Menu Close

Month: October 2017

John 14:12

The WORD

11“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 14:12). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

Here I accept the general sense of this verse. It can have no other meaning than this, that the works of Christians are called greater because the apostles and the Christians had a wider field for their works than He did, that they brought more people to Christ than He Himself did during His earthly sojourn. Christ preached and worked miracles only in a small nook, and for just a short time. The apostles and their successors, however, have come to all the world, and their activity has extended over the whole history of Christianity. Thus Christ personally merely initiated His work. It has had to be extended farther and farther through the apostles and the preachers who came after them; it must go on until the Day of Judgment. Thus it is true that the Christians do greater works, that is, more works and more extensive works, than Christ Himself did. Yet the works are identical; they are the same as His.
For when Christ declares that he who believes in Him will do greater works, He does not deny that such works must be done through His power and must issue from Him as the Fountainhead. No, He affirms both when He says: “He who believes in Me.” Also in the following words: “Because I go to the Father.” Likewise in verse fourteen: “Whatever you ask … I will do it.” Thereby
Christ demonstrates that such works are performed exclusively by those who adhere to Him in faith. Through them He works and manifests His power.

But which works of the Christians accomplish this? We see nothing special that they do beyond what others do, especially since the day of miracles is past. Miracles, of course, are still the least significant works, since they are only physical and are performed for only a few people. But let us consider the true, great works of which Christ speaks here—works which are done with the power of God, which accomplish everything, which are still performed and must be performed daily as long as the world stands.

In the first place, Christians have the Gospel, Baptism, and the Sacrament, by means of which they convert people, snatch souls from the clutches of the devil, wrest them from hell and death, and bring them to heaven. With these they also comfort, strengthen, and preserve poor consciences that are saddened and troubled by the devil and others. They are able to teach and instruct people in all walks of life and to help them live in a Christian and blessed way.

In the second place, the Christians also have prayer. Christ will speak of this later. Through prayer they obtain for themselves and for others all that they ask of God, even physical things. This is one of the greatest works they do to help and preserve the world, even if they did nothing else. Thus when a Christian subject prays, and the prince is victorious over his enemies, who, then, actually defeated the enemies and achieved the victory? No other than the Christian, even if no one gives him credit and he gains neither reputation nor honor because of it. God did not grant victory for the sake of the prince—if he was an unbeliever—but in answer to the prayer of this one Christian. So greatly can a whole country or kingdom be benefited by one pious man, for whose sake all are blessed. This we find illustrated in [reftagger title=””]Gen. 14:14[/reftagger] by the story of Abraham; also in the story of Lot, which is recorded in [reftagger title=””]Gen. 19:22[/reftagger], where we read that Sodom and Gomorrah were spared while Lot still lived there. And in [reftagger title=””]2 Kings 5:1[/reftagger] we read that because of Naaman alone God bestowed good fortune and victory on the entire kingdom of Syria, which, after all, was idolatrous. According to [reftagger title=””]Gen. 41:46[/reftagger] ff., all Egypt was helped because of Joseph. The kingdom of Persia fared similarly for the sake of Daniel. And the prophet Isaiah defeated the hosts of the Assyrian emperor singlehandedly through his prayer. Thus in times gone by good fortune and victory in war were often granted to the Romans, the Persians, and others solely for the sake of the Christians.

To summarize, kings, lords, and princes cannot claim credit for their rule, for peace, or for obedient subjects; all this is due to no one else on earth than the Christians…Hence these men receive a hidden help, a help that is unseen by them and unknown to them, namely, God’s Word and order and the prayers of Christians. But just as they do not know that their reign is God’s order and work and does not rest in the hands of man, so they do not know that
God tolerates and preserves their rule solely for the sake of the godly Christians and their prayers. And that is why they repay this by persecuting both God’s Word and His Christians.

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. 78–81). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Subscribe today and we’ll let you know when we have a new article posted!

John 4:11

The WORD

11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 14:11). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

Christ says: “If My preaching does not make you willing to believe that God dwells and is in Me and that I dwell and am in Him, then believe this because of the works you see before your eyes. These works, as no one can deny, are not human; they are divine. They prove and attest powerfully enough that He speaks and works in Me and through Me.” These are the works and the miracles which He performed publicly before all the world—giving sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, healing to all manner of sick, casting out devils, and raising the dead—solely by the Word. These are not only divine works, but they are also witnesses of God the Father. Therefore he who sees and hears these sees God the Father in them; and he is not only persuaded that God is in Christ and that Christ is in God, but from them he can also be comforted with the assurance of God’s fatherly love and grace toward us.

For if God were disposed to be angry with us, to condemn, punish, and torment us, He would not forgive us our sins through Christ; He would not remove the penalty for sins from the paralytics, the lepers, and others, who were possessed of, and tormented by, the devil. Furthermore, if God took delight in death, He would not raise and quicken the dead. But that is what He did in Christ; He taught us to look upon and recognize Him as a gracious Father, who is eager to help and to save us. This He also demonstrates daily in all the works He does in all the world by constantly preserving all His creatures, bestowing so many benefactions on the whole world, and bountifully pouring out His goods, except when of necessity and for the sake of the godly He must punish and restrain the wicked. But He rules in such a way that even physically we always see more of His grace and blessing than of His wrath and punishment. For we find a hundred thousand healthy people for every ailing, blind, deaf, paralytic, or leprous person. And even if one member of the body has a defect, the entire person, still endowed with body and soul, shows forth nothing but God’s goodness.

Moreover, all the wretchedness and misery rampant in the world is the work of the devil, who delights in bringing ruin and death on man; for it was he who plunged all human nature into sin and death. But, as we learn from [reftagger title=””]1 John 3:8[/reftagger], “the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” and to re-establish the divine works of life. This He proved so forcefully that even the Jews had to admit grudgingly that no man could perform such works. And even though they declared that no one but God could forgive sin, still His works stood before their eyes in testimony that He had this divine power and that He was the Man who could help man from death to life, against sin to righteousness, from strife to peace and every good. Thus we become assured not only of the doctrine that Christ is true God with the Father, but also that He is a merciful God and Savior; and we can recognize and apprehend the Father’s heart and will in all the works of the Lord Christ, for the true and blessed consolation of all wretched and aggrieved hearts and consciences. “Thus,” says Christ, “My works will aptly demonstrate to you that the Father is in Me and wants to be known 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. 73–74). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Subscribe today and we’ll let you know when we have a new article posted!

John 14:10, Pt. 2

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.

 

But if you go your way like a reckless man, refuse to heed this, and still insist on exploring and fathoming your relationship to God in heaven with your own reason, you are lost. And it serves you right; for you reject God’s own offer to you, and instead seek something else. For it is the express purpose of His presence here on earth to communicate His will to you, so that you may know assuredly how He is disposed toward you. He ordered and ordained all the offices and estates in Christendom for the purpose of filling the entire world with the works of God; and you ignore all this as though it were of no account. You think to yourself: “God dwells up in heaven among the angels and is occupied with other matters. How can a preacher or a father or a mother help me? If only I could hear and see God Himself!” That is severing and separating God from His work, Christ from His Word; and these two should be joined and kept together most firmly.

Hence let everyone be on his guard lest he search for God with his own reason and mind. Learn to adhere and cling simply to the Word. Be guided and directed by it. Then you cannot go astray. And in it you hear nothing but this message: “Believe in me. Believe that I forgive you your sins and am gracious to you for Christ’s sake. Be baptized on this. Be obedient to father and mother, and do what your calling and vocation enjoins. Then you have everything, and God in the bargain!” “Oh,” you ask, “is that seeing and hearing God? I assumed that He was up in heaven and that I needed a special revelation from Him.” No, far from it. If you want to encounter God, you must first see Him under the mask, in the Word. Then one day you can behold Him also in His majesty. For now God will not present you with anything special, apart from and contrary to His command contained in His Word.

It is a shame and disgrace that we despise this because it is so common and familiar. Thus the arrogant spirit of Münzer and of the Anabaptist rabble of our day declared impudently that they would not acknowledge a Christ who did no more than have the Gospel preached and people baptized, but did not communicate with them in person. To cast aside the external Word and Baptism is surely the true mark and sign of all false and heterodox spirits. They do not content themselves with the simple order of God, which is issued to all of Christendom and by which He reigns over it. They disdain to hear from Him how they are to find Him; but they presume to teach, and prescribe to, Him how He should deal with them. But God will not submit to this; for He is not the man to be ordered about and to institute something particular for each individual or to issue a new Gospel, a new Baptism, message, or revelation for your sake. Once and for all He has ordained and proclaimed concerning this Christ: “Here is the Man whom you must hear if you want to come to Me and be saved. I herewith serve notice on you that I will give you no other sign. Therefore mark well that you must either accept Him or be lost.” This He has stated simply and clearly enough; this He has earnestly enjoined. And yet it avails nothing with the unbelieving world, so complete is the sway that the arrogant devil, who encroaches upon God’s majesty, holds over it.

Thus the Turks, to begin with, introduced something novel and refused to remain with the simple Gospel. “Oh,” exclaimed Mohammed, “Christ has ascended into heaven; I must have an angel through whom God communicates with me!” Then he proceeded to create a new Bible—that is, his Koran—and would not accept Baptism. The pope, together with his priests and monks, has been doing the same thing. They have surrendered Christ and the words about faith, ignored the Bible, and claimed that God sits enthroned up in heaven like a terrible Judge. Therefore we must have Mary and the other deceased saints as intercessors and must reconcile God through the sacrifice of the Mass. Furthermore, they have belittled Baptism and Christian vocations. Therefore it was necessary to enter special higher callings and orders, and to create a more exalted Baptism for the monks. In brief, they have introduced a special, self-devised sanctity, apart from and contrary to the common Word and order of God and the ordinary godly vocations. In this way alone they aspired to get to heaven or at least to assist others in attaining that goal. These things, they claim, gleam like precious gems. The others—plain Baptism, the Sacrament, father, mother, government, pious masters and mistresses in the home, servants and maids—they treat with scorn and regard as nothing. This viewpoint has so filled the world that the true light and the high honor of Christendom have been dimmed and trampled underfoot. Therefore we must again sweep out this filth of the devil and throw it away; we must cleanse this doctrine well and impress it on the hearts of men. One must teach and believe: “I must and will hear or see no work, no worship of God, no spirituality, no holy life other than that of this Man Christ, or that which He transmitted to the apostles, and the apostles, in turn, transmitted to the preachers. When I hear these, I hear Christ Himself; and when I hear Christ, I hear the Father.” Thus all must be woven together and interrelated. And if the relationship is right, all must follow in a straight line. It is like tracing and following a river or a brook to its source, the spring. I drink the water from the pipes. It comes from the brooklet; and this, in the end, flows from the spring.

This doctrine must be preached and expounded to Christendom in general, but it must also be impressed so that each individual Christian can practice and apply it in his own particular trials. When the devil hits the heart with his darts ([reftagger title=””]Eph. 6:16[/reftagger]), labeled eternal predestination or God’s wrath and judgment, then I must be steeled against these with the Word of Christ and say: “Away with you, you vile spirit of lies! Go devour your own stench, and do not distract me with such thoughts! For I have learned from Christ and from God Himself that if I want to know how God is disposed toward me and what His plans are for me, I must listen to none other than my Lord’s voice. There I see and hear nothing else than His gift of Baptism, His Sacrament; there I see that He absolves me from sin and acquits 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. 68–70). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Subscribe today and we’ll let you know when we have a new article posted!

Original Righteousness to Original Sin

The WORD

17For on whatever day you will eat from it you will die.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). ([reftagger title=””]Gen 2:17[/reftagger]). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

What is original righteousness? Some make it a quality; others make it something else. If we follow Moses, we should take original righteousness to mean that man was righteous, truthful, and upright not only in body but especially in soul, that he knew God, that he obeyed God with the utmost joy, and that he understood the works of God even without prompting. A clear example of this state of affairs is this: When Adam was sleeping very soundly and God formed Eve out of his rib, Adam recognized the work of God immediately upon awaking, and said ([reftagger title=””]Gen. 2:23[/reftagger]): “This is bone of my bone.” Is this not a superb intellect which at the first glance understands and recognizes the work of God?

It is part of this original righteousness that Adam loved God and His works with an outstanding and very pure attachment; that he lived among the creatures of God in peace, without fear of death, and without any fear of sickness; and that he had a very obedient body, without evil inclinations and the hideous lust which we now experience. In this way a very beautiful and very accurate picture of original righteousness can be inferred from the deprivation which we now feel in our own nature.

When the sophists speak of original sin, they are speaking only of wretched and hideous lust or concupiscence. But original sin really means that human nature has completely fallen; that the intellect has become darkened, so that we no longer know God and His will and no longer perceive the works of God; furthermore, that the will is extraordinarily depraved, so that we do not trust the mercy of God and do not fear God but are unconcerned, disregard the Word and will of God, and follow the desire and the impulses of the flesh; likewise, that our conscience is no longer quiet but, when it thinks of God’s judgment, despairs and adopts illicit defenses and remedies. These sins have taken such deep root in our being that in this life they cannot be entirely eradicated, and yet the wretched sophists do not mention them even with a word. Thus, as it always is with correlatives, original sin shows what original righteousness is, and vice versa: original sin is the loss of original righteousness, or the deprivation of it, just as blindness is the deprivation of sight.

This involves much more than the monks think when they restrict original righteousness almost exclusively to chastity. But the soul ought to be given consideration first; thereafter also the body, which has been made so hideous by lust. But in the case of the soul the outstanding fact is this: that the knowledge of God has been lost; that we do not everywhere and always give thanks to Him; that we do not delight in His works and deeds; that we do not trust Him; that when He inflicts deserved punishments, we begin to hate God and to blaspheme Him; that when we must deal with our neighbor, we yield to our desires and are robbers, thieves, adulterers, murderers, cruel, inhuman, merciless, etc. The passion of lust is indeed some part of original sin. But greater are the defects of the soul: unbelief, ignorance of God, despair, hate, blasphemy. Of these spiritual disasters Adam, in the state of innocence, had no knowledge.

Moreover there must be added here the punishments for original sin. For the name “original sin” is correctly given to whatever was lost of those conditions which Adam enjoyed while his nature was still unimpaired: that he had a very keen intellect, so that he immediately realized that Eve was his own flesh; that he had an accurate knowledge of all the creatures; that he was righteous and upright; that he was endowed with extraordinary perception and an upright yet imperfect will. (For perfection was postponed until the spiritual life after the physical one.)

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 1: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 1-5. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 1, pp. 113–115). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Subscribe today and we’ll let you know when we have a new article posted!