Usually we speak of the Ten Commandments as the law of God which shows us our sin. Furthermore, we know that only believers can do good works, because without faith nothing is pleasing to God (Heb. 11:6). Good works flow from faith. Nevertheless, when Luther describes the Ten Commandments as the fountainhead of all good works, he is contrasting God-ordained works with works which man makes up. When an unbeliever lives 20 years within the estate of marriage, we should not be afraid to call it holy marriage–as marriage is established by God. Thus, Luther has written, “For to be holy and to be saved are two entirely different things. We are saved through Christ alone; but we become holy both through this faith and through these divine foundations and orders. Even the godless may have much about them that is holy without being saved thereby” (LW, v.37, p.364-365).
This lesson seeks to give some sound ways to speak about the God-instituted estates and the Table of Duties for those who live in these “various holy orders and positions” (Small Catechism). God has established these estates not as a mean of acquiring salvation, but as both the means He uses to preserve His creation, and as the believer’s means by which, living in these estates, he gives thanks for God’s creation and salvation.