quality, and yet promised that even heavenly rewards would follow on their observance.
He acknowledged that the princes are immoral and unreliable, yet put in their hands, unreservedly, the material and spiritual welfare of the people.
He opposed and accepted usury.
He did away with sacraments if they were not expressly enjoined by Holy Scripture, but retained the sacrament of infant baptism on the basis that Scripture says nothing against it.
He argued that it was only the faith of the participant that made a sacrament efficacious, to then declare that the faith of the assembled congregation makes the sacrament of baptism efficacious for the infant.
He argued that the Jews should be forgiven for keeping their own creed under the fools of the “Romish Church,” and advised dealing kindly with them in order to win them, but later hurled the greatest invectives against them and called for the sternest judgments and measures against them.
He claimed Scripture to be the sole and final authority in matters of faith, thereby dethroning the pope, yet stated that his doctrine could not be judged by anyone, even by the angels, and that anybody that did not receive his doctrine could not be saved.
Luther’s apologists have had to advance excuses for these inconsistencies for centuries, while his enemies eagerly point them out. But there is no revelation outside of having the commandments of Christ and keeping them.1 The commission of the apostles was to make disciples, baptize them, and teach them to keep everything they had been commanded by Christ.2 All those who were devoted to that teaching were together and shared all things in common.3 There is no revelation apart from that life. Untaught people do not have these commandments. Hence untaught people do not live the life that comes as a result of keeping the commandments. Untaught, unstable and unprincipled people twist the Scriptures to their own destruction.4