Luther’s Seal: A Trademark of Luther’s Theology

I’ve been paging through a new book from Concordia Publishing House, Lutheranism 101. It’s a light-hearted yet informative look at all the ins and outs of Lutheranism. I came across a description of “the most recognized symbol for Luthernaism” — Luther’s seal. I guess this is proof positive that I don’t know much about Lutheranism since I never even knew Martin Luther had a seal.

Anyways, the explanation that Luther gives for his seal is interesting and I thought my readers would find it intriguing as well. So here is an excerpt from Lutheranism 101 about Luther’s Seal. The seal is pictured on the cover of this book in the image above.

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Martin Luther’s seal is easily the most recognized symbol for Lutheranism, and for good reason. In Luther’s day it was common practice for prominent members of the community to have a personal seal or coat of arms. The symbolism on the seal would tell others something about the person, what they did or believed. Through his bold preaching and teaching about the Word of God, Martin Luther had become well-known. So it was that while Luther was at Coburg Castle in 1530, Duke John Frederick, the Electoral Prince of Saxony, made an order for the creation of a seal that was meant to express Luther’s theology. Luther’s seal is rich with symbols and color. In a letter to a friend, Luther explained the symbolism of his seal.

“Grace and peace in Christ! Honorable, kind, gentleman and friend,

Since you are keen to know whether or not your example of my seal hit the mark, let me share with you in a friendly way some of my preliminary thoughts regarding the elements of my seal that I want to fashion as a kind of trademark for my theology.

The first element should be a cross, black within the heart. That is the color that it should naturally have, by which I can remind myself that faith in the Crucified One makes us into saved people. One becomes justified according to what one believes in the heart.

Now, about why it is a black cross, it should put the flesh to death; it should hurt. But leave the heart in its proper color [red]. This is because through the cross, the human nature does not decay. The cross does not kill off the human nature altogether; rather, it preserves the human nature in new life. The just person shall live by faith, but only by faith in the Crucified One.

But this heart should be located in the middle of a white rose to show that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace. It immediately sets [the believer] into the midst of a white, joyful rose, not like the peace and joy that the world offers. That is why the rose should be white, not red. White is the color of the spirits and all angels.

This rose is set within a sky-colored field, because this joy that is comprehended in spirit and faith, this joy that is now grasped in hope but not yet openly revealed, is the beginning of the heavenly joy to come.

And around this field is a golden ring, because salvation in heaven endures forever; it has no end. It is more precious than all other kinds of joy and wealth, just as gold is the most noble, most precious of all ores.

May Christ our dear Lord be with your spirit, even unto that heavenly life to come. Amen! [See Luther's Works. American Edition volume 49:356-359]

–from Lutheranism 101, (Concordia Publishing House), pg. 20-21

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Pick up a copy of Lutheranism 101 from the following online retailers: Christianbook.com, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, or direct from Concordia.

Disclaimer: This book was provided by Concordia Publishing House for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.

~ Originally posted at Fundamentally Reformed