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Month: September 2017

John 14:10

The WORD

10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 14:10). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

As I have said, it is the purpose of these words to impress on and drum into us this chief article. Where the relationship of man to God or the ascertainment of God’s will is involved, we are to learn to dismiss everything else from our sight and heart, whatever may be taught and preached, even in the Law of Moses, and still more everything that proceeds from human reason and imagination. We must learn this one thing: to have a clear conception of Christ and let nothing tempt us away from this or lead us astray, be it a good work or an evil one, a good life or an evil life, holiness or sin. This is the knowledge in which St. John, an outstanding evangelist with regard to this theme, and St. Paul instruct more than the others do. They join and bind Christ and the Father so firmly together that we learn to think of God as only in Christ. As soon as we hear the mention of God’s name, or of His will, His works, His grace, or His displeasure, we must not judge these as the voice of our heart or man’s wisdom may discourse on them, or as the Law may suggest to us; but we must nestle and cuddle on the lap of Christ, like dear children on their mother’s lap or in her arms, and close our eyes and ears to everything but Him and His words. Or we must see Him as the faithful Savior, who sheds His blood so richly on the cross, rises again, subdues the devil and hell, treads death underfoot, proclaims this to you both personally and through the apostles, and grants all this to you. Thus He affirms abundantly that He harbors no anger or disfavor toward you but does everything to help and comfort you, all that He should and can do, if you but believe and accept this.

“Yes,” you say, “I see and hear this. But who knows whether this is God’s attitude toward me?” Guard against that thought, for that is separating and divorcing Christ from God! That is what Philip is doing here. He ignores Christ, seeks God up in heaven, and thinks: “Surely I can hear Christ talking to me. But who knows how God up in heaven is minded toward me or what He has resolved to do with me?” What else is that than unbelief and a secret denial of God? Christ must chide him for it, to rid him of this shameful delusion, as He says: “Philip, what do you mean by separating Me and the Father? Why do you let your thoughts soar in the clouds and let Me waste words on you? Do you not hear Me say that he who sees Me sees the Father Himself? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and that the Father is in Me? Furthermore, do you not hear Me say: ‘The words that I speak are not My own, but the Father’s’?” These are friendly but earnest words of the Lord. He will not put up with our vain and uncertain gaping and fluttering about. No, He wants us bound completely to Himself and to His Word, lest we seek God elsewhere than in Him.

In times past a pious hermit, St. Antony, admonished his brethren as he spoke of the young and inexperienced saints who want to be smart enough to fathom God’s inscrutable counsel and everything with their thoughts: “If you see such a young saint clambering heavenward and planting one foot into heaven, pull him down posthaste, before he can set his other foot up there too and then plunge down head over heels.” This is well spoken against the fluttering spirits, who like to speculate about sublime matters, who would like to bore a hole through heaven and peek in to discover what God Himself is and what He does, meanwhile ignoring Christ as superfluous for that purpose.

Therefore be on your guard against ideas that disregard the Word and separate and tear Christ from God. For He did not bid you soar heavenward on your own and gape to see what God is doing in heaven with the angels. No, this is His command (Matt. 17:5): “This is My beloved Son; listen to Him. There I descend to you on earth, so that you can see, hear, and touch Me. There and nowhere else is the place for those to encounter and find Me who desire Me and who would like to be delivered from their sin and be saved.” We should quickly assent and say: “God Himself says this, and I will follow Him and give ear to no other word or message; nor do I want to know anything else about God. For, as St. Paul declares (Col. 2:9), in His Person ‘dwells the whole fullness of Deity bodily’; and there is no God apart from Him, where I could come to Him or find Him—although He is everywhere else, of course. Now wherever one hears this Man’s Word and sees His work, there one surely hears and sees God’s Word and work.”

Furthermore, when Christ commands His apostles to proclaim His Word and to carry on His work, we hear and see Him Himself, and thus also God the Father; for they publish and proclaim no other Word than that which they heard from His lips, and they point solely to Him. Thus the process goes on; the Word is handed down to us through the agency of true bishops, pastors, and preachers, who received it from the apostles. In this way all sermons delivered in Christendom must proceed from this one Christ; and the clergy must prove that the words and works of their ministry in Christendom—regardless of whether their own person is good or evil—are those of Christ. They must declare: “You are not to look to me or to follow me. No, heed only that which the Lord Christ says to you or shows you through me; for this is not my word; it is Christ’s Word. The Baptism and Sacrament I administer is not mine; it is His Baptism and Sacrament. The office I fill is not mine; it is the Lord’s office. But since it is Christ’s Word and Baptism, it is also the Father’s Word and Sacrament, because He says: ‘Whatever I say and do, I do not say or do on My own authority, but on the authority of the Father, who dwells in 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. 64–66). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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And the Life: John 14:6 Pt. 2

Editor’s note: Here we find the marvelous parallel between God saving His chosen people in the Red Sea ([reftagger title=””]Exodus 13:17-14:29[/reftagger].) and saving us through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus. Take comfort, for in both situations, it is God Himself doing the action of saving us…we only passively receive His grace.

The WORD

6I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 14:6–7). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

The story of the Children of Israel in the Red Sea helps us understand this verse all the better. It was not enough that, in compliance with God’s command, they ventured into the sea and now proceeded on their way, confident that they would reach the opposite shore. When they were over halfway across and saw the shore or the land before them, then king Pharaoh with all his host appeared behind them. Now their peril was just as great as it was before they had stepped into the sea. It was no help to them that they had found a way where there had been no way, and that they were now nearly across. No, God had to come to their aid miraculously and rescue them from the death that was breathing down their necks. The angel who led them with a wall of fire and clouds had to come between them and the enemy with thunder and lightning, to frighten the latter and turn them back. But before the enemy could look back, the ocean fell upon them and swallowed them up. In this way the Children of Israel were saved from imminent danger of death; and for them this Christ was the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

We must experience the same thing when we approach the shore of yonder life and are to disembark. We find death blocking our path. We cannot escape it. We must first take a most perilous leap. My reason would judge that it is indeed a wretched life, to be carried out through the city gate, to be buried under the earth, and to be reduced to dust. And yet Christ declares that this is the very way to gain life and to come to the Father. Therefore in that hour you must ignore physical death, the grave, pestilence, the sword, and the fire which you feel, also all the darts and spears the devil hurls into your heart. Instead, Christ says, “you must look upon Me. I have been for you the Way and the Truth, and I have led you hitherto, to keep you from straying. I have protected you in all kinds of danger, lies, and deception; and I will also be the Life in and through death, that you may have life as surely as you now feel death.” Otherwise faith would have nothing to do, and it would not be necessary for Christ to give this comfort. For if God spans the way to heaven with a bridge that I could see and feel from beginning to end, with its entrance and exit, why would I need faith or this sermon?

Therefore we can summarize the content of this verse most simply and say: “Hold to Christ in faith; thus you make the right beginning. Remain with Him; then you proceed aright. Persevere thus until the end; then you are saved.” With these words Christ wants to tear and turn our hearts from all trust in anything else and pin them to Himself alone, so that we know and consider nothing else when it comes to making the great leap into yonder life. While we still sojourn here on earth, we have other teachings and ways to follow, such as the Ten Commandments, which inform us how to keep our bodies under discipline and in obedience, how to deal and live honorably and honestly with our neighbor while we are together. These things are pleasing to God. But this is not how to walk on the way being discussed here. When one asks about these important matters—how to come from this life, through sin and death, to eternal righteousness and life, from the devil to God, from hell to heaven—then this text is pertinent. It teaches us that there is no other way, no other safe, right, and sure highway, no other firm bridge or path, no other haven or crossing than this Christ alone.

Therefore it is necessary, as I have said, to learn diligently here to distinguish exactly and properly the ways which other passages in Scripture also call walking the way of obedience, patience, and kindness, or filling one’s entrusted office or position with honesty, integrity, and a good conscience before God and the world. But of this way, which one.walks from death to life, from this worldly and sinful existence into yonder heavenly and spiritual living, one must speak in a much different manner. For here there is no other teacher or adviser than faith alone, which says: “I believe in Jesus Christ. I live, remain, and die in Him alone.”

But no one should understand such a sermon to mean that this gives him a time of grace, that he may postpone walking this way until he lies on his deathbed and consider this soon enough, that meanwhile he can carouse, do as he pleases, sow his wild oats, and later, when his hour approaches, heed this verse. Do not do this, dear brother; for then it may be too late. A Christian is a person who begins to tread the way from this life to heaven the moment he is baptized, in the faith that Christ is henceforth, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And he holds to this way until his end. He is always found on this way and is led in the truth to obtain life, as one who already sees the shore where he is to land. He is prepared at all times, whether death comes today, tomorrow, or in one, two, or ten years; for in Christ he has already been transported to the other side. We cannot be safe from death for a minute; in Baptism all Christians begin to die, and they continue to die until they reach the grave.

As long, therefore, as I am surrounded by danger and the uncertainty of death, so long must I believe in Christ, my Life; and this means my whole time on earth. Hence time, hours, and years have no bearing on this sermon. It does not refer to an annual resolution, so that you may say: “Christ will be my life when I am about to give up the ghost. Meanwhile I will live as I please.” No, you must know that you are already engaged in crossing over; you have already set foot into the sea with the Children of Israel, and you must now continue until you have come ashore, lest the enemy attack you en route.

This I want to say about this text to those of simple faith, that although Christ is named, preached, and pictured in various ways, He is always one and the same Christ. First, when the disciples question Him regarding His going to the Father, He replies: “If you know Me, you know the Way. And if then you should feel prompted to ask how you may be sure of this and not doubt or fall away, inasmuch as it may appear otherwise and I may not seem to be the Way, and you cannot foresee the final outcome, do not be troubled. I am also the Truth and the Life, if only you remain with Me. For these things cannot and must not be seen; they must be believed and thus experienced.” Although all three of these terms apply to Christ, they must be distinguished. They indicate that we must know Him thus and have all three things to reach heaven, namely, to begin aright, to continue in that way, and through such faith ever to make progress in experience until we conclude our course in that faith. Christ affirms this now as He says:

No one comes to the Father but by 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. 49–52). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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The Truth and the Life

The WORD

I am the way, and the truth, and the life.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). ([reftagger title=””]Jn 14:6–7)[/reftagger]. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

These words, too, we shall discuss very simply, and we shall dispense with any sharp-witted speculation. To say much the same thing in German and in a blunt manner, these terms are synonymous. It is only that different names are used for the practical application, namely, for the passage or crossing. For all these terms refer to the one Christ. Yet they are various names, to reflect the various ways one feels when clinging to Him and finally making one’s way across. As has already been said, to our perception and understanding this seems, first of all, anything but the way that leads to the Father in heaven; for we must walk through nothing but cross and death, seeing neither path nor bridge, neither counsel nor help for our souls. Yes, everybody shuns the crossing and is frightened by it, not knowing how to bring it off. It is like a person who faces a wide ditch or a body of deep water which he must cross, and yet he sees no path and no bridge. Thus the Children of Israel were terrified by the vast and turbulent waters of the Red Sea when they heard that they could not cross anywhere but must either go through or remain in the hands of the enemy. They may have been tempted to say: “Is this what you call escape from death and dungeon, hedged in on all sides as we are by high mountains and with nothing but waves and water before us? Yes, it would be different if we were birds or fish and could fly over or swim across the sea!” Still a way had to be found, for the sake of the Word of God. The sea had to part and let them walk through without getting wet.

Here, too, there is nothing visible or evident to indicate that this is the way that leads to eternal life, since man feels only terror and the fear of death. But over against this Christ stands with His words, as He says: “I am the Way.” He changes that which is no way but is actually perdition into a way and a bridge on which man can set foot and walk across undauntedly and unhesitatingly, just as the Children of Israel passed through the sea physically, dry-footed and unhindered, in answer to God’s Word. They had no other way. This is the first point.

Secondly, after we have set foot on the way, have ventured forth and begun to believe, then it is necessary that we become sure, keep our feet on the ground, and not be drawn back or be frightened away. For here again the devil tries to conjure up his phantoms, to cause heartache, and to cast all sorts of stumbling blocks into our way, in order to lead us beside and off the right way, to keep us from pursuing the right course. First he employs all his craft and cunning to beguile the people. This he does with the very words of Holy Writ and under the guise of the name of Christ. Thus all schismatic spirits and heretics come clad in sheep’s clothing; they use the same words, manner, and mien, as though they were the true teachers of this way. They exalt nothing but Christ’s honor and faith in Christ. In this way they deceive the people who want to follow Christ and would like to find the right way.

The situation is similar to that of a person who takes the right road when he leaves the city gate and then comes to a place where two or three roads branch off. Now some knave comes up to him and directs him to take the wrong way. Then the principle applies: “Proof and perseverance in the faith.” Investigate; make sure that you are on the right road, and then stay on it. That, in my opinion, is the simplest way to express the second part: veritas, the truth. Christ is not only the Way on which we must begin our journey, but He is also the right and the safe Way we must walk to the end. We dare not be deflected from this to the wrong ways which misdirect us to seek something, besides Christ to help us gain salvation. Take, for instance, those who first learn to know Christ through faith and then relapse into the doctrine of works, as has happened up to this time in the papacy. Furthermore, we must not be retarded or repelled in our progress by such obstacles as stumps and stones we encounter on the way, when the devil obtrudes so many false doctrines, factious, schisms, offensive and evil examples—also persecution, peril, and temptation—that we either begin to despair on the way or at least grow fatigued and weary.

When one begins to preach the Gospel, the multitude comes rushing, and everyone wants to hear the sweet and comforting message of the forgiveness of sin through Christ. But they do not continue to do so. For, as Christ says, most of the seed falls on stony and thorny soil ([reftagger title=””]Matt. 13:5–7[/reftagger] ). The grain—that is, the proclamation of the Gospel—is properly sown, but it lacks the soil in which to take root and gain strength. Thus many people have a fine and good faith in the beginning; but when they find themselves well on the way and should now continue on their course, they let themselves be confused and diverted from the way, because they are not sure of their ground or are frightened and then relapse into their former ideas.

When the sea had parted and formed a way for the Jews, who now stood there and saw that the water was high above their heads to the right and to the left, they probably thought: “Alas, what have we done? Are we not the greatest fools, to venture into this wild flood? We surely see that the water is very close to us. What if it were to close over us and drown us all in a moment?” (This actually happened to Pharaoh and his entire host a little later.) This would have happened to them too if they had given way to such thoughts and permitted doubt and unbelief to gain the upper hand. Either they would have become distraught and have run back into the midst of the enemy, or they would have become so frightened as to fall all over themselves and perish in the water after all. This was the fate of many of them later on in the wilderness, when they murmured and despaired of crossing it, when they yearned to return to Egypt. But since at the time the Jews accepted the way through the sea in obedience to God’s command, continued on it, and did not doubt, the water had to stand still. Not a drop could fall, and the sea had to let them pass through dry-footed, although there was no cause for this, although this was, in the judgment of reason, a perilous, horrible, and impassable way.

Here Christ wants to say: “When you have apprehended Me in faith, you are on the right way, which is reliable and does not mislead you. But only see that you remain and continue on it; for you will encounter many an obstacle and obstruction, both to the right and to the left. Therefore you must be prepared to hold firmly to Me and not to be troubled, no matter what shocking and terrible things may confront you, either to frighten you away from Me or to lure and entice you aside with beautiful deception. You must know that all this is the devil’s lie and deceit, whereby he leads you to perdition. But you can rely on Me. I will guide you through this wide sea, from death into eternal life, from the world and the devil’s realm to the Father. Therefore I Myself want to be, and to be called, not only the Way but also the Truth and the Life.”

This, then, is my simple understanding of this verse, that all of it applies uniformly to the one Christ. With a view to the beginning He is called the Way; He is the Truth with regard to the means and the continuation; He is the Life by reason of the end, For He must be all—the beginning, the middle, and the end of our salvation. He must be the first stone, the stone on which the other stones are placed and on which the entire vault or roof is constructed. He is the first, the middle, and the last rung of the ladder to heaven ([reftagger title=””]Gen. 28:12[/reftagger]). For through Him we must make the beginning, continue, and conclude our journey into yonder life. Thus it is all one and the same thing, and one and the same Christ, save that He assumes different aspects in our experience.

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. 45–48). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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John 14:6 Continued

The WORD

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 14:6–7). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 
When one must pass through death from this life into yonder life. This demands more than good conduct and life, no matter how praiseworthy. For I and the works of all men are far too feeble to help me wipe out sin, reconcile God, conquer death, etc. Therefore I need a different foundation, one that is sure, or a firm and safe path and bridge on which to cross. And this is none other than this Jesus Christ, who must be the only Way on which we, as He says, enter into yonder life and come to the Father if we adhere to Him in steadfast faith. Therefore when the hour approaches that you must walk this way, you must brush thoughts of all other ways entirely from your mind and banish far from your eyes and heart all that people teach you about works and tell you about a good life and examples. Of course, as long as you sojourn here on earth, you must lead a fine, moral life, practice obedience, and perform works of love toward your neighbor. For these, too, are good and godly ways on which one must travel in this life with ever-increasing aptitude. But you must not make them the way that is to carry you from this life to the life beyond; that is, you must not take comfort from them or rely on them in the hour of death. For not one of these ways is Christ, who was crucified and died for you. Hence these ways, impotent as they are, dare not be accorded the honor to which Christ alone is entitled.

When the hour comes in which our deeds and works must cease, when our days are numbered and we can no longer tarry, here, when the question arises: “Now where will I find a secure bridge or path that will take me safely into yonder life?”—when that hour comes, I say, do not cast about for any way that bears the human label or the mark of our own good works or holy life. No, bury all this with an Our Father, and recite over it: “Forgive us our trespasses.” Hold solely to Him who says: “I am the Way.” Make sure that then these words are firmly imbedded in your consciousness, so deeply that you can feel Christ’s presence and He can say to you as He does to Thomas here: “Why are you seeking and looking for other ways? Look to Me, and reject all other thoughts regarding ways to heaven. You must expunge these completely from your heart and think of nothing but these words of Mine: ‘I am the Way.’

Behold, thus we must learn to regard and to know our Lord Christ: not as One who helps us only with His teaching and example, and has now departed from us like the other saints, but as the One who is and remains constantly at our side and within us, particularly in the hour when this life comes to an end, and who is so close that He alone is in our hearts. This happens when I believe staunchly in Him as the Savior who has passed through death unto the Father for me, in order to take me there too. Then I am on the right Way, the Way we must take and travel from this to the life beyond. This journey begins in Baptism. And as long as there is faith, man continues on this course until he completes it through death. For faith does not err and stray; but wherever the Christ is to whom it adheres, there it also must be and remain. And the stronger the faith is, the more surely this Way is traveled.

This is the true and certain doctrine; and an excellent, pleasing, and comforting doctrine it is. Furthermore, it is easy to comprehend; no one need go far afield for it, nor does it involve great effort and hard work. All that is necessary is to accept it in faith and to cling to it with all your heart. Yet it does cost toil and labor to preserve this doctrine. For the devil and all the world oppose it with all their might. They will not tolerate this proclamation, and they refuse to give ear to it; they condemn it as the worst kind of heresy. Thus our dear Lord Christ is always subjected to contradiction. He must hear others reprove Him for saying: “I am the Way and the Truth.” The devil assails this as error, lie, and deception. And because we state that one goes to heaven solely through faith in Christ, our adversaries cry out that we forbid the performance of good works. But we do not oppose good works at all; we urge and admonish people to walk decently on this earth, to show respect, obedience, and patience, and to minister to one another.

But when we reach the end of this way and must depart, then we must declare how that way is constructed on which we can really set our feet, and we must know where to step. By way of illustration, if I have traveled across country and now face a body of water which I must traverse, and I find no crossing, no bridge, or no ship, I must either drown or remain on this side and retrace my steps. Similarly, even though I led a good life here on earth and pursued a good course, still, when the hour is at hand for me to depart this life, I must have a different way and path on which to cross over. Now this is none other than the Christ who suffered and died for me that through Him I might attain eternal life.

Why, Christ, God’s Son, Himself teaches this!

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, p. 42). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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John 14:6-7

The WORD

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 14:6–7). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

This is again something extraordinary; but it is the very theme which the evangelist St. John is wont to write about and emphasize, namely, that all our teaching and faith must revolve about Christ and be centered in this one Person. We must discard all other knowledge and wisdom and know absolutely no one else than “Christ crucified,” as St. Paul states, [reftagger title=””]1 Cor. 2:2[/reftagger].

Thus the devil always interferes when he enters heads that are somewhat intelligent and venture to dabble in Scripture to display their smartness. In their conceit they presume to comprehend it all with their mind, to be so profound that no one can fathom them, and to know everything better than they can be told. And yet they never learn that all depends on their knowing the Lord Christ aright.

Here and everywhere the evangelist John wants to warn all who would be Christians and would do what is right how to proceed in divine matters and to know what to seek and learn, namely, that in the eyes of God it is the highest wisdom and knowledge, above all knowledge and wisdom, even if this were angelic, to come to the right knowledge of Christ, to know what one has in Him and that one comes to God only through Him.

For here there are two kinds of sight and of hearing. The one is performed with physical eyes and ears, entirely without the Spirit. This is the way all the Jews looked at Christ—only with their five senses. Thus they ascertained that He hailed from Nazareth and was Mary’s Son. I look at you this way and establish that you were born of a father and a mother, that you are a man or a woman, that you live and act so or so. This is a purely natural and physical sight. But Christ cannot be recognized in this way (nor, for that matter, can His Christians), even if we saw Him every hour before our eyes and heard Him. The second is a spiritual sight, which only Christians have and which takes place by means of faith in the heart. With this—if we are Christians—we must also view and recognize one another. For I do not recognize a Christian by his external appearance and mien, by how he acts and lives, but by the fact that he is baptized and has God’s Word. This makes him a child of God, a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, and an heir of eternal life. I do not see this inscribed on his nose or his forehead, nor do I discern it with my physical eye. I see it with the spiritual vision of the heart.

In that manner you must also look at Christ if you want to recognize Him and know who He is, not as your eyes and senses prescribe, but as His Word shows and portrays Him—as born of the Virgin, as the One who died and rose again for you and now sits enthroned as Lord over all things. Then you see not only His form, as your physical eyes do, but also the power and the might of His death and His resurrection. Then you do not call Him a son of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth, as the Jews did, but our only Savior and Lord over all. This position He acquired solely through His ascent into yonder life by way of His suffering and death, by His resurrection and transfiguration. To Him, therefore, everything in heaven and on earth must be subject; and He rules with power in all those who believe in Him, and protects them against all their adversaries.

Therefore we dare go no farther or fix our thoughts on anything but Christ, as though there were any other road or way we should or might travel, as the false saints and reason persistently seek to do. For example, those who are known as Carthusians build themselves a special bridge to heaven by vowing and observing poverty and obedience, by abstaining from meat, from wearing linen garments, from resting at one place longer than a night, ere. In this delusion they suppose that they are on the right road to heaven. But this is a bridge and a stairway made of spider web; the higher they ascend on it, the deeper and the more shamefully they fall into the abyss of hell. For this is not the way; it is sheer delusion, because there is no Christ there to be believed and acknowledged. A barefoot friar with his rope and his wooden shoes belongs in the same category. He fasts much, babbles and gabbles, observes his monastic rules, does not lie down without his cowl, lets the lice devour him, and imagines that he will go straight to heaven—and not he alone; but he presumes that by virtue of his good works and the merits of his order he can draw others up with him.

But this is not traveling the way to heaven. No, it is hastening straight to hell in sheer blindness and in the devil’s deception. This is senseless. Build, make, and seek what you will—when the hour comes for you to leave this life and enter a different one, then you must either take this way alone or be eternally lost. For Christ says: “I am the Way by which one comes to the Father; there is no other way. I and no one else am the Truth and the Life.” You must take this road in order to hold to this Man and to persevere in this faith and confession. You must travel it in suffering and death, saying: “I know no other help or counsel, no salvation or comfort, no way or path, except Christ my Lord alone, who suffered, died, rose, and ascended to heaven for me. I will stay on this road all the way, even though nothing but devil, death, and hell were under and before me. For this is surely the right road and bridge; it is firmer and safer than any stone or iron structure. And heaven and earth would have to collapse before this road would ever deceive me or lead me astray.”

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, p. 36). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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