Category: John (page 2 of 3)

John 14:20 No Fear

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 14:18[/reftagger]). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 

The it is surely the chief Christian doctrine and understanding to be certain and, as Christ states here, to know that the Man Christ is really and truly in God, and God in Him—that He Himself is the true and living God. And then one must know that the same One who is in God is also in us, and we in Him. He who has this knowledge has everything.

For it is all-important, as we always say, to know that the direction comes down this way from above, from the Father through Christ, and ascends again through Him. For the Son comes down to us from the Father and attaches Himself to us; and we, in turn, attach ourselves to Him and come to the Father through Him. This is the reason for His incarnation and His birth of the Virgin Mary, that He might mingle with us, be seen and heard by us, yes, be crucified and put to death for us, and draw and hold us to Him. He was sent to draw up to the Father those who would believe in Him, just as He is in the Father. He forged these links between Himself and us and the Father, thus enclosing us in this circle, so that now we are in Him and He in us, just as He is in the Father and the Father is in Him. Through such a union and communion our sin and death are abolished, and now we have sheer life and blessedness in their stead.

“This,” Christ says here, “you will learn on the day when I rise and am glorified. Then you will be persuaded beyond a doubt that I am sent by the Father and that everything I say, do, and suffer is in the Father in such a manner that it is God Himself who says, does, and suffers it. Henceforth no one must search heaven or earth to find anything else needed for salvation. Hitherto people sought outside Me, and still do, running hither and yon in an attempt to apprehend and lay hold of God. They ventured to reconcile the Father with their own works and holiness, but they accomplished no more than to separate and split up into innumerable types of superstition and vain worship, letting themselves be led on by all sorts of false ways and means of coming to God. But they missed the right way entirely. For this is what God Himself proclaims here through the mouth of His beloved Son: Be it known to you that I am in the Father and that the Father is in Me. This is the real issue: If anyone wants to find the Father and come to Him, he must first find Me and come to Me. There is no other way or means (as He also informed us above clearly and plainly enough). At present, because of your weakness, you cannot understand and recognize this. But I am announcing this to you in advance; and after I have been glorified, the Holy Spirit will teach it to you, that you may understand and experience it.

“For, as has been stated, it will and should be the right perception and the sublime knowledge of Christians to learn and comprehend that there is no other way to lay hold of God—that is, to be delivered from sin, to be saved, and to live eternally—than through one door. You must come to Me and cling to Me. If you do that, you need no longer fear God’s wrath, the Law, the devil, death, and hell. For you are in Me; and because you are in Me, I am also in you. And then the Father, who is in Me, and I in Him, is also assuredly in you. Who, then, can harm you?”

It is not our intention to debate against the Arians, as some of the ancient fathers have done on the basis of this text, how, in view of the one undivided Divine Essence, the Father is in Christ and Christ in the Father. No, here we want to confine ourselves to the practical application of this doctrine and learn what our attitude over against God and Christ must be to find the Father and to know His will. As we have always heard, a Christian must learn to say: “I know of no other God than the one God who is called Jesus Christ.” Therefore if the devil wants to frighten you with God’s wrath and judgment, with death and hell, and if he tells you that God is angry with you and wants to kill or damn you, etc., then you can tell him to unleash such thoughts on stubborn minds and on wicked and hardened hearts. “As for me,” you must say, “I am determined to listen to what the Gospel says to me. There I find a Man whose name is Jesus Christ. To Him I will bind myself with heart and ears, and learn what He says and does.” In this way you discover that God the Father sent Him into the flesh and let Him be crucified and die for you. If this is true, then why need you fear Him or flee from Him? Thus this Christ—or such faith in, and conception of, Christ—banishes all fear of sin, of death, of the devil, and of the world.

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. 140). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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John 14:18 God is with Us

The WORD

18“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). ([reftagger title=””]John 14:18[/reftagger]). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 

In the estimation of the world and according to our own feelings, this small group of Christians appears to be poor orphans forsaken and forgotten both by God and by Christ, since He permits them to be reviled and mocked, condemned, persecuted, and murdered, and to be everybody’s door mat. Furthermore, their hearts are constantly frightened, saddened, and tormented by the devil. Hence they might well be accounted orphans, more so than all other orphans and forsaken people on earth, of whom Scripture says that God Himself, who calls Himself the Father of the fatherless (Ps. 68:5), must look after them, since they are forsaken by everybody. “But,” says Christ, “I will not forsake you, as it seems and feels. I will give you the Comforter, who will instill in you the courage to be certain that you are My true Christians and the true church. Moreover, I Myself will surely be and remain among you with My protection and My sovereign power, even though I now depart from you physically and visibly, and even though you will be alone, exposed to the wickedness and might of the devil and the world. But the world will not be so powerful, the devil will not work such havoc, and all the sages and scholars will not be so wise that My Baptism and the proclamation about Me will not remain and be practiced, and that My Holy Spirit will not reign and work in you, even though this is always assailed and seems imperfect among you yourselves.”

If the office of the ministry were not constantly being administered in Christendom and the Holy Spirit did not hold sway, it would be impossible to retain Baptism, the Sacrament, and the knowledge of Christ. Who could preserve these if it were not done by the exercise of the public ministry? Studying and praying in secret would not accomplish this. Others could not learn and attain them by such means. What has been done is due to the fact that God has always given preachers and spread the Word, so that it has been spoken and heard by His own people, even though very imperfectly. In many places His Word has been distorted or even perverted; and only a few have retained and administered it properly, while most people have fallen away from it. But despite this, God has preserved His own and has always given some who preached against the false teaching of the pope and other factions, even though they were persecuted and suppressed for a time. Thus Christianity has been preserved amid the greatest and most grievous errors and heresies, as at the time of Arius and later, and also during the horrible persecutions in the days of the martyrs. It has been wonderfully defended, and it has endured and carried the day against the world and the devil. Upheld by the Holy Spirit, it has expanded more and more.

Thus all Christendom has this comforting promise that it will not be forsaken or left without aid and help. Even if it is bereft of all human consolation, help, and assistance, still Christ will not leave it desolate and unprotected. It seems as though for a time He were leaving His Christians without comfort and protection. The devil and the world—and they too, by reason of the weakness of their flesh—might imagine that it is all over for the Christians and that they are completely suppressed and subdued. It must have felt and looked like this during the three days when Christ was taken away, most shamefully executed, and laid in the grave. But even this should not rob them of their comfort or drive them to despair. Despite everything they feel and see, they should cling to the promise He gives them here when He says: “I will not stay away from you; and though I must depart from you for a little while physically, I will not remain away long. I will return to you soon and be with you forever. You shall be protected against all devils, the world, sin, and death; and you shall live and conquer with 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. 130–132). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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John 14:17 Where true courage comes from

The WORD

17“Even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). ([reftagger title=””]John 14:17[/reftagger]). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 

The Holy Spirit is not only a Comforter, who makes Christians defiant and courageous in the face of all kinds of terror; He is also a Spirit of truth, that is, He is a true and reliable Spirit, who does not deceive you or fail you. It is also part of a Christian’s character to become bold and intrepid. I do not mean that he should be imbued with a foolhardy courage, boldness, and defiance such as reckless soldiers and daredevils display when they charge fearlessly into swords, spears, and guns. To be sure, this may also be termed fearlessness; but it is a false comfort and defiance, for such a man either relies on his own strength or is actuated by vainglory. Thus there may be a spirit there, but it is not the proper and true spirit.

For the evil spirit can also puff people up and make them bold and brave, as is evidenced by his tyrants and schismatic spirits, who are far too rash and defiant, though not with the valor and the defiance approved by God. Christ, on the other hand, promises a Spirit who fills us with a courage that is called a divine, holy, and bold defiance. Therefore this must be called a genuine, true comfort, a courage that is not false or futile; for it does not rely on anything uncertain but is thoroughly reliable and puts its trust in things that do not fail or deceive.

Christians have nothing to rely on but Christ, their Lord and God. They willingly surrender all things for His sake and say: “Before I deny or forsake my Christ, I will bid farewell to neck and belly, honor and goods, house and home, wife and child, and everything!” Therefore this courage cannot be a sham or a delusion; it must be genuine and real. Its comfort is not rooted in earth’s temporal or transient things, for the sake of which it would be willing to suffer this. No, it pins its hopes solely on the Lord Christ, who was crucified and died for us. In keeping with His promise Christ certainly must say: “Since you confess Me, you enjoy this advantage and comfort; and you can boast that your defiance and courage will not mislead you. For He is called a Spirit of truth.” All other defiance and pride stems from a spirit of lies or a pseudo spirit, which cannot be pleasing to God. But whatever a Christian does and suffers in faith in the Lord Christ is absolute truth, proper, and right; and he can boast truthfully and joyfully that it is approved by God and all the angels. A Christian is sure of his position and fears neither the devil nor the world; neither is he intimidated by any threat or terror.

Therefore let this be no small comfort for you, for there is nothing else on earth that can comfort you as much in the hour of need as a confident heart. As long as it harbors doubt and is uncertain, it is incapable of defiant courage. But here the consolation is sure; whatever I suffer is not due to my misdeeds or to any worldly things from which I hoped to derive goods or honor or praise. The only charge against me is that I believe in the Lord Christ and am determined to confess His Word.

Therefore I cannot fear these people, but I must despise them and say: “Go ahead and rage if you will. If you do not choose to smile in God’s name, then be angry in the name of all your masters. And the more you fume and rage in your ire and malice, the happier I shall be, and the more I shall laugh.” For I am convinced—also from their own admission—that they are attacking us for no other reason than this, that we preach the Gospel. Since all this befalls us for Christ’s sake, He also gives us the Spirit—as He has promised—who does not deceive but is sincere and abides forever before God and everyone.

Thus we have the comforting promise and the firm confidence that whatever we speak, do, and suffer as Christians must be the truth and proceed from the Spirit of truth. Conversely, all that is done, spoken, preached, and undertaken in opposition to this must be falsehood and lies before God, though it may seem ever so fine and be proclaimed as the pure truth, the greatest holiness and intellectuality, and though the world may contend for it with all its might and blaspheme and rage against us most violently. For, after all, our doctrine and our actions are not based on ourselves, nor are we involved in this; but all this has to do with this Christ, from whom we have everything and for whom we preach, live, and suffer. And since all this is done on His behalf, we also let Him worry about it. He says that He will see it through and will give the spirit and the courage for it to endure; and whatever He does through His Christians is to be completely true and certain.

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. 120). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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John 14:15-16

The WORD

13“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 14:15-16). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

These are all words of Him who is about to depart from His disciples and now bids them farewell. He gives them comfort and exhorts them not to be frightened and saddened by His departure. As though He were to say: “I must now go from your sight. Therefore I tell you this as My farewell and Godspeed. You must not become afraid and fearful; but believe in Me, and take to heart what I am telling you. For I will not leave you without comfort and help, even though you find no comfort and help in the world. Yes, I am going to the Father for this very reason, to assume My power and My reign and then to manifest these in you. And though I depart from you physically, I shall send you another Comforter from the Father. He will always remain with you, for I know that you cannot abide in the world without a Comforter.

“Until now I, through My bodily presence, have been your Comforter. You have taken delight in Me and have felt secure and fearless, and you would like to remain with Me. But now that you hear that you are about to lose this comfort, you are cast down and troubled. Yet My departure shall not harm you. Just remain My disciples and hold to Me, and I will compensate you richly for the loss. For I Myself will ask the Father to grant you the Comforter, who will stay with you forever; and neither the world nor the devil will deprive you of Him, no matter how they rant and rave. He will strengthen you and make you courageous and bold, far better than I can now do by My physical presence. Moreover, He is wiser and more learned than all the world. Therefore you will not lack for comfort, strength, courage, and wisdom.”

That is the comfort. But Christ advisedly prefaces it with the words: “If you love Me and keep My commandments.” The dear Lord definitely foresaw that unrest would be afoot in Christendom after His departure, particularly among the preachers and teachers. He knew that they would not remain in agreement but would be split into schisms and factions. He completely abolished Moses for His Christians, and now He does not want us to be encumbered again with the intolerable burden of the Law. For we invariably find that where laws rule, especially over the conscience, there is no end of commands and precepts. One law leads to a hundred new ones, and these hundred multiply into a hundred thousand. “Therefore,” Christ says, “I do not impose anything else on you. I ask and demand no more than this one thing, that you faithfully preach about Me, watch over My Word and Sacrament, show affection and harmony among one another for My sake, and patiently bear the adversities that this entails for you.”

These are the brief commandments which Christ calls “My commandments.” “And these,” He says, “I impose on you only if you love Me and gladly keep them for My sake. For I do not want to be a Moses, who drives and plagues you with menace and terror; but I give you commands which you can and will surely observe without coercion if you love Me at all. If love is wanting, it is useless for Me to give you many commandments; for they would not be observed anyhow. Therefore if you want to keep My commandments, see that you love Me, and think of what I have done for you. It is proper that you should love Me, who am about to give My life for you and to shed My blood for you. Do this for My sake. Live in harmony and friendship with one another. At the same time adhere steadfastly to Me in your preaching, bear with one another in love, and do not introduce schisms and factions.

“For I have richly deserved your loyalty. It is hard for Me to accomplish your redemption, and it costs Me My life. I am hurling Myself into death and into the jaws of the devil to deliver you from sin and death, to destroy the power of hell and the devil, and to present you with heaven and all that I have. I will gladly pardon you if you err and sin at times, even if you fall grossly, also if you are weak and frail, but only if you return to Me, manifest your love again, and also forgive one another, as I do you, so that your mutual love will not be destroyed.”

Christ begins this admonition here; but later He will extend it and stress it more, in order to impress this on their minds for the hour of His departure. For He knew very well, as I have said, that there would be many who would adorn themselves with His name and boast of being His disciples and preachers of the Gospel but would set their own reputation, glory, and honor above Christ’s blood and death. They would not esteem Christ’s grace and ineffable love and all that He did to accomplish our redemption highly enough to jeopardize or surrender their own pleasures or honor or power for it. They would not deprecate their own knowledge and cleverness, because their reputation for smartness, wisdom, and learning is of greater consequence to them than Christ and the pure doctrine of the Gospel.

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. 101–103). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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John 14:13-14

The WORD

13“Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son;14 if you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 14:13-14). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

By telling His disciples to pray Christ wants to point out that of and among themselves they do not have the power to do such great things—things which He calls greater works than those He Himself has done. They will experience weakness, all sorts of trouble and want, opposition and hindrances in their calling, life, and acts. He lets this happen to them to forestall pride, presumption, and self-reliance, as though they now had everything and no longer needed Him. They should remain humble and continue to be aware of their own impotence. Then they will exercise their faith in Christ all the more by prayer and petition, and will experience His power in weakness and in suffering the more surely, because they will be impelled to call upon Him and implore Him. Thus He said to St. Paul in [reftagger title=””]2 Cor. 12:9[/reftagger] : “My power is made perfect in weakness.

With these and the following words Christ also demonstrates what constitutes a Christian’s true office and function, and how necessary the exercise of this is in Christendom. The prophet Zechariah refers to this when he says ([reftagger title=””]Zech 12:10[/reftagger] ) that Christ will pour out and grant the spirit which is called “a spirit of compassion and supplication.” For in all Christians He will effect and produce these two things: First, He will convince and assure their hearts that they have a compassionate God; secondly, He will enable them to help others by their supplication. The result of the first is that they are reconciled to God and have all they need for themselves. Then, when they have this, they will become gods and will be saviors of the world by their supplication. Through the spirit of compassion they themselves will become children of God; and then, as children of God, they will mediate between God and their neighbor, and will serve others and help them attain this estate too.

For once a Christian begins to know Christ as his Lord and Savior, through whom he is redeemed from death and brought into His dominion and inheritance, God completely permeates his heart. Now he is eager to help everyone acquire the same benefits. For his greatest delight is in this treasure, the knowledge of Christ. Therefore he steps forth boldly, teaches and admonishes others, praises and confesses his treasure before everybody, prays and yearns that they, too, may obtain such mercy. There is a spirit of restlessness amid the greatest calm, that is, in Gods grace and peace. A Christian cannot be still or idle. He constantly strives and struggles with all his might, as one who has no other object in life than to disseminate God’s honor and glory among the people, that others may also receive such a spirit of grace and through this spirit also help him pray. For wherever the spirit of grace resides, there we can and dare, yes, must begin to pray.

Therefore Christ wants to say here: “When you believe in Me and have received the spirit by which the heart is assured of the grace of God (Christ had said above: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father”), then you will certainly be constrained to pray.” For prayer is the true work characteristic only of Christians. Before we become Christians and believe, we do not know how or what to pray. And even if a man prays most fervently, the spirit of grace is not yet present. Then the heart is still disposed to say: “Dear Lord, I ask you to regard my life, my intense suffering, or the merit of this or of that saint, the intercession and the good works of pious people.” This is not faith in divine grace and mercy through Christ. Moreover, the heart always remains in doubt and cannot conclude that its prayer has certainly been heard. It insists on dealing with God on the basis of its own holiness or that of others, and without Christ, as though God had to humble Himself before it, have His grace or assistance wrested from Him, and thus become our debtor and servant. This means deserving wrath, not grace; this means mocking God, not praying to Him.

A genuinely Christian prayer must issue from the spirit of grace, which says: “I have lived my best; therefore I implore Thee not to regard my life and my conduct, but Thy mercy and compassion promised me in Christ, and because of this to grant me the fulfillment of my prayer.” Thus our prayer must, in real and sincere humility, take no account of ourselves; it must rely solely and confidently on the promise of grace, in the firm trust that God will hear us, as He has commanded us to pray and has promised to hear us.

Therefore Christ distinctly adds the words “in My name.” He wants to teach us that no real prayer is possible without faith and that without Christ no one is able to utter a single word of prayer that is valid before God and acceptable to 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. 87-89). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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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.

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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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