Sin, Believe, Rejoice, Pray Boldly
What follows is the infamous Luther “sin boldly” quote. Several notes: (1) It is found in a letter not a theological treatise. (2) It is intentionally hyperbolic. “Hyperbolic” does not mean untrue; Jesus used hyperbole, most notably in the Sermon on the Mount. (3) Luther was addressing issues of the weak conscience. In a sense, he is saying, “If God can forgive the worst things, he can forgive the lesser (if they are sins at all), so quit tormenting yourself. All that said, it remains a powerful statement of justification through the forgiveness of all sins and the imputation of a wholly alien righteousness.
If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness, but, as Peter says, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. It is enough that by the riches of God’s glory we have come to know the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly—you too are a mighty sinner. (Weimar ed. vol. 2, p. 371; Letters I, "Luther's Works," American Ed., Vol 48. p. 281- 282)