Grit, Grace, and the Gospel: The Hammer of God

Last year, Justin Taylor introduced me to the Bo Giertz’ book, The Hammer of GodIt’s the fictional stories of three Lutheran ministers across three different time periods, coming to a true saving knowledge of Christ as the reality of the gospel hammers apart the hardness of their hearts.  It shows their struggle and growth to live by grace amidst the false gospels of their day, even as they try to lead confessing believers through the nitty-gritty trials of life so that they too might find life and peace through God’s grace. And it’s powerful.

I would recommend it be read by every Christian, but especially pastors. Here are a few of my favorite quotes.

[At the bedside of a dying man] Now the confession of sins was finished. In the words of the liturgy, Savonius asked, “Believest thou that God hath given his ordained servants authority in his church through his holy Word to forgive sins, and that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?”

“Yes,” answered Johannes, so firmly and so unaffectedly, that Savonius now for the first time understood that this was no formal question read from a book, but a vital question, one that involved the realities of life and death.


The next question came from the housewife in the home where they were guests. “How great shall our sorrow over sin be, if it is to be sincere?”

“So great that one is willing to give up the sin,” answered Linder promptly. “Crocodile tears mean nothing in heaven. But he who wants to be freed from the sin has the true sorrow, even though the heart feels as hard as a stick.”


“Henrik, we must start again from the beginning. We have thundered like the storm, we have bombarded with the heaviest mortars of God’s law in an attempt to break down the walls of sin. And that was surely right. I still load my gun with the best powder when I aim at unrepentance. But we had almost forgotten to let the sunshine of the gospel shine through the clouds. Our method has been to destroy all carnal security by our volleys, but we have left it to the souls to build something new with their own resolutions and their own honest attempts at amending their lives. In that way, Henrik, it is never finished. We have not become finished ourselves. . . .  Now I have instead begun to preach about that which is finished, about that which was built on Calvary and which is a safe fortress to come to when the thunder rolls over our sinful heads. And now I always apportion the Word of God in three directions, not only to the self-satisfied and the believers as I did formerly, but also to the awakened, the anxious, the heavy-laden, and to the poor in spirit. And I find strength each day for my own poor heart at the fount of redemption.”


“I kept thinking that everything depended on what we should do, for when I saw so little of true repentance and victory over sin, helplessness crept into my heart. I counted and summed up all that they did, and not the smallest percentage of the debt was paid. But now I see that which is done, and I see that the whole debt is paid. Now, therefore, I go about my duties as might a prison warden who carries in his pocket a letter of pardon for all his criminals. Do you wonder that I am happy? Now I see everything in the sun’s light. If God has done so much already, surely there is hope for what remains.”


“Three of the worst despisers of grace among my people have had a blessed soul experience this spring. It was not the law that did it. So long as the thunder rolled, they simply crawled deeper down in their holes. But when the sun began to shine, they lifted up their heads, and our Lord laid hold on them.”


Jesus only, the foundation of faith, and man sees nothing else, believes in nothing else, builds his hope on nothing else when through the awakening he has had his eyes opened to see his state of corruption and condemnation. It is only through the gospel that a man can come to faith, for the gospel deals with Jesus, and with Jesus only. If therefore there be any doctrine that does not deal with Jesus, let is deal with whatever experience or glory it may, it is not the gospel. . . .  Jesus only as the ground of our justification-that was the next hammer blow. Just as a man, when faith awakens, ceases to look at himself and sees nothing but Jesus only, so God also looks not upon the man who believes nor does he see his indwelling corruption and his sins, for they are atoned for by Jesus. . . .  Sin always remains, yet is always atoned for!


“Feel, feel! That is just what is wrong. Don’t you believe the Bible is God’s Word just as truly, no matter how you may feel? Don’t you see, Brother, that this won’t do? Here you are with your sore conscience and your awakening by the law, and you are as sensitive to every single threat of that law as a sore tooth to ice water. But since the conscience is dead as clay toward all the gospel promises, you feel nothing when God’s Word speaks about Jesus, who died for us sinners, and about the righteousness that comes from God and which one may believe in spite of every accusation of one’s conscience. Because you make your feelings your barometer, you pass by the gospel and are held fast in the law. Look in your Bible and see if the passages you have especially marked are not just those that speak of what you shall do. But you have not given half the attention to that which tells what Christ has done through his atonement. . . .  Read God’s Word now as God’s Word, without skipping anything. Underline heavily everything about what our Savior has done for us. And if you like, write `For me’ in the margin. You need this yourself, and it is your duty to preach it to your congregation, as well.”


“If I should choose between the Word and my opinion,” he said, “I will not hesitate a moment in giving the Word first place. The conscience is a weathercock, but the Word is a solid rock.”


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