Martin Luther’s

Church Postil 1544

 

Summer Postil

 

 

Sermons from Easter till Pentecost Tuesday

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easter Sunday;                

1 Corinthians 5:6-8

 

EXHORTATION TO WALK AS CHRISTIANS

 

 

1 Corinthians 5:6-8

Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

 

1. When God was about to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, he commanded, shortly before their departure, that they should eat the Passover the night they started; and as a perpetual memorial of their redemption, they were annually, on the recurrence of the season, to celebrate the feast of Easter for seven days. A specially urgent feature of the command was that on the first evening of the feast they must put out of their houses all leaven and leavened bread, and during the seven days eat none but the unleavened bread, or cakes. Hence the evangelists speak of the feast as the Feast (or Days) of Unleavened Bread. Mk. 14, 1; Lk. 22, 1.

 

2. Paul, in this lesson, explains the figure in brief but beautiful and expressive words. He is prompted to introduce the subject by the fact that in the preceding verses of this chapter he has been reproving the Corinthians for their disposition to boast of the Gospel and of Christ while abusing such liberty unto unchastity and other sins. He admonishes them that, possessing the Gospel and having become Christians, they ought, as becomes Christians, to live according to the Gospel, avoiding everything not consistent with the faith and with Christian character - everything not befitting them as new creatures.

 

3. So the apostle uses the figure of the Paschal lamb and unleavened bread requisite at the Jews' Feast of the Passover, in his effort to point the Corinthians to the true character and purpose of the New Testament made with us in the kingdom of Christ. He explains what is the true Paschal Lamb and what the unleavened bread, and how to observe the real Passover, wherein all must be new and spiritual. In the joy and wealth of his mind he presents this analogy to remind them that they are Christians and to consider what that means. His meaning is: Being Christians and God's true people, and called upon to observe a Passover, you must go about it in the right way, putting away from you all remaining leaven until it shall have been purged out utterly. What Paul means by ”leaven” is told later in his phrase ”neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness”; he means whatever is evil and wicked. Everything foreign to Christianity in both doctrine, or faith, and life, is ”leaven.” From all this Paul would have Christians purge themselves with the same thoroughness with which the leaven was to be put away from their Easter according to the law. And, holding to the figure, he would have us observe our Passover in the use of the sweet bread, which, in distinction from the leaven, signifies sincerity and truth, or a nature and life completely new.

 

4. The text, then, is but an admonition to upright Christian works, directed to those who have heard the Gospel and learned to know Christ. This is what Paul figuratively calls partaking of the true unleavened bread - or wafers or cakes. We Germans have borrowed our word ”cakes' from the phraseology of the Jewish Church, abbreviating ”oblaten,” wafers, into ”fladen,” or cakes. How else should we gentiles get the idea of cakes on Easter, when at our Passover we, by faith, eat the Paschal Lamb, Christ? We are admonished to partake of the true unleavened bread that life and conduct may accord with faith in Christ, whom we have learned to know. Paul's admonition begins:

 

”Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?”

5. This by way of introducing the succeeding admonitions. Leaven is a common figure with the apostle, one he uses frequently, almost proverbially; employing it, too, in his epistle to the Galatians (ch 5, 9). Christ, also, gives us a Scripture parable of the leaven. Mt 13, 33. It is the nature of leaven that a small quantity mixed with a lump of dough will pervade and fill the whole lump until its own acid nature has been inparted to it. This Paul makes a figure of spiritual things as regards both doctrine and life.

 

6. In Galatians 5, 9 he makes it more especially typify false doctrine. For it is just as true that the introduction of an error in an article of faith will soon work injury to the whole and result in the loss of Christ. Thus it was with the Galatians. The one thing insisted upon by the false apostles was circumcision, though they fully intended to preach the Gospel of Christ. Such innovation will pursue its course with destructive sweep until even the uncontaminated part becomes worthless; the once pure mass is wholly corrupted. The apostle writes to the Galatians (ch 5, 2): ”Behold, I Paul say unto you, that, if ye receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing.” Again (verse 4), ”Ye are severed from Christ - ye are fallen away from grace.” But in this text he has reference more particularly to an erroneous idea concerning life and conduct. In this instance it is likewise true that, once the flesh be allowed any license, and liberty be abused, and that under the name of the Gospel, there is introduced a leaven which will speedily corrupt faith and conscience, and continue its work until Christ and the Gospel are lost. Such would have been the fate of the Corinthians had not Paul saved them from it by this epistle admonishing and urging them to purge out the leaven of license; for they had begun to practice great wantonness, and had given rise to sects and factions which tended to subvert the one Gospel and the one faith.

 

7. This is, then, wise counsel and serious admonition, that faithful guard be maintained against the infusion or introduction into doctrine of what is false, whether it pertains to works or faith. The Word of God, faith and conscience are very delicate things. The old proverb says: ”Non patitur jocum fama, fides, oculus;” - Good reputation, faith and the eye - these three will bear no jest. Just as good wine or precious medicines are corrupted by a single drop of poison or other impurity, and the purer they are, the more readily defiled and poisoned; so, also, God's Word and his cause will bear absolutely no alloy. God's truth must be perfectly pure and clear, or else, it is corrupt and unprofitable. And the worst feature of the matter is, the sway and intrenchment of evil is so strong that it cannot be removed; just as leaven, however small the quantity, added to the lump of dough, soon penetrates and sours the whole lump, while it is impossible to arrest its influence or once more to sweeten the dough.

 

8. The proposal of certain wise minds to mediate, and effect a compromise, between us and our opponents of the Papacy, is wrong and useless. They would permit preaching of the Gospel but at the same time retain the Papistical abuses, advocating that these errors be not all censured and rejected, because of the weak; and that for the sake of peace and unity we should somehow moderate and restrict our demands, each party being ready to yield to the other and patiently bear with it. While in such case no perfect purity can be claimed to exist, the situation can be made endurable if discretion is used and trouble is taken to explain. Nay, not so! For, as you hear, Paul would not mix even a small quantity of leaven with the pure lump, and God self has urgently forbidden it. The slight alloy would thoroughly penetrate and corrupt the whole. Where human additions are made to the Gospel doctrine in but a single point, the injury is done; truth is obscured and souls are led astray. Therefore, such mixture, such patchwork, in doctrine is not to be tolerated. As Christ teaches (Mt 9, 16), we must not put new cloth upon an old garment.

 

9. Nor may we in our works and in our daily life tolerate the yielding to the wantonness of the flesh and at the same boast the Gospel of Christ, as did the Corinthians, who stirred up among themselves divisions and disorder, even to the extent of one marrying his stepmother. In such matters as these, Paul says, a little leaven leavens and ruins the whole lump - the entire Christian life. These two things are not consistent with each other: to hold to the Christian faith and to live after the wantonness of the flesh, in sins and vices condemned by the conscience. Paul elsewhere warns (I Cor 6, 9-10): ”Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with men, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” Again (Gal 5, 19-21): ”The works of the flesh are manifest . . . of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

 

10. Warrant is given here likewise for censuring and restraining the rash individuals who assert that men should not be terrified by the Law, nor surrendered to Satan. No! it is our duty to teach men to purge out the old leaven; we must tell them they are not Christians, but devoid of the faith, when they yield to the wantonness of the flesh and wilfully persevere in sin against the warning of conscience. We should teach that such sins are so much the more vicious and damnable when practiced under the name of the Gospel, under cover of Christian liberty; for that is despising and blaspheming the name of Christ and the Gospel: and therefore such conduct must be positively renounced and purged out, as irreconcilable with faith and a good conscience.

 

”Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, even as ye are unleavened.”

11. If we are to be a new, sweet lump, Paul says, we must purge out the old leaven. For, as stated, a nature renewed by faith and Christianity will not admit of our living as we did when devoid of faith and in sin, under the influence of an evil conscience. We cannot consistently be ”a new lump” and partake of the Passover, and at the same time permit the old leaven to remain: for if the latter be not purged out, the whole lump will be leavened and corrupted; our previous sinful nature will again have supremacy and overthrow the faith, the holiness upon which we have entered and a good conscience.

 

12. Paul does not here speak of leaven in general; he commands to purge out the ”old leaven,” implying there may be good leaven. Doubtless he is influenced by respect for the words of the Lord Christ where (Mt 13, 33) he likens the kingdom of heaven also to leaven. In this latter case leaven cannot be bad in quality; rather, the object in mixing it with the lump is to produce good, new bread. Reference is to the Word of God, or the preaching of the Gospel, whereby we are incorporated into the kingdom of Christ, or the Christian Church. Though the Gospel appears to be mean, is despicable and objectionable to the world, yet such is its power that wherever introduced it spreads, finding disciples in whom it works; it transforms them, giving to them its own properties, even as leaven imparts its powers to the dough and causes it to rise. But Paul refers here to old, inactive and worthless leaven. He means teachings, views, or manner of life resulting from the Old Adam, from flesh and blood, and destructive of the pure, new doctrine, or a nature renewed by Christianity. Later on he terms it the ”leaven of malice and wickedness,” and in the verse under consideration bids the Corinthians be a new, pure lump.

 

13. Note the apostle's peculiar words. He enjoins purging out the old leaven, assigning as reason the fact: Ye are a new and unleavened lump. By a new unleavened lump he means that faith which clings to Christ and believes in the forgiveness of sin through him; for he immediately speaks of our Passover: Christ, sacrificed for us. By this faith the Corinthians are now purified from the old leaven, the leaven of sin and an evil conscience, and have entered upon the new life; yet they are commanded to purge out the old leaven.

 

14. Now, how shall we explain the fact that he bids them purge out the old leaven that they may be a new lump, when at the same time he admits them to be unleavened and a new lump? How can these Corinthians be as true, unleavened wafers, or sweet dough, when they have yet to purge out the old leaven? This is an instance of the Pauline and apostolic way of speaking concerning Christians and the kingdom of Christ; it shows us what the condition really is. It is a discipline wherein a new, Christian life is entered upon through faith in Christ the true Passover; hence, Easter is celebrated with sweet, unleavened bread. But at the same time something of the old life remains, which must be swept out, or purged away. However, this latter is not imputed, because faith and Christ are there, constantly toiling and striving to thoroughly purge out whatever uncleanness remains.

 

15. Through faith we have Christ and his purity perfectly conferred upon ourselves, and we are thus regarded pure; yet in our own personal nature we are not immediately made wholly pure, without sin or weakness. Much of the old leaven still remains, but it will be forgiven, not be imputed to us, if only we continue in faith and are occupied with purging out that remaining impurity. This is Christ's thought when he says to his disciples (Jn 15, 3), ”Already ye are clean because of the word which I have spoken unto you,” and in the same connection he declares that the branches in him must be purged that they may bring forth more fruit. And to Peter - and to others he says (Jn 13, 10), ”He that is bathed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.” These passages, as is also stated elsewhere, teach that a Christian by faith lays hold upon the purity of Christ, for which reason he is also regarded pure and begins to make progress in purity; for faith brings the Holy Spirit, who works in man, enabling him to withstand and to subdue sin.

 

16. They are to be censured according to whose representations and views a Christian Church is to be advocated which should be in all respects without infirmity and defect, and who teach that, when perfection is not in evidence, there is no such thing as the Church of Christ nor as true Christians. Many erring spirits, especially strong pretenders to wisdom, and precocious, self-made saints, immediately become impatient at sight of any weakness in Christians who profess the Gospel faith; for their own dreams are of a Church without any imperfections, a thing impossible in this earthly life, even they themselves not being perfect.

 

17. Such, we must know, is the nature of Christ's office and dominion in his Church that though he really does instantaneously, through faith, confer upon us his purity, and by the Spirit transforms our hearts, yet the work of transformation and purification is not at once completed. Daily Christ works in us and purges us, to the end that we grow in purity daily. This work he carries on in us through the agency of the Word, admonishing, reproving, correcting and strengthening; as in the case of the Corinthians through the instrumentality of Paul. Christ also uses crosses and afflictions in effecting this end. He did not come to toil, to suffer and to die because he expected to find pure and holy people. Purity and holiness for us he has acquired in his own person to perfection, inasmuch as he was without sin and perfectly pure from the moment he became man, and this purity and holiness he communicates to us in their flawless perfection in so far our faith clings to him. But to attain personal purity of such perfection requires a daily effort on the part of Christ, until the time shall have come that he has wrought in us a flawless perfection like his own. So he has given us his Word and his Spirit to aid us in purging out the remaining old leaven, and in holding to our newly-begun purity instead of lapsing from it. We must retain the faith, the Spirit and Christ; and this, as before said, we cannot do if we give place to the old carnal disposition instead of resisting it.

 

18. Note, one thing the text teaches: Even the saints have weakness, uncleanness and sin yet to be purged out, but it is not imputed unto them because they are in Christ and occupied in purging out the old leaven.

 

19. Another thing, it teaches what constitutes the difference between the saints and the unholy, for both are sinful; it tells the nature of sins despite the presence of which saints and believers are holy, retaining grace and the Holy Spirit, and also what sins are inconsistent with faith and grace.

 

20. The sins remaining in saints after conversion are various evil inclinations, lusts and desires natural to man and contrary to the Law of God. The saints, as well as others, are conscious of these sins, but with this difference: they do not permit themselves to be overcome thereby so as to obey the sins, allowing them free course; they do not yield to, but resist, such sins, and, as Paul expresses it here, incessantly purge themselves therefrom. The sins of the saints, according to him, are the very ones which they purge out. Those who obey their lusts, however, do not do this, but give rein to the flesh, and sin against the protest of their own consciences. They who resist their sinful lusts retain faith and a good conscience, a thing impossible with those who fail to resist sin and thus violate their conscience and overthrow their faith. If you persist in that which is evil regardless of the voice of conscience, you cannot say, nor believe, that you have God's favor. So then, the Christian necessarily must not yield to sinful lusts.

 

21. The Holy Spirit is given for the very purpose of opposing sin and preventing its reign. Paul says (Gal 5, 17): ”For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh . . . that ye may not do the things that ye would.” And again (Rom 8, 13): ”If by the Spirit ye put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” Also (Rom 6, 12): ”Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey the lusts thereof:'

 

”For our passover also hath been sacrificed, even Christ.”
[”For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.”]

22. Here Paul assigns his reason for the statement just made - ”Ye are unleavened.” They are a new, unleavened or sweet lump, not because of any merit on their part, not because of their own holiness or worthiness, but because they have faith in Christ as the Passover sacrificed for them. This sacrifice makes them pure and holy before God. They are no more the old leaven they were when out of Christ. By this sacrifice they are reconciled with God and purified from sin.

 

23. Likewise for us God institutes a new ordinance, a new festival. The old has given place to something wholly new. A different and better Passover sacrifice succeeds that of the Jews. The Jews had annually to partake of their offered sacrifice, but they were not thereby made holy nor pure from sin. Theirs was a sign or earnest of the true Passover to come, the Passover promised by God, in the shed blood of which we are washed from sin and wholly healed - a Passover the partaking whereof we must enjoy by faith. We have now one perpetual and eternal Easter festival, wherein faith is nourished, satisfied and gladdened; in other words, we receive remission of sins and comfort and strength through this our Passover, Christ.

 

24. The meaning of the phrase ”sacrificed for us” has been explained in the sermon on the Passion of Christ. Two thoughts are there presented: First, necessity of considering the greatness and terror of the wrath of God against sin in that it could be appeased and a ransom effected in no other way than through the one sacrifice of the Son of God. Only his death and the shedding of his blood could make satisfaction. And we must consider also that we by our sinfulness had incurred that wrath of God and therefore were responsible for the offering of the Son of God upon the cross and the shedding of his blood. Well may we be terrified because of our sins, for God's wrath cannot be trivial when we are told no sacrifice save alone the Son of God can brave such wrath and avail for sin. Do you imagine yourself able to endure that wrath of God, or to withstand it if you will not consider this and accept it?

 

25. The second thought presented in the sermon mentioned is, the necessity of recognizing the inexpressible love and grace of God toward us. Only so can the terrified heart of man regain comfort. It must be made aware why God spared not his own Son but offered him a sacrifice upon the cross, delivered him to death; namely, that his wrath might be lifted from us once more. What greater love and blessing could be shown? The sacrifice of Christ is presented to us to give us sure comfort against the terrors of sin. For we may perceive and be confident that we shall not be lost because of our sins when God makes such a sacrifice the precious pledge to us of his favor and promised salvation. Therefore, though your sins are great and deserve the awful wrath of God, yet the sacrifice represented by the death of the Son of God is infinitely greater. And in this sacrifice God grants you a sure token of his grace and the forgiveness of your sins. But that forgiveness must be apprehended by the faith which holds fast the declaration, ”Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.” By this promise must faith be comforted and strengthened.

 

”Wherefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

26. Having, then, a Paschal Lamb and a true Easter, let us rightly value them. Let us observe the festival with the gladness it ought to inspire. Let us no longer eat the old leaven, but true wafers and paschal cakes. Where the Paschal Lamb is, there must be the unleavened bread. The former is Christ sacrificed for us. To this sacrifice we can add nothing; we can only receive and enjoy it by faith, recognizing it as a gift to us. However, possessing the Paschal Lamb, it is incumbent upon us to partake also of the sweet festal bread; in other words, while embracing the faith of the Passover, we are to maintain the true doctrine of the Gospel, illustrating it by the godly example of our own lives. We should live an eternal Easter life, as it were, to carry out Paul's analogy, a life wherein we, as justified, sanctified and purified people, continue in peace and the joy of the Holy Spirit, so long as we remain on earth.

 

27. In this verse, as in the preceding one, Paul contrasts the leaven and the unleavened bread. He makes leaven a general term for everything which proceeds from flesh and blood and an unrenewed sinful nature, but classifies it under two heads - the leaven of malice and the leaven of wickedness. By ”malice” we understand the various open vices and sins which represent manifest wrong to God and our neighbor. ”Wickedness” stands for those numerous evil tricks, those nimble, subtle, venomous artifices practiced upon Christian doctrine and the Word of God with intent to corrupt and pervert them, to mislead hearts from the true meaning thereof. Paul warns (2 Cor 11, 3): ”But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve in his craftiness, your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity and the purity that is toward Christ.” Under ”wickedness” comes also such evils as hypocrisy and other false, deceptive dealing practiced in the name of God by way of adorning and covering the sin, false teaching and deceptive action passed off as right, proper and Christian. Such wickedness Christ terms ”the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” Mk 8, 15. This sort of leaven, particularly, we have in the world to an unspeakable extent in this last and worst of times.

 

28. To the leaven of malice and of wickedness, Paul opposes the leaven of sincerity and truth. To be sincere is to live and act in an upright Christian way, prompted by a faithful, godly heart, a heart kindly disposed to all and meditating wrong and injury to none; and to deal as you would be dealt with. To be true is to refrain from false and crafty dealing, from deceit and roguery, and to teach and live in probity and righteousness according to the pure Word of God. Truth and sincerity must prevail and be in evidence with Christians, who have entered upon a relation and life altogether new; they should celebrate the new Easter festival by bringing faith and doctrine and life into accord with it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sermon for Easter Sunday;

MARK 16:1-8.

 

This sermon appeared under the title: “A beautiful Easter sermon delivered in the presence of the Elector of Saxony. Dr. Martin Luther, Wittenberg, 1538.

 

Contents:

The resurrection of Christ.

 

 

 

MARK 16:1-8

And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.

 

I. THE STORY OF CHRIST’S RESURRECTION

1. This Gospel lesson is part of the general account and the first announcement of the resurrection of Christ, which was made by the angel to the women who went early to the tomb to anoint the dead body of the Lord, before Christ showed himself to them and talked with them; inasmuch as he wanted to reveal his resurrection through the Word, even before they should see him and experience the power of his resurrection.

 

2. And as we said there are two ways of considering Christ’s passion and death and the other doctrines of Christ, so there are also two things concerning the Lord’s resurrection that we ought to know and understand. First, the history which relates the events as they occurred, together with the different circumstances and how he revealed himself alive in various manifestations; so that we might have a sure record and testimony of everything as a foundation and support of our faith, inasmuch as this article of faith on the resurrection is the chief one upon which our salvation is finally based, and without which all others would be useless and altogether fruitless. Now, what a person ought to know about the historical events, namely in what order these two events, the appearance of the angel — which is reported in part in this Gospel — and the manifestation of the Lord occurred, that should be discussed in connection with the full account, compiled and arranged in order from all the Evangelists; therefore, we will treat the part mentioned in this Gospel in connection with that account.

 

II. THE BENEFIT AND COMFORT OF CHRIST’S RESURRECTION

3. The second point, that is more important and necessary, and on account of which the narrative has been recorded and is preached, is the power, benefit and comfort of the joyous resurrection of the Lord; and the use we are to make of the same faith. Concerning this Paul and all the apostles and the entire Scriptures teach and preach gloriously and richly; but most gloriously of all did Christ the Lord himself preach, when he manifested himself first of all to the women. Therefore, in order that we too may hear and gather something useful from it, let us consider the words Christ spoke unto Mary Magdalene, as recorded in the Gospel according to John 20:17:

 

“Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended unto the Father; but go unto my brethren, and say to them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God and your God.”

4. This is the first sermon our Lord delivered after his resurrection and, without doubt, also the most comforting; although in words very brief, but exceedingly kind and tender, and spoken first of all to his beloved Mary Magdalene, and through her also to his disciples after their deep woe, grief and sorrow, caused by his departure and death, that he might comfort and gladden them by his resurrection. And since this Mary is far more deeply and tenderly concerned about the Lord than the others, and is first at the grave to anoint the body of Christ with costly spices; and especially because, when she fails to find him, she is frightened and bewildered, deeply troubled and in tears, supposing him to have been taken away; therefore, he permits her to enjoy this evidence of his love, in that he appears first of all to her, comforting her in her fears, and preaching this beautiful sermon, which we will now consider.

 

5. In the first place, when Jesus manifests himself to her not far from the tomb, before he speaks to her, she mistakes him for the gardener; but when he calls her by name and says “Mary,” she immediately recognizes the voice, and at once turns with that name upon her lips by which she as well as the other disciples had been accustomed to address him in their language, namely “Rabboni,” that is: O dear Master, or dear Lord, for they would say Master, whereas we generally say, My Lord, and immediately, as she was accustomed to do, she falls at his feet to touch him. But he restrains her and says: “Touch me not,” as though he meant to say: I know indeed that thou lovest me, but thou canst not yet rightly look upon nor touch me, as thou shouldest look upon and touch me. For her joy is no higher or greater than the mere bodily, fleshly pleasure of having her Lord alive again as she had him before; clinging thus only to the fact of his return, and thinking that he will again be with them as he had been before, to eat and drink with them, to preach and do miracles; intending therefore, by her service and by touching his feet, to show him that love she had shown him before, when she anointed him both in life and in death.

 

6. He does not permit himself to be touched in this manner now, however, because he wants her to stand still and listen, and learn what as yet she knows not; namely, that he refuses to be touched and anointed or to be served and waited upon, as she had done heretofore; but he says ‘ I will tell thee something different and new’ I am not risen in order to walk and remain with you bodily and temporally, but that I may ascend to my Father; hence I do not need or desire such service and attention, nor will it do to look upon me as you look upon Lazarus and others, still living in the body. For it is not here that I intend to dwell and abide; but I would have you believe that I go to the Father, where I will rule and reign with him eternally, and whither I will also bring you out of your death and sorrow. There you shall have me visibly and tangibly with you indeed, and you shall rejoice forever in eternal communion with me and the Father. Therefore, he wishes to say: Refrain henceforth from all such bodily service and reverence, and go rather and become a messenger, and proclaim what I tell thee unto my dear brethren, that I will no more be and abide here in bodily form, but that I have left this mortal state to enter upon a different existence, where ye may no more handle and touch me, but shall know and possess me only in faith.

 

7. Here he uses language entirely new, when he says: “Go and tell my brethren,” taken from Psalm 22:22, which treats entirely of Christ, and in which he speaks both of his passion and resurrection, saying: “I will declare thy name unto my brethren, etc.” Never had he spoken in this manner to his apostles before. For at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, he indeed calls them his “dear children” and his “friends,” John 13:33; John 15:14; but now he employs the most affectionate and glorious name possible and calls them his “brethren.” And it is of great importance to him; for he does not delay, but as soon as he is risen, his first concern is to have them told what he intends to do and why he is risen from the dead.

 

8. And, indeed, this is said in a manner that is lovely and sweet beyond all measure, so that whoever desires to believe, has reason enough to believe, all his life and as long as the world endures, that these things are true indeed; even as the dear apostles themselves had found in them encouragement enough, and more than enough, to believe. For the comfort is too great and the joy too glorious, and the heart of man too small and narrow to have attained it.

 

9. The Apostles crouched behind barred doors, not only discouraged and cowed, as sheep that are scattered without a shepherd, but also troubled in conscience. Peter had denied and renounced his Lord with an oath, and cursed himself; and the others had all fled and proved themselves to be disloyal. That was indeed a fall so deep and terrible that they might well think they would never be forgiven for denying the Son of God, and so shamefully forsaking their dear Lord and faithful Savior. How could it have ever entered their hearts that Christ would send such an affectionate greeting and such a kind good-morning to them who had been so disloyal and denied him, and would not only forgive everything, but also call them his dear brethren? Or who can believe and grasp it today? I myself would like to believe it at times, but I cannot get it into my heart so completely that I dare rely upon it wholly, and dare count it to be really true. Yea, if we only could, we would be in heavenly bliss already in this life, and would fear neither death, nor the devil, nor the world, but our hearts would constantly bound for joy, and sing to God an eternal Te Deum Laudamus, i.e. We praise thee, O God.

 

10. But alas, this is not the case upon earth; our miserable beggar’s bag, this old hide of ours, is too cramped. Therefore, the Holy Spirit must come to our rescue, not only to preach the Word to us, but also to enlarge and impel us from within, yea, even to employ the devil, the world and all kinds of afflictions and persecutions to this end. Just as a pig’s bladder must be rubbed with salt and thoroughly worked to distend it, so this old hide of ours must be well salted and plagued until we call for help and cry aloud, and so stretch and expand ourselves, both through internal and through external suffering, that we may finally succeed and attain this heart and cheer, joy and consolation, from Christ’s resurrection.

 

11. For, let us consider for a moment what manner of words these are, which Christ here uses; and let us not pass lightly over them, as has been done heretofore, and is still done in all popedom, where we have read, heard and sung them until we are weary; and nevertheless we have passed over them, as a cow walks by a sanctuary; so that it is a sin and a shame to have heard and known such words, and still to let them lie, cold and dead, outside of the heart, as if they were spoken and written altogether for naught; and that even Christians themselves, though they do not despise them as others do but use them daily, neither appreciate them as highly nor believe them as firmly as they would like to do.

 

12. For consider, I say, what these words contain and offer: Go my dear sister, for thus he would undoubtedly address these women, since he appeared unto them first, and tell the denying and disloyal disciples that they are called, and shall be, my dear brethren. Isaiah not this, in a word, including and placing us with Christ into the complete tenure and inheritance of heaven and of everything Christ has? Rich and blessed indeed must be the brethren and sisters who can boast of this Brother, not hanging now upon the cross, nor lying in the grave under the power of death, but a mighty Lord over sin, death, hell and the devil.

 

13. But how have these poor, frightened and discouraged disciples come to such honor and grace, and wherein have they deserved such brotherhood? Was it by Peter’s shameful denial of Christ, and by the disloyalty of all the others to him? And how have I and others deserved it to apply this also to ourselves? I, who have read the idolatrous mass for fifteen years blaspheming God and helping daily to crucify Christ afresh? Fine merit this, forsooth, riding to hell in the devil’s service and looking to other brotherhoods, — those of the devil and his clique, bearing the names of dead saints, St. Anthony, St. Francis, St. Sebastian, St. Christopher, St. George, St. Ann, St. Barbara, concerning some of whom it is not known whether they were saintly, yea, whether they ever lived at all. Fie! what a sin and shame for us, who are called Christians, to have had this brotherhood of Christ the Lord, so graciously offered us, and then to despise and reject it, and fall into such deep blindness as to have ourselves inscribed in the rascally brotherhood of the shameful monks and of the whole herd of the pope, and to preach about and praise this as though it were a precious thing indeed! But that is what the world deserves. Why did we not appreciate the Word of God that was written, painted, played, sung and rung before our eyes and ears? And even now, that the Word of God itself points this out, and rebukes us, we cease not to blaspheme and to persecute; whereas we ought to thank and praise God for having so graciously delivered us, without, and contrary to, any merit of our own from such blindness and blasphemy, and for having vouchsafed unto us grace to recognize it.

 

14. Now let him who can believe it. For whether we believe it or not, it is the truth none the less. This brotherhood is founded among us, and is not such a brotherhood as our loose Kaland, and the brotherhood of the monks, but it is that of Christ, wherein God is our Father and his own Son our brother, and where such inheritance is bestowed upon us as assures not merely a hundred thousand dollars, one or more kingdoms, but in which we are redeemed from the fellowship of the devil, from sin and death, and obtain the inheritance and possession of eternal life and eternal righteousness; and though we were once in sin, worthy of death and eternal damnation, and are so even now, we should know that this brotherhood is greater, mightier, stronger and superior to. the devil, sin and all things. We are not fallen so deeply’, and things are not so bad and ruined that this brotherhood cannot arrange and fully restore everything again, inasmuch as it is eternal, infinite and inexhaustible.

 

15. For who is he that has instituted this brotherhood? The only Son of God and almighty Lord of all creatures, so that on his own account he did not need to endure suffering or death. But I have done all this, he tells us, for your sake, as your dear Brother, who could not bear to see, that you, eternally separated from God by the devil, sin and death, should so miserably perish; hence I stepped into your place and took your misery upon myself, gave my body and life for you that you might be delivered; and I have risen again to proclaim and impart this deliverance and victory to you, and receive you into my brotherhood, that you might possess and enjoy with me all that I have and hold.

 

16. Thus you see, it is not enough for Christ that the historical fact has occurred, and that as far as he is concerned everything is accomplished; he infuses it into us and creates a brotherhood from it, so that it may become the common possession and inheritance of us all; he does not place it in praedicamento absoluto, but relationis, namely, he has done this, not for himself personally nor for his own sake, but as our Brother and alone for our good. And he does not want to be considered and known otherwise than as being ours with all these blessings, and that we, on the other hand, are his; and that we are therefore so closely united that we could not be more intimately related, having a common Father, enjoying an equal, common and undivided estate, and authorized to use all his power, honor and estate, to boast of it, and to comfort ourselves with it, as though it were our own.

 

17. Who can fully, comprehend this? and what heart can sufficiently believe that the Lord is so completely ours? For, indeed, it is a thing too great and unspeakable, that we poor, miserable children of Adam, born and grown old in sin, are to be the real brethren of supreme Majesty, joint-heirs and joint-rulers in eternal life; as St. Paul so gloriously declares, Romans 8:17; Galatians 4:7: “And if children then heirs, heirs of God, and jointheirs with Christ, etc.” For all this follows in order: if we are called the children of God, then we must truly be also his heirs, and brethren and joint-heirs of Christ the Lord, who is the only essential Son of God.

 

18. Hence, let him who can learn rightly to begin to pray the Lord’s Prayer; and to know what it signifies for me to call God my Father, and for me most truly and fully to regard and consider myself his dear child and the brother of Christ the Lord, who has shared with me everything that he has and placed me in possession of his eternal treasures. Here examine and ask your own heart, whether without doubt and wavering you can thus say from the bottom of your heart: “Our Father;” whether you are firmly grounded upon and can be assured before God: I consider myself thy dear child, and thee my dear Father, not because I have merited it, or could ever merit it, but because my dear Lord wants to be my Brother, and of his own accord has proclaimed it and invited me to regard him as my Brother, and has said that he would also regard me as such. Only begin this, I say, and see how you will succeed in the task; and you will soon discover what an unbelieving knave is hidden in your bosom, and that your heart is too dull to believe it. O, I am such a poor sinner, nature exclaims, how dare I exalt myself so highly, seat myself in heaven and boast that Christ is mine, and I am his brother! For this greatness and glory is so exceedingly high, beyond all human sense, heart and thought, that we cannot comprehend it; even as Paul himself also confesses in Philippians 3:12, that he is pressing on to. lay hold of it, but has not yet attained it. Yea, man is astounded and terrified at himself for presuming to receive and boast of such honor and glory.

 

19. But, what shall we do? We must indeed say, and it is true, that we are poor sinners, and with St. Peter, we have denied our Lord (I especially above others). But what shall we do about it? It is enough and more than enough that which I did against him in falling away from him and making myself a knave. Should I, in addition, make him a liar and a knave, and deny this comforting proclamation, and blaspheme? God forbid!

 

20. Yea, says the devil, through my flesh thou art not worthy of this. Alas, it is true; but if I would not believe and accept it, I would have to, make my Lord a liar, and declare that it is not true when he tells me that he is my Brother. God forbid that I should do this, for that would be rejecting my God and all my salvation and eternal blessedness, and to trample it under foot.

 

21. This, therefore, will I say: I know very well that I am an unworthy being, worthy to be the brother of the devil, not of Christ and his saints; but now Christ has said that I, for whom he died and rose again, as well as for St. Peter, who like myself was a sinner, am his brother; and he earnestly would have me to believe him, without doubt and wavering, and would not have me consider that I am unworthy and full of sin, because he himself will not so consider nor remember it, as indeed he well might do, having abundant cause to repay his followers and visit upon them what they committed against him. But it is all forgotten and blotted out of his heart; yea, he has slain, covered and buried it; and he knows nothing to say of them now but that which is kind and good, and he greets them and addresses them affectionately as his faithful, dearest friends and pious children, as though they had not done any wrong, nor grieved him, but had done only good to him; so that their hearts may not be uneasy or worried with the thought that he would remember it and charge it against or visit it upon them. Since then he does not want it remembered, but wants it slain and buried, why ,should not I leave it at that, and thank, praise and love my dear Lord with my whole heart, for being so gracious and merciful? Even though I am laden with sin, why should I go on and brand as a falsehood this gracious Word, which I hear himself speak; and willfully reject the proffered brotherhood? If I do not believe it, I will not receive its benefits; but that neither renders it false nor proves that anything is lacking in Christ.

 

22. If anyone now desires to load himself down with new sins, and does not want forgotten what he has forgotten, let him then so sin that it never will be forgotten, and he never can be helped; as we read in the Epistle to the Hebrews, Hebrews 4:4-6, and Hebrews 10:26, concerning those who have sinned by falling away from God’s Word and rebuking it as a lie. This is the sin against the Holy Ghost and is described as crucifying the Son of God afresh and putting the Spirit of grace to an open shame. From this may God protect all who desire to be Christians! Alas, there is too much of the old blindness and folly, in which we have been enveloped hitherto. This ought to perish and be forgotten, now that we have become his brethren, if we only accept it. If we cannot believe as firmly as we ought, let us begin, like young children, to drink at least a little spoonful of this milk, until we become stronger, and not thrust it from us altogether.

 

23. Therefore, though your own unworthiness rebukes you, when you engage in prayer, and though you think: Alas, my sins are too many, and I am afraid that I cannot be Christ’s brother, strike out about you and defend yourself as best you can, that such thoughts may find no room in your mind. For here you are in great danger of committing the sin against the Holy Ghost. With all confidence and boldness reply to such thoughts of the devil: I know very well what I am, and you need not tell nor teach me, for it is not your business to judge this case; therefore, away, thou lying spirit! I will not and must not listen to thee. Here is my Lord Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, who died for me and rose again from the dead; he tells me that all my sins are forgotten, and that he will be my Brother, and that I likewise am to be his brother; and it is his will that I should believe this from my heart without wavering.

 

24. A knave and a villain, yea, a brother of the wretched devil himself must he be who would not accept this. Though I be not worthy of it, yet am I in great need of it; and even if that were not so, God at least is worthy that I should honor him and judge him to be the true God. But should I not believe, I would, in addition to all other sins, in this worst possible way heap dishonor upon him in violation of the first commandment, in making him a liar and a vain God. What greater wickedness and blasphemy has any man ever heard or proclaimed? Much rather do thus: When you feel that it is too hard for you to believe, fall down upon your knees and complain to God of your inability; and say with the apostles: “O, Lord, increase our faith.” Luke 17:57. I would at heart gladly count thee my dearest Father, and Christ my Brother, but my flesh, alas, will not submit; therefore help my unbelief that I may honor thy name and hold thy Word to be true.

 

25. See, in this way you will yourself experience what a great conflict it requires to believe God’s Word and to pray the Lord’s Prayer aright; not as though this Word in itself were not sure, steadfast and strong enough, but that we are so weak, yea, so much like wretched, unstable mercury that we cannot hold fast that which is well worthy of being held with hands and hearts of steel and adamant.

 

26. Formerly, when we were led astray and cheated with lies and false worship, we could hold fast and comfort ourselves with firm, though false, faith in all the saints and the brotherhoods of the monks; and joyfully said: Help, dear lord St. George, or St. Anthony, and St. Francis, and let me enjoy the benefit of thy intercessions! There was no doubting or opposition then; this occupation was agreeable to us, and we had fists and strength of iron to believe. But here where Christ, the Truth itself, offers us his fellowship, even invites and urges us in the most affectionate manner, saying: Beloved, receive me as your Brother, he cannot succeed in leading us to believe and accept it. So mightily do the flesh and the devil resist and oppose it.

 

27. Therefore, I say, it is best for each one, when he goes into his closet and begins to pray, to make an effort to understand what he is saying, and properly to weigh two words, “Our Father.” For example: My friend, what are you praying? How does your heart respond? Do you truly regard God as your Father, and yourself as his dear child? No, indeed, says the heart, I do not know; how can I presume to ascribe a thing so great and glorious to myself? Then why do you not refrain from prayer, when with your lips you call God your Father, while your heart gives the lie to yourself and to him as he has revealed himself in his Word? Rather, confess your weakness and say: I indeed call thee my Father, and ought to call thee so, according to thy Word and command; but I am afraid that my heart is lying like a knave. And the worst of it is, not that I myself alone am lying; but that I accuse thee also of falsehood. Help me, dear Lord and Father, that I may not make thee a liar; for I can not become a liar myself without first having made thee one.

 

28. Therefore, though I realize and experience, alas, that I cannot say “Our Father” with my whole heart, as indeed no man on earth fully can, else we would already be in heavenly blessedness, yet will I make an attempt and begin, as a little child begins to nurse at its mother’s breast. If I cannot believe it fully, yet will not I count it a falsehood, nor say, nay. Though I cannot play the game as is proper, I will beware lest I play in opposition as the monks and the despairing hearts do, who fail to regard Christ as their Brother, but as an enemy and a taskmaster; for that would be turning him into the very devil. But I would daily spell at the letters, until I am able to repeat “Our Father” and this Sermon of Christ as well or as poorly as I may. God grant that though I stammer and stutter or lisp, I may to some degree at least accomplish it.

 

29. For, as already stated, this is the sin of all sins, that when God is gracious and wants all our sins forgiven, man by his unbelief rejects God’s truth and grace, and casts it away from him, and will not let the death and resurrection of Christ the Lord avail. For, indeed, I cannot say that this brotherhood, which brings us forgiveness of sins and every blessing, is my work and doings, or that of any man, or that anybody labored or sought for it. For this resurrection occurred and was accomplished before any man knew aught about it; and that it is proclaimed and preached to us is likewise not done through the word of man but by that of God; wherefore it cannot fail or lie. Since then it is solely the truth and work of God, it behooves us, under penalty of God’s extreme wrath and displeasure, to accept it as coming from God, and to hold it fast by faith, so that we may not fall into the sin that is unpardonable.

 

30. For whatever other sins there are, contrary to God’s command and Law, which consist of all that we are to do and that God demands of us, these are all covered by forgiveness, since we are never entirely free from them during our whole life; and if God were to reckon with us according to our life and conduct, we could never be saved. But he who will not believe the Word of Christ nor accept his work, sins a hundred thousand times more; for he strives against grace, and robs himself of forgiveness. For it is grace that saith: The law shall not hurt nor condemn thee, although thou hast sinned against it exceedingly, but these sins shall all be forgiven and taken away by Christ; since that is why he (lied for thee and rose again, and now presents all this to thee, through this proclamation of his brotherhood. Now if you will not believe nor accept this, but stubbornly set your head against it, and say: I want no grace, what will then help you? Or what will you seek further, to obtain forgiveness and be saved? Yea, I will be a Carthusian friar, go barefooted to Rome and buy an indulgence, etc. Very well, go ahead as you will, not in God’s, but in the wretched devil’s name; for by this you have denied not only grace, but also the law, and are fallen from God completely, inasmuch as you seek such works and holiness as are not commanded by God, yea, are even forbidden.

 

31. Should not God be angry and punish us for daily babbling, singing and reading the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed without understanding, faith and heart, and for thinking nothing not only of Christ, but also of God’s Law; boasting instead and bringing before God only our own efforts and false spirituality, over and above and opposed to his grace and command, expecting thereby to reconcile him and earn heaven from him? This is what we deserve for despising God’s Word and this glorious, comforting proclamation of Christ; to. be shamefully blinded and cheated by the devil, and punished and plagued by the pope; as though God thereby said: Very well, if you will not have my Son as your Brother, and me for your dear Father, then take the pope with his monks, who point you away from the Gospel, the Creed and the Ten Commandments, to their shabby, stinking cowls and the devil’s brotherhood.

 

32. For since they did not want Christ to be and remain our Brother without our merit and worthiness, and to bring us God’s grace and forgiveness of sin; what is this but really and actually denying faith in God and his Son, as St. Paul says, Titus 1:16, even though they confess him with their lips? Just as I too did in my former blindness, when I helped to sing and read these words with others, and yet thought far more highly of my monkery and my own works. For if I had accepted as true and certain what St. Paul says in Romans 4:25 that Christ died for our sins and was raised again for our justification, in order that we might become his brethren, then I would thereby have learned that my own works and my monk’s hood could not obtain this for me. Otherwise what need would there have been for Christ to go and take my sins and the wrath of God upon himself in his cross and death, and by his resurrection to place me into the inheritance of the forgiveness of sins, of eternal salvation and glory?

 

33. But now, inasmuch as they cling to their monkery, and seek God’s grace by their own merits, desiring thereby to get rid of and atone for their sins, they bear witness against themselves that they do not believe what they say with their lips: I believe in Jesus Christ who died for me and rose again, etc.; but they believe, on the contrary, in the cowl and cord of the barefooted monks, in St. Ann, St. Anthony, and in the devil (pardon me), in his rump. Because it is impossible for one who knows Christ in this brotherhood to be engaged in such follies as are taught and observed no.t only without faith and contrary to it, but also contrary to the commandments, and which are real diabolical sins, the sins of all sins.

 

34. Therefore, in opposition to all this, a Christian ought to acquire the custom of praying the Lord’s Prayer, firmly crossing himself and saying in thought: Keep me, dear Lord, from the sin against the Holy Ghost, that I may no.t fall from faith and thy Word, and may not become a Turk, a Jew or a monk and a papal saint, who believe and live contrary to this brotherhood; but that I may hold fast to a little fringe of the garment of this brotherhood. Let it be sufficient that we have believed and lived contrary to it so long; now it is time to pray God to make this faith sure and steadfast in us. For if we have this faith, then are we healed and delivered from sin, death and hell, and are able to try all other spirits, to discern and reject all error, deception, and false faith, and to pronounce the sentence: He who dons the cowl and shaves his head in order to become holy, or joins the brotherhood of monks, is a mad, senseless fool, yea, a blind, miserable, unhappy and despairing creature; he who tortures himself with much fasting and castigation, like the Carthusian friars or Turkish saints, is already separated from God and Christ and condemned to hell. For all this is nothing but blasphemy and contradiction of the blessed heavenly brotherhood of Christ. They may indeed pray and read a great deal about it, as Isaiah 29:13 says: “This people draweth nigh to me with their lips,” cometh before my face in the churches: with singing and ringing, “but their hearts are far from me.” What pleasure, think you, can he have in such saints, who outwardly act as though they were real children of God, reading and singing the Gospel, employing the most beautiful words and celebrating a glorious Easter festival in processions, with banners and candles, and yet, do not try to understand or believe it, but rather oppose it by their doctrine and life?

 

35. For if they understood and believed it, they would not cling to their mockery and vanities, but would forthwith trample their cowls and cords under foot, and say: Fie upon this shameful brotherhood! To the wretched devil with it, for opposing the brotherhood taught me by the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer! For it is not worthy of notice or attention. Thus Paul in Philippians 3:5, pronounces judgment upon his own holy life in Judaism: I was, says he, a pious, blameless man, not only in my own vain estimation, but according to the law of Moses; but when I learned to know Christ, I counted all my righteousness under the law loss, yea, not only loss, but I counted it refuse and filth. I indeed thought I was a great saint, that I had kept the law strictly and with all diligence, and counted this my highest treasure and greatest gain; but when I heard of this brotherhood and inheritance of the Lord Jesus Christ, O how my pride and the boast of my own righteousness left me so completely that I now shudder at it, and do not even want to think of it.

 

36. See, he extols the righteousness this brotherhood brings us in such a way that he belittles and thoroughly despises the life and the holiness of all men even when it is at its best according to the law of God, which law must indeed be kept, and than which there is verily nothing more praiseworthy and better on earth. And yet, because it still is our own effort and life, it cannot and shall not have the honor and glory of making us God’s children, and of acquiring the forgiveness of sins and eternal life; but this is effected when you hear the word of Christ, saying: Good-morning, my dear brother; in me thy sin and death are overcome, for all I have done, I have done for thee, etc.

 

37. This is the ground of St. Paul’s defiance of sin and death: “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55 and Hosea 13:14. As though he wished to say: In times past you were mighty, terrible foes, before whom all men, no matter how holy and pious, had to tremble and despair; but where are you now? How did I lose you so completely? Why, he replies, everything is swallowed up and completely drowned in a victory. But where is the victory, or whose is the victory? “Thanks be to God”, he replies in verse 51, “who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

38. This indeed is glorious and great boldness, possible, however, for such faith alone as that of St. Paul; yet which, as he himself laments, was not as strong as he desired it to be; still, he certainly had it, and was able to maintain it against the wrath and power of the devil. That we are not able to do likewise and are still so fearful and terrified at death and hell, is an evidence that we still have too little faith. Therefore we have the more reason to impel us to call upon God and pray and also to ask the supplications of our brethren to that end, and daily to work the Word into our hearts, until we too, in some degree, obtain this assurance.

 

39. Let our adversaries laugh us to scorn and derisively say that we know how to teach nothing but faith, and let them cry that we must rise far higher and do far more. But if we only had faith enough, we would soon attend to everything else. For the chief and most necessary thing, of which they know nothing, is, how to get rid of the terror of sin, death and hell, and how to acquire a peaceful conscience before God, so that we may be able truly and heartily to pray “Our Father.” Where this has not been found everything else is in vain, though we should torture ourselves to death with our works. But since everybody comes short in this respect, we need not be ashamed of learning and being concerned about these things daily, as we are about our daily bread, and in addition we should ask God to give us power and strength. Amen.

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

Sermon for Easter Monday;

Acts 10:34-43

 

THE BLESSINGS OF CHRIST'S RESURRECTION

 

Acts 10:34-43

Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.

 

 

1. This sermon Peter preached to Cornelius, the Cesarean centurion, a gentile but a believer, and to the centurion's assembled friends, Peter having been summoned by Cornelius and having responded to the call in obedience to a revelation and to the Holy Spirit's command, as related in the preceding verses of the chapter. It is an excellent sermon and bears strong testimony to Christ's resurrection. As should ever be the case with the sermons of apostles and preachers of the Gospel, it is not only a historical record of Christ's life, death and resurrection, but portrays the power and blessing thereof. The entire sermon being easily understood without explanation - for it is itself an exposition of the article on Christ's resurrection - we will go over it but briefly.

 

2. First, Peter begins with the inception of the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, suggesting how it was promised in the Scriptures, being declared by the prophets, that Christ should come with a new doctrine, confirming it by miracles; also that he must suffer and die and rise from the dead, establishing thus a new kingdom; and how the promise was fulfilled. For confirmation of his words Peter appeals to his hearers, reminding them of their own knowledge that such was the promise of the Scriptures, and that the message has gone forth, not being uttered secretly, in a corner, but being proclaimed throughout all Judea; and how John the Baptist had shortly before testified he was sent as Christ's herald to prepare his way by directing and leading the people to Christ, etc.

 

THE GOSPEL A DOCTRINE OP PEACE.

3. Then Peter explains this new Gospel message as the doctrine of peace, the peace proclamation commanded of God; in other words, salvation and every good thing. The apostle portrays it as a comforting message, a Gospel of joy and grace, a message not accusing, threatening and terrifying with a vision of God's wrath for our sin, as did Moses with his doctrine of the Law. Peter offers to the hitherto terrified, God's favor, remission of sins and eternal life. Similarly, of old did the prophets prophesy of this Gospel, calling it the message of peace. Peter's language is borrowed from them. For instance, Zechariah prophesies (ch 9, 10), ”He shall speak peace unto the nations.” And Isaiah (ch 52, 7), ”How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace!” Paul offers the same thought (Eph 2, 17), ”And he came and preached peace to you that were far off, and peace to them that were nigh.” A delightful message is this in which God recalls his wrath and, as Paul says (2 Cor 5,18-20), reconciles us unto himself, having commanded the Gospel to be preached to the world for that very purpose, and the office of preaching to be called the ministry of reconciliation; and God admonishes us to be reconciled unto himself, to be his friends, that we may from him receive grace and every good thing.

 

4. Second: Peter declares what the Gospel message records concerning Christ: what he has wrought and the nature of his office - how he preached and worked miracles in the service, and for the relief, of all men; what thanks and reward his own people accorded him, in that they nailed him to the cross and put him to death; that nevertheless Christ was not destroyed by the power of the world nor overcome by death, but even retained his freedom, showing himself after death and letting his voice be heard; and that he is now exalted Lord and judge over all.

 

THE ARTICLE OF FAITH ON THE RESURRECTION.

5. Here are comprised in a few words the entire history of the Gospel, and the articles of the Christian faith; but particularly does Peter deal with the article of the resurrection, the fact that Christ has, in his own person, completely overcome death and reigns eternal King and Lord of life. In proof of the truth of this article, the apostle adduces the fact of Christ's manifesting himself alive to his disciples, eating and drinking with them and appointing them special witnesses to these things as men to whom the doctrine had been proven, had been established by actual sight of the miracles.

 

6. Third: Peter states the item of chief importance in the article, the blessing resulting to us. He explains first why Christ suffered all these things, and how the Gospel was to be published and received; Christ's motive in it all was not his advantage but our good. Before we could know the truth and be blessed, it was necessary that the message be preached. God commanded the apostles, Peter says, to preach the Gospel in all the world that all men might know it; and thus the blessing is brought to men through the public office of the ministry.

 

7. Fourth: Our obligation concerning the message brought to us, and what it works in ourselves, is indicated in these concluding words of Peter's sermon:

 

”To him bear all the prophets witness, that through his name every one that believeth on him shall receive remission of sins.”

8. This verse constitutes the principal theme of the sermon. It is one of the greatest in the writings of the apostles. It contains the vital element of the Gospel message, teaching how we may appropriate its blessing, how obtain what it offers, namely, by faith; faith lays hold of what is offered us in the Gospel. The message is preached that we may receive and retain it. Through the Word the blessing is pronounced our own - it is offered to, or given, us; but by faith we receive it, make it our own, permit it to work in us.

 

9. This power and work in us is called by Peter ”remission of sins.” This is the blessing, the possession, conferred through the preaching of the doctrine of Christ, or the articles of faith, particularly the articles of the resurrection. The meaning of the new message of comfort, the new declaration of peace, is that Christ, through his resurrection, has in himself conquered our sin and death, has turned away the wrath of God and procured grace and salvation; that he has commanded forgiveness to be preached unto us, desiring us to believe he gives it and confidently to receive it through faith.

 

10. Faith must be of such character as to apprehend and hold fast the truth Peter declares in this verse. It must say ”in his name.” That is, must ascribe to Christ alone the entire agency, merit and power responsible for remission of sins; must believe we have forgiveness, not through our own worthiness, but for Christ's sake alone; must believe that by virtue of Christ's resurrection we obtain remission of sins, every namable element not from Christ being completely excluded, and the honor given to him alone. What does the work, the ability, of all mankind amount to when it comes to accomplishing or meriting a thing of such magnitude as remission of sins and redemption from death and eternal wrath? How will it compare with the death and shed blood of the Son of God, with the power of his resurrection? How will it divide honors with him in having merit to secure remission of sin and redemption from death? The efficacy of Christ's death and blood alone God would have preached in all the world and accepted by mankind. Therein he rejects the boasting of the Jews and of all aspirers to holiness through their own works, teaching them they cannot obtain his favor through the Law, or by their own efforts. In Christ's name alone is remission of sins received, and that through faith.

 

11. Salvation through Christ, according to Peter, was before that time proclaimed in the Scriptures, being declared by all the prophets. This is truly strong testimony adduced by the apostle; the Jewish people certainly ought to believe their own prophets unless they wilfully are hardened and lost. Much more should we gentiles have faith in Christ's atonement, being obliged to confess that not in any wise have we done aught that such grace should be offered and given to us. We certainly ought to be honest enough to honor Christ to the extent of believing the apostles, in fact the Scriptures entire. We ought to be ashamed to doubt or question the fact of forgiveness of sins and justification before God through Christ alone, to which all Scripture testifies. If we are honest with ourselves, we must confess it the truth, or secure forgiveness of sins or be justified before God by our own works.

 

12. Now we have heard what is the substance, the chief doctrine, of the Scriptures, the teaching to which all portions lead; namely, to teach and confirm the article of faith: we have remission of sins for Christ's sake, through faith. We have heard that such was the faith of the fathers, the prophets and all saints, from the beginning of the world, and later was the doctrine preached by Christ himself, and also the doctrine of the apostles, who were commanded to publish it to the world. To this day the same doctrine prevaiIs, and it will until the end be unanimously accepted by the whole Christian Church, with the exception of our present opponents. The Christian Church has ever, as a unit, believed, confessed and contended for this article, the article maintaining that only in the name of the Lord Christ is remission of sin obtained; and in this faith its members have been justified before God and saved. Thus by such testimony is the foundation of our doctrine laid sufficiently firm; that article was with power contended for, defended and established long before our time.

 

13. He who inquires, who would know exactly, what the Christian Church ever holds and teaches, especially concerning the all-important article of justification before God, or the forgiveness of sins, over which there has always been contention, has it here plainly and exactly in this text. Here is the unwavering testimony of the entire Church from the beginning. It is not necessary, then, to dispute about the doctrine any more. No one can name any just reason, or have any excuse, for doubts on the subject; or reasonably wait for further determinations of investigating councils. In this text we see that the reliability of the article of faith has long ago been proven, even in ancient time, by the Church of the primitive fathers, of the prophets and the apostles. A solid foundation is established, one all men are bound to believe and maintain at the risk of their eternal salvation, whatever councils may establish, or the world advance and determine, to the contrary. Indeed, the sentence has been declared to us; we are commanded to shun every other doctrine that may be believed, taught or ordained. Paul says (Gal 1, 8): ”But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema.”

 

14. You see now against what the Papacy with all its adherents blusters and rages, and how they are to be regarded who refuse to hear and to tolerate the article Peter here advances and confirms by the testimony of all the prophets and of the Scriptures entire; who cease not to persecute godly and innocent ones for their acceptance of this article of faith, under the pretense of being themselves the Church and of magnifying its name to the utmost while opposing us, though at the same time their doctrine, faith and deeds openly testify against them, proclaiming their belief and teaching to be contrary to the testimony of all the prophets and of the entire Church. By no means can they be the Church who so rashly contradict Peter and the Scriptures, who even trample under foot, in his Word, Christ himself, the Head. Rather, they must be wicked devils, a miserable rabble, the worst enemies of the Christian Church; more wicked and pernicious than heathen or Turks.

 

15. Lastly: Peter, by way of proving conclusively to the world that this one Lord, as he names him, Jesus of Nazareth, is the true Messiah promised of old in the Scriptures, says: ”To him bear all the prophets witness.” The prophets plainly speak of such a person, one to be born of David's flesh and blood, in the city of Bethlehem, who should suffer, die and rise again, accomplishing just what this Jesus has accomplished and even proven by miraculous signs. Therefore, truly the Jews and the non-Christians have no reason to doubt concerning Christ, no reason to await the coming of another.

 

16. Further, Peter, citing the testimony of the prophets, indicates the nature of Christ's kingdom as not external power; not temporal dominion like that of earthly lords, kings, and emperors; not dominion over countries or control of people, property and temporal concerns; but a spiritual, eternal kingdom, a kingdom in the hearts of men, an authority over, and power opposed to, sin, everlasting death and hell, a power able to redeem us from those things and bestow upon us salvation. Salvation is ours, Peter teaches, through the preaching of the Gospel, and is received by faith. Faith is the obedience every man must render unto the Lord. By faith he makes himself subject to Christ and partaker of his grace and blessings. Paul also (Rom 1, 5) uses the term ”unto obedience of faith.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sermon for Easter Monday;

Luke 24:13-35

 

I. THREE THOUGHTS TAUGHT BY THIS GOSPEL

 

Luke 24:13-35

And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not. Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.

 

 

1. This Gospel brings out and enforces especially three thoughts on the article of faith concerning Christ's resurrection. First, that this narrative transpired and was written along with others as a sure witness and proof of our faith in this article of our Creed. First, in that we see these two disciples leave the company of the others, full of unbelief in the resurrection. They commune together about the things that transpired as if they despair of Christ, and he is now dead and forever buried in their hearts, who does nothing more and is unable to do anything. This appears from their own confession where they say: ”We hoped that it was he who should redeem Israel. Yea, and besides this, it is now the third day since he is dead.” And though they had heard from the women that these had seen a vision of angels who told them that Christ had risen and was alive, yet they urged that he had not been seen or found by anyone. In the second place - and this is the most important fact - we here see Christ not only showing himself alive to the unbelieving disciples, so that they might become assured of his resurrection and return at once to announce it to the others, and to hear the same truth from them, the testimony on both sides agreeing and being thereby established; but also that Christ, before they knew him, proved fully and clearly from the Scriptures that it behooved Christ both to die and to rise again from the dead. For this reason he upbraided them for their unbelief because they ought to have known the Scriptures concerning Christ, since he himself had taught them that his sufferings were foretold in the Scriptures.

 

2. The second thought this Gospel presents is an example of the power and fruit of the resurrection as manifested in these two disciples while they are talking of him and listening to his preaching. This also is nothing less than a portion of the proof of his resurrection. For Christ here proves by word and deed that he is not dead, as they believed before, but works in them and exercises his power through the Word, even before they know him, and makes believers of them who have another mind, reason, heart, and will. This they also recognize and confess, saying: ”Was not our heart burning within us while he spake to us, etc?” After this manner he still works in the whole Christian church; though unseen, he yet carries on his work and shows his dominion in that, as the living Lord, he enlightens them through his Word, comforts and strengthens them, defends them with his power and keeps them against the wrath of the devil and the world.

 

3. As a third truth, we are here shown in what manner Christ reveals his resurrection, and how it may be be known and apprehended, namely, above all first through the Word and faith, rather than through bodily vision or sensation. Therefore he is unknown to them at first when he comes to them and walks with them, though he is with them in very truth, the selfsame Christ whom they had so often seen and heard and known full well. Yet now they do not know him at all, because they know that he had died and had been buried the third day before; and hence can think of him only as a dead man. So strange and unknowable had he become to them that they would not have known him, had he stayed with them ever so long, until he announced to them his resurrection and preached about it. The text says: ”Their eyes were holden, that they should not know him.” It was not he who had been changed, nor was it his will to remain unknown to them, but their hearts and thoughts had become estranged and far removed from his. In the same way neither Magdalene nor the other disciples recognized him until they had heard the Word of his resurrection.

 

4. His purpose is to show and teach us that the power of his resurrection and dominion will be exercised here on earth, and manifest itself in this life only through the Word, and through faith which holds fast to Christ, though it does not see him, and thus conquers sin and death in him, lays hold of righteousness and life, etc. This is a brief summary of the story contained in this Gospel, in so far as it pertains to the article of faith on the resurrection in general; of which we lately heard more.

 

5. But the special purpose of this Gospel is to show us how weak in faith the disciples were, and how Christ in his kingdom manifests himself to such persons of weak faith, and how he deals with them. For we see from the whole story of Christ's resurrection, as recorded in the Gospels, how the Apostles, and all the other disciples after them, were so weak in their faith in this doctrine, even to the time of his ascension, that he had to upbraid them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them that had seen him after he was risen, Mk 16, 14. They manifested this weakness, though he had often told them from the Scriptures that he must be crucified and rise again on the third day, etc.

 

6. From this we learn, in the first place, that even in those who have become true Christians, weakness and frailties remain, especially in the deeper matters of doctrine and faith, they being unable to understand them or to grasp them as firmly and strongly as they ought. For faith is not so light or easy a matter as ignorant and inexperienced people fancy, and as our coarse blockheads, the popish dunces, pretend, who believe that faith is no more than to have heard the history and to know it. Having heard or read just once what the Gospel tells of Christ, these people fancy that they have fully understood and believed it, and henceforth need no longer to learn and believe it.

 

7. That this is naught but an idle, vain fancy, is proved by their own confession that this knowledge of the Bible story rests in their hearts as a cold, lifeless thing, a mere empty husk, lacking all life-giving power, of no use or help to them, neither giving strength nor making them better; whereas this great, exalted miracle of Christ's resurrection was peformed and is to be preached, learned, and known, to the end that it may be fruitful in us, quicken and kindle our hearts, and work in us new thoughts, new knowledge, new forces, life, joy, comfort and strength. If this does not take place, the story has been heard in vain, and is dead within you, being of nor more value to you than to Turks and heathen who have never heard it, or have not believed it to be true. You dare not boast of faith, though froth on your tongue, or a sound in your ears, or a dream in your memory give witness that you have heard the story, of which your heart has neither experienced nor tasted aught. The papists show plainly, in all their doctrine and life, that they do not from their hearts believe and hold fast to this article of faith, because they seek the power and effect which ought to come from the resurrection of Christ in themselves and outside of Christ, teaching that it must be sought and obtained through their own works and merits, while they condemn, blaspheme, and persecute the saving doctrine that tells us to turn from these foolish lies to Christ and to the power of his resurrection.

 

8. Christians, however, and true believers know by sad experience in others as well as in themselves how weak they are, and they deplore the fact that they are unable to grasp this doctrine, or to hold it fast in their hearts with as strong a faith as they ought. Their entire life is spent in combating this weakness, as even Paul says in Phil 3, 12, that he had not grasped it, nor was already made perfect, but that he was pressing on, if so be that he might lay hold of it, and obtain a knowledge of the power of Christ's resurrection, etc.

 

9. For though this doctrine is most delightful and comforting in itself, full of joy and blessedness, and ought to find its way gently and easily into the heart, yet it is hindered by two great obstacles which make it difficult to believe. In the first place, this work of God is much too exalted and too great in itself for us ever to understand thoroughly in this life, even if our faith were perfectly strong and without weakness; for not until we are in the life beyond will we ever truly see and feel its full force and power. In the second place, our own flesh and blood, and the hearts of all men, are by nature much too weak and too fearful to believe God's Word; and must be filled with fear and terror when they contrast the greatness of this work with themselves and their own unworthiness.

 

10. God cannot overlook the first cause and obstacle nor have patience with it; for this work must and shall remain as great as it is, and it dare not be belittled; yea, it must be the power to which all creatures, men, angels, the devil, and hell, must yield and be subjected, because it is necessary for our salvation. For if this were not so, we would continue in sin, death and the eternal wrath of God. The other obstacle, namely, that we are too weak to grasp this great work and power by our faith, God may overlook and have patience with; as we here see Christ doing with his disciples, who had certainly heard he had risen, and yet were full of such great and heavy doubts that they almost despaired of Christ entirely saying, ”We hoped that it was he who should redeem Israel.”

 

11. Behold, how earnestly he looks after these two of weak faith, and cares for them, doing everything to lift them out of their weakness, and to strengthen their faith. Because he sees and knows that in great sorrow and sadness they had departed from the other Apostles and do not know what to think or hope, he is determined not to leave them in such doubt and temptation. In order to help them out of it, he becomes their companion on the way, leaving behind all the other Apostles, though they too were assembled in great sorrow and very weak faith. But because these two are in great danger of total unbelief, he at once comes to them, as if he had nothing else to do now that he was risen; he speaks to them in the friendliest way, and reasons with them from the Scriptures, gives them occasion to retain him and to ask him to abide with them, to eat and to drink in their company, until their faith is quickened once more, and they are relieved of all doubts. Their faith grows so strong that they recognize him as the same Christ who had been with them before in life, and whom they had seen crucified three days ago, but had been unable to recognize on the way by reason of doubt and the weakness of their faith.

 

12. It is, therefore, his purpose to teach us by this narrative, given for our instruction and consolation, how his work is to be done in the Christian church after his resurrection, namely, that he will not reject nor cast out those who are weak in their faith, yea, not even those who are held in error or ignorance, or who are otherwise weak, fearful, and despairing. They are rather the very persons in whom he will exercise and manifest the power of his resurrection, not only by inviting them to come to him, but also by coming to them, and treating them in the gentlest and kindest way, talking with them, teaching and instructing them, yea, even eating with them, until at length they grow strong and secure in their faith; while their hearts, so sad and sorrowful for a time, are again filled with joy. Thus we also should know and have this comforting assurance that he is our Lord who is able to bear with our infirmities and to overlook them; that he will not reject and condemn those unable to believe and live at once as they should, if only they do not in their hearts despise and deny Christ and his Word, but delight in him and love him, and truly desire to become strong and perfect in faith and life.

 

13. Looking at these disciples, weak and unreasonable as they are, one sees that their hearts nevertheless were in a state that they felt kindly toward Christ, delighted both to speak of him and to hear him spoken of, and had no greater desire than that what they had heard concerning his resurrection might be true. But the thing was much too great for them to believe, so that they were as yet quite unable to accept it as true - just as it is also too high and too great for us. This our dear Lord knows and sees full well, and so he is better able to have patience with us, is satisfied and pleased if only we listen to him as his pupils and are willing to be taught and directed by him.

 

14. Furthermore, he thereby wishes to teach us how to conduct ourselves in his kingdom, particularly towards those who are weak and infirm in faith. We also ought not hastily to reject and condemn those whom we see erring or stumbling; but also have patience with them, even as Christ had with us and still must have every day. For though in his own person by virtue of his resurrection he is in divine might and power Lord of heaven and earth, yet he rules his Church in a way to exercise and manifest the power of his resurrection in his poor, weak band by serving them with this power and might for their consolation and growth.

 

15. In harmony with this example, though we be strong we ought not to take pleasure in ourselves nor boast, but rather let our gifts and powers serve the weak, striving to uphold and reform them by instruction, consolation, encouragement, friendly admonition and reproof, etc., just as one must act kindly and considerately toward weak, frail children and invalids, nursing, lifting and carrying them until they are grown and can stand on their own feet.

 

16. This is one of the chief points of knowledge to be gained from the Gospel, in regard to the kingdom of Christ, how it is arranged and governed, namely that it is a government under which Christians, who have begun to believe and are holy, are nevertheless beset with frailty, ignorance, and other sinful infirmities. He bears and overlooks these shortcomings, but with the expectation that improvement shall ensue. Hence we must not dream of a church on earth in which there is neither frailty nor error in faith, as the papists boast that their church and church councils cannot err, etc. For here we are told that not only these two disciples, but all the other apostles erred in the leading and most necessary article of faith, abiding in their unbelief until Christ himself drew them out by means of many and various sermons and revelations. During the three days after Christ's crucifixion, faith in his resurrection had completely died in all hearts; indeed, that light was kept burning nowhere except with Mary, his mother, who preserved within her heart all that she had heard from him and others, and was comforted and sustained thereby in her great grief over the sufferings and death of her son.

 

17. For faith in Christ must always continue and be preserved somewhere in the Church; there must always be some who have the truth and confess it, though their number be small, and the most fall into error, as they did here. If there are not more, there must be a Mary to keep the faith. He permits it to happen that many great saints err and stumble, in order that we may not trust in men, though they be many, great, and holy. We must be led to rely upon the Word that is sure and cannot deceive, as here these two men, and all the others afterward, were directed to the Scriptures.

 

18. Aside from this, let us not overlook the example contained in this Gospel which urges and admonishes us to speak and hear of Christ gladly, and to study the Scriptures and God's Word, though it may not always be understood and affect us as it ought. The Gospel also shows us the power, blessing and effect of the Word, if approached with a sincere heart.

 

19. For, in the first place, although these two disciples were still filled with unbelief, yet he will not and cannot be separated from them, because they went their way communing sorrowfully with one another about Christ, and questioning together almost without result. He at once drew near and went with them and soon touched their hearts and minds. He began a beautiful, masterly sermon, such as they had never heard before, concerning the very article of faith which caused them trouble and doubt. Then, in the second place, they immediately feel its power; their hearts are no longer heavy, slow, and cold to believe as before, but are moved and kindled, and enlightened and receive a new understanding, so that now they begin to know the Scriptures aright, and what they had never understood before, becomes clear and manifest to their souls. Finally the mask and cover are taken away from their hearts and eyes, so that they no longer look upon him as a guest and a stranger, but truly know him and feel that he is no longer far from them, but at their side, and works certainty in their faith. Henceforth they no longer need bodily, visible revelations, but go forth at once to preach to others, and to strengthen and aid them against doubt and unbelief.

 

20. Therefore we should follow their example, and gladly hear the Word of God, without growing weary. For this is not only a needful practice for the strong and for the weak, for the wise and for the unwise, by which a knowledge of everything we need unto salvation is given -  such study can never exhaust it - but it is also the punishment through which God wishes to work within our hearts, to give faith and the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says in Rom 10, 17: ”Belief cometh by hearing the Word of God.” If man studies earnestly, even though the heart be cold and unwilling at first, if he only continues in the work, it will not be in vain, and the effect will be produced that the unwise and erring will be brought in and made better, the weak will be strengthened, and at last the heart will be kindled and enlightened, so that Christ is better understood and known from the Scriptures.

 

21. And even though there were no other benefit to be derived from this study, we ought to be urged to it by the fact that it pleases God and the Lord Jesus Christ, and renders him a service. We know that he will surely not be far from us when we do so, as he himself has promised, Mt 18, 20: ”Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” If he is with us, the angels certainly are near also and take pleasure in our work, while the devil is driven away and has to retreat as he left Christ when he conquered him with the Word of God. Mt 4, 11.

 

22. There is a legend, telling us that an old patriarch living in the desert received peculiar visions and revelations from God. When he happened to be among young people, listening to their conversation, he saw that whenever they spoke of the Scriptures and things divine, beautiful young men consorted with them and joyfully smiled upon them; but on the other hand, whenever their conversation became wanton and silly, the same young men turned away displeased and sad, and dirty black hogs came and wollowed at their feet etc.

 

II. THE SERMON THE RISEN CHRIST PREACHED TO HIS DISCIPLES.

23. Let this be enough concerning the chief points of the story of this Gospel. There remains one other important part, the sermon Christ preached to the disciples from the Scriptures, in which he briefly showed them that it behooved Christ to suffer and thus to enter into his glory etc. Of this, sermon the Evangelist speaks as follows:

 

”And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”

24. Without doubt this was a very beautiful and a model sermon. Now it is true we all would gladly know just the passages the Lord quoted referring to himself, by which he thereby enlightened, strengthened and convinced these disciples, since Moses contains so little, or nothing, as it would seem, of a plain statement on that of which Christ here speaks, that it behooved him to suffer, and to rise on the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name etc. For the Jews, who have had Moses so long and read him diligently enough even until the present day, have never yet discovered this rare truth in Moses.

 

25. But the Evangelist answers this and analyzes this argument by stating their heart burned within them while he opened to them the Scriptures, and in the Gospel following says Christ opened their mind to understand the Scriptures. Here is the point: Moses certainly writes concerning Christ and Christ is found in the books of Moses; but it is necessary not only to read, but also to understand what is said. Hence Paul says in 2 Cor 3,14-15 that the veil of Moses remains before the face of the Jews when they read the Old Testament, which only Christ alone can take away. And to his apostles Christ says, in Mt 13, 11: ”Unto you is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; the others, however, though they see and hear, yet they do not understand.”

 

26. Therefore the Bible is a book that must not only be read and preached, but it also requires the true interpreter, that is, the revelation of the Holy Spirit; as we learn from our own experience now-a-days that it is of no avail to prove most clearly from Scripture the articles of the true doctrine to our opponents and to point out their errors. Not a single article of faith has ever been preached that was not more than once attacked and denied by heretics, though they read the same Scriptures that we have.

 

27. But this revelation also requires pupils of the right kind, who are willing to learn and to be instructed, like these pious and simple-minded disciples, not wise and puffed up minds and self-made masters who reach beyond the very heavens with their knowledge. For this is a doctrine that makes our wisdom foolishness and blinds our own reason, before it can be believed and understood; for it is not born of man's wisdom, like other sciences and arts on earth, which have sprung from reason and can be grasped by means of reason. Hence it is impossible to attain to it by reason, and if you undertake to measure and reckon how far it agrees with reason, you will not succeed. All heresies from the beginning have had their origin here, and both Jews and Gentiles, and the Turks at present, grow foolishly violent in regard to our doctrine because it does not agree with reason and human wisdom. Only the pious, simple-minded people can grasp and understand it, who are true to this rule, and say: ”God hath said it, therefore will I believe it;” as Christ himself declares in Mt 11, 25 and thanks the Father with a joyful heart that he hides these things from the wise and understanding and reveals them unto babes.

 

28. There is no way out of it, wise people and proud reason cannot be taught these wonderful things, concerning Christ, that true man is God's Son from eternity, and yet he died and rose again, that in his human nature he has become Lord of heaven and earth, that he rules all creatures with divine power though no one sees him, and that we are saved by his merits alone, if we believe in him etc. Therefore God must needs establish the order that no one shall understand unless he is willing to be a fool, become a child, and believe in the simplicity of the heart.

 

29. Behold, what kind of people did he employ to be his first messengers, to proclaim and to witness his grandest work, the resurrection? Poor, ignorant women came to the sepulchre after useless expense and trouble in purchasing costly ointment and without considering that the tomb was covered with a heavy stone, yea, even sealed and guarded by soldiers. Yet these foolish persons are the first to whom Christ reveals his resurrection, and calls to be its preachers and witnesses. So also does he give these disciples a knowledge of the Scriptures which all the learned scribes did not possess, so that now they view Moses with different eyes and are forced to say: Behold, how often have I read and heard this before, but never understood it.

 

30. God would seem to say by this act: Very well, I see plainly that it is of no avail though everything be spoken and written in the very clearest manner; for in truth, all articles of faith are set forth clearly and tersely enough in the Scriptures. Take only the article on God and the creation, which certainly is told and given in the very plainest way; yet see the rabble of heretics it has made, Manichaeans, Valentinians, Marcionites, etc. Again, what did it avail that Christ himself, among his own people, confirmed his doctrine clearly and publicly by great miracles? Nothing more than that they began to twist both his words and his deeds, and called them the words and deeds of the devil and Beelzebub. Hence God must continue and say: Since they will not have and receive this Word as I give it to them, it shall remain hidden and unknown to them. I shall indeed have it written and preached in clear language; but reveal it to some few, simple-minded people who seek my Word. To the others it shall be mere darkness which may be felt, as among the Egyptians (though it shines and is preached most clearly), yea, it shall be naught but an offense and poison, against which they must stumble and fall in their blasphemies and contradictions, until they break to pieces.

 

31. Thus the Jews have had and have read Moses unto this day; yet all of them know nothing of what he speaks concerning Christ, yea, not even in minor articles of faith, just as their forefathers knew nothing of it, save some few who believed, as the prophets and the apostles after them, who elaborated their whole books from a single Bible passage. This enabled them to preach what everyone was compelled to acknowledge as true.

 

32. How did Christ stop the mouth of the Sadducees (who did not believe the resurrection of the dead and accepted no other Scripture but Moses), and convince them of the resurrection of the dead? He took the commonest saying in their religion, which all Jews knew and quoted every day, when God says, ”I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob etc.” With these words he revealed Moses and drew the following conclusion: If you believe God to be God of those that are dead, how can he be God of those who have altogether ceased to be? Therefore, if he is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as he himself declares, these men must be alive, though they have died as far as this life is concerned, and lie in their graves; for he cannot be God of that which does not exist. Hence Abraham, who now lies under the earth, and all the saints, must be alive before God, though they are dead before you; for this is, and will be, his name forever that he is the God of Abraham and of all who believe as he had promised him and all believers, saying: ”I shall be thy God” etc.

 

33. Now who would have thought that these short, simple words are so full of meaning and furnish such an excellent, rich sermon, yea, that a big book might be written upon them? Though they know the books of Moses well enough, they yet declared that not a word concerning the resurrection of the dead was to be found in them. This was also the reason why they accepted Moses alone and rejected the prophets who nevertheless based all their preaching of the important articles of the faith in Christ upon Moses.

 

34. But let us look more closely at Christ's sermon and consider one of the passages from Moses which he quoted. Genesis 3, 15 is the first word which promises grace, and was given to Adam and Eve, when he spoke to the serpent, ”I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; he shall bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise his heel.” These words are read by Jews, Turks and heathens, and by human reason, but they all find them to be only hard pebbles, yea, dead and useless words, from which they cannot take anything even by their best efforts. But as soon as revelation comes to our aid, we understand them to mean: Through sin the serpent, that is the devil, has brought upon Adam and Eve sin and the eternal wrath of God. But in order to help them out of this dreadful fall and misery, into which they were led by Satan, God in his unfathomable mercy has found within himself this remedy that by the woman's seed, that is, by the natural offspring of a woman, that very head of the serpent, that is, sin, death, and everlasting wrath, shall be crushed and robbed of his power, so that he may no longer be lord of death, nor be able to keep man either in sin, or in God's wrath and condemnation.

 

35. From this an entire New Testament springs forth, all the discourses of St. Paul and the apostles, who do not tell a great deal of the life and miracles of Christ, but, where it is possible, use such a passage as a flower, so to say, with which to cover a great meadow, doing so by the aid of revelation and the Holy Ghost who knows how to grind and press the words thoroughly, so that they give forth the juice and power they possess. For these words show, in the first place, that this seed must be a natural child, born of a woman, but without sin; for the Scriptures testify that whatever is born into this world of man and woman, is born in sin and is under the wrath of God, as David says, Ps. 51, 5, ”Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity” etc. For this flesh and blood is completely permeated and corrupted with evil lusts and disobedience against God, and as this substance is corrupted in father and mother, it must remain so in the child; hence no man can be born from man and woman without a sinful nature. God, therefore, hath ordained to take a woman alone for the conception and birth of Christ, the promised seed without a man, she becomes the little child's mother, by the Holy Ghost, who causes this conception and birth in her, in order that he may be a natural man, having our flesh and blood, but without sin and power of Satan, whose head he was to bruise.

 

36. In the second place, if he was to be lord over sin and death, to subdue the devil and pluck us out of his hand, he had to have divine, almighty power. For though a man were altogether pure and without blemish of body or soul, as Adam was first created, yet were it not in his power and strength to take away this eternal misery and corruption, and to obtain and give in their stead unchangeable blessings and eternal life. Thus it follows that his power must be greater than that of all creatures, even all angels. Such power is found nowhere except in God himself, the Lord of all creation.

 

37. From this follows further that if he is born of a woman he is also mortal and must die in the body as others. And since he became man for our sake, and was sent by God to deliver us from sin and death, he had to take our place, to become a sacrifice for us, to bear and atone for that wrath and curse under which we had fallen and lay. But it was not possible for him to remain in death; since he was an eternal being he could not be held by it, as St. Peter says in Acts 2, 31, and in like passages; but even his body ere it had seen corruption and decay. must needs pass through death unscathed and by his resurrection and eternal life begin to rule in everlasting power and eternal glory, in order to bring his own out of sin and death, and the power of Satan unto everlasting righteousness and life.

 

38. Note that this is but a simple passage, which Christ surely did not overlook but interpreted from his own wealth of knowledge, as being the first and chief passage, from which later on all the others flow. Here we see that these are words, or miracles, rather, which reason can never grasp or fathom. They can only be understood when the Holy Ghost accompanies them, and preaches and reveals them unto those who believe with singleness of heart and abide in them. Then they begin to taste the sweet savor, and receive spiritual nourishment, so that they must say: This will do it, this will enlighten the heart and set it aflame.

 

39. Thus the prophets viewed the saying of Moses and drew therefrom their glorious prophecies concerning Christ, as Isaiah (7, 14) bases his prophecy of Christ's birth upon this passage with the plain statement, ”Behold, a virgin shall receive and bear a son” etc., also the whole 53 chapter concerning his suffering and resurrection, how that he would offer himself as a sacrifice for our sins etc. All these words Christ doubtless quoted in his sermon.

 

40. The apostles likewise, being ignorant fishermen, learned to know the Scriptures, not in the schools of the great scribes, but through the revelation by which Christ led them into the Scriptures. Thus they were enabled to understand and to write on the basis of a single passage a book or a sermon the world cannot understand. And if I had the same Spirit Isaiah or Paul had, I could take this passage and develop from it a New Testament, if that were not already written.

 

41. How did St. Peter know, or where is written in Moses that which he says in 1 Pet 1:10-11: ”Concerning which salvation the prophets sought and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you, searching what time or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto?” Who told him that the Spirit of Christ existed and prophesied of Christ, before there were prophets and, above all, before Christ and the Holy Ghost were present? Are these the words of a fisherman, or of a learned, wise scribe? Nay, it is the revelation of the Holy Spirit who had also revealed it to the prophets before. Again, where is written in Moses what the Epistle to the Hebrews says in 1, 3-4, that Christ sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high, to be Lord over all, having become much better and higher than the angels? etc. He certainly took it from the Old Testament, but he found it not by his own reason, but by revelation, hence he argues: thus: If Christ is a Son of God and Lord of the angels, he must certainly be more and of a better nature than the angels. Now every angel is more powerful than all the world and combined human nature; yet if this true child of a virgin is to be Lord, not alone of the evil spirits, but also of the good and holy angels, he must be of one power and essence with God. This nobody will say or believe, except by revelation. Therefore I would agree to take Moses, the Psalms, Isaiah, together with the Spirit whom these men had, and make a New Testament every whit as good as that which the apostles wrote; but because we have not the same wealth and power of the Spirit, we must be taught by them and drink from the fountain which they gave us.

 

42. Let this be enough concerning a single portion or a single passage of the sermon Christ spoke to these disciples, and wherewith he well and fully earned, yea, paid for the entertainment they furnished him at the inn. But to set forth all the other words of Moses and the prophets which they spoke of Christ, and which he explained, would be by far too great a task for one sermon; for it would in itself amount to a book as large as the Bible. But without doubt they were the same passages the apostles quoted afterwards as they heard them from his own mouth on this occasion, and learned to understand them better on the following day of Pentecost. A goodly number of these passages were quoted by them in their sermons, in the Acts of the Apostles, and in the Epistles; and they are recommended for close study to every Christian, as he reads and ponders the Holy Scriptures. Then the Holy Ghost will be present with his power to give the right understanding, as we have heard, since he is the true interpreter, if only we treat them seriously and in the simplicity of the heart. The fruit thereof will be that we shall find Christ therein and learn to know him aright. This will quicken and kindle the heart, and fill it with comfort and joy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sermon for Easter Tuesday;

Acts 13:26-39

 

THE WORD AND THE RESURRECTION

 

Acts 13:26-39

Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent. For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him. And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. But God raised him from the dead: And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people. And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption. Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.

 

1. This sermon was preached by Paul in the synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia, where were gathered with the Jews some Greek converts. Wherever in a city Jews were to be found, there also were their synagogues in which they taught and preached; and many gentiles, coming to hear, were converted to God through the preaching of his Word. Undoubtedly it was by God's wonderful direction that the Jews were dispersed throughout the world among the gentiles, after the first destruction of Jerusalem by the Assyrians. Inasmuch as this dispersion resulted in the spread of the Word, they were instrumental in securing salvation for the gentiles and in preparing the way for the world-wide preaching of the Gospel by the apostles. For wherever the apostles went they found Jewish synagogues and the opportunity to preach to a regular congregation, through whom their Gospel might be widely disseminated because of the many gentiles also in attendance. Had not these gentiles been already accustomed to the Jewish synagogues, they would not have listened to the apostles, nor even permitted them publicly to preach, strangers that they were.

 

2. Thus it is Paul comes into the synagogue on the Sabbath, a time when the congregation was wont to assemble and read the Scriptures. He and Barnabas being guests from the country of the Jews, Paul is besought to give an exhortation, or sermon, to the people, whereupon he rises and delivers a fine, lengthy discourse concerning Christ: how in the Scriptures he had been promised unto the fathers and to David the king, had been born of the seed of David and had received the public testimony of John the Baptist; how Christ was sacrificed by the Jews (Peter gives the same account in the preceding epistle lesson); how he rose from the dead and for some time showed himself alive; how he then commanded his apostles to publish to the world the new doctrine that God's promise to the Jews had been fulfilled; and how, by his resurrection, he brought to them the promised blessing, namely, the remission of sins unattainable through the Law of Moses and all their ordinances, but dispensed and imparted alone to faith in the Christ proclaimed.

 

3. As stated later in the text, there were, beside the Jews, many gentiles present at the preaching of this sermon, and at its conclusion they besought Paul to speak to them again between sabbaths. Accordingly, when he came to the synagogue the next sabbath, he found almost the whole city assembled. But to return to the first sermon: Paul says, ”Brethren, children of the stock of Abraham” - or, native Jews - ”and those among you that fear God” - who are gentiles. Now, though this could not but be a discourse objectionable and highly offensive to the Jews, Paul opens with tender and nicely chosen words meant to conciliate and to secure their respectful attention. He highly honors them by addressing them as the people chosen by God in preference to all the gentiles; as children of the holy fathers who had a special claim to the promise of God. But, again, he vitiates his pleasing impression when he proclaims to the Jews naught else but the crucified and risen Christ, and concludes with the statement that with nothing but Moses' Law and ordinances they ranked no higher in the sight of God than the gentiles.

 

THE WORD OF SALVATION.

4. Paul's discourse is in perfect harmony with Peter's sermon. Peter speaks of God having sent unto the Jews heralds proclaiming peace; and Paul here says, ”To you [us] is the word of this salvation sent.” Notwithstanding the joy and comfort wherewith these words are fraught, they could not please the Jews. The Jews disdained the idea - in fact, it was intolerable to them to hear it expressed - that after their long expectation of a Messiah to be lord and king of the world, they should receive a mere message, and at that a message rendering of no significance at all that Law and government for which they had expected, through that Messiah, exaltation and world-wide acceptance. Indeed, such an issue could only mean to them having entertained a vain hope.

 

5. Paul makes his teaching yet more offensive by not referring to the Gospel simply as the word of peace, as Peter does, but by giving it the greater and grander title, ”the word of salvation”; in other words, a doctrine calculated to heal and save. No grander name could be found for the Gospel; for a message of salvation is an expression of God's grace, forgiveness of sins, abiding peace and life eternal. Moreover, these blessings were not to be bestowed upon the Jews alone; they were to be equally shared with the gentiles, who had no knowledge of God, of the Law, or of divine worship. The gentiles were thus to be made the equals of the Jews, leaving the latter without preference or special merit before God, and without advantage and lordship over the former in the world.

 

6. Thus early in his discourse Paul grows blunt and severe, kneading Jews and gentiles into one lump. Indeed, he plainly tells the Jews that the Law of Moses did not secure to them the favor of God in the past and would be equally profitless in the future; that through the Gospel message, and only so, they, and all gentiles as well, were to be delivered from sin, death and the power of the devil, and to become God's people, with power over all. Yet he presents no other tangible token of the great boon he calls salvation and blessedness than his preaching alone. Now, one may say: ”The word I hear, and Paul I see, a poor human being; but this salvation - grace, life and peace  - I behold not. On the contrary, I daily see and experience sin, terror, adversity, suffering and death, until it seems as if in all humanity none are so utterly forsaken by God as the Christians, who hear this message.”

 

7. But this is precisely the precious doctrine to be learned if we are to be God's children and sensible of his kingdom within us, a doctrine beyond the knowledge and experience of the Jews with their Law and of the gentiles with their wisdom drawn from reason - this it is: our salvation stands in the word Paul here declares of Christ, a word which, in name and reality, is a word of salvation and peace; for salvation and peace are the blessings which it offers and imparts.

 

8. God has sent this word, Paul says. Its origin and conception is not with man. It is not the edict of the Roman emperor, nor the command of the high-priest at Jerusalem. It is the Word of the God of heaven. In it he speaks. He will have the message preached by poor human beings as a power unto happiness and salvation, both in name and reality. Such the Law never was. Paul says (Rom 1, 16): ”I am not ashamed of the Gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” And God himself has bound up with it our salvation when he manifests himself in the voice heard from heaven at Jordan, saying of Christ, ”This is my beloved Son” - who is to be heard.

 

9. God desires Christ's Word to be heard. Otherwise expressed, his command is: ”Here ye have the Word of peace and salvation. Not elsewhere may you seek and find these blessings. Cling to this Word if you desire peace, happiness and salvation. Let befall what may, crosses, afflictions, discord, death - whether you be beheaded, or fall victim to pest or stroke, or in whatever manner God may call you home - in it all, look only upon me, whose Word promises that you shall not die, what seems death being but a sweet sleep, aye, the entrance into life eternal. Christ says (Jn 8, 51): ”Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my Word, he shall never see death.” Note, it is the keeping of the Word on which Christ lays stress. ”Keeping” is holding fast to the promise, feeling and all senses to the contrary, doubting not the truth of the message heard. For he who promises is not man; it is the Lord of heaven and earth and all that in them is, who has to this moment controlled and preserved the same. One hundred years ago, what were you and I and all men now living but absolutely nothing? How and from what was creation effected when there was nothing to start with? ”He spake and it was done” - that was created which before had not existence - declares Psalm 33, 9, quoting from Genesis 1; ”he commanded, and it stood fast.”

 

10. Being the Word of God, the Gospel is an entirely different thing from man's word, no matter though it be spoken by a mere man or even a donkey. Therefore, let there be, now or henceforth, discord, terror of sin; the menace of death and hell, of the grave and corruption: come upon you what may - only press to your heart this Word that Christ has sent you a message of salvation - of redemption, of triumph over all things; and that he commands you to believe it. Then you will perceive that he, as your God and Creator, will not deceive you. What are death, the devil and all creatures as a match for Christ?

 

11. The glory of Christ's message, then, here called by Paul ”the word of salvation,” is much greater and higher than would have been the promise of all the kingdoms, all the riches and splendors of the world, yes, of both heaven and earth. For what could they benefit if one possessed not the Word of salvation and eternal life? With all these, when assailed by sins, or by the distress and danger of death, one must still say, ”Away with all the blessings and joys of the world, so that I may hear and have altogether the message ,of salvation sent by Christ.” You must hold fast to it and know that it alone gives eternal peace and joy; that it must receive your faith in spite of all apparent contradiction; that you must not be governed by your reason or your feelings, but must regard that as divine, unchangeable and eternal truth which God has spoken and commands to be proclaimed. Such is Paul's exhortation addressed primarily to the Jews to accept this message as sent by God and as being the bearer of wondrous blessings.

 

12. Next, he proceeds to remove their chief stumblingblock, the thing of greatest offense to them. He warns them against the course adopted by them of Jerusalem, who had the Word of salvation from Christ himself, who read it in the prophets every day, who should have had no trouble perceiving that the prophets testified to Christ and that there was complete harmony between their teaching and that of Christ and the apostles, yet would not understand. Because Christ came not in the manner they desired, they condemned the very One whom they read of in the Scriptures as appearing with this Word of salvation, the time of whose coming had been pointed out, leaving them to know it had long since arrived and they had no reason to wait for another. They understood not the Scriptures because their minds were completely hardened and dominated by the fixed idea that Christ should reign as a temporal king. So thoroughly was the whole Jewish nation impressed with this belief that the very apostles had no other conception of Christ's kingdom, even after his resurrection. As John says (ch. 12, 16), they did not understand the Scriptures until Christ ascended to heaven and the Holy Spirit came. So long as there hangs before one's eyes this curtain - the carnal fancy of a temporal kingdom for Christ, an earthly government for his Church - the Scriptures cannot be understood. As Paul says of the Jews (2 Cor 3, 14), the veil remaineth in the reading of the Scriptures. But this lack of understanding is inexcusable. That is gross and wilful blindness which will not receive the instruction and direction imparted by the apostles. The Jews continue to rave against the Gospel; they will hear nothing of the Christ, though even after crucifying him they receive the offer of repentance and remission of sins at the hands of the apostles.

 

13. That Paul should make bold to tell the most prominent men and rulers of the whole Jewish nation - the heads of God's people, pillars of the Church, as we would say that not only the common rabble, but likewise they themselves did not know and understand the Scriptures committed to them; aye, that, not content with such ignorance and error, they had themselves become the individuals of whom they read, the murderers and crucifiers of the Son of God, their Saviour - this was a matter of grave offense indeed! Offensive indeed was it to have this accusation brought against them, a people among whom God had ordained his worship, his temple and priesthood, and for whom he had instituted a peculiar government, giving the high-priest power to say, Do so or you will be put to death. Deut 17, 12. And of them were the glorious and great council of the seventy-two elders originally ordained through Moses (Ex 18, 25-26), the council called the Sanhedrin. They ruled the entire people and certainly knew right and wrong according to their law. Was there not reason here to tear Paul to pieces with red-hot pinchers as a seditious character, a public blasphemer, speaking not only against the Jewish government but against the honor of God himself; daring to accuse all the princes of the nation of being in error, of knowing nothing of the Scriptures, even of being murderers of the Son of God? The Pope and his crowd lack the credentials of such glory and endorsement by God. They have merely reared a system of self-devised doctrine and idolatry, which they still defend. Hence, whatever censure and condemnation we heap upon the Pope and his crowd is small in comparison to the thrust Paul dealt the Jewish leaders.

 

14. Note, Paul does not stand back for anything. He teaches men utterly to disregard the hue and cry of the offended Jews that they were the high-priests, teachers, rulers in a government ordained by God and commanding the obedience of the people; that teaching disobedience to them was equivalent to teaching disobedience to parents and to civil government, yes, to God himself - something in the nature of the case not to be tolerated. Yet Paul fearlessly does so teach, as an apostle of God and in fulfilment of God's command. How much more would Paul oppose our popish deceivers who, without the authority of God's Word, boast themselves heads of the Church and of the people of God, at the same time neither teaching nor understanding the Scriptures, but offering their own drivel as God's commands!

 

15. But what cause has Paul at heart that he dares so boldly condemn the judgment of these exalted officials? It is this, according to his own statement: There is One called Jesus Christ, of whom the prophets, in fact the entire Scriptures, speak. Him the Jews refuse to know. He is higher and greater than the high-priests and the rulers, greater than the temple or the whole city of Jerusalem. And the Jews know his coming means their passing, and their obedience to him as Lord and Supreme Ruler. Therefore, they are inexcusable in their rejection of Christ. Of no avail is their evasion, ”God has given us the dominion and the supreme power, and has commanded obedience to us in equal degree with obedience to parents.”

 

16. The fact that an individual is a lord or a prince, a father or a mother, a child or a subject, administers authority or obeys it, will not excuse him from being baptized and believing in Christ. For Christ is sole and supreme Lord over all kings, princes and governors. True, we should be obedient to parents and to civil authority, but not to the extent of disobeying the Lord, him who has created and subjected to himself emperors and magistrates equally with the lowliest of men. But the gentlemen and lords at Jerusalem, like those of our day, were unwilling to permit obedience to any but themselves. From such conditions arises the present dispute about ecclesiastical authority. To go counter to it in obeying God's command - this the ecclesiasts unjustly call disobedience and sedition. But such must be our course if we are to be loyal to our Lord and theirs, whom they deny.

 

17. In the matter of salvation, Caiaphas or Pope, Caesar or king, avails naught; none avails but Jesus Christ. ”Him,” says Paul, ”the rulers of Jerusalem, the Holy City, have killed. Though ye were ordained by God and given authority, God no longer regards you, because ye reject Christ. Ye have become great blockheads, blind leaders, understanding not at all the Scriptures. Yet ye should and would teach others, just as Moses and the prophets have pointed to this Christ promised to you and to all the world for salvation and solace. Persisting in your blindness, ye have brought him to the cross, though finding in him no cause for condemnation. Surely, he did you no injury; he deprived you of naught, neither money, goods, honor nor power, but has brought you all good - even salvation - if ye will but receive him. But ye made yourselves the very ones who fulfilled the Scriptures ye daily read - those who put Christ to death and brought to pass the fact that he rose from the dead (though without thanks to you or to Satan) and became a Lord commanding the obedience of all creatures.

 

”We shall no longer regard what ye, or all the world, have to say of our preaching Christ; it is all the same to us whether you rage or smile. For we boast the Lord, the Son of God, made Lord over all the fathers through his resurrection. It is his will that we preach of him, and that all men believe. Since ye refuse him, your God-given privilege ceases, which, however, was granted only until the advent of the Messiah. We must withdraw from you, renouncing your authority and priesthood, and Jerusalem itself. We tell you plainly that we cannot and will not obey you in opposition to the will of the Lord.”

 

18. Mark you, in order to make the Jews Christians, Paul had to preach that Christ was already come; that he was no longer to be looked for. He was obliged to bring home to them what they had done to Christ, they the rulers and chief of those bearing the name of God's people and entrusted with the Law and the order of divine worship - he was forced to do so that they might perceive their sin and quit their boast of having the true Law and worship, having nothing whatever wherein to glory before God. For, though possessing the Law of Moses and having heard often enough the Word of God, they would not recognize and receive the Messiah sent by God in accordance with his promise, but condemned him and became his murderers. In view of this fact, what does their boast about being Abraham's children, God's people, possessors of the prophets, and the Law and the priesthood, amount to? These privileges only magnify their sins, only make their guilt the more grievous, before God. Not as blind, ignorant heathen, but as a people who have, and should know, the Word of God, they wilfully put to death God's Son. Thus we have the first part of Paul's sermon.

 

THE RESURRECTION AND FAITH.

19. The second part deals with the resurrection of Christ and its power through faith. This is the goal Paul has in view when he tells them that they have slain the Christ, thus effecting their condemnation by God and forfeiting whatever glory they possessed as Jews, gaining shame and wrath before God in its stead. To be still delivered from such condemnation, and to obtain justification and salvation, as he expresses himself toward the end, it is necessary to hear and believe the word concerning the selfsame Christ. Moreover, inasmuch as they with their leaders have refused to receive and recognize this Messiah when he preached and wrought miracles in person; now, that he is invisible and absent in the body, they are called upon to receive him whom they themselves have crucified unto death, and to believe that he is risen from the dead as Lord over all, according to the testimony of the apostles. The dreams of the past they are now utterly to forsake, and their expectations of a Messiah still to come and elevate them with their Law and manner of worship to fame, riches and position, and to spread abroad their Moses and their priesthood in all the earth. They must now thank God for being placed on the same footing with the gentiles, in that they may come with them to the Word of salvation for the purpose of obtaining God's favor, remission of sins and life eternal.

 

OLD TESTAMENT TESTIMONY.

20. Paul supports his discourse on the resurrection of Christ with many strong Scripture texts. There is no doubt that he dwelt on these at length and preached quite a sermon, which, however, has not been recorded here in full, but only in part. The apostle's purpose was to point us to the Old Testament Scriptures, that we might there make diligent study for ourselves of how forcibly the prophets have spoken concerning Christ, his works and his kingdom.

 

21. The first text Paul cites is from the Second Psalm, which treats throughout of the Messiah and his reign, as even the Jews at the time when wisdom still prevailed had to admit. Christ's own words are: ”I will tell of the decree: Jehovah said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” Paul says he is here quoting from the First Psalm, though in all editions, old and new, this psalm comes second in order. But the apostle does not have reference to the technical arrangement of the psalms in a book, but to the order of his quotations. The thought is: ”First, I will prove it from the psalm,” or, ”First, as written in the psalm.” just as the preacher of today says, ”I observe, first,” or, ”It is written, first, in the psalm,” whether the psalm be the first, second, twentieth or thirtieth, he not having reference to the order of the psalm but to the order in which he cites it.

 

22. But how does Paul make this text prove the resurrection of Christ? It is truly a strong statement, and no doubt the apostle fully explained it, amplifying it beautifully and well. The psalm refers to that Messiah, or King, who shall reign in the Jewish nation, among the people; for the writer says plainly, ”I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion,” or Jerusalem. The King, then, must be true man like other men. Indeed, the psalmist adds that the kings and rulers of earth shall rage and persecute him, which could not be unless he reigned upon earth.

 

23. But this verse also makes the King true God, for here God calls him his own Son, begotten of himself in his divine, eternal essence and majesty. He is, then, not an adopted Son, but the true Son of God by birth. Being man, however, just like others, he must, in accord with his human nature, die; indeed, he must suffer crucifixion and death at the hands of the lords of the world. But, again, if he be also the begotten Son of God and therefore true God, he cannot, even according to his human nature, remain in death; he must come forth from it, must triumph over it, becoming Lord of life and death forever. Here is an indivisible Being, at the same time a Son of the virgin of the house of David and of God. Such cannot remain in death. If he enter death, it must be to overcome and conquer it, yes, to slay it, to destroy it; and to bring to pass that in him as Lord shall reign naught but life, life for all who receive him. This subject is elsewhere more fully expounded.

 

24. But the succeeding text cited on the resurrection - from Isaiah 55, 3 - reads yet more strangely: ”I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David,” which in the Hebrew is: ”I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.” The prophet has reference to the promise made to David in Second Samuel 7, concerning Christ. In the preceding verses of the chapter, Isaiah most tenderly entreats and invites the whole world to receive the promises of salvation, for thereby shall the poor, the wretched and the afflicted obtain the great treasures of joy and salvation. And immediately following the verse quoted, he speaks of the Messiah, the promised seed of David, as given to the Levites for a ”witness”in other words, a preacher sent by God - and for ”a leader and commander to the peoples.” The thought is of a King and Ruler differing from Moses and his priests and exponents of the Law; a ruler differing from every other lord, ruler and king, from David and all worldly rulers whatever, subjecting everything to himself. Not that this Leader should set up a new temporal government, or extend Jewish authority among the gentiles, but that both Jews and gentiles should receive him and believe in him, obtaining the fulfilment of that promise he here terms a covenant of the sure mercies of David. This covenant, God says, he enters into and keeps, a divine, sure covenant: through Christ shall be given whatever blessings God's mercy shall bestow, with remission or blotting out of sins, redemption from death and life eternal. 25. Now, if the Christ of this covenant is true man and, as the promise to David is, of David's flesh and blood; and if he is to bring eternal mercy, he must likewise be God, such gift being in the province and power of God alone. This being true, he cannot remain in death, although he may suffer death by reason of his human nature; he must of his own power rise from the dead. Only so can he raise others and give them everlasting life; only so can he truly be called eternal King of grace, righteousness and life, according to the sure promise of God.

 

26. Therefore, wherever the Scriptures speak of Christ's eternal kingdom, and of everlasting grace, they point out this article of the resurrection of Christ. No doubt, the apostle in explanation of the text from the Second Psalm quoted other Old Testament passages; for instance, Psalm 110, 1: ”Jehovah saith unto my lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool”; also verse 4: ”Jehovah hath sworn, and will not repent: Thou art a priest for ever.” In these passages God has promised to give us Christ, him who was to sit at his right hand - that is, have the omnipotent, divine power possible only to an eternal Lord and King - and at the same time to have his kingdom on earth, at Zion - or Jerusalem; and who was, moreover, to be a priest forever, being taken from among men and like unto them, even in his ability to die, yet at the same time continuing a priest forever, thereby forestalling the necessity of remaining in death and grave.

 

27. The third passage cited by Paul is taken from the Sixteenth Psalm, which is in reality one of the Messianic psalms. This is the psalm Peter in his first sermon on the day of Pentecost more fully explains, drawing from it the irresistible conclusion, so apparent in his own words, that Christ indeed has died; not, however, to become victim to decay in the tomb, but, proof against mortal destruction and hurt, to arise on the third day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easter Tuesday, or Third Easter Day 

Luke 24:36-47

 

The Manifestation of Christ After His Resurrection, and the Sermon He Preached to His Disciples

 

I. Christ's Manifestation after His Resurrection

Luke 24:36-47

And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them. And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

 

I. Christ's Manifestation after His Resurrection

1. I think beloved, you have heard enough in these days on the resurrection of Christ, what it works, why it came to pass, and what fruit it bears. But since the Lord has commanded those who preach the Gospel to be steadfast and diligent in this proclamation, we must dwell upon it ever more and more. Our Gospel shows, first, who hear of the Lord's resurrection profitably and fruitfully, namely they are here assembled in fear and dread behind closed doors. To them it ought also to be preached most of all, although it must be preached to all nations, as the Lord says at the end of the Gospel of Matthew. Therefore, let us learn first of all what kind of persons hear the Gospel aright.

 

2. The disciples are gathered there together in seclusion. They are afraid of the Jews are, indeed, in danger of their lives; they are fearful and fainthearted and afraid of sin and death. Had they been strong and courageous, they would not thus have crept into a corner; even as afterward they were made so courageous, when the Holy Spirit came and strengthened and comforted them, that they stepped forth and preached publicly without fear. This is written for us, that we might learn that the Gospel of Christ's resurrection comforts only the fainthearted. And who are these? They are the poor, conscience-stricken ones, whose sins lie heavily upon them, who feel their faint heart, are loth to die, and are well-nigh startled by the sound of a rustling leaf. To these contrite, poor, and needy souls, the Gospel offers comfort, to them it is a sweet savor.

 

3. This is also learned from the nature of the Gospel, for the Gospel is a message and a testimony, which declares how the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead, that he might remove sin, death and all evil from all who believe on him. If I recognize him as such a Savior, I have heard the Gospel aright, and he has in truth revealed himself to me. If now the Gospel teaches naught but that Christ has overcome sin and death by his resurrection, then we must indeed confess that it can be of service to none save those who feel sin and death. For they who do not feel their sin, and are not dismayed, nor see their infirmities, profit not a whit by it, nor do they delight in it. And though they hear the Gospel, it has no effect upon them, except that they learn the words, and speak of what they heard. They do not treasure them in their hearts, and receive neither comfort nor joy from them.

 

4. Hence it were well, if the Gospel could be preached only where such fainthearted and conscience-stricken ones are found. But this can not be, and for this reason it bears so little fruit. For this they reproach us and say that we wish to preach many new things, and yet no one is better because of our doctrine. The fault is not in the Gospel, but in the hearers. They hear it, indeed, but they do not feel their own affliction and misery, nor have they ever tried to feel it, they simply go on, secure and reprobate, like dumb brutes. Hence none need marvel if the Gospel does not everywhere bring forth fruit. For beside the good hearers, of whom we have spoken, there are many others that have no regard for it at all, have neither a conscience nor a heart for it, and think neither of death nor of the salvation of their souls. These must be driven by force, like asses and dumb brutes, and for this purpose the civil sword is established. Again there are some who do not despise the Gospel, but fully understand it, yet do not amend their lives, nor strive to walk in it. They carry away only the words and prate much about them, but neither deeds nor fruit follow. The third class, however, are they that taste it and use it aright so that it bears fruit in them.

 

5. This is then the conclusion of the matter, the Gospel is a testimony of the resurrection of Christ, which serves to comfort and refresh the poor, sorrowing, and terrified consciences. There is need that we have clearly apprehended this truth when we come to die, and also that we may provide for it in every other need. If you think: Behold, now death is approaching and staring me in the face; would that I had someone to comfort me, that I might not despair, then know that for this purpose the Gospel is good, here it belongs, here its use is blessed and salutary. As soon as a man knows and understands this, and believes the Gospel, his heart finds peace and says: If Christ, my Lord, has overcome my sin, and trodden it under foot by his resurrection, wherefore should I fear, and of what should I be afraid? Why should not my heart rejoice and be of good cheer? But such comfort, peace and joy of heart, are felt by none save the small company which was before greatly dismayed and full of sorrow, and felt its infirmities. Hence also the rude and impenitent understand neither this nor any other Gospel, for he that has not tasted the bitter cannot relish the sweet, and he that has not seen adversity does not understand happiness. For as in the world that man who neither cares nor attempts to do any thing, and endures nothing, is good for nothing; so in a more eminent degree in spiritual things it is not possible that anyone should understand the Gospel except he who has such a dismayed and terrified heart.

 

6. From this you should learn that it is no marvel, that many who hear the Gospel do not receive it nor live according to it. Everywhere there are many who reject and persecute it, but we must let them go and grow accustomed to their work. Where the Gospel is preached, such people will surely be found; and it if were otherwise, it would not be right, for there must be many kinds of hearers. Again, many will be found, who do not persecute it and yet do not receive it, for they bear no fruit and continue to live as before. Be not worried because of this for even though a man preach and continue in the Gospel for many years, he must still lament and say: Aye, no one will come, and all continue in their former state. Therefore you must let that grieve nor terrify you.

 

7. For note what took place at Jerusalem, where the Gospel was first heard, and where there were so many people that it is said, there were in the city at the feast of the Passover eleven hundred thousand men. How many of these were converted? When St. Peter stood up and preached, they made a mockery of it and considered the apostles drunken fools. When they had urged the Gospel a long time, they gathered together three thousand men and women. But what were they among so many? Yea, no one could discern that the Gospel had accomplished anything, for all things continued in the same state as before. No change was seen, and scarcely anyone knew that there were Christians there. And so it will be at all times.

 

8. Hence the Gospel must not be measured by the multitude that hear, but by the small company that receive it. They, indeed, appear as nothing, they are despised and persecuted, and yet God secretly works in them.

 

9. Besides this there is another thing that hinders the free movement of the Gospel, namely the infirmities of the believers. This we see in many examples. Thus although Peter was filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, yet he fell and stumbled, he and all that were with him, when he walked not according to the Gospel nor according as he had taught, so that Paul had to reprove him openly, Gal. 2,14. There clung to him many great and holy men, and all stumbled with him. Again, we read that Mark journeyed with Paul, but afterward fell away and withdrew from him; and in Acts 15,37 we read again that Paul and Barnabas strove together, and there arose a sharp contention between them. And, before this, we read in the Gospels how often the apostles erred in weighty matters though they were the best of Christians.

 

10. These infirmities of Christians and believers darken the Gospel most of all, so that men who deem themselves wise and learned stumble and are offended in them. Few there are who can well reconcile these tings so as to take no offense and hence say: Yes, these desire to be good Christians, and are still so wayward, envious, filled with hate and wrath, that one thinks the Gospel has been preached in vain. This really signifies to be offended in the weak and sick Christ.

 

11. It was also thus with the disciples. At first, when Christ wrought great and excellent works, and gained great honors, and began the work only to fulfill it, they remained steadfast, though many great and noble saints and learned men were offended, because he would not join them. The common man on the contrary was instructed, and the people clung to him, because they saw that with great power he wrought such excellent works; and also walked as that none could reproach him, but all must needs say: Truly this is a great and holy prophet! But when his suffering began, they all turned back and forsook him, and not one of his disciples continued with him. Why was this? Because they considered him not the strong, but the weak Christ. He now was in the hands of the Jews, did no more works and miracles just as if he had lost all his power and was forsaken of God. Then perished completely his power and his great name. Before, they counted him a prophet, the like of whom had never appeared; now he is rated as a murderer and a condemned man. Who could now see that this was Christ, the Son of God? Here all reason must fall, yea, all the great and holy saints; for they thought: If he were the Christ, there would needs appear the fruits whereby we might know that it is he, but now we see in him only weakness and sin and death.

 

12. Therefore it is the highest wisdom on earth, though it is known by very few men, how to bear with the weak Christ. For if I see a pious, holy man leading a beautiful godly life, who will thank me for praising him and saying: There is Christ, and there is righteousness? For although bishops and great dunces be offended in such a one, the common people will be instructed. But if he be feeble and falter, straightway everyone will be offended and say: Alas! I had imagined him to be a good Christian, but I see that he falls short of it. However, if they look about them, they will find none without like infirmities, yea, they will perceive it in themselves. Still they think that the Gospel has come to naught. Thus might they think, if God were not able, in his wisdom, to hide it, even as he put a covering over Christ when he drew over him death and weakness, and Christ was under it, though no man could see it. Hence he told his disciples in advance, Mt. 26,31: ”All, all you, shall be offended in me, and shall no more think nor believe that I am the Christ.” Hence if we judge the Gospel, as I have said, according to the infirmity and weakness of Christians, as they stumble at times, a very great obstacle is presented at which offense is taken and the Gospel is thought to be without power.

 

13. Therefore he that would know Christ aright must not give heed to the covering. And though you see another stumble, do not despair, nor think all hope is lost; but rather think: God, perchance, will have this one bear the weak Christ, even as another bears the strong; for both must be and abide on earth, though the greater part appear weak and are such especially in our day. But if you pierce through such weakness, you will find that Christ lies hidden in that weak person, he will come forth and show himself.

 

14. That is what Paul means when he says to the Corinthians, in his First Epistle 2,2: ”I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” What kind of glory is this that impels him to write that he knows nothing, save Christ crucified? It is a thing, that neither reason nor human wisdom can understand nor yet they who have studied and learned the Gospel; for this wisdom is mighty, hidden and mysterious, and seems of no value, because he was crucified and emptied himself of all power and divine strength, and hung upon the cross like a wretched, forsaken man, and it seemed as if God would not help him. Of him alone I speak and preach, says St. Paul. For the Christ, that sits on high, does wonders, comes and breaks through with power, that all may see who he is, and may quickly come to know him. But to know the weak Christ, that is hanging upon the cross and lying in death, one needs great wisdom; for they who know him not, must needs stumble and be offended.

 

15. Yea, some are also found who really know the Gospel, but are offended at their own manner of life. They have a desire to walk in godliness, but they feel they make no progress. They begin to despair and think that with them all is lost because they do not feel the strength which they ought to have, also earnestly desire Christ to become strong in them and manifest himself in mighty deeds. But Jehovah, our God, hereby designs to humble us, that we may see what feeble creatures we are, what wretched, lost and condemned men, if Christ had not come and helped us. Behold, that is the great wisdom we have, and at which all the world is offended.

 

16. But thereby we have no furlough, to continue for all time in weakness, for we do not preach that any should be weak, but that we should know the weakness of Christians and bear with it. Christ did not hang upon the cross, that he might appear as a murderer and evildoer, but that we might learn thereby how deeply strength lies hidden under weakness, and might learn to know God's strength in weakness. Thus our weakness is not to be praised, as though we should abide in it, but rather must we learn not to think that those who are weak are not Christians, nor yet to despair when we feel our own weakness. Therefore it behooves us to know our own weaknesses and ever to seek to wax stronger, for Christ must not suffer always, nor remain in the grave, but must come forth again and live.

 

17. Hence, let none say that this is the true course and condition. It is only a beginning, in which we must grow day by day, giving heed only that we turn not away and despair when we are so weak, as though all were lost. Rather must we continue to exercise ourselves till we wax stronger and stronger, and endure and bear the weakness, until God helps and takes it away. Hence, even though you see your neighbor so weak that he stumbles, think not that he is beyond hope. God will not have one judge another and be pleased with himself, inasmuch as we are all sinners, but that one bear the infirmity of the other (Rom. 14 and Gal. 6). And if you will not do that, he will let you fall and cast you down, and raise the other up. He desires to have us help one another and bear each other's weaknesses.

 

18. I have thus spoken of our infirmity in order that you may have a good understanding of it, for such knowledge is very necessary, especially at this time. Oh, if our bishops, pastors, and prelates had had this wisdom, for they needed it the most, how much better would conditions be in Christendom! They would then be able to bear with the weak consciences, and would know how to minister to them. But now it has come to this, that they look only to the strong Christians, and can never bear with the weak; but deal only harshly with them and proceed with force. In times past, when conditions were yet good, the bishops were sorely wanting in this, for, though they were great and holy men, they yet constrained and oppressed the consciences too much. Such things do not take place among Christians, for it is Christ's will to be weak and sickly yet for a while, and to have both flesh and bones together, as he says here in the Gospel: ”Handle me and see , for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye behold me having.” He would have both, not bones only, nor flesh only. Thus we read in Gen. 2,23, that when God created Eve, Adam said: ” This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.” He says not flesh only or bones only; speaks of having both himself, for he too must needs have both. So it is also with Christ and with us, and hence he says here: I have both flesh and bones, you will find in me not only bones, nor yet only flesh; you will find that I am both strong and sick.

 

19. Thus also my Christians must be so mingled together, that some are strong and some weak. They that are strong, walk uprightly, are hale and hearty, and must bear the others; they are the bones. The others are the weak that cleave unto the strong. they are also the greater number, as in a body there will always be found more flesh than bones. Hence Jesus was crucified and died, and likewise was quickened again and glorified, that he might not be a spirit, as the disciples here deem him to be and were filled with fear of him, thinking that because he is not only bone and the strong Christ, it is not he, but a ghost.

 

20. This wisdom was diligently urged by the apostles and by Christ himself, and, beside this, I know of no book in which it is urged. Only this one book, the New Testament, urges it constantly, and everywhere strives to set before the people the weak and the strong Christ. Thus says St. Paul to the Romans 15,1-3: ”Now we that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to please ourselves. Let each one of us please his neighbor for that which is good, unto edifying. For Christ also pleased not himself.” Hence we must do the same, and this is the wisdom we are to learn here.

 

21. To this school belong all that are pictured here in this Gospel, whom Christ finds terrified and frightened. The others, who do not belong here, are easily identified, for they reject and despise the Gospel. In like manner everyone can know himself, whether he truly takes pleasure in the Gospel. And if you see in another's behavior evidence of an earnest desire to be made holy, you should not despise him.

 

22. This Gospel therefore shows the following: First, that the Lord stands among the disciples and is now strong, having overcome sin, death, and the devil; but they do not stand as yet, but sit there, and he comes and stands in the midst of them. Where does he stand at the present time? In the midst of the weak and fainthearted company, that sit in fear and weakness, while he is strong and mighty, though it is not yet apparent to the world. But even though the world does not see it, God sees it. Second, he shows them his hands and his feet, and comforts them, saying: ”Why are ye troubled? and wherefore do questionings arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones,” etc.

 

23. This is nothing but a sermon that teaches us not to be offended in the weak Christ. He does not rebuke the disciples harshly, does not say: Away with you; I do not want you. You should be strong and courageous, but here you sit and are dismayed and terrified! He does not do these things; but lovingly comforts them, that he might make them strong and fearless, and not only this, but also cheerful and of good courage. Therefore we ought not to cast away the weak, but so deal with them that, from day to day, we may bring them to a condition that they may become strong and of good cheer. This does not signify that it is well, if they are weak, and that they should continue weak; for Christ does not stand among them for that purpose, but that they might grow in faith and be made fearless.

 

24. Here we may also speak, as the text gives occasion, of ghosts or walking spirits, for we see here that the Jews and the apostles themselves held that spirits roam about and are seen by night and at other times. Thus Mt. 14,25f, when the disciples sailed in a ship by night, and saw Jesus walking on the sea, they were frightened, as before a ghost, and cried out in fear. And here we learn that Jesus does not deny it but confirms it by his answer that spirits do appear, for he says: ”A spirit has not flesh and bones,” etc.

 

25. But the Scriptures do not say, nor give any example, that such are the souls of dead persons walking among the people and seeking help, as we, in our blindness and deluded by the devil, have heretofore believed. Hence the pope has, also, invented purgatory and established his shameful annual market of masses. We may well see in this false doctrine and abomination as a fruit, that the foundation on which it is built, namely the doctrine of the migration of souls, comes from the father of lies, the devil, who has deluded the people in the name of the dead.

 

26. We have good reason not to believe such apparitions of roaming erring spirits that profess to be souls. First, because the Scriptures nowhere say that the souls of the deceased, that have not yet risen, should wander about among the people; whereas everything else we need to know, is clearly revealed in the Scriptures. Not one word concerning this is given for our instruction, nor is it possible that we should grasp and understand the state of the spirits that have departed from the body, before the resurrection and the day of judgment; for they are sundered and separated altogether from the world and from this generation. Moreover, it is clearly forbidden in the Scriptures to consult the dead or to believe them who do. Deut. 18,11; Is. 28,19. And Lk. 16,31 proves that God will neither let one rise from the dead nor preach, because we have Moses and the Scriptures.

 

27. Know therefore that all ghosts and visions, which cause themselves to be seen and heard, especially with din and noise, are not men's souls, but evidently devils that amuse themselves thus either to deceive the people with false claims and lies, or unnecessarily frighten and trouble them. Hence with a specter that makes a pretense in the name of a soul a Christian should not deal otherwise than as with the very devil himself. He should be well girded with God's Word and faith, that he may not be deceived nor frightened, but abide in the doctrine that he has learned and confessed from the Gospel of Christ, and cheerfully despise the devil with his noise. Nor does he tarry long where he feels a soul trusts in Christ and despises him. This I say that we may be wise and not suffer ourselves to be misled by such deception and lies, as in the past he deceived and mocked even excellent men, like St. Gregory, under the name of being a soul.

 

28. Now what does it signify that he shows the disciples his hands and his feet? He would thereby say: Come, and learn to know me. Now I am strong, but you are weak, as I also was. Therefore see to it now that you become strong also.

 

 

II. The Sermon Christ Preached to His Disciples

29. The above is one chief part of this Gospel; the other follows at the end of the Gospel, where the Lord concludes by saying: ”Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations.”

 

30. Here you see that the Gospel is the preaching of repentance and remission of sins. And it should not be preached in a corner, but before all men, whether it be received, or not, for it is to spread even farther that it may be heard and bear fruit. Hence we are not to be offended though but few receive it, nor say it has been given in vain. We should, rather, be content with it, that Christ has given command to preach it in all the world, that he who will may receive it. But we must note here in particular, that he says:

 

31. First, let us consider two thoughts. By repentance he means a change for the better; not as we have called it repentance, when one scourges and castigates himself and does penance to atone for his sin, or when the priest imposes this or that upon any one for penance. Scripture does not speak of it in this sense. Repentance rather- signifies here a change and reformation of the whole life; so that when one knows that he is a sinner, and feels the iniquity of his life, he, desists from it and enters upon a better course of life, in word and deed, and that he does it from his heart.

 

32. What then is repentance in his name? Hereby he singles out the repentance that is not made in his name, and hence the text compels us to consider two kinds of repentance. First, a repentance not in his name is, when I come with my own works and undertake to blot out sin with them; as we all have hitherto been taught and have tried to do. This is not repentance in God's name, but in the devil's name. For this is striving to propitiate God by our own works and by our own strength, a thing God cannot allow.

 

33. But on the other hand, to repent in his name is done thus: in those who believe in Christ God through the same faith works a change for the better, not for a moment, nor for an hour, but for their whole life. For a Christian is not instantaneously or suddenly cleansed perfectly, but the reformation and change continue as long as he live. Though we use the utmost diligence, we will always find something to sweep or clean. For even though all wickedness be overcome, we have not yet overcome the fear of death, for few have come so far as to desire death with a spirit of rejoicing; hence, we must grow better day by day. this is what Paul means, when he says in 2 Cor. 4,16: ”Though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day.” For we hear the Gospel every day, and Christ shows us his hands and his feet every day that our minds may be still more enlightened, and we be made more and more godly.

 

34. For this reason Christ would say, let no one strive to amend his life by his own works and in his own name; for of themselves no one is an enemy of sin, no one will come to repentance and think of amending his life. Nothing will be accomplished except in my name. That name alone has power to do it, and brings with it willing-ness and desire to be changed. But if the works and doctrines of men be taught, I will go and say to myself: O, that I might not need to pray, nor make confession, nor go to the Lord's Supper! What will your repentance profit you, if you fail to do it gladly or willingly, but are constrained by the commandment or by fear of shame, otherwise you would rather not do it? But what is the reason? Because it is a repentance in the devil's name, in your own name or in the pope's name. Hence you go on and do worse things, and wish there were no confession and sacrament, so that you might not be constrained to attend them. This is repentance in our own name and proceeds from our own strength.

 

35. But when I begin to believe in Christ, lay hold of the Gospel, and doubt not that he has taken away my sin and blotted it out, and comforts me with his resurrection; my heart is filled with such gladness that I myself take hold willingly, not through persuasion, nor of necessity, I gladly do what I ought and say: Because my Lord has done this for me, I will also do his will in this, that I may amend my ways and repent out of love to him and to his glory. In this way a true reformation begins that proceeds from the innermost heart, and that is brought forth by the joy that flows from faith, when I apprehend the greatness of the love Christ has bestowed upon me.

 

36. Secondly, we should preach also forgiveness of sins in his name. This signifies nothing else than that the Gospel should be preached, which declares unto all the world that in Christ the sins of all the world are swallowed up, and that he suffered death to put away sin from us, and arose to devour it, and blot it out. All this he did, that whoever believeth, should have the comfort and assurance that it is reckoned unto, him even as if he himself had done it; that his work is mine and thine and all men's; yea that he gives himself to us with all his gifts to be our own personal property. Hence, as he is without sin and never dies by virtue of his resurrection even so I also am if I believe in him; and I will therefore strive to become more and more godly, till there be no more sin in me. This continues as long as we live, until the day of judgment. As he is, without sin, he sets before us an example, that we might be fashioned like unto him, though while we live here, we shall be fully like the image.

 

37. St. Paul speaks of this in writing to the Corinthians: ”We all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord are transformed into the same image from glory to glory.” 2 Cor. 3, I8. Christ, even as he is risen, is the image, and is set before us that we might know that he rose from the dead to overcome our sin. This image stands before us and is set before our eyes by the Gospel, and is so mirrored in our hearts that we grasp it by faith, if we hold it to be true and daily exercise ourselves in it. Thus the glory is imparted by him to us, and it comes to pass that we become ever more glorious, and grow into the same image that he is. Hence he also says that we are not at once made perfect and strong, but must grow from day to day till we become like him. Many similar passages are here and there in the Scriptures.

 

38. This then is preaching the forgiveness of sins in his name, that we do not point only to confession, or to a certain hour; for we must act in view of the fact that it deals not with our works but with the whole person. Even when we begin to believe, our sin and infirmity are always present so that there is nothing pure in us and we are indeed worthy of condemnation. But now forgiveness is so great and powerful, that God not only forgives the former sins you have committed; but looks through his fingers and forgives the sins you will yet commit, He will not condemn us for our daily infirmities, but forgives all, in view of our faith in him, if we only strive to press onward and get rid of sin.

 

39. Here you may see what a difference there is between this and that which has heretofore been preached, of buying letters of indulgence, and of confessions, by which it was thought sin could be blotted out. So far as this was pressed and such confidence was there put in it, that men were persuaded if any one should die upon it, he would straightway mount to heaven. They did not know that we have still more sin and will not be rid of it, as long as we live. They supposed that all is well if only we have been to confession. Hence this is a forgiveness in the name of the devil. But see that you understand it correctly: By absolution you are absolved and declared free from sin, that is, you are put into that state, where there is forgiveness of sin at never ends. And not only is there forgiveness of past sins, but of those also you now have, if you believe that God overlooks and forgives your sins; and although you stumble still, yet he will neither reject nor condemn you, if you continue in faith. This teaching is heard indeed in all the world, but few there be that understand it.

 

40. Thus you have heard what the Gospel is, and what repentance and forgiveness of sins are, whereby we enter into another, a new state, out of the old. But take heed, lest you trust in this and become sluggish, thinking that when you sin there is no danger, and thus boldly persist in sin. This would be sinning in spite of God's mercy and would tempt God. But if desire to be delivered from sin, it is well with you, and all is forgiven. So much then on the second part of this Gospel, and with it we shall for the present content ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easter Tuesday, or Third Easter Day 

Second sermon, Luke 24:36-47.

 

 

Contents:

A consoling example and picture of Christ, and the sermon Christ preached to his disciples.

 

 

 

I. A COMFORTING EXAMPLE AND PICTURE OF CHRIST

1. In the first part of this Gospel we have for our consolation another example showing how Christ manifests himself and how he is wont to act toward his beloved disciples. They have scarcely begun to speak of him, when he himself comes and stands in their midst and greets them with these kind and cheerful words: “Pax vobis!” (Peace be unto you!) The disciples, however, are frightened at this and suppose they behold a spirit. But he suffers them not to be thus frightened, rebukes them for allowing such thoughts to enter their hearts, and shows them his hands and feet; that they may see that he is not a spirit, nor another Christ than he has been in the past, but is of their own flesh and bones and of the selfsame nature as they. This he does that they may not be afraid of him, but may rejoice in him and be comforted, and look to him for good things.

 

2. For this example of his conduct is to serve as an object lesson as it were, instilling comfort into all terrified hearts; especially against that spectre called a false Christ. For the devil also has the habit of coming to people, both in public and in private, either through false doctrine or through secret inward working, and he even pretends to be Christ himself. He begins with a pleasant greeting, with a smiling “good morning;” but ere long he smites the heart with sorrow and dread, that it knows not what has become of Christ.

 

3. For his delight is to deceive us under the name and guise of Christ; and he is ever desirous of aping God and of imitating him in all that he sees him do. Now, when God reveals himself he employs the following manner: First, in deed, he terrifies those who have not been terrified as yet. Besides, hearts that are naturally timid always stand in dread of his words and works by reason of their timid nature. But those who are terrified already, he comforts again and speaks kindly to them. The devil imitates this and likewise comes with the name and works of Christ; but both his comfort and his terrors are counterfeit. For he reverses the two, terrifying and dismaying those who stand in need of comfort, and comforting and strengthening those who should be afraid and stand in fear of God’s wrath. To shield ourselves against this deception, we should learn from this Gospel to distinguish correctly between the doctrines and ideas that come to our notice, both such as terrify and such as comfort, that we may know which of them are of God and which of the devil.

 

4. For, in the first place, that lying spirit, already in Paradise, began this sweet deception when he approached Eve with his courteous, kind, and honeyed words: Why, there is no danger. You need not stand in fear and dread of eating of one single tree. Do you suppose that God has really forbidden you this one fruit, that he begrudges you the eating of this one tree? Indeed, he knows, if you eat thereof, you will become much wiser and will be as God. This was, indeed, very encouraging and a pleasing sermon, but it left an abominable stench behind, and by it the whole human race was led into the evil, which we all to this day deplore. For this reason it has become a common saying among men who have striven to be devout and sought to discern the spirits, that the devil always comes with winning and cheering words at first, but leaves terror and a troubled conscience in his wake, while the Good Spirit does the contrary.

 

5. And it is true, this is one of the wanton tricks he practices. He creeps in unawares, like a serpent, and first makes himself attractive, in the manner indicated, and insinuates himself into favor; but before one is aware of it he strikes with his tail and leaves a poisoned wound. For this reason one should not be too credulous when a preacher comes softly like an angel of God, recommends himself very highly, and swears that his sole aim is to save souls, and says: “Pax vobis!” For those are the very fellows the devil employs to honey people’s mouths. Through them he gains an entrance to preach and to teach, in order that he may afterward inflict his injuries, and that though he accomplish nothing more for the present, he may, at least, confound the people’s consciences and finally lead them into misery and despair.

 

6. This same thing he does by means of thoughts which he causes to arise within the heart, by which he tempts people and even entices them to gross sins. Here, too, he invariably begins with the word “Peace!” that he may first cause the people to lose sight of the fear of God; making light of grave matters, and always preaching and proclaiming: “Pax et securitas!” There is no cause for worry! But much more does he do this with those great and serious sins pertaining to the faith and the glory of God, in which he moves people to idolatry and to a trust in their own works and holiness. Here he at first pretends to be holy and pious and impart the very sweetest of thoughts: Oh, there is no cause for alarm, God is not angry with you. Even as the prophets say of such. Jeremiah 6:14; Ezekiel 33:30. They will hear thee and suffer thee to preach, but they will ever comfort and bless themselves and say: Oh, there is no reason to fear; hell’ is not so hot, the devil is not so black as he is painted. This is the devil’s entrance and deception, even though he speak peace and extend a friendly greeting. Not until afterwards, when one is already enmeshed and cannot escape, does one see what injury and distress he has caused. Thus experience teaches that many a man falls into sin, shame, and punishment, so easily that he himself is not aware of it, being drawn in by means of subtle and pleasant thoughts, as it were by a hair or a straw.

 

7. Behold, this is one of his ways, by which he misleads many foolish, secure, and careless minds; he leads them to imagine that they are resting in God’s lap and playing with dolls, with him. And they become so intoxicated with these imaginations and this sweet poison of the devil, so proud, hardened, and obstinate, that they simply will not listen nor give heed to anybody. However, some God-fearing people have noticed this and have warned others against the devil’s wiles, declaring how he enters in so softly and pretends he is bringing divine comfort, but at last leaves a stench behind betraying that he has been about. But this is comparatively easy and a matter for younger disciples. Every Christian should certainly possess enough wisdom to be on his guard against such pleasant poison. For he who insists on learning by experience to guard against the devil’s wiles, pays dearly for his learning and then he doesn’t fully understand the devil’s trickery.

 

8. His second way of doing is this: He frightens people, even in trifling matters, by means of jugglery, for example, and by apparitions. He has been very busy in the past with tappings which were supposed to be the work of departed souls. In this way he harasses and terrifies timid and fearful hearts and thus passes on, leaving no comfort behind. Much worse, however, is it, when he comes into the heart and there begins to argue and reason, quoting even such passages as Christ himself uttered, thereby causing the heart to become so awe-stricken that it has no other thought than that it hears the voice of God and Christ. And when thoughts of this kind prevail the heart must at last despair, for where else shall it hope to find comfort when it feels that God himself, who should be its comfort, is terrifying it and aiming his arrows at it; as Job complains in 6, 4: “For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof my spirit drinketh up: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me.” Though it is not God that does this but the devil, who takes pleasure in thus piercing hearts with his arrows (as also he did to St. Paul,2 Cor 12), yet Satan had gained such a hold on Job’s heart that the poor man could say and think nothing but this: It is God that doeth these things.

 

9. This, then, is a much greater and more dangerous deception of Satan’s, when he comes without any kindly greeting, bidding us neither “Good morning” nor “Peace” but frightens and terrifies the heart – and all in the voice and guise of God. So that man, overpowered and stricken down hereby is unable to raise himself up and think: It is the devil. For since his heart imagines and feels as if it were God, against whom no man can prevail, heaven and earth seem to him as a narrow cell, the hand of every creature is against him and everything he sees and hears affrights him.

 

10. As contrasted with this shameless lying Satan, Christ has here portrayed and pictured himself as he really is. For although it is true that he, too, sometimes comes with terrors, sometimes with comfort, still it is his sole and final purpose to give life and comfort and make glad the heart. And yet the heart of man is so void of understanding in both cases that it does not recognize him (the devil at the same time assisting in the delusion with his suggestions), and does not think that it is Christ, or straightway makes of him a false Christ, even as the Apostles here take him for a spirit or spectre; and they have neither heart nor mind to believe it is Christ, in spite of the fact that they see Christ’s form and features. It is, therefore, the part of great art and understanding to tear the false Christ out of one’s heart and to learn to picture him truly, because as has been said, one must bear in mind that the devil pictures to us a false Christ, yea clothes himself in Christ’s form.

 

11. So then, this Gospel shows what the true Christ and his Word are, namely, in the first place, that he says, “Peace be unto you,” which is a portion of the comfort that he brings; and, in the second place, that he reproves the people and will not suffer them to form false and fretful ideas of himself and says: “Why are ye troubled? and wherefore do questionings arise in your hearts?” No wealth of money or goods could ever pay for this text, because a troubled heart may learn from it and conclude: Even though the devil quote all the passages in the Bible in order to terrify the heart, yet if he continue too long and fail to bring comfort afterward, then it is surely the devil, even if you see the form of Christ as plainly as when he hung upon the cross or as he sits at the right hand of the Father. For it may, indeed, happen, that Christ comes and terrifies you at first; though it is by no means his fault, but the fault of your nature, that you ‘do not rightly know him. But he that assails you with terrors and ceases not until he leads you into despair, is the devil himself.

 

12. Therefore you must clearly distinguish between the terrors of Christ and those of the devil. For even though Christ begin by terrifying, yet he is certain to bring comfort with him and does not will that you remain in terror. The devil, however, cannot cease from his terrifying although at first he comforts and acts pleasantly. This a Christian must know: he must learn to discern Christ from the devil. Especially in great afflictions, when he feels anxiety and dread, he must bear in mind that there will not be terrors only and continually, but that they will’ cease and that comfort will follow.

 

13. But, you say, it is Christ and his Word after all, for he, too, preaches about God’s wrath on account of sin, as he says, Luke 13:5: “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish,” etc. I answer: Indeed, with this he is pleased and it must come to pass that you become terrified on account of your sins (in case you have not yet experienced this terror). Yea, by reason of your timid nature he must let it come to pass that you be terrified even at him, as these disciples were. But it is not his intention to have you remain in terror; on the contrary, he wills that you cease from it. Yes, he even reproves you for it, and says that you are doing him an injustice by such thoughts, imputing such things to him. In short, he does not desire that you should be frightened at him, but that you should take comfort and joyful assurance, thus driving away your terror.

 

14. Now, if these thoughts which terrify you arise from his words and works, let him thus begin with you, but then simply send him away to those who are still secure, hardhearted, and obdurate, for whom his terrors are intended. Upon them he must cry out his woes and them he must threaten with the eternal fire of hell. For they are people who in no wise fear God; on the contrary, when one wishes to put them in awe with the name and Word of God, they throw up their horns, toss their heads at God, and grow harder than steel or flint. But you, when you feel that you have become terrified (God grant it, whether the true Christ does it, or not), just remember to make an end of it and cease your fears. For if it be. Christ indeed, it is not his will that you continue thus; but if it be not he, still less should you do so.

 

15. Therefore mark and keep in mind this text and its example: Christ does not will that his own be terrified, and it does not please him to find you appalled at the sight of him. On the contrary, it is his will that you learn to know him as one who, when he finds you troubled and alarmed, rejoices to come to you, and that you too should rejoice over him and dismiss your thoughts of fear. And do not fail to learn that this is his way of speaking: “Why are ye troubled, and why permit ye such thoughts to arise in your hearts?” Ye picture me as a spectre and as one that cometh only to terrify you, and lo! I am come to comfort you and to make you glad.

 

16. For these reasons, when such oppressive thoughts concerning Christ come to you, be wise and understand that they assuredly come not from Christ but from the devil; and that even though you be terrified at him, a little sudden terror shall do you no harm. For it is in accord with our nature that it never prompts us to anything good, especially when the heart is naturally timid and fretful. Never mind your thoughts and notions. Take heed to hear Christ’s words, who takes no pleasure in seeing you terrified in his name, but desires that you rejoice in him and receive him as one who would comfort your poor, sinful and troubled heart. Let the others be terrified, those headstrong, impenitent sinners, the pope, the tyrants, and all of Christ’s enemies and blasphemers. These people need a sledge hammer that will shatter boulders, rocks and mountains.

 

17. Therefore, if there be a Christ who terrifies, he is and desires to be such only to these obstinate heads; although they themselves do not believe this, but proudly disregard it until their last hour has come, and the time when he without any mercy whatever must trample them under his feet. But he does not desire to be such to his beloved disciples and believers, who are too backward and timid as it is, insomuch that they become alarmed even in the presence of their beloved Savior. For it is by no means his intention, as St. Matthew says in 12:20, quoting from the prophet Isaiah 42:3, to utterly break and quench the bruised reed and the smoking flax; that is, broken, troubled, humbled, and fearsome consciences. Now, what if these hardened, proud, and brazen, Satanic minds do pay no heed at all to his terrilyings? Should timid, fearful hearts suffer these terrors in their stead and bring such fear upon themselves, when in short he wants them to be of good courage? Or, since no terrors and threats avail with the former, should therefore no comfort avail with the latter? In this case Christ’s cause were lost entirely, and his kingdom would find no room and bear no fruit on earth.

 

18. Hence, if you feel terrified and faint-hearted, let your heart herein take comfort, so that Christ may find room in you; for he does not by any means find in you a proud, impenitent heart, unwilling to humble itself; otherwise you would have good cause and need to fear him as one who is set to be a judge over the wicked and the scorners. But he comes to you in order to bring and offer you grace and peace, even as you desire and pray. I say again, take care in this matter, lest you cast from you this friendly greeting and your own salvation, and lest you make a Satan of this dear Savior, or rather, lest you, instead of hearkening to Christ, hearken to the devil, who is a liar and a murderer and takes delight in vexing weak and troubled hearts. And he never desists from so doing; and if he finds himself unable to cause enough terror with one verse he comes with ten or a hundred, and continues to oppress until the heart is completely overwhelmed and drowned in sorrow.

 

19. Now, you as a Christian can conclude with certainty that such thoughts are not and cannot be of Christ. Yea, even if it were possible that it were Christ himself, nevertheless you here have his Word and true testimony, which you should believe more than all apparitions. And surely this is to be preferred to all private visions of Christ or of an angel from heaven, for these can err and deceive and are naught but speechless images. But here you have his living voice and Word, publicly speaking before all his disciples and reproving them for such thoughts, that we may know he is displeased with them.

 

20. Besides he shows the very same thing by his outward signs and works: the words with which he reproves their thoughts do not suffice him, he also shows them his hands and feet that they may feel and see it is he himself. As though he thus would say: Why will ye still have doubts concerning me and in your thoughts make a spectre of me? Ye surely have never yet handled a devil or a spirit, nor seen one having flesh and blood as I have, although they at times assume such form and deceive the senses.

 

21. Thus he gives them, in addition to his Word, a sure and potent sign and comforts them by his actions, that they may fear him not in the least. He shows them what he has done for them. For this is in truth a lovely, comforting, and cheerful picture, the sight of this dear Savior’s hands and feet, pierced for my sake, and together with which also my sins are nailed to the cross. This he shows me as a token and testimony that he has suffered, has been crucified, and has died for me, and is by no means disposed to be angry with me and cast me into hell.

 

22. For this is really seeing his hands and feet, if I, through his Word and faith, perceive that what he has done was done for my good, my salvation and comfort. Here I see no executioner, surely no death nor hell, but only sweet, delightful grace toward all poor, sorrowing souls, at which grace I cannot be affrighted or terrified; excepting only in this that his work is entirely too great for the heart sufficiently to grasp and understand. Thus he would, both by word and deed, free us from fear even though at first we be terrified at the sight of him.

 

23. On the other hand the devil, although at first he comforts us, at last he also shows his hands and feet; these are the horrible, abominable claws of the wrath of God and of eternal death. So finally he comes with naught but terrors, murder, and slaughter, which are his works from the beginning, He knows how to portray to the soul all the terrible scenes, examples, and histories of all the abominable sins, murders, and terrible punishments that have ever taken place, and the number and prominence of the people whom he has ever misled, blinded, and cast into perdition.

 

24. Now, where Christ is thus rightly understood, there, in consequence, true joy begins, and in such measure, like the Evangelist says, as to make the disciples marvel in their faith for very joy, and as to hamper them still. This again is a peculiar text and a strange saying. At first their faith was hampered by fear and dreadful thoughts; now their joy hampers their faith, a joy which even is far greater than at first their terror was. The disciples are now so full of joy at the reproof of the Lord and the sight of his hands and feet that they are still unable to believe.

 

25. This, too, is one of the Christian’s afflictions, as we have said before, that grace is entirely too great and glorious a thing when we look upon our littleness and unworthiness in comparison with Christ, and that the comfort is so exceedingly abundant that our hearts are far too small to receive it. For who could have the boldness to conceive in his heart the truth that Christ proves himself to be so kind a Savior to me, a poor, sinful man, that he gives me at once all that he has done? Must not the heart presently start with alarm at its own boldness and say: Do you really think it is true that the great and majestic God, the Maker of heaven and earth, has so regarded my misery and so mercifully looked upon me, deeply and manifoldly as I have sinned against him, having deserved and brought upon myself wrath, death, and hell a thousand times? How can such grace and such a treasure be grasped by the human heart, or in fact by any creature ?

 

26. To sum up all, faith in man’s heart is assailed on both sides and upon both occasions, in terror and melancholy and also in joy. Either the lack or the abundance is too great, and the consolations too few or too many. At first, while the disciples were yearning for something great, all the blessings of God were too small and too insignificant to comfort their hearts, when Christ was still hidden from them; but now that he is come and shows himself to them, this is far too much for their hearts, and for very wonderment they cannot believe he is risen from the dead and is standing before them alive.

 

27. Finally he shows himself even still more friendly: he sits down with them at the table, eats with them of broiled fish and honeycomb, and preaches to them a beautiful sermon, to establish them in the faith, that they may nevermore fear nor doubt, but may now grow strong in the faith: and thus all their melancholy passes away.

 

28. Therefore let us learn from this to understand Christ’s character and manner, to-wit, that when he comes and manifests himself he thereupon takes leave and bids us adieu, leaving naught but comfort and joy; for at the last he must come with comfort, otherwise it is not Christ. But when constant fear and dread remain in the heart, you may freely conclude that it is not Christ, though it may seem so to the heart, but the accursed devil. Therefore pay no heed to such thoughts, but cling fast to the words he speaks to you, “See my hands and my feet,” etc. In this way your heart will again be made glad, and afterward the fruit will follow, that you will understand the Scriptures aright, and his Word will taste pleasant to you, being naught but honey and the sweetest consolation.

 

II. SERMON CHRIST PREACHED TO HIS DISCIPLES AFTER HIS RESURRECTION

29. The second and chief part of this Gospel is that in which Christ, after he expounded the Scripture to them and opened their minds, says in conclusion:

 

“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all the nations.”

30. Here you see how the Lord again directs and leads his disciples into the Scriptures, there to strengthen and confirm their faith. So that, though he was revealing and showing himself to them in visible form, yet in the future, when they no longer beheld him, he desired them to cling to the Word and by the testimony of the Scripture make sure both their own and the faith of others. For, after all, the power and the comfort of the resurrection are not understood nor received except through faith in the Word, as we have heard: although the disciples see him, still they do not recognize him, but are rather terrified at the sight of him until he speaks to them and opens their minds by means of the Scriptures.

 

31. Furthermore he wished to teach them by these testimonies of Scripture how his kingdom on earth is to continue and wherein it is to consist; namely, that it is not to be a new government or kingdom, concerned with earthly and temporal things, but a spiritual and divine power, whereby he would everywhere rule invisibly within the hearts of men through the Word and ministry and would cause them to pass from sin, God’s wrath, and eternal death into grace and eternal life in heaven: for which purpose, in truth, he also suffered and rose again from the dead.

 

32. All this he shows and indicates in these few words, and in them includes the sum and substance of the entire Gospel and the chief parts of Christian doctrine, which we should at all times preach and practice in the church: namely, repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Therefore we must say something on these themes also.

 

33. Concerning repentance the whole papal church has until now known nothing else to teach than that it consists of three parts, which they call contrition, confession, and satisfaction (compensation). And yet in regard to none of these could they rightly instruct the people. Now, the Latin word “satisfactio,” meaning “compensation,” we have, to please them, allowed to stand, hoping that by moderation on our part we might be able to lead them to the true doctrine; but with the understanding that this means not our compensation, as we in reality can render none, but Christ’s satisfaction, in that he by his blood and death has paid for our sins and reconciled God. Since, however, we have heretofore so many times experienced and still plainly see that nothing whatever can be gained from them by moderation, and that they steadily continue the more violently to oppose the true doctrine, we will and must cleanly strip and sunder ourselves from them, and refuse in any way to recognize the fictitious names which they use in their schools and with which they now only strive to establish their old errors and falsehoods. For this reason also this word “satisfaction” shall hereafter in our church and our theology be null and dead, and referred to the judiciary and the schools of law, where it properly belongs and whence the papists borrowed it. Let these use this word and by it teach people who have stolen, robbed, or who are in possession of goods gotten by unrighteousness, how they are to make compensation and restitution.

 

34. The word “contrition” (Latin “contritio”) is, to be sure, taken from the Scriptures, which speak of a “cor contritum,” that is, a broken, troubled, and miserable heart, Psalm 51:17; but neither has this word been rightly understood and explained by the monks. For they have called contrition the act, extorted from one’s own thoughts and free will, of sitting in a corner, hanging one’s head, and with bitter meditation contemplating the sins one has committed; from which process, however, no real sorrow or displeasure on account of their sins followed, but they have rather tickled themselves with such thoughts and strengthened their sinful lust. And no matter how long they talked of it, still they could not decide how great one’s contrition should be in order to be adequate to the sin. Wherefore they were compelled to console and help themselves out by this piece of patchwork, that he who could not attain to truly perfect contrition should, at least, have what they called “attritio,” a sort of half-contrition, and be, at least, somewhat sorry for his sins.

 

35. Then they made of confession an unbearable torment and anxiety; for they thought that it was everyone’s duty at least once a year to enumerate all of one’s sins, mentioning all the details, including also those sins one might have forgotten and might later recall. And yet they gave men’s consciences no real instruction concerning the comfort of absolution, but directed the people to trust in their own works, and informed them that when they had become sufficiently contrite to make a clean confession of sin (which was, according to their own teaching, impossible), and also render satisfaction for the same, then their sins would be forgiven. Here not a word was said of Christ or of faith, so that unenlightened and afflicted souls who earnestly desired to be free from sin and sought comfort were kept in eternal suspense on this doubtful foundation.

 

36. And – this was the worst feature of the matter – they did not rightly teach what constitutes sin; they knew nothing more of it than what lawyers call sin or offenses, and what comes within the sphere of the courts and of peace statutes. Their knowledge did not enable them to speak of original sin or of the inward impurity of the heart. For they even claimed that human nature and the powers of man’s free will were so perfect that a man might in his own strength manage to fulfill God’s law and thereby earn God’s grace, and be so free from sin that he would not have need of any repentance. However, that they might nevertheless have something to make confession of, they were compelled to invent sin where there was none, just as on the other hand they invented good works of their own. And these sins they considered the greatest and most grievous of all, as for instance, when a layman chanced to touch a consecrated chalice or if a priest stammered while reading the canon in the mass, and other foolishness of that sort.

 

37. Such nonsensical, visionary doctrine of the papacy concerning repentance one must therefore not lose sight of, first in order to be able to convince them of their error and blindness, since they are at present in every way whitewashing themselves and disporting themselves as though they had never taught anything wrong. Secondly, in order that by contrasting the two one may better understand the true Christian doctrine. Therefore we will speak according to Scripture on what the real Christian repentance and forgiveness of sins are which Christ here commands man to proclaim in his name.

 

38. In the first place, these thoughts of our own invention, which the monks call “contritio” and “attritio” (whole and half contrition), are in all the Scriptures never called true contrition; but you are contrite when your heart becomes seriously alarmed at God’s wrath and judgment, not only on account of outward, gross sins, but on account of the real and unyielding hardness you see and feel within, the presence in your flesh and blood of nothing but unbelief, contempt and disobedience to God, and as St. Paul says in Romans 8:7, “enmity against God,” your flesh and blood being excited with all manner of evil lust and desire and the like, whereby you have brought upon yourself God’s wrath and have deserved to be cast out eternally from his presence and to burn in hell fire. Contrition, according to the Scriptures, is not partial, pertaining merely to certain acts you have committed openly against the ten commandments, and leaving undisturbed the dream and delusion of the hypocritical monkish repentance which for its own convenience invents a distinction in its works and after all discovers some good in itself; but it extends over your whole person with all its life and being, yes, over your whole nature, and shows you that you are an object of God’s wrath and condemned to hell. Otherwise the word “contrition” would still be too judicial, as in earthly matters one speaks of sin and sorrow as of a work one has done and afterwards thinks differently, and wishes he had not done it.

 

39. This contrition and earnest fear is not the product of man’s own resolutions or thoughts, as the monks fancy. It must be wrought in a man by God’s Word, which reveals God’s wrath and smites the heart so that it begins to tremble and despair and knows not what to do with itself. For human reason cannot of itself perceive and understand that everything which lies in the power and ability of man is an object of God’s wrath and, at the bar of his judgment, already condemned to hell.

 

40. Therefore this thing must be preached and proclaimed as Christ here says, if one is to direct and lead people to true repentance: they must be led to know their sins and God’s wrath, and thus first suffer themselves to be cast by the Word beneath God’s wrath and condemnation; in order that on the other hand by the preaching of the other truth, of the forgiveness of sins, they may be helped to gain true consolation, divine grace, and their salvation. Otherwise a man would never attain to a knowledge of his misery and distress and to a yearning for grace. Still less would he ever learn how he may pass from God’s wrath and damnation into grace and the forgiveness of sins.

 

41. And this preaching of repentance, says he, shall go forth unto all nations. Surely, a sweeping accusation, one that embraces the whole world, both Jews and Gentiles, and whomsoever they wish. Without a single exception, he concludes all – as he finds them and whatever their rank and pretensions – apart from Christ under the wrath of God and says: Ye are all condemned together, with all that ye do and are, be ye what ye may, be ye ever so many, ever so great, ever so high and holy.

 

42. Yea, he terrifies and condemns those most of all who parade their own holiness and never once imagine that they are sinners and need repentance. Among the Jews the holiest Pharisees were such (of whom also Paul before his conversion was one), who lived and walked zealously according to the law; among the heathen certain cultured, highly intelligent, wise, and respectable people; among ourselves, those who may have been pious monks, Carthusians, or hermits, who sincerely undertook to be pious in God’s sight and so lived that they were not conscious of having committed any sin unto death, and in addition to this in the severest manner chastised their bodies with fasting, vigils, sleeping on hard couches, some even with bloody flagellations and the like; so that they themselves and everybody else thought that in view of such works and such a life they surely had no need of contrition and repentance. Yes, they thought therewith, as with the best and most meritorious work, to pay for whatever sins they had previously done, and honestly to earn heaven from God by such a holy life, paying for it dearly enough. Against just such people as these this preaching of repentance should be carried on most zealously, and as with a thunderbolt it should hurl to the ground and cast into hell and perdition all who are secure and presumptuous and do not yet perceive their misery and God’s wrath.

 

43. Even as St. John the Baptist, who prepared the way before Christ, publicly began such preaching; he courageously and spiritedly attacks the entire Jewish nation with this battle-ax and assails the holy Pharisees and Sadducees harder than all the others, saying: “Ye offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” Matthew 3:7. For they need repentance most of all and in God’s sight they also merit a greater measure of wrath than other and more open sinners (whom at least their own consciences reprove), because they lie in blindness and indulge the fancy that they have no sin, while in reality before God they are full of filth and abomination and do sin against God’s law in the worst possible way, in that they lack the fear of God and make light of his wrath, and are haughty and proud and full of presumption by reason of their own good works and their own holiness, practicing idolatry with their self-chosen service of God, in addition to the fact that their hearts are full of uncleanness and inward disobedience to God’s commandments, though outwardly they keep themselves from evil works; even as we ourselves in times past while pretending to be the most pious, did provoke God to the uttermost with the horrible idolatry of the mass, the worship of the saints, and our own monkish righteousness, wherewith we thought we were earning heaven to the disparagement of Christ’s death and resurrection and to the lamentable delusion of ourselves and others.

 

44. For this reason St. John also continues his preaching of repentance and in verse 8 says to such people, “Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of repentance,” etc.; that is, take my advice and do not become secure and proud from the start, but perceive your sin and God’s wrath upon you, humble yourselves before him, and implore his mercy. If ye do this not, judgment is already passed upon you, yea, the ax is already laid to the tree to destroy it, both trunk and root, as one that beareth no good fruit and is good for nothing but to be cast into the fire and reduced to ashes, notwithstanding it is so tall and sturdy and has beautiful leaves: you, namely, priding yourselves upon being Abraham’s children and the like.

 

45. This same preaching was later continued by the apostles. St. Peter, for instance, on the day of Pentecost and thereafter pointed out to the Jews what pious children they were and how they had earned God’s favor by denying his dear Son, nailing him to the cross and slaying him. And St. Paul says in Acts 17:30-31: “But now he (God) commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent, inasmuch as he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness,” etc.: that is, it is his will that all people, everywhere upon the earth, should know themselves, tremble at God’s wrath, and understand that he will judge and condemn them unless they repent and obey this preaching.

 

46. So Christ also says in John 16:8 that the Holy Ghost will convict the world in respect of sin, etc. (by such preaching of repentance). For, as said above, such repentance reason cannot teach, much less accomplish, by its own strength; but, as Christ here says, it must be preached as a revelation, surpassing the understanding and wisdom of reason. As St. Paul also in Romans 1:18 calls it a revelation from heaven, saying, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven,” etc. For no man’s reason and no lawyer will say that I am a sinner and an object of God’s wrath and condemnation if I do not steal, rob, commit adultery, and the like, but am a pious, respectable man in whom no one can find anything to reprove or censure, and I am a pious monk besides. Who would believe that I, if I be without faith, merit only God’s wrath by this fine, honorable life and that I am practicing naught but abominable idolatry with this glorious service of God and this rigid training which, without God’s command, I have undertaken of my own pleasure, and that thereby I am condemning myself to a deeper hell than others who are open sinners?

 

47. It is no wonder then, that, when the world hears this preaching unto repentance, whereby it is reproved, the lesser portion accepts it, while the greater masses, especially the knowing and righteous ones, despise it, toss their heads in defiance and say: Ho, how can that be true? Shall I suffer myself to be upbraided as a sinner and as an accursed man by people who come along with a new and unknown doctrine? Why, what have I done? I have surely kept myself with all earnestness from sin and have striven to do good. Shall all this be accounted nothing? Has all the world before our time been engrossed in errors? Have the lives and doings of all men been vain? How is it possible that God should take such a risk with the whole world and say they are all lost and condemned? Ha! The devil has commanded you so to preach. Thus they defend and confirm themselves in their, impenitence and by blasphemy and persecution of God’s Word heap his wrath upon themselves all the more.

 

48. But in spite of this such judgment and preaching ever continues and forces its way farther, as Christ here commands them simply to preach among all nations, to tell everybody, wherever they go, to repent, and to say that no one can escape God’s wrath or be saved who does not accept this preaching. That to this end he rose from the dead, that he might found this kingdom, in order that this might be preached to them who should and would be saved and might be accepted and believed by them, though it anger the world, the devil, or hell.

 

49. Notice, we have considered the first part of this sermon, true repentance, which convicts not only a mass of evil-doers whom all the world and the lawyers call transgressors (they, to be sure, also deserve severe punishment), but attacks the very people who in the sight of the world are the most pious and righteous, (yet are without knowledge of their sin and of Christ), and condemns them. It makes of repentance, not a work of ours, brought about by our own thinking, and partial, pertaining to only a portion of our deeds and making it necessary for a man to search and consider a long time as to how, when, where, and how often he has sinned (although it is true that one single sin may give rise to this, as when David was reproved on account of adultery and murder). But repentance is a thing extending over the whole of your life and casting you all of a sudden, as by a thunderbolt from the skies, wholly and entirely under God’s wrath, telling you that you are a child of hell, and terrifying your heart so that the world becomes too small for you.

 

50. Therefore you must make this distinction: You may refer the repentance which may be called our own work, namely our own sorrow, confession, and satisfaction, to the schools of lawyers, or to children’s schools, where it may serve for discipline and outward training; but you must keep it clearly apart from the true spiritual repentance wrought by God’s Word wherever and whenever this Word smites the heart making it tremble and quake at God’s zealous and terrible wrath, and filling it so with dread that it knows not whither to flee.

 

51. Such contrition and repentance the Bible illustrates by means of numerous examples: as that of St. Paul when he was about to be converted, Acts 9:4, where Christ himself preaches repentance to him from heaven saying, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” etc. And presently action and power accompany the words, so that he suddenly falls to the earth trembling and says in verse 6, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” This is true contrition, not the product of his own mind; for he goes his way holding a strong conviction and assurance of his own holiness according to the law, conscious of no sin whereby he might have deserved God’s wrath. But suddenly Christ shows him what he is, namely, a persecutor and murderer of Christ and of his church, a thing which hitherto he had not perceived, rather regarding his actions as manifestations of splendid virtue and of a godly zeal. Now, however, he is seized with such terror on their account as plainly indicates that with all his righteousness according to the law. he is condemned before God; and he is only too glad to hear from Christ the gracious assurance that he may obtain mercy and the forgiveness of his sins. In like manner we are told in Acts 2 how Peter stood up on the day of Pentecost and thereafter and hurled this thunderbolt at the whole Jewish nation that they were betrayers and murderers of their promised Christ, the Son of God; as the text says in verse 37: “Now when they heard this they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do?”

 

52. Behold, here too there is true repentance, which suddenly seizes the heart and fills it with mortal dread, because it feels God’s wrath and condemnation weighing upon it, and begins to realize its real fault, of which it has heretofore known nothing, and is constrained to say, Ah, now what shall I do? Here is naught save only sin and wrath, a thing which hitherto, alas, I have neither known nor surmised. As St. Paul also says of the power of the Word which confronts men with God’s wrath, Romans 7:9, “And I was alive apart from the law once,” that is, presumptuous and secure, knowing of no sin nor of God’s wrath. But when the commandment came and smote my heart then sin revived, so that I began to feel God’s wrath and, thus, died; that is, I fell into fear, anxiety and despair, which I could not endure and in which I must have perished and fallen a prey to eternal death had I not again found help.

 

53. Now, when this has been duly preached, the other message must follow which Christ here commands us to preach, to wit, the forgiveness of sins. For it is not sufficient to speak only of sin and God’s wrath and terrify the people. It is necessary, indeed, to begin one’s preaching thus, so that the people may know and feel their sins and may also have a desire for grace, but this must not be our whole message, otherwise there would be no Christ and no salvation but only death and hell. Thus Judas, Christ’s betrayer, made a strong enough beginning in the first part of his repentance, remorse and knowledge of his sin; yea, he was too strong on this point, because no consolation followed; so that he was unable to bear it and hurled himself forthwith into destruction and eternal death; as also did King Saul and many others. But this cannot be considered preaching aright or fully concerning repentance, as Christ would have this doctrine preached. For to this extent the devil himself is willing to serve as a preacher, though he has no call to preach, just as he is ever willing to use the name and Word of God, albeit but to deceive and work mischief. For he perverts both doctrines, comforting where comfort is not in place, or engaging solely in terrifying the people and leading them into despair. But Christ’s intention is not that repentance shall be so preached as to leave the conscience in its terror-stricken state but that those who have been brought to a knowledge of their sins and are contrite in heart shall again be comforted and lifted up. For this reason he straightway adds the other part and commands us to preach not only repentance but also the forgiveness of sins. This, then, as he also says, is preaching in his name.

 

54. Therefore, when your conscience has become terrified by the preaching of repentance, whether it be through the spoken word or otherwise within your heart, you must remember that you are also to hear and grasp the other part Christ commanded to be preached to you, to wit: that, although you have merited eternal wrath and are deserving of hell-fire, yet God in his boundless goodness and mercy does not desire to leave you and see you perish in perdition, but he desires to forgive your sins, so that his wrath and your condemnation may be removed from you.

 

55. This is the comforting message of the Gospel, which a man cannot, of himself, understand as he of himself understands the preaching of the law (which was at the beginning implanted in his nature) when his heart is thereby smitten; but it is a special revelation and Christ’s own peculiar voice. For human nature and reason cannot rise above the judgment of the law, which concludes and says: He that is a sinner is condemned of God. Wherefore all men would have to remain forever objects of wrath and condemnation if another and a new teaching had not been given from heaven. This teaching, in which God offers his grace and mercy to those who feel their sins and God’s wrath, God’s own Son himself must institute and command to be spread abroad in the world.

 

56. But in order that it may be apprehended and faithfully believed, this preaching must be done, as he here says, in his name; that is, not only in pursuance of his command, but also with the proclamation that sins are to be forgiven on his account and by reason of his merits. Hence we must acknowledge neither I nor any other man, with the exception of Christ, have accomplished or merited this, nor could have merited it in eternity. For how should I be able to merit it when I and all my life and whatever I may be able to do, is, according to the first part of this sermon, condemned before God?

 

57. But now, if God’s wrath is to be taken away from me and I am to obtain grace and forgiveness, some one must merit this; for God cannot be a friend of sin nor gracious to it, nor can he remit the punishment and wrath, unless payment and satisfaction be made. Now, no one, not even an angel of heaven, could make restitution for the infinite and irreparable injury and appease the eternal wrath of God which we had merited by our sins; except that eternal person, the Son of God himself, and he could do it only by taking our place, assuming our sins, and answering for them as though he himself were guilty of them. This our dear Lord and only Savior and Mediator before God, Jesus Christ, did for us by his blood and death, in which he became a sacrifice for us; and with his purity, innocence, and righteousness, which was divine and eternal, he outweighed all sin and wrath he was compelled to bear on our account; yea, he entirely engulfed and swallowed it up, and his merit is so great that God is now satisfied and says, If he wills thereby to save, then there shall be a salvation. As Christ also says of his Father’s will, John 6:40: “This is the will of my Father, that every one that beholdeth the Son, and believeth on him, should have eternal life.” Also Matthew 28:18: “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth.” And in his prayer in John 17:1-2 he says: “Father, glorify thy Son, that the Son may glorify thee; even as thou gavest him authority over all flesh, that to all whom thou hast given him he should give eternal life.”

 

58. This now he has not only actually fulfilled, but he has done and accomplished it for the very purpose of having it preached and proclaimed to us; otherwise we would know nothing of it, nor would we be able to attain to it. Therefore it is absolutely unmerited on our part and is given to us entirely free and out of pure grace, and just for the reason that we may be assured of such grace and have no cause for doubt in regard to it; for indeed, we must remain forever in doubt if we were required to look for merit of our own and to seek worthiness inhering in us, till our attainments were such that God would consider them and be gracious to us on their account. But now Christ commands that forgiveness of sins be preached in his name, so that I may know that they are undoubtedly remitted unto me on account of that which he has merited, and this he reveals and communicates to me through the Word.

 

59. And moreover I and everyone else for his own personal good may take comfort in this, and besides no one has any cause to be troubled and worried as to whether he dare appropriate this great mercy unto himself, for it is natural for man’s heart to doubt and to argue thus with itself: Yes, I can easily believe that God has elected certain great men thereto, as, for instance, St. Peter, Paul, and others, but who knows whether I too am one of those to whom he is willing to grant grace? Perhaps I have not been ordained thereto – therefore Christ wills and herewith commands that this doctrine be spread not in a corner nor to certain individuals only, yea, not even solely to the Jews, or to a few other nations at most, but throughout the whole wide world, or, as he says, to all nations; yes, as he says in Mark 16:15, to the whole creation. This Christ spoke in order that we may know that it is not his will that anybody anywhere should be cut off or barred out from the blessings of this preaching if he is only willing to accept them and does not bar himself out, For, as the preaching of repentance is to be a general preaching and to extend over all people so that all may perceive that they are sinners, just so general shall also this preaching of forgiveness be, and it shall be accepted by all, even as all men have stood in need of it from the beginning, and will continue so until the end of the world. For, why should the forgiveness of sins be offered and preached to all if they did not all have sin? That the truth may remain as St. Paul says, Romans 11:32: “God hath shut up all unto disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all,” etc.

 

60. Hence this preaching also calls for faith; that is, I am to conclude from it with certainty and without a doubt that for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ forgiveness of sins is granted me from the terrible wrath of God and from eternal death, and that it is God’s will that I believe this preaching, not despising the proffered grace of Christ, not casting it aside, not making the Word of God a lie. For, since he commands that this Word be preached in all the world, he therewith and at the same time demands of everyone that he receive this preaching and hold and confess it to be the invariable, divine truth, that we assuredly receive these things for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ; and, no matter how unworthy I feel myself to be, this must not hinder nor deter me from having this faith, if only my heart be so disposed that I feel sincerely displeased with my sins and heartily desire to get rid of them. For, as such forgiveness is not offered and preached to me on account of my worthiness, for I have clearly contributed nothing, neither labored to the end that Christ should merit forgiveness for me and have it proclaimed to me as he did and does; so, on the other hand, I am not to suffer any nor be deprived of forgiveness so long as I really desire it.

 

61. Finally, that our comfort may abound the more, Christ here makes the following arrangement respecting this preaching of repentance and of the forgiveness of sins: It shall not be merely temporary and momentary, as it were, but shall be in continual operation, never ceasing in Christendom so long as Christ’s kingdom endures. For he wants us to have therein a lasting, eternal treasure and everlasting grace, which effectually worketh alway; so that we must not consider the forgiveness as being restricted to that one moment when the absolution was pronounced, nor as extending over previous and past sins only, as though thenceforward our works must render us perfectly clean and sinless.

 

62. For it is not possible in this present life on earth that we should so live as to be entirely free from sin and infirmity – not though we received grace and the Holy Spirit – owing to our sinful, depraved flesh and blood, which never ceases, this side of the grave, to bring forth evil lusts and desires, no, not in the saints; though they, on receiving grace, abstain from, and guard against, sin and resist their evil lusts, even as repentance requires; wherefore they too are still in daily need of forgiveness, even as they daily exercise themselves in repentance, by reason of these selfsame abiding infirmities and weaknesses; knowing, as they do, that their lives and works are yet sinful and merit God’s wrath (to which they would also expose them) were it not for the fact that these things are forgiven for Christ’s sake.

 

63. Therefore Christ has herewith instituted a kingdom on earth to be called an eternal kingdom of grace and always to be governed by the forgiveness of sins; and so powerfully it is to protect those who believe that, although sin still lurks in their flesh and blood and is so deeply rooted that it cannot, in this life, be entirely eradicated, still it shall not bring injury upon them, but be remitted and not imputed to them, provided, however, that we abide in the faith and daily make endeavors to stamp out the remaining evil lust, until it has been exterminated, and utterly destroyed by death, and has rotted away in the grave and fallen a prey to the worms, that man may arise unto eternal life perfectly renewed and cleansed.

 

64. Yea, even though a man who is under grace and is sanctified fall away again from repentance and faith and thus lose his forgiveness, nevertheless this kingdom of grace stands firm and unmovable, so that one may at any time be reinstated in it, if one again belong to it by repentance and conversion: in like manner as the sun rises daily in the heavens, and not only banishes the past night but proceeds without interruption to shine throughout the day, even though it be darkened and covered with thick clouds, yes, even though someone close his doors and windows against its light, still it remains the selfsame sun and, breaking all barriers down, it again and again presents itself to view.

 

65. Behold, this is the true doctrine of the Gospel concerning Christian repentance, laid hold of and conceived in these two parts, to wit, contrition, or a sincere alarm on account of sin, and faith in forgiveness for Christ’s sake. The entire papal church has hitherto taught nothing of this; and especially have they nowhere shown any knowledge of the faith in Christ which should be the chief part of this preaching: they have only directed people to their own works, and pronounced the absolution with this proviso that we have been duly contrite and properly made confession. And thus Christ has been so entirely forgotten and ignored, and the preaching he here commands has been so utterly perverted and beclouded, that there has been no repentance and absolution in his name but in our own names and for the sake of our works of contrition, confession, and satisfaction. This I call suppressing by force the faith and knowledge of Christ, yea, exterminating it, and taking from troubled consciences their comfort, leading them alone to perish in doubt, if they are not to be certain of the forgiveness of sin until they have sufficiently tortured, and made martyrs of themselves by their self-invented and involuntary contrition and confession.

 

66. And so the pope and all his band have by this one thing, that they have thus perverted and corrupted the doctrine of Christian repentance and forgiveness of sin, well enough deserved, and they daily still more deserve (since besides they refuse to repent of all this error and deception, which they themselves are forced to acknowledge, but rather blaspheme and storm against the plain truth) that they be cursed by all Christians into the abyss of hell, as Paul to the Galatians curses all those who teach another Gospel, etc. Galatians 1:9.

 

67. Here we should also say a word on the confession which we retain and which we commend as a beneficial, salutary thing. For although, properly speaking, it is not a part of repentance, and is not necessary and enjoined, still it serves us well in receiving absolution, which is nothing else than simply the preaching and announcement of the forgiveness of sins, which Christ here commands men both to preach and to hear. Since, however, it is necessary to retain such preaching in the church, the absolution should also be retained; for the only difference between the two is this: in the preaching of the Gospel the Word is publicly preached in a general way, to all who are present; and in absolution this same Word is spoken especially and privately to one or more who so desire it. This is in accord with Christ’s institution, that such preaching of the forgiveness of sins should be carried on at all times and in all places, not only in a general way before a whole company but also before individual persons, wherever there are people who stand in need of it: as he says in the Gospel for the following Sunday, “Whose soever sins ye forgive, they are forgiven unto them.”

 

68. Therefore we do not teach confession like the pope’s theologians, that one must recite his sins, than which, according to the papists, there is no other way to confess, or that thereby one receives forgiveness and becomes worthy of absolution, as they say, On account of thy contrition and confession I declare thee free from thy sins. But we teach that one should use confession in order to hear the comfort of the Gospel and thus to awaken and to strengthen his faith in the forgiveness of sins, which is the main thing in repentance. So that “to confess” means not, as it does among the papists, to recount a long list of sins, but to desire absolution, which is in itself confession enough; that is, to acknowledge your guilt and confess that you are a sinner. And no more shall it be demanded or required that you mention by name all or several, many or few, of your sins, unless of yourself you have a desire to mention something which especially burdens your conscience and wherein you need instruction and advice or particular comfort, as is often necessary with young and inexperienced people, and also with others.

 

69. Therefore we commend and retain confession not on its own account but for the sake of absolution. And in confession this feature is the golden treasure, that there you hear proclaimed to you the words Christ commanded to be preached in his name to you and to all the world, so that even if you should not hear it in the confessional, still you otherwise hear the Gospel daily, which is nothing else than the word of absolution. For to preach the forgiveness of sins means nothing else than to absolve or to declare free from sin, which also takes place in baptism and in the Lord’s Supper, which were also instituted for the purpose of showing to us this forgiveness of sins and assuring us of it. Thus to be baptized or to receive the communion is also an absolution, where forgiveness is, in Christ’s name and at his command, promised and communicated to each one in particular. This forgiveness you should hear wherever and whenever you are in need of it, and should receive and believe it as though you heard it from Christ himself. For, because it is not our absolution but Christ’s command and word, therefore it is just as good and valid as though it were heard proceeding from his own mouth.

 

70. Thus you see that everything that is taught concerning Christian repentance according to Scripture is wholly contained in the two parts called contrition, or alarm at God’s wrath on account of our sins, and its antidote, faith that our sins are forgiven us for Christ’s sake. For it has not been commanded that more than these two tidings be preached, to wit: the Law, which charges us with our sin and shows us the judgment of God; and the Gospel, which directs us to Christ and proclaims God’s grace and mercy in him. And, to sum up all, repentance in its entirety is just that which the Scripture describes in other words in Psalm 147:11 and elsewhere, “Jehovah taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his lovingkindness.” For there these two parts are also stated: the fear of God, which proceeds from a knowledge of our sins; and reliance upon his grace, as exhibited in the promises concerning Christ, etc.

 

71. What the papists say concerning “satisfaction,” however, is, as said above, by no means to be tolerated; for that which in former times was called satisfaction and whereof one may still read in the writings of the ancient teachers, was nothing else than an outward and public punishment of those who were guilty of manifest vices, which they were compelled to bear before men, just as a thief or a murderer in the world’s courts pays for his crime on the gallows or the wheel. Of this the Scripture nowhere teaches anything, nor does this contribute anything toward the forgiveness of sin, but may, as I have said, among other temporal things, be referred to the lawyers. But their claim that God punishes sins with temporal punishments and plagues, sometimes even when they have been forgiven, is true; but that is no satisfaction or redemption from sin, nor is it a merit on account of which sin is forgiven, but a chastisement which God inflicts to urge us to repentance.

 

72. And even if one wished to retain the word “satisfaction” and explained it as meaning that Christ made satisfaction for our sins, it is nevertheless too weak and says too little concerning the grace of Christ and does not do honor enough to his sufferings, to which one should give higher honor, confessing that he not only has made satisfaction for sin but has also redeemed us from the power of death, the devil, and hell, and established an everlasting kingdom of grace and of daily forgiveness of the sin that remains in us; and thus is become for us, as St. Paul says in Corinthians 1:30, an eternal redemption and sanctification, as has been more fully discussed above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easter Wednesday;

Colossians 3:1-7

 

EXHORTATION TO TRULY GOOD WORKS.

 

Colossians 3:1-7

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.

 

1. We have been hearing of the glorious message of Christ's resurrection, how that resurrection took place and how we must believe, for our own blessing, comfort and salvation. Now, that we may be sincerely thankful to God for this inestimable blessing, and that our attitude toward the doctrine of the resurrection may be one to truly honor and glorify it, we must hear also, and practice, the apostles' teaching of its essential fruits, and must manifest them in our lives. Therefore, we will select Paul's admonition to the Colossians (ch. 3), which has to do with this topic particularly. Observe here, Paul exhorts Christians to be incited by the resurrection of Christ unto works truly good and becoming; the text declares unto us the supreme blessing and happiness the resurrection brings within our reach - remission of sins and salvation from eternal death. Lest, however, our wanton, indolent nature deceive itself by imagining the work is instantaneously wrought in ourselves, and that simply to receive the message is to exhaust the blessing, Paul always adds the injunction to examine our hearts to ascertain whether we rightly apprehend the resurrection truth.

 

HOW WE ARE RISEN WITH CHRIST.

2. By no means are we simply to assent to the words of the doctrine. Christ does not design that we be able merely to accept and speak intelligently of it, but that its influence be manifest in our lives. How is a dead man profited, however much life may be preached to him, if that preaching does not make him live? Or of what use is it to preach righteousness to a sinner if he remain in sin? or to an erring, factious individual if he forsake not his error and his darkness? Even so, it is not only useless but detrimental, even pernicious in effect, to listen to the glorious, comforting and saving doctrine of the resurrection if the heart has no experience of its truth; if it means naught but a sound in the ears, a transitory word upon the tongue, with no more effect upon the hearer than as if he had never heard. According to Paul in the text, this nobly-wrought and precious resurrection of Christ essentially must be, not an idle tale of fancy, futile as a dead hewn-stone or painted-paper image, but a powerful energy working in us a resurrection through faith - an experience he calls being risen with Christ; in other words, it is dying unto sin, being snatched from the power of death and hell and having life and happiness in Christ. In the second chapter (verse 12), the apostle puts it plainly, ”buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.”

 

3. If, Paul says, ye have apprehended by faith the resurrection of Christ and have received its power and consolation, and so are risen with him, that resurrection will surely be manifest in you; you will feel its power, will be conscious of its working within. The doctrine will be something more than words; it will be truth and life. For them who do not thus apprehend the resurrection, Christ is not yet risen, although his rising is none the less a fact; for there is not within them the power represented by the words ”being risen with Christ,” the power which renders them truly dead and truly risen men. So Paul's intent is to make us aware that before we can become Christians, this power must operate within us; otherwise, though we may boast and fancy ourselves believing Christians, it will not be true. The test is, are we risen in Christ - is his resurrection effective in us? Is it merely a doctrine of words, or one of life and operating power?

 

4. Now, what is the process of the life and death mentioned? How can we be dead and at the same time risen? If we are Christians we must have suffered death; yet the very fact that we are Christians implies that we live. How is this paradox to be explained? Indeed, certain false teachers of the apostles' time understood and explained the words in a narrow sense making them mean that the resurrection of the dead is a thing of the past according to Paul's words in Second Timothy 1, 10, and that there is no future resurrection from temporal death. The believer in Christ, they said, is already risen to life; in all Christians the resurrection is accomplished in this earthly life. They sought to prove their position by Paul's own words, thus assailing the article of the resurrection.

 

5. But we will ignore these teachers as being condemned by Paul, and interpret the words as he meant them, his remarks both preceding and following making it clear and unquestionable that he refers to the spiritual resurrection. This fact is certain: If we are, at the last day, to rise bodily, in our flesh and blood, to eternal life, we must have had a previous spiritual resurrection here on earth. Paul's words in Romans 8, 11 are: ”But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” In other words: God having quickened, justified and saved you spiritually, he will not forget the body, the building or tabernacle of the living spirit; the spirit being in this life risen from sin and death, the tabernacle, or the corruptible flesh-and-blood garment, must also be raised; it must emerge from the dust of earth, since it is the dwelling-place of the saved and risen spirit, that the two may be reunited unto life eternal.

 

6. The apostle, then, is not in this text referring to the future resurrection of the body, but to the spiritual rising which entails the former. He regards as one fact the resurrection of the Lord Christ, who brought his body again from the grave and entered into life eternal, and the resurrection of ourselves, who, by virtue of his rising, shall likewise be raised: first, the soul, from a trivial and guilty life shall rise into a true, divine and happy existence; and second, from this sinful and mortal body shall rise out of the grave an immortal, glorious one. So Paul terms believing Christians both ”dead” and ”alive.” They are spiritually dead in this life and also spiritually alive. Nevertheless, this sinful temporal life must yet come to an end in physical death, for the destruction of the sin and death inherent therein, that body and spirit may live forever. Therefore he says:

 

”If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God.”

7. In other words: Seek and strive after what is above - the things divine, heavenly and eternal; not the terrestrial, perishable, worldly. Make manifest the fact that you are now spiritually raised and by the same power will later be raised bodily.

 

8. But does this mean that we, as Christians, are no more to eat and drink, to till the ground, to attend to domestic or public duties, or to engage in any kind of labor? Are we to live utterly idle, practically dead? Is that what you mean, Paul, when you say we are not to seek the things of earth, though all these are essentially incident to life? What can you say to the fact that Christ the Lord is, himself, with us on earth? for he said before his ascension to heaven (Mt 28, 20): ”Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world”; and also the baptism which he commands, the sacrament and the office of Gospel ministry whereby he governs his Church here - these are things of earth.

 

9. Paul, however, explains in the succeeding verse what he means by ”things that are upon the earth” and ”things that are above.” He is not telling us to despise earthly objects. He does not refer to God's created things, all which are good, as God himself considered them; nor has he reference to the Christian who, in his earthly life, must deal with the things of creation. He has in mind the individual without knowledge of God; who knows no more, and aims no further, than reason teaches, that reason received from parents at physical birth; who is an unbeliever, ignorant of God and the future life and caring not for them; who follows only natural understanding and human desire and seeks merely personal benefit, honor, pride and pleasure. The apostle calls that a worldly life where the Word of God is lacking, or at least is disregarded, and where the devil has rule, impelling to all vices. Paul would say: Ye must be dead to a worldly life of this sort, a life striven after by the heathen, who disregard God's Word and suffer the devil to have his way with them. Ye must prove the resurrection of Christ in you to be something more than vain words. Ye must show there is a living power manifest in you because ye are risen, a power which makes you lead a different life, one in obedience to the Word and will of God, and called the divine, heavenly life. Where this change does not take place, it is a sign ye are not yet Christians but are deceiving yourselves with vain fancies.

 

10. Under the phrase ”things that are upon the earth” - worldly things - Paul includes not only gross, outward vices, sins censurable in the eyes of the world, but also greater immoralities; everything, in fact, not in accordance with the pure Word of God, faith and true Christian character.

 

SPIRITUAL AND CARNAL WORLDLINESS.

11. In order to a better understanding of the text, we shall adopt Paul's customary classification of life as spiritual and carnal. Life on earth is characterized as of the spirit, or spiritual; and of the flesh, or carnal. But the spiritual life may be worldly. The worldly spiritual life is represented by the vices of false and self-devised doctrine wherein the soul lives without the Word of God, in unbelief and in contempt of God; or, still worse, abuses the Word of God and the name of Christ in false doctrine, making them a cover and ornament for wicked fraud, using them falsely under a show of truth, under pretense of Christian love. This is worldly conduct of the spiritual kind. It is always the worst, ever the most injurious, since it is not only personal sin, but deceives others into like transgression. Paul refers, in the epistle lesson for Easter, to this evil as the ”old leaven” and the ”leaven of wickedness.” And in Second Corinthians 7, 1, he makes the same classification of spiritual and carnal sin, saying, ”Let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit.” By defilement of the spirit he means those secret, subtle vices wherewith man pollutes and corrupts his inner life in the sight of God; his sins not being manifest to the world, but deceiving human reason and wisdom.

 

12. If we would be Christians we must, first of all, be dead to conduct of this sort. We must not receive nor tolerate the worldly doctrine and corrupt inventions originating with ourselves, whether in the nature of reason, philosophy or law, theories ignoring the Word of God or else falsely passing under its name. For such are wholly of the world; under their influence man has no regard to God's will and seeks not his kingdom and eternal life. They are meant merely to further the individual's own honor, pride, renown, wisdom, holiness or something else. Though boast is made of the Gospel and of faith in Christ, yet it is not serious, and the individual continues without power and without fruit.

 

13. If we are risen with Christ through faith, we must set our affections upon things not earthly, corruptible, perishable, but upon things above - the heavenly, divine, eternal; in other words, upon doctrine right, pure and true, and whatever is pleasing to God, that his honor and Christ's kingdom may be preserved. Thus shall we guard ourselves against abuse of God's name, against false worship and false trust and that presumption of self- holiness which pollutes and defrauds the spirit.

 

14. Under carnal worldliness Paul includes the gross vices, enumerating in particular here, fornication, uncleanness, covetousness, and so on, things which reason knows to be wicked and condemns as such. The spiritual sins take reason captive and deceive it, leaving it powerless to guard against them. They are termed spiritual sins not simply because of their spirit-polluting character, for all vices pollute the spirit, the carnal vices among them; but because they are too subtle for flesh and blood to discern. The sins of the flesh, however, are called carnal, or body-polluting, because committed by the body, in its members. Now, as we are to be dead unto spiritual sins, so are we to be dead unto carnal sins, or at least to make continual progress toward that end, striving ever to turn away from all such earthly things and to look toward the heavenly and divine. He who continues to seek carnal things and to be occupied with them, has not as yet with Christ died unto the world. Not having died, he is not risen; the resurrection of Christ effects nothing in him. Christ is dead unto him and he unto Christ.

 

15. Paul's admonition is particularly necessary at the present time. We see a large and constantly-increasing number who, despite their boast of the Gospel and their certain knowledge of the polluting and condemning power of spiritual and carnal sins, continue in their evil course, forgetful of God's wrath, or endeavoring to trust in false security. Indeed, it is a very common thing for men to do just as they please and yet pretend innocence and seek to avoid censure. Some would represent themselves guileless as lambs and blameless; no act of theirs may be regarded evil or even wrong. They pretend great virtue and Christian love. Yet they carry on their insidious, malicious frauds, imposing falsehoods upon men. They ingeniously contrive to make their conduct appear good, imagining that to pass as faultless before men and to escape public censure means to deceive God also. But they will learn how God looks upon the matter. Paul tells us (Gal 6, 7) God will not, like men, be mocked. To conceal and palliate will not avail. Nothing will answer but dying to vice and then striving after what is virtuous, divine and becoming the Christian character.

 

16. Paul enumerates some gross and unpardonable vices - fornication, or unchastity, and covetousness. He speaks also of these in Ephesians 5, 3-5 and in First Thessalonians 4, 3-7, as we have heard in the epistle lessons for the second and third Sundays in Lent. He enjoins Christians to guard against these sins, to be utterly dead to them. For they are sensual, acknowledged such even among the gentiles; while we strive after the perfect purity becoming souls who belong to Christ and in heaven. It is incumbent upon the Christian to preserve his body modest, and holy or chaste; to refrain from polluting himself by fornication and other unchastity, after the manner of the world.

 

17. Similarly does the apostle forbid covetousness, to which he gives the infamous name of idolatry in the effort to make it more hideous in the Christian's eyes, to induce him to shun it as an abominable vice intensely hated of God. It is a vice calculated to turn a man wholly from faith and from divine worship, until he regards not, nor seeks after, God and his Word and heavenly treasures, but follows only after the treasures of earth and seeks a god that will give him enough of earthly good.

 

18. Much might be said on this topic were we to consider it relative to all orders and trades in succession. For plainly the world, particularly in our day, is completely submerged in the vice of covetousness. It is impossible to enumerate the subtle arts it can invent, and the good and beautiful things it knows how to pass off whereunder it masks itself as a thing not to be considered sinful, but rather extremely virtuous and indicative of uprightness. And so idolatry ever does. While before God it is the worst abomination, before the world its appearance and reputation are superior. So far from being recognized as sin, it is considered supreme holiness and divine worship. The very worship of Mammon wears an imposing mask. It must not be called covetousness or dishonest striving after property, but must be known as upright, legitimate endeavor to obtain a livelihood, a seeking to acquire property honestly. It ingeniously clothes itself with the Word of God, saying God commands man to seek his bread by labor, by his own exertions, and that every man is bound to provide for his own household. No civil government, no, nor a preacher even, can censure covetousness under that guise unless it be betrayed in gross robbing and stealing.

 

19. Let every man know that his covetousness will be laid to the charge of his own conscience, that he will have to answer for it, for God will not be deceived. It is evident the vice is gaining ground. With its false appearance and ostentation, and its world-wide prevalence, it is commonly accepted as legal. Without censure or restraint, men are engrossed in coveting and accumulating to the utmost. Those having position and power think they have the right to acquire by violence as much as they can, daily making assessments and imposts, and new oppressions and impositions upon the poor. And the common rabble seek gain by raising prices, by extortion, fraud, and so on. Yet all desire not to be charged with wrong-doing; they would not they should be called unchristian on account of their conduct. Indeed, such excess of covetousness obtains that the public robbing and stealing, and the faithlessness and fraud, of the meanest hirelings, servants and maids everywhere can no longer be restrained.

 

20. But who would care to recount the full extent of this vice in all dealings and interests of the world between man and man? Enough has been said to induce every one who aims to be a Christian to examine his own heart and, if he find himself guilty of such vice, to refrain; if not, to know how to guard against it. Every individual can readily perceive for himself what is consistent with Christian character in this respect, what can be allowed with a good conscience; for he has Christ's rule of dealing as we would be dealt with, which insures equality and justice. Where unfairness exists, covetousness must obtain to some extent.

 

21. If you will not desist from the vice of covetousness, then know you are not a Christian, not a believer, but, as Paul calls you, a base, detestable idolater, having no part in God's kingdom; for you are living wholly to the world and without intent to rise with Christ. You will receive no blessing from the joy-inspiring and gracious revelation that Christ died and rose for sinners. You cannot say, ”Therefore he died for me, I trust.” Truly, Christ died for you, but if you continue in your wickedness, using this revelation as a cloak for your mean covetousness, do not - such is the declaration of the text - by any means apply that comforting promise to yourself. Although Christ indeed died and rose for all, yet unto you he is not risen; you have not apprehended his resurrection by faith. You have seen the smoke but have not felt the fire; you have heard the words but have received nothing of their power.

 

THE NEW LIFE IN CHRIST.

22. If you would be able honestly to boast of this revelation as unto you, if you would have the comfort of knowing that Christ, through his death and resurrection, has blessed you, you must not continue in your old sinful life, but put on a new character. For Christ died and rose for the very purpose of effecting your eventual death with him and your participation in his resurrection: in other words, he died that you might be made a new man, beginning even now, a man like unto himself in heaven, a man having no covetous desire or ambition for advantage over a neighbor, a man satisfied with what God grants him as the result of his labor, and kind and beneficent to the needy.

 

23. In his desire to arouse Christians to the necessity of guarding against such vices as he mentions, Paul strengthens his admonition, in conclusion, by grave threats and visions of divine wrath, saying, ”for which things' sake cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience”; that is, upon the unbelieving world, which regards not the Word of God, does not fear or believe in it nor strive to obey it, and yet is unwilling to be charged with idolatry and other unchristian principles, desiring rather to be considered righteous and God's own people. In the last quoted clause Paul also implies that worldly conduct, the life of worldly lusts such as covetousness and other vices, is inconsistent and impossible with faith, and that the power of Christ's resurrection cannot reach it. For this reason he terms them ”sons of disobedience,” who have not faith and who, by their unchristian conduct, bring God's wrath upon themselves and are cast out from the kingdom of God. God seriously passes sentence against such conduct, declaring he will reveal his wrath against it in bodily punishment in this world and eternal punishment in the world hereafter. Elsewhere Paul says practically the same thing (Eph 5, 6): ”For because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience.” See also Rom 1, 18.

 

24. Such is the admonition of Paul unto all who would be called Christians. He reminds them whereunto the Gospel of Christ calls them and what his resurrection should work in them -  death to all life and doctrine not in harmony with God's Word and God's will - and that if they believe in the risen and living Christ, they, as risen with him, should seek after the same heavenly life where he sits at the right hand of God, a life where is no sin nor worldly error, but eternal life and imperishable treasures to be possessed and enjoyed with Christ forever.

 

25. But the revelation of Christ's resurrection can be apprehended by nothing but faith. The things Paul here tells us of life and glory for Christians in the risen Christ are not apparent to the world; in fact, Christians themselves do not perceive them by external sense. Notice, he says, ”Ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” The world does not understand the Christian life and has no word of praise for it; it is hostile to the faith and cannot tolerate the fact that you believe in Christ and refuse to join hands with it in love for worldly lusts. A hidden life indeed is the Christian's; not only hidden to the world, but, so far as external perception goes, to the Christian himself. Nevertheless, it is a life sure and in safe keeping, and in the hereafter its glory shall be manifest to all the world. For Paul says:

 

 

”When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory.”

26. Here is comfort for Christians in this earthly life where, though they receive the doctrine of Christ and apprehend him by faith, their resurrection seems to the world and to their own perceptions untrue; where they must contend with sin and infirmities and moreover are subject to much affliction and adversity; and where consequently they are extremely sensible of death and terror when they would experience joy and life. In this verse Paul comforts them, showing them where to seek and surely apprehend their life.

 

27. Be of good cheer, he would say, for ye are dead to the worldly life. This life ye must renounce, but in so doing ye make a precious exchange. Dying unto the world is a blessed experience, for which ye will obtain a life far more glorious. Ye are now, through Christ's death, redeemed from sin and from death eternal and are made imperishable. Upon you is conferred everlasting glory. But this risen life ye cannot yet perceive in yourselves; ye have it in Christ, through faith. Christ is spoken of as ”our life.” Though the life is still unrevealed to you, it is certain, insured to you beyond the power of any to deprive you of it. By faith in Christ's life, then, are ye to be preserved and to obtain victory over the terrors and torments of sin, death and the devil, until that life shall be revealed in you and made manifest to men. In Christ ye surely possess eternal life. Nothing is lacking to a perfect realization except that the veil whereby it is hidden so long as we are in mortal flesh and blood, is yet to be removed. Then will eternal life be revealed. Then all worldly, terrestrial things, all sin and death, will be abolished. In every Christian shall be manifest only glory. Christians, then, believing in Christ, and knowing him risen, should comfort themselves with the expectation of living with him in eternal glory; the inevitable condition is that they have first, in the world, died with him.

 

28. Paul does not forget to recognize the earthly environment of Christians and saints, for he says: ”Put to death therefore your members which are upon the earth.” Though acknowledging Christians dead with Christ unto worldly things and possessing life in Christ, he yet tells them to mortify their members on earth, and enumerates the sins of fornication, covetousness, etc. This is truly a strange idea, that it should be necessary for men who have died and risen with Christ and hence have been made really holy, to mortify worldly inclinations in their bodily members. The apostle refers to this subject in Romans 7: 5, 8, 23, and elsewhere, frequently explaining how, in the saints, there continue to remain various lusts of original sin, which constantly rise in the effort to break out, even gross external vices. These have to be resisted. They are strong enough utterly to enslave a man, to subject him to the deepest guilt, as Paul complains (Rom 7, 23); and they will surely do it unless the individual, by faith and the aid of the Holy Spirit, oppose and conquer them.

 

29. Therefore, saints must, by a vigorous and unceasing warfare, subdue their sinful lusts if they would not lose God's grace and their faith. Paul says in Romans 8, 13: ”If ye live after the flesh, ye must die; but if by the Spirit ye put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” In order, then, to retain the Spirit and the incipient divine life, the Christian must contend against himself. This cannot be accomplished by the monastic hypocrisies wherewith some expect to resist sin. For the pollution of sin is not merely something adhering to the clothing, or to the skin externally, and easily washed off. It is not something to be discharged from the body by fasting and castigation. No, it penetrates the flesh and blood and is diffused rough the whole man. Positive mortification is necessary or it will destroy one. And this is how to mortify sin: It must be perceived with serious displeasure and repented of; and through faith Christ's forgiveness must be sought and found. Thus shall sinful inclinations be resisted, defeated and restrained from triumphing over you. More has been said on this topic elsewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SUNDAY AFTER EASTER

1 JOHN 5:4-12

 

 

 

1 JOHN 5:4-12

For whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith. And who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three who bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and the three agree in one. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for the witness of God is this, that he hath borne witness concerning his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in him: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he hath not believed in the witness that God hath borne concerning his Son. And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath the life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life.

 

VICTORIOUS FAITH

1. This epistle selection was primarily arranged for this particular Sunday because it treats of baptism and of the new birth of the believing Christian. It was in former time customary in the Church to baptize immediately after Easter those who had accepted the Christian faith and had been instructed in its precepts. This day is also called “Dominicam in albis,” and by us Germans “Weiszer Sonntag” (White Sunday), because the candidates for baptism were clad in white linen as indicative of their cleansing and new birth; just as today children to be baptized are arrayed in a white christening-robe.

 

THE NEW BIRTH

2. While this lesson does not treat of the resurrection of Christ, it has reference to its fruits: faith, the very essence of Christianity, here expressed as being born of God; and the evidence of the Holy Spirit, received through baptism, which assures us we are children of God and have, through Christ, eternal life and all blessings.

 

3. Though John’s language is, as usual, plain and simple, yet, in the ears of men generally, it is unusual and unintelligible. The world estimates it as similar to the prattle of children or fools. What, according to the world’s construction, is implied by the statement, “Whatsoever is begotten [born] of God overcometh the world?” Overcoming the world, the unconverted would understand to mean bringing into subjection to oneself every earthly thing and assuming the position of sovereign of the world. Yet more absurd in the ears of this class is the saying that we must be born of God. “Did one ever hear of such a thing,” they might exclaim, “as children born of God? It would be less ridiculous to say we must be born of stones, after the idea of the heathen poets.” To the world there is no birth but physical birth. Hence such doctrine as our lesson sets forth will ever be strange, unintelligible, incomprehensible, to all but Christians. But the latter speak with new tongues, as Christ in the last chapter of Mark (verse 17) says they shall, for they are taught and enlightened by the Holy Spirit.

 

4. Clearly, then, when the Scriptures speak of being born of God, it is not in a human sense; the reference is not to the conditions of our temporal lives, but to those exalted ones of a future existence. To say we must be born of God is equivalent to saying that if man is to be redeemed from sin and eternal death, to enter into the kingdom of God and into happiness, his physical birth will not suffice; all which nature, reason, free-will and human endeavor may afford is inadequate. Physical birth, it is true, answers for everything in the way of temporal possession and achievement, everything great, powerful, noble, rich, wise, learned; in short, every exalted and desirable thing of earth. But all such possession and achievement serves only the physical existence; it is swept away by death, to which event it is ever subject. Hence becomes necessary a new and different birth, a birth more significant than that of the natural man even in the case of emperors, kings, or the wisest and most influential of earth. For as Isaiah says (ch. 40:6): “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth.” The demand is for a divine birth, a birth in which parentage is wholly of God; a birth signifying the operation of God’s divine power in man, a power achieving something beyond the attainment of his natural capacities and effecting in him new understanding and a new heart.

 

5. The process is this: When the individual hears the Gospel message of Christ – a message revealed and proclaimed not by the wisdom and will of man, but through the Holy Spirit – and sincerely believes it, he is justly recognized as conceived and born of God. John in his gospel (ch. 1:12) says: “As many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name.” And in the first verse of the chapter including our text, he tells us: “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God.” Through that faith, for the sake of his Son, God accepts us as his children, pleasing to him and heirs of eternal life; and the Holy Spirit will be sent into our hearts, as is explained later.

 

6. This doctrine condemns those arrogant teachers who presumptuously expect to be justified before God by their own merits and works. They imagine that their wisdom, learning, good judgment, intelligence, fair reputation and morality entitle them, because of the good they are thus enabled to do, to the favor of God and to reception up into heaven. But the Scriptures clearly teach the very reverse, that all these things are nothing in the eyes of God. It is sheer human effort; it is not being born of God. However wise and powerful you might be, if even the noblest, most beautiful, fruit human nature can produce, your could not see the kingdom of God unless you became a wholly different person, unless you were born anew, according to Christ’s words in John 3:3. And this is something impossible to your natural powers. You certainly cannot make yourself of other parentage than you are. God must begin the work in you, communicating his seed – his Word – by virtue of which the Holy Spirit operates in you, enabling you, by faith, to cling to the promise, as said before.

 

7. Now, he who is thus born of God, John declares, overcomes the world. Verily, this is a significant and forcible assertion the Holy Spirit makes; it represents a tremendous power, a great work. The child of God must, indeed, attempt and accomplish great things. The birth effected through the Word and faith makes men true sovereigns, above all earthly rulers; it gives them power even to overcome the world, something impossible to any Roman or Turkish potentate. They effect not their victory by physical force or temporal power, but by the spiritual birth, through faith. As John says immediately after the clause we are discussing, “This is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith.” Here is his own explanation of what he means by being born of God.

 

THE TWO KINGDOMS

8. Now, in order to understand the nature of the spiritual victory and how it is effected, we must know just what John means by the term “world.” The reference is not to dominion over territory, to property or money. He implies the existence of two kingdoms. In one, the kingdom of God, the heavenly kingdom of Christ, is included, first, the angels in heaven, who are the chief lords, the inner circle of counselors; second, the entire Christian Church on earth, under one head, Christ the Lord and King. In the other kingdom, the hellish kingdom, the devil is prince, and his mighty counselors and servants are the angels who with him fell from heaven; it also includes the world, those on earth who teach, believe and live contrary to Christ, who represent the heathen, the Jews, the Turks and false Christians. By the heavenly kingdom of God we must understand, not only spiritual life and godly people, but the lord and regent of that kingdom – Christ with his angels, and his saints both living and dead. Thus, too, the kingdom of the world represents not only the earthly life with its worldly interests, but particularly its lord and regent – the devil and his angels, and all unchristian, godless, wicked people on earth. So, when John says, “Whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the world,” he means by “world” the devil and his whole earthly dominion.

 

9. Now, the workings of these two kingdoms are plainly evident, though the leaders – Christ the Lord, and the devil – are not visible to mortal eyes. Christ rules direct and effectually, in his own power, through the Word and through the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers, maintaining them in the faith and in the knowledge of his Word, and protecting from the devil’s wrath and subtlety; further, he rules through his angels, who guard his followers; again, he rules through his people themselves, who exercise authority one over another in loving service, each teaching, instructing, comforting and admonishing a noble little band of godly, obedient, patient, chaste, kind, tractable, benevolent souls. The nature of the devil’s kingdom, the manner of life the world leads, is easily apparent. This kingdom is simply a huge booth filled with faithless, shameless, wicked individuals, impelled by their god to every sort of disobedience, ingratitude and contempt of God and his Word; to idolatry, false doctrine, persecution of Christians and the practice of all wantonness, mischief, wickedness and vice.

 

10. These two kingdoms are opposed. They continually contend for the crown; they war with each other for supremacy. Christians are brought into the conflict to hold the field against God’s enemy, whose rule of the world is one of falsehood and murder; they must contend with the enemy’s servants, his horde of factious spirits and basely wicked individuals, in an effort to restrain evil and promote good. Christians must be equipped for the fray; they must know how to meet and successfully resist the enemy, how to carry the field unto victory, and hold it.

 

FAITH THE VICTOR

11. Therefore, when John says, “Whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith,” his purpose is to admonish Christians that believers must manifest the power and working of faith in life and deed. In fact, his chief aim in writing this text was to reprove false Christians who are pleased to hear the doctrine that we are saved through Christ alone, our works and merits not earning our salvation; and who imagine the hearing of this doctrine constitutes them Christians and that there is no necessity for any effort or contention on their part. They forget that they must, through faith, become new persons fitted to overcome the world and the devil.

 

12. Victory over the devil is the sign of the true Christian. Thereby we may know men are born of God, may distinguish them from the false children who enjoy but the semblance of God’s Word and never experience its power. Such are mere “mondkinder” (moon-children) – still-born, destitute of real divine life, or divine power. It cannot be said we have been born of God when we continue in our old dead and worldly course, and as before lie and live in sin at the devil’s pleasure. No, as children of God we must resist the devil and his entire kingdom. If, then, instead of overcoming the world you allow it to overcome you, then, boast as you may of faith and Christ, your own conduct testifies that you are not a child of God. To illustrate, beginning with some of the lower and grosser sins: If you boast of being a child of God, but still live in fornication, adultery, and such vices, the devil has already overcome you and wrested you from the kingdom of God. If you are miserly, injuring your neighbor by usury, by overcharging, by false wares and fraudulent business, you have permitted the world and your own flesh to overcome you for a penny. If you entertain envy and hatred toward your neighbor, you are at once thereby a captive servant of the devil. The same principle holds in the case of sins more subtle and refined, where the malicious knavery of the devil must be resisted. For instance, the devil deceives with misleading doctrines, impelling men to idolatry, false faith, presumption, despair, blasphemy, and so on. Now, if you yield to him, suffering yourself to be seduced, what will it profit you to boast of the Gospel faith? for you have not properly grasped God’s Word, you have not rightly recognized God in Christ, but continue in error, in false fancies, captivated and deceived by the devil.

 

13. It requires something more than mere human wisdom and skill, more than human power, to withstand and overcome an enemy so formidable as the devil. As said before, the Christian must be fortified with the knowledge of how to guard against his wiles and deceptions and how to withstand him. Hence a Christian is called a person who is born of God. He must be different from an intelligent heathen and a skillful worldling to rightly understand God’s Word and apprehend Christ through faith, and must use such knowledge as weapons of offense and defense in the conflict. Thus will he be able to withstand the devil and the world and to gain the victory. God’s Word and faith are the power which will bring him through; he cannot be overcome so long as he adheres to them. In this connection are John’s words immediately preceding our text: “This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous.” Then he goes on, “For whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the world,” etc. Such is the power represented by genuine new birth, that therein the devil, the world and all evil are overcome. Just as, in physical birth, a normal child fully born into the world may overcome a slight offensive disease, while an abnormal or still-born child perishes of its own weakness.

 

14. For example, if I have faith and am born of God, I will not pollute myself with unchastity and fornication, I will not bring disgrace upon another’s spouse or child. The new birth will indeed teach me not to reject shamefully the treasure I have in Christ, not to lose it willingly, and not to drive from me the indwelling Holy Spirit. Faith, if it truly dwells in me, will not permit me to do ought in violation of my conscience and of the Word and the will of God. Should I be tempted by avarice to deceive and defraud my neighbor, or to close my hand when I should give him aid, if I am a Christian and born anew my faith will protest and turn me from such action. Can I injure my neighbor or permit him to suffer want when I might contribute to his relief, if I am aware that Christ has given his body and shed his blood for me? How can there enter into the heart of the Christian who believes he has received ineffable and eternal treasures through the Son of God, the inclination to permit his neighbor to suffer a trivial want when he can easily extend relief? Much less would it be possible for the Christian to injure or to do injustice to his neighbor for the sake of shamefully gaining some small advantage. Rather he would reflect: “If I am, through Christ, a child of God and an heir of heaven, the sum of this world’s goods is far too insignificant to induce me, for the sake of a penny, to deceive or defraud anyone.” Then, too, if the devil tempt you by his tyrannical, factious spirits, or even by your own thoughts, to forsake your pure doctrine for his deceptions, you as a Christian are to resist the temptation, remembering the blessings you have through faith received from Christ in the Gospel; you have been liberated from darkness, blindness and error; have learned rightly to know God; and have obtained the sure consolation of grace and salvation, being aware upon what you must depend in life and death. Why, then, yield to the devil, allowing yourself to be robbed of salvation and eternal life? Why not much rather let go every earthly thing than to deny the Word of God or to permit this blessed consolation to be perverted, falsified and wrested from you?

 

15. So, then, John says, “This is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith.” It is, indeed, saying very much for the Christian faith to attribute to it such power over the devil and the world – a power transcending all human ability. It requires an agency greater and higher than human strength to triumph over the devil, especially in the perplexing conflicts of conscience, when he vexes and tortures the heart with terror of God’s wrath in the attempt to drive us to despair. At such times all our works must immediately sink out of sight, leaving no help or victory except the faith that clings to the word of Christ the Lord, believing that, for the sake of his beloved Son, God will be merciful and will not condemn us for our sins and unworthiness if we believe in him. Such faith as this stands fast and gains the victory; neither the devil nor the gates of hell can prevail against it.

 

16. The same is true in all temptations. Before we can resist and overcome, we must have faith to believe that through Christ we have remission of sins and the favor of God; that God gives us help and strength to enable us to stand in the conflict and successfully resist the devil, the world, the flesh and death; that we obtain the victory by the divine power of the Holy Spirit, lacking whose help we all would be far too weak to win. Without faith, we are under the power of the devil and sin, being subject to them by natural birth. We can be liberated in no other way than through faith in Christ.

 

17. That John has reference to faith in Christ is plainly evident from his query, “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” The apostle’s purpose therein is to make plain just what the true Scriptural faith is and what it implies. For there are other beliefs which the world calls faith. The Jews, the Turks, the Papists, claim they also believe in God who created heaven and earth. That such belief is not the true faith, however, is proved by the fact of its ineffectiveness. It does not contend and overcome, and it permits the believer to remain as he is, in his natural birth and under the power of the devil and sin. But the faith which believes Jesus is the Son of God is the true, triumphant sort. It is an invincible power wrought in the hearts of Christians by the Holy Spirit. It is a sure knowledge, that does not gaze and vacillate hither and thither according to its own thoughts. It apprehends God in Christ the Son sent from heaven, through whom God reveals his will and his love and transfers us from sin to grace, from death to a new and eternal life; a refuge and trust that relies not upon its own merit or worthiness, but upon Christ the Son of God, and in his might and power battles against the world and the devil. Therefore, the Christian faith is not the cold, ineffective, empty, lifeless conception which Papists and others imagine it to be; no, it is a living, active power, ever followed by victories and other appropriate fruits. Where such fruits are lacking, faith and the new birth are not there.

 

THE SOURCE OF FAITH

18. Thus we have the first part of our sermon on the new birth and faith. For the second part, John shows whence and by what means comes the faith productive of victory; he says: “This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three who bear witness [in earth], the Spirit, and the water, and the blood,” etc.

 

19. John speaks of Christ’s kingdom, and of the office the Holy Spirit bears outwardly and visibly in the Christian Church, represented in the ministerial office and the sacraments. He says: “There are three who bear witness [in earth].” John, as usual, employs the word “witness” in connection with the thought of preaching; it is a word he frequently uses. For instance, in the beginning of his gospel, where he speaks of John the Baptist, he says (ch. 1:7): “The same came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light.” So, in his use of the phrase “witness” or “bearing witness,” we are to understand simply the public preaching of God’s Word. Again, Christ says ( John 16:9-14), that the Holy Spirit shall bear witness of him; that is, he shall publicly fill the ministerial office. This is God’s own witness to his Son. And here John tells us we have the victory over the devil and the world, through faith, for the sake of Christ the Son of God.

 

20. This witness Christ himself ordains shall ever go forth, and remain, in the Church. To this end Christ sent the Holy Spirit; to this end Christ himself called and gave the Holy Spirit to the apostles and their successors, ministers, preachers and teachers, as Paul tells us ( Ephesians 4:11-13), who are to exercise the Word, that the Word may resound always and everywhere in the world, reaching to children’s children, and on down to future generations. Were the witness not in the Church, the pulpit – in fact, the entire outward administration of the Church – would be useless, for every man could read the Scriptures for himself. But for the sake of the uninstructed masses and the constantly rising young who, as yet in ignorance of the Word, need admonition – for the sake of these, the Spirit must bear public witness or administer the preaching office that they, too, may learn to know the grace of God manifest and given to us through Christ, and that God’s wondrous works may be publicly recognized and extolled by us in opposition to the devil and the world.

 

21. Wherever such witness is borne, there certainly will be some fruit. The witness never fails of effect. Some surely will be reached; some will accept and believe it. Since it is the witness of the Holy Spirit, and the apostle says here, the Spirit beareth witness, he will be effective, producing in us that to which John refers when he says we are children of God, and have the victory and eternal life. So the Word – the Gospel message accompanied by the witness of the Spirit – and faith are vitally related. In the last analysis they are inseparable. Without faith, preaching will be fruitless; and faith has origin in the Word alone. Therefore, we should gladly hear and handle the Word. Where it is, there is also the Holy Spirit; and where the Spirit is, there must be at least some believers. Even if you have already heard the Word and obtained faith, it will always continue to strengthen you as you hear it. One knows not at what hour God may touch and illumine his or another’s heart. It may be in a time when we least look for it, or in the individual of whom we have least expectation. For the Spirit, as Christ says, breathes where he will, and touches hearts when and where he knows them to be receptive.

 

22. It is relative to the power and energy wrought by the Holy Spirit that John speaks, indicating the source and means of the power of this witness, when he says of Christ, “This is he that came by water and blood,” etc. In this sentence is included all we possess in the kingdom of Christ, and here is extolled the efficacy of our beloved baptism and the blood or sufferings of Christ. Here John unites all the elements in one bundle, so to speak, making a triune witness. They bear joint witness to our faith and confirm it – these three: the water, the blood and the Spirit.

 

BAPTISM BY WATER AND BLOOD

23. Christ comes, first, “by water”; that is, by holy baptism. He employs baptism as an outward sign of his work in the new birth of man and in man’s sanctification. This water by which Christ comes cannot be a mere, empty sign; for he comes not merely to cleanse or bathe the body with water, but to purify the whole man from all pollution and blemishes inherent in him from Adam. Christ has instituted a cleansing wholly unlike the Mosaic ablutions under the Old Testament dispensation. Moses came with various laws relating to washings and purifications, but they were only cleansings of the body or of the flesh and had daily to be repeated. Now, since these ceremonials contributed nothing to man’s purification in God’s sight – a thing to be effected by nothing short of a new birth – Christ came with a new order of cleansing, namely, baptism, which is not a mere external ablution from physical impurities, but a washing effective in man’s purification from the inward pollution of his old sinful birth and from an evil conscience, and bringing remission of sin and a good conscience toward God, as Peter says. 1 Peter 3:21. Paul, also ( Titus 3:5), calls baptism the “washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”

 

24. Christ first instituted baptism through John the Baptist. To distinguish it from the Mosaic baptism, the old Jewish rite of washings, Christ styles it “a baptism unto repentance and the remission of sins.” He designs that therein man shall perceive his inner impurities and know them to be, in God’s sight, beyond the power of outward Mosaic ablutions to reach; shall know also that purification of the conscience and remission of sins must be sought and obtained through the power of Christ the Lord, who instituted baptism.

 

25. Secondly, that this cleansing of sin may be effected in us through baptism, something more than mere water must be present. Mere water could effect no more than do ordinary washings, and no more than Jewish and Turkish baptisms and washings effect. There must be a power and force accompanying the water effective to work inward purification, the purification of the soul. Therefore, John says, Christ came, not by water alone, but also by blood; not the blood of bulls, or of calves, or of goats, those Old Testament sacrifices, but his own blood, as Paul declares. Hebrews 9:12. He comes through the preaching office of the New Testament, which is his rule upon earth, imparts to us the effective power of his shed blood, his sacrifice for our sins, and thus applies to us the treasure wherewith he purchased our redemption.

 

26. Hence there is now in baptism this efficacy of the blood of Christ. That is the true caustic soap which not only removes the uncleanness of the outer man, but penetrates to the inner nature, consuming its impurities and cleansing them away, that the heart may become pure in God’s sight. Thus, the blood of Christ is so effectively mingled with the baptismal water that we must not regard it as mere water, but water beautifully dyed with the precious crimson blood o£ our clear Savior, Christ. Baptism, then, cannot rightly be regarded a physical cleansing, like the Mosaic ablutions, or like the cleansing the bathhouse affords; it is a healing baptism, a baptism or washing with blood, instituted by none but Christ, the Son of God, and that through his own death.

 

27. In the record of Christ’s passion, careful note is made of the fact that blood and water flowed immediately from the spear-thrust in Christ’s side as he hung upon the cross; it is pointed out as a special miracle. The design there is to teach that Christ’s shed blood is not without significance, but stands for a washing or bath whose efficacy is present in the baptism with water; and that from the slain body of Christ issues an unceasing stream of water and blood, flowing on down through the entire Christian Church, wherein we must all be cleansed from our sins. What makes baptism so precious, so holy and essential is the mingling and union of the water with the blood of Christ; to be baptized into Christ with water is really to be washed and cleansed with the blood of Christ.

 

THE SPIRIT

28. To these two John adds a third witness, “the Spirit.” The Spirit bears witness with the water and the blood; in fact, through these other two he operates. It is the Holy Spirit himself; not as he is invisible up in heaven in his divine essence, but the Spirit who publicly manifests himself through his external office and permits himself to be heard through his Word. As John here asserts, the Spirit bears witness on earth with both the water and the blood.

 

29. Neither Moses nor any other teacher in his doctrines of personal effort and external purifications, his washings and his sprinklings of the blood of sheep anal goats – no such teacher brings and gives the Spirit. With them is no Spirit, no divine power, no regeneration of man. Any unbelieving, spiritless, wicked knave can exercise human effort and practice physical cleansing. But Christ alone brings with him the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies us through the blood and water issuing from the divine side. The Spirit makes us partakers of its cleansing influence through the external office of preaching and through the sacraments, which are called the office and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Through these the Spirit works in the Christian Church just as he did at first, among the apostles on the Day of Pentecost, and will continue to do in the whole world, unto the last day. Without his ministration we would never obtain, nor know anything about, the saving power of Christ’s blood in baptism.

 

30. Such is the kingdom Christ unceasingly develops through the Christian Church. In him we have eternal purification when to the water is added the Spirit, who through the Word enkindles the heart and purifies it, not with the cleansing qualities of the water alone, but with the healing efficacy of the blood of Christ, whereby sins are exterminated and God’s wrath appeased. Although the work of our redemption was wrought once for all in Christ’s blood shed upon the cross and is sufficient to cancel the sins of the entire world, yet Christ so instituted it that the same efficacy should remain forever, and be daily distributed and offered to us through the Holy Spirit.

 

31. This work of the Holy Spirit is neither received nor perceived except through faith in this witness, the preached word of Christ – when with the heart man grasps it and confidently believes it is fulfilled in himself as the Word declares. Thus is the heart really cleansed, the individual born anew, through the Holy Spirit present in the sacred cleansing of water and of the blood of Christ. Peter ( 1 Peter 1:2) speaks of the sanctification of Christians as the “sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” upon us by the Holy Spirit through the public preaching of the Gospel. This sprinkling radically differs from the Jewish sprinkling of water, or of the ashes of a red heifer, or of the blood of a dead lamb or goat, round about the altar and upon the applicants for purification. In the sanctification of Christians, the true consecrated water and the sprinkled blood of Christ are combined; that is, the message concerning the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ is “sprinkled,” so to speak, upon the soul, and wherever that Word touches the soul it is effective. The blood in this case is not the ineffective, lifeless blood of a slain animal, but the potent, living blood of the Son of God. Under its application the soul cannot remain impure. Christ’s blood purifies and heals from sin and death; it strikes at their very foundation, and entirely releases us from their power and grants us eternal life for soul and body.

 

32. Note, this text is a grand sermon on the witness Christians have here on earth, which the apostle in concluding explains and extols in beautiful and comforting words. He calls it a witness that God himself bears to his Son and that serves to assure us of being the children of God and possessors of eternal life. For he says: “And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life,” etc. This is indeed an excellent witness, which God himself witnesses and declares to you, and the Holy Spirit brings and reveals to you. God cannot lie nor deceive, he is the eternal, unchangeable truth, as already mentioned. If you believe this witness, you certainly have received and possess it, as John again says: “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in him.”

 

FAITH TO BE IMPLICIT

33. The true, saving doctrine of the Christian faith is this: There must be witness and confidence of heart so absolute as to leave no room for doubt that, through Christ, we are God’s children and have remission of sins and eternal life. By way of showing us how God earnestly enjoins such faith upon us and forbids us to have any doubts on the subject, John says, “He that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he hath not believed in the witness that God hath borne concerning his Son.”

 

34. This passage annihilates the pernicious, damnable, diabolical doctrine of the Papists, who shamelessly claim it is right to doubt and that a Christian should doubt his title to grace. This doctrine is equivalent to teaching the propriety of disbelieving the testimony of God. It is charging God with falsehood, dishonoring and blaspheming the Lord Christ, openly affronting the Holy Spirit, knowingly plunging people into unpardonable sins and blasphemies and consequently sending them to the devil without hope or comfort of salvation.

 

35. Such is the beautiful fruit of papistical doctrine; such is papistical holiness. This is what they who would be the Christian Church recommend to us. They would have us, with them, openly and fearlessly charge God with falsehood, trample his Word under foot and worship the devil in his stead. Further, they require us to praise and honor them and render them thanks, rejoicing to be offered their stipulated terms of friendship. At the same time they have not in a single instance repented of their abominable idolatry or acknowledged their error; rather they plume themselves on having in their purity taught no wrong. If we will not accede to their demands, we must be persecuted, put to death, exterminated everywhere in the world with fire and sword. But the devil and death may accede in our stead. Let the godly Christian desire and pray that God may hurl such accursed doctrine into the abyss of hell and punish as they deserve the impenitent blasphemers since they will not cease. And let all the people say, Amen, amen.

 

36. Note particularly the consolation of Paul’s concluding words. Here he embraces in one clear word the whole substance of the Gospel when he says: “He that hath the Son hath the life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life.” How could he speak plainer and more forcibly? What is the need of further inquiry and investigation or discussion of this theme? Do you wish to have assurance of eternal life? According to this verse, you have it truly if you possess Christ the Sort of God; and you have Christ when you believe this witness and preaching as John says, and you should confidently rely upon it in life and in death as the divine, eternal truth. But if you believe not, you have not life; and all effort and suffering on your part, yes, combined with the effort and suffering of the whole world, will profit you nothing. You have not the Son of God if you do not believe God’s witness of him but charge God with falsehood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SUNDAY AFTER EASTER.

JOHN 20:19-31.

 

The following two sermons were preached by Luther in 1540 in Dessau and were printed with the two sermons delivered at the baptism of the young prince Bernhard of Anhalt.

 

 

Contents:

The fruit of Christ’s resurrection and the authority and office of the keys Christ exercised.

 

 

 

 

JOHN 20,19-31.

Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

 

I. THE FRUIT OF CHRIST’S RESURRECTION

1. The first part of this Gospel lesson is the same narrative we heard in the Gospel for Tuesday after Easter. The incident occurred on the evening of Easter, called by the Evangelists the first Sabbath, when Christ appeared for the first time to his frightened disciples, as they all with the exception of Thomas were assembled, and comforted and strengthened them in the faith of his resurrection. Thus we hear again what the power and benefit of Christ’s resurrection are, namely, that Christ, when he comes with such a sermon, brings peace and joy; and these are the true fruits of faith as they are mentioned among the other fruits of the Spirit by St. Paul in Galatians 5:22.

 

2. For when he comes he finds his disciples still sitting in fear and terror both from without because of the Jews and from within because of their consciences, and yet very weak and .slow of heart to believe, although they had heard from the women and some of the disciples that he had risen from the dead. But while this saddened their hearts and they were talking with one another about it, behold, Christ appears and hails them with the friendly greeting after the Hebrew custom, “Peace be unto you!” which means in our language, to wish one everything good. For we call that peace where all goes well, the heart is contented, and prosperity reigns. This is the joyful message Christ always brings with him, as he repeats it the second and third time in this narrative.

 

3. But this Peace of Christ is very secret and hidden from the eyes and the senses, for it is not of the nature that the world pictures and seeks, or as flesh and blood understand. For Christians can for the sake of Christ never expect any peace or any good from his enemies, the devil and the world. They must daily suffer misfortune and contention, for they are alarmed and afflicted and harassed by the devil with the terrors of sin and its punishment, by the world with its persecution and tyranny, and by the flesh with its own weakness, impatience, etc. Hence this is not a visible or tangible peace, consisting of bodily feeling, but an inner and spiritual peace, consisting in faith, which grasps and holds fast to nothing but what it hears in our text, namely, these gracious Words of Christ, which he speaks to all frightened and troubled souls: “Pax tibi; Peace be unto thee. Fear not” etc. And such a Christian, therefore, is contented and satisfied with having Christ as his friend and with having a gracious God who desires his constant welfare, even though, materially speaking, he has no peace in the world, but constant strife and contention. This is the peace of which St. Paul speaks in Philippians 4:7: “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus,” and of which Christ says in John 16:33: “These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye may have peace. In the world ye have tribulation,” etc.

 

4. For the devil will not allow a Christian to have peace; therefore Christ must bestow it in a manner different from that in which the world has and gives, in that he quiets the heart and removes from within fear and terror, although without there remain contention and misfortune. And this we see in the example of these disciples of Christ, who are in great fear on account of the Jews; they are behind barred doors, not daring to go forth, and are in constant dread of death. Although they have peace without and are annoyed by no one, nevertheless their hearts are all aflutter, and they have neither rest nor peace. While they are thus in fear and terror, the Lord enters; he quiets their hearts and brings them peace, not by removing the danger, but by quieting their hearts. For the wickedness of the Jews is neither removed nor changed thereby, for they are as full of hatred and rage as before, and without there is no change whatever, but within the disciples are changed, they have become courageous and bold, and the hatred of the Jews is for them now of but little concern.

 

5. This is the true peace, which is able to calm the heart, not in time of good fortune, but in the midst of misfortune, when without there is nothing but contention. For here is the difference between worldly and spiritual peace. Worldly peace consists in removing the external evils which cause the contention, as for example, when enemies besiege a city, there is war, but when they are gone, peace returns. Thus also, when poverty and sickness are pressing thee, thou art not contented, but when they are removed, and thou art rid of the misfortune externally, thou art again at peace and rest. But he who endures this is not changed; he remains just as discouraged when these things exist as when they do not, the only difference being that he is feeling it and that it oppresses him when it is present.

 

6. But with the Christian or spiritual peace we find just the opposite conditions, namely, that the evils without remain, such as foes, sickness, poverty, sin, the devil, and death. They are ever present and are surrounding us; nevertheless there is internal peace, strength and comfort in the heart, so that the heart does not concern itself about misfortune, yea, is even more courageous and joyful in the presence than in the absence of misfortune. It can therefore indeed be called a peace, which passeth all understanding. For reason understands and seeks no other peace but that which comes from without through possessions which the world can give, but which knows not how to quiet and comfort the heart in times of need, when all else fails. But when Christ comes, he does not change the outward unpleasant conditions, but strengthens the person, and makes out of a timid, a fearless heart, out of a trembling, a bold heart; and out of a disquieted, a peaceful, quiet conscience, so that the person is courageous, bold, and joyful in the midst of those things in which otherwise all the world is terrified; that is, in death, terror of sin, and all distress, in which the world with its comfort and possessions can render no help. This, then, is a true and constant peace, which remains forever and is invincible as long as the heart clings to Christ.

 

7. Hence, this peace is nothing else than that the heart is certain that it has a merciful God and the forgiveness of sins, for without this it can neither stand in the time of need and danger, nor be satisfied by any earthly fortune.

 

8. But this takes place and is accomplished only when Christ shows us his hands and his side; that is, when he shows us through the Word how he was crucified for us and shed his blood and died, in order that he might pay the debt of our sins and reconcile and avert the wrath of God. This is the sure token that comforts the frightened conscience and heart and gives assurance of divine grace and forgiveness of sin. These he shows, so that they may never doubt, but be sure that it is he himself, who is not angry with them, but is their dear Savior; for this peace is not so easily grasped by them nor by any troubled consciences, as long as they are terrified and in the conflict. Therefore he comes and strengthens them both with the Word and with visible signs.

 

9. This he still does constantly after his resurrection, not visibly but through the voice of the ministry, which we are to believe, even though we do not see him, as he also says at the close of this Gospel, through which he also shows how he shed his blood for us; for it is indeed sufficient that he showed this once to his disciples, to strengthen their and our faith and to show that he is truly risen and is the same Christ who for our sakes was nailed to the cross and pierced.

 

10. Therefore, the second thing which follows the friendly greeting of Christ, or the offering of peace, and the showing of his hands and side, if it is received by faith, is called joy, as the text says: “The disciples therefore were glad, when they saw the Lord.” For it is indeed the greatest joy the heart of man can experience, again to see and recognize Christ, who had been dead to him before, and with whom all comfort and joy had fled; and when he can now again have the joyful comfort in him, and know that he has in him a dear Savior, and through him has found grace and comfort with God against all the terror of sin and death, and against the power of the world and of hell. This is what St. Paul means in Romans 5:1: “Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; through whom also we have had our access by faith into this grace wherein we stand” etc.

 

11. Of this we sing also at this season in the old Easter hymn on the resurrection of the Lord: “Christ is risen from all his pangs,” for we are not only told of the story of his resurrection, but it is also brought close to us, and we are told to rejoice in it as our treasure and salvation, through which we have peace and every good gift from God. For how could we rejoice in him, if we had nothing of him nor appropriated as our own possession that which he has done for us. Therefore he also wishes to teach us that Christ is our comfort, and this comfort we should surely obtain and desire no other on which we can depend in every time of need. For through his resurrection he has conquered all and bestows upon us as our own all that he has done and suffered.

 

12. But from the fact that Christ comes to the disciples through the door that is closed, we are to learn that after his resurrection and in his kingdom here upon earth he is no longer bound by bodily, visible, tangible and worldly things, as time, place, space and the like, but that he is to be recognized and believed in as one who through his power can reign everywhere, who can be present with us at all places and at all times, when and wherever necessary, and who will help us without being taken captive and hindered by the world and its power.

 

13. In the second place, he also shows that wherever he comes with his government and rule, through the office of the Word, he does not come with a great noise, with storm and commotion, but very orderly; not changing nor breaking anything in the outward affairs of human life and government. He simply permits these things to remain in their condition and office as he finds them, and governs Christendom in a way that orderly government is neither abolished nor weakened upon the earth. Thus he does not derange and displace anything in man, neither his senses nor his reason; but he illuminates and changes for the better his heart and reason.

 

14. The devil, on the contrary, disorganizes and ruins everything through his factious and disturbing spirits, his ratling and boisterous servants, in the external and worldly government and life as well as internally in the hearts of men, whom he really makes insane and blind by his evil spirits, as we now have experienced with his insurrectional prophets, fanatics, and Anabaptists.

 

15. This the first part of this Gospel treats of how Christ comforts and gladdens his dear disciples through his resurrection, and resurrects them, together with himself, from the heavy death and sorrow of their hearts, in that Christ was now lost and eternally dead to them. And as they now have this benefit and fruit, and in order that this power and comfort of the resurrection be made known to others, he continues and gives the command to spread the same in the world through their office, as we read:

 

“Jesus therefore said to them again, Peace be unto you; as the Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them and saith unto them. Receive ye the Holy Spirit: whose soever sins ye forgive, they are forgiven unto them; whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.”

 

II. THE GOVERNMENT AND OFFICE OF THE KEYS CHRIST INSTITUTED

 

16. The Lord shows with these words what he accomplished through his resurrection, namely, that he established a government, which shall have nothing to do with money and gold, or anything that pertains to the temporal life, or how we are to acquire and keep them. For such a government already existed, being established from the beginning of the world, and being made subject to the reason of man through the Word of God, as he says in Genesis 1:28: “Have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” This is the ancient government, in which the worldly power legislates and executes, for which the Holy Spirit is not needed, and concerning which little need be taught in Christianity. Jurists may counsel and help as to how that shall be carried on.

 

17. But in addition to this there is another government, which is above the conscience and is concerned with things that relate to God. This government is of two kinds: One was founded by Moses, and the other the Lord established here, when he said: “As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you,” etc. The government of Moses is to serve to the end that it may teach us what sin is and what sin is not, and it belongs to those who neither know nor feel sin, as at present the Antinomians who say the law need not be preached. It is fruitless to teach much of grace among these people, for if the law is not preached, we cannot know sin, as St. Paul says: “Without the law sin is dead,” which means where no law is, there is no transgression; for sin, no matter how great it may be, and the wrath of God, are known only through the law. Therefore, when the law is not preached, the people become perfect heathen, and think they do right, although they sin grossly against the commandment of God.

 

18. Worldly authority indeed may punish and restrain open sin; but it does this too little, though it take to its aid all the books of the jurists, in order to illustrate or teach what sin is before God. Therefore the law is given that people may learn from it what is sin. Where sin continues unknown we cannot understand, much less desire, forgiveness and grace. Yea, even grace itself is then of no avail, for grace should fight and conquer in us against the law and sin, that we despair not. Just as a good physician must be experienced in his profession, first to know the nature of the disease, for otherwise, if he wishes to help the patient without knowing the cause of the sickness, he might give him dangerous poison instead of helpful medicine. Thus sin must first be known and experienced before we can preach grace. But the law is needed to gain such a knowledge, and it is necessary to instruct the people in the catechism, and diligently to teach them the ten commandments. For, as I have already said, human reason with all its wisdom and all the skill of the jurist, is unable to gain this knowledge. And although there is implanted into it a little of this knowledge, yet this is too insignificant; therefore God established the preaching of the law of Moses, which he had first received from the patriarchs.

 

19. Such preaching Christ himself instituted, when he commanded his disciples, as we have heard in the last Gospel lesson, first to preach repentance in his name; and John 16:8 says: “The Holy Spirit will convict the world in respect of sin” etc., for although it really belongs to the government of Moses to expose sin, nevertheless, that Christ may come to his government and work the beginning must be made by preaching the law where there is no consciousness of sin; for where that is not done, sin cannot be forgiven.

 

20. The other government or kingdom is that founded on the resurrection of Christ, for thereby he desired to establish a new kingdom which has to do with sin that has been awakened by the law, and with death and hell. This does not teach us anything about marriage, the household, the rule of a city and country, how to preserve the worldly peace, how to build and plant etc., but its aim is to show us where we may abide when this temporal, perishable kingdom and existence have passed away, when we must leave behind possessions, honor, home, farm, world and all that is upon the earth, together with this life, as we expect every moment. Now to this end has been established the kingdom of Christ, who is enthroned therefore as an eternal King, that he is Lord over sin and righteousness, over death and life. His kingdom has to do with, and to rule over, these things. This is what the Lord means when he says: “Receive ye the Holy Spirit: whose soever sins ye forgive, they are forgiven unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” Here you can see that his object is to deliver the people from sin, or to permit them to remain in sin, and show that they are condemned.

 

21. Certainly, we cannot say that he has thereby founded a worldly kingdom, as the pope boasts of his power of the keys, that he has the power to loosen and to bind even that which is not sin, yea, even that which Christ neither binds nor loosens, thereby making of it a worldly power. But Christ shows clearly enough here what his keys are, namely, they are not to make laws and abolish them again, as the pope is doing, but to remit or retain sin. He wishes to say: For this purpose shall my kingdom exist: First, that people may become conscious that they are sinners. This I have commanded Moses to teach, not for the purpose, however, of binding them, for they are indeed already bound; neither for the purpose of creating sin nor having anything to do with created sin, as the pope through his commandments and with his power of the keys is doing, creating sin where there is no sin: but for the purpose of dealing with those transgressions which naturally are sins against the commandments of God, as for example, despising God and unbelief, blaspheming his name, despising his Word, disobedience etc., which are indeed not sin by virtue of the commandments of the pope, but sins in truth, which are ingrained into the flesh and blood of man, which cannot be absolved nor removed through the loosing key of the pope as he uses it, but remain in man until he is in his grave.

 

22. It is the purpose of the kingdom of Christ that we may know now how we may be freed from sin. It is, therefore, called not a temporal or earthly kingdom, but the kingdom of heaven; for it shall just commence when this temporal kingdom ceases through death, in order that the people may know how they shall then reach heaven. This kingdom, he says, shall begin and continue thus:

 

 

“As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you.”

23. With these words he takes away from his disciples first their carnal mind, which they still possessed after his resurrection, that he would, like a temporal King and Lord, rule and reign with external and carnal power. Therefore he says: You have now seen what kind of an office I have filled upon the earth, for which I was sent by my Father, that I should establish a spiritual kingdom against that of the devil, sin and death, and thereby to bring them that believe on me to eternal life. This I have now done, and finished it as far as my person is concerned, and have not taken upon myself anything of a worldly character and rule. Yea, I have also been put to death by the world because of this my office and service, and am separated from it, but now through my resurrection I have entered into that glory where I shall reign forever over all creatures at the right hand of my Father. Therefore I send you also forth in like manner to be my messengers, not to engage in temporal affairs, but to conduct the same office as I have hitherto filled, namely: to preach the Word you have heard and received from me, an office through which people are delivered from sin and death, who experience sin and death, and wish to be delivered from them.

 

24. By means of this office the apostles and their successors are exalted also as lords unto the end of the world, and there is given to them such great authority and power as Christ, the Son of God, himself possessed, in comparison with which the power and dominion of all the world is nothing (although before the world it neither resembles nor is called dominion). And yet this office shall not and cannot extend further than over that alone which before God is called sin; so that wherever sin begins and works their government or rule shall also begin and work, and everything that lives and is called human upon the earth, shall be in subjection to their rule, whether it be emperor or king, great or small, no one is excluded. Therefore he says: “Whose soever sins ye remit.” This “whose soever” means nothing else than that all are included, Jews, Gentiles, great and small, wise and ignorant, holy or unholy; that no one shall enter heaven and come to eternal life, except he receive it from you, that is, through the office which you have received.

 

25. For they all are also subject to and concluded under sin through these words, by which he shows that upon earth they shall find nothing but sin, and he pronounces the judgment, that all mankind to whom the apostles and their successors shall be sent are sinners and condemned before God in their person and life, and that one of two things must take place: either their sins are forgiven, if they confess and desire forgiveness, or they must remain eternally bound in sin unto death and condemnation.

 

26. Now in order to exercise and accomplish the end of this authority and government, special power is required that is not human but divine. Therefore he does not give them swords and weapons, neither does he equip them with armor and worldly power, but he breathes on them and says: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost,” namely, they are to know that such an office and work cannot be carried on in their own strength, but in his power through the Holy Spirit, who operates through their office and word; and it shall thus be the office of the Holy Spirit, who is given for this purpose by Christ, that although the message seems but weak, and nothing more than a weak breath out of the mouth of man, yet such power shall be exercised through it, that sin, God’s wrath, death, and hell must yield to it.

 

27. For this we can also easily give an answer, if anyone should ask and critically question how can man forgive sins, since this belongs to God alone? For it is indeed true that it is not in the power nor ability of man, nor of his merit and worthiness, to forgive sins, even though he were as holy as all the apostles together and all the angels in heaven. Therefore we condemn the pope himself with his monks, who promise the people forgiveness of sins by virtue of their own merit, works and holiness, and give them absolution, and thus shamefully deceive the poor people, who long for true and sure comfort.

 

28. But here we must make a true difference, which the papists and their rabble neither know nor can give, namely, between that which man is able to do by his own power and worthiness, and that which is commanded to be done in the name of Christ, and which he accomplishes through his power. It avails nothing, to be sure, when a barefooted trickster comes along and undertakes to give absolution and forgiveness to a poor conscience by virtue of his own sorrow and repentance, and the merits of the saints and his order, as indeed their indulgences read (of which they can be convicted through the letters of their brotherhood which they have sold to the people): “The merits of the sufferings of Christ and of Mary, the blessed Virgin, and all the saints; the merits of this severe and grievous order, the humility of thy repentance and sorrow of heart, and all good works that thou hast done or shalt do, shall serve thee to the forgiveness of thy sins and eternal life,” etc. This is indeed nothing else than fearful blasphemy of Christ, and the perversion of the right absolution, for even though they remember his sufferings, yet they are not sincere in it, for they do not consider it efficacious enough for the forgiveness of sins, but must add the merits of Mary and of the saints, and especially of their own order and monkish doings and put them on an equality with Christ’s sufferings. This they do without any command from Christ; yea, against his Word and command. This is not from the Holy Spirit, but from their own spirit, the devil, who is the father and founder of this false doctrine.

 

29. But for the absolution to be right and efficacious, it must spring from the command of Christ, which is as follows: I declare thee free from all thy sins, not in my own name, nor in the name of any saint, nor for the sake of any human merit, but in the name of Christ and by the authority of his command, who has commissioned me to say to you that all your sins are forgiven, hence, not I but he himself by his own mouth forgives thee thy sins, and thou art under obligation to receive this and believe it firmly, not as the word of man, but as if thou hadst heard it from the lips of the Lord Christ himself.

 

30. Therefore, although this power to forgive sins belongs to God only, we should nevertheless know that he exercises and imparts this power through this external office, to which Christ has called his apostles, and commands them to proclaim in his name forgiveness of sins to all who desire it. Sins, are forgiven, therefore, not by human will and power, but by the command of Christ, for this purpose he then also sends the Holy Spirit, namely, in order to forgive sins.

 

31. God also does this for our welfare, so that we need not look up to heaven in vain, when we receive it not, and be compelled to say as St. Paul does, when he quotes Moses: “Who shall ascend unto heaven?” etc. But he does this that we may have the assurance of it, he has placed the forgiveness of sins in the public office and the Word, in order that we may continually have it with us, upon our lips and in our hearts. There we shall find absolution and forgiveness, and we know that where we hear this message proclaimed to us by the command of Christ we are bound to believe it as if it were announced to us by Christ himself.

 

32. Behold, such is the authority given through this office of the apostles to the church which extends farther and higher than all the authority upon earth, that without it no one, and it matters not how great and mighty he may be, shall come nor can come to God, nor have the comfort of conscience, nor be free from God’s wrath and eternal death. For although all emperors and kings were to concentrate their might and power, their money and possessions, they could deliver neither themselves nor any human being from the least sin, for if the heart of man is intimidated, what matters it whether he be a mighty king or emperor? What did it help the great and mighty king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon when he became insane, so that he was rejected by his people and had to lie with the irrational beasts of the field and eat grass, and nothing could help him except that the prophet Daniel had to absolve him from his sins?

 

33. But who can express what an unspeakable, mighty and blessed comfort it is that a human being can with one word open heaven and lock hell to a fellow mortal? For in this kingdom of Grace Christ has founded through his resurrection, we do indeed nothing else than open our mouth and say, I forgive thee thy sins, not on my account, nor by my power, but in the place of, and in the name of, Jesus Christ, for he does not say: ye shall forgive sins on your own account, but: “I send you, as my Father hath sent me.” I myself do not do this of my own choice or counsel, but I am sent by the Father. This same commandment I give to you unto the end of the world, that both ye and all the world shall know that such forgiveness or retaining of sin is not done by human power or might, but by the command of him who is sending you.

 

34. This is not said alone to the ministers or the servants of the church, but also to every Christian. Here each may serve another in the hour of death, or wherever there is need, and give him absolution. If you now hear from me the words, “Thy sins are forgiven thee,” then you hear that God wants to be gracious to you, deliver you from sin and death, and make you righteous and blessed.

 

35. Yea, you say, thou hast indeed given me absolution, but who knows whether it is certain and true with God that my sins are forgiven? Answer: If I have done this and said this as a man, then thou mayest well say: I do not know whether thy absolution is effective and efficacious or not, but that thou mayest be sure concerning this, thou must be instructed in the Word of God, that thou canst say, I have been absolved neither by the minister nor by any other man; for thus the minister has not taught me to believe: but God has spoken and done it through him; of this I am sure, for my Lord Christ has commanded and said: As my Father hath sent me, so also send I you. Here he indeed puts those to whom he gives the command on an equality with himself, because they are sent by him to accomplish that for which he is sent by God, namely, to remit and retain sins. There it rests and that does it, otherwise, without such a command, absolution would amount to nothing.

 

36. If thou, therefore, art sad and worried on account of thy sins, and art afraid of death, with which God eternally punishes sin, and thou hearest of thy minister, — -or if thou canst not have access to him, — -of a Christian neighbor comforting thee with these or similar words: Dear brother or sister, I see that thou art timid and in despair, and fearest the wrath and judgment of God on account of thy sins, of which thou art conscious, and on whose account thou art terrified — listen to me and let me announce to you, Be of good comfort and cheer, for Christ thy Lord and Savior, who came into the world for the sake of sinners in order to save them, has given the command through the public office to his called servants, and wherever necessary, to every one in particular, that one is to comfort another for Christ’s sake, and in his name acquit him of his sins. I say, when thou therefore hearest this comfort, then receive it with joy and thanksgiving, as if thou didst hear it from Christ himself; then thy heart shall indeed be at peace, established and comforted, and thou canst then joyfully say: I have heard a man speak to me and comfort me; for the sake of himself I did not believe a single word, but I believe my Lord Christ, who has established this kingdom of Grace and forgiveness of sins, and has given this commandment and authority unto men to remit and retain sins in his name.

 

37. Therefore every Christian when the devil attacks him and suggests that he is a great sinner, and he must be lost and condemned etc., should not long contend with him or remain alone, but go or call to him his minister, or any other good friend, lay his difficulty before him, and seek counsel and comfort from him, and remain firm in that which Christ here declares: “Whose soever sins ye remit etc.,” and as he says in another place: “Where two or more are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them,” and whatever this person says to him in the name of Christ from the Scriptures, let him believe it, for according to his faith it shall be done unto him. For two or more come together in the name of Christ when they converse with one another, not on temporal things, how money and riches may be acquired or gained; but on what would be of service for the salvation and happiness of their souls; as for instance, when thou art in the confessional or anywhere else art making known thy weaknesses and temptations, and he to whom thou art disclosing it sees that Moses through the law has thee in a dilemma; that thy sin is oppressing thee; that death is alarming and frightening thee, and thou groanest and complainest concerning thine own life, so that even words like these are apt to fall: Oh, that I had never been born, or, Oh, that God would prolong my life, I would amend my life, etc.

 

38. If then thy pastor of anyone else begins to comfort thee, not in a worldly way nor for the sake of money, but because he sees thou art in anxiety and fear of sin and death, and says to thee, Let everything go that is upon earth — -money, goods, everything that pertains to man, and pay now attention to this; thy heart is indeed in great pangs and asks: Can I be freed from my suffering, misery, and evil conscience? How can I escape Moses with his fearful threats? I say, listen to him when he speaks to thee in this manner: I say to thee in the name of the Lord Christ, who died for thy sins, that thou art to permit thyself to be comforted, to believe and be sure that thy sins are forgiven, and that death cannot harm thee.

 

39. Yea, my dear brother, you say, how wilt thou prove that this is true? Answer: Christ our Lord said to his disciples and to entire Christendom: I command and bid you, that ye shall forgive and retain sin. Whatever ye do then in this, ye do not of yourselves; but because ye are doing it at my command and bidding, therefore I do it myself. Therefore thy minister or pastor as the one who cares for thy soul (Seelsorger), or any Christian in such a case is called for and sent to comfort thee. And because he is seeking only the salvation of thy soul, thou art, therefore, bound to believe him as though Christ were standing there himself and would lay his hand upon thee and speak the absolution.

 

40. Behold, this is the way we deal with sins, retaining or forgiving them. Besides this there is no counsel nor help for them; as the pope pretends to do with his false doctrine, points the people to their own works or sufficiency, tells them to go into cloisters, to Rome, to the saints, torture themselves, build churches, heavily endow cloisters, hold mass, etc. This is indeed not the right way. Thou canst indeed employ thy going, money, and works in a better manner. Here the matter is entirely different, as has already been said. For when Moses comes with his fearful threats, that is, when he through the law reveals to thee thy sins and shows how great and many they are, and brings thee into great fear and despair, when thou art no more in the great, wicked, and hardened multitude, but with the little flock, which realizes and feels, its misery and despair, and would therefore indeed be frightened even at the rustling of a leaf, then this is the only help: I, I have founded, says Christ, the kingdom of Grace. It shall consume and destroy sin and death, and bring to light righteousness and life.

 

41. Therefore do not say: Where shall I find this? Shall I go to Rome or Jerusalem for it? Not in this way; yea, even if thou couldest ascend to heaven, and if possible on a golden ladder, thou couldst accomplish nothing; but it must come thus: give heed to his Word and command when he says: “I send you,” etc., as if he wanted to say: I must first come to you to announce to you the will of my Father through the Gospel; institute the holy sacraments: and absolution. You should not come to me in a different way. But since I cannot be bodily at all places in the whole world, and shall not be visibly present with you always, I will do as my Father hath done. He took a small corner of the earth, namely, the land of Judea, to which he sent me, that I should be a preacher there; I traveled through Galilee and Judea; so much I could accomplish personally; I preached the Gospel to the comfort of the poor sinners among the Jewish people, healed the sick and raised the dead etc. This, you will notice, was the work entrusted to him. For this purpose he was sent by the Father. There he was found, not in the courts of kings among the debauchers, not with Annas, Caiaphas, and other holy, rich, and learned people; but among the blind, lame, lepers, the deaf, the dead, and the tempted, the poor and afflicted sheep. To this he brings help for soul and body. He brings to them the most costly treasure, which no one has, much less can give, unless he receives it from him, namely, righteousness and salvation. And thus, he says, ye shall also do at all places wherever ye go, and to this purpose I send you, that ye shall run as my messengers through the entire world. And besides you and after you I will ordain others who shall run and preach, as I sent you, even unto the end of the world, and I will continue to be with you that ye may know that it is not you who are accomplishing this, but I through you.

 

42. From this command we also have the power to comfort the sorrowful consciences and to absolve from sin, and we know that, wherever we exercise this office, not we but Christ himself is doing it. Therefore every Christian, in this case as well as when he hears the Word preached in the pulpit, should hear the same, not as the word of man, but as the Word of God himself; then he can indeed be sure and need not doubt a moment that he has the forgiveness of sins, for Christ has established through his resurrection that whenever a called servant of the Church, or someone else in the time of need, absolves his neighbor who is distressed and desires comfort, it shall count as much as if Christ had done it himself, because it was done at his command and in his name.

 

43. Therefore, when two deal thus with each other they are gathered together in the name of Christ, for, as we have said before, none is seeking the money or goods of the other, as the servants of the pope are doing, who speak to the sick and say: My dear man, the time is at hand when thou must die. Where shall thy possessions go? Think of thy poor soul and give a portion to us and we will pray to God for thee, and do much with it afterwards etc.; instead he ought to speak to the sick and say: This is no time to be occupied with your money and property, let others care for that. I see very well thy heart is despondent and terrified; thou art wrestling with doubts and canst not help thyself nor deliver thyself; but Christ has established upon the earth a comforting and blessed kingdom, when he says: “As my Father hath sent me, so send I you.” He has consecrated us all to be priests, in order that one may proclaim to the other forgiveness of sins. Therefore I come to thee in the name of this our blessed Lord Christ, and tell thee not to be so despondent and terrified as though there were no comfort, help, and counsel any more to be had. Dost thou not hear what Christ says, that he came for the sake of the sinners, not the righteous, to save them? Therefore be at peace, receive these glad tidings with joy and thank him for them most heartily, that he permits me to announce to thee without any trouble and expense on thy part; yea, he even gives command to the effect that thy sins are remitted. Therefore I absolve and make thee free from all thy sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. To this thou shalt reply joyfully: I thank thee, merciful God, thou heavenly Father, that thou hast forgiven me my sins through thy dear Son Christ; and do not doubt that thou art surely absolved by God the Father himself.

 

44. From this you can see that this paragraph concerning the office of the keys does not at all confirm the tyranny of the pope, but it is there for the purpose, not that thou makest me, or I thee, rich, nor that I be thy Lord and thou my subject, as the pope, the arch-rogue and denier of God, indeed is making out of it worldly pomp and power; but that I can come to thee, when thy conscience is worried, to help and counsel thee in thy last hour, or at other times, and say: Power, money, honor and goods, everything must be set aside; we have now only to speak of the kingdom of Christ — only through this and through nothing else must thou be helped from sin and death. 45. This signifies indeed not an external and worldly dominion or power but a service, for I am seeking nothing from thee, I want to serve thee and bring thee a great and precious treasure, but not gold and silver; because thy heart desires to be comforted and to have a merciful God in heaven I come to thee and bring thee this joyful message, not of my own will or choice, but at the command and commission of Christ, who says: “Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Also, “Whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven,” or as he says in this connection, “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them.”

 

46. Cannot this be called a service and the gratuitous bringing of an unspeakable, heavenly, eternal treasure, which neither thou nor the world can purchase with all its possessions and riches? For what are all the treasures of the world and all the crowns of kings, gold, silver, precious stones, and whatever the world counts great in comparison to this treasure called the forgiveness of sins, through which thou art made free from the power of the devil, of death and of hell, and art assured that God in heaven will now be gracious unto thee, and gracious in a way that thou shalt be his child and heir, and the brother and joint-heir of Christ, for the sake of Christ? Therefore it is impossible to sell such a precious treasure for money, or to purchase it with money, as our Judas Iscariot, the pope, has done. This treasure must be given and received gratuitously or thou art not helped by it, for the gift of God cannot be purchased with money. Acts 18:20.

 

47. But this I say not to the end that people shall give nothing to the servants of the Church, who teach God’s Word in its truth and purity, as, alas, they are eager to do, and many are ready to begrudge their minister every bite, and, if they could they would rob the possessions of the Church and ministers, and prove by their actions that they would gladly starve out their minsters and get rid of them. But what a wild state and calamity would follow, would be soon experienced, if the government did not intervene. Nay, this is by no means my meaning. Your pastors should be properly supported, for if they have nothing to eat, drink and wear, and for their other needs, they cannot very long fill their office, for they would have to think on how to support themselves in other ways. Thus the Gospel would not continue long, and it is this that the devil is seeking through these people.

 

48. But that we are under obligations properly to support our pastors is also stated by Christ himself, when he says in Luke 10:7: “The laborer is worthy of his hire.” As St. Paul says in Galatians 6:6: “But let him that is taught in the Word, communicate unto him that teacheth, in all good things,” adding in verse 7 a sharp word, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked,” and in 1 Timothy 5:17: “Let elders, or priests, that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the Word and in teaching.” We support others, who are engaged in worldly offices, in which they serve the public, in order that they may be able to perform their service. How much more do we owe it to them that serve in the Word of God, as St. Paul says, they are “worthy of double honor.”

 

49. And in order that the doctrine of the Gospel may remain pure in our pulpits in the future, and that our posterity may retain and hear these doctrines, we are not only bound properly to support those who serve the Church, but we must also with all diligence see to it that our schools are supplied with competent teachers, who should also be properly supported, so that the people may be trained to become not only common ministers, who are simply prepared to instruct the Christian congregation in the Word, but learned men, who will be capable of contending against the rabble and factious spirits. To this end it is the duty of every one to contribute willingly and cheerfully, not alone the princes and lords, but also the citizens and peasants.

 

50. From what has been said each one can see for himself what a great and precious treasure it is to hear the Gospel or the absolution in its true meaning from the preacher or pastor. If he comes to thee in the time of sickness and comforts thee, then thou canst be assured that Christ the Lord himself visits and comforts thee. For no one could possibly come to thee in this capacity without divine commandment, and he would know neither how to help nor to counsel; but since thou hearest that he himself has commanded it, thou canst be fully assured and say joyfully: Here Christ himself comes to me in my confessor, for he does not speak his own word, but the Word of God, to do which he is sent, and the command to do it he has.

 

51. Here thou hast then sure support against the terror and despair of conscience. Thou dost not need to float and bob in uncertainty, as the doctrine of the pope would teach us, which never absolves anyone from sin unless he has been sorry enough and confessed enough until he is clean. There was not the least thought about faith and the power of the keys as instituted by Christ, for such doctrines and knowledge was so completely unknown that I myself, a Doctor of Divinity, who should indeed have known better, did not hold and teach differently than that my sins were forgiven, if my penitence and confession were sufficient. But if our sins are not forgiven, before we outweigh them with our sorrow, penitence and good works, we can never hope to receive forgiveness. For I can never come to the conclusion that my sorrow and repentance have been sufficient; hence, no man, be he called pope or anything else, is able for that reason to absolve or acquit me.

 

52. In this manner the conscience has been lamentably misled from the Word of Faith and the commandment of God to their uncertain sorrow and repentance, through the falsehoods of the pope. This has brought a large income, and from it have been built many churches, cloisters, chapels, altars, that are richly endowed. Yes, there are still extant bulls and letters of the pope that refer to this, and confirm these things, through which he has deceived the world woefully, so that it is impossible to estimate much less to describe the damage and the sorrow that have arisen therefrom. For this reason we are faithfully and constantly admonishing, and let him who can help so that we may maintain schools, ministers and pulpits that such or worse error may not increase among us, as the devil indeed desires.

 

53. This is the true doctrine concerning the kingdom of Christ and the office of the Keys, and if we act accordingly, then we will remain Christians, and are prepared for everything in our relation to God and man. We will also heartily thank God that he has delivered us from the constraint and tyranny of the pope, who made out of the power of the Keys a mere show and worldly dominion, although they were established and ordained by Christ to help the whole world obtain a treasure that cannot be bought with money.

 

54. Let us therefore be truly grateful to our dear Lord and Savior, who through his resurrection founded this Kingdom of Grace, which is established for the purpose that we should constantly find therein for all our needs and anxiety sure help and comfort. And we need not go very far for this precious treasure, nor do we need to secure it at any great expense, for he has given command and full power to his apostles and their successors, and in case of need to every Christian, even unto the end of the world, that they should comfort and strengthen the weak and discouraged souls, and should remit unto them their sins in his name etc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Sunday after Easter;

John 20:19-31

 

 

Thomas Delivered from His Unbelief

 

1. John the Evangelist further writes that Thomas was not present when the Lord appeared the first time to his assembled disciples on Easter evening. Now that the Lord comes just at the time St. Thomas is the first time absent does not take place without a reason; for Christ could have easily chosen an hour when Thomas could have been found in company with the other apostles. But it took place for our instruction and consolation that the Lord's resurrection might receive more and stronger evidence and documentary testimony. Now, on Easter he appeared to the assembled eleven; one week later, that is today, he appeared to them again and at the same time also to Thomas for whose sake alone this appearance or revelation took place which is more beautiful and glorious than that of eight days before.

 

I. THE UNBELIEF OF THOMAS.

2. Here we see what a poor thing the human heart is when it begins to grow faint, that we cannot strengthen and comfort it again. Both the other disciples and Thomas did not only hear during the time they were with the Lord that he taught the people with great authority, and later also saw how he confirmed his doctrine by the great miracles performed on the blind, the lame, the lepers, the dumb etc., whom he cured; but also that he raised three persons from the dead, especially Lazarus who had been four days in his grave. And, as it appears, St. Thomas was the most fearless and courageous of all the disciples, in that he said when Christ wished to go again into Judea to Lazarus who was dead: ”Let us also go, that we may die with him,” Jn 11, 16. Such fine characters were the disciples of Christ and especially St. Thomas, who it appears had a more manly heart than the others, and besides had recently witnessed how Christ raised Lazarus who had been in the grave four days, and ate and drank with him; yet he could not believe that the Lord himself arose from the dead and was alive.

 

3. Moreover, we see in the apostles that we are truly nothing when Christ withdraws his hand and we are left to ourselves. The women, Mary Magdalene and the others, announced it, and now the disciples themselves proclaim that they had seen the risen Lord. Yet St. Thomas is stubborn and will not believe it; yea, and he will not be satisfied even if he see him, unless it be that he sees the print of the nails in his hands and puts his fingers into the print of the nails and his hand into his side. And the beloved disciple will thus himself also be lost and condemned, in that he will not believe. For there can be neither forgiveness of sins nor salvation if one believes not, since therein lies all the virtue and power of faith and eternal life, as St. Paul says: ”And if Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith is also vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ have perished,” etc. I Cor 15, 14-18. To perdition will St. Thomas also go, he will not be saved but wills to be lost, because he will not believe that Christ is risen. And he would have perished and been condemned in his unbelief had not Christ rescued him from it by this revelation.

 

4. So the Holy Spirit illustrates and teaches now in this example that without faith we are simply blind and completely hardened, as we see everywhere in the holy Scriptures that the human heart is the hardest thing in the world, harder than steel and adamant. And on the other hand, if it be bashful, despondent and soft, there is no water nor oil so soft as the human heart.

 

5. You find many examples and narratives illustrating this in the Scripture. Pharaoh, before whom Moses performed so many terrible signs and wonders that he could not reply to them, yea, he had to admit that it was God's finger and therefore also confessed he had sinned against God and his people etc.: yet his heart became harder and more obdurate continually until the Lord drowned him with all his army in the sea. Likewise also the Jews; the more powerfully Christ proved both by word and deed that he was the one who was promised by their fathers that he should be a blessing to them and to the whole world, the more vehemently and bitterly they raged against him and their hatred, blasphemy and persecution knew no measure nor end until they condemned their Lord and God to the most ignominious death and crucified him between two malefactors, nothing could prevent it although Pilate the judge himself declared against them that he was innocent, creation acted differently than usual and thereby testified that its Lord and Creator hung there on the cross etc.; likewise the thief freely confessed publicly, although Christ truly hung there and died, yet he was a king who had an eternal heavenly kingdom; and the heathen centurion publicly cried: ”Truly this was the Son of God”' etc. Mt .27,54. This all, I say, helped nothing to bring about this conversion.

 

6. This is the way the godless, condemned world does: the more grace and kindness God shows it, the more unthankful and wicked it becomes. Now it is meet and right for us all to thank God from our hearts that he has revealed his holy Word so pure and clear before the day of judgment, from which we learn what inexpressible treasures he has given us in Christ, namely, that we are saved by him from sin and death, and shall now be righteous and blessed, etc. What is the attitude of the world to this? As its custom is, it does not know how to abuse, blaspheme and condemn this Word of grace and life enough, and wherever possible to persecute and destroy those who confess it, and although the world hears that God will severely punish such sin with hell-fire and eternal condemnation, it thinks little about it, goes ahead securely and obdurately, as if it were nothing, and enjoys its sport as we clearly see now in the pope and his following. And yet it is such horrible and dreadful wrath that all creatures are terrified by it. Therefore it is certainly true that no stone, steel, adamant, yea, nothing on earth is as hard as the impenitent heart of man.

 

7. On the other hand, if the heart loses courage and is terrified it is softer than water and oil, so that, as Scripture says, it is frightened at a rustling leaf. And when such a person is alone in a room and hears a little cracking of a rafter or a beam, he thinks thunder and lightning are striking him and he is in such anxiety and fear (as I have often seen), that no one can comfort or strengthen him, and all the preachers and all consoling proverbs are too few to calm him. So there is no moderation with the human heart; it is either entirely too hard like wood and stone, that it inquires about neither God nor Satan, or, on the other hand, is entirely too timid, fickle and despondent.

 

8. Thus the apostles are here too scared and terrorstricken by the scandal they saw in tbeir Lord being so ignominiously mocked, spit upon, scourged, pierced and finally crucified, so that they no longer bad a heart in their bodies, who before while they had Christ among them were so bold and courageous, that James and John ventured to bid fire to come down from heaven and consume the Samaritans who would not receive Christ, Lk 9, 54. They also knew how gloriously to boast that the devils were in the name of Jesus subject unto them; and Thomas admonished the others and said: ”Let us go that we may die with him;” and Peter, more impetuous than the others, smites with the sword among the crowd when they wished to seize and take Christ captive. But now they lie prostrate in great fear and terror, locked up, and will let no one come to them. For this reason they were also terrified at the Lord when he comes and greets them, and they still think (which is indeed a sign that they are completely overcome by fear and despair) they see a spirit or a ghost. So soon they had forgotten all the miracles, signs and words they had seen and heard from him, that the Lord had enough to do during the forty days after his resurrection before he separated from them, in his appearances and revelations in various ways, now to the women, then to the disciples, both individually and collectively, besides eating and drinking with them; all, for the purpose that they might be assured that he is risen. Yet it is so hard for this truth to enter their hearts.

 

9. Likewise, when after forty days he spoke with them out of the Scriptures about the kingdom of God, which should now commence and be a kingdom in which should be proclaimed in his name repentance and the forgiveness of sins among all nations, they raise the cry and ask him when he was about to ascend from them in a cloud, and say: ”Lord, dost thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” they have entirely different thoughts of the kingdom of Christ than those he had been teaching them. Here you see how exceedingly difficult it is for bashful and despondent hearts to be comforted and strengthened, even after being rightly instructed, so that they know what kind of a king Christ is and what he has accomplished by his death and resurrection.

 

10. Thus both the obduracy and the bashfulness of the human heart are indescribable. When out of danger it is hard and obdurate beyond measure, so that it cares nothing for the wrath or the threatening of God. Although it hears for a long time that God will punish sin with eternal death and condemnation, yet it goes ahead and is drowned in pride, avarice, etc. On the other hand, when the heart begins to fear it becomes so despondent that it cannot be again reclaimed. It is indeed a great pity that we are such wicked people. If we are not in want we continue to live on in sin without the least fear or shame, yea, to grow stiff like a dead corpse; what is spoken to us is as if spoken to a rock. On the contrary, if there is a change in us that we feel our sins, we are terrified by death, God's wrath and judgment; we on the other hand grow stiff at the great anxiety and sorrow, so that no one can strengthen us; yea, we are even terrified before that which should comfort us, like the disciples were before Christ, who came to them for the very purpose that they might be comforted and made happy. Although he does not at once set them right he has to doctor them during the forty days, as I said. He takes and uses all kinds of comfort and medicine and still he can hardly strengthen them again, until he gives them the right strong drink, namely, the Holy Spirit, of which they drank and were comforted in the right way so that they are no more as before, bashful and terrified.

 

II. THOMAS SAVED FROM HIS UNBELIEF.

11. Finally, we have in St. Thomas an illustration of the power of Christ's resurrection. We just heard how firm and even stiff-necked he was in unbelief, that although the other disciples unitedly testified that they had seen the risen Lord, yet he simply will not believe it. He appears to have been a fine and brave character who had thoroughly concluded that he would not so soon believe the others. For he had seen that the Lord only three days before was put to death on the cross and the nails driven through his hands and feet and the spear pierced his side. This picture was so indelibly and deeply impressed upon him that he simply could not in the least believe what the others told him, that Christ was risen. Therefore he promptly and defiantly says: ”Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” He thus utters a hyperbole, an exaggerated statement, that he will not believe his eyes alone, but will feel and grope about Christ's body with his hands. As if he would say: No one shall persuade me to believe, but I will stand so firmly upon no, that I will not believe even if I see him, as you say you saw him. But should I believe it, then he must come so near to me, that, if it were possible, I may touch his soul and put my hands into his eyes.

 

12. That is to be steeped very firmly and deeply in unbelief. And it is wonderful what he means by it that he at once proposes a thing absurd, to put his hand and finger into the openings of his wounds. For he had always been so smart as to think: Since Christ was again alive, had conquered death and was rid of all the bruises from the scourging and the crown of thorns, he would surely have healed and removed also the five wounds.

 

13. Now, this has happened for our example and consolation, that the great apostle also had to fail and stumble, in which we see how Christ shows and conducts himself toward his weak disciples, that he can tolerate also such who are still as hard and stubborn as St. Thomas is here, and that he will not on that account condemn and disown them, if only in other respects they sincerely wish to continue to be his disciples, and not maliciously blaspheme him and become his enemies; and by this he teaches us that we should become neither offended nor despondent because of that; but in harmony with this his example gently go on with them, serve their weakness, with our strength until they become established and grow strong.

 

14. But it serves more to the end, as I began to say, that the resurrection of the Lord is not only clearly shown and proved by this unbelieving and stubborn Thomas, who persevered for eight days in his unbelief, and he lay there grown almost stiff; but also that the power of the resurrection becomes known, and is of benefit to us; as appears in Thomas who thereby was brought from unbelief to faith, from doubt to certain knowledge and to a beautiful and glorious confession.

 

15. Now it happens, says the Evangelist, first on the eighth day after his resurrection, when Thomas had established himself in his unbelief in the face of the testimony of all the others, and by this time he is dead and no one hopes he will show himself in a special manner to Thomas. Just then Christ comes and shows him the same scars and wounds, as fresh as he had shown them to the other disciples eight days before, and tells him to reach hither his finger and hand and place them into the prints of the nails and into his side. Christ yields to Thomas so much that he not only sees as others did, but be also seizes him and feels, as he had said: ”Except I shall see in his hands,” etc., and he says in addition: ”Be not faithless, but believing.”

 

16. Here you see Christ is not satisfied to stop with the narrative; but he is concerned only that Thomas becomes believing and is resurrected from his stubborn unbelief and sin. This follows in a powerful way in that St. Thomas soon begins and says to Christ: ”My Lord and my God!” There is at once a different man, not the old Thomas Didymus (which means in English a twin, not a doubter, as has been wrongly interpreted from this text), as just before, when he was so cold and stiff and dead in his unbelief, that he would not believe unless he puts his finger into his wounds; but he commenced suddenly to deliver a glorious confession and sermon about Christ, the equal of which no apostle to that time had yet preached, namely, that the person, the risen one, is true God and man. For they are admirable words he utters: ”My Lord and my God!” He is not drunken, he is not jesting nor mocking; he does not mean a false God; therefore he certainly does not tell a lie. Besides he is not here chastised by Christ, but his faith is confirmed, and it must be the truth and sincere.

 

17. It is now the power of the resurrection of Christ that St. Thomas, who was so deep and obdurate in unbelief, even more than any other disciple, was so suddenly changed, becomes an entirely different man, who publicly and freely confesses that he not only believes that Christ is risen but is also enlightened by the power of Christ's resurrection so that he firmly believes and confesses that he, his Lord, is true God and man, through whom, as he is now resurrected from unbelief, the fountain of all sin; so he will also arise from the dead at the judgment day and live forever with him in indescribable glory and blessedness. And not only he, but all who believe thus, as Christ himself further says to him: ”Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

 

18. Finally, that Thomas puts his finger into the wounds. I will not argue whether Christ always after his resurrection retained the wounds and prints of the nails; yet I argue they did not appear hideous, as otherwise they might, but fresh and comforting. And whether they were still fresh, open and red as artists paint them, I will leave for others to decide. Otherwise it is a fine idea to picture them before the ordinary person so that he has a memorial and a picture that will remind and admonish him of the sufferings and wounds of Christ. It is possible that he retained the same signs or marks which will likely enlighten much more beautifully and gloriously at the day of judgment his whole body and he will show them before the whole world, as the Scriptures say: ”They shall look unto me whom they have pierced,” Zech 12, 10. This I would commend to every devotional exercise for consideration.

 

19. The leading thought, however, for us to learn and retain from this Gospel is, that we believe that Christ's resurrection is sure and that it works in us so that we be resurrected both from sin and death; as St. Paul richly and consolingly speaks of it, and Christ himself here, when he says: ”Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed,” and St. John concluding this Gospel teaches and admonishes about the use and benefit of the resurrection: ”These are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and believing ye may have life in his name.”

 

20. This is indeed a powerful and clear passage, which highly praises faith and gives the testimony that we certainly have eternal life through the same; and that this faith is not an empty, dead thought on the history about Christ, but that which concludes and is sure that he is the Christ, that is, the promised King and Saviour, God's Son, through whom we all are delivered from sin and eternal death; for which purpose he also died and rose again; and that we alone for his sake acquire eternal life, in a way that is called in his name, not in Moses' nor in our nor any other man's name, that is, not because of the law, nor of our worthiness and doings, but alone on account of Christ's merits, as Peter says in Acts 4, 12: ”There is none other name among men, wherein we must be saved,” etc.

 

 

 

 

 

Second Sunday after Easter;

1 Peter 2:20-25

 

PATIENCE UNDER TRIBULATION.

 

 

1 Peter 2:20-25

For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

 

1. This epistle lesson is a beautiful selection from apostolic teaching. Doubtless it was intentionally arranged for this Sunday; for Peter's concluding words, ”For ye were going astray like sheep; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls,” accord with the gospel selection about the Good Shepherd. Yet it might also properly serve in part for the text of a sermon on the passion of Christ; for the sufferings of Christ are here presented as an example unto us. In the preceding part of the chapter, Peter taught the Christians how, having obtained faith, they are to exhibit its fruits - good works in the various stations of life. Particularly does he admonish them to manifest the fruit of patience under crosses and afflictions.

 

2. When the individual accepts Christ and begins to profess his faith in word and life, invariably - it cannot be otherwise - the world, that eternal enemy of Christ and faithfully- obedient servant of the devil, will be dissatisfied. The world regards it contemptible, disgraceful, to live any life but one pleasing to itself, to do and speak aught but as it desires. Its rage is excited toward the Christian and it proceeds to persecute, to torture, even to murder him when possible. We often hear the wiseacre scoffers say that Christ could have enjoyed peace had he desired to. The same may be said of Christians; they could have peace and pleasure if they would but take advice and conform to the world.

 

3. What are we to do? It is a fact that to maintain and obey the truth is to stir up wrath and hatred. Even the heathen assert as much. But the fault lies not with the advocate of truth but with its rejecters. Is the truth not to be preached at all? Must we be silent and permit all mankind to go direct to hell? Who could or would heap upon himself the guilt of such negligence? The godly Christian, who looks for eternal life after the present one and who aims to help others to attain unto the same happy goal, assuredly must act the part he professes, must assert his belief and show the world how it travels the broad road to hell and eternal death. And to do so is to antagonize the world and incur the displeasure of the devil.

 

4. Now, since there is no escaping the fact that he who would confess Christ and make the world better must, in return for his service and benefactions, heap upon himself the enmity of the devil and his adherents, as Peter says - since this is the case, we must remember that it is incumbent upon us to have patience when the world manifests its bitterest, most hateful enmity toward our doctrine and toward our very lives, when it reviles and slanders and persecutes us to the utmost for our principles. Peter here admonishes and persuades Christians unto patience under these circumstances, and at the same time seeks to comfort them with tender and impressive words.

 

5. First, Peter reminds the believers of their calling - of their reason and purpose in embracing Christianity. He says, in effect: ”Remember, belief in Christ necessitates confession of him, and the entire Christian Church is numbered in the holy, divine calling that stands for the praise of God and the promotion of his kingdom.” An essential feature of this calling is the suffering of evil in return for good. It seems inevitable that Christians be condemned in the eyes of the world and incur its highest displeasures; that they be destined to take up the gauntlet against the devil and the world. It is said (Ps 44, 22): ”For thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter,” or for the sacrifice. Sacrificial sheep were kept in an enclosure, not permitted to go to pasture with the others. They were not kept for breeding, but to be daily, one after another, slaughtered.

 

6. Paul would say: ”What will you do, beloved Christians? Will you live in the world and not encounter any persecution because of your good deeds? Will you rage at the wickedness of the world, and in your rage become wicked yourself and commit evil? Understand, you are called to suffer persecutions; they are a consequence of your baptism, your Christianity. For these you renounced the devil and professed Christ. You are baptized unto the suffering of every sort of misfortune, unto the enduring of the world and the devil.” You cannot escape the smoke when compelled to live in the inn where the devil is host and the whole house is filled with it. Again, if you would have fire, you must have smoke as a consequence; if you would be a Christian and a child of God, you must endure the resultant evils that befall you.

 

7. In short, the Christian, because he is a Christian, is subjected to the holy and precious cross. He must suffer at the hands of men and of the devil, who plague and provoke him; outwardly with misery, persecution, poverty and illness, or inwardly - in heart - with their poisonous darts. The cross is the Christian's sign and watchword in his holy, precious, noble and happy calling unto eternal life. To such a calling must we render full dues and regard as good whatever it brings. And why should we complain? Do not even wicked knaves and opposers of Christians often suffer at the hands of one another what they are not pleased to endure? And every man must frequently suffer injuries and misfortunes relative to body, property, wife and children.

 

8. Then, if you would be a Christian and live justly in your calling, be not so terribly alarmed, so filled with hostile rage, so extremely impatient, at the torments of the world and the devil. If you are unwilling to suffer and to be reviled and slandered, if you prefer honor and ease, then deny Christ and embrace the delights of the world and the devil. You will not, even then, be wholly free from suffering and sorrow, though it will be your prerogative not to suffer as a Christian and for the sake of Christ. At the same time, you will discover that even though you enjoy only pleasure on earth, it will be but for a brief time and ultimately you will find the bitter end of the pleasure sought.

 

CHRIST OUR PATTERN

9. In the second place, by way of rendering more impressive his admonition, Peter holds up the example of our real Master, our Leader and Lord, Christ, who endured persecutions similar to ours, and himself suffered more than any. The apostle refers to him in a truly scriptural way - as of a twin or dual character. He presents him not as an example of a saint in the ordinary sense, but as the real Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, who suffered for us, making sacrifice for our sins in his own body on the cross. In this capacity, he is our treasure, comfort and salvation.

 

10. The apostle beautifully and strikingly points out the sublime perfections of our Pattern, in his suffering, by way of gently urging us to patience. He presents the chief points of Christ's endurance, examples of real patience; all our sufferings, when compared with those of Christ, are cast into the shade. ”The passion of Christ,” Peter would say, ”the suffering of the Lord, is a surpassing, a preeminent and sublimely glorious thing, transcending every other instance of suffering; first, because it was for an example to us; second, because he suffered to save us; third, because he suffered innocently in all respects, never having cornmitted any sin.” In these three points we must leave to him alone the distinction, humbling ourselves before them; even had we suffered death in its every form, we must cry that all our suffering is nothing in comparison with his. Even if we could attain to the sublimest, the supreme, the most glorious degree of suffering, it would be but walking in his footprints, following his example; it would be but to fall far short of his suffering. He would stand preeminent - the Master. He would maintain immeasurable superiority and we would still be left to follow as best we could. The extent of his agony, the intensity and bitterness of his sufferings, no one on earth can comprehend. And if it be beyond our comprehension, how much more is it beyond our power to imitate or experience. We may thank God we have it before us for an example to behold and follow. True, we fall far short of perfect following, but we may approach it in proportion to our sufferings, faith and patience; for one may exceed another in these things. Christ is an example, Peter says, for all saints; not for a certain few. Contrasted with Christ, all saints must with downcast eyes confess: ”Intense, bitter, grievous as our sufferings truly are, when the sufferings of Christ our Lord are mentioned we will willingly keep silent; for no human example of suffering will compare with that of Christ.”

 

11. Now, this one fact, that one so exalted as Christ himself, the only and eternal Son of God, has trod the path of suffering before us, enduring unlimited distress, agony transcending the power of humanity to experience - this alone should be enough to admonish and urge anyone to patiently endure affliction. Why, then, should we disciples, we who are so insignificant and inexperienced in comparison with our Master - why should we be at all troubled at any suffering for his sake? especially when all he asks of us is to follow him, to learn of him and to remain his disciples. Here, mark you, is the example set before the entire Christian Church, the pattern she is to follow to the extent of at least walking in Christ's steps, at the same time, however, remembering that her most intense sufferings are naught in comparison to a single drop of his shed blood, as we shall hear later.

 

12. Again, this example assumes its ineffable and inimitable character from the fact that Christ suffered not for himself, nor yet merely as an example, but in our stead. This act, to say the least, transcends all human ability. No saint can boast of equaling this example, can say he suffered for another as Christ suffered for our sins. No, here all boasting is summarily disposed of. In respect to atonement, Christ left us no example, for none can imitate him in that. He stands alone there. He alone was called to suffer for all men; for those individuals now called and holy, and for the still uncalled and sinners.

 

13. The atonement is the chief, the most exalted, article of the Christian doctrine. Faith alone apprehends it as the highest good, the greatest blessing, of our salvation, and recognizes that we cannot, by our works or our sufferings, do or merit anything in atoning for sin. The manner in which this subject is scripturally presented prohibits us from adding to it anything of human origin. But so the accursed popedom has done in the teachings of its pillars and supporters the monks, who regard the sufferings of Christ as merely an example to us. They pervert and render immaterial the fact that he suffered for us; they place the entire responsibility upon ourselves, as if we, by our own works or our suffering are to make satisfaction for our sins, to appease God's wrath and to merit grace. This is a doctrine not found in the Word of God, but is of their own trivial, self-selected, self-devised and false human teachings.

 

14. They have carried their untruthful, worthless inventions to the extent of claiming for the saints not only sufficient acquired merit for their own salvation, but a large accumulated surplus available for others, which they have bequeathed to the Pope, thus furnishing him with an abundant treasury. The Pope, through indulgences, is to distribute this excess, these superfluous merits, as he feels disposed, at the same time dipping out for himself and his shorn fat swine the riches of the world; indeed, the ecclesiasts distribute their own merits and works. This is the refined monastic chastity, poverty and rigid obedience of the orders - nothing but shameless falsehood and scandalous vice, practiced under that covering, both privately and publicly, with the exception of a few who were sincere in their desire to be monks, of whom I was one. These falsehoods the orders readily sold to the laity on deathbeds, and under other circumstances. Indeed, wretched mortals who had incurred a death penalty and were about to be publicly executed, they referred not to Christ for comfort, but counseled patience in their own welldeserved suffering and death; as if God would accept their pain as atonement for their sins if only they suffered patiently. Purchasing of merit was the ecclesiasts' chief doctrine, their strongest point. They fearlessly proclaimed it in public, and through its influence erected numerous churches and cloisters and satiated the avarice and cupidity of the Pope. And I too, alas, was one of these knaves until God delivered me. And now, God be praised, I am execrated and condemned by the hellish seat of the Roman dragon with its scales because I assailed this papal doctrine and would not justify it.

 

15. Oh, the shameful abomination, that in the temple of God and in the Christian Church must be taught and received things which make wholly insignificant the sufferings and death of Christ! Gracious God! what can be said for human merit - for superfluity of human merit - when not one saint on earth has, with all his pains, suffered enough to cancel his own obligations; much less to be entitled to the honor of making his sufferings avail anything before God's judgment-seat, by way of remuneration or satisfaction for the mortal sins of others in the face of divine wrath? Note, Peter says Christ left us an example that we should follow his steps; which is but concluding that no saint ever wrought or suffered enough to warrant the claim: ”I have accomplished the measure-reached the limit; Christ is no more an example and pattern for me.” No; the saint ought to be ashamed to boast of his sufferings in comparison to those of Christ, and ought to rejoice in the privilege of being partaker of the divine pain, of sharing it so far as he can, and thus be found in the footsteps of Christ.

 

16. The theme of Christ's passion, then, must far outrank every other. His sufferings are like pure and precious gold, compared to which ours are as nothing. No one but Christ has suffered for the sins of another. No man has ever paid the price of his own sins, great or small. Even if man's suffering could avail aught for sin, the individual could not go beyond expiating his own sins. But Christ had no need at all to suffer for himself; for, as follows in the text, he had committed no sin. He suffered to leave us an example, but yet also to bring to man the great blessing of being able to say, ”My sins and the sins of the whole world were atoned for upon the cross, blotted out, through Christ's death.” Peter, Mary, John the Baptist, and every soul born of woman must include himself or herself in this statement, ”Christ also suffered for you.”

 

17. In the third place, Christ stands preeminent, above all others, in the affirmation of Peter, quoted from Isaiah 53,9: ”Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.”

 

18. You may draw your own conclusions as to the eminence of such a one; for certainly there is to be found no other human being who has not at some time sinned in word or deed. ”If any man stumbleth not in word, the same is a perfect man,” says James 3, 2. But where is this perfect man, and what is his name? It is this Christ, he alone of all, James should have added. For Peter excludes all other individuals, in one class, saying, ”Ye were going astray like sheep.” And later on (ch. 3, 18) he tells us plainly, ”Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous.” This statement leaves no man innocent of sin, either in word or deed; and in word and deed is included man's whole life. Speech and action are associated in various Scripture references; as in Psalm 34, 13-14: ”Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good.” But in speech is the greatest liability to error. In teaching, counseling, admonishing, consoling and censuring, and in confessing the truth, no one indeed will be found so perfect in his utterances as never to commit a blunder.

 

19. But Christ is the one perfect example in this respect. It is impossible for saints to attain to his faultlessness. Surely no man - unless he desires to be a liar and a true disciple of the devil instead of a child of God and a faithful Christian - will be presumptuous enough to put himself on an equality with Christ, will dare boast himself without sin in word and act. Christ alone has suffered, the righteous for the unrighteous; that prerogative can honorably and truthfully be ascribed only to Christ the Lord, and is his perpetually. No man is just and innocent in word and act. All must confess their sufferings, of whatever nature, to be the result of their own sins, and well deserved chastisement. For the fact of having escaped the eternal wrath, condemnation and punishment of God, they must thank this just one alone, he who, being himself blameless, voluntarily suffered to make satisfaction for the unrighteous, and appeased God's wrath. The sufferings of all saints, then, must be rated far below those of Christ the Lord. The saints must clothe and adorn themselves with his innocence, and with the entire Christian Church pray, ”Forgive us our trespasses”; and they must confess the article, ”I believe in the forgiveness of sins.”

 

20. Now, let us sum up the three arguments Peter uses in admonishing Christians to patience in suffering. First: He says, ”Hereunto were ye called.” Though you do have to suffer much and severely, you have ever before you the example of Christ, to the limit of whose sufferings you can never attain. You dare not boast even if you have suffered everything. Moreover, you are under obligation to suffer for God's sake. Second: Christ did not suffer for his own sake, nor of necessity; he suffered for your sake, and all from good will toward you. Third: He was wholly innocent - free from sin; internally - in heart - and externally - in word and deed. For where evil dwells in the heart, it cannot long remain concealed. It must manifest itself in words, at least. Christ says (Mt 12, 34), ”Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”

 

21. Why, then, should you complain of your suffering or refuse to suffer what your sins really deserve? Indeed, you deserve much more than you receive - even eternal suffering. But God forgives you and remits the eternal punishment for the sake of Christ the Lord, desiring that you patiently endure the lesser suffering for the utter mortification of the sins inherent in your flesh and blood. To make such lot the less grievous to you, Christ has gone before and left you an example of perfect patience under the most intense suffering, an example equaled nowhere in the world. The Supreme Majesty, God's own Son, suffered in the most ignominious manner the extremity of torture, pain and anguish in body and soul, something intolerable to mere human nature; and that innocently, and for us condemned sinners - suffering for the sins of strangers.

 

”Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered threatened not.”

22. To further emphasize and make effectual in us the example of Christ's patience, Peter proceeds to analyze it, to show it in its true colors, to mention the details and make plain how it differs from any other example of suffering. He has told us before that Christ did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. Why, then, did the Jews persecute and crucify him - put him to death? Inquire into his entire life history and you will find that no one could justly impeach, nor could convict, him for any sin. He himself appealed to his enemies to prove aught of sin in him. No one could show an injury he had ever done to anyone, or a wrong he had ever taught or practiced. On the contrary, he had gone about to bring to the Jewish nation the grace and salvation of God. He had revealed God's Word, opened the eyes of the blind, healed the sick, cast out devils, fed great multitudes when hungry and lacking food. In short, in all his life, there was nothing in word or act but truth, goodness, beneficence and a disposition to aid. In return for the good he wrought, he was compelled to receive the ungrateful reward of man's hatred and condemnation. His enemies were moved solely by obdurate, diabolical hatred, and could not cease their persecutions until they brought him to the cross, where he was disgracefully hung up nude between two murderers, being lifted up as unworthy to touch the earth and to live among men.

 

23. Christ was under no obligation to endure disgrace and ill-treatment. He might have refrained from his benevolent ministrations when he saw the futility of his efforts with the Jews. But he did not so; even in his sufferings upon the cross he charitably prayed for his enemies. He had authority, he had power enough, and he would have been justified in the action, had he revenged himself on his furious enemies, invoked evil upon them, and execrated them as they deserved to be execrated; for they had treated him with gross injustice before all the world, as even the testimony of his betrayer and his judge and all creatures admitted, and had bitterly reviled him when he hung upon the cross. But he did none of these things. He bore with ineffable meekness and patience all the ill-treatment his enemies could heap upon him. Even in his extremity of anguish, he benevolently interceded for them to his Heavenly Father, to which act the prophet Isaiah (ch. 53) offers a tribute of high praise.

 

24. Notice, we have here in all respects a perfect and inimitable example of patience -  patience of the most exalted kind. In this example we may behold as in a glass what we have yet to learn of calm endurance, and thus be impelled to imitate that example in some small measure at least.

 

25. Not without reason does Peter applaud the fact that when Christ was reviled he reviled not again, and when he suffered he threatened not. Though to endure undeserved violence and injustice is hard enough, that which more than aught else naturally renders suffering grievous and makes men impatient is to experience the monstrous unfairness of receiving the mean and vexatious reward of ingratitude from individuals who have enjoyed one's favors and greatest benefactions. Base ingratitude is extremely painful for human nature to endure. It makes the heart flutter and the blood boil with a spirit of revenge. When no alternative presents, an outburst of reviling, execration and threatening follows. Flesh and blood has not the power of restraint to enable it to remain calm when evil is returned for favors and benevolence, and to say, ”God be thanked.”

 

26. Mark the example of Christ, however, and there learn to censure yourself. Beloved, how can you complain when you see how infinitely greater was the grief and how much more painful the anxiety endured by your beloved Lord and faithful Saviour, the Son of God himself, who yet bore all patiently and submissively and, more than that, prayed for those instrumental in causing that agony? Who with a single drop of Christian blood in his heart would not blush with shame to be guilty of murmuring at his sufferings when, before God, he is so sinful and is deserving of much more affliction? Wicked, unprofitable and condemned servant must he be who does not follow his Lord's example of endurance but presumes to think himself better and nobler than Christ; who with inimical spirit murmurs, complaining of great injustice, when he really deserves affliction, and when he suffers infinitely less than did his dear, righteous, innocent Lord. Beloved, if Christ so suffered in return for the great blessing he conferred, be not too indolent to imitate him in some degree by suffering without anger and reproaches. Less reason have you to be angry and reproachful from the fact that you, too, were one whose sins brought Christ to the cross.

 

27. But you may say: ”What? Did not Christ revile when (Mt 23) he called the scribes and pharisees hypocrites, murderers, serpents, a generation of vipers, and even more severely rebuked them?” I reply: Oh yes, we would gladly follow Christ's example here; we could cheerfully revile and accuse. It is much easier than being patient. We would need no Master to help us in this. But note what Peter says: When Christ was about to suffer death, having fulfilled the obligation of his ministry - having proclaimed the truth, rebuked falsehood and been brought to the cross therefore - and being about to conclude his mission by suffering, he reviled not; as a sheep for the slaughter, he permitted himself to be executed and opened not his mouth against his calumniators and murderers. See Isaiah 53, 7.

 

28. It is necessary, then, to make a distinction here. Reviling - or pronouncing execrations and threats - is of two kinds. In one case it is official and pronounced of God; in the other, without authority and comes from man. It was one of the duties of Christ's office on earth, and one now incumbent upon those called to bear that office after him, to assert the truth and censure the evil. Such a course is essential to the honor of God and the salvation of souls; for if the truth were to be ignored, who would come to God? Official chastisement is a work of divine, Christian love. It is a parental duty imposed of God. God has implanted in the parent nature intense love for the child; at the same time, if parents are godly and have proper affection for their children they will not connive at, or let pass unpunished, the disobedience of the latter. They must chastise, both with reproof and with keen rods. These are official strokes - love stripes-enjoined of God, and their infliction is our duty. They are not injurious, but beneficial. Solomon says (Prov 13, 24): ”He that spareth his rod hateth his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” And Jesus the son of Sirach says in Ecclesiasticus: ”He that loveth his son causeth him oft to feel the rod, that he may have joy of him in the end.”

 

29. So everyone may, and should, reprove when official duty or his neighbor's case requires; it serves to reform the subject. To quote Solomon again (Prov 27, 6): ”Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are profuse [deceitful].” Reproofs and stripes prompted by love and a faithful heart are beneficial. On the other hand, an enemy may use fair and flattering words when he has enmity and deceit at heart, preferring to let you go on to ruin rather than by gentle reproof to warn of danger and rescue you from destruction. The faithful, conscientious physician must often, of necessity and with great pain to the patient, amputate a limb in order to save the body. Paul, too, commands pious bishops to be urgent in season, out of season; to reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering. 2 Tim 4, 2; Tit 2, 15. By our silence to commend or to encourage to evil the wrong-doer would not be to manifest one's love to the offender, but rather to give him over wholly to death and the devil.

 

30. It was this love and sincerity of heart which prompted Christ in his office to censure and rebuke, for which he merited only wrath and hatred; as we say, he sought his stripes. But the duty of his office required such action on his part. His motive was to turn the transgressors from their blindness and malice, and to rescue them from perdition; and he could not be deterred by the consequent persecution, cross and death which awaited. But having fulfilled his official duties, and the hour of his suffering having arrived, he suffered patiently, permitting his enemies to heap upon him all possible evil in return for his manifested love and blessings. Instead of angrily reviling and execrating while, suspended from the cross, he endured the most shameful calumnies, he, with strong cries and with tears, prayed, ”Father, forgive them.” It was, indeed, a heart of unfathomable love that, in the midst of extreme suffering, had compassion on its persecutors and blessed them in greater measure than parent can bless child or one individual bless another.

 

31. Observe, then, the distinction between official and unofficial censure and rebuke; the former is prompted by love, and the latter by wrath and hatred. The world, however, is artful and cunning enough when it hears this distinction, to pervert and confuse the two, exercising its own revenge under the name of official zeal and reproof. For instance, if a preacher is disposed to act the knave, he can easily give vent to his personal anger and vengeance in his pulpit utterances, censuring and rebuking as he pleases, and then claim it is all in obedience to the demand of office and for the good of the people. Again, a judge, a mayor, or other prominent official, desiring revengefully to satisfy a personal grudge, can more successfully accomplish his object under the title of the office he bears and the obligations imposed upon him for the punishment of the wicked than in any other way. This practice now frequently obtains since the world has learned to use the Gospel to conceal its malice and knavery, to adorn it with the name of a divinely appointed office. It ever uses the name and Word of God to cloak its infamy. But who is vigilant enough to elude such knavery and to make the children of the devil honest? Let him who would be a Christian, then, take heed how he shall answer such accusation. Assuredly God will not allow himself to be deceived. He will, in due time, relieve the innocent victim of injustice, and his punishment will seek out the wicked. Peter says, further: ”But committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.”

 

32. Who revealed to Peter the nature of Christ's thoughts upon the cross? The apostle has just been saying that Christ reviled not nor thought of revenge, but rather manifested love and good-will toward his virulent enemies. How could Christ approve such malice? Truly he could not endorse it. Nor could he commend his enemies for crucifying him and putting him to death upon the cross without cause. No such conclusion may be drawn. The devil and his adherents must not construe the passage to mean license to heap all manner of torture and distress upon Christ and his saints as upon those who must not only patiently bear these things, unmoved by revengeful desires, but must render gratitude to their persecutors as if their acts were praiseworthy. No; this can by no means be permitted. Could I be said to suffer innocently if I am obliged to confess I am well treated? Several times in this epistle Peter admonishes Christians not to suffer as evil-doers, thieves, murderers. But if I suffer innocently and am unjustly treated, I am not to justify the ill-treatment and strengthen the enemy in his sins; for, so doing, I would approve his conduct and assume the guilt attributed. That principle would be pleasing to the Pope and the devil and to tyrants; they would willingly have it obtain. They are not wholly satisfied even to murder the innocent; they would prefer to be justified in their action - to have us confess to wrong-doing. But that is something no Christian heart will do; it may be left to the devil.

 

33. But the Papists will say: ”However, it is written, You must suffer and not revile; you must thank God for persecution and pray for your enemies.” That is true; but it is one thing to suffer patiently, the while wishing your enemies well and praying for them, and quite a different thing to justify them in their conduct. I must cease not to confess the truth and maintain my innocence, both in heart and with my lips. But if men will not accept my word, my heart must tell me I have suffered injustice. Rather should I endure ten deaths, could my enemies inflict them, than to condemn myself in violation of conscience. So, when Peter made this little statement about Christ not reviling nor threatening, which was true, he did not mean that Christ justified his persecutors in their treatment of him. But what are we to do? If we do not justify our enemies when they make us suffer, they will do even worse things to us; for they desire the name and the credit, in the eyes of the world, of having done right by us. Yes, as Christ has somewhere said, they would have it thought they do God great service by murdering us. Now, who is to judge and decide the question?

 

34. Peter declares that Christ committed the matter to him who judges righteously. How should he do otherwise, knowing that his persecutors treated him unjustly and yet maintained the contrary? There was for him no judge on earth. He was compelled to commit the matter to that righteous judge, his Heavenly Father. Well he knew that such sins and blasphemies could not go unpunished. No, the sentence was already passed, the sword sharpened, the angels given orders, for the overthrow of Jerusalem. Previous to his sufferings, on his way to Jerusalem, as Christ beheld the city, he announced its coming doom and wept over it. Therefore, he prays for his enemies, saying: ”Dear Father, I must commit the matter to thee, since they refuse to hear or to see the wrong they do. Well I know they are rushing into thy wrath and thy terrible punishment, but I pray thee to forgive them what they do to me.” And so they would have been forgiven had they afterward repented at the apostles' preaching, and had they not further sinned in persecuting God's Word and thus brought upon their unrepentant selves ultimate punishment.

 

 

CHRIST OUR EXAMPLE IN SUFFERING.

35. Observe, as Christ did, so should we conduct ourselves in our sufferings; not approving or assenting to whatever may be heaped upon us, but yet not seeking revenge. We are to commit the matter to God, who will judge aright. We cannot maintain our rights before the world; therefore we must commit our cause to God, who judges righteously and who will not allow calumniation of his Word and persecution of believers to pass unpunished. We must, however, pray for our persecutors, that they may be converted and escape future wrath and punishment; and so we do. If it is possible for some of the bishops and other Gospel- persecuting tyrants to be converted, we will heartily pray and desire that their conversion may come to pass. But if it be impossible, as now, alas, is to be feared, since, after having been much admonished and often prayed for and having enjoyed the best advantages, they wittingly rage against the known truth - if so, then we must commit them to God's judgment. What more can we do? I am persuaded that the intolerable persecution and calumniating of the Gospel prevalent today cannot be permitted to pass with impunity. It must ultimately meet the coming judgment upon the Papacy and Germany. Of this there can be no doubt. But it is ours to continue preaching, praying, admonishing and beseeching, in the hope of effecting repentance. Then, if our enemies still refuse to turn from their evil ways, if they perish in their impenitence, what can we do but say: ”Dear God, we commit the matter to thee. Thou wilt punish them; thou canst, indeed, most terribly.”

 

36. Such, mark you, is the example of Christ, presented to the entire Christian Church - set up as a pattern for her. Hence it is the duty of the Church, as Peter elsewhere tells us, to arm herself with the same mind which was Christ's, to suffer as Christ did and to think: If Christ, my Lord and Leader, has suffered for me with so great meekness and patience, how much more reason have I to submit to suffering! And what can it harm me to suffer when I know it is God's will? Not because the suffering in itself is so perfecting and precious, but for the sake of the dear Saviour who suffered for me. I know, too, that my persecutors thus commit most abominable sins against God and incur his wrath and punishment. Why, then, should I be impatient or desire revenge? I am already too highly honored of God in the fact that my sufferings meet his approbation and that he will perfectly avenge me of mine enemies. What can it advantage me for them to bum eternally in hell? I will rather pray and use my utmost efforts for their conversion. If I fail and they are determined to persist in their course, I must bring the matter home to God - must commit it to him.

 

”Who his own self bare our sins in his body upon the tree, that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness.”

37. Peter's is the true preaching concerning the passion of Christ. He teaches not only the merit in Christ's sufferings, but introduces both themes - its efficacy and example. Such is Paul's custom, also. In this verse Peter presents Christ's sufferings in the light of a sacrifice for sin. They constitute a work acceptable to God as satisfaction for the sins of the whole world and effective to reconcile him to men. So great is God's wrath toward sin that none but that eternal one, the Son of God, could avert it. He had himself to be the sacrifice, to allow his body to be nailed to the cross. The cross was the altar whereupon the sacrifice was consumed - wholly burned - in the fire of his unfathomable love. He had to be his own high priest in this sacrifice: for no earthly mortal, all being sinners and unclean, could offer to God the sacrifice of his beloved and wholly sinless Son; the boasting of the priests of Antichrist in regard to their masses, to the contrary notwithstanding. Now, by the single sacrifice of God's Son, our sins are remitted and we obtain grace and forgiveness; and this fact can be grasped in no other way than through faith.

 

38. Peter mentions the ultimate object of the divine sacrifice made for us, what it accomplished in us, the fruit Christ's passion shall yield; for he would not have the Christian Church overlook that point, or neglect to preach it. Christ, he tells us, took upon himself our sins, suffering the penalty. Therefore, Christ alone is entitled to be called a sacrifice for all our sins. It was not designed, however, that after the sacrifice we should remain as before; on the contrary, the purpose was ultimately to work in us freedom from sins, to have us live no longer unto sin but unto righteousness. Now, if in Christ our sins are sacrificed, they are put to death, blotted out; for to sacrifice means to slay, to kill. Under the Old Testament dispensation, all sacrifices had to be presented to God slain. Now, if our sins are put to death, it is not meant that we are to live in them.

 

39. Therefore, the saving doctrine of remission of sins and of Christ's grace cannot be so construed as to admit of our continuing in the old life and following our own desires. According to Paul (Rom 6, 1-8), enjoying grace and remission of sins does not give license to live in sin. How shall we who are dead to sin live any longer therein? The very fact that we may be reckoned dead unto sins means they may no longer live and reign in us. In Christ's holy body were they throttled and slain expressly that they might also be slain in us.

 

40. Be careful, then, what you believe and how you live, that the efficacy of Christ's sufferings may be manifestly fulfilled in you. If, through faith, you have rightly apprehended his sacrifice, its virtue will be indicated in the subduing and mortifying of your sins, even as they are already slain and dead through his death on the cross. But if you continue to live in sins, you cannot say they are dead in you. You but deceive yourself, and your own evidence is false when you boast of Christ in whom all sins are put to death, if sin remains vigorous in you. We naturally conclude it is inconsistent for sin to be dead in us and yet alive; for us to be free from sin and yet captive or fast therein. This fact has already been sufficiently pointed out.

 

41. It is ours, Peter says, not only to believe that Christ has, through the sacrifice of his own body, put to death sin and liberated us therefrom - a thing the combined sacrifices of all mortal bodies could never have effected - but, sin being put to death by him, to endeavor to become ever more and more free from sin's sway in our bodies, and to live henceforth unto righteousness, until we shall be completely and finally released from sin through death. Therefore, if before you believed on Christ you were an adulterer, a miser, a coveter, a maligner, you ought now to regard all these sins as dead, throttled through Christ; the benefit is yours through faith in his sacrifice, and your sins should henceforth cease to reign in you. If you have not so received the sacrifice, you cannot boast of Christ and faith. Though Christ has died for you, though your sins have been put upon him and reckoned dead, still you are not rid of those sins if you do not desire to be, if you do not, through faith, apprehend Christ and his blessing, nor in your life and conduct follow his example.

 

42. Now you will say: ”But you teach that we are all sinners, that there is not even a saint on earth without sin. And surely we must confess the article, 'I believe in the remission of sins,' and must pray, 'Forgive us our debts.”' I reply, most assuredly you never will attain sinless perfection here on earth; if such were the case you would have no further need for faith and Christ. At the same time, it is not designed that you should continue as you were before obtaining remission of sins through faith. I speak of known sins wittingly persisted in, in spite of the rebuke and condemnation of conscience. These should be dead in you; in other words, they are not to rule you, but you are to rule them, to resist them, to undertake their mortification. And if occasionally you fail, if you stumble, you should immediately rise again, embrace forgiveness and renew your endeavor to mortify your sins.

 

”By whose stripes ye were healed.”

43. It seems as if Peter could not sufficiently exalt and make impressive Christ's sufferings. He brings in nearly the entire Fifty-third chapter of Isaiah in the attempt. Note how, in regard to the efficacy of works, he always significantly introduces the two themes at the same time - how he carefully distinguishes between performing human works in obedience to Christ's example, and receiving by faith the merit of Christ's work. First, we have, ”Who his own self bare our sins in his body upon the tree . . . by whose stripes ye were healed.” This is the vital part in our salvation. Christ alone could fully accomplish the work. This doctrine must be taught in its purity and simplicity, and must so be believed, in opposition to the devil and his factions. Only so can we maintain the honor and the office of Christ wherein is anchored our salvation. But the second part of the doctrine must not be overlooked. There are false Christians who accept only the first part and make no effort to reform themselves; but, being liberated from our sins and in a state of salvation, we may not again defile ourselves therewith. Where these two principals of the Christian doctrine are not maintained in their proper relation, injury must result to the truth in two respects: they who are occupied solely with their own works corrupt the true doctrine of faith; they who neglect to follow the example of Christ retard the efficacy and fruit of that faith.

 

”For ye were going astray like sheep.”

44. Here Peter bluntly and clearly points out the fact I have stated, that liberation from sin and death was effected not by our works and merits, but by Christ's wounds and death alone. Forgiveness cost you nothing, Peter teaches; no blood, no wounds. You were powerless in this direction. You were but miserable, erring, lost sheep, separated from God, condemned to hell and unable to council or help yourselves. In just such condition are all they who are out of Christ. As Isaiah the prophet says more plainly in the chapter from which these words are taken (verse 6): ”All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.” That is, whatever our lives, whatever our intent, we but turned farther away from God. As it is written (Ps 14, 3): ”They are all gone aside; they are together become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

 

45. That men are prone to go astray like sheep is clearly exhibited in their conduct; history proves it. It has ever been the case that when mankind was divided into various idolatries or false services of God, into superstitions numerous and varied, even when God's people thought to have attained the perfection of holiness - then one ran here and another there, ever seeking and seeking to come upon the road to heaven but getting farther and farther from it. It was exactly the case of the sheep straying from the flock and lost to the shepherd: the farther it runs and the more it follows the voice of strangers, the farther astray it goes. It continues to wander and to flee until it finally perishes, unless it hears again the voice of the shepherd. Let no one, then, dare boast of having himself found the right way to heaven, of having merited God's grace and the remission of sins by his own manner of life. All men must confess the truth of Scripture testimony that we were but erring sheep, fleeing ever farther from our Shepherd and Saviour, until he turned us back to himself.

 

”But are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.”

46. You have now heard the voice of your Shepherd, who has brought you back to himself, from your erring and idolatrous ways. It was not your own effort that effected your return; it was accomplished at the cost of your Shepherd's wounds and shed blood. Be careful, then, Peter would say, to live not like erring and lost sheep; but, being converted - turned back - follow your beloved Saviour. In him you have a godly Shepherd who faithfully pastures and cares for you; and also a loyal Bishop who ever watches over and guards you, not permitting you to stray.

 

47. Immeasurably gracious, and comforting are these words. But the meaning of the word ”bishop” has been miserably obscured and perverted by our idolatrous priests and episcopal frauds. Likewise have they perverted and corrupted the terms ”ecclesiasts,” ”Church,” ”divine service,” ”priest,” etc., by their antichristian rule. Only those have right to the name ”ecclesiast” who have been redeemed from their sins through Christ's wounds, and who live holy lives. But the Papists have taken the name away from true Christians and applied it to the Pope's besmeared, and shavenheaded ones. Again, when we hear the word ”bishop” we think only of great, pointed caps and of silver staves. As if it were sufficient to place in the Church such masks, such carved and hewn idols! For they are nothing better; in fact, they do more harm. According to the Scriptures, a true bishop is an overseer, a guardian, a watchman. He is like unto the householder, the warder of the city, or any judicial officer or regent who exercises constant oversight of state or municipal affairs. Formerly there were bishops in each parish, deriving their name from the fact that their office required oversight of the Church and the guarding against the devil, against false doctrines and all manner of offenses. Paul, too (Acts 20, 28), reminds the bishops of their office, saying: ”Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops (overseers].” And overseers should bishops still be, as in fact all godly preachers and carers for souls are. But in all Popedom the office now is but a mere name, to the sin and shame of the entire Christian Church.

 

48. Now, Christ our Lord is that faithful Guardian, that true Bishop, who above all others is entitled to the name (with him office and name are identical), and who bears it with due honor, to our eternal happiness. For, standing at the right hand of God and showing his wounds, he unceasingly intercedes for us before the Father; and moreover, on earth he rules, sustains, nourishes and protects, through his Word, his sacraments and the efficacy of the Holy Spirit, the little flock that believe in him. Were he not present with and watching over us here, the devil would long ago have overthrown and destroyed us, and also the Word of God and the name of Christ. And such is the case when God in wrath turns away his eyes from the world to punish its ingratitude. Then immediately everything falls into the devil's power. Therefore, pure doctrine, faith, confession and the use of the sacraments are dependent for their perpetuity solely upon the vigilant guardianship of our beloved Shepherd and Bishop.

 

49. Comforting, indeed, is it to have in Christ a priest so faithful and righteous; though, alas, the worthy name of ”priest” also has been subjected to shame and contempt because of the Pope's disgraceful, shaven, shallow-headed occupants of the office. Comforting, indeed, it is to be the happy lambs who have a welcome refuge in the Shepherd and find in him joy and comfort in every time of need, assured that his perfect faithfulness cares for and protects us from the devil and the gates of hell. Relative to this subject, the entire Twenty-third Psalm is a beautiful and joyous song, of which the refrain is, ”The Lord is my Shepherd.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second Sunday after Easter;

John 10:11-16

 

John 10:11-16

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

 

1. Today's Gospel has been appointed, I think, for this Sunday because Christ announces in it that he will lay down his life for his sheep, that is, suffer and die; and yet he also shows, at the same time, that he will rise again, in that he says: ”Other sheep I have; them also I must bring” etc. For if he is to be and remain a shepherd of his sheep, he must not remain in death, as he himself afterward explains and interprets, in plain words: ”I have power to lay my life down, and I have power to take it again.”

 

I. HOW AND WHY THE JEWS WERE OFFENDED AT THIS SERMON.

2. The Jews indeed heard this parable and sermon of Christ, but did not understand it at all, as the context declares. It sounded altogether too strange in their ears that he alone should be the true shepherd, and yet he was in the act of laying down his life for his sheep. What kind of a shepherd, think they, was this to be, who would die and give his life for the sheep? Can that be called guarding and keeping the sheep?

 

3. In like manner it was an intolerable doctrine to them that he said he had other sheep which were not of this fold, that is, did not belong to the nation which alone was called God's people. These also he would bring, and of these, although they were not of this fold, there should be one flock, under one shepherd, regardless of what became of their fold and their shepherding. They understood very well what he meant by shepherd and sheep (for it was a form of speech familiar and current among them, especially from the Scriptures), namely, that he claimed to be a man who would teach and govern the people. But because, as they consider it, he puts forth his claim so unreasonably, wishing to be the shepherd alone and yet saying that he will lay down his life for the sheep and that he has still other sheep which he will gather and make one flock - nothwithstanding that they, the Jews, refuse to be his sheep - they are offended in him and say that he is mad and that the devil speaks through him. They, nevertheless, understood this much, that his meaning was that their shepherding - that is, their entire government which they had from Moses, the Law, the priesthood, circumcision, the service of God, all appointed for them by God himself - should become void and henceforth count for nothing, and that he would institute something entirely new, in which he would be all in all and rule supreme and would gather a new flock of both Jews and gentiles, just as he should find those who would cling to him recognizing no one else, whether Judaism and its government, glory and existence should abide, stand or fall.

 

4. He makes matters still worse by saying, ”I am the good shepherd,” whereby he draws the people entirely to himself. He means to say, Dismiss the teachers and rulers you have, and take me for your shepherd. The very best of them, those who teach and profess Moses and the Law, he calls hirelings, who are to be forsaken and not listened to; without considering that other multitude, the thieves and murderers, that is, those who teach against God's Word and are public persecutors. Hereby he well deserves that they should execute him without sentence and grate, as a public-accursed blasphemer against God, God's Law and God's people.

 

5. Without doubt, the great lords, high priests, Pharisees, scribes and all that belonged to their spiritual government, defiantly boasted and bragged against all this: We sit in the true office and priestly estate, ordained not by Moses, but by God himself through Moses. How dare you, rebellious scoundrel, open your mouth before all the people and boast against God's ordinance and commandment, that you are the shepherd and you alone? You are not even of priestly lineage, of those to whom God, through Moses, committed this charge and whom he commanded the people to hear. And when did God, publicly before all the people, speak to you as he spake to Moses? Who are you, or where do you come from, that you dare, of your own authority, to utter such things and to apply to yourself alone all that has been said and commanded concerning the office of shepherd, thereby exalting yourself above and against Moses, the Law of God, the priesthood and all authority? Is not this both rebellious usurpation of the government and the crown by the whole people, and also blasphemy and sin against the divine Majesty?

 

6. To say, ”I am the good shepherd,” what else is it but to say: To me alone they must hearken, the whole flock of sheep. That is, the entire nation belongs to me alone. I alone am its shepherd, and the only good shepherd, who saves the sheep. You, however, are but hirelings, that care not for the sheep, seeking only your own in them and letting them perish in time of danger. In one word, this is to make the people revolt from them and to tell the people that they have no good shepherd or preacher who is faithfully-minded towards them or is able to save them and to whom they ought to give ear. ”For my sheep,” says he, ”hear not the voice of a stranger.” But he tells them, if they cling to him, they shall be saved.

 

7. Moreover, he not only says that he alone is the shepherd of these sheep, but that he also has another flock and people, who are not under the government of Moses but are altogether outside of this fold. These, also, are to cling to him, and all shall be alike to him, gentiles as Jews, and Jews as gentiles. This is now the most offensive thing of all, that he makes nothing of God's people and puts them, with their Law, priesthood and everything else, on a level with the gentiles, and the gentiles on a level with them, so that neither is better, of more importance or has more than the other. In short, it is equivalent to saying that all Moses instituted and ordained in the priesthood, temple and service of God is to come to an end and to pass away; that now there is a new priesthood and government, and a new shepherd has arisen, whose alone the flock is to be and who is to do all. This surely is knocking the bottom out of the barrel and taking the head off from all Judaism, depriving it of all its glory. Hereby he simply bids them to yield up their shepherdhood, to hear him alone and to suffer him to be all in all.

 

8. This was to them necessarily an odious, blasphemous injunction. For in their minds nothing was more certain than this: We have been appointed by God, through Moses, to the priesthood, to the office of teaching and ruling the whole nation. Now, whatever God has commanded and ordained must stand and not be changed by any creature. Therefore, our priesthood and Moses' government must continue forever. And if the gentiles are to be added and to become God's people, this must not and cannot take place through this carpenter of Nazareth (as they regarded and called Jesus), but through Moses, in that they suffer themselves to be circumcised and accept his Law, and visit the temple at Jerusalem. Even the apostles at that time still believed that this must remain, above all things, as the ordinance and commandment of God, given and instituted from heaven. In opposition to this, Jesus of Nazareth dares to arise and publicly declare the contrary. If you would come to God and be saved, you must, after all, surrender Moses, the Law, the temple and the priesthood. All these will in nowise help you. You must come hither to me, whether you be Jew, gentile, priest, layman or what you will, even if you should be Moses himself. So the Jews were offended at this discourse, and are offended at it to this day. This stumbling-block of opposition to Moses and their Law so lies in their way that they cannot get over it.

 

II. HOW THIS SERMON SERVES TO OVERTHROW THE FALSE TEACHINGS OF THE PAPISTS CONCERNING THE CHURCH.

9. In like manner it is also not less offensive to our opponents, the pope and his following, so to preach. For this Gospel makes it necessary to preach against their government, which has been called the only government of the Christian church in the world, and which, it is claimed, possesses constituted authority and all that belongs to the church, namely, baptism, the sacrament, the keys etc., by inheritance from the apostles and by the prescription of so many years. Wherefore, like the Jews, they claim to be the people of God and the church alone. It is intolerable to them, when, in spite of all their pretensions, it is urged against them that they are not the church and that God cares nothing about their boasting, their government and all that. And it is likewise intolerable to them when we separate ourselves from them and renounce obedience to them and also teach others so to do; because, in the name of the church, of Christ and of faith, they have quite obscured the shepherd Christ, and in the name of the church and Christian government have filled the church with their own idle talk, and are not as good as hirelings, but are wolves and murderers. They, themselves, now prove this by their public persecution and execution of Christians on account of this doctrine and confession concerning Christ, that he is the only shepherd, through whom we have forgiveness of sins and eternal life, who alone laid down his life for us.

 

10. And I declare that if the case of the pope were as good as that of the Jews, who without contradiction had the Scriptures and God's Word in their favor, no man could get along with his adherents. For the Jews had the great advantage that their government was instituted by God's command through Moses, and moreover was confirmed by miraculous signs and was so strict in its provisions that whoever would not hear Moses was to be stoned and excluded from God's people. Such glorying and testimony, that their government of the church was commanded and confirmed by God, our opponents, God be praised, cannot produce. Nevertheless, they do as the Jews did. Let any one preach concerning Christ and the Gospel whatever he will, they at once cry out against it: The church must be obeyed, the fathers be heard, the canons and decrees of the councils be kept. How else, say they, shall it be known what and where Christians or the church are? There must surely be some organization proceeding in proper order, such as the fathers and councils nicely arranged, and as has existed for so long a time, namely, that the church has a common head, the pope, and a regular government of bishops, and, under these, the ordinary priesthood, and, over all, a general council, whose decision, conclusion and judgment must be followed in all things. And if any one does not observe this order and institution, or opposes it and gives occasion to division, he must be of the devil, a perfidious, rebellious, accursed heretic.

 

11. In opposition to this, we must open our mouths and, in accord with this teaching of Christ, tell everybody, even as he commanded us to preach these things to all creatures: Dear friend, you may indeed observe, glorify and exalt such a human institution; but that does not make you a Christian. This is not yet the true shepherd and master, whose name is Christ. You must be led another way to know and bear him aright, else all this will not help you in the least to your salvation. For being a Christian is something different from the pope's government, and also something different from and higher than what the fathers have taught or the councils have decreed. Even though they did well, as Moses also did well and truly somewhat better - for example, the Jews circumcised, they sacrificed, and they observed their divine service - and even though among us a fine order of offices and ranks be maintained, and external discipline and a beautiful service of God, together with fasting, praying, singing etc. -  all this is not yet what is meant by Christ's Word: ”I am the good shepherd.”

 

12. For this shepherd and his office must be carefully distinguished (wherefore he also teaches this) from all other preachers, teachers and everything else that claims to have the rule over souls. Let all these do as well as they can, still none of them is a good shepherd. For Moses, forsooth, did not do badly; he instituted a fine order of a spiritual and temporal government, both in external discipline and in the service of God. Nevertheless, his Jews are here compelled to hear that it can in no way help them before God, and that now, after it has endured and been maintained for so long a time, another is to come, who will glory exceedingly and boast: You have not yet the true shepherd that you ought to have. I alone am he, whose voice you must hear if you would be saved. And I have still other sheep, people who neither know nor observe anything at all of Moses and your entire government. Nevertheless, all shall be one flock. How so? Both shall learn to know me as their true shepherd and shall hear my voice. Therefore, I allow to preach whoever will preach, and let it pass; but the shepherd who can heal the injury, none will find until he comes hither and clings to me.

 

13. Therefore, we are also to conclude from this that there is nothing in the loud pretensions of those of the present day who would like to maintain the papacy with its counterfeit bishops, and who sputter much about the church government which they affect, where they sit together in established inherited power, as the heirs of the sees of the first bishops, ordained by the apostles etc.; by which the whole government of the church is to be bound to them, so that without them there can be no church. They alone are to have power to ordain, consecrate and confirm bishops. They would persuade us to hear them alone in whatever they jointly decide, and of necessity receive from them all that pertains to the church, its office and government, the sacraments, the office of preaching, priestly orders etc. They would have us believe that they are no true bishops or priests, nor can they administer the sacraments, who have not received unction and chrism from them. Therefore, they also clamor and fume about us, saying that we are disobedient and rebellious and have set ourselves against the constituted power of the church and have seceded from them etc.

 

14. In opposition to this, Christ teaches us in this Gospel to look to him alone as the true shepherd, who only is the founder, lord and head of the church, and says his sheep hear his voice, and not a stranger's. Hereby he indicates that these are the true church, without regard to their being under the pope and his bishops, or even under Moses. For he and his kingdom and church are bound neither to Moses' Law nor to Judaism, although they were instituted by God, much less to the government of pope and bishops, established by themselves. Neither has he taken or received anything from them, but he is the Lord of Moses and of all creatures, to whom all men should be subject.

 

15. Therefore, when the Jews in the name of Moses, or our opponents in the name of the church and its power, undertake to draw people away from Christ, that is, from his Word and the pure teaching of the Gospel, he opposes them and says: ”My sheep hear my voice; and a stranger will they not follow, for they know not the voice of strangers.” Here he gives us not only the right and power, but even a distinct command not to hear nor to be allied with them.

 

16. Since now we see and apprehend that the whole papal party not only keep, believe and teach nothing concerning Christ, but are public persecutors of the Gospel, that is, wolves and murderers of Christ's sheep and church, and that they conduct and exercise a real anti-Christian government, we should and must, by Christ's command, break away from their imagined power and possessions, from which they already are deposed by Christ himself. We are commanded to have nothing to do with them, but are to avoid and flee from them as the devil's church, as St. Paul also utters this sentence (Gal 1, 8): ”Though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach any other gospel, let him be anathema.” This is certainly a strong enough deposition from all power in the church, and a command to respect the deposition and condemnation of God.

 

III. WHAT IS THE SUMMARY OF THIS SERMOM

17. This then is the main thought and sum of this Gospel, that Christ alone is the good shepherd. It teaches us the power and fruit of the preaching of the Gospel and its ministry and distinguishes it from the office of Moses and the preaching of the Law. Christ names only two who keep and feed the sheep, the true shepherd and the hireling. For the wolf is but a murderer, who works only injury and havoc; to resist him shepherds are necessary. But if the shepherd and the hireling are compared, it becomes manifest that Christ alone is the shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep. Neither Moses nor any other preacher of the Law does this.

 

18. For this reason, he justly calls himself alone the good, that is, the comforting and helpful, shepherd. For, although Moses, the prophets and all other preachers of the Law preach and teach, they are not able to lay down their lives for the sheep and to save them. They all had to die for themselves, and were not able thereby to save either themselves or others. But Christ says: It is I alone who lay down my life for the sheep. Only death brings salvation to the sheep. And because I am such a one, I found this new doctrine and a new flock and people.

 

19. In this way he refers the true shepherd's office, that is, the authority to help consciences and souls, to his own person alone, as the only one who has effected and completed the work of our redemption, given his body and life for his sheep, and instituted and perpetuated the office through which he gathers, governs and preserves them. This office, therefore, comprises the whole preaching of the Gospel, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever it is done. These preachers are also named, after Christ shepherds; not for themselves, for that honor belongs to Christ alone, but because they are in the office which is Christ's and which he exercises through them.

 

IV. HOW CHRIST EXPLAINS IN THIS SERMON HIS PERSON AND OFFICE BY A REVERSE PICTURE.

20. This then is the first section, treating of Christ's person and the office which he exercises in his church. Afterwards, when he speaks of his sheep, he elucidates it further. But first he pictures the hireling in contrast and says:

 

”He that is a hireling, and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, beholdeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth, and the wolf snatcheth them, and scattereth them; he fleeth because he is a hireling, and careth not for the sheep.”

21. He names three kinds of persons or three offices which have to do with the sheep: The true shepherd, which, as has been said, he is himself; the hireling, including all besides him who preach the Law and teach how we ought to live and do good, but do not point to Christ, like the scribes and Pharisees among the Jews of old; and finally the wolf, who wishes to be among the sheep and to rule over them but only works injury and ruin. The wolf is the devil, who also has his messengers and preachers. However, they have not the Word of God, neither the ten commandments nor the Gospel, but they mislead souls by false doctrine and heresies, which St. Paul, I Tim 4, 1-2, calls ”doctrines of devils, speaking lies in hypocrisy.” Such are now the pope's anti-christian doctrines, the Koran of the Turks, and doctrines of other sects. These three kinds of teachers have always been in the world from the beginning. We should keep the first, reform the second, and shun the third. None do this, however, except the true sheep, that is, the little flock which knows Christ.

 

22. He also manifests here the condition of the sheep, and why he alone must be known and believed as the true shepherd. The condition of the sheep is such that, if the shepherd is absent, they are in the certain danger and distress of being seized, torn and killed by the wolf, for by their own strength they can neither guard nor defend themselves against him. A sheep is naturally a poor, weak, defenseless animal above all others and is quite dependent upon the protection, care and help of someone. The true shepherd must devote himself to the sheep, ever be with them, watch over them, rescue and defend them, whenever it is necessary, so that they may not perish. A stranger or a paid hireling, whose own the sheep are not, says Christ, will not do that; although for a time he leads and feeds them, he will not hold out to the end. When the wolf comes, he flees in order to save himself, and meanwhile lets the poor sheep face the danger and perish.

 

23. So, also, it is with consciences in a spiritual way. If Christ himself, by his shepherd's office, does not guard, lead and guide, all other preaching is vain, even if in other respects it is good and right. It cannot serve in distress, when the devil opens the jaws of hell by the terrors of sin and everlasting death. When this comes to pass, the poor sheep stands there alone and forsaken, dependent upon itself and its own efforts, according to the doctrine of the Law and of works, with nobody to help or assist, from whom to obtain comfort or find salvation.

 

24. No better example of this can be adduced than what we, ourselves, experienced under the papacy in times past. The sweetest preaching possible was given, which, among others, I gave diligence to teach both myself and the people. We were told: You ought to keep the ten commandments, love God with your whole heart and your neighbor as yourself. This teaching was not wrong, for the Law should be taught. But in order to impress this on the people, they added: Man can well do this, for he has the natural light of reason, given by God, by which he understands what he ought to do and what leave undone. Moreover, he has a will, by which he can resolve and begin to do this. And if with all diligence he exercises himself in such works and does what is in his power, God will regard and accept this, and undoubtedly bestow grace upon him.

 

25. To this comforting assurance they added many good counsels. For they, themselves, felt that what they taught concerning the decalogue was not sufficient. The purpose of their counsels was to escape from death and to obtain salvation. They prescribed extraordinary, severe orders and modes of life, mortification of the body, fasting, watching, pilgrimages etc. All this they considered good and valuable, and performed it with the good intention that it was to be acceptable to God and to be received as a fulfilment of his commandments. But when all this had been tried, and when finally the devil came, in the hour of death or in other grievous trials, then all such teaching and works were found wanting, and poor consciences were miserably led into the devil's sweatbox, in which they worried and tormented themselves with thoughts of despair, with words and groanings, crying: Oh, Lord God, if I could live longer, I would do penance for all my sins! etc.

 

26. Such was the use and fruit of the hireling-doctrine, which referred poor souls to their own doing and suffering, while nothing was said of Christ and of faith. This kind of teaching can only comfort and sustain so long as the devil is not present; for he is not concerned about our works, satisfactions and life. Where he does not find Christ, he has won the game. He advances, tears and devours souls without restraint or hindrance, according to his pleasure. Indeed, these teachers and masters are powerless to help themselves. They are frightened and scattered as well as the sheep, so that they know not where to abide and finally, unless they learn of other help, they become the prey of the enemy. An example of this is the case of a hermit who once came to a sick man on his deathbed and endeavored to comfort him so that he might die peaceably. He exhorted him, as is the custom of such comforters, work-saints and monks, to die willingly, and to suffer patiently; this would secure for him forgiveness of all sins, with God. He was willing to pledge his soul for it. Gracious God! Here lies a poor sheep in its dying moments; it accepts what it cannot avoid, and on the strength of such comfort dies. But what happens? Soon after the death of this poor wretch the old hermit's last hour comes and fills him with such anxiety and terror that he becomes despondent of the very comfort which he gave to others. No attempt at consolation will avail him, and he finally sinks into despair.

 

27. This is what must come to pass when only our own words are preached, or even only the ten commandments are taught, nothwithstanding the preaching of these things is necessary, especially for the rude multitude. But where there is no Christ, it only serves to confuse and scatter the poor sheep and to drive them into terror and despair, so that they must perish, unless they are restored again by the true shepherd.

 

28. When human nature and reason hear the preaching of the Law, even in the case of those who teach the Law in the very best manner without however knowing Christ, they foolishly err and imagine, when they have heard this doctrine, that they can easily fulfil it. For they say they have both the understanding and the will to do it. They think no further than that it is accomplished with their self-devised thoughts and outward works. Accordingly they proceed, and imagine that they must do whatever is told and held up to them in the way of good works, as commanded by God. They seek thereby to atone for sin and to blot it out, whereas God by no means demands that we do good works to this end, or that sin can be blotted out by works. Hence, they go on in this erroneous delusion and gather and accumulate all the works they can think or hear of, which God certainly has not commanded. They are simply caught by this conclusion: Good works are to be done; this is a good work, therefore I am under obligation to do it. In this manner they proceed and are ever doing, but never arrive at fulfilment. Hence, they are not able to resist the wolf. The more they do, the less they are satisfied and the more they find to do. And as soon as the devil comes and pretends: Behold, this is a good work, which you have done - they cannot get around it and must allow themselves to be carried away.

 

29. Yea, though they had done all that man can do, nevertheless, if the wolf appears before their eyes with his gaping jaws of hell, they realize that it will not stand before God's wrath and judgment. With a single breath the devil blows it all away and says: You have done much, it is true; but when have you fulfilled God's commandment, to love him with the whole heart above all things, to have no evil thought, desire or lust in the heart, to speak no idle, vain words? Then both the doctrine which the hireling gave you, and all your works and deeds which cost you so much labor and toil, drop and fall. You have no comfort or refuge against the devil, for he always has the advantage of driving you back on your own conscience and the testimony of your own efforts, as the hireling instructed you, who taught you only what to do, but imparted no strength to do it, and so left you in the lurch. In short, you are overcome by yourself and are convicted by the sentence: The good must be done.

 

30. In this way the devil introduced the mire and filth of all human doctrines into the church through the pope, and there was no one to resist him, for all proceeded on the principle that what is good must be done. Therefore, whatever they called good and a service of God, had to be done. And even now they have not ceased to spew venom upon us, contending that our doctrine of faith and love is a bad doctrine; that we know nothing better to preach than the childish lesson of the ten commandments; that we must rise much higher and do much more, and teach not only what is contained in the Scriptures, but also hear what the church and the councils say etc.

 

31. Hence, everything that any shabby, impudent mendicant monk dared to hold forth was violently confirmed and swept in like a deluge. Indeed, we simpletons, doctors of the Holy Scriptures as we were, could not prevent the pernicious barefoot (Carmelite) sect from persuading the people that if a dead man was buried in their monk's cowl, he would be saved and the devil could not get him, or else he would have taken him before. For we were all dazzled and taken captive by the sentence: We must do good works, and whoever does them is saved.

 

32. Verily, even to this day we could not stand before the papacy or overthrow its least error if we had not more than this doctrine of our works and deeds. Even as the pious martyr, John Hus, was cried down and condemned by the devil in the diabolical council at Constance, when he rebuked the pope and his followers on account of the wicked, shameless life by which they often violated their own canonical laws. For this was their defense against him, that although the life was not right, the doctrine, that these things were to be kept and done, was right. Hence, the papacy has hitherto resisted overthrow so long as its doctrine has been considered true and remained unchallenged.

 

33. Therefore, these two, the hireling and the wolf, are always together. The devil likes such teachers, for, in the absence of the true shepherd, they serve him in enabling him to rend and kill the sheep without trouble, when and as he wills. And there is no defence save Christ and his doctrine and protection. As the only true shepherd, he does not allow the sheep to struggle with the wolf (for if it once comes to that, they are already in his jaws), but flings himself against the latter and gathers us around himself, and so protects us that the devil is compelled to flee. This takes place when from the Scriptures it is taught that no human work or endeavor, however good it may appear, even if done in accordance with the ten commandments, and no possible teaching, will avail to free from sin or stand before the wrath of God and the terrors of death and hell etc. This alone avails, that Christ laid down his life for you and took it again, and thereby overcame the devil and death and made them subject to himself, in order that by his power and strength you might be saved.

 

34. But where the voice of this shepherd remains, the sheep can guard themselves against both hireling and wolf, and say: You, indeed, say truly that I ought to keep the ten commandments; but you do not tell me where I am to take refuge, seeing I have not fulfilled them. Here I will rather hear my dear shepherd, who died for me, and died not without reason nor in vain, but for this very purpose that I, who was such a poor lost sheep without a shepherd and in the power of the wolf, might be rescued. So, also, when the devil shows his teeth in your heart and threatens to kill and devour you, and tells you that you ought to have done or left undone this or that which you have not done or left undone, and that therefore you belong to him, you can take refuge with Christ as a sheep that knows its shepherd; and you can tell the devil to attack him who died and rose for you, and to try what he can win from him.

 

35. Still more can you repulse others who are not as good as hirelings, but are the wolf's servants. They come and preach, as geese gabble, about our own fancied works. Say to them: I will hear and know nothing of these, for I have a much greater thing to do in learning the ten commandments. I am not able to keep them. Why should I worry myself with such useless works, which only harm and hinder me from properly considering the ten commandments? It indeed happened that the world was so filled with commandments and doctrines of men that no bishop and no doctor knew or taught the ten commandments properly.

 

36. For this reason we have reproved and attacked the papacy, not on the ground of their wicked and shameful life, which they themselves also acknowledge, but we say to them that, even if they led holy angelic lives, which they never have done and never will do, and if they kept not only their own law, but also the law of Moses, both of which are impossible, we nevertheless should regard them not only as hirelings, but also as wolves, because they teach only what destroys the souls. For nothing can feed or give life to the soul, which is not the doctrine of Christ. Although the hireling does not himself slay and destroy, he does not restrain the wolf. Therefore, because you neither point out nor teach this shepherd, you shall not and ought not to be heard, but you shall be shunned as a wolf.

 

37. With this argument the papacy and all that leads away from this doctrine are overthrown. Otherwise it is impossible, as has been said, to correct the least error which is given out under the pretence of a holy life. And no doctrine is so foolish or disgraceful but that it finds hearers and disciples, as is proven by the experience of the church with so many heresies and divisions. The heathen were reasonable and highly intelligent people, yet we read of them that they worshiped not only cats and storks, but also cabbages and onions, and even a member of the human body. All this comes from the name and delusion that such things are good works and render a service to God. The preacher of such works comes with the reputation and pretence of a shepherd who desires to counsel and direct souls on the way to God.

 

38. Alas! we have hitherto not been able to correct or prevent the shameful lies and fables of the monks concerning the rosary of Mary. This consisted of fifty Ave Marias and five Pater-Nosters addressed to Mary the Virgin. The popes granted many indulgences to it, and the preaching friars (Dominicans) scribbled great books full of fanciful and disgusting lies concerning the power and wonderful efficacy of this prayer, which they themselves invented. Besides there was the frippery of innumerable similar lies invented by others, like the barefooted friars' (Carmelite) crown and psalter of Mary, concerning which they themselves are now silent and ashamed. Indeed, at the present day nobody in the papacy could refute or resist the faith of the Turks or of the Jews, for they of the papacy have not the true master nor the true solid doctrine of this shepherd. Therefore, the devil has power and authority over them, even by the decalogue. He always has the advantage of convicting you by your own conscience of not having kept the commandments; so much the more if you have spent your life in works based on human teaching.

 

39. If, however, you know this shepherd, you can defend yourself against devil and death, and say: Alas! I have not kept God's commandments, but I creep under the wings of this good hen, my Lord Jesus Christ, and believe that he is my shepherd, bishop and mediator with God, who covers me with his innocence and bestows his righteousness upon me. What I have not kept he has kept, and the sin I have done, he has atoned for with his blood etc; for he died and rose, not for himself but for me. Even as he says here, that he lays down his life, not for himself, but for his sheep; that is, as St. Peter says (I Pet 3, 18): ”Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous.” Thus you are secure and the devil and hell must leave you in peace. The devil certainly will not be able to do harm to Christ, who has overcome him, and who, if you only believe in him as his sheep, will, as a faithful shepherd, not forsake you, but will stand by you, protect and preserve you.

 

40. If now under this shepherd you are secure against the wolf, it is right that the hireling should also come as a good teacher, showing how you ought to live according to God's commandments and to do good works, and go before you where now you can walk yourself (as far as lies outside of the conflict of the conscience with sin and death), provided, however, that you are first in the protection and pasture of this shepherd and do not stray away from him.

 

41. Behold, these are the three forms of preaching which always exist in the world: First, that of the great multitude, who set forth not God's Word, but human doctrine. These are the wolves, such as the pope with his decretals, the Turk with his Koran, the Jews with their Talmud, and other sects against the pure teaching of the Scriptures. Second, the hirelings, who preach only the decalogue. They are few, and without the Gospel cannot long remain pure. Third, those who sincerely and truly point and lead to Christ. These are the fewest of all, but they will necessarily be found somewhere until the last day, as we say in the creed: ”I believe in the holy Christian church etc.”

 

42. These are, and are called, true shepherds, because they preach not themselves, but Christ, and hence are the mouth of Christ, as he himself says in Mt 10, 20: ”It is not ye that speak, but the spirit of your Father that speaketh in you;” and again in Lk 21,15: ”I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to withstand or gainsay,” that is, it shall not be your mouth, but I will prepare your mouth that it shall be full of wisdom given by me, and shall speak by me. For this is the clap of thunder by which everything that is not of this doctrine and quality is laid low so that it serves and avails nothing for the life to come. It may in other respects be good to keep people under restraint or to bring them to a knowledge of their faults. For what is it that a man, pope or Turk can do in the face of eternal death and hell!

 

43. Hereby the pope's government and all doctrines of men are stormed and overthrown. However, we do not antagonize them because they do not keep their own commandments and doctrine; for against this they always have the defense that, although their life is censurable, their doctrine is good and right. Hence they maintain their government by force, arguing from the words of Christ in Mt 23, 2-3: ”The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses' seat: all things therefore whatsoever they bid you, these do and observe: but do not ye after their works; for they say, and do not” etc. Therefore, before we had the Gospel, we were able to accomplish nothing against them. But now that we know Christ, we are able to condemn their doctrine together with all their works.

 

44. Here now you have the distinction which Christ draws between his preaching and government and that of all others who desire to rule consciences and hearts without or independent of him. With so many words about the hireling he pictures the danger, nay more, the injury and destruction, which must follow if he is not heard and known as the only shepherd, namely, that the wolf cannot be warded off, however numerous the hirelings. For with their doctrine they cannot help or give counsel how to escape from sin and death, nor can they resist the devil: and the poor sheep must soon be eternally lost and destroyed, unless it comes to this shepherd. Therefore, he again repeats what he said at the beginning, in order to impress it upon us, that we must hold fast to his protection and pasture, that is, to his Word and ministry, and says:

 

”I am the good shepherd; and I know mine own, and mine own know me, even as the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

 

V. HOW CHRIST SETS FORTH HIS OFFICE AND GOVERNMENT IN THE MOST CHARMING MANNER.

45. Many, alas! too many, are called shepherds and undertake this government, which consists in feeding and leading souls; but I alone, says he again, am called and truly am the good shepherd. This means in plain words: All others besides me are not good, but are unmerciful, cruel shepherds, because they leave the sheep in the jaws of the wolf. But me you must learn to know as your dear, faithful, good, kind, sweet and comforting shepherd, towards whom your heart must be filled with laughter in the assurance that by him you are redeemed from every burden, fear, trouble and danger, and that he will not and cannot let you perish. I prove this, says he, by laying down my life for the sheep. Therefore, joyfully abide with me and let none other rule in your consciences. Listen only to me, who speak and by deeds prove this comforting word, that I will not drive, trouble or burden you like Moses and others, but will most lovingly lead and guide, protect and help you.

 

46. In this manner he ever insists on this one doctrine as the chief point of our salvation, that there is no deliverance or help apart from this shepherd, Christ, apprehended in the faith that he alone rescues us by his death from the power of death and the devil. Therefore, this is the most necessary doctrine to be taught in the church. The devil is hostile to it and cannot endure that we remain with this good shepherd and in the pure sense and significance of his teaching. Therefore, he is always raging against it through his agents, with cunning and deceit, with persecution and blasphemy, with a view of tearing people away from it, just as he also opposed this teaching through the Jews. But we on the other hand, as his pious sheep, must listen to the shepherd's voice and know that, when all things fail and the counsel and help of all men come to naught, we are safe and are preserved by faith in this shepherd, who laid down his life for us. He also concludes concerning his sheep, that is, the whole church, that he knows them and they know him:

 

”I know mine own, and mine own know me.”

47. This is, indeed, strange language, and naturally was singular and ridiculous to the Jews, just as when he had said that he alone was the shepherd. Without doubt they scornfully curled their lips at it and said: You talk much about your shepherd's office and your sheep. Man, where have you your sheep and where are they to be found? We have a nation and a flock, who adhere to the temple and the service instituted by God, and keep the Law of Moses. By this they are organized into a fold; so that they can be known and named. But where are yours? How are they known? What are they like? Give them a name and sign. No, says he, you shall not know them in the way that you conceive. Your sheep have their marks, by which they are known and distinguished: they are circumcised, they come to the temple at Jerusalem etc. But my sheep have another mark, not made or painted with colors and red ochre, so as to be visible on the forehead or on the wool. The pope, also, imitating the Jews, makes and marks such a church and Christians that everybody may know them by their outward conduct and life. No, it will not do, he means to say, to indicate them with the mark and seal which you put upon them or Moses puts upon them; but they are so marked and distinguished that nobody knows them except me alone.

 

48. Although Christians also have external marks, given by Christ, to-wit, baptism, the sacrament and the preaching of the Gospel, these may fail when we have to judge any individual minutely. For many a one has been baptized, hears the Gospel, and goes to the sacrament with others, and yet is a rogue and no Christian. But the distinguishing mark is this alone, that the faith that looks upon Christ as the shepherd dwells within the heart. But who knows this? You cannot see it in me, nor I in you; for nobody can look into the heart of another. So, then, it remains true that nobody knows or is able to describe these sheep and this flock, except this shepherd, Christ, alone. Again, my sheep alone know me, says he, and so know me that they do not allow themselves to be turned or torn from me, but abide in the faith, confession and doctrine that I am the shepherd and give my life for them against the devil, the world, death and hell.

 

49. Now, here again he overturns Judaism with its law and priesthood, and still more our papacy with all that belongs to it, and deprives them of the power of ruling and of judging his flock. He simply will not have himself and his church ruled by them, and therefore rejects and condemns all such judgment as they, according to Moses or any other external order and government, wish to pronounce in regard to who are Christians or not Christians and God's people. On the contrary, he tells them that they neither shall nor can know his sheep, yet he will have and preserve his church, although they know and receive neither shepherd nor sheep, but reject and condemn both, as cut off from the people of God.

 

50. Moreover, he gives us the criterion by which we are to distinguish the true church or people of God from that which has the name and reputation but in truth is not the church. He teaches us that the church neither is nor ought to be a society which must be organized with an external government and order, like the Jewish people under the Law of Moses. Nor does it exist, nor is it governed and preserved, by outward human power; much less is it bound to a regular succession or government of bishops or their successors, as the papacy claims. It is a spiritual assembly, which hears this shepherd and believes in him, and is governed by him through the Holy Spirit. It is outwardly recognized by this alone, that it has his Word, that is, the preaching of the Gospel, and his sacraments. Inwardly it is known to him alone, as in turn it also knows him by faith and clings to him when it hears his Word, regardless of the fact that it may neither maintain nor even know anything of that outward Jewish or papistical government and order, and may be scattered here and there in the world without any organized external government; as in fact it was in the time of Christ and the apostles, who, apart from and in opposition to the regular power of the whole priesthood, believed in Christ and confessed him.

 

51. Therefore, if you wish really to know what a Christian is or why a man is called a Christian, and to give a true definition of the same you must not look to the Law of Moses, the government of the pope, nor the life and sanctity of any man, however holy. But you must look alone to this Word of Christ, where he says: ”My sheep know me, and my sheep hear my voice.” Then you will say: A Christian is not one who leads a strict, severe, earnest Carthusian or hermit life; for Jews and Turks can also do that, some of whom do live even more strictly. In short, nothing that is in us or can be done by us, makes a Christian. What then? This alone, that one knows this man, and regards him and trusts him as he wishes to be considered, namely, as the good shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep and knows them.

 

52. This knowledge is nothing else than faith, which arises from the ministry of the Word. The Word consists not of our own thoughts nor does it come from men; but it was brought from heaven and was revealed by Christ himself, as he said to Peter in Mt 16, 17: ”Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee” etc. These two must always come together and agree: his Word and our faith. For if he were not to reveal himself by his Word nor let his voice be heard, we would know nothing of the shepherd. I say, in this way and in no other does a man become a Christian, when he hears this voice alone, and knows no other shepherd and allows no other to be fashioned for him, whatever his fame and lustre, but grasps this image alone in his heart. And all the sheep of Christ without distinction have this one color and form, whereby they are to be identified, and are like each other in this, that they believe on this shepherd and confess his Word, although externally they differ in many respects, and are scattered here and there in the world without order and are spread abroad among different peoples.

 

53. Hence we derive this comfort, that if anyone knows Christ in this way, he is certainly one of his sheep, and is already known by him and elected to be a sheep. He ought and needs not to seek and to look further how he may become a sheep, nor to worry and torment himself with the vain thought of whether or no he is elected and how he may become certain of salvation. But he ought joyfully to comfort himself and be secure in this, that if he hears the voice of Christ, he has in him a dear shepherd who knows him, that is, cares for him as his sheep, provides for him, protects and saves him, so that he need have no fear of the devil, hell and death. This knowledge of his sheep and its power he further explains with comforting words and says: ”My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.” And for still greater comfort he adds:

 

”Even as the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father.”

54. It is a glorious, comforting knowledge with which the Father knows his dear Son in inexpressible, unfathomable, eternal love, as he publicly testified by the voice from heaven and said: ”This is my beloved Son,” Mt 3,17. So that for his sake he took pity and had mercy on the human race, when it had fallen into eternal wrath and condemnation and was in danger of being eternally lost; as St. Paul says in Eph 1, 6: ”Which (grace) he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” etc. In the same manner Christ also knows us with a like inexpressible love, as from the beginning he loved the human race, and therefore most deeply humbled himself beneath all men and even beneath sin and death, and endured the wrath of God for us, that God might not permit the devil to keep us in his bonds and in everlasting condemnation.

 

55. Since now, the Father knows Christ in this way, and Christ in the same manner also knows us, his sheep, the knowledge which comes to us from the Father through Christ and that whereby we should know the Father's heart toward us through Christ, become one and the same. That is to say, as he loves Christ his Son, so he cherishes toward us, who know Christ as sheep know their shepherd, true paternal love, in order that we may know that it is not his will that we should be lost or condemned if only we believe in his Son whom he has given for us. For he cannot hate his Son; and he sent him from heaven that through his blood and death he might deliver us from sin.

 

56. This is truly a high and glorious consolation. But it is also a very spiritual, that is, hidden and secret, knowledge in our eyes and thoughts, to believe that both Christ and the Father know us in this way. For to all human eyes it is deeply buried under manifold scorn, weakness and hostile opinions of the world and of our flesh and blood. In the world they take offense at this kingdom of Christ and his church, because it does not accord with their wisdom and is not organized and regulated as in their opinion it should be regulated if it is to be God's government and work. Indeed, because its course is contrary to reason, sense and thought, the world regards the doctrine as pure folly and delusion, and condemns and persecutes all who adhere to it and are unwilling to follow the world's own opinion. Not only is Christ hidden from the world, but a still harder thing is it that in such trials Christ conceals himself even from his church, and acts as if he had forgotten, aye, had entirely forsaken and rejected it, since he permits it to be oppressed under the cross and subjected to all the cruelty of the world, while its enemies boast, glory and rejoice over it, as we shall hear in the next Gospel. Moreover, Christians must suffer themselves to be especially tormented by the devil inwardly, in their hearts, with the terrors of their sin and God's wrath, and so must endure every misfortune and the tortures of hell; not to mention what they are otherwise compelled to feel and see in themselves and among their own brethren in the way of weaknesses and faults in both faith and life, and whatever scandal the devil can cause.

 

57. Under these circumstances, who knows the sheep, or regards them as such, seeing they are so deeply buried and overwhelmed with suffering, shame, disgrace, death, scandal etc., that they are concealed even from each other? Certainly nobody but Christ alone. He tells them, and comforts them by it, that notwithstanding all that excites the displeasure of the world and our own flesh and blood, he nevertheless knows his sheep, and neither forgets nor forsakes them, although so it seems.

 

58. And in order to impress this more deeply upon us, he adds a comparison and says: ”Even as the Father knoweth me.” This is truly also a deep, hidden knowledge, that God the Father knew his only begotten and beloved Son, when like the child of the poorest beggar he had to lie in the manger, not only unknown by his entire people, but cast out and rejected; or when he hung in the air most disgracefully and ignominiously, naked and bare, between two murderers, as the most wicked blasphemer of God, and a rebel, cursed by God and all the world, so that he was compelled to cry out to him in great agony: ”My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Mt 27, 46. Nevertheless, he says here: My Father knoweth me, precisely in this suffering, disgrace and offensive form, as his only Son, sent by him to be the sacrifice and to offer up my soul for the salvation and redemption of the sheep. Likewise I know him, and am aware that he has not forgotten and forsaken me, but that he will lead me through and out of disgrace, the cross and death to eternal honor, life and glory. In the same way my sheep shall also learn to know me in their misery, shame, suffering and death, as their dear, faithful Saviour, who has suffered in like manner and given his life for them. They shall trust me with assurance that in their distresses they are not forsaken or forgotten by me, as reason and the world imagine; but that in all this I will wonderfully preserve them and thereby bring them to eternal victory and glory.

 

59. Behold, this is the true knowledge of Christ, with which he knows us and we are known by him. High and glorious wisdom! But for the reason and thought of the world it is far too deeply buried and hidden. It is comprehended by faith alone, which must here undergo a great conflict in order to keep this knowledge and to increase in it, lest by the great occasion for stumbling which appears here it be drawn away from Christ; as he himself admonishes in Mt 11, 6: ”Blessed is he, whosoever shall find no occasion of stumbling in me.”

 

60. Here we are also to learn, as I have often said, that we must not judge of the kingdom of Christ and his church by the outward appearance and with the judgment of reason and human wisdom. For here you are told that this knowledge of the sheep belongs to Christ alone, and that it is as much hidden to reason under the greatest offense as he himself was when hanging on the cross.

 

61. Therefore, the presumption of the mad, proud, sanctimonious and unreasonable wiseacres is to be rebuked, who with their arrogant judgment are already to secure and condemn Christians who possess the teaching of the Gospel and faith in purity, when they detect in these any weakness or fault. In their minds they picture a church which has only perfect, heavenly saints, without any fault, defect or offense - a manifestly impossible thing in this life. For even if the devil be not always busy sowing his seed in the true church through his sects and false saints, there are many Christians who are still weak in faith and show many infirmities in life; yea, even the greatest saints, who are pure in faith and irreproachable in life, find and feel in themselves many a weakness and remaining sinful inclination, and find cause enough for grief and conflict in overcoming this offense in themselves.

 

62. Particularly they who fill the office of the church as preachers and pastors, are to learn here how they ought to conduct themselves toward the weak and erring, so that they may learn to know them as Christ knows us. That is to say, they ought not to be harsh and rude towards them, forcing and scolding them, or condemning them if everything is not always just right; but they ought to deal gently and tenderly with them and bear their weaknesses until they grow stronger. Wherefore, the prophet Ezekiel also rebukes the priests and those to whom God committed the office of shepherd, because they ruled over the sheep harshly and rigorously, and did not nurture the weak, nor heal the sick, nor bind up the wounded, nor restore the erring, nor seek the lost, and says (Ezk 34, 15-16): ”I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep. I will seek that which was lost, and will bring back that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick” etc. Hereby he shows that God also has in his flock the weak, the wounded, the erring, aye, even the lost. Still he recognizes these as his sheep, and will not have them rejected, but nurtured, bound up, healed and restored. And because they, wishing to rule strictly and rigorously, according to the government of Moses and by enforcement of the Law, failed to do this, he gives the promise of the kingdom of Christ, in which he will himself rule and feed his sheep, by the Gospel, through the true shepherd, Christ:

 

”And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and they shall become one flock, one shepherd.”

63. Concerning these words we said in the beginning that with them Christ bids farewell to the Jews with their synagogue, the people and priesthood, who adhere to Moses, and declares that, although they do not receive him and regard him as their shepherd, which he was ordained of God to be, even by the testimony of Moses, he would still find sheep, both among them and, because they are not willing, among others who are not called God's people nor know aught of Moses, that is, the gentiles. As he had also announced before through the prophets (Hos 2, 23): ”I will say to them that were not my people, Thou art my people.” And ”I will move them to jealousy with those that are not a people.” Deut 32, 21. These, says he, will I bring, not to hear Moses and you, but to hear my voice and so through my Word to become my sheep, even though they do not come hither nor receive circumcision and the government of Moses, nor even have me visibly and bodily present with them. In this way all shall be, in one word, faith and Spirit, one flock under Christ, the only shepherd, and shall be subject to nobody else. This work began at his ascension, and will be in course of fulfilment daily until the end of time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third Sunday after Easter;

1 Peter 2:11-20

 

OUR CHRISTIAN DUTIES.

 

1 Peter 2:11-20

Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

 

I. This epistle selection, too, is an admonition to good works, or the fruits of faith. It touches upon nearly every condition of life, teaching how each individual should live and conduct himself. But first, Peter admonishes Christians in general that in their intercourse with gentiles, or the unbelieving world, they give no real occasion for censure or reproach concerning their conduct. The admonition seems to hinge upon the fact that Christians, as the apostle reminds them in the first and second chapters, have been called to a lively, a never-dying, hope of an imperishable inheritance in heaven, and of eternal joy and salvation; that they are now redeemed, having obtained remission of sins through the precious blood of Christ; and again, that they are become a holy nation and royal priesthood, to show forth and magnify the grace of God, they who in time past were not God's people and had not obtained grace. ”But now,” Peter would say, ”you have obtained grace through the divine calling of Christ, through the suffering of your Lord. Live, then, as a holy people of God and citizens of heaven.”

 

2. We have already heard that in the Christian life are two essential principles, two principles upon which Christian teachers may lay emphasis. First, faith in the fact that through Christ's blood we are released from sin and have forgiveness; second, being forgiven, our natures are to be changed and we are to walk in newness of life. In baptism, when we first believe, we obtain not only remission of sins whereby we are of grace made children of God, but also the power to purge out, to mortify, the remaining sins. Our transgressions are not forgiven, Paul says (Rom 6, 1), with the privilege of continuing in them, as the insolent rejecters of grace imagine. It is this way: Our sins being blotted out through the blood of Christ, we need not to make remuneration or render satisfaction for them; we are children of grace and enjoy forgiveness. Nevertheless, inherent sin is not entirely purged out, or mortified.

 

REMISSION AND MORTIFICATION DEFINED.

3. There is difference between remission of sins and mortification of them. The distinction should be made clear for the sake of combating those who confound and pervert the two principles by their false doctrines. In regard to remission, the Pope and many others have taught that forgiveness of sins is obtained through the foolishness of men's own self-elected works, the satisfactions of their own devising. This error has ever prevailed in the world. Cain was the first to make it, and it will continue to the end. And where this error is refuted, false teachers are found who, on the other hand, accept and boast of the doctrine of grace without enjoying its happy results. They proceed as if mere forgiveness were enough, and without further effect than averting punishment; as if it leaves us where we were before, not ameliorating in any wise our moral condition; and as if no more is to be known about Christ and the Gospel. Therefore, they who claim to be Christians must learn that, having obtained forgiveness without merit on their part, they should henceforth give no place to sins, but rather resist their former evil lusts and avoid and flee from the fruits and works thereof. Such is the substance of this lesson.

 

4. But note from the apostle's words how his view has changed since the time when, as a fisherman of Bethsaida, he went about with the Lord previous to the Lord's death and resurrection. At that time Peter and the other apostles, in fact the entire Jewish nation, had no other conception of Christ's kingdom - or the kingdom of God - than as an earthly one wherein they should know only happiness, figuring as wealthy farmers, citizens, noblemen, counts and lords. The sum of the world's goods should be theirs, and all the gentiles their vassals. They were to be thenceforth undisturbed by enemies, wars, famine or misfortune, and to enjoy the extremity of peace, leisure and happiness under their supreme King, the Messiah. Such were their hopes, even their expectations. With these pleasing fancies were their minds filled. And just so today are the Jews full and drunken with their visionary dreams.

 

THE NATURE OF CHRIST'S KINGDOM.

5. Observe here, however, Peter teaches that the lot of the sharer in Christ's kingdom is quite the reverse of what he once imagined. ”0 beloved Christians,” he would say, ”who are called and baptized into the royal and priestly kingdom of Christ, I have now to tell you things quite different from the ideas and dreams you and I used to entertain. We are, it is true, citizens, counts and lords in the kingdom where Christ reigns supreme over all earthly kings and lords, and where is only eternal riches, peace and happiness in every form; but the life of that kingdom is unlike that of earthly kings and dominions. You are not, be it known, lords and noblemen in a worldly sense; neither is Christ a king as the world regards kingliness, and the kingdom of the world is not in harmony with his. Know, then, you must regard yourselves strangers and pilgrims in the kingdom of the world. ”Therefore, I admonish you that, having now become Christians - brothers in the eternal heavenly kingdom - your manner of life should be such as becomes them who are no longer of a worldly kingdom. Regard this earthly life only as the traveler or pilgrim regards the country wherein he journeys, the inn where he procures a night's lodging. He does not expect to remain in the city, to be mayor or even a citizen. He finds there his food, but his thoughts are cast beyond its gates, to the place where home is. So, Peter says, must you look upon your earthly course. You did not become Christians with the prospect of reigning here on earth, as the Jews fancy they shall reign and be established. The dwelling-place, the citizenship and the authority of Christians are to be found in another direction, not in this world. Therefore, think of yourselves as pilgrims on earth, directing your attention toward other possessions and another country, wherein you shall be lords forever, and where no discord nor misfortune such as you must endure in this earthly harbor shall ever enter.”

 

CHRISTIAN USE OF THIS LIFE.

6. But how is indifference to this life to be accomplished? Peter goes on to say: ”Be subject to every ordinance of man . . . whether to the king . . . or unto governors”; again, ”Servants, be in subjection to your masters . . . also to the froward.” How is it consistent with royal citizenship in a celestial country to be a pilgrim on earth? How can we live here with wives and children, houses and lands, and being citizens under a temporal government, and yet not be at home? There is a distinction here which, as before said, was at first difficult for the beloved apostles themselves to understand. But to Christians, especially those of today, it should be clear. Christ and the apostles do not, in this teaching, design the rejection of external government and human authority - what Peter here terms ordinances of men. No, they permit these to remain as they are; moreover, they enjoin us to submit to and make use of them.

 

7. This is the difference to be kept in mind: We are to conduct ourselves in our earthly stations and occupations as not regarding this life our true kingdom and best good. And we are not to think the life beyond holds nothing more nor better than what we possess here, as do the Jews and the Turks. Although they believe in the resurrection of the dead, they carnally imagine the future life will be like the present except for its perfect peace and happiness, its freedom from misfortune, persecution and all ills. It is the prerogative of the Pope and his holy epicures to believe nothing in any respect. Every Christian, be he lord or servant, prince or subject, should conduct himself as befits his station, using in trust whatever God has given him - dominion and subjects, house and home, wife and children, money and property, meat and drink. He is to regard himself solely as a guest of earth, as one eating his morsel of bread or taking his lunch in an inn; he must conduct himself in this earthly harbor as a pious guest. Thus may he actually be a king reigning with fidelity, or a lord faithful to his office, and at the same time declare: ”I count nothing on this life. I do not expect to remain here. This is but a strange country to me. True, I am seated in the uppermost place at table in this inn; but the occupant of the lowest seat has just as much as I, here or yonder. For we are alike guests. But he who assigned my duty, whose command I execute, gave me orders to conduct myself piously and honorably in this inn, as becomes a guest.”

 

8. So should Christians in all stations of life - lords and ladies, servants and maids - conduct themselves as guests of earth. Let them, in that capacity, eat and drink, make use of clothing and shoes, houses and lands, as long as God wills, yet be prepared to take up their journey when these things pass, and to move on out of life as the guest moves on out of the house or the city which is not his home. Let them conduct themselves as does the guest, with civility toward those with whom they come in contact, not infringing on the rights of any. For a visitor may not unrestrainedly follow his own pleasure and inclinations in the house of a stranger. The saying is: ”If you would be a guest, you must behave civilly; otherwise you may promptly be shown the door or the dungeon.”

 

9. Christians should be aware of their citizenship in a better country, that they may rightly adapt themselves to this world. Let them not occupy the present life as if in tending to remain in it; nor as do the monks, who flee responsibility, avoiding civil office and trying to run out of the world. For Peter says rather that we are not to escape our fellows and live each for himself, but to remain in our several conditions in life, united with other mortals as God has bound us, and serving one another. At the same time, we are to regard this life as a journey through a country where we have no citizenship - where we are not at home; to think of ourselves as travelers or pilgrims occupying for a night the same inn, eating and drinking there and then leaving the place.

 

10. Let not the occupants of the humbler stations - servants and subjects - grumble: ”Why should I vex myself with unpleasant household tasks, with farm work or heavy labor? This life is not my home anyway, and I may as well have it better. Therefore, I will abandon my station and enjoy myself; the monks and priests have, in their stations, withdrawn themselves from the world and yet drunk deeply, satisfying fleshly lusts.” No, this is not the right way. If you are unwilling to put up with your lot, as the guest in a tavern and among strangers must do, you also may not eat and drink. Similarly, they who are favored with loftier positions in life may not, upon this authority, abandon themselves to the idea of living in the sheer idleness and lustful pleasure their more favored station permits, as if they were to be here always. Let them reason thus: ”This life, it is true, is transitory - a voyage, a pilgrimage, leading to our actual fatherland. But since it is God's will that everyone should serve his fellows here in his respective station, in the office committed to him, we will do whatever is enjoined upon us. We will serve our subjects, our neighbors, our wives and children so long as we can; we would not relax our service even if we knew we had to depart this very hour and leave all earthly things. For, God be praised, had we to die now we would know where we belong, where our home is. While we are here, however, on the way, it is ours to fulfill the obligations of our earthly citizenship. Therefore, we will live with our fellows in obedience to the law of our abidingplace, even unto the hour wherein we must cross the threshold outward, that we may depart in honor, leaving no occasion for complaint.

 

11. Thus, mark you, should every Christian conduct himself here on earth, according to Peter. In the first place, he should know where is his real home, his fatherland. We learn this through faith in Christ, whereby we become children of God, heirs of eternal life, citizens of heaven. Accordingly, we sing: ”Now we pray thee, Holy Spirit, for true faith,” etc., when we depart home from this wretchedness. This sentiment accords beautifully with the text here where Peter calls us ”sojourners and pilgrims” - wayfarers in earthly wretchedness, desiring home and casting our thoughts beyond the gates of our sojourning-place. Second, though we must suffer this wretched condition in a foreign land, we are under obligation to render every honor to the host and to respect the inn, making the best of whatever may befall us.

 

12. The prophet Jeremiah found it necessary to give admonition of this sort to his wretched Jewish countrymen in Babylon who longed unspeakably to be home again and almost despaired because of having so long to suffer misery among strangers when many of their brethren were at home. Other prophets had encouraged them with the promise of soon being returned. Consequently many of them ceased to till the land and neglected to provide for a livelihood. To these Jeremiah writes (ch. 29, 10): ”Ye must have patience, for ye are not so soon to return - not till seventy years be accomplished.” Meanwhile, though in wretchedness and captivity, they were to do as he bids in verses 5-7: ”Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them. Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters: and multiply ye there, and be not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray unto Jehovah for it; for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.” That there in their misery they should build houses and make themselves citizens of Babylon, should marry and rear children - yes, give their children in marriage - as if they were to remain there permanently - this injunction of the prophet was altogether disagreeable and annoying to them. And still more offensive was the command to pray for the city and kingdom wherein they were captives. Much rather would they have prayed for liberation; for, influenced by the other prophets, they hoped to return home the following year.

 

13. Now, how was it with them? The godly, faithful ones had reason to hope and trust in release and a return to their own kingdom. Surely there was no pleasure, no joy, for them in their present miserable condition, as in Psalm 137 they testify and complain by the rivers of Babylon. There they cried and wept and had not an hour of enjoyment when they thought of home. The long seventy years their hearts continually stood at the gate ready to depart, so that they had no inclination whatever to build houses, to cultivate farms, to make gardens, to take wives and rear children. Nevertheless, the prophet bids them meet all the requirements of citizens of that country; and more than that, to pray for their hosts in the same spirit in which they would pray for their neighbors and fellow-citizens, asking God for peace and prosperity upon the city.

 

CHRISTIANS SUBJECTS OF TWO KINGDOMS.

14. So, too, Christians are subjects of two kingdoms - they have experience of two kinds of life. Here on earth where the world has its home and its heavenly kingdom, we surely are not citizens. According to Paul (Phil 3, 20), ”our conversation” - our citizenship - ”is with Christ in heaven”; that is, in yonder life, the life we await. As the Jews hoped to be released from Babylon, we hope to be released from this present life and to go where we shall be lordly citizens forever. But being obliged to continue in this wretched state - our Babylon - so long as God wills, we should do as the Jews were commanded to do - mingle with other mortals, eat and drink, make homes, till the soil, fill civil offices and show good will toward our fellows, even praying for them, until the hour arrives for us to depart unto our home.

 

15. He who is guided by these facts, who comprehends the distinction between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of the world, will know how to resist successfully all classes of fanatics. For these latter paint this life in a terrible aspect. They want to run out of the world entirely, and are unwilling to associate with anyone; or they proceed to disturb civil regulations and to overthrow all order; or again, as with the Pope, they interfere in secular rule, desiring temporal authority, wholly under the name and color of Christianity. Having as Christians forgiveness of sins, and being now people of God, children of his kingdom, citizens no longer of Babylon but of heaven, let us know that during the period of our sojourn here among strangers, it is ours to live righteously, honorably and chastely, to further civil and domestic peace and to lend counsel and aid to benefit even the wicked and ungrateful, meanwhile constantly striving after our inheritance and keeping in mind the kingdom whither we are bound.

 

16. In short, a Christian must be one who, as Paul says (I Cor 7, 29-31), uses this world as not abusing it, who buys and possesses as though he possessed not, who has wife and children as though he had them not and who builds as though not building. How is it possible to reconcile these seeming inconsistencies? By making the Christian faith distinct from the faith of the Jews and Turks - yes, of the Papists even: by accepting the fact that the Christian's attitude toward this earthly life is the attitude of the guest; that in such capacity is he to build, to buy, to have dealings and hold intercourse with his fellows, to join them in all temporal affairs - a guest who respects his host's wishes, the laws of the realm and of the city and the customs of the inn, but at the same time the Christian refrains from attesting his satisfaction with this life as if he intended to remain here and hoped for nothing better. Thus will the Christian pass through every temporal event in the right way - having every possession as though not having it, using and yet not cleaving to it; not so occupied with the temporal as to lose the eternal, but leaving behind - forgetting - the former while striving after the latter as the goal set before him.

 

17. Therefore, they who presume to run out of the world by going into the desert or the wilderness; who, unwilling to occupy the inn but finding it indispensable nevertheless, must become their own hosts - these are great and unreasonable fools. Surely they must eat and drink and have clothing and shelter. With these things they cannot dispense, even if they can withdraw from all society. Nor is their action forsaking and fleeing the world, as they imagine it to be. Whatever your station and condition, whatever your occupation in life, of necessity you must be somewhere on earth while mortal life is yours. Nor has God separated you from men; he has placed you in society. Each individual is created and born for the sake of other individuals. But observe, wherever you are and whatever your station, you are, I say, to flee the world.

 

HOW TO ESCAPE THE WORLD.

18. But how are we to flee the world? Not by donning caps and creeping into a corner or going into the wilderness. You cannot so escape the devil and sin. Satan will as easily find you in the wilderness in a gray cap as he will in the market in a red coat. It is the heart which must flee, and that by keeping itself ”unspotted from the world,” as James 1, 27 says. In other words, you must not cling to temporal things, but be guided by the doctrine of faith in Christ, and await the eternal, heavenly inheritance; and in that faith and that hope are you to execute the trust and work committed to you here, declaring the while: ”That which I do here is not the chief good, the thing of real value, for which I live; though such is the case with the world, the Jews, the Turks and the Papists. I hold this temporal life as a tavern, valuing it no more than the guest values the inn where he enjoys food and lodging, while heart and mind turn ever to his own home.” What tolerance would there be for one foolish enough to declare: ”I will not eat nor drink here. I will behave peculiarly, smashing windows and turning things upside down, for this is not my abiding-place”? For the very purpose of advancing himself on his journey, the traveler should make use of the inn, accepting whatever is offered.

 

19. Likewise should Christians use the world, constantly casting their thoughts beyond this life, notwithstanding they have here house and home, wife and children. These are for the present life only, yet the Christian owes them due consideration, the while he asserts: ”Today we are here, tomorrow elsewhere. Now we avail ourselves of this inn, the next day of another. We do not expect to remain here.” Relative to this subject, Peter in his beautiful Pentecostal sermon says concerning David, who nevertheless was a holy king, that he did not ascend into the heavens, but, having fulfilled the will of God, fell asleep. Peter, so far from being willing to disparage David's office and rule, to criticise him therein for wrong-doing, rather magnifies it in glowing terms. David was a king, and cast not aside his crown; no, he retained his royal glory. He held his office as a God-intrusted one, in the execution whereof he served God. Similarly should the righteous ruler do - in fact, all men in their respective offices and stations. Let them remember they are not placed where they are to choose their own pleasure, but solely for the service of God. Such is their duty so long as they are here - transients, like the stranger at the inn with other guests, who conducts himself with respect to the needs and the pleasure of his fellows, doing as they do, and in case of danger and necessity uniting with them in the effort to help and protect.

 

20. King David did not regard his kingdom and his God-bestowed blessings as his real glory, but as his office, his opportunities for service in this earthly pilgrimage. In it all he remains a guest, expecting to leave this tarrying - place for a certain abode. Hence he says (Ps 39, 12): ”I am a stranger with thee, a sojourner, as all my fathers were.” How is that? Has a king of David's glorious rank occasion to speak thus? Is he a guest who occupies a royal throne, who is lord of landed estate and of more than twelve hundred thousand people according to his own calculation? This is David's meaning: In his kingdom he serves God as a transient here on earth, and set apart by God for that purpose; but at the same time as a citizen of God's kingdom in another life, another existence, which he regards more glorious than earthly glory, and as affording something better than a temporal crown.

 

REASONS TO ABSTAIN FROM CARNAL LUST.

21. Such is Peter's teaching. He admonishes Christians to Christ-like lives and works in view of the fact that they are called to great glory, having become through Christ a royal priesthood, a people of God and citizens of heaven. He would have them occupy this temporal world as guests, striving after another and eternal kingdom; that is, to abstain from all carnal lusts and maintain a blameless walk, a life of good works. The apostle assigns two reasons for such self-denial: First, that we may not, through carnal, lustful habits, lose the spiritual and eternal; second, that God's name and the glory we have in Christ may not be slandered among our heathen adversaries, but rather, because of our good works, honored. These are the chief reasons for doing good works. They ought most forcibly to urge us to the performance of our duties.

 

22. Peter admonishes, first, to ”abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” He implies that if we do not resist carnal inclinations, but rather follow them, we shall lose our priceless eternal inheritance. To be a stranger on earth, striving after another and better life, is inconsistent with living in fleshly lusts as if one's sole intent was to remain in the world forever. If you would have the things of one life, Peter says, you must forsake the things of the other. If you forget your fatherland and lie drunken with this carnal life, as does the heathen world in living in unbelief and without hope of eternal life, you will never reach yonder existence; for so you reject it. It is necessary to strive if we are to withstand the lusts of the flesh; for these, Peter says, war against the soul - against faith and the good conscience in man. If lust triumphs, our hold on the Spirit and on faith is lost. Now, if you would not be defeated, you must valiantly contend against carnal inclinations, being careful to overcome them and to maintain your spiritual, eternal good. In this instance, our own welfare demands the conquest.

 

23. In the second place, God's honor calls for it. God's honor here on earth is affected by our manner of life. We are to avoid giving occasion for our enemies to open their mouths in calumniation of God's name and his Word. Rather must we magnify the name of God by our confession and general conduct, and thus win others, who shall with us confess and honor him. Christ commands (Mt 5, 16): ”Even so let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

 

24. Peter proceeds to enumerate certain good works appropriate to Christians in all stations of life, particularly those Christians under authority, or in a state of servitude - men-servants and maid-servants. In the apostle's day, Christians had to submit to heathen authority - to serve unbelieving masters. Peter admonishes Christians to glorify God by their conduct, patiently bearing the violence and injustice offered, and forbearing to return evil; as we heard in the epistle lesson for the preceding Sunday which follows today's text. But to take up all the good works Peter enumerates here would require too much time at present.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third Sunday after Easter;

John 16:16-23

 

This sermon was preached in 1542 and published in the same year in two pamphlet editions, under the title: ”A sermon for Jubilate Sunday, preached before the Elector of Saxony and the Landgrave of Hesse, by Dr. Martin Luther, Wittenberg, 1542.”

 

 

I. CHRIST'S PASSION AND RESURRECTION

 

 

John 16:16-23

A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father. Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father? They said therefore, What is this that he saith, A little while? we cannot tell what he saith. Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me? Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.

 

1. This Gospel contains, and likewise pictures for us, the high and excellent work God accomplished when Christ, his only Son, died and rose again from the dead for us. Much has been said on this theme and there is much more to say. As for myself, I find that the more I study it, the less I master it. But since it is God's will that we think of him, praise his work and grace, and thank him for the same, it is proper that we speak and hear all we can about them.

 

2. The Lord addresses his disciples here in dark and veiled words, which they do not understand; chiefly, no doubt, because he wishes thus to admonish them and thoroughly impress these words, so seldom heard, upon them, that they may not forget. A deeper impression is made upon one by words that are seldom used than by the forms of speech in general use.

 

3. The result was that the disciples even repeated the words twice and asked one another what they must mean. Christ likewise repeated them, and no less than four times. Still they remained dark and unintelligible words to them until later he revealed their meaning, when he rose from the dead and bestowed upon the disciples the Holy Spirit. Then they clearly understood his words. So we now understand them, to the extent that we hear and read them; but that they should be understood to their depth, that will not be in this life. But as I said, the longer and the more one learns from them, the less one can, and the more one must, learn.

 

4. For the Word of God is a different government, and the Holy Scriptures a different book, from the discourses and writings of man. St. Gregory spoke truly when he uttered the fine proverb: The Scriptures are a river in which a large elephant must swim and across which a little lamb can wade on foot. For the Scriptures speak clearly and plainly enough to the common people, but to the wise and very learned they are unattainable. As St. Paul confesses concerning himself in Phil 3, 15.

 

5. And St. Peter says in I Pet 1, 12 that such things were announced and written in the Scriptures that even the angels have their satisfaction and enough to occupy them, in the great work that Christ, God's Son, became man, suffered death on the cross, but rose again and sits now at the right hand of the Father, Lord over all, even according to his human nature, and governs and preserves his church against Satan's wrath and all the power of the world. We have, it is true, the words treating of this, but the angels see and understand it and therein have their eternal joy. And as they in eternity cannot behold it enough, much less can we understand it, for it is a work that is eternal, inexpressible, unmeasurable and inexhaustible.

 

6. This is said de cognitione objectiva; that is, as one sees it at a glance, as the angels view it, and as we will see it in the life beyond. But in this life we must have a different understanding of it, a practical knowledge (cognitio practica), that we may learn to confess what the power of this work is and what it can do. This is done by faith, which must cease in the next life, where we also shall know it by a full vision of it.

 

II. THE COMFORT CHRIST MINISTERS TO HIS DISCIPLES IN THEIR SORROW, AND THE JOY OF THE WORLD.

A. The Sorrow Of The Disciples And The joy Of The World.

7. We must learn here now what it is that the Lord says: ”A little while, and ye behold me not; and again a little while and ye shall see me,” etc. This passage is fraught with as much meaning as that other: ”Ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice,” etc. ”But your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” A rare saying: A little while not see and be sorrowful, and yet a little while again see and be joyful.

 

8. According to the letter and history, it is indeed easy to understand what these words mean, especially in our day. In the confession of our faith even the children say: ”I believe in Jesus Christ,” etc; ”was crucified, dead and buried; the third day he rose again from the dead.” These are the two ”little whiles,” of which Christ here speaks. But since there is deception where we also seek, and taste it, and we should try to bring it into life or experience, the words have a wonderful depth of meaning - that we should lose Christ, whom we believe to be God's Son, who died and rose for us, etc; that he should die in us, as the apostles experienced until the third day. A terrible crucifixion and death begin when Christ dies in us and we also in him. As he here says: Ye shall not see me, for I am to depart from you. That is, I die, hence ye also will die, in that ye will not see me; and thus I will be dead to you and you will be dead to me. This is a special, deep and severe sorrow.

 

9. As there are many kinds of joy, so there are many kinds of sorrow. As, for example, when one is robbed of his money and property, or is reviled and disgraced when innocent, or loses father and mother, child and dear friends, etc; likewise, when Satan afflicts and martyrs one's soul with sad thoughts, as Satan so easily can, though one knows not why or whence. But the really great sorrow above all sorrow is for the heart to lose Christ, so that he is no longer in view and there is no hope of further comfort from him. There are few who are so sorely tried. Surely not all even of his disciples experienced this. Perhaps not St. Thomas, St. Andrew, St. Bartholomew, and others, who were such good, common and plain people. But the other tender hearts, St. Peter, St. John, St. Philip and others, to whom these words applied, as they all had heard that they would lose Christ and never see him again.

 

10. Christ here also addresses, more than others, persons who truly believe and experience that Christ died and afterwards rose again; and it is to them a little while, in a common, small and childish sense, and only a bodily sorrow. But the disciples had to keenly feel and experience what it is to lose Christ out of view, not only to have him taken away bodily, but also spiritually, leaving them in a twofold misery and sorrow. For they had had not only the joy of his bodily presence, in that he was so long with them, cared for them, ate and drank with them, and passed through loving, sweet customs and fellowship, but he had associated so affectionately with them and had borne their weaknesses, yea, companioned with them more intimately and lovingly than a father does with his children. He often gave them remarkable liberties and even animated them by innocent trivialities. Therefore, they were pained to lose such a companionable Lord,

 

11. But the chief cause of their sorrow lay in the fact that they had set their hearts on his becoming a mighty lord and king and founding a government by which he would make them, along with himself, lords. They thought he would never suffer them to die. Such was hitherto their hearts' joy and confidence in this Saviour.

 

12. Now, however, they lose both utterly and at one time, not only the friendly companionship of the Lord, but also this beautiful, glorious confidence, and they suddenly fall into the abyss of hell and eternal sorrow, Their Lord is most shamefully put to death, and they must now expect every moment, because of him, to be seized in like manner. They must now sing this song of mourning: Alas, how our confidence is now totally lost! We hoped to become great lords through this man and possess every joy we desired. Now he lies in the grave and we are fallen into the hands of Caiaphas and Judas, and there are no more miserable and unhappy people on the earth than we.

 

13. Notice, this is the true sorrow and heart agony, of which Christ here is really speaking, into which God does not lead everyone, nor anyone so readily; for here he offers comfort against it, as he shows in this Gospel. Other bodily suffering and need may be considered sorrow, as, when one suffers persecution, imprisonment and misery for Christ's sake, and loses his property, honor and even his life. But the greatest of all sorrows is to lose Christ. Then all comfort is gone and all joy is at an end and neither heaven nor sun and moon, neither angel nor any other creature, can help you; nay not even God himself. For besides this Saviour, Christ, there is none in heaven nor on earth. Now, when he has departed, all salvation and comfort are gone, and Satan has gained an opportunity to plague and terrify the troubled soul. This he desires to do in the name and person of God, as he can then play the part of a lord.

 

14. On the other hand, the highest of all joy is that which the heart has in Christ, our Saviour. That is, indeed, also called joy, when one rejoices over the possession of great fortune, money and property, power, honor, etc.; but all this is but the joy of a child or of a maniac. There is also the infamous joy of Satan which even rejoices over the injury and misfortune of others, of which Christ here also says: The world will rejoice, and laugh in its sleeve over your crying and weeping when they put me to death and cause you every misfortune. There are also many like these in worldly affairs, who can never be happy unless they have brought misfortune to their neighbor or have seen him meet it. They are like the poisonous reptile, the Salamander, which (as the fable runs) is so cold that it can live in fire or can exist out of fire. So these people live and grow fat on the misfortunes of other people. The nice, envious person who is sad when another prospers, and would gladly have one eye less if thereby his neighbor had none, is the product of Satan.

 

15. But all this is still nothing compared with the joy the world, ruled by Satan, has in opposing Christ and his followers. It rejoices the most over the great misfortune of his followers in that Christ is crucified, all the apostles are banished, the church is completely destroyed, God's Word is silenced and his name totally blotted out. This is spiritual joy just as truly as the severe sorrow is spiritual. However, it is not from the Holy Spirit, but from those who belong, body and soul, to Satan, and still are called the wisest, the most learned and the holiest persons upon the earth. They are like the high priests, Pharisees and scribes, who have no peace and know no joy so long as they hear the name of Christ mentioned and know that his Word is preached, or see one of his disciples still alive. As they say, in the Wisdom of Solomon 2.15: ”He is grievous unto us even to hear or to behold,” and while Christ hangs on the cross, they blaspheme and revile in great joy thus: ”If thou art the Son of God, and the King of Israel, come down from the cross; he trusteth on God, let him deliver him now,” etc. Mt 27,40-43. See how their hearts leap with joy, what a paradise and kingdom of heaven they have in seeing the dear Lord reviled on the cross and put to death; and that they themselves did it, is to them nothing but sugar and sweet grapes.

 

16. Observe, Christ here gives such joy to the world, and on the other hand severe sorrow to his disciples in that they must see, hear and suffer this. It must penetrate through their hearts, through their bodies and lives. And he truly pictures the world here to be as terrible and horrible as a child of Satan that has no greater joy than to see Christ defeated and his followers shamefully condemned and lost.

 

17. We see almost this condition now in our clever noblemen, the pope, the bishops and their rabble; how they maliciously rejoice and shout when they discover it goes a little ill with us, and how anxious they are that it under no circumstances remains concealed. It must be trumpeted forth until it reaches the abyss of hell. Dear God, what have we done to them? They still have their property and money, power and luxury, while we have hardly our daily bread. It is not enough that they are superior to us in everything they crave, while we are in other ways harassed and afflicted but they must besides be such bitter enemies to us that they do not wish us God's grace but would have us burned in the lowest fires of perdition!

 

18. It is always a horrible sight, and the true fruit of the infernal spirit, that people cannot rejoice so highly over the good nor over worldly or human joy. Yea, no gold nor silver they love so intensely, no stringed instrument sounds so sweet to them, no drink tastes so good as to yield them the joy they feel when they see the fall and grief of pious Christians. They are so inflamed by hatred and a desire of revenge that they enjoy no really happy moment until they are able to sing: Praise be to God, the villains are at last out of the way! We have now rooted the Gospel out of the country. They have no rest and taste no joy before they have brought this about. Heretofore they have sought and partly accomplished this by many prompt intrigues, tricks and ill offices, and God allowed some to have for a short time a little joy, which individuals contrived and arranged. But they by no means tooled their anger in this way, as they had desired to do.

 

B. The Comfort Christ Ministers To His Disciples.

19. Hence, Christ wishes to say here: You have now heard both what kind of joy the world will have, and what kind of sorrow will be yours. Therefore, learn it and cleave to it when you meet and experience it, so that you may have patience and lay hold of true comfort in the midst of such suffering. I must try you thus and let you taste what it means to lose me and for me to die in your hearts, in order that you may learn to understand this mystery and secret; for you will otherwise not study me. It will be too great for you to serve your time of apprenticeship in this exalted work, that God's Son returns to the Father, that is, that he dies and rises again for you, to bring you to heaven. And if I do not allow you to be tried for a time, you will remain too imprudent and finally be incapable of doing right.

 

20. Therefore, he says, you must adapt and resign yourself to this, so as to experience what this ”little while” means, and yet not despair and be wrecked therein. And therefore I tell you before, that it must be so. You have to pass through such sorrow inwardly and outwardly, that is, both in body and soul; but when it takes place and the hour comes that you have nothing to comfort you, and you have lost both me and God, then hold fast still to my Word that I now speak to you. It is only a matter of a little while. Now, if you can learn this saying, and retain these small words, ”a little while,” and ”again a little while,” there will be no trouble.

 

21. True, the first ”little while” that you now see me and still have me with you, until I depart from you - that you can suffer and pass through. But the other ”little while,” until you shall see me again - that will be an especially long and hard time for you. For it is the hour of true sorrow, when I will be to you dead, with all the joy, comfort and assurance you had from me, and you yourselves will be totally lost. However, my dear little children, only think of these words and forget not entirely what I now say to you. It shall not be so forever. A little while I shall be lost and not be seen. This you must now learn by experience. But only retain this much, that I called it ”a little while,” and in my eyes it is only a little, short hour, although in your hearts and feelings it is not a little but a long while; yea, an eternally long while and a long eternal while. According to your feelings you will not be able to think differently, for when I am taken from you, you have lost all, since I am the eternal good and the eternal consolation. When that is gone, there is no longer a little while, nothing but the eternal; namely, eternal sorrow and death.

 

22. Notice, Christ preaches here for the comfort of his disciples and of all Christians when tempted thus by God, whether it takes place inwardly or outwardly, bodily or spiritually, especially in the highest form, which is called losing Christ out of the heart; that they may learn this passage, and retain this drop of the lavender water, by which to refresh and strengthen their hearts. Christ, my Lord, has surely said it shall be only a little while. Although I now lose him and know of no joy whatever, but lie prostrate and languish in pure sorrow, yet I will use that drop and cling to the cordial that he shall not continue to be lost to me. He says that it shall be only a little, short season, although it appears to me indeed to be great, long, and eternal. He will come again, as he here and in John 14, 18 says: ”I will not leave you orphans; I come unto you,” etc. And thus we shall possess in him eternal comfort and joy instead of this little season of sorrow.

 

23. On the other hand, Christ says further that you must endure it that the world rejoices over your suffering and sorrow, for which it has no reason except that of pure satanic jealousy, by which it is so completely blinded. embittered and exasperated that no joy relieves it until its jealousy sees you stumble and become ruined. This is its heart's delight and pleasure and it esteems it a heavenly, eternal joy. Then it says: Let us now see whether God will save him; is he the Son of God, then let him come down from the cross, etc. Mk 15, 31-32. As if they should say: He is now out of the way, and we are done with him forever.

 

24. But notice what further follows. Just as you, he says, shall not be robbed of a view of me forever, nor remain in your sorrow, so they shall not rejoice over your misfortune forever; but it shall be for them also only a short season, and be, as they say, a dance at high mass. For I will soon come to you again and make it worse and more bitter for them than it has ever been before. This was fulfilled in them after Christ's resurrection, so that the Jews have no severer suffering than that they must hear and see Christ, our Lord. Although it pleases them a little that they slander Christ and his mother Mary and us Christians in the most ignominious manner, yet true joy they can never possess as they desire. And they continually hope that their Messiah will come and uproot all Christians.

 

25. Thus, also, our Caiaphas and Judas, the pope, with all his factions, who continually console themselves with the hope that we shall yet be uprooted cannot be happy while we live and the Gospel spreads. Nothing that causes man to rejoice has any effect upon them. Some are so angry that they cannot cease their raging and roaring until we all are dead. When that takes place they will be once happy, but the joy for which they long shall never be theirs. For, although we are dead, the Gospel will still remain and others will take our places, and that will be to them a new heart agony.

 

26. The Turk likewise imagines he will exterminate Christ and enthrone his Mohammed in all the world, and he rejoices whenever there is any hope of doing so; but this joy he craves he shall never experience. Our Lord, whom the Turk himself highly exalts and must esteem as a great prophet, shall restrain him; yea, finally season his joy and make it bitter enough through the exalted work of his death and resurrection, by which he tramples under foot sin, death and Satan. The victory which God accomplished through Christ was long before announced in the Scriptures, whereupon the beloved prophets and fathers died in this joy, as Christ says of Abraham in John 8, 56.

 

27. Since Abraham received such joy before it had yet transpired, but was only in word and promise, how much more can and will he receive it in the future after it has transpired and is proclaimed in the earth and even in heaven by the angels! Neither pope nor Turk can smother and extinguish it. They may indeed try to smother it, and fancy they have a bite of sugar when they do Christendom a little harm; but they shall never obtain the joy they hope for and for which they thirst.

 

28. They may rejoice for a season, Christ says, but not longer than while you are in sorrow. That joy is particularly short, as your sorrow is short and lasts only a little while, and shall soon be turned into joy that no one will take from you. Without doubt that joy will, on the other hand, be also turned into sorrow that will never end.

 

29. Here upon the earth, however, you will not be able to have enough joy, nor will it be of the true, perfect quality that will quench your thirst. Only a foretaste, an appetizing morsel or a refreshing sip. It is too great ever to be exhausted as also the work that develops this joy is far too great to be fathomed by our learning. God mingles and tempers things thus upon the earth so that those who should by right rejoice must experience great suffering and sorrow; and, on the other hand, those who should be sorrowful here are happy and have a good time, but still in a way that this outward joy works their ruin. For they cannot acquire the true inner joy they long for, therefore their outer joy will also be their destruction. Their wealth, power, honor, pleasure and high living by no means make them happy, and they cannot lay their heads down to rest until they see that Christ is dead and his disciples are banished from the earth. These are always poor, miserable people whom one may truly pity. They fare the worst in that they cannot have their temporal joy pure, as they desire, because of their jealousy and hatred; and we even are altogether too ready to take vengeance by doing them harm. What more misfortune can they have and what greater injury can they do themselves than that they themselves should spoil and annihilate their own joy?

 

30. We also have true sorrow, both outwardly and inwardly, when Christ conceals himself from us; not like them, moved by jealousy and hatred, but because we do not possess Christ, the chief good. For this, however, there is already mingled with the sorrow the sugar that Christ speaks. Beloved, only persevere a little. It shall not be eternal, but shortlived sorrow, and soon it will be better. It is only a matter of a little while.

 

31. These words I hear, but when sorrow comes, it is stamped so deeply in the heart that I do not feel this comfort, and I fancy that it is impossible for the sorrow to have an end. However, this comfort keeps me, so that I do not fall from Christ to the other party. Though I experience grief and need, still they keep me, so that the sorrow must not be thoroughly bitter. As in the case of the others, their joy is sweetened and sugared through and through, yet it is always spoiled by wormwood and gall, so in our case sorrow has within itself its sugar and honey.

 

32. Therefore, let us continue to hear Christ and learn to understand his language, that we judge not according to our feelings, as if comfort were lost forever and sorrow had no end. That you feel and think thus, he says, I know very well; but still listen to what I say to you and learn only this word modicum, a little while. Sorrow must also be felt, but it shall not harm you, besides it shall not last long. Even by this the sorrow is already sugar-coated and tempered. Later, when the ”little while” has passed and triumphed, then one feels what Christ says: ”Your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” Then the true joy of the heart commences and the soul sings an eternal Hallelujah, and Christ is Risen - a joy which will in the life beyond be perfect, without a defect and without an end.

 

33. Notice that the articles of our faith, both on the death and the resurrection of Christ, are thus set before us in this Gospel, and how the same must be put to practice by us, learned, and exercised in our deeds and our experiences, and not only heard with the ears and spoken with the mouth. Also, that we thus feel it, and such power works in us that both body and soul thereby become changed; that is, Christ dies in us and we also die in him. That is a great change, from life to death. However, then I must cleave firmly by faith to the words Christ says, ”A little while,” and not only hear, but also take to heart the truth that trial will not last forever, but there will be a change from death to life when Christ again rises and lives in me and I become alive in him. Then the words shall come true, ”I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no one taketh away from you,” etc. For this meeting every Christian should be prepared whenever he is called for it; for he must experience something of it either in life or at the hour of death; so that he will then be reminded of this saying of Christ and let nothing tear this comfort out of his heart. Amen.

 

34. Whatever is to be said further on this Gospel in a textual exposition of it you can read in the explanation of the three chapters of John, the discourses Christ spoke at the Last Supper to his disciples, where this and the Gospel for the following Sunday are treated at length.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fourth Sunday after Easter;

James 1:16-21

 

This sermon was printed first in the ”Two Sermons on Anger,” by Luther, Wittenberg, 1536.

 

James 1:16-21

Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

 

1. This lesson was addressed to all Christians. Particularly was it meant for the time when they had to endure from the unbelieving world persecutions severe and oft; as James indicates at the outset, where he says (verses 2-4): ”Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold temptations; knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience. And let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire.” Again (verse 12): ”Blessed is the man that endureth temptation.”

 

WHY MEN REJECT THE GOSPEL.

2. Two things there are which part men from the Gospel: one is angry impatience, and the other evil lust. Of these James speaks in this epistle. The former sin, he says, arises under persecution - when for the sake of Christ the Lord you must give up property and honor, and risk body and life; must be regarded as fools, as the drudges, yes, the footstool, of the world. Painful and intolerable to the point of discouragement and weariness is such a lot, particularly when it is apparent that your persecutors enjoy good fortune, having honor, power and wealth, while you suffer constantly. Peter, too, admonishes (I Pet 3, 10), upon authority of Psalm 34, 12-14: He who would be a Christian must be prepared to avoid evil and do good, to seek peace, to refrain his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile, and must commit himself to God. In the case of a great many people otherwise favorably disposed toward the Gospel, it is nothing but persecution which deters and repels them from it. They cannot endure the injuries and reproaches they must suffer for its sake. But for the precious holy cross which is laid upon Christians, and their inability to overcome indignation and impatience, the world would long ago have been crowded with Christians. But on account of trials men recoil, saying: ”Rather than endure these, I will remain with the majority; as it is with them, so be it with me.”

 

3. The second thing to which James refers is worldly lust ”filthiness,” as James terms it. This, too, is a prevailing evil, particularly with the common people. When they once hear the Gospel they are prone to think right away that they know all about it. They cease to heed it and drown in lust, pride and covetousness of the world, being concerned entirely with accumulating wealth and seeking pleasure.

 

4. That these two evils prevail is apparent to the eyes of all men today. We fear that we shall fare no better than the prophets and the apostles; these things are likely to continue. Nevertheless, we must unceasingly exert ourselves in behalf of ourselves and others to guard diligently against both these evils. Particularly must we not impatiently murmur and rage against God; we must also show meekness toward our fellowmen, to the end that wrath everywhere may be quelled and subdued, and only patience and meekness reign among Christians.

 

5. As I said before, such seems to be the trend of the whole text. The apostle gives a reason why we should be patient to the extent of not allowing ourselves to be vexed with them who injure us, especially ungrateful rejecters of the Word of God or persecutors of Christians. The reason he assigns is the debt of gratitude we owe: we are to remember the great good we receive from God in heaven - ”Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.”

 

OUR BLESSINGS OUTWEIGH OUR ILLS.

6. If you carefully balance our gifts and trials against each other and weigh them carefully, you will find the blessings conferred upon you so numerous and rich as far to outweigh the injuries and reproaches you must incur. Therefore, if you are assailed by the world, and are provoked to impatience by ingratitude, contempt and persecution, compare with your trials the blessings and consolations you have in Christ and his Gospel. You will soon find you have more reason to pity your enemies than you have to murmur and to rage against them.

 

7. Again, concerning them who live in worldly lusts - in ”filthiness,” as the apostle terms it: let not their conduct induce you to forsake the Gospel to be like them; for their portion is altogether paltry in comparison with your glorious blessings and divine riches. Take thought, then, and do not allow yourselves to be misled either by the wanton wickedness of the world, through the injury and pain it may inflict, or by the prosperity of the world's wealthy, who live riotously in all manner of voluptuousness. Look upon what you have from the Father in comparison - his divine blessings, his perfect gifts.

 

8. For the sake of distinction, we shall designate by ”good gifts” the blessings we enjoy here in this life; by ”perfect gifts” those awaiting us in the life to come. James implies this distinction when he says: ”Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures.” In the terms ”good gifts” and ”perfect gifts,” the apostle comprehends all our blessings, those we have already received in the present life and those to be ours in the life to come.

 

9. I will not now speak particularly of earthly, transient and changeable blessings, such as temporal goods, honor, a healthy body and others, but could we only compare our blessings with these and weigh our treasures and surpassing blessings, we should presently conclude that ours transcend in value a hundred thousand times anything the world possesses and boasts. Many individuals there are who would give thousands of dollars to have the sight of both eyes. So much do they prize the blessing of sight, they would willingly suffer a year's illness or endure other great inconveniences to obtain it. Less sensible would they be to such discomforts than to the deprivation of the thing they desire. Of physical blessings particularly, we shall not now speak, however, save to mention that they are never equaled by physical ills. Who can purchase or merit, even by enduring tenfold his present physical ills, the very least of God's gifts; as, for instance, the beholding of the light of the beautiful sun for a single day? And so long as mortal life itself remains, you have the greatest of blessings, one outweighing far all gold and silver and all the misfortunes you may endure.

 

OUR BLESSINGS IN CHRIST'S RESURRECTION.

But we shall speak now particularly of the blessings we have in Christ's resurrection, a subject appropriate to this Paschal season. The text says, Every good gift and every perfect gift cometh down from the Father of lights. For God has begun the work of edifying us, of building us up, and will constitute us his own children, his heirs. This work, James says, is wrought through the Gospel, or ”the word of truth,” as he terms it.

 

10. But what does the resurrection advantage us? It has already brought us this gain: our hearts are enlightened and filled with joy, and we have passed from the darkness of sin, error and fear into the clear light; the Christian is able to judge all sects, all doctrines of devils, that may arise on earth. Is it not a thing of unspeakable value, a precious gift, to be enlightened and taught of God to the extent of being able to judge correctly every doctrine and every kind of conduct exhibited in this world, and to show all men how to live - what to do and what to avoid? Well may we boast, then, of having here on earth also a Father - ”the Father of lights” - from whom we receive blessings of such magnitude that man should willingly yield body and life for their attainment. What would I in my darkness not have given to be liberated from the very dread which prompted the celebration of masses and other abominations, yes, from the torture and anguish of conscience which left me no rest? or to have instruction enabling me rightly to interpret a single psalm? I would, for such enlightenment, readily have crawled on the ground to the ends of the earth. Thank God, we now have the blessed treasure abundantly, the great and precious light, the gracious Word. What is the sum of all suffering and misfortune compared to this light?

 

11. Secondly, through Christ's resurrection we have a good, joyous conscience, one able to withstand every form of sin and temptation and to maintain a sure hope of eternal life. The great, glorious gifts and blessings of the resurrection are these: the Gospel, Holy Baptism, the power of the Holy Spirit, and comfort in all adversity. What is a slight injury or the loss of some temporal blessing in comparison with these? What reason has any man to murmur and to rage when such divine blessings are his, even here in this life, blessings which none can take away or abridge? If, then, you are called to renounce money, possessions, honor and men's favor, remember you have a treasure more precious than all the honors and all the possessions of the world. Again, when you see one living in great splendor, in pleasure and presumption, following his own inclinations, think thus: ”What has he? A wretched portion, a beggarly morsel. In contrast, I have divine grace enabling me to know God's will and the work he would have me do, and all in heaven and on earth is mine.” Look, says James, upon the treasure already obtained from the Father of lights - his great and glorious gifts.

 

12. But these do not represent the consummation of resurrection blessings. We must yet await the real, the perfect, gifts. Our earthly condition does not admit of perfection; hence we cannot truly perceive, cannot comprehend, our treasure. We are but ”a kind of first-fruits of his creatures.” God has only commenced to work in us, but he will not leave us in that state. If we continue in faith, not allowing ourselves to be turned away through wrath and impatience, God will bring us to the real, eternal blessings, called ”perfect gifts,” the possession of which excludes error, stumbling, anger, and any sin whatever.

 

THE FUTURE LIFE OF BLESSEDNESS.

13. That future existence, James goes on to say, will be one wherein is ”no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning” - no alternating of light and darkness. In other words, there will not be the variation and instability characteristic of this world, even of the Christian life - today joyous, tomorrow sad; now standing but soon tottering. It is in the Christian life just as in the physical world: we find variableness and continual change - light is succeeded by darkness, day by night, cold by heat; here are mountains, there valleys; today we are well, tomorrow ill; and so it goes. But all this change shall be abolished. The present life shall be succeeded by one wherein is no variation, but a permanence and eternity of blessing. We shall unceasingly behold God in his majesty where dwells no darkness, no death, plague nor infirmity, but pure light, joy and happiness. Look to this future life! call it to mind, when assailed by the world and enticed to anger or evil lust. Remember the great blessings of heaven assuredly promised you, and whereof Christ your Head has already taken possession, that he may make sure your entrance into the same blessings. These should be to you far more precious and desirable than the things of earth, which all men must leave behind.

 

14. To these things the Christian should direct his thoughts and efforts, that he may learn to prize his blessings, to recognize his treasures as great and glorious, and to thank God for the beginnings of his grace and blessing bestowed here below. Let us ever look and turn toward true knowledge and understanding, toward righteousness and life; so shall we attain that perfection wherein we are freed from the present imperfect, unstable existence, the yoke we now bear upon our necks and which continually weighs upon us and renders us liable to fall from the Gospel. Impulse and aid for such pursuit we are to receive from the holy cross and persecution, as well as from the example of the world. With what ease the poor, wretched people are wrested from the Word and from faith, wherein they might enjoy unspeakable grace and blessings, by the sordid, beggarly pleasures to be sought for here!

 

15. Therefore, James says: ”Why trouble yourselves about earthly blessings, which though God-given are transitory? Why not much rather rejoice in the comforting prospect of the great heavenly blessings already abundantly yours and which cannot be taken from you?” And by way of explanation he says further:

”Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth.”

 

GOD'S CHILDREN BEGOTTEN BY THE WORD.

16. The first, and in fact the best, thing Christ has sent us from on high is sonship. He brought us forth, made us his children, or heirs. We are truly called children born of God. But how are we born? Through ”the Word of truth,” or the true Word. By this statement James makes a wide thrust at all factions and sects. For they also have a word and boast much of their doctrine, but theirs is not the Word of truth whereby men are made children of God. They teach naught, and know naught, about how we are to be born God's children through faith. They prate much about the works done by us in the state derived from Adam. But we have a Word whereby, as we are assured, God makes us his beloved children and justifies us - if we believe in that Word. He justifies us not through works or laws. The Christian must derive his sonship from his birth. All whittling and patching is to no purpose. The disciples of Moses, and all work-mongers, would effect it by commandments, extorting a work here and a work there, effecting nothing. New beings are needed, children of God by birth, as John 1, 12 says.

 

17. The children of God, John tells us, are they who believe on the name of Christ; that is, who sincerely cling to the Word. John extols the Word as the great, the mighty, gift. They are children who cleave to the message that through Christ God forgives their sins and receives them into his favor; who adhere to this promise in all temptations, afflictions and troubles. The Word here on earth is the jewel which secures sonship. Now, since God has so greatly blessed you as to make you his own begotten children, shall he not also give you every other good?

 

18. Whence, then, do you derive sonship? Not from your own will, not from your own powers or efforts. Were it so, I and other monks surely should have obtained it, independently of the Word; it would have been ours through the numerous works we performed in our monastic life. It is, secured, James says, ”of his will.” For it never entered into the thought of any man that so should we be made children of God. The idea did not grow in our gardens; it did not spring up in our wells. But it came down from above, ”from the Father of lights,” by Word and Spirit revealed to us and given into our hearts through the agency of his apostles and their successors, by whom the Word has been transmitted to us. Hence we did not secure it through our efforts or merits. Of his Fatherly will and good pleasure was it conferred upon us; of pure grace and mercy he give it.

 

CHRISTIANS THE FIRST-FRUITS.

19. James says, ”That we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures”; that is, the newly- begun creature, or work, of God. By this phrase the apostle distinguishes the creatures of God from the creatures of the world, or creatures of men. Likewise does Peter when he says (1 Pet 2, 13), ”Be subject to every ordinance [or creature] of man”; that is, to everything commanded, ordained, instituted, made, by men. For instance, a prince constitutes men tax-gatherers, squires, secretaries, or anything he desires, within the limits of his power. But new creatures are found with God. They are styled ”creatures of God” because he has created them as his own work, independently of human effort or human power. And so the Christian is called a ”new creature of God,” a creature God himself has made, aside from all other creatures and higher than they. At the same time, such creation of God is only in its initial stage. He still daily operates upon it until it becomes perfect, a wholly divine creature, as the very sun in clearness and purity, without sin and imperfection, all aglow with love divine.

 

20. Take into careful consideration these facts. Keep before you the great blessing, honor and glory God has conferred upon you in making you heirs of the life to come, the life wherein shall be no imperfection nor variation, the life which shall be an existence in divine purity and protection like God's own. Do not, then, by any means allow yourselves to be provoked to anger by the wretched, sordid, beggar's wallet which the world craves. Rather, much rather, rejoice in the divine blessings, and thank God for having made you worthy of them. Whether sweet or bitter - in comparison with these let everything else be spurned. ”For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward” - to us the children of God - says Paul in Romans 8,18. So James draws the conclusion:

 

”Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”

 

IMPATIENT ANGER FORBIDDEN.

21. In other words, in receiving counsel or comfort be swift; but do not permit yourselves readily to criticise, curse, or upbraid God or men. James does not mean to prohibit reproof, censure, indignation and correction where the command of God or necessity requires; but he forbids rashness or hastiness on our part, despite our provocation in the premises. When we are provoked we should first hear what the Word of God says and be advised thereby. It is the right and true counsel, and we should ever permit ourselves to be led by it; according to its teaching should all our decisions, reproofs and censures be regulated. In immediate connection, James bids us receive the Word with meekness; we are not to be incensed when censured by its authority, or to become impatient and murmur when we have to suffer something because of it. The reason James assigns for restraining our anger is: ”For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” This is a truth admitted even by the heathen - ”Ira furor brevis est,” etc. - and verified by experience. Therefore, upon authority of Psalm 4, 4, when you feel your wrath rising, sin not, but go to your chamber and commune with yourself. Let not wrath take you by surprise and cause you to yield to it. When slander and reproach is heaped upon you, or curses given, do not rashly allow yourself to be immediately inflamed with anger. Rather, take heed to overcome the provocation and not to respond to it.

 

22. The apostle's first point, then, is: Christians should guard against yielding to wrath and impatience, and should remember the great blessings they enjoy - gifts wherewith all the advantages and favors of the world are unworthy of comparison. Similarly, James says regarding the other point:

 

”Wherefore putting away all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness, etc.”

23. By ”filthiness” he means the impure life of the world -  indulgence, voluptuousness and knavery of every sort. These things, he would say, should be far from you Christians who enjoy blessings so great and glorious. Could you rightly recognize and appreciate these blessings, you would regard all worldly pursuits and pleasures mere filth in comparison. Nor is this overdrawn; they are, such when contrasted with the good and perfect heavenly gifts and treasures.

 

”Receive with meekness the implanted word.”

24. You have the Word, James says, a Word which is yours not by your own fancy or effort, but which God, by grace, gave to you -  implanted in you. It has free course - is preached, read and sung among you. (By the grace of God, it is free among us, too.) In this respect, God be praised, there is no lack. It is of the utmost importance, however, to receive it, to make profitable use of it; to handle it with meekness that we may hold it fast and not allow it to be effaced by anger under persecution or by the allurements of worldly lusts. Christ says (Lk 21, 19), ”In your patience possess ye your souls [ye shall win your souls].”

 

MEEKNESS AND PATIENCE ENJOINED.

Meekness and patience are necessary to enable us to triumph over the devil and the world. Without them we shall not be able to hold fast the Word in our strife against those evil forces. We must fight and contend against sin, but if we essay to cool our wrath by grasping the devil and his followers by the hair and wreaking vengeance upon them, we will accomplish nothing and may thereby lose our treasure, the beloved Word. Therefore, lay hold of the Word planted or engrafted within you, that you may be able to retain it and have it bring forth its fruit in yourself.

 

THE POWER OF THE WORD.

25. It is a Word, says James in conclusion, ”which is able to save your souls.” What more could be desired? You have the Word, the promise of all divine blessings and gifts. It is able to save you if you but steadfastly cleave to it. Why, then, need you take any account of the world, and anything it may do, whether good or evil? What injury can the world render, what help can it offer, so long as you hold the treasure of the Word? Observe that the apostle ascribes to the spoken Word, the preached Gospel, the power to save souls. Similarly, Paul commends it to the Romans (ch. 1, 16), in almost the same words, as ”the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.”

 

26. Now, the Word is implanted within you in a way to give you the certain comfort and sure hope of your salvation. Be careful, then, not to permit yourselves to be wrested from it by the wrath or the filth of the world. Take heed to accept in purity and to maintain with patience the Word so graciously and richly given you by God without effort or merit on your part. Those who are without the Word, and yet endeavor to attain heaven, what efforts have they made in the past! what efforts are they making today! They might torment themselves to death; they might institute and celebrate every possible service - they would accomplish nothing. Is it not better to cling to the Word and maintain this treasure whereby you attain salvation and divine sonship than to permit the world to wrest you from it through persecution, passion or moral filth the source of its own ruin and perdition?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fourth Sunday after Easter;

John 16:5-15

 

SERMON ON CHRIST'S KINGDOM AND THE CONVICTING OFFICE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

 

 

 

John 16:5-15

But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

 

A. This Sermon of Consolation In General.

I. The meaning of this Gospel we have often heard elsewhere, the only trouble is, its language is not altogether understood as having the meaning of things, with which we are familiar. Therefore we will expound it a little, in order that it may be seen that the same truth lies in these words as is contained in almost all the Gospels.

 

2. It is a part of that beautiful discourse, Christ the Lord, delivered after the last supper he had with the disciples. His special object is to console his beloved disciples in view of his departure, because he is now about to die and to leave them alone in danger and distress, in the hostility of the world, in persecution and death for his sake. And so with many words he announces to them that they would be put under the ban, and they who killed them would boast that they had offered unto God a service. It was a grievous and terrible thing for them to hear this, and on account of it they became very sorrowful, both because they were to lose their dear Lord and because they were to be left in such misery and distress. Therefore it was needful to console them against all this, as indeed Christ does throughout these three chapters of his last discourse with all diligence and faithfulness. And the sum of it is this: in view of the loss caused by his departure, he promises to send the Holy Spirit, who shall comfort and strengthen their hearts, and then first establish the kingdom of Christ and extend it throughout the world; and he tells them plainly what is to be the nature of his kingdom, wherein it is to consist, and what the Holy Spirit shall accomplish in the world through them.

 

3. Therefore he says to them first: I know and plainly see, beloved disciples, that you are in great fear and sorrow on account of what I have told you, that I am about to go away from you. But this shall be your comfort: I tell you the truth, it is much better for you, that I go away. My departure shall bring you abundant joy, for you shall have instead the comforting of the Holy Spirit, and in addition the power, that he will accomplish through you what I, now present with you, am not able to do. For I am required by this mission in the flesh to suffer and die, and so to make my journey to the Father, and afterwards to send the Holy Spirit, who will do through you much greater things than can be done now through me, and who will bestow upon you a great and excellent office and work, by which my kingdom shall be extended in the world.

 

B. Christ's Kingdom of Which this Sermon Treats.

4. So then he first shows them what is to be the nature of his kingdom on earth, in order to take away from them their old deeply-rooted delusion of an external worldly dominionand government over the Jewish people and the world generally in this life. For against this he says plainly enough and in many words, that he would go away, leave the world, andnot be seen any more. But if he dies and leaves the world he cannot rule and govern after the manner of the world, externally and visibly, like a king and emperor on earth. He indicates this still more clearly by announcing to them in so many words both before and after this text, how they shall fare after his departure, namely, that they shall be hated, persecuted, put under the ban and even killed by their own people; moreover, that they shall weep and lament and havetribulation in the world, which on the contrary shall be merry and joyful. All this by no means agrees with the thought that they should have a worldly kingdom on earth, for which to hope; they must expect the very contrary. Nevertheless they are to know that he will have and preserve his kingdom in the world; wherefore he promises the Holy Spirit.

 

C. The Convicting Office of the Holy Spirit.

5. What kind of a kingdom is it, and how is it governed? This he indicates in the words: ”The Holy Spirit will convict the world.” It is not to be a government constituted and organized in worldly fashion by human wisdom, power and might, but a government of the Holy Spirit, or a spiritual kingdom, in which Christ rules invisibly and not with external, bodily power, through the Word alone, which the Holy Spirit will preach and thereby work in the hearts of men. For the Holy Spirit, he says, will convict the world. That does not mean to coerce with armor and weapons and worldly power, but to use an oral word or an office of preaching, called the Word of God, or of the Holy Spirit, sent by Christ. This Word is to pass through the world and to attack it, so that it can be called a convicting of the world, not only of a few, of one or two races and countries, but of both Jews and Gentiles, the learned, the wise and saints, who in their own government have the most beautiful and laudable organization.

 

6. For by ”world” he does not mean the humble common folk, the populace, but that which in the world is best and most excellent, and in external government blameless; especially those who claim to be holy above all others, like the Jews, who were called God's people and had the law of Moses, of whom Christ said before, that they hate him and his own without cause, as is written in their law.

 

7. Herewith Christ bestows upon his apostles power and authority, nay more, even command over the whole world. It is to be subject to their preaching and to hear the apostles. Although their office shall be despised in the world and have no reputation, because they are plain, ordinary people, and even apart from this they must be hated and oppressed and must suffer in the world, when with their convictions they run counter to it, till he strengthens and comforts them with the assurance that their office shall nevertheless have power, force and efficacy. Those in the world will be compelled to hear it and to allow it to have course, unsubverted and unforbidden, regardless of their raging and storming against it with persecution, ban and death, and all power and force not only of the world, but also of the whole kingdom of hell.

 

8. Therefore, says he, you have good reason not to be terrified and cast down, because I am going away from you bodily. For thereby I will give you something better than you have had while you were with me, and you shall accomplish much greater and more glorious things than can now be done; namely, the Holy Spirit shall effect through you far more gloriously and mightily what pertains to my kingdom than you now think. Then you will no longer, as now, seek and aspire to become lords upon earth and to have great kingdoms under you. For these are transitory things, which God does not care for, and which have always produced more rogues than good men. But he will set you in a government, where you shall judge all men's consciences; and what is highest in the world, namely its wisdom and holiness, shall be subject to you. You shall pronounce judgment upon it, convict and condemn, and nobody will be able to escape sin, death and hell, nor get to heaven, who does not hear and obey your word.

 

9. He shall also give you such comfort and courage, that you shall no longer be filled with terror and deadly fear, as now, at the world's threatening, fury and raging against your preaching; but you shall boldly go forward and convict regardless of what the world and the devil can do to prevent it by persecution, murder and all the violence of hell.

 

10. This is the province of the work, which the Holy Spirit is to begin in the kingdom of Christ. It is the teaching office of the apostles, which is to be of such a character that it must convict the world, as it finds it outside of Christ, and nobody is to be excepted, great, small, learned, wise, holy, of high or low condition, etc. This means in short, to bear the world's anger and to begin strife, and to be struck in the mouth for it. For the world, which rules on earth, will not and cannot endure its course to be disapproved; therefore persecution must arise, and one party must yield to the other, the weakest to the stronger. But, as the office of the apostles is to be only a teaching office, it cannot use worldly power and the world retains its external kingdom and power against the apostles. But, on the other hand, the apostles' office of conviction of the world shall likewise not be suppressed, because it is the office and work of the Holy Spirit, but shall overcome all and triumph; as Christ promised to them: ”I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to withstand.” Lk 21, 15.

 

11. The Holy Spirit indeed convicted the world by preaching before from the beginning (for Christ ever rules, and is the same Christ ”yesterday and to-day, and for ever,” Heb13, 8) through the holy fathers, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Elisha, and John the Baptist, and this conviction was upheld by divine power. But now the true beginning is to be made, and Christ will institute a public conviction, which is to be extended not only over the Jewish people, but over the whole world until the last day. This is to be much more efficacious and shall prevail, and hearts shall be pierced and wounded by it, even as is said in Acts 2, 37 of the first sermon of St. Peter on the day of Pentecost, that they were pricked in their heart by the preaching of the apostles, and so were enlightened and converted from their blindness. But if they will not accept this preaching, it shall be efficacious to their condemnation, and they shall stumble, fall and plunge into eternal ruin. So it shall prove a power unto life and salvation to believers, and a preaching and power unto death to others, as St. Paul says in 2 Cor 2, 16.

 

12. However, in respect of what shall the Holy Spirit convict, and concerning what shall he teach? This he tells us plainly in the words:

 

”And he, when he is come, will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”

13. This certainly means biting off a good deal and assuming a big load: the poor beggars, the apostles, are to interfere in the world in this way and to reprove and convict everything it does. They must needs have strong backs and a good reserved force. For he shows here that this convicting is to be no farce, nor is it to be in respect of small, trifling matters, nor even of sovereignty, countries and property, but in respect of the highest thing, by which the world's government exists, namely, the reputation of wisdom, righteousness, and its judgment or convicting, especially in the high matters, which concern the service of God and what is good in the sight of God.

 

14. For as to the earthly government of property and wealth, this does not concern the Holy Spirit and Christ. In regard to that he allows the world's wisdom, law and order to stand as they are; for in this sphere it is commanded to the world to rule and to judge what is praiseworthy and what is punishable. Likewise he does not convict the offices and different classes in the world, which are God's creation and order. But for this he convicts the world, that is, the people, who in their own government rule excellently, because with their reason and wisdom they also seek to interfere in God's affairs and government, and presume to decide and judge, how God shall be served, and imagine that whatever they assert, must also be right and acceptable in the sight of God.

 

15. This is what the conviction of the Holy Spirit is directed against. It breaks in not piecemeal on certain works and actions, but reduces to nothing and condemns everything that reason and worldly wisdom propose. In short, he convicts and censures them in and for the very things they do not wish to be convicted in, but rather praised and lauded, as teaching and doing well and right. He puts them to sin and shame with all their glory and openly charges them with knowing nothing of these things nor being able to teach how sin is to be known and gotten rid of, righteousness is to be attained and wrong is to be permitted. How much good is left now, when all this is laid low completely as by a thunderbolt? He himself explains the three particulars, and shows what each means and how each is to be preached. First he says:

 

”Of Sin, because they believe not on me.”

16. The world itself must confess that it understands none of the things, which Christ here says of these three thoughts. For whoever heard this before among the wise and learned of the earth, or by what understanding was it produced, and in what books is it written that sin is not to believe on this Jesus of Nazareth? Does not Moses himself and all the world call that sin, which is done contrary to the law, by commission or omission, by word or deed or even by thought? Well, the child is named, and the article concluded and fixed by the Holy Spirit, that this is the sin of the world that it does not believe on Christ. Not that there is no sin against the law besides this; but that this is the real chief sin, which condemns the whole world even if it could be charged with no other sin.

 

17. Thus this preaching of conviction is now to begin, if people are to be brought to right knowledge and to salvation. And the first thing shall be this: it makes all men, learned, high and wise, sinners; and sinners for this reason, because they do not believe on Christ. Hence God's wrath is declared, and the judgment of condemnation and eternal death (for this is what convicting in respect of sin means) is pronounced upon those who in the sight of the world are irreproachable, who even strive with earnestness to live according to the law and the ten commandments. Such were Paul before his conversion, and Nicodemus at first, and many others of like character among the Jews, to whom St. Paul also bears witness that they had a zeal for God, and followed after righteousness, but did not attain to righteousness (Rom 9, 31). So then this word ”sin” briefly comprehends all life and conduct without and apart from faith in Christ.

 

18. Here you will say: How is this? Is it sin to live according to the ten commandments obediently, honorably and chastely, not to kill, not to break the marriage tie, not to steal, not to lie and deceive? Answer: Surely not. But that is not enough, and the ten commandments are not kept, if only they are not violated externally by works. For God's law demands not merely outward form and appearance, but goes to the heart and demands its perfect obedience. Therefore it also judges man not only by his outward walk and conduct, but by the depths of his heart. But the world does not understand and regard this; for it recognizes only public external sins, such as murder, adultery, robbery and what the jurists call and punish as sin. But it neither knows nor sees the true offences and their root, such as contempt of God, inborn inward impurity of the heart, and disobedience to God's will: which things nevertheless are and remain in all men, who are not sanctified by Christ. For everybody, however pious he may be, if he will only confess it, finds in himself, what true saints earnestly lament, that even if he would gladly keep God's law, his flesh and blood, that is, his whole nature, including his heart and all his members, resist it; as St. Paul says in Rom 7, 23: ”I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members.” Much more is this true of those, who are without grace and the Holy Spirit, who live irreproachably outwardly, solely from the fear of punishment or on account of reputation and vain honor; but still would prefer to do the contrary, if they did not fear hell or disgrace and punishment. For the heart is ever hostile to the law and resists it with inward disobedience.

 

19. Now because this is the case, that no man fulfils the commandments of God and can be without sin before God, and therefore all men are under the wrath of God and sentenced to eternal condemnation by the law: God has found a remedy for this evil, and he resolved to send his Son into the world, in order that he might become a sacrifice for us and make satisfaction for our sins by the shedding of his blood and his death, and take away from us the wrath of God, which no creature could reconcile, and bring forgiveness of sins and moreover bestow upon us the Holy Spirit, so that we might obtain and receive all this, begin to become new men, and come out of sin and death to righteousness and eternal life.

 

20. This he has now done and has commanded to preach it through the Gospel, and he demands of all men (as we heard in the Easter sermons) repentance, that is, true knowledge of sin and earnest dread of God's wrath, and faith, that in such repentance God will for the sake of his Son forgive their sins. He that believes this preaching, has by this faith forgiveness of sins and is in the grace of God: and although he has not satisfied the law, still the remaining sin is not imputed to him, but is included in the forgiveness. Together with this faith the Holy Spirit is also given, so that he acquires love and delight to do the good and to resist sin. Therefore he is no longer condemned by the laws as a sinner, although he has not fulfilled it in every respect; but he is accepted by God through grace and forgiveness, and regarded as if he had no sins.

 

21. But on the other hand, he who has not faith, cannot be rid of sin nor escape the wrath of God. For he has no forgiveness and abides under condemnation, even if he is very zealous to live according to the law; for he cannot fulfil it. Besides, he does not accept Christ, who brings forgiveness and bestows upon believers his own fulfilment, and also gives power to begin to keep the law from the heart.

 

22. Therefore, wheresoever this preaching is not accepted, there sin and condemnation must remain. Indeed, this unbelief then becomes the chief sin. For if faith in Christ were present, all sins would be forgiven; but now since they will not accept this Saviour by faith, they are justly condemned in their sins. And it avails them nothing, that they do many works of the law and outward divine services, and judge according to reason, that, as they sinned by works, they will pay by works, that is to say, put away sin and merit God's favor. For in so doing they simply undertake to blot out sin by sin, indeed, to atone for great sins by little ones, or to do great sins in order to lay aside others. For in addition to the fact that they continue in disobedience and sins against God's commandments, and are so blind that they neither see nor regard it, but without repentance and fear of God's wrath have the presumption and pride to expect to please God by their own works and merits: above all this they proceed not only to despise this preaching of Christ, which admonishes to repentance and faith, but even to persecute it. This alone would be enough to bring eternal wrath and condemnation upon them, even if they had no other sins and fulfilled the whole law.

 

23. Therefore the Holy Spirit rightly and justly convicts, as sinful and condemned, all who have not faith in Christ. For where this is wanting, other sins in abundance must follow: God is despised and hated, and the entire first table is treated with disobedience. For if one does not know God in Christ, he cannot trust him for any good thing, nor call upon him from the heart, nor know his word; but he is entangled in the devil's lies, persecutes and blasphemes true doctrines, and continues in obstinacy and hardening, even to the degree of slandering the Holy Spirit. In consequence of this he also disobeys the other commandments in his life and station, so that he does to nobody what he ought to do, and has in his heart no true love, kindness, gentleness, patience, no delight in chastity, righteousness, faithfulness and truth; but practices the contrary, except where he has reason to fear disgrace or punishment.

 

24. Lo, how the dragon's tail of the devil and all hell must follow unbelief! The reason is, that he who does not believe in Christ, has already turned away from God and quite separated himself from him. Therefore he cannot have the Holy Spirit, nor originate good thoughts, nor have a true, hearty pleasure in living according to God's will; notwithstanding he may outwardly assume a different appearance, like a hypocrite, and act so as not to be rebuked or chastised. Just like a bad, ill-behaved servant, who is inimical to his master, and does what he hates to do, only because he is compelled, and as opportunity arises, does evil. Such are the beautiful, precious fruits, produced by this fountain and stem, if Christ is not accepted and heard as the Saviour, presented to us by God in order to blot out our sin and to take from us God's wrath.

 

25. Hence you see pictured here what the world is, nothing but a great company of wicked, stubborn people, who will not believe Christ, but despise God's Word, praise and accept the seduction of the devil, and defiantly run counter to all of God's commandments. They receive all the favors and benefits of God only to repay him with ingratitude and blasphemy. And yet in all this they are unwilling to be convicted or reproved, but wish to be called excellent, pious and saintly people. Such were the Jews, who crucified Christ and persecuted his apostles, and yet wished to claim the glory of having done God great service. Therefore the Holy Spirit must resist this and strive with the world and ever exercise his office of conviction with divine power and might until the last day.

 

26. For he has not begun to convict with the intention of ceasing and allowing his mouth to be closed. On the contrary he must continue his work of conviction in the devil's kingdom, because there is nothing good in it, and he must drive it altogether under God's wrath and condemnation, in spite of the rage and fury of the devil, if perhaps by this conviction some be brought to repentance and faith, which indeed is the object of this preaching. But the others, who will not be convicted, must at least be convinced and condemned by this preaching. For all flesh and blood must be convicted, either for salvation or for condemnation, and the sentence, which Christ commanded to be preached to all creatures, must stand: ”He that believeth shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.” Let this be enough of the first point in the preaching of the Holy Spirit. The second is this:

 

”Of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye behold me no more.”

27. Not only is the world convicted because it has sin, but also because it does not know how to become pious and what righteousness or piety is. But he is not speaking here of the righteousness, which philosophers and jurists discuss, which consists in observing civil or imperial laws and in doing what reason teaches; but of the righteousness, which is valid before God or which be regards as righteousness. Now what kind of righteousness is this, or wherein does it consist? This is it, says he, that ”I go to the Father, and ye behold me no more.” This is strange and to the world ridiculous language. If the first particular was unusual and obscure, that this is the world's sin, that it does not believe on him; then this is far more strange and incomprehensible, that this alone is righteousness, that he goes to the Father and is seen no more.

 

28. What shall the whole world say to this? They are all striving after righteousness and claiming to be pious before God, Jewish, Turkish and papistic saints, who stumble at this as an offensive, nay, foolish doctrine, just as if all good works, devotions, pious intentions, fine obedience, severe and strict life on the part of so many men are to be nothing before God? And why does he give such an odd and absurd definition, that being pious before God consists in this that he goes to the Father and yet is not seen? How does it fit together, being righteous by what one cannot see nor feel?

 

29. Well, you learn here, that he concludes emphatically and vigorously, that alone is righteousness which he calls righteousness, and the world is convicted by it, because it does not possess it. It is as if he said: Of what use is it, for you to dispute much about good works, holy living and what you think is the way to righteousness? If you do not have this, that I go to the Father, it is all nothing and worth nothing before God. Even if you should seek and strive, think and study to death, and pursue after righteousness with all your powers, you will never think it out or attain to it. Another righteousness is necessary, different from what you understand and propose, where one is to take up the law, and be obedient to it and live according to it. Something far and high above all that is necessary, where there is no law, or commandment, or human work and life, but only what I do, namely, that ”I go to the Father” etc.

 

30. How now does it come to pass? Answer: In the first part of this discourse we heard that all men are convicted in respect of sin. From this it follows, as has been explained, that nobody fulfils the law or the ten commandments. For if anybody fulfilled them, he would certainly not be convicted as a sinner, but by this obedience and fulfilment of the law he would be righteous, as St. Paul says in Gal 3, 21-22: ”If there had been a law given which could make alive, verily righteousness would have been by the law. But the scripture shut up all things under sin.” Since no man can fulfil the law, we have no righteousness from the law of and in ourselves, with which we can stand before God against his wrath and judgment. But, if we are to come to God, we must have the righteousness of another, which God regards and accepts.

 

31. For the conviction in respect of sin extends over all human life on earth. Even saints and Christians must still suffer this conviction to pass upon their best life and work, and confess that they have sin, which would be wrong and worthy of condemnation, if it should be judged according to God's commandment and before his tribunal; as also the prophet David, saintly and full of good works as he was, prays and confesses: ”Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight no man living is righteous, Ps 143, 2; and St. Paul (I Cor 4, 4): ”I know nothing against myself; yet I am not hereby justified.” But that they are not condemned like the others, is due alone to this difference: they accept this conviction, confess and lament that they have sin, and believe on Christ and seek forgiveness of sins through him. In this way they have the righteousness of another, which is entirely the work, power and merit of Christ the Lord. He calls it: ”Going to the Father.”

 

32. For these words: ”because I go to the Father,” embraces the whole work of our redemption and salvation, for which God's Son was sent from heaven, and which he performed for us and still performs until the end; namely, his passion, death and resurrection, and his whole reign in the church. For this going to the Father signifies nothing else than that he offers himself as a sacrifice by the shedding of his blood and his death in order to pay for sin; that afterwards he triumphs in his resurrection and brings into subjection to himself sin, death and hell, and seats himself alive at the right hand of the Father, where he reigns invisibly over all things in heaven and earth, and gathers and extends his church by the preaching of the Gospel; and that he intercedes for those, who believe, with the Father as an eternal mediator and high priest, because they still have weaknesses and sins remaining in them, and gives the power, and strength of the Holy Spirit to overcome sin, the devil and death.

 

33. Lo, this now is the righteousness of Christians before God, that Christ goes to the Father, that is, suffers, and rises for us, and thereby reconciles us to the Father. so that for his sake we have forgiveness of sin and grace. It is not at all by our work or merit, but solely by his going, which he does for our sake. This is the righteousness of another, for which we have done nothing and have merited nothing, and are unable to merit anything, freely given and appropriated to us to be our righteousness, whereby we please God and are his dear children and heirs.

 

34. But that this freely bestowed righteousness is in us, and that we can comfort ourselves with it as our treasure and chief possession, comes by faith alone. For it must be received and accepted by us. Now it cannot be apprehended otherwise than with the heart, which clings to the departure of Christ and firmly believes that for his sake it has forgiveness and redemption from sin and death. For this righteousness is not an external thing, which can be effected by human works, ordinances or exercises; but a lofty, hidden treasure, not to be seen with eyes nor comprehended by our senses: as he himself says: ”Ye behold me no more.” It must simply be believed.

 

35. Here now is abolished and cut off at one stroke all that the world is seeking, disputing and inquiring about without end, namely, how a man may become pious before God. Everybody says something different; one teaches this, another that; and yet none has ever arrived at it, although they may have heard, learned and practiced every doctrine of the law and good works. One ought justly to ask this master Christ also and to be glad to hear what he says; as indeed everybody would wish to do, if this preaching were not at hand, and would gladly run to the ends of the earth for it. But, of course, everybody hopes that he will say something to the point, what should be done and something higher and better than all others have taught.

 

36. But what does he say? Not a word about our doing and living: on the contrary he says, that all this is not the righteousness, which is valid before God. But if you wish to become pious and righteous before God, something else is necessary, something that neither you nor any man is and can do, namely this: ”I go to the Father.” In other words, nobody will become righteous before God except by and on account of this, that I die and rise again. My departure alone is the cause, why God graciously accepts a man and counts him righteous, if he clings to Christ in faith.

 

37. Therefore these words are to be carefully noted, in which Christ proves himself such an adventurous man in speaking against the understanding and ideas of all men, especially, of the wise and saintly, who all, if the discussion be concerning what it is to be pious and righteous, know nothing else to speak of than what they call justitiam formalem, that is, such virtue as is in us or as we ourselves do, that is to say, our work and obedience.

 

38. Again you say: What about the doctrine of good works? Shall this amount to nothing, or is it not a beautiful, praiseworthy thing, when a man endeavors to keep the commandments, and is obedient, chaste, honorable and truthful? Answer: Yes, surely; all this is to be done; it is also a good doctrine and life, provided it is left in the place where it belongs, and the two doctrines are kept distinct, how a man becomes pious and righteous before God, and how and to what end he is to do good works. For although it is necessary to teach the doctrine of good works, at the same time, nay, even before this also must be carefully taught (so that the doctrine of the Gospel and of faith be kept pure and unadulterated), that all our works, however good and holy they may be, are not the treasure and merit, by which we become acceptable to God and attain everlasting life. But it is this alone, that Christ goes to the Father and by his departure merits this for us, and gives and communicates to us his righteousness, innocence and merits; and so begins in us a kingdom that we, who believe in him, are redeemed by his power and Spirit from sin and death, and shall live with him forever. It must not be a righteousness that continues only here upon earth and then ceases; but a new righteousness, which endures forever in the life beyond with God, just as Christ lives and reigns above forever.

 

39. For this reason I have often said, that in order to speak and judge correctly of these matters, a careful distinction must be made between a good man (what the philosophers call bonum virum) and a Christian. We also commend being a good man. There is nothing more praiseworthy on earth, and it is a gift of God just as well as sun and moon, corn and wine, and all creatures. But things must not be mixed and confused. Let a good man have his praise before the world, and let it be said: A good man is doubtless an excellent, precious man on earth, but for that reason he is not yet a Christian; for he may be a Turk or a heathen, as in ages past some were very famous. Indeed it cannot be otherwise than, that among so many wicked people, occasionally a good man should be found. But however good he may be, with such goodness he is and remains a child of Adam, that is, an earthly man under sin and death.

 

40. But when you inquire about a Christian, you must go much higher; for he is another kind of a man. He is not a child of Adam, and has not father and mother upon earth; but he is a child of God, an heir and nobleman in the kingdom of heaven. He is called a Christian because be clings with his heart to this Saviour, who has ascended to the Father, and he believes that for his sake and through him he has God's grace, and everlasting salvation and life. This is neither achieved nor apprehended, attained nor learned by our life, virtue and work, from which we are called good men on earth; nor by righteousness according to the law and ten commandments. These, as has been said, are also necessary, and are found in every Christian; but they do not attain by far to this chief thing and this righteousness, of which Christ is speaking here and which he calls righteousness.

 

41. For, although a man has exercised himself in this during his whole life much and long, and has done everything that he was able to do; nevertheless be cannot thereby attain to certainty that God is pleased with it and is truly gracious to him. Hence in every such life the heart always remains uncertain and in doubt. All experienced consciences give evidence of this, and even the monks bear testimony to it in their books, in which they teach openly, that one must doubt, for no man can know whether he is in a state of grace, and it would be presumptuous in a high degree to make this boast with reference to one's self.

 

42. From this it must follow: because a man is in such doubt, he can have no true confidence in God, nor turn to him and call upon him from his heart; but he is timid and flees from God, and must at last fall into hatred of God and despair. For when the real struggle comes and he is to stand before the judgment, then he feels and sees, that with his life and works he cannot abide the wrath of God, but with it all must sink into the abyss.

 

43. If now in such distress we are to be saved from despair and to prevail, we must have another foundation than our righteousness or that of the law, namely, this eternal righteousness of Christ, which stands there, where the devil cannot overthrow it and the judgment of God can bring no charge against it, that is, at the right hand of the Father. The devil can overthrow me, whenever he wills, with all my life and works by presenting God's judgment and wrath. All this can blow away as the wind blows a little feather. But when I direct him from myself and my works to the right hand of the Father, where Christ, my Lord, is seated, who bestows upon me his righteousness, for which he has gone to the Father, he will not overthrow him, nay, he will not even dare to attack him.

 

44. Therefore Christ acts like a faithful, good Saviour, when he draws all this from us and all men to himself alone, and grounds and builds our righteousness entirely on his departure to the Father. So we can know, where we are safe against every onset and assault of the devil and the gates of hell. For if it depended upon us and upon our worthiness, that we had made sufficient satisfaction and had done enough good works, our heart never would have rest and finally could not exist.

 

45. From all this it is manifest what a shameful, cursed doctrine the monks and the whole papacy have hitherto taught, whereby they have misled the world. They not only taught no word of Christ and faith, but they even claimed with impudence, that their monkery is a much higher, nobler and more perfect life than that of ordinary Christians, which ought to be an abomination to all Christians to hear. For one may exalt and extol the life and piety of all men, the chastity of virgins, the discipline and asceticism of hermits, the laudable deeds and virtues of great, excellent and pious lords and rulers, and whatever may be described to pious people, as high as one pleases; it never can equal a Christian, that is, one who has this Lord, sitting at the right hand of God, and his righteousness. We will gladly let that also stand for what it is worth and praise it as a precious gift; but a Christian is to be extolled as a lord far and high above all that, as one that has this eternal possession and inheritance in the kingdom of heaven at the right hand of God with Christ, his brother.

 

46. He that understands and knows how to distinguish this, can also teach and judge correctly of all life, and go safely in all matters and guard himself from error. For he judges and measures everything by this rule and standard, which Christ teaches here, that the righteousness of a Christian is not the righteousness that has grown in us, like the other called the righteousness of the law and of man, but it is a heavenly and divine righteousness without and above us.

 

47. Therefore, if anybody comes and tries to make a fool of you, makes much ado and tells you wonders about great exceptional holiness, and directs you to live after the example of this or that great saint, in order thereby to please God and become a Christian, you can say to him: Dear sir, I grant all that is good and I also would like to be pious, do according to God's commandments, and keep myself from sin; but you shall never persuade me, that in this way I become a Christian or attain to greater and higher things. They also, who fasted, labored and suffered so much, did not become Christians by that. For this were to encroach upon my dear Lord Christ, so that he would have gone away in vain and human work would be placed on equality with his. But I wish to be called a Christian, as he taught me and all saints have had to do, if they wished to stand before God, because I cling to this Saviour and, as St. Paul says in Phil 3, 9: ”Be found in him, not having a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the law,” but his, which he gained for me by this departure, by which he overcame my sin and death, and which he announces and grants to me through the preaching of the Gospel. When you once have this, then go and do as many good works as you can; however, do it according to the commandment of God, for without this and before him you will be able to do nothing good, because you are still in unbelief, and have and know not Christ, and therefore are under sin with all that you do; as we have heard in the first part of this discourse.

 

48. Behold, this is speaking according to the manner of Christ and with his words of righteousness, which he esteems righteousness. It is not an external human thing upon earth, but something incomprehensible and invisible in this life. It is not found in us men on earth, nor attained through men, but a new heavenly righteousness, which he alone has created and founded by his death and resurrection, and which we must apprehend in faith, because we do not see it, and which has for its goal an everlasting, unending life and being, where he rules in a new, heavenly state.

 

49. For this life will not reach up to it, because it is altogether corrupted by sin and death, and finally shall be destroyed. Therefore the Son of God from heaven has founded this kingdom, which is not concerned with external, worldly affairs and government, as the Jews and the apostles imagined, nor with the poor, beggarly righteousness of this life. Its purpose is, on the contrary, to create a new, everlasting righteousness, by which all nature shall be transformed and renewed, and in it shall be no sin or death any more, but a purely perfect, divine work and life. This is the work, which he has begun by going to the Father and in his own person has already fully accomplished. This kingdom he is evermore promoting in this life by the preaching of the Gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers until the last day. But in the life to come it shall be lived and found completely and perfectly in us.

 

50. This is the meaning, he intends to say, of the words: ”I go to the Father, and ye behold me no more.” I am not speaking of this temporal life and existence upon earth, which in this corrupt nature cannot be without sin and death. Therefore there can be no perfect righteousness and life in it. Nor shall my kingdom consist of this transitory nature. Things must become different and arrive at the pass, that you behold me no more, because I reign eternally outside of this bodily, visible existence, and I shall bring you thither, where purely new and perfect righteousness and eternal life exist. This kingdom I now begin in Christendom by the preaching and work of the Holy Spirit.

 

”Of judgment, because the prince of this world hath been judged!”

51. In the first two thoughts Christ spoke of doctrine and included the whole sum of the Gospel. First, that all human nature, power, doing and life are sin and under God's wrath, because they do not believe in Christ. Secondly, that we become righteous, that is, we are redeemed from sin and death, and we please God and have eternal life, solely because Christ goes to the Father. Now follows the third, including both how the world conducts itself towards this preaching, and how contrariwise the Holy Spirit shall press forward with his preaching.

 

52. Of this he says, he will convict the world further in respect of judgment. This is also somewhat strange and obscure language in the ears of us, who are not accustomed to the Hebrew speech. The word ”judgment” means nothing else than (as we also speak of it) the action and decision between two parties at variance, which is right or wrong; and it embraces at once both elements, which must always enter into a proceeding of judgment, favor and anger, or aid and punishment, on the one hand, that the innocent party be acquitted and helped to his rights; on the other, that the guilty be condemned and punished. However, the word is generally used for the latter element of judgment or the legal sentence namely, for condemnation and its consequence or execution.

 

53. In this sense Christ also uses it here, and he intends to indicate that when the Holy Spirit shall pursue the two themes of his preaching in the world and shall convict it in respect of sin and righteousness, the world will not receive it, nor be willing to be convicted of being in sin and without righteousness, nor be moved to allow the righteousness of Christ to be offered to it. But it will set itself against this teaching and convicting of the Holy Spirit, and condemn and persecute it. It will claim to be right in doing so and to be obliged not to suffer its wisdom and righteousness, which it considers divine gifts and service of God, to be reduced to nothing. Contrariwise the Holy Spirit must continue to convict in respect of this judgment and also press the sentence of condemnation, and tell the world that it with its judgment is condemned, together with its prince and head, the devil.

 

54. Then arises the conflict and one judgment runs contrary to the other. For the world also sets up this teaching, not only because it does not proceed from its wisdom nor from the great, distinguished men of the world, but also because it is preached by poor, lowly people. It opens its mouth wide against it, and says: Why, what more is it than that some, vagabond beggars wish to oppose established authority and by everybody, aye, was instituted by God himself? So it condemns, interdicts and curses both the doctrine and the preachers. Moreover it proceeds to shut up their mouths by threats of its power, resorts to severity and the sword, and will absolutely have its error and idolatry unassisted and unreproved, nay, preserved and defended against God and Christ as wisdom and holiness, and the preaching of the Gospel uprooted and exterminated.

 

55. But Christ says on the contrary, that the Holy Spirit shall retain the superior judgment and prevail with his convicting of this sentence of the world until the last day. But in consequence of this, Christians get into straits between door and hinge, and the cross and persecution begins. For, because the kingdom of Christ, as we have heard, is not of this world, but spiritual and at present invisible on earth, the power and might, which the world has upon earth, are directed against the church with condemning, persecuting, harassing, torturing, killing and murdering by sword, fire, water and every means. The world is also incited and strengthened by the bitter, fierce anger and hatred of the devil against Christ, who desires and seeks to blot out and exterminate the church. And so to the eyes of the world and also of Christians it looks as if, in consequence of this persecution, cruelty and murder, practised on the Christians who confess and maintain this preaching of the Holy Spirit, the church would altogether perish.

 

56. In this part of discourse then Christ first prophesies, how this preaching shall be received by the world and what would happen to the apostles on account of it; namely, in the first place the world shall despise them, because they come along without any public authority and command from it and introduce a new doctrine in opposition to the regular government, priesthood and teaching office, instituted by God, and convict and reprove all it maintains as of no validity before God; in the next place, because they wish to continue and not to cease their preaching, the world will proceed and issue judgment against them and also execute it, as against people, who are neither sent by God nor preach God's word, but are the emissaries of the devil, and who, having been proved and declared to be blasphemers of God, disobedient and rebellious to God's law, God's people and God's service, are guilty of death and not worthy to live. So the Jews cried out against St. Paul (Acts 22,22): ”It is not fit that he should live,” and they assign the reason (Acts 21, 28): ”This is the man that teacheth all men everywhere against the people, and the law, and this place.”

 

57. Secondly, Christ gives comfort against this hatred of judgment and persecution of the world. They are to know that he will nevertheless maintain his preaching and preserve his church against the anger and rage of the world by his divine power and strength. The devil and his kingdom shall be subdued by him and compelled to yield and not be able to execute against his church what in his fierce, mad wrath and hate he would like to do. Therefore, although Christians on account of this preaching must be exposed to the devil and the world, this word shall nevertheless remain undestroyed and finally triumph and hold the field, and make manifest to all the world its unjust judgment against the Gospel. In the end they shall be made to feel ashamed of themselves and to acknowledge of themselves, that they condemned and persecuted the Gospel unfairly and with injustice; just as the judges of Christ, aye, even his betrayer, in his passion had to bear witness to his innocence. The reason, he says, is this: this king Christ by going to the Father has overcome both the world and the devil; and now he causes this to be proclaimed that he is the Lord of all and has power and might to condemn and to punish, with everlasting hell fire, everything that opposes him, including the devil and his angels.

 

58. This is what he says, that this conviction shall continue against the world that persecutes the Gospel, and finally prevail over it, so that its judgment and condemnation shall be overpowered, and in turn be condemned and put to shame; and not only the world, but also its God, the devil, who incites the world against Christ. For he is, says he, already judged, and the sentence of condemnation has already been pronounced upon him, and the only thing still wanting is its execution, that the punishment be inflicted upon him in eternal hell fire: just like a thief or murderer, sentenced by the judge, upon whom the wrath and judgment of blood has already passed and who has been given over to death, so that he only needs to be led away and to receive his due.

 

59. So here this judgment proceeds by power and might of the Lord Christ, sitting at the right hand of the Father; and this judgment is publicly proclaimed by the office of preaching, that the prince of the world with all his adherents is already finally under condemnation, and shall accomplish nothing against Christ. He must let him remain the Lord, under whose feet he shall eternally lie and suffer his head to be trodden down. And Christ causes this to be preached in all the world, that whoever will not believe on the Lord, shall be condemned with the devil, however high, mighty, learned or holy he may be, regardless of how he dares to condemn this doctrine or to suppress and extirpate it, be his name Roman or Turkish emperor, king and lord over all.

 

60. If now meanwhile the world goes its way and despises this judgment, which is already pronounced upon the devil and all his members, and makes a jest of it, because it does not see it come to pass visibly, just as it also condemns the first and second part of this preaching. Christ nevertheless ever proceeds and cheerfully allows himself to be despised. But at the same time he also shows the devil and the world that he is the Lord, who can break and restrain the wrath and raging of the devil, and hurl down his enemies, as Psalm 110, I, says of him, until he makes his enemies his footstool. For the ax is already laid at the tree, and already chains and bonds are thrown upon him, as 2 Peter 2, 4, says, with which the devil is bound unto everlasting darkness in the fire of hell. Nobody shall believe this except the Christians, who take their Lord's Word for truth and know his power and kingdom; the others shall have no other reward than what they seek with their lord, the devil. Plunged into the abyss of hell in everlasting darkness, they must be overthrown and perish on account of their raging against Christ. This is the first division of this Gospel of the kingdom of Christ and the preaching of the Holy Spirit in the world. Now follows:

 

 

II. SERMON ON THE TEACHING OFFICE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

 

”I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth.”

61. This part also belongs to the promise of the Holy Spirit and his office in the church. But he breaks off here, what he had begun to say of the doctrine and had summarily comprehended in few words concerning what the Holy Spirit shall preach; and he directs them to the truth, that the Holy Spirit himself shall come and teach them these things, so that they shall well understand them and experience them in their work. For it is not yet time, he will say, to speak much of the doctrine, because he is about to pronounce his farewell and to comfort them in view of his departure. Moreover, even if he should speak of it at great length, they are not yet prepared to comprehend and understand rightly, how it shall be in his future kingdom. For they are yet too deeply immersed in the thought and hope of an external, temporal kingdom and worldly glory, so that they cannot adapt themselves and take into their hearts, what he says to them of his spiritual kingdom and office, which he shall fulfill through the Holy Spirit. For they are able to think only in this way: If he is to be a king, he must be present himself, and win the world to himself either with his preaching and miracles, so that it will voluntarily render him obedience and accept him as lord, or if it is not willing of its own accord, compel it by external force and punishment. But if this, which he now says shall happen, and he goes away from them and is not seen any more, that is, dies, it is no longer to be hoped that he will be a king and execute such great things. Therefore they are, and until after his resurrection they remain, quite bewildered, so that they do not understand what he told them beforehand, and besides they already feel the misery, sorrow and persecution of the world, which he here announces to them.

 

62. This is what he says: ”I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” It is too heavy for you to bear, what has been said and still is to be said of this; for it is all quite contrary to your thoughts and hopes. For if you understood it, you would thereby take comfort and be of a joyful heart; as he also said before: ”If ye loved me, ye would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father.” But now what I tell you for your comfort about my glorification, ascent to heaven, and the glorious kingdom, which I will begin through you, only fills you with fear and sorrow. It is indeed true: ”Ye cannot bear them now.” Therefore I must reserve it, until the time comes, when what I tell you now beforehand, shall come. He must teach it to you himself, and lead and guide you out of your present erroneous thoughts and misunderstandings into the truth and right knowledge.

 

63. For, he says, his office shall be to glorify me, that is, to declare of me the revelation and testimony that I, raised out of suffering and death to glory, seated at the right hand of the Father, am Lord over all, and announce to all the world, that this was the counsel of the Father. Therefore the Holy Spirit shall be sent in order that the world may know this and so be brought to my kingdom. When now this takes place, and I am taken from you and the Holy Spirit comes, he himself shall doubtless teach much better than you now think and understand; and in your own experience shall be found what I have now spoken to you and, if I were to explain and elucidate it further, would have to speak much more fully. In this sense he also afterwards concludes this chapter, as we shall hear in the Gospel for next Sunday, and says: ”These things have I spoken unto you in dark sayings,” that is, what I have hitherto told you of my passion, resurrection, and your sufferings and how in the midst of them you shall ask the Father in my name, all these are now strange, dark and hidden sayings, which you do not understand. But the time shall come, ”when I shall speak no more to you in dark sayings, but shall tell you plainly of the Father,” namely, when I have ascended to heaven and shall send to you the Holy Spirit. Then you shall experience, what now is nothing but dark sayings to you, as I tell it to you. This is the true, simple meaning of the text: ”I have yet many things to say unto you.”

 

64. But these words have had to serve our papists and still must serve them, and allow themselves to be twisted and interpreted, in order to strengthen their frippery, and to be laid as foundation of what they pretend and expectorate, that much more must be believed and kept than what the Gospel and the Scriptures teach, namely, what the fathers and the councils have said and ordained. For Christ has promised here that the Holy Spirit shall tell them much more than he has said, and guide them into all the truth. Just as if the apostles had very well understood, what Christ says to them here, whereas they themselves prove the contrary by the work of their unbelief in regard to his passion and resurrection. Or as if this were ever so easy to understand, that the Holy Spirit was not necessary, whereas until this day no pope understands anything of it, as I know from experience. For their art I have also learned; and by their books they give evidence enough, that they understand nothing of this. Therefore it is necessary to reply to these fools, in order to break down their tissue of lies.

 

65. First you hear now that Christ says: ”I have yet many things to say unto you.” Who are these ”you”? Or to whom is he speaking? Without doubt the apostles, to whom he also says: ”Ye cannot bear them now;” and ”The Holy Spirit shall guide you into all the truth.” Therefore, unless Christ lied, this word must have been fulfilled at the time that the Holy Spirit came. He must have accomplished in them and through them all that the Lord here says, and have guided them into all the truth. How now will it be inferred from this that Christ did not tell all to the apostles, nor did the Holy Spirit, but left much untold, which the councils should teach and determine? Whereas, according to their claims, the contrary should follow, that the Holy Spirit has told all to the apostles; and Christ is pressing towards this conclusion, that he will explain all to the apostles and will introduce into the world through them, what they have learned from the Holy Spirit. How then does their juggling agree, that what is to be known, believed and done in the church is only to be told, taught, decided and ordained after the apostles at the end of the world.

 

66. Furthermore, if what the councils have taught and decided after the apostles is to be taken as truth, revealed anew by the Holy Spirit, the apostles themselves did not come into all the truth, much less they to whom they preached. And together with them the church would be deceived by Christ, when be promises them: The Holy Spirit shall guide you into all the truth.

 

67. Secondly, Christ says plainly: ”I have yet many things to say unto you.” He does not say: I have many other things to say unto you, and the Holy Spirit shall teach and explain to you other things than I have told you. This is their own addition, which they daub on the words of Christ, and so pervert them, that teaching many things (multa) is to mean teaching other things (alia). We would wish them well to the word ”many,” if only they had the grace of the Holy Spirit to teach many things; but it is not to be endured, that under the guise of the word ”many” they also wish to introduce and to have power to teach other things. For they impudently claim that the church by inspiration of the Holy Spirit appointed and ordained many things after the apostles, which must be observed; among others the article of one form in the Sacrament, celibacy of priests, and the like. This is not teaching more or further, but altogether different things, aye, contrary things against the clear ordinance and command of Christ, which they themselves must acknowledge is right. Nevertheless it is to be heresy and wrong to act contrary to their law according to the command of Christ; for the church, they say, has ordained differently. If you ask, on what ground, they answer: ”Christ says: ”I have yet many things to say unto you;” indeed, even that which is contrary to his own Word and command.

 

68. Truly, that would be a fine church, which could arrogate to itself the power, as the Antichristian church of the pope does, to teach contrary to Christ whatever it wished, and to change his ordinances, and then would prove and confirm it with this saying: ”I have yet many things to say unto you.” Whereas he says distinctly of the Holy Spirit, and so puts limit and measure upon him, that the Holy Spirit shall glorify Christ and not speak from himself, but take and proclaim of his own, that is, of that which is the Word and command of Christ. Therefore the company that teaches otherwise, cannot be from the Holy Spirit, nor the church of Christ, but must be the sect of the hateful devil.

 

69. For the Christian church and the Holy Spirit himself abide by that which Christ said and commanded. They may make more of it, that is, elucidate it in length and in breadth, but they do not make something different of it. For this saying ”many things” consists in discussing one point in manifold ways and yet always saying one thing. For instance John the Evangelist wrote many more things than Christ said here; but yet always holds to the one thing, discussing thoroughly the article of faith on the person, office and kingdom of Christ, of which also Christ speaks, and his scope or main point always looks to this Lamb of God. Likewise St. Paul in the Epistle to the Romans and almost throughout that to the Galatians treats of and enforces the righteousness of faith.

 

70. Doubtless this is to preach much and to say more than Christ said in these few words but yet always one thing and not something different. For it is the quality of a good preacher, that he is able to take a subject and briefly comprehend it and sum it up in two or three words, and afterwards, if there is need, also to elucidate and explain it with sayings and examples and make out of a flower a whole meadow: just as a goldsmith is able to bend one piece of silver together solidly into a lump, and again beat it broad, crooked and curly, and into thin foil; and so it becomes a long or a short sermon, but always the same and not contradictory. For God's Word is to dwell in us richly, says St. Paul (Col 3, 16), so that we may be powerful in the Scriptures and able to prove the right doctrine by them. The Epistle to the Hebrews does this which for the most part speaks of the priesthood of Christ, and spins a long sermon out of the saying in the 110th Psalm, v. 4: ”Thou art a priest forever,” adducing many more sayings, texts and examples; and yet, viewed as a whole, it amounts to nothing more than this one point, that Christ is the only eternal priest. This indeed means that much more is said than David says in the psalm mentioned, but still nothing different. So since the beginning of Christianity much more has been taught and preached, through the Holy Spirit, than Christ did, and more may be taught still every day and expounded most abundantly and in every manner, as more is revealed to one than another, or as it falls and is given to one to speak more copiously than another; but still in such a way, that when it is all finally brought together, it all refers to one Christ. And how many things can be adduced as illustrations from the whole Bible, aye, from all creatures, which all agree with the teaching of the Gospel, none of which Christ has taught or said, and yet it is the same doctrine!

 

71. St. Paul also speaks of this when he refers to the gift of prophecy or the interpretation of the Scriptures, and lays down a measure and rule by which it is to be governed: ”Whether prophecy, let us prophecy”, says he in Rom 12, 6, ”according to the proportion of our faith,” that is, in harmony and agreement with the doctrine of faith. For instance, if one wished to adduce the example of Abraham, who took his son Isaac upon the mountain to sacrifice him there, but left his servants and the ass below at the foot of the mountain; this example can be interpreted for and according to the faith, or against the faith. The Jewish preachers and teachers did the latter, when they set forth that whoever would allow himself to be sacrificed and killed in the same manner, he would do the loftiest work and would immediately ascend to heaven; wherefore kings, who desired to be distinguished saints, sacrificed and burned to God their own children alive. Similarly our monkish saints interpret it. If one wishes to come to God, he must leave servants and beasts below at the foot of the mountain, that is, put away the five senses and have nothing to do with outward, worldly affairs, but separated from all this, live in spiritual contemplation. This can be called interpreting and teaching not in proportion to and according to the faith, but against it. But you may interpret it in this way: Whoever wishes to come to God, must rise above human understanding and thoughts, so that he may have God's Word, to learn to know and apprehend God from it, and there offers before him by faith (if the conscience is to stand before God) the sacrifice, given for us as a sacrifice by God, Christ, the Son of God, and meanwhile lets the ass with the servants remain below, that is, what is of our own work and doing. In this way I have adduced this example. This is the same teaching that the Gospel contains everywhere, and is not against, but for the faith; although this also is not the real, sure interpretation of this history.

 

72. Our papistic asses, swine and simpletons will not regard this, but wish to persuade us to accept everything that is put forth and taught in the name of the church or the councils, as if the Holy Spirit taught it, irrespective of how it agrees and corresponds with the teaching of the Gospel; and all is to be confirmed by the saying: ”I have yet many things to say unto you.” No, dear fellow, that will not pass, although he has more to say; you cannot for this reason say whatever you please, or what every monk has dreamed, or what every bold papist wishes to be observed. This I willingly grant you, that you may spread these words of Christ and be a copious preacher, and out of one word make a thousand, in order that it may become clear, bright and lucid, and everybody may understand it; but only in such a way that the one pure, uncorrupted doctrine remains. But if, contrary to this, you bring up and put forth a new doctrine, for instance, if anybody becomes a monk, he has a new baptism and becomes as pure as a young child, just baptized; then not the Holy Spirit, but the devil teaches you to speak, and it is not teaching more, but something quite different from and contradictory to what Christ says. Therefore a Christian must be prudent in this matter and, as St. John teaches, be able to prove the spirits according to the Word of God, and be on his guard, lest he allows himself to be told another teaching, be it much or little, and led and guided upon another way.

 

73. Thirdly, he says: ”Ye cannot bear them now.” You observe here, that he is speaking of excellent, great things, which are too difficult for them, and for this reason alone he is unwilling to say more about them now, because they are too imperfect and weak. He refers, of course, to the same things and none other, than he began to speak of, namely, his kingdom, how it should progress in the world; how he must die the most shameful death and become a curse, and yet be believed on as the Saviour, the Son of God and the Lord over all. Furthermore, that they should be persecuted and killed by the world, and nevertheless the Gospel should prosper, and by it the whole Jewish people, their priesthood, temple, service of God and all their glory, should fall to the ground. At that time they were able to understand none of these things, even if he had preached to them for many years, until they were taught by the Holy Spirit through experience in their office of preaching.

 

74. But tell me, in comparison with these things what is all that has been ordained and appointed later, after the apostles, by councils and popes? Is that such a difficult thing, that it cannot be understood or endured without special revelation and power of the Holy Spirit? How this or that order and monastic rule is to be kept; shall black or gray hoods be worn; on Friday no meat is to be eaten; only one form of the sacrament is to be used; should not the apostles have been able to understand and bear such things, which every unlearned, wicked rascal can well understand and do? Ah, they were much higher things, which the apostles could not bear, and a higher art than these good-for-nothing babblers dream of. I certainly think that what the apostles were not able to understand and bear, that you also will not be able to understand and bear with the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. For the doctrine of faith is difficult to grasp and is not so easily learned, as inexperienced spirits dream; namely, that a man must go out of himself, out of his own life and works, and with his whole mind fasten to that, which he neither sees nor feels in himself, namely, that Christ goes to the Father. O, it is a difficult art, to despair thus of one's self, and to let go whatever one has of his good or bad life, and to cling to the Word of Christ alone and to give body and soul for it. What power of reason can search out or teach this, if the whole world be searched over? Only try it with earnestness and in the real conflict of conscience, and you will experience it. For the devil and our own nature, and so many sects and false doctrines fight against it too hard. Let this be said against the lies and asinine art of the papists, with which they defile and bedaub this beautiful text, in order to confirm their lies.

 

75. But the meaning of this, that Christ calls the Holy Spirit ”the Spirit of truth”, belongs to the explanation of other Gospels, and is elsewhere fully expounded. But it is said here advisedly, ”The Spirit of truth” and, ”'He shall guide you into all the truth,” that is, into the true, pure doctrine, which preaches of me and, as he afterwards says, shall glorify me. For he sees far ahead here, that the spirit of lies, the devil, will stir and put himself forward even in the church, and set forth his own with great plausibility and approval; and he would fain say: O, how many sects shall arise, all of whom shall boast wonderfully of great mind, and yet they will only seduce people away from Christ and the truth into error and perdition.

 

76. Therefore he describes the Holy Spirit, and gives to him the true token, by which he can be known and tested: ”He shall glorify me; for he shall take of mine.” It is he alone, who elucidates Christ, as he has made himself known through his word; so that it may be known, that whoever teaches anything different, and yet pretends to be a Christian and adorns himself with the name, is not of the Spirit of Christ. For he shall teach no other thing, but adhere to the same teaching of Christ, except that he spreads it more and makes it clearer and plainer; wherefore he says: ”He shall glorify me.”

 

77. Furthermore, when he says: ”He shall not speak from himself,” he again distinguishes between the false and the true Spirit. For the others all come of themselves, and speak from themselves, what they have thought out. Now he says, this is not the quality of the Holy Spirit, but of the devil. ”When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof.” Jn 8, 44. Therefore he wishes to say: If a spirit is heard, who speaks from himself, he is certainly a liar. But the Holy Spirit shall not speak from himself; but what he receives from me and as he shall hear me and the Father speak with each other.

 

78. This is truly an incisive text for the article of the three persons in the divine Being, that the Son of God is the Word of the Father in eternity, whom no one hears speak except the Holy Spirit; and he not only hears, but also testifies and proclaims it in the world. And in short, it all tends to this, that it is God's purpose that the Holy Spirit shall teach and pursue only the article of Christ, how we become righteous before God for his sake. Therefore he concludes -  ”He shall glorify me - , for he shall take of mine;” that is, he shall indeed say more than I, and speak and explain more clearly; but he shall take of mine, and speak of me and not of men and their holiness and works. This is to be his true office and work, by which he shall be known, and which he shall carry on until this Christ is well known. When you have learned this, you may seek for another Holy Spirit; but I hope we shall all remain the disciples of this Master and Teacher until the last day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fifth Sunday after Easter;

John 16:23-30

 

John 16:23-30

And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father. His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.

 

1. We are accustomed to read today's Gospel on this Sunday because it treats of prayer and this week is called Rogation (Supplication) week, in which we give ourselves to prayer and to processions with crosses. Those who first instituted it, no doubt, meant it well, but it has proven to work harm. For, in the processions heretofore, many unchristian things have been practised, and there has been no praying at all or very little; so that the processions were rightly abolished and discontinued. Often have I admonished that we should persevere in prayer, for there is great need of it. Since the outward prating and muttering of prayer is done away with, we no longer pray in any way. This is a good indication that we heretofore, notwithstanding our many prayers, never prayed.

 

2. The Lord points out here five things necessary to constitute true prayer. The first is God's promise, which is the chief thing and is the foundation and power of all prayers. For he promises here that it shall be given us if we ask; and besides he swears: ”Verily, verily, I say unto you, if ye shall ask anything of the Father, he will give it you in my name.” He promises that we might be sure of being heard in prayer; yea, he censures the disciples for the reason that they are lazy and have not therefore been praying. As if he would say: God is ready to give more quickly, and to give more than you ask; yea, he offers his treasures if we only take them. It is truly a great shame and a severe chastisement for us Christians that God should still upbraid us for our slothfulness in prayer, and that we fail to let such a rich and excellent promise incite us to pray. We let this precious treasure lie there, and seek it not, nor exercise ourselves to receive the power in such a promise.

 

3. So God himself now founds our prayer upon his promise and thereby encourages us to pray. If it were not for this promise, who would have the courage to pray? We have hitherto resorted to many ways of preparing ourselves to pray - ways with which the books are filled; but if you wish to be well prepared, take the promise and lay hold of God with it. Then your courage and desire to pray will soon grow, which courage you will never otherwise get. For those who pray without God's promise, imagine in themselves how angry God is, whom they wish to propitiate by means of their prayers. Without faith in the promise, there is then, neither courage nor desire to pray, but mere uncertain delusion and a melancholy spirit; there is, therefore, no hearing of prayers, and both prayer and labor are lost.

 

4. By these words Christ now chastises the unbelief of those who, by reason of their foolish worship, consider themselves unworthy to pray, and gauge the worthiness of their prayer according to themselves and their own ability, and not according to the promise of God. There is then, to be sure, nothing but unworthiness. However, you should, by all means, be conscious of your own unworthiness, taking confidence not from your own doings, but from the promise of God, and be so completely conscious, that if you were all alone, and no one else in the world prayed, you would nevertheless pray, because of this promise. For you can point me to no true saint who prayed, depending upon his own worthiness, and who did not rely only upon God's promises, be he Peter, Paul, Mary, Elijah, or any one else. All of them have been unworthy. I would not give a nickel for all the prayers of a saint if he prayed because of his own worthiness.

 

5. The second requisite of true prayer, following that of God's promise, is faith - that we believe the promise is true, and do not doubt that God will give what he promises. For the words of the promise require faith. But faith is a firm, undoubting confidence in God's promise that it is true; as James says: ”But if any of you lacketh wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing doubting: for he that doubteth is like the surge of the sea driven by the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.” James 1, 5-7. Moreover, he who doubts and yet prays, tempts God; for he doubts in respect to God's will and grace. Therefore, his prayer is nothing and he gropes after God like the blind for the wall. John also speaks of this assurance of faith in I John 5, 14-15: ”And this is the boldness which we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth: and if we know that he heareth us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him.” John describes with these words how a truly believing heart is disposed in prayer, namely, that it is concerned about nothing else than that its prayer be heard, knowing that it has even then obtained its petition. That is also true. Such faith and definite assurance, however, the Holy Spirit must impart; therefore, without the Holy Spirit, surely no prayer will be offered.

 

6 Try it, now, and pray thus. Then you will taste the sweetness of God's promise. What courage and consolation of heart it awakens to pray for all things! It matters not how great and high the petitions may be. Elijah was a man of like passions with ourselves; yet when he prayed, it did not rain for three years and six months, and when he again prayed it rained. I Kings, 17, 1; 18, 45. Notice, here you see a single man prays and by his prayer he is lord of the clouds, of heaven and earth. So God lets us see what power and influence a true prayer has, namely, that nothing is impossible for it to do.

 

7. Let everyone now ask his heart how often he has prayed during his whole life. Singing Psalms and saying the Lord's Prayer is not called praying. These are instituted for children and untutored people, as exercises, to make them athletes in the Scriptures. Your prayer, however, no one but yourself sees and feels in your heart, and you will truly know it, when it hits the mark.

 

8. The third requisite of true prayer is, that one must name definitely something that he brings to God or for which he prays; as for strong faith, for love, for peace, and for the comfort of his neighbor. One must actually set forth the petitions; just as the Lord's Prayer presents seven petitions. This is what Christ means by the words: ”If ye shall ask anything of the Father.” ”Anything,” that is, whatever you are in need of. Besides, he himself interprets this ”anything'” and says: ”That your joy may be made full.” That is, pray for all things you need, until you have acquired even all and your joy is made full; and his prayer will first be fully answered on the day of judgment.

 

9. The fourth element in true prayer is that we must desire, or wish that the petition be granted, which is nothing but asking; as Christ says, ”Ask.” Others have called this ”Ascensum mentis in Deum,” when the soul ascends to God and desires something from him, and sighs from its depths, saying: Oh, that I had this or that! Such sighing St. Paul praises in Rom 8, 26. It is an intercession of the Spirit that cannot be uttered. That is, the mouth wants to, but cannot speak as rapidly and strongly as the heart desires; the yearning is greater that any words and thoughts. Hence it is, also, that man himself does not feel how deep his sighing or desire is. When Zacchaeus sought to see the Lord, he himself did not feel how strongly his heart wished that Christ might speak with him and come into his house. However, when his desire was fulfilled, he was very happy, for he had succeeded according to all his wishes and prayers; he had received more than he had dared to ask by word of mouth, or desire. Lk 19, 2ff. Moses, likewise, cried so that God spake to him: ”Wherefore criest thou unto me?” Ex 14, 15, and yet his mouth kept silence; but his heart, in its extremity, sighed deeply and that was called crying unto God. In like manner St. Paul writes to the Ephesians: ”God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. Eph 3, 20. Now, temptation, anxiety and trouble induce this sighing; they teach us what true sighing is.

 

10. The fifth requisite of true prayer is, that we ask in the name of Christ, This is nothing more than that we come before God in the faith of Christ and comfort ourselves with the sure confidence that he is our Mediator, through whom all things are given to us, without whom we merit nothing but wrath and disgrace. As Paul says to the Romans: ”Through whom also we have had our access by faith into this grace wherein we stand; and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Rom 5, 2. It is praying aright in Christ's name, when we thus trust in him that we will be received and heard for his sake, and not for our own sake. Those, however, who pray in their own name, who presume that God will hear or regard them, because they say so many, such long, such devout, such godly prayers, will merit and obtain nothing but wrath and disgrace; for they wish to be people whom God should regard without a mediator. To them, Christ here is of no consideration, nor is he of any service.

 

11. We observe that all five requisites of prayer may be complied with in the heart, without any utterance of the mouth. The oral part of prayer is really not to be despised, but it is necessary to kindle and encourage prayer inwardly, in the heart. The additional conditions, however, of which I have written enough elsewhere, should and must be omitted that we specify to God the time, person, place, and measure. We must leave all that to his own free will, and cling only to asking; we must not doubt that the prayer is heard, and that what we petitioned is already ordered - that it will be given - as certainly as if we already had it. This is pleasing to God and he will do as he here promises: ”Ask, and ye shall receive.” Those, however, who set the time, place and measure, tempt God, and believe not that they are heard or that they have obtained what they asked; therefore, they also receive nothing. The Gospel lesson continues:

 

”Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name.”

12. It may be that they knew, as yet nothing of such prayer, and of this name; besides they felt no need that urged them to pray in this name. They imagined that so long as Christ was with them they needed nothing and had enough of everything. But, now that he is to separate from them and leave them, trouble immediately comes and they will have reason enough to move them to pray.

 

”These things have I spoken unto you in parables (dark sayings).”

13. When he says, ”these things,” he means that which he had just before spoken: ”A little while, and ye behold me not; and again a little while, and ye shall see me;” and, ”Because I go to the Father;” also, the parable of the woman in travail. For these were nothing but parables, that is, dark-obscure sayings, which they did not understand. John calls these dark, hidden sayings ”parables,” although the German language does not designate them so, but calls them enigmas or veiled sayings. We are accustomed to say of one who has uttered an enigmatical saying: ”That is a covered dish or a covered meal,” when the words have a meaning not on the surface. In parables, the meaning to be conveyed is expressed in a way that not everyone understands. Of this nature were all the sayings of Christ, which he spoke to his

disciples on the night of his farewell and his going to the Father; they could understand nothing of them. They thought his going would not be dying and coming into another existence; they thought of it as a pleasure walk and that Christ should return in the body, as one journeys to another country and returns. Therefore, although he spoke plainly and clearly, yet going and parting were a ”covered meal” to them. Hence, he adds:

 

”The hour cometh when I shall no more speak unto you in dark sayings (parables), but shall tell you plainly of the Father.”

14. That is, what I now speak to you, while in the body, and my parables ye understand not, which I will thoroughly explain to you through the Holy Spirit. I will plainly speak of my Father, that you may then understand who the Father is and what my going to the Father means. You will clearly see how I ascend through suffering into the Father's life and into his kingdom; that I sit at his right hand and represent you and am your mediator; that all this is done for your sake, that you may likewise come to the Father. ”I shall tell you plainly of the Father” is not to be understood to mean that he will tell us much about God's divine nature, as the sophists fancy; for that is unnecessary and the divine nature of God is incomprehensible. But Christ will tell us how he goes to the Father, how he takes upon himself the kingdom and government of the Father; as a king's son returns to his father and assumes the government of the kingdom. Christ says further:

 

”In that day ye shall ask in my name.”

15. For then, in your many tribulations, you will have not only reason to pray, but will also know and perceive what my name is and how you should esteem me. Then will you be taught by praying itself what you now do not at all understand, and that hitherto you have never prayed. Therefore, he adds:

 

”And I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came forth from the Father.”

16. How, then? Will Christ not be our mediator? Shall we not pray in his name? How lovingly and sweetly the Lord can speak, and woo us to himself, and, through himself, to the Father! Here he, himself, explains how it will be when we pray in his name: ”Ye,” he says, ”have loved me, and have believed that I came forth from the Father.” That is, ye love me and know me; have me and my name and are in me as I in you. For Christ dwells in us, not because we can think, speak, sing or write so much about him; but because we love him and believe in him. We know that he is come from the Father and returns to the Father; that is, how he emptied himself, in his passion, of all his divine glory and returned again to the Father in his kingdom, for our sake. This faith brings us to the Father, and thus all then is done in his name.

 

17. So we are sure that Christ needs not to pray for us, for he has already prayed for us. We, ourselves, may now approach through Christ, and pray. We no longer need a Christ who prays for us. This one Christ is enough, he who has prayed for us and accomplished this work. Therefore, he says: ”The Father himself loveth you.” It is not your merit, but his love. He loves you, but for my sake, because you believe on me and love me; that is, he has regard for my name in you. Hence, thereby have I fulfilled my office, and you are now brought, through me, to where you may yourselves, in my place, appear in his presence and pray. It is not necessary that I still pray for you. These are marvelous words, that we, through Christ, become like Christ and are his brethren, and may glory in being children of his Father, who loves us for Christ's sake. He says in John 1 16, 'Grace for Grace,” that is, God is gracious unto us, because he is gracious to Christ, who is in us and we in him.

 

18. And here we also see that to ”believe in Christ” does not mean to believe that Christ is a person who is both God and man; that does not help any one. But that this same person is the Christ; that is, that he went forth from the Father and came into the world, and again leaves the world and goes to the Father. The words mean no less than that this is Christ, that he became man and died for us, rose again and ascended to heaven. Because of this office of his, he is called Jesus Christ, and to believe this concerning him, that it is true, means to be and to abide in his name. There follows further in this Gospel:

 

”His disciples say, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no dark sayings.”

19. Here you see that to speak ”plainly” (”frei heraus”), or to speak in clear terms, means to speak without parables, or without dark and covered words. And the good disciples think they understand very well what he tells them, that Christ comes from the Father and goes to the Father; but they do this as good, pious children of Christ. They are easily able to understand it, and in love they tell him so. In ordinary conversation, people sometimes say to one another Yes or No, or give assent, saying, It is so, and in a sense one understands, even though he is still far from the meaning of another's words. In such case the conversation is without hypocrisy and in true simplicity. The Evangelist hereby shows what a beautiful, plain, friendly and loving life Christ led with his disciples, since they were so very able to understand him. Then the disciples say further: