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John 14:24

The WORD

24“He who does not love Me does not keep My words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). ([reftagger title=””]John 14:24[/reftagger]). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 

This means no one but the world and the false Christians. It is their nature not to be able to love Christ and to keep His words. For they seek and love only what is theirs, namely, the world and whatever pleases it, as Christ declares later ([reftagger title=””]John 15:19[/reftagger]): “If I were of the world, the world would love its own.” It follows that those who love Him are not of the world. We have heard that those who are baptized and cling to Christ are as sheep surrounded by wolves, as Christ Himself states ([reftagger title=””]Matt. 10:16[/reftagger]). The world does not hate any devil as it hates the Christians, and this hostility is far greater than any other hostility on earth.

But he who is to endure this bickering with the world, this scuffling with the devil, the hatred and envy of everyone, and whatever is inflicted on him must have a heart that thinks more of Christ and loves Him more than anything else in the world, with all its favor, friendship, and goods. He must be minded to say: “Whatever I suffer, I suffer for the sake of my Lord, who shed His blood for me and saved me from eternal death and from the power of the devil. Out of gratitude to Him and to His honor and glory I am resolved to cling to the Word and to proclaim Him, sing about Him, and laud Him, no matter whom it may please or vex.” Whoever hesitates to do this shows that he loves the world more than he loves Christ and His Christendom. Therefore he cannot experience what Christ really is; nor can he attain the glory of becoming God’s dwelling or of recognizing this dwelling, even though otherwise he may make much ado about Christ and Christendom, as is done by the pope and the sects, who are totally ignorant of the consolation and strength of the words of Christ the Lord.

Here, therefore, you have in brief a picture and description of the nature of the world; and you learn how we are to regard it, namely, as neither able nor willing to love Christ and to keep His words. This is because its love and pleasure are centered elsewhere. In [reftagger title=””]1 John 2:16[/reftagger] St. John speaks of “all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.” Those are the three forces that rule and really own the world. The expression “lust of the flesh” means that the world seeks and strives solely for things that serve the comfort and well-being of the flesh, which is loath to undergo any toil, unpleasantness, or discomfort, although man is ordained to earn his bread in the sweat of his face ([reftagger title=””]Gen. 3:19[/reftagger])

Secondly, there is “the lust of the eyes.” This is nothing else than greed, a vice so widespread today that it is practically futile to preach against it. There is hardly anyone in whatever position or office you can name who is not an oppressor, yes, an open usurer. What would they do for Christ’s sake if they do not give their neighbor a penny without interest or refrain from exploiting him?

In the third place, there is “pride of life.” This means that everyone is eager to get far ahead in life and to lord it over others. If someone is a burgher, he aspires to become a knight. If he is a nobleman, he wants to be a prince. If he is a prince, he would like to be emperor. And even if he were emperor, he would not be satisfied. That is the order of the world. Nothing but sheer pleasure, greed, and pride reign and prevail there. And he who strives for these will never love Christ.

Therefore Christ says here that there will be many in the world who will make much of His name and His Word but will not keep His words; for they are not disposed to be willing to lose or suffer anything for His sake. And it is, of course, impossible for one to love the world and its possessions and at the same time to adhere to Him and keep His Word. It is out of the question on earth for these two ways of acting to get along together. The devil does not let those who want to be Christians retain the world’s friendship and love. It is also out of the question for flesh and blood to be able to cleave to its lust, greed, and pride, and at the same time to Christ.

“Therefore,” says Christ, “if you want to be My disciples, be prepared to hold firmly to Me, to wager boldly, and to confide in Me. If I have not deserved your love, I shall not require it of you. I believe, however, that I have duly merited your love for Me above everything in heaven and on earth. For I shed My blood for you, unlocked heaven for you, broke hell asunder, reconciled the Father, and gave you everything through My own body. Your mammon, your goods, your honor, your sweet and easy life—none of this can ever achieve as much for you as I did. There is abundant reason why you should love Me more. It is not My fault if you fail to love Me. I have fully and richly earned your love. But it is due to your old Adam, to your flesh and blood, that you prefer a good, comfortable, grand, and sumptuous life, even though this is yours for only a short time and then is lost forever.


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. 160–161). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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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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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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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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Galatians 1:1 – Paul’s Call

The WORD

1“Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ…”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). ([reftagger title=””]Gal 1:1[/reftagger]). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 

God calls in two ways, either by means or without means. Today He calls all of us into the ministry of the Word by a mediated call, that is, one that comes through means, namely, through man. But the apostles were called immediately by Christ Himself, as the prophets in the Old Testament had been called by God Himself. Afterwards the apostles called their disciples, as Paul called Timothy, Titus, etc. These men called bishops, as in [reftagger title=””]Titus 1:5[/reftagger] ff.; and the bishops called their successors down to our own time, and so on to the end of the world. This is a mediated calling, since it is done by man. Nevertheless, it is divine.

Thus when someone is called by a prince or a magistrate or me, he has his calling through man. Since the time of the apostles this has been the usual method of calling in the world. It should not be changed; it should be exalted, on account of the sectarians, who despise it and lay claim to another calling, by which they say that the Spirit drives them to teach. But they are liars and impostors, for they are being driven by a spirit who is not good but evil. It is not lawful for me to forsake my assigned station as a preacher, to go to another city where I have no call, and to preach there. (As a doctor of divinity, of course, I could preach throughout the papacy, provided that they let me.) I have no right to do this even if I hear that false doctrine is being taught and that souls are being seduced and condemned which I could rescue from error and condemnation by my sound doctrine. But I should commit the matter to God, who in His own time will find the opportunity to call ministers lawfully and to give the Word. For He is the Lord of the harvest who will send laborers into His harvest; our task is to pray ([reftagger title=””]Matt. 9:38[/reftagger]).

Therefore we should not intrude into someone else’s harvest, as the devil does through his sectarians. With ardent zeal they claim to be saddened that men are being so miserably led astray, and to want to teach them the truth and rescue them from the devil’s clutches. Therefore even when a man seeks, with pious zeal and good intentions, to rescue with his sound doctrine those who have been led astray into error, this is still a bad example, which gives ungodly teachers an excuse to intrude themselves, after which Satan himself occupies the see. This example does a great deal of damage. But when the prince or some other magistrate calls me, then, with firm confidence, I can boast against the devil and the enemies of the Gospel that I have been called by the command of God through the voice of a man; for the command of God comes through the mouth of the prince, and this is a genuine call. Therefore we, too, have been called by divine authority—not by Christ immediately, as the apostles were, but “through man.”

Now this doctrine of the certainty of the call is extremely necessary on account of the pernicious and demonic spirits. Every minister of the Word may boast with John the Baptist ([reftagger title=””]Luke 3:2[/reftagger]): “The Word of the Lord has come upon me.” Therefore when I preach, baptize, or administer the sacraments, I do so as one who has a command and a call. For the voice of the Lord has come to me, not in some corner, as the sectarians boast, but through the mouth of a man who is carrying out his lawful right. But if one or two citizens were to ask me to preach, I should not follow such a private call; for this would open the window to the ministers of Satan, who would follow this example and work harm, as we have said above. But when those who are in public office ask me, then I should obey.

Therefore when Paul says “not from men nor through man,” he is knocking down the false apostles. It is as though he were saying: “No matter how much these vipers may brag, of what more can they brag than that they have come either ‘from men,’ that is, on their own, without any call, or ‘through man,’ that is, being sent by someone else? I am not concerned about any of this; nor should you be. But as for me, I have been called and sent neither from men nor through man but immediately, that is, by Jesus Christ Himself. In every way my call is like that of the apostles, and I am indeed an apostle.” Therefore Paul deals thoroughly with this doctrine of the call of the apostles.

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. 17–19). 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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Sin Against Grace: A lesson from Jonah

The WORD

3“But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jon 1:3). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 

It is also a source of great comfort to us to see that even the greatest and best saints sin grievously against God and that we are not the only poor, miserable sinners. We observe that they, too, were human, that they had flesh and blood as we do, and now we, too, must not despair, even though we fall into sin. If only we do not defect from the kingdom of grace through false doctrine and superstition! For just as there is no sin so great as to be unforgivable in that kingdom, so there is no work so good, no life so holy, as not to be damnable without this grace. However, I declare that to remain in the kingdom of grace implies that we do not sin against grace. Sinning against grace is done in a twofold manner: first, by sinning against God’s commandment and then aggravating this by adding the devilish sin to despond and despair, believing and disturbing my conscience with the thought that God will not forgive my sin and that there is no longer any mercy for me. Under those circumstances there is, in fact, no longer any mercy, but God with all His mercy is denied and thwarted. This is no longer a human but a devilish sin, a sin against the Holy Spirit, which is unforgivable so long as it remains, for it directly counteracts the mercy by which sin is to be remitted.

I remain in the kingdom of grace when I do not despair of God’s mercy, no matter how great my sin may be, but resolutely pin mind and conscience to the belief that there is still grace and forgiveness for me, even if the wrath of God and that of all creatures would threaten to consume me and even if my conscience would bear out this wrath and say that the supply of mercy is exhausted and that God will not forgive me. That is elevating God’s grace above everything else, praising and extolling it and with it defying all anger and judgment, joining in the words of the Epistle of [reftagger title=””]James 2:13[/reftagger]: “Mercy triumphs over judgment,” that is, mercy asserts itself and proves stronger than all wrath and every sentence and judgment of God. And whoever believes that can therewith defy all the anger and every judgment of God. He who is unable to do that bids judgment to challenge grace. And grace must perish and judgment hold sway alone to produce death and damnation. Conversely, where grace defies judgment, judgment must vanish and grace alone prevail to produce eternal life and bliss. That is Jonah’s experience here. This is no longer human righteousness based on our works and power, but it is an angelic, yes, a divine righteousness based on faith and spirit and devoid of any works. It clings solely to grace, and this no work is able to do. For all of this takes place in the heart and conscience, where there is no work and where no work can enter.

The second manner in which I sin against grace is if I perform good works with the simultaneous devilish thought that I comfort myself with these or rely on them, that I tell my conscience that I can stand before God with these, as if there were no sin here. Thereby I neutralize grace for myself, acting as though grace were neither necessary nor beneficial, since works could do this. That, too, is denying God with all His mercy, and that is no longer human but devilish righteousness, which cannot be forgiven so long as it remains and is not recognized. If a person becomes so pious in his works and his being that he does not require forgiveness or grace but regards his works in themselves good and pure enough to render grace and forgiveness superfluous, he remains outside the kingdom of grace and sins against grace. Such an attitude reverses the statement of James. It no longer reads: “Mercy triumphs over judgment,” but: “Works triumph over judgment,” yes, “Works triumph over mercy.” This is the sin against the Holy Spirit, which cannot be forgiven, that is, it is a sin that lacks grace, the grace through which it might be pardoned, as all other sins that do not have this devilish addition may be pardoned. For with all other sins the belief in mercy remains intact. They retain the reliance on mercy and forgiveness, believing that these abound more than sin does. This sin and good works, however, lose sight of grace and do not let that triumph remain. This sin declares: There is no grace, and grace is not willing to forgive. Good works declare: Grace is nothing, and we can dispense with it. Thus both have dropped from the kingdom of grace and sin against grace.

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 19: Minor Prophets II: Jonah and Habakkuk. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 19, pp. 47–48). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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