CHRIST'S SERMON OF COMFORT
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone 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. 24 Whoever 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.
25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.
Devotion by the Blessed Dr. Martin Luther
I. CHRIST'S SERMON OF COMFORT.
7. That we may, under no circumstances, despair, Christ says, I will send you a Comforter, even one who is almighty. And he calls the Holy Spirit here a Comforter; for although both my sins and the fear of death make me weak and timid, he comes and stirs up the courage in my heart, and says: Cheer up! Thus he trumpets courage into us; he encourages us in a friendly and comforting manner not to despair before death but to cheerfully go forward, even though we had ten necks for the executioner, and say: Aye, although I have sinned, yet I am rid of my sins; and if I had still more, so that they overwhelmed me, I would hope, that they should do me no harm. Not that one should not feel his sins, for the flesh must experience them; but the Spirit overcomes and suppresses diffidence and timidity, and conducts us through them. He is powerful enough to do that. Therefore, Christ says further:
"Whom I will send unto you from the Father."
8. For he, the Father, is the person that takes the initiative: I am the Son; and from us the Holy Spirit proceeds. And the three persons are one, and one essence, with equal power and authority, as he better expresses it when he says:
"The Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father."
9. That is as much as to say: He who will comfort you is almighty and Lord over all things. How can the creatures now harm us, if the Creator stands by us? Notice how great the comfort of the Holy Spirit is. Now let all the Turks attack us. As long as he is our guard and rearguard, there is no danger. John also says in his first Epistle, 3, 19-20: "Hereby shall we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before him; because if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things." Likewise, in the following chapter, verse 4, he says: "Ye are of God, my little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world." So the Lord now says, Him will I send unto you, so that nothing can harm you. Is not that liberal comfort? Who would not be fearless and cheerful in view of this? And Christ calls him "The Spirit of truth;" that is, where he is and comes there is a rock foundation through and through, the real truth. Neither falsehood nor hypocrisy is there, for the Spirit is not hypocritical. But wherever he is not, there is nothing but hypocrisy and falsehood. Therefore, we fall when the test comes, because the Spirit of truth is not present. Christ now further says:
"He shall bear witness of me."
10. That is, if he is in the heart he speaks through you, and assures and confirms you in the belief that the Gospel is true. Then, as a result, the confession of the Gospel springs forth. What, then, is the Gospel? It is a witness concerning Christ, that he is God's Son, the Savior, and beside him there is none other. This is what Peter means when he says: "Ye are a royal priesthood, that we are elected thereto, that we preach and show forth the excellencies of Christ." 1 Pet 2, 9. Hence, there must always be witnessing. Witnessing loads upon itself the wrath of the whole world. Then the cross follows, then rebellions rise, then the lords and princes and all who are great become angry; for the world cannot hear, nor will it tolerate, this kind of preaching. Therefore, the Gospel is hated and spoken against.
11. Reason thinks: Aye, one can, nevertheless, easily preach the Gospel in a beautifully simple and plain way, without a revolution in the world, and then it will be heartily welcomed. This is the utterance of Satan; for if I believe and say that faith in Christ alone does and accomplishes all, I overthrow the monkey play of the whole world; and that they cannot allow. Therefore, Christ's teachings and man's teachings cannot stand together; one must fall. Priests and monks, as they are at present, are dependent in name, character and works upon human institutions, which the Gospel thrusts to the ground. Hence, they dare not accept the Gospel, and they continue as they are.
12. Thus, I say that the Christian faith is founded upon Christ alone, without anything additional. The priests will not permit their affairs and institutions to fall; in consequence, seditions and rebellions follow. Therefore, there must be dissension where the Gospel and the confession of Christ are; for the Gospel opposes everything that is not of its own spirit. If the teachings of Christ and the priests were not antagonistic, they could easily stand together. They are now pitted against one another. As impossible as it is for Christ not to be Christ, so impossible is it for a monk or priest to be a Christian. Therefore, a fire must be kindled. The Lord himself, in Mt 10, 34 and Lk 12, 51 says: "I came not to send peace, but a sword." Then follows in our text:
"And ye also bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning."
13. Yes; then, first, when you become certain of your faith through the Holy Spirit, who is your witness, you must also bear witness of me, for to that end I chose you to be apostles. You have heard my words and teachings and have seen my works and life and all things that you are to preach. But the Holy Spirit must first be present; otherwise you can do nothing, for the conscience is too weak. Yes, there is no sin so small that the conscience could vanquish it, even if it were so trifling a one as laughing in church. Again, in the presence of death the conscience is far too weak to offer resistance. Therefore another must come and give to the timid, despairing conscience, courage to go through everything, although all sins be upon it. And it must, at the same time, be an almighty courage, like he alone can give who ministers strength in such a way that the courage, which before a rustling leaf could cause to fear, is now not afraid of all the devils, and the conscience that before could not restrain laughing, now restrains all sins.
14. The benefit and fruit of the Holy Spirit is, that sin will be changed to the highest and best use. Thus Paul boasts to Timothy, when he was converted, that whereas he had lived such a wicked life before, he now held his sin to be so contemptible that he composed a hymn and sang about it thus, in 1 Tim 1, 12-17: "I thank him that enabled me, even Christ Jesus our Lord, for that he counted me faithful, appointing me to his service; though I was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: howbeit I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord abounded exceedingly with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief: howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me as chief might Jesus Christ show forth all his longsuffering, for an example of them that should thereafter believe on him unto eternal life. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen."
Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you that you have and continue to send us the Holy Spirit, our Comforter through Word and Sacrament. Amen.
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.
Devotion on the Third Article of the Creed: Sanctification from the Blessed Dr. Martin Luther
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
What does this mean? I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.
This is most certainly true.
This article (as I have said) I cannot relate better than to Sanctification, that through the same the Holy Ghost, with His office, is declared and depicted, namely, that He makes holy. Therefore we must take our stand upon the word Holy Ghost, because it is so precise and comprehensive that we cannot find another. 36] For there are, besides, many kinds of spirits mentioned in the Holy Scriptures, as, the spirit of man, heavenly spirits, and evil spirits. But the Spirit of God alone is called Holy Ghost, that is, He who has sanctified and still sanctifies us. For as the Father is called Creator, the Son Redeemer, so the Holy Ghost, from His work, must be called Sanctifier, or One that makes holy. 37] But how is such sanctifying done? Answer: Just as the Son obtains dominion, whereby He wins us, through His birth, death, resurrection, etc., so also the Holy Ghost effects our sanctification by the following parts, namely, by the communion of saints or the Christian Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting; that is, He first leads us into His holy congregation, and places us in the bosom of the Church, whereby He preaches to us and brings us to Christ.
38] For neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ, or believe on Him, and obtain Him for our Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Ghost through the preaching of the Gospel. The work is done and accomplished; for Christ has acquired and gained the treasure for us by His suffering, death, resurrection, etc. But if the work remained concealed so that no one knew of it, then it would be in vain and lost. That this treasure, therefore, might not lie buried, but be appropriated and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to go forth and be proclaimed, in which He gives the Holy Ghost to bring this treasure home and appropriate it to us. 39] Therefore sanctifying is nothing else than bringing us to Christ to receive this good, to which we could not attain of ourselves.
40] Learn, then, to understand this article most clearly. If you are asked: What do you mean by the words: I believe in the Holy Ghost? you can answer: I believe that the Holy Ghost makes me holy, as His name implies. 41] But whereby does He accomplish this, or what are His method and means to this end? Answer: By the Christian Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. 42] For, in the first place, He has a peculiar congregation in the world, which is the mother that begets and bears every Christian through the Word of God, which He reveals and preaches, [and through which] He illumines and enkindles hearts, that they understand, accept it, cling to it, and persevere in it.
43] For where He does not cause it to be preached and made alive in the heart, so that it is understood, it is lost, as was the case under the Papacy, where faith was entirely put under the bench, and no one recognized Christ as his Lord or the Holy Ghost as his Sanctifier, that is, no one believed that Christ is our Lord in the sense that He has acquired this treasure for us, without our works and merit, and made us acceptable to the Father. What, then, was lacking? 44] This, that the Holy Ghost was not there to reveal it and cause it to be preached; but men and evil spirits were there, who taught us to obtain grace and be saved by our works. 45] Therefore it is not a Christian Church either; for where Christ is not preached, there is no Holy Ghost who creates, calls, and gathers the Christian Church, without which no one can come to Christ the Lord. 46] Let this suffice concerning the sum of this article. But because the parts which are here enumerated are not quite clear to the simple, we shall run over them also.
47] The Creed denominates the holy Christian Church, communionem sanctorum, a communion of saints; for both expressions, taken together, are identical. But formerly the one [the second] expression was not there, and it has been poorly and unintelligibly translated into German a communion of saints (eine Gemeinschaft der Heiligen). If it is to be rendered plainly, it must be expressed quite differently in the German idiom; for the word ecclesia properly means in German , an assembly (eine Versammlung). 48] But we are accustomed to the word church, by which the simple do not understand an assembled multitude, but the consecrated house or building, although the house ought not to be called a church, except only for the reason that the multitude assembles there. For we who assemble there make and choose for ourselves a particular place, and give a name to the house according to the assembly.
Thus the word Kirche (church) means really nothing else than a common assembly, and is not German by idiom, but Greek (as is also the word ecclesia); for in their own language they call it kyria, as in Latin it is called curia. Therefore in genuine German, in our mother-tongue, it ought to be called a Christian congregation or assembly (eine christliche Gemeinde oder Sammlung), or, best of all and most clearly, holy Christendom (eine heilige Christenheit).
49] So also the word communio, which is added, ought not to be rendered communion (Gemeinschaft), but congregation (Gemeinde). And it is nothing else than an interpretation or explanation by which some one meant to explain what the Christian Church is. This our people, who understood neither Latin nor German, have rendered communion of saints (Gemeinschaft der Heiligen), although no German language speaks thus, nor understands it thus. But to speak correct German, it ought to be a congregation of saints (eine Gemeinde der Heiligen), that is, a congregation made up purely of saints, or, to speak yet more plainly, a holy congregation(eine heilige Gemeinde). 50] I say this in order that the words communion of saints (Gemeinschaft der Heiligen) may be understood, because the expression has become so established by custom that it cannot well be eradicated, and it is treated almost as heresy if one should attempt to change a word.
51] But this is the meaning and substance of this addition: I believe that there is upon earth a little holy group and congregation of pure saints, under one head, even Christ, called together by the Holy Ghost in one faith, one mind, and understanding, with manifold gifts, yet agreeing in love, without sects or schisms. 52] I am also a part and member of the same, a sharer and joint owner of all the goods it possesses, brought to it and incorporated into it by the Holy Ghost by having heard and continuing to hear the Word of God, which is the beginning of entering it. For formerly, before we had attained to this, we were altogether of the devil, knowing nothing of God and of Christ. 53] Thus, until the last day, the Holy Ghost abides with the holy congregation or Christendom, by means of which He fetches us to Christ and which He employs to teach and preach to us the Word, whereby He works and promotes sanctification, causing it [this community] daily to grow and become strong in the faith and its fruits which He produces.
54] We further believe that in this Christian Church we have forgiveness of sin, which is wrought through the holy Sacraments and Absolution, moreover, through all manner of consolatory promises of the entire Gospel. Therefore, whatever is to be preached concerning the Sacraments belongs here, and, in short, the whole Gospel and all the offices of Christianity, which also must be preached and taught without ceasing. For although the grace of God is secured through Christ, and sanctification is wrought by the Holy Ghost through the Word of God in the unity of the Christian Church, yet on account of our flesh which we bear about with us we are never without sin.
55] Everything, therefore, in the Christian Church is ordered to the end that we shall daily obtain there nothing but the forgiveness of sin through the Word and signs, to comfort and encourage our consciences as long as we live here. Thus, although we have sins, the [grace of the] Holy Ghost does not allow them to injure us, because we are in the Christian Church, where there is nothing but [continuous, uninterrupted] forgiveness of sin, both in that God forgives us, and in that we forgive, bear with, and help each other.
56] But outside of this Christian Church, where the Gospel is not, there is no forgiveness, as also there can be no holiness [sanctification]. Therefore all who seek and wish to merit holiness [sanctification], not through the Gospel and forgiveness of sin, but by their works, have expelled and severed themselves [from this Church].
57] Meanwhile, however, while sanctification has begun and is growing daily, we expect that our flesh will be destroyed and buried with all its uncleanness, and will come forth gloriously, and arise to entire and perfect holiness in a new eternal life. 58] For now we are only half pure and holy, so that the Holy Ghost has ever [some reason why] to continue His work in us through the Word, and daily to dispense forgiveness, until we attain to that life where there will be no more forgiveness, but only perfectly pure and holy people, full of godliness and righteousness, removed and free from sin, death, and all evil, in a new, immortal, and glorified body.
59] Behold, all this is to be the office and work of the Holy Ghost, that He begin and daily increase holiness upon earth by means of these two things, the Christian Church and the forgiveness of sin. But in our dissolution He will accomplish it altogether in an instant, and will forever preserve us therein by the last two parts.
60] But the term resurrection (Auferstehung des Fleisches) of the flesh here employed is not according to good German idiom. For when we Germans hear the word flesh (Fleisch), we think no farther than of the shambles. But in good German idiom we would say resurrection of the body (Auferstehung des Leibes, or Leichnams). However, it is not a matter of much moment, if we only understand the words aright.
61] This, now, is the article which must ever be and remain in operation. For creation we have received; redemption, too, is finished But the Holy Ghost carries on His work without ceasing to the last day. And for that purpose He has appointed a congregation upon earth by which He speaks and does everything. 62] For He has not yet brought together all His Christian Church nor dispensed forgiveness. Therefore we believe in Him who through the Word daily brings us into the fellowship of this Christian Church, and through the same Word and the forgiveness of sins bestows, increases, and strengthens faith, in order that when He has accomplished it all, and we abide therein, and die to the world and to all evil, He may finally make us perfectly and forever holy; which now we expect in faith through the Word.
63] Behold, here you have the entire divine essence, will, and work depicted most exquisitely in quite short and yet rich words, wherein consists all our wisdom, which surpasses and exceeds the wisdom, mind, and reason of all men. For although the whole world with all diligence has endeavored to ascertain what God is, what He has in mind and does, yet has she never been able to attain to [the knowledge and understanding of] any of these things. 64] But here we have everything in richest measure; for here in all three articles He has Himself revealed and opened the deepest abyss of his paternal heart and of His pure unutterable love. For He has created us for this very object, that He might redeem and sanctify us; and in addition to giving and imparting to us everything in heaven and upon earth, He has given to us even His Son and the Holy Ghost, by whom to bring us to Himself. 65] For (as explained above) we could never attain to the knowledge of the grace and favor of the Father except through the Lord Christ, who is a mirror of the paternal heart, outside of whom we see nothing but an angry and terrible Judge. But of Christ we could know nothing either, unless it had been revealed by the Holy Ghost.
66] These articles of the Creed, therefore, divide and separate us Christians from all other people upon earth. For all outside of Christianity, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, although they believe in, and worship, only one true God, yet know not what His mind towards them is, and cannot expect any love or blessing from Him; therefore they abide in eternal wrath and damnation. For they have not the Lord Christ, and, besides, are not illumined and favored by any gifts of the Holy Ghost.
67] From this you perceive that the Creed is a doctrine quite different from the Ten Commandments; for the latter teaches indeed what we ought to do, but the former tells what God does for us and gives to us. Moreover, apart from this, the Ten Commandments are written in the hearts of all men; the Creed, however, no human wisdom can comprehend, but it must be taught by the Holy Ghost alone. 68] The latter doctrine [of the Law], therefore, makes no Christian, for the wrath and displeasure of God abide upon us still, because we cannot keep what God demands of us; but this [namely, the doctrine of faith] brings pure grace, and makes us godly and acceptable to God. 69] For by this knowledge we obtain love and delight in all the commandments of God, because here we see that God gives Himself entire to us, with all that He has and is able to do, to aid and direct us in keeping the Ten Commandments-the Father, all creatures; the Son, His entire work; and the Holy Ghost, all His gifts.
70] Let this suffice concerning the Creed to lay a foundation for the simple, that they may not be burdened, so that, if they understand the substance of it, they themselves may afterwards strive to acquire more, and to refer to these parts whatever they learn in the Scriptures, and may ever grow and increase in richer understanding. For as long as we live here, we shall daily have enough to do to preach and to learn this.
O Lord Jesus Christ, almighty Son of God: We beseech You, send Your Holy Spirit into our hearts, through Your word, that He may rule and govern us according to Your will, comfort us in every temptation and misfortune, and defend us by Your truth against every error, so that we may continue steadfast in the faith, increase in love and all good works, and firmly trusting in Your grace, which through death You have purchased for us, obtain eternal salvation, You who reigns, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Devotion by the Blessed Dr. Martin Luther
The First Article: Creation
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
What does this mean? I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.
This is most certainly true.
From the Large Catechism
9] I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
10] This portrays and sets forth most briefly what is the essence, will, activity, and work of God the Father. For since the Ten Commandments have taught that we are to have not more than one God, the question might be asked, What kind of a person is God? What does He do? How can we praise, or portray and describe Him, that He may be known? Now, that is taught in this and in the following article, so that the Creed is nothing else than the answer and confession of Christians arranged with respect to the First Commandment. As if you were to ask a little child: 11] My dear, what sort of a God have you? What do you know of Him? he could say: This is my God: first, the Father, who has created heaven and earth; besides this only One I regard nothing else as God; for there is no one else who could create heaven and earth.
12] But for the learned, and those who are somewhat advanced [have acquired some Scriptural knowledge], these three articles may all be expanded and divided into as many parts as there are words. But now for young scholars let it suffice to indicate the most necessary points, namely, as we have said, that this article refers to the Creation: that we emphasize the words: Creator of heaven and earth. 13] But what is the force of this, or what do you mean by these words: I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker, etc.? Answer: This is what I mean and believe, that I am a creature of God; that is, that He has given and constantly preserves to me my body, soul, and life, members great and small, all my senses, reason, and understanding, and so on, food and drink, clothing and support, wife and children, domestics, house and home, etc. 14] Besides, He causes all creatures to serve for the uses and necessities of life sun, moon, and stars in the firmament, day and night, air, fire, water, earth, and whatever it bears and produces, birds and fishes beasts, grain, and all kinds of produce, 15] and whatever else there is of bodily and temporal goods, good government, peace, security. 16] Thus we learn from this article that none of us has of himself, nor can preserve, his life nor anything that is here enumerated or can be enumerated, however small and unimportant a thing it might be, for all is comprehended in the word Creator.
17] Moreover, we also confess that God the Father has not only given us all that we have and see before our eyes, but daily preserves and defends us against all evil and misfortune, averts all sorts of danger and calamity; and that He does all this out of pure love and goodness, without our merit, as a benevolent Father, who cares for us that no evil befall us. 18] But to speak more of this belongs in the other two parts of this article, where we say: Father Almighty.
19] Now, since all that we possess, and, moreover, whatever, in addition, is in heaven and upon the earth, is daily given, preserved, and kept for us by God, it is readily inferred and concluded that it is our duty to love, praise, and thank Him for it without ceasing, and, in short, to serve Him with all these things, as He demands and has enjoined in the Ten Commandments.
20] Here we could say much if we were to expatiate, how few there are that believe this article. For we all pass over it, hear it and say it, but neither see nor consider what the words teach us. 21] For if we believed it with the heart, we would also act accordingly, and not stalk about proudly, act defiantly, and boast as though we had life, riches, power, and honor, etc., of ourselves, so that others must fear and serve us, as is the practice of the wretched, perverse world, which is drowned in blindness, and abuses all the good things and gifts of God only for its own pride, avarice, lust, and luxury, and never once regards God, so as to thank Him or acknowledge Him as Lord and Creator.
22] Therefore, this article ought to humble and terrify us all, if we believed it. For we sin daily with eyes, ears, hands, body and soul, money and possessions, and with everything we have, especially those who even fight against the Word of God. Yet Christians have this advantage, that they acknowledge themselves in duty bound to serve God for all these things, and to be obedient to Him [which the world knows not how to do].
23] We ought, therefore, daily to practice this article, impress it upon our mind, and to remember it in all that meets our eyes, and in all good that falls to our lot, and wherever we escape from calamity or danger, that it is God who gives and does all these things, that therein we sense and see His Paternal heart and his transcendent love toward us. Thereby the heart would be warmed and kindled to be thankful, and to employ all such good things to the honor and praise of God.
24] Thus we have most briefly presented the meaning of this article, as much as is at first necessary for the most simple to learn, both as to what we have and receive from God, and what we owe in return, which is a most excellent knowledge, but a far greater treasure. For here we see how the Father has given Himself to us, together with all creatures, and has most richly provided for us in this life, besides that He has overwhelmed us with unspeakable, eternal treasures by His Son and the Holy Ghost, as we shall hear.
Almighty and everlasting God, who has created all things: We thank You that You have given us sound bodies, and have graciously preserved our tongues and other members from the power of the adversary: We beseech You, grant us Your grace, that we may rightly use our ears and tongues; help us to hear Your word diligently and devoutly, and with our tongues so to praise and magnify Your grace, that no one shall be offended by our words, but that all may be edified thereby, through Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, world without end. Amen.
This is a little bit longer devotion than normal. A few months ago, I began working on a project that has been put on hold but in getting ready for it I had asked pastors what they thought some of Luther’s best, shorter writings were that every Christian should read. One that was mentioned by several pastors was A Christian Exhortation to the Livonians Concerning Public Worship and Concord. Why did pastors pick this one? In this exhortation we see Luther applying the basic insights of his treatise on The Freedom of a Christian to the field of worship. He tries to show how the church may tread the narrow path of liberty without falling prey either to license or to legalism. I hope you will find it helpful.
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Devotion from the Blessed Dr. Martin Luther
A Christian Exhortation to the Livonians Concerning Public Worship and Concord
June 17, 1525
To all beloved Christians in Livonia with their pastors and preachers, grace and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
We should thank God the Father of all mercy greatly and at all times on account of you, dear sirs and friends, who according to the unsearchable riches of his grace has brought you to the treasure of his Word, in which you possess the knowledge of his dear Son, i.e., a sure pledge of the life and salvation which awaits you in heaven and has been prepared for all who steadfastly persevere in true faith and fervent love unto the end—even as we hope and pray that the merciful Father will preserve you and us, and perfect us in one mind, according to the likeness of his dear Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
However, I have heard from reliable witnesses that faction and disunion have arisen among you, because some of your preachers do not teach and act in accord, but each follows his own sense and judgment. And I almost believe this; for we must remember that it will not be any better with us than it was with the Corinthians and other Christians at the time of St. Paul, when divisions and dissension arose among Christ’s people. Even as St. Paul himself acknowledges and says, “There must be factions and sects among you so that those who are genuine become known” [1 Cor. 11.19]. For Satan is not satisfied with being the prince and god of the world. He also wants to be among the children of God, Job 1 [:6], and “prowls about like a roaring lion seeking some one to devour,” 1 Peter 5 [:8].
This causes confusion among the people. It prompts both the complaint, “No one knows what he should believe or with whom he should side,” and the common demand for uniformity in doctrine and practice. In times gone by, councils were held for this purpose and all sorts of rulings and canons made in order to hold all the people to a common order. But in the end these rulings and canons became snares for the soul and pitfalls for the faith. So there is great danger on either side. And we need good spiritual teachers who will know how to lead the people with wisdom and discretion.
For those who devise and ordain universal customs and orders get so wrapped up in them that they make them into dictatorial laws opposed to the freedom of faith. But those who ordain and establish nothing succeed only in creating as many factions as there are heads, to the detriment of that Christian harmony and unity of which St. Paul and St. Peter so frequently write. Still, we must express ourselves on these matters as well as we can, even though everything will not be done as we say and teach that it should be.
And first of all, I hope that you still hold pure and unblemished the teachings concerning faith, love, and cross-bearing and the principal articles of the knowledge of Christ. Then you will know how to keep your consciences clear before God, although even these simple teachings will not remain unassailed by Satan. Yes, he will even use external divisions about ceremonies to slip in and cause internal divisions in the faith. This is his method, which we know well enough from so many heresies.
Therefore, we will deal with factions in our time as St. Paul dealt with them in his. He could not check them by force. Nor did he want to compel them by means of commands. Rather, he entreated them with friendly exhortations, for people who will not give in willingly when exhorted will comply far less when commanded. Thus he says in Philippians 2 [:1–4]: “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing through strife or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Then he adds the example of Christ, who in obedience to the Father made himself the servant of all.
Accordingly, I also shall exhort. First, I exhort your preachers with the same words as St. Paul, that they would consider all the good we have in Christ, the comfort, the encouragement, the Spirit, the love, the mercy, and in addition the example of Christ. In praise and thanksgiving for all these gifts, let them so conduct themselves that they establish and preserve unity of mind and spirit among themselves. They should be on their guard lest the devil sneak in through vainglory, which is especially dangerous and chiefly attack competent men who hold the office of the Word. There is no better way to do this than for each not to take himself too seriously and to think little of himself, but very highly of the others, or—as Christ teaches in the Gospel—to seat himself in the lowest place among the guests at the wedding [Luke 14:7–10].
Now even though external rites and orders—such as masses, singing, reading, baptizing—add nothing to salvation, yet it is un-Christian to quarrel over such things and thereby to confuse the common people. We should consider the edification of the lay folk more important than our own ideas and opinions. Therefore, I pray all of you, my dear sirs, let each one surrender his own opinions and get together in a friendly way and come to a common decision about these external matters, so that there will be one uniform practice throughout your district instead of disorder—one thing being done here and another there—lest the common people get confused and discouraged.
For even though from the viewpoint of faith, the external orders are free and can without scruples be changed by anyone at any time, yet from the viewpoint of love, you are not free to use this liberty, but bound to consider the edification of the common people, as St. Paul says, 1 Corinthians 14 [:40], “All things should be done to edify,” and 1 Corinthians 6 [:12], “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful,” and 1 Corinthians 8 [:1], “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” Think also of what he says there about those who have a knowledge of faith and of freedom, but who do not know how to use it; for they use it not for the edification of the people but for their own vainglory.
Now when your people are confused and offended by your lack of uniform order, you cannot plead, “Externals are free. Here in my own place I am going to do as I please.” But you are bound to consider the effect of your attitude on others. By faith be free in your conscience toward God, but by love be bound to serve your neighbor’s edification, as also St. Paul says, Romans 14 [15:2], “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to edify him.” For we should not please ourselves, since Christ also pleased not himself, but us all.
But at the same time a preacher must watch and diligently instruct the people lest they take such uniform practices as divinely appointed and absolutely binding laws. He must explain that this is done for their own good so that the unity of Christian people may also find expression in externals which in themselves are irrelevant. Since the ceremonies or rites are not needed for the conscience or for salvation and yet are useful and necessary to govern the people externally, one must not enforce or have them accepted for any other reason except to maintain peace and unity between men. For between God and men it is faith that procures peace and unity.
This I said to the preachers so that they may consider love and their obligation toward the people, dealing with the people not in faith’s freedom but in love’s submission and service, preserving the freedom of faith before God. Therefore, when you hold mass, sing and read uniformly, according to a common order—the same in one place as in another—because you see that the people want and need it and you wish to edify rather than confuse them. For you are there for their edification, as St. Paul says, “We have received authority not to destroy but to build up” [2 Cor. 10:8]. If for yourselves you have no need of such uniformity, thank God. But the people need it. And what are you but servants of the people, as St. Paul says, 2 Corinthians 2 [1:24], “We are not lords over your faith, but rather your servants for the sake of Jesus Christ.”
At the same time, I also ask the people to have patience and not to be astonished if differences in teaching and practice are caused by factions and sects. For who can stop the devil and his legions? Remember that tares always grow amidst the good seed, as every field of God’s work shows and Christ confirms, Matthew 13 [:24–30]. Again, no threshing floor can have only clean corn, but there must be also hulls and straw. And St. Paul says, “In a house there are not only vessels for noble use, but also vessels for ignoble uses” [2 Tim. 2:20]. Some are for eating and drinking, others for carrying and cleaning out rubbish and filth. Thus among Christians there must also be factions and heretics who pervert faith and love and confuse the people.
Now if a servant should become disturbed because he found that not all the cups in the house were of silver, but that there were also chamber pots and garbage cans, and he could not endure this discovery, what would happen? Who can keep house without unclean vessels? The same thing is true in Christendom. We cannot expect only to find noble vessels, but we must tolerate the ignoble ones as well, as St. Paul says, “There must be factions among you” [1 Cor. 11:19]. And indeed, my dear friends, from the very fact that you discover factions and disunity among you, you can tell that God gave to you the true Word and knowledge of Christ. For when you were under the pope, Satan certainly left you in peace, and though you might have had none but false teachers, he did not cause much dissension among you. But now that the true seed of God’s Word is with you, he cannot bear it; he must sow his seed there too, even as he does here among us through the enthusiasts. God also tests you thereby to discover if you will stand fast.
Nevertheless, both you and your preachers should diligently seek to promote unity and to hinder this work of the devil, because God appoints the devil to do this in order to give us occasion to prove our unity and in order to reveal those that have stood the test. For in spite of all our efforts, enough factions and disunity will remain. St. Paul also points this out when he says, 2 Timothy 2 [:20], that there are both noble and ignoble vessels in the same house, and immediately adds, “If a man purge himself of such people, he shall be a vessel sanctified for noble use, useful to his master and ready for every good work” [vs. 21].
Receive this my sincere exhortation kindly, dear friends, and do your part to follow it as well as you can. This will prove needful and good for you and be to the honor and praise of God, who called you to his light. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ, who has begun his work in you, increase the same with grace and fulfil it to the day of his glorious coming, so that you together with us may go to meet him with joy and remain forever with him. Amen. Pray for us.
Almighty God, You have promised to be with Your Church forever. We praise You for Your presence in our local congregation and ask Your ongoing blessing upon those who gather there. Dwell continually among us with Your holy Word and Sacraments, strengthen our fellowship in the bonds of love and peace, and increase our faithful witness to Your salvation; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
LUTHER ON VOCATION AND OBEDIENCE
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1 Samuel 15:22
22 And Samuel said,
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams.
Devotion from the Blessed Dr. Martin Luther
Context: I don’t normally do this but I thought giving this devotional reading some context might be helpful. Luther believed that a person could only be saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone apart from any works of the law or obedience. So, he is not saying in this devotion that you are saved by works. What he is saying is that as Christians we live lives of faith and obedience in the vocations that God has placed us in – and that when we are faithful and obedient in those it is good and pleasing in God’s sight. He is arguing against the idea that you must be something like a priest, or a monk, or a nun to do works that are pleasing to God. You see this in his Small Catechism in the Table of Duties where he says, “Certain passages of Scripture for various Holy Orders and positions, admonishing them about their duties and responsibilities.”
I wrote about this in an article for the Lutheran Witness several years ago: The six chief parts deal primarily with faith – that is what is to be believed. The Table of Duties deals with love – that is how we are to love our neighbors in our various vocations. Whereas the Ten Commandments speak in general terms to all men, the Table of Duties shows what responsibilities we have as individuals in our various vocations.
Luther went so far as to call these vocations “holy orders” to offer an alternative to the medieval piety of his day. Instead of only certain vocations being holy, Luther teaches that all the vocations one has in the church, state/society, and the home are holy. How do we serve our neighbor in our vocations? What does the Christian life look like day in and day out? The Table of Duties shows us the way.
It is in this context that we should understand this writing of Luther.
And now, Luther:
A pious maid, who occupies herself doing what is commanded her and in accord with her office sweeps the house or takes out the chamber pot; or a servant, who in that manner, plows and runs; these go straight to heaven on the right road, while another who goes to St. James, or to church, and totally ignores his office and work goes straight to hell.
So we must close our eyes and not behold the works, if they are big, small, glorious, disgusting, spiritual, physical, or what appearance and reputation they have upon the earth; but rather see the Command and obedience that are in them; whether the same work is truly impressive and purely divine or if it is so poor as lifting a blade of straw. But if it is not of obedience and the command, then the work is not legitimate, truly the devil’s own, even if it were something so great as raising the dead.
Then this is certain. God’s eyes do not look at the works, but rather on the obedience of the works. So he also desires that we should look upon his command and calling, of which St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:17, “Let each one remain in the calling in which he is called.” And St. Peter in 1 Peter 4:10, “You will be as the true good steward, or people called in manifold grace; that each on serve and be available to the others by grace, as he has received it.” See, St. Peter says that the grace and gifts of God are not singular but manifold. And each should accept his own, use them and by them be of service to others.
What a fine thing it would be if it so happened that each minded his own business and served others thereby so they would go together on the true road up to heaven. So writes St. Paul in Romans 12:4-6 and 1 Corinthians 12:12, that the body has many members, but not all members do the same works. So also we in the Christian congregation are many members, but not all have the same works. So no one should do the others’ work, but each accept his own and all in one unified obedience, in many types of commands and manifold works, move in harmony.
Then you say: “So, should the dear Saints’ lives and examples not be followed? Then why do we preach about them?” Answer: One should preach them so God is praised by it, and to motivate us and also to comfort us with God’s goodness and grace so that not works, but rather obedience is illustrated by it. Not that one should leave his own obedience behind so that we are led so deeply into works of the great saints that we would depart completely from our own obedience, so that our jaws would drop at their stupendous works and so we would despise our own command and calling. Therefore, there is no doubt that it is only the most miserable devil’s work that one becomes anxious to serve God only in the church, at the altar, at mass, singing, reading, offering, and doing the like as if all other works were nothing or of no use. How could the devil better lead us from the true way than when he compels us to serve God so narrowly, only in the church and with works that are done therein?
Gracious Lord, grant us the grace we need each day that we may serve you faithfully in the vocations that You have placed us in. And grant us forgiveness for all the ways in which we will fail in those vocations; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
LAW AND GOSPEL
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
2 Timothy 2:15
15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth
Devotion from Martin Luther
This is from Luther’s Sermon on the Differentiation of Law and Gospel from 1532. This translation can be found in the magnificent resource Luther’s Family Devotions. You can purchase it here.
If I did not know that I should divide the law and gospel, then there would be no need for me to say, “Has God then given only one kind of Word, that is, the law? Hasn’t he also commanded the preaching of the gospel of grace and the forgiveness of sins?” Yes, says the conscience, if there is no faith in the promise, the law soon presses hard, “This and that is commanded you, and you have not done it, so you must pay.” In that kind of battle and in fear of death it is high time and a necessity that faith exhorts and breaks forth with all its might to tread the law out of sight and speak comfort, “O, dear law, are you the only Word of God? Isn’t the gospel the Word of God, too? Has the promise expired? Has God’s mercy ceased? Or are the two, law and gospel, or reward and grace, now mixed and cooked together so they are now one thing?” We would not want a God who can give nothing more than the law, or who knows nothing more.
So we also do not want to have the law mingled with the gospel. Therefore, let this distinction be made freely, unopposed and unhindered; so when you are squeezed by duty and justice, the gospel informs us of pure grace and gift.
Therefore, when the law condemns me: “I have done this or that; I am unrighteous and a sinner, recorded in God’s book of debts,” then I must acknowledge that it’s all true. But to what is declared after this: “Therefore you are accursed,” I must not submit, but I must be defended by strong faith and say, “According to the law, which tells me my guilt, I am surely a poor damned sinner, but I appeal from the law to the gospel. For God has given yet another Word beyond the law, that is called the gospel. This bestows his grace, forgiveness of sins, eternal righteousness and life to us. It also declares me free from your terror and damnation and comforts me. For all guilt is repaid through the Son of God, Jesus Christ, himself.”
Therefore, of great necessity you must learn to rightly and seriously use and apply both Words so as not to mingle one with the other.
For God has given these two sorts of Words, law and gospel, one as much as the other and each with its own purpose: The law demands perfect righteousness from every person; the gospel, that those of whom the law requires righteousness and do not have it (that is all people), are given it by grace.
Now whoever has not fulfilled the law, lying in ruins by sins and death, but turns from the law to the gospel, believes the preaching of Christ, that he is truly the Lamb of God who bears the sins of the world, who satisfies his heavenly Father, and gives eternal righteousness, life and salvation to all who believe it by pure grace. He clings solely to this preaching, calls on Christ, asks for grace and the forgiveness of sins, firmly believes (for only through faith will this great gift be held), so he has it as he believes.
This is the crucial distinction. All saving power lies in rightly dividing the two. It’s easy in preaching, or parsing words, but to use it and bring it into practice is a difficult and high art. The papists and fanatics totally ignore it. I also see in me and others who know best how to preach how difficult it is to make this distinction. The skill is common. It is easily said that the law is a different word and doctrine than the gospel, but putting this distinction into practice the art of applying it takes effort and hard work.
Blessed Lord, You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning. Grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and take them to heart that, by the patience and comfort of Your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
HOW TO STUDY YOUR BIBLE
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1How blessed are those who are blameless in their way,
who walk in the law of the LORD.
2How blessed are those who keep his testimonies.
With all their heart they seek him.
3Indeed, they do no wrong.
They walk in his ways.
4You have commanded that your precepts be kept completely.
5If only my ways were unwavering in keeping your statutes!
6Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands.
7I will thank you with an upright heart
as I learn your righteous judgments.
8I will keep your statutes.
Do not abandon me completely.
Devotion - Luther on Studying the Bible
Note: I was just teaching on this in Adult Instruction on Tuesday and thought it was something everyone would enjoy reviewing.
Moreover, I want to point out to you a correct way of studying theology, for I have had practice in that. If you keep to it, you will become so learned that you yourself could (if it were necessary) write books just as good as those of the fathers and councils, even as I (in God) dare to presume and boast, without arrogance and lying, that in the matter of writing books I do not stand much behind some of the fathers. Of my life I can by no means make the same boast. This is the way taught by holy King David (and doubtlessly used also by all the patriarchs and prophets) in the one hundred nineteenth Psalm. There you will find three rules, amply presented throughout the whole Psalm. They are Oratio (prayer), Meditatio (meditation), Tentatio (The Latin word is related to the English word “temptation" or even "tension", and means something like an “agonizing internal struggle.” It is wrapped up with trial and temptation, suffering and affliction, opposition and persecution.).
Firstly, you should know that the Holy Scriptures constitute a book which turns the wisdom of all other books into foolishness, because not one teaches about eternal life except this one alone. Therefore you should straightway despair of your reason and understanding. With them you will not attain eternal life, but, on the contrary, your presumptuousness will plunge you and others with you out of heaven (as happened to Lucifer) into the abyss of hell. But kneel down in your little room [Matt. 6:6] and pray to God with real humility and earnestness, that he through his dear Son may give you his Holy Spirit, who will enlighten you, lead you, and give you understanding.
Thus you see how David keeps praying in the above-mentioned Psalm, “Teach me, Lord, instruct me, lead me, show me,” and many more words like these. Although he well knew and daily heard and read the text of Moses and other books besides, still he wants to lay hold of the real teacher of the Scriptures himself, so that he may not seize upon them pell-mell with his reason and become his own teacher. For such practice gives rise to factious spirits who allow themselves to nurture the delusion that the Scriptures are subject to them and can be easily grasped with their reason, as if they were Markolf or Aesop’s Fables, for which no Holy Spirit and no prayers are needed.
Secondly, you should meditate, that is, not only in your heart, but also externally, by actually repeating and comparing oral speech and literal words of the book, reading and rereading them with diligent attention and reflection, so that you may see what the Holy Spirit means by them. And take care that you do not grow weary or think that you have done enough when you have read, heard, and spoken them once or twice, and that you then have complete understanding. You will never be a particularly good theologian if you do that, for you will be like untimely fruit which falls to the ground before it is half ripe.
Thus you see in this same Psalm how David constantly boasts that he will talk, meditate, speak, sing, hear, read, by day and night and always, about nothing except God’s Word and commandments. For God will not give you his Spirit without the external Word; so take your cue from that. His command to write, preach, read, hear, sing, speak, etc., outwardly was not given in vain.
Thirdly, there is tentatio, Anfechtung (suffering/temptation/affliction). This is the touchstone which teaches you not only to know and understand, but also to experience how right, how true, how sweet, how lovely, how mighty, how comforting God’s Word is, wisdom beyond all wisdom.
Thus you see how David, in the Psalm mentioned, complains so often about all kinds of enemies, arrogant princes or tyrants, false spirits and factions, whom he must tolerate because he meditates, that is, because he is occupied with God’s Word (as has been said) in all manner of ways. For as soon as God’s Word takes root and grows in you, the devil will harry you, and will make a real doctor of you, and by his assaults will teach you to seek and love God’s Word. I myself (if you will permit me, mere mouse-dirt, to be mingled with pepper) am deeply indebted to my papists that through the devil’s raging they have beaten, oppressed, and distressed me so much. That is to say, they have made a fairly good theologian of me, which I would not have become otherwise. And I heartily grant them what they have won in return for making this of me, honor, victory, and triumph, for that’s the way they wanted it.
There now, with that you have David’s rules. If you study hard in accord with his example, then you will also sing and boast with him in the Psalm, “The law of thy mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces” [Ps. 119:72]. Also, “Thy commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep thy precepts,” etc. [Ps. 119:98–100]. And it will be your experience that the books of the fathers will taste stale and putrid to you in comparison. You will not only despise the books written by adversaries, but the longer you write and teach the less you will be pleased with yourself. When you have reached this point, then do not be afraid to hope that you have begun to become a real theologian, who can teach not only the young and imperfect Christians, but also the maturing and perfect ones. For indeed, Christ’s church has all kinds of Christians in it who are young, old, weak, sick, healthy, strong, energetic, lazy, simple, wise, etc.
If, however, you feel and are inclined to think you have made it, flattering yourself with your own little books, teaching, or writing, because you have done it beautifully and preached excellently; if you are highly pleased when someone praises you in the presence of others; if you perhaps look for praise, and would sulk or quit what you are doing if you did not get it—if you are of that stripe, dear friend, then take yourself by the ears, and if you do this in the right way you will find a beautiful pair of big, long, shaggy donkey ears. Then do not spare any expense! Decorate them with golden bells, so that people will be able to hear you wherever you go, point their fingers at you, and say, “See, See! There goes that clever beast, who can write such exquisite books and preach so remarkably well.” That very moment you will be blessed and blessed beyond measure in the kingdom of heaven. Yes, in that heaven where hellfire is ready for the devil and his angels. To sum up: Let us be proud and seek honor in the places where we can. But in this book the honor is God’s alone, as it is said, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” [1 Pet. 5:5]; to whom be glory, world without end, Amen.
From: Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 34: Career of the Reformer IV. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 34, pp. 285–288). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
Deal bountifully with your servant,
that I may live and keep your word.
Open my eyes, that I may behold
wondrous things out of your Word. (Ps. 119:17-18)
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)
THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST'S BURIAL
In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Devotion - Luther on the Gospel of Christ's Burial (modified and edited by Pastor Packer)
Take it to heart so that you believe Christ has thereby redeemed, freed, and preserved, you from sin, death, and the devil.
It is not enough to know just the historical facts of Christ's death and burial, you need the power and the fruit of history. In Christ’s tomb all our sins are covered up and buried with Him. Take it to heart so that you believe Christ has thereby redeemed, freed, and preserved, you from sin, death, and the devil.
For just as He took all our sins with Him to the cross and bore them in His body on the tree, so also He took all our sins with Him into the tomb, indeed we are buried with Him through baptism. He took into the tomb with Him not only the cloths and linen shroud in which His body was wrapped but also the whole world’s sin, damnation, misery, fear, affliction, and peril, and he covered and buried it all so that it might not harm those who believe in Him.
This means you must make a distinction between His tomb and the tomb of all others because no one else was buried for you and your sins!
A. We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)
If Christ has died and been buried for me, then there is nothing lacking: all my sin, misery, and affliction are buried with Him. Therefore, my heart is confident and unafraid. Even if temptation and affliction shall come, my heart hopes without any hesitation in my Lord Jesus Christ, who has buried all my sin and affliction.
And this is why His tomb and burial are so carefully described – so that we may support, fortify, and strengthen our faith in this article so that we are comforted amid temptation and affliction.
It is a Holy tomb: because all of our sin, misery, wretchedness, death, and damnation lie buried in it and because it makes our own graves holy.
So you can say boldly: “In this tomb lies all my sin and iniquity.”
It is the means through which all our sins have been blotted out and condemned.
Christ’s tomb is also salvation and blessing, for it is attached to faith and is an article of faith on account of the Word of God.
So if Christ’s tomb is regarded as an external thing, apart from the Word and faith, then it is evident that the tomb is a tomb, cloths are cloths, ointment is ointment. But if Christ’s tomb is regarded in the Word with faith, then it is evident that the one who lies in the tomb is Christ, who through His death and tomb has overcome, slain, and buried all our sins.
And this is why His tomb and burial are so carefully described – so that we may support and strengthen our faith so that we are comforted amid temptation and affliction. So we confess: “In this tomb lies all my sin and iniquity.”
O God, creator of heaven and earth, grant that as the crucified body of Your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with Him the coming of the third day, and rise with Him to newness of life, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
The 13th Psalm is a psalm of prayer against the sorrow or sadness of the spirit that comes at times from the devil himself, or at times from those who act against us. But prayer is stronger than all misfortune. This psalm gives us an example by which we certainly may be comforted and learn in every kind of calamity not to become anxious or downcast, nor let these troubles eat at our hearts. Instead we learn to turn to prayer, crying to God about all of these things. We know that we will be heard and finally be delivered, as James 5:13 also says: "Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray." This Psalm belongs in the Second Commandment and the First and Last Petitions, that we may be delivered from evil. (From Reading the Psalms with Luther, pages 37-38.)
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
Running the Race
These are Luther's insights on Galatians 5:7. Enjoy!
Galatians 5:7 - You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?
These words are clear. Paul declares that he taught correctly before and is teaching correctly now; at the same time he suggests rather subtly that the Galatians had been running correctly before, that is, had obeyed the truth and had believed and lived correctly, but that they were not doing so now, after they have been led astray by the false apostles. Moreover, he uses a new expression here when he calls the Christian life a “running.” To the Hebrews running or walking means living or behaving. Teachers and learners “run” when the former teach purely and the latter receive the Word with joy (Matt. 13:20) and when the fruits of the Spirit follow in both. This is what happened while Paul was present, as he testified in chapters three and four as well as here, when he says: “You were running well; that is, you were living a good life and pursuing the right course toward eternal life, which the Word promised you.”
But the words “You were running well” contain comfort. For with these words Paul pays attention to the trial by which the devout are disciplined; to themselves their life seems dreary, closer to crawling than to running. But when there is sound teaching—which cannot be without results, since it brings the Holy Spirit and His gifts—the life of the devout is strenuous running, even though it may seem to be crawling. To us, of course, it seems that everything is moving ahead slowly and with great difficulty; but what seems slow to us is rapid in the sight of God, and what hardly crawls for us runs swiftly for Him. Likewise, what is sorrow, sin, and death in our eyes is joy, righteousness, and life in the eyes of God, for the sake of Christ, through whom we are made perfect. Christ is holy, righteous, happy, etc., and there is nothing that He lacks; thus there is nothing that believers in Him lack either. Therefore Christians are really runners; whatever they do runs along and moves forward successfully, being advanced by the Spirit of Christ, who has nothing to do with slow enterprises.
Those who fall away from grace and faith to the Law and works are hindered in this running. This is what happened to the Galatians; they were persuaded and led astray by the false apostles, whom Paul attacks obliquely with the words “Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” He spoke the same way earlier (3:1): “Who has bewitched you so that you do not obey the truth?” Paul indicates here incidentally that men are so violently crazed by false teaching that they accept lies and heresies as truth and as spiritual teaching, while they swear that the sound teaching which they had loved originally is in error, but that their error is sound teaching; this position they defend with all their might. Thus the Galatians, who were running along very well at first, were led by the false apostles into the opinion that they had been in error and were moving along very slowly when they had followed Paul as their teacher. But later, when they had been led astray by the false apostles and were forsaking the truth completely, they were so bewitched by these false arguments that they believed their whole life was moving along and running very successfully. Today the same thing is happening to those who have been deceived by the fanatical spirits. This is why I am often wont to say that a fall from sound doctrine is not human but demonic, from the very heights of heaven to the lowest depths of hell. Men who persevere in error are so far away from acknowledging their sin that they even defend it as the height of righteousness. Therefore it is impossible for them to be forgiven.
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 27: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 5-6; 1519, Chapters 1-6. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 27, pp. 31–33). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
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