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The Authority of Humans

August 29, 2019
By Martin Luther

"Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed."

GENESIS 9:6

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The Authority of Humans

Here we have the source from which stem all civil law and the law of nations. If God grants to man power over life and death, surely He also grants power over what is less, such as property, the home, wife, children, servants, and fields. All these God wants to be subject to the power of certain human beings, in order that they may punish the guilty. In this connection the following difference must be maintained between the authority of God and that of human beings: even if the world should be unable to bring a charge against us and we should be guiltless before the world, God still has the power to kill us. For sin, with which we were born, makes us all guilty before God. But human beings have the power to kill only when we are guilty before the world and when the crime has been established. For this reason courts have been established and a definite method of procedure has been prescribed. . .. Therefore we must take careful note of this passage, in which God establishes government, to render judgment not only about matters involving life but also about matters less important than life. Thus a government should punish the disobedience of children, theft, adultery, and perjury. In short, it should punish all sins forbidden in the Second Table [Exodus 20:12-17]. For He who allows judgment in matters involving life also permits judgment in less important matters.

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