Greatness and Limits of the Common Priesthood in Luther

Summary: I. Prolegomena. II. Luther’s experience of salvation. III. Luther’s theological
framework. IV. Greatness and limits of common priesthood. V. Concluding
remarks.

In the context of 16th century Luther affirmed the radical equality of all believers;
to obtain absolute certainty about one’s eschatological destiny all believers have
‘direct access’ to God the Father in Christ and through the Holy Spirit. This
situation of the believer standing in faith before God’s heavenly throne to hear
the definitive verdict is paradigmatic for Luther’s vision on earthly priesthood.
His theological and existential move touches upon the greatness of common
priesthood; all believers are called at each moment and in the midst of the world
to the highest form of contemplation and responsibility. Yet, at the same time,
Luther put certain limits on the priesthood in the temporal earthly sphere, where
believers cannot be united to Christ and his eternal sacrifice, but instead pray,
give thanks and praise God in Christ.

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