Rightly Handling the Word of Truth

I first came upon Luther for the Busy Man when I was a pre-seminary student at Texas Lutheran College and it quickly became a staple in my devotional life. With short excerpts from the vast corpus of Luther’s writings arranged according to the Church Year and accompanied by a biblical text and short prayer, Luther for the Busy Man is perfect for family devotions or individual readers. This was the intention of the original compiler, the sainted Dr. P.D. Pahl who served as a professor of church history at Luther Seminary in Adelaide, Australia. 

The German Luther scholar Oswald Bayer has described Luther’s understanding of the Bible as “the breathing space of the Holy Spirit.” The Scriptures are the inspired Word of God; they continue to be the place where the Holy Spirit is at work breathing into us the forgiveness of sins, the promise of eternal life, and strength for perseverance in our various callings. Luther lived in the biblical Word and he knew that from it we hear the voice of our Good Shepherd. He recognized that the Scriptures deliver Christ Jesus to us and so we are eagerly to read, hear, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, to borrow the language of an old prayer. 

Preachers will surely find in this volume rich promptings from the Reformer that will invite a deeper reflection on the scriptural texts that they proclaim from the pulpit throughout the year. No doubt this will make for most robust preaching of God’s commands and promises. But Luther for the Busy Man is not primarily for pastors and theologians; it is for ordinary Christians who seek to read and meditate on the Scriptures and on the basis of God’s Word call upon the name of their Father in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. Such laity are often looking for books or guides that will help them in this endeavor. While there are hundreds of books that fall under the heading of “devotional reading,” not all are of equal value. Unfortunately some tell us more about the writer and his or beliefs than they do of Christ. This is not the case with Luther. Whether in his unfolding of the prophecies of Advent, his retelling of the Christmas story, his unpacking of the Lord’s miracles, his holding up the death of Christ for our redemption, or his recounting of Easter’s empty tomb, Luther is always letting God’s Word have free course delivering the Savior who is for you.   

The American Luther scholar Robert Kolb observes “Luther practiced the delivery of the presence, power, and promise of God the Holy Spirit placed in the Bible’s human words and continued to speak to Christians through preachers, professors, and – Luther came to believe –all baptized Christians as priests, charged with meditating God’s Word to others.”1 These devotional readings are a living testimony to Luther’s skill as a workman who rightly handled the word of truth (see 2 Tim. 15) setting forth the good news that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone whom we have through Scripture alone. It is this message that both the church and the world so desperately need in this gray and latter days. May the Lord have good use of this reprint of Luther for the Busy Man that this saving message might edify His holy people and extend the reach of His good and gracious kingdom. 

-John T. Pless, M.Div.; D. Litt. 
 Concordia Theological Seminary 
 Fort Wayne, Indiana 

1 Robert Kolb, Martin Luther and the Enduring Word of God (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2016), 467-468.