Fortress Press

Paragon of Excellence: Luther's Sermons on 1 Peter

Paragon of Excellence

Luther's Sermons on 1 Peter

Dennis Ngien (Author), Robert Kolb (Foreword by)


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Scholars routinely describe how Martin Luther prioritized the books of the New Testament that he believed most truly represented the gospel, the Living Word of Jesus Christ. Luther adored the Gospel of John and the Pauline epistles. Less well known is the admiration he had for the pastoral epistle of 1 Peter. Dennis Ngien's careful explication brings 1 Peter into the light of Lutheran biblical scholarship, demonstrating its standing for Luther alongside the Gospel of John and the Pauline epistles as the "true kernel and marrow of all books."

Ngien rejects caricatured portrayals of Peter disappearing halfway through the book of Acts. Instead, Ngien demonstrates that, for Luther, Peter stands alongside John and Paul as a master of the majestic doctrine of justification. Luther variously describes 1 Peter as "the paragon of excellence" and "the genuine and pure gospel." Ngien uses the epistle's five chapters as thematic frames for describing the depth and breadth of regard Luther had for Peter.

Indeed, for Ngien the sermons on 1 Peter present the most comprehensive early expression of Luther's mature thought and reflect the reformer's vocational maturation as "care-taker of the soul." Proclaiming Christ as gift and example, 1 Peter preached "genuinely evangelical words" that helped Luther understand his call as a theologian and, more importantly, as a minister.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506488189
  • eBook ISBN 9781506488196
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5
  • Pages 241
  • Publication Date September 26, 2023


Martin Luther's career as a Reformer has often overshadowed his incisive work as a biblical theologian. This fresh study of his sermons on 1 Peter by Professor Ngien helps to correct that and reveals Luther the exegete at his best. In short, this is a superb examination of Luther's evangelical reflection on the Petrine text.

Dr. Michael A. G. Azad Haykin, chair and professor of church history, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

For the great Reformer, 1 Peter was up there with Paul's main letters and John's Gospel (so, his NT prefaces). Thoroughly versed in the best scholarship, and with a thematic approach that moves through the epistle's concerns from pure doctrine to "political theology" (which is what Luther himself was trying to do--i.e., present Christian teaching in an ordered way), this book both helps and invites us to read Luther for himself--on an unfashionable but central biblical book. Ngien begins and ends with the Lutheran insistence that gospel words give life: this seems quite a claim until one remembers that the cross is a passive "work." This book too is that kind of work that is self-effacing, as it allows Luther and the preaching of the cross to speak loud and clear.

Dr. Mark Warwick Elliott, professor of biblical and historical theology, University of the Highlands and Islands, and Professorial Fellow, Wycliffe College, Toronto

Dennis Ngien makes Luther's sermons on 1 Peter come alive for us as a catechism or teaching that links our everyday lives to Luther's major theological themes (e.g., the performative power of God's Word, justifying faith and works of love, and Christ as gift and example). I recommend this book for anyone who seeks to understand how Luther's hermeneutic principle, the theology of the cross, makes a difference for all aspects of our lives--at home, in the workplace and politics, and in the church.

Dr. Lois Malcolm, Olin and Amanda Fjelstad Reigstad Chair of Systematic Theology, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota

Luther's engagement with Paul has been widely researched, but little attention has been given to the Reformer's reception of 1 Peter. With mastery of Luther's texts and a discerning use of a wide range of secondary resources, Dennis Ngien has provided readers with an accessible and robust guide to Luther's understanding of faith and love as the essential shape of 1 Peter. Ngien elucidates Luther's use of this epistle to provide consolation and hope to Christians in times of suffering, as well as strengthening them in their callings in the world. I look forward to using this book in the classroom and beyond.

Rev. Dr. John T. Pless, assistant professor of pastoral ministry and missions, Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana

Before anything else, Luther was a preacher. Dennis Ngien's fine, detailed, and sympathetic study of Luther's sermons on 1 Peter, preached in 1522 as his reforming theology came to its mature form, offers us a rich survey of the key themes of these sermons. This careful and illuminating study from a scholar who knows his field well allows these sermons to speak their wisdom again, outlining a wide-ranging and dramatic view of the Christian life which is at the same time personal, theological, and deeply practical.

Bishop Graham Tomlin, director of the Centre for Cultural Witness, Lambeth Palace, London

If 1 Peter is just as undeservedly underestimated an epistle in the Bible as Luther's sermons on it are within Reformation scholarship, then this book has much to offer to change that shortcoming: a masterful exposition on six major themes by a theologian deeply at home in Luther's theology and Luther scholarship, demonstrating the power and topicality of the Reformer's exegesis of 1 Peter in the light of perennial challenges that Christians face in faith, church, and domestic and civil life.

Dennis Ngien admirably succeeds in showing how Luther's deep theological convictions regarding the primacy of grace over works, which his sermons on 1 Peter present in catechetical and orderly fashion, lead to a wellspring of pastoral wisdom that has much to offer to believers of our time.

Dr. Dr. habil. Bernd Wannenwetsch, professor of systematic theology and ethics, FTH Giessen (Germany), and author of Political Worship (Oxford University Press, 2004) and (with Brian Brock) of two volumes of Theological Commentary on 1 Corinthians, titled The Malady of the Christian Body (W&S, 2016) and The Therapy of the Christian Body (W&S, 2018)

Once again, Dennis Ngien has persuasively shown that the pastor Luther had matured in his evangelical theology by reading, preaching, and living out the word of God. Indeed, Ngien's careful and thorough study of Luther's sermons on 1 Peter, delivered in 1521 and 1522, helps us to see how Luther translated biblical teaching into primary vocational guidance for everyday Christians.

Dr. Aihe (Luke) Zheng, academic dean, International Chinese Biblical Seminary in Europe