A Jagged Contention: Two Kinds of Sinners

In the doctrine of the antinomians there was this statement: “If somebody were an adulterer, provided only that he believed, he would have a gracious God.” But what kind of church will it be, I ask, in which so awful a statement is heard? A distinction is necessary, and it should be taught that adulterers or sinners are of two kinds: some who become aware of their adultery or sin to such an extent that they shudder with their whole heart and begin to repent earnestly, and not only feel sorry for what they have done but also sincerely desire and endeavor never again to commit anything like it. These are not smug in their sin; they are thoroughly frightened, and they dread God’s wrath. If they take hold of the Word of the Gospel and trust in the mercy of God for Christ’s sake, they are saved and have forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ.

Even though the others, whether adulterers of sinners, are unable to excuse their sin, they nevertheless feel no sorrow about it. On the contrary, they are glad that they have achieved their desire. They look for opportunities to commit sins and smugly indulge in them. Because these people do not have the Holy Spirit, they cannot believe; and he who preaches to such people bout faith deceives them.

– Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 3-Lectures on Genesis, chapters 15-20, pgs. 223-224.


Where do we see the failure to distinguish between these two kinds of sinners in the church today? What dangers arise when such a distinction is not made?