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Christ takes away all the wrath, anger, enmity, and disfavor of God

The WORD

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). John 6:38–40. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 

Christ also says here: “My will is not Mine alone or something apart from the Father’s will; for whatever I will, He also wills. And whenever you hear Me, do not flit back and forth, as though God wanted to teach you something different from what I am doing. It is His will that I say: When you come to Christ, the Father will not reject you.” Therewith Christ takes away all the wrath, anger, enmity, and disfavor of God, certifying that neither He nor the Father will cast us out and reject us. Then we can stand our ground when a bad conscience assails us, and not say: “I have lived a holy life.” For this would not be enough, nor could you survive on it. But there is comfort in saying: “I believe in Christ, who was born of the Virgin Mary, who suffered and died. I rely on His own statement that He will not cast out him who comes to Him. In reliance on these words I come to Thee, dear Lord Christ, for that is the expression of Thy will and Thy heart, as also of Thy mouth. These words are certain and sufficient. I am sure that Thou art not deceiving me. These words will not fail me. Thou wilt not cast out those who come to Thee. Even though I am a scoundrel and lack the holiness and piety to stand before Thee, Thou art nonetheless faithful and wantest me to be raised from the dead on the Last Day. Even though I cannot hold my own, Thou, dear Lord, wilt stand firm. Thou wilt not reject me.

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 23: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 6-8. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 23, pp. 64–65). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Recognizing the Giver

The WORD
10“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you: Give Me a drink! you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

 

“I would be happier to reverse the order and give you a drink. In fact, this is the reason for My presence here. I am asking for a drink to quench My physical thirst that I might have occasion to give you a drink. If you only realized what a gift is now to be found on earth, you would ask Me for it, and I would give you a drink that would taste better than this water. It is of the utmost importance to recognize this gift and to know Him who gives it. But neither the gift nor the Giver is known.” This is also our lament—and it will eternally remain so—that the schismatic spirits do not recognize the gift even when exhorted to do so; and the great multitude also despises this ineffably precious treasure and fails to recognize the Giver of this gift. In fact, we too, who claim to be saints, pay it no heed and do not fully appreciate the value of this treasure offered to us through the Gospel. My dear friend, how few there are among us who esteem this as a genuine treasure, as an eternal gem, as everlasting life! There must be some, however, who will hazard life and limb for it. In Matt. 13 we read of a man who found a pearl in a field. He sold all his possessions in order to buy pearl and field (Matt. 13:45–46). Thus we find many who are willing to endure tortures because of it; they, too, will receive the drink. But the other crowd says flippantly: “What do I care about it?” You will find a hundred thousand people who regard silver mined from the earth as a real treasure. They will not shrink from laboring night and day to acquire such a perishable treasure.

Would to God that we could gradually train our hearts to believe that the preacher’s words are God’s Word and that the man addressing us is a scholar and a king. As a matter of fact, it is not an angel or a hundred thousand angels but the Divine Majesty Himself that is preaching there. To be sure, I do not hear this with my ears or see it with my eyes; all I hear is the voice of the preacher, or of my brother or father, and I behold only a man before me. But I view the picture correctly if I add that the voice and words of father or pastor are not his own words and doctrine but those of our Lord and God. It is not a prince, a king, or an archangel whom I hear; it is He who declares that He is able to dispense the water of eternal life. If we could believe this, we would be content indeed. However, a fault which is manifest throughout the world and also in us is that we fail to recognize the gift and its Giver. I, too, am not at all perfect in this respect; my faith is not as profound and strong as I should like to have it. Flesh and blood are an impediment. They merely behold the person of the pastor and brother and hear only the voice of the father. They cannot be induced to say: “When I hear the Word, I hear a peal of thunder, and I see the whole world filled with lightning.” No, we cannot be brought to do that, and this is most deplorable. Flesh and blood are at fault. They refuse to regard the oral Word and the ministry as a treasure costlier and better than heaven and earth. People generally think: “If I had an opportunity to hear God speak in person, I would run my feet bloody.” This is why people in times past flocked to the Oak, to Aachen, and to the Grym Valley. Because the people believed that Mary would help them in these places, they all hurried there. If someone at that time had announced: “I know of a place in the world where God speaks and anyone can hear God there”; if I had gone there and seen and heard a poor pastor baptizing and preaching, and if I had been assured: “This is the place; here God is speaking through the voice of the preacher who brings God’s Word”—I would have said: “Well, I have been duped! I see only a pastor.” We should like to have God speak to us in His majesty. But I advise you not to run hither and yon for this. I suppose we could learn how people would run if God addressed them in His majesty. This is what happened on Mt. Sinai, where only the angels spoke and yet the mountain was wrapped in smoke and quaked. But you now have the Word of God in church, in books, in your home; and this is God’s Word as surely as if God Himself were speaking to you.

Christ says: “You do not know the gift.” We recognize neither the Word nor the Person of Christ, but we take offense at His humble and weak humanity. When God wants to speak and deal with us, He does not avail Himself of an angel but of parents, of the pastor, or of my neighbor. This puzzles and blinds me so that I fail to recognize God, who is conversing with me through the person of the pastor or father. This prompts the Lord Christ to say in the text: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ then I would not be obliged to run after you and beg for a drink. You would run after Me and ask Me for the living water. But since you do not know the gift and do not recognize Him who is speaking with you, you despise Me.” Even if Christ did no more than greet us, it would be a treasure above all treasures; it would be honor and treasure enough. He has another treasure in store for us, however, which He reveals when He brings us forgiveness of sin and redemption from death, devil, and hell, when He transforms us into heavenly people and illumines our hearts. We can never express the value of this treasure adequately. We shall always fall short of recognizing it fully and of esteeming it as we really and truly should.

We should mark well that this is spoken to us too. If we recognized this gift, we would receive water in which the Holy Spirit is given to us. By God’s grace we have at least begun to recognize God’s gift and the Teacher. If we had not, I would not be able to teach you. Then you would fare as you did in the papacy, where you were told: “Run hither and yon!” However, thus far we have received only the first fruits and not the tithe. It is just beginning to dawn on us that God’s speaking to us is an inexpressibly precious gift and that we are honored to be God’s pupils and disciples. This is what is meant by knowing the nature of the gift and the person of the Doctor and Teacher. We and our hearers are just beginning to recognize that it is not a man we are listening to, but that it is God who is telling us things that contain an everlasting treasure. Therefore we are told again and again that we cannot speak about this subject enough; we must be like a stammering child. We cannot fathom what an incomprehensibly great treasure we possess in the divine Word. Nor do we really understand who this Person addressing us is or how excellent and exalted this Person is. If we did, it would impel us to boast of being followers, not of a king or of an emperor but of God. People in the world are proud if they have a gracious lord, or if they are privileged to see a prince; it means much to them to stand in his presence and hear him speak. Now it is true that it is a treasure to have a gracious lord or to be a prince’s counselor. But look at the glory of the man who can say: “I am God’s pupil; I hear Him speak—not an angel, not a pastor or a prince, but God Himself. I am His counselor.” For God says: “My message is an excellent gift, and by comparison the world’s riches and glory are nothing but filth.”

My dear friend, regard it as a real treasure that God speaks into your physical ear. The only thing that detracts from this gift is our deficient knowledge of it. To be sure, I do hear the sermon; however, I am wont to ask: “Who is speaking?” The pastor? By no means! You do not hear the pastor. Of course, the voice is his, but the words he employs are really spoken by my God. Therefore I must hold the Word of God in high esteem that I may become an apt pupil of the Word. If we looked upon it as the Word of God, we would be glad to go to church, to listen to the sermon, and to pay attention to the precious Word. There we would hear Christ say: “Give Me a drink!” But since we do not honor the Word of God or show any interest in our own salvation, we do not hear the Word. In fact, we do not enjoy listening to any preacher unless he is gifted with a good and clear voice. If you look more at the pastor than at God; if you do not see God’s person but merely gape to see whether the pastor is learned and skilled, whether he has good diction and articulates distinctly—then you have already become half a Jacob. For a poor speaker may speak the Word of God just as well as he who is endowed with eloquence. A father speaks the Word of God as well as God does, and your neighbor speaks it as well as the angel Gabriel. There is no difference between the Word when uttered by a schoolboy and when uttered by the angel Gabriel; they vary only in rhetorical ability. It matters not that dishes are made of different material—some of silver, others of tin—or whether they are enameled earthen dishes. The same food may be prepared in silver as in dishes of tin. Venison, properly seasoned and prepared, tastes just as good in a wooden dish as in one of silver. We must also make this application to Baptism and absolution. This ought to be a comfort to us. People, however, do not recognize the person of God but only stare at the person of man. This is like a tired and hungry man who would refuse to eat unless the food is served on a silver platter. Such is the attitude that motivates the choice of many preachers today. Many, on the other hand, are forced to quit their office, are driven out and expelled. That is done by those who do not know this gift, who assume that it is a mere man speaking to them, although, as a matter of fact, it is even more than an angel, namely, your dear God, who creates body and soul. This does not imply that we should despise and reject the gifts which God has distributed according to His own measure, more to the one and fewer to the other; for gifts are manifold. However, there is but one God who works through this multiplicity of gifts (1 Cor. 12:6). One dare not despise the treasure because of the person. Our God wishes to impress this on us all, not only on this young woman. Christ wishes to say: “I am not so much concerned that you give Me a drink as that I supply you with living water.” It is a disgrace that Christ must go begging on earth, even among His own followers. It is a shame that He must cry: “For the sake of God, give Me bread!” He wants to rouse us to give gladly to those who serve in the ministry. But although Christ pleads and cries: “For the sake of God, give Me bread!” His plea is not fulfilled; for people assume that it is a poor pastor speaking. Verily, Christ does not stand in need of heaven and earth; He could eat and also satisfy His own with food. But He wants to say: “I am begging that you may obtain food and drink. I use your help to feed Me and My own. In this way you might recognize Him who dispenses the true, eternal drink of water and learn what sort of Word He possesses. After you know that it is I and that the Word is Mine, you will say: ‘After all, everything belongs to Thee; we will gladly return all to Thee. Dear Lord, give us who are truly hungry the real bread and drink.’ This is the reason why I beg and say: ‘For the sake of God, give Me bread!’—that you may recognize Him who is speaking to the young woman.” (If He were to ask her for a drink, then she, in turn, would ask Him; and He would give her the water of everlasting life, and she would never die.) This is also what Christ wishes to do to us. But first we must learn to know the gift and the Teacher. Then we should be ready not only to give all but also to say: “Oh, dear Lord, give me some of the eternal water too! Without it I must die of eternal thirst and hunger!” Christ says: “I am asking you to give Me bread for the sake of God because I want to give you the everlasting bread.”

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 22: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 22, pp. 525–530). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Luther highlights St. Bernard imaginings of Lucifer’s fall

Editor’s note: Fascinating…Luther discusses the thoughts of St. Benard here on Christ taking on flesh (he uses the term “bag of worms”). While we cannot say this is more than a vivid imagining inspired by this amazing happening, it is cool to ponder (and helps put perspective to the amazing event of incarnation of our Lord). NOTE: It’s a little long, but worth the read.

St Bernard on Lucifer’s fall

This fact elicited the awe of St. Bernard and gave rise to many fine thoughts, found especially in his devotions. He gave it as his opinion that this had caused the archfiend Lucifer’s fall and eviction from heaven. Perhaps Lucifer, so St. Bernard supposed, had fore-knowledge of God’s eternal resolution to become a man in time, and not an angel. This provoked his insolence against God. He was aware, of course, that he was a creature more beautiful and excellent in appearance than man. This also aroused his envy of mankind; he begrudged man the high honor of God’s assumption of human nature. This vexed him and his companions. They became envious when they learned that God would despise them and assume human nature. Therefore Lucifer and his hosts fell and were driven out of heaven.

For if an emperor were to place a beggar at the head of his table and were to assign the seats at the lower end to great and mighty lords, kings, princes, to learned scholars and wise counselors, they would certainly be amazed and humiliated by this act. We human beings on earth cannot do better than the elder son, of whom we read in Luke 15:25–30. His brother, the prodigal son, the reveler and rake, was now reduced to begging and had returned. In welcome his father had butchered a fatted calf for this spoiled son, who had devoured his living with harlots and knaves, whereas the father had never given even a kid to him who always obeyed his commands. When the elder brother heard all this, he became angry and jealous.

St. Bernard thought that Lucifer and his company were similarly affected when they learned that God was to become a man and not an angel. And if we really ponder the matter, we cannot but conclude that it would have been far more reasonable and honorable for God to adopt the nature of His noblest creatures, the angels, than that of sinful human nature, which had imbibed the poison of the old serpent, the devil, in Paradise. God’s assumption of human nature and the union of God and man in the person of Christ is comparable to placing a filthy sow at table and chasing away holy and pious people.

Furthermore, St. Bernard said that the good angels rejoiced at the time and said: “If this arrangement is pleasing to God, our Lord and Creator, then it is also pleasing to us.” And they remained in heaven and recognized Christ as their Lord and God. This is verified in Matt. 28:6, where the angel says to Mary Magdalene and to other women: “Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”
Although these ideas expressed by St. Bernard do not constitute an article of faith, they do sound plausible.

The dear fathers, I say, were amazed that the divine majesty assumed every aspect of this bag of worms, our human nature, except sin and guiltiness of death. He ate, drank, slept, waked, etc.; but He was not born in sin as we were. To be sure, this is so indescribable and inexplicable that anyone who really believes it must needs wonder. Yes, heaven, earth, and every creature must be awe-stricken at the thought that God should regard man dearer and nobler than an angel, although man is really a wretched creature by comparison. God’s preference for the human nature over the angelic might well arouse envy. But all this should make us meditate on the great glory that is ours. For the angels in heaven rejoice over the incarnation. This is why they constantly surround the Lord and serve Him. This is why they were about His grave when He arose from the dead.

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 22: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 22, pp. 104–105). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Gird up your minds,
be sober

The WORD
13“Therefore gird up your minds, be sober, set your hope fully upon the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

 

This is an exhortation to faith. It means: Since things in which even the angels rejoice and which they are delighted to see have been proclaimed and given to you through the Gospel, cling to them and place full confidence in them, so that it is a genuine faith and not a colored or fictitious delusion and dream.

Gird up your minds.

Here Peter is speaking about a spiritual girding of the mind, just as one girds a sword physically to one’s loins. Christ also touched on girding when He said: “Let your loins be girded” (Luke 12:35). In several places in Scripture the loins denote physical unchastity. But here St. Peter is speaking of spiritual loins. In a physical sense Scripture calls the loins the source of the natural descent from the father. Thus we read in Gen. 49:10 that Christ is to come from the loins of Judah. Thus the physical girding of the loins is nothing else than chastity, as Is. 11:5 states: “Righteousness shall be the girdle of His waist, and faithfulness the girdle of His loins.” That is, one suppresses and overcomes evil lust only through faith.

But the spiritual girding—of which the apostle is speaking here—takes place as follows: Just as a virgin is physically pure and blameless, so the soul is spiritually blameless because of faith, through which it becomes the bride of Christ. But if it falls from faith into false doctrine, it must go to ruin. For this reason Scripture consistently calls idolatry and unbelief adultery and whoring, that is, if the soul clings to the teachings of men and thus surrenders faith and Christ. St. Peter forbids this here when he tells us to gird the loins of the mind. It is as if he were saying: You have now heard the Gospel and have come to faith. Therefore see to it that you remain in faith and not be moved by false doctrine, that you do not waver and run hither and thither with works.

Here St. Peter adopts a peculiar expression—different from that of St. Paul—when he speaks of “the loins of your mind.” He uses the word “mind” for what we mean when we speak of being minded, as if I said: “I regard this as right,” or, as St. Paul expresses himself (Rom. 3:28), “We hold that”; that is, “So we are minded.” With this he actually means faith and wants to say: “You have come to the proper understanding, namely, that one is justified by faith alone. Now cling to this understanding. Gird it well. Hold fast to it, and do not let anyone wrest it from you. Then all is well with you. For many false teachers will appear and will set up human doctrines, to take away your understanding and loosen the girdle of faith. Therefore be warned, and give careful thought to this.” The hypocrites, who rely on their works and lead a fine moral life, think that God must take them to heaven because of their works. They become puffed up and arrogant. Like the Pharisee in Luke 18:11–12, they insist on their understanding and opinion. Mary speaks about them in the Magnificat, where she uses the same little word Peter employs here. She says: “He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts” (Luke 1:51), that is, in their understanding.

Be sober.

Sobriety serves the body externally and is the chief work of faith. For even though man has become righteous, he is not yet completely rid of evil lusts. To be sure, faith has begun to subdue the flesh; but the flesh continues to bestir itself and rages nevertheless in all sorts of lusts that would like to assert themselves again and do what they want. Therefore the spirit must busy itself daily to tame the flesh and to bring it into subjection, must wrestle with it incessantly, and must take care that it does not repel faith. Therefore those who say that they have faith, think that this is enough, and, in addition, live as they please, are deceiving themselves. Where faith is genuine, it must attack the body and hold it in check, lest the body do what it pleases.

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 30: The Catholic Epistles. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 30, pp. 25–27). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Without Christ life light, and mercy are unattainable

The WORD
16“For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace…”

 

The holy evangelist (John) informed us earlier that without Christ life, light, and mercy are unattainable. Only the believer in Christ’s name enjoys the power and the prerogative to become a child of God. This places all men, including all saints, whatever their name, into one category and labels all as sinners and liars devoid of grace as long as they rely on themselves and have not Christ. For all the descendants of Adam were born in sin and in disfavor with God, with nothing good in them, but imbued with falseness, hypocrisy, lies, and deceit. It avails nothing that they feign piety and saintliness, that they point to their good works, that they want to be regarded as humble and spiritual; all this is useless unless they become children of God through faith in Christ.

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 22: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 22, p. 131). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

John 14:25-26 We are Holy

The WORD

25“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). ([reftagger title=””]John 14:25-26[/reftagger]). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 

This is truly a very comforting verse, one that should be noted well. Earlier we heard the same thing: “He will be in you and will dwell with you forever.” Thus Christendom has the promise of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in its midst. But not only this. He will also teach the Christians and call all Christ’s words to their remembrance until the Last Day. Thus we confess: “I believe in the Holy Spirit and the holy Christian Church.” With these words we affirm that the Holy Spirit dwells with Christendom and sanctifies it, namely, through Word and sacrament, through which He works faith in it and the knowledge of Christ. Those are the tools and the means through which He continuously sanctifies and purifies Christendom. This also makes Christians holy before God, not by virtue of what we ourselves are or do but because the Holy Spirit is given to us. This we shall hear later.

Christians need this comfort, lest they doubt that the Christian Church will remain in the world in the midst of all the unbelievers, Turks, heathen, Jews, heretics, and sects, as well as the devil and his angels. For here is the promise, which neither lies nor deceives: The Holy Spirit “will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” Now we can be sure of this and joyfully glory in it; we can wager everything and live and die on our possessing the Holy Spirit if we have and believe Christ’s Word. Then we can conclude with certainty: “Let the devil, death, and sin be against me! I am holy nevertheless. I believe in Christ and have learned to know Him; I understand and use the Word and the sacraments aright—all this I owe to the Holy Spirit, not to my own brains.

A Christian, however, can glory truthfully and with good reason, and he can say: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, who makes me and all believers holy. Therefore I am a member of a holy order, not that of St. Francis but that of Christ, who makes me holy through His Word and sacraments.” “May God preserve me,” say those monkish saints, “from such presumption! I am a poor sinner.” All right, then go to Rome, to Jerusalem, and through all the orders and cloisters, and see whether you become holy! The truth, however, is this: If you yourself were holy, then you would not need the Holy Spirit at all; but since we are sinful and unclean in ourselves, the Holy Spirit must perform His work in us. He gives us the Word of Christ the Lord, Baptism, and His power, not only that you may be in a holy order, but also that you yourself may be holy. But He does so in such a way that you say: “I am not holy through myself but through Christ’s blood, with which I have been sprinkled, yes, washed in Baptism, and also through His Gospel, which is spoken over me daily.” Thus there is nothing laudable about that stupid, false, and harmful humility which makes you want to say that your sins prevent you from being holy. That would be a denial of Christ’s blood and Baptism; that would deny that you have the Holy Spirit and are a member of the Christian Church, in which we are to assemble for the Gospel, for Baptism, and for the Sacrament.

We must, however, distinguish between two types of holiness; or let us say that the word “holiness” must be understood in two different ways. In the first place, there is the holiness from and through ourselves. The monastic orders and self-chosen spirituality fall into this category. This amounts to no more than the word or name “holiness.” Basically, however, it is falsehood and fiction, and nothing but sin and stench in the eyes of God. For in us and from us grows nothing but unholiness and uncleanness. Whether I become a barefoot friar or a monk and work-righteous person of a different order, I remain a condemned sinner just as I was born from Adam. Therefore I will not call myself holy, neither of myself and for my own sake nor because of any other man; nor will I boast of holiness. I am holy because I can declare with unswerving faith and with an undaunted conscience: “Even though I am a poor sinner, still Christ is holy with His Baptism, Word, Sacrament, and Holy Spirit.” This is the only genuine holiness given to us by God.

You ask: “But how do I attain this? And what does the Holy Spirit have to do with me?” Answer: “He baptized me; He proclaimed the Gospel of Christ to me; and He awakened my heart to believe. Baptism is not of my making; nor is the Gospel; nor is faith. He gave these to me. For the fingers that baptized me are not those of a man; they are the fingers of the Holy Spirit. And the preacher’s mouth and the words that I heard are not his; they are the words and message of the Holy Spirit. By these outward means He works faith within me and thus He makes me holy.”

Here he employed the word “saints” freely with reference to all Christians. And in the early Christian Church it was long customary for its members to call one another saints. This custom should still prevail. For it is not arrogant on the part of Christians to call one another holy because of Christ; it is glory and praise to God. For by doing so we are not praising our own stinking work-righteousness; we are praising His Baptism, Word, grace, and Spirit, which we do not have out of ourselves but which have been given to us by Him.

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 24: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 24, pp. 168–171). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

John 14:24

The WORD

24“He who does not love Me does not keep My words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). ([reftagger title=””]John 14:24[/reftagger]). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 

This means no one but the world and the false Christians. It is their nature not to be able to love Christ and to keep His words. For they seek and love only what is theirs, namely, the world and whatever pleases it, as Christ declares later ([reftagger title=””]John 15:19[/reftagger]): “If I were of the world, the world would love its own.” It follows that those who love Him are not of the world. We have heard that those who are baptized and cling to Christ are as sheep surrounded by wolves, as Christ Himself states ([reftagger title=””]Matt. 10:16[/reftagger]). The world does not hate any devil as it hates the Christians, and this hostility is far greater than any other hostility on earth.

But he who is to endure this bickering with the world, this scuffling with the devil, the hatred and envy of everyone, and whatever is inflicted on him must have a heart that thinks more of Christ and loves Him more than anything else in the world, with all its favor, friendship, and goods. He must be minded to say: “Whatever I suffer, I suffer for the sake of my Lord, who shed His blood for me and saved me from eternal death and from the power of the devil. Out of gratitude to Him and to His honor and glory I am resolved to cling to the Word and to proclaim Him, sing about Him, and laud Him, no matter whom it may please or vex.” Whoever hesitates to do this shows that he loves the world more than he loves Christ and His Christendom. Therefore he cannot experience what Christ really is; nor can he attain the glory of becoming God’s dwelling or of recognizing this dwelling, even though otherwise he may make much ado about Christ and Christendom, as is done by the pope and the sects, who are totally ignorant of the consolation and strength of the words of Christ the Lord.

Here, therefore, you have in brief a picture and description of the nature of the world; and you learn how we are to regard it, namely, as neither able nor willing to love Christ and to keep His words. This is because its love and pleasure are centered elsewhere. In [reftagger title=””]1 John 2:16[/reftagger] St. John speaks of “all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.” Those are the three forces that rule and really own the world. The expression “lust of the flesh” means that the world seeks and strives solely for things that serve the comfort and well-being of the flesh, which is loath to undergo any toil, unpleasantness, or discomfort, although man is ordained to earn his bread in the sweat of his face ([reftagger title=””]Gen. 3:19[/reftagger])

Secondly, there is “the lust of the eyes.” This is nothing else than greed, a vice so widespread today that it is practically futile to preach against it. There is hardly anyone in whatever position or office you can name who is not an oppressor, yes, an open usurer. What would they do for Christ’s sake if they do not give their neighbor a penny without interest or refrain from exploiting him?

In the third place, there is “pride of life.” This means that everyone is eager to get far ahead in life and to lord it over others. If someone is a burgher, he aspires to become a knight. If he is a nobleman, he wants to be a prince. If he is a prince, he would like to be emperor. And even if he were emperor, he would not be satisfied. That is the order of the world. Nothing but sheer pleasure, greed, and pride reign and prevail there. And he who strives for these will never love Christ.

Therefore Christ says here that there will be many in the world who will make much of His name and His Word but will not keep His words; for they are not disposed to be willing to lose or suffer anything for His sake. And it is, of course, impossible for one to love the world and its possessions and at the same time to adhere to Him and keep His Word. It is out of the question on earth for these two ways of acting to get along together. The devil does not let those who want to be Christians retain the world’s friendship and love. It is also out of the question for flesh and blood to be able to cleave to its lust, greed, and pride, and at the same time to Christ.

“Therefore,” says Christ, “if you want to be My disciples, be prepared to hold firmly to Me, to wager boldly, and to confide in Me. If I have not deserved your love, I shall not require it of you. I believe, however, that I have duly merited your love for Me above everything in heaven and on earth. For I shed My blood for you, unlocked heaven for you, broke hell asunder, reconciled the Father, and gave you everything through My own body. Your mammon, your goods, your honor, your sweet and easy life—none of this can ever achieve as much for you as I did. There is abundant reason why you should love Me more. It is not My fault if you fail to love Me. I have fully and richly earned your love. But it is due to your old Adam, to your flesh and blood, that you prefer a good, comfortable, grand, and sumptuous life, even though this is yours for only a short time and then is lost forever.


Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 24: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 24, pp. 160–161). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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John 14:22-23

The WORD

22“Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him: Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world? 23 Jesus answered him: If a man loves Me, he will keep My Word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). ([reftagger title=””]John 14:22-23[/reftagger]). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 

“My dear Judas,” Christ wants to say, “you must not ask whether king or emperor, Caiaphas or Herod, learned or unlearned, are involved in this. That does not matter, but the answer to the question whether I said this does matter. In these words of Mine, as also in the reign that I am about to establish, all people in the world are on the same level. I will not select anyone and raise him above the other. In the secular realm there must be a distinction of ranks and estates. A servant cannot be master, and the master must not be a servant; the pupil must not be a teacher, etc. But I have nothing to do with this, and it does not concern Me. I want to establish a kingdom in which all are regarded alike. A king born today, who is lord over much land and many people, shall come into My Baptism just as humbly and submissively as a poor beggar. And conversely, the latter shall hear the Gospel proclaimed or receive the sacraments and be saved just like the former.” Thus Christ wants to place all men on the same level. His intention is different from that of the world, which must have and retain its own order of things. Christ recognizes this and does not interfere with it. But He did not come to establish a worldly kingdom; He came to establish a kingdom of heaven.

For this reason He answers the apostle Judas as follows: “It will be immaterial what the world is, but it is important that I told you that I will manifest Myself to you and to those who love Me, not to him who wears a triple crown of gold or a scarlet mantle; not to him who is called noble, mighty, strong, rich, learned, wise, smart, and holy but to him who loves Me, whether he is called king, prince, pope, bishop, priest, doctor, layman, master, or servant, whether he is of high or of low estate. In My kingdom all such distinctions shall cease.

“And this is the very reason why I will not manifest Myself to the world, for it is so mad and foolish that it wants to teach and direct Me how I am to rule.” They say: “Why does He not reveal Himself to the chief priests in Jerusalem, so that they may bear witness to Him and confirm His doctrine?” Thus we hear them ask in [reftagger title=””]John 7:48[/reftagger]: “Have any of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in Him?” Today people are also wont to say: “Where are the great kings, princes, and lords who accept the Gospel? If it were taught in Rome by the pope, the cardinals, the bishops, or in Paris by the scholars, and had been accepted by emperors and kings, we also would believe it.” But Christ declares here: “I will not do that. I refuse to have anyone dictate and prescribe to Me. They must be My pupils and gladly say: ‘Let me hear what God the Lord will speak ([reftagger title=””]Ps. 85:8[/reftagger]). I shall be glad to hear and learn what He tells me.’ Therefore I cannot manifest Myself to the world or agree with it. It shall hear Me and learn from Me, but it wants to be smarter than I and to dictate to Me what to do.” The egg wants to teach the hen; and, as Christ says ([reftagger title=””]Matt. 11:19[/reftagger]), “wisdom is justified” and instructed “of her children.” That is like the insistence of the pope and his gangs of monks that they will all teach Christ to regard their orders and their special works and to grant them salvation in view of these. But Christ does not want to be coerced and instructed by them either.

Therefore Christ decrees curtly and bluntly: “I will not manifest Myself to the world; I will do so to those who hear and accept My Word and love Me, regardless of what titles they bear, whether they are decked with golden crowns or clad in coarse hempen garments. He who wants to know Me must love Me, hold to Me, and not be ashamed of Me. If they do this, they will experience that I will manifest Myself to them. Then they will notice in themselves that they have believed aright and have not been deceived. Therefore let the world be the world; let pope, bishops, councils, kings, and princes do, teach, believe, and decree what and how they please—the words still stand: ‘If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.’ Here is the parting of the ways. The world can and will not love Me. In fact, it does the opposite. It hates Me; it bitterly reviles and persecutes Me and My Word. Yet it boasts that it is on good terms with God, that it is just and holy, yes, that it alone is the true Christian Church. Pay no heed to this; but look to those who love Me, that is, to those who have and adhere to My Word. Keep to them as to My true church, with which the Father and I will dwell, as we shall see. In Me these people shall have a faithful Savior, on whom they can rely and who will not fail them in life or in death.”

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 24: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 24, pp. 155–157). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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John 14:21 – In Me you have all

The WORD

21“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). ([reftagger title=””]John 14:21[/reftagger]). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 

Christ gave His disciples the sublime comfort that they would be in Him and He in them. This is the chief doctrine of Christianity. From it we are to understand that we are not justified and saved in and through ourselves but in and through Christ, who did everything for us, who fulfilled the Law and defeated sin, death, and the devil. “This you will have in Me,” says Christ; “but subsequently I will be praised in you, and you will have to confess and to preach this in all the world. When you have received this from Me, when My blessings have become your own, and when, in turn, your evils, sin, and failings become Mine—just as all that is My Father’s is Mine, and that which is Mine is also My Father’s—then you will come forward. You will administer My Word and commandments, be Christ’s apostles and preachers, and be baptized. You will hear and confess the Word publicly, in order that the world may see and hear that you are My Christians and adhere to My Word and commandments. When you do all this, you will surely experience that the devil and the world, as well as your own evil conscience and false brethren and schismatic spirits, will harass you, and that you will be surrounded by all sorts of trials, terror, anxiety, and distress.

“Then it will be learned for sure whether you are truly in Me and I in you, that is, whether your faith is firmly established, whether you have received Baptism and the Sacrament in earnest, whether you have preached and heard the Gospel and let yourselves be called Christians.” The great danger and distress will chasten them and demonstrate what each one is and is not. Talk is cheap. Even the pope and his crowd boast: “We are baptized Christians. Christ is in us, and we are in Him.” But when life is in jeopardy, yes, even when less vital things are at stake, such as temporal goods, or when shame and disgrace or other grief and woe are inflicted by the devil, then one says: “I really do not know what to do!” For it hurts to be cast into prison, to be put in the stocks and tortured, to abandon everything, to be everybody’s door mat, to be so maltreated that there is no more wretched creature on earth than a Christian. In such circumstances the flesh is weak and fearful, the heart pounds, and the devil adds fuel to the fire by making the heart ever more afraid and timid.

“Therefore,” says Christ, “I will give you a sure sign by which the true Christians, who are in Me and in whom I am, can be recognized, namely, the observance of My commandments. You already have all that I am to accomplish in you and all that I am to do for you. I have given you all, have conquered death for you, delivered you from sin, reconciled the Father, and fulfilled the Law. You need nothing else. For there is no more wrath, no death, no hell, no sin; all are overcome and destroyed, and you really lead a heavenly life. But whether you truly believe this and earnestly adhere to it—this will be seen if you live accordingly here on earth; if you preach and profess freely and intrepidly; if you hazard property and honor, life and limb, for this; and if you love one another as heartily as I have taught and commanded you. This will be the test and proof of true faith in Me.” But, as Christ said earlier, it all depends on whether you feel and find that you love this Man. For if you truly believe this, then love will be there, and your heart will be moved to say: “Christ, my dear Lord, has done so much for me. He has reconciled the Father to me and shed His blood for me. He has fought and defeated my death and given me all His possessions. Should I not requite this love? Should I not thank and praise, honor and serve Him with my life and my goods? If not, I should be ashamed that I am a human being.”

Therefore Christ declares: “Sincere love for Me is part of a true Christian. Otherwise he will never be able to carry on.” The heart must cleave solely to Christ and neither love nor fear anything else. If you are threatened with imprisonment, with loss of life and goods, you must be able to declare undauntedly: “This I will gladly suffer in defiance of the devil, out of love for my dear Lord and to His glory and honor.” Then no suffering will be too burdensome for you, but everything will be tolerable and light. This we see in many examples of the martyrs, how out of love for Christ they scorned all torment and pain. We read in particular about a rich citizen of Rome who lost much property, house and home, wife and child; but his heart retained its trust in Christ and said: “Even if they have robbed me of everything, they will not take my Christ from me.” Thus, you see, his heart was inflamed with love for Christ and clung to Him in heaven above. Therefore he did not care that he had to forfeit everything on earth. He surely could not have done this if love for Christ had not impelled him.

Therefore when Christ was entrusting the ministry to Peter, He asked him three times whether he loved Him (John 21:15–17). For He knew and saw that no one can be a true preacher or a Christian unless he loves Christ with heart and soul. But how can a person have such love for Christ unless he first believes firmly that he has everything in Him, unless he is convinced beyond a doubt that Christ is his Treasure and Savior, his Life and Comfort? When this conviction is rooted in the heart, love will flow and follow in its wake. And where there is that love, it cannot rest or be idle. It goes forth, preaches to, and teaches everyone. It is eager to plant Christ in every heart and to bring everybody to Him. On this it wagers and stakes whatever it can and must. Christ seeks to impress such love into the hearts of the disciples by means of these kind words. Therefore He says: “Well, as My farewell gift I leave you forgiveness of sins, heaven, and the Father’s favor and grace. In Me you have all you desire. Just see that you believe this sincerely. Then you will indeed love Me and observe everything I have told you.

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 24: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 24, pp. 145–148). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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John 14:20 Part 2 – I am in you

The WORD

20“In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). ([reftagger title=””]John 14:20[/reftagger]). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 

You see, you must understand that when He says in this verse: “You will know that I am in My Father, and the Father in Me,” He means: “Do not look only at My flesh and blood—this you see right now, as the Jews also do—or at My substance and essence as God and man. No, you must consider what I say, do, and work, in other words, My office and the reason for My presence here on earth. If you do this, then you see and hear that I am conveying to you the Father’s pure consolation, love, grace, and compassion. Furthermore, I prove this by My deeds, by My death and resurrection. If you see this in Me, you see the Father in Me and Me in the Father. For this is truly the Father’s plan, heart, and will.”

The first and foremost point about Christ’s being in the Father is this, that we do not doubt that everything this Man says and does stands and must stand in heaven before all the angels, in the world before all tyrants, in hell before all devils, in the heart before every evil conscience and one’s own thoughts. For if we are sure that everything He thinks, says, and wants reflects the will of the Father, I am able to defy anyone who would be wroth and angry with me. In Christ I have the Father’s will and heart. And if God is for us and with us, then, as St. Paul declares (Rom. 8:31), what is there to harm us? Therefore it is all-important for us to look solely to Him, to disregard whatever any other god says, and to reject any other preaching or doctrine regarding ways and means, angels, saints, death, and life. In brief, if you comprehend and see this, then you comprehend and see Christ in the Father and the Father in Christ; then you see no anger, death, or hell, but sheer grace, compassion, heaven, and life.

“Furthermore, if you know that and believe this, then you will also go on to recognize that I am in you and you are in Me. Then you will realize that I am your Savior. You will acknowledge Me in the capacity in which the Father sent Me, and you will prove and show by this that you are in Me, namely, thus: that whatever you are, your failings and shortcomings, your sins, your damnation, your death, are all in Me. That is its proper place. And now I am in the Father; and what is in Me is also in the Father, whether it is called death or life, sin or righteousness. But whatever is in Me must necessarily be perfect righteousness, life, and salvation.

“By faith you also come to be in Me with your death, sin, and every trouble. If you are sinful in yourselves, you are justified in Me; if you feel death in you, you have life in Me; if you have strife in you, you have peace in Me; if you stand condemned on your own account, you are blessed and saved in Me.” For, my dear man, where am I if I am a Christian? Nowhere else than where Christ is. But where else is He but in heaven, in eternal life, joy, and bliss? And He, of course, will not be condemned to death as a sinner any longer. Since no sin can accuse Him, no devil can damn Him, no death can consume Him, no hell can devour Him, I must remain undamned and undevoured; for I am in Him. “Consequently, sin, death, and every trouble in you are gone. For all this I destroy in Myself.” It cannot abide in Him, since He is and remains in the Father. And it can have no power in us either, because we are in Him.

This is indeed an excellent sermon. “But you do not yet understand and know this,” says Christ. “This calls for greater insight and understanding than anyone is able to have out of himself. But later, when I am glorified by My resurrection and when the Holy Spirit comes, you will be well aware of this and will experience in your hearts that by being in the Father I have devoured everything deadly in Me. You will also feel this in yourselves, you who are in Me. For since all the power of sin, death, and the devil is dead in the Father, it shall also be dead in Me, and likewise in you, since you are in Me.

“Finally you will also learn that I shall be in you. For through Me you will not only acquire comforting confidence and assurance, an intrepid heart, and undaunted courage toward the Father, the conviction that He is gracious toward you and is no angrier with you than He is with Me; but if you know this and make it your own, you will also be certain that whatever you say, preach, live, and do will be right and good, yes, will be, and will be called, My own Word and work. For I am the One who speaks, preaches, baptizes, and works everything in or through you, just as the Father does everything in Me and through Me.”

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 24: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 24, pp. 140–142). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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