Category: Christ Alone (page 1 of 2)

Who “chose” whom?

The WORD

65And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 6:65). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 
For with the words “No one can come to Me” Christ intends to say that faith is God’s gift. And He is willing to give it, if only we request it of Him. To come to Him means to believe in Christ. But he who does not believe is far from Him. You assume that faith is your doing, your power, your work; and thereby you interfere with God’s work. It is the gift of God, so that He alone may be accorded the honor and no man may boast of his strength. It is the Father who draws us and gives us the Word, and the Holy Spirit and faith by the Word. It is His gift, not our work or power. St. Paul also tells us that in Eph. 2:8–9: “For by grace you have been saved; and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, lest any man should boast.”

This is the essence of true Christianity, against which the world has always contended madly and foolishly and against which it still rages. Here there is no boasting of any work but only of the Father’s drawing. Furthermore, my flesh, blood, spirit, and all that pertains thereto is His, not ours, if I am to have life. Consequently, all the other works we do are entirely excluded.

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, p. 181). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Saved by the Same Savior

The WORD

25 Now a discussion arose between John’s disciples and the Jews over purifying.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (John 3:25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 
Since the beginning of the world the question has been raised and hotly debated whether salvation is attained by God’s grace or by works. The chief purification must precede, for “grace and truth come through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Furthermore, “from His fullness have we all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16). After that we do not forbid good works. However, we do preach that good works can neither constitute nor bring about this purification. But Christ must purify us with His blood; then the other purification will follow from grace, Thus we come away from the Jordan and the Dead Sea.

Now John introduces a new mode of purification, one hitherto unknown to the Jews. In addition, he proclaimed the message that the people must desist from their evil deeds and life and await the coming Messiah. Such testimony implied that he himself was not the one who could purify them, and that his Baptism was not the purification. He says: “I purify with water. I do not claim that you are cleansed thereby. No, you are cleansed by Him who comes after me, who will purify you with the Holy Spirit.” At the same time those who had died before this were saved by accepting John’s Baptism and being purified through their faith in the advent of Christ, to whom John pointed as the true Purifier. In this way all the patriarchs and prophets were purified. Circumcision and all purification were associated with, and related to, the coming Messiah. Circumcision helped them inasmuch as it was linked to the coming Messiah; they were circumcised on their faith in Him, and thus they were saved. Otherwise they would not have been saved. And Cain, who presumed to be everything, is nothing; for his faith does not rely on the future Seed of the woman. It is Abel who is purified, not Cain.

About this a horrible quarrel ensued, so that in the end he who wanted to be everything slew Abel. This has always been the course of history. Just read the records, and see how all the patriarchs and fathers sacrificed and how the fire consumed their offerings. Then the ungodly Jews remarked: “God regards the gift and the sacrifice!” Now Cain had offered nothing but chaff. However, God is not interested in oxen, sheep, and sacrifices; as is evident from Ps. 50:8–9 and from Is. 1:11. God says: “Who commanded you to sacrifice?”

The trouble is, as we see from the books of all the prophets, that the ungodly assume they are purified because of their generous sacrifices; but God is of a different mind. Because of the assumption of the ungodly all the prophets were tortured and slain, and all the great kings dethroned. But whoever bore in mind during his sacrifice that the true Lamb, Christ, was to be slaughtered for the sins of the world, was saved by and in that faith in the advent of Christ. And whoever failed to do so was not saved. Even if such a person were willing to sacrifice a thousand oxen, it would be regarded by God as little as a fly. In the case of the godly, however, what availed was their reliance on the future Seed for their salvation. Thus from Adam and Abel down to our day there is but one way to salvation, for the promise of Christ and the Christian faith began with the promise that the woman’s Seed should crush the serpent’s head. This promise endured until He Himself appeared. And now faith no longer applies to the future Christ but to the present Christ, the Christ who has come. And what was formerly observed in the Law has validity no longer, whether it be Law or circumcision. Christ Himself is present now, and everything pointed to Him.


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. 426–428). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

The Greatest Commandment

The WORD

37And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the great and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 22:37–39). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 

Therefore, this is what the law requires and says: You owe nothing except to love Christ and your neighbor; otherwise you are eternally condemned. But then afterwards Christ comes and says: I suffered, died, and rose again in order that I might fill you with the riches and grace of my Holy Spirit and thus strengthen you. So if you have the Spirit, then you are not an outward spirit; no, you have salvation. Then a person thinks this way: Now, Lord Jesus, I will serve you, die and live for you, and patiently suffer all that is disagreeable from you and from men; do with me as you will. That person will be washed of his sins by the blood of Christ.

Hence, if I have the Holy Spirit, I have faith, by which I cling to God. And if I believe in God, then I also have his love and I love God, foe, and friend. That is why Paul says: I can do all things through the Spirit of God [Phil. 4:13]. The Spirit does not come through fasting, praying, pilgrimages, running to and fro around the country; no, only through faith. So Christ bestows his gifts upon you without any merit whatsoever and what he did for him [i.e., Paul], he does for you also. Here, of course, you must guard against thinking that you are capable of faith; God must give it to you.

Therefore, this is what we say about the law; this is what it is and nothing else: The law kills; your God saves you. And he who does not believe is condemned. In short: Help us, O God, to this faith. Amen. Therefore, guard yourselves against the fool preachers who say: Yes, good works will do it. No, first faith must be present in a man. So he who does not follow Christ and also does not love him is condemned.

As for us, we shall call upon God. Amen.

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 51: Sermons I. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 51, pp. 109–111). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

our righteousness comes by faith alone

The WORD

4Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— 5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ga 2:4–5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 

The truth of the Gospel is this, that our righteousness comes by faith alone, without the works of the Law. The falsification or corruption of the Gospel is this, that we are justified by faith but not without the works of the Law. The false apostles preached the Gospel, but they did so with this condition attached to it. The scholastics do the same thing in our day. They say that we must believe in Christ and that faith is the foundation of salvation, but they say that this faith does not justify unless it is “formed by love.” This is not the truth of the Gospel; it is falsehood and pretense. The true Gospel, however, is this: Works or love are not the ornament or perfection of faith; but faith itself is a gift of God, a work of God in our hearts, which justifies us because it takes hold of Christ as the Savior. Human reason has the Law as its object. It says to itself: “This I have done; this I have not done.” But faith in its proper function has no other object than Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was put to death for the sins of the world. It does not look at its love and say: “What have I done? Where have I sinned? What have I deserved?” But it says: “What has Christ done? What has He deserved?” And here the truth of the Gospel gives you the answer: “He has redeemed you from sin, from the devil, and from eternal death.” Therefore faith acknowledges that in this one Person, Jesus Christ, it has the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Whoever diverts his gaze from this object does not have true faith; he has a phantasy and a vain opinion. He looks away from the promise and at the Law, which terrifies him and drives him to despair.

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 26: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 26, p. 88). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

The Way to God

The WORD

16“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 3:16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 

But if you want to find God, then inscribe these words in your heart. Don’t sleep, but be vigilant, Learn and ponder these words diligently: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Let him who can write, write these words. Furthermore, read them, discuss them, meditate and reflect on them in the morning and in the evening, whether awake or asleep! For the devil will sorely assail your faith in an effort to make you doubt that Christ is the Son of God and that your faith is pleasing to God. He will torture you with thoughts of predestination, with the wrath and the judgment of God. Then you must say: “I don’t want to hear or know anything else about God than that He loves me. I don’t want to know anything about a wrathful God, about His judgment and anger, about hell, about death, and about damnation. But if I do see God’s wrath, I know that this drives me to the Son, where I find refuge; and if I come to the Son, I also have a merciful Father.” For St. John tells us in his epistle that the Father loved me before I ever loved Him or knew Him, that He remitted my sin and gave me salvation (1 John 4:10).

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. 368). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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.

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 14:21 – 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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