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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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God of Comfort

The WORD

16“…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.

 

What are the devil, death, and all things over against the eternal, almighty majesty of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who want to be and are our Comforter? For if He who is sent is called a Comforter, then both He who sent Him and He by whom He is sent must be the same Comforter. Then there is surely no God besides Him who is a Comforter. And henceforth he who wants to know God aright and name Him appropriately must call Him “Comforter” or, as St. Paul terms Him in [reftagger title=””]Rom. 15:5[/reftagger], “the God of Comfort,” namely, for those who are frightened and have no other comfort. They must not conceive of God otherwise than as a Comforter of the wretched and troubled. They must give the lie both to the devil, who threatens with God’s wrath and with hell, and to their own heart, and say to the devil: “You are a false spirit of lies!” and to their heart: “You are a false, foolish heart!”

Thus the prophet David declares in [reftagger title=””]Ps. 42:11[/reftagger]: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted in me?” As though he were to say: “Why do you torment me without cause?” And then he quickly shakes off his dejection, takes comfort, and says: “Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my Help and my God.” “Your notions,” he wants to say, “are falsehood and lies; for you transform God into a terrible judge or jailer for me, while, as a matter of fact, He is a friendly Father and a consoling Lord. Away with your anger and terror! Go to the ungodly tyrants and others who are so smug that they do not care about God! That is your proper place. Do not confuse me; for I believe in my Lord Christ, who died and rose again for me and who both asks for and sends me the Holy Spirit and Comforter from the Father. Therefore be undaunted, no matter what happens. Even though everything were to collapse, though lightning were to flash and thunder to crash, let it all fall and tear and crumble. Where my Lord and God stays, there I, too, will abide.”

Blessed is he who knows and can do this. But here there is still a deficiency. The devil is too powerful among us, the world is too strong, and we see so many obstacles and temptations before us that we forget and cannot comprehend the comfort God sends into our hearts. We feel only that which hurts us. It is so strong that it fills man’s whole being and erases these words from his mind. Therefore Christians should rise above all fear and sadness, all anxiety and woe, and say with the prophet: “Why are you so sad?” Christians know how to do this. Christ says: “I know this very well, and for this very reason I am telling you about it in advance. You should not be guided by such feelings or believe your own thoughts; you should believe My Word. For I will ask the Father, and as a result of My plea He will surely give you the Holy Spirit to comfort you. Then you can rest assured that I love you, that the Father loves you, and that the Holy Spirit, who is sent to you, loves you.”

Your heart will counter: “You have not been living right; you are full of sin.” Unfortunately, this is all too true. What is the result? “Oh, you must go to hell!” says the devil. No, that is not the will of God. Begone, devil, you and the evil world; for my Lord Christ says no to you, He tells me that the Father is not angry with me but will give me the Comforter, who will come to me in answer to His prayer. They concur in this, that they do not want me to be frightened and sad, much less rejected and condemned, but comforted and happy.

Behold, that is why Christ befriends His Christians so faithfully and diligently. It is His desire to give them the firm conviction that they will have comfort in abundance, and to acquaint them with His and His Father’s heart and intention. They should have no other purpose and should wish for nothing else from Him than that they be comforted. He tells them that the work and office for which He has been sent by the Father is nothing else than to comfort them and bid them be unafraid. And when they are comforted through God’s Word, they should regard and accept this as comfort that surely comes from the Holy Spirit and is also comfort from God the Father and the Lord Christ.

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. 113–115). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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Oh Give Thanks!

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm 107:1

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I hold and believe that I am God’s creature, that is, that God has given me and constantly sustains my body, soul, and life, my members great and small, all my senses, my reason and understanding, and the like; my food and drink, clothing, nourishment, spouse and children, servants, house and farm, etc.

Besides, God makes all creation help provide the benefits and necessities of life—sun, moon, and stars in the heavens; day and night; air, fire, water, the earth and all that it yields and brings forth; birds, fish, animals, grain, and all sorts of produce. Moreover, God gives all physical and temporal blessings—good government, peace, security.

Martin Luther, The Large Catechism, “Explanation to the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed”

 

John 14:16 Another Helper

The WORD

13“…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.

 

The world lives freely, smugly, and riotously, without fear and anxiety, and heeds neither God’s wrath nor His grace. Besides, it is giddy and reckless, and does not stand in need of comfort. But the few who are called to believe, are baptized in Christ, and remain loyal to Him are in dire need of a Comforter to strengthen and preserve them, that they may be able to endure and bear all things.

“Therefore since I am about to depart from you,” says Christ, “and can no longer be with you visibly, and since your sufferings will now begin, I will not leave you forsaken and without comfort. Until now, to be sure, you have joy and consolation in Me, but this has been only physical and temporal comfort and had to end anyhow. For I cannot remain with you forever this way if I am to enter into My glory and spread My kingdom through you. And in order that this may happen soon, it is necessary for Me to die, ascend to heaven, and leave you behind. But you shall not be forsaken; you shall take comfort in the knowledge that I will ask the Father to give you another Comforter, who will remain with you not only for a time, as I am doing, but will stay with you forever and will comfort you far more effectively than I have done by My physical presence. And this shall begin soon after My death and resurrection, and it shall not cease until I take you to Myself.”

Thus Christ now begins to preach about the Holy Spirit, who is to be given to Christendom and will preserve it until the Last Day.

We must learn to know and believe in the Holy Spirit and as Christ depicts and describes Him, namely, that He is not a Spirit of anger and terror but a Spirit of grace and consolation, and that the entire Deity reflects sheer comfort. The Father wants to comfort, for it is He who grants the Holy Spirit; the Son likewise, for He prays for this; and the Holy Spirit Himself is to be the Comforter. Here, therefore, there is no wrath, threat, or terror for Christians; there is only a friendly smile and sweet comfort in heaven and on earth.

Why is this? “You already have hangmen and jailers enough who terrify and harass you,” Christ wants to say, “simply because you believe in Me, proclaim and profess Me. The devil will not desist from frightening and plaguing you. The world will also take a hand in this, seize you by the throat, and assassinate the one and exile another. You will have devils enough even without all the devils and the torments of hell! In addition, you will have your own heart and your conscience, which will lie prostrate and groan: ‘Alas, I am a poor sinner, and I did not live and act as becomes a Christian!’ These I will not give you, nor will I pray for them. On the contrary, I will pray that an eternal Comforter, who is to be the Holy Spirit Himself, may be granted to you against all this, to strengthen and aid you in all your sadness, fear, and need, so that you may overcome this and be delivered from it.

“This is what you are to look for and expect from the Father and from Me. If, as Christians who believe in Me and hold to Me, you suffer or are assailed, whether it be by the devil or by your conscience, then the Holy Spirit will be your Comforter and will address Himself to your heart as follows: ‘Be unafraid, and do not fear; for you are baptized, and you believe in Christ. Therefore you need not be frightened either by the devil with all his angels in hell, by your own thoughts, or by your anxiety about your relation to God. No, do not think otherwise than that God’s anger and all hell are totally extinguished. For that is surely true for believers, even though they still feel sin and weakness.’ ” It is for this very purpose that the Comforter is promised and sent to them, to fortify them against such terror and fear.

Neither should you fear the world, tyrants, and all who want to rob you of honor and goods, and even of your life, because of Christ. For even if they do deprive you of all this, here you have a greater treasure, which the devil and the world will never take from you. And since this Comforter, together with the Father and Christ, is yours, you have all you should desire. Therefore let your heart be of good cheer. Despise boldly everything that assails you, and say: “I will remain undaunted even if the devil and all the world were far worse than they are.”

Christians must be proficient at this, for this message is addressed to them alone. As to the others—the coarse and malicious multitudes who disregard God’s Word or persecute it with malice aforethought and, on top of this, are smug—it would be better for them if they were frightened enough to flee from a rustling leaf.

“Just hold firmly to Me with your faith and confession; remain My beloved disciples, and you will suffer no want. I will comfort you abundantly. If sin, death, hell, the devil, or the world confront you, I will attend you with the Holy Spirit, who will adequately comfort 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. 110-113). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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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