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Category: Works

John 14:22-23

The WORD

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Galatians 2:16

The WORD

16“yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ…”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). ([reftagger title=””]Gal 2:16[/reftagger]). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 

Now the true meaning of Christianity is this: that a man first acknowledge, through the Law, that he is a sinner, for whom it is impossible to perform any good work. For the Law says: “You are an evil tree. Therefore everything you think, speak, or do is opposed to God. Hence you cannot deserve grace by your works. But if you try to do so, you make the bad even worse; for since you are an evil tree, you cannot produce anything except evil fruits, that is, sins. ‘For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin’ ([reftagger title=””]Rom. 14:23[/reftagger]).” Trying to merit grace by preceding works, therefore, is trying to placate God with sins, which is nothing but heaping sins upon sins, making fun of God, and provoking His wrath. When a man is taught this way by the Law, he is frightened and humbled. Then he really sees the greatness of his sin and finds in himself not one spark of the love of God; thus he justifies God in His Word and confesses that he deserves death and eternal damnation. Thus the first step in Christianity is the preaching of repentance and the knowledge of oneself.

The second step is this: If you want to be saved, your salvation does not come by works; but God has sent His only Son into the world that we might live through Him. He was crucified and died for you and bore your sins in His own body ([reftagger title=””]1 Peter 2:24[/reftagger]). Here there is no “congruity” or work performed before grace, but only wrath, sin, terror, and death. Therefore the Law only shows sin, terrifies, and humbles; thus it prepares us for justification and drives us to Christ. For by His Word God has revealed to us that He wants to be a merciful Father to us. Without our merit—since, after all, we cannot merit anything—He wants to give us forgiveness of sins, righteousness, and eternal life for the sake of Christ. For God is He who dispenses His gifts freely to all, and this is the praise of His deity. But He cannot defend this deity of His against the selfrighteous people who are unwilling to accept grace and eternal life from Him freely but want to earn it by their own works. They simply want to rob Him of the glory of His deity. In order to retain it, He is compelled to send forth His Law, to terrify and crush those very hard rocks as though it were thunder and lightning.

This, in summary, is our theology about Christian righteousness, in opposition to the abominations and monstrosities of the sophists about “merit of congruity and of condignity” or about works before grace and after grace. Smug people, who have never struggled with any temptations or true terrors of sin and death, were the ones who made up these empty dreams out of their own heads; therefore they do not understand what they are saying or what they are talking about, for they cannot supply any examples of such works done either before grace or after grace. Therefore these are useless fables, with which the papists delude both themselves and others.

………………

Therefore Christian faith is not an idle quality or an empty husk in the heart, which may exist in a state of mortal sin until love comes along to make it alive. But if it is true faith, it is a sure trust and firm acceptance in the heart. It takes hold of Christ in such a way that Christ is the object of faith, or rather not the object but, so to speak, the One who is present in the faith itself. Thus faith is a sort of knowledge or darkness that nothing can see. Yet the Christ of whom faith takes hold is sitting in this darkness as God sat in the midst of darkness on Sinai and in the temple. Therefore our “formal righteousness” is not a love that informs faith; but it is faith itself, a cloud in our hearts, that is, trust in a thing we do not see, in Christ, who is present especially when He cannot be seen.

Therefore faith justifies because it takes hold of and possesses this treasure, the present Christ. But how He is present—this is beyond our thought; for there is darkness, as I have said. Where the confidence of the heart is present, therefore, there Christ is present, in that very cloud and faith. This is the formal righteousness on account of which a man is justified; it is not on account of love, as the sophists say. In short, just as the sophists say that love forms and trains faith, so we say that it is Christ who forms and trains faith or who is the form of faith. Therefore the Christ who is grasped by faith and who lives in the heart is the true Christian righteousness, on account of which God counts us righteous and grants us eternal life. Here there is no work of the Law, no love; but there is an entirely different kind of righteousness, a new world above and beyond the Law. For Christ or faith is neither the Law nor the work of the Law

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, pp. 129–130). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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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.

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