By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Epistle Sermons, Vol. III - Trinity Sunday to Advent
Author: Luther, Martin, 1483-1546
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Epistle Sermons, Vol. III - Trinity Sunday to Advent" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.





(_Volume IX of Luther's Complete Works_.)
Third Thousand

_The Luther Press_


To all Laymen of Evangelical Christendom interested in developing a
deeper Christian Life, on the basis of the spiritual classics of our
Protestant Church Fathers, this volume of sermons that apply the pure
doctrine of God's Word to everyday life, is prayerfully dedicated.

Copyright, 1909, by J. N. LENKER.


Here comes the English Luther in his twelfth visit to your home. In
peasant boots, decorated by no star of worldliness nor even by the
cross of churchliness, but by the Book from heaven pressed to his
heart in a firm attitude of earnest prayer, he comes as the man of
prayer and of the one Book, a familiar friend, to help you to live
the simple Christian life.

This volume of twenty-four practical sermons from Trinity Sunday to
Advent marks an epoch in that it completes in an unabridged form one
branch of Luther's writings, the eight volumes of his Gospel and
Epistle Postil. They are bound in uniform size, numbered as in the
Erlangen edition from the seventh to the fourteenth volume inclusive,
paragraphed for convenient reference according to the Walch edition
with summaries of the Gospel sermons by Bugenhagen. The few subheads
inserted in the text are a new feature for American readers.

These eight volumes of 175 sermons and 3,110 pages are the classic
devotional literature of Protestantism. They were preached by its
founder to the mother congregation of Evangelical Christendom in the
birth-period of the greatest factor in modern civilization. No
collection of Evangelical sermons has passed through more editions
and been printed in more languages, none more loved and praised, none
more read and prayed. They will be a valuable addition to the meager
sermon literature on the Epistle texts in the English language.
English Protestants will hereafter have no excuse for unacquaintance
with Luther's spiritual writings.

What Luther's two Catechisms were in the school room to teach the
Christian faith to the youth, that these sermons were in the homes to
develop the same faith in adults. They have maintained their good
name wherever translated until the present and their contents are
above the reach of critics. These Epistle sermons especially apply
the Christian truth to everyday life. The order in developing the
Christian life with the best help from the prince of the Teutonic
church fathers, should be from the Small to the Large Catechism and
then to his Epistle sermons. Blessed the pastor and congregation who
can lead the youth to "Church Postil Reading"--to read in harmony
with their church-going. Blessed is the immigrant or diaspora
missionary who finds his people reading them in the new settlements
he visits.

Next to the Bible and Catechisms no books did more to awaken and
sustain the great Evangelical religious movements under Spener in
Germany, Rosenius in Sweden, and Hauge in Norway, than these sermon
books devoutly and regularly read in the homes of church members.

The transition of a people and church from a weak language into a
stronger, is easy and accompanied by gain; while the opposite course
from a strong into a weaker tongue is difficult; and accompanied by
loss. While in our land the Germans and Scandinavians lose much in
the transition ordeal, all is not lost; they have something to give.

It is a good sign that two-tongued congregations are growing in
favor. Familiar thought in a strange language is not so strange as
when both language and thought are foreign. A church whose
constituency is many-tongued should avoid becoming one-tongued.
Church divisions are often more ethnological than theological. If
exclusively English pastors learned one-tenth as much German and
Scandinavian as these people do English, unity would be greatly
promoted. As Protestantism is far more divided in the English
language than in German or Scandinavian, the enthusiasm over the
unifying influence of English is misleading. The hope is rather in
the oneness of teaching and of spirit. This treasure, given first in
Hebrew, Greek and German, can be translated into all languages. Who
equals Luther as a translator? May his followers be inspired by his
example and translate the Evangelical classics of this prophet of the
Gentiles into all their dialects! That these volumes may contribute
to this end is our prayer.

The history of the writing of these sermons is found in volumes 10,
11, 12 and 13 of the Gospel sermons of the "Standard Edition of
Luther's Works in English."

The German text will be readily found in the 12th volume of the Walch
and of the St. Louis Walch editions, and in the 9th volume of the
Erlangen edition of Luther's works.

Grateful acknowledgment is hereby made for translations to the
following: To Pastor H. L. Burry, the first sermon for Trinity
Sunday; Pastor W. E. Tressel, Third Sunday after Trinity; Prof. A. G.
Voigt, D. D., the Fifth and Twenty-fourth Sundays; Dr. Joseph Stump,
Sixth, Eighth and Thirteenth Sundays; Prof. A. W. Meyer, Eighteenth
and Nineteenth Sundays; and to Pastor C. B. Gohdes for revising the
Second Sermon for Trinity Sunday and the sermons for the Second,
Tenth, Twelfth and Sixteenth Sundays after Trinity.

Next volumes to appear will be Genesis Vol. II, Psalms Vol. II and

Heartily do we thank all parts of the church for their complimentary,
suggestive and helpful coöperation and earnestly hope our work may be
worthy of its continuance.

  Home for Young Women,
  Minneapolis, Minn., Pentecost, 1909.


Trinity Sunday.--The Article of Faith on the Trinity. The
  Revelation of the Divine Nature and Will. Romans 11, 33-36 . .    7

Second Sermon.--The Trinity. Romans 11, 33-36  . . . . . . . . .   36

First Sunday After Trinity.--Love. God is Love. 1 John 4, 16-21    40

Second Sunday After Trinity.--Exhortation to Brotherly Love.
  1 John 3, 13-18  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   41

Third Sunday After Trinity.--Humility, Trust, Watchfulness,
  Suffering. 1 Peter 5, 5-11 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   57

Fourth Sunday After Trinity.--Consolation in Suffering and
  Patience. Waiting for the Revealing of the Sons of God. Romans
  8, 18-22 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   96

Second Sermon.--Suffering, Waiting and Sighing of Creation.
  Romans 8, 18-22  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  109

Fifth Sunday After Trinity.--Exhortation to the Fruits of Faith.
  Duty of Unity and Love. 1 Peter 3, 8-15  . . . . . . . . . . .  119

Sixth Sunday After Trinity.--Exhortation to Christian Living.
  Life in Christ. Romans 6, 3-11 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  141

Seventh Sunday After Trinity.--Exhortation to Resist Sin. The
  Wages of Sin and the Gift of God. Romans 6, 19-23  . . . . . .  156

Eighth Sunday After Trinity.--Exhortation to Live in the Spirit
  Since We Have Become the Children of God, Sons and Heirs.
  Romans 8, 12-17  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  168

Ninth Sunday After Trinity.--Warning to Christians Against
  Carnal Security and Its Evils. 1 Corinthians 10, 6-13  . . . .  180

Tenth Sunday After Trinity.--Spiritual Counsel for Church
  Officers. The Use of the Spiritual Gifts. 1 Corinthians 12,
  1-11 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  197

Eleventh Sunday After Trinity.--Paul's Witness to Christ's
  Resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15, 1-10 . . . . . . . . . . . . .  221

Twelfth Sunday After Trinity.--The Twofold Use of the Law and
  the Gospel. "Letter" and "Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3, 4-11 . . .  223

Thirteenth Sunday After Trinity.--God's Testament and Promise in
  Christ, and Use of the Law. Galatians 3, 15-22 . . . . . . . .  248

Fourteenth Sunday After Trinity.--Works of the Flesh and Fruits
  of the Spirit. Galatians 5, 16-24  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  255

Fifteenth Sunday After Trinity.--Conduct of Christians to One
  Another in Church Government. Sowing and Reaping. Galatians 5,
  25-26 and 6, 1-10  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  257

Sixteenth Sunday After Trinity.--Paul's Care and Prayer for the
  Church That It May Continue to Abide in Christ. Ephesians 3,
  13-21  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  259

Seventeenth Sunday After Trinity.--Exhortation to Live According
  to the Christian Calling, and in the Unity of the Spirit.
  Ephesians 4, 1-6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  281

Eighteenth Sunday After Trinity.--The Treasure Christians Have
  in the Preaching of the Gospel. The Call to Fellowship.
  1 Corinthians 1, 4-9 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  292

Nineteenth Sunday After Trinity.--Putting on the New Man and
  Laying Off the Old Man. Ephesians 4, 22-28 . . . . . . . . . .  304

Twentieth Sunday After Trinity.--The Careful Walk of the
  Christian and Redeeming the Time. Ephesians 5, 15-21 . . . . .  317

Twenty-First Sunday After Trinity.--The Christian Armor and
  Weapons. Ephesians 6, 10-17  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  329

Twenty-Second Sunday After Trinity.--Paul's Thanks and Prayers
  for His Churches. Philippians 1, 3-11  . . . . . . . . . . . .  330

Twenty-Third Sunday After Trinity.--The Enemies of the Cross of
  Christ and the Christian's Citizenship in Heaven. Philippians
  3, 17-21 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  343

Twenty-Fourth Sunday After Trinity.--Knowledge of God's Will and
  Its Fruits. Prayer and Spiritual Knowledge. Colossians 1, 3-14  358

Twenty-Fifth Sunday After Trinity.--Christ Will Take Both Alike
  to Himself, the Dead and Living, When He Comes.
  1 Thessalonians 4, 13-18 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  379

Twenty-Sixth Sunday After Trinity.--God's Righteous Judgment in
  the Future. When Christ Comes. 2 Thessalonians 1, 3-10 . . . .  380

_Trinity Sunday_

Text: Romans 11, 33-36.

33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of
God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing
out! 34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his
counsellor? 35 or who hath first given to him, and it shall be
recompensed unto him again? 36 For of him and through him, and unto
him, are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen.


1. This epistle is read today because the festival of Holy Trinity,
or of the three persons of the Godhead--which is the prime, great,
incomprehensible and chief article of faith--is observed on this day.
The object of its observance is that, by the Word of God, this truth
of the Godhead may be preserved among Christians, enabling them to
know God as he would be known. For although Paul does not treat of
that article in this epistle, but touches on it only in a few words
in the conclusion, nevertheless he would teach that in our attempts
to comprehend God we must not speculate and judge according to human
wisdom, but in the light of the Word of God alone. For these divine
truths are too far above the reach of reason ever to be comprehended
and explored by the understanding of man.

2. And although I have, on other occasions, taught and written on
this article fully and frequently enough, still I must say a few
words in general concerning it here. True, it is not choice German,
nor has it a pleasing sound, when we designate God by the word
"Dreifaltigkeit" (nor is the Latin, Trinitas, more elegant); but
since we have no better term, we must employ these. For, as I have
said, this article is so far above the power of the human mind to
grasp, or the tongue to express, that God, as the Father of his
children, will pardon us when we stammer and lisp as best we can, if
only our faith be pure and right. By this term, however, we would say
that we believe the divine majesty to be three distinct persons of
one true essence.

3. This is the revelation and knowledge Christians have of God: they
not only know him to be one true God, who is independent of and over
all creatures, and that there can be no more than this one true God,
but they know also what this one true God in his essential,
inscrutable essence is.

4. The reason and wisdom of man may go so far as to reach the
conclusion, although feebly, that there must be one eternal divine
being, who has created and who preserves and governs all things. Man
sees such a beautiful and wonderful creation in the heavens and on
the earth, one so wonderfully, regularly and securely preserved and
ordered, that he must say: It is impossible that this came into
existence by mere chance, or that it originated and controls itself;
there must have been a Creator and Lord from whom all these things
proceed and by whom they are governed. Thus God may be known by his
creatures, as St. Paul says: "For the invisible things of him since
the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through
the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity."
Rom 1, 20. This is (a posteriori) the knowledge that we have when we
contemplate God from without, in his works and government; as one,
looking upon a castle or house from without, would draw conclusions
as to its lord or keeper.

5. But from within (a priori) no human wisdom has been able to
conceive what God is in himself, or in his internal essence. Neither
can anyone know or give information of it except it be revealed to
him by the Holy Spirit. For no one knoweth, as Paul says (1 Cor 2,
11), the things of man save the spirit of man which is in him; even
so the things of God none knoweth save the Spirit of God. From
without, I may see what you do, but what your intentions are and what
you think, I cannot see. Again, neither can you know what I think
except I enable you to understand it by word or sign. Much less can
we know what God, in his own inner and secret essence is, until the
Holy Spirit, who searcheth and knoweth all things, yea, the deep
things of God--as Paul says above--reveals it to us: as he does in
the declaration of this article, in which he teaches us the existence
in the divine majesty of the one undivided essence, but in such
manner that there is, first, the person which is called the Father;
and of him exists the second person called the Son, born from
eternity; and proceeding from both these is the third, namely, the
Holy Spirit. These three persons are not distinct from each other, as
individual brothers or sisters are, but they have being in one and
the same eternal, undivided and indivisible essence.

6. This, I say, is not discovered or attained to by human reason. It
is revealed from heaven above. Therefore, only Christians can
intelligently speak of what the Godhead essentially is, and of his
outward manifestation to his creatures, and his will toward men
concerning their salvation. For all this is imparted to them by the
Holy Spirit, who reveals and proclaims it through the Word.

7. Those who have no such revelation, and who judge according to
their own wisdom, such as the Jews, Turks and heathen, must consider
the Christian's declaration the greatest error and rankest heresy;
they must say that we Christians are mad and foolish in imagining
that there are three Gods, when, according to all reason--yea, even
according to the Word of God--there can be but one God. It would not
be reasonable, they will say, that there should be more than one
householder over the same house, more than one lord or sovereign over
the same government; much less reasonably should more than one God
reign over heaven and earth. They imagine that thus with their wisdom
they have completely overthrown our faith and exposed it to the
derision and scorn of all the world. As if we were all blockheads and
egregious fools and could not see their logic as well as they! But,
thank God, we have understanding equal to theirs, and can argue as
convincingly, or more so, than they with their Alkoran and Talmud,
that there is but the one God.

8. Further, we know, from the testimony of Holy Writ, that we cannot
expound the mystery of these divine things by the speculations of
reason and a pretense of great wisdom. To explain this, as well as
all the articles of our faith, we must have a knowledge higher than
any to which the understanding of man can attain. That knowledge of
God which the heathen can perceive by reason or deduce from rational
premises is but a small part of the knowledge that we should possess.
The heathen Aristotle in his best book concludes from a passage in
the wisest pagan poet, Homer: There can be no good government in
which there is more than one lord; it results as where more than one
master or mistress attempts to direct the household servants. So must
there be but one lord and regent in every government. This is all
rightly true. God has implanted such light and understanding in human
nature for the purpose of giving a conception and an illustration of
his divine office, the only Lord and Maker of all creatures. But,
even knowing this, we have not yet searched out or fathomed the
exalted, eternal, divine Godhead essence. For even though I have
learned that there is an only divine majesty, who governs all things,
I do not thereby know the inner workings of this divine essence
himself; this no one can tell me, except, as we have said, in so far
as God himself reveals it in his Word.

9. Now we Christians have the Scriptures, which we know to be the
Word of God. The Jews also have them, from whose fathers they have
descended to us. From these, and from no other source, we have
obtained all that is known of God and divine works, from the
beginning of the world. Even among the Turks and the heathen, all
their knowledge of God--excepting what is manifestly fable and
fiction--came from the Scriptures. And our knowledge is confirmed and
proven by great miracles, even to the present day. These Scriptures
declare, concerning this article, that there is no God or divine
being save this one alone. They not only manifest him to us from
without, but they lead us into his inner essence, and show us that in
him there are three persons; not three Gods or three different kinds
of divinity, but the same undivided, divine essence.

10. Such a revelation is radiantly shed forth from the greatest of
God's works, the declaration of his divine counsel and will. In that
counsel and will it was decreed from all eternity, and, accordingly,
was proclaimed in his promises, that his Son should become man and
die to reconcile man to God. For in our dreadful fall into sin and
death eternal, there was no way to save us excepting through an
eternal person who had power over sin and death to destroy them, and
to give us righteousness and everlasting life instead. This no angel
or other creature could do; it must needs be done of God himself.
Now, it could not be done by the person of the Father, who was to be
reconciled, but it must be done by a second person, with whom this
counsel was determined and through whom and for whose sake the
reconciliation was to be brought about.

11. Here there are, therefore, two distinct persons, one of whom
becomes reconciled, and the other is sent to reconcile and becomes
man. The former is called the Father, being first in that he did not
have his origin in any other; the latter is called the Son, being
born of the Father from eternity. To this the Scriptures attest, for
they make mention of God's Son; as, for instance, in Psalm 2, 7:
"Thou art my son; this day have I begotten thee;" and again,
Galatians 4, 4: "But when the fulness of the time came, God sent
forth his Son," etc. From this it necessarily follows that the Son,
who is spoken of as a person, must be distinct from the person of the

12. Again, in the same manner, the Spirit of God is specifically and
distinctively mentioned as a person sent or proceeding from God the
Father and the Son: for instance, God says in Joel 2, 28: "I will
pour out my Spirit upon all flesh," etc. Here a spirit is poured out
who is God's, or a divine spirit, and who must be of the same
essence, otherwise he could not say, "my Spirit;" and yet he must be
a person other than he who sent him or who pours out. Again, because
when he was sent he manifested himself, and appeared in his descent
in a visible form, like that of a dove or tongues of fire, he must be
distinct in person from both the Father and the Son.

13. But in this article of faith, in which we say that the Son of God
became man and that he was of the same nature as we ourselves are, in
order that he might redeem us from sin and death and give us eternal
life without any merit or worthiness of our own, we give Jews and
Turks no less occasion for laughter and mockery than when we speak of
the three persons. For this is a more absurd assertion by far, in the
estimation of human reason, which speculates in its Jewish and
Turkish--yea, heathenish--teachings, on this wise: God is an only,
almighty Lord of all, who has created all men and given them the law
according to which they are to live; accordingly it follows that he
will be merciful to the good and obedient, but will condemn and
punish the disobedient. Therefore, he who does good works and guards
himself against sin, God will reward. These are nothing but
heathenish conclusions drawn from earthly, worldly experience and
observation, as if God's government must be conducted on the same
principles as that of a father among his children and domestics; for
those are considered good rulers and masters who make a distinction
with regard to their own interests.

14. Such heathen ideas of wisdom, holiness and service of God are
taught and practiced by the Pope. And so we believed, myself and
others, while we were under him, not knowing any better; otherwise we
would have done and taught differently. And, in fact, he who has not
this revelation and Word of God, can neither believe nor teach other
than pagan doctrine. With such a faith, how much better were we than
the heathen and Turks? Yea, how could we guard ourselves against any
deception and lying nonsense that might be offered as good works and
as service of God? Then we had to follow every impostor who came with
his cowl and cord, as if Christ were represented in him; and we
thought that in the observance of these things we would be saved. So
the whole world was filled with naught but false service of
God--which the Scriptures properly call idolatry--the product of
human wisdom, which is so easily deceived by that which pretends to
be a good work and to be obedience to God. For human wisdom knows no
better; and how could it know better without the revelation? Even
when the revelation was proclaimed, human wisdom would not heed it,
but despised it and followed its own fancies. Hence it continued to
be hidden and incomprehensible to such wisdom, as Saint Paul says:
"For who hath known the mind of the Lord?"

15. But to us this counsel and mind of God in giving his Son to take
upon himself our flesh, is revealed and declared. For from the Word
of God we have the knowledge that no man of himself can be righteous
before God; that our whole life and all our deeds are under wrath and
condemnation, because we are wholly born in sin and by nature are
disobedient to God; but if we would be delivered from sin and be
saved, we must believe on this mediator, the Son of God, who has
taken our sin and death upon himself, by his own blood and death
rendering satisfaction, and has by his resurrection, delivered us. In
this truth we will abide, regardless of the ridicule heaped upon us
because of such faith, by heathen wisdom, which teaches that God
rewards the pious. We understand that quite as well, if not better,
than heathenism does. But in these mysteries we need a higher wisdom
than our own minds have devised or can devise, a wisdom given to us
by grace alone, through divine revelation.

16. For it is not our intention thus to pry into the counsel,
thoughts and ways of God with our understanding and opinions, and to
be his counselors, as they do who meddle in the affairs that are the
prerogative of the Godhead, and who even dare, in the face of this
passage of Saint Paul, to refuse to receive or learn of God, but
would impart to him that for which he must recompense again. And thus
they make gods after their own fancy, as many gods as they have
thoughts; so that every shabby monastic cowl or self-appointed work,
in their estimation, accomplishes as much and passes for as much as
God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in their eternal divine counsel,
determine and accomplish. And they continue to be nothing but wearers
of cowls and instructors in works, which works even they can do who
know nothing of God and are manifestly scoundrels. And even though
they have long been occupied with these things, they still do not
know how matters stand between themselves and God. And it will ever
be true as Saint Paul says: "For who hath known the mind of the Lord,
or who hath been his counselor?"

17. For your own theories--which are no more than what anyone can
arrive at, conjecture or conceive in his own mind, without divine
revelation--are not a knowledge of the mind of God. And what does it
avail if you are not able to say more than that God is merciful to
the good and will punish the wicked? Who will assure you that you are
good and that you are pleasing to God with your papistic, Turkish
monkery and holiness? Is it all that is necessary to assert: God will
reward with heaven such as are faithful to the order? No, dear
brother, mere presumption, or an expression of your opinion, will not
suffice here. I could do that as well as you. Indeed, each may devise
his own peculiar idea; one a black, and another a gray monk's cowl.
But we should hear and know what God's counsel is, what is his will
and mind. This none can tell you by his own understanding, and no
book on earth can teach it except the Scriptures. These God himself
has given, and they make known to us that he has sent his Son into
the world to redeem us from sin and the wrath of God, and that
whosoever believes in him should have everlasting life.


18. Behold, Paul's purpose in this epistle is to show Christians that
these sublime and divine mysteries--that is, God's actual divine
essence and his will, administration and works--are absolutely beyond
all human thought, human understanding or wisdom; in short, that they
are and ever will be incomprehensible, inscrutable and altogether
hidden to human reason. When reason presumptuously undertakes to
solve, to teach and explain these matters, the result is worthless,
yea, utter darkness and deception. If anything is to be ascertained,
it must be through revelation alone; that is, the Word of God, which
was sent from heaven.

19. We do not apply these words of Paul to the question of divine
predestination for every human being--who will be saved and who not.
For into these things God would not have us curiously inquire. He has
not given us any special revelation in regard to them, but refers all
men here to the words of the Gospel. By them they are to be guided.
He would have them hear and learn the Gospel, and believing in it
they shall be saved. Therein have all the saints found comfort and
assurance in regard to their election to eternal life; not in any
special revelation in regard to their predestination, but in faith in
Christ. Therefore, where Saint Paul treats of election, in the three
chapters preceding this text, he would not have any to inquire or
search out whether he has been predestinated or not; but he holds
forth the Gospel and faith to all men. So he taught before, that we
are saved through faith in Christ. He says (Rom 10, 8): "The word is
nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart," and he explains himself
by saying that this word should be proclaimed to all men, that they
may believe what he says in verses 12 and 13: "For the same Lord is
Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him: for, Whosoever
shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."

20. But he speaks of the marvelous ruling of God in the Church,
according to which they who have the name and honor of being the
people of God, and the Church--the people of Israel--are rejected on
account of their unbelief. Others, on the other hand, who formerly
were not God's people, but were unbelieving, are now, since they have
received the Gospel and believe in Christ, become the true Church in
the sight of God, and are saved. Consequently it was on account of
their own unbelief that the former were rejected. Then the grace and
mercy of God in Christ was offered unto everlasting life, and without
any merit of their own, to all such as were formerly in unbelief and
sin, if only they would accept and believe it. He declares: "For God
hath shut up all unto disobedience, that he might have mercy upon
all." Rom 11, 32.

21. Hereupon follows the text, which Saint Paul begins with emotions
of profound astonishment at the judgment and dealings of God in his
Church, saying:

"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of
God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing

22. Sublime are the thoughts and counsel of God, transcending by far
the mind and comprehension of man, yea of all creatures, when he so
richly pours forth his goodness and out of pure grace and mercy
elects, as beneficiaries of that goodness, the poor and wretched and
unworthy, who are concluded under sin--that is, those who acknowledge
themselves before God to be guilty and deserving of everlasting wrath
and perdition; when he does all this that they might know him in his
real divine essence, and the sentiment of his heart--that through his
Son he will give all who believe everlasting life. And, again, that
they might know how he will reject and condemn the others--those who,
in pride and security, boast of their own gifts and the fact that
they are called the people of God in preference to all other nations;
who boast that they have special promises, that they have the
prophets, the fathers, etc.; who think that God will acknowledge no
nation on earth but themselves as his people and his Church. He will
reject them on account of their unbelief, in which they are fettered
by the pride and imaginations of their own wisdom and holiness.

23. This is that rich, inexpressible, divine wisdom and knowledge
which they possess who believe in Christ, and by which they are
enabled to look into the depths and see what the purposes and
thoughts of the divine heart are. True, in their weakness they cannot
fully reach it; they only can apprehend it in the revealed Word, by
faith, as in a glass or image, as Saint Paul says. 1 Cor 13, 12. But
to blind, unbelieving reason, divine wisdom will be foreign and
hidden; nothing of it will enter reason's consciousness and thoughts,
nor will reason desire more though a revelation be given.

24. That attitude Saint Paul encountered, especially when the
arrogant Jews opposed themselves so sternly and stubbornly to the
preaching of the Gospel. Filled with astonishment, he exclaimed: What
shall I say more? I see indeed that it is but the deep unsearchable
wisdom of God, his incomprehensible judgment, his inscrutable ways.
So he says elsewhere: "But we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, even
the wisdom that hath been hidden, which God foreordained before the
world unto our glory: which none of the rulers of this world hath
known." 1 Cor 2, 7-8.

25. This depth and richness of wisdom and knowledge, we Christians
apprehend through faith; for, as Saint Paul says, it cannot be
apprehended nor comprehended otherwise. Though the world will not do
it, we will firmly believe that God is a true God and Lord, wise,
just and gracious, whose riches and depth are ineffable. We will
glorify him with our whole heart, therefore, as he ought justly to be
praised and glorified by every creature, for his wonderful government
of his Church, through his Word and revelation. Whosoever will hear
and receive the same shall have light that will turn them to him and
give them a knowledge of their salvation--an experience which others
can never realize. And he is to be glorified because he manifests
such unutterable goodness to all who are in sin and under God's wrath
that he translates them, though they are unworthy and condemned, from
the power of death and hell into the kingdom of eternal grace and
life, if they will only seek grace and believe on Christ his Son.
And, on the other hand, he is to be glorified because, as a just
judge, he rightfully rejects and condemns those who will not believe
the revelation and testimony of his will in his Son; who insist on,
and boast of, their blind fancies, of their own wisdom and
righteousness. Being accordingly deprived of such light, such grace
and consolation, they must forever be separated and cast forth from
the kingdom of God, regardless of what great name and fame may have
been theirs when they were supposed to be the people and Church of

26. And such are God's unsearchable judgments and his ways past
tracing out. Such are his government and works. For by "judgments" is
meant that which in his view is right or wrong; what pleases or does
not please him; what merits his praise or his censure; in short, what
we should follow or avoid. Again, by "his ways" is meant that which
he will manifest unto men and how he will deal with them. These
things men cannot and would not discover by their own reason, nor
search out by their own intellect, and never should they oppose their
judgments or speculations to God. It is not for them to say what is
right or wrong, whether an act or ruling is divine. They should
humble themselves before him and acknowledge that they cannot
understand, they cannot teach God in such matters; they should give
him, as their God and Creator, the honor of better understanding
himself and his purposes than do we poor, miserable worms.

"For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his
counselor? or who hath first given to him, and it shall be
recompensed unto him again?"

27. Paul states three propositions which take away from the world all
its boasting concerning divine things: To know the mind of the
Lord--what are his thoughts and purposes, or what he has determined
within himself from eternity; to be his counselor--advising or
showing him what to do and how to do it; to give to him--assisting
him, by one's own ability, to accomplish his divine purpose. All this
is impossible to human nature; it cannot know his mind, and how much
less will it be able, with all of its wisdom and activity, to counsel
him or give him anything.

28. Therefore, it is a shameful presumption on the part of the world
to presume by its own powers to ascertain and discover God's essence,
his will and works, and to counsel him as to his duties and
pleasures; and shameful is it that it presumes with its works to have
merited something from him, and to have earned a recompense; shameful
presumption to expect to be honored as having achieved much for God's
kingdom and for the Church--strengthening and preserving them and
filling heaven with holiness!

29. God must defeat minds so perverted. In his administration he must
disregard their opinions and attempts. Thus, being made fools by
their own wisdom, they may stumble and be offended at it. So would
God, by showing us the realities, convince us of the futility of our
own endeavors and lead us to acknowledge that we have not fathomed
his mind, his counsel and will, and that we cannot counsel him. No
man or angel has ever yet first thought out for God his counsel, or
offered suggestion to him. Much less is he compelled to call us into
counsel, or recompense us for anything we have given to him.


30. There are three different kinds of people on earth, among whom
Christians must live. The first of these are that rude class which is
unconcerned about the nature of God and how he rules. They have no
regard for God's Word. Their faith is only in their mammon and their
own appetites. They think only of how they may live unto themselves,
like swine in the sty. To such we need not preach anything of this
text: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge
of God." They would understand nothing of it though we were to preach
it to them everlastingly. They would rather hear of the husks and
swill with which they fill themselves. Therefore we will let them
remain the swine that they are, and separated from others as they
are. But it is exasperating to have to encounter them among

31. The second class are they who are still reasonable, concerning
themselves, about God's purposes and their fulfilment, and how we may
be saved. The heathen, and even we ourselves when under the papacy,
contended, according to reason, over these things. Here is the
beginning of all idolatry on earth; everyone teaches of God according
to his own opinion. Mohammed says: He that believes his Koran and its
doctrines is pleasing to God. A monk: He that is faithful to the
order and its regulations will be saved. The Pope: He who observes
his prescriptions and ritual, who makes a pilgrimage to the apostles
at Rome, buys himself an indulgence; he has acquired the forgiveness
of sins: but he who neglects it is under the wrath of God. These
observances they call judgments and ways, controlling consciences and
directing them to eternal life; and they imagine that they are God's
judgments and ways.

32. On the contrary, the Word declares that God wants none of these
things; that they are error and darkness and a vain service--idolatry,
which he hates and which provokes him to the utmost. All must
acknowledge who have practiced their own self-appointed observances
for any length of time, that they have no real assurance that God
will be gracious unto them and take pleasure in them because of their
lives and observances. Yet, in their blind delusion and presumption,
they go on in their vagaries till God touches their hearts by a
revelation of his law; then, alarmed, they must admit that they have
lived without a knowledge of God and of his will, and that they have
no counsel or help unless they lay hold on the words of the Gospel of

33. We were all like that heretofore. Even I, a learned doctor of
divinity, did not know better. I imagined that with my monk's cowl I
was pleasing to God and on the way to heaven. I thought that I knew
the mind of God well. I wanted to be his counselor, and to earn a
recompense of him. But now I realize that my belief was false; it was
blindness. I know that I must learn from his Word; that nothing else
avails before him but faith in the crucified Christ, his Son; and
that in such faith we must live, and do as our respective callings or
positions require. Thus we may know right and wrong in God's sight;
for our knowledge is not of our own invention, but we have it from
revelation. By revelation God shows us his mind; as Saint Paul says
(1 Cor 2, 16): "We have the mind of Christ." And again (verse 10):
"But unto us God revealed them through the Spirit."

34. The third class are those who transgress, having knowledge. They
have the Word of revelation. I am not now speaking of those who
knowingly persecute the truth--those of the first class, who are
unconcerned about God--but I am speaking of those who recognize the
revelation but are led by the devil to override it and go around it.
They would conceive ways and judgments of God that he has not
revealed. If they were Christians, they would be satisfied and thank
God for having given us his Word, in which he shows us what is
pleasing to him and how we may be saved. But instead, they allow
themselves to be led by the devil to seek for other revelations and
to speculate on what God in his invisible majesty is, and how he
secretly governs the world, and what he has determined in regard to
the future of each particular individual. And so presumptuous is our
human nature that it would even interfere, with its wisdom, in God's
judgment, and intrude into his most secret counsel, attempting to
teach him and direct him. It was because of his arrogance that the
devil was cast out into the abyss of hell; because he aspired to
interference in the affairs of divine majesty, and would drag down
man in the fall with himself. So did he cause man to fall in
paradise, and so did he tempt the saints; and so he tempted Christ
himself when he set him on the pinnacle of the temple.

35. Against this third class Saint Paul directs his words, in answer
to the impudent questions of wise reason as to why God punished and
rejected the Jews, as he did, and allowed the condemned heathen to
come into the Gospel grace; why he so administers justice as to exalt
the godless and allow the godly to suffer and be oppressed; why he
elected Judas as an apostle and afterwards rejected him and accepted
a murderer and malefactor. With these words Saint Paul would command
the wise to cease their impertinent strivings after the things of the
secret majesty, and to confine themselves to the revelation he has
given us; for all such searching and prying will be in vain and
harmful. Though you were to search forever you would nowhere attain
the secrets of God's purposes, but would only risk your soul.

36. If you, therefore, would proceed wisely, you cannot do better
than to be interested in the Word and in God's works. In them he has
revealed himself, and in them he may be comprehended. For instance,
he manifests his Son, Christ, to you, on the cross. This is the work
of your redemption. In it you may truly apprehend God, and learn that
he will not condemn you on account of your sins, if you believe, but
will give you everlasting life. So Christ tells you: "God so loved
the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever
believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life." Jn 3, 16.
In this Christ, says Saint Paul (Col 2, 3), are all the treasures of
wisdom and knowledge hidden. Herein you will have more than enough to
learn, to study and ponder. You will marvel at the wonderful
revelation of God, and you will learn to delight in and love him. It
is a mine which can never be exhausted in this life by study, and in
the contemplation of which, as Peter says (1 Pet 1, 12), even the
angels never tire, but find unceasing joy and pleasure.

37. I say this so that we may be prepared to instruct and direct
those we may meet who, assailed and tormented by such thoughts of the
devil, are led to tempt God. They are beguiled by the devil to search
and grope, in his false ways, after what may be the intention of God
concerning them, and thereby they are led into such apprehension and
despair that they are unable to endure it. Such individuals must be
reminded of these words, and be reproved by them. So did Paul reprove
the Jews and cavilers of his day when they presumed to comprehend God
with their wisdom, to instruct him as his counselors and masters, to
deal with him directly themselves, without any mediator, and to
render him such service that he would owe them a recompense. Nothing
will come of such searching. Against its endeavors he has erected
barriers that, with all your striving, you will never be able to
overcome. And so infinite are his wisdom, his counsel and riches,
that you will never be able to fathom nor exhaust them. You ought to
rejoice that he gives you some knowledge of his omnipotence in his
revelation, as follows:

"For of him, and through him, and unto him, are all things. To him be
the glory for ever."

38. Why should we boast, he would say here, when everything that has
being--and our own wisdom and capabilities, of course--did not
originate itself but had its origin in him and must be preserved by
him, must exist through him? He says (Acts 17, 28): "For in him we
live, and move, and have our being." And again (Ps 100, 3): "It is he
that hath made us, and not we ourselves." That is, what we are and
are able to do, and the fact that we live and have peace and
protection--in short, all the good or evil that happens to us--comes
to pass not by accident or chance. It all proceeds from his divine
counsel and good pleasure. He cares for us as his people and flock.
He governs us and gives us good things. He aids and preserves us in
every time of need. Therefore, all honor and glory are due to him
alone, from his creatures.


39. But when he says, Of him, through him, in him, are all things--he
says in the simplest way that the beginning, middle and end is of
God; that all creatures have their origin in him, also their growth
and their limitations. To illustrate: Every little grain of corn has
its beginning. A root springs from the dead seed in the ground; then
a shoot comes forth and becomes a stalk, a leaflet, an ear of corn,
and here it pauses, having the three parts it is intended to have.
All creatures also have their beginning, their continuation and end,
filling up the period of their existence. When this order ceases,
every creature will cease to exist. That which has a beginning and
grows but does not attain its end, does not reach perfection, is
nothing. To sum it all up, everything must be of God. Nothing can
exist without origin in him. Nothing that has come into being can
continue to exist without him. He has not created the world as a
carpenter builds a house and, departing, leaves it to stand as it
may. God remains with and preserves all things which he has made;
otherwise they would not continue to exist.

40. Saint Paul does not simply say--as he does elsewhere--Of him are
all things. He adds two other assertions, making a triple expression,
and then unites the three thoughts into one whole when he says, "To
him be the glory for ever." No doubt it was his intention therewith
to convey the thought of this article of faith and to distinguish the
three persons of the Godhead, even though he does not mention them by
name, which is not necessary here. The ancient teachers also looked
upon this passage as a testimony to the Holy Trinity. Their analysis
was: All things are created by God the Father through the Son--even
as he does all things through the Son--and are preserved, in God's
good pleasure, through the Holy Spirit. So Paul is wont to say
elsewhere; for example (1 Cor 8, 6): "There is one God, the Father,
of whom are all things, and we unto him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ,
through whom are all things." And concerning the Holy Spirit, Genesis
1, 31 says: "And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it
was very good."

41. The Scriptures teach us that all creation is the work of one God,
or the whole Godhead; and yet, inasmuch as they make a distinction
between the three persons of the one Godhead, we may properly say
that everything had its origin, everything exists and continues, in
the Father as the first person; through the Son, who is of the
Father; and in the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from both the Father and
the Son; which three, nevertheless, are comprehended in the one
undivided essence.

42. But how such a distinction of persons exists in the divine
essence from eternity is a mystery which we shall and must leave
unsolved. For we cannot, with our crude understanding, even fathom
God's creatures; no creature is wise enough to understand these three
parts of itself--the beginning, the middle and the end. Though they
are distinct from each other, nevertheless they are so closely
connected that we cannot with our physical senses separate one from
the other. Who has ever been able to discover or explain the process
by which a leaflet grows from a tree, or a tiny grain of corn becomes
a root, or a cherry grows from the blossom to wood and kernel? Again,
who can explain how the bodily members of a human being manifestly
grow; what the sight of the eye is; how the tongue can make such a
variety of sounds and words, which enter, with marvelous diversity,
into so many ears and hearts? Much less are we able to analyze the
inner workings of the mind--its thoughts, its meditations, its
memory. Why, then, should we presume, with our reason, to compass and
comprehend the eternal, invisible essence of God?

_Trinity Sunday_

Second Sermon. Text: Romans 11, 33-36.


[Footnote 1: This sermon was first printed in 1535, at Wittenberg.]

1. This festival requires us to instruct the people in the dogma of
the Holy Trinity, and to strengthen both memory and faith concerning
it. This is the reason why we take up the subject once more. Without
proper instruction and a sound foundation in this regard, other
dogmas cannot be rightly and successfully treated. The other
festivals of the year present the Lord God clothed in his works and
miracles. For instance: on Christmas we celebrate his incarnation; on
Easter his resurrection from the dead; on Whitsunday the gift of the
Holy Spirit and the establishment of the Christian Church. Thus all
the other festivals present the Lord in the guise of a worker of one
thing or another. But this Trinity Festival discloses him to us as he
is in himself. Here we see him apart from whatever guise assumed,
from whatever work done, solely in his divine essence. We must go
beyond and above all reason, leaving behind the evidence of created
things, and hear only God's own testimony concerning himself and his
inner essence; otherwise we shall remain unenlightened.

2. Upon this subject the foolishness of God and the wisdom of the
world conflict. God's declaration that he is one God in three
distinct persons, the world looks upon as wholly unreasonable and
foolish; and the followers of mere reason, when they hear it, regard
every one that teaches or believes it as no more than a fool.
Therefore this article has been assailed continually, from the times
of the apostles and the fathers down to the present day, as history
testifies. Especially the Gospel of St. John has been subjected to
attack, which was written for the special purpose of fortifying this
dogma against the attacks of Cerinthus the heretic, who in the
apostolic age already attempted to prove from Moses the existence of
but one God, which he assigned as reason that our Lord Jesus cannot
be true God on account of the impossibility of God and man being
united in one being. Thus he gave us the prattle of his reason, which
he made the sole standard for heaven to conform to.

3. O shameless reason! How can we poor, miserable mortals grasp this
mystery of the Trinity? we who do not understand the operation of our
own physical powers--speech, laughter, sleep, things whereof we have
daily experience? Yet we would, untaught by the Word of God, guided
merely by our fallible head, pronounce upon the very nature of God.
Is it not supreme blindness for man, when he is unable to explain the
most insignificant physical operation daily witnessed in his own
body, to presume to understand something above and beyond the power
of reason to comprehend, something whereof only God can speak, and to
rashly affirm that Christ is not God?

4. Indeed, if reason were the standard of judgment in such matters, I
also might make a successful venture; but when the conclusions of
even long and mature reflections upon the subject are compared with
Scripture, they will not stand. Therefore we must repeat, even though
a mere stammering should be the result, what the Scriptures say to
us, namely: that Jesus Christ is true God and that the Holy Spirit is
likewise true God, yet there are not three Gods; not three divine
natures, as we may speak of three brothers, three angels, three suns,
three windows. There is one indivisible divine essence, while we
recognize a distinction as to the persons.


Paul, speaking of Christ in Hebrews 1, 3, refers to him as the
express image of God's substance. Again, in Colossians 1, 15 he says
of Christ: "Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of
all creation." We must take these words for what they say--that all
creatures, even angels and men, are ranked below Christ. This
classification leaves room for God only: taking away the creature,
only God remains. It is one and the same thing, then, to say that
Christ is the firstborn of all creatures and that Christ is true and
essential God.

5. To make the matter as clear as possible Paul uses the expression
"image of the invisible God." If Christ be the image of God he must
be a person distinct from him whose image he is, but at the same time
in one divine essence with the Father. He and the Father are not one
person, but two, and yet Christ could not be the express image of the
Father's person, or essence, if he were not equally divine. No
creature can be an image of the divine essence, for it does not
possess that essence. To repeat, Christ could not be called the
express image of God if he and the Father were not distinct persons;
there must be one imaged and one who is the image. Expressed more
clearly and according to Scripture, one person is the Father, who in
eternity begets the other; the other is the Son, begotten in
eternity, yet both are equally eternal, mighty, wise and just.

6. Though the Jews and Turks ridicule our doctrine, as if we taught
the existence of three brothers in heaven, it does not signify. Might
I also cavil were it to serve any purpose here. But they do us wrong
and falsify our teaching; for we do not conceive of the Trinity as in
the nature of three men or of three angels. We regard it as one
divine essence, an intimacy surpassing any earthly unity. The human
body and soul are not so completely one as the Triune God. Further,
we claim the Holy Scriptures teach that in the one divine essence,
God the Father begot a son. Before any creature was made, before the
world was created, as Paul says, "before the foundation of the
world," in eternity, the Father begot a Son who is equal with him and
in all respects God like himself. Not otherwise could Paul call
Christ the express image of the invisible God. Thus it is proven that
the Father and the Son are distinct persons, and that nevertheless
but one God exists, a conclusion we cannot escape unless we would
contradict Paul, and would become Jews and Turks.


7. Again, Paul makes mention of Christ in different phrase, saying:
"Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were
destroyed of serpents." 1 Cor 10, 9. Now, keeping this verse in mind,
note how Paul and Moses kiss each other, how clearly the one responds
to the other. For Moses says (Num 14, 22): "All those men ... have
tempted me these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice," and
in this connection the speaker is represented by the term "Lord,"
everywhere in the Bible printed by us in capitals to indicate a name
belonging only to the Eternal, applicable to none but the one true
God. Other terms used to designate God are sometimes applied also to
men, but this word "Lord" refers only to God.

Now, Moses says: "And the Lord [Adonai, the true God] said ... All
these men ... have tempted me these ten times." Then comes Paul
explaining who this God is--saying they tempted "Christ." Crawl
through this statement if you may; the fact remains that Paul
declares it was Christ who was tempted, and Moses makes him the one
eternal and true God. Moreover, Christ was not at that time born; no,
nor were Mary and David. Nevertheless, the apostle plainly says, They
tempted Christ, let us not also tempt him.

8. Certainly enough, then, Christ is the man to whom Moses refers as
God. Thus the testimony of Moses long before is identical with that
of Paul. Though employing different terms, they both confess Christ
as the Son of God, born in eternity of the Father, in the same divine
essence and yet distinct from him. You may call this difference what
you will; we indicate it by the term "person." True, we do not make a
wholly clear explanation of the mystery; we but stammer when speaking
of a "Trinity." But what are we to do? we cannot better the attempt.
So, then, the Father is not the Son, but the Son is born of the
Father in eternity; and the Holy Spirit proceeds from God the Father
and God the Son. Thus there are three persons, and yet but one God.
For what Moses declares concerning God Paul says is spoken of Christ.

9. The same argument substantially Paul employs in Acts 20, 28, when,
blessing the Church of Miletus and exhorting the assembled ministers
concerning their office, he says: "Take heed unto yourselves, and to
all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to
feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood."
This, too, is a significant text, proving beyond all controversy that
Christ our Lord, who purchased the Church with his blood, is truly
God, and to him the Church belongs. For the apostle plainly asserts
it was God who bought the Church with his blood and that the Church
is his own.

Now, in view of the fact already established that the persons are
distinct, and of the further statement that God has purchased the
Church through his own blood, we inevitably conclude that Christ our
Saviour is true God, born of the Father in eternity, and that he also
became man and was born of the Virgin Mary in time.

10. If such blood--the material, tangible, crimson blood, shed by a
real man--is truly to be called the blood of God, then he who shed it
must be actually God, an eternal, almighty person in the one divine
essence. In that case we truly can say the blood flowing from the
side of the crucified One and spilled upon the ground is not merely
the blood of an ordinary man, but God's own. Paul does not indulge in
frivolous talk. He speaks of a most momentous matter; and he is in
dead earnest when he in his exhortation reminds us that it is an
exalted office to rule the Church and to feed it with the Word of
God. Lest we toy in the performance of such an office we are reminded
that the flock is as dear to him as the blood of his dear Son, so
precious that all creatures combined can furnish no equivalent. And
if we are indolent or unfaithful, we sin against the blood of God and
become guilty of it, inasmuch as through our fault it has been shed
in vain for the souls which we should oversee.

11. There are many passages of similar import, particularly in the
Gospel of John. So we cannot evade the truth but must say God the
Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are three individual
persons, yet of one divine essence. We do not, as the Jews and Turks
derisively allege, worship three Gods; we worship only one God,
represented to us in the Scriptures as three persons.

Christ said to Philip (Jn 14, 9), "He that hath seen me hath seen the
Father." There Christ claims unity and equality with the Father in
the one divine essence. So does Paul in Colossians 1, 15, where he
calls Christ "the image of the invisible God," at the same time
indicating two distinct persons: the Father is not the Son and the
Son is not the Father, yet they are one God. Such passages, I say,
are frequent. By means of them the sainted fathers valiantly
maintained this dogma of the Trinity against the devil and the world,
thus making it our heritage.

12. Now, what care we that reason should regard it as foolishness? It
requires no skill to cavil over these things; I could do that as well
as others. But, praise God, I have the grace to desire no controversy
on this point. When I know it is the Word of God that declares the
Trinity, that God has said so, I do not inquire how it can be true; I
am content with the simple Word of God, let it harmonize with reason
as it may. And every Christian should adopt the same course with
respect to all the articles of our faith. Let there be no caviling
and contention on the score of possibility; be satisfied with the
inquiry: Is it the Word of God? If a thing be his Word, if he has
spoken it, you may confidently rely upon it he will not lie nor
deceive you, though you may not understand the how and the when.

Since, then, this article of the Holy Trinity is certified by the
Word of God, and the sainted fathers have from the inception of the
Church chivalrously defended and maintained the article against every
sect, we are not to dispute as to how God the Father, the Son and the
Holy Spirit are one God. This is an incomprehensible mystery. It is
enough that God in his Word gives such testimony of himself. Both his
nature and its revelation to us are far beyond our understanding.


13. And why should you presume to comprehend, to exactly understand,
the sublime, inconceivable divine essence when you are wholly
ignorant of your own body and life? You cannot explain the action of
your laughter, nor how your eyes give you knowledge of a castle or
mountain ten miles away. You cannot tell how in sleep one, dead to
the external world, is yet alive. If we are unable to understand the
least detail of our physical selves, anything so insignificant as the
growth of a mere hair, for instance, can we, unaided by the
revelation of God's Word, climb by reason--that reason so blind to
things within its natural realm--into the realm of heavenly mysteries
and comprehend and define God in his majesty?

If you employ reason from mere love of disputation, why not devote it
to questions concerning the daily workings of your physical nature?
for instance, where are the five senses during sleep? just how is the
sound of your own laughter produced? We might without sin occupy
ourselves with such questions. But as to the absolute truth in a
matter such as this, let us abide patiently by the authority of the
Word. The Word says that Christ is the express image of the invisible
God, the firstborn of all creatures; in other words, he is God
equally with the Father.

14. Again, John 5, 23 testifies that all should honor the Son as they
honor the Father. And in John 12, 44 we read: "He that believeth on
me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me." Also, John 14, 1:
"Believe in God, believe also in me." And again, John 16, 15: "All
things whatsoever the Father hath are mine." These and similar
passages are armor that cannot be pierced: for they are uttered by
God, who does not lie and who alone is qualified to speak the truth
concerning himself. Thus the dogma of the Trinity is thoroughly
founded upon the holy Scriptures.


15. Now, having established the existence of Christ in the Trinity,
we must next consider the third person, the Holy Spirit, in Scripture
sometimes termed the "Spirit" of God and sometimes his "Soul." This
person is not spoken of as "born"; he is not born like the Son, but
proceeds from the Father and the Son. To express it differently, he
is a person possessing in eternity the divine essence, which he
derives from the Father and Son in unity in the same way the Son
derives it from the Father alone. There are, then, three distinct
persons in one divine essence, one divine majesty. According to the
Scripture explanation of the mystery, Christ the Lord is the Son of
God from eternity, the express image of the Father, and equally
great, mighty, wise and just. All deity, wisdom, power and might
inherent in the Father is also in Christ, and likewise in the Holy
Spirit, who proceeds from Father and Son. Now, when you are asked to
explain the Trinity, reply that it is an incomprehensible mystery,
beyond the understanding of angels and creatures, the knowledge of
which is confined to the revelations of Scripture.

16. Rightly did the fathers compose the Creed, or Symbol, in the
simple form repeated by Christian children: "I believe in God the
Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his
only Son ... I believe in the Holy Ghost." This confession we did not
devise, nor did the fathers of former times. As the bee collects
honey from many fair and gay flowers, so is this Creed collected, in
appropriate brevity, from the books of the beloved prophets and
apostles--from the entire holy Scriptures--for children and for
unlearned Christians. It is fittingly called the "Apostle's Symbol,"
or "Apostle's Creed." For brevity and clearness it could not have
been better arranged, and it has remained in the Church from ancient
time. It must either have been composed by the apostles themselves or
it was collected from their writings and sermons by their ablest

17. It begins "I believe." In whom? "In God the Father." This is the
first person in the Godhead. For the sake of clear distinction, the
peculiar attribute and office in which each person manifests himself
is briefly expressed. With the first it is the work of creation.
True, creation is not the work of one individual person, but of the
one divine, eternal essence as such. We must say, God the Father, God
the Son and God the Holy Spirit created heaven and earth. Yet that
work is more especially predicated of the person of the Father, the
first person, for the reason that creation is the only work of the
Father in which he has stepped forth out of concealment into
observation; it is the first work wrought by the divine Majesty upon
the creature. By the word "Father" he is particularly and rightly
distinguished from the other persons of the Trinity. It indicates him
as the first person, derived from no other, the Son and the Holy
Spirit having existence from him.

18. Continuing, the Creed says, I believe in another who is also God.
For to believe is something we owe to no being but God alone. Who is
this second person? Jesus Christ, God's only begotten Son. Christians
have so confessed for more than fifteen hundred years; indeed, such
has been the confession of believers from the beginning of the world.
Though not employing precisely these words, yet this has been their
faith and profession.

19. The first designation of God the Son makes him the only Son of
God. Although angels are called sons of the Lord our God, and even
Christians are termed his children, yet no one of these is said to be
the "only" or "only-begotten" Son. Such is the effect of Christ's
birth from the Father that he is unequaled by any creature, not
excepting even the angels. For he is in truth and by nature the Son
of God the Father; that is, he is of the same divine, eternal,
uncreated essence.

20. Next comes the enumeration of the acts peculiar to him: "Who was
conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under
Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. He descended into
hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into
heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from
thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead." The distinct
personality of the Son is thus demonstrated by acts peculiar to
himself. Not the Father and not the Holy Spirit, but the Son alone,
assumed human nature of flesh and blood, like unto ours, to suffer,
die, rise again and ascend into heaven.

21. In the third place we confess, "I believe in the Holy Ghost."
Here again a distinct person is named, yet one in divine essence with
the Father and the Son; for we must believe in no one but the true
God, in obedience to the first commandment: "I am Jehovah thy God ...
Thou shalt have no other gods before me."

Thus briefly this confession comprehends the unity of the divine
essence--we accept and worship only one God--and the revealed truth
that in the Trinity are three distinct persons. The same distinction
is indicated in holy baptism; we are baptized into the faith of one
God, yet Christ commands us to baptize "into the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

22. The peculiarity of this third person is the fact that he proceeds
from both the Father and the Son. He is therefore called also the
Spirit of the Father and the Son; he is poured into the human heart
and reveals himself in the gathering of the Church of Christ in all
tongues. Through the Word of the Gospel he enlightens and kindles the
hearts of men unto one faith, sanctifying, quickening and saving

23. So the Creed confesses three persons as comprehended in one
divine essence, each one, however, retaining his distinct
personality; and in order that the simple Christian may recognize
that there is but one divine essence and one God, who is
tri-personal, a special work, peculiar to himself, is ascribed to
each person. And such acts, peculiar to each person, are mentioned
for the reason that thus a confusion of persons is avoided. To the
Father we ascribe the work of creation; to the Son the work of
Redemption; to the Holy Spirit the power to forgive sins, to gladden,
to strengthen, to transport from death to life eternal.

The thought is not that the Father alone is the Creator, the Son
alone Redeemer and the Holy Spirit alone Sanctifier. The creation and
preservation of the universe, atonement for sin and its forgiveness,
resurrection from the dead and the gift of eternal life--all these
are operations of the one Divine Majesty as such. Yet the Father is
especially emphasized in the work of creation, which proceeds
originally from him as the first person; the Son is emphasized in the
redemption he has accomplished in his own person; and the Holy Spirit
in the peculiar work of sanctification, which is both his mission and
revelation. Such distinction is made for the purpose of affording
Christians the unqualified assurance that there is but one God and
yet three persons in the one divine essence--truths the sainted
fathers have faithfully gathered from the writings of Moses, the
prophets and the apostles, and which they have maintained against all

24. This faith has descended to us by inheritance, and by his power
God has maintained it in his Church, against sects and adversaries,
unto the present time. So we must abide by it in its simplicity and
not be wise. Christians are under the necessity of believing things
apparently foolish to reason. As Paul says (1 Cor 1, 21): "It was
God's good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save
them that believe." How can reason adapt itself to comprehend that
three are one, and one is three; that God became man; that he who is
washed with water in obedience to Christ's command, is washed with
the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and cleansed from all sins? Such
articles of faith appear utterly foolish to reason. Paul aptly calls
the Gospel foolish preaching wherewith God saves such as do not
depend on their own wisdom but simply believe the Word. They who will
follow reason in the things dealt with in these articles, and will
reject the Word, shall be defeated and destroyed in their wisdom.

25. Now, we have in the holy Scriptures and in the Creed sufficient
information concerning the Holy Trinity, and all that is necessary
for the instruction of ordinary Christians. Besides, the divinity of
our Lord Jesus Christ and that of the Holy Spirit is also attested by
miracles not to be lightly esteemed nor disregarded. The Lord our God
brings to pass miraculous things for the Christian's sake--for the
strengthening of his faith--and not merely as a rebuke to false
teachers. Were he to consider the false teachers alone, he might
easily defer their retribution to the future life, since he permits
many other transgressors to go unpunished for ten, twenty or thirty
years. But the fact is, God openly in this life lays hold upon
leaders of sects who blaspheme and slander him with their false
doctrines. He inflicts upon them unusual punishments for the sake of
warning others. Besides being openly convicted of blasphemy and
having the condemnation of their own conscience, the misguided ones
receive testimony to the fact that these false leaders are
instigators of blasphemy against God's name and his Word. All men are
compelled to admit God can have no pleasure in their doctrine, since
he visits them with special marks of his displeasure, destroying them
with severer punishments than ordinarily befall offenders.

26. History records that John the evangelist had as contemporary a
heretic, by the name of Cerinthus, who was the first to arise in
opposition to the apostolic doctrine and in blasphemy against the
Lord Jesus with the claim that Jesus is not God. This blasphemy
spread to such an extent that John saw himself compelled to
supplement the work of the other evangelists with his Gospel, whose
distinct purpose it is to defend and maintain the deity of Christ
against Cerinthus and his rabble.

A feature of John's Gospel patent to all is the sublime beginning of
his Gospel which renders it distinct from the others. He does not lay
stress upon the miraculous doings of Christ, but upon his preaching,
wherein he reveals himself powerfully as true God, born of the Father
from eternity, and his equal in power, honor, wisdom, righteousness
and every other divine work.

With respect to John and Cerinthus it is reported that the former,
having gone to a public bath with some of his disciples, became aware
that Cerinthus and his rabble were there, also. Without hesitation he
told his disciples to be up and away, and not to abide among
blasphemers. The disciples followed his advice and departed.
Immediately after their departure the room collapsed, and Cerinthus
with his followers perished, not one escaping.

27. We also read concerning the heretic Arius, the chief foe of his
time toward the dogma of the deity of Christ. The injury done by this
man to the cause of Christ was such as to occupy the Church for four
centuries after his death; and still today his heresy has not been
altogether rooted out. But the Lord took the matter in hand by the
performance of a miracle which could not but be understood.

History records that Arius had ingratiated himself into the favor of
Constantine, the emperor, and his counselors. With an oath he had
succeeded in impressing them with the righteousness of his doctrine,
so that the emperor gave command that Alexander, bishop of
Constantinople, should recognize him as a member of the Christian
Church and restore him to the priestly office. When the godly bishop
refused to accede to this demand, knowing full well the purpose
pursued by Arius and his followers, Eusebius and the other bishops
who supported Arius threatened him with the imperial edict and
expressed the determination to drive him out by force and to have
Arius restored by the congregation as such. However, they gave him a
day to think the matter over.

28. The godly bishop was fearful. The following of Arius was large
and powerful, being supported by the imperial edict and the whole
court. The bishop, therefore, resolved to seek help from God, where
alone it is found in all things relating to God's honor. He fell down
upon his face in the church and prayed all night long that God should
preserve his name and honor by methods calculated to stem the tide of
evil purpose, and to preserve Christendom against the heretics. When
it was morning, and the hour had come when Alexander the bishop
should either restore Arius to office or be cast out of his own,
Arius convened punctually with his followers. As the procession was
wending its way to the church, Arius suddenly felt ill and was
compelled to seek privacy. The pompous procession halted, waiting his
return, when the message came that his lungs and liver had passed
from him, causing his death. The narrative comments: Mortem dignam
blasphema et foetida mente--a death worthy such a blasphemous and
turpid mind.

29. We see, then, that this dogma has been preserved by God first
through the writings and the conflicts of the apostles, and then by
miracles, against the devil and his blasphemers. And it shall be
preserved in the future likewise, so that, without a trace of doubt,
we may believe in God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.
This is the faith which we confess with our children daily. To guard
against a mixing of persons or the abandonment of the tri-personality,
three distinct acts are predicated. This should enable the common
Christian to avoid confusing the persons, while maintaining the divine
unity as to essence.

We proclaim these things on this Sunday in order to call attention to
the fact that we have not come upon this doctrine in a dream, but by
the grace of God through his Word and the holy apostles and Fathers.
God help us to be found constant and without blemish in this doctrine
and faith to our end. Amen.

_First Sunday After Trinity_

Text: 1 John 4, 16-21.

16 God is love; and he that abideth in love abideth in God, and God
abideth in him. 17 Herein is love made perfect with us, that we may
have boldness in the day of judgment; because as he is, even so are
we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love: but perfect love
casteth out fear, because fear hath punishment; and he that feareth
is not made perfect in love. 19 We love, because he first loved us.
20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar:
for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, cannot love God
whom he hath not seen. 21 And this commandment have we from him, that
he who loveth God love his brother also.


This epistle text is amply expounded in the "Explanation of Certain
Epistles of the Apostles" printed in other volumes. Those who wish
may read there one or more sermons for themselves or their people.
They are too long to insert here.

_Second Sunday After Trinity_

Text: 1 John 3, 13-18.

13 Marvel not, brethren, if the world hateth you. 14 We know that we
have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He
that loveth not abideth in death. 15 Whosoever hateth his brother is
a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in
him. 16 Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us:
and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoso
hath the world's goods, and beholdeth his brother in need, and
shutteth up his compassion from him, how does the love of God abide
in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither with
the tongue; but in deed and truth.


1. The Epistles and Gospels selected for the Pentecost cycle of
Sundays have love as their general theme. They deal not only with the
love we owe to Christ and God, which is only to be thankful for the
unspeakable blessing of forgiveness of sins and salvation through
Christ's blood and death, but also of the love we owe our neighbor;
not a love in return for favors, but one that unceasingly gives,
forgives and works all good even when unrequited.

2. John here admonishes the Christian to exercise the virtue of love.
Considering the evident rarity of love among men, this admonition is
necessary. He particularly warns Christians not to wonder at the
world's hatred and desire for their death. Such was the hate of Cain
for his brother, of which the apostle has just spoken. The world's
hate, it must be admitted, repels love and powerfully obstructs its

3. Is it not surpassing strange that one can hate those who love him
and from whom he has received only kindness? Such wickedness is
almost inconceivable, we say. What incentive is there for any to
render the world service when in ingratitude it rewards love with
hatred? But let us examine ourselves, who are baptized and have
received the Gospel, and confess how we requite the supreme love of
God in giving us his Son. What a beautiful example of glad gratitude
we display! For the shame of it we ought to despise ourselves before
God and his angels.

And what shall we say of those who will not endure the preaching of
the glorious message of God's grace and blessing, but condemn it as
heresy? to whom they who seek to serve, to benefit and save the world
by declaring the good news, must be, as Paul says, "as the filth of
the world, the offscouring of all things," 1 Cor 4, 13. Indeed, no
criminal receives more wretched and ignominious treatment and
execution, of which the Pope and his followers are a case in point.


4. While experience has proven this otherwise incredible fact, John
vouchsafes the admonition notwithstanding: "Marvel not, brethren, if
the world hateth you." If we are not to wonder at this, is there
anything in the world to incite wonder? I should truly think the
hearing of a single sermon on the grace of Christ would suffice to
bring the world to receive the Gospel with intense joy and never to
forget the divine mercy and blessing. It would be no wonder should
the earth suddenly open and engulf mankind because of its ingratitude
to God who has given his Son to become man for the purpose of
redeeming us condemned mortals from sin and death and restoring us to
life and salvation. Is it not a horrible thing that any man should
shun and oppose such a Savior and his doctrine even more than he does
the devil himself?

5. But what is God's attitude toward such conduct? Well does he say
to the Jews through the prophet: "O my people, what have I done unto
thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me. For I
brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of
the house of bondage; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and
Miriam. O my people, remember now what Balak, king of Moab, devised;
and what Balaam, the son of Beor, answered him; remember from Shittim
unto Gilgal, that ye may know the righteous acts of Jehovah." Mic 6,
3-5. And well does Christ say to his ungrateful people: "O Jerusalem,
Jerusalem, that killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent
unto her! how often would I have gathered thy children together, even
as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"
Mt 23, 37. As if he would say, "I surely did not come to effect your
death and condemnation by my message. I am about to suffer death and
God's wrath for your sins. I bring you God's endless grace and
blessing for time and eternity. Then why this bitter hatred against
me and my message?"

6. "Since the world hates even God for his kindness," argues John,
"marvel not, my beloved, that you suffer the same fate. What does it
signify that I show my love by hazarding life and limb to sustain
this doctrine of the Gospel and help my neighbor? Mine is but a poor,
mean, uncouth, offensive love in comparison with the love that led
Christ to die for me and to redeem me from eternal death. If God's
supreme, unfathomable love fails to awaken the gratitude of the
world, what wonder if the world hates you for all your kindness? Why
will you bring down your fist and stamp your foot in anger at such
ingratitude? You are yourselves of that race for whom the Son of God
had to die. And even were you to die for the Gospel, your sacrifice
would be as nothing in comparison to the fact that God, for the sake
of the world, spared not his own Son but permitted the world to put
him to death."

7. But whence arises the world's hatred? John tells us in verse
twelve when he mentions the incident of Cain, who, he says, "was of
the evil one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him?
Because his works were evil, and his brother's righteous." An
excellent reason, indeed, for hating--the hater and murderer is evil
and the benefactor good! In civil and domestic affairs it is the
evil-doers and disobedient who incur displeasure and receive
punishment; and such reward is just. But whenever God has dealings
with the world, it shows what a rotten fruit it is by hating,
persecuting, and putting to death as evil-doers and impostors its
very benefactors. This trait it inherits, John tells us, from its
ancestor Cain, the great fratricide saint. He is a true picture of
the world of all times, and ever its spirit and fashion is patterned
after him.

8. When mother Eve, the dear, godly woman, bore her first son, she
declared in her joy and her hope of God's promise of the future seed
that should bruise the serpent's head: "I have gotten a man with the
help of Jehovah" (Gen 4, 1); and she named him Cain, which means
"obtained," as if she would say, "I have obtained the true treasure."
For she had not before seen a human being born; this was the first,
precious fruit of man. Over Cain she rejoiced, pronouncing herself
blessed. This son was trained in the hope that he should be a savior
of the future race, a comfort to his brothers and sisters with all
their offspring. Nor was he unaware of these proud hopes. Proudly he
lorded it over his brother, who in contrast had to bear the
ignominious name of Abel, meaning "nothing," or "vanity," as if
voicing the thought of the parents' hearts: "Alas! this one has no
future. Cain is the rightful heir to the blessing God has promised
man; he is lord and master of his brethren."

9. It is likely that the godly father and mother for many years drew
their solace from the hope placed in their first-born son, as they
looked forward with intensest longing to the redemption from their
deplorable fall. Doubtless they trained both sons very carefully and
instructed them concerning their own sin and fall and the promise God
had given them, until they were fully grown and had entered into the
priestly office. Cain the first-born was particularly zealous in that
respect, desiring to be first inasmuch as he offered his first fruits
of the earth, given by God and obtained by his own labor, as he no
doubt had seen his father offer. Abel, however, the inferior, the
poor shepherd, offered the firstlings of his sheep, given him of God
and obtained without effort and toil of his own. Now, God in a
wonderful way manifested his preference concerning the gifts upon the
altar. Fire descended from heaven and consumed Abel's offering, but
Cain's remained. The fire was the sign of God's favor. The text says:
"And Jehovah had respect unto Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain
and to his offering he had not respect." Gen 4, 4-5.

10. Thereupon Adam and Eve saw that the hope and solace centering in
their first-born son, were a delusion. They began to learn the
wonderful judgments of God, who gave precedence to Abel, the male
counterpart of Cinderella--which is all he was in his own sight when
he compared himself with his brother. Now Cain, with full confidence
in his position, spoiled by the delusion of his parents that as the
first-born he was God's preference, felt himself outraged. His
hypocrisy, hitherto masked, comes to the surface. He burns with
secret hate against God, with hate and anger against his brother,
which he takes no trouble whatever to disguise. The parents rebuke
him, but effect nothing. The flame of his resentment rises higher,
and meeting him alone upon the field, he fells him to the ground. Far
from contemplating amendment of life or seeking grace from God, he
has no mercy upon the only brother he has on earth, who has done him
no harm whatever. He cannot forgive him and leave him in unenvied
possession of the grace of God.

11. Such was the solace and joy poor Adam and Eve lived to experience
in their first children! From this time on their earthly life was
fraught with gloom and sorrow, particularly since they could not but
see the source of these in their own fall and they would have pined
to death had not God comforted them with another son. For when it
became evident that the hope they had placed in Cain was a delusion,
and that they were deprived of the son who, beyond a doubt, possessed
the grace of God, they, without another son, would not have known
where to look for the solace of the promised seed.


12. Note, in this man Cain is pictured the world in its true,
characteristic colors; in him its true spirit stands reflected.
Certainly his equal has never been. In him are unquestionably
prefigured the very flower, the very quintessence, of holiness on
earth--the most pious servants of God. On the other hand, that poor,
wretched, abject male counterpart of Cinderella, Abel, well
represents the obscure little brotherhood, the Church of Christ. She
must yield to Cain the lord the distinction of being everything
before God, of being the recipient of every gift of God, of being
entitled to all honor and every privilege. He feels important in his
imagined dignity, permits this spirit to pervade his sacrifices and
his worships, and thinks that God cannot but favor and accept his
offering rather than that of his brother.

Meanwhile, the pious Abel goes his way, meekly suffering his
brother's contempt. He willingly yields Cain the honor, esteems
himself vastly inferior and beholds no consolation for himself aside
from the pure mercy and goodness of God. He believes in God and hopes
for the promised future seed. In such faith he performs his sacrifice
as a confession, a sign, of his gratitude.

13. This illustration is intended by God as solace for his little
throng; for the incident is not written for Abel's sake but for the
sake of the humble children of God, whose condition is like that of
Abel. God has not forgotten them, though they are haughtily ignored
by proud Cain, who regards them as nothing in his presence. God
graciously looks upon them and rejects proud Cain with his birthright
and offering.

14. Innocent Abel becomes the object of anger and hatred when the
Word of God lays hold of Cain revealing God's displeasure where he
had fancied himself worthy, and God's unwillingness to regard his
offering and devotion as superior to this of his brother and more
meritorious. Cain begins bitterly to hate and persecute his brother.
He finds no rest until Abel is laid low and cut off from the earth.
Now you have the cause of the world's hatred and anger against
Christians; simply this, as John says of Cain: "Because his works
were evil, and his brother's righteous."

15. What offense had godly Abel committed against his brother to be
so hated? He had even regarded that brother as the first-born, as
vastly superior to himself, and had done him all honor and loved him
as became a brother. He was easily satisfied, desiring simply the
grace of God. He prayed for the future seed, that is, for the
salvation and happiness of his parents, his brother and the entire
human race. How could Cain be unmerciful and inhuman enough in his
frenzy to murder his own flesh and blood?

The answer is found in the fact that the devil had filled Cain's
heart with pride and vanity over his birthright. He considered
himself a man of distinction, with every claim upon God's favor and
sinless, whilst his brother was nothing whatever. Cain's heart is
devoid of true brotherly love; he has only contempt for Abel. He
cannot endure God's manifest favor toward his brother, and will not
be moved by the injunction to humble himself and seek God's grace.
Anger and envy possess him to the extent that he cannot tolerate his
brother alive. In violation of God's commandment and his own
conscience, he becomes a murderer, and then goes his way as if he had
done right.

16. This is what John means when he says that Cain had no other cause
for his crime than that his own works were evil and his brother's
righteous. Similarly, that obedient daughter of Saint Cain, the
world, hates the Christians; and for no other reason than the
latter's love and goodness of heart. Witness the examples of the holy
patriarchs, the prophets and, most of all, of Christ himself.

17. What sin against the world did the beloved apostles commit? They
desired the injury of none, but went about in extreme poverty and
toil, teaching mankind how, through faith in Christ, to be saved from
the devil's kingdom and from eternal death. This the world will not
hear and suffer; hence the hue and cry: "Kill, kill these people!
Away with them from off the earth! Show them no mercy!" Why this
hostility? Because the apostles sought to relieve the world of its
idolatry and damnable doings. Such good works the world could not
tolerate. What it desires is nothing but praise and commendation for
its own evil doings, expecting from God the impossible endorsement,
"Your deeds are good and well-pleasing to me. Pious children of mine
are you. Just keep on cheerfully killing all who believe and preach
my Word."

18. In the same way does the world conduct itself today with
reference to our Gospel. For no other reason are we hated and
persecuted than because we have, through God's grace, proclaimed his
Word that recovered us from the blindness and idolatry in which we
were sunken as deeply as the world, and because we desire to rescue
others. That is the unpardonable sin by which we have incurred the
world's irreconcilable anger and its inextinguishable hatred. It
cannot permit us to live.

We preach no other doctrine than faith in Christ, which our children
pray and they themselves confess in words. We differ only in our
claim that Christ having been crucified for us and having shed his
blood to redeem us from sin and death, our salvation is not effected
by our own works, or holiness or devotion. The fact that we do not
regard their faithless worship equal to Christ himself, but teach men
to trust in the grace of God and not their own worthiness, and to
render him gratitude for his grace--this fact is intolerable to the
world. It would be well for our adversaries if they would receive
such teaching, since it would render them more than ever what they
profess to be: our superiors in wisdom, knowledge and reputation--a
claim we are willing to concede. But Cain's works are evil and Abel's
righteous. The world simply cannot tolerate the Gospel, and no unity
or harmony is ever to be hoped for. The world will not forsake its
idolatry nor receive the faith. It would force us to renounce the
Word of God and praise its Cain-like worship, or take death at their

19. Therefore, John says, "Marvel not, brethren, if the world hateth
you," for it is compelled to act according to the nature inherited
from its father Cain. It would have all merits and concede to Abel
none. The world comprises the exalted, the wise, the learned, the
mighty. The Scriptures represent these as under necessity to hate and
persecute the poor throng of the Church of Christ by reason of the
good works done by them. They can under no consideration tolerate the
idea of being taught by this despised and humble throng the doctrine
of salvation through the grace and mercy of God alone, not through
man's own merits. They cannot endure the teaching that their
offering--the mass, regarded by the Papists as a work of superlative
merit and holiness--avails nothing before God.

20. In the text the nature of the world is portrayed for our
recognition. So to understand the world as to know what may be
expected from it is essential and valuable knowledge for the
Christian. Thus armed he will not be dismayed and become impatient of
suffering, nor permit its malice and ingratitude to mislead him to
hate and desire for revenge. He will keep his faith and love,
suffering the world to go its way if it refuse to hear his message.
The Christian should expect nothing better from the world than its
bitter persecution in return for his good works and love. The Church
of Christ on earth, let him remember, is never to have an easier lot.
He is not to judge according to show and appearance, thinking: "They
are the great throng, the wisest and cleverest people on earth; how
is it possible that they should all be in error and under

21. It is necessarily true that discipline and peace are impossible
without the most excellent, exalted, erudite, clever people--royal,
princely, noble in achievement and honor. Cain is never plain and
lowly. He is always eminently clever, wise, holy and in every way
vastly Abel's superior. In fact, he must in himself represent all
desirable things, as his name indicates. And the same characteristic
is manifest in his children, who are ingenious in the invention of
every variety of art. Deplorable the fact that a man of Cain's
qualifications, born of godly parents and signally honored of God,
should display such hatred and inhumanity toward poor Abel merely
because of God's Word and Abel's faith.

22. Such knowledge is comforting to the godly little company of
Christians, who are confident they have God's favor and know it to be
the occasion of their persecution; they have no protection and succor
but are exposed to the same fate as Abel. If they fare better, they
may thank God for it. But they are ever to abide in love toward God,
whose love they have received and felt, and likewise toward men,
their enemies not excepted. This was Abel's way; could he have lived
again, he would have kept his brotherly love for his murderer,
forgiving him and even imploring God's forgiveness for him.

"We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love
the brethren."


23. To abide in love should be the motive for us Christians. John
contrasts it with the motive of the world in hating us--its
wickedness. The world's hatred of you, as John's words imply, is not
strange. The contrast between you and the world is exceedingly great.
Through its own evil works, unbelief, pride, contempt for the Word
and grace of God, and the persecution of the godly, the world has
become by this time the victim of Satan and eternal death. It spurns
all counsel and aid directed toward its rescue. Stiff-necked and
hardened, under evident condemnation by its own conscience, it has
chosen to persist in its doom. But we believers in Christ, God be
praised! are different people. We have come forth from death; we have
passed through death and entered into life through the knowledge and
faith of the Son of God, who has loved us and given himself for us.

24. Such grace and goodness of God, says the apostle, should prompt
you not to be offended and vanquished by the world's ingratitude,
hate and malice, and thus to cease from holy endeavor and become
likewise, evil, which course will result in the loss of your
treasure. It is yours, not by your own effort, but by grace alone;
for at one time you as well as they languished in the kingdom and
power of death, in evil works, far from faith and love.

Remember to comfort yourselves, therefore, with the thought of this
great blessing, an advantage you enjoy above the others. What if the
world, abiding in death, does hate and persecute you who abide in
life? Whom can its hatred injure? It cannot take from you the life
which it lacks while you possess it, nor deliver you to death, from
which you have passed, through Christ. When it does its worst it may
perhaps falsely slander you, or deprive you of your property, or
destroy your corrupt body--the final home of maggots and in any event
doomed to corruption--and thus through the death of the body help you
gain true life. Thus vengeance will be yours rather than its own.
Yours will be the joy of being transplanted from death into life,
whereas the world must abide in death. While they of the world think
to deny you both the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of earth, they
themselves lose body and soul. What more terrible retribution could
their hatred and envy receive? For the sake of denying gratification
to the devil and the world, and much more for your own welfare, you
must not allow your persecutions to rob you of your peace and
salvation, nor to lead you to lose your faith through impatience and
desire for revenge. Rather, pity their wretchedness and doom. You
lose nothing by their oppression; yours is the gain, theirs the loss.
For the slight grief inflicted upon you with reference to body and
time, it shall dearly pay both here and hereafter.

25. How do we know we have passed from death unto life? John says,
because we love the brethren. Just what does he mean? Is it not our
doctrine that Christ first loved us, as John elsewhere says? that
before we ever loved him he died and rose again for us? When we fully
believe in our Savior's love, then our own hearts respond with
perfect love to God and our neighbor. Why, then, does John say, "We
have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren"?

26. The explanation is found in the words "We know." John says
plainly, "From the fact that we love the brethren, we know we have
passed out of death into life." Love of the brethren is the test
whereby we may ascertain who are the true believers. The apostle
directed this epistle especially against false Christians; many there
are who extol Christ, as did unbelieving Cain, and yet fail to bear
the fruit of faith. John's reference is not to the means whereby we
pass from sin and death to life, but to the proof whereby we may know
the fact--not to the cause, but to the effect.

27. It is not sufficient to boast of having passed from death into
life; there must be evidence of the fact. Faith is not an inactive
and lifeless thing. When there is faith in the heart, its power will
be manifest. Where power is not in evidence, all boasting is false
and vain. When the human heart, in its confidence in divine mercy and
love, is thrilled with spiritual comfort, and also warmed into
kindness, friendliness, humility and patience towards the neighbor,
envying and despising none but cheerfully serving all and ministering
unto necessity even to hazarding body and life--when this is the
case, then the fruits of faith are manifest.

Such fruits are proof that the believer has truly passed from death
into life. Had he not true faith, but doubted God's grace and love,
his heart would not prompt him, by reason of his love and gratitude
to God, to manifest love for his neighbor. Where man has faith, and
where he realizes God's infinite mercy and goodness in raising him
from death to life, love is enkindled in his heart, and he is
prompted to do all manner of good, even to his enemies, as God has
done to him.

28. Such is the right interpretation and understanding of John's
expression: "We know that we have passed out of death into life,
because we love the brethren." It leaves in its integrity the
foundation, justification, or deliverance from death, through faith
alone. This is the first element of Christian doctrine. Granting that
faith does justify, the next question is whether the faith is real or
simulated, being merely a deceptive show and unsupported claim. The
clear information imparted by the apostles is, that love, indeed,
does not deliver from death, but that deliverance from death and the
presence of life becomes a matter of sight and knowledge in that love
has been wrought. With true faith we must have come to the point
where we no longer, like Cain, in our pride and conceit, despise our
neighbor; where we are not filled with envy, hatred and bitterness;
where we desire, and to the extent of our power, promote the
interests of our neighbor and work him all good.

29. John draws to a close by showing the opposite side of the
picture, in that he addresses earnest words that reëcho like peals of
thunder to those who make the carnal boast of being Christians while
destitute of love. He cites several facts as evidence that where love
is lacking, necessarily faith and deliverance from death are absent,
likewise. Thus no opportunity is given for self-deception or a
frivolous excuse based upon wordy boasting of one's faith. The
reality of the inner life is known by the presence of love, which in
turn attests the presence of faith in the heart.

I. "He that loveth not abideth in death."

30. Here, in clear, decisive words, the conclusion is expressed that
no man may boast of life unless he has love. If it is true that faith
must be active, it is conversely true that the absence of fruitage
demonstrates one's continuance in the old Cain-like manner of
existence, torpid and dead, bereft of solace and the experience of
God's grace and life. Let no one presume to think he has passed into
life so long as he is devoid of love and the fruits of faith. Let him
become serious, and in alarm make ready to become a true believer,
lest he remain in eternal death and under greater condemnation than
those who have never heard the Gospel.

II. "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no
murderer hath eternal life abiding in him."

31. Still clearer and stronger becomes the argument that lack of love
means continuance in death. The stern and frightful judgment is here
expressed that the unloving person is no better than Cain the
fratricide. His heart is under the influence of deadly hate and
murderous malice against the brother who refuses to be subservient to
his desires. Kindling rage will prove its existence by appropriate
works unless restrained by the fear of disgrace and punishment. He
wishes his brother nothing good, but rejoices in his misfortune.

All this, however, is impossible for one who believes that he has
been delivered from death. One who knows the wretchedness and misery
of death from experience, but has entered upon life with its solace
and joy, blessings he seeks to maintain--such a person will desire
for others the same blessing; he cannot rejoice in another's death.
Therefore it is true conversely: "We know that no murderer hath
eternal life abiding in him."


32. Thus we see the nature of the human heart without faith and the
knowledge of Christ; at bottom it is but the heart of a Cain,
murderous toward its neighbor. Nor can anything better be expected
from him who is not a Christian. The Scriptures repeatedly denounce
such faithless hypocrites as bloodthirsty and deceitful. "Jehovah
abhorreth the bloodthirsty and deceitful man." Ps 5, 6. "For their
feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood." Prov 1, 16. See
also verse 11. All mankind are by nature the children of the murderer
Cain. They are, of course, no better than their father. While Cain
was a man most magnificent, intelligent and wise, being the first
fruit born of those holy parents Adam and Eve, and in his superior
endowment with natural virtues infinitely superior to all who come
after him, he was nevertheless an unbeliever before God. Hence he
became the murderer of his brother.

III. "Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us: and
we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath the
world's goods, and beholdeth his brother in need, and shutteth up his
compassion from him, how doth the love of God abide in him?"

33. These words delineate true Christian love and hold up the sublime
example, or pattern, of God's love manifest in Christ. Christ's blood
and death is God's own blood and death. Paul in Acts 20, 28, speaks
of God having purchased the Church "with his own blood." The heart of
man by faith receives and apprehends this sacrifice. Under its
transforming influence he is disposed to work good to his neighbor as
he has himself received good. He even jeopardizes his life to that
end, being conscious of his redemption from eternal death, and
knowing physical death powerless to affect his eternal life. But the
heart that fails to appropriate Christ's sacrifice is without faith
and insensible to God's love and eternal life.

34. John uses an illustration plain enough for anyone to understand,
and from which we may judge that the soul found wanting in small
duties will be deficient in great ones. According to the apostle, if
one possesses this world's goods and sees his neighbor want, he being
able to render assistance without injury to himself, and yet closes
his heart against that neighbor, not assisting him with even the
slightest work of love, how can the love of God dwell in him since he
appreciates it so little that he will not spare his needy brother a
penny? How can he be expected, then, to render a greater service--to
even lay down his life for his brother? What right has such a soul to
boast--how can he know--that Christ has laid down his life for him
and delivered him from death?

35. How frequently are such people to be found! Having this world's
goods and being able to help the needy, they close their hearts
against the unfortunate, as did the rich glutton toward poor Lazarus.
Where shall we find in imperial courts, among kings, princes and
lords, any who extend a helping hand to the needy Church, or give her
so much as a crust of bread toward the maintenance of the poor, of
the ministry and of schools, or for other of her necessities? How
would they measure up in the greater duty of laying down their lives
for the brethren, and especially for the Christian Church? Note the
terrible judgment that they who are devoid of brotherly love are in
God's sight murderers and cannot have eternal life.

36. But the merely selfish may well escape our censure in comparison
with those who not only close their purses to the poor but
shamelessly and forcibly deprive and rob their needy neighbor of his
own by overreaching, by fraud, oppression and extortion; who take
from the Church the property rightfully hers and especially reserved
for her, snatching the bread from her mouth, so to speak. Not only is
the papistical rabble today guilty of such sin, but many who would be
known as evangelical practice the same fraud with reference to the
parochial estates and general property of the Church, and, in
addition, tyrannically harass and torment the poor ministers. But oh,
how heavy and terrible the impending judgment for those who have
denied to Christ the Lord in his thirst even the cup of cold water!

IV. "My little children, let us not love in word, neither with the
tongue; but in deed and truth."

37. The world and the false Christians in word pretend great love;
but in practice, when love should manifest itself in deeds, it is
found to be insincere. So John admonishes that where our love is not
ardent enough to lead us to lay down our lives for our brethren,
however much we may profess Christ, that love is assuredly only a
vain show, a false pretense, wherewith we deceive ourselves and
remain in infidelity and death, and in a more deplorable condition
than those who are wholly ignorant of the Gospel. Therefore, let him
who would proceed safely and prove himself a Christian remember to
prove himself such by his deeds and works. Then men will know that he
does not, a murderer and liar, like others, follow the devil. They
will know, on the contrary, that he truly and with the heart clings
to the Word of God, having passed from death to life.

_Third Sunday After Trinity_

Text: 1 Peter 5, 5-11.

5 Likewise, ye younger, be subject unto the elder. Yea, all of you
gird yourselves with humility, to serve one another: for God
resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble. 6 Humble
yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt
you in due time; 7 casting all your anxiety upon him, because he
careth for you. 8 Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as
a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9 whom
withstand stedfast in your faith, knowing that the same sufferings
are accomplished in your brethren who are in the world. 10 And the
God of all grace, who called you unto his eternal glory in Christ,
after that ye have suffered a little while, shall himself perfect,
establish, strengthen you. 11 To him be the dominion for ever and
ever. Amen.


1. This is the conclusion of Saint Peter's epistle. It is an
exhortation to good works, such as a Christian, or believer, should
practice. It is evident that the doctrine of the Gospel is not such
as is charged by some, forbidding good works, or not earnestly
commanding and urging them. Most diligently and repeatedly it urges
the doctrine of works--such works as are, indeed, good works. There
are in this epistle four natural heads which furnish us four good


2. The apostle has, in the verses immediately preceding our text,
exhorted the elders, that is, preachers, to be in their lives
"ensamples to the flock," not "lording it over the charge allotted"
to them, but using their office for the service of others. And here
in our text he exhorts the others, especially the young, to "be
subject unto the elder." And, in general, he admonishes all to "gird"
themselves "with humility, to serve one another." So Paul likewise
admonishes that we should honor one another. Humility is the noblest
and sweetest virtue love brings forth, and it is the most essential
to peace and discipline. But especially does it become and adorn the
young, making them pleasing and precious to God and men, bringing
forth an abundance of good fruits.

3. If mankind could be led so to believe this that the virtue of
humility would be generally practiced, it would be well everywhere.
This would be a beautiful world, filled with discipline and good
works. I would much prefer to see a city in which the young are
reared in this virtue than a hundred monasteries of barefooted and
Carthusian friars, though they lived ever so strictly. Alas! the
greatest and most frequent complaint heard anywhere is concerning the
disobedience, wantonness and pride of the younger generation found
among all ranks. Therefore it is necessary to use all diligence that
this exhortation be instilled into the hearts of the young and urged
upon them, in the hope that it may benefit them.

4. First of all, Peter presents the divine command. We are not left
to our own good pleasure in the matter--to show humility or not, as
we please. God earnestly asks it of us, and asks that we do it
lovingly and willingly. Otherwise his anger will be poured out upon
us and we will have no happiness nor favor, not even among men. For
everyone is a foe to pride and arrogance. These offenses are
condemned by the whole world, even by strangers whom they do not

One may be guilty of pride and not see his own shame, yet he cannot
suffer it in another; he will hate and condemn that one. This vice
hurts no one save himself. He makes himself hateful and contemptible
before God and men. Everyone calls him a great, proud bag of filth
and cries shame upon him. God metes out judgment and scorn to him,
witnessing that he will not let this vice go unpunished, but will put
the offender to shame. As Peter here says: "God resisteth the proud."

5. Men should be moved by the examples which daily come to light in
fulfilment of this passage. If we should have no regard for our own
honor and standing before the world, neither for the contempt and the
curses of all men; if the illustrious example of the noble character
and eternal majesty of God's Son, our Lord, should not stir us (which
ought to move us if we have one spark of Christianity in us), as we
behold his unspeakable and incomprehensible humility which, rightly
viewed, should melt the Christian's heart--if all this does not move
us, we should be humbled by the many awful examples of God's fearful
wrath which, from the beginning, he has hurled against pride.

6. What is more terrible than the eternal, irreparable fall and
banishment of once lofty angelic nature that resulted when the devil
robbed himself of the honor and glory enjoyed by the noble blessed
spirits, and of the contemplation of eternal God, and brought upon
himself everlasting and intolerable damnation by seeking to make
himself equal with God, and through similar pride, led the human race
to its awful fall? But what a blind, condemned creature are you, who,
with your filthy, shameful pride and haughtiness, become like the
spirit of evil, thereby turning all the world into your enemy and
opposing yourself to the divine majesty, before which even the angels
must tremble! If you have no fear of losing the favor and prayers of
mankind, at least be afraid lest God send down upon your head his
lightning and thunder, with which he crushes iron, rocks, and
mountains, and hurl you forever into the abyss, as he hurled down the
proud spirit and his angels.

7. Saint Peter exhorts both those who are in the office of the
ministry, and other Christians, to whom God has given something, that
they abide in their calling and office and conduct the same humbly,
gladly obeying and serving others. Right here this vice of pride is
the most hurtful to Christianity. For its whole government, life and
essence are so ordered by God that no one should exalt himself and
lord it over others, as the Pope, the true Antichrist has done. Only
humility and deeds of Christian love and service should prevail in
all classes and in all offices and works.


8. Pride in this order of the Church is really and directly opposed
to the first table of the law. It is a genuinely devilish pride in
God's name and Word on the part of such people as would be wise in
matters of faith and would lord it over God's Word. They puff
themselves up if, forsooth, they have a gift more than others, and
they hold God and all men as nothing. This vice is common among the
great, learned and wise bishops and preachers. It prevails among
those who learn of them and cling to them, especially beginners who,
inexperienced and undisciplined, are brought into prominence. Such
puff themselves up and boast: "I also am a learned doctor. I love the
Spirit and other gifts just as well as, and even in greater measure
than, these preachers." So they think they deserve to be heard and
honored above others. They consider themselves so wise that all the
world, in comparison, are geese and fools.

And the greater one's gifts, the greater and more harmful such pride.
It is common in other professions, also. He who has a little ability,
or bears the title of doctor, makes much ado about it, and despises
others. He acts as if what he has were not given him by God, but as
if it were his by nature and birth, and therefore he deserves the
praise and worship of all men. Such persons do not realize they are
acting in opposition to God, and that they will themselves plunge
into the abyss of hell before they can hurl God down from his
heavenly throne.

9. See, from the examples of our own time, how God has overthrown
such people. Thomas Münzer, with his tumultuous prophets, and later
the Anabaptist faction, were proud of heart, would not listen to
admonition, and lo! suddenly they went down to ruin, not only in
utter disgrace, but to their own miserable and eternal loss and that
of many people who had been misled by them. So, too, there are at the
present day many proud spirits. Some dare not yet publicly show
themselves. Such as have perceived that they are learned, or are held
in regard by men, thereupon grow boastful and, despite all their
skill and learning, abide without the Spirit and without fruit, even
if they do not work more harm in addition to bringing themselves into

10. Thus it is in all kinds of gifts and offices where men are not
God-fearing and humble. For example, those who are intrusted with the
civil government--princes, counselors, lawyers (where they are not
"theologians," that is, Christians)--are so insolent and proud that
they imagine themselves alone to be the people, whom others are to
reverence as gods. In their pride, they despise God and men, and by
their arrogance they lead the land and the people to destruction.
These have already the judgment upon themselves that they, as God's
enemies, must be hurled down. For they have cut themselves loose from
God's kingdom and grace; and the blessings of baptism and of Christ,
with his suffering and blood, are lost upon them.

11. We have now shown how pride conflicts with the demands of the
first table of the law. Men do not employ the spiritual treasures and
gifts to God's honor nor to the good of their neighbors. Thus they
mar these gifts and, in their wicked course, go to the devil, into
whose likeness they have grown.


12. Further, this vice is just as general in the sphere of the second
table of the law--among the common people and in the temporal life of
the world, each one boasting of himself and despising others. Prince
and nobleman think that all the world is nothing in comparison with
themselves. Commoner and peasant, puffed up because they have much
wealth, imagine they must defy everybody, and do good to nobody.
These deserve to be spit upon by all men. Such pride does not become
them better than ornaments of gold or silver would become an image of
stone or a wooden block. Finally, the women, with their foolish pride
of dress, must not be forgotten. One prides herself on being better
or more beautifully adorned than her neighbor. She is, in truth, a
finely decorated goose. She imagines that no other woman equals her.
Yea, there is scarcely a house-servant or maid but brags over others.

13. In short, we have come to the point where all men, with their
insolence and boastfulness, seek to lord it over others. None will
humble himself to another. Each thinks he has full right to act as he
does, and is under no obligation to yield to others. And the civil
government has grown so weak that there is no hope of restraining the
haughtiness of all classes, from the highest to the lowest. At last,
God must strike with thunder and lightning to prove to us that he
resists such people and will not tolerate pride. Therefore the young,
who can still be led, should be exhorted and trained, as far as
possible, to guard themselves against this vice.

14. Peter uses for his purpose a peculiar term when he says, "Gird
yourselves with humility." "Gird" has the meaning of being bound or
joined together most firmly; or, as a garment, most carefully woven
through and through so that it cannot tear. He illustrates by this
term how Christians, with all diligence, should strive after the
virtue, and manifest and practice it among themselves, as if upon
them as a band it was a special obligation. Thus, he says, must you
be twined together and bound to each other, and your hands clasped
together. So must you be joined by humility, which cannot be
dissolved, dismembered, or torn, even though occasion be given one,
here and there, incited by the devil, or the evil word of someone
else, to fly into a passion, and grow defiant and boastful, as if to
say: Must I suffer such things at the hands of this man? But rather
say to yourselves. We are Christians, and must bear with each other
and yield, in many things; for we are all one body, and we are placed
together here on earth for the sole reason that we may, through love,
serve one another.

15. And each should recognize his own weakness. He should remember
that God has given others also something and can give them yet more,
and that therefore he should gladly serve and yield to others,
remembering that he needs their help. Each one is created for the
sake of others, and we are all to serve one another. God gives the
same grace and salvation to all, so that none may exalt himself above
his neighbor; or, if he lift himself up, that he lose the grace
conferred and fall into deeper condemnation. Therefore we must hold
fast to this humility, so that the unity may not be destroyed. For
Satan seeks to destroy this also, and uses every possible means to
lead people to despise each other and to be proud and insolent in
their treatment of each other. And these are things to which flesh
and blood, even without special incitement, are inclined. Thus
humility is easily and quickly lost if men are not alert to fight
against the devil and their own flesh.


16. Humility is one of the beautiful garments and ornaments with
which Christians should adorn themselves before God and the world.
Paul, in Colossians 3, 12, says, "Put on humility." He regards this
virtue as more precious than all earthly crowns and splendor. This is
the true spiritual life. It is not to be sought elsewhere, by running
into the cloisters or the deserts, by putting on gray gown or cowl.
Peter here admonishes all classes to cultivate this virtue. This
sermon on good works concerns every station in every house, city or
village. It is for all churches and schools. Children, servants and
the youth should be humbly obedient to parents, superiors and the
aged. On the other hand, it is for those in the higher stations of
life who serve their inferiors, even the lowest. If all men so
observed this virtue the world would be full of good works. For it is
impossible that humility should do evil. It is profitable and
pleasant to all men.

17. By this virtue, true saints and Christians can better be known
than by monastic seclusion and holiness. It requires no great effort
to wear a gray cowl. It is not even such a great trial to lie on the
ground at night and to arise at midnight; scoundrels, thieves, and
murderers must often do the same. But to wear and hold fast to this
angelic garment, humility--this the world is not so willing to accept
as monasticism and its works. And thus it comes to pass that flesh
and blood do not strive after this holy life. Each man seeks an easy
life, in which he can live to himself and need serve no one nor
suffer anything at the hands of others; just as the monks have sought
and chosen.

18. Peter adds to this admonition the reason: "For God resisteth the
proud, but giveth grace to the humble." As I have said above, he
strives to show the earnestness of God's command. The command is
accompanied by a threat. He does not simply say, God punishes the
proud, or God is hostile to them; but he "resisteth" them, he sets
himself against them. Now, what is the pride of all men toward God?
Not so much as a poor, empty bubble. Their pride puffs itself up and
distends itself as though it would storm the sky and contend against
the lightning and thunder, that can shatter heaven and earth. What
can the combined might of all creatures accomplish if God oppose
himself thereto? And how does a miserable man, whose heart is
overwhelmed by a small pestilence, rise against the majesty of heaven
which can, any moment, cast him down into the abyss? What are earth
and ashes proud of? says Sirach, 10, 9.

19. Is it not enough and more than enough that other sin and
disobedience are laid to our account, by which we anger God and merit
heavy punishment, without our trying further to provoke him with our
pride and haughtiness, so that he must arise in his majesty and
resist us? With other sins he can have patience, that he may exhort
and incite us to repentance. But if, in hardened impenitence, we defy
and oppose him, he cannot but rise up against us. Who is there that
will bear it, or be able to stand, when God sets his countenance and
his power against a poor man already subject, every moment, to death
and the power of the devil?


20. From the beginning, innumerable instances in history have proved
the truth of this saying, "God resisteth the proud." They show how he
has always overthrown and destroyed the proud world and has cast down
the haughty, scornful kings and lords. The great king of Babylon,
Nebuchadnezzar, was humbled when banished from his royal throne to
the companionship of the beasts of the field and compelled to eat
grass with them, Dan 4, 30ff. Again, remember how suddenly the great
king Alexander was hurled down, when after the victory and good
fortune God had given him, he began to grow proud, and wanted to be
reverenced as a god? Again, there was King Herod Agrippa, Acts 12,
23. The proud, learned emperor Julian, a virulent mocker and
persecutor of Christ, whom he had denied--how soon was he drowned in
his own blood! And since then, what has become of all the proud,
haughty tyrants, who proposed to oppress and crush Christianity?

21. The Pope, also, has ever, in devilish pride, exalted himself, and
in the temple of God set himself forth as God. Further, in worldly
pomp and pride he has lifted himself above all others. He has even
learned, from heathen emperors, as Diocletian and other tyrants, to
have men kiss his feet. Yea, he has forced emperors and kings to
submit to this humiliating act. What open, inhuman insolence and
pride Pope Alexander the Third practiced when, by threatening against
him his empty ban, he compelled the pious and mighty German emperor,
Frederick Barbarossa, to prostrate himself at his feet while he
stepped upon him and said, Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder;
and when the emperor protested against such shameful pride and said,
Non tibi, sed Petro (Not to thee, but to Peter), the Pope, with
increasing scorn, replied, "Et mihi, et Petro" (Both to me, and to
Peter). This is pride carried almost to its highest point.

22. The Turk, too, is prouder now than ever, and, I hope, has reached
the heights of pride, beyond which he cannot and shall not proceed.
Meantime, may he not attack and humble us! But it will come to pass,
in the end, that God will overthrow both pope and Turk through his
divine power, and, as Daniel says, without the aid of men. This word
will not fail, "God resisteth the proud." Its truth must appear in
human events, so that men may see what is meant by the declaration,
"God resisteth"; otherwise no one would believe it. Though the Turk
and all the world should be a thousand times more proud and powerful,
this should not help them when he who is above sees and grows angry,
and lifts his hand. He asks as little about the power of all Turkish
emperors and of the Pope as about a dead fly.

23. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,"
Heb 10, 31. This, however, is nothing else than with scorn and
defiance to oppose his will, so that he, in turn, must set himself
against man and must lift his hand. Therefore, let everyone beware
lest he boast and grow defiant in the presence of the divine majesty.
Not only must he beware, that he may not awaken God's anger, but that
he may have grace and blessing in the things he ought to do. For, if
thou beginnest something in thine own power, and wisdom, and
haughtiness, think not he will grant thee success and blessing to
carry out thy purpose. On the other hand, if thou humblest thyself,
and beginnest aught in accordance with his will, in the fear of God
and trusting in his grace, there is given thee the promise, "He
giveth grace to the humble." So, then, thou shalt not only have favor
with men, but success shall crown thine efforts. Thou shalt prove a
useful man, both to God and to the world, and shalt complete and
maintain thy work despite the resistance of the devil. For where
God's grace is, there his blessing and protection must follow, and
his servant cannot be overthrown or defeated. Though he be oppressed
for a time, he shall finally come forth again and be exalted. So
Peter concludes by saying:

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he
may exalt you in due time."

24. Peter shows in these words what true humility is and whence it
comes. The heart, through knowledge of its sin, becomes terrified in
the presence of God's anger and anxiously seeks grace. Thus a
humility is born, not merely external and before men, but of the
heart and of God, from fear of God and knowledge of one's own
unworthiness and weakness. He who fears God and "trembles at his
word" (Is 66, 5), will surely defy or hector or boast against nobody.
Yea, he will even manifest a gentle spirit toward his enemies.
Therefore, he finds favor both with God and men.

25. The cause of this, Peter says, shall be "the mighty hand of God."
As though he would say: Ye may not do nor leave undone this thing for
the sake of men, but ye ought to humble yourselves under the hand of
God. God's hand is powerful and mighty in a twofold respect: It
dashes down and overthrows the proud and self-secure, however hard
and iron their heads and hearts may be. They must languish in dust
and ashes; yea, must lie despondent and desperate in the anguish and
torments of hell, if he touch them but a little with the terrors of
his anger. These are experiences through which the saints also pass,
and concerning whose severity they make lamentation. "For thine
arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore. There is no
soundness in my flesh because of thine indignation," Ps 38, 2-3. "For
I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping.
Because of thine indignation and thy wrath: for thou hast taken me
up, and cast me away," Ps 102, 9-10. "I am consumed by the blow of
thy hand. When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou
makest his beauty to consume away like a moth," Ps 39, 10-11.


26. In the second place, God's hand is mighty to raise, to comfort
and strengthen the humbled and the fearful, and, as Peter says here,
to exalt them. Those who in terror have been cast down should not,
therefore, despair, or flee before God, but rise again, and be
comforted in God. God wants it preached and published that he never
lays his hand upon us in order that we may perish and be damned. But
he must pursue this course in order to lead us to repentance;
otherwise we would never inquire about his Word and will. And if we
seek grace, he is ready to help us up again, to grant us forgiveness
of sins, the Holy Spirit, and eternal life. The Psalms and the
Prophets here and there speak of this. "Jehovah hath chastened me
sore; but he hath not given me over unto death," Ps 118, 18. "Jehovah
raiseth up them that are bowed down," Ps 146, 8.

27. God will "exalt you in due time," says Peter. Though God's help
be delayed, and the humbled and suffering seem to lie oppressed all
too long under God's hand, and on that account to languish,
nevertheless, let them hold to the promise Paul has given: God "will
not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able," 1 Cor 10, 13,
but he will hear your cry, and will, at the right time, help; and
with this let them be comforted. But again, let the proud fear, even
though he permit them to go unpunished and to continue in their
boastful course for a time. He watches their lives, and, when the
proper time comes, he will descend all too heavily upon them, so that
they cannot bear it. He has already stretched forth his mighty hand,
both to cast down the godless and to exalt the humble.

II. "Casting all your anxiety upon him, because he careth for you."

28. What will become of him who lives a God-fearing and humble life,
suffering the insolence, pride and wantonness of the world? Or, where
will he find protection and defense, to abide in his godly ways? We
see daily how the pious are harassed and persecuted, and are trod on
by the world. The Apostle says: "Ye Christians must endure temptation
and adversity, want and need, both physical and spiritual, in the
world, and your heart is oppressed with anxiety and cares, and ye
think within yourselves: O, what will become of me? How shall I be
supported? What if I should die?" (The world only concerns itself
about how it may be enriched and be filled, and anxious, unbelieving
consciences would, through themselves and their own good works, seek
to have a gracious God and to die in peace.) "In view of all this,"
he says, "only hearken, I will counsel and instruct you aright as to
what disposition you should make of your troubles."

There is a brief passage in the 55th Psalm, verse 22, which reads:
"Cast thy burden upon Jehovah, and he will sustain thee: he will
never suffer the righteous to be moved." Follow ye this advice. Let
not your burden rest upon yourselves; for ye cannot bear it, and must
finally perish beneath its weight. But, confident and full of joy,
cast it from you and throw it on God, and say: Heavenly Father, thou
art my Lord and God, who didst create me when I was nothing; moreover
hast redeemed me through thy Son. Now, thou hast committed to me and
laid upon me, this office or work, and things do not go as well as I
would like. There is so much to oppress and worry, that I can find
neither counsel nor help. Therefore I commend everything to thee. Do
thou supply counsel and help, and be thou, thyself, everything in
these things.

29. Such a prayer is pleasing to God, and he tells us to do only what
we are commanded, and throw upon him all anxiety as to the issue and
what we shall accomplish. As also other passages of Scripture
declare: "Commit thy way unto Jehovah, trust also in him, and he will
bring it to pass," Ps 37, 5. No heathen, philosopher, jurist, if he
have not God's Word, can throw his care and complaint upon God. He
thinks that all the world, especially the great, the wise, who rule,
must accomplish everything by their own planning and circumspection.
And where trouble arises--for it is quite common for even the
greatest and wisest people to make mistakes--he becomes a madman or a
fool, and begins to murmur and argue against God and his government,
as though God's rule merited criticism. But such men receive their
deserts when God permits their calculations and hopes to fail, and
lets the reverse obtain. For they will not admit they have need of
him. They think they have sufficient wisdom and power, and that God
must respect their plans. Thus, they spend their lives in many vain,
useless cares and projects, and must, in the course of their
experience, learn and confess, many a time, that the very opposite of
their judgment is the truth.

30. Christians have the rare faculty, above all other people on
earth, of knowing where to place their care, whilst others vex and
torture themselves and at length must despair. Such must be the
consequence of unbelief, which has no God and would provide for
itself. But faith understands this word Peter quotes from the
Scriptures: "Because he careth for you." It joyfully meditates
thereon and does and suffers faithfully. For faith knows this to be
its duty. Its trouble, however, it commits to God, and proceeds with
vigor against all that opposes. It can call upon God as a father, and
it says: I will do what God has commanded me and leave the result
with him.

31. The Christian must take this course if he would proceed safely
and happily in matters of the highest import. In time of danger and
in the hour of death, when, with all his worrying, he cannot discover
where he is or how he is journeying, he must, with eyes, senses and
thoughts closed to the world, surrender himself in faith and
confidence and cast himself upon God's hand and care and protection,
and say: God has permitted me to live until this hour, without my
solicitude. Moreover, he has given me his beloved Son as a treasure
and sure pledge of eternal life. Therefore, my dear soul, journey on
in joy. Thou hast a faithful Father and Savior, who has taken thee
into his own hand, and will preserve thee.

32. The Christian Church collectively must so proceed in the
discharge of its high spiritual office, of which Peter speaks here,
that no man or creature, by his own wisdom and power, can sustain or
accomplish any work. No power, might, or protection that can comfort,
or upon which one may rely, is to be sought in the world. Wholly in
God, and in God alone, must help be sought. By his divine power God
must uphold the Church. He has, from the beginning, always and
wonderfully preserved it in the world, in the midst of great
weakness, in disunion occasioned by schismatics and heretics, in
persecution by tyrants. And the government is wholly his, though he
commits the office and service to men, whom he would summon and use
to administer his Word and sacrament. Therefore, each Christian,
especially if he fills such an office and partakes of this
fellowship, should be intent, in that whereunto God has called and
appointed him, upon serving God faithfully and doing that which is
commanded him. The anxiety respecting the Church's continued
existence and her preservation against the devil and the world, can
be left to the Lord. He has taken this upon himself and thus has
removed the burden from our shoulders, that we might be certain of
the permanence of the Church. If its preservation were committed to
human counsel, might and will, the devil, with his power, would soon
overthrow and destroy it.

33. Likewise, in every office and station, each one should follow
this counsel of Saint Peter. A prince should seek to protect his land
and people, to promote God's Word, to maintain discipline and peace,
to do justice to every man, to punish the disobedient, etc. Councils,
officials, and those in authority should faithfully advise and direct
to this end. Pastors and preachers should rightly and fearlessly
declare God's Word and truth. Every citizen and subject should be
intent upon his work and duty, and whatever, in connection therewith,
is unusual he must simply commit to God.

But the world does not pursue this course. Each one says: Why should
I incur so much danger, opposition and hostility? Again, why should I
labor and toil for naught? I will not accomplish my work at any rate.
In this spirit of fear and worry, his proper office and work are
delayed, or he is always careless.

But let such people know that they are not Christians, nor do they
promote God's kingdom or profit the offices conferred on them. If
they do not propose to mend their ways, they should give up the
office bestowed on them by God. It is not enough to simply sit at
ease in one's office and accept the plaudits of men. We all like to
render esteem and honor to office and station. But know this, that
you are not in office to parade about in beautiful garments, to sit
in the front row, and be called "Gracious Master" and "Esquire." You
are to conduct faithfully the office with which God has clothed and
honored you, regardless of human honor and profit, shame or injury.

34. But men are not generally inclined to believe and trust God. They
are not inclined to remember that he cares for us; that he has
assumed and must bear the greatest of burdens, which no man on earth
can bear; that he cared for us before we were born, and could still,
of himself, execute all things dispensing with all human help, but he
prefers to accomplish his purpose through human means, and to employ
us as instruments in these divine works--governing, punishing,
teaching, comforting.

35. The world is particularly culpable in this matter of pride. When
divinely charged with some great work, it always seeks to determine,
in advance, by its own wisdom, all future danger and accidents, and
tries to anticipate them. The world looks for man's help, and seeks
friendship and assistance wherever it can. It makes alliances, and
resorts to other schemes. It puts its trust in these and then
considers itself strong enough to meet opposition, and is sure of its
cause by reason of its own efforts. This is not showing faith in God.
It is not committing our cause and all care for ourselves to him. It
is maintaining the cause through one's own anxiety and forethought.
It is ignoring and disbelieving the fact that nothing can be
accomplished by one's own vexed effort. No human wisdom has power to
foresee the future. If we looked back at the examples furnished by
history, we should learn how woefully human wisdom is deceived when
it relies upon itself. The results are not what was expected, but the
very opposite.

36. The Scriptures give many pertinent examples of the kings of Judah
and Israel, whom the prophets often and severely rebuked because they
sought refuge and help among strange nations and kings. The prophets
warned them that they should not trust in human aid, but should do
according to God's Word and command. They told them he would protect
and uphold them. But the kings would not hear. They continued to form
friendships and alliances with the kings of Egypt, Syria, Babylon and
Assyria, and thus invited them as guests into the land, whereupon the
heathen kings came with force and led away captive the inhabitants
and laid everything desolate. That was their reward for not heeding
God's Word; for not believing that he cared for them, and desired to
protect and defend them if they would but trust and obey him.

The wisest and most eminent, even among the heathen, have lamented,
in the light of their own experience, that they have been shamefully
deluded by their counsels, even though founded on the most careful
deliberations. Nor can it be said that the world has grown wiser in
consequence of its own or others' sufferings.

37. This exhortation is preached to no one except the few who are
Christians. They have regard for God's Word, and, now humbled, have
learned that they should not rely on their own wisdom and reason, or
upon human help and comfort. They have come to the belief that God
cares for them. So they do what they know is right and are in duty
bound to do, and suffer themselves not to be hindered by such fears
as possess the world concerning dangers, injuries, and adversities.
They commend all such things to God, and at his word go right through
with courage.

38. Let me illustrate from my own experience. What should I have done
when I began to denounce the lies of the indulgence system, and later
the errors of the papacy, if I had listened and given heed to the
terrible things all the world wrote and said would happen to me? How
often I heard it said that if I wrote against such and such eminent
people I would provoke their displeasure, which would prove too
severe for me and the whole German nation. But, since I had not begun
this work of myself, being driven and led thereto by reason of my
office (otherwise I should have preferred to keep silence), I must
continue. I commended the cause to God and let him bear the burden of
care, both as to the result of the work and also as to my own fate.
Thus I advanced the cause farther, despite tumultuous opposition,
than I had ever before dared to think or hope.

39. Oh, how much good would God accomplish through us if people could
be persuaded, especially the eminent lords and kings, that what Peter
here says is true: "He careth for you!" How much he could do if they
believed that truth instead of seeking, through their own wisdom and
reason, to equip, strengthen, and compose themselves by aid of human
might and assistance, friendship and alliance, for the accomplishment
and maintenance of their cause! It is apparent that mortal plans fail
and have always failed, and that they accomplish nothing. God hinders
and resists man's work when he will not trust him. Hence God can
grant no success or favor to that which is founded on human wisdom or
on trust in human powers. This is a truth men must finally perceive
by experience, and they must lament because they would not believe

40. Let him who would be a Christian learn to believe this. Let him
practice and exhibit faith in all his affairs, bodily and spiritual,
in his doing and his suffering, his living and his dying. Let him
banish cares and anxious thoughts. Courageous and cheerful, let him
cast them aside; not into a corner, as some vainly think to do, for
when burdens are permitted to conceal themselves in the heart they
are not really put away. But let the Christian cast his heart and its
anxieties upon God. God is strong to bear and he can easily carry the
burden. Besides, he has commanded that all this be put upon himself.
The more thou layest upon him, the more pleasing it is to him. And he
gives thee the promise that he will carry thy cares for thee, and all
things else that concern thee.

41. This is a grand promise, and a beautiful, golden saying, if men
would only believe it. If a powerful ruler here on earth were to give
such a promise, and were to demand that we let him have all the
concern about gold and silver and the needs of this life, how
cheerfully and contentedly would every one cling to such promise! But
now a greater lord says all this, one who is almighty and truthful,
who has power over the body and life, and who can and will give us
everything we need, both temporal and eternal. We should have in all
this, if we only believed it, half of heaven, yea, a perfect paradise
on earth. For what is better and nobler than a quiet, peaceful heart?
For this all men are striving and laboring. So have we been doing
hitherto, running to and fro after it. Yet it is found nowhere except
in God's word, which bids us cast our cares and burdens on God and
thus seek peace and rest. It counsels us to throw upon him everything
that threatens to oppress and worry us. God would not have anxiety
dwell in our hearts, for it does not belong there; it is put there by
the devil.

42. Therefore, a Christian, even though obliged to suffer all manner
of adversity, temptation and misfortune, can cheerfully go forward
and say: Dear Lord God, thou hast commanded me to believe, to teach,
to govern and to act; this I will attempt in thy name, and I will
commend to thee whatever may happen to me in the course of duty.
There you have a man who is equal to any task, and can do much good.
For he is freed from the greatest misfortune and has laid the
heaviest weight upon God, whilst another man does nothing except fill
his heart with anxiety and gloom. This other can apply himself to no
good work. He becomes unfit both to do and to suffer. He is afraid of
every trifle and, because of his vexation or impatience, can do
nothing worth mentioning.

What is the world doing now? Princes, lords, counselors, citizens,
and peasants--all want only power, honor, and wealth. None desires to
render service. Everyone fears that this or the other thing might
happen to him. Though the world never needed more careful rule than
at the present time, lords and princes, simply because they are such,
idly sit adorned with beautiful crowns, though they have received
their trust from God to discharge their princely office. For the
world must be governed, the youth must be educated, the wicked must
be punished. But if thou desirest the honor only, and art not willing
to step in the mire, to suffer people's displeasure, and through it
all learn to trust God and for his sake do everything, thou art not
worthy of the grace given for the accomplishment of a good and
praiseworthy work. In punishment, resting under God's wrath, thou
must remain unfit for every good work.

III. "Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as a roaring
lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom withstand
stedfast in your faith."

43. The apostle has set forth two things to be practiced throughout
the Christian life; namely, Christian humility--which is fear of
God--and faith and confidence in God. Now he admonishes his readers
to battle and warfare, that these blessings may be preserved. He
shows us our enemy and adversary who seeks to rob us of our treasure
and deprive us of our salvation and eternal blessedness. Hence he
would say: Be not concerned about living a life of earthly glory, and
let not anxious cares fill your soul. But be intent on humbling
yourselves before God. Trust in him. Let this be your care, that you
may abide in the grace of humility. Let it never be wrested from you.
For the devil seeks to instill these forbidden cares, and to produce
disobedience against God, that he may tear faith and God's Word out
of your heart.


Therefore, you must not ignore these facts, and meanwhile strive
after something else. You are not to go along in false security or
sleep and snore as though there were no danger. You must rather know
that you have not been placed in a garden of roses here, but in the
midst of heavy conflicts, where you must be on your guard, always
watchful and prepared for resistance. For you have an adversary who
is not insignificant or to be despised, but is strong, mighty, and
moreover wicked and ferocious. He does not fight with stone and wood,
destroying rocks and trees, but he has his eye fixed on you
Christians. He never grows tired or weary, but without rest and
ceasing he pursues you; not only to spy upon you and to harass you,
in which he can be withstood, but he desires utterly to devour you.

44. His sole purpose and plan is to murder and destroy men,
spiritually and bodily; even as, at the beginning, when man had been
created, he led and cast him into death. He practices his schemes
with awful and deadly effect in the world against those who do not
believe in Christ, and he will never stop until the judgment day. One
can perceive his incessant activity. He bustles about and openly
raves and roars against all Christendom. He uses for his purpose the
Turks, and other tyrants and godless people, not to speak of the
sorrow and murder he works by so possessing people that in their
frenzy they do themselves injury, or without cause murder others. He
otherwise, through wicked and shameful snares, leads men into
misfortune and sorrow.

In short, the world is nothing else than the devil's murderous cave,
both spiritually and physically. God, in order to somewhat hinder and
restrain physical murder, has ordained temporal government, parental
and other authority. These in their office are to be sober, watchful,
and diligent. We ought to thank God for his preservation of such
authority, for otherwise there would be no peace--everywhere on earth
nothing but murder. Nevertheless, the awful murder the devil
perpetrates on those who are without God's Word and faith, is not
thereby checked.

45. Some other defense and protection, then, another kind of
watchfulness, must be sought, in order that men may remain
undestroyed and unharmed in the presence of this bloodthirsty
murderer. Of this Peter speaks here to the little company of
Christians, and says: Ye, through Christ's blood and death rescued
from the devil's lies and murderous intent, have been made alive and
have been transplanted into the heavenly life, like your beloved
fathers, Adam, Abel, and others. They are no longer under bondage to
Satan, but live in Christ, though the body lie for a time in the
earth and truth and life must be supplied to their body and soul. But
because ye still dwell in the world, ye are exposed to all danger.
Physically, ye are yet in the murderer's house; therefore ye must
take good heed, that he may not kill you again, and murder your souls
dwelling in these mortal bodies. It shall harm you none that the soul
was ruined and the body is yet subject to death. "Because I live,"
says Christ (Jn 14, 19), "ye shall live also." However, ye must
struggle if ye are to abide in the truth and life. To this ye are
appointed whilst ye live here on earth; otherwise ye would already be
in Paradise. But the devil has not yet been consigned wholly to the
punishment of his damnation, which will be at the last day, when he
will finally be cast down from his airy height, and from the earth,
into the abyss of hell. Then he will no more be able to attack us,
and there will no longer be cloud or veil between us and God and the


46. In order, now, he continues, that ye may be saved from his
murderous designs, and may preserve the life you have begun, ye must
be sober and watchful; not only mindful of the body, but much rather
of the mind and soul. It is true that a Christian who is to resist
the devil must be physically sober, for a full hog and drunkard
cannot be watchful nor can he plan defense against the devil. Yet
must a Christian much more guard himself, lest the soul become sleepy
or drunken. As the soul is burdened by the body when the latter is
overwhelmed by drunkenness, so, when the soul is watchful and sober,
the body also is temperate and prepared to hear God's Word. But where
the body is oppressed by drunkenness, there the soul must first have
been a drunkard, not heeding God's Word nor giving attention to
prayer. Where the soul is drunken and drowned in such security, it
will not avail that the body suffer hurt by strict fasting and
self-mortification, after the fashion of the Carthusians and hermits.

47. Saint Peter, then, forbids not only bodily drunkenness, but also
drunkenness of the soul. One's soul is drunk when he lives in carnal
security, without thought and anxiety as to whether he have and hold
God's Word or not; when he asks no questions, either about God's
wrath or his grace; and when he, moreover, lets himself be filled
with the sweet poison of false doctrine through the mob of evil
spirits Satan employs for this purpose, until he grows numb, loses
faith and clear judgment and finally becomes overfull of drunkenness
and spews it out upon others.

48. The same thing results when men begin to be wise in divine things
by following human reason. Saint Peter aptly describes this false
doctrine with the expression, "cunningly devised fables," 2 Pet 1,
16. He says: "We did not follow cunningly devised fables, when we
made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Such are the beautiful words and sermons which make a great show of
wisdom and holiness, and naturally please men. For instance it is a
cunningly devised fable when one with the aid of philosophy, which
reason can understand, sets forth in grandiloquent words what a fine
thing it is for a man to live honorably, chastely, and to practice
good works and virtues. The aim is, with such pretense, to have us
believe that we, through these works (not alone through faith), are
justified before God; that is, are redeemed from sin and death.

49. Again, other factious spirits travel about with worthy sayings
which they have heard from us--externals do not help souls; the
Spirit must do the work--and then they proceed to fling contempt on
baptism and the Lord's Supper. So Thomas Münzer, with his seditious
peasants, and the Anabaptist rabble, went about, with great
demonstration, preaching about the shameful, wicked life of the
world, especially of the authorities, declaring that these were
godless people and tyrants, and deserved God's wrath and punishment;
that therefore men should depose and execute them, and establish a
new government, of only pious and holy people.

These and similar things Peter calls "cunningly devised fables." They
are exaggeratingly pretended to be the product of great wisdom and
art, and are rendered sweet and palatable to reason. So has all
idolatry, heresy, and false doctrine, from the beginning on,
prevailed, being fashioned and most beautifully adorned by people
learned and wise and held in the esteem of the world.

50. How admirable did the position of Arius and his adherents appear
in comparison with the true faith concerning the divinity of Christ,
when they declared that though Christ should be exalted above all
angels and creatures, and that all honor, dominion and power in
heaven and on earth belong to him, yea, that he is quite equal to
God--all this, yet he is not "homo-ousios"; that is, he is not in one
undivided, divine, eternal essence, which is of such unity that it
could be imparted to no one else. It would be too much to say that a
man is God, etc. With such pretense was a great multitude of
Christians seduced. Even few bishops remained in the pure doctrine
and faith. And afterward this poison prevailed among the wise people
of Asia and Greece, until Mohammed, with his Saracens and Turks, had
miserably corrupted the greatest part of the world.

51. Likewise the Pope has adorned and colored with a glorious form
his abominations and idolatry, claiming for his order of service that
it is a meritorious and beautiful thing. Again, he calls attention to
the serviceableness of the beautiful, orderly government and power of
the Church, with its well regulated gradations of office and
position--bishops superior to the ordinary priests, and over the
bishops Saint Peter's chair at Rome. In that chair is vested the
authority for the convocation of general councils so often as these
may be necessary. These councils are to judge and decide in all
matters of faith, and their decisions everyone must follow and obey.
Again, he boasts what great service and consolation to the whole
world is the work of the priests in the mass, when they daily renew
and offer to God the sacrifice made by Christ on the cross. This is
the sweet wine in the "golden cup" of the scarlet harlot of Babylon,
with which she has made drunken all kings and nations, Rev 17, 2-4.

52. Where the devil finds those who give ear to such fables, he takes
them captive and so fills them with these falsehoods that they
neither see nor hear anything else. They think their belief is the
only one, and they will not suffer themselves to be instructed out of
God's Word. And so, in their madness, without rightful intelligence
of faith and all principles of pure doctrine, they continue in their
darkened mind, with their fantastic, lying prattle, without
repentance and amendment, having no grace to learn or do anything
good. This is amply proved by the example of all seditious spirits.

53. Therefore, Peter admonishes us to be "sober and watchful,"
especially in spirit, and to guard ourselves against this sweet
poison and these beautiful, adorned lies and fables of the devil. He
teaches us how to equip and defend ourselves against his wicked

"Whom withstand stedfast in your faith."

54. The true defense and resistance, in which we are to be sober and
watchful, is to be well grounded in God's Word and cling firmly
thereto when the devil seeks, with his cunningly devised fables, born
of human understanding and reason, to overthrow our faith. Reason is
the devil's bride, and always vaunts itself wise and skilful in
divine things, and thinks what it holds to be right and good must be
accounted so before God. But faith holds to God's Word alone. It
knows that before God, human wisdom, skill and power, and whatever
gifts and virtues man may have, count for nothing. Only his grace and
the forgiveness of sins in Christ has value. Therefore, faith can
repel and defeat all these fine pretensions and cunning fables.

55. Worldly dominion and authority boasts before God in this fashion:
My crown is a crown in God's sight, for my power and sovereignty have
been given me by God. Therefore, whatever I say he must respect and
regard as valid, and everyone must endorse my words and actions.

The wise philosopher or jurist would thus give expression to his
boasts and pretensions: We are the learned, the wise rulers of the
world, and have admirable laws and statutes. We have superior and
beautiful doctrines concerning good works and virtues. Men must
listen to us and allow our judgment to have precedence. He who can
do, or does, such things as we have done is, in God's sight, superior
to others.


56. No, dear man, says faith to this, I grant that the things of
which thou boastest have been ordained and confirmed by God; but they
are not of value save for this temporal life. The world regards it a
crown to be known as wise. But in the presence of God thou shouldst
lay aside thy crown, let thy might and power, thy law and wisdom, go,
and say: God, be merciful to me a poor sinner! Reason has this
advantage, that it is equipped and adorned with God's promise to
confirm its rule here on earth and to be pleased therewith; but with
the provision that reason shall not interfere in God's government, or
boast over against him. Let it be known that what is called wisdom
and prudence on earth, is foolishness before God. What in the sight
of the world is commended and honored as beautiful, valuable, as of
honor and virtue, is before God sin, and subject to his wrath. What
on earth is called life, is before God nothing but death.

57. If, now, the parental, governmental, and other authority which
he, himself, has arrayed and through his word established, and which
is even administered by Christians, does not endure before him in
that other life, how much less will he allow that to stand which man
has devised or subtly contrived out of his own head and heart!
Wouldst thou be wise and prudent, then cultivate these virtues in the
sphere appointed thee, in thy home, the State, and whatever office
thou hast. In these temporal things, rule as well as thou canst. Thou
wilt find little enough to help in all thy books, thy reason and
wisdom. But when thou beginnest to devise out of thine own reason the
things of God, though they may all seem trustworthy wisdom, yet, as
Peter says, they are nothing else than fables and lies.

58. For example, a monk's words: Whoever dons a cowl can lead a holy
life, for he is cut off from the world, can banish all care and
sorrow, and can undisturbed, in peace and quietness, serve God--these
words appear wisely spoken, but at bottom they are nothing but
unreliable and useless chatter. This is proved from God's Word, which
teaches that God has forbidden us to invent our own worship; also,
that God would have us serve him in our ordinary life and station and
not by fleeing therefrom. Hence, such monkery can not be a holy,
godly life. In Psalm 119, 85, we read: "The proud have digged pits
for me, who are not according to thy law." That is, they preach to me
about praiseworthy things, and represent their cause as most worthy,
in order to overcome me. But when I look at their words aright, I do
not find them to be in accord with thy Word and commandments, which
(says he) "are faithful." A lie is always beautiful. It attracts and
pretends to be truth. It has, further, the advantage that it can
adorn itself from the wardrobe of God's Word, and, perverting the
Word, can use it in an uncertain sense. On the other hand, the truth
does not so glitter, because it does not make itself plain to reason.
For example, a common Christian, a type of the brethren, hears the
Gospel, believes, uses the sacraments, leads a Christian life at home
with wife and children--that does not shine as does the fascinating
lie of a saintly Carthusian or hermit, who, separated from his fellow
men, would be a holier servant of God than other people. Yet the
latter is useful to nobody. He lets others preach and rule, and labor
in the sweat of their brows.


59. The one important thing, then, is to see to it that we have God's
Word, and that we regulate all the teachings and claims of men in
accordance therewith. We will thus distinguish between the true and
the false. We must remember, also, that human reason holds a far
inferior position to faith and is not to be acknowledged as
trustworthy, save as it is authorized by God for temporal authority.
He who has faith can easily perceive when reason conflicts with God's
Word or seeks, in its wisdom, to rise superior thereto; just as, in
worldly things, each one in his station, office, or calling, knows
full well, when another attempts the same work, whether he does it
right or not. So every householder well understands that in his home
wantonness and wrong-doing on the part of the servants are not to be
tolerated. However, in divine things, reason can so attire and adorn
itself as not to be recognized except by one who, guided by faith,
has a right knowledge of God's Word.

Reason will not refrain from intruding, with its wisdom and prudence,
into the affairs of God, where it has no orders. Thus the devil
creates endless misery, as he did at the beginning in the case of our
first parents. And yet reason will not permit, in its own domain, the
slightest interference of one unskilled in reason's code.

60. If a cobbler were to arise in the Church and censure the people
because they did not wear his make of shoes, and should try to
convince people that such a procedure was necessary to salvation,
they would pursue him out of the Church with shoes and slippers, and
cry after him: Stay at home in your shop with your shoes and lasts!
What does that concern the spiritual estate?

But when a factious spirit stands up and in his supposed wisdom
grunts forth: I am a holy, pious man. I have a special illumination
from the spirit. Therefore do not believe what the others say, which
is nothing but the dead letter, that one person can be God and man;
that a virgin can be a mother; that a man can be cleansed from sin by
water and the spoken Word, etc.,--when he does this, then there is no
one to offer resistance. Reason then gains the victory if it only
claims the glory of guidance by the Spirit, of a holy life, etc.,
even though God's Word and faith are not present in their purity.
Behold, what mischief the Turk, with his Mohammed, has wrought and is
still working, solely by claiming the honor of worshipping the one
God, and asserting that he alone has the true God! He declares that
only he and his followers are God's people on earth, to honor which
God they war and fight against the Christians. He presses his cause
the more vigorously because he has such large fortune and victory; so
even many Christians who come among them adopt their faith and become
Turks. But none of the Turks turn Christian.

61. Therefore, no other counsel can be offered for resisting the
devil and escaping destruction by him, than this, that we remain firm
in faith, says Saint Peter. One must have a heart which holds fast to
God's Word and fully understands the same and holds it to be true.
For faith cannot exist or endure without the Word, nor can it hear or
understand aught else. One must separate the Word far from all reason
and wisdom, placing it above these. He must hold reason as
nothing--yea, as dead--in matters pertaining to God's government and
to how man is to escape sin and eternal death. Reason must keep
silent and give to God's Word alone the honor which belongs to the
truth, "bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of
Christ," as Saint Paul says, 2 Cor 10, 5. If reason is to be my
teacher in these things, what need is there of faith? And why should
I not throw away all the Scriptures? We Christians, says Paul (1 Cor
1, 20-21), preach something else and higher than reason comprehends,
for the wisdom of the world is mere folly. If reason taught me that
the mother of Christ is a virgin, the angel Gabriel might have
remained in heaven and kept silent concerning the matter. Your faith,
says Paul again (1 Cor 2, 4), should not stand in the wisdom of men,
but in the power of God. Now you have seen the tricks and wiles of
the devil with which he seeks to devour you, which he bases on reason
as opposed to God's Word.

62. Peter admonishes all Christians, especially the preachers, how to
defend themselves against the devil's intrigues and artifices, with
which he seeks to capture them. In order that Christians may be
properly equipped, Saint Peter calls attention to two things: First,
we must know the enemy and realize his purpose; second, we must be
armed to meet him and defend ourselves, that we may stand before him
and conquer. He is a terrible, mighty foe, says Peter, and is the god
of this world. He has more wisdom and more deceptive snares than all
men, and can so blind and unsettle reason that it will cheerfully
believe and follow him.

He is, moreover, a wicked and bitter enemy to you who in Christ have
life. He cannot bear to see you Christ's. He thinks and plots about
nothing else than your overthrow. And think not that he is far from
you, or that he will pursue you from a distance. He has encamped
close to you and right around you; yea, in your own territory--that
is, in your flesh and blood. There he seeks how to reach you, and
overtake you when unguarded, attempting now this, now that. Misguided
faith, doubt, anger, impatience, covetousness, evil passions, etc.,
are points of attack--any place where he finds an opening or
discovers that you are weak. Therefore, think not that he is simply
jesting. He is more furious and hungry than a famished and angry
lion. He does not purpose merely to wound or prick you, but wholly to
consume you, so that nothing of body or soul will remain.

63. Whoever would withstand such a foe must be equipped with other
armor and weapons than those furnished by human wit and
understanding, by human powers or ability. Your defense is nothing
else, says Peter, than faith, which holds and grasps God's Word. And
because the believer holds fast to this, the devil can gain nothing.
It is God's truth and power, before which, with his lying and
murdering, he cannot stand; he must yield and flee. Therefore
Ephesians 6, 16 says: "Taking up the shield of faith, wherewith ye
shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one." These
fiery darts are chiefly those he hurls into the heart through the
beautiful thoughts of human reason. He thus transforms himself into
an angel of light, to displace right thoughts and faith, and to
introduce human whims and false faith. His aim is, also, to lead into
doubt, distrust, hatred, and anger toward God.

Thus it is, too, in the other temptations and trials of life, when
Satan drives men into sin and disobedience against God's commandment,
into such sins as avarice, usury, anger, revengefulness, unchastity,
and other vices. Here he uses the same insidious arts, first tearing
God's Word out of the heart, then blinding reason with sweet and
beautiful thoughts. He says: The thing proposed is not so wicked. God
will not be so angry with you. He can afford to be patient with you,
you still love the Gospel. With such suggestions as these he carries
you away and plunges you under God's fearful anger and condemnation.

64. If you would withstand these wiles, there can be no other plan or
counsel than this: Fight with God's Word in firm faith against these
suggestions and allurements. Further, keep in mind both your former
misery and your present treasures of grace. Remember how you were
once under God's wrath when, without fear of God and without faith,
you were the devil's own, subject to all his will, and must have
perished had not God, in boundless goodness, forgiven you your sin
and bestowed on you his grace. And now give heed that you may not
lose this treasure, to which end the Holy Spirit has been promised
you. You need not succumb if you remain in faith. Again, if you
experience weakness and suffer want, you are bidden to call upon him,
certain that he will hear you. The promise is: "If ye shall ask
anything of the Father, he will give it you in my name," Jn 16, 23.
Also: "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatsoever
ye will, and it shall be done unto you," Jn 15, 7.

65. Peter would, with his admonitions, make Christians bold and
confident for resisting the temptations of the devil and defending
themselves. He would not have us feel terrified nor despair before
Satan, even though that wicked one press us hard through the
instrumentality of the world and of our own flesh, as well as by his
direct onslaughts. We are not to fear though he seem too strong for
us, and though surrender to his prowess seems inevitable. We are to
have a manly heart and fight valiantly through faith. We must be
assured that, if we remain firm in the faith, we shall have strength
and final victory. The devil shall not defeat us; we shall prove
superior to him.

We have been called of God and made Christians to the end that we
renounce the devil and contend against him, and thus maintain God's
name, Word, and kingdom against him. Christ, our head, has already,
in himself, smitten and destroyed for us the devil and his power. In
addition, he gives us faith and the Holy Spirit, whereby we can
wholly defeat Satan's further wickedness and his attempts to
overthrow us.

66. A Christian should bear all this in mind, I say, and learn to
experience the strength and power of faith. So will he not yield to
temptation and enticement. Nor will he, from love of the devil or the
world, to his own eternal hurt, and for the sake of small temporal
advantage, pleasure, or honor, cast from him God's grace and the Holy
Spirit, and put himself again under God's eternal anger and

IV. "Knowing that the same sufferings are accomplished in your
brethren who are in the world."

67. This is a very precious and comforting passage, the truth of
which Peter learned not only by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but
from his own experience. One instance of his experience was when, in
the high-priest's house, he thrice denied his Lord, and soon
thereafter fell into such anxiety and despair that he would have
followed the traitor Judas had not Christ turned and looked on him.
It was for this reason that Christ, so soon after his resurrection,
first of all commanded that the glad tidings should be announced to
Peter. Christ also said to him, before all this happened: "Simon, ...
I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not; and do thou,
when once thou hast turned again, establish thy brethren," Lk 22,


Peter makes faithful use of the present passage for his readers'
comfort: Ye must expect, in the world, says he, to suffer many and
severe things, both in temptations of soul and body, against the
first and the second table of the law, Satan lying in wait for you
with his deceitful and murderous arts.

68. Weak Christians suffer beyond measure because they are plagued
and beset so constantly by the devil. Their afflictions so sorely
oppress them that they conclude that no one suffers so severely as do
they. Especially does this seem the case in the great spiritual
temptations which come to those endowed with peculiar gifts and who
are called to positions of prominence in the Church. So Paul often
laments his great temptations, which the common people do not
understand and cannot endure. God, moreover, is careful to lay on
each one just the cross he is able to carry. Still these sufferings
are such that even the great and strong must languish and wither
beneath them were it not for the comfort God bestows. These troubles
grip the heart, and consume the very marrow, as the Psalms often

69. Some of those living in cloisters, and other pious, tender
consciences, have learned by experience how hard such burdens are to
bear, especially in the darkness of the papacy, where they receive
but little genuine comfort. There are, also, some inexperienced and
forward spirits who have seen but have not understood these things,
and who yet desire to be regarded as people of large experience.
When, however, the test comes, they are found wanting. It is related
of one of this class, who heard others bemoaning their temptations,
that he prayed God to let temptation visit him also; whereupon God
permitted him to be tempted with carnal lust. But when he found he
could not bear it, he again prayed God, asking that the burden of his
brother, whom he regarded inferior to himself, be given him. But when
this request was granted, he prayed yet more earnestly that God would
give him back his former burden.

70. Amid such temptations Peter comforts suffering Christians by
telling them that they are not the first, nor the only ones, to be
thus assailed. They are not to feel as if it were a wonderful, rare,
unheard of cross which they bear, or that they bear it alone. They
are to know that their brethren, the Christians of all times, and
scattered through all the world, must, because they are in the world,
suffer the same things at the hand of Satan and his minions. It
assuages and comforts beyond measure for the sufferer to know that he
does not suffer alone, but with a great multitude.

71. It is true that in external temptations this comfort is easily
grasped, because of the knowledge of others' experiences. But when
Satan assails thee alone with his poisonous darts--for example, when
he tempts thee to doubt God's grace, as if thou alone hadst been cast
off; or when he suggests horrible blasphemies, hatred of God,
condemnation of his government, and so tortures and fills with
anguish thy heart that thou art led to think that no man on earth is
more fearfully assailed than thyself--then there is need to make use
of this comfort which Peter offers thee and all Christians. In other
words, Peter would say: "My friend, let not the devil and thy
sufferings terrify thee or lead thee to despair. Thou shouldst know
this for a certainty, that thou sufferest not alone. No matter how
shamefully he attacks thee, he has done and is doing the same to

The devil seeks, not only our own destruction, but also that of all
Christendom. It is ever his purpose to tear out of men's hearts, in
the midst of their sufferings, God's Word and faith. He would rob
them of their comfort in Christ, and depict God in the most horrible
and hostile light, that the heart may have not one kind thought
regarding him. And he can do this; not only with lofty, refined,
subtle thoughts, but also by gross suggestions from without, before
which a man must fear and shudder. I, myself, saw and heard a girl
who complained of a temptation of this nature; namely, that while she
stood in the church and saw the sacrament elevated, the thought
occurred to her: Lo, what a big knave the priest is elevating. And
she was suddenly so frightened at the terrible thought that she sank
to the floor.

72. Such terror and anxiety proceed from the fact that one imagines
that no one else has ever experienced such dreadful assaults. He
thinks he has a special, strange, and unusual affliction. Although it
is true that men's temptations differ and come from different sources
and one may imagine his own a peculiar kind, yet the sufferings and
temptations of all Christians are alike in this, that the devil tries
to drive them all from the fear and confidence of God into unbelief,
contempt, hatred, and blasphemy against God. Therefore, the apostles
are accustomed to call Christians' sufferings a fellowship in pain
and tribulations. They point all men who suffer to the agonies of
Christ our Lord, as the head and exemplar. Peter says in his first
epistle, ch. 1, 11: "The Spirit of Christ ... testified beforehand
the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow them."
And Paul says, "I fill up on my part that which is lacking of the
afflictions of Christ in my flesh," Col 1, 24.

73. If one would speak of specially severe sufferings, surely no
human heart can comprehend, much less tell, how great and heavy were
the anxiety and sorrow of our first parents on account of their
miserable fall. And what sorrow must Adam have witnessed during the
nine hundred years of his life in the experiences of his first son
Cain, and his children! No man has ever borne such a burden as lay on
both parents for nearly a hundred years after Abel's death, until
their third son was born. Truly, these nine hundred years were a
period of sorrow and misery.

Perhaps, on the last day, we shall discuss with this our father the
solitary suffering of that time, of which we know nothing. And we
shall willingly confess that in sorrow's school he stands far above
us and we have been only insignificant pupils. It must have been most
severe and dangerous for him, since he had no example before him of
similar suffering with which to comfort himself.

74. Likewise, if thou couldst rightly understand what the other holy
patriarchs, the prophets and apostles--especially Paul and Peter--and
later all the beloved martyrs and saints, have endured thou wouldst
be forced to say that all thy temptation and suffering are nothing in
comparison. But above all these must we reckon the experiences of the
Lord Christ, whose heart was so pierced by Satan's fiery darts and
bitter thrusts that the bloody drops of sweat were pressed out of his
body. He has gone before and surpassed us on the way of sorrow. We,
with all our suffering, can only follow his footsteps.


75. Therefore, learn well this saying of Peter, and think not that
thou alone endurest this severe, fearful temptation and these
onslaughts of the devil. Remember that thy brethren, not only they
who are dead--who also have set thee a good example--but also those
who live with thee in the world, have suffered and do suffer such
terror and distress. For they have the very same enemy Christ and all
Christendom have. Thou canst be glad and shout: God be praised! I am
not the only one that suffers, but with me there is a great
multitude, all Christians on earth, my beloved brothers and sisters,
even down to the last who shall walk this earth. And in this passage
Peter comforts and strengthens me, as Christ commanded him, who also
has tasted of these sorrows, and, indeed, in far greater measure than
I and others have.

76. I have at times thought, in my trials, that I should like to
argue with Peter and Paul as to whether they were tried more severely
than I. For, when he can do nothing else, the devil resorts to the
plan of leading a man to fix his attention solely on his own
affliction, and oppresses him with the thought: No man has been so
cast off by God, or has sunk so deep into anxiety and distress. The
devil has often so wearied me with such arguments that at length I
could offer no further opposition to him, but simply turned him over
to Christ, who can quickly silence him with arguments. If we have not
Christ with us, Satan proves far too strong for us. We cannot silence
him. He soon renders helpless all our skill, and slays us with our
own sword.

77. Ah, these seditious leaders and other self-secure spirits are
poor, miserable people, who know nothing at all of this conflict!
They drown in their own imaginations, and think they are perfect. And
some of them are so shameless and without fear as to blaspheme,
saying that God himself could not take their virtue from them. The
devil simply strengthens them in these thoughts, and hardens them the
more. This very thing is a sign that they do not yet know the devil;
they are already blinded and taken captive by him, so that he can
ruin them when he pleases.

78. Genuine Christians are not thus self-confident and boastful when
they are attacked. In severe conflicts and anxieties they labor that
the devil may not deprive them of the sword. I know that I am learned
and have seen something of what the devil can do; but I must bear him
witness, from my daily experience, that he can overcome me unless I
am well established in faith and have Christ in my heart. Thomas
Münzer was so firm and inflexible, as he thought, that he dared to
say that he would not behold Christ, if he did not himself wish to
speak with him. But at last, when the devil began to attack him, men
saw what his pride and boasts were. No, they are not the ones to
accomplish anything, who go about so boastful, as if they had
consumed the devil. They do not see that they, themselves, were long
since devoured seven times over by him and are held fast in his jaws.

79. The heretic Arius was also secure and proud enough against the
pious bishops and Christians. Yea, when he was punished for his error
by his bishop, and admonished to desist, he became the more
obstinate. He complained about the bitter persecution to which he was
subjected. But his suffering was that they would not approve his
horrible blasphemy. Just so in every age the heretics and
blasphemers, yea, even open murderers and tyrants, pose as martyrs
when they are not permitted to run against God's Word and against
pious people. So confident do they try to be that they have no fear
of God. They count the devil a dead bee until, at length, he suddenly
seizes and destroys them in a moment.

80. But the poor, tempted Christians have need of the comfort and the
strength furnished by God's Word. They must anxiously contend lest
they lose, in their hours of severe temptation, God, Christ, faith,
and Our Father. Therefore, the mission intrusted to Peter, to
strengthen his brethren, is most needful. So the same comfort was
necessary in his own temptations, and he was even given it beforehand
by Christ, who declared that he had prayed for him that his faith
might not be extinguished nor fail, which faith, however, from the
time of his denial on to the third day did almost die, and scarcely
the smallest spark remained.

Hence he now, as a true apostle, comforts those who are in the like
fears and straits of a sinking and expiring faith. He says to all the
suffering and comfortless: My dear brother, think not that thou alone
sufferest distress and temptation. Many of thy brethren have suffered
quite as heavily, perhaps more heavily. I, myself, have been as weak
as thou canst ever be. If thou dost not believe this, look and see
what occurred in the house of Caiaphas, the high-priest, when I, who
protested my readiness to go with Christ into prison and death, at a
word spoken to me by a maid, fell, and denied and abjured most
shamefully my beloved Lord. For three whole days I lay in misery. I
had no one to comfort me and none who suffered equally with myself. I
had no consolation except that my dear Master gave me, with his eyes,
one friendly look.

81. Therefore, no one should regard his distress and need as too
heavy and fearful, as if it were an entirely new thing, something
which had never been experienced by others. To thee it may be
something new and untried. But look about thee, at the great
multitude of the Church, from the beginning until this hour. The
Church has been set in the world to suffer the attacks of the devil,
and without ceasing it must be sifted as wheat, as Christ's words
suggest, Luke 22, 31.

My friend, thou hast not yet seen nor experienced what our first
parents endured their whole life long, and after them all the holy
fathers until Christ. Peter, also, has been farther in this school
than I and thou, and I would say that the same temptation as his
could hardly be found. Paul says of him and the beloved apostles (1
Cor 4, 9): "For, I think, God hath set forth us the apostles last of
all, as men doomed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the
world, both to angels and men"--so that Satan may torment us
according to his will, and thus work out his pleasure upon us. And
what are the sufferings of all men combined when compared with
Christ's agony and conflict, in that he sweat blood for thee?

82. When the devil plagues and assails thee with his manifold
temptations, refer him to Christ, with whom to dispute about the
severe temptations, the death struggle, the anguish of hell, etc.
Comfort thyself that thou art one of a great company of sufferers,
past present and future. O beautiful, glorious company! All under one
lord and head, who took from the devil his power and hell-fire. In
short, thy affliction cannot prove so great that thou wilt not find
it paralleled in the lives of the apostles, prophets, patriarchs and
all the saints, especially of Christ himself; with whom, if we
suffer, let us not doubt, says Paul, that we shall "be also
glorified," Rom 8, 17.

_Fourth Sunday After Trinity_

Text: Romans 8, 18-22.

18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not
worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to
us-ward. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for
the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected
to vanity not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it,
in hope 21 that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the
bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children
of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and
travaileth in pain together until now.


[Footnote 1: This sermon was first printed in 1535, at Wittenberg.]

1. Paul's language here is peculiar. He speaks in a manner wholly
different from the other apostles. There is something particularly
strange about the first sentences of the passage. His words must be
faithfully studied and their meaning learned by personal experience.
The Christian life consists altogether in the practice and experience
of what the Word of God tells us. He who has no experimental
knowledge of the Word will have but little conception and
appreciation of Paul's words here. Indeed, they will be wholly
unintelligible to him.

2. Up to the point where our text begins, Paul has been assuring us
in this epistle that through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ we attain
the high privilege of calling God our Father; that the Holy Spirit
bears witness in our hearts of our sonship, and makes us bold enough
to come, by faith in Christ the Mediator, joyfully before God,
trusting him to fill and bless us. Then Paul draws the conclusion,
first, that we are children of God; next, he says: "If children, then
heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ." The second
conclusion is the outcome of the first. For the reason that we have
the boldness and assurance to call God our Father in sincerity and
nothing doubting, we are become not only children but heirs, heirs of
God and brethren to Christ, joint-heirs with him. But all this, as
Paul says, is true "if so be that we suffer with him" (verse 17).

3. The high prerogative of heirship, Paul faithfully enjoins, is
dependent on a sacred duty. Let him who would be Christ's brother,
and joint-heir with him, remember he must also be a joint-martyr and
joint-sufferer with Christ. The apostle's meaning is: Many are the
Christians, indeed, who would be joint-heirs with Christ and gladly
enjoy the privilege of sharing his inheritance, but who object to
suffering with him; they separate themselves from him because
unwilling to participate in his pain. But Paul says this will not do.
The inheritance follows only as a consequence of the suffering. Since
Christ, our dear Lord and Savior, had to suffer before he could be
glorified, we must be martyrs with him, with him be mocked by the
world, despised, spit upon, crowned with thorns and put to death,
before the inheritance will be ours. It cannot be otherwise.

A consistent sympathy is essential to Christian faith and doctrine.
He who would be Christ's brother and fellow-heir must also suffer
with him. He who would live with Christ must first die with him. The
members of a family not only enjoy good together but also share in
their ills. As the saying is, "He who would be a companion in eating
must also be a companion in labor."

4. Paul would earnestly admonish us not to become false Christians
who look to find in Christ mere pleasure and enjoyment, but to
remember that if we are to participate in the "eternal weight of
glory" we must first bear the "light affliction, which is for the
moment." 2 Cor 4, 17.

By the words "if so be that we suffer with him" the writer means that
we are to do more than exercise the sympathy that grieves over
another's misfortune, though such sympathy is binding upon Christians
and is a superior Christian virtue, a work of mercy: we ourselves
must suffer, non solum affectu, sed etiam effectu, that is, we are
overwhelmed by like sufferings. As Christ our Lord was persecuted, we
also must endure persecution. As the devil harassed him, we also must
be harassed unceasingly. And so Satan does torment true Christians.
Indeed, were it not for the restraining hand of the Lord our God, the
devil would suffer us to have no peace. Paul has reference to a
heartfelt sympathy intense enough to enter into actual suffering. He
says to the Hebrews (ch. 10, 32-33): "Ye endured a great conflict of
sufferings; partly, being made a gazing stock both by reproaches and

5. And in the verse preceding our text he tells us that as our
blissful inheritance through brotherhood and joint-heirship with
Christ is not a mere fancy and false hope of the heart, but a real
inheritance, so our sympathy must amount to real suffering, which we
take upon ourselves as befitting joint-heirs. Now Paul comforts the
Christian in his sufferings with the authority of one who speaks from
experience, from thorough acquaintance with his subject. He seems to
view this life as through obscurities, while beholding the life to
come with clear and unobstructed vision. He says:

"For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy
to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward [in

6. Notice how he turns his back to the world and his face to the
future revelation, as if seeing no suffering anywhere, but all joy.
"Even if it does go ill with us," he would argue, "what indeed is our
suffering in comparison with the unspeakable joy and glory to be
revealed in us? It is too insignificant to be compared and unworthy
to be called suffering." We fail to realize the truth of these words
because we do not see with our bodily eyes the supreme glory awaiting
us; because we fail to grasp fully the fact that we shall never die
but shall have a body that cannot suffer nor be ill. If one could
conceive the nature of this reward he would be compelled to say:
"Were it possible for me to suffer ten deaths by fire or flood, that
would be nothing in comparison to the future life of glory. What is
temporal suffering, however protracted, contrasted with eternal life?
It is not worthy to be called suffering or to be esteemed

7. In this light does Paul regard suffering, as he says, and he
admonishes Christians to look upon it similarly. Then shall they find
the infinite beyond all comparison with the finite. What is a single
penny measured by a world of dollars? though this is not an
appropriate comparison since the things compared are both perishable.
The suffering of the world is always to be counted as nothing
measured by the glorious and eternal possessions yet to be ours. "I
entreat you, therefore, beloved brethren," Paul would say, "to fear
no sufferings, not even should it be your lot to be slain. For if you
are actually joint-heirs, it must be your fortune, a part of your
inheritance, to suffer with others. But what is your pain measured by
the eternal glory prepared for you and obtained by the sacrifice of
your Savior Jesus Christ? It is too insignificant to be contrasted."
So Paul makes all earthly suffering infinitely small--a drop, a tiny
spark, so to speak; but of yonder hoped-for glory he makes a
boundless ocean, an illimitable flame.

8. Why cannot we take his view of the insignificance of our
afflictions and the magnitude of the future glory? The extravagance
of our conduct is apparent in the fact that but a harsh word uttered
by one to his fellow will make the injured one ready to overturn
mountains and uproot trees in his resentment. To them who are so
unwilling to suffer, Paul's word of encouragement here is wholly
unintelligible. Christians are not to conduct themselves in this
impatient manner. It ill becomes them to make extravagant complaint
and outcry about injustice. "But," you say, "I have truly suffered
injustice." Very well, so be it. But why do you make so much of your
sufferings and never give a thought to what awaits you in heaven? Why
not exalt the future glory also? If you desire to be a Christian,
truly it will not do to conduct yourself in this impatient manner. If
you must air your grievances, surely you may do it quietly and

9. In this life it must be otherwise than in the life of glory. If
you essay to be a joint-heir with the Lord Jesus Christ and do not
suffer with him, to be his brother and are not like unto him, Christ
certainly will not at the last day acknowledge you as a brother and
fellow-heir. Rather he will ask where are your crown of thorns, your
cross, the nails and scourge; whether you have been, as he and his
followers ever have from the beginning of time, an abomination to the
world. If you cannot qualify in this respect, he cannot regard you as
his brother. In short, we must all suffer with the Son of God and be
made like unto him, as we shall see later, or we shall not be exalted
with him in glory.

10. Upon this same topic Paul addresses also the Galatians (ch. 6,
17): Henceforth let no one confuse me, say nothing to me about the
doctrine that friendship is rewarded on earth; for I bear branded on
my body the marks of my Lord Jesus Christ. His reference is to the
signs in ancient paintings of Christ, where the Savior was
represented as bearing his cross upon his shoulders, with the nails,
the scourge, the crown of thorns and other emblems in evidence. These
marks or signs, Paul instructs, all Christians as well as himself
must exhibit, not painted on a wall but branded in their flesh and
blood. They are made when inwardly the devil affrights and assails us
with all manner of terrors and overwhelming afflictions, and at the
same time outwardly the world slanders us as heretics, laying her
hand to our throats whenever possible and putting us to death.


Such marks, or scars, for Christ the Lord, Paul admonishes all
Christians to exhibit. Thus he encourages them not to be terrified
though they suffer every conceivable wrong, such as our brethren here
and there have suffered now for several years. But brighter days are
in store for us when once the hour of our enemies and the power of
darkness shall come. Our adversaries annoy us now with malignant
words and slanderous writings, and indeed they may take our lives. So
be it. We must in any event suffer if we are ever to attain true
glory. But what they will secure by putting us to death they
certainly shall experience.

11. In Paul's reference to the glory that shall be revealed in us
there is a hint as to the cause of man's unwillingness to suffer:
faith is yet weak and fails to descry the hidden glory; that glory is
yet to be revealed in us. Could we but behold it with mortal vision,
what noble, patient martyrs we should be! Suppose one stood on yonder
side of the Elbe with a chest full of gold, offering it to him who
should venture to swim across for it. What an effort would be made
for the sake of that tangible wealth!

12. Take the case of the adventurous officer. For a few dollars per
month he defies spears and guns, exposing himself to almost certain
death. The merchant hurries to and fro in the world in a frenzied
effort to amass riches, hazarding life and limb, apparently careless
of physical cost so long as God's mercy preserves to him but the
shattered hulk of a body. And what must not one endure at court
before he realizes, if he ever does, the fulfilment of his ambition?

In temporal things man can do and suffer everything for the sake of
honor, wealth and power, because these are manifest to earthly
vision. But in the spiritual conflict, because the reward is not
discernible to the senses it is very difficult for the old man in us
to believe that God will finally grant us glorious bodies, pure souls
and hearts of gladness, and make us superior to any earthly king.
Indeed, the very reverse of this condition obtains now. Here is one
condemned as a heretic; there one is burned or in some other way put
to death. Glory, wealth and honor are not in evidence now. So it
seems hard for us to resign ourselves to suffering and wait for the
redemption and glory yet unrevealed.

Again, no hardship is too great for the world to undergo for the sake
of sordid gain; it willingly suffers whatever comes for that which
moth and rust consume and thieves steal.

13. Paul means to say: "I am certain there is reserved for us
exceeding glory, in comparison wherewith all earthly suffering is
actually of no consideration; only it is not yet manifest." If we
have to face the slightest gale of adversity, or if a trifling
misfortune befalls us, we begin to make outcry, filling the heavens
with our false complaint of a terrible calamity. Were our faith
triumphant, we would regard it but as a small inconvenience to
suffer, even for thirty or forty years or longer; indeed, we should
think our sufferings too trifling to be taken into account. May the
Lord our God only forbear to reckon with us for the sins we have
committed! Why will we have so much to say about great sufferings and
their merits? How utterly unworthy we are of the free grace and
ineffable glory which are ours in the fact that through Christ we
become children and heirs of God, brethren and joint-heirs with

Well may we resolve: "I will maintain a cheerful silence about my
sufferings, boasting not of them nor complaining about them. I will
patiently endure all my merciful God sends upon me, meanwhile
rendering him my heartfelt gratitude for calling me to such
surpassing grace and blessing." But, as I said, the vision of glory
will not enter our hearts because of our weak and miserable flesh,
which allows itself to be more influenced by the present than by the
future. So the Holy Spirit must be our schoolmaster to bring the
matter home to our hearts.

14. Note particularly how Paul expressly states that the glory is to
be revealed in us. He would remind us that not only such as Peter or
Paul are to participate in the blessing, as we are prone to believe,
but that we and all Christians are included in the word "us." Indeed,
even the merest babe obtains at death, wherein it is a joint-sufferer
with mankind, this unspeakable glory, which the Lord Jesus into whose
death it was baptized has purchased and bestowed upon it. Though in
the life beyond one saint may have more glory than another, yet all
will have the same eternal life. Here on earth men differ in point of
strength, comeliness, intellect, yet all enjoy the same animal life.
So in the other life there will be degrees of radiance or glory, as
Paul teaches (1 Cor 15, 41), yet all will share the same eternal
happiness and joy; there will be one glory for all, for we shall all
be the children of God.

15. Now the first point of consolation is that we turn our backs upon
all suffering, saying: "What is all my pain, though it were tenfold
greater, compared to the eternal life unto which I am baptized, to
which I am called? My sufferings are not worthy to be so termed in
connection with the exceeding glory to be revealed in me." Paul
magnifies the future glory to make the temporal sufferings the more
insignificant. Then follows:

"For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the
revealing [manifestation] of the sons of God. For the creation was
subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who
subjected it, in hope: [For the creature was made subject to vanity,
not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in

16. Here is the second point of consolation. Paul holds up as an
example to us the condition of the whole creation. He exhorts us to
endure patiently, as the creature does, all the violence and
injustice we suffer from the devil and the world, and to comfort
ourselves with the hope of future redemption. Remarkable doctrine
this, unlike anything elsewhere found in the Scriptures, that heaven
and earth, sun, moon and stars, leaf and blade, every living thing,
waits with sighing and groaning for the revelation of our glory.


17. Such sighing and agony of the creature is not audible to me, nor
is it to you. But Paul tells us he sees and hears it, not expressed
by one creature alone, but by all God has made. What does he mean?
What is the sighing and longing of creation? It is not that annually
the leaves wither and the fruits fall and decay: God purposes that
every year new fruits shall grow; he decrees the shattering of the
fallen tree. But Paul refers to the creature's unwilling subjection
to the ungodly; "subject to vanity," he phrases it.

For instance, the blessed sun, most glorious of created things,
serves the small minority of the godly, but where it shines on one
godly man it must shine on thousands and thousands of knaves, such as
enemies of God, blasphemers, persecutors, with whom the world is
filled; also murderers, robbers, thieves, adulterers. To these it
must minister in all their ungodliness and wickedness, permitting its
pure and glorious influence to benefit the most unworthy, most
shameful and abandoned profligates. According to the apostle, this
subjection is truly painful, and were the sun a rational creature
obeying its own volition rather than the decree of the Lord God who
has subjected it to vanity against its will, it might deny every one
of these wicked wretches even the least ray of light; that it is
compelled to minister to them is its cross and pain, by reason of
which it sighs and groans.

Just as we Christians endure many kinds of injustice and consequently
sigh for and implore help and deliverance in the Lord's prayer, so do
the creatures sigh. Although they have not human utterance, yet they
have speech intelligible to God and the Holy Spirit, who mark the
creatures' sighs over their unjust abuse by the ungodly.

18. Nowhere else in the Holy Scriptures do we find anything like
Paul's declaration here concerning the earnest expectation and
waiting of the creatures for the revelation of the children of God;
which waiting the apostle characterizes as a sighing in eager desire
for man's redemption. A little later he compares the state of the
creature to a woman in travail, saying it cries out in its anguish.
The sun, moon and stars, the heavens and earth, the bread we eat, the
water or wine we drink, the cattle and sheep, in short, all things
that minister to our comfort, cry out in accusation against the world
because they are subjected to vanity and must suffer with Christ and
his brethren. This accusing cry is beyond human power to express, for
God's created things are innumerable. Rightly was it said from the
pulpit in former times that on the last day all creatures will utter
an accusing cry against the ungodly who have shown them abuse here on
earth, and will call them tyrants to whom they were unjustly

19. Paul presents this example of the creatures for the comfort of
Christians. His meaning is: Be not sorrowful because of your
sufferings; they are small indeed when the ensuing transcendent glory
is considered. You are not alone in your tribulation and your
complaint at injustice; the whole creation suffers with you and cries
out against its subjection to the wicked world. Every bleat of the
flock, every low of the herd, is an outcry against the ungodly as
enemies of God and not worthy to enjoy the creatures' ministrations;
not even to receive a morsel of bread or a drink of water. Along this
line St. Augustine is eloquent. "A miserly wretch," he says, "is
unworthy the bread he eats, for he is an enemy of God."

Paul tells us the whole creation groans and travails with us, as if
desiring relief from anguish; that it suffers like a woman in
travail. For instance: the heavenly planets would gladly be freed
from serving, yes, in the extent of their anguish would willingly
suffer eclipse; the earth would readily become unfruitful; all waters
would voluntarily sink from sight and deny the wicked world a
draught; the sheep would prefer to produce thorns for the ungodly
instead of wool; the cow would willingly yield them poison rather
than milk. But they must perform their appointed work, Paul says,
because of him who has subjected them in hope. God will finally
answer the cry of creation; he has already determined that after the
six thousand years of its existence now passed, the world shall have
its evening and end.

20. Had not our parents sinned in paradise, the world would never be
dissolved. But since man has fallen in sin, we all--the whole
creation--must suffer the consequence; because of our sins, creation
must be subjected to vanity and dissolution. During the six thousand
years, which are as nothing compared to eternal life, all created
things must be under the power of a condemned world, and compelled to
serve with all their energies until God shall overthrow the entire
world and for the elect's sake purify again and renew the creature,
as Peter teaches. 2 Pet 3, 13.

21. The sun is by no means as gloriously brilliant as when created.
Because of man's ungodliness its brightness is to an extent dimmed.
But on the day of visitation God will cleanse and purify it by fire
(2 Pet 3, 10), giving it a greater glory than it had in the
beginning. Because it must suffer in our sins, and is obliged to
shine as well for the worst knave as the godly man, even for more
knaves than godly men, it longs intensely for the day when it shall
be cleansed and shall serve the righteous alone with its light.

Neither would the earth produce thistles nor thorns were it not
cursed for our sins. So it, with all creatures, longs for the day
when it shall be changed and renewed.

22. This is the explanation of Paul's remarkable declaration
concerning the "earnest expectation of the creation." The creature
continually regards the end of service, and freedom from slavery to
the ungodly. This event will not take place before the revealing of
the sons of God; therefore the earnestly expectant creation desires
that revelation to come without delay, at any moment. Until such
manifestation the world will not consider godly souls as children of
the Father, but as children of the devil. So it boldly abuses and
slanders, persecutes and puts to death, God's beloved children,
thinking it thereby does God service. In consequence the whole
creation cries: "Oh, for a speedy end of this calamity, and the
dawning of glory for the children of God!"

23. We have plain authority for the interpretation of the groaning of
creation in Paul's further words, "the creation was subjected to
vanity, not of its own will." He thus makes all creation--sun and
moon, fire, air, water, heaven and earth with all they
contain--merely poor, captive servants. And whom do they serve? Not
our Lord God; not for the most part his children, for they are a
minority among those ministered unto. To whom, then, is their service
given? To the wicked--to vanity. The created things are not, as they
would be, in righteous service. The sun, for instance, would choose
to shine for Paul, Peter and other godly ones. It begrudges to wicked
characters like Judas, Pilate, Herod, Annas and Caiaphas the least
ray of light; for it is useless service, yielding no good. To serve
Peter and Paul would be productive of pleasure and profit; well may
its benefit be bestowed upon these godly ones. But the sun must shine
as well for the wicked as for the ungodly. Indeed, where it fittingly
serves one godly individual, thousands abuse its service.

The case is similar with gold and other minerals, and with all the
articles of food, drink and clothing. To whom do these minister?
Wicked desperadoes, who in return blaspheme and dishonor God, condemn
his holy Gospel and murder his Christians. This is wasted service.

24. So Paul says, "The creature was made subject to vanity;" it must
render service against its consent, having no pleasure therein. The
sun does not shine for the purpose of lighting a highway robber to
murder. It would light him in godly deeds and errands of mercy; but
since he follows not these things the service of the blessed sun is
abused and that creature ministers with sincere unwillingness. But
how is it to avoid service?

A wicked tyrant, a shameful harlot, may wear gold ornaments. Is the
gold responsible for its use? It is the good creature of the Lord our
God and fitted to serve righteous people. But the precious product
must submit to accommodating the wicked world against its will. Yet
it endures in hope of an end of such service--such slavery. Therein
it obeys God. God has imposed the obligation, that man may know him
as a merciful God and Father, who, as Christ teaches (Mt 5, 45),
makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good. For the Father's sake
the blessed sun serves wickedness, performing its service and
bestowing its favors in vain. But God in his own good time will
reckon with those who abuse the glorious sunlight and other
creatures, and will richly recompense the created things for their

25. Beloved, Paul thus traces the holy cross among all creatures;
heaven and earth and all they contain suffer with us. So we must not
complain and excessively grieve when we fare ill. We must patiently
wait for the redemption of our bodies and for the glory which is to
be revealed in us; especially when we know that all creatures groan
in anguish, like a woman in travail, longing for the revealing of the
sons of God. For then shall begin their redemption, when they shall
not be slaves to wickedness but shall willingly and with delight
serve God's children only. In the meantime they bear the cross for
the sake of God, who has subjected them in hope. Thus we are assured
that captivity will not endure forever, but a time must come when the
creatures will be delivered.

"Do ye likewise, beloved Christians," Paul would advise, "and reflect
that as the creature will rejoice with you on the last day, so does
it now mourn with you; that not you alone must suffer, but the whole
creation suffers with you and awaits your redemption, a redemption so
great and glorious as to make your sufferings unworthy to be

_Fourth Sunday After Trinity_

Second Sermon. Text: Romans 8, 18-22.


1. We have heard how Paul comforts the Christians in their
sufferings, pointing them to the future inconceivable and eternal
glory to be revealed in us in the world to come; and how he has, for
our greater consolation, reminded us that the whole creation as one
being suffers in company with the Christian Church. We have noted how
he sees, with the clear, keen eye of an apostle, the holy cross in
every creature. He brings out this thought prominently, telling us it
is not strange we Christians should suffer, for in our preaching, our
reproving and rebuking, we easily merit the world's persecution; but
creation must suffer being innocent, must even endure forced
subjection to the wicked and the devil himself.

2. Could the sun voice its experience from Adam's time down, what
misery it has witnessed and endured, undoubtedly it would tell of its
heavy cross in being compelled to serve innumerable adulterers,
thieves, murderers, in fact, the devil's whole kingdom. Yet it is a
noble and admirable work of creation, fit to serve only God, angels
and pious Christians, who thank God for it. But it must serve those
who blaspheme and dishonor God and who are guilty of all wickedness
and lawlessness. Notwithstanding its dislike of such service, it is
with every other created thing obedient to God.

3. This is a fine and comforting thought of the apostle's, that all
creatures are martyrs, having to endure unwillingly every sort of
injustice. The creatures do not approve the conduct of the devil and
of the wicked in their shameful abuse of creation, but they submit to
it for the sake of him who has subjected them to vanity, at the same
time hoping for a better dispensation in the fulfilment of time, when
they shall again be rightly received and abuse be past. Hence Paul
points to another life for all creation, declaring it to be as weary
of this order as we are and to await a new dispensation. By his
reference to the earnest expectation of the creature he means that it
does not expect to remain in its present condition, but with us looks
toward heaven and hopes for a resurrection from this degraded life
into a better one where it will be delivered from the bondage of
corruption, as he says later.

4. By these sayings Paul gives us to understand that all creation is
to attain a perfection far beyond its present state where with us it
must be subject to tyrants. These tyrants wantonly abuse our
characters, our bodies, our property rights, just as the devil abuses
our souls. But we must suffer our lot, remembering that mankind is
captive on earth in the kingdom of the devil, and all creation with
it. The earth must submit to be trodden and to be cultivated by many
a wicked one, to whom it must yield subsistence. Likewise is this
submission true of the elements--air, fire, water--all creation
having its cross, yet hoping for the end of the dispensation.

5. There is a refined and comforting perception in the apostle's
exposition where he represents the entire creation as one being, with
us looking forward to entrance upon another life. We are satisfied
that our present life is not all, that we await another and true
life. Likewise the sun awaits the restoration coming to it, to the
earth and all creatures, when they shall be purified from the
contaminating abuse of the devil and the world.

6. And this condition is to come about when the children of God are
revealed. True, they are God's children on earth, but they have not
yet entered into their glory. Similarly, the sun is not now in
possession of its real glory, for it is subject to evil; it awaits
the appointed time when its servitude shall cease. With all creation
and with the true saints it waits and longs, being meanwhile subject
to vanity--that is, the devil and the wicked world--for the sake of
God alone, who subjects, yet leaves hope that the trial shall not
continue forever.

7. We are children of God now on earth. We are blessed if we believe
and are baptized, as it is written: "He that believeth and is
baptized shall be saved." Mk 16, 16. And again: "As many as received
him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to
them that believe on his name." Jn 1, 12. Baptism is a visible rite
and we behold with mortal vision those who receive it; the Word of
the Gospel we hear, and we have in ourselves the witness of the Holy
Spirit that our faith, however weak, is acceptable to God. But who
among men recognizes us as children of God? Who will apply the term
to a class imprisoned and tortured and tormented in every conceivable
way, as if they were children of the devil, condemned and accursed

8. Not without significance is Paul's assertion that the glory of
God's children is now unmanifest but shall be revealed in them. In
Colossians 3, 3-4 he declares: "Ye died, and your life is hid with
Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested,
then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory." So long as God's
children are here upon earth they are not arrayed in the garb of his
own, but wear the livery of the devil. It would be fitting for the
children of the devil to be bound, fettered and imprisoned and to
suffer all manner of misfortune; but it does not so come to pass.
They have the world's pleasures. They are wealthy and powerful, have
honor and money in plenty and withal bear God's name and wear the
garb of his children, as if having his approval. Meanwhile they
regard us as heretics and enemies of God. Thus the rightful order of
things is reversed: they who are God's appear to be the devil's, and
the devil's to be God's. This condition is painful to the pious.
Indeed, heaven and earth and all creatures cry out in complaining
protest, unwilling to be subject to evil and to suffer the abuse of
the ungodly; to endure that dishonor of God that opposes the
hallowing of his name, the extension of his kingdom and the execution
of his will on earth as in heaven.

9. Because God's children are thus unrevealed and denied their true
insignia, all creation, as Paul says, cries out with them for the
Lord God to rend the heavens and come down to distinguish his
children from those of the devil. Considering the unrevealed state of
God's own on earth, the ungodly in their great blindness are not able
to discern them. The doctrine of the righteous which magnifies God's
grace manifest in Christ is by the wicked termed error, falsehood,
heresy and diabolical teaching. So Paul says the whole creation waits
for the manifestation of the children of God.


John, also, says: "Beloved, now are we children of God, and it is not
yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that, if he shall be
manifested, we shall be like him." 1 Jn 3, 2. That is, when our Lord
Jesus Christ comes with his loved angels and we are drawn up into the
clouds to meet him in the air, he will bring to God's children a
glory consistent with their name. They will be far more splendidly
arrayed than were the children of the world in their lifetime, who
went about in purple and velvet and ornaments of gold, and as the
rich man, in silk. Then shall they wear their own livery and shine as
the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Such is the wonderful glory
of the revelation that the radiant beauty of poor Lazarus who lay in
wretchedness at the rich man's gate surpasses all expectation. Upon
this topic, see Wisdom of Solomon, chapter 5, 2ff.

10. The hope of this wonderful glory, Paul says, is ours and that of
all creation with us, for creation is to be purified and renewed for
our sakes. Then will we be impressed with the grandeur of the sun,
the majesty of the trees and the beauty of the flowers. Having so
much in prospect, we should, in the buoyancy of our hope, attach
little importance to the slight suffering that may be our earthly
lot. What is it compared to the glory to be revealed in us? Doubtless
in yonder life we shall reproach ourselves with the thought: "How
foolish I was! I am unworthy to be called the child of God, for I
esteemed myself all too highly on earth and placed too little value
upon this surpassing glory and happiness. Were I still in the world
and with the knowledge I now have of the heavenly glory, I would,
were it possible, suffer a thousand years of imprisonment, or endure
illness, persecution or other misfortunes. Now I have proven true
that all the sufferings of the world are nothing measured by the
glory to be manifested in the children of God."

11. We find many, even among nominal Christians, with so little
patience they scarce can endure a word of criticism, even when well
deserved. Rather than suffer from the world some slight reproach,
some trifling loss, for the sake of the Gospel, they will renounce
that Gospel and Christ. But how will it be in the day of revelation?
Beloved, let us be wise now and not magnify our temporal sufferings;
let us patiently submit to them as does creation, according to Paul's
teaching. We may imagine the earth saying: "I permit myself to be
plowed and cultivated for man's benefit, notwithstanding the
Christians whom I bless are in the minority, the great mass of those
profiting by me being wicked men. What am I to do? I will endure the
conditions and permit myself to be tilled because my Creator so
orders; meanwhile I hope for a different order eventually, when I
shall no longer be subject to wickedness and obliged to serve God's

12. Peter also alludes to the new order of creation, saying: "The
heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be
dissolved with fervent heat ... But according to his promise, we look
for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." 2
Pet 3, 10 and 13. In other words: Here on earth men as a rule are
dishonorable and wicked and obey not the will of the Lord God as it
is done in heaven; but the day will come when only righteousness and
holiness shall dwell on the earth--none but godly, righteous souls.
As in heaven all is righteousness, the devil being banished, so on
the last day, Satan and all the ungodly shall be thrust from the
earth. Then will there be none but holy ones in both heaven and
earth, who will in fullness of joy possess all things. These will be
the elect. This is Peter's meaning in the words, "According to his
promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth
righteousness." Paul adds that all creation waits with us for the
revelation, groaning and crying out in anguish.

13. But Paul protects the creature from condemnation and reproach for
sinful submission to abuse. He says, in effect: "True, it is subject
to vanity, yet not willingly." Likewise I do not desire to suffer
reproach as a heretic and a deceiver, but I endure it for God's sake,
who permits it. This attitude on my part does not make me partaker of
the sin committed against me by enemies of the truth who reproach me.
The case is the same as that of the creature suffering abuse for the
sake of him who has subjected it. And you Christians are to imitate
the example of creation. The sun seems to say: "Great God, I am thy
creature; therefore I will perform, I will suffer, whatsoever is the
divine will." So when the Lord God sends upon you some affliction and
says, "Endure a little suffering for my sake; I will largely repay
it," you are to say: "Yes, gladly, blessed Lord. Because it is thy
will, I will suffer it with a willing heart."


It also belongs to the consolation against suffering to be conscious
that the suffering will not last forever, but will sometime have an
end--on the day of judgment, when the godless shall be separated from
the godly. For this life on earth is nothing else than a masquerade
where people walk in masks, and one sees another different than he
is. He who appears to be an angel is a devil, and those considered
the children of the devil are angels and the children of our dear
Lord. Hence it is that they are attacked, plagued, martyred and put
to death as heretics and children of the devil. This masquerade must
be tolerated until the day of judgment; when the wicked will be
unmasked and will no longer be able to pass as holy people.[1] The
text now continues:

"That the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of
corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God."

"[Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the
bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of

[Footnote 1: This paragraph is from the pamphlet edition of 1535.]

14. We Christians are not the only beings to receive deliverance,
Paul declares; the creature in bondage has the same hope of release
as the poor, enslaved human being. Sun, moon and every other created
thing is captive to the devil and to wicked people, and must serve
them in every form of sin and vice. Hence these sigh and complain,
waiting for the manifestation of the children of God, when the devil
and the ungodly shall be thrust into hell, and for all eternity be
denied sight of sun and moon, the enjoyment of a drop of water or a
breath of air, and forever deprived of every blessing.

15. So the apostle tells us, "Creation itself also shall be delivered
from the bondage of corruption." In other words, creation must now
subserve most shameful ends. Sun, moon and all creatures must be
slaves to the devil and the ungodly because God so desires. He wills
for his beautiful creation to lie at the feet of Satan and his
adherents and to serve them for the present. Likewise many a
sensitive heart is compelled to obey a tyrant or a Turk because the
Lord has imposed that servitude upon it. Some may even have to clean
the Turk's boots, or perform still more menial duties, and in
addition suffer all sorts of indignities from that individual.

16. These words, "Creation itself also shall be delivered from the
bondage of corruption," signify that all created things must until
the final reckoning be servants and menials, not to the godly, but to
the devil and wicked men. Paul himself regards with pity the sun and
other creatures because of their forced service to Satan and to
tyrannical beings. The created works no more desire such servility
than we desire subjection to the Turk. Nevertheless, they submit and
wait--for what? The glorious liberty of the children of God. Then
shall they be released from slavery and be no longer bound to serve
the wicked and worthless. More than that, in their freedom they will
have a grandeur far in excess of their present state and shall
minister only unto God's children. They will be done with bondage to
the devil.

"For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain
together until now."

17. Paul uses forcible language here. Creation is aware, he says, not
only of its future deliverance from the bondage of corruption, but of
its future grandeur. It hopes for the speedy coming of its glory, and
waits with the eagerness of a maiden for the dance. Seeing the
splendor reserved for itself, it groans and travails unceasingly.
Similarly, we Christians groan and intensely desire to have done at
once with the Turks, the Pope, and the tyrannical world. Who would
not weary of witnessing the present knavery, ungodliness and
blasphemy against Christ and his Gospel, even as Lot wearied of the
ungodliness he beheld in Sodom? Thus Paul says that creation groaneth
and travaileth while waiting for the revelation and the glorious
liberty of the children of God.

18. "And not only so," he adds, "but ourselves also, who have the
firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves,
waiting for our adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." We
pray, we cry with great longing, in the Lord's Prayer, "Thy kingdom
come," meaning: "Help, dear Lord, and speed the blessed day of thy
second advent, that we may be delivered from the wicked world, the
devil's kingdom, and may be released from the awful distress we
suffer--inwardly from our own consciences and outwardly from the
wicked. Afflict to the limit these old bodies of ours so long as we
may obtain others not sinful, as these; not given to iniquity and
disobedience; bodies that can never know illness, persecution or
death; bodies delivered from all physical and spiritual distress and
made like unto thine own glorified body, dear Lord Jesus Christ. Thus
may we finally realize our glorious redemption. Amen."

19. Paul uses a peculiar word here in the text, which we cannot
render by any other in our language than "travail." It carries the
idea of pains and pangs such as a woman knows in childbirth. The
mother's ardent desire is to be delivered. She longs for it with an
intensity that all the wealth, honor, pleasure and power of the world
could not awaken. This is precisely the meaning of the word Paul
applies to creation. He declares it to be in travail, suffering pain
and anguish in the extremity of its desire for release. But who can
discern the anguish of creation? Reason cannot believe, nor human
wisdom imagine, the thing. "It is impossible," declares reason. "The
sun cannot be more glorious, more pleasing and beneficent. And what
is lacking with the moon and stars and the earth? Who says the
creature is in travail or unwillingly suffers its present state?"

The writer of the text, however, declares creation to be weary of
present conditions of servitude, and as eager for liberation as a
mother for deliverance in the hour of her anguish. Truly it is with
spiritual sight, with apostolic vision, that Paul discerns this fact
in regard to creation. He turns away from this world, oblivious to
the joys and the sufferings of earthly life, and boasts alone of the
future, eternal life, unseen and unexperienced. Thus he administers
real and effectual comfort to Christians, pointing them to a future
life for themselves and all created things after this sinful life
shall have an end.

20. Therefore, believers in Christ are to be confident of eternal
glory, and with sighs and groans to implore the Lord God to hasten
the blessed day of the realization of their hopes. For so Christ has
taught us to pray in the Lord's Prayer, "Thy kingdom come." May he
who has commanded give us grace and strength to perform, and a firm
faith in our future glory. Our faith is not to be exercised for the
attainment of earthly riches, but as a means to bring us into another
life. We are not baptized unto the present life, nor do we receive
the Gospel as ministering to our temporal good; these things are to
point us to yonder eternal life. God grant the speedy coming of the
glad day of our redemption, when we shall realize all these
blessings, which now we hear of and believe in through the Word.

_Fifth Sunday After Trinity_

Text: 1 Peter 3, 8-15.

8 Finally, be ye all like-minded, compassionate, loving as brethren,
tender-hearted, humble-minded: 9 not rendering evil for evil, or
reviling for reviling; but contrariwise blessing; for hereunto were
ye called, that ye should inherit a blessing. 10 For,

     He that would love life,
     And see good days,
     Let him refrain his tongue from evil,
     And his lips that they speak no guile:
  11 And let him turn away from evil, and do good;
     Let him seek peace, and pursue it.
  12 For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous,
     And his ears unto their supplication:
     But the face of the Lord is upon them that do evil.

13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be zealous of that which
is good? 14 But even if ye should suffer for righteousness' sake,
blessed are ye: and fear not their fear, neither be troubled; 15 but
sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord.


1. Here you have enumerated again a long list of eminently good works
enjoined upon Christians who believe and have confessed their faith
in the Gospel. By such fruits is faith to be manifest. Peter
classifies these works according to the obligations of Christians to
each other, and their obligations to enemies and persecutors.

2. Immediately preceding the text, Peter has been instructing
concerning the domestic relations of husband and wife; how they
should live together as Christians in love and companionship, giving
due honor and patiently and reasonably bearing with each other. Now
he extends the exhortation to Christians in general, enjoining them
to live together in Christian love, like brothers and sisters of a
household. In the rehearsal of many preëminently noble virtues and
works, he portrays the ideal church, beautiful in its outward
adornment, in the grace wherewith it shines before men. With such
virtues the Church pleases and honors God, while angels behold with
joy and delight. And what earthly thing is more desirable to man's
sight? What happier and more pleasing society may he seek than the
company of those who manifest a unity of heart, mind and will;
brotherly love, meekness, kindliness and patience, even toward
enemies? Surely, no man is too depraved to command such goodness and
to desire companionship among people of this class.

3. The first virtue is one frequently mentioned by the apostles.
Paul, for instance, in Romans 12, 16, says: "Be of the same mind one
toward another." Also in Ephesians 4, 3: "Giving diligence to keep
the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Harmony is the
imperative virtue for the Christian Church. Before the other
virtues--love, meekness--can be manifest, there must first be concord
and unity of heart among all. It is impossible that outward
circumstances of human life be always the same; much dissimilarity in
person, station, and occupation is inevitable.

To this very unlikeness and to the natural depravity of flesh and
blood is due the discord and disagreement of men in this world. Let
one become conscious of personal superiority in point of uprightness,
learning, skill or natural ability, or let him become aware of his
loftier station in life, and he immediately grows self-complacent,
thinks himself better than his fellows, demands honor and recognition
from all men, is unwilling to yield to or serve an inferior and
thinks himself entitled to such right and privilege because of his
superiority and virtue.

4. Pride is the common vice of the world, and the devil fosters it
among his numerous followers thereby causing every sort of misery and
unhappiness, corrupting all ranks and stations, and rendering men
vicious, depraved and incapable of executing good. In opposition to
this vice the apostles diligently admonish Christians to be of one
mind, regardless of station or occupation, since every individual
must remain in the position to which he has been ordained and called
of God. All ranks and stations cannot be one. Particularly is this
true in the Church; for in addition to the outward difference of
person, station, and so on, there are manifold divine gifts unequally
distributed and varyingly imparted. Yet these many dissimilarities,
both spiritual and secular, are to be amenable to the unity of the
spirit, as Paul calls it, or a spiritual unity. Just as the members
of the physical body have different offices and perform different
functions, no one member being able to do the work of the other, and
yet all are in the unity of one bodily life; so also Christians,
whatever the dissimilarity of language, office and gift among them,
must live, increase and be preserved in unity and harmony of mind, as
in one body.

5. This matter of harmony is the first and most necessary commandment
enjoined by the doctrine of faith; ay, this virtue is the first fruit
which faith is to effect among Christians, who are called in one
faith and baptism. It is to be the beginning of their Christian love.
For true faith necessarily creates in all believers the spirit that
reasons: "We are all called by one Word, one baptism and Holy Spirit,
to the same salvation; we are alike heirs of the grace and the
blessings of God. Although one has more and greater gifts than
another, he is not on that account better before God. By grace alone,
without any merit of ours, we are pleasing to God. Before him none
can boast of himself."

6. How can I think myself better than another by reason of my person
or my gifts, rank or office? Or what more than I has another to boast
of before God concerning himself? No one has a different baptism or
sacrament, a different Christ, from mine, or grace and salvation
other than I have. And no individual can have another faith than have
Christians in general, nor does he hear any other Gospel or receive a
different absolution, be he lord or servant, noble or ignoble, poor
or rich, young or old, Italian or German. When one imagines himself
different from or better than his fellows, desiring to exalt and
glorify himself above others, he is truly no longer a Christian;
because he is no longer in that unity of mind and faith essential to
Christians. Christ with his grace is always the same, and cannot be
divided or apportioned within himself.

7. Not without reason did the beloved apostles urge this point. They
clearly saw how much depends upon it, and what evil and harm result
from disregard of the commandment. Where this commandment is
dishonored, schisms and factions will necessarily arise to corrupt
pure doctrine and faith, and the devil will sow his seed, which
afterwards can be eradicated only with difficulty. When once
self-conceit rules, and one, pretending more learning, wisdom,
goodness and holiness than his fellows, begins to despise others and
to draw men to himself, away from the unity of mind which makes us
one in Christ, and when he desires the first praise and commendation
for his own doctrine and works, his own preaching, then the harm is
already done; faith is overthrown and the Church is rent. When unity
becomes division, certainly two sects cannot both be the true Church.
If one is godly, the other must be the devil's own. On the other
hand, so long as unity of faith and oneness of mind survives, the
true Church of God abides, notwithstanding there may be some weakness
in other points. Of this fact the devil is well aware; hence his
hostility to Christian unity. His chief effort is to destroy harmony.
"Having that to contend with," he tells himself, "my task will be a
hard and wearisome one."

8. Therefore, Christians should be all the more careful to cherish
the virtue of harmony, both in the Church and in secular government.
In each instance there is of necessity much inequality. God would
have such dissimilarity balanced by love and unity of mind. Let
everyone be content, then, with what God has given or ordained for
him, and let him take pleasure in another's gifts, knowing that in
eternal blessings he is equally rich, having the same God and Christ,
the same grace and salvation; and that although his standing before
God may differ from that of his fellows, he is nevertheless in no way
inferior to them, nor is anyone for the same reason at all better
than or superior to himself.

9. In temporal affairs, every inequality in the world can be
harmonized by a unity of mind and heart. In relations other than
spiritual there is mutual love and friendship. How great the outward
dissimilarity between man and wife--in person, nature and employment!
likewise between masters and their subjects. Yet, in mutual
conscientiousness they mutually agree and are well satisfied with
each other. So it would be possible to enjoy life upon earth in peace
and happiness were it not that the devil cannot suffer it. He must
divide hearts and alienate love, allowing no one to take pleasure in
another. He who is illustrious, of noble birth, or has power or
riches, feels bound to despise others as silly geese or witless


10. The other virtues enjoined by Peter are easily
recognized--"Compassionate, loving as brethren, tenderhearted, and
humbleminded" [Luther translates "friendly"--courteous]. These
particularly teach that Christians should esteem one another. God has
subjected them all to love and has united them, with the design that
they shall be of one heart and soul, and each care for the other as
for himself. Peter's exhortation was especially called for at that
time, when Christians were terribly persecuted. Here a pastor, there
a citizen, was thrown into prison, driven from wife, child, house and
home, and finally executed. Such things happen even now, and may
become yet more frequent considering that unfortunate people are
harassed by tyrants, or led away by the Turks, and Christians are
thus dispersed in exile here and there. Wherever by his Word and
faith God has gathered a church, and that spiritual unity, the bond
of Christianity, exists in any measure, there the devil has no peace.
If he cannot effect the destruction of that church by factiousness,
he furiously persecutes it. Then it is that body, life and everything
we have must be jeopardized--put to the stake--for the sake of the

11. Christians, according to Peter, should, in the bond of a common
heart and mind, sympathetically share the troubles and sufferings of
their brethren in the faith, whoever and wherever the brethren may
be. They are to enter into such distresses as if themselves
suffering, and are to reason: "Behold, these suffer for the sake of
my precious faith, and standing at the front, are exposed to the
devil, while I have peace. It does not become me to rejoice in my
security and to manifest my pleasure. For what befalls my dear
brethren affects me, and my blessings are the cause of their
misfortune. I must participate in their suffering as my own."
According to the admonition of Hebrews 13, 3: "Remember them that are
in bonds, as bound with them; that is, as if in the same bonds and
distress. Remember them that are illtreated, as being yourselves also
in the body;" as members of the same body.

12. We are all bound to one another, just as in the body one member
is bound to another. As you know by your own physical experience,
"Whether one member suffereth, all the members suffer with it; or one
member is honored, all the members rejoice with it," as Paul says in
1 Corinthians 12, 26. Note how, when a foot is trodden upon or a
finger pinched, the whole body is affected: eyes twitch, nose is
contorted, mouth cries out--all the members are ready to rescue and
help. No one member can forsake the others. In reality not the foot
or the finger is injured, but the whole body suffers the accident. On
the other hand, benefit received by one member is pleasing to all,
and the whole body rejoices with it. Now the same principle should
hold in the Church, because it likewise is one body of many members
with one mind and heart. Such unity naturally entails the
participation by each individual in the good and evil of every other

13. This virtue of sympathy, resulting as it does from a unity of
mind and faith, is impossible to the world. In the world every man
looks only upon what benefits himself and regards not how others,
especially the godly, fare. Indeed, the world is capable of scornful
smiles and extreme pleasure at sight of Christians in poverty and
distress, and in their sufferings it can give them vinegar and gall
to drink. But you who claim to be a Christian, should know it is
yours to share the sufferings of your brethren and to prove your
heartfelt sympathy with them. If you cannot do more, at least show it
with comforting words or prayer. Their suffering concerns you as well
as themselves, and you must expect the same afflictions from the
devil and the wicked world.


14. "Loving as brethren." This virtue must prevail among Christians
everywhere. They are to manifest toward one another the love and
faithfulness of brothers according to the flesh. It is a law of
nature that brothers have a peculiar confidence in one another, being
of the same blood and flesh and having a common inheritance.
Particularly is this true when in distress. Although they may not be
united in other respects, yet when stranger blood assails and
necessity comes, they of the same flesh and blood will take one
another's part, uniting person, property and honor.

15. Likewise Christians should exercise a peculiar brotherly love and
faithfulness toward one another, as having one Father in heaven and
one inheritance, and in the bond of Christianity being of one faith,
united in heart and mind. None may despise another. Them among us who
are still weak, frail and eccentric in faith and morals, we are to
treat with gentleness, kindness and patience. They must be exhorted,
comforted, strengthened. We should do by them as do the brothers and
sisters of a household toward the member who is weak or frail or in
need. Indeed we cannot otherwise dwell in peace. If we are to live
together we must bear with one another much weakness, trouble and
inconvenience; for we cannot all be equally strong in faith and
courage and have equal gifts and possessions. There is none without
his own numerous weaknesses and faults, which he would have others


16. "Tenderhearted, humbleminded" [friendly]. Here Peter has in mind
mankind in general--friends and enemies, Christians and persecutors.
Owing to original sin, man is naturally disposed to seek revenge,
especially upon those who injure him without cause. If he can do no
more, he at least maliciously invokes evil upon his enemy and
rejoices in his misfortune. Now, Christians more than any others in
this world are innocently persecuted, injured, oppressed and
aggrieved, even by those having the name and honor of Christians, a
thing of frequent occurrence today. God's people are aggrieved by
such treatment, and if the natural instinct of flesh and blood could
have its way, they would gladly revenge themselves; just as they of
the world mutually exercise their revenge, not content until passion
is cooled.

17. But a Christian should not, and indeed consistently he cannot, be
unmerciful and vindictive, for he has become a child of God, whose
mercy he has accepted and therein continues to live. He cannot seek
pleasure in injury to his neighbor or enjoy his misfortune. He cannot
maintain a bitter or hard and stubborn heart toward him. Rather he is
disposed to show mercy even to his hostile neighbor, and to pity his
blindness and misery; for he recognizes that neighbor as under God's
wrath and hastening to everlasting ruin and condemnation. Thus the
Christian is already more than revenged on his enemy. Therefore he
should be friendly towards the hostile neighbor and do him every
kindness he will permit, in an effort to lead him to repentance.

18. Yet, in showing mercy, as frequently enjoined heretofore we are
not to interfere with just and ordained punishments. God's Word does
not teach us to demand mercy or commend kindness where sin and evil
practices call for punishment, as the world would have us believe
when their sins merit rebuke, particularly the vices of those in high
places. These transgressors claim that when reproved their honor is
assailed and occasion is given for contempt of their office and
authority, and for rebellion, a thing not to be tolerated. This is
not true. The lesson teaches the duty of each individual toward all
other individuals, not toward the God-ordained office. Office and
person must be clearly distinguished. The officer or ruler in his
official capacity is a different man from what he is as John or
Frederick. The apostle or preacher differs from the individual Peter
or Paul. The preacher has not his office by virtue of his own
personality; he represents it in God's stead. Now, if any person be
unjustly persecuted, slandered and cursed, I ought to and will say:
"Thank God;" for in God I am richly rewarded for it. But if one
dishonors my baptism or sacrament, or the Word God has commanded me
to speak, and so opposes not me but himself, then it is my duty not
to be silent nor merciful and friendly, but to use my God-ordained
office to admonish, threaten and rebuke, with all earnestness, both
in season and out of season--as Paul says in 2 Timothy 4, 2--those
who err in doctrine or faith or who do not amend their lives; and
this regardless of who they are or how it pleases them.

19. But the censured may say: "Nevertheless you publicly impugn my
honor; you give me a bad reputation." I answer: Why do you not
complain to him who committed the office to me? My honor is likewise
dear to me, but the honor of my office must be more sacred still. If
I am silent where I ought to rebuke, I sully my own honor, which I
should maintain before God in the proper execution of my office;
hence I with you deserve to be hanged in mid-day, to the utter
extinguishment of my honor and yours. No, the Gospel does not give
you authority to say the preacher shall not, by the Word of God, tell
you of your sin and shame. What does God care for the honor you seek
from the world when you defy his Word with it? To the world you may
seem to defend your honor with God and a good conscience, but in
reality you have nothing to boast of before God but your shame. This
very fact you must confess if you would retain your honor before him;
you must place his honor above that of all creatures. The highest
distinction you can achieve for yourself is that of honoring God's
Word and suffering rebuke.

20. "Yes, but still you attack the office to which I am appointed."
No, dear brother, our office is not assailed when I and you are
reminded of our failure to do right, to conduct the office as we
should. But the Word of God rebukes us for dishonoring that divinely
ordained appointment and abusing it in violation of his commandment.
Therefore you cannot call me to account for reproving you. However,
were I not a pastor or preacher, and had I no authority to rebuke
you, then it would be my duty and my pleasure to leave your honor and
that of every other man unscathed. But if I am to fill a divine
office and to represent not my own but God's dignity, then for your
own sake I must not and will not be silent. If you do wrong, and
disgrace and dishonor come upon you, blame yourself. "Thy blood shall
be upon thine own head," says Scripture, 1 Kings 2, 37. Certainly
when a judge sentences a thief to the gallows, that man's honor is
impugned. Who robs you of your honor but yourself, by your own theft,
your contempt of God, disobedience, murder, and so on? God must give
you what you deserve. If you consider it a disgrace to be punished,
then consider it also no honor to rob, steal, practice usury and do
public wrong; you disgrace yourself by dishonoring God's commandment.

21. This much by way of reminder of the difference between official
rebuke and personal anger and revenge. It must constantly be kept
before us because of the artfulness of flesh and blood, which ever
seeks to disregard that difference. True, God would have all men to
be merciful and friendly, to forgive and not to avenge wrong; but the
office, which is ordained for the punishment of the wicked, will not
always admit of that course. Few are willing to forgive, and
therefore God must enforce his government over the merciless. They
must be punished without mercy. This divine principle must not be
restricted. Neither must it be applied beyond measure. Every official
must be careful not to exceed the demands of his office, exercising
his own revenge, his own envy and hatred, in the name and under
pretense of that position.

22. Peter continues to expatiate upon this topic--the good works he
has been discussing: gentleness, mercy, friendliness--citing
beautiful passages of Scripture and using other exhortations--to
incite Christians to practice these virtues. He says:

"Not rendering evil for evil, or reviling for reviling; but
contrariwise blessing: for hereunto were ye called, that ye should
inherit a blessing."

23. We have now seen whose prerogative it is to avenge, rebuke and
punish evil. This passage does not refer to official duty. When the
judge declares sentence of execution upon a thief we have truly an
instance of vengeance and reproach, and a public and extreme
reflection upon honor. But it is God's judgment and his doing, with
which we are not here concerned. The Christian of true faith and
innocent life, who confesses his doctrine and belief, and as he is
commanded rebukes opposing forces, will provoke the devil and the
world, and will be persecuted, oppressed and harassed in the name of
office and right, even by individuals whose official duty it is to
protect the godly and restrain unjust power. If these cannot do more,
they will at least annoy, hinder and oppose that Christian as far as
possible. If the Christian be quick-tempered and fail to curb his
anger and impatience, he will effect no good. He will only bring upon
himself that disquiet of heart which consumes and worries itself with
thoughts of revenge and retaliation upon the offender; which when the
devil perceives, he rejoices. He so urges and instigates as to cause
more mischief on both sides. Thus he doubly injures the
Christian--through his enemy and through the anger wherewith the
Christian torments himself and spoils his own peace.


24. What then shall we do, you say, when we must suffer such abuse
and without redress? The only resource, Peter says, is to possess
your heart in patience and commit the matter to God. This is all that
remains when they whose duty it is will not help you, nor restrain
and punish the wrong, but even do you violence themselves. If the
evil receive not judicial punishment, let it go unpunished until God
looks into it. Only see that you keep a quiet conscience and a loving
heart, not allowing yourself, on account of the devil and wicked men,
to be disturbed and deprived of your good conscience, your peaceful
heart and your God-given blessing. But if in your official capacity
you are commanded to punish the evil, or if you can obtain protection
and justice from rightful authorities, avail yourself of these
privileges without anger, hatred or bitterness, ay, with a heart that
prompts to give good for evil and blessing for reviling.

25. Such conduct is becoming you as Christians, the apostle says, for
you are a people called to inherit a blessing. Oh, wonderful and
glorious fact, that God has decreed and appropriated to you this
blessing whereby all the riches of his grace and everything good are
yours! and that he will abundantly give you his Spirit to remain with
you, blessing body and soul, if only you hold fast his grace and do
not allow yourselves to be deprived of it. What price would you not
gladly pay for this blessing, were it purchasable, instead of being
freely given, without your merits, and were you privileged thus to
buy the assurance of having a God so gracious, one willing to bless
you in time and eternity? Who would not willingly give even body and
life, or joyfully undergo all suffering to have the perfect assurance
of heart which says: "I know I am a child of God, who has received me
into his grace and I live in the sure hope that I will be eternally
blessed and saved." Think, Peter says, what a vast difference God
makes between you and others because you are Christians. He has
appointed you to be heirs of everlasting grace and blessing and of
eternal life. But they who are not Christians--what have they but a
terrible sentence like a weight about their necks? the sentence
pronouncing them children of the curse and of eternal condemnation.

26. If men would take this to heart, it would be easy by teaching and
persuasion to win them to friendship and kindness toward their
fellow-men; to induce them not to return evil or reviling from motive
of revenge, but when their own privileges and protection and the
punishment of evil cannot be obtained, quietly and peaceably to
suffer injury rather than lose their eternal comfort and joy.
Christians have excellent reason, a powerful motive, for being
patient and not revengeful or bitter in the fact that they are so
richly blessed of God and given that great glory whereof, as Peter
afterwards remarks, they cannot be deprived, nor can they suffer its
loss, if only they abide in it. The apostle emphasizes this fact and
further persuades Christians by citing the beautiful passage in Psalm
34, 12-16:

"He that would love life, and see good days, let him refrain his
tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: and let him
turn away from evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears unto
their supplication: but the face of the Lord is upon them that do

27. These words the Holy Spirit uttered long ago through the prophet
David, for the instruction and admonition of all saints and children
of God. David presents to us the matter as he daily saw it in his own
life and learned from his own experience, and as he gathered from
examples of the dear fathers from the beginning of the world. "Come
hither, dear children," he would say, "if you will be taught and
advised, I will give you sound instruction as to how we are to fear
God and become his children. Who desires peace and comfort?" "Oh, who
would not desire peace and comfort?" cries the world. For these
everyone seeks and strives, and all the efforts of the world are
directed toward this end.


28. There are two ways to the goal of peace. One is that chosen by
the world. The world seeks to obtain peace by preserving its own with
violence. It desires the death of all who oppose it and will suffer
injury or evil in word or deed from no one. This method, it is true,
is appointed to governmental authority. It is the duty of civil
rulers to faithfully employ it to arrest and hinder evil as far as
possible. But they can never wholly restrain evil nor punish every
offense. Much wickedness will remain, particularly secret evil, which
must punish itself, either by repentance here or in hell hereafter.
By this procedure Christians will not accomplish for themselves any
personal advantage; the world is too wicked and it will not give them

29. Therefore, if you desire peace for yourself personally,
particularly as a Christian, you must choose another way. The Psalm
shows it to you when it says: "Refrain thy tongue from evil, and thy
lips that they speak no guile." This injunction really applies to
doctrine, meaning that we are to abide by the true Word of God and
not to allow ourselves to be seduced by false teaching. But Peter
here extends the application to the outward life and conduct of
Christians in the work, the circumstances being such as to call for
this admonition in the matter of refraining the tongue. On account of
the faith and confession for which men are called Christians, they
must suffer much; they are endangered, hated, persecuted, oppressed
and harassed by the whole world. Christ foretold (Mt 10, 22): "Ye
shall be hated of all men for my name's sake." Easily, then,
Christians, might believe they have cause to return evil, and being
still flesh and blood mortals, they are inevitably moved to be angry
and to curse, or to forsake their confession and doctrine and with
unbelievers to join the false church with its idolatrous teaching.
Here the Psalm admonishes: Dear Christian, let not all this move you
to rave, curse, blaspheme and revile again, but abide in the blessing
prepared for you to inherit; for you will not by violence remedy
matters or obtain any help. The world will remain as it is, and will
continue to hate and persecute the godly and believing. Of what use
is it for you to hate, chafe and curse against its attitude? You only
disturb your own heart with bitterness, and deprive yourself thereby
of the priceless blessing bestowed upon you.

30. We have the same teaching in the fourth verse of Psalm 4, which
comforts saints and strengthens them against the temptation and
provocation to anger and impatience which they must experience in the
world. "Be ye angry," David says, "and sin not: commune with your own
heart upon your bed, and be still." That is, although according to
the nature of flesh and blood you fret because you are compelled to
witness the prosperity of the world in its ungodly life and
wickedness, and how it spites, despises and persecutes you with pride
and insolence, nevertheless let not yourselves be easily provoked;
let wrong, displeasure, vexation and worry remain outside the inner
life; let them affect only the outward life, body and possessions. By
no means let them become rooted in your heart. Still your hearts and
content yourselves, and regard all this vexation as not worth losing
sleep over. If you desire to serve God truly and to render acceptable
sacrifice to him, then with faith in his Word place your hope in him
as your dear Father who cares for you, hears you and will wondrously
support you.


31. But the psalmist's additional words, "Refrain your lips that they
speak no guile," refer, as I have said, primarily to confession of
the doctrine; but there is another thought: When one is prompted to
anger and to complaint about injury and wrong, in his impatience and
irritation he cannot speak fairly concerning the matter of offense,
but invariably exaggerates. So it is with anger and retaliation. One
receiving but a pin-point wound will fly into a passion and be ready
to break the offender's head. The individual that suffers a single
adverse word immediately proceeds to abuse and slander in the extreme
his opponent. In short, an angry heart knows no moderation and cannot
equally repay, but must make of a splinter, even a mote, a great
beam, or must fan a tiny spark into a volcano of flame, by
retaliating with reviling and cursing. Yet it will not admit that it
does wrong. It would, if possible, actually murder the offender, thus
committing a greater wrong than it has suffered.

32. So wicked and unjust is human nature that when offended it stops
not with equal measure in retribution; it goes beyond and in its
anger and revenge spares neither the neighbor's honor nor his body
and life. James 1, 20 says: "The wrath of man worketh not the
righteousness of God"; that is, it suffers not a man to abide in his
faith and good conscience. But official indignation, which is God's
wrath, does not so. It seeks not the destruction of man, but only the
punishment of the actual fault. Man's anger and revenge, so wicked
and insatiable are they, return ten blows for one, or even double
that number, and repay a single abusive word with a hundred.

33. So Peter admonishes you to restrain your tongues, to curb them,
lest they suddenly escape your control and sin with wicked words,
doing injury double that you have received. Guard your lips that your
mouth utter not guile or falsehood through your anger, and that it
may not calumniate, abuse and slander your neighbor contrary to truth
and justice and in violation of the eighth commandment. Such conduct
is, before God and man, unbecoming a Christian and leads to that most
disgraceful vice of slander, which God supremely hates. It is the
devil's own, whence he has his name of liar or slanderer--diabolus,
or devil.


34. The Psalm says further: "Turn away from evil and do good"; that
is, beware lest on account of the wickedness of another you also
become wicked, for anger and revenge meditate only harm and
wickedness. Therefore be all the more diligent to do good, if you
can, that your heart may retain its honor and joy and that you may
abide in righteousness, and not fall from God's grace and from
obedience to him into the service of the devil. By anger and revenge
the devil tempts you, endeavoring to get you again into his toils and
to embitter your heart and conscience until you shall exceed others
in sin.

35. "Seek peace and pursue it," continues the apostle. This is a
sublime exhortation, and faithful, divine counsel. You must not
think, Peter would say, that peace will run after you, or that the
world--much less the devil--will bring it into your house. Rather you
will find the very opposite true. From without strife will be carried
to you in bales, and within your own heart will be kindled anger and
bitterness to fill you with everlasting disquiet. Therefore if you
desire peace, wait not until other people help you to obtain it, nor
until you create it for yourself by force and revenge. Begin with
yourself. Turn from the evil to the good. Even undergo suffering to
provide your heart with the peace which endures in spite of all that
would rob you of it. Strive ever to keep your heart firm in the
resolve: I will not be angry nor seek revenge, but will commit my
affairs to God and to those whose duty it is to punish evil and
wrong-doing. As for my enemy, may God convert and enlighten him. And
however much more of violence and wrong I may suffer, I will not
allow my heart to be robbed of its peace.

36. Notice, the way to preserve peace and to see good days even in
evil times is to keep a silent tongue and a quiet heart through the
comfort of divine grace and blessing. No outward occasion may be
given for strife, but always peace is to be sought with good words,
works and prayers. We must even pursue peace, follow after it, with
genuine and strong suffering. Thus we preserve it by force. In no
other way can a Christian see good days and hold fast his blessing.
Remember you must make strenuous effort if you would not reject your
blessing nor be influenced by another to carelessly lie and otherwise
sin with your tongue. Flesh and blood are weak and sluggish in the
matter of preserving peace, therefore Peter strengthens his
exhortation and further encourages us by the promise of God's help
and protection for the faithful and his punishment of their enemies.
He says:

"For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears unto
their supplication."

37. Inscribe this verse upon your heart in firm faith and see if it
does not bring you peace and blessings. Try to believe that God sits
above, sleepless and with his vigilant eye ever upon you. With
watchful vision he beholds the righteous as they suffer violence and
wrong. Why will you complain and become discouraged by reason of the
harm and grief you experience, when the gracious eyes of the true
Judge and God are upon you and his intent is to help you? All the
wealth of the world would I give, if I might, to purchase that
watchful care, or rather to obtain the requisite faith; for surely
the lack is not in his regarding, but in our faith.


38. More than this, God's ears, the apostle tells us, are also open
to the prayers of the righteous. As he looks upon you with gracious,
winning eyes, so also are his ears alert to even the faintest sound.
He hears your complaint, your sighing and prayer, and hears, too,
willingly and with pleasure; as soon as you open your mouth, your
prayer is heard and answered.

39. Again, Peter says: "The face of the Lord is upon them that do
evil." True, God's eyes are upon the righteous, but nevertheless he
sees also the others. In this case he beholds not with a friendly
look or gracious countenance, but with a displeased and wrathful
face. When a man is angry the forehead frowns, the nostrils dilate
and the eyes flash. Such a manifestation of anger are we to
understand by the Scripture when it refers here to "the face of the
Lord." On the other hand it illustrates the pleased and gracious
aspect of God by "the eyes of the Lord."

40. Now, why is "the face of the Lord" upon evil-doers and what is
its effect? Certainly God's purpose is not to heed or to help them,
to bestow blessing or success upon their evil-doing. His purpose is,
according to the succeeding words in the psalm, "to cut off the
remembrance of them from the earth." This is a terrible, an appalling
sentence, before which a heart may well be prostrated as from a
thunderbolt. And ungodly hearts would be thus appalled were they not
so hardened as to despise God's Word.

41. Notwithstanding the indifference of the wicked, the sentence is
passed. Verily it is no jest with God. It illustrates how sincerely
he cares for the righteous and how he will avenge them on the wicked,
toward whom his countenance bespeaks punishment in due time and the
cutting off of their memory from the earth. In contrast, the
righteous, because they have feared God and abode in their piety
though suffering for it, shall, even here upon earth, live to see
blessing and prosperity upon their children's children. Although for
a time the company of the wicked conduct themselves with pride upon
the earth, and imagine themselves secure beyond the possibility of
being unseated, nevertheless when their hour comes they are suddenly
hurled down from earth into the abyss of hell and must suffer the
righteous to remain in possession of the earth. So testifies Christ
in Matthew 5, 5, and Psalm 37 more fully explains the matter.

42. It is proven by all the examples of Scripture and also by the
experience of the whole world from the beginning, that God casts down
those who seek only to injure. They who have despised God's threats
and angry countenance with security and defiance have at last
experienced the fulfillment of these warnings and perished thereby.
King Saul thought to destroy godly David, to exterminate his root and
branch and blot out his name as if he had been a rebellious, accursed
man. But God effected the very opposite. Because David in his
sufferings and persecution walked in the fear of God and trusted him
with simplicity, desiring no harm to his enemy, God's gracious eye
was ever upon him and preserved him from that enemy. On the other
hand, the angry face of God was bent upon King Saul, and before David
was aware of it the king had fallen, and his whole family met ruin
with him; they were obliged to surrender crown and kingdom to the
persecuted David.

43. Christians should strengthen their faith with the comforting
thought that God's gracious countenance is over them and he turns eye
and ear toward them; and that on the other hand he looks with angry
face upon their enemies and those seeking to injure, and will take a
hand in their game, obliging them either to refrain from their
evil-doing, or to perish by it. Such retribution is certain. No one
can live long without proving by his own experience and that of other
men the truth of the proverb, "Right will assert itself." However, we
lack in faith and cannot wait God's hour. We think he delays too long
and that we suffer too much. But in reality his time will come
speedily, and we can well wait and endure if we believe in God, who
but grants our enemies a brief opportunity to be converted. But their
appointed hour is already at hand and they will not escape if it
overtakes them without repentance.

"And who is he that will harm you, if ye be zealous of that which is
good? But even if ye should suffer for righteousness' sake, blessed
are ye."

44. According to Peter's words here, you have a very great advantage
over all your enemies, whoever they be, in being richly endowed by
God with eternal blessing. You know he will protect, support and
avenge you, hence you abide in your faith and godliness. Although
your adversaries think to trouble and harm you, they can do you no
real injury whatever they effect. For wherein can persecution harm if
you strive for godliness and abide in it? Not by malice, might and
violence can your enemies take from you, or diminish, your piety and
God's grace, his help and blessing. And even from all the bodily and
temporal harm they can inflict, you suffer no loss. For the more they
seek to injure you, the more they hasten their own punishment and
destruction, and the greater is your recompense from God. By the very
fact that they slander, disgrace, persecute and trouble you, they
multiply your blessing with God and further your cause, for God must
the sooner consider your case, supporting you and overthrowing them.
They but prepare your reward and benefit by their wicked, venomous
hatred, their envy, anger and fury. At the same time they effect for
themselves conditions the very reverse. Being condemned by their own
evil consciences, they cannot in their hearts enjoy one good day, one
peaceful hour; and they heap up for themselves God's wrath and

45. Indeed, you are all the more blessed, temporally and eternally,
Peter declares, for the very reason that you suffer for
righteousness' sake. You are so to regard the situation and to praise
and thank God for your suffering. The apostle looks upon tribulation
in this light and exalts it as supreme blessedness and a glorious
thing. Christ says in Matthew 5, 11-12: "Blessed are ye when men
shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil
against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for
great is your reward in heaven." Oh, your adversaries should purchase
a little of this comfort regardless of cost and boast of suffering a
little for the sake of righteousness! Could they understand the
promise and be worthy of it, how intensely might they desire to have
suffered all and much more than they thought to inflict upon you, if
only they might be blessed and prove the comfort of this precious,
divine promise!

"Fear not their fear, neither be troubled; but sanctify in your
hearts Christ as Lord."

46. Here again Peter resorts to Scripture and cites a verse from the
prophet Isaiah (ch. 8, 12-13) where he admonishes God's people not to
be terror-stricken by the wrath and threats of men, but firmly and
confidently to trust in God. The prophet speaks similarly in chapter
51, verse 7: "Fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye dismayed
at their revilings." As if he would say: Why will you permit
yourselves to be disturbed by the persecutions of men, however great,
mighty and terrible enemies they may be, when you are blessed and
happy in God to the extent that all creatures must pronounce you
blessed? Moreover, you know the eyes of your God behold you and his
ears are open to your cry, and whatever you desire and pray for is
heard and granted. More than this, your adversaries are threatened by
his angry face. What are all men--tyrants, pope, Turk, Tartars, ay,
the devil himself--compared to this Lord, and what can they do
against him, when and wheresoever he chooses to show his power? They
are but as a straw to a mighty thunderbolt which makes the earth
tremble. Therefore, if you are indeed Christians and believe in God
you ought in no wise to fear all these adversaries, but rather,
joyfully and with scornful courage to despise their defiance, their
threatening and rage, as something utterly harmless to you; they are
but effecting their own destruction in hurling themselves at the
Majesty before which all creatures must tremble.


47. But this you are to do: Sanctify God; that is, regard and honor
him as holy. This is nothing else than to believe his Word; be
confident that in God you have truly one who, if you suffer for
righteousness' sake, neither forgets nor forsakes, but graciously
looks upon you and purposes to give his support and to revenge you on
your enemies. Such faith and confession honors him as the true God,
upon whom man can confidently and joyfully call for help, reposing
his whole trust in him upon the authority of his sure Word and
promise, which cannot deceive or fail.

48. In contrast, unbelievers cannot sanctify God; they cannot render
him due honor, although they may talk much of him and display much
divine worship. They do not accept God's Word as the truth, but
always remain in doubt. In the hour of suffering they deem themselves
utterly forgotten and forsaken by the Lord. Therefore they murmur and
fret, being very impatient and disobedient toward God. They rashly
seek to protect and revenge themselves by their own power. That very
conduct betrays them as beings without a God, as blind, miserable,
condemned heathen. Such are the great multitude of Turks, Jews,
Papists and unbelieving saints today throughout the world.

_Sixth Sunday After Trinity_

Text: Romans 6, 3-11.

3 Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him
through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the
dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in
newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with him in the
likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his
resurrection; 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with
him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no
longer be in bondage to sin; 7 for he that hath died is justified
from sin. 8 But if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also
live with him; 9 knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth
no more; death no more hath dominion over him. 10 For the death that
he died, he died unto sin once: but the life that he liveth, he
liveth unto God. 11 Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto
sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus.


1. In this epistle lesson Paul gives Christians instruction
concerning the Christian life on earth, and connects with it the hope
of the future and eternal life, in view of which they have been
baptized and become Christians. He makes of our earthly life a
death--a grave--with the understanding, however, that henceforth the
risen man and the newness of life should be found in us. And he
treats of this doctrine because of an error that always prevails:
When we preach that upon us is bestowed grace and the forgiveness of
sins, without any merit on our part, people are disposed to regard
themselves as free from obligation and will do no works except those
to which their own desires prompt them. This was Saint Paul's
experience when he so strongly commended the grace of Christ and its
consolation (ch. 5, 20), declaring that "where sin abounded, grace
did abound more exceedingly," and that where there are many and great
sins, there also reigns great, abundant and rich grace. The rude
crowd cried: Oh, is it true that great grace follows upon great sin?
In that case we will cheerfully load ourselves with sin so that we
may receive the greater grace.


2. Such argument Paul now confutes. He says: It is not the intention
of the Gospel to teach sin or to allow it; it teaches the very
opposite--how we may escape from sin and from the awful wrath of God
which it incurs. Escape is not effected by any doings of our own, but
by the fact that God, out of pure grace, forgives us our sins for his
Son's sake; for God finds in us nothing but sin and condemnation. How
then can this doctrine give occasion or permission to sin when it is
so diametrically opposed to it and teaches how it is to be blotted
out and put away?

3. Paul does not teach that grace is acquired through sin, nor that
sin brings grace; he says quite the opposite--that "the wrath of God
is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness
of men," Rom 1, 18. But because the sins of men which are taken away
are so grievous and numerous, the grace which drowns and destroys
them must be mighty and abundant also. Where there is great thirst, a
great draft is needed to quench it. Where there is a mighty
conflagration, powerful streams of water are necessary to extinguish
it. In cases of severe illness, strong medicine is essential to a
cure. But these facts do not give us authority to say: Let us
cheerfully drink to satiety that we may become more thirsty for good
wine; or, Let us injure ourselves and make ourselves ill that
medicine may do us more good. Still less does it follow that we may
heap up and multiply sins for the purpose of receiving more abundant
grace. Grace is opposed to sin and destroys it; how then should it
strengthen or increase it?

4. Therefore he begins his sermon by inquiring, in this sixth chapter
(verses 1-3): "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that
grace may abound? God forbid. We who died to sin, how shall we any
longer live therein?" In other words: How is it possible that because
grace should destroy sin ye should live unto sin? And then, further
to illustrate this, he says:

"Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death?"

5. He speaks here in figurative language to clearly and forcibly
impress this matter upon us; ordinarily it would have been sufficient
for him to ask: "We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live
therein?" that is to say, Inasmuch as ye have been saved from sin
through grace, it is not possible that grace should command you to
continue in sin, for it is the business of grace to destroy sin. Now,
in the figurative words above quoted, he wishes to vividly remind us
what Christ has bestowed upon us. He would say to us: Do but call to
mind why you are Christians--you have been baptized into Christ. Do
you know why and whereunto you have been baptized, and what it
signifies that you have been baptized with water? The meaning is that
not only have you there been washed and cleansed in soul through the
forgiveness of sins, but your flesh and blood have been condemned,
given over unto death, to be drowned, and your life on earth to be a
daily dying unto sin. For your baptism is simply an overwhelming by
grace--a gracious overwhelming--whereby sin in you is drowned; so may
you remain subjects of grace and not be destroyed by the wrath of God
because of your sin. Therefore, if you let yourself be baptized, you
give yourself over to gracious drowning and merciful slaying at the
hands of your God, and say to him: Drown and overwhelm me, dear Lord,
for gladly would I henceforth, with thy Son, be dead to sin, that I
may, with him, also live through grace.


6. When he says, "All we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were
baptized into his death," and again, "We were buried therefore with
him through baptism into death," he speaks in his own Pauline style
concerning the power of baptism, which derives its efficacy from the
death of Christ. By his death he has paid for and taken away our
sins; his death has been an actual strangling and putting to death of
sin, and it no longer has dominion over him. So we, also, through his
death have obtained forgiveness of sins; that sin may not condemn us,
we die unto sin through that power which Christ--because we are
baptized into him--imparts to and works in us.

7. Yea, he further declares that we are not only baptized into his
death, but, by the same baptism, we are buried with him into death;
for in his death he took our sins with him into the grave, burying
them completely and leaving them there. And it follows that, for
those who through baptism are in Christ, sin is and shall remain
completely destroyed and buried; but we, through his
resurrection--which, by faith, gives us the victory over sin and
death and bestows upon us everlasting righteousness and life--should
henceforth walk in newness of life.

8. Having these things through baptism, we dare no longer obey--live
unto--the sin which still dwells in our flesh and blood in this life;
we must daily strangle it so that it may have no power nor life in us
if we desire to be found in the estate and life of Christ. For he
died unto sin, destroying it by his death and burying it in his
grave; and he acquired life and the victory over sin and death by his
resurrection, and bestows them upon us by baptism. The fact that
Christ himself had to die for sin is evidence of the severe wrath of
God against sin. Sin had to be put to death and laid away in the
grave in the body of Christ. Thereby God shows us that he will not
countenance sin in us, but has given us Christ and baptism for the
purpose of putting to death and burying sin in our bodies.

9. Thus Paul shows us in these words what has been effected by
Christ's death and burial, and what is the signification of our being
buried with him. In the first place, Christ was buried that he might,
through forgiveness, cover up and destroy our sin, both that which we
have actually committed and that which is inherent in us; he would
not have it inculpate and condemn us. In the second place, he was
buried that he might, through the Holy Spirit, mortify this flesh and
blood with its inherent sinful lusts; they must no longer have
dominion over us, but must be subject to the Spirit until we are
utterly freed from them.

10. Thus, we still lie with Christ in the grave according to the
flesh. Although it be true that we have the forgiveness of sins, that
we are God's children and possess salvation, yet all this is not
perceptible to our own senses or to the world. It is hidden in Christ
by faith until the judgment day. For we do not yet experience in
ourselves such righteousness, such holiness, such life and such
salvation as God's Word describes and as faith expects to find.
Wherefore Paul says in Colossians 3, 3-4 (as we have heard in the
Easter sermons), "Your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ,
who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be
manifested in glory."

11. On the other hand, we are outwardly oppressed with the cross and
sufferings, and with the persecution and torments of the world and
the devil, as with the weight of a heavy stone upon us, subduing our
old sinful nature and checking us against antagonizing the Spirit and
committing other sins.

"For if we have become united [planted together] with him in the
likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his
resurrection; knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him,
that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer
be in bondage to sin; for he that hath died is justified from sin."

12. This is another distinctly apostolic discourse. Being baptized
into Christ's death and buried with him, to which Paul had just
referred, he here calls being united, or planted together, with
Christ in the likeness of his death. Christ's death and resurrection
and our baptism are intimately united with, and related to, one
another. Baptism is not to be regarded a mere empty sign, as
Anabaptists erroneously hold. In it is embodied the power of both
Christ's death and resurrection. Hence Paul says, "we are planted
together with him," engrafted into him as a member of his body, so
that he is a power in us and his death works in us. Through baptism
he dedicates us to himself and imparts to us the power of his death
and resurrection, to the end that both death and life may follow in
us. Hence our sins are crucified through his death, taken away, that
they may finally die in us and no longer live.

13. Being placed under the water in baptism signifies that we die in
Christ. Coming forth from the water teaches, and imparts to, us a new
life in him, just as Christ remained not in death, but was raised
again to life. Such life should not and can not be a life of sin,
because sin was crucified before in us and we had to die to it. It
must be a new life of righteousness and holiness, Christ through his
resurrection finally destroyed sin, because of which he had to die,
and instead he brought to himself the true life of righteousness, and
imparts it to us. Hence we are said to be planted together with
Christ or united with him and become one, so that we both have in us
the power of his death and resurrection. The fruits and results of
this power will be found in us after we are baptized into him.

14. The apostle speaks consolingly of the death of the Christian as a
being planted, to show that the Christian's death and sufferings on
earth are not really death and harm, but a planting unto life; being
redeemed, by the resurrection, from death and sin, we shall live
eternally. For that which is planted is not planted unto death and
destruction, but planted that it may sprout and grow. So Christ was
planted, through death, unto life; for not until he was released from
this mortal life and from the sin which rested on him and brought him
into death on our account, did he come into his divine glory and
power. Since this planting begins in baptism, as said, and we by
faith possess life in Christ, it is evident that this life must
strike root in us and bear fruit. For that which is planted is not
planted without purpose; it is to grow and bear fruit. So must we
prove, by our new conversation and by our fruits, that we are planted
in Christ unto life.


15. Paul gives the reason for new growth. He says: "Knowing this,
that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might
be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin." It
does not become us, as baptized Christians, to desire to remain in
our old sinful estate. That is already crucified with Christ; the
sentence of condemnation upon it has been pronounced and carried out.
For that is what being crucified means. Just so, Christ, in suffering
crucifixion for our sins, bore the penalty of death and the wrath of
God. Christ, innocent and sinless, being crucified for our sins, sin
must be crucified in our body; it must be utterly condemned and
destroyed, rendered lifeless and powerless. We dare not, then, in any
wise serve sin nor consent to it. We must regard it as actually
condemned, and with all our power we must resist it; we must subdue
and put it to death.

16. Paul here makes a distinction. He says, "Our old man was
crucified with him [Christ]," and "that the body of sin might be done
away." He intimates that the "old man" and "the body of sin" are two
different things. By the term "old man" he means not only the
body--the grossly sinful deeds which the body commits with its five
senses--but the whole tree with all its fruits, the whole man as he
is descended from Adam. In it are included body and soul, will,
reason and understanding. Both inwardly and outwardly, it is still
under the sway of unbelief, impiety and disobedience. Man is called
old, not because of his years; for it is possible for a man to be
young and strong and vigorous and yet to be without faith or a
religious spirit, to despise God, to be greedy and vainglorious, or
to live in pride or the conceit of wisdom and power. But he is called
the old man because he is unconverted, unchanged from his original
condition as a sinful descendant of Adam. The child of a day is
included as well as the man of eighty years; we all are thus from our
mother's womb. The more sins a man commits, the older and more unfit
he is before God. This old man, Paul says, must be crucified--utterly
condemned, executed, put out of the way, even here in this life. For
where he still remains in his strength, it is impossible that faith
or the spirit should be; and thus man remains in his sins, drowned
under the wrath of God, troubled with an evil conscience which
condemns him and keeps him out of God's kingdom.

17. The "new man" is one who has turned to God in repentance, one who
has a new heart and understanding, who has changed his belief and
through the power of the Holy Spirit lives in accordance with the
Word and will of God. This new man must be found in all Christians;
it begins in baptism or in repentance and conversion. It resists and
subdues the old man and its sinful lusts through the power of the
Holy Spirit. Paul declares, "They that are of Christ Jesus have
crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts," Gal 5, 24.

18. Now, although in those who are new men, the old man is crucified,
there yet, Paul says, remains in them in this life "the body of sin."
By this we understand the remaining lusts of the old man, which are
still felt to be active in the flesh and blood, and which would fain
resist the spirit. But inasmuch as the head and life of sin are
destroyed, these lusts cannot harm the Christian. Still the Christian
must take care not to become obedient to them, lest the old man come
to power again. The new man must keep the upper hand; the remaining
sinful lusts must be weakened and subdued. And this body of ours must
finally decay and turn to dust, thereby utterly annihilating sin in

19. Now, he says, if ye be dead to sin under the reign of the spirit
and the new man, and adjudged to death under the reign of the body,
ye must no longer permit sin to bring you under its dominion, lest it
inculpate and condemn you. But ye must live as those who are wholly
released from it, over whom it no longer has any right or power. For
we read, "He that hath died is justified from sin." This is said of
all who are dead. He that has died has paid for his sin; he need not
die for it again, for he no longer commits sin and evil deeds. If sin
be destroyed in man by the Spirit, and the flesh also is dead and
gone, man is completely released and freed from sin.

20. Paul comprehends the whole existence of the Christian on earth in
the death of Christ, and represents it as dead and buried, in the
coffin; that is, the Christian has ceased from the life of sin, and
has nothing more to do with it. He speaks of sin as being dead unto
the Christian and of the latter as being dead unto sin for the reason
that Christians no longer take part in the sinful life of the world.
And, too, they are doubly dead. First, spiritually they are dead unto
sin. And this, though painful and bitter to flesh and blood, is a
blessed, a comfortable and happy dying, sweet and delightful, for it
produces a heavenly life, pure and perfect. Secondly, they are
physically dead--the body dies. But this is not really death; rather
a gentle, soothing sleep. Therefore ye are, Paul would say, beyond
measure happy. In Christ ye have already escaped death by dying unto
sin; that death ye need die no more. It--the first death, which ye
have inherited from Adam through sin--is already taken away from you.
That being the real, the bitter and eternal death, ye are
consequently freed from the necessity of dying. At the same time
there is a death, or rather only the semblance of one, which ye must
suffer because ye are yet on earth and are the descendants of Adam.


21. The first death, inherited from Adam, is done away with, changed
into a spiritual dying unto sin, by reason of which the soul no
longer consents to sin and the body no longer commits it. Thus, in
place of the death which sin has brought upon us, eternal life is
already begun in you. Ye are now freed from the dreadful damning
death; then accept the sweet, holy and blessed death unto sin, that
ye may beware of sin and no longer serve it. Such is to be the result
of the death of Christ into which ye are baptized; Christ has died
and has commanded you to be baptized in order that sin might be
drowned in you.

22. The other, the "little death," is that outward, physical death.
In the Scriptures it is called a sleep. It is imposed upon the flesh,
because, so long as we live on earth, the flesh never ceases to
resist the spirit and its life. Paul says: "The flesh lusteth against
the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary
the one to the other; that ye may not do the things that ye would."
Gal 5, 17. The spirit, or soul, says: I am dead unto sin and will not
sin any more. But the flesh says: I am not dead and must make use of
my life while I have it. The spirit declares: I believe that God has
forgiven my sins and taken them away from me through Christ. But the
flesh asks: What do I know of God or his will? The spirit resolves: I
must be meek, pure, chaste, humble, patient, and seek the future
life. But the flesh in reply makes a loud outcry: Away with your
heaven! if only I had enough of bread and money and property here!
Thus the flesh does continually, as long as it lives here; it draws
and drags sin after itself; it is rebellious and refuses to die.
Therefore God must finally put it to death before it becomes dead
unto sin.

23. And after all, it is but a gentle and easy death. It is truly
only a sleep. Since soul and spirit are no longer dead, the body
shall not remain dead; it shall come forth again, cleansed and
purified, on the last day, to be united with the soul. Then shall it
be a gentle, pure and obedient body, without sin or evil lust.

24. These words of Paul are an admirable Christian picture of death,
representing it not as an awful thing, but as something comforting
and pleasant to contemplate. For how could Paul present a more
attractive description than when he describes it as stripped of its
power and repulsiveness and makes it the medium through which we
attain life and joy? What is more desirable than to be freed from sin
and the punishment and misery it involves, and to possess a joyful,
cheerful heart and conscience? For where there is sin and real
death--the sense of sin and God's wrath--there are such terror and
dismay that man feels like rushing through iron walls. Christ says,
in Luke 23, 30, quoting from the prophet Hosea (ch. 10, v. 8), that
such a one shall pray that the mountains and the hills may fall on
him and cover him.

25. That dreadful death which is called in the Scriptures the second
death is taken away from the Christian through Christ, and is
swallowed up in his life. In place of it there is left a miniature
death, a death in which the bitterness is covered up. In it the
Christian dies according to the flesh; that is, he passes from
unbelief to faith, from the remaining sin to eternal righteousness,
from woes and sadness and tribulation to perfect eternal joy. Such a
death is sweeter and better than any life on earth. For not all the
life and wealth and delight and joy of the world can make man as
happy as he will be when he dies with a conscience at peace with God
and with the sure faith and comfort of everlasting life. Therefore
truly may this death of the body be said to be only a falling into a
sweet and gentle slumber. The body ceases from sin. It no longer
hinders or harasses the spirit. It is cleansed and freed from sin and
comes forth again in the resurrection clothed with the obedience, joy
and life which the spirit imparts.

26. The only trouble is that the stupid flesh cannot understand this.
It is terrified by the mask of death, and imagines that it is still
suffering the old death; for it does not understand the spiritual
dying unto sin. It judges only by outward appearance. It sees that
man perishes, decays under the ground and is consumed. Having only
this abominable and hideous mask before its eyes, it is afraid of
death. But its fear is only because of its lack of understanding. If
it knew, it would by no means be afraid or shudder at death. Our
reason is like a little child who has become frightened by a bugbear
or a mask, and cannot be lulled to sleep; or like a poor man, bereft
of his senses, who imagines when brought to his couch that he is
being put into the water and drowned. What we do not understand we
cannot intelligently deal with. If, for instance, a man has a penny
and imagines it to be a five-dollar gold piece, he is just as proud
of it as if it were a real gold piece; if he loses it he is as
grieved as if he had lost that more valuable coin. But it does not
follow that he has suffered such loss; he has simply deluded himself
with a false idea.

27. Thus it is not the reality of death and burial that terrifies;
the terror lies in the flesh and blood, which cannot understand that
death and the grave mean nothing more than that God lays us--like a
little child is laid in a cradle or an easy bed--where we shall
sweetly sleep till the judgment day. Flesh and blood shudders in fear
at that which gives no reason for it, and finds comfort and joy in
that which really gives no comfort or joy. Thus Christians must be
harassed by their ignorant and insane flesh, because it will not
understand its own good or harm. They must verily fight against it as
long as they live, at the cost of much pain and weariness.

28. There is none so perfect that he does not flee from and shudder
at death and the grave. Paul complains and confesses of himself, and
in his own person of all Christians: "For that which I do I know not:
for not what I would, that do I practice." Rom 7, 15. In other words:
By the spirit, I am well aware that when this body comes to die God
simply lays me to rest in sweetest slumber, and I would gladly have
my flesh to understand this; but I cannot bring it to it. The spirit
indeed is willing and desires bodily death as a gentle sleep. It does
not consider it to be death; it knows no such thing as death. It
knows that it is freed from sin and that where there is no sin there
is no death--life only. But the flesh halts and hesitates, and is in
constant dread lest I die and perish in the abyss. It will not allow
itself to be tamed and brought into that obedience and into that
consoling view of death which the spirit exercises. Even Saint Paul
cries out in anxiety of spirit: "Wretched man that I am! who shall
deliver me out of the body of this death?" Rom 7, 24. Now we see what
is meant by the statement, "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit."
The flesh must be dragged along and compelled by the spirit to
obediently follow, in spite of its resistance and trembling. It must
be forced into submission until it is finally overcome. Just so the
mother so deals with the child that is fretful and restless that she
constrains it to sleep.

29. Paul says, "Knowing this, that our old man was crucified"--that
is, we know that, in soul and spirit, we are already dead unto
sin--"that the body of sin might be done away." The meaning is:
Because the body does not willingly and cheerfully follow the spirit,
but resists and would fain linger in the old life of sin, it is
already sentenced, compelled to follow and to be put to death that
sin may be destroyed in it.

30. He does not say that the body is destroyed as soon as a man has
been baptized and is become a Christian, but that the body of sin is
destroyed. The body which before was obstinate and disobedient to the
spirit is now changed; it is no longer a body of sin but of
righteousness and newness of life. So he adds, "that we should no
longer be in bondage to sin."

"But if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with
him; knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more;
death no more hath dominion over him. For the death that he died, he
died unto sin once; but the life that he liveth, he liveth unto God."

31. Here he leads us out of the death and grave of sin to the
resurrection of spirit and body. When we die--spiritually unto sin,
and physically to the world and self--what doth it profit us? Is
there nothing else in store for the Christian but to die and be
buried? By all means yes, he says; we are sure by faith that we also
shall live, even as Christ rose from death and the grave and lives.
For we have died with him, or, as stated above, "we have become
united with him in the likeness of his death." By his death he has
destroyed our sin and death; therefore we share in his resurrection
and life. There shall be no more sin and death in our spirit or body,
just as there is no more death in him. Christ, having once died and
been raised again, dieth no more. There is nothing to die for. He has
accomplished everything. He has destroyed the sin for which he died,
and has swallowed up death in victory. And that he now lives means
that he lives in everlasting righteousness, life and majesty. So,
when ye have once passed through both deaths, the spiritual death
unto sin and the gentle death of the body, death can no more touch
you, no more reign over you.

32. This, then, is our comfort for the timidity of the poor, weak
flesh which still shudders at death. If thou art a Christian, then
know that thy Lord Jesus Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no
more; death hath no more dominion over him. Therefore, death hath no
more dominion over thee, who art baptized into him. Satan is defied
and dared to try all his powers and terrors on Christ; for we are
assured, "Death no more hath dominion over him." Death may awaken
anger, malice, melancholy, fear and terror in our poor, weak flesh,
but it hath no more dominion over Christ. On the contrary, death must
submit to the dominion of Christ, in his own person and in us. We
have died unto sin; that is, we have been redeemed from the sting and
power, the control, of death. Christ has fully accomplished the work
by which he obtained power over death, and has bestowed that power
upon us, that in him we should reign over death. So Paul says in

"Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive
unto God in Christ Jesus."

33. "Reckon ye also yourselves," he says. Ye, as Christians, should
be conscious of these things, and should conduct yourselves in all
your walk and conversation as those who are dead to sin and who give
evidence of it to the world. Ye shall not serve sin, shall not follow
after it, as if it had dominion over you. Ye shall live in newness of
life, which means that ye shall lead a godly life, inwardly by faith
and outwardly in your conduct; ye shall have power over sin until the
flesh--the body--shall at last fall asleep, and thus both deaths be
accomplished in you. Then there will remain nothing but life--no
terror or fear of death and no more of its dominion.

_Seventh Sunday After Trinity_

Text: Romans 6, 19-23.

19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your
flesh: for as ye presented your members as servants to uncleanness
and to iniquity unto iniquity, even so now present your members as
servants to righteousness unto sanctification. 20 For when ye were
servants of sin, ye were free in regard of righteousness. 21 What
fruit then had ye at that time in the things whereof ye are now
ashamed? for the end of those things is death. 22 But now being made
free from sin and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto
sanctification, and the end eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is
death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our


1. The text properly should include several verses preceding. Paul
has not yet concluded the subject of the epistle for last Sunday.
There he urges that since we are baptized into Christ and believe, we
should henceforth walk in a new life; that we are now dead to sin
because we are in Christ, who by his death and resurrection has
conquered and destroyed sin. He illustrates the power of Christ's
death and resurrection by saying: "For sin shall not have dominion
over you: for ye are not under law, but under grace." That is, being
in Christ and possessed of the power of his resurrection--in other
words, having God's grace and the forgiveness of sins--you can now
readily resist sin. Although you may not perfectly fulfill the letter
of the Law in its demands, yet it cannot condemn you as a sinner nor
subject you to God's wrath.


2. Then Paul presents again the question raised by the obstinate
world when it encounters this doctrine. "What then?" he asks, "shall
we sin because we are not under the law but under grace?" It is the
perversity of the world that, when we preach about forgiveness of
sins by pure grace and without merit of man, it should either say we
forbid good works, or else try to draw the conclusion that man may
continue to live in sin and follow his own pleasure; when the fact
is, we should particularly strive to live a life the very reverse of
sinful, that our doctrine may draw people to good works, unto the
praise and honor and glory of God. Our doctrine, rightly apprehended,
does not influence to pride and vice, but to humility and obedience.

3. In affairs of temporal government, whether domestic or civil,
judge or ruler, it is understood that he who asks for pardon
confesses himself guilty, acknowledges his error and promises to
reform--to transgress no more. For instance, when the judge extends
mercy and pardon to the thief deserving of the gallows, the law is
canceled by grace. Suppose now the thief continues in wrong-doing and
boasts, "Now that I am under grace I may do as I please, I have no
law to fear"; who would tolerate him? For though the law is indeed
canceled for him and he receives not merited punishment, though grace
delivers him from the rope and the sword, life is not granted him
that he may continue to steal, to murder; rather he is supposed to
become honest and virtuous. If he does not, the law will again
overtake him and punish him as he deserves. In short, where grace
fulfills the law, no one is for that reason given license to continue
in wrong-doing; on the contrary, he is under increased obligation to
avoid occasions of falling under condemnation of the law.

4. Everyone can readily comprehend this principle in temporal things;
no one is stupid enough to tolerate the idea of grace being granted
to extend opportunity to do wrong. It is only the Gospel doctrine
concerning God's grace and the forgiveness of sin that must suffer
the slanderous misrepresentation that makes it abolish good works or
give occasion for sin. We are told how God, in his unfathomable
grace, has canceled the sentence of eternal death and hell fire
which, according to the Law and divine judgment, we deserved, and has
given us instead the freedom of life eternal; thus our life is purely
of grace. Yet certainly we are not pardoned that we may live as
before when, under condemnation and wrath, we incurred death. Rather,
forgiveness is bestowed that we in appreciation of the sublimity and
sanctity of God's unspeakably great blessing which delivers us from
death unto life, should henceforth take heed that we lose it not;
that we fall not from grace to pass again under judgment and the
sentence of eternal death. We are to conduct ourselves as men made
alive and saved.

5. So Paul says in verse 16, "Know ye not, that to whom ye present
yourselves as servants unto obedience, his servants ye are whom ye
obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?"
Meaning, Since you now have, under grace, obtained forgiveness of sin
and are become righteous, you owe it to God to live in obedience to
his will. Necessarily your life must be obedient to some master.
Either you obey sin, to continue in the service of which brings death
and God's wrath, or you obey God, in grace, unto a new manner of
life. So, then, you are no more to obey sin, having been freed from
its dominion and power. Paul continues the topic in this Sunday's
epistle text, saying:


"I speak after the manner of men, because of the infirmity of your
flesh: for as ye presented your members as members to uncleanness,"

6. Heretofore he had been speaking, under the inspiration of the Holy
Spirit, in language unusual and unintelligible to the world. To the
gentiles it was a strange and incomprehensible thing he said about
dying with Christ unto sin, being buried and planted into his death,
and so on. But now, since his former words are obscure to the natural
understanding, he will, he says, speak according to human
reason--"after the manner of men."

7. Even reason and the laws of all the gentiles, he goes on to say,
teach we are not to do evil; rather to avoid it and do good. All
sovereigns establish laws to restrain evil and preserve order.

How could we introduce through the Gospel a doctrine countenancing
evil? Though the wisdom of the Gospel is a higher gift than human
reason, it does not alter or nullify the God-implanted intelligence
of the latter. Hence it is a perversion of our doctrine to say it
does not teach us to love good works and practice them. "Now, if you
cannot understand this truth from my explanation," Paul would
say--"that through faith you have, by baptism, died to the sinful
life, even been buried--then learn it through your accustomed
exercise of reason. You know for yourselves that pardon for former
transgression and release from lawful punishment gives no one license
to do evil--to commit theft or murder."

8. It is a commonly recognized fact among men that pardon does not
mean license. God's Word confirms the same. Yet the disadvantage is
that although reason teaches, through the Law, good works and forbids
evil, it is unable to comprehend why its teachings are not fulfilled.
It perceives from the results which follow dishonoring of the Law,
that to honor is best, that it is right and praiseworthy not to steal
and commit crime. But it fails to understand why, given the teachings
at first, they are not naturally fulfilled. Nor, again, does it know
how existing conditions may be removed or bettered. It resorts to
this expedient and that to restrain evil, but it cannot attain the
art of uprooting and destroying it. With the sword, rack and gallows
the judge may restrain public crime, but he cannot punish more than
what is known and witnessed to before the court. Whatever is done
secretly and never comes before him, he cannot punish or restrain.
The Word of God, however, takes hold of the difficulty in a different
manner. It teaches how to crush the head of the serpent and to slay
the evil. Then the judge and the executioner are no longer necessary.
But where we may not control the cause of the wrong, we should,
nevertheless, restrain so far as possible its manifest workings.

Now, the utmost reason can teach is that we are not to do evil even
in thought or desire, and the extent of its punishment relates only
to outward works; it cannot punish the thought and inclination to do

9. "But we preach another doctrine," Paul means to say, "a doctrine
having power to control the heart and restrain the will. We say you
believers in Christ, who are baptized into his death and buried with
him, are not only to be reckoned dead, but are truly dead unto sin."
A Christian has certain knowledge that through the grace of Christ
his sins are forgiven--blotted out and deprived of condemning power.
Because he has obtained and believes in such grace, he receives a
heart abhorrent of sin. Although feeling within himself, perhaps, the
presence of evil thoughts and lusts, yet his faith and the Holy
Spirit are with him to remind him of his baptism. "Notwithstanding
time and opportunity permit me to do evil," he says to himself, "and
though I run no risk of being detected and punished, yet I will not
do it. I will obey God and honor Christ my Lord, for I am baptized
into Christ and as a Christian am dead unto sin, nor will I come
again under its power."

So acted godly Joseph, who, when tempted by his master's wife, "left
his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out" (Gen 39, 12);
whereas another might have been glad of the invitation. He was but
flesh and blood and naturally not insensible to her inducement, to
the time and opportunity, the friendship of the woman and the offered
enjoyment; but he restrained himself, not yielding even in thought to
the temptation. Such obedience to God destroys indeed the source of
evil--sin. Reason and human wisdom know nothing of it. It is not to
be effected by laws, by punishment, by prison and sword. It can be
attained only by faith and a knowledge of Christ's grace, through
which we die to sin and the world, and restrain the will from evil
even when detection and punishment are impossible.

10. Now, such doctrine is not to be learned from human reason; it is
spiritual and taught of the Scriptures. It reveals the source of evil
and how to restrain it. Since, then, we teach restraint of evil and
show withal a way higher and more effectual than reason can find, the
accusation that we prohibit good works and license sin is
sufficiently answered and disproved. But Paul would say to the
Romans, "If you cannot comprehend our superior doctrine as to the
questions raised, then answer them according to the teachings of your
own reason, for even that will tell you--and no man will dispute
it--we are to do no wrong. The Word of God confirms this doctrine."

11. The apostle says he will speak of the point they raise, after the
manner of men. That does not mean according to corrupt flesh and
blood, which are not capable of speaking anything good, but according
to natural reason as God created it, where some good still remains,
for there are to be found many upright individuals who make just
laws. I speak thus "because of the infirmity of your flesh," Paul
declares. As if he would say, I have not yet said as much as reason,
the teachers of the Law and the jurists would demand, but I will go
no further because you are yet too weak spiritually, and too
unaccustomed to my manner of speech, for all of you to understand it.
I must come down to your apprehension and speak according to your
capacity. Now, I want to say, ask your own statutes, your own laws,
whether they authorize the prohibition of good works; if they license
evil, though they may not be able to prevent it. Thus I convince you
that such a pretense regarding our doctrine is not to be tolerated.


"Even reason teaches that your lives must conform to your business;
each is in duty bound to obey him whom he serves. As Christians you
are obliged to render another service than that you gave when under
the dominion of sin, and obedient to it; when you were unable to
escape its power and to do any work good before God. You have now
come out of bondage and are relieved from obedience to sin, through
grace, having devoted yourselves to the service of God, to obeying
him. Therefore, assuredly you must change your manner of life."

12. Truly, Paul here argues reasonably and within the scope of man's
natural understanding. We preach the same truths, but, presenting
them in the form of Christian doctrine, we necessarily employ
different language and a loftier tone, lest it be offensive to the
world. We may say that theft, murder, envy, hate and other crimes and
vices are transgressions, yet we cannot remedy the evils by the mere
prohibitions of the law. The remedy must be effected through God's
grace, and is accomplished in the believer, not by our power, but by
the Holy Spirit. But when we so explain, the stupid world immediately
blurts out, "Oh, if it be true that our works do not remedy evils,
let us enjoy ourselves and not bother about good works!"

13. That their implication is false and a wanton perversion of the
true doctrine is manifest from the fact that we exalt and endorse the
command of God, and also the doctrine of reason, that teach us to do
good and avoid evil. Indeed, we assist reason, which is powerless to
remedy evil. If reason were itself sufficient, men would not permit
themselves to be deceived by their own visionary ideas and false
doctrines about worthless and vain works, as are followers of the
papacy and of all false worship. No doubt such error has its rise in
the principle that we are to do good and avoid evil. The principle
fundamentally is true, and accepted by all men; but when it comes to
the theories we build upon it, the speculations as to how it is to be
put into practice, there is disagreement. Only the Word of God can
show how to accomplish it.

Reason is easily blinded on this point and deceived by false
appearances, being led by anything merely called good. Even when it
has performed all it believes to be right, it is still uncertain of
acceptance. Indeed, it perceives no fruits, no benefit, to result
from its teaching; for at best its achievements extend no farther
than outward works--the object being to make the doer appear
righteous and respectable before men--while inward sinfulness is
unrestrained and the soul remains captive to its former life,
obedient to the lusts of sin. And the motive of such a one is not
sincere; he would conduct himself quite otherwise were he not
restrained by fear of shame and punishment.


14. We present a higher doctrine--the Gospel. The Gospel teaches
first how sin in ourselves is, through Christ, slain and buried. Thus
we obtain a good conscience, a conscience hating and opposing sin,
and become obedient to another power. Being delivered from sin we
would serve God and exert ourselves to do his pleasure, even though
no fear, punishment, judge or executioner existed.

With this point accepted--with the settlement of this minor subject
of controversy as to how we are delivered from sin and attain to
truly good works, we unite once more on the fundamental principle
that good is to be done and evil avoided. Therefore, we immediately
conclude: Since we are free from sin and converted to God, we must in
obedience to him do good and live no more in sin.

15. Thus does Paul make use of the Law, and of human reason so far as
it is able to interpret the Law, to resist them who speak falsely and
pervert the right doctrine. Evidently, then, the doctrine of the
Gospel does not oppose the doctrine of good works, but transcends it.
For it reveals the source and inspiration of good works--not human
reason, not human ability, but the grace and power of the Holy
Spirit. Now Paul deduces the point:

"For as ye presented [yielded] your members as servants to
uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity, even so now present
[yield] your members as servants to righteousness unto sanctification


16. Even reason teaches that, being no more subject to sin and
unrighteousness, you are no longer to serve them with your body and
members--your whole physical life. And further, having yielded
yourselves to obey God and righteousness, you are in duty bound to
serve them with body and life. To put it concisely and clearly, Let
him who formerly was evil and lived contrary to his own conscience
and to God's will, now become godly and serve the Lord with a good
conscience. Or, as Paul says, "Let him that stole steal no more," Eph
4, 28.

17. Formerly, he tells them, their members--eyes, ears, mouth, hands,
feet--even the whole body, served uncleanness. For "vice" he uses
this term "uncleanness," readily intelligible to reason and inclusive
of all forms of sin. "You permitted your members to serve
unrighteousness," he would say, "and devoted them to every sort of
unholy life, every wicked work, committing one iniquity after another
and exercising all manner of villainy that can be named. Now reverse
the order. Reasoning according to your own logic: while before you
willingly witnessed, heard and uttered things shameful and unchaste,
and sought lewdness, lending your bodies to it, let impurity now be
distressing to your sight and hearing; let the body flee from it; be
pure in words and works. All the members of the body, all its
functions, are to be devoted to righteousness."

Thus your members, your whole bodies, are to become holy--to be God's
own--and given over solely to his service. The longer and the more
ardently they serve, the more cheerfully will they honor and obey
God, being devoted to all that is divine, praiseworthy, honorable and
virtuous. The instructions God has written upon your own heart would
teach you this principle, even were there no Word of God. It is
useless for you to protest: "Yes, but you have taught that good works
do not save," for that doctrine is not inconsistent, but beyond your
understanding. Indeed, it is the true light whereby you may fulfill
the teachings of reason.

"For when ye were servants of sin, ye were free in regard of [free
from] righteousness."

18. All these expressions Paul uses "after the manner of men,"
adapting them from the laws and customs of the times concerning
slavery, service and freedom. Then servants were bondmen, purchased
by their masters, with whom they must abide until set at liberty by
those owners, or otherwise freed. His allusion to a former service of
unrighteousness and a present service of righteousness implies two
conditions of servitude and consequently two conditions of freedom.
He who serves sin, the apostle teaches, is free from righteousness;
that is, he is captive under sin, unable to attain to righteousness
and to do righteous works. Even reason can comprehend the principle
that he is free who does not serve--who is not servant. Again,
servants of righteousness means service and obedience to
righteousness, and freedom from sin.


Paul now puts the matter a little differently, contrasting the
experience of the Romans in the two forms of service. He leaves it
with them to determine which has been productive of benefit and which
of injury, and to choose accordingly as to future service and

"What fruit then had ye at that time in the things whereof ye are now
ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made
free from sin and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto
sanctification [holiness], and the end eternal life."

19. Rather recall your manner of life when you were free from
righteousness and obeyed only the urgings and enticements of sin.
What pleasure or gain had you in it? None, except that for which you
are now ashamed. Further, had you remained in it you would at last
have found death. Only these two grand results--shame and death.
Nothing better have you earned in its service. Munificent reward
indeed for him who, choosing freedom from righteousness, lives to his
own pleasure. He is deceived into thinking he has chosen a highly
desirable life, for it gratifies the fleshly desires, and he thinks
to go unpunished.

But gratification is succeeded by two severe punishments: First,
shame--confession of disgrace before God and the world. Thus Adam and
Eve in Paradise, when they chose to violate God's command and,
enticed by the devil, followed their desire for a forbidden thing,
were made to feel the disgrace of their sin; they were in their
hearts ashamed to appear in the presence of God. The other and added
punishment is eternal death and the fires of hell, into which also
fell our first parents.

20. Is it not better, then, to be free from the service of sin and to
serve righteousness? So doing, you would never suffer shame nor
injury but would receive a double blessing: First, a clear conscience
before God and all creatures, proof in itself that you live a holy
life and belong to God; second and chief, the rich and incorruptible
reward of eternal life.

21. In all these observations Paul is still speaking after the manner
of men; in a way comprehended and accepted by reason, even without
knowledge of Christ. It is universally true in the world that
evil-doers--thieves, murderers and the like--are punished in addition
to the public disgrace they feel. Similarly, they who do good
receive, in addition to the honor of men, all manner of happy reward.

"For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal
life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

22. It seems a strange saying, that evil-doers are to receive wages,
seemingly implying right and deserving action on their part.
Ordinarily the term "wages" signifies a good reward, given to those
who acquit themselves righteously and bravely. Paul uses the word to
discomfit them who pervert his teaching. For they say, "Ah, Paul
preaches of grace alone, yet he promises wages to sin." "Yes," Paul
would respond, "boast as you will, you will receive a reward--death
and hell-fire. You must confidently expect it if you interpret the
Gospel to teach that God shall reward you who serve sin." With the
convincing words of the text, Paul would undeceive those who
advocate, or suffer themselves to believe, that man can serve God in
sin and can receive a happy reward. He chooses words familiar to
them. "Yes, if, as you maintain, wages must be the reward of every
service, you will of course receive yours--death and hell. These any
may have who desire them and regard them precious."

23. Paul says further, "The free gift of God is eternal life."
Observe his choice of words. He does not here use the term "wages,"
because he has previously taught that eternal life is not the reward
of our works, but is given of pure grace, through faith and for
Christ's sake. So he speaks of it as a "free gift of God, through
Christ Jesus our Lord." The soul possessing eternal life is furnished
with power to crush the serpent's head, and none can deprive him of
his priceless blessing. He has also power to avoid sin and to
constantly crucify his flesh. These are things not to be effected by
any law, any human ability; faith is requisite. Through faith we are
incorporated into Christ and planted with him in the death of sin,
unto eternal life and truly good works.

_Eighth Sunday After Trinity_

Text: Romans 8, 12-17.

12 So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after
the flesh: 13 for if ye live after the flesh, ye must die; but if by
the Spirit ye put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
15 For ye received not the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye
received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The
Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children
of God: 17 and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs
with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also
glorified with him.


1. This text, like the preceding one, is an exhortation to Christian
life and works. The language employed, however, is of different
construction. The hateful machinations of the devil, by which he
produces so much disaster in the world, make it necessary to urge
this exhortation in many different forms upon those who have become
Christians. For when God out of grace, without any merit on our part,
bestows upon us the forgiveness of sins which we ourselves are unable
to buy or acquire, the devil instigates men at once to conclude and
exclaim: Oh, in that case we need no longer do good! Whenever,
therefore, the apostle speaks of the doctrine of faith, he is obliged
continually to maintain that grace implies nothing of that kind. For
our sins are not forgiven with the design that we should continue to
commit sin, but that we should cease from it. Otherwise it would more
justly be called, not forgiveness of sin but permission to sin.

2. It is a shameful perversion of the salutary doctrine of the Gospel
and great and damnable ingratitude for the unfathomable grace and
salvation received, to be unwilling to do good. For we ought in fact
to be impelled by this very grace to do, with all diligence and to
the utmost of our knowledge and ability, everything that is good and
well-pleasing to God, to the praise and glory of his name.

3. Of this Paul reminds and admonishes us here, in plain and simple
but earnest and important words, in which he points out to us how
much we owe to God for that which we have received from him, and what
injury we shall suffer if we do not value it as we should, and act
accordingly. He says:

"We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh."

4. Because we have been redeemed from the condemnation we deserved by
our sins, and now have eternal life through the Spirit of Christ
dwelling in us (he speaks of this in the preceding verses), therefore
we are debtors to live after the Spirit and obey God. This Paul
declares also in the text for last Sunday: "Now being made free from
sin and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto
sanctification." Rom 6, 22. Therefore, he says, ye are debtors; your
new calling, station, and nature require of you that, since ye have
become Christians and have the Holy Spirit, ye should live as the
Holy Spirit directs and teaches. It is not left to your own caprice
to do or to leave undone. If ye desire to glory in the possession of
grace and the Holy Spirit, ye must confess yourselves debtors to
live, not after the flesh, the only desire of which is to continue in
sin, but after the Spirit; the Spirit shows you that, having been
baptized and redeemed from sin, ye must turn from sin to the new life
of righteousness and not from that new life to sin.

"For if ye live after the flesh, ye must die."

5. Here judgment is plainly and tersely pronounced on the pretensions
of those foolish people who seek to make the freedom of grace a
pretext for giving license to the flesh. The apostle speaks these
words that he may deter them from presumption, lest in place of the
life and grace in which they pride themselves, they bring upon
themselves again eternal wrath and death. It would be utterly
inconsistent in you who are now saved and freed from eternal death to
desire henceforth to live after the flesh. For if ye do that, ye need
not imagine that ye shall retain eternal life; ye will be subject to
death and condemned to hell. For ye know that it was solely because
of your sins that ye lay under the wrath of God and had incurred
death, and that it was because ye lived after the flesh that ye
deserved condemnation. Most assuredly Christ has not died for those
who are determined to remain in their sins; he has died that he might
rescue from their sins those who would gladly be released but cannot
liberate themselves.

6. Therefore, let him that is a Christian take care not to be guilty
of such nonsense as to say: I am free from the Law, therefore I may
do as I please. Rather let him say and do the contrary. Let him,
because he is a Christian, fear and shun sin, lest he fall from his
freedom into his former state of bondage to sin under the Law and
God's wrath; or lest the life, begun in God, lapse again into death.
For here stands the express declaration, "If ye live after the flesh,
ye must die;" as if the apostle meant: It will not avail you that ye
have heard the Gospel, that ye boast of Christ, that ye receive the
sacraments, so long as ye do not, through the faith and Holy Spirit
received, subdue your sinful lusts, your ungodliness and impiety,
your avarice, malice, pride, hatred, envy and the like.

7. For the meaning of "living after the flesh" has been repeatedly
stated and is readily understood. It includes not only the gross,
sensual lust of fornication or other uncleanness, but everything man
has inherited by his natural birth; not only the physical body, but
also the soul and all the faculties of our nature, both mental and
corporal--our reason, will and senses--which are by nature without
the Spirit and are not regulated by God's Word. It includes
particularly those things which the reason is not inclined to regard
as sin; for instance, living in unbelief, idolatry, contempt of God's
Word, presumption and dependence on our own wisdom and strength, our
own honor, and the like. Everything of this nature must be shunned by
Christians (who have the Holy Spirit and are hence able to judge what
is carnal) as a fatal poison which produces death and damnation.


"But if by the Spirit ye put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall

8. Here the apostle confesses that even in the Christian there is a
remnant of the flesh, that must be put to death--all manner of
temptation and lusts in opposition to God's commandments. These are
active in the flesh and prompt to sin. They are here called the
"deeds of the body." Of this nature are thoughts of unbelief and
distrust, carnal security and presumption instead of the fear of God,
coldness and indolence with respect to God's Word and prayer,
impatience and murmurings under suffering, anger and vindictiveness
or envy and hatred against our neighbor, avarice, unchastity and the
like. Such inclinations as these dwell in flesh and blood and cease
not to move and tempt man. Yea, because of human infirmity they at
times overtake him when he is not careful enough about transgression.
They will certainly overpower him unless he resolutely opposes them
and, as here stated, "puts to death the deeds of the body." To do
this means a severe struggle, a battle, which never abates nor ceases
so long as we live. The Christian dare never become slothful or
negligent in this matter. He must arouse himself through the Spirit
so as not to give place to the flesh. He must constantly put to death
the flesh lest he himself be put to death by it. The apostle
declares, "If ye live after the flesh, ye must die," and again
comforts us, "If by the Spirit ye put to death [mortify] the deeds of
the body, ye shall live." For the Christian receives the gift of the
Holy Spirit that he may become willing and able to mortify these
sinful lusts.

9. This mortifying of sin through the Spirit is accomplished on this
wise: Man recognizes his sin and infirmity, at once repents,
remembers God's Word, and, through faith in the forgiveness of sins,
strengthens himself against sin, and so resists it that he does not
consent to it nor permit it to come to deeds.

10. This constitutes the difference between those who are Christians
and sanctified and those who are without faith and the Holy Spirit or
who grieve and lose the Spirit. For although believers, as well as
unbelievers, are not wholly free from the sinful lusts of the flesh,
they yet remain in repentance and the fear of God; they hold fast to
the belief that their sins are forgiven, for Christ's sake, because
they do not yield to them but resist them. Therefore they continue
under forgiveness, and their remaining infirmity is not fatal nor
damning to them as it is to those who, without repentance and faith,
go on in carnal security and purposely follow their evil lusts
against their own conscience; who thus cast away from themselves both
faith and the Holy Spirit.

11. So Paul admonishes the Christians to remember what they have
received, and whereunto they are called. Having received the
forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit, they are to be careful not
to lose these again; they must use them in contending against the
sinful lusts of the flesh. They are to comfort themselves with the
fact that they have the Holy Spirit, that is, have help and strength
by means of which they can resist and mortify sin. These things are
impossible to those who have not faith. Therefore Paul declares

"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of

12. Like ourselves, Paul had to deal with two classes of people, the
true and the false Christians. There is not so much danger from the
adversaries of the doctrine; for instance, from popery: their
opposition is so open that we can readily beware of them. But since
the devil sows even among us his seed--they are called Christians and
boast of the Gospel--it behooves us to take heed, not to the mouth,
but to the works, of those who claim to be Christians. Not what they
say, but what they do, is the question. It is easy enough to boast of
God and of Christ and of the Spirit. But whether such boasting has
any foundation or not, depends on whether or not the Spirit so works
and rules in one as to subdue and mortify sin. For where the Spirit
is, there assuredly the Spirit is not idle nor powerless. He proves
his presence by ruling and directing man and prevailing on man to
obey and follow his promptings. Such a man has the comfort that he is
a child of God, and that God so reigns and works in him that he is
not subject to death; he has life.


13. To be "led by the Spirit of God" means, then, to be given a heart
which gladly hears God's Word and believes that in Christ it has
grace and the forgiveness of sins; a heart which confesses and proves
its faith before the world; a heart which seeks, above all things,
the glory of God, and endeavors to live without giving offense, to
serve others and to be obedient, patient, pure and chaste, mild and
gentle; a heart which, though at times overtaken in a fault and it
stumble, soon rises again by repentance, and ceases to sin. All these
things the Holy Spirit teaches one if he hears and receives the Word,
and does not wilfully resist the Spirit.

14. On the other hand, the devil, who also is a spirit, persuades the
hearts of the worldlings. But it soon becomes evident that his work
is not that of a good spirit or a divine spirit. For he only leads
men to do the reverse of that which the Spirit of God leads them to
do; then they find no pleasure in hearing and obeying God's Word, but
despise God, and become proud and haughty, avaricious, unmerciful.

15. Let every one therefore take heed that he do not deceive himself.
For there are many who claim to be Christians and yet are not. We
perceive this from the fact that not all are led by the Spirit of
God. Some spirit there must be by which men are led. If it is not the
Spirit of God leading them to oppose the flesh, then it must be the
other and evil spirit leading them to give way to the flesh and its
lusts and to oppose the Spirit of God. They must, therefore, either
be God's own, his dear children, his sons and his daughters, called
to eternal life and glory; or they must be rejected and abandoned,
children of the devil, and with him heirs of eternal fire.

16. Paul takes occasion to speak more at length on the words "sons of
God," and proceeds in beautiful and comforting words to describe the
nature and glory of this sonship. He only begins the subject,
however, in today's text. He says:

"For ye received not the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye
received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father."

17. This is a noble and comforting text, worthy of being written in
letters of gold. Because ye now through faith, he means to say, have
the Holy Spirit and are led by him, ye are no longer in bondage as ye
were when under the Law; ye need no longer be afraid of its terrors
and its demands, as if God would condemn and reject you on account of
your unworthiness and the remaining infirmity of your flesh. On the
contrary, ye have the consolation that, through faith, ye have the
assurance of God's grace, and may consider God your Father and call
upon him as his children.


18. Thus he contrasts the two kinds of works which spring from the
two kinds of preaching and doctrine--of the Law and of the
Gospel--and which constitute the difference between the Christians
and those still without faith and the knowledge of Christ. They who
have nothing and know nothing but the Law, can never attain to true,
heartfelt trust and confidence in God, though they do ever so much
and exercise themselves ever so earnestly in the Law. For when the
Law shines upon them in real clearness and they see what it demands
of them and how far they come short of its fulfilment, when it thus
discloses to them God's wrath, it produces in them only a terror, a
fear and dread, of God under which they must at last perish if they
be not rescued by the Gospel. This is what Paul here terms "the
spirit of bondage," one that produces only fear and dread of God.
But, on the other hand, if the heart grasps the preaching of the
Gospel, which declares that, without any merit or worthiness on our
part, God forgives us our sins, for Christ's sake, if we believe in
him--then it finds in God's grace comfort against the terrors of the
Law; then the Holy Spirit enables it to abide in that confidence, to
hold fast to that comfort, and to call upon God sincerely in that
faith, even though it feels and confesses to be still weak and
sinful. This is what is meant by receiving "the spirit of adoption."

19. Paul speaks of the "spirit of bondage" and the "spirit of
adoption" according to the customs of his times. In those days
men-servants and maid-servants were the property of the master of the
house in the same sense that a cow was his property. He bought them
with his money; he did with them as he pleased, just as with his
cattle. They were afraid of their master and had to expect stripes,
imprisonment and punishment even unto death. They could not say, So
much of my master's property belongs to me, and he must give it to
me. But they had always to reflect: Here I serve for my bread only; I
have nothing to expect but stripes, and must be content to have my
master cast me out or sell me to someone else whenever he chooses.
They could never have a well-grounded hope of release from such fear
and bondage and coercion.

20. Such a slavish spirit, such a captive, fearful and uncertain
spirit, ye do not have, says the apostle. Ye are not compelled to
live continually in fear of wrath and condemnation as are the
followers of Moses and all who are under the Law. On the contrary, ye
have a delightful, free spirit, one confident and contented, such as
a child entertains toward its father, and ye need not fear that God
is angry with you or will cast you off and condemn you. For ye have
the Spirit of his Son (as he says above and in Galatians 4, 6) in
your heart and know that ye shall remain in his house and receive the
inheritance, and that ye may comfort yourselves with it and boast of
it as being your own.


21. On this "spirit of adoption," that is on what the apostle means
when he says "whereby we cry, Abba, Father," I have spoken at some
length in my sermon on the text Galatians 4, 6, where the same words
are used. In short, Paul describes here the power of the kingdom of
Christ, the real work and the true exalted worship the Holy Spirit
effects in believers: the comfort by which the heart is freed from
the terror and fear of sin and given peace, and the heartfelt
supplication which in faith expects of God an answer and his help.
These blessings cannot be secured through the Law or our own
holiness. By such means man could never obtain the comfort of God's
grace and love to him; he would always remain in fear and dread of
wrath and condemnation, and, because of such doubt, would flee from
God, not daring to call upon him. But where there is faith in Christ,
there the Holy Spirit brings the comfort spoken of, and a childlike
trust which does not doubt that God is gracious and will answer
prayer, because he has promised all these--grace and help, comfort,
and answer to prayer--not for the sake of our worthiness, but for the
sake of the name and merit of Christ, his Son.

22. Of these two works of the Holy Spirit, comfort and supplication,
the prophet Zechariah (ch. 12, 10) said that God would establish a
new dispensation in the kingdom of Christ when he should pour out
"the spirit of grace and of supplication." The spirit he speaks of is
the same who assures us that we are God's children, and desires us to
cry to him with heartfelt supplications.

23. The Hebrew word "Abba"--which, as the apostle himself interprets
it, means "Father"--is the word which the tiny heir lisps in
childlike confidence to its father, calling him "Ab, Ab"; for it is
the easiest word the child can learn to speak: or, as the old German
language has it, almost easier still, "Etha, Etha." Such simple,
childlike words faith uses toward God through the Holy Spirit, but
they proceed out of the depth of the heart and, as afterwards stated,
"with groanings which cannot be uttered." Rom 8, 26. Especially is
this the case when the doubtings of the flesh and the terrors and
torments of the devil bring conflict and distress. Man must defend
himself against these and cries out: O dear Father! Thou art, indeed,
my Father, for thou hast given thine only and beloved Son for me.
Thou wilt not be angry with me or disown me. Or: Thou seest my
distress and my weakness; do thou help and save me.

"The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are
children of God."

24. That we are children of God and may confidently regard ourselves
as such, we do not learn from ourselves nor from the Law. We learn it
from the witness of the Spirit, who, in spite of the Law and of our
unworthiness, testifies to it in our weakness and assures us of it.
This witness is the experience within ourselves of the power of the
Holy Spirit working through the Word, and the knowledge that our
experience accords with the Word and the preaching of the Gospel. For
thou art surely aware whether or no, when thou art in fear and
distress, thou dost obtain comfort from the Gospel, and art able to
overcome thy doubts and terror; to so overcome that thy heart is
assured of God's graciousness, and thou no longer fleest from him,
but canst cheerfully call upon him in faith, expecting help. Where
such a faith exists, consciousness of help must follow. So Saint Paul
says, Rom 5, 4-5: "Stedfastness worketh approvedness; and
approvedness, hope: and hope putteth not to shame."

25. This is the true inward witness by which thou mayest perceive
that the Holy Spirit is at work in thee. In addition to this, thou
hast also external witnesses and signs: for instance, it is a witness
of the Holy Spirit in thee that he gives thee special gifts, acute
spiritual understanding, grace and success in thy calling; that thou
hast pleasure and delight in God's Word, confessing it before the
world at the peril of life and limb; that thou hatest and resistest
ungodliness and sin. Those who have not the Holy Spirit are neither
willing nor able to do these things. It is true, that even in the
Christian, these things are accomplished in great weakness; but the
Holy Spirit governs them in their weakness, and strengthens in them
this witness, as Paul says again: "The Spirit also helpeth our
infirmity." Rom 8, 26.


"And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with
Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also
glorified with him."

26. Here, then, thou hast the high boast, the honor and the glory of
the Christian. Leave to the world its splendor, its pride and its
honors, which mean nothing else--when it comes to the point--than
that they are the children of the devil. But do thou consider the
marvel of this, that a poor, miserable sinner should obtain such
honor with God as to be called, not a slave nor a servant of God, but
a son and an heir of God! Any man, yea the whole world, might well
consider it privilege enough to be called one of God's lowest
creatures, only so that they might have the honor of being God's
property. For who would not wish to belong to such a Lord and
Creator? But the apostle declares here that we who believe in Christ
shall be not his servants, but his own sons and daughters, his heirs.
Who can sufficiently magnify or utter God's grace? It is beyond the
power of our expression or comprehension.

27. Yet here our great human weakness discovers itself. If we fully
and confidently believed this, then of what should we be afraid or
who could do us harm? He who from the heart can say to God, Thou art
my Father and I am thy child--he who can say this can surely bid
defiance to all the devils in hell, and joyfully despise the
threatenings and ragings of the whole world. For he possesses, in his
Father, a Lord before whom all creatures must tremble and without
whose will they can do nothing; and he possesses a heritage which no
creature can harm, a dominion which none can reduce.

28. But the apostle adds here the words, "if so be that we suffer
with him," to teach us that while we are on earth we must so live as
to approve ourselves good, obedient children, who do not obey the
flesh, but who, for the sake of this dominion, endure whatever
befalls them or causes pain to the flesh. If we do this, then we may
well comfort ourselves and with reason rejoice and glory in the fact
the apostle declares, that "as many as are led by the Spirit of God,"
and do not obey the promptings of the flesh, "these are the sons of

29. O how noble it is in a man not to obey his lusts, but to resist
them with a strong faith, even though he suffer for it! To be the
child of a mighty and renowned king or emperor means to possess
nobility, honor and glory on earth. How much more glorious it would
be, could a man truthfully boast that he is the son of one of the
highest of the angels! Yet what would be all that compared with one
who is named and chosen by God himself, and called his son, the heir
of exalted divine majesty? Such sonship and heritage must assuredly
imply great and unspeakable glory and riches, and power and honor,
above all else that is in heaven or in earth. This very honor, even
though we had nothing but the name and fame of it, ought to move us
to become the enemies of this sinful life on earth and to strive
against it with all our powers, notwithstanding we should have to
surrender all for its sake and suffer all things possible for a human
being to suffer. But the human heart cannot grasp the greatness of
the honor and glory to which we shall be exalted with Christ. It is
altogether above our comprehension or imagination. This Paul declares
in what follows, in verse 18, where he says: "I reckon that the
sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with
the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward," as we have heard in
the text for the fifth Sunday after Trinity.

_Ninth Sunday After Trinity_

Text: 1 Corinthians 10, 6-13.

6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not
lust after evil things, as they also lusted. 7 Neither be ye
idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat
down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. 8 Neither let us commit
fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and
twenty thousand. 9 Neither let us make trial of the Lord, as some of
them made trial, and perished by the serpents. 10 Neither murmur ye,
as some of them murmured, and perished by the destroyer. 11 Now these
things happened unto them by way of example; and they were written
for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come. 12
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear: but
God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye
are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape,
that ye may be able to endure it.


1. Here is a very earnest admonition, a message as severe as Paul
ever indited, although he is writing to baptized Christians, who
always compose the true Church of Christ. He confronts them with
several awful examples selected from the very Church, from Israel the
chosen people of God.

2. Paul's occasion and meaning in writing this epistle was the
security of the Corinthians. Conscious of their privileged enjoyment
of Christ, of baptism and the Sacrament, they thought they lacked
nothing and fell to creating sects and schisms among themselves.
Forgetting charity, they despised one another. So far from reforming
in life, and retrieving their works of iniquity, they became more and
more secure, and followed their own inclinations, even allowing a man
to have his father's wife. At the same time they desired to be
regarded Christians, and boastfully prided themselves on having
received the Gospel from the great apostles. So Paul was impelled to
write them a stern letter, dealing them severity such as he nowhere
else employs. In fact, it seems almost as if it were going too far to
so address Christians; the rebuke might easily have struck weak and
tender consciences with intolerable harshness. But, as in the second
epistle, seeing how his sternness has startled the Corinthians, he
modifies it to some extent, and deals tenderly with the repentant.

3. However, in the striking Scripture examples of the text here, he
sufficiently shows the need for such admonition to them who would,
after having received grace, become carnally secure and abandon the
repentant life.

4. The text should properly include the beginning of this tenth
chapter, which is read in the passage for Third Sunday before Lent.
He begins with: "I would not, brethren, have you ignorant, that our
fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and
were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all
eat the same spiritual food; and did all drink the same spiritual
drink.... Howbeit with most of them God was not well pleased: for
they were overthrown in the wilderness." Then follows our text
here--"Now these things were our examples."

5. As we said, the admonition is to those already Christians. Paul
would have them know that although they are baptized unto Christ, and
have received and still enjoy his blessing through grace alone,
without their own merit, yet they are under obligation ever to obey
him; they are not to be proud and boastful, nor to misuse his grace.
Christ desires obedience on our part, though obedience does not
justify us in his sight nor merit his grace. For instance, a bride's
fidelity to her husband cannot be the merit that purchased his favor
when he chose her. She is the bridegroom's own because it pleased him
to make her so, even had she been a harlot. But now that he has
honored her, he would have her maintain that honor henceforth by her
purity; if she fails therein, the bridegroom has the right and power
to put her away.

Again, a poor, wretched orphan, a bastard, a foundling, may be
adopted as a son by some godly man and made his heir, though not
meriting the honor. Now, if in return for such kindness the child
becomes disobedient and refractory, he justly may be cut off from the
inheritance. Not by the merit of their devotion, as Moses often
hinted, did the Jews become the people of God; they were ever
stiff-necked and continually rebelled against him. God, having chosen
them and led them out of Egypt, urgently commanded them to serve him
and obey his Word. But when they failed to fulfil the commandments,
they had to feel the terrific force of his punishment.


6. Their example Paul here, with great earnestness, holds up to the
world as a warning against carnally and confidently presuming upon
the grace and goodness of God because we have already received of
them. In unmistakable colors the apostle portrays the teaching of
this striking and important, this weighty and specific, example.
Rightly viewed, there certainly is no greater, more wonderful, story
from the creation of the world down to the present time, nothing more
marvelous to be found in any book--except that supremely wonderful
work, the death and resurrection of the Son of God--than this history
of a people led by God's power out of Egypt, through the wilderness
and into the promised land. It is filled with the remarkably
wonderful works of God, with striking examples of his anger and of
his great kindness.

7. Referring to these examples, Paul goes on to imply: "As Christians
and baptized, you should be familiar with them. If you are not, I
would not fail to bring them before you for reflection on what befell
other people of God, according to the Scripture record. They were our
fathers, a noble, intelligent and great company and congregation of
men, numbering over six hundred thousands, not counting wives and

They, Paul tells us, were termed, and rightly, the holy people of
God. God designed their welfare; and through Moses, their bishop and
pope, they had the Word of God, the promise and the Sacrament. Under
Moses they were all baptized, when he led them through the sea, and
by the cloud, under the shadow of which, sheltered from the heat,
they daily pursued their journey. At night a beautiful pillar of
fire, an intense lightning-like brilliance, protected them. In
addition, their bread came daily from heaven and they drank water
from the rock. These providences were their Sacrament, and their sign
that God was with them to protect. They believed on the promised
Christ, the Son of God, their guide in the wilderness. Thus they were
a noble, highly-favored and holy people.

8. But with the great mass of the people, how long did faith last? No
longer than until they came into the wilderness. There they began to
despise God's Word, to murmur against Moses and against God and to
fall into idolatry. Whereupon God vindicated himself among them; of
all that great nation which came out from Egypt, of all the
illustrious ones who assisted Moses in leading and governing, only
two individuals passed from the wilderness into Canaan. Plainly,
then, God had no pleasure in the great mass of that host. It did not
avail them to be called the people of God, a holy people, a company
to whom God had shown marvelous kindness and great wonders; because
they refused to believe and obey the Word of God.

The prospect was good when they were so wonderfully and gloriously
delivered from their enemies, and had at Mount Sinai received from
God the Law and a noble order of worship--their prospect was good for
them to enter into the land; they were already at the gate. But even
in that auspicious moment they provoked God until he turned them back
to wander forty years in the wilderness, where they perished.

9. Their punishment was wholly the result of their odious arrogance
in boasting in the face of God's Word, of their privileges as the
people of God, upon whom he daily bestowed great kindness. "Do you
not recognize," they bragged, "the holiness of this entire
congregation, among whom God dwells, daily performing his marvelous
wonders?" In their pride and defiance they became stiff-necked and
obstinate enough to continually complain against Moses and to oppose
him whatever course he took with them. Thus they day by day awakened
God's wrath against themselves, forcing him to visit them with many
terrible plagues. These failing to humble, he was compelled to remove
the entire nation. Many times God would have destroyed them all at
once had not Moses prostrated himself before him in their behalf and
with earnest entreaty and strong supplication turned aside his wrath.
Because of their perversity, Moses was a most wretched and harassed
man. "The man Moses was very meek, above all the men that were upon
the face of the earth." Num 12, 3. For he was daily vexed with the
defiance, disobedience and opposition of this great company of
people; and further, he had to witness and endure for the entire
forty years the numerous and awful plagues sent upon his people, his
heart being filled with anguish for them. Then, too, it was his
continually to withstand God's wrath.

10. Terrible indeed is the thing we learn of this famously great
people--God's own nation, unto whom he reveals himself, to whom God
and Christ himself are revealed; a nation God governs and leads by
his angels; a people he honors by wonders marvelous beyond anything
ever heard on earth of any nation. As Moses says in Deuteronomy 4, 7:
"What great nation is there, that hath a god so nigh unto them, as
Jehovah our God is whensoever we call upon him?" Yet all who came out
of Egypt and had witnessed the mighty wonders God wrought among
themselves and among their enemies, fell and glaringly sinned; not
according to the measure of the mere weakness and imperfection of
human nature, but they sinned disobediently and in willful contempt
of God. Hardened in unbelief unto insensibility, they brought upon
themselves overwhelming punishment.

11. Paul mentions several instances of the sin whereby they merited
the wrath of God, to illustrate how they fell from faith and
disregarded God's Word. First, he makes the general assertion that
with many of them God was not well pleased. He means to include the
great mass of the people; particularly the officials and leaders, the
eminent of their number, individuals looked up to as the worthiest
and holiest of the congregation, and who actually had wrought great
things. Many of these fell into hypocrisy through boasting of the
divine name, the divine office and spirit; Korah, for instance, with
his faction, including two hundred and fifty princes of the
congregation. Num 16, 1-2. He and his leaders claimed right to the
priesthood and government equal with Moses and Aaron, and so
ostentatiously and boastfully that only God could say whether they
were right. Necessarily God had to make it manifest that he had no
pleasure in them; for they boasted until the earth swallowed them up
alive, and many who adhered to and upheld them were consumed by fire.


12. Proceeding, Paul recounts the vices which occasioned God's
punishment and overthrow of the people in the wilderness. First, he
says, they lusted after evil things. In the second year from the
departure, when they actually had come into Canaan, they forgot God's
kindness and wonderful works in their behalf and, becoming
dissatisfied, longed to be back in Egypt to sit by the flesh-pots.
They murmured against God and Moses until God was forced summarily to
stop them with fire from heaven. Many of the people were consumed and
a multitude more were smitten with a great plague while yet they ate
of the flesh they craved; therefore the place of the camp was named
the "Graves of Lust." Num 11. Such was the reward of their
concupiscence, which Paul here aptly explains as "lusting after evil

13. Truly it is but lusting after the wrath and punishment of God
when, in forgetfulness of and ingratitude for his grace and goodness
we seek something new. The world is coming to be filled with the
spirit of concupiscence, for the multitude is weary of the Gospel.
Particularly are they dissatisfied with it because it profits not the
flesh; contributes not to power, wealth and luxury. Men desire again
the old and formal things of popery, notwithstanding they suffered
therein extreme oppression and were burdened not less than were the
people of Israel in Egypt. But they will eventually have to pay a
grievous penalty for their concupiscence.

14. In the third place, the apostle mentions the great sin--idolatry.
"Neither be ye idolaters," he counsels, "as were some of them." Not
simply the lower class of people were guilty in this respect, but the
leaders and examples. As they led, the multitude followed. Even
Aaron, the brother of Moses, himself high-priest, swayed by the
influential ones, yielded and set up the golden calf (Ex 32, 4) while
Moses tarried in the mount. We are astounded that those eminently
worthy individuals, having heard God's Word and seen his wonders
liberally displayed, should so soon fall unrestrainedly into the
false worship of idolatry, as if they were heathen and possessed not
the Word. Much less need we wonder that the blind world always is
entangled with idol-worship.

15. Where the Word of God is lacking or disregarded, human wisdom
makes for itself a worship. It will find its pleasure in the thing of
its own construction and regard it something to be prized, though it
may be imperatively forbidden in God's Word, perhaps even an
abomination before him. Human reason thinks it may handle divine
matters according to its own judgment; that God must be pleased with
what suits its pleasure. Accordingly, to sanction idolatry, it
appropriates the name of the Word of God. The Word must be forced
into harmony with the false worship to give the latter an admirable
appearance, notwithstanding the worship is essentially the reverse of
what it is made to appear. Similarly popery set off its abominations
of the mass, of monkery and the worship of saints; and the world in
turn seeks to set off that idolatry to make it stand before God's

Such is the conduct of the eminent Aaron when he makes for the people
the golden calf (Ex 32, 5-6), an image or sign of their offerings and
worship. He builds an altar to it and causes to be proclaimed a feast
to the Lord who has led them out of the land of Egypt. They must
imitate the worship of the true God, a worship of sincere devotion
and honest intention, with their offering, the calf, in the attempt
to introduce a refined and ennobling worship.

16. Thereupon follows what is recorded in Exodus 32, 6, to which Paul
here refers: "And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt
offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to
eat and to drink, and rose up to play." That is, they rejoiced and
were well pleased with themselves, content to have performed such
worship, and deemed they had done well. Next they proceed to their
own pleasure, as if having provided against God's anger. Thenceforth
they would live according to their inclinations, wholly unrestrained
and unreproved by the Word of God; for, as they said, Aaron made the
people free.

17. Such is the usual course of idolatry. Refusing to be considered a
sin, it presumes to merit grace and boasts of the liberty of the
people of God. It continues unrepentant and self-assured, even in the
practice of open vice, imagining every offense to be forgiven before
God for the sake of its holy worship. Thus have the priestly rabble
of popery been doing hitherto; and they still adorn--yes, strengthen
and defend--their shameful adultery, unchastity and all vices, with
the name of the Church, the holy worship, the mass, and so on.


18. In the fourth admonition, the apostle says, "Neither let us make
trial of the Lord, as some of them made trial, and perished by the
serpents." This, too, is a heinous sin, as is proven by the terrible
punishment. In Numbers 21 we read that after the people had journeyed
for forty years in the wilderness and God had brought them through
all their difficulties and given them victory over their enemies, as
they drew near to the promised land, they became dissatisfied and
impatient. They were setting out to go around the land of the
Edomites, who refused them a passage through their country, when they
began to murmur against God and Moses for leading them out of Egypt.
Thereupon God sent among them fiery serpents and they were bitten, a
multitude of the people perishing.

Complaining against God is here called tempting him. Men set
themselves against the Word of God and blaspheme as if God and his
Word were utterly insignificant, because his disposing is not as they
desire. Properly speaking, it is tempting God when we not only
disbelieve him but oppose him, refusing to accept what he says as
true and desiring that our own wisdom rule. That is boasting
ourselves against him. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10, 22: "Do we
provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?"

19. Such was the conduct of the Jews. Notwithstanding God's promise
to be their God, to remain with them and to preserve them in trouble,
if only they would believe in him and trust him; and notwithstanding
he proved his care by daily providences expressed as special
blessings and strange wonders, yet all these things availed not to
save them from murmuring. When the ordering of events accorded not
exactly with their wisdom or desire, or when, perhaps, disaster or
failure threatened, immediately they began to make outcry against
Moses; in other words, against his God-given office and message. "Why
have you led us out of Egypt?" they would complain, meaning: "If you
bore, as you say you do, the word and command of God and if he truly
designed to work such marvels with us, he would not permit us to
suffer want like this." In fact, they could not believe God's
dealings with them were in accord with his promise and design. They
insisted that he should, through Moses, perform what they dictated;
otherwise he should not be their God.

At the outset, when they entered the wilderness, after having come
out of Egypt and having experienced God's wonderful preservation of
them in the Red Sea and his deliverance from their enemy, and having
received from him bread and flesh, they immediately began to murmur
against Moses and Aaron and to chide them for leading into the
wilderness where no water was. "Is Jehovah among us, or not?" they
burst forth. Ex 17, 7. This was, indeed, as our text says, tempting
God; for abundantly as his word and his wonders had been revealed to
them, they refused to believe unless he should fulfil their desires.

20. And they persisted in so opposing and tempting God as long as
they were in the wilderness, unto the fortieth year; to which God
testifies when he says to Moses: "Because all those men that have
seen my glory, and my signs, which I wrought in Egypt and in the
wilderness, yet have tempted me these ten times, and have not
hearkened to my voice," etc., Num 14, 22. It was in the second year
after the departure from Egypt that the Jews murmured about the
water, and now in the fortieth year, when they should have been
humbled after so long experience, and when they whose lives covered
that period ought to have been conscious of the wonderful
deliverances they had experienced in not being destroyed with others
of their number, but being brought safely to the promised land--now
they begin anew to complain with great impatience and bitterness:
"Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?"
Or, in other words: "You often remind us you represent God's command,
and you have promised us great things. This is a fine way you take to
lead us into the land when here we have yet farther to journey and
are all going to die in the wilderness!"

21. Notice, Paul in speaking of how they tempted God says, "They
tempted Christ," pointing to the fact that the eternal Son of God was
from the beginning with his Church and with the people who received
from the ancient fathers the promise of his coming in the form of
man. They believed as we do that Christ--to use Paul's words in the
beginning--was the rock that followed them.

Therefore the apostle gives us to understand, the point of the
Israelites' insult was directed against faith in Christ, against the
promise concerning him. Moses was compelled to hear them protest
after this manner: "Yes, you boast about a Messiah who is one with
God, and who is with us to lead us; one revealed to the fathers and
promised to be born unto us of our flesh and blood, to redeem us and
bring relief to all men; a Messiah who for that reason adopts us for
his own people, to bring us into the land; but where is he? This is a
fine way he relieves us! Is our God one to permit us to wander for
forty years in the wilderness until we all perish?"

22. That such sin and blasphemy was the real meaning of their
murmurings is indicated by the fact that Moses afterward, in the
terrible punishment of the fiery serpents by which the people were
bitten and died, erected at God's command a brazen serpent and
whoever looked upon it lived. It was to them a sign of Christ who was
to be offered for the salvation of sinners. It taught the people they
had blasphemed against God, incurred his wrath and deserved
punishment, and therefore in order to be saved from wrath and
condemnation, they had no possible alternative but to believe again
in Christ.


23. This last point is akin to the one preceding. Paul defines
murmuring against God as an open revolt actuated by unbelief in the
Word, a manifestation of anger and impatience, an unwillingness to
obey when events are not ordered according to the pleasure of flesh
and blood, and a readiness instantly to see God as hating and
unwilling to help. Just so the Jews persistently behaved, despite
Moses' efforts to reconcile. Being also continually punished for
their perversity, they ought prudently to have abandoned their
murmurings; but they only murmured the more.

24. The apostle's intent in the narration is to warn all who profess
to be Christians, or people of God, as we shall hear later. He holds
that the example of the Israelites ought deeply to impress us,
teaching us to continue in the fear of God and to be conscious of it,
and to guard against self-confidence. For God by the punishments
mentioned shows forcibly enough to the world that he will not trifle
with, nor excuse, our sin--as the world and our own flesh fondly
imagine--if we, under cover of his high and sacred name, dare despise
and pervert his Word; if we, actuated by presumptuous confidence in
our own wisdom, our own holiness and the gifts of God, follow our
private opinions, our own judgment and inclinations, and vainly
satisfy ourselves with the delusion: "God is not angry with me, one
so meritorious, so superior, in his sight."

25. You learn here that God spared none of the great throng from
Egypt, among whom were many worthy and eminent individuals, even the
progenitors of Christ in the tribe of Judah. He visited terrible
punishment upon the distinguished princes and the leaders among the
priesthood and other classes, and that in the sight of the entire
people among whom he had performed so many marvelous wonders. Having
by Moses delivered them from temporal bondage in Egypt, and through
his office spiritually baptized and sanctified them; having given
Christ, to speak with, lead, defend and help them; having dealt
kindly with them as would a father with his children: yet he visits
terrible destruction upon these Jews because they have abused his
grace and brought forth no fruits of faith, and have become proud,
boasting themselves the people of God, children of Abraham and
circumcised, sole possessors of the promise of a Messiah, and
consequently sure of participating in the kingdom of God and enjoying
his grace.

26. Now, as Paul teaches, if terrible judgment and awful punishment
came upon these illustrious and good people, let us not be proud and
presumptuous. We are far inferior to them and cannot hope, in these
last ages of the world, to know gifts and wonders as great and
glorious as they knew. Let us see ourselves mirrored in them and
profit by their example, being mindful that while we are privileged
to glory in Christ, in the forgiveness of sins and the grace of God,
we must be faithfully careful not to lose what we have received and
fall into the same condemnation and punishment before God which was
the fate of this people. For we have not yet completed our
pilgrimage; we have not arrived at the place toward which we journey.
We are still on the way and must constantly go forward in the
undertaking, in spite of dangers and hindrances that may assail. The
work of salvation is indeed begun in us, but as yet is incomplete. We
have come out of Egypt and have passed through the Red Sea; that is,
have been led out of the devil's dominion into the kingdom of God,
through Christian baptism. But we are not yet through the wilderness
and in the promised land. There is a possibility of our still
wandering from the way, into defeat, and missing salvation.

27. Nothing is lacking on God's part; he has given us his Word and
the Sacraments, has bestowed the Spirit, given grace and the
necessary gifts, and is willing to help us even further. It rests
with ourselves not to fall from grace, not to thrust it from us
through unbelief, ingratitude, disobedience and contempt of God's
Word. For salvation is not to him who only begins well, but, as
Christ says (Mt 24, 13), "He that endureth to the end, the same shall
be saved." But the apostle continues:

"Now these things happened unto them by way of example; and they were
written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come."


28. When you read or hear this historical example, the terrible
punishment the Jewish people suffered in the wilderness, think not it
is an obsolete record and without present significance. The narrative
is certainly not written for the dead, but for us who live. It is
intended to restrain us, to be a permanent example to the whole
Church. For God's dealings with his own flock are always the same,
from the beginning of time to the end. Likewise must the people of
God, or the Church, be always the same. This history is a portrait of
the Church in every age, representing largely its actual life--the
vital part; for it shows on what the success of the Church on earth
always depends and how it acts. The record teaches that the Church is
at all times wonderfully governed and preserved by God, without human
agency, in the midst of manifold temptations, trials, suffering and
defeat; that it does not exist as an established government regulated
according to human wisdom, with harmony of parts and logical action,
but is continually agitated, impaired and weakened in itself by much
confusion and numerous penalties; that the great and best part, who
bear the name of the Church, fall and bring about a state of things
so deplorable God can no longer spare, but is compelled to send
punishments in the nature of mutinies and similar disorders, the
terrible character of which leaves but a small proportion of the
people upright.

29. Now, if such disaster befell the nation selected of God, chosen
from the first as his people, among whom he performed works marvelous
and manifest beyond anything ever known since, what better thing may
we expect for ourselves? Indeed, how much greater the danger
threatening us; how much reason we have to take heed that the same
fate, or worse, overtake not ourselves!

With reference to the things chronicled in our text, Paul tells us:
"They were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages
are come." That is, we are now in the last and most evil of days, a
time bringing many awful dangers and severe punishments. It is
foretold in the Scriptures, predicted by Christ and the apostles,
that awful and distressing times will come, when there shall be wide
wanderings from the true faith and sad desolations of the Church.
And, alas, we see the prophecies only too painfully fulfilled in past
heresy, and later in Mohammedanism and the papacy.

30. The era constituting the "last time" began with the apostles. The
Christians living since Christ's ascension constitute the people of
the latter times, the little company left for heaven; and we
gentiles, amidst the innumerable multitude of the ungodly generation
in the wide world, must experience worse calamities than befell the
Jews, who lived under the law of Moses and the Word of God, under an
admirable external discipline and a well-regulated government. Yet
even in this final age so near the end of time, when we should be
occupied with proclaiming the Gospel everywhere, the great multitude
are chiefly employed with boasting their Christian name. We see how
extravagantly the Pope extols his church, teaching that outside its
pale no Christians are to be found on earth, and that the entire
world must regard him as the head of the Church.

31. True, his subjects were baptized unto Christ, called to the
kingdom of God and granted the Sacrament and the name of Christ. But
how do they conduct themselves? Under that superior name and honor,
they suppress Christ's Word and his kingdom. For more than a thousand
years now they have desolated the Church, and to this hour most
deplorably persecute it. On the other hand, great countries, vast
kingdoms, claiming to be Christian but disregarding the true doctrine
of faith, are punished by the Turk's desolating hand, and instead of
the incense of Christianity, with them is the revolting odor of
Mohammed's faith.

32. Great and terrible was the punishment of the Jewish people.
Seemingly no disaster could befall man more awful than overtook them
in the wilderness. Yet it was physical punishment, and although many,
through unbelief and contempt of God, fell and incurred everlasting
condemnation, still the Word of God remained with a remnant--Moses
and the true Church. But the punishment of this last age is
infinitely more awful, for God permits the pure doctrine to be lost,
and sends strong delusions, that they who receive not the truth nor
love it shall believe falsehood and be eternally lost. 2 Thes 2, 10.
Such has been our reward; we have only too terribly suffered
punishment. And if we are not more thankful for the grace God extends
in his Word--a last gleam of light, on the point of extinction--we
shall meet with retribution even more appalling.

"Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."

33. Here is summed up the teaching of the above examples. The sermon
is directed against the self-confident. Some there were among the
Christian Corinthians who boasted they were disciples of the great
apostles, and who had even received the Holy Spirit, but who stirred
up sects and desired to be commended in all their acts. To these Paul
would say: "No, dear brother, be not too secure, not too sure where
you stand. When you think you stand most firmly you are perhaps
nearest to falling, and you may fall too far to rise again. They of
the wilderness were worthy people and began well, doing great deeds,
yet they fell deplorably and were destroyed. Therefore, be cautious
and suffer not the devil to deceive you. You will need to be
vigilant, for you are in the flesh, which always strives against the
spirit; and you have the devil for enemy, and dangers and
difficulties beset you on all sides. Be careful lest you lose what
you have received. You have only made a beginning; the end is yet to
be attained." So we must be wary and steadfast, that we may, as Paul
has it, work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Phil 2,

"There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear [such as
is common to man]: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be
tempted above that ye are able."

34. Paul's meaning is: I must not terrify you too much. I would in a
measure comfort you. So far you have had no temptations greater than
flesh and blood offer. They have risen among yourselves--one holding
another in contempt, one doing another injustice; allowing adulteries
and other evils to creep in, which things are indeed not right nor
decent. You must resolve to reform in these things lest worse error
befall you. For should Satan get hold of you in earnest with his
false doctrine and spiritual delusions, his strong temptations of the
soul--contempt of God, for instance--such as assailed Peter and many
others of the saints, you could not stand. You are yet weak; you are
new and untried Christians. Then thank God who gives you strength to
bear your present temptations; who, to retain you, presents what is
best for you, admonishing you, through his Word, to be on your guard
against falling yet deeper into temptation.

_Tenth Sunday After Trinity_

Text: 1 Corinthians 12, 1-11.

1 Now, concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you
ignorant. 2 Ye know that when ye were Gentiles ye were led away unto
those dumb idols, howsoever ye might be led. 3 Wherefore I make known
unto you, that no man speaking in the Spirit of God saith, Jesus is
anathema [accursed], and no man can say, Jesus is Lord, but in the
Holy Spirit. 4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same
Spirit. 5 And there are diversities of ministrations, and the same
Lord. 6 And there are diversities of workings, but the same God, who
worketh all things in all. 7 But to each one is given the
manifestation of the Spirit to profit withal. 8 For to one is given
through the Spirit the word of wisdom; and to another the word of
knowledge, according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith, in the
same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, in the one Spirit; 10
and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to
another discernings of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues;
and to another the interpretation of tongues; 11 but all these
worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally
even as he will.


1. This epistle selection treats of spiritual things, things which
chiefly pertain to the office of the ministry and concern the Church
authorities. Paul instructs how those in office should employ their
gifts for the benefit of one another and thus further the unity and
advancement of the Churches. Inharmony is a deplorable offense in the
case of Christians, putting them in the worst possible light, and
making it impossible for them to steer clear of factions. Divisions
are an offense to the world's wisest and best, who cry out, "If the
Christians' doctrine were true, they would preserve unity among
themselves, but as it is they envy and slander and devour one
another." For, though the world carries its own great beam in its
eye, it cannot refrain from judging us for our mote, and thus
exalting itself as if it were pure and beautiful.


2. Well, we cannot altogether prevent inharmony in the Church. Paul
says (1 Cor 11, 19), "For there must be also factions among you, that
they that are approved may be made manifest among you." Wherever the
Word of God has a foothold, there the devil will be. By the agency of
his factions he will always build his taverns and kitchens beside
God's house. So he did at first, in Paradise. In the family of Adam
he entrenched himself, establishing there his church. And such has
been his practice ever since, and doubtless will ever be. He who
takes offense at differences in the Church, who when he sees any
inharmony at once concludes there is no Church there, will in the end
miss both the Church and Christ. You will never find any congregation
of such purity that all its members are unanimous on every point of
belief and teaching and all live in perfect harmony.

3. Paul had experience in this matter in the case of the beautiful
and famed Church at Corinth in Achaia, which he himself planted and
where he taught two years. Soon after his departure they began to
disagree about their preachers and to attach themselves to certain
ones--some to Paul, some to Peter, some to Apollos. Though these had
all taught correctly, though they had been unanimous in their
doctrine, yet men would cleave to a certain one because he was more
or differently gifted than the others, could speak better, or was
more attractive in personal appearance. And among the ministers of
the Church, if one had a special gift or office, he thought he ought
to be a little better and a little greater than the others.
Necessarily, from such division and inharmony, grew hatred, strife
and jealousy, resulting in great injury and disorder to the Church.

4. We must, then, so far as possible, guard against this fatal evil,
though we cannot altogether keep it out of the Church. Were we to
offer no resistance at all, the devil would seize all authority and
bring every element into discord. But when we resist Satan, God will
continue to extend his grace and favor, and some fruit and
improvement will follow. Even were it not possible for us to
accomplish anything, yet as faithful ministers we must not keep
silent if we would not be regarded indolent hirelings who flee when
the wolf comes. See Jn 10, 12.

5. Such is the tenor of this text from Paul. He begins by preaching
on spiritual gifts and admonishing the Corinthians how to conduct
themselves in respect to them. In proportion to the greatness and
excellence of the gifts are flesh and blood inclined to discord and
to coveting personal honor. Let one have a good understanding of the
Scriptures and be able to explain them, or let him have the power to
work miracles, and he will soon begin to have an extravagantly good
opinion of himself, deeming himself worthy the honor of all men,
desiring the multitude to follow only him, and positively refusing to
regard anyone his equal. He will seek to create something new in
doctrine, to change the old order, as if he could introduce something
better than others, who must be infinitely below him or at least his

6. The same thing has taken place in our day--and will continue to
take place--with respect to the Gospel. But through the grace of God
that Gospel is brought to light again, and rightly instructs and
harmonizes the people. The devil, unable to rest, had to rouse his
factious rabble, his selfish souls, who desired the name of being
superior and inspired people, a people who could preach, write and
explain the Scriptures better than others; for they had learned a
little from us. They conceded that the Gospel had indeed made a
beginning, had somewhat purified ecclesiastical doctrine, but claimed
it had not gone far enough; it was necessary that greater improvement
be made--Church doctrine must be brought to far greater perfection.
But as Paul says (1 Cor 3, 11), they could, with their doctrine, lay
no other foundation, could preach no other Christ, than the Christ of
the Gospel. Nevertheless, they pretended to teach something better
and higher. They hindered and perverted the true doctrine. Their work
could not be called building up the faith, but was rather breaking up
and destroying its foundation and leading the people back into error
and blindness. So Paul begins his admonition in these words:

"Ye know that when ye were Gentiles ye were led away unto those dumb
idols, howsoever ye might be led."

7. Paul reminds the Corinthians of their manner of life before they
became Christians, for he would have them pause to think that their
gifts, past and present, are not of their own procuring, nor are any
gifts bestowed upon them because of merit on their part. It is his
intent to restrain them from pride in their gifts and from
disputations concerning them; to keep them from divisions and from
pretending to teach and introduce into the Church something new and
better. But at the same time he deals a blow to those who take
offense at inharmony among Christians.

8. "Recall, all of you," Paul would say, "your manner of life before
you came to Christ. What were you? Mere darkened heathen, having no
knowledge of God but suffering yourselves blindly to be led by anyone
who should say aught to you of God. All your devotion was but a
discordant worship. Each one--even the child in the cradle, the
infant at the mother's breast--must find his own idol wherever he
might turn." St. Augustine tells us that the city of Rome alone had
more than four hundred gods, and that it erected a church for all the
gods in the world, which building still stands--the Pantheon.

"These superstitions," Paul's words imply, "you followed as you were
led; you flocked after them, praying and sacrificing, hanging your
hearts upon dumb idols which could not teach and advise you, could
not comfort, relieve or help you. In return for your devotion you
obtained only the privilege of being a blind, wretched, divided,
miserable people, unable to fortify yourselves against any error, and
allowing yourselves to be distracted by the advocate of any doctrine.
You were like a flock of helpless sheep scattered by wolves.

9. "But now you have been turned from that manifold idolatry to the
one true worship and have been enlightened by God's Word. More than
that, in Christ have been bestowed upon you great and glorious
gifts--discerning of the Scriptures, diversities of tongues, power to
work miracles--things impossible to the world. It is unmistakably
evident that you embrace the true God, who does not, like dumb idols,
leave you to wander in the error of your own speculations,
uncounseled by the Word; a living God, who speaks to you that you may
know what to expect from him, and works among you publicly and

"Therefore, it is not for you to make divisions among yourselves
after the manner of the heathen as you see in the great Babel
confusion and divisions of the world, where no one agrees with
another, where one runs to this his idol and another to that, each
claiming superiority for his own. Knowing that you all embrace the
one true God and his Word, you are to hold together in one faith and
one mind, not disagreeing among yourselves as if you had a variety of
gods, of faiths, of baptisms, spirits and salvations."


10. Paul speaks with particular plainness to the fault-finding and
insolent cavilers against Christians and to other factious leaders
when he says, "Ye were led away unto those dumb idols, howsoever ye
might be led." This class peremptorily judge and criticise the life
and doctrine of the Church because they see therein a measure of
defects, and even some divisions and disagreements; notwithstanding
the fact is plainly evident to them that the Church possesses the
Word of God in purity, a knowledge of Christ, an illumined
understanding of God's will and his grace, and true comfort for all
distress of conscience, and that, in addition to all these, the Holy
Spirit manifestly operates with them. At the same time, these same
uncalled-for and self-constituted critics would never have been able
to say anything about the Christian religion had they not witnessed
that religion in the little company of Christians who have the Word
of God and the Spirit's gifts.

11. These fault-finders were individuals who, undoubtedly to a
greater extent than others, suffered themselves to be blindly led in
whatever way was pointed out, and who gave credence to what was
taught and preached to them concerning the way to serve God, yet who
all the time were but worshipers of dumb idols, possessing not the
Word of God and having no witness to the truth of their faith and
their works. Each believed and followed the devices of his own
imagination or the popular choice. No man was able to teach anything
certain and steadfast, anything to give the heart satisfaction and
perfect security. They continually changed from one thing to another,
accepting every new thing presented as real worship and true

12. And the world, ever from the beginning, has had naught but dumb
idols in the countless forms of worship offered to the numerous
gods--gods which never existed, but of which images were made and to
which divine honors were shown. Worship has been rendered to the mere
names of misfortune, disaster and disease, of all sorts; yes, to
insects, and to garlic and onions even. Yet, in the practice of all
this idolatry, supposed to be evidence of great holiness, each one
sacrificing to the idol of his choice--in it all no one could have
the assurance of being heard and answered by his god. Men had no word
or sign of the divine will or work; they possessed naught but a vain
dream and delusion of the human imagination; man devised and made his
own idols.

13. And what did we under the papacy but walk blindly? We suffered
ourselves to be led just as we were directed by the names of God and
the saints. I was myself a pious monk and priest, holding mass daily,
wherein I worshiped St. Barbara, St. Anna, St. Christopher and
others--more saints than the calendar mentions, some of whom no one
knew anything about. I had no knowledge of Christ, I knew not why I
should find comfort in him nor what I should expect of him. I was as
much afraid of him as of the devil himself, regarding him more a
stern Judge than a Saviour. How many shameful pilgrimages were made
to dead idols of wood and stone, images of Mary and of the saints!
How many were the pilgrimages to the graves of the dead, and to bones
called "holy relics"! These relics were mere open deception, devised
by shameless impostors; yet such worship was established by popes and
bishops, and indulgences granted therefor.

14. How many new saints, new brotherhoods, new psalms to Mary, and
new rosaries and crowns did the monks daily invent? In fact,
everything each individual monk might dream of had to be a special
form of worship, and no one inquired whether or not it was at all
authorized by God's Word. When we had done all, we were uncertain
that we had pleased God. What was this sort of worship but a worship
of dumb idols in the place of the living God--idols which could not
talk with us and could not give any definite information or comfort,
but left the people fettered and ruined with eternal doubts?


15. But Christians, as Paul says, have not a dead and dumb god, for
which the Lord be praised! Nor will we countenance such idols. We
have a living, speaking God, who gives us his infallible Word. We
know how he is disposed toward us and what we may expect from him;
namely: through faith in Christ we have forgiveness of sins and are
his beloved children; and as evidence of acceptance with God, we have
baptism and the Holy Supper, the office and gifts of the Holy Spirit,
by which he works in our hearts. We know that in the faith of Christ
our works and lives are pleasing to God, and that he will hear and
help when in our distress and weakness we cry unto him.

16. Where this confidence obtains, where hearts enjoy such faith,
there will be unity in the Church; for verily no one then will allow
himself to be led into the manifold doctrines of insensible idols.
But dissensions, sects and divisions are sure signs that the true
doctrine is either ignored or misunderstood, men thus being left in a
condition to be "tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind
of doctrine," as Paul says (Eph 4, 14); which is indisputably the
case with these same schismatics who condemn the Church and her
doctrines because of some discordant ones.

The schismatics show by their very instability that they do not
embrace the true, uniform and established doctrine, nor can exhibit
any substitute for it. They refuse to see that in cases where the
Christian doctrine does not obtain, there is only blindness,
distraction and confusion, and warring factions and sects, none
agreeing with another, each claiming to be better than the other.
Numerous have been the sects of monks, and of saints of the Pope and
his god the devil, no two of which agreed. Each class regarded its
own whims and speculations, and claimed to be holier than the others.
The Pope, however, gave validity to them all, granting great
indulgence to these factious fraternities. And I am not saying
anything of other discords in the papacy--among the monasteries and
in the parishes, and between these and the cloisters everywhere,
perpetual quarreling, rioting and bitter contention. Such is
inevitably the case when righteousness and divine worship are made to
consist in external self-devised works and forms, for then each
individual, pleased with his own ideas, thinks his way right; under
such circumstances, there can never be unanimity of opinion as to
what is right and the best.

17. "From these numerous sources of disunion and idolatry," Paul
would say to the Corinthians, "you are now delivered. You know you
embrace the real Word of God, the true faith. You worship one God,
one Lord, and enjoy the same grace, the same Spirit, the same
salvation. You need not seek other forms and ceremonies as essential
to salvation--wearing a white or a gray cowl, refraining from this or
that food, forbearing to touch certain things. No diversity of
external service, of persons, offices and conditions, destroys the
unity in Christ.

"But take heed to continue in unity, to hold fast to it.
Unquestionably, you should be made wiser by the experience you have
had with error; in the future you ought to be prudent, and watchful
against being allured from the unity of this settled mind and true
faith into your former blindness again. But so it will certainly
befall you if you forget such grace and seek your own honor and
praise more than the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and his gifts, and
come to despise one another and to conduct yourselves as if you had
many and not the same God, the same Christ, the same Spirit. God's
gifts cannot be different from, but must be one with his nature, and
hence he cannot give to one a better Gospel or a different baptism
from that given another."

In short, Paul teaches there must be unity in Christ, otherwise we
have no Christ, no God and Holy Spirit, no grace nor salvation; as
the next verse emphasizes.

"Wherefore I make known unto you that no man speaking in the Spirit
of God saith, Jesus is anathema [calleth Jesus accursed]; and no man
can say, Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit."

18. "Why make divisions and differences," Paul inquires, "in the
doctrine and faith of the Church, which rests wholly upon the one
Christ? In him you are to be one if you are Christians at all; you
must harmoniously praise him, according to your individual gifts. No
one can possibly possess the Holy Spirit if he does not regard Christ
as the Lord, much less if he call him accursed. Destroy the
foundation and you destroy all; there will be no God, no Spirit, and
all your claims, teaching and works are naught. You must recognize
and be governed by the fact that either Christ must be received and
believed in as the one true Lord, and praised and glorified as such,
or else he will be cursed; between these alternatives is no medium."


It is easy, then, to judge the doctrine of every official teacher of
the Christian Church. No one need resort to faction, no one need gaze
hither and thither in uncertainty and hesitate as to which gift or
which person is most to be regarded. We are to make the doctrine of
this verse the standard and authority as to what and how we preach
concerning Christ. He who speaks by inspiration of the Holy Spirit
certainly will not curse Christ; he will glorify and praise him. So
doing, he surely will not teach error, or give occasion for
divisions. If his teaching is not to the glory of God, you may safely
conclude that he is not true, not inspired by the Holy Spirit.

19. Thus Paul rejects the glorying and boasting of the sects over
their offices and gifts--they who pretend to be filled with the
Spirit and to teach the people correctly, and who make out that Paul
and other teachers are of no consequence. Themselves the chief of
apostles, the people must hear them and accept their baptism. More
than that, they demand a higher attainment in the Spirit for Gospel
ministers, deeming faith, the Sacrament and the outward office not

But Paul says: "Boast as you will about the great measure of the
Spirit you possess, it is certain that the Spirit-inspired teacher
will not curse Christ." In other words, such boasting of the Spirit
will not answer the purpose. What you believe and teach concerning
Christ must receive attention. You are either reproaching and cursing
Jesus, or praising him and owning him your Lord. If your preaching
and teaching fail to point to Christ, something else being offered,
and you nevertheless boast of the Spirit, you are already judged: the
spirit you boast is not the Holy Spirit, not the true Spirit, but a
false one. To it we are not to listen. Rather we are to condemn it to
the abyss of hell, as Paul declares (Gal 1, 8), saying: "But though
we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any Gospel other
than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema."

20. When Paul here speaks of calling Jesus accursed, he does not only
have reference to openly blaspheming or cursing Christ's name or
person after the manner of heathen and of ungodly Jews; with them
Paul has nothing to do here, nor are the Corinthians supposed to be
of that character. Paul refers rather to the Christian who, though
boasting of the Holy Spirit, does not preach Christ as the ground of
our salvation as he should, but, neglecting this truth, points the
soul away to something else, pretending that this substitute is of
the Holy Spirit and is something better and more essential than the
common doctrine of the Gospel.

All such teachers are in reality simply guilty of condemning,
reproaching and cursing Christ, though themselves bearing and
boasting that name. To slight Christ's Word and ministry, and exalt
in their stead other things as mediums for obtaining the Holy Spirit
and eternal life, or at least as being equally efficacious and
essential--what is this but scorning Christ and making him of no
consequence? Indeed, according to Hebrews 6, 6 and 10, 29, it is
crucifying the Son of God afresh, and treading under foot his blood.

21. Christ himself explains the office and ministry of the Holy
Spirit--what he is to teach in the Church--saying (Jn 15, 26), "He
shall bear witness of me." Again (Jn 16, 14): "He shall glorify me:
for he shall take of mine, and shall declare it unto you." The tongue
of a minister of Christ--the language he employs--must be of that
simplicity which preaches naught but Christ. If he is to testify of
the Saviour and glorify him, he cannot present other things whereby
Christ would be ignored and robbed of his glory. He who does so,
certainly is not inspired by the Holy Spirit, even though he possess
great gifts and be called a teacher, a bishop, a pope, a council, an
apostle even--yes, an angel from heaven. There were among the
Corinthians some who thus neglected to preach only Christ, and
presented instead the apostles, making choice of them--one Cephas,
another Apollos and a third Paul.

And just so our monks have done. They have in a way highly extolled
Jesus, have in words honored and worshiped his name and used it to
clothe all their lying nonsense and idolatry. For instance, they
exalt Mary as the mother of Jesus and Anna as his grandmother. But
they have thus torn men's hearts away from Christ, turning over to
Mary and the saints the honor due him alone, and teaching the people
to invoke these as mediators and intercessors having power to protect
us in the hour of death. This is substituting dumb idols for Christ.
No saint has ever taught such things; still less does the Word of God
enjoin them. Thus the monks really curse and insult Christ.

22. The Pope, throughout his whole administration, has been guilty of
such insult to Christ, notwithstanding his boast that his kingdom
represents the Christian Church, that he truly possesses the Holy
Spirit and that his decrees and ordinances must be respected. Nothing
can dissuade the Papists from their practice. They ever boast of
being led by the Spirit, yet their vaunting is mere malediction, not
only of Christ in person, but of his Word and his sacraments. For
they openly condemn, and denounce as heresy, the doctrine of the
Gospel, which Gospel assures us that to Christ alone we owe the
unmerited forgiveness of our sins; they condemn also the use of the
sacraments according to Christ's command and institution. And they
destroy the people who thus offend them.

The fact is, the Pope has in our doctrine nothing to curse but Jesus
Christ, its foundation and principle, expressed by his Word and
sacraments. The same is true of other factions--the Anabaptists and
similar sects. What else do they but slander baptism and the Lord's
Supper when they pretend that the external Word and outward
sacraments do not benefit the soul, that the Spirit alone can do
that? But in these matters you have Paul's sure word of judgment to
strengthen your faith. You may be assured that the factions of the
Pope and other sects are not, as they boast, the Church of Christ,
but accursed schisms of the devil. The true Church, the righteous
bride of Christ, certainly will not curse him nor persecute his Word.
Let no one be moved by hearing men loudly boast about Christ after
the manner of the false apostles who called themselves disciples of
the true apostles of Jesus, and claimed that certain of their number
had even seen Christ in person. The Saviour himself warns us against
this class when he says (Mt 24, 5-24), "Many shall come in my name
... and shall show wonders"; and (Mt 7, 21), "Not every one that
saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven."


23. Paul has the same thought here when he says, "No man can say,
Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit." To call Jesus "Lord" is to
confess one's self his servant and to seek his honor alone; to act as
his messenger or the bearer of his Word and command. Paul's reference
here is chiefly to the office representative of Christ and bearing
his Word. Where the office answers these conditions and points to
Christ as the Lord, it is truly the message of the Holy Spirit, even
though the occupant of the office does not in his own person possess
the Spirit; the office itself is essentially the Holy Spirit.
Hypocrisy and invention have no place here. One must proceed in
sincerity if he would be certain he is Christ's minister, or apostle,
and really handles his Word. Only the inspiration of the Holy Spirit
can give one this assurance.

24. All Christians--each in his own work or sphere--equally may call
Christ "Lord." One may be assured he serves Christ if he can call him
"Lord," for only by the Holy Spirit is he enabled to do that. Let him
try for a single day--from morning until evening--whether or no he
can truly say at all times that he is the servant of God and of
Christ in what he does. When delivering a sermon or listening to one,
when baptizing a child or bringing a child to baptism, when pursuing
your daily home duties, ask yourself if the act is attended by such
faith that you can, without misgiving and not hypocritically nor
mechanically, boast--and if necessary die by your word--that you
serve and please Christ therein. This is calling Christ "Lord."
Unquestionably you will often feel your heart doubting and trembling
over the matter.

25. In the papacy we were altogether hindered from feeling thus
confident--yes, frightened from it by accursed scepticism. No one
could--no one dared--say, "I know I am a servant, a bondsman, of
Christ, and that my conduct pleases him." Flesh and blood are too
weak to obtain this glorious confidence; the Holy Spirit is
essential. Reason and our own hearts cry out in protest: "Alas, I am
far too evil and unworthy! How could I be proud and presumptuous
enough to boast myself the servant of the Lord Jesus Christ? I might
if I were as holy as St. Peter, St. Paul and others."

26. I used often to wonder that St. Ambrose was so bold as, in his
letters, to call himself a servant of Jesus Christ. I supposed we all
ought to be terrified at thoughts of this kind, and that none but the
apostles might boast of such honor. But the fact is, we must all say
to Christ: "Thou art my Lord and I am thy servant; for I believe on
thee and aspire to be with thee and all the faithful and to possess
thy Word and Sacrament." Otherwise Christ will not acknowledge us.


It is written (Mt 4, 10)--indeed, it is the first commandment--"Thou
shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." There
Christ requires of us, under the penalty of forfeiting eternal life,
to honor him as our Lord and so to regulate our lives that we shall
know we serve him. Peter also teaches (1 Pet 4, 11) that all the
Christian's words and deeds should be regarded not as his own, but as
God's. The word and the act are to be of the ability which God gives,
that in it all God may be glorified. Of necessity this condition can
obtain only through the Holy Spirit.

27. In this point--the glorification of Christ--do the true
Christians distinguish themselves from false Christians, hypocrites
and factious spirits, who likewise triumphantly boast of the Spirit
and of their divine office. But the vanity of their boasting is
evident from the fact that they do not hold to the doctrine that
glorifies Christ, but preach that which leads to other evils and
deceives; yes, which condemns and persecutes the right doctrine and
the true faith of Christ. Further evidence of the emptiness of their
boasting is apparent in the fact that they have no conscious
testimony that they serve Christ, nor can their followers give
assurance on the same point. You have here the clear sentence of Paul
declaring this class devoid of the Holy Spirit and thus separated
from the true Church and from Christians. He exhorts us to be on our
guard against them, and would bring Christians together in one faith
and under one Lord and Spirit. Now he teaches how to employ rightly
the manifold gifts of a united Church for the general benefit of its

"Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit."

28. "In former time, when you were heathen, you followed many kinds
of idolatrous worship, many doctrines and spirits; but it was only a
divided religion, and representative of blindness and error. Now,
however, you possess various beautiful divine gifts and offices.
These are mutually related and all emanate, not from man's reason or
faculties, but from the one true God. They are his work--the
expression of his power. Notwithstanding the dissimilarity of gifts,
offices and works, of a certain order in one and otherwise in
another, many and few, great and small, weak and strong--notwithstanding
all, we are not to divide the Spirit, God and faith; we are not to
create factions, exalting this individual or that one solely because of
his gifts, and despising others. All gifts are direct from one God, one
Lord, one Spirit, and to serve the same purpose--to bring men to the
knowledge of the one God and to build up the Church in the unity of
faith. Therefore, you are united in the one doctrine, your object being
to serve God and the Church in a harmonious way." This verse is briefly
the substance of all that follows in the text.


29. Paul presents three different points: "Diversities of gifts, but
the same Spirit;" "diversities of administrations, and the same
Lord;" "diversities of workings, but the same God." Unquestionably,
Paul touches the article of faith concerning the Trinity, or three
persons in the Divine Essence, and shows that both Christ and the
Holy Spirit are true God and yet different in person from the Father
and from each other. He teaches the same elsewhere (1 Cor 8, 5-6),
saying: "For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven
or on earth; as there are gods many, and lords many; yet to us there
is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto him; and
one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through

30. In the text before us, the apostle likewise distinguishes the
three--one God, one Lord, one Spirit. He assigns to each the
particular operation whereby he manifests himself. One is God the
Father, and from him as the origin and first person emanates all
power. Another is the Lord, Christ the Son of God, who as the head of
the Church appoints all offices. The third is the Spirit, who
produces and dispenses all gifts in the Church. Yet all three are of
one divine, almighty and eternal essence. They are of the same name,
and are truly one since God must be an indivisible essence.

To each individual is attributed only the characteristics of the
Divine Majesty. As he who is the source of all operative power in the
Church and in the entire creation is true God; so also must the Lord
who appoints all offices, and the Spirit who confers all gifts, be
true God. No creature is able to impart spiritual offices and gifts;
that is impossible to any but God. These three--God, Lord and
Spirit--are not Gods of unlike nature, but one in divine essence. The
Lord is no other God than God the Father; and the Spirit is none
other than God and the Lord. But more on this topic elsewhere.


31. The names and nature of the spiritual gifts, the apostle here
specifies. He names wisdom, knowledge, prophecy, power to discern
spirits, capacity to speak with tongues and to interpret,
extraordinary gifts of faith, and power to work miracles. "The word
of wisdom" is the doctrine which teaches a knowledge of God,
revealing his will, counsel and design. It embraces every article of
belief and justification. The world knows nothing of this loftiest,
most exalted gift of the Spirit.


The "word of knowledge" also teaches of the outward life and
interests of the Christian: how we are to conduct ourselves toward
all others, making a profitable use of the Gospel doctrine according
as necessity of time and person demands; it teaches us the wisest
course toward the weak and the strong, the timid and the obstinate.


The gift of prophecy is the ability to rightly interpret and explain
the Scriptures, and powerfully to reveal therefrom the doctrine of
faith and the overthrow of false doctrine. The gift of prophecy
includes, further, the ability to employ the Scriptures for
admonition and reproof, for imparting strength and comfort, by
pointing out, on the one hand, the certainty of future indignation,
vengeance and punishment for the unbelieving and disobedient, and on
the other hand presenting divine aid and reward to godly believers.
Thus did the prophets with the Word of God, both the Law and the


32. Paul is making mention of gifts not common to all. Only to
certain ones are they given, and the gifts in themselves are unlike.
"To another faith," he says, "to another workings of miracles, and to
another prophecy." In "faith" here the reference is not to ordinary
faith in Christ which brings justification before God and forgiveness
of sin; such faith is essentially the property of every Christian,
even if they do not possess the particular gifts here enumerated.
Paul is speaking of a particular virtue or power of the Spirit
operating in the Church, whereby certain ones can effect great and
glorious things by reason of their remarkable and confident courage;
as instanced in Paul's words later on (1 Cor 13, 2), "If I have all
faith, so as to remove mountains."

To work such wonders, a very strong and sure faith is certainly
necessary. An unwavering, vigorous, courageous faith may accomplish a
special work in the name and power of Christ although the worker may
not himself be truly repentant nor possess the right kind of faith to
secure forgiveness of sins and grace in Christ. He may be a
hypocrite, a false saint. Christ says (Mt 7, 22), "Many will say to
me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by
thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works?" It
is true that such gifts are exercised, such works performed, in the
name of Christ, and that the gifts are granted to none but
individuals in the Church of Christ, and yet the possessor may not be
altogether righteous, may even be a false Christian. For the effects
wrought do not emanate from the individual but from the office he
represents, being the operation of the Spirit given in behalf of the
Church. Thus, as occupants of the office and by virtue of the Church,
these persons perform many and great works, benefiting not themselves
but others.

33. Paul says of all these, "There are diversities of gifts, but the
same Spirit," by way of admonishing us against creating sects. The
Spirit is equally effective through him whose gifts are few and less
significant and through him of remarkable gifts. And as with gifts,
so it is with workings and ministrations.


34. The term "workings," or operations, has reference to remarkable
works of God wrought through certain individuals in an exceptional
way. For instance, he grants to Paul a ministerial office of unusual
influence: Paul is permitted to convert more souls than other
apostles, to perform more wonders and accomplish more. He says
himself (1 Cor 15, 10) that by the grace of God he labored more
abundantly than all.


35. The meaning of "administrations" is easily apparent. Office is an
ordained and essential feature of every government. It represents
various duties imposed and commanded by sovereign authority. It may
have reference to the duties enjoined upon a society collectively, in
the service of others. There are various offices in the Church; for
instance, one individual is an apostle, another an evangelist,
another a teacher, as Paul mentions in Ephesians 4, 11. And as he
says in First Corinthians 14, 26 and also hints in this text, the
office of one is to read the Scriptures in different languages, of
another to interpret and explain. So it was ordained in the Church at
that time, and similarly today are ordained certain offices--of
pastors, preachers, deacons or priests, their duties being to hear
confessions, to administer the Sacrament, and so on.

36. Not every Christian is obliged, nor is able, to execute such
duties; only upon certain ones are they enjoined. "Administrations"
differ from what Paul terms "workings" and gifts. There have ever
been many Christians who, though possessing the Holy Spirit, were not
"administrators;" for instance, virgins and wives--Agnes Anastasia
and others--and martyrs, many of whom wrought miracles and had other
gifts. True, both gifts and workings are imparted chiefly for the
execution of Christian duties. It is essential here, especially in
the superior office of preaching, that the occupant be peculiarly
qualified for the place. The preacher must be able to understand and
explain the Scriptures and be familiar with the languages. It is
necessary to the effectiveness of his labors that he be accompanied
by God's operative power. Thus the three--gifts, workings,
administrations--are harmonious features of one divine government in
the Church; Christ is the Lord, who regulates and maintains the
offices, while God works and the Holy Spirit bestows his gifts.


37. As we said, offices are many and varied, even as one gift is
greater than another: an apostle, for instance, is superior to a
teacher or expounder, while the office of a baptizer is inferior to
that of a preacher. Yet notwithstanding, we are to remember, Paul
says, that all are ordained of the same Lord, and the occupant of a
superior office is not to consider himself any better by reason of
his position and to despise others. He must bear in mind that all
serve the same Lord, the least as well as the greatest, and
consequently the holder of the inferior office is not necessarily
inferior with his Lord, nor the executor of the higher office greater
with him. Christ is ever Lord of all; one belongs as much to his
realm as another. Therefore he will have no divisions and sects over
this point; rather he wills that such diversity of gifts and offices
be promotive of unity.

38. When I preach and you listen, we are not exercising the same gift
and office, yet you as truly serve Christ by listening as I by
preaching. If you preach, explain the Scriptures, baptize, comfort or
aught else, through you works the same Christ who works through
another. All is wrought in obedience to the order of him who commands
me to hear his Word as well as to preach to you, and to exercise the
same faith and Spirit with you. Thus all alike praise the one Lord.
You say, "The Word I hear is the true Word of God," and I as a
preacher prove and declare the very same thing. When I baptize,
administer the Sacrament or absolve, and you accept my
administrations, we are both engaged in the service of the same Lord
and harmoniously execute his command. You and I, however, so far as
office and gifts are considered, may be of different capacities.

39. A peculiarity of the Christian profession, and the chief point of
distinction between Christians and the heathen, is their recognition
of the fact that workings, offices and gifts are of God, Christ the
Lord and the Holy Spirit. The world does not perceive this truth,
though it, too, enjoys the gifts of God. For God remembers all his
creatures, though, like swine that enter the trough on all fours with
no thought but of eating and rooting therein, not even lifting their
eyes, they cannot raise their thoughts to the source of all their
good and have not a thought as to whom they should thank for it. He
who is not a Christian comes before God in an insensible and beastly
attitude. The world is but a pen of animals indifferent to the
kingdom of God and with no idea of gratitude for his rich
beneficence, his gifts for body and soul. The worldly seek only their
husks and their troughs. To these they cleave like fattening swine
intended for slaughter. Jeremiah (ch. 12, 3) says concerning the
ungodly, who with great satisfaction persecute the righteous: "Pull
them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day
of slaughter."

40. God gives the ungodly mighty kingdoms, riches, lands and houses,
making them to enjoy greatness and abundance. But when the swine are
fed and fat, the question of bacon and sausage introduces a struggle.
A slaughterer--a sausage-maker--appears, perchance, to slaughter the
swine in their sty; one comes desolating the country, overthrowing
the kingdom, destroying people and all; for, desiring to be but
swine, the people must be destroyed like swine. Even though the world
have personal knowledge of such punishment, it continues its course
so long as possible--until the slaughterer comes. Swine remain swine;
they are capable of standing ever unmoved by their trough, one
perfectly indifferent if another be struck dead before its eyes.


41. Christians, however, though obliged to live among swine and to be
at times trampled under foot and rooted about, have nevertheless
surpassing glory; for they can look up and intelligently behold their
Lord and his gifts. They are not of the pen of swine intended only
for slaughter; they know themselves children of God, adorned by him
with gifts and graces not merely temporal. They are conscious that,
having given them body and life--for these they realize are not of
their own obtaining--he will also supply their further needs,
providing for them forever.

42. Christians are able to recognize even God's least blessing as
most precious, as truly excellent; not only because it comes from
him, but because of its inherent value. No one who recognizes even
temporal blessings would give an eye, or a less important member of
the body, to redeem the riches of the entire world. How much loftier
and more precious to the Christian are the spiritual gifts concerning
which Paul here speaks--gifts bestowed as means unto salvation! The
baptizing of a child or the absolution of a penitent makes no great
show, but were the office viewed in the true light, the bestowed
treasure rightly appreciated, all the officers, authority and riches
of kings and emperors would be nothing at all in comparison.

43. Regarding the baptizer--who may be a woman even--and the
baptized, we certainly can see nothing wonderful. The humanity in the
case does not effect any great work; the work is wrought by him who
is God, Lord and Spirit. It is he who gives to the office power and
greatness above that of all emperors, kings and lords, however
inferior the instrumentality--the occupants of the sacred offices. By
these ministrations souls are won from the devil, snatched out of
hell and transformed into saints blessed forever. Person and office
may be apparently inferior, but the office is of God and God is no
inferior being. His greatness cannot be equaled by a hundred thousand
worlds. He accomplishes things incomprehensible to the world and
impossible to angels.

The combined efforts of all creation could not produce baptism. Were
the world to unite in baptizing an infant, the infant would receive
no good therefrom unless God the Lord commanded the deed. Let the
Sultan be many thousands of times more powerful than at present and
he could not, with all his riches, his dominion and peoples, free
himself or any other from the power of the least sin. He could not
effectively pronounce the absolution, "God has forgiven you your
sins." For the Sultan has neither gift, office nor work; indeed, he
knows nothing about them. They belong to God alone, though human
mouths and hands are instrumental therein.

44. Note why Paul boasts of the fact that God bestows such great
blessings. It is that Christians may discern them and thank him; and
that such discernment may lead them to serve one another in humility,
with mutual faith and love, each one learning to praise God fervently
wherever he beholds God's gifts and offices operative in the Church,
and to esteem them as he would esteem God himself. For,
unquestionably, none would possess office and gifts had not God
ordained and bestowed them.

45. How we have exalted our own nonsense--pilgrimages, cloisters,
cords, cowls, running to the dead in the wilderness and so on! But to
what purpose? What benefit have we derived therefrom, notwithstanding
we walked until our feet were bleeding, and watched and fasted and
tormented ourselves to death? Such a life, it is true, may be called
holy, divine, yet it is not at all the gift, the work, the office, of
God. No God, no Lord, no Spirit, is in that practice. God has nowhere
commanded such a life. We have devised it and may reward and help
ourselves for so doing. We cannot boast his authority for it nor find
divine comfort therein.

But the discerning Christian can with satisfaction boast on this
wise: "My baptism or my absolution is not of my own devising or
ordaining, nor of another man's. It is of Christ my Lord. For here is
his command ordaining the office: 'Go ye therefore, and make
disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.' Mt 28, 19. Upon
authority of the office, work and gift here presented, I can boast
and be strong in faith against the devil and all the gates of hell;
otherwise I cannot withstand Satan for one moment. He would not be
afraid of me and my works though I should be able to boast of having
lived seventy years as a member of a holy order, serving God every
day and hour, praying, fasting, and so on."

46. The devil hurls both person and work, as he finds them, into the
abyss of hell. If he ask you where God has commanded such works as
yours, you have no answer. But let him hear you boast in the
confident faith God's command inspires: "I have received from Christ
my Lord baptism and absolution; of this I am certain, and what I do
is done at his command and by his power"--let him hear that and he is
forced immediately to leave you. He must flee, not from your person
or works, but from Christ's office and gifts found with you.

47. Paul presents these thoughts to teach us what we Christians have
from God in the three forms, blessings superior to those enjoyed by
all others in the world. The apostle would have us be grateful for
these things and make use of them in a spirit of Christian love. He
desires that the possessor of gifts devote them to the service of
others. He teaches we are to honor God in the gifts another
possesses; that we are highly to esteem them, remembering they are
not of man's production, not wrought of man's ability or skill, but
are the offices, gifts and works of God. They are not the inferior
and trivial things they seem to the world because making no show and
noise. God does not give unredeemable coin or empty shells and mere
husks. His gifts and works in his Church must effect inexpressible
results, taking souls from the jaws of the devil and translating them
into eternal life and glory.

_Eleventh Sunday After Trinity_

Text: 1 Corinthians 15, 1-10.

1 Now I make known unto you, brethren, the gospel which I preached
unto you, which also ye received, wherein also ye stand, 2 by which
also ye are saved, if ye hold fast the word which I preached unto
you, except ye believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of
all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins
according to the scriptures; 4 and that he was buried; and that he
hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures; 5 and
that he appeared to Cephas; then to the twelve; 6 then he appeared to
above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain
until now, but some are fallen asleep; 7 then he appeared to James;
then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to the child untimely
born, he appeared to me also. 9 For I am the least of the apostles,
that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the
church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his
grace which was bestowed upon me was not found vain; but I labored
more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which
was with me.


This text is fully explained in the sermons on the entire chapter,
which have been published separately. He who desires may read them
there. It speaks almost exclusively of the resurrection of the dead,
and therefore ought properly to be read and preached at the Easter
season. The reason of its selection for this Sunday seems to be that
the latter part of it corresponds with the Gospel for this Sunday.

For Saint Paul, though he was an exalted apostle, and had labored in
that office more than all the others together, boasts not of his own
deeds, as did the proud Pharisee. Like the poor publican he confessed
his sin and unworthiness, and ascribed all that he is to the grace of
God alone, which made a Christian and an apostle of him who had been
a persecutor.

_Twelfth Sunday After Trinity_

Text: 2 Corinthians 3, 4-11.

4 And such confidence have we through Christ to God-ward: 5 not that
we are sufficient of ourselves, to account anything as from
ourselves; but our sufficiency is from God; 6 who also made us
sufficient as ministers of a new covenant; not of the letter, but of
the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. 7 But
if the ministration of death, written, and engraven on stones, came
with glory, so that the children of Israel could not look stedfastly
upon the face of Moses for the glory of his face; which glory was
passing away: 8 how shall not rather the ministration of the spirit
be with glory? 9 For if the ministration of condemnation hath glory,
much rather doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.
10 For verily that which hath been made glorious hath not been made
glorious in this respect, by reason of the glory that surpasseth. 11
For if that which passeth away was with glory, much more that which
remaineth is in glory.


1. This epistle lesson sounds altogether strange and wonderful to
individuals unaccustomed to Scripture language, particularly to that
of Paul. To the inexperienced ear and heart it is not intelligible.
In popedom thus far it has remained quite unapprehended, although
reading of the words has been practiced.

2. That we may understand it, we must first get an idea of Paul's
theme. Briefly, he would oppose the vain boasting of false apostles
and preachers concerning their possession of the spirit and their
peculiar skill and gifts, by praising and glorifying the office of a
preacher of the Gospel with which he is intrusted. For he found that,
especially in the Church at Corinth, which he had converted by the
words of his own lips and brought to faith in Christ, soon after his
departure the devil introduced his heresies whereby the people were
turned from the truth and betrayed into other ways. Since it became
his duty to make an attack upon such heresies, he devoted both his
epistles to the purpose of keeping the Corinthians in the right way,
so that they might retain the pure doctrine received from him, and
beware of false spirits. The main thing which moved him to write this
second epistle was his desire to emphasize to them his apostolic
office of a preacher of the Gospel, in order to put to shame the
glory of those other teachers--the glory they boasted with many words
and great pretense.

3. He starts in on this theme just before he reaches our text. And
this is how it is he comes to speak in high terms of praise of the
ministration of the Gospel and to contrast and compare the twofold
ministration or message which may be proclaimed in the Church,
provided, of course, that God's Word is to be preached and not the
nonsense of human falsehood and the doctrine of the devil. One is
that of the Old Testament, the other of the New; in other words, the
office of Moses, or the Law, and the office of the Gospel of Christ.
He contrasts the glory and power of the latter with those of the
former, which, it is true, is also the Word of God. In this manner he
endeavors to defeat the teachings and pretensions of those seductive
spirits who, as he but lately foretold, pervert God's Word, in that
they greatly extol the Law of God, yet at best do not teach its right
use, but, instead of making it tributary to faith in Christ, misuse
it to teach work-righteousness.

4. Since the words before us are in reality a continuation of those
with which the chapter opens, the latter must be considered in this
connection. We read:

"Are we beginning again to commend ourselves? or need we, as do some,
epistles of commendation to you or from you? Ye are our epistle,
written in our hearts, known and read of all men; being made manifest
that ye are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with
ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone,
but in tables that are hearts of flesh."

"We, my fellow-apostles and co-laborers and I," he says, "do not ask
for letters and seals from others commending us to you, or from you
commending us to others, in order to seduce people after gaining
their good will in your church and in others as well. Such is the
practice of the false apostles, and many even now present letters and
certificates from honest preachers and Churches, and make them the
means whereby their unrighteous plotting may be received in good
faith. Such letters, thank God, we stand not in need of, and you need
not fear we shall use such means of deception. For you are yourselves
the letter we have written and wherein we may pride ourselves and
which we present everywhere. For it is a matter of common knowledge
that you have been taught by us, and brought to Christ through our


5. Inasmuch as his activity among them is his testimonial, and they
themselves are aware that through his ministerial office he has
constituted them a church, he calls them an epistle written by
himself; not with ink and in paragraphs, not on paper or wood, nor
engraved upon hard rock as the Ten Commandments written upon tables
of stone, which Moses placed before the people, but written by the
Holy Spirit upon fleshly tables--hearts of tender flesh. The Spirit
is the ink or the inscription, yes, even the writer himself; but the
pencil or pen and the hand of the writer is the ministry of Paul.

6. This figure of a written epistle is, however, in accord with
Scripture usage. Moses commands (Deut 6, 6-9; 11, 18) that the
Israelites write the Ten Commandments in all places where they walked
or stood--upon the posts of their houses, and upon their gates, and
ever have them before their eyes and in their hearts. Again (Prov 7,
2-3), Solomon says: "Keep my commandments and ... my law as the apple
of thine eye. Bind them upon thy fingers; write them upon the tablet
of thy heart." He speaks as a father to his child when giving the
child an earnest charge to remember a certain thing--"Dear child,
remember this; forget it not; keep it in thy heart." Likewise, God
says in the book of Jeremiah the prophet (ch. 31, 33), "I will put my
law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it." Here
man's heart is represented as a sheet, or slate, or page, whereon is
written the preached Word; for the heart is to receive and securely
keep the Word. In this sense Paul says: "We have, by our ministry,
written a booklet or letter upon your heart, which witnesses that you
believe in God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost and have the assurance
that through Christ you are redeemed and saved. This testimony is
what is written on your heart. The letters are not characters traced
with ink or crayon, but the living thoughts, the fire and force of
the heart."

7. Note further, that it is his ministry to which Paul ascribes the
preparation of their heart thereon and the inscription which
constitutes them "living epistles of Christ." He contrasts his
ministry with the blind fancies of those fanatics who seek to
receive, and dream of having, the Holy Spirit without the oral word;
who, perchance, creep into a corner and grasp the Spirit through
dreams, directing the people away from the preached Word and visible
ministry. But Paul says that the Spirit, through his preaching, has
wrought in the hearts of his Corinthians, to the end that Christ
lives and is mighty in them. After such statement he bursts into
praise of the ministerial office, comparing the message, or
preaching, of Moses with that of himself and the apostles. He says:

"Such confidence have we through Christ to God-ward: not that we are
sufficient of ourselves, to account anything as from ourselves; but
our sufficiency is from God."


8. These words are blows and thrusts for the false apostles and
preachers. Paul is mortal enemy to the blockheads who make great
boast, pretending to what they do not possess and to what they cannot
do; who boast of having the Spirit in great measure; who are ready to
counsel and aid the whole world; who pride themselves on the ability
to invent something new. It is to be a surpassingly precious and
heavenly thing they are to spin out of their heads, as the dreams of
pope and monks have been in time past.

"We do not so," says Paul. "We rely not upon ourselves or our wisdom
and ability. We preach not what we have ourselves invented. But this
is our boast and trust in Christ before God, that we have made of you
a divine epistle; have written upon your hearts, not our thoughts,
but the Word of God. We are not, however, glorifying our own power,
but the works and the power of him who has called and equipped us for
such an office; from whom proceeds all you have heard and believed."

9. It is a glory which every preacher may claim, to be able to say
with full confidence of heart: "This trust have I toward God in
Christ, that what I teach and preach is truly the Word of God."
Likewise, when he performs other official duties in the
Church--baptizes a child, absolves and comforts a sinner--it must be
done in the same firm conviction that such is the command of Christ.

10. He who would teach and exercise authority in the Church without
this glory, "it is profitable for him," as Christ says (Mt 18, 6),
"that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he
should be sunk in the depths of the sea." For the devil's lies he
preaches, and death is what he effects. Our Papists, in time past,
after much and long-continued teaching, after many inventions and
works whereby they hoped to be saved, nevertheless always doubted in
heart and mind whether or no they had pleased God. The teaching and
works of all heretics and seditious spirits certainly do not bespeak
for them trust in Christ; their own glory is the object of their
teaching, and the homage and praise of the people is the goal of
their desire.

"Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to account anything as from

11. As said before, this is spoken in denunciation of the false
spirits who believe that by reason of eminent equipment of special
creation and election, they are called to come to the rescue of the
people, expecting wonders from whatever they say and do.


12. Now, we know ourselves to be of the same clay whereof they are
made; indeed, we perhaps have the greater call from God: yet we
cannot boast of being capable of ourselves to advise or aid men. We
cannot even originate an idea calculated to give help. And when it
comes to the knowledge of how one may stand before God and attain to
eternal life, that is truly not to be achieved by our work or power,
nor to originate in our brain. In other things, those pertaining to
this temporal life, you may glory in what you know, you may advance
the teachings of reason, you may invent ideas of your own; for
example: how to make shoes or clothes, how to govern a household, how
to manage a herd. In such things exercise your mind to the best of
your ability. Cloth or leather of this sort will permit itself to be
stretched and cut according to the good pleasure of the tailor or
shoemaker. But in spiritual matters, human reasoning certainly is not
in order; other intelligence, other skill and power, are requisite
here--something to be granted by God himself and revealed through his

13. What mortal has ever discovered or fathomed the truth that the
three persons in the eternal divine essence are one God; that the
second person, the Son of God, was obliged to become man, born of a
virgin; and that no way of life could be opened for us, save through
his crucifixion? Such truth never would have been heard nor preached,
would never in all eternity have been published, learned and
believed, had not God himself revealed it.

14. For this season they are blind fools of first magnitude and
dangerous characters who would boast of their grand performances, and
think that the people are served when they preach their own fancies
and inventions. It has been the practice in the Church for anyone to
introduce any teaching he saw fit; for example, the monks and priests
have daily produced new saints, pilgrimages, special prayers, works
and sacrifices in the effort to blot out sin, redeem souls from
purgatory, and so on. They who make up things of this kind are not
such as put their trust in God through Christ, but rather such as
defy God and Christ. Into the hearts of men, where Christ alone
should be, they shove the filth and write the lies of the devil. Yet
they think themselves, and themselves only, qualified for all
essential teaching and work, self-grown doctors that they are, saints
all-powerful without the help of God and Christ.

"But our sufficiency is from God."

15. Of ourselves--in our own wisdom and strength--we cannot effect,
discover nor teach any counsel or help for man, whether for ourselves
or others. Any good work we perform among you, any doctrine we write
upon your heart--that is God's own work. He puts into our heart and
mouth what we should say, and impresses it upon your heart through
the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we cannot ascribe to ourselves any honor
therein, cannot seek our own glory as the self-instructed and proud
spirits do; we must give to God alone the honor, and must glory in
the fact that by his grace and power he works in you unto salvation,
through the office committed unto us.

16. Now, Paul's thought here is that nothing should be taught and
practiced in the Church but what is unquestionably God's Word. It
will not do to introduce or perform anything whatever upon the
strength of man's judgment. Man's achievements, man's reasoning and
power, are of no avail save in so far as they come from God. As Peter
says in his first epistle (ch. 4, 11): "If any man speaketh, speaking
as it were oracles of God; if any man ministereth, ministering as of
the strength which God supplieth." In short, let him who would be
wise, who would boast of great skill, talents and power, confine
himself to things other than spiritual; with respect to spiritual
matters, let him keep his place and refrain from boasting and
pretense. For it is of no moment that men observe your greatness and
ability; the important thing is that poor souls may rest assured of
being presented with God's Word and works, whereby they may be saved.

"Who also made us sufficient as ministers of a new covenant; not of
the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit
giveth life."


17. Paul here proceeds to exalt the office and power of the Gospel
over the glorying of the false apostles, and to elevate the power of
the Word above that of all other doctrine, even of the Law of God.
Truly we are not sufficient of ourselves and have nothing to boast of
so far as human activity is considered. For that is without merit or
power, however strenuous the effort may be to fulfil God's Law. We
have, however, something infinitely better to boast of, something not
grounded in our own activity: by God we have been made sufficient for
a noble ministry, termed the ministry "of a New Covenant." This
ministry is not only exalted far above any teaching to be evolved by
human wisdom, skill and power, but is more glorious than the ministry
termed the "Old Covenant," which in time past was delivered to the
Jews through Moses. While this ministry clings, in common with other
doctrine, to the Word given by revelation, it is the agency whereby
the Holy Spirit works in the heart. Therefore, Paul says it is not a
ministration of the letter, but "of the spirit."


18. This passage relative to spirit and letter has in the past been
wholly strange language to us. Indeed, to such extent has man's
nonsensical interpretation perverted and weakened it that I, though a
learned doctor of the holy Scriptures, failed to understand it
altogether, and I could find no one to teach me. And to this day it
is unintelligible to all popedom. In fact, even the old
teachers--Origen, Jerome and others--have not caught Paul's thought.
And no wonder, truly! For it is essentially a doctrine far beyond the
power of man's intelligence to comprehend. When human reason meddles
with it, it becomes perplexed. The doctrine is wholly unintelligible
to it, for human thought goes no farther than the Law and the Ten
Commandments. Laying hold upon these it confines itself to them. It
does not attempt to do more, being governed by the principle that
unto him who fulfils the demands of the Law, or commandments, God is
gracious. Reason knows nothing about the wretchedness of depraved
nature. It does not recognize the fact that no man is able to keep
God's commandments; that all are under sin and condemnation; and that
the only way whereby help could be received was for God to give his
Son for the world, ordaining another ministration, one through which
grace and reconciliation might be proclaimed to us. Now, he who does
not understand the sublime subject of which Paul speaks cannot but
miss the true meaning of his words. How much more did we invite this
fate when we threw the Scriptures and Saint Paul's epistles under the
bench, and, like swine in husks, wallowed in man's nonsense!
Therefore, we must submit to correction and learn to understand the
apostle's utterance aright.

19. "Letter" and "spirit" have been understood to mean, according to
Origen and Jerome, the obvious sense of the written word. St.
Augustine, it must be admitted, has gotten an inkling of the truth.
Now, the position of the former teachers would perhaps not be quite
incorrect did they correctly explain the words. By "literary sense"
they signify the meaning of a Scripture narrative according to the
ordinary interpretation of the words. By "spiritual sense" they
signify the secondary, hidden, sense found in the words.

For instance: The Scripture narrative in Genesis third records how
the serpent persuaded the woman to eat of the forbidden fruit and to
give to her husband, who also ate. This narrative in its simplest
meaning represents what they understand by "letter." "Spirit,"
however, they understand to mean the spiritual interpretation, which
is thus: The serpent signifies the evil temptation which lures to
sin. The woman represents the sensual state, or the sphere in which
such enticements and temptations make themselves felt. Adam, the man,
stands for reason, which is called man's highest endowment. Now, when
reason does not yield to the allurements of external sense, all is
well; but when it permits itself to waver and consent, the fall has
taken place.

20. Origen was the first to trifle thus with the holy Scriptures, and
many others followed, until now it is thought to be the sign of great
cleverness for the Church to be filled with such quibblings. The aim
is to imitate Paul, who (Gal 4, 22-24) figuratively interprets the
story of Abraham's two sons, the one by the free woman, or the
mistress of the house, and the other by the hand-maid. The two women,
Paul says, represent the two covenants: one covenant makes only
bond-servants, which is just what he in our text terms the
ministration of the letter; the other leads to liberty, or, as he
says here, the ministration of the spirit, which gives life. And the
two sons are the two peoples, one of which does not go farther than
the Law, while the other accepts in faith the Gospel.

True, this is an interpretation not directly suggested by the
narrative and the text. Paul himself calls it an allegory; that is, a
mystic narrative, or a story with a hidden meaning. But he does not
say that the literal text is necessarily the letter that killeth, and
the allegory, or hidden meaning, the spirit. But the false teachers
assert of all Scripture that the text, or record itself, is but a
dead "letter," its interpretation being "the spirit." Yet they have
not pushed interpretation farther than the teaching of the Law; and
it is precisely the Law which Paul means when he speaks of "the

[Footnote 1: What Luther means is that the popish theologians with
their vaunted "spiritual" interpretation had never penetrated to the
Gospel, which confers the life in the Spirit, but had satisfied
themselves with so literal and superficial an interpretation of the
Law as to seek salvation through work-righteousness.]

21. Paul employs the word "letter" in such contemptuous sense in
reference to the Law--though the Law is, nevertheless, the Word of
God--when he compares it with the ministry of the Gospel. The letter
is to him the doctrine of the Ten Commandments, which teach how we
should obey God, honor parents, love our neighbor, and so on--the
very best doctrine to be found in all books, sermons and schools.

The word "letter" is to the apostle Paul everything which may take
the form of doctrine, of literary arrangement, of record, so long as
it remains something spoken or written. Also thoughts which may be
pictured or expressed by word or writing, but it is not that which is
written in the heart, to become its life. "Letter" is the whole Law
of Moses, or the Ten Commandments, though the supreme authority of
such teaching is not denied. It matters not whether you hear them,
read them, or reproduce them mentally. For instance, when I sit down
to meditate upon the first commandment: "Thou shalt have no other
gods before me," or the second, or the third, and so forth, I have
something which I can read, write, discuss, and aim to fulfil with
all my might. The process is quite similar when the emperor or prince
gives a command and says: "This you shall do, that you shall eschew."
This is what the apostle calls "the letter," or, as we have called it
on another occasion, the written sense.

22. Now, as opposed to "the letter," there is another doctrine or
message, which he terms the "ministration of a New Covenant" and "of
the Spirit." This doctrine does not teach what works are required of
man, for that man has already heard; but it makes known to him what
God would do for him and bestow upon him, indeed what he has already
done: he has given his Son Christ for us; because, for our
disobedience to the Law, which no man fulfils, we were under God's
wrath and condemnation. Christ made satisfaction for our sins,
effected a reconciliation with God and gave to us his own
righteousness. Nothing is said in this ministration of man's deeds;
it tells rather of the works of Christ, who is unique in that he was
born of a virgin, died for sin and rose from the dead, something no
other man has been able to do. This doctrine is revealed through none
but the Holy Spirit, and none other confers the Holy Spirit. The Holy
Spirit works in the hearts of them who hear and accept the doctrine.
Therefore, this ministration is termed a ministration "of the

23. The apostle employs the words "letter" and "spirit," to contrast
the two doctrines; to emphasize his office and show its advantage
over all others, however eminent the teachers whom they boast, and
however great the spiritual unction which they vaunt. It is of design
that he does not term the two dispensations "Law" and "Gospel," but
names them according to the respective effects produced. He honors
the Gospel with a superior term--"ministration of the spirit." Of the
Law, on the contrary, he speaks almost contemptuously, as if he would
not honor it with the title of God's commandment, which in reality it
is, according to his own admission later on that its deliverance to
Moses and its injunction upon the children of Israel was an occasion
of surpassing glory.

24. Why does Paul choose this method? Is it right for one to despise
or dishonor God's Law? Is not a chaste and honorable life a matter of
beauty and godliness? Such facts, it may be contended, are implanted
by God in reason itself, and all books teach them; they are the
governing force in the world. I reply: Paul's chief concern is to
defeat the vainglory and pretensions of false preachers, and to teach
them the right conception and appreciation of the Gospel which he
proclaimed. What Paul means is this: When the Jews vaunt their Law of
Moses, which was received as Law from God and recorded upon two
tables of stone; when they vaunt their learned and saintly preachers
of the Law and its exponents, and hold their deeds and manner of life
up to admiration, what is all that compared to the Gospel message?
The claim may be well made: a fine sermon, a splendid exposition;
but, after all, nothing more comes of it than precepts, expositions,
written comments. The precept, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with
all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself," remains a mere array of
words. When much time and effort have been spent in conforming one's
life to it, nothing has been accomplished. You have pods without
peas, husks without kernels.

25. For it is impossible to keep the Law without Christ, though man
may, for the sake of honor or property, or from fear of punishment,
feign outward holiness. The heart which does not discern God's grace
in Christ cannot turn to God nor trust in him; it cannot love his
commandments and delight in them, but rather resists them. For nature
rebels at compulsion. No man likes to be a captive in chains. One
does not voluntarily bow to the rod of punishment or submit to the
executioner's sword; rather, because of these things, his anger
against the Law is but increased, and he ever thinks: "Would that I
might unhindered steal, rob, hoard, gratify my lust, and so on!" And
when restrained by force, he would there were no Law and no God. And
this is the case where conduct shows some effects of discipline, in
that the outer man has been subjected to the teaching of the Law.

26. But in a far more appalling degree does inward rebellion ensue
when the heart feels the full force of the Law; when, standing before
God's judgment, it feels the sentence of condemnation; as we shall
presently hear, for the apostle says "the letter killeth." Then the
truly hard knots appear. Human nature fumes and rages against the
Law; offenses appear in the heart, the fruit of hate and enmity
against the Law; and presently human nature flees before God and is
incensed at God's judgment. It begins to question the equity of his
dealings, to ask if he is a just God. Influenced by such thoughts, it
falls ever deeper into doubt, it murmurs and chafes, until finally,
unless the Gospel comes to the rescue, it utterly despairs, as did
Judas, and Saul, and perhaps pass out of this life with God and
creation. This is what Paul means when he says (Rom 7, 8-9) that the
Law works sin in the heart of man, and sin works death, or kills.

27. You see, then, why the Law is called "the letter": though noble
doctrine, it remains on the surface; it does not enter the heart as a
vital force which begets obedience. Such is the baseness of human
nature, it will not and cannot conform to the Law; and so corrupt is
mankind, there is no individual who does not violate all God's
commandments in spite of daily hearing the preached Word and having
held up to view God's wrath and eternal condemnation. Indeed, the
harder pressed man is, the more furiously he storms against the Law.

28. The substance of the matter is this: When all the commandments
have been put together, when their message receives every particle of
praise to which it is entitled, it is still a mere letter. That is,
teaching not put into practice. By "letter" is signified all manner
of law, doctrine and message, which goes no farther than the oral or
written word, which consists only of the powerless letter. To
illustrate: A law promulgated by a prince or the authorities of a
city, if not enforced, remains merely an open letter, which makes a
demand indeed, but ineffectually. Similarly, God's Law, although a
teaching of supreme authority and the eternal will of God, must
suffer itself to become a mere empty letter or husk. Without a
quickening heart, and devoid of fruit, the Law is powerless to effect
life and salvation. It may well be called a veritable table of
omissions (Lass-tafel); that is, it is a written enumeration, not of
duties performed but of duties cast aside. In the languages of the
world, it is a royal edict which remains unobserved and unperformed.
In this light St. Augustine understood the Law. He says, commenting
on Psalm 17, "What is Law without grace but a letter without spirit?"
Human nature, without the aid of Christ and his grace, cannot keep

29. Again, Paul in terming the Gospel a "ministration of the spirit"
would call attention to its power to produce in the hearts of men an
effect wholly different from that of the Law: it is accompanied by
the Holy Spirit and it creates a new heart. Man, driven into fear and
anxiety by the preaching of the Law, hears this Gospel message,
which, instead of reminding him of God's demands, tells him what God
has done for him. It points not to man's works, but to the works of
Christ, and bids him confidently believe that for the sake of his Son
God will forgive his sins and accept him as his child. And this
message, when received in faith, immediately cheers and comforts the
heart. The heart will no longer flee from God; rather it turns to
him. Finding grace with God and experiencing his mercy, the heart
feels drawn to him. It commences to call upon him and to treat and
revere him as its beloved God. In proportion as such faith and solace
grow, also love for the commandments will grow and obedience to them
will be man's delight. Therefore, God would have his Gospel message
urged unceasingly as the means of awakening man's heart to discern
his state and recall the great grace and lovingkindness of God, with
the result that the power of the Holy Spirit is increased constantly.
Note, no influence of the Law, no work of man is present here. The
force is a new and heavenly one--the power of the Holy Spirit. He
impresses upon the heart Christ and his works, making of it a true
book which does not consist in the tracery of mere letters and words,
but in true life and action.

30. God promised of old, in Joel 2, 28 and other passages, to give
the Spirit through the new message, the Gospel. And he has verified
his promise by public manifestations in connection with the preaching
of that Gospel, as on the day of Pentecost and again later. When the
apostles, Peter and others, began to preach, the Holy Spirit
descended visibly from heaven upon their hearts. Acts 8, 17; 10, 44.
Up to that time, throughout the period the Law was preached, no one
had heard or seen such manifestation. The fact could not but be
grasped that this was a vastly different message from that of the Law
when such mighty results followed in its train. And yet its substance
was no more than what Paul declared (Acts 13, 38-39): "Through this
man is proclaimed unto you remission of sins: and by him every one
that believeth is justified from all things, from which ye could not
be justified by the law of Moses."

31. In this teaching you see no more the empty letters, the valueless
husks or shells, of the Law, which unceasingly enjoins, "This thou
shalt do and observe," and ever in vain. You see instead the true
kernel and power which confers Christ and the fullness of His Spirit.
In consequence, men heartily believe the message of the Gospel and
enjoy its riches. They are accounted as having fulfilled the Ten
Commandments. John says (Jn 1, 16-17): "Of his fullness we all
received, and grace for grace. For the Law was given through Moses;
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." John's thought is: The
Law has indeed been given by Moses, but what avails that fact? To be
sure, it is a noble doctrine and portrays a beautiful and instructive
picture of man's duty to God and all mankind; it is really excellent
as to the letter. Yet it remains empty; it does not enter into the
heart. Therefore it is called "law," nor can it become aught else, so
long as nothing more is given.


Before there can be fulfilment, another than Moses must come,
bringing another doctrine. Instead of a law enjoined, there must be
grace and truth revealed. For to enjoin a command and to embody the
truth[2] are two different things; just as teaching and doing differ.
Moses, it is true, teaches the doctrine of the Law, so far as
exposition is concerned, but he can neither fulfil it himself nor
give others the ability to do so. That it might be fulfilled, God's
Son had to come with his fullness; he has fulfilled the Law for
himself and it is he who communicates to our empty heart the power to
attain to the same fullness.

[Footnote 2: Es ist zweirlei, Gesetz geben, und, Wahrheit werden.]

This becomes possible when we receive grace for grace, that is, when
we come to the enjoyment of Christ, and for the sake of him who
enjoys with God fullness of grace, although our own obedience to the
Law is still imperfect. Being possessed of solace and grace, we
receive by his power the Holy Spirit also, so that, instead of
harboring mere empty letters within us, we come to the truth and
begin to fulfil God's Law, in such a way, however, that we draw from
his fullness and drink from that as a fountain.


32. Paul gives us the same thought in Romans 5, 17-18, where he
compares Adam and Christ. Adam, he says, by his disobedience in
Paradise, became the source of sin and death in the world; by the sin
of this one man, condemnation passed upon all men. But on the other
hand, Christ, by his obedience and righteousness, has become for us
the abundant source wherefrom all may obtain righteousness and the
power of obedience. And with respect to the latter source, it is far
richer and more abundant than the former. While by the single sin of
one man, sin and death passed upon all men, to wax still more
powerful with the advent of the Law, of such surpassing strength and
greatness, on the other hand, is the grace and bounty which we have
in Christ that it not only washes away the particular sin of the one
man Adam, which, until Christ came, overwhelmed all men in death, but
overwhelms and blots out all sin whatever. Thus they who receive his
fullness of grace and bounty unto righteousness are, according to
Paul, lords of life through Jesus Christ alone.


33. You see now how the two messages differ, and why Paul exalts the
one, the preaching of the Gospel, and calls it a "ministration of the
spirit," but terms the other, the Law, a mere empty "letter." His
object is to humble the pride of the false apostles and preachers
which they felt in their Judaism and the law of Moses, telling the
people with bold pretensions: "Beloved, let Paul preach what he will,
he cannot overthrow Moses, who on Mount Sinai received the Law, God's
irrevocable command, obedience to which is ever the only way to

34. Similarly today, Papists, Anabaptists and other sects make
outcry: "What mean you by preaching so much about faith and Christ?
Are the people thereby made better? Surely works are essential."
Arguments of this character have indeed a semblance of merit, but,
when examined by the light of truth, are mere empty, worthless
twaddle. For if deeds, or works, are to be considered, there are the
Ten Commandments; we teach and practice these as well as they. The
Commandments would answer the purpose indeed--if one could preach
them so effectively as to compel their fulfilment.

But the question is, whether what is preached is also practiced. Is
there something more than mere words--or letters, as Paul says? do
the words result in life and spirit? This message we have in common;
unquestionably, one must teach the Ten Commandments, and, what is
more, live them. But we charge that they are not observed. Therefore
something else is requisite in order to render obedience to them
possible. When Moses and the Law are made to say: "You should do
thus; God demands this of you," what does it profit? Ay, beloved
Moses, I hear that plainly, and it is certainly a righteous command;
but pray tell me whence shall I obtain ability to do what, alas, I
never have done nor can do? It is not easy to spend money from an
empty pocket, or to drink from an empty can. If I am to pay my debt,
or to quench my thirst, tell me how first to fill pocket or can. But
upon this point such prattlers are silent; they but continue to drive
and plague with the Law, let the people stick to their sins, and make
merry of them to their own hurt.

35. In this light Paul here portrays the false apostles and like
pernicious schismatics, who make great boasts of having a clearer
understanding and of knowing much better what to teach than is the
case with true preachers of the Gospel. And when they do their very
best, when they pretend great things, and do wonders with their
preaching, there is naught but the mere empty "letter." Indeed, their
message falls far short of Moses. Moses was a noble preacher, truly,
and wrought greater things than any of them may do. Nevertheless, the
doctrine of the Law could do no more than remain a letter, an Old
Testament, and God had to ordain a different doctrine, a New
Testament, which should impart the "spirit."

"It is the letter," says Paul, "which we preach. If any glorying is
to be done, we can glory in better things and make the defiant plea
that they are not the only teachers of what ought to be done,
incapable as they are of carrying out their own precepts. We give
direction and power as to performing and living those precepts. For
this reason our message is not called the Old Testament, or the
message of the dead letter, but that of the New Testament and of the
living Spirit."

36. No seditious spirit, it is certain, ever carries out its own
precepts, nor will he ever be capable of doing so, though he may
loudly boast the Spirit alone as his guide. Of this fact you may rest
assured. For such individuals know nothing more than the doctrine of
works--nor can they rise higher and point you to anything else. They
may indeed speak of Christ, but it is only to hold him up as an
example of patience in suffering. In short, there can be no New
Testament preached if the doctrine of faith in Christ be left out;
the spirit cannot enter into the heart, but all teaching, endeavor,
reflection, works and power remain mere "letters," devoid of grace,
truth, and life. Without Christ the heart remains unchanged and
unrenewed. It has no more power to fulfil the Law than the book in
which the Ten Commandments are written, or the stones upon which

"For the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life."

37. Here is yet stronger condemnation of the glory of the doctrine of
the Law; yet higher exaltation of the Gospel ministry. Is the apostle
overbold in that he dares thus to assail the Law and say: "The Law is
not only a lifeless letter, but qualified merely to kill"? Surely
that is not calling the Law a good and profitable message, but one
altogether harmful. Who, unless he would be a cursed heretic in the
eyes of the world and invite execution as a blasphemer, would dare to
speak thus, except Paul himself? Even Paul must praise the Law, which
is God's command, declaring it good and not to be despised nor in any
way modified, but to be confirmed and fulfilled so completely, as
Christ says (Mt 5, 18), that not a tittle of it shall pass away. How,
then, does Paul come to speak so disparagingly, even abusively, of
the Law, actually presenting it as veritable death and poison? Well,
his is a sublime doctrine, one that reason does not understand. The
world, particularly they who would be called holy and godly, cannot
tolerate it at all; for it amounts to nothing short of pronouncing
all our works, however precious, mere death and poison.

38. Paul's purpose is to bring about the complete overthrow of the
boast of the false teachers and hypocrites, and to reveal the
weakness of their doctrine, showing how little it effects even at its
best, since it offers only the Law, Christ remaining unproclaimed and
unknown. They say in terms of vainglorious eloquence that if a man
diligently keep the commandments and do many good works, he shall be
saved. But theirs are only vain words, a pernicious doctrine. This
fact is eventually learned by him who, having heard no other
doctrine, trusts in their false one. He finds out that it holds
neither comfort nor power of life, but only doubt and anxiety,
followed by death and destruction.


39. When man, conscious of his failure to keep God's command, is
constantly urged by the Law to make payment of his debt and
confronted with nothing but the terrible wrath of God and eternal
condemnation, he cannot but sink into despair over his sins. Such is
the inevitable consequence where the Law alone is taught with a view
to attaining heaven thereby. The vanity of such trust in works is
illustrated in the case of the noted hermit mentioned in Vitæ Patrum
(Lives of the Fathers). For over seventy years this hermit had led a
life of utmost austerity, and had many followers. When the hour of
death came he began to tremble, and for three days was in a state of
agony. His disciples came to comfort him, exhorting him to die in
peace since he had led so holy a life. But he replied: "Alas, I truly
have all my life served Christ and lived austerely; but God's
judgment greatly differs from that of men."

40. Note, this worthy man, despite the holiness of his life, has no
acquaintance with any article but that of the divine judgment
according to the Law. He knows not the comfort of Christ's Gospel.
After a long life spent in the attempt to keep God's commandments and
secure salvation, the Law now slays him through his own works. He is
compelled to exclaim: "Alas, who knows how God will look upon my
efforts? Who may stand before him?" That means, to forfeit heaven
through the verdict of his own conscience. The work he has wrought
and his holiness of life avail nothing. They merely push him deeper
into death, since he is without the solace of the Gospel, while
others, such as the thief on the cross and the publican, grasp the
comfort of the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins in Christ. Thus sin is
conquered; they escape the sentence of the Law, and pass through
death into life eternal.


41. Now the meaning of the contrasting clause, "the spirit giveth
life," becomes clear. The reference is to naught else but the holy
Gospel, a message of healing and salvation; a precious, comforting
word. It comforts and refreshes the sad heart. It wrests it out of
the jaws of death and hell, as it were, and transports it to the
certain hope of eternal life, through faith in Christ. When the last
hour comes to the believer, and death and God's judgment appear
before his eyes, he does not base his comfort upon his works. Even
though he may have lived the holiest life possible, he says with Paul
(1 Cor 4, 4): "I know nothing against myself, yet am I not hereby

42. These words imply being ill pleased with self, with the whole
life; indeed, even the putting to death of self. Though the heart
says, "By my works I am neither made righteous nor saved," which is
practically admitting oneself to be worthy of death and condemnation,
the Spirit extricates from despair, through the Gospel faith, which
confesses, as did St. Bernard in the hour of death: "Dear Lord Jesus,
I am aware that my life at its best has been but worthy of
condemnation, but I trust in the fact that thou hast died for me and
hast sprinkled me with blood from thy holy wounds. For I have been
baptized in thy name and have given heed to thy Word whereby thou
hast called me, awarded me grace and life, and bidden me believe. In
this assurance will I pass out of life; not in uncertainty and
anxiety, thinking, Who knows what sentence God in heaven will pass
upon me?"

The Christian must not utter such a question. The sentence against
his life and works has long since been passed by the Law. Therefore,
he must confess himself guilty and condemned. But he lives by the
gracious judgment of God declared from heaven, whereby the sentence
of the Law is overruled and reversed. It is this: "He that believeth
on the Son hath eternal life." Jn 3, 36.

43. When the consolation of the Gospel has once been received and it
has wrested the heart from death and the terrors of hell, the
Spirit's influence is felt. By its power God's Law begins to live in
man's heart; he loves it, delights in it and enters upon its
fulfilment. Thus eternal life begins here, being continued forever
and perfected in the life to come.

44. Now you see how much more glorious, how much better, is the
doctrine of the apostles--the New Testament--than the doctrine of
those who preach merely great works and holiness without Christ. We
should see in this fact an incentive to hear the Gospel with
gladness. We ought joyfully to thank God for it when we learn how it
has power to bring to men life and eternal salvation, and when it
gives us assurance that the Holy Spirit accompanies it and is
imparted to believers.

"But if the ministration of death, written, and engraven on stones,
came with glory, so that the children of Israel could not look
stedfastly upon the face of Moses for the glory of his face; which
glory was passing away: how shall not rather the ministration of the
Spirit be with glory? For if the ministration of condemnation hath
glory, much rather doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in


45. Paul is in an ecstasy of delight, and his heart overflows in
words of praise for the Gospel. Again he handles the Law severely,
calling it a ministration, or doctrine, of death and condemnation.
What term significant of greater abomination could he apply to God's
Law than to call it a doctrine of death and hell? And again (Gal 2,
17), he calls it a "minister (or preacher) of sin;" and (Gal 3, 10)
the message which proclaims a curse, saying, "As many as are of the
works of the law are under a curse." Absolute, then, is the
conclusion that Law and works are powerless to justify before God;
for how can a doctrine proclaiming only sin, death and condemnation
justify and save?

46. Paul is compelled to speak thus, as we said above because of the
infamous presumption of both teachers and pupils, in that they permit
flesh and blood to coquet with the Law, and make their own works
which they bring before God their boast. Yet, nothing is effected but
self-deception and destruction. For, when the Law is viewed in its
true light, when its "glory," as Paul has it, is revealed, it is
found to do nothing more than to kill man and sink him into

47. Therefore, the Christian will do well to learn this text of Paul
and have an armor against the boasting of false teachers, and the
torments and trials of the devil when he urges the Law and induces
men to seek righteousness in their own works, tormenting their heart
with the thought that salvation is dependent upon the achievements of
the individual. The Christian will do well to learn this text, I say,
so that in such conflicts he may take the devil's own sword, saying:
"Why dost thou annoy me with talk of the Law and my works? What is
the Law after all, however much you may preach it to me, but that
which makes me feel the weight of sin, death and condemnation? Why
should I seek therein righteousness before God?"

48. When Paul speaks of the "glory of the Law," of which the Jewish
teachers of work-righteousness boast, he has reference to the things
narrated in the twentieth and thirty-fourth chapters of Exodus--how,
when the Law was given, God descended in majesty and glory from
heaven, and there were thunderings and lightnings, and the mountain
was encircled with fire; and how when Moses returned from the
mountain, bringing the Law, his face shone with a glory so dazzling
that the people could not look upon his face and he was obliged to
veil it.

49. Turning their glory against them, Paul says: "Truly, we do not
deny the glory; splendor and majesty were there; but what does such
glory do but compel souls to flee before God, and drive into death
and hell?" We believers, however, boast another glory,--that of our
ministration. The Gospel record tells us (Mt 17, 2-4) that Christ
clearly revealed such glory to his disciples when his face shone as
the sun, and Moses and Elijah were present. Before the manifestation
of such glory, the disciples did not flee; they beheld with amazed
joy and said: "Lord, it is good for us to be here. We will make here
tabernacles for thee and for Moses," etc.

50. Compare the two scenes and you will understand plainly the import
of Paul's words here. As before said, this is the substance of his
meaning: "The Law produces naught but terror and death when it
dazzles the heart with its glory and stands revealed in its true
nature. On the other hand, the Gospel yields comfort and joy." But to
explain in detail the signification of the veiled face of Moses, and
of his shining uncovered face, would take too long to enter upon

51. There is also especial comfort to be derived from Paul's
assertion that the "ministration," or doctrine, of the Law "passeth
away"; for otherwise there would be naught but eternal condemnation.
The doctrine of the Law "passes away" when the preaching of the
Gospel of Christ finds place. To Christ, Moses shall yield, that he
alone may hold sway. Moses shall not terrify the conscience of the
believer. When, perceiving the glory of Moses, the conscience
trembles and despairs before God's wrath, then it is time for
Christ's glory to shine with its gracious, comforting light into the
heart. Then can the heart endure Moses and Elijah. For the glory of
the Law, or the unveiled face of Moses, shall shine only until man is
humbled and driven to desire the blessed countenance of Christ. If
you come to Christ, you shall no longer hear Moses to your fright and
terror; you shall hear him as one who remains servant to the Lord
Christ, leaving the solace and the joy of his countenance unobscured.
In conclusion:

"For verily that which hath been made glorious hath not been made
glorious in this respect, by reason of the glory that surpasseth."

52. The meaning here is: When the glory and holiness of Christ,
revealed through the preaching of the Gospel, is rightly perceived,
then the glory of the Law--which is but a feeble and transitory
glory--is seen to be not really glorious. It is mere dark clouds in
contrast to the light of Christ shining to lead us out of sin, death
and hell unto God and eternal life.

_Thirteenth Sunday After Trinity_

Text: Galatians 3, 15-22.

15 Brethren, I speak after the manner of men: Though it be but a
man's covenant, yet when it hath been confirmed, no one maketh it
void, or addeth thereto. 16 Now to Abraham were the promises spoken,
and to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of
one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. 17 Now this I say: A covenant
confirmed beforehand by God, the law, which came four hundred and
thirty years after, doth not disannul, so as to make the promise of
none effect. 18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no more
of promise: but God hath granted it to Abraham by promise. 19 What
then is the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the
seed should come to whom the promise hath been made; and it was
ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator. 20 Now a mediator
is not a mediator of one; but God is one. 21 Is the law then against
the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given
which could make alive, verily righteousness would have been of the
law. 22 But the scripture shut up all things under sin, that the
promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.


1. This is a keen, severe epistle, one that is unintelligible to the
ordinary man. Because the doctrine it contains has not hitherto been
employed and enforced, it has not been understood. It is also too
long and rich to be treated briefly. But it is fully explained in the
complete commentary on this epistle to the Galatians, where those who
will may read it. The substance of it is, that here, as in the whole
epistle, Paul would earnestly constrain the Christian to distinguish
between the righteousness of faith and the righteousness of works or
of the Law. In order that we may note to some extent the main points
Paul makes in this text, we remark that he emphasizes two things. He
treats first of the doctrine that we are justified by faith alone,
and he maintains this, after giving many reasons and proofs, by
saying in effect:

2. In this connection you should note that no one, whether Jew or
gentile, is justified by works or by the Law. For the Law was given
four hundred and thirty years after the promise of a Savior had been
made to Abraham (who was to be the father of all the people of God)
and the assurance that all nations should be blessed in him. It was
given after it had been testified of Abraham that his faith was
imputed to him for righteousness. And as he was justified and
received the blessing by reason of his faith, so also his children
and descendants were justified and received the blessing through the
same faith in that seed for whose sake the blessing had been promised
to all the world. For in his dealings with the Jews and with the
whole world, God always promised his grace and the forgiveness of
sins (and that means to be blessed of God) even when there was as yet
no Law by which they might pretend to become righteous, and before
Moses was born.

3. Therefore the Law, being given to this people only after the lapse
of so long a period, could not have been given to them for
justification; otherwise it would have been given earlier. Or if it
had been necessary for righteousness, then Abraham and his children
up to that date could not have been justified at all. Indeed God
designed that the Law should be given so long after Abraham.
Undoubtedly he would have been able to give it to the fathers much
earlier if he had seen fit to do so. Apparently he desired thereby to
teach that the Law was not given to the end that God's grace and
blessing should be acquired through it, but that these come from the
pure mercy of God which was promised and bestowed so long before upon
Abraham and those who believed.

4. Therefore Paul concludes: How could the Law produce righteousness
for those who lived before Moses, since Moses was the first through
whom the Law was given; and since even before his time there were
holy people and people who were saved? Whence did they derive their
righteousness? Certainly not from the fact that they had offered
sacrifice at Jerusalem, but from the fact that they believed the Word
in which God promised to bless them through the coming seed, Christ.
Hence, those also who lived afterwards could not have been justified
by the Law; for they did not receive the grace of God in a different
way from that in which those who went before had received it. God did
not annul or revoke by the Law the promise of blessing which he had
made and freely bestowed without the Law.

5. Here some might desire to show their wisdom and say to Paul:
Although the fathers did not have the Law of Moses, they had the same
Word of God which teaches the ten commandments and which was
implanted in the human heart from the beginning of the world, whence
also it is called the law of nature or the natural law; and the same
law was afterwards given publicly to the Jewish people and
comprehended in the ten commandments. It might also be said that
Moses borrowed the ten commandments from the fathers, to which Christ
testifies in John 7, 22. For it is certain that the fathers from the
beginning taught them and urged them upon their children and
descendants. With what consistency, then, does Paul conclude that the
fathers were not justified by the Law because it was not given until
four hundred years after Abraham's time; as if the fathers before
that time had no Law?

6. To answer this question we must observe the meaning and purpose of
Paul's words; for he so speaks because of the boasting of the Jews,
who placed their dependence on the Law and claimed that it was given
to them that they might be God's people. They considered their
attempts at keeping his Law, sufficient to procure justification. Why
else did God give the Law, they said, and distinguish us from all
heathen peoples, if we were not thereby to be preëminent before God
and more pleasing to him than they who have it not? They made so much
of this boasting that they paid no respect at all to the promise of
blessing in the coming seed, given to the fathers, nor thought that
faith therein was necessary to their justification. Thus they
practically considered it as annulled and made void, excepting for a
temporal interpretation which they put upon it--that the Messiah
would come and, because of their Law and piety, give to them the
dominion of the world and other great rewards.


7. To rout such vain delusions and boasts, and to show that the Jews
were not justified through the Law and did not become God's children
thereby, Paul cites the fact that the holy patriarchs, their fathers,
were justified neither by the Law of which they boast, because it was
not yet given, nor by their own deeds, whether of the natural law or
the ten commandments. God had based no promise of blessing or
salvation on their works. He had promised out of pure grace to give
them the blessing freely (that is, to give them grace or
righteousness and all eternal blessing), through the coming seed,
which had been promised also to our first parents without their
merit, when by their transgression they had fallen under God's wrath
and condemnation. Therefore, although the fathers had a knowledge of
the Law, or God's commandments, these did not help them to become
righteous before God. They had to hear and apprehend by faith the
promise of God, which was based not on works but only on the coming
seed. For if they had been able by means of the Law or of good works
to become righteous, it would have been wholly unnecessary to give
the promise of blessing in Christ.

8. Now, if Abraham and the fathers could not be justified by works,
and in fact were not justified by them, no more were their children
and descendants justified by the Law or by works. They were justified
in no other way than by faith in the promise given to Abraham and to
his seed, a promise by which not only the Jews but all the heathen
(through the same faith) were blessed.

9. This truth Paul now further enforces and establishes on the basis
of these two particulars--God's promise, and his free grace or
gift--in opposition to the boasting of the Law and our own merit.
First, he makes a declaration concerning the value and weight which
every testament or promise of the last will possesses. Likewise in
the fourth commandment is implied an ordinance that the last will of
parents should be honored by their children and heirs.

10. In regard to this subject he asserts that the rule is, if a man's
testament be confirmed (and it is confirmed by his death) no man dare
alter it nor add to it nor take away from it. So the jurists declare
it to be a divine law that no one should break a man's last will. How
much more then should God's testament be honored intact? Now, God has
made a testament, which is to be his final last will; namely, that he
will bless all nations through the seed which at first he promised to
the fathers. This he determined upon, and assured to Abraham, and in
him to all the world--to us all. And he has confirmed it by the death
of this seed, his only Son, who had to become man and die (as was
typified by the sacrifice of Isaac on the part of Abraham) in order
that the inheritance of the blessing and eternal life might be
bestowed upon us. This is God's last will. He does not desire to make
any other. Therefore, no man can or dare change it or add anything to
it. Now, it is adding to it, it is breaking or revoking it--since
this testament has been opened and the blessing proclaimed to all the
world--if anyone claims that we must first earn that blessing through
the Law, proceeding as if, without the Law, this testament, by mere
virtue of its promise and will, had no force at all.

11. In short, this testament, Paul concludes, is a simple promise of
blessing and sonship with God. Accordingly, there is no law which we
must keep in order to merit it. Here nothing avails but the will
which promises saying, I will not regard your deeds, but promise the
blessing--that is, grace and eternal life--to you who are found in
sin and death. This I will confirm by the death of my Son, who shall
merit and obtain this inheritance for you.

Now, God made this testament in the first place without the Law, and
has thus confirmed it; therefore, the Law, published and confirmed
long afterwards, cannot take aught from it, much less annul or revoke
it. And he who declares or teaches that we are to be justified by the
Law--are to obtain God's blessing by it--does nothing else but
interfere with God's testament and destroy and annul his last will.
This is one argument of Paul, based on the word "promise," or
"testament," and is readily understood; for no one is so stupid that
he cannot distinguish between these two--law or commandment, and

12. The second argument of Paul is based on the words, "God gave it
to Abraham by promise." Here also it is easy for one who is possessed
of common sense to perceive there is a marked difference between
receiving something as a gift and earning it. What is earned is given
because of obligation and debt, as wages, and he who receives it may
boast of it, rather than he who gives it, and may insist upon his
right. But when something is given for nothing and, as Paul here
says, is bestowed freely--out of grace--then there can be no boasting
of right or of merit on the part of the recipient. On the contrary,
he must praise the goodness and kindness of his benefactor. So Paul
concludes: God freely gave the blessing and the inheritance to
Abraham by promise. Therefore, Abraham did not earn it by his works;
nor was it given to him as a reward, much less to his children.

13. It is evident enough to even a child that what is earned by works
as a reward is not identical with what is promised or bestowed
gratis, out of grace and pure free will. There is a distinction
between them. God has stopped the mouth of all the world and deprived
it of all occasion for boasting that it has received God's grace by
reason of the Law. For he promised and bestowed that as a gift,
before the Law or merit through the Law had any existence. In his
dealings with his own people, with Abraham and his descendants, God
promised to bless the patriarch and all his race and said nothing of
any law, works or reward; he based all solely on the coming seed.

14. In the faith of this promise they lived and died--Abraham himself
and his children's children--till over four hundred and thirty years
had elapsed. Then only did God give the Law, institute an outward
form of worship, a priesthood, etc., and direct them how to live and
govern themselves. They had now become a separate people, released
from foreign domination, and brought into their own land, and they
needed an external form of government. It was not intended that only
now and by means of these gifts they should obtain forgiveness of
sins and God's blessing.

15. This is the substance of the first part of this epistle. In
teaching how we are to be justified before God, Paul would have us
distinguish well these two points, promise and law; or again, gift
and reward. If we teach that God, out of pure grace, and not because
of any law or merit, bestows forgiveness of sins and eternal life,
the question at once presents itself: Why is the Law given, or of
what use is it? Shall we not perform any good works? Why do we teach
the ten commandments at all? Paul takes up this matter and asks the
question, "What then is the Law?" Then he proceeds to discuss at
length what is the office and use of the Law, and shows the
difference between it and the Gospel. Of this enough has been said
elsewhere, in other postils.

_Fourteenth Sunday After Trinity_

Text: Galatians 5, 16-24.

16 But I say, Walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of
the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the
Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the
other; that ye may not do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye are
led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the
flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness,
lasciviousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies,
wraths, factions, divisions, parties, 21 envyings, drunkenness,
revellings, and such like; of which I forewarn you, even as I did
forewarn you, that they who practise such things shall not inherit
the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy,
peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 meekness,
self-control; against such there is no law. 24 And they that are of
Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts


This Epistle has been treated at length in the complete commentary
(Luther's Commentary on Galatians). It exhorts to good works or
fruits of faith in those who have the Holy Spirit through faith. And
it does so in a way to show that it is not the design of this
doctrine to forbid good works or to tolerate and refrain from
censuring bad ones, or to prevent the preaching of the Law. On the
contrary it shows clearly that God earnestly wills that Christians
should flee and avoid the lusts of the flesh, if they would remain in
the Spirit. To have and retain the Spirit and faith, and yet to
fulfil the lusts of the flesh, are two things that cannot harmonize;
for "these," Paul says, "are contrary the one to the other," and
there is between them a vehement conflict. They cannot tolerate each
other; one must be supreme and cast the other out. For this reason he
clearly mentions some works of the flesh which plainly and evidently
are not of the Spirit, and immediately concludes that those who
commit and practice these are not in a condition to inherit God's
kingdom. They have lost the Holy Spirit and faith. But he also shows
whence the Christians obtain strength to enable them to resist the
lusts of the flesh; namely, from the fact that they have received the
Holy Spirit through faith, and from the knowledge that they have a
gracious God. Thus their hearts become filled with love and a desire
to obey God and to shun sin. Consequently they resist and refuse to
obey the lusts of the flesh, lest they make God angry again. And
although in this conflict they still feel their weakness, the Law
nevertheless cannot condemn them, because through faith they are and
remain in Christ.

_Fifteenth Sunday After Trinity_

Text: Galatians 5, 25-26 and 6, 1-10.

25 If we live by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us also walk. 26 Let
us not become vainglorious, provoking one another, envying one

1 Brethren, even if a man be overtaken in any trespass, ye who are
spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to
thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 Bear ye one another's burdens,
and so fulfil the law of Christ. 3 For if a man thinketh himself to
be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. 4 But let each
man prove his own work, and then shall he have his glorying in regard
of himself alone, and not of his neighbor. 5 For each man shall bear
his own burden. 6 But let him that is taught in the word communicate
unto him that teacheth in all good things. 7 Be not deceived; God is
not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8
For he that soweth unto his own flesh shall of the flesh reap
corruption; but he that soweth unto the Spirit shall of the Spirit
reap eternal life. 9 And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in
due season we shall reap, if we faint not. 10 So then, as we have
opportunity, let us work that which is good toward all men, and
especially toward them that are of the household of the faith.


The chief aim of this epistle text is to instruct those in official
authority in the Church. Since Christians are under obligation to
honor their pastors and teachers, they are admonished by the apostle
to guard against the sin of vain-glory, that those in authority may
not become proud nor misuse their office against unity in doctrine
and in love, and that they may not despise or pass by the wounded and
helpless, as the priest and Levite did. Lk 10, 31-32. Finally, Paul
exhorts all diligently to do the good and thus serve everyone, as
Christ also teaches in the Gospel (Mt. 6, 34) that everyone should do
the work of each day and not be anxious about the future. [See the
explanation of these verses in Luther's Commentary on the Galatians.]

_Sixteenth Sunday After Trinity_

Text: Ephesians 3, 13-21.

13. Wherefore I ask that ye may not faint at my tribulations for you,
which are your glory. 14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the
Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16
and that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory,
that ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the
inward man; 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to
the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be strong
to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and
height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which passeth
knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God. 20 Now
unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we
ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 unto him
be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations
for ever and ever. Amen.


[Footnote 1: This sermon appeared in three editions the first year it
was printed in 1525, at Wittenberg.]

1. Up to this time Paul has been extolling the office of the
ministry, which proclaims the Gospel of the New Testament. In lofty
and impressive terms he introduces its purpose, power and wisdom--in
a word, the great benefits the office effects, since God thereby
bestows upon us abundantly all manner of wisdom, strength and
blessings, all which things, in heaven or earth, are of his
dispensing. The Gospel proclaims to us life from death, righteousness
from sin, redemption from hell and all evil, and brings us out of the
kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God. So sublime is the whole
subject, Paul does not venture to compass it with words but in the
loftiest of language suggests much.

2. In the first part of the text he shows the depth of his concern
that the Ephesians should retain the Gospel preaching received from
him, not allowing themselves to be torn away from it. To this end he
employs two expedients: first, he consoles and admonishes; second, he
prays and desires.

"Wherefore I ask that ye may not faint at my tribulations for you,
which are your glory."


3. Having been imprisoned at Rome by order of the emperor, Paul thus
consoles his beloved converts at Ephesus, admonishing them to cleave
to the doctrine learned from him; not to be frightened from it by
beholding his fate, nor permit themselves to be alienated by such
comment as this: "This man Paul in his preaching to you made great
pretentions to being commissioned of Christ himself, and to outdoing
all the other apostles. And you made your boast in him and relied
upon him as if he were the only and all-deserving one. Where is he
now? What assistance can he render you? There he lies in Rome, by the
Jews condemned to death; more than that, he is in the hands of that
cruel tyrant, Emperor Nero. Did we not long ago tell you he would
meet such fate? Presumably this puts an end to his boastings over
every other man."

4. To prevent the offense that threatened, Paul writes from his
prison, and his message is, in effect, this: "Dear friends, you see I
am imprisoned; the devil and the world have me in their hands. This
may perhaps alarm you, and rouse in you the evil suspicion, 'If his
doctrine were all right and if he were the great apostle of Christ he
claims to be, God would not permit him to suffer such fate.'" For
some of the false apostles thus taunted Paul's disciples. "But I
entreat and exhort you," Paul would say, "not to be offended, or
alarmed, not to grow faint, though I am in prison. Whether we be
tempted and suffer tribulation, whether we be honored or dishonored,
no matter what comes, only cleave to the doctrine I have preached to
you--the Gospel, God's sure Word, as you know." He reminds them, as
before he has done, of that whereunto God has called them, and of
what they have received through his preaching.

5. Such admonition is still, and will ever be, necessary in the
Christian community. The weak must endure severe conflicts in the
tribulations the Gospel inevitably entails. The trial is especially
hard when they must lose their leaders and teachers, and in addition
hear the shameful, bitter taunts of the calumniators. We in this day
have to expect that some will be offended when teachers are assailed.
We should therefore be prepared, and when any of our number fall away
from our faith to flatter tyrants and the Pope, and to become liars
and knaves, we must individually lay hold of the Gospel in a way to
enable us to stand and say: "Not because a certain one has so taught,
do I believe. It matters not what becomes of him or what he may be,
the doctrine itself is right. This I know, whatever God may permit to
befall myself or others because of it."


6. So have I personally had to do, and must still do. Otherwise I
would have been terrified and enervated when I saw the Pope, and
bishops, emperors, kings and all the world, opposed to the doctrine
they ought to sustain. I would have been overwhelmed, thinking,
"They, too, are men and cannot all be followers of the devil." How
could I comfort myself and stand firm unless I were able to say:
"Though ten other worlds and everything great, lofty, wise and
prudent, and all my dear friends and brethren as well, should turn
from me, the doctrine still remains true. It stands: it will not,
like men, totter and fall. I will adhere to the Word of God, stand or
fall what may."

7. The Christian must be discerning enough to strip the individual of
his mask--of his great pomp and majesty--and distinguish it from the
Word. He who cannot so do, cannot stand under temptation; let one
fall, and he will soon follow suit.

8. Such is the nature of the Church in its earthly government that
human wisdom must stumble thereat; various sects of the offended must
rise in opposition to the faith. But God delights to rule, not with
the sword or with visible power, but through weakness and in
opposition to the devil and the world. Seemingly, he would permit his
Church to be utterly overthrown. Guard against and resist offenses as
well as we may--and the practice is not without its efficacy--still
we must ultimately be driven to say defiantly: "He who established
the Church and has to this time preserved it, will continue to
protect it. Man would not rule it wisely, but the living Christ is
seated upon the throne whereon God placed him, and we shall see who
can pull him down and destroy his Church."


9. When the trying hour arrives, we are able to accomplish about as
little against the enemy as Paul when he lay in chains powerless to
succor a soul. He was obliged to commit his cause to the Lord. At the
same time, as a faithful apostle, he ceased not, though removed from
his followers, to admonish and warn to the full extent of his power.
Well he knew that many false apostles were ready, so sure as he said
a word, to pervert it and to fill the ears of the people with their
own empty words and poisonous teaching. He elsewhere complains (2 Tim
1, 15) that by the influence of this class all Asia was turned away
from him. He had reference to the nearest neighbors of the Ephesians
in Asia.

10. For the sake of affording his converts comfort and strength, Paul
proceeds to make his sufferings and tribulations pleasing to them by
speaking of these afflictions in unusual and beautiful terms. He
presents a view quite opposed to the opinion of the world and the
judgment of calumniators. "My sufferings and tribulations," says
Paul, "which to you and the world, viewed in a fleshy way, are most
disastrous, really work you no injury nor disadvantage,
notwithstanding what the pernicious babblers claim about such trials.
Rather, they are beneficial to you and me. Though your enemies seek
thus to injure you to the fullest extent, benefits they never foresee
will accrue to us.

"My sufferings are not for my own sake, but yours. They work your
benefit; it is better for you as it is, than for me to be present and
preach to you. And how so? Because I suffer only for the sake of the
ministry, for that Gospel I delivered you. I risk my life and all I
have that you may hold it fast; such is my earnest desire. I contend
for and cleave to, at the risk of my life, that which Christ gave me
and enjoined upon me. Thus by my chains and bands I honor and
establish the Gospel, that you may be strengthened and may cleave
more firmly to it.

11. "So we shall joyfully transform the tribulation imposed by the
world in an attempt to inflict great evils: God will have to
pronounce the sentence: 'Hear, O world, devil, emperor, tyrant! Thou
hast imprisoned my apostle Paul for the sake of my godly Christians.
What injury have they done thee? what fault committed? With no wrong
on their part, thou persecutest them. It is simply because I gave
them my Word; therefore thou art opposing and defying me. What shall
I say but that thou hast imprisoned and bound, not Paul, but me? Is
it not insupportable that a perishable worm, be he emperor or prince,
should presume to apprehend God in heaven? But thinkest thou I will
remain silent and unprotesting? Thinkest thou I will not break
chains, stocks and bands, and give command: Hold thou, devil and
tyrant, and submit! Let me rule, substituting for one Paul, ten; and
for one Church at Ephesus establishing thirty, yes, a hundred.'"

12. And as in Paul's time, so today: when our enemies get hold of an
evangelical preacher, either he must secretly be drowned or murdered,
or he must publicly be hanged or burned. Why is it? Because of the
Christians to whom he has taught his doctrine. For a while God looks
on serenely. He says: "Beloved lords, be not enraged. Know you whom
you have apprehended and murdered? It is I, the Divine Majesty. It
was not their own word and command but mine which these preachers
taught and my Christians believed. You cannot deny the fact. I must,
then, consider how to secure myself against your wrath. How shall I
do it? Indeed, by way of returning your favors and kindnesses, I must
so arrange that where one town had a minister and the Gospel, ten,
yes twenty, towns must have their pastor and preachers. I will, O
Pope and bishops, invade your own dioceses and you must tolerate and
accept the Gospel, whether to your joy or your grief. If you begin to
rave, I will give you cause for alarm, for you shall be overthrown,
bishops, hats and all."

13. Note, when Paul says he suffers for the Ephesians, he means that
his suffering is for their profit, to teach them they have nothing to
fear in suffering. They, not he, are the subjects of concern in this
matter. His pains are not merely those of Paul--upon whom not so much
depends--but of an apostle or preacher of the Church of Christ. When
the latter name is associated with the suffering, when it is not John
or Peter who is cast into prison--that God might tolerate--but a
minister of the Church, then the deed is a too gross jesting with the
majesty of God; it is tempting him too far, yes apprehending him.

14. It was necessary that Paul give his converts this admonition:
"Dear children, fear not. Do not be alarmed at my arrest and intended
execution. Let our enemies put forth their utmost effort. You shall
see how I will rend the cords and burst the prison, humiliating them
until they lie in ashes; the place of one resister of the Gospel will
be filled by ten who preach it."


Since Paul's enemies refuse instruction and will not cease their
raging, since they refuse to learn against whom they rage, he must
make known to them who is the object of their persecution. It is
neither Paul nor an apostle, but he to whom it was said (Ps 110, 1),
"Sit thou at my right hand." It is a perilous thing to take liberties
with him. He is now seated where he will brook no suffering. The
enemies of the Christians must behold such things as did the Jews who
delivered Paul into the Emperor's hands, and as the Romans witnessed.
Soon after Paul's execution, Jerusalem lay in ashes, and not a great
while after, the city of Rome was destroyed. For when Christ was
oppressed, when in the person of his apostles and martyrs he was
seized and put to death, he had no alternative but to destroy a whole
city. And Germany may expect a similar fate.


15. It is unnecessary here to reply to those wicked and illiterate
dolts, the Papists and Anabaptist factions, who explain Paul's words,
"my tribulations for you," and similar passages, as teaching that one
Christian can by his sufferings merit or aid in the salvation of
others. Paul does not say, "My tribulations for you are designed to
secure for you forgiveness of sins and salvation." He clearly
declares, as the Scriptures everywhere do, that only Christ's
sufferings are thus effective and for all men. Paul's thought may
well be expressed--and every minister may say the same--in these
words: "My preaching and my suffering are for your sake." Just as a
parent may say to a child, "I must do or endure this for you."

True, works wrought and sufferings endured for another's sake are
productive of the good and comfort of that one or of many, but the
worker or sufferer does not thereby merit, either for himself or
another, God's grace and eternal life. No, these things demand the
offices of a being of another order--Christ. He through his
sufferings exterminates your sins, and through his death gives you
life. Then again, Paul is addressing those already Christians and
having forgiveness of sins and all the requirements of a Christian;
yet he suffers for them; that is, for their good--that in proportion
as his enemies seek to oppose the Gospel, its influence may be
widened and the faith of his followers strengthened.

16. In the effort to comfort and strengthen the Ephesians, Paul yet
further glorifies and extols his tribulations in the words "which are
your glory." What unheardof talk is this? Is it not much rather, as
reason dictates and as all the world affirms, a disgrace to his
followers that he lies there in prison? What greater dishonor can
Christians suffer than to have their ministers and pastors--their
instructors and consolers--shamefully arrested? So it seems to the
world, it is true; but I tell you, in God's sight and in reality,
this trial is a great honor to you, one of which you may proudly
boast. This very disgrace and provocation you may turn squarely to
your good, saying: "From the very fact of our disgrace, I know the
doctrine is true and divine. For it is the lot of the Word of God and
of salutary doctrine, together with the supporters of the same, to be
defamed and persecuted by the world and the devil." Such persecution
is but glory and honor to Christians. Paul says in Romans 5, 3, "We
rejoice in our tribulations." In other words, we regard them as
glorious, beneficial, precious, blessed.


17. Christians should not, and cannot, have their glory in the things
the world esteems and honors; for the world will not, nor can it,
honor even God and his Word. Christ's followers, then, should not be
terrified at such treatment as Paul received nor feel disgraced. Let
them rather rejoice, deriving comfort and glory therefrom, as did the
apostles. We read (Acts 4, 13) of their boldness, and (Acts 5, 41)
that they rejoiced in being "counted worthy to suffer dishonor for
the Name." So it fared with Christ himself, and Christians ought to
be grieved if it be otherwise with them and if the world regard them
in a kindly way. In proportion as the world persecutes them and heaps
upon them its malice, should they rejoice. Let them accept
persecution as a good indication, regarding themselves blessed, as
Christ teaches in Matthew 5, 11. So much for the first part of our
text; now follows the second:

"For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father [of our Lord Jesus
Christ], from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named."


18. Having comforted his followers concerning his tribulations, Paul
tells them it is his earnest petition, his longing, that God would
grant them power to cleave in firm faith to the Gospel, not forsaking
it or growing weary when they have to endure affronts and
tribulations, but firmly resisting these. It is not enough merely to
accept the Gospel, or even to preach it. Acceptance must be followed
by that spiritual power which renders faith firm and manifests
steadfastness in conflicts and temptations; for "the kingdom of God
is not in word, but in power," as Paul says, 1 Cor 4, 20. There must
be a motive force consisting of the inner belief of the heart and the
outward proofs of faith: not mere speaking, but doing: not mere
talking, but living. Conditions must be such that the Word does not
simply remain on the tongue and in the ears, but becomes operative
and accomplishes something. In the Old Testament dispensation, Moses
preached much indeed, and the people practiced little; but here Paul
desires that much be done and little said. He would not have the
Gospel preached in vain, but desires that it accomplish the object of
its revelation.

19. Note how Paul devotes himself to the welfare of the Christian
community. He sets an example, to us ministers in particular, of how
to effect the good of the people. But we do not rightly heed his
example. We imagine it sufficient to hear the Gospel and be able to
discourse about it; we stop at the mere knowledge of it; we never
avail ourselves of the Gospel's power in the struggles of life.
Unquestionably, the trouble is, we do not earnestly pray. We ought
constantly to come to God with great longing, entreating him day and
night to give the Word power to move men's hearts. David says (Ps 68,
33), "Lo, he uttereth his voice, a mighty voice."

20. Not only preachers, but all Christians, should constantly entreat
the God who grants knowledge to grant also efficacy; should beseech
him that the Word may not pass with the utterance, but may manifest
itself in power. The prevailing complaint at present is that much
preaching obtains, but no practice; that the people are shamefully
rude, cold and indolent, and less active than ever, while at the same
time they enjoy the strong, clear light of revelation concerning all
right and wrong in the world. Well may we pray, then, as Paul does
here. He says, in effect: "You are well supplied: the Word is richly
proclaimed to you--abundantly poured out upon you. But I bend my
knees to God, praying that he may add his blessing to the Word and
grant you to behold his honor and praise and to be firmly
established, that the Word may grow in you and yield fruit."

21. Feelingly does Paul speak of praying for his followers. He seems
to say: "I must lie here imprisoned, not privileged to be with you or
to aid you in any way but by bending my knees--that is, entreating
and imploring God earnestly and in deep humility--to the end that God
may grant you, may effect in you, what neither myself nor any other
human being can accomplish--what I could not do even were I free and
ever present with you."


22. Observe, the apostle alludes to his prayer by naming its outward
expression--bending the knees. But the external posture, if
accompanied by nothing else, is sheer hypocrisy. When prayer is
genuine, possessing the fire by which it is kindled, prompted by a
sincere heart which recognizes its need and likewise the blessings
that are ours as proclaimed in the Word, and when faith in God's
Word--in his promise--revives, then the individual will be possessed
with a fervor prompting him to fall upon his knees and pray for
strength and for the power of the Spirit. When the Spirit of prayer
is enkindled and burns within the heart, the body will responsively
assume the proper attitude; involuntarily, eyes and hands will be
upraised and knees bended. Witness the examples of Moses, David and
even Christ himself.

When we pray with glowing hearts, external gestures will take care of
themselves. They are prompted by the Spirit, and therefore are not to
be denounced. If assumed, unbidden of the Spirit, they are
hypocritical; as, for instance, when one presumes outwardly to serve
God and perform good works while his heart is far away. The prophet
says (Is 29, 13), "This people draw nigh unto me, and with their
mouth and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart
far from me."

23. By the declaration, "I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord
Jesus Christ," Paul establishes the doctrine that no one should
presume to speak to God, to entreat him for any favor, unless
approaching, as Paul does here, in the name of "the Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ." For Christ is our sole Mediator, and no one need
expect to be heard unless he approach the Father in the name of that
Mediator and confess him Lord given of God as intercessor for us and
ruler of our bodies and souls. Prayer according to these conditions
is approved. Strong faith, however, is necessary to lay hold of the
comforting Word, picturing God in our hearts as the Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ.

24. The statement that Christ is our Lord is very comforting, though
we have made it terrifying by regarding Christ as a stern and angry
judge. But the fact is, he is Lord for the sole purpose of securing
us against harsh lords, tyrants, the devil, the world, death, sin and
every sort of misfortune. We are his inheritance, and therefore he
will espouse our cause, deliver us from violence and oppression of
all kinds and better our condition.

The name "Lord," then, is altogether lovable and comforting to us who
believe, and gives us confidence of heart. But still more comforting
is it to know that our God, our Lord, is the Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ. The name "Lord" stands for the complete Godhead, who gives
himself to us. Therefore, all we ask in this name must be abundantly
bestowed. Naught is here for me but real help and pure grace. For God
designs to have me his child in Christ, placed above all things
temporal and eternal.


25. Paul further declares that God is not merely a father, but the
true Father, "from whom every family in heaven and on earth is
named." Earthly fathers are so called because in a flesh and blood
way they have begotten us, or on account of their age and their claim
to honor. It is the universal custom to apply the term "father" to an
old master. In Second Kings 5, 13, for instance, the servants of
Naaman called their lord "father." Paul's thought is: "All fatherhood
on earth is but a semblance, a shadow, a painted image, in comparison
with the divine Fatherhood of God."

26. But reason can never see it so. And only by the Spirit's work can
the heart recognize the fact. Reason may go so far as to regard God
an angry and terrible judge, one who makes the world, even hell
itself, too narrow for it and leaves it without a foothold. But it is
impossible for natural reason to call God a father in sincerity; much
less to regard him the divine Father, preëminent over all who bear
the name of "father" in heaven or on earth, of whom all other fathers
are as mirror reflections.

27. Think of the attitude of an earthly father toward his child, and
of the child toward his father. Even where actual parenthood is
lacking, the name engenders a confidence affectionate and pleasing
enough to kindle the brightest anticipations of great good to be
received. Now, if the sincere, loyal designs of earthly fathers for
their children are mere pretense compared to the blessed purposes of
our heavenly Father, what must we look for from this heavenly Father,
this Father above all others? Paul would teach us to look at the
proportions, and from the confidence we repose in our natural fathers
estimate the character of God as a Father and what we may expect from

28. He who can put his trust in God, who can confidently rely upon
him and sincerely cry, "Thou art my beloved Father!" need not fear to
ask anything of God, or that God will at all deny him. His own heart
will tell him that his petitions will be granted. Because of the
strength of his confidence, he cannot fail to secure his heart's
desires. Thus God himself teaches us to break open heaven and lay him
bare before our eyes that we may see who this Father is.

[Thus Paul is confident what he asks is pleasing to God and will be
granted. If we did the same we would, doubtless, have a like
experience. There are still people who pray. It would be a blessing
if there were many more. Then the Gospel would make greater progress
and impart to us greater power. It is evident, God be praised, that
all who rage against the Gospel must be put to shame. The more they
rage, the more the Gospel spreads, and all without our help or
counsel, only because God awakens hearts to pray that it may prosper,
even without our help. The more fervently we pray, the greater is
God's pleasure to hear.]

29. What is the nature of the prayer Paul here presents? It is the
same as the Lord's Prayer, being particularly identical with the
first, second and third petitions. In words of different sound but
implying the very same thing, Paul briefly embraces these
petitions--the hallowing of God's name and Word in our midst, and the
destruction of the devil's kingdom and all evil--whatever is opposed
to the Word and will of God. He says:

"That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that
ye may be strengthened with power."


30. Sublime words are these, wrung from a fervent heart. Evidently,
in the effort to express himself fully, clearly and in language
worthy of his subject, the apostle finds words too weak and rare. The
fervor of his heart can be but poorly portrayed. By the phrase,
"according to the riches of his glory," Paul means to say: "Such is
the greatness of God's glory, it deserves the title of riches. For it
is conducive to God's honor and praise that he gives abundantly."
These words reveal the nature of God, proclaiming him the source
whence we may expect all good, and all aid in time of need. He is God
of all the world. The reason the world has made many gods, has
invoked many saints, is because it looks to them for aid and benefit.
The Scriptures term "gods" certain individuals who do good and lend
assistance to their fellows. God says to Moses (Ex 7, 1), "I have
made thee as God [a god] to Pharaoh."

31. But God, because of the abundance and lavishness of his gifts, is
entitled to greater honor and glory. He is the true God, to whom
alone belongs all glory; yea, the riches of glory. He pours out his
blessings abundantly and above measure; he is the source of all
blessings in heaven and on earth. Even his most inferior
creatures--water, air, the earth and its products--are so generously
bestowed that we can appropriate only an infinitesimal part of them.
Yet in our blindness and stupidity we do not see, yea, we utterly
ignore the fact that God is the giver of these. Now, how much more
generous is God in spiritual blessings! He has freely given
himself--poured out himself--for us, and also gifts and blessings of
the highest order. He has illumined us with a light bright enough to
reveal to us the real character of the world, the devil and the
angels. Yes, to show to us God's purposes, present, past and future.
Thus we have all wisdom and all power over sin, the devil and death,
being lords of all creatures. In a word, our riches are inexpressibly

32. Paul employs forcible words to record his prayer here. He has
firm confidence in God that the petition must be efficacious, must
penetrate the clouds and open heaven. He does not say that God looks
upon our merit and worthiness and for the sake of these grants our
requests; but for the sake of the riches of his glory. We are not
worthy his favors, but his glory is worthy of our recognition, and we
are to honor him because he gratuitously lavishes his blessings upon
us, that his name alone may be hallowed. Only with a recognition of
these facts may prayer be offered if it is to avail before God. If
God were to consider our merit, very small would be the portion due
us. But if we are to be richly blessed, it must come about through
our recognition of pure grace as the source of our gifts, and our
praise of God's exceeding glory.

33. But what are the blessings for which Paul's prayer entreats?
Something more than continuance of the Word with his followers,
though it is a great and good gift even to have the Word thoroughly
taught: he prays that the heart may taste the Word and that it may be
effectual in the life. Thus the apostle contrasts a knowledge of the
Word with the power of the Word. Many have the knowledge, but few the
impelling and productive power that the results may be as we teach.
Hence they are criticised and not without reason. But our enemies
cannot censure and reproach us to greater extent than to say that we
preach and accept much good doctrine to no purpose; that no one
practices it and profits thereby; that in fact we are morally worse
than before we heard the doctrines, and consequently it would have
been better had things remained as they were.


34. What answer shall we make? This: In the first place, considering
our unsatisfactory condition and the lack of power with the Word, we
have great reason to pray with the earnestness Paul's example
teaches. And secondly, though our enemies see little improvement and
few fruits of the Gospel, it is not theirs to judge. They think we
ought to do nothing but work miracles--raising the dead and bordering
the Christian's walk with roses, until naught but holiness obtains
everywhere. This being the case, where would be the need to pray? We
cannot, nor dare we, pray for what we already have, but must thank
God for it. But, since Paul and other Scripture authorities command
us to pray, a defect somewhere in our strength is indicated.
Otherwise why say they so much about it?

Thus Paul himself acknowledges the Ephesians were weak. He complains
of the same weakness in other Epistles and especially in those to the
Corinthians. Everywhere he urges them to do and live as they had been
taught. The only reason Paul advocates this is that he saw, as we now
see, that everywhere they fail, and things are not as they should be.

In spite of the fact that not everyone's conduct is satisfactory,
some do mend their ways; and the happy condition obtains that many
consciences are assured and many former evils are now avoided. If the
two sides of the question were carefully compared, we would see much
advantage with us not now noticed. Again, even though we are somewhat
weak, is that any reason for saying all is lost? Further, there is
naught else but filth and corruption in the ranks of our enemies,
which they would gladly adorn with our weakness even. But they must
look upon their way as excellent and ours as odious.

35. Let them go on with their judging. We admit we are not all
strong, but it is also true that were there no weakness in our ranks,
we would have no need of prayer, perseverance, exhortation and daily
preaching. In condemning the Gospel because of our admitted weakness,
something we ourselves confess, our enemies are themselves judged
before God by their judging us. It is possible for me to be truly in
the kingdom of grace and at the same time outwardly weak enough to be
regarded of men as a knave. My faith is not apparent to men, but God
sees it and I am myself sensible of it. You meantime erroneously
judge me by my outward conduct, thus bringing judgment upon yourself.
We are aware of, and also lament, our weakness and imperfection.
Hence we cry and groan, and pray to God to grant us strength and


36. A third answer to our enemies is: We are certain that wherever
the Word of God is proclaimed, the fruits of the same must exist. We
have the Word of God, and therefore the Spirit of God must be with
us. And where the Spirit is, faith must obtain, however weak it may
be. Though visible evidence may be lacking, yet inevitably there must
be some among us who daily pray, while we may not be aware of it. It
is reasonably to be expected that our enemies should judge
erroneously, because they look for outward evidences of Christianity,
which are not forthcoming.

The Word is too sublime to pass under our judgment; it is the
province of the Word to judge us. The world, however, while unwilling
to be judged and convicted by us, essays to judge and convict the
Word of God. Here God steps in. It would be a pity for the worldly to
see a godly Christian, so God blinds them and they miss his kingdom.
As Isaiah says (ch. 26, 10): "In the land of uprightness will he deal
wrongfully, and will not behold the majesty of Jehovah." For this
reason, few real Christians come under the observation of cavilers;
the latter, in general, observe fools and fanatics, at whom they
maliciously stumble and take offense. They are unworthy to behold
God's honor in a godly Christian upon whom the Lord has poured out
himself in fullness of blessing.

37. Let the real Christian come into the presence of the caviler,
stand before his very eyes, and the caviler will not see him. Let the
fault-finder hear that one leads an irreproachable life and he will
say: "Heretics have behaved similarly, but under a good appearance
concealed poison." Let one be refractory and reckless, and he must be
a knave. Whatever we do, they are not satisfied. If we pipe, they
will not dance; if we mourn, they will not lament. Neither sweet nor
sour appeals to them. Wisdom must permit herself to be schooled and
governed by these cavilers, as Christ says in Matthew 11, 19. Thus
God confounds and shames the world; while all the time tolerating its
judgment of himself, he is ever careful to have the Gospel
inculcated, even though the worldly burst with rage. I say these
things to teach us to be careful not to join the caviler in judging
presumptuously the work and Word of God. Notwithstanding our
weakness, we are yet certain the kingdom of God is in our midst so
long as we have his Word and daily pray for its efficacy and for an
increase of our faith, as the following words recommend:

"That ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the
inward man."


38. The apostle here speaks with varied expression. He leaves little
honor and glory, as it were, for free-will, but desires for his
followers the heavenly power imparted through the Holy Spirit. There
is also a power of the world, and a spirit--the devil, the prince of
the world, who blinds and hardens men's hearts. He boasts of himself
and imparts to men a spirit of daring in his purpose to suppress and
exterminate Christian doctrine. But while worldings are courageous
and daring, so are Christians, and the latter are greater and far
more powerful through the Holy Spirit, and are undaunted by the
world, the devil, death and all kinds of misfortune. This is real
spiritual strength. The Hebrew word "spirit" might well be rendered
"bold, undaunted courage." Spiritual strength is not the strength of
muscle and bone; it is true courage--boldness of heart. Weakness, on
the contrary, is faint-heartedness, timidity, lack of courage.

39. Paul's meaning, then, is: "I desire for you, and pray God to
grant you, that bold, dauntless courage and that strong, cheerful
spirit which will not be terrified by poverty, shame, sin, the devil
or death, but is confident that nothing can harm us and we will never
be in need." The courage of the world--the spirit of the world--holds
out only until exhaustion of the stores whereon it relies. As the
saying is, "Wealth gives temporal boldness, but the soul must rely on
God alone." The boldness resulting from riches and worldly power is
haughty and makes its boast in earthly things. But the soul has no
hoarded treasure. In God alone it braves every evil; it has a courage
and heart very different from that of the world.

This is the strength for which Paul prays on behalf of his converts,
a strength not inherent in flesh and blood. The possessor thereof
does not rely and build on his own powers and riches, nor upon any
human help and support. This strength dwells in the inner man. It is
the trust of the dauntless, cheerful heart in God's grace and
assistance, and in these alone. The heart which so trusts has no
fear. It possesses by faith abundance of riches and pleasures--God
himself with all his blessings. At the same time, to human sight only
want, weakness and terror may be apparent.

"That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith."

40. The Holy Spirit brings Christ into the heart and teaches it to
know him. He imparts warmth and courage through faith in Christ. Paul
everywhere intimates that no man should presume to approach God
otherwise than through Christ, the one Mediator. Now, if Christ
dwells in my heart and regulates my entire life, it matters not
though my faith be weak. Christ is not mere bone but also flesh. Yes,
he has blisters and boils and sins of which he is not ashamed,
notwithstanding the eminent saints may hold their noses thereat. And
where he dwells all fullness is, let the individual be weak or strong
as God permits.


41. For Christ to dwell in the heart is simply for the heart to know
him; in other words, to understand who he is and what we are to
expect from him--that he is our Saviour, through whom we may call God
our Father and may receive the Spirit who imparts courage to brave
all trials. It is thus that Christ dwells with us, in our hearts.
Only so can he be embraced; for he is not an inanimate thing, but the
living God. How does man lay hold of the Saviour in the heart? Not by
embracing him intellectually. It is accomplished only by living
faith. Christ will not permit himself to be received by works, nor to
be apprehended with mental vision; he will consent only to be
embraced by the heart. If your faith be true and on a firm
foundation, you have and feel Christ in your heart and are aware of
all he thinks and does in heaven and on earth--how he rules through
his Word and his Spirit, and the attitude of those who have Christ
and those who have him not.

42. Paul desires Christ to be efficacious in the hearts of his
followers unto the full realization of the promises of the
Word--liberation from sin and death, and assurance of grace and
eternal life. It is impossible for the heart having such experience
to be other than firm and courageous to oppose the terrors of the
devil and the world. But the heart which has not yet arrived at this
point is here advised what course to take, namely, to pray God for
such faith and strength, and to avail himself of the prayers of
others to the same end. So much in regard to faith; now follows the
mention of love.

"That ye, being rooted and grounded in love."


43. This is an unusual way of speaking. Is it not in faith that we
are to be rooted, engrafted and grounded? Why, then, does Paul here
substitute "love?" I reply: Faith, it is true, is the essential
thing, but love shows whether or no faith is real and the heart
confident and courageous in God. Where one has an unquestioning
confidence that God is his Father, necessarily, be his faith never so
weak, that faith must find expression in word and deed. He will serve
his neighbor in teaching and in extending to him a helping hand. This
is what Paul calls being rooted and grounded in love--having the
conscious experience of possessing true faith. Love is the test that
determines the reality of faith. Peter says (2 Pet 1, 10), "Give the
more diligence to make your calling and election sure." That is,
proceed to good works that others may see and you experience that you
have true faith. Until you do, you will always be uncertain,
vacillating, superficial in heart, not rooted and grounded. So by
these two clauses Paul teaches, first, that we should have in our
hearts genuine faith toward God; and second, that faith should find
expression in loving service to one's neighbor.

"May be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth
and length and height and depth."


44. These words represent another feature of the apostle's desire for
his Christians to be established and comforted in God through faith,
and rooted and grounded in love toward their neighbors. "When you are
thus strengthened," he would say, "and are perseveringly pressing
forward, you will be able to grasp with all saints the four parts, to
increase therein and to appreciate them more and more." Faith alone
effects this apprehension. Love is not the moving force here, but it
contributes by making faith manifest.

45. Some teachers would make these words reflect and measure the holy
cross. But Paul does not say a word about the cross. He simply says,
in effect: "That you may apprehend all things; may see the length and
breadth, the height and depth, of Christ's kingdom." This condition
obtains when my heart has reached the point where Christ cannot make
the spiritual life too long or too wide for me to follow, nor high
enough or deep enough to cause my fall from him or his Word; the
point where I may be satisfied that wherever I go he is, and that he
rules in all places, however long or broad, deep or high, the
situation from either a temporal or eternal point of view. No matter
how long or wide I measure, I find him everywhere. David says (Ps
139, 7-8): "Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I
flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there:
if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, thou art there." Christ rules
eternally. His length and breadth, his depth and height, are
unlimited. If I descend into hell, my heart and my faith tell me he
is there.

46. The sum of the matter is this: Depressed or exalted,
circumscribed in whatsoever way, dragged hither or thither, I still
find Christ. For he holds in his hands everything in heaven or on
earth, and all are subject to him--angels, the devil, the world, sin,
death and hell. Therefore, so long as he dwells in my heart, I have
courage, wherever I go, I cannot be lost. I dwell where Christ my
Lord dwells. This, however, is a situation impossible to reason.
Should reason ascend a yard above the earth or descend a yard below,
or be deprived of the tangible things of the present, it would have
to despair. We Christians are, through Christ, better fortified. We
are assured that he dwells everywhere, be it in honor or dishonor,
hunger, sorrow, illness, imprisonment, death or life, blessing or
affliction. It is Paul's desire for the Ephesians that God give them
grace and strength to have such heart-apprehension of his kingdom. He
concludes the details of his prayer in these words:

"And to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may
be filled unto all the fulness of God."

47. He means: "I desire you, in addition to having faith and
apprehending the four proportions of Christ's kingdom, to know the
love of Christ we should have--the love Christ bears toward us, and
the love we owe our neighbor. This knowledge transcends all other,
even familiarity with the Gospel; for, know as much as you may, your
knowledge will avail little or nothing without love."

48. Paul's desire, briefly summed up, is that the faith of Christians
may be strengthened unto efficacy, and that love may be warm and
fervent, and the heart filled with the fullness of God. "Filled unto
all the fullness of God" means, if we follow the Hebrew, filled with
everything God's bounty supplies, full of God, adorned with his grace
and the gifts of his Spirit--the Spirit who gives us steadfastness,
illuminates us with his light, lives within us his life, saves us
with his salvation, and with his love enkindles love in us; in short,
it means having God himself and all his blessings dwelling in us in
fullness and being effective to make us wholly divine--not so that we
possess merely something of God, but all his fullness.


49. Much has been written about the way we are to become godlike.
Some have constructed ladders whereby we are to ascend to heaven, and
others similar things. But this is all patchwork. In this passage is
designated the truest way to attain godlikeness. It is to become
filled to the utmost with God, lacking in no particular; to be
completely permeated with him until every word, thought and deed, the
whole life in fact, be utterly godly.

50. But let none imagine such fullness can be attained in this life.
We may indeed desire it and pray for it, like Paul here, but we will
not find a man thus perfect. We stand, however, upon the fact that we
desire such perfection and groan after it. So long as we live in the
flesh, we are filled with the fullness of Adam. Hence it is necessary
for us continually to pray God to replace our weakness with courage,
and to put into our hearts his Spirit to fill us with grace and
strength and rule and work in us absolutely. We ought all to desire
this state for one another. To this end may God grant us grace. Amen.

_Seventeenth Sunday After Trinity_

Text: Ephesians 4, 1-6.

1 I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you to walk
worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called, 2 with all
lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in
love; 3 giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond
of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as also ye were
called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one
baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through
all, and in all.


1. This, too, is a beautiful sermon, delivered by Paul to the
Ephesians, concerning the good works of Christians, who believe and
are obedient to the doctrine of the Gospel. In the knowledge of good
works Paul desires Christians to grow and increase, as we learned in
the epistle for last Sunday. The ground of all doctrine, of all right
living, the supreme and eternal treasure of him who is a Christian in
the sight of God, is faith in Christ. It alone secures forgiveness of
sins and makes us children of God. Now, where this faith is, fruits
should follow as evidence that Christians in their lives honor and
obey God. They are necessary for God's glory and for the Christian's
own honor and eternal reward before him.

2. Paul, remembering the imprisonment and tribulations he suffered
because of the Gospel and for the advantage, as he before said, of
the Ephesians, gives the admonition here. He would have them, in
return for his sufferings, honor the Gospel in their lives. First he
names a general rule of life for Christians.

"To walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called."


3. The chief thing that should influence a Christian's outward walk
is the remembrance of his calling and appointment by God. He should
be mindful of why he is called a Christian, and live consistently. He
must shine before the world; that is, through his life and God's
work, the Word and the name of Christ the Lord must be exalted.
Christ exhorts his disciples: "Even so let your light shine before
men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who
is in heaven." Mt 5, 16.

4. Similarly, Paul would say: "You have received God's grace and his
Word and are a blessed people. In Christ all your needs are blessedly
supplied. Be mindful of this and remember you are called to a far
different and vastly higher life than others know. Show by your
manner of living that you seek a higher good than the world
seeks--indeed, that you have received far greater blessings. Let your
lives honor and glorify the Lord who has given you such blessings.
Give no occasion for dishonoring your treasured faith, or for
scorning his Word. Rather, influence men by your godly walk and good
works to believe in Christ and to glorify him."

5. Let the Christian know his earthly life is not unto himself, nor
for his own sake; his life and work here belong to Christ, his Lord.
Hence must his walk be such as shall contribute to the honor and
glory of his Master, whom he should so serve that he may be able to
say with Paul, not only with respect to the spiritual life--the life
of faith and of righteousness by grace--but also with respect to its
fruits--the outward conduct: "It is no longer I that live, but Christ
liveth in me." Gal 2, 20. The Christian's manner of life may be
styled "walking in Christ"; yes, as Paul elsewhere has it (Rom 13,
14), "putting on" the Lord Jesus Christ, like a garment or an
ornament. The world is to recognize Christ by his shining in us.

6. But the so-called Christian life that does not honor Christ makes
its sin the more heinous for the name it bears. Every sin the people
of God commit is a provocation of Jehovah; not only in the act of
disobedience itself, but also in the transgression of the second
commandment. The enormity of the sin is magnified by the conditions
that make it a blasphemy of God's name and an occasion of offense to
others. Paul says in Romans 2, 24: "For the name of God is blasphemed
among the Gentiles because of you." So a Christian should, in his
life, by all means guard the honor of God--of Christ. He must take
heed that he be not guilty of blaspheming that name and of doing
wickedness. The devil, aided by the world, construes every act, when
possible, to reflect upon God's honor and glory. His purpose is to
manifest his bitter hatred against Christ and the Word; also to
injure the Church by charging offenses, thus deterring unbelievers
from embracing the Gospel and causing the weak to fall away.

7. To guard against such disaster, Christians should be particularly
careful to give, in their conduct, no occasion for offense, and to
value the name and honor of their God too highly to permit blasphemy
of them. They should prefer to lose their own honor, their wealth,
their physical well-being, even their lives, rather than that these,
their most precious possessions and greatest blessings, should suffer
disgrace. Let them remember that upon keeping sacred the name and
honor of God depends their own standing before God and men. God
promises (1 Sam 2, 30), "Them that honor me I will honor." But
pursuing the opposite course, Christians bring upon themselves God's
sternest wrath and effect their own rejection and shame. For he says
further: "They that despise me shall be lightly esteemed." And in the
second commandment God threatens certain and terrible punishment to
abusers of his name; that is, to them who do not employ it to his
honor and praise.

8. Well may every Christian examine his own life to see if he is
careful to guard against offense to the Gospel and to regulate his
words and conduct by God's first commandment, making them contribute
to the honor and praise of the divine name and the holy Gospel.
Weighty indeed and well calculated to cause complaint are the sins to
which every Christian is liable in this respect; well may he avoid
them lest he heap to himself the wrath of God. Especially need we be
careful in these last and evil times when the Gospel is everywhere
suppressed by great offenses. Man was created to be the image of God,
that through this his image God might himself be expressed. God's
image, then, should be reflected in the lives of men as a likeness in
a glass, and a Christian can have no higher concern than to live
without dishonor to the name of God.


9. Such is the first part of Paul's admonition concerning the general
life of Christians. He goes on to make special mention of several
good works which Christians should diligently observe: humility,
meekness, long-suffering, preservation of the unity of the Spirit,
and so on. These have been specially treated before, in other epistle
lessons, particularly those from Peter. Humility, for
instance--mentioned in today's lesson--is taken up the third Sunday
after Trinity; patience and meekness, the second Sunday after Easter,
and the fifth Sunday after Trinity.

10. The text here presents good works sufficient to occupy all
Christians in every station of life; we need not seek other nor
better ones. Paul would not impose upon Christians peculiar works,
something unrelated to the ordinary walks of life, as certain false
saints taught and practiced. These teachers commanded separation from
society, isolation in the wilderness, the establishment of monkeries
and the performance of self-appointed works. Such works they exalted
as superior to ordinary Christian virtues. Indeed, their practice
amounted to rejection of the latter, and they actually regarded them
as dangerous. The Papacy has in the past shamelessly styled the
observance of Christian good works as worldly living, and men were
compelled to believe they would find it hard to reach heaven unless
they became ecclesiasts--for they regarded only the monks and priests
worthy--or at least made themselves partakers of the works of
ecclesiasts by purchasing their merits.

But Paul--in fact, the entire Scriptures--teaches no other good works
than God enjoins upon all men in the Ten Commandments, and which
pertain to the common conditions of life. True, these make not such
brilliant show in the eyes of the world as do the self-appointed
ceremonials constituting the divine service of hypocrites;
nevertheless, they are true, worthy, good and profitable works in the
sight of God and man. What can be more acceptable to God and
advantageous to man than a life lived, in its own calling, in the way
that contributes to the honor of God, and that by its example
influences others to love God's Word and to praise his name?
Moreover, what virtues, of all man possesses, serve him better than
humility, meekness, patience and harmony of mind?

11. Now, where is a better opportunity for the exercise of these
virtues than amidst the conditions in which God destined us to
live--in society, where we mingle with one another? Upon these
conditions, self-appointed, unusual lives and monastic holiness have
no bearing. For what other person is profited by your entering a
cloister, making yourself peculiar, refusing to live as your fellows
do? Who is benefited by your cowl, your austere countenance, your
hard bed? Who comes to know God or to have a peaceful conscience by
such practices on your part, or who is thereby influenced to love his
neighbor? Indeed, how can you serve your neighbor by such a life? How
manifest your love, humility, patience and meekness if you are
unwilling to live among men? if you so strenuously adhere to your
self-appointed orders as to allow your neighbor to suffer want before
you would dishonor your rules?

12. Astonishing fact, that the world is merged in darkness so great
it utterly disregards the Word of God and the conditions he designed
for our daily living. If we preach to the world faith in God's Word,
the world receives it as heresy. If we speak of works instituted of
God himself and conditions of his own appointing, the world regards
it as idle talk; it knows better. To live a simple Christian life in
one's own family, to faithfully perform the duties of a man-servant
or maid-servant--"Oh, that," it says, "is merely the following of
worldly pursuits. To do good works you must set about it in a
different way. You must creep into a corner, don a cap, make
pilgrimages to some saint; then you may be able to help yourself and
others to gain heaven." If the question be asked, "Why do so? where
has God commanded it?" there is, according to their theory, really no
answer to make but this: Our Lord God knows nothing about the matter;
he does not understand what good works are. How can he teach us? He
must himself be tutored by these remarkably enlightened saints.


13. But all this error results from that miserable inherent plague,
that evil termed "original sin." It is a blind wickedness, refusing
to recognize the Word of God and his will and work, but introducing
instead things of its own heathenish imagination. It draws such a
thick covering over eyes, ears and hearts that it renders men unable
to perceive how the simple life of a Christian, of husband or wife,
of the lower or the higher walks of life, can be beautified by
honoring the Word of God. Original sin will not be persuaded to the
faithful performance of the works that God testifies are well
pleasing to him when wrought by believers in Christ. In a word,
universal experience proves that to perform really good works is a
special and remarkable grace to which few attain; while the great
mass of souls aspiring after holiness vainly busy themselves with
worthless works, being deceived into thinking them great, and thus
make themselves, as Paul says, "unto every good work reprobate." Tit
1, 16. This fruitless effort is one evil result of the error of human
ideas of holiness and the practice of self-chosen works.

14. Another error is the hindrance--yes, the suppression and
destruction--of the beautiful virtues of humility, meekness, patience
and spiritual harmony here commended of Paul. At the same time the
devil is given occasion to encourage fiendish blasphemy. In every
instance where the Word of God is set aside for humanly-appointed
works, differing views and theories must obtain. One introduces this
and another that, each striving for first recognition; then a third
endeavors to improve upon their doctrine. Consequently divisions and
factions ensue as numerous as the teachers and their creeds; as
exemplified in the countless sects to this time prevalent in Popedom,
and in the factious spirits of all time. Under such circumstances,
none of the virtues like humility, meekness, patience, love, can have
place. Opposite conditions must prevail, since harmony of hearts and
minds is lacking. One teacher haughtily rejects another, and if his
own opinions fail to receive recognition and approval, he displays
anger, envy and hatred. He will neither affiliate with nor tolerate
him whose practices accord not with his own.

15. On the other hand, the Christian life, the life of faith with its
fruits, controlled as it is by the Word of God, is in every way
conducive to the preservation of love and harmony, and to the
promotion of all virtues. It interferes not with the God-ordained
relations of life and their attendant obligations upon men--the
requirements of social order, the duties of father and mother, of son
and daughter, master and mistress, servant and maid. All life's
relations are confirmed by it as valid and its duties as vital. The
Christian faith bids each person in his life, and all in common, to
be diligent in the works of love, humility, patience. It teaches that
one be not intolerant of another, but rather render him his due,
remembering that he whose condition in life is the most insignificant
can be equally upright and blessed before God with the occupant of
the most significant position. Again, it teaches that man must have
patience with the weakness of his fellow, being mindful of how others
must bear with his own imperfections. In short, it says one must
manifest to another the love and kindness he would have that other
extend to him.

16. To this Christian attainment, contributes very largely the single
fact that a Christian is conscious he has, through Christ, the grace
of God, the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. And these not for
his own merits or peculiar life and works, but because he is, no
matter how insignificant in condition before the world, a child of
God and blessed; a partaker, if he but believes, in all the blessings
of Christ, sharing equally with the most eminent saint. So, then, he
need not look about for works not enjoined upon him. He need not
covet those wrought in prominence and by the aid of great gifts of
God--of unusual attainments. Let him confine himself to his own
sphere; let him serve God in his vocation, remembering that God makes
him, too, his instrument in his own place.

Again, the occupant of a higher sphere, the possessor of higher gifts
and accomplishments, who likewise serves in his vocation received
from God, should learn and exhibit harmony of mind. So shall he
continue humble and be tolerant of others. He should remember that he
is not worthier in the eyes of God because of his greater gifts, but
rather is under deeper obligation to serve his fellows, and that God
can use the possessor of lesser gifts for even greater
accomplishments than himself can boast. Having so learned, he will be
able to manifest patience, meekness and love toward his weak and
imperfect neighbors, considering them members of Christ with him, and
partakers of the same grace and salvation.


17. Now you have the reason why the apostles Paul and Peter
everywhere so faithfully enforce this virtue, the unity of the
Spirit. It is the most necessary and beautiful grace that Christians
possess. It holds together the Christian community, preventing
factions and schisms, as before explained. So Paul here admonishes
men to be careful for harmony, making every endeavor to preserve it.
The term "unity of the Spirit" is used to make plain the apostle's
meaning. He would thus emphasize oneness of doctrine--the one true
faith. Since the Holy Spirit is present only where there is knowledge
of and faith in the Gospel of Christ, "unity of the Spirit" implies a
unity of faith. Above all things, then, the effort must be to
preserve, in the Church, the doctrine of the Scriptures, pure and in
its unity.

18. One of the wickedest offenses possible to commit against the
Church is the stirring up of doctrinal discord and division, a thing
the devil encourages to the utmost. This sin usually has its rise
with certain haughty, conceited, self-seeking leaders who desire
peculiar distinction for themselves and strive for personal honor and
glory. They harmonize with none and would think themselves disgraced
were they not honored as superior and more learned individuals than
their fellows, a distinction they do not merit. They will give honor
to no one, even when they have to recognize the superiority of his
gifts over their own. In their envy, anger, hatred and vengefulness,
they seek occasion to create factions and to draw people to
themselves. Therefore Paul exhorts first to the necessary virtue of
love, having which men will be enabled to exercise humility, patience
and forbearance toward one another.

19. The character of the evils resulting to the Church from divisions
and discords in doctrine is evident from the facts. Many are
deceived; the masses immediately respond to new doctrine brilliantly
presented in specious words by presumptuous individuals thirsting for
fame. More than that, many weak but well-meaning ones fall to
doubting, uncertain where to stand or with whom to hold. Consequently
men reject and blaspheme the Christian doctrine and seek occasion to
dispute it. Many become reckless pleasure-lovers, disregarding all
religion and ignoring the Word of God. Further, even they who are
called Christians come to have hard feelings against one another,
and, figuratively, bite and devour in their hate and envy.
Consequently their love grows cold and faith is extinguished.

20. Of so much disturbance in the Church, and of the resulting
injuries to souls, are guilty those conceited, factious leaders who
do not adhere to the true doctrine, preserving the unity of the
Spirit, but seek to institute something new for the sake of advancing
their own ideas and their own honor, or gratifying their revenge.
They thus bring upon themselves damnation infinitely more intolerable
than others suffer. Christians, then, should be careful to give no
occasion for division or discord, but to be diligent, as Paul here
admonishes, to preserve unity. And this is not an easy thing to do,
for among Christians occasions frequently arise provoking self-will,
anger and hatred. The devil is always at hand to stir and blow the
flame of discord. Let Christians take heed they do not give place to
the promptings of the devil and of the flesh. They must strive
against them, submitting to all suffering, and performing all
demands, whether honor, property, physical welfare or life itself be
involved, in the effort to prevent, so far as in them lies, any
disturbance of the unity of doctrine, of faith and of Spirit.

"There is one body, and one Spirit, even as also ye were called in
one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God
and Father of all."

21. Christians should feel bound to maintain the unity of the Spirit,
since they are all members of one body and partakers of the same
spiritual blessings. They have the same priceless treasures--one God
and Father in heaven, one Lord and Savior, one Word, baptism and
faith; in short, one and the same salvation, a blessing common to all
whereof one has as much as another, and cannot obtain more. What
occasion, then, for divisions or for further seeking?

22. Here Paul teaches what the true Christian Church is and how it
may be identified. There is not more than one Church, or people of
God, one earth. This one Church has one faith, one baptism, one
confession of God the Father and of Jesus Christ. Its members
faithfully hold, and abide by, these common truths. Every one
desiring to be saved and to come to God must be incorporated into
this Church, outside of which no one will be saved.

23. Unity of the Church does not consist in similarity of outward
form of government, likeness of Law, tradition and ecclesiastical
customs, as the Pope and his followers claim. They would exclude from
the Church all not obedient to them in these outward things, though
members of the one faith, one baptism, and so on. The Church is
termed "one holy, catholic or Christian Church," because it
represents one plain, pure Gospel doctrine, and an outward confession
thereof, always and everywhere, regardless of dissimilarity of
physical life, or of outward ordinances, customs and ceremonies.

24. But they are not members of the true Church of Christ who,
instead of preserving unity of doctrine and oneness of Christian
faith, cause divisions and offenses--as Paul says (Rom 16, 17)--by
the human doctrines and self-appointed works for which they contend,
imposing them upon all Christians as necessary. They are perverters
and destroyers of the Church, as we have elsewhere frequently shown.
The consolation of the true doctrine is ours, and we hold it in
opposition to Popedom, which accuses us of having withdrawn from
them, and so condemns us as apostates from the Church. They are,
however, themselves the real apostates, persecuting the truth and
destroying the unity of the Spirit under the name and title of the
Church and of Christ. Therefore, according to the command of God, all
men are under obligation to shun them and withdraw from them.

_Eighteenth Sunday After Trinity_

Text: 1 Corinthians 1, 4-9.

4 I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which
was given you in Christ Jesus; 5 that in everything ye were enriched
in him, in all utterance and all knowledge; 6 even as the testimony
of Christ was confirmed in you: 7 so that ye come behind in no gift;
waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ; 8 who shall also
confirm you unto the end, that ye be unreprovable in the day of our
Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, through whom ye were called
into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.


1. We have before us the opening words of the Epistle to the
Corinthians, which Paul was moved to write because of unpleasant
conditions in the Church at Corinth after his departure. Divisions
had arisen and sad confusion prevailed in doctrine and life. Hence
the apostle was constrained to rebuke their wickedness and correct
their infirmities. Because of these wholesome admonitions, the
reading and heeding of this epistle is not only profitable but
essential to this day; for the devil takes no respite, but whenever
the Gospel is preached in its purity he mixes with the children of
God and sows his seed.

2. Paul intends to be rather severe--even caustic--but he begins very
leniently, showing them what they have received through the Gospel.
His purpose is to arouse their gratitude to God, and to induce them,
for his honor and glory, to be harmonious in doctrine and life,
avoiding divisions and other offenses.

"I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was
given you in Christ Jesus," etc.

3. In other words, Paul would say: Dear brethren, consider, I pray
you, what abundant grace and gifts have been given you of God. They
are bestowed not because of the Law, or because of your
righteousness, your merits and works; you are given no reason to
exalt yourselves above others, or to originate sects or schisms. Nay,
all these blessings have been freely given you in Christ and for his
sake, through the preaching of the Gospel. The Gospel is a grace
which brings to you all manner of gifts, by him enriching you in
everything. You lack nothing from God, but you await this one thing,
that blessed day when Christ will reveal himself to you with all
those heavenly gifts which you now possess in faith.

4. In this wise he extols to them the preaching of the Gospel (as
indeed he does on different occasions); his purpose is to induce them
to regard it most appreciatively. He gives them an example of his own
gratitude, thanking God on their behalf, for the purpose of calling
forth their especial gratitude when they should consider what they
formerly were and what they now had received through the Gospel. And
again, he would have them beware lest, forgetful of their former
misery and present grace, they relapse into their old blindness. A
sad beginning in such backsliding had been made by factions in their
midst, who, satiated with the Gospel and indifferent to the abundant
grace they enjoyed, began to cast about for something else.

5. Now observe: If the exalted apostle and venerable teacher of the
Gentiles in his day had to witness in his own parish such factions
and sects as those which, in sinful security and ingratitude toward
the Gospel, arose during his life, what wonder is it that today, when
we do not have the excellent preachers and pious Christians of those
times, there are similar sects? We are aware of the great benefits
bestowed upon us, but at the same time we see and realize that the
devil instigates divisions and scandals. And the cause of these evils
may be traced to our ingratitude; we have quickly forgotten the ills
we endured under the blindness of popery, and how miserably we were
deluded and tormented. Necessarily, where God's mercies are lightly
dismissed from the mind and disregarded, gratitude and regard for
God's Word cannot be the result; satiated, listless Christians go
their way fancying that spiritual conditions always were and always
will be as now.

6. The people, therefore, must be awakened to consider their former
destitution, the very wretchedness they were in. The apostle later on
vividly pictures such condition to his Corinthians, while here, in
the opening chapter, he intimates to them, in kind and courteous
words, to consider, in the light of the Gospel benefits they now
enjoy, what they lacked before and might be deprived of again.

7. Therefore he says, You now have received the grace whereby in
everything ye are enriched. Formerly you had not this grace and would
not have it today had not the Gospel been preached to you. You are
enriched in everything pertaining to yonder life, for it is not the
purpose of the Gospel to give earthly riches. But in spiritual
blessings ye come behind in no gift and have need of naught except
this one thing, that the Lord himself should come. This blessing you
are yet to have, and biding its advent you here live by the gifts and
grace with which you were enriched, until you are finally redeemed
from the sinful, wicked life of the world and from all its
oppressions. You must know, and must thank God for it, that you need
not seek after any higher calling or better gifts, thinking you have
not all that is essential, as the factious spirits would have you

8. For in your own judgment, what better thing could you have than is
the Christian's in his Gospel and his faith? He has assurance of sins
forgiven and washed away in holy baptism, of justification and
holiness before God, and of the fact that he is God's child and heir
to eternal life. Furthermore, although the Christian is conscious of
remaining weakness and sin, yea, although he be overcome by a fault,
he may avail himself of absolution, comfort and strength through his
fellow Christians and by the aid of the sacraments; and he has daily
guidance for his conduct and faith in all the walks of life. Again,
he can call upon God in prayer in the day of trouble, and the firm
assurance is his that God will hear and help him. What further can
one desire, or what more does he need, than the knowledge that he is
God's child through baptism and has God's Word at hand for comfort
and strength in weakness and sin? Do you consider it slight
enrichment to have assurance of the fact that God himself is speaking
to you and, by means of the office of the ministry, is effective in
you, teaching, admonishing, comforting, sustaining you, yea, granting
you victory over the devil, death and all evil influences on earth?

9. Formerly what would we not gladly have given and done for but a
single Gospel truth in our distress and trials of conscience! True,
when one was discouraged or perplexed he was advised to seek and
follow the counsel of some intelligent and judicious mind; but such
judicious one who might assist with his counsel was nowhere to be
found. For a wise man's counsel does not answer in such case. The
Word of God alone suffices, and you are to rely on it as if God
himself revealed his counsel to you from heaven.

10. As Paul says, it is great riches, a precious treasure, to possess
in very fact the Word of God and not to doubt that it is the Word of
God. It is this that will answer; this can comfort your heart and
support it. Of spiritual benefits you know we had none under the
tyranny and darkness of the Pope. At that time we suffered ourselves
to be led and driven by his commandments, vain human baubles, by
bulls, lies, invocation of saints, indulgences, masses, monkery. And
we did whatever was enjoined in the name of the Church, solely to
gain comfort and help, that we might not despair of God's grace. But
instead of comforting us, these things led us to the devil and thrust
us into greater anguish and terror; for there was nothing in the
doctrine of the papists that could give us certainty. Indeed, they
themselves had to confess that by its teachings no man could or
should be certain of his state of grace.

11. Yea, they forced poor, timid, tempted hearts to dread and fear
Christ more than the devil even, as I myself experienced full well. I
resorted to the dead--St. Barbara, St. Ann and other departed
saints--regarding them as mediators between me and Christ's wrath.
But this availed me nothing, nor did it free me from a fearful and
fugitive conscience. There was not one among us all--and we were
called very learned doctors of Holy Writ--who could have given true
comfort from God's Word, saying: This is God's Word; this one thing
God asks of you, that you honor him by accepting comfort; believe and
know that he forgives your transgressions and has no wrath against
you. If someone could have told me this, I would have given all I
possessed for the knowledge; yea, for such word of comfort I would
not have taken in exchange the glory and the crowns of all kings, for
it would have restored my soul, it would have refreshed and sustained
my body and life.

12. All this we should bear in mind, by no means should we forget it;
that we may return thanks to God, recounting the superior and
wonderful gifts which have enriched us in all things. We have besides
the Word, free prayer and the Lord's Prayer, knowing what to pray for
and how to pray--knowledge common to the very children today, thank
God. In former times, all men, especially we monks, tormented
themselves with lengthy repetitions in reading and singing; yet our
prayers were but chattering, as the noise of geese over their food,
or of monks repeating a psalm.

13. I, too, wanted to be a pious and godly monk and I prepared with
earnest devotion for mass and for prayers. But when most devout I
went to the altar a doubter and left the altar a doubter. When I had
rendered my confession I still doubted, and I doubted when I did not
render it. For we were wholly wrapped up in the erroneous idea that
we could not pray and would not be heard unless we were absolutely
clean and without sin, like the saints in heaven. It would have been
much better not to pray at all and to have done something else, than
thus to take God's name in vain. Still, we monks--in fact all the
ecclesiastics--deluded the people, promising them our prayers for
their money and possessions, actually selling our prayers, though we
did not even know that we prayed in a manner acceptable to God. But
today, thank God, we do know and understand, not only what to pray
for and how to approach God "nothing doubting," but we can also add a
hearty Amen, believing that according to his promise he will
certainly hear us.


14. The Christian has indeed inestimable treasure. In the first place
he has the testimony of the Word of God, which is the word of eternal
grace and comfort, that he has a right and true conception of
baptism, the Lord's Supper, the Ten Commandments and the Creed. In
addition he has the sure refuge of God's promise to deliver us from
every trouble in which we shall call upon him, and to give us, as he
promised by the prophet Zechariah (12, 10), the Spirit of grace and
of prayer. And the Christian, by virtue of his enlightened
understanding, can wisely discern what are good works and what
callings are pleasing to God; on the other hand, his judgment is
equally true as to unprofitable and vain works and false services.
Before, we had not this wholesome knowledge. We knew not what we
believed, or how we prayed and lived. We sought comfort and salvation
in self-devised trivialities, in penances, confessions and
satisfactions, in self-righteous works of monkery and in obedience to
the commands of the Pope. We believed such works to be fully
satisfactory and, indeed, the only things that were holy; the
pursuits of common Christians we considered worldly and dangerous.

15. In illustration of this idea, a picture was exhibited--with the
sanction of the Pope--representing a great ship in the wild, wide
sea, containing only the holy monks and the super-holy popes,
cardinals, bishops, etc., who were throwing their merits to those in
peril struggling in the water, or extending a hand, or by means of
ropes and their stoles drawing the drowning to safety in the boat.

16. In contrast to this darkness, consider the priceless and
to-be-cherished blessing of knowing with certainty wherein the heart
is to take comfort, how to seek help in distress and how to conduct
one's self in one's own station. If, though provided with spiritual
riches on all sides, you are not sufficient of yourself at all times
to grasp them, you can, nevertheless, always reach and appropriate
them by means of the ordinary ministry and office of the Church, yes,
by the aid of your fellow-Christians. Again, it is productive of the
greatest happiness to know that when living aright in the ordinary
walks of life established by God, you are more acceptable and
pleasing to him than you would be to purchase the works and merits of
all the monks and hermits.

17. What Paul terms being "enriched," first, "in all utterance," or
knowledge--which, in the exalted spiritual meaning of the words,
bears on life everlasting--is having the comfort of faith in Christ
and of invocation and prayer. And enriched in "all knowledge," means
having true conception and right judgment in all things of our
physical life and in all our earthly relations. All things that a
Christian should know and should possess are comprehended in these
two terms. These blessings are gifts and treasures indescribably
great. He who will contrast them with the destitution of our former
condition cannot but be joyful and thankful. I remember the time when
I, engaged in earnest study of Holy Writ, would have given a great
deal for the right exposition of a psalm; and when had I but begun to
understand a verse aright, I would have been as rejoiced as if born
to life anew.

18. Truly, then, we should now render to God heartfelt thanks for the
great favor and blessing of restored light and understanding in
Scripture, and the right conception of doctrinal matters. But, alas!
it is likely to be with us as with the Corinthians, who had received
most abundantly from Paul but by way of return had made ill use of it
and proved shamefully unthankful. And they met with retribution, the
worst of it being false doctrine and seductions, until at last that
grand congregation was wholly ruined and destroyed. A similar
retribution threatens us, yes, is before the door with appalling
knock, in the instance of the Turks and in other distress and
calamity. For this reason we should, with a thankful heart and
serious mind, pray, as Paul here does for his Corinthians, that God
would keep us steadfast in the possession of his gifts and blameless
in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

19. Paul admonishes us to continue in this knowledge and appreciation
of the grace and gifts of God. Since by these blessings we have
received riches and happiness to the satisfying of all our need, the
apostle further admonishes us to look only for the Lord to reveal to
us publicly by his coming that which he has promised and through
faith already granted us.

20. In the past, much has been written and ingeniously devised on the
topic of preparing for death and the final judgment. But it has only
served to further confuse timid consciences. For these comforters
were not able to show anything of the comfort to be found in the
riches of grace and bliss in Christ. They directed the people to
oppose with their own works and good life, death and God's judgment.
In place of this delusion is now evident the precious truth; he who
knows the Gospel doctrines, goes on and performs his own work and
duty in his respective calling. He takes comfort in the fact that
through baptism he is engrafted into Christ; he receives absolution
and partakes of the holy supper for the strengthening of his faith,
commending his soul and body to Christ. Why should such a one fear
death? Though it come at any time, in form of pestilence or accident,
it will always find the Christian ready and well prepared, be he
awake or asleep; for he is in Christ Jesus.

21. For all these things the Christian may well thank and bless God,
realizing that he has no further need, nor can he gain anything
better than he already has in the remission of sins, the gift of the
Holy Spirit and the faithful prosecution of his calling; however, he
should remain in, and daily grow in, faith and supplication. But he
cannot hope to attain to another and better doctrine, faith, Spirit,
prayer, sacrament, reward, etc., than had all the saints, John the
Baptist, Peter, Paul, or in fact than has now every Christian that is
baptized. Therefore I need not idly spend time in trying to prepare
people for death and inspire them with courage by such commonplaces
as recalling and relating the innumerable daily accidents, ills and
dangers of this life. This method will not answer; death will not
thereby be frightened away, nor will the fear of death be removed.
The Gospel teaching is: Believe in Christ, pray and live in
accordance with God's Word, and then, when death overtakes and
attacks you, you will know that you are Christ the Lord's. Paul says
(Rom 14, 8): "Whether we live ... or die, we are the Lord's." Indeed,
we Christians live upon this earth to the very end that we may have
assured comfort, salvation and victory over death and hell.

22. Of this Paul here reminds us, and dwells on it more fully later
in this Epistle; he would have us duly thankful for this great grace
and living among ourselves in a Christian and brotherly manner, in
doctrine and practice, ignoring and avoiding that wild, disorderly
conduct of the contentious and disorderly. He who recognizes such
grace and blessing cannot but love and thank God and conduct himself
aright toward his neighbor; and when he finds himself falling short
in this he will, by admonition and the Word of God, make amends.

23. Here you might put the question: Why does Paul speak in such a
commendatory way of the Corinthians, saying that they were enriched
in everything and came behind in no gift, when he himself confesses
later on that they had contentions and schisms--in regard to baptism,
to the sacrament, to the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead and
in regard to abuse of liberty, and some lived as they pleased. Would
you not call these things faults and shortcomings? How, then, is he
in a position to say that they were abundantly supplied with all
things spiritual, lacking not one thing?

24. Well, you should recall what I have repeatedly stated:
Christendom is never so spotless that there are not some spurious and
wicked admixed, just as you will always find weeds, darnel, tares, or
wild mustard together with pure grain. And he who will examine the
Church with only a view of finding faults and frailties among those
called Christians, will miss the Church, yes, the Gospel and Christ,
and never discover a Church at all.

25. But we have the consolation of knowing that if we have the Gospel
pure, we have the treasure God gives his Church and we cannot go
astray nor want. But as yet we have not reached that degree of
perfection where all hearers of the Gospel will grasp it fully and
wholly or are faultless in faith and life; at all times there will be
some who do not believe and some who are weak and imperfect. However,
that great treasure and rich blessing of doctrine and knowledge is
present. There is no defect in this, and it is effective and
fruitful. The fact that some do not believe, does not weaken baptism
or the Gospel or the Church; they only harm themselves. To sum up,
where the Word remains, there most assuredly is also the Church. For
wherever the doctrine is pure, there you can also keep purity in
baptism, the sacrament, absolution, the Ten Commandments, the Lord's
Prayer, good works and all callings; and wherever you find a defect
or an irregularity, you can admonish, amend and rectify by means of
the Word.

26. Some there must be who have the Word and sacraments pure and
unadulterated, who have faith, pray aright, keep God's commandments
and do other things, as, thank God, we have with us. Then we may
firmly conclude: If the true Church were not here, these
characteristics would be lacking; therefore we must have among
ourselves true members of the Church and true saints. Now even though
children of the world intermingle (as will be the case always and in
all places), who show neither faith nor a godly life, it would
corrupt neither faith, nor baptism, nor doctrine, nor would the
Church perish on that account--the treasure remains in its integrity
and efficacy, and God may graciously cause some to turn from their
unbelief and wicked life and be added to the faithful and to mend
their ways.

27. Again, they with whom this treasure--the Word or doctrine and its
knowledge--is not found, cannot be the Christian Church nor members
of it, and for that reason they cannot pray or believe aright or do
good works pleasing to God. It follows that their whole lives are in
God's sight lost and condemned, though they may assiduously extol God
and the Church and before the world may have the appearance and
reputation of leading particularly holy lives and excelling even the
upright Christians in virtues and honor. It is a settled fact that
outside the Church of Christ there is no God, no grace, no bliss; as
Paul says (Eph 4, 5): "One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and
Father of all," etc. And Acts 4, 12 says: "And in none other is there
salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is
given among men, wherein we must be saved."

28. And so Paul, when here extolling the Corinthians, has not an eye
to the contentious, the Epicureans, or to those who give public
offense, as the man that "had his father's wife;" but the apostle
looks to the fact that a few remain who have the pure Word of God,
faith, baptism and the sacrament, though some hypocrites be among
them. Because of these few--and few indeed there may be--we recognize
the presence of that inestimable treasure of which the apostle
speaks. It is found as well where two or three are gathered together
as with thousands. Neither the Gospel nor the ministers nor the
Church is to be blamed that the multitude miss this treasure; the
multitude have but themselves to blame, for they close their ears and

29. Now behold how loftily Paul has extolled and how beautifully
portrayed the Christian Church--where she is to be found on earth and
what inestimable blessings and gifts she has received of Christ, for
which she is in duty bound to thank and praise him in her confession
and in her life. This subject the apostle concludes with the words:

"God is faithful, through whom ye were called into the fellowship of
his Son Jesus Christ our Lord."

30. The good work which Christ has begun in you and already assured
to you, he will without fail establish in you until the end and for
ever, if you but do not fall away through unbelief, or cast grace
from you. For his Word or promise given to you, and his work begun in
you, are not changeable as is man's word and work, but are firm,
certain, divine, immovable truth. Since you are in possession of this
your divine calling, draw comfort therefrom and rely on it without
wavering. Amen.

_Nineteenth Sunday After Trinity_

Text: Ephesians 4, 22-28.

22 That ye put away, as concerning your former manner of life, the
old man, that waxeth corrupt after the lusts of deceit; 23 and that
ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new man,
that after God hath been created in righteousness and holiness of
truth. 25 Wherefore, putting away falsehood, speak ye truth each one
with his neighbor: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry,
and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 neither give
place to the devil. 28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather
let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he
may have whereof to give to him that hath need.


1. Here again is an admonition for Christians to follow up their
faith by good works and a new life, for though they have forgiveness
of sins through baptism, the old Adam still adheres to their flesh
and makes himself felt in tendencies and desires to vices physical
and mental. The result is that unless Christians offer resistance,
they will lose their faith and the remission of sins and will in the
end be worse than they were at first; for they will begin to despise
and persecute the Word of God when corrected by it. Yea, even those
who gladly hear the Word of God, who highly prize it and aim to
follow it, have daily need of admonition and encouragement, so strong
and tough is that old hide of our sinful flesh. And so powerful and
wily is our old evil foe that wherever he can gain enough of an
opening to insert one of his claws, he thrusts in his whole self and
will not desist until he has again sunk man into his former
condemnable unbelief and his old way of despising and disobeying God.

2. Therefore, the Gospel ministry is necessary in the Church, not
only for instruction of the ignorant--such as the simple, unlettered
people and the children--but also for the purpose of awakening those
who know very well what they are to believe and how they are to live,
and admonishing them to be on their guard daily and not to become
indolent, disheartened or tired in the war they must wage on this
earth with the devil, with their own flesh and with all manner of

3. For this reason Paul is so persistent in his admonitions that he
actually seems to be overdoing it. He proceeds as if the Christians
were either too dull to comprehend or so inattentive and forgetful
that they must be reminded and driven. The apostle well knows that
though they have made a beginning in faith and are in that state
which should show the fruits of faith, such result is not so easily
forthcoming. It will not do to think and say: Well, it is sufficient
to have the doctrine, and if we have the Spirit and faith, then
fruits and good works will follow of their own accord. For although
the Spirit truly is present and, as Christ says, willing and
effective in those that believe, on the other hand the flesh is weak
and sluggish. Besides, the devil is not idle, but seeks to seduce our
weak nature by temptations and allurements.

4. So we must not permit the people to go on in their way, neglecting
to urge and admonish them, through God's Word, to lead a godly life.
Indeed, you dare not be negligent and backward in this duty; for, as
it is, our flesh is all too sluggish to heed the Spirit and all too
able to resist it. Paul says (Gal 5, 17): "For the flesh lusteth
against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh ... that ye may
not do the things that ye would." Therefore, God is constrained to do
as a good and diligent householder or ruler, who, having a slothful
man-servant or maid-servant, or careless officers, who otherwise are
neither wicked nor faithless, will not consider it sufficient once or
twice to direct, but will constantly be supervising and directing.

5. Nor have we as yet arrived at the point where our flesh and blood
will joyfully and gladly abound in good works and obedience to God as
the spirit is inclined and faith directs. Even with the utmost
efforts the Spirit scarce can compel our old man. What would be the
result if we were no more urged and admonished but could go our way
thinking, as many self-satisfied persons do: I am well acquainted
with my duties, having learned them many years ago and having heard
frequent explanations of them; yea, I have taught others? It might be
that one year's intermission of preaching and admonition would place
us below the level of the heathen.

6. Now, this exhortation in itself is simple and easy of
comprehension. The apostle is but repeating his exhortations of other
places--on the fruits of faith, or a godly walk--merely in different
terms. Here he speaks of putting away the old man and putting on the
new man, of being "renewed in the spirit of your mind."


7. What he calls "the old man" is well known to us; namely, the whole
nature of man as descended from Adam after his fall in paradise,
being blinded by the devil, depraved in soul, not keeping God before
his eyes nor trusting him, yes, utterly regardless of God and the
judgment day. Though with his mouth he may honor God's Word and the
Gospel, yet in reality he is unchanged; if he does have a little
additional knowledge, he has just as little fear, love and trust in
God as heretofore.

8. Such a life and such conduct should not be found among you, says
the apostle; you are not to continue with "the old man." He must be
put off and laid aside. Your former manner of life, inherited of
Adam, consisted in disobeying God, in neither fearing, trusting nor
calling upon him. Again, in your body you obeyed not God's
commandments, being given to lust, pride, insatiable greed, envy,
hatred, etc. A life and walk of this nature is not becoming a
Christian who is regarded as, and truly is, a different order of
being from his former self, as we shall hear. Necessarily he should
walk differently.

9. In this respect a Christian must take heed that he does not
deceive himself; the true Christian differs from the hypocrite. True
Christians so live that it is apparent from their lives that they
keep God before their eyes and truly believe the Gospel, while
hypocrites likewise show by their walk that their pretensions of
faith and forgiveness of sin are hollow. No proof is seen in their
lives and works showing that they have in any wise mended their
former ways; they merely deck themselves with a pretense, with the
name of Gospel, of faith, of Christ.

10. Now, the apostle has two things to say of the old man: that he
corrupts himself in error as to the soul and in lusts as to the body.
Paul portrays the old man--meaning every man without true faith
though he bear the name of a Christian--as in the first place given
to error: coming short of the truth, knowing naught of the true
knowledge of Christ and faith in him, indifferent alike to God's
wrath and God's grace, deceiving himself with his own conceit that
darkness is light. The old man believes that God will not be moved to
vengeance though he do as he pleases, even to decorating vices with
the names of virtues. Haughtiness, greed, oppressing and tormenting
the poor, wrath, envy--all this he would call preserving his dignity,
exercising strict discipline, honestly and economically conducting
his domestic affairs, caring for his wife and children, displaying
Christian zeal and love of justice, etc. In short, he proceeds in the
perfectly empty delusion and self-conceit that he is a Christian.

11. Out of this error proceeds the other corruption, the lusts of the
body, which are fruits of unbelief. Unbelief causes men to walk in
sinful security and yield to all the appetites of their flesh. Such
have no inclination toward what is good, nor do they aim to promote
orderliness, honor or virtue. They take desperate chances on their
lives, wanting to live according to the lusts of their flesh and yet
not be reprimanded.

12. This, says the apostle, is the old man's course and nature. He
will do naught but ruin himself. The longer continued, the greater
his debasement. He draws down upon himself his own condemnation and
penalty for body and soul; for in proportion as he becomes
unbelieving and hard-hearted, does he become haughty, hateful and
faithless, and eventually a perfect scoundrel and villain. This was
your former manner of life, when as yet you were heathen and
non-Christians. Therefore you must by all means put off the old man
and cast him far from you; otherwise you cannot remain a Christian.
For glorying in the grace of God and the forgiveness of sin is
inconsistent with following sin--remaining in the former old
un-Christian life and walking in error and deceitful lusts.


"And that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the
new man, that after God hath been created in righteousness and
holiness of truth."

13. Having put away the old man, the apostle exhorts us further to
put on the new man, that day by day we may grow as new creatures.
This is effected by first being delivered from error--from the
erroneous thoughts and ideas incident to our corrupt nature with its
false conceptions of God, wherein we do not fear nor believe him--and
then from God's Word receiving the right understanding of him. When
we rightly understand, we shall fear his wrath against sin and rely
on his grace in true faith, believing that he will forgive our sins
for Christ's sake and will hear our prayer for strength and
assistance to withstand and conquer, and to continually grow in

14. This change Paul calls being "renewed in the spirit of your
mind"; that is, constantly growing and becoming established in that
true conception and clear knowledge of Christ begun in us, in
opposition to error and idle vaporings. He who is thus received, says
the apostle, is a man "that after God hath been created in
righteousness and holiness of truth." In the old man there is naught
but error, by means of which the devil leads to destruction. But the
new man has the Spirit and the truth, by which the heart is illumined
unto righteousness and holiness, wherein man follows the guidance of
God's Word and feels a desire for a godly walk and good life; just
as, on the other hand, the desire and love for sin and wickedness is
the product of error. This new man is created after God, as an image
of God, and must of necessity differ from such as live in error and
in lusts, without the knowledge of God and disobedient to him. For if
God's image is in man, man must consequently have the right knowledge
of God and right conceptions and ideas, and lead a godly life
consistent with holiness and righteousness as found in God himself.

15. Such an image of God Adam was when first created. He was, as to
the soul, truthful, free from error, and possessed of true faith and
knowledge of God; and as to the body, holy and pure, that is, without
the impure, unclean desires of avarice, lasciviousness, envy, hatred,
etc. And all his children--all men--would have so remained from their
birth if he had not suffered himself to be led astray by the devil
and to be thus ruined. But since Christians, by the grace and Spirit
of God, now have been renewed to this image of God, they are so to
live that soul and spirit are righteous and pleasing to God through
faith in Christ; and that also the body--meaning the whole external
life--be pure and holy, which is genuine holiness.

16. Some there are who pretend to great holiness and purity, but it
is mere pretense, deceiving the people in general. Such are the
factious spirits and monastic saints, who base their holiness and
uprightness solely on an external, peculiar life and on self-elected
works. Theirs may be apparently a commendable, holy and pure way of
praying and fasting, of denying self, etc., and the people may call
it so; but inwardly they are and remain haughty, venomous, hateful,
filled with the filth of human lust and evil thoughts, as Christ says
of such. Mt 15, 19; Lk 16, 15. Likewise their righteousness on which
they pride themselves before God has a certain gloss, on the strength
of which they presume to merit the grace of God for themselves and
others; but inwardly they have no true conception of God, being in
rank unbelief, that is, false and vain suppositions, or doubts. Such
righteousness, or holiness, is not true nor honest. It is made up
wholly of hypocrisy and deceit. It is built, not of God nor after
God, but after that lying spirit, the devil.

17. The true Christian, Paul asserts, has been molded through faith
in Christ into a new man, like unto God, truly justified and holy in
his sight; even as Adam originally was in perfect harmony of heart
with God, showing true, straightforward confidence, love and
willingness. And his body was holy and pure, knowing naught of evil,
impure or improper desire. Thus the whole life of the man was a
beautiful portrait of God, a mirror wherein God himself was
reflected; even as the lives and natures of the holy spirits the
angels are wrapped up in God and represent true knowledge of him,
assurance, and joy in him and utterly pure and holy thoughts and
works according to the will of God.

18. But since man is now so grievously fallen from this cheerful
confidence, this certainty and joy, into doubts or into presumption
toward God, and from unspotted, noble obedience into the lusts of
iniquity and ungodliness, it follows that not from mankind can come
help or relief. Nor can any one hope for remedy except the
Christians, who through faith in Christ begin again to have a joyful
and confident heart toward God. They thus enter again into their
former relation and into the true paradise of perfect harmony with
God and of justification; they are comforted by his grace.
Accordingly they are disposed to lead a godly life in harmony with
God's commandments and to resist ungodly lusts and ways. These begin
to taste God's goodness and loving kindness, as Paul says, and
realize what they lost in paradise. He, therefore, that would be a
Christian should strive to be found in this new man created after
God; not in blind error and vain conceit, but in the very essence of
righteousness and holiness before God.


"Wherefore, putting away falsehood, speak ye truth each one with his
neighbor: for we are members one of another."

19. Lest there might be one who failed to understand the meaning of
the old and the new man, or of true and false righteousness and
holiness, the apostle now proceeds to give an example or two, making
it easier for us to grasp the idea. All sin comes under one of two
classes: First, that of the devil's own making, such as murder and
deceit; for by lies he establishes all idolatry, error, false faith
and holiness, and among men he creates faithlessness, deceit, malice,
etc. Secondly, those sins which he instigates man to commit against
man; deeds of wrath, hatred, vengeance and murder. Paul combines
these two classes.

20. Now, when a man does not deal fairly with his neighbor, but
practices dishonesty and deceit, be it in matters spiritual or
temporal (and the world is ever deceitful in all transactions), then
certainly the old man holds sway and not righteousness nor holiness,
however much the man may effect a good appearance and evade the
courts. For such conduct does not reflect God's image, but the
devil's. For the heart does not rely on God and his truth, otherwise
it would war with fraud and deception; but its object is to clothe
itself with a misleading garb, even assuming the name of God, and
thus to deceive, belie, betray and forsake its neighbor at the
bidding of every fiendish whim, and all for the satisfaction of its
avarice, selfishness and pride.

21. In contrast thereto you can recognize the new man. He speaks the
truth and hates lies, not only those momentous lies against the first
table of the Ten Commandments, but also those against the second
table; for he deals faithfully and in a brotherly way with others,
doing as he would be done by himself. Thus should Christians live
with each other, as members of one body, according to the apostle,
and as having in Christ all things common and alike.

"Be ye angry and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath."

22. Half the sins which the world has learned of its lord and master,
the devil, consist in lying and deceiving, and that in the name and
appearance of truth. No one wants to be called a liar, and even the
devil covers his lies with the name of truth. The other half, which
is easier to recognize, consists in wrath and its fruits. And this
class is usually the result of the other. The world, for its own
advantage, lies and deceives; and when it sees mankind acting in
opposition to its wishes, or beholds its lies exposed and its schemes
thwarted, it begins to rage in wrath against God, endeavoring to
avenge itself and inflict harm, but fraudulently disguising its
wicked motive under the plea of having good and abundant reasons for
its action.

23. Therefore Paul admonishes the Christians as new creatures, to
guard against this vice of wrath, adducing the fourth verse of the
fourth Psalm: "Stand in awe and sin not." The repetition of this
passage sounds, in Paul's rendering, as if permission to be angry
were given; he says: "Be ye angry, and sin not." But Paul is taking
into consideration the way of the world. Men are tempted and moved to
anger. There are no clean records. Under sudden provocation the heart
swells with ire, while the devil busily fans the flame; for he is
ever alert to stamp upon us his seal and image and make us like unto
him, either through error and false doctrine, or through wrath and
murder in conflict with love and patience. These two forms of evil
you will encounter, especially if you make an effort to be a godly
Christian, to defend the truth and to live uprightly in the sight of
all. You will meet with all manner of malice aforethought and deceit,
and with faithlessness and malignity on the part of those you have
benefited; again, with unmasked violence and injustice on the part of
those who should protect you and see to your interests. This will
hurt and move you to wrath. Yea, in your own house and among your
dear Christian brethren you will often meet with that which vexes
you; again, a word of yours may hurt their feelings. And it will not
be otherwise. This life of ours is so constituted that such
conditions must be. Flesh and blood cannot but be stirred at times by
wrath and impatience, especially when it receives evil for good; and
the devil is ever at hand kindling your anger and endeavoring to fan
into a blaze the wrath and ill humor between yourself and your

24. But right here, says the apostle, you should beware and not sin;
not give rein, nor yield to the impulse and promptings of wrath. That
you may indeed be moved, the apostle would say, I well know, and you
may fancy to have the best of reasons for exhibiting anger and
vengeance; but beware of doing what your wrath would have you do: and
if overcome by wrath and led to rashness, do not continue in it, do
not harbor it, but subdue and restrain it, the sooner the better; do
not suffer it to take root or to remain with you over night.

25. If followed, wrath will not suffer you to do a single right
thing, as James affirms (ch. 1, 20). It causes man to fall and sin
against God and his neighbor. Even the heathen have seen that wrath
gets the better of reason and is never the source of good counsel. In
line with this, we read that St. Ambrose reproved the emperor
Theodosius for having, while in a rage, caused the execution of many
persons in Thessalonica; and that he succeeded in having the emperor
issue a rescript to the effect that no one should be executed, even
on his imperial order and command, until a full month had passed by,
thus affording an opportunity to rescind the order if given in haste
and wrath.

26. Therefore the Psalm says: When wrath attacks and moves you, do
not at once give it leave to do its will. Therein you would certainly
commit sin. But go into your chamber, commune and take counsel with
yourself, pray the Lord's Prayer, repeat some good passages from
God's Word, curb yourself and confide in God; he will uphold your

27. It is this the apostle has in mind when saying: "Let not the sun
go down upon your wrath." A Christian must not entertain wrath; he
should instantly quench and stifle it. It is the part of the new man
to control anger, that the devil may not move him from his new-found
faith and make him lose what he has received. If he yields to these
instigations of his flesh, he thereby returns to the error and
condemnation in the old man and loses control of himself, following
his own desires. Then he adorns a lie with the appearance of truth,
claiming the right to be angry and take revenge; just as the world
does when it asserts: This fellow has done me infinite violence and
injustice; am I to suffer it? I have a just cause and shall not
recline my head in ease until he is repaid! By such talk it loses its
case before both God and men; as the saying goes: He that strikes
back has the most unjust cause.

28. Both divine and human justice forbids that a man be judge in his
own case. For this very reason God has established governmental and
judicial authority, in his stead to punish transgressions,
which--when properly administered--is not man's but God's judgment.
He therefore that invades such judgment, invades the authority of God
himself; he commits a double wrong and merits double condemnation. If
you desire to seek and obtain redress in the courts, you are at
liberty to do so, provided you proceed in the proper way, at the
proper place and with those to whom God has entrusted authority. To
these authorities you may appeal for redress. If you obtain it
according to law, well and good; if not, you must suffer wrong and
commit your case to God, as we have explained more fully elsewhere.

29. In short, we find in this unique passage a statement to the
effect that he who curbs not his wrath but retains it longer than a
day, or over night, cannot be a Christian. Where then do they stand
who entertain wrath and hatred indefinitely, for one, two, three,
seven, ten years? Such is no longer human wrath but fiendish wrath
from hell; it will not be satisfied nor extinguished, but when it
once takes possession of a man he would, if able, destroy everything
in a moment with his hellish fire. Even so the arch-fiend is not
satisfied with having cast the whole human race into sin and death,
but will not rest content unless he can drag all human beings into
eternal damnation.

30. A Christian therefore has ample cause to carefully guard against
this vice. God may have patience with you when wrath wells up in your
heart--although that, too, is sinful--but take heed that wrath does
not overcome you and cause you to fall. Rather take serious counsel
with yourself and extinguish and expel your anger by applying
passages of Holy Writ and calling upon your faith. When alone or
about to retire, repeat the Lord's Prayer, ask for forgiveness and
confess that God daily forgives you much oftener than your neighbor
sins against you.

"Neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more:
but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is
good, that he may have whereof to give to him that hath need."

31. This thought is brought out also in the next Epistle, namely,
that a Christian should guard against giving offense to anybody by
his life, lest God's name be blasphemed. It is a grand thing to be a
Christian, who, as has been stated, is a new man created after God
and a true image of God, wherein God himself desires to be reflected.
Therefore, whatever of good a Christian does, or whatever of evil he
does, under the name of a Christian, either honors or disgraces God's
name. Now, says Paul, whenever you follow your lusts, in obedience to
your old Adam, you do naught but give occasion to the slanderers--the
devil and his troop--to blaspheme the name of God. For the devil,
even without your assistance, at all times seeks opportunity--nor can
he desist--to befoul our dear Gospel and the name of God with his
slanderous tales, composed, if need be, entirely of lies. But where
he finds the semblance of occasion he knows how to profit by it. He
will then open his mouth wide and cry: Behold, these are your Gospel
people! Here you have the fruits of this new doctrine! Is their
Christ such a one as they honor by their lives?

32. So then a Christian should be exceedingly careful and cautious
for this reason, if for no other: to protect the name and honor of
his dear God and Saviour and not to do the devil the favor of letting
him whet his slanderous tongue on Christ's name. How shall we stand
and answer in his sight when we cannot deny the fact that our life
gives just cause for complaint and offense? By such a life we
intentionally bring disgrace and shame upon God's name and Word,
which things should be our highest treasures and most valuable

33. When the apostle says, "Let him that stole steal no more: but
rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good,
that he may have whereof to give to him that hath need," he indicates
the true fruit of repentance, which consists in abandoning and
utterly abstaining from evil and in doing good. He at the same time
attacks and reproves the sin of theft so common in all walks of life.
And them who idle away their time and neglect their duty of serving
and helping their fellow-beings, he calls--and rightfully--thieves in
God's sight.

34. For the right interpretation of the commandment, Thou shalt not
steal, is this: Thou shalt live of thine own work, that thou mayest
have to give to the needy. This is your bounden duty, and if you do
not so God will pronounce you not a Christian but a thief and robber.
In the first place, because you are an idler and do not support
yourself, but live by the sweat and toil of others; in the second
place, because you withhold from your neighbor what you plainly owe
him. Where now shall we find those who keep this commandment? Indeed,
where should we dare look for them except where no people live? But
such a class of people should Christians be. Therefore, let each of
us beware lest he deceive himself; for God will not be mocked nor
deceived. Gal 6, 7.

_Twentieth Sunday After Trinity_

Text: Ephesians 5, 15-21.

15 Look therefore carefully how ye walk [See then that ye walk
circumspectly], not as unwise, but as wise; 16 redeeming the time,
because the days are evil. 17 Wherefore be ye not foolish, but
understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And be not drunken with
wine, wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit; 19 speaking one
to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and
making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 giving thanks always
for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the
Father; 21 subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of


1. Paul's admonition here is designed for those who, having heard the
Gospel and made a fine start in believing, immediately imagine
themselves secure and think they have accomplished all. Forgetful
that they are still flesh and blood, and in the world and in contact
with the devil's kingdom, they live in unconcern, as if delivered
from all danger, and the devil far fled. By the very reason of their
security they are overcome of the devil and their own flesh, and fall
unawares from the Gospel. They have just enough connection with it to
be able to prate of it, boasting themselves Christians but giving no
indication of the fact in their conduct.

2. Paul would tell them how, in view of these things, vigilance is
essential to the Christian life. To regulate the life by keeping
God's will ever before the eyes, always conforming the conduct to
it--this he calls walking circumspectly and being wise. If you for a
moment lose sight of God's will, the devil immediately possesses you
and works pernicious results, transforming a Christian into an
indolent, self-secure hypocrite; a hypocrite into a heretic and
factionist; and a heretic into an open enemy. So the apostle here
teaches that in all seriousness if we would secure ourselves against
the craft and power of the devil we must be vigilant; we must be
careful how we walk. In Satan we have an enemy bent on hindering us;
on undermining our very foundation.

3. Consequently they who fail to keep earnest watch over their
Christian life--that is, to have a care for soundness of belief and
to gladly hear and obey the Word of God--are unwise, even foolish,
and have no knowledge of God's will. They have removed the light from
before their eyes to behold instead a thing of their own imagination.
They see as through a painted glass, presuming they do well in
following such phantoms of their reason, until they are misled and
defeated of the devil.


4. Therefore, not without reason does Paul warn Christians to be
always wise and circumspect--to keep the Word of God before them.
Upon so doing depends their wisdom and understanding. Let each one
make it a matter of personal concern, and especially should it be the
general interest of the congregation. Where care is not observed to
retain the Word in the Church, but there are admitted to the pulpit
brawlers who set forth their own fraudulent doctrines, the Church is
injured; the congregation will soon be as the preacher. Again, if the
individual fails to regulate his daily life--the affairs of his
calling--by the Word of God; if he forgets the Word and absorbs
himself in accumulating wealth; if he is tangled with secular
interests, he soon becomes a cold and indolent Christian, then an
erring soul, and finally utterly disregards God's will and his Word.

It is for these reasons God so frequently commands us in the
Scriptures continually to explain and apply his Word, to hear it
willingly and practice it faithfully, and to meditate upon it day and
night. He would have our lives emanate from the Word in honor to God
and gratitude to him--from the Word wherein we daily look as in a
mirror. But care and diligence are necessary to bring it to pass, and
we should faithfully assist each other by instruction, advice, and in
other ways.

5. In my admonitions I have often enough urged those who have
influence, to use all diligence in drawing the young to school, where
they may receive proper instruction to become pastors and preachers;
and I have earnestly advised that in cases of necessity ample
financial provision be made for students. But, alas, few communities,
few States, are interested in the matter. In all Germany, look at the
bishops, princes, noblemen, the inhabitants of town and country--how
confidently they go on sleeping and snoring in their indifference to
the question. They presume to think there is no need for action; the
matter will adjust itself; there will always be pastors and
preachers. But assuredly they deceive themselves if they think they
are consulting their best interests in this affair; for they will, as
the text says, become foolish and fail to recognize the will of God.
Therefore they will some day have to experience what they do not now
believe: in a few years after our day they will seek preachers and
find none; they will have to hear rude, illiterate dolts who, lacking
understanding of the Word of God, will, like all stupid Papists,
preach the vile, offensive things of the Pope, about consecrated
water and salt, about gray gowns, new monasteries and the like.

6. Cry, preach and admonish as we will, no one will hear; foreseeing
which, Paul prophesies that they who observe not God's will, become
unwise, foolish, and consequently waste the day of grace and neglect
their salvation. Now, it is God's will we should sanctify his name,
love and advance his Word, and so aid in building up his kingdom.
When we fulfill his will in these things, he will regard our desires,
providing us with daily bread and granting peace and happiness.

7. Now, it should be our chief concern to preserve to ourselves the
Word and will of God. That would truly be wisdom, and redeeming the
time. But failing therein, it must be with us as with the unwise and
fools; we will have to hear the declaration: "Since you refuse to
sanctify my name, to advance my kingdom and to do my will, neither
will I provide you daily bread, nor forgive your sins, nor keep from
temptation and deliver from evil." God will then permit us to deplore
the great calamities of the world--its turmoil and wickedness, the
cause whereof the world attributes to the Gospel. But the punishment
just mentioned must be visited upon them who will not recognize the
will of God and submit to it. These, however, desire to justify
themselves and are unwilling to receive censure for having conducted
themselves unwisely, even foolishly.

8. So much for a general observation upon the expression "walking
wisely and circumspectly"; so much upon unwise conduct in regard to
matters of vital importance to the Church, which have to do with the
office of the ministry and with God's Word. Where the ministry and
the Word of God are preserved, there will always be some among the
masses to attend upon the preaching of the Word and to conform their
lives to it. But when the Bible leaves the pulpit, little good will
be accomplished, even though one here and there be able to read the
Scriptures for themselves and imagine they have no need of the
preached Word. Where will the untaught masses stand? Note how it has
been with the poor people in our time who were misled by Münzer and
Munster, and their prophets and factionists.


Then let everyone lend earnest effort to promote public preaching of
the Word everywhere, and public attendance upon that preaching; and
thus rightly to found and build up the Church. Let him also put on
the wedding garment himself (mentioned in the Gospel for today); let
him take care to be found an earnest advocate of the Word of God,
uninfluenced by thoughts common to the secure spirit: "Oh, there are
pastors and preachers enough for me. I can hear or read the Word when
I please; have access to it any day. I must give first attention to
bread-winning and like things. Let others look out for themselves."
Take care, my dear sir; you can easily fail by carelessness here and
be found without the wedding garment, perhaps may die without it,
unaware how you are being deceived. Whose fault will it be but your
own since you would not hear Paul's admonition to walk wisely and

9. We should make provision while the opportunity is at our doors,
for, judging from the present course of the world, it will not long
retain what it has. Everywhere men are diligently helping to hunt
down ministers, or at least to so bring to bear upon them hunger and
poverty, to so oppose them with secret fraud, as to drive them from
the land. And little trouble and labor will be required to accomplish
it. We shall only too soon be rid of our ministers and have their
places amply supplied by deceivers. I would much rather suffer in
hell with Judas the Betrayer than to bear the guilt of accomplishing
one minister's death or of being instrumental in offering place to
one deceiver. For it would not be so intolerable to suffer the
anguish of the betrayer of Christ as to endure that of one who, by
his sin in this respect, is responsible for the loss of countless


10. Paul goes on to elaborate his admonition by explaining what it is
to walk circumspectly and wisely--to "redeem the time, because the
days are evil." In other words: Think not happy days are in store for
you and you may defer duty till better times; better times will never
be. The devil is always in the world to hinder your every effort to
do good, and his opposition increases with time. The longer you
tarry, the less your power to accomplish good; wasted time only makes
matters worse. Then redeem the time; grasp your opportunities as best
you can. Let no interest be so dear to you as the promotion of God's
kingdom and the serving of the public in every good and useful way
possible, whatever befall yourself.

11. Christ in like manner says to the Jews: "While ye have the light,
believe on the light, that ye may become sons of light." Jn 12, 36.
And Paul, after quoting from Isaiah 49, 8, adds: "Behold, now is the
acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation." 2 Cor 6, 2. So
his counsel in our text means: Take heed you receive not the grace of
God in vain. Or, neglect not the matter of your salvation; enjoy
while you may the opportunity of furthering the kingdom of God, for
the sake of your own and others' salvation. Defer not the thing to
another time, lest the opportunity escape you.

Elsewhere (Gal 6, 10) the apostle says, "As we have opportunity, let
us work that which is good." In other words: Act now, while you may.
Your time passes with astonishing rapidity. Be not deceived, then, by
the thought, "Oh, I can attend to the matter a year from now--two
years--three." That is simply foolish. It is an unwise conclusion of
the thoughtless. Before they are aware, they have lost the salvation
extended them. They defer to consider God's will, putting it off for
a season, until they shall have accomplished their own aims; then
they have deferred too long.

12. The Lord comes to your door. You do not have to seek him. If you
are grateful he tarries to speak with you. But if you let him pass by
you will have to complain as did the bride in Song of Solomon 5, 6:
"I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and
was gone ... I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him,
but he gave me no answer." Think not you will find the Lord when he
has once gone, though you traverse the world. But while he is near
you may seek and find; as Isaiah says (ch. 55, 6), "Seek ye Jehovah
while he may be found." If through your neglect he pass by, all
seeking then will be vain.

For more than twenty years in my cloister I experienced the meaning
of such disappointment. I sought God with great toil and with severe
mortification of the body, fasting, watching, singing and praying. In
this way I shamefully wasted my time and found not the Lord. The more
I sought and the nearer I thought I was to him, the farther away I
got. No, God does not permit us to find him so. He must first come
and seek us where we are. We may not pursue and overtake him. That is
not his will.

13. Then be careful to avail yourself of the present opportunity.
Embrace it while he is near, and faithfully consider what he requires
of you. To ascertain this, go to the Creed and the Ten Commandments.
They will tell you. Regulate your life by them. Be helped by the
Lord's Prayer. Begin with yourself; then pray for the Church. Let it
be your desire that God's name be everywhere sanctified and that your
life conform to his will. If you are faithful in these things,
assuredly you will walk wisely; you will avoid sin and do good. For
the study and practice of these precepts will leave you no
opportunity to do evil. God's Word will soon teach you to sanctify
his name, to extend his kingdom, to do your neighbor no injury in
mind, body or estate.

14. Observe this is "redeeming the time." This is employing it well,
while the golden days last in which we have remission from pain and
sin. Not such remission as the Pope grants in his jubilees, wherein
he deceives the world. Right here let us be careful not to cheat
ourselves with the false idea that salvation cannot escape us. Let it
not be with us as befell the children of Israel, of whom it is said
in Psalms 95, 11 and Hebrews 4, 3 that because of their unbelief they
entered not into the rest of God. They would not accept their
opportunity in the forty years wherein he gave them his Word and
showed them his wonders, daily admonishing them and calling to
repentance and faith. They but tempted and provoked him the more.
Hence another admonition was given the people of God and a certain
day appointed: "Today if ye shall hear his voice, harden not your
hearts." Heb 4, 7. Every day with us is "today" and we are permitted
to hear God's voice still imploring us not to waste the time.

15. Surely we ought supremely to thank God, as the latter part of our
text enjoins, for the great blessing of his nearness to us. We have
his presence in our homes. He is with us at our board, by our
couch--anywhere we desire him. He offers us all assistance and grants
all we may ask. So gracious a guest should indeed receive our high
esteem. We ought to honor him while he is with us.

16. Well may we pray, as I have said. There is too much slumbering
everywhere in Germany. We cannot perceive how it is possible to
preserve the Gospel and fill the pulpits for ten years longer. To
such extent does wickedness rage in the world that blindness and
error must sweep it as before. And no one will be to blame but the
stupid bishops and princes, and those of us who esteem not the Word
of God.


Alas, that I am compelled against my will to be a prophet of ill to
Germany. Yet it is not I, but the prayer of my Lord and your Lord;
for according to its teachings he will say: "You neglected my Word.
Unwilling to tolerate it, you persecuted and starved out its
messengers. Therefore I will withhold your daily bread and give
instead famine and war and murder, unto utter desolation; for you
wish to have it so. Then when you cry for forgiveness of sins and
deliverance from the evils come upon you, I will hear you as you
heard my Word, my entreaties. I will leave you in your misfortunes as
you left me and my Word."

17. In fact, no one for a moment thinks of how God has signally,
richly and graciously blessed us; how we are in possession of actual
paradise--yes, the entire kingdom of heaven--if we only recognized
the fact: and yet we shamefully, ungratefully and unreasonably reject
the kingdom; as if it were not enough for us to overstep the Ten
Commandments in our disobedience, but must even trample under foot
the mercy God offers in the Gospel. Then why should we be surprised
if he send down wrath upon us? What else is he to do but fulfill our
Gospel passage for today, which threatens every individual rejecter
and persecutor of God's Son and his servants, by whom we are invited
to the marriage--what else is God to do but send out a divine army of
servants to arrest the career of such murderers and to terminate
their existence? We are given a special illustration--an example to
the world--in the instance of the fate of Jerusalem, and in fact of
the entire Jewish nation. They sinned unceasingly against all God's
commandments, and when he proclaimed grace and offered forgiveness of
sins, they trampled upon his mercy. Should Christ not revenge himself
when they shamed and mocked his precious blood?

18. Unto all the abominable sins mentioned, we must heap blasphemies;
for when wrath and punishment come upon us we make outcry,
complaining that the Gospel--or the new doctrine, as it is now
called--is responsible. The Jews blame us Christians alone for the
fact that they are scattered throughout the world. Their prayers day
and night are directed against us, in blasphemies and reproaches
inexpressible. Nevertheless, it was not the Christians who harassed
and scattered them, but the heathenish Roman emperor.

But whom other than themselves have the Jews to blame for their
condition? for they would not tolerate Christ, when he brought them
only help and boundless grace. Refusing to accept him whom God gave
and in whom he promised all blessings, they necessarily lost their
daily bread from God, except as they rebelliously extort it by usury
and wickedness. They had also to suffer the loss of their national
life, their priesthood and public worship, forgiveness of sins and
redemption, and so remain eternally captive under the wrath and
condemnation of God. Such is the just and inevitable punishment of
the unwise--the foolish--who refused to recognize their opportunity
when Christ was with them.

19. With this terrible example before our eyes, we are still
unrepentant, pursuing the same course the Jews followed, not only in
disobedience to the will of God, but in rejecting his grace. For that
grace we should earnestly long and pray, striving to secure to our
children after us baptism, the ministry and the sacrament, in their
purity. In return for our perversity, it will eventually be with us
as with the Jews and other ungrateful persecutors and rejecters.

20. Then let him who will receive advice and help, faithfully heed
Paul's counsel and redeem the time, not sleeping away the blessed
golden hour of grace; as Christ earnestly admonishes in the parable
of the five foolish virgins. Mt 25, 13. The foolish virgins might
have made their purchases in season, before the bridegroom's arrival;
but failing to attend to the matter until time to meet the
bridegroom, they missed both the market and the wedding.

21. The ancient poets and sages make use of a similar illustration at
the expense of the cricket or grasshopper. As the fable runs, when
winter came the grasshoppers, having nothing to eat, went to the ants
and asked them to divide their gathered store. "What did you in the
summer time that you gathered nothing?" asked the ants. "We sang,"
the grasshoppers replied. "If you sang in the summer, you must dance
for it in the winter," was the response. Similarly should fools
unwilling to learn the will of God be answered. Terrible and alarming
is the wrath of God when with scorn and mockery he turns away a soul.
In Proverbs 1, 24 and 26 he threatens: "Because I have called, and ye
have refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man hath
regarded.... I also will laugh in the day of your calamity; I will
mock when your fear cometh."

22. Some may ask what Paul means by adding to the phrase, "Redeeming
the time," the modifier, "because the days are evil"; if we are to
regard the present opportunity golden, why are the days evil?


23. I answer: The time is unquestionably good so long as the Gospel
is sounded--is faithfully preached and received. At the same time,
even today the world is filled with evils, factions, false theories
and bad examples of every sort; much of this wickedness is inherent
in ourselves. With these things the Christian must always contend;
the devil pursues, and our own flesh discourages us and allures from
recognition and observance of the divine will. If we strive not
against it, we shall soon lose sight of God's will, to our own
injury, even while listening to the Gospel. For the devil's strongest
fury is exerted to befoul the world with fanaticism, and to draw from
the pure doctrine of faith into that evil even them who possess the
Gospel. Moreover, being still flesh and blood we are always
self-secure, unwilling to be led by the Spirit, and indolent and
unresponsive in relation to the Word of God and to prayer. Again, in
the outward walks of life, in temporal conditions, only obstacles and
evils meet us everywhere, impeding our spiritual progress and
impelling us to suppress the Gospel and to rend the Church.

24. Let no one, then, expect to enjoy an era of peace and pleasure
here on earth. Although the present time is in itself good, and God
bestows upon us the golden year of his Word and his grace, yet the
devil is here with his factions and followers, and our own flesh
supports him. He corrupts the blessed days of grace at every possible
opportunity, and so oppresses Christians that they must contend
against him with their utmost strength and vigilance if they would
not, through the influence of evils and obstacles, be wrested from
the Gospel they have received, and if they would persevere therein
unto the end.

Wherefore, we have the best reasons to adapt ourselves to the present
time in the best possible way; to walk wisely and circumspectly,
showing all faithfulness to the will of God; obeying it while we have
opportunity--while still in possession of God's Word, his grace and
his Spirit. Being opposed and obstructed by the devil and our own
flesh, we must, as Paul implies, be wise and careful; we must guard
against following them. If we fail in this respect, it will not avail
us to pretend we did not know our duty, or had not time to perform it
and consequently could not cope with them. So, then, we are to
understand by "evil days" the allurements that lead us away from
God's Word and his will.

"And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess."

25. The apostle touches upon several evils strongly tending to waste
of time and neglect of the golden opportunity. Especially is
drunkenness one, for drink makes men particularly self-secure,
reckless and disorderly. The evil was formerly common in Greece, and
in Germany today are men who delight in being riotously drunk night
and day. Such individuals are utterly lacking in the faithfulness and
interest essential to following the will of God. They are unable,
even in temporal affairs, to persistently apply themselves, much less
to be opportune. Indeed, so beastly and swinish do they become, they
lose all sense of either shame or honor; they have no modesty nor any
human feeling. Alas, examples are before our eyes plainer and more
numerous than we can depict.

26. Paul's words of admonition, "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and
hymns and spiritual songs," are treated in the epistle passage for
the fifth Sunday after Epiphany, where the text is similar.

_Twenty First Sunday After Trinity_

Text: Ephesians 6, 10-17.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might.
11 Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand
against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our wrestling is not against
flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers,
against the worldrulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts
of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Wherefore take up the whole
armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and,
having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your
loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
15 and having shod your foot with the preparation of the gospel of
peace; 16 withal taking up the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be
able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. 17 And take the
helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word
of God.


This epistle text is fully expounded in "The Explanations and Sermons
on Paul's Epistles"--in the sermon on Ephesians 6, 10-17, entitled
"The Christian Armor and Weapons," preached in the year 1533.

_Twenty Second Sunday After Trinity_

Text: Philippians 1, 3-11.

3 I thank my God upon all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every
supplication of mine on behalf of you all making my supplication with
joy, 5 for your fellowship in furtherance of the gospel from the
first day until now; 6 being confident of this very thing, that he
who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus
Christ: 7 even as it is right for me to be thus minded on behalf of
you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as, both in my
bonds and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are
partakers with me of grace. 8 For God is my witness, how I long after
you in all the tender mercies of Christ Jesus. 9 And this I pray,
that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all
discernment; 10 so that ye may approve the things that are excellent;
that ye may be sincere and void of offence unto the day of Christ; 11
being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are through
Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.


1. First, the apostle Paul thanks God, as his custom is in the
beginning of his epistles, for the grace whereby the Philippians came
into the fellowship of the Gospel and were made partakers of it.
Secondly, his desire and prayer to God is for their increase in the
knowledge of the Gospel, and their more abundant fruits. His intent
in extolling the Gospel is to admonish them to remain steadfast in
their faith, continuing as they have begun and as they now stand.
Apparently this is a simple passage, especially to learned and apt
students of the Scriptures. They may not think it holds any great
truth to be discovered. Yet we must explain this and like discourses
for the benefit of some who do not fully understand it, and who
desire to learn.

2. These words give us an exact delineation of the Christian heart
that sincerely believes in the holy Gospel. Such hearts are rare in
the world. It is especially difficult to find one so beautiful as we
observe here unless it be among the beloved apostles or those who
approached them in Christ-likeness. For in the matter of faith we
today are entirely too indolent and indifferent.

3. But the Christian heart is such as inspired Paul's words; here its
characteristics are shown. He rejoices in the Gospel with his inmost
soul. He thanks God that others have come into its fellowship. His
confidence is firm regarding certain beginners in the faith, and he
is so interested in their salvation he rejoices in it as much as in
his own, seeming unable to thank God sufficiently for it. He
unceasingly prays that he may live to see many come with him into
such fellowship and be preserved therein until the day of the Lord
Jesus Christ, who shall perfect and complete all the defects of this
earthly life. He prays these beginners may go forth faultlessly in
faith and hope until that joyful day.

4. Thus the godly apostle expresses himself, pouring out the depths
of his heart--a heart filled with the real fruits of the Spirit and
of faith. It burns with love and joy whenever he sees the Gospel
recognized, accepted and honored, and the Church flourishing. Paul
can conceive for the converts no loftier desire--can offer no greater
petition for them than to implore God they may increase and persevere
in the Gospel faith. Such is the inestimable value he places upon
possessing and holding fast God's Word. And Christ in Luke 11, 28
pronounces blessed those who keep the Word of God.


5. Now, the first thing in which Paul is here an example to us is his
gratitude. It behooves the Christian who recognizes the grace and
goodness of God expressed in the Gospel, first of all to manifest his
thankfulness therefor; toward God--his highest duty--and toward men.
As Christians who have abandoned the false services and sacrifices
that in our past heathenish blindness we zealously practiced, let us
remember our obligation henceforth to be the more fervent in offering
true service and right sacrifices to God. We can render him no
better--in fact, none other--service, or outward work, than the
thank-offering, as the Scriptures term it. That is, receiving and
honoring the grace of God and the preaching and hearing of his Word,
and furthering their operation, not only in word, but sincerely in
our hearts and with all our physical and spiritual powers. This is
the truest gratitude.

6. God calls that a "pure offering" which is rendered to him "among
the gentiles" (Mal 1, 11), where his name is not preached and praised
from avariciousness, not from pride and presumption in the priesthood
and in the holiness of human works. These motives actuated the
boasting Jews, who, as God charges in this reference, presumptuously
thought to receive honor from him for every trivial service like
closing a door or opening a window. But the offering of the gentiles
is joyfully rendered from a sincere, willing heart. This kind of
thanksgiving and sacrifices are acceptable to God, for he says in
Psalms 110, 3, "Thy people shall be willing"; and in Second
Corinthians 9, 7, "God loveth a cheerful giver." The knowledge of the
Gospel should inspire us with gratitude of this order. Let us not be
found unthankful, and forgetful of God's infinite goodness.


7. The heathen everywhere, despite their ignorance of God and his
grace, condemned to the utmost the evil of ingratitude. They regarded
it the mother of evils, than which was none more malevolent and
shameful. Among many examples in this respect is one left us by a
people in Arabia called Nabathians, who had an excellent form of
government. So strict were they in regard to this evil that anyone
found guilty of ingratitude to his fellows was looked upon as a
murderer and punished with death.

8. No sin is more abominable to human nature, and of none is human
nature less tolerant. It is easier to forgive and to forget the act
of an enemy who commits a bodily injury, or even murders one's
parents, than it is to forget the sin of him who repays simple
kindness and fidelity with ingratitude and faithlessness; who for
love and friendship returns hatred. In the sentiment of the Latin
proverb, to be so rewarded is like rearing a serpent in one's bosom.
God likewise regards this sin with extreme enmity and punishes it.
The Scriptures say: "Whoso rewardeth evil for good, evil shall not
depart from his house." Prov 17, 13.

9. Thus we have the teaching of nature and of reason regarding the
sin of men's ingratitude toward one another. How much greater the
evil, how much more shameful and accursed, when manifested toward God
who, in his infinite and ineffable goodness, conferred upon us while
yet enemies to him and deserving of the fires of hell--conferred upon
us, I say, not ten dollars, not a hundred thousand dollars even, but
redemption from divine wrath and eternal death, and abundantly
comforted us, granting us safety, a good conscience, peace and
salvation! These are inexpressible blessings, incomprehensible in
this life. And they will continue to occupy our minds in yonder
eternal life. How much more awful the sin of ingratitude for these
blessings, as exemplified in the servant mentioned in the Gospel
passage for today, to whom was forgiven the debt of ten thousand
talents and who yet would not forgive the debt of his fellow-servant
who owed him a hundred pence!

10. Is it not incredible that there are to be found on earth
individuals wicked enough to manifest for the highest and eternal
blessings such unspeakable ingratitude? But alas, we have the
evidence of our own eyes. We know them in their very dwelling-places.
We see how the world abounds with them. Not only are the ingrates to
be found among deliberate rejecters of the acknowledged truth of the
Gospel, concerning God's grace, an assured conscience and the promise
of eternal life, terrible as such malice of the devil is, but they
are present also in our midst, accepting the Gospel and boasting of
it. Such shameful ingratitude prevails among the masses it would not
be strange were God to send upon them the thunders and lightnings of
his wrath, yes, all the Turks and the devils of hell.

There is a generally prevalent ingratitude like that of the wicked
servant who readily forgot the straits he experienced when, being
called to account for what he could not pay, the wrathful sentence
was pronounced against him that he and all he possessed must be sold,
and he be indefinitely imprisoned. Nor have we less readily forgotten
how we were tortured under the Papacy; how we were overwhelmed,
drowned as in a flood, with numberless strange doctrines, when our
anxious consciences longed for salvation. Now that we are, through
the grace of God, liberated from these distresses, our gratitude is
of a character to increasingly heap to ourselves the wrath of God. So
have others before us done, and consequently have endured terrible

11. Only calculate the enormity of our wickedness when, God having
infinitely blessed us in forgiving all our sins and making us lords
over heaven and earth, we so little respect him as to be unmindful of
his blessings; to be unwilling for the sake of them sincerely to
forgive our neighbor a single slighting word, not to mention
rendering him service. We conduct ourselves as if God might be
expected to connive at our ingratitude and permit us to continue in
it, at the same time conferring upon us as godly and obedient
children, success and happiness. More than this, we think we have the
privilege and power to live and do as we please. Indeed, the more
learning and power we have and the more exalted our rank, the greater
knaves we are; perpetrating every wicked deed, stirring up strife,
discord, war and murder for the sake of executing our own arbitrary
designs, where the question is the surrender of a penny in
recognition of the hundreds of thousands of dollars daily received
from God notwithstanding our ingratitude.

12. Two mighty lords clash with each other like powerful battering
rams, and for what? Perhaps for undisputed possession of a city or
two, a matter they must be ashamed of did they but call to mind what
they have received from God. They would be constrained to exclaim:
"What are we doing that we injure one another--we who are all
baptized in one name, the name of Christ, and pledged to one Lord?"
But no, it will not do for them to consider this matter; not even to
think of it. They must turn their eyes away from it, and put it far
from their hearts. Wholly forgetting God's benefits, they must wage
war against each other, involving nations, and subjecting people to
the Turk. And all for sake of the insignificant farthing each refused
to yield to the other.

13. The world permits the very devil to saddle and ride it as he
pleases. It seems to be characteristic of every phase of life that
one will not yield to another--will not submit to any demand.
Everyone is disposed to force his arrogant authority. The presumption
is that supreme honor and final success depend upon an unyielding,
unforgiving disposition, and that to seek to retain our possessions
by peaceable means will prove our ruin. Even the two remaining cows
in the stall must be brought into requisition, and war waged to the
last stick, until when the mutineer comes and we have neither cow nor
stall, nor house nor stick, we are obliged to cease.


Oh, had we but grace enough to reflect on how it would be with us did
God require us, as he has a perfect right to do, to pay our whole
indebtedness, none being forgiven! grace enough to think whether we
would not this very moment be in the abyss of hell! But so must it
finally be with those who disregard the question and continually heap
to themselves the wrath of God, being at the same time unwilling for
him to deal otherwise with them than he did with the servant he
forgave. But against that servant was finally passed the irrevocable
sentence which, without mercy, delivered him to the tormentor till he
should pay the debt, something he could never do.

14. Nor is there any wrong or injustice in this ruling. For, as St.
Bernhard says, ingratitude is an evil damnable and pernicious enough
to quench all the springs of grace and blessing known to God and men;
it is like a poison-laden, burning, destructive wind. Human nature
will not tolerate it. Nor can God permit you, upon whom he has
bestowed all grace and goodness, all spiritual and temporal blessing,
to go on continually in wickedness, defiantly abusing his benevolence
and dishonoring him; you thus recklessly bring upon yourself his
wrath. For God cannot bless you if you are ungrateful, if you reject
his goodness and give it no place in your heart.

In such case the fountain of grace and mercy that continually springs
for all who sincerely desire it, must be quenched for you. You cannot
enjoy it. It would afford you an abundant and unceasing supply of
water did you not yourself dry it up by the deadly wind of your
ingratitude; by shamefully forgetting the ineffable goodness God
bestows upon you; and by failing to honor the blood of Christ the
Lord, wherewith he purchased us and reconciled us to God--failing to
honor it enough to forgive your neighbor, for Christ's sake, a single
wrong word.

15. What heavy burden is there for the individual who, in submission
and gratitude to his God, and in honor to Christ, would conduct
himself something like a Christian? It will cost him no great effort
nor trouble. It will not break any bones nor injure him in property
or honor. Even were it to affect him to some trifling extent, to
incur for him some slight injustice, he should remember what God has
given him, and will still give, of his grace and goodness.

Yes, why complain even were you, in some measure, to endanger body
and life? What did not the Son of God incur for you? It was not
pleasure for him to take upon himself the wrath of God, to bear the
curse for you. It cost him bloody sweat and unspeakable anguish of
heart, as well as the sacrifice of his body, the shedding of his
blood, when he bore for you the wrath and curse of God, which would
have rested upon you forever. Yet he did it cheerfully and with
fervent love. Should you not, then, be ashamed in your own heart, and
humiliated before all creatures, to be so slow and dull, so
stock-and-stone-hardened, about enduring and forgiving an occasional
unkind word--something to be suffered in token of honor and gratitude
to him? What more noble than, for the sake of Christ, to incur
danger, to suffer injury, to aid the poor and needy? in particular to
further the Word of God and to support the ministry, the pulpit and
the schools?

16. It would be no marvel had Germany long ago sunk to ruin, or had
it been razed to its very foundations by Turks and Tartars, because
of its diabolical forgetfulness, its damnable rejection, of God's
unspeakable grace. Indeed, it is a wonder the earth continues to
support us and the sun still gives us light. Because of our
ingratitude, well might the heavens become dark and the earth be
perverted--as the Scriptures teach (Ps 106)--and suffer the fate of
Sodom and Gomorrah, no longer yielding a leaf nor a blade of grass,
but completely turned from its course--well might it be so did not
God, for the sake of the few godly Christians known and acknowledged
of him, forbear and still delay.


17. Wherever we turn our eyes we see, in all conditions of life, a
deluge of terrible examples of ingratitude for the precious Gospel.
We see how kings, princes and lords scratch and bite; how they envy
and hate one another, oppressing their own people and destroying
their own countries; how they tax themselves with not so much as a
single Christian thought about ameliorating the wretchedness of
Germany and securing for the oppressed Church somewhere a shelter of
defense against the murderous attacks of devil, Pope and Turks. The
noblemen rake and rend, robbing whomever they can, prince or
otherwise, and especially the poor Church; like actual devils, they
trample under foot pastors and preachers. Townsmen and farmers, too,
are extremely avaricious, extortionate and treacherous; they
fearlessly perpetrate every sort of insolence and wickedness, and
without shame and unpunished. The earth cries to heaven, unable
longer to tolerate its oppression.

18. But why multiply words? It is in vain so far as the world is
concerned; no admonition will avail. The world remains the devil's
own. We must remember we shall not by any means find with the world
that Christian heart pictured by the apostle; on the contrary we
shall find what might be represented by a picture of the very
opposite type--the most shameless ingratitude. But let the still
existing God-fearing Christians be careful to imitate in their
gratitude the spirit of the apostle's beautiful picture. Let them
give evidence of their willingness to hear the Word of God, of
pleasure and delight in it and grief where it is rejected. Let them
show by their lives a consciousness of the great blessing conferred
by those from whom they received the Gospel. As recipients of such
goodness, let their hearts and lips ever be ready with the happy
declaration: "God be praised!" For thereunto are we called. As before
said, praise should be the constant service and daily sacrifice of
Christians; and according to Paul's teaching here, the Christian's
works, his fruits of righteousness, should shine before men. Such
manifestation of gratitude assuredly must result when we comprehend
what God has given us.

19. Notwithstanding the world's refusal to be influenced by the
recognition of God's goodness, and in spite of the fact that we are
obliged daily to see, hear and suffer the world's increasing
ungratefulness the longer it stands, we must not allow ourselves to
be led into error; for we will be unable to change it. We must preach
against the evil of ingratitude wherever possible, severely censuring
it, and faithfully admonish all men to guard against it. At the same
time we have to remember the world will not submit. Although
compelled to live among the ungrateful, we are not for that reason to
fall into error nor to cease from doing good. Let our springs be
dispersed abroad, as Solomon says in Proverbs 5, 16. Let us
continually do good, not faltering when others receive our good as
evil. Just as God causes his sun to rise on the thankful and the
unthankful. Mt 5, 45.

20. But if your good works are wrought with the object of securing
the thanks and applause of the world, you will meet with a reception
quite the reverse. Your reward will justly be that of him who crushes
with his teeth the hollow nut only to defile his mouth. Now, if when
ingratitude is met with, you angrily wish to pull down mountains, and
resolve to give up doing good, you are no longer a Christian. You
injure yourself and accomplish nothing. Can you not be mindful of
your environment--that you are still in the world where vice and
ingratitude hold sway? that you are, as the phrase goes, with "those
who return evil for good"? He who would escape this fact must flee
the boundaries of the world. It requires no great wisdom to live only
among the godly and do good, but the keenest judgment is necessary to
live with the wicked and not do evil.

21. Christianity should be begun in youth, to give practice in the
endurance that will enable one to do good to all men while expecting
evil in return. Not that the Christian is to commend and approve evil
conduct; he is to censure and restrain wickedness to the limit of the
authority his position in life affords. It is the best testimony to
the real merit of a work when its beneficiaries are not only
ungrateful but return evil. For its results tend to restrain the doer
from a too high opinion of himself, and the character of the work is
too precious in God's sight for the world to be worthy of rewarding


22. The other Christian duty named by Paul in this passage is that of
prayer. The two obligations--gratitude for benefits received, and
prayer for the preservation and growth of God's work begun in us--are
properly related. Prayer is of supreme importance, for the devil and
the world assail us and delight in turning us aside; we have
continually to resist wickedness. So the conflict is a sore one for
our feeble flesh and blood, and we cannot stand unvanquished unless
there be constant, earnest invocation of divine aid. Gratitude and
prayer are essential and must accompany each other, according to the
requirements of the daily sacrifice of the Old Testament: the
offering of praise, or thank-offering, thanks to God for blessings
received; and the sacrifice of prayer, or the Lord's Prayer--the
petition against the wickedness and evil from which we would be

23. Our life has not yet reached the heights it is destined to
attain. We know here only its incipient first-fruits. Desire is not
satisfied; we have but a foretaste. As yet we only realize by faith
what is bestowed upon us; full and tangible occupancy is to come.
Therefore, we need to pray because of the limitations that bind our
earthly life, until we go yonder where prayer is unnecessary, and all
is happiness, purity of life and one eternal song of thanks and
praise to God.

But heavenly praise and joy is to have its inception and a measure of
growth here on earth through the encouragement of prayer--prayer for
ourselves and the Church as a whole; that is, for them who have
accepted and believe the Gospel and are thus mutually helpful. For
the Gospel will receive greater exaltation and will inspire more joy
with the individual because of its acceptance by the many. So Paul
says he thanks God for the fellowship of the Philippians in the
Gospel, and offers prayer in their behalf.


24. Yes, it should be the joy of a Christian heart to see multitudes
accept the offer of mercy, and praise and thank God with him. This
desire for the participation of others in the Gospel promotes the
spirit of prayer. The Christian cannot be a misanthrope, wholly
unconcerned whether his fellows believe or not. He should be
interested in all men and unceasingly long and pray for their
salvation; for the sanctification of God's name, the coming of his
kingdom, the fulfilment of his will; and for the exposure everywhere
of the devil's deceptions, the suppression of his murderous power
over poor souls and the restraint of his authority.

25. This prayer should be the sincere, earnest outflow of the true
Christian's heart. Note, Paul's words here indicate that his praise
and prayer were inspired by a fervent spirit. It is impossible that
the words "I thank my God upon all my remembrance of you, always in
every supplication" be the expression of any but a heart full of such

Truly, Paul speaks in a way worthy of an apostle--saying he renders
praise and prayer with keenest pleasure. He rejoices in his heart
that he has somewhere a little band of Christians who love the Gospel
and with whom he may rejoice; that he may thank God for them and pray
in their behalf. Was there not much more reason that all they who had
heard the Gospel should rejoice, and thank Paul in heart and in
expression for it, praying God in his behalf? should rejoice that
they became worthy of the apostle's favor, were delivered from their
blindness and had now received from him the light transferring from
sin and death into the grace of God and eternal life?

26. But Paul does not wait for them to take the initiative, as they
ought to have done to declare their joy and their gratitude to him.
In his first utterance he pours out the joy of his heart, fervently
thanking God for them, etc. Well might they have blushed, and
reproached themselves, when they received the epistle beginning with
these words. Well might they have said, "We should not have permitted
him to speak in this way; it was our place first to show him
gratitude and joy."


27. We shall not soon be able to boast the attainment of that
beautiful, perfect Christian spirit the apostle's words portray.
Seeing how the apostle rejoices over finding a few believers in the
Gospel, why should we complain because of the smaller number who
accord us a hearing and seriously accept the Word of God? We have no
great reason to complain nor to be discouraged since Christ and the
prophets and apostles, meeting with the same backwardness on the part
of the people, still were gratified over the occasional few who
accepted the faith. We note how Christ rejoiced when now and then he
found one who had true faith, and on the other hand was depressed
when his own people refused to hear him, and reluctantly censured
them. And Paul did not meet with more encouragement. In all the Roman
Empire--and through the greater part of it he had traveled with the
Gospel--he only occasionally found a place where was even a small
band of earnest Christians; but over them he peculiarly rejoices,
finding in them greater consolation than in all the treasures on

28. But it is a prophecy of good to the world, a portent of ultimate
success, that Christ and his apostles and ministers must rejoice over
an occasional reception of the beloved Word. Such acceptance will
tell in time. One would think all men might eagerly have hastened to
the ends of the earth to be afforded an opportunity of hearing an
apostle. But Paul had to go through the world himself upon his
ministry, enduring great fatigue and encountering privations and
grave dangers, being rejected and trampled upon by all men. However,
disregarding it all, he rejoiced to be able now and then to see some
soul accept the Gospel. In time past it was not necessary for the
Pope and his officials to run after anyone. They sat in lordly
authority in their kingdom, and all men had to obey their summons,
wherever wanted, and that without thanks.

29. What running on the part of our fathers, even of many of us, as
if we were foolish--running from all countries, hundreds of miles, to
Jerusalem, to the holy sepulcher, to Compostella, St. James, Rome, to
the heads of St. Peter and St. Paul; some barefooted and others in
complete armor--all this, to say nothing of innumerable other
pilgrimages! We thus expended large sums of money, and thanked God,
and rejoiced to be able thereby to purchase the wicked indulgences of
the Pope and to be worthy to look upon or to kiss the bones of the
dead exhibited as holy relics, but preferably to kiss the feet of His
Most Holy Holiness, the Pope. This condition of things the world
desires again, and it shall have nothing better.

_Twenty Third Sunday After Trinity_

Text: Philippians 3, 17-21.

17 Brethren, be ye imitators [followers] together of me, and mark
them that so walk even as ye have us for an ensample. 18 For many
walk, of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that
they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 whose end is
perdition, whose god is the belly, and whose glory is in their shame,
who mind earthly things. 20 For our citizenship [conversation] is in
heaven; whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21
who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation [change our vile
body], that it may be conformed [fashioned] to the body of his glory,
according to the working whereby he is able even to subject all
things unto himself.


1. Paul immeasurably extols the Philippians for having made a good
beginning in the holy Gospel and for having acquitted themselves
commendably, like men in earnest, as manifest by their fruits of
faith. The reason he shows this sincere and strong concern for them
is his desire that they remain steadfast, not being led astray by
false teachers among the roaming Jews. For at that time many Jews
went about with the intent of perverting Paul's converts, pretending
they taught something far better; while they drew the people away
from Christ and back to the Law, for the purpose of establishing and
extending their Jewish doctrines.

Paul, contemplating with special interest and pleasure his Church of
the Philippians, is moved by parental care to admonish them--lest
they sometime be misled by such teachers--to hold steadily to what
they have received, not seeking anything else and not imagining, like
self-secure, besotted souls who allow themselves to be deceived by
the devil--not imagining themselves perfect and with complete
understanding in all things. In the verses just preceding our text he
speaks of himself as having not yet attained to full knowledge.


2. He particularly admonishes them to follow him and to mark those
ministers who walk as he does; also to shape their belief and conduct
by the pattern they have received from him. Not only of himself does
he make an example, but introduces them who similarly walk, several
of whom he mentions in this letter to the Philippians. The
individuals whom he bids them observe and follow must have been
persons of special eminence. But it is particularly the doctrine the
apostle would have the Philippians pattern after. Therefore we should
be chiefly concerned about preserving the purity of the office of the
ministry and the genuineness of faith. When these are kept unsullied,
doctrine will be right, and good works spontaneous. Later on, in
chapter 4, verse 8, Paul admonishes, with reference to the same
subject: "If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think
on these things."

3. Apparently Paul is a rash man to dare boast himself a pattern for
all. Other ministers might well accuse him of desiring to exalt his
individual self above others. "Think you," our wise ones would say to
him, "that you alone have the Holy Spirit, or that no one else is as
eager for honor as yourself?" Just so did Miriam and Aaron murmur
against Moses, their own brother, saying: "Hath Jehovah indeed spoken
only with Moses? hath he not spoken also with us?" Num 12, 2. And it
would seem as if Paul had too high an appreciation of his own
character did he hold up his individual self as a pattern, intimating
that no one was to be noted as worthy unless he walked as he did;
though there might be some who apparently gave greater evidence of
the Spirit, of holiness, humility and other graces, than himself, and
yet walked not in his way.

4. But he does not say "I, Paul, alone." He says, "as ye have us for
an example", that does not exclude other true apostles and teachers.
He is admonishing his Church, as he everywhere does, to hold fast to
the one true doctrine received from him in the beginning. They are
not to be too confident of their own wisdom in the matter, or to
presume they have independent authority; but rather to guard against
pretenders to a superior doctrine, for so had some been misled.


5. In what respect he was a pattern or example to them, he has made
plain; for instance, in the beginning of this chapter, in the third
verse and following, he says: "For we are the circumcision, who
worship by the Spirit of God, and glory in Christ Jesus, and have no
confidence in the flesh: though I myself might have confidence even
in the flesh: if any other man thinketh to have confidence in the
flesh, I yet more: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of
Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews." That is, he
commands the highest honor a Jew can boast. "As touching the law," he
goes on, "a Pharisee; as touching zeal, persecuting the Church; as
touching the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless.
Howbeit what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for
Christ. Yea verily, and I count all things to be loss for the
excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I
suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I
may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of
mine own, even that which is of the law, but that which is through
faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith."

6. "Behold, this is the picture or pattern," he would say, "which we
hold up for you to follow, that remembering how you obtained
righteousness you may hold to it--a righteousness not of the Law." So
far as the righteousness of the Law is concerned, Paul dares to say
he regards it as filth and refuse (that proceeds from the human
body); notwithstanding in its beautiful and blameless form it may be
unsurpassed by anything in the world--such righteousness as was
manifest in sincere Jews, and in Paul himself before his conversion;
for these in their great holiness, regarded Christians as knaves and
meriting damnation, and consequently took delight in being party to
the persecution and murder of Christians.

7. "Yet," Paul would say, "I who am a Jew by birth have counted all
this merit as simply loss that I might be found in 'the righteousness
which is from God by faith'." Only the righteousness of faith teaches
us how to apprehend God--how to confidently console ourselves with
his grace and await a future life, expecting to approach Christ in
the resurrection. By "approaching" him we mean to meet him in death
and at the judgment day without terror, not fleeing but gladly
drawing near and hailing him with joy as one waited for with intense

Now, the righteousness of the Law cannot effect such confidence of
mind. Hence, for me it avails nothing before God; rather it is a
detriment. What does avail is God's imputation of righteousness for
Christ's sake, through faith. God declares to us in his Word that the
believer in his Son shall, for Christ's own sake, have God's grace
and eternal life. He who knows this is able to wait in hope for the
last day, having no fear, no disposition to flee.

8. But is it not treating the righteousness of the Law with
irreverence and contempt to regard it--and so teach--as something not
only useless and even obstructive, but injurious, loathsome and
abominable? Who would have been able to make such a bold statement,
and to censure a life so faultless and conforming so closely to the
Law as Paul's, without being pronounced by all men a minion of the
devil, had not the apostle made that estimation of it himself? And
who is to have any more respect for the righteousness of the Law if
we are to preach in that strain?

9. Had Paul confined his denunciations to the righteousness of the
world or of the heathen--the righteousness dependent upon reason and
controlled by secular government, by laws and regulations--his
teaching would not have seemed so irreverent. But he distinctly
specifies the righteousness of God's Law, or the Ten Commandments, to
which we owe an obligation far above what is due temporal powers, for
they teach how to live before God--something no heathenish court of
justice, no temporal authority, knows anything about. Should we not
condemn as a heretic this preacher who goes beyond his prerogative
and dares find fault with the Law of God? who also warns us to shun
such as observe it, such as trust in its righteousness, and exalts to
sainthood "enemies of the cross of Christ ... whose God is the
belly"--who serve the appetites instead of God?

10. Paul would say of himself: I, too, was such a one. In my most
perfect righteousness of the Law I was an enemy to and persecutor of
the congregation, or Church, of Christ. It was the legitimate fruit
of my righteousness that I thought I must be party to the most
horrible persecution of Christ and his Christians. Thus my holiness
made me an actual enemy of Christ and a murderer of his followers.
The disposition to injure is a natural result of the righteousness of
the Law, as all Scripture history from Cain down testifies, and as we
see even in the best of the world who have not come to the knowledge
of Christ. Princes, civil authorities in proportion to their wisdom,
their godliness and honor are the bitter and intolerant enemies of
the Gospel.

11. Of the sensual papistical dolts at Rome, cardinals, bishops,
priests and the like, it is not necessary to speak here. Their works
are manifest. All honorable secular authorities must confess they are
simply abandoned knaves, living shameless lives of open scandal,
avarice, arrogance, unchastity, vanity, robbery and wickedness of
every kind. Not only are they guilty of such living, but shamelessly
endeavor to defend their conduct. They must, then, be regarded
enemies of Christ and of all honesty and virtue. Hence every
respectable man is justly antagonistic toward them. But, as before
said, Paul is not here referring to this class, but to eminent, godly
individuals, whose lives are beyond reproach. These very ones, when
Christians are encountered, are hostile and heinous enough to be able
to forget all their own faults in the sight of God, and to magnify to
huge beams the motes we Christians have. In fact, they must style the
Gospel heresy and satanic doctrine for the purpose of exalting their
own holiness and zeal for God.


12. The thing seems incredible, and I would not have believed it
myself, nor have understood Paul's words here, had I not witnessed it
with my own eyes and experienced it. Were the apostle to repeat the
charge today, who could conceive that our first, noblest, most
respectable, godly and holy people, those whom we might expect, above
all others, to accept the Word of God--that they, I say, should be
enemies to the Christian doctrine? But the examples before us testify
very plainly that the "enemies" the apostle refers to must be the
individuals styled godly and worthy princes and noblemen, honorable
citizens, learned, wise, intelligent individuals. Yet if these could
devour at one bite the "Evangelicals," as they are now called, they
would do it.

13. If you ask, Whence such a disposition? I answer, it naturally
springs from human righteousness. For every individual who professes
human righteousness, and knows nothing of Christ, holds that
efficacious before God. He relies upon it and gratifies himself with
it, presuming thereby to present a flattering appearance in God's
sight and to render himself peculiarly acceptable to him. From being
proud and arrogant toward God, he comes to reject them who are not
righteous according to the Law; as illustrated in the instance of the
Pharisee. Lk 18, 11-12. But greater is his enmity and more bitter his
hatred toward the preaching that dares to censure such righteousness
and assert its futility to merit God's grace and eternal life.

14. I myself, and others with me, were dominated by such feelings
when, under popery, we claimed to be holy and pious; we must confess
the fact. If thirty years ago, when I was a devout, holy monk,
holding mass every day and having no thought but that I was in the
road leading directly to heaven--if then anyone had accused me--had
preached to me the things of this text and pronounced our
righteousness--which accorded not strictly with the Law of God, but
conformed to human doctrine and was manifestly idolatrous--pronounced
it without efficacy and said I was an enemy to the cross of Christ,
serving my own sensual appetites, I would immediately have at least
helped to find stones for putting to death such a Stephen, or to
gather wood for the burning of this worst of heretics.

15. So human nature ever does. The world cannot conduct itself in any
other way, when the declaration comes from heaven saying: "True you
are a holy man, a great and learned jurist, a conscientious regent, a
worthy prince, an honorable citizen, and so on, but with all your
authority and your upright character you are going to hell; your
every act is offensive and condemned in God's sight. If you would be
saved you must become an altogether different man; your mind and
heart must be changed." Let this be announced and the fire rises, the
Rhine is all ablaze; for the self-righteous regard it an intolerable
idea that lives so beautiful, lives devoted to praiseworthy callings,
should be publicly censured and condemned by the objectionable
preaching of a few insignificant individuals regarded as even
pernicious, and according to Paul, as filthy refuse, actual obstacles
to eternal life.

16. But you may say: "What? Do you forbid good works? Is it not right
to lead an honorable, virtuous life? Do you not acknowledge the
necessity of political laws, of civil governments? that upon
obedience to them depends the maintenance of discipline, peace and
honor? Indeed, do you not admit that God himself commands such
institutions and wills their observance, punishing where they are
disregarded? Much more would he have his own Law and the Ten
Commandments honored, not rejected. How dare you then assert that
such righteousness is misleading, and obstructive to eternal life?
What consistence is there in teaching people to observe the things of
the Law, to be righteous in that respect, and at the same time
censuring those things as condemned before God? How can the works of
the Law be good and precious, and yet repulsive and productive of

17. I answer, Paul well knows the world takes its stand on this point
of righteousness by the Law, and hence would contradict him. But let
him who will, consult the apostle as to why he makes such bold
assertions here. For indeed the words of the text are not our words,
but his. True, law and government are essential in temporal life, as
Paul himself confesses, and God would have everyone honor and obey
them. Indeed, he has ordained their observance among Turks and
heathen. Yet it is a fact that these people, even the best and most
upright of them, they who lead honorable lives, are naturally in
their hearts enemies to Christ, and devote their intellectual powers
to exterminating God's people.

It must be universally admitted that the Turks, with all the
restrictions and austerity of life imposed upon them by the Koran, a
life more rigorous even than that of Christians--it must be admitted
they belong to the devil. In other words, we adjudge them condemned
with all their righteousness, but at the same time say they do right
in punishing thieves, robbers, murderers, drunkards and other
offenders; more, that Christians living within their jurisdiction are
under obligation to pay tribute, and to serve them with person and
property. Precisely the same thing is true respecting our princes who
persecute the Gospel and are open enemies to Christ: we must be
obedient to them, paying the tribute and rendering the service
imposed; yet they, and all obedient followers willingly consenting to
the persecution of the Gospel, must be looked upon as condemned
before God.

18. Similarly does Paul speak concerning the righteousness of all the
Jews and pious saints who are not Christians. His utterance is bold
and of certain sound. He censures them and, weeping, deprecatingly
refers to certain who direct the people to the righteousness of the
law with the sole result of making "enemies to the cross of Christ."

19. Again, all the praise he has for them is to say that their "end
is perdition"; they are condemned in spite of strenuous efforts all
their lives to teach and enforce the righteousness of works. Here on
earth it is truly a priceless distinction, an admirable and noble
treasure, a praiseworthy honor, to have the name of being a godly and
upright prince, ruler or citizen; a pious, virtuous wife or virgin.
Who would not praise and exalt such virtue? It is indeed a rare and
valuable thing in the world. But however beautiful, priceless and
admirable an honor it is, Paul tells us, it is ultimately condemned
and pertains not to heaven.


20. The apostle makes his accusation yet more galling with the words
"whose god is their belly." Thus you hear how human righteousness,
even at its best, extends no higher than to service of the sensual
appetites. Take all the wisdom, justice, jurisprudence, artifice,
even the highest virtues the world affords, and what are they? They
minister only to that god, carnal appetite. They can go no farther
than the needs of this life, their whole purpose being to satisfy
physical cravings. When the physical appetites of the worldly pass,
they pass likewise, and the gifts and virtues we have mentioned can
no longer serve them. All perish and go to destruction
together--righteousness, virtues, laws and physical appetites which
they have served as their god. For they are wholly ignorant of the
true and eternal God; they know not how to serve him and receive
eternal life. So then in its essential features such a life is merely
idolatrous, having no greater object than the preservation of this
perishable body and its enjoyment of peace and honor.

21. The fourth accusation is, "whose glory is in their shame." That
is all their glory amounts to. Let wise philosophers, scrupulous
heathen, keen jurists, receive the acme of praise and honor--it is
yet but shame. True, their motto is "Love of Virtue"; they boast
strong love of virtue and righteousness and may even think themselves
sincere. But judged by final results, their boast is without
foundation and ends in shame. For the utmost their righteousness can
effect is the applause of the world--here on earth. Before God it
avails nothing. It cannot touch the life to come. Ultimately it
leaves its possessor a captive in shame. Death devours and hell
clutches him.

22. You may again object, "If what you say is true, why observe
temporal restrictions? Let us live in indulgent carelessness
following our inclinations. Let pass the godly, honorable man; the
virtuous, upright wife or virgin." I answer, By no means; that is not
the design. You have heard it is God's command and will that there be
temporal righteousness even among Turks and heathen. And later on
(ch. 4, 8) Paul admonishes Christians to "think on these things,"
that is, on what is true. He says: "Whatsoever things are honorable,
whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever
things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be
any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." And
continuing, in verse 9, he refers them to his own example, saying,
"which ye both learned and received and heard and saw in me."


23. With the believers in Christ, them who have their righteousness
in him, there should follow in this life on earth the fruits of
upright living, in obedience to God. These fruits constitute the good
works acceptable to God, which, being works of faith and wrought in
Christ, will be rewarded in the life to come. But Paul has in mind
the individuals who, rejecting faith in Christ, regard their
self-directed lives, their humanly-wrought works, which conform to
the Law, as righteousness availing in the sight of God. His reference
is to them who so trust, though wholly ignorant of Christ, for whose
sake, without any merit on our part, righteousness is imputed to us
by God. The only condition is we must believe in Christ; for he
became man, died for our sins and rose from the dead, for the very
purpose of liberating us from our sins and granting us his
resurrection and life. Toward the heavenly life we should tend, in
our life here walking in harmony with it; as Paul says in conclusion:
"Our citizenship is in heaven [not earthly and not confined to this
temporal life only]; whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord
Jesus Christ."

If we have no knowledge, no consciousness, of this fact, it matters
not how beautiful and praiseworthy our human, earthly righteousness
may be, it is merely a hindrance and an injury. For flesh and blood
cannot help relying on its own righteousness and arrogantly boasting
in this strain: "We are better, more honorable, more godly, than
others. We Jews are the people of God and keep his Law." Even
Christians are not wholly free from the pernicious influence of human
holiness. They ever seek to bring their own works and merits before
God. I know for myself what pains are inflicted by this godless
wisdom, this figment of righteousness, and what effort must be made
before the serpent's head is bruised.

24. Now, this is the situation and there is no alternative: Either
suffer hell or regard your human righteousness as loss and filth and
endeavor not to be found relying on it at your last hour, in the
presence of God and judgment, but rather stand in the righteousness
of Christ. In the garment of Christ's righteousness and reared in him
you may, in the resurrection from sin and death, meet Christ and
exclaim: "Hail, beloved Lord and Saviour, thou who hast redeemed me
from the wretched body of sin and death, and fashioned me like unto
thy holy, pure and glorious body!"


25. Meantime, while we walk in the faith of his righteousness, he has
patience with the poor, frail righteousness of this earthly life,
which otherwise is but filth in his sight. He honors our human
holiness by supporting and protecting it during the time we live on
earth; just as we honor our corrupt, filthy bodies, adorning them
with beautiful, costly garments and golden ornaments, and reposing
them on cushions and beds of luxury. Though but stench and filth
encased in flesh, they are honored above everything else on earth.
For their sake are all things performed--the ordering and ruling,
building and laboring; and God himself permits sun and moon to shine
that they may receive light and heat, and everything to grow on earth
for their benefit. What is the human body but a beautiful pyx
containing that filthy, repulsive object of reverence, the digestive
organs, which the body must always patiently carry about; yes, which
we must even nourish and minister to, glad if only they perform their
functions properly?

26. Similarly God deals with us. Because he would confer eternal life
upon man, he patiently endures the filthy righteousness of this life
wherein we must dwell until the last day, for the sake of his chosen
people and until the number is complete. For so long as the final day
is deferred, not all to have eternal life are yet born. When the time
shall be fulfilled, the number completed, God will suddenly bring to
an end the world with its governments, its jurists and authorities,
its conditions of life; in short, he will utterly abolish earthly
righteousness, destroying physical appetites and all else together.
For every form of human holiness is condemned to destruction; yet for
the sake of Christians, to whom eternal life is appointed, and for
their sake only, all these must be perpetuated until the last saint
is born and has attained life everlasting. Were there but one saint
yet to be born, for the sake of that one the world must remain. For
God regards not the world nor has he need for it, except for the sake
of his Christians.

27. Therefore, when God enjoins upon us obedience to the emperor, and
godly, honest lives on earth, it is no warrant that our subjection to
temporal authority is to continue forever. Instead, God necessarily
will minister to, adorn and honor this wretched body--vile body, as
Paul here has it--with power and dominion. Yet the apostle terms
human righteousness "filth," and says it is not necessary to God's
kingdom; indeed, that it is condemned in the sight of God with all
its honor and glory, and all the world must be ashamed of it in his
presence, confessing themselves guilty. Paul in Romans 3, 27 and 4, 2
testifies to this fact when he tells how even the exalted, holy
fathers--Abraham, and others--though having glory before the world
because of their righteous works, could not make them serve to obtain
honor before God. Much less will worldly honor avail with God in the
case of individuals who, being called honorable, pious, honest,
virtuous--lords and princes, wives and husbands--boast of such

28. Outwardly, then, though your righteousness may appear dazzlingly
beautiful before the world, inwardly you are but filth. Illustrative
of this point is the story told of a certain nun regarded holy above
all others. She would not fellowship with anyone else, but sat alone
in her cell in rapt devotion, praying unceasingly. She boasted
special revelations and visions and had no consciousness of anything
but that beloved angels hovered about and adorned her with a golden
crown. But some outside, ardently desiring to behold such sights,
peeped through holes and crevices, and seeing her head but defiled
with filth, laughed at her.

29. Notice, the reason Paul calls the righteousness of the Law filth
and pollution, is his desire to denounce the honor and glory claimed
for it in God's sight; notwithstanding he honors before the world the
observance of the Law by styling it "righteousness." But if you
ostentatiously boast of such righteousness to him, he pronounces his
sentence of judgment making you an abomination, an enemy of the cross
of Christ, and shaming your boasted honor and finally casting you
into hell. Concerning the righteousness of faith, however, which in
Christ avails before God, he says:

"Our citizenship [conversation] is in heaven, from whence also we
look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our
vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body."

30. We who are baptized and believe in Christ, Paul's thought is, do
not base our works and our hope on the righteousness of this temporal
life. Through faith in Christ, we have a righteousness that holds in
heaven. It abides in Christ alone; otherwise it would avail naught
before God. And our whole concern is to be eternally in Christ; to
have our earthly existence culminate in yonder life when Christ shall
come and change this life into another, altogether new, pure, holy
and like unto his own, with a life and a body having the nature of


31. Therefore we are no longer citizens of earth. The baptized
Christian is born a citizen of heaven through baptism. We should be
mindful of this fact and walk here as if native there. We are to
console ourselves with the fact that God thus accepts us and will
transplant us there. Meantime we must await the coming again of the
Saviour, who is to bring from heaven to us eternal righteousness,
life, honor and glory.

32. We are baptized and made Christians, not to the end that we may
have great honor, or renown of righteousness, or earthly dominion,
power and possessions. Notwithstanding we do have these because they
are requisite to our physical life, yet we are to regard them as mere
filth, wherewith we minister to our bodily welfare as best we can for
the benefit of posterity. We Christians, however, are expectantly to
await the coming of the Saviour. His coming will not be to our injury
or shame as it may be in the case of others. He comes for the
salvation of our unprofitable, impotent bodies. Wretchedly worthless
as they are in this life, they are much more unprofitable when
lifeless and perishing in the earth.

33. But, however miserable, powerless and contemptible in life and
death, Christ will at his coming render our bodies beautiful, pure,
shining and worthy of honor, until they correspond to his own
immortal, glorious body. Not like it as it hung on the cross or lay
in the grave, blood-stained, livid and disgraced; but as it is now,
glorified at the Father's right hand. We need not, then, be alarmed
at the necessity of laying aside our earthly bodies; at being
despoiled of the honor, righteousness and life adhering in them, to
deliver it to the devouring power of death and the grave--something
well calculated to terrify the enemies of Christ: but we may joyfully
hope for and await his speedy coming to deliver us from this
miserable, filthy pollution.

"According to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all
things unto himself."


34. Think of the honor and the glory Christ's righteousness brings
even to our bodies! How can this poor, sinful, miserable, filthy,
polluted body become like unto that of the Son of God, the Lord of
Glory? What are you--your powers and abilities, or those of all men,
to effect this glorious thing? But Paul says human righteousness,
merit, glory and power have nothing to do with it. They are mere
filth and pollution, and condemned as well. Another force intervenes,
the power of Christ the Lord, who is able to bring all things into
subjection to himself. Now, if he has power to subject all things
unto himself at will, he is also able to glorify the pollution and
filth of this wretched body, even when it has become worms and dust.
In his hands it is as clay in the hands of the potter, and from the
polluted lump of clay he can make a vessel that shall be a beautiful,
new, pure, glorious body, surpassing the sun in its brilliance and

35. Through baptism Christ has taken us into his hands, actually that
he may exchange our sinful, condemned, perishable, physical lives for
the new, imperishable righteousness and life he prepares for body and
soul. Such is the power and the agency exalting us to marvelous
glory--something no earthly righteousness of the Law could
accomplish. The righteousness of the Law leaves our bodies to shame
and destruction; it reaches not beyond physical existence. But the
righteousness of Christ inspires with power, making evident that we
worship not the body but the true and living God, who does not leave
us to shame and destruction, but delivers from sin, death and
condemnation, and exalts this perishable body to eternal honor and

_Twenty Fourth Sunday After Trinity_

Text: Colossians 1, 3-14.

3 We give thanks to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying
always for you, 4 having heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of
the love which ye have toward all the saints, 5 because of the hope
which is laid up for you in the heavens, whereof ye heard before in
the word of the truth of the gospel, 6 which is come unto you; even
as it is also in all the world bearing fruit and increasing, as it
doth in you also, since the day ye heard and knew the grace of God in
truth; 7 even as ye learned of Epaphras our beloved fellow-servant,
who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 who also
declared unto us your love in the Spirit.

9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to
pray and make request for you, that ye may be filled with the
knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10
to walk worthily of the Lord unto all pleasing, bearing fruit in
every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11
strengthened with all power, according to the might of his glory,
unto all patience and longsuffering with joy; 12 giving thanks unto
the Father, who made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of
the saints in light; 13 who delivered us out of the power of
darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love;
14 in whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins.


1. In this short epistle to the Colossians Paul treats of many
things, but particularly of faith, love, patience and gratitude. Upon
these topics he is remarkably eloquent, for as God himself declares
in Acts 9, 15, Paul is a chosen vessel, or instrument, of God--his
best preacher on earth. He is particularly strong in his discussion
of the main principle of the Gospel, faith in Christ. And he exalts
Christ supremely, in person and kingdom, making him all in all in his
Church--God, Lord, Master, Head and Example, and everything
mentionable in goodness and divinity.

2. The apostle's first words are praise for the Colossians. He
remarks upon the good report he has heard of them, how they have
faith in Christ and love for all saints, and hold fast the hope of
eternal life reserved for them in heaven: in other words, that they
are true Christians, who have not allowed themselves to be led away
from the pure Word of God but who earnestly cling to it, proving
their faith by their fruits; for they love the poor Christians, and
for Christ's sake have endured much in the hope of the promised
salvation. So he exalts them as model Christians, a mirror of the
entire Christian life.

3. "Hearing these things of you," Paul would say, "I heartily rejoice
in your good beginning." Apparently he was not the one who first
preached to them. In the first verse of the second chapter he speaks
of his care for them and others who have not seen his face, and he
also intimates here that the Colossians learned of Christ and the
Gospel from Epaphras, Paul's fellow-servant.

4. "And therefore I always pray for you," he writes, "that you may
continue in this way; may increase and be steadfast." He is aware of
the necessity for such prayer and exhortation in behalf of Christians
if they are to abide firm and unchangeable in their new-found faith,
against the ceaseless assaults of the devil, the wickedness of the
world, and the weakness of the flesh in tribulation and affliction.

"That ye may be filled," Paul continues, "with the knowledge of his

5. This is his chief prayer and desire for them and if it is
fulfilled there can be no lack. The words are, "be filled"; that is,
not only hear and understand God's will, but become rich in the
knowledge of it, with ever-increasing fullness. "You have begun well;
you are promising shoots." But something more than a good beginning
is required, and the knowledge of God's will is not to be
exhaustively learned immediately on hearing the Word. On the contrary
it must be constantly pursued and practiced as long as we live if it
is ever to be rounded and perfected in us.


6. "Knowing the will of God" means more than simply knowing about
God, that he created heaven and earth and gave the Law, and so on, a
knowledge even the Jews and Turks possess. For doubtless to them has
been revealed that knowledge of God and of his will concerning our
conduct which nature--the works of creation--can teach. Rom 1, 20.
But if we fail to do God's revealed will, the knowledge of it does
not benefit us. Such mere mental consciousness is a vain, empty
thing; it does not fulfil God's will in us. Indeed, it eventually
becomes a condemnatory knowledge of our own eternal destruction. When
this point has been reached, further enlightenment is necessary if
man is to be saved. He must know the meaning of Christ's words in
John 6, 40: "This is the will of my Father, that every one that
beholdeth the Son, and believeth on him, should have eternal life";
and in Matthew 18, 14: "It is not the will of your Father, that one
of these should perish, which believe on me."

7. Since we have not done God's will according to the first
revelation and must be rejected and condemned by his eternal,
unendurable wrath, in his divine wisdom and mercy he has determined,
or willed, to permit his only Son to take upon himself our sin and
wrath; to give Christ as a sacrifice for our ransom, whereby the
unendurable wrath and condemnation might be turned from us; to grant
us forgiveness of sins and to send the Holy Spirit into our hearts,
thus enabling us to love God's commandments and delight in them. This
determination or will he reveals through the Son, and commands him to
declare it to the world. And in Matthew 3, 17 he directs us to Christ
as the source of all these blessings, saying: "This is my beloved
Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him."


8. Paul would gladly have a spiritual knowledge of these things
increase in us until we are enriched and filled--wholly assured of
their truth. Sublime and glorious knowledge this, the experience of a
human heart which, born in sins, boldly and confidently believes that
God, in his unfathomable majesty, in his divine heart, has
irrevocably purposed--and wills for all men to accept and believe
it--that he will not impute sin, but will forgive it and be gracious,
and grant eternal life, for the sake of his beloved Son.

9. This spiritual knowledge or confidence, is not so easily learned
as are other things. It is not so readily apprehended as the
knowledge of the law written in nature, which when duly recognized by
the heart overpowers with the conviction of God's wrath. Indeed, that
more than anything else hinders Christians and saints from obtaining
the knowledge of God's will in Christ, for it compels heart and
conscience to plead guilty in every respect and to confess having
merited the wrath of God; therefore the soul naturally fears and
flees from God. Then, too, the devil fans the flame of fear and sends
his wicked, fiery arrows of dismay into the heart, presenting only
frightful pictures and examples of God's anger, filling the heart
with this kind of knowledge to the exclusion of every other thought
or perception. Thus recognition of God's wrath is learned only too
well, for it becomes bitterly hard for man to unlearn it, to forget
it in the knowledge of Christ. Again, the wicked world eagerly
contributes its share of hindrance, its bitter hatred and venomous
outcry against Christians as people of the worst type, outcast,
condemned enemies of God. Moreover, by its example it causes the weak
to stumble. Our flesh and blood also is a drawback, being waywardly
inclined, making much of its own wisdom and holiness and seeking
thereby to gain honor and glory or to live in security a life of
wealth, pleasure and covetousness. Hence on every side a Christian
must be in severe conflict, and fight against the world and the
devil, and against himself also, if he is to succeed in preserving
the knowledge of God's will.


10. Now, since this knowledge of the Gospel is so difficult to attain
and so foreign to nature, it is necessary that we pray for it with
all earnestness and labor to be increasingly filled with it, and to
learn well the will of God. Our own experience testifies that if it
be but superficially and improperly learned, when one is overtaken by
a trifling misfortune or alarmed by a slight danger or affliction,
his heart is easily overwhelmed with the thunderbolts of God's wrath
as he reflects: "Wo to me! God is against me and hates me." Why
should this miserable "Wo!" enter the heart of a Christian upon the
occasion of a little trouble? If he were filled with the knowledge of
God as he should be, and as many secure, self-complacent spirits
imagine themselves to be, he would not thus fear and make outcry. His
agitation and his complaint, "O Lord God! why dost thou permit me to
suffer this?" are evidence that he as yet knows not God's will, or at
least has but a faint conception of it; the wo exceeds the joy. But
full knowledge of God's will brings with it a joy that far
overbalances all fear and terror, ay, removes and abolishes them

11. Therefore let us learn this truth and with Paul pray for what we
and all Christians supremely need--full knowledge of God's will, not
a mere beginning; for we are not to imagine a beginning will suffice
and to stop there as if we had comprehended it all. Everything is not
accomplished in the mere planting; watering and cultivation must
follow. In this case the watering and cultivating are the Word of
God, and prayer against the devil, who day and night labors to
suppress spiritual knowledge, to beat down the tender plants wherever
he sees them springing up; and also against the world, which promotes
only opposition and directs its wisdom and reason to conflicting
ends. Did not God protect us and strengthen the knowledge of his
will, we would soon see the devil's power and the extent of our
spiritual understanding.

12. We have a verification of this assertion in that poetical work,
the book of Job. Satan appears before God, who asks (ch. 1, 8): "Hast
thou considered my servant Job? for there is none like him in the
earth, a perfect and upright man, one that feareth God." And Satan
answers on this wise: "Yea, thou hast surrounded him with thy
protection and kept me at bay; but only withdraw thy hand and I
venture I will soon bring him around to curse thee to thy face"; as
he afterward did when he afflicted Job with ugly boils and in
addition filled him with his fiery arrows--terrifying thoughts of
God. Further, Christ said to Peter and the other apostles: "Satan
asked to have you, that he might sift you as wheat: but I made
supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not." Lk 22, 31-32. In
short, if God hinders him not, Satan dares to overthrow even the
greatest and strongest saints.

13. Therefore, although we have become Christians and have made a
beginning in the knowledge of God's will, we ought nevertheless to
walk in fear and humility, and not to be presumptuous like the
soon-wearied, secure spirits, who imagine they exhausted that
knowledge in an instant, and know not the measure and limit of their
skill. Such people are particularly pleasing to the devil, for he has
them completely in his power and makes use of their teaching and
example to harm others and make them likewise secure, and unmindful
of his presence and of the fact that God may suffer them to be
overwhelmed. Verily, there is need of earnest and diligent use of the
Word of God and prayer, that Christians may not only learn to know
the will of God, but also to be filled with it. Only so can the
individual walk always according to God's will and make constant
progress, straining toward the goal of an ever-increasing comfort and
strength that shall enable him to face fears and terrors and not
allow the devil, the world, and flesh and blood to hinder him.


14. Such is the nature of this fullness of knowledge that the
possessor never becomes satiated with it or tired of it, but it
yields him ever-increasing pleasure and joy, and he is ever more
eager, more thirsty, for it. As the Scriptures declare, "They that
drink me shall yet be thirsty." Ecclus 24, 21. For even the dear
angels in heaven never become sated with fullness of knowledge, but
as Peter says, they find an everlasting joy and pleasure in the
ability to behold what is revealed and preached to us. 1 Peter 1, 12.
Therefore, if we have not a constant hunger and thirst after the full
and abundant comprehension of God's will--and certainly we ought to
have it in greater degree than the angels--until we, too, shall be
able to behold it eternally in the life everlasting, then we have but
a taste of that knowledge, a mere empty froth, which can neither
refresh nor satisfy us, cannot comfort us nor make us better.


15. To create and stimulate this hunger and thirst in us, and to
bring us to the attainment of full knowledge, God kindly sends upon
his Christians temptation, sorrow and affliction. These preserve them
from carnal satiety and teach them to seek comfort and help. So God
did also in former ages, in the time of the martyrs, when he daily
suffered them to be violently seized in person and put to death by
sword, fire, blood and wild beasts. In this way he truly led his
people to school, where they were obliged to learn to know his will
and to be able defiantly to say: "No, O tyrant, O world, devil and
flesh, though you may injure me bodily, may beat or torment me,
banish me or even take my life, you shall not deprive me of my Lord
Jesus Christ--of God's grace and mercy." So faith taught them and
confirmed to them that such suffering was God's purpose and immutable
will concerning themselves, which, whatever attitude towards them he
might assume, he could not alter, even as he could not in the case of
Christ himself. This discipline and experience of faith strengthened
the martyrs and soon accustomed them to suffering, enabling them to
go to their death with pleasure and joy. Whence came, even to young
girls thirteen and fourteen years old, like Agnes and Agatha, the
courage and confidence to stand boldly before the Roman judge, and,
when led to death, to go as joyfully as to a festivity, whence unless
their hearts were filled with a sublime and steadfast faith, a
positive assurance that God was not angry with them, but that all was
his gracious and merciful will and for their highest salvation and

16. Behold, what noble and enlightened, what strong and courageous,
people God produced by the discipline of cross and affliction! We, in
contrast, because unwilling to experience such suffering, are weak
and enervated. If but a little smoke gets into our eyes, our joy and
courage are gone, likewise our perception of God's will, and we can
only raise a loud lamentation and cry of woe. As I said, this is the
inevitable condition of a heart to which the experience of affliction
is unknown. Just so Christ's disciples in the ship, when they saw the
tempest approach and the waves beat over the vessel, quite forgot, in
their trembling and terror, the divine will, although Christ was
present with them. They only made anxious lamentation, yet withal
cried for help: "Save, Lord; we perish!" Mt 8, 25. So also in the
time of the martyrs, many Christians became timid and at first denied
Christ from fear of torture or of long confinement in prison.

17. It is God's will that we, too, should learn to accustom ourselves
to these things through temptation and affliction, though these be
hard to bear and the heart is prone to become agitated and utter its
cry of woe. We can quiet our disturbed hearts, saying: "I know what
is God's thought, his counsel and will, in Christ, which he will not
alter: he has promised to me through his Son, and confirmed it
through my baptism, that he who hears and sees the Son shall be
delivered from sin and death, and live eternally."

18. Now, what Paul calls being filled with the knowledge of the
divine will in Christ through the faith of the Gospel, means faith in
and the comfort of the forgiveness of sins, since we have not in
ourselves the ability to fulfil his will in the ten commandments.
This knowledge is not a passive consciousness, but a living, active
conviction, which will stand before the judgment of God, contend with
the devil and prevail over sin, death and life.

19. Now, the heart possessing such knowledge or faith is kindled by
the Holy Spirit and acquires a love for and delight in God's
commandments. It becomes obedient to them, patient, chaste, modest,
gentle, given to brotherly kindness, and honors God in confession and
life. Thus it is increasingly filled with the knowledge of God's
will; it is armed and fortified on all sides to withstand and defeat
the flesh and the world, the devil and hell.


20. By way of explanation Paul adds the words, "all spiritual wisdom
and understanding." This is not the wisdom of the world. There is no
necessity to strive and to endure persecution for that which concerns
itself with other than spiritual matters. Nor is it the wisdom of
reason, which indeed presumes to judge of divine things, but yet can
never understand them; on the contrary, although it accepts them, it
quickly falls away into doubt and despair.

21. "Wisdom" signifies with Paul, when he places it in apposition
with "spiritual understanding," the sublime and secret doctrine of
the Gospel of Christ, which teaches us to know the will of God. And a
"wise man" is a Christian, who knows himself and can intelligently
interpret God's will toward us and how we perceive his will by
faith--growing and obediently living in harmony with it. This wisdom
is not devised of reason; it has not entered into the heart of man
nor is it known to any of the princes of this world, as Paul says in
1 Corinthians 2, 8-10. But it is revealed from Heaven by the Holy
Spirit to those who believe the Gospel.

22. But there is necessary to the full completion of wisdom something
which the apostle calls "understanding"; that is, a careful retention
of what has been received. It is possible for one having the
spiritual wisdom to be overtaken by the devil through a momentary
intellectual inspiration, or through anger and impatience, or even
through greed and similar deceitful allurements. Therefore it is
necessary here to be cautious, alert and watchful in an effort to
guard against the devil's cunning attacks and always to oppose him
with his own spiritual wisdom, that he may not be undeceived. The
Pauline and scriptural use of the word "understanding" signifies the
ability to make good use of one's wisdom; to make it effective as a
test whereby to prove all things, to judge with keen discernment
whatever presents itself in the name and appearance of wisdom. Thus
armed, the soul defends itself and does not in any case violate its
own discretion. To furnish himself with understanding, the Christian
must ever have regard to the Word of God, must put it into practice,
lest the devil dazzle his mind with some palaver and error and
deceive him before he is aware of it. This Satan is well able to do;
indeed, he uses every art to accomplish it if a man be not on his
guard and seek not counsel in God's Word. Such is the teaching of
David's example, who says in Psalm 119, 11: "Thy word have I laid up
in my heart, that I might not sin against thee." And again in verse
24: "Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellors."

23. A man may be familiar with God's Word, yet if he walks in
self-security, concerned about other matters, or if perhaps being
tempted he loses sight of God's Word, it may easily come to pass that
he is seduced and deceived by the secret craft and cunning of the
devil; or of himself he may become bewildered, losing his wisdom and
being unable to find counsel or help even in the most trivial
temptations. For the devil and reason, or human wisdom, can dispute
and syllogize with extraordinary subtlety in these things until one
imagines to be true wisdom that which is not. A wise man soon becomes
a fool; men readily err and make false steps; a Christian likewise is
prone to stumble; ay, even a good teacher and prophet can easily be
deceived by reason's brilliant logic. Essentially, then, Christians
must take warning and study, with careful meditation, the Word of

24. We read of St. Martin how he would not undertake to dispute with
heretics for the simple reason that he was unwilling to fall into
wrangling, to rationalize with them or to attempt to defeat them by
the weapon of reason, the sole means whereby they pointed and adorned
all their arguments, as the world always does when opposing the Word
of God. The shrewd Papists today pretend, as they think, very acutely
to confirm and support all their antichristian abominations by the
name of the Church, making the idiotic claim that one must not effect
nor suffer any change in the religious teaching commonly accepted by
Christendom. They say we must believe the Christian Church is always
guided by the Holy Spirit and therefore demands our obedience. Notice
here the name of the Church, concerning which your spiritual wisdom
teaches according to the article: "I believe in a holy Christian
Church." But that name is distorted to confirm the lies and idolatry
of the Papacy, just as is true of the name of God. So there is need
of understanding, of careful, keen discernment, that wisdom be not
perverted and falsified, and man be deceived with its counterfeit.

25. By close examination and comparison with God's Word, the standard
and test, you may clearly prove the Papacy to be not the Church of
Christ, but a sect of Satan; it is filled with open idolatry, lies
and murder, which its adherents fain would defend. These things the
Church of Christ does not endorse, and to tax it with resolving,
appointing, ordering and demanding obedience to that which is at
variance with the Word of God, is to do the Church wrong and


26. The world at the present time is sagaciously discussing how to
quell the controversy and strife over doctrine and faith, and how to
effect a compromise between the Church and the Papacy. Let the
learned, the wise, it is said, bishops, emperor and princes,
arbitrate. Each side can easily yield something, and it is better to
concede some things which can be construed according to individual
interpretation, than that so much persecution, bloodshed, war, and
terrible, endless dissension and destruction be permitted. Here is
lack of understanding, for understanding proves by the Word that such
patchwork is not according to God's will, but that doctrine, faith
and worship must be preserved pure and unadulterated; there must be
no mingling with human nonsense, human opinions or wisdom. The
Scriptures give us this rule: "We must obey God rather than men."
Acts 5, 29.

27. We must not, then, regard nor follow the counsels of human
wisdom, but must keep ever before us God's will as revealed by his
Word; we are to abide by that for death or life, for evil or good. If
war or other calamity results complain to him who wills and commands
us to teach and believe our doctrine. The calamity is not of our
effecting; we have not originated it. And we are not required to
prove by argument whether or no God's will is right and to be obeyed.
If he wills to permit persecution and other evils to arise in
consequence of our teaching, for the trial and experience of true
Christians and for the punishment of the ungrateful, let them come;
and if not, his hand is doubtless strong enough to defend and
preserve his cause from destruction, that man may know the events to
be of his ordering. And so, praise his name, he has done in our case.
He has supported us against the strong desires of our adversaries.
Had we yielded and obeyed them, we would have been drawn into their
falsehood and destruction. And God will still support us if we deal
uprightly and faithfully in these requirements, if we further and
honor the Word of God, and be not unthankful nor seek things that
counterfeit God's Word.

28. So much by way of explaining what Paul means by wisdom and
understanding to know the will of God, and by way of teaching the
necessity of having both wisdom and understanding. For not only must
the doctrine whereby wisdom is imparted be inculcated in Christendom,
but there is also need for admonition and exhortation concerning that
understanding necessary to preserve wisdom, and for defense in strife
and conflict. Were not these principles exercised and inculcated in
us, we would be deceived by false wisdom and vain imaginations, and
would accept their gloss and glitter for pure gold, as many in the
Church have ever done.

29. The Galatians had received from Paul the wisdom of justification
before God by faith in Christ alone. Nevertheless, in spite of that
knowledge, they were deceived and would have lost their wisdom
altogether through the claim of the false prophets that the God-given
Law must be observed, had not Paul aroused their understanding at
this point and brought them back from error. The Corinthians were
taught by their spiritual wisdom the article of Christian liberty;
they knew that sacrifices to idols are nothing. But they failed in
this respect: they proceeded without understanding, and made carnal
use of their liberty, contrary to wisdom and offending others.
Therefore Paul had to remind them of their departure from his
doctrine and wisdom.

30. The Scriptures record many instances of failure in this matter of
understanding. A notable one is found in the thirteenth chapter of
First Kings. A man of God from the kingdom of Judah, who had in the
presence of King Jeroboam openly denounced the idolatry instituted by
the king, and had confirmed his preaching and prophecy by a miracle,
was commanded by God not under any circumstances to abide in the
place whither he had gone to prophesy, nor to eat and drink there. He
was to go straight home by another way than the route he had come.
Yet on the way homeward he allowed himself to be persuaded by another
prophet, one who falsely claimed to have a revelation from God, by an
angel, commanding him to take the man of God to his home and give him
to eat and drink. While they sat together at the table the Word of
the Lord came to the inviting prophet and under its inspiration he
told the other that he should not reach home alive. The latter,
departing on his journey, was killed on the way by a lion, which
remained standing by the body and the ass the man of God had ridden,
not touching them further, until the old prophet came and found them.
He brought the body home on the ass and buried it, commanding that
after his own death he should be laid in the same grave. Such was
God's punishment of the prophet who allowed himself to be deceived
and obeyed not God's express command. However, his soul suffered not
harm, as God testified by the fact the lion did not devour his body
but defended it. Now, in what was the prophet lacking? Not in wisdom,
for he had the Word of God. He lacked in understanding, allowing
himself to be deceived when the other man declared himself a prophet
whom the angel of the Lord had instructed. The man of God should have
abided by the word given to him, and have said to the other: "You may
be a prophet, indeed, but God has commanded me to do this thing. Of
that I am certain and I will be governed by it. I will regard no
conflicting order, be it in the name of an angel or of God."


31. So it is often with man today, not only in doctrinal controversy
but in private affairs and in official capacity. He is prone to
stumble and to fail in understanding when not watchful of his
purposes and motives, to see how they accord with the wisdom of God's
Word. Particularly is his understanding unreliable when the devil
moves him to wrath, impatience, dejection, melancholy, or when he is
otherwise tempted. Often they who have been well exercised with
trials become bewildered in small temptations and uncertain what
course to take. Here must one be watchful and not go by his reason or
his feelings, but remember God's Word--or ascertain if he does not
know what it is--and be guided thereby. When tempted man cannot judge
aright by the dictates of reason. Therefore he ought not to follow
his own natural intelligence nor to act from hasty conclusions. Let
him be suspicious of all his reasoning and beware the cunning of the
devil, who seeks either to allure or to intimidate us by his specious
arguments. First of all let man call upon the understanding born of
his wisdom in the Gospel, what his faith, love, hope and patience
counsel, in fact, what God's will eloquently teaches everywhere and
in all circumstances if only one strive, labor and pray to be filled
with such knowledge.

32. Paul uses the expression, "spiritual wisdom and understanding,"
because it represents that which makes us wise and prudent to oppose
the devil and his assaults and temptations, or wiles as Paul calls
them in Ephesians 6, 11; which governs and guides, shepherds and
leads, teaches and keeps us, and enables us to fare well
spiritually--in faith and a good conscience toward God--and also in
the temporal affairs of life when reason fails as a counselor or
teacher. Paul further says:

"To walk worthily of the Lord unto all pleasing, bearing fruit in
every good work; and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened
with all power, according to the might of his glory, unto all
patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks unto the Father,
who made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in

33. What is meant by "walking worthily of the Lord" we have heard in
other epistles, namely to believe, and to confess the faith by
doctrine and life, as people worthy of the Lord and of whom the Lord
can triumphantly say: "These are my people--Christians who live and
abide in what they have been taught by the Word, who know my will and
obediently do and suffer for it."

34. Our wisdom and understanding of the knowledge of God should serve
to make us characters that are an honor and praise to God, in whom he
may be glorified, and who live to God unto all pleasing, that is,
please him in every way, according to his Word. And because of such
wisdom and knowledge, we should, in our lives, in our stations and
appointed work, not be unfruitful nor harmful hypocrites and
unbelievers, as false Christians are, but doers of much good, useful
characters to the honor of God's kingdom. All the time we are to make
constant growth and progress in the knowledge of God, that we may not
be seduced or driven from it by the cunning of the devil, who at all
times and in all places assails Christians and strenuously seeks to
effect their fall from the Word and from God's will, even as in the
beginning he did with Adam and Eve in paradise.


35. The apostle continues: "strengthened with all power, according to
the might of his glory." Here is preparation to sustain the conflict
against the devil, the world and the flesh, and to overcome. Not our
own power, nor the combined power of all mankind, can effect it. Only
God's own divine, glorious power and might can overcome the devil and
win honor and praise in the contest with the gates of hell. Christ in
himself proved such efficacy of the divine strength when he overcame
all the devil's superlative assaults.

36. By this power and might of God must we be strengthened in faith.
We must strive after such divine agency and by the help of the Word
persevere and pray, that there may be not only a beginning, but a
continuation and a victorious end. So shall we become ever stronger
and stronger in God's might. Whatever we do, it must not be
undertaken in and by our own strength. We must not boast as if we had
ourselves accomplished it, but must rely upon God, upon his strength
and support. Certainly it is not due to our ability but to his own
omnipotent agency if one remains a Christian, steadfast in the
knowledge of God and not deceived nor conquered by the devil.


37. But, the writer tells us, the attainment of strength and victory
calls for "all patience." We must have patience to endure the
persistent persecution of the devil, the world and the flesh. Not
only patience is required here, but "longsuffering." The apostle
makes a distinction between the two words, regarding the latter as
something more heroic. It is the devil's way, when he fails to defeat
by affliction and trouble, to try the heart with endurance. He makes
the ordeal unbearably hard and long to patience, even apparently
without end. His scheme is to accomplish by unceasing persistence
what he cannot attain by the severity and multitude of his
temptations; he aims to wear out one's patience and to discourage his
hope of conquering. To meet these conditions there is necessary, in
addition to patience, longsuffering, which holds out firmly and
steadfastly in suffering, with the determination: "Indeed, you cannot
try me too severely or too long, even though the trial continue to
the end of the world." True, knightly, Christian strength is that
which in conflict and suffering is able to endure not only severe and
manifold assaults of the devil, but to hold out indefinitely. More
than anything else do we need to be strengthened, through prayer,
with the power of God, that we may not succumb in such grievous
warfare, but achieve the end.


38. And your patience and longsuffering, Paul says, must be exercised
"with joy." In these severe, multiplied and long temptations you must
not allow yourselves to be filled with sad and depressing thoughts.
You are to be hopeful and joyous, despising the devil and the
troubles and tumults of the world and himself. Rejoice because you
have on your side the knowledge of the divine will in Christ, and his
power and glorious might, and doubt not that his omnipotence will
help you through.

39. Finally the apostle enjoins us to give thanks, or to be thankful.
Forget not, he would say, the unspeakable benefits and gifts God has
bestowed upon you above all men on earth. He has richly blessed you,
and liberated you from the power and might of sin, death, hell and
the devil, wherein you would, for all you could help yourselves, have
had to remain eternally captive; he has appointed you for eternal
glory, making you co-heirs with the saints elected for his eternal
kingdom; and he has made you partakers of all eternal, divine,
heavenly blessings. In your sufferings and conflicts, remember these
glories ordained for and given to you, and remembering rejoice the
more and willingly fight and suffer to obtain possession, to enjoy
the fruition, of what is certainly appropriated to you in the Word
and in faith.

40. The writer of the epistle calls it "the inheritance of the saints
in light," or of the "light" saints, that is, the true saints. Thus
he distinguishes from false saints, intimating that there are two
classes of saints. To one class belong the many in the world who have
only their own claim to sainthood: the Jews, for instance, with their
holiness of the Law; and the world generally, the philosophers,
jurists and their kind, with their self-righteousness. These are not
saints of light; they are saints of darkness, unclean, even defiled.
In Philippians 3, 8 Paul counts such righteousness loss and refuse.
To this class belong also many false, hypocritical saints in the
company of Christians who have the Gospel; they, too, hear the Gospel
and attend upon the Holy Supper, but they remain in darkness, without
the least experience of the wisdom and understanding that knows the
divine will. But they who exercise themselves in these spiritual
graces by faith, love and patience in temptation, and perceive the
wonderful grace and blessing God imparts through the Gospel--these
honorably may be called the saints, destined, even appointed, to
eternal light and joy in God's kingdom.

"Who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us
into the kingdom of the Son of his love; in whom we have our
redemption, the forgiveness of our sins."

41. Paul now expatiates on the things that call for our gratitude to
God the Father. He sums up the whole teaching of the Gospel, showing
us what is ours in Christ and giving a glorious and comforting
description of his person and the blessing he brings. But first, he
says, we ought, above all, to thank God unceasingly for the knowledge
of his revealed Gospel. In it we have no small treasure. Rather, it
is a possession with which all the gold, silver and other riches of
this world, all the earthly joy and comfort of this life, are not to
be compared. For it means redemption from eternal, irreparable loss
and ruin under God's eternal, unbearable wrath and condemnation. And
this wretchedness was the result of our sin. We were committed to sin
and without help, without deliverance, ay, we were captive in such
blindness and darkness that we did not recognize our misery; much
less could we devise and effect our escape. Now, in place of this
misery, we have, without any merit on our part, any preparation, any
deed or design, ay, without even a thought, assuredly received,
through God's unfathomable grace and mercy, redemption, or the
forgiveness of sins.


42. The measure of such graciousness and blessing no tongue can
express; indeed, in this life no man can understand it. In hell the
wicked shall become sensible of it by the realization of their
condemnation and the never-ending wrath of the eternal, divine
Majesty and of all creatures. No created thing shall they be able to
behold with joy, because in these ever shall be reflected the
condemned one's own unceasing, lamentable sorrow, terror and despair.
Nor, on the other hand, can the creature behold the condemned with
pleasure, but must abhor them; it must be an object of further terror
and condemnation to the damned. However, in this life God in his
unspeakable goodness has subjected the creature to vanity, as Paul
says in Romans 8, 20, and to the service of the wicked. Yet it serves
against its will, travailing as a woman in pain, with the supreme
desire to be liberated from this service of the wicked, condemned
world. It must, however, have patience in its hope of redemption, for
the sake of those children of God yet to come to Christ and finally
to be brought to glory; otherwise it is as hostile to sin as God

43. But because an eternal, unchangeable sentence of condemnation has
passed upon sin--for God cannot and will not regard sin with favor,
but his wrath abides upon it eternally and irrevocably--redemption
was not possible without a ransom of such precious worth as to atone
for sin, to assume the guilt, pay the price of wrath and thus abolish

44. This no creature was able to do. There was no remedy except for
God's only Son to step into our distress and himself become man, to
take upon himself the load of awful and eternal wrath and make his
own body and blood a sacrifice for the sin. And so he did, out of his
immeasurably great mercy and love towards us, giving himself up and
bearing the sentence of unending wrath and death.

45. So infinitely precious to God is this sacrifice and atonement of
his only beloved Son who is one with him in divinity and majesty,
that God is reconciled thereby and receives into grace and
forgiveness of sins all who believe in this Son. Only by believing
may we enjoy the precious atonement of Christ, the forgiveness
obtained for us and given us out of profound, inexpressible love. We
have nothing to boast of for ourselves, but must ever joyfully thank
and praise him who at such priceless cost redeemed us condemned and
lost sinners.

46. The essential feature of redemption--forgiveness of sins--being
once obtained, everything belonging to its completion immediately
follows. Eternal death, the wages of sin, is abolished, and eternal
righteousness and life are given; as Paul says in Romans 6, 23, the
grace, or gift, of God is eternal life. And now that we are
reconciled to God and washed in the blood of Christ, everything in
heaven and earth, as Paul again declares (Eph 1, 10), is in turn
reconciled to us. The creatures are no longer opposed, but at peace
with us and friendly; they smile upon us and we have only joy and
life in God and his creation.

47. Such is the doctrine of the Gospel, and so is it to be declared.
It shows us sin and forgiveness, wrath and grace, death and life; how
we were in darkness and how we are redeemed from it. It does not,
like the Law, make us sinners, nor is its mission to teach us how to
merit and earn grace. But it declares how we, condemned and under the
power of sin, death and the devil, as we are, receive by faith the
freely-given redemption and in return show our gratitude.

48. Paul also explains who it is that has shed his blood for us. He
would have us understand the priceless cost of our redemption,
namely, the blood of the Son of God, who is the image of the
invisible God. The apostle declares that he existed before creation,
and by him were all things created, and that therefore he is true,
eternal God with the Father. Hence, Paul says, the shed blood truly
is God's own blood. And so the writer of this epistle clearly and
mightily establishes the article of the divinity of Christ. But this
requires a special and separate sermon.

_Twenty Fifth Sunday After Trinity_

Text: 1 Thessalonians 4, 13-18.

13 But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that
fall asleep; that ye sorrow not, even as the rest, who have no hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them
also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For
this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive,
that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in no wise precede
them that are fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend
from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with
the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first; 17 then we
that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up
in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be
with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.


Paul writes these words to comfort Christians who were troubled about
what would take place at the resurrection of the dead. Shall all rise
together? Shall those living on the earth at the last day meet Christ
before others? These and like thoughts worried them. Here Paul
answers them by saying that Christ would take all his believers to
himself at the same time, etc.

This epistle text you will find richly expounded in "The Explanation
of Certain Epistles," which appeared on special occasions. [The
Miscellaneous Sermons of the Year 1532.]

_Twenty Sixth Sunday After Trinity_

Text: 2 Thessalonians 1, 3-10.

3 We are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren, even
as it is meet, for that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the love
of each one of you all toward one another aboundeth; 4 so that we
ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and
faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which ye
endure; 5 which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God;
to the end that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for
which ye also suffer: 6 if so be that it is a righteous thing with
God to recompense affliction to them that afflict you, 7 and to you
that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus
from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, 8 rendering
vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the
gospel of our Lord Jesus: 9 who shall suffer punishment, even eternal
destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his
might, 10 when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be
marvelled at in all them that believed (because our testimony unto
you was believed) in that day.


1. First, Paul has words of praise for his Church at Thessalonica. In
view of its faith and its love it was one of the first rank.
Patiently it stood firm, and even increased, under crosses of
affliction. The apostle's intent in commending these people is to
incite to perseverance. He would hold them up to others as an
example--an illustration--of the fruits resulting when the Gospel is
preached and received. He also points out in what the edification and
success of the true Church of Christ consist. Then he consoles them
for their patient sufferings with the mention of the glorious coming
of Christ the Lord, which shall mean their final redemption, the
recompense of peace and joy for their tribulations, and the bringing
of eternal wrath upon their persecutors.

2. This consolation Paul draws from their sufferings and God's
righteous judgment, by which he makes plain why God lets them suffer
here on earth--what is his purpose in it. Looking at the Christian
community with the eye of human reason and reflection, no more
wretched, tormented, persecuted, unhappy people are in evidence on
earth than those who confess and glory in Christ the crucified. In
the world they are continually persecuted, tormented and assailed by
the devil with all manner of wretchedness, misfortune, distress and
death. Even to their own perceptions, it seems as if they surely are
forgotten and forsaken by God in the sight of mankind. For he allows
them to remain prostrate under the weight of the cross, while others
in the world, particularly their persecutors, live in the enjoyment
of honor and fortune, of happiness, power and riches, with everything
moving to the fulfilment of their desires. The Scriptures frequently
deplore this condition of things, especially the Psalms, and Paul in
First Corinthians 15, 19 confesses: "If we have only hoped in Christ
in this life, we are of all men most pitiable."


3. Now, assuredly this state of affairs cannot continue without end;
it cannot be God's intention to permit Christians thus to suffer
continually while they live, to die because of it and remain dead. It
would be incompatible with his eternal, divine truth and honor
manifest in his Word. For there he declares he will be the God of the
pious, of them who fear and trust him, and gives them unspeakable
promises. Necessarily, then, he has planned a future state for
Christians and for non-Christians, in either instance unlike what
they know on earth. Possibly one of the chief reasons why God permits
Christians to suffer on earth is to make plain the distinction
between their reward and that of the ungodly. In the sufferings of
believing Christians, and in the wickedness, tyranny, rage, and
persecution directed by the unrighteous against the godly, is certain
indication of a future life unlike this and a final judgment of God
in which all men, godly and wicked, shall be forever recompensed.

4. Notice, Paul means to say here when he speaks of the tribulations
and sufferings of Christians: "These afflictions are the indication
of God's righteous judgment, and a sign you are worthy of the kingdom
of God for which you suffer." In other words: "O beloved Christians,
regard your sufferings as dear and precious. Think not God is angry
with you, or has forgotten you, because he allows you to endure these
things. They are your great help and comfort, for they show God will
be a righteous judge, will richly bless you and avenge you upon your
persecutors. Yes, therein you have unfailing assurance. You may
rejoice, and console yourselves, believing without the shadow of a
doubt that you belong to the kingdom of God, and have been made
worthy of it, because you suffer for its sake."

5. Whatever the Christian suffers here on earth at the hands of the
devil and the world, befalls him simply for the sake of the name of
God and for his Word. True, as a baptized child of God the Christian
should justly enjoy unalloyed goodness, comfort and peace on earth;
but since he must still dwell in the kingdom of the devil, who
infuses sin and death into human flesh, he must endure the devil. Yet
all Satan's inflictions and the world's plagues, persecutions,
terrors, tortures, even the taking of the Christian's life, and all
its abuse, is wrought in violence and injustice. But to offset this,
the Christian has the comforting assurance of God's Word that because
he suffers for the sake of the kingdom of Christ and of God he shall
surely be eternally partaker of that kingdom. Certain it is, no one
will be worthy of it unless he suffers for it.

6. "If so be that it is a righteous thing with God to recompense
affliction to them that afflict you," continues the apostle. It is
impossible it should continue to be, as now, well with the world and
evil with you. God's righteousness will not admit of it. Just because
he is a righteous judge, things must be eventually different: the
godly must have eternal good, and the wicked, on the other hand, must
be punished forever. Otherwise God's judgment would not be righteous;
in other words, he would not be God. Now, since this is an impossible
proposition, since God's righteousness and truth are immutable, in
his capacity of judge he must perforce, in due time, come from
heaven, when he shall have assembled his Christians, and avenge them
of their enemies, recompense the latter according to their merits,
and confer eternal rest and peace upon his followers for the temporal
sufferings they have endured here.


7. Christians should certainly expect this and comfort themselves in
the confidence that God will not permit the wrongs of his people to
continue unpunished and unavenged. We might think he had forgotten
were we to judge from the facts that godly Abel was shamefully
murdered by his brother, that God's prophets and martyrs--John the
Baptist, Jeremiah, Paul and others--suffered death at the hands of
bloodhounds like the Herods, Neros and other shameless, sanguinary
tyrants of the sort, and this when God had, even in this life, given
glorious testimony to their being his beloved children. A judgment
must be forthcoming that tyrants may suffer pains and punishments,
and that the godly, delivered from sufferings, may have eternal rest
and joy. Let all the world know God does not forget, even after

8. This is the consolation the future judgment at the resurrection of
the dead holds, that, as God's righteousness requires, the saints
shall receive for their sufferings a supremely rich and glorious
recompense. Paul seems to present as the principal reason why God
must punish the world with everlasting pain, the fact that the world
has inflicted tribulations on Christians. Apparently his words imply
that the perpetrations of the devil and the world--their supreme
contempt and hatred of God's name and Word, their blasphemies of
these, their wickedness and disobedience in other respects, whereby
they bring upon themselves everlasting pain and damnation--that for
these sins against himself God is not so ready to punish as for their
persecution and torment of his poor, believing Christians. This truth
is indicated where we read that Christ on the last day shall say:
"Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared
for the devil and his angels ... inasmuch as ye did it not unto one
of these least, ye did it not unto me." Mt 25, 41 and 45.

9. Paul's further observations, concerning the manner of the judgment
to come and the painful punishment of the ungodly, is sufficiently
clear as rendered, and is also explained in the sermon on the Gospel
text. Further explanation here is unnecessary.

_Twenty Seventh Sunday After Trinity_

Text: 2 Peter 3, 3-7.


When the year has twenty-seven Sundays after Trinity, which seldom
occurs, substitute the text of 2 Peter 3, 3-7 for the twenty-sixth
Sunday and use the text of the twenty-sixth Sunday for the
twenty-seventh Sunday.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Epistle Sermons, Vol. III - Trinity Sunday to Advent" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.