Monthly Archives: April 2015

This Is Our Theology: Do Nothing, Hear Nothing, Know Nothing But Jesus Christ

This is, by far, the longest quote I’ve ever posted. It bears reading from start to finish, lest these words be taken out of context to mean what they do not mean. Please read them to the end. Thank you. DMJ+

As the earth itself does not produce rain and is unable to acquire it by its own strength, worship, and power but receives it only by a heavenly gift from above, so this heavenly righteousness is given to us by God without our work or merit. As much as the dry earth of itself is able to accomplish in obtaining the right and blessed rain, that much can we men accomplish by our own strength and works to obtain that divine, heavenly, and eternal righteousness. Thus we can obtain it only through the free imputation and indescribable gift of God. Therefore the highest art and wisdom of Christians is not to know the Law, to ignore works and all active righteousness, just as outside the people of God the highest wisdom is to know and study the Law, works, and active righteousness.

It is a marvelous thing and unknown to the world to teach Christians to ignore the Law and to live before God as though there were no Law whatever. For if you do not ignore the Law and thus direct your thoughts to grace as though there were no Law but as though there were nothing but grace, you cannot be saved. “For through the Law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). On the other hand, works and the performance of the Law must be demanded in the world as though there were no promise or grace. This is because of the stubborn, proud, and hardhearted, before whose eyes nothing must be set except the Law, in order that they may be terrified and humbled. For the Law was given to terrify and kill the stubborn and to exercise the old man. Both words must be correctly divided, according to the apostle (2 Timothy 2:25 ff.).

This calls for a wise and faithful father who can moderate the Law in such a way that it stays within its limits. For if I were to teach men the Law in such a way that they suppose themselves to be justified by it before God, I would be going beyond the limit of the Law, confusing these two righteousnesses, the active and the passive, and would be a bad dialectician who does not properly distinguish. But when I go beyond the old man, I also go beyond the Law. For the flesh or the old man, the Law and works, are all joined together. In the same way the spirit or the new man is joined to the promise and to grace. Therefore when I see that a man is sufficiently contrite, oppressed by the Law, terrified by sin, and thirsting for comfort, then it is time for me to take the Law and active righteousness from his sight and to set forth before him, through the Gospel, the passive righteousness which excludes Moses and the Law and shows the promise of Christ, who came for the afflicted and for sinners. Here a man is raised up again and gains hope. Nor is he any longer under the Law; he is under grace, as the apostle says (Romans 6:14): “You are not under law but under grace.” How not under law? According to the new man, to whom the Law does not apply. For the Law had its limits until Christ, as Paul says below (Galatians 3:24): “The Law, until Christ.” When He came, Moses and the Law stopped. So did circumcision, Sacrifices, and the Sabbath. So did all the prophets.

This is our theology, by which we teach a precise distinction between these two kinds of righteousness, the active and the passive, so that morality and faith, works and grace, secular society and religion may not be confused. Both are necessary, but both must be kept within their limits. Christian righteousness applies to the new man, and the righteousness of the Law applies to the old man, who is born of flesh and blood. Upon this latter, as upon an ass, a burden must be put that will oppress him. He must not enjoy the freedom of the spirit or of grace unless he has first put on the new man by faith in Christ, but this does not happen fully in this life. Then he may enjoy the kingdom and the ineffable gift of grace. I am saying this in order that no one may suppose that we reject or prohibit good works, as the papists falsely accuse us because they understand neither what they themselves are saying nor what we are teaching. They know nothing except the righteousness of the Law; and yet they claim the right to judge a doctrine that is far above and beyond the Law, a doctrine on which the carnal man is unable to pass judgment. Therefore it is inevitable that they be offended, for they cannot see any higher than the Law. Therefore whatever is above the Law is the greatest possible offense to them.

We set forth two worlds, as it were, one of them heavenly and the other earthly. Into these we place these two kinds of righteousness, which are distinct and separated from each other. The righteousness of the Law is earthly and deals with earthly things; by it we perform good works. But as the earth does not bring forth fruit unless it has first been watered and made fruitful from above—for the earth cannot judge, renew, and rule the heavens, but the heavens judge, renew, rule, and fructify the earth, so that it may do what the Lord has commanded—so also by the righteousness of the Law we do nothing even when we do much; we do not fulfill the Law even when we fulfill it. Without any merit or work of our own, we must first be justified by Christian righteousness, which has nothing to do with the righteousness of the Law or with earthly and active righteousness. But this righteousness is heavenly and passive. We do not have it of ourselves; we receive it from heaven. We do not perform it; we accept it by faith, through which we ascend beyond all laws and works. “As, therefore, we have borne the image of the earthly Adam,” as Paul says, “let us bear the image of the heavenly one” (1 Corinthians 15:49), who is a new man in a new world, where there is no Law, no sin, no conscience, no death, but perfect joy, righteousness, grace, peace, life, salvation, and glory.

Then do we do nothing and work nothing in order to obtain this righteousness? I reply: Nothing at all. For this righteousness means to do nothing, to hear nothing, and to know nothing about the Law or about works but to know and believe only this: that Christ has gone to the Father and is now invisible; that He sits in heaven at the right hand of the Father, not as a Judge but as one who has been made for us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption from God (1 Corinthians 1:30); in short, that He is our High Priest, interceding for us and reigning over us and in us through grace. Here one notices no sin and feels no terror or remorse of conscience. Sin cannot happen in this Christian righteousness; for where there is no Law, there cannot be any transgression (Romans 4:15). If, therefore, sin does not have a place here, there is no conscience, no terror, no sadness. Therefore John says: “No one born of God commits sin” (1 John 3:9). But if there is any conscience or fear present, this is a sign that this righteousness has been withdrawn, that grace has been lost sight of, and that Christ is hidden and out of sight. But where Christ is truly seen, there there must be full and perfect joy in the Lord and peace of heart, where the heart declares: “Although I am a sinner according to the Law, judged by the righteousness of the Law, nevertheless I do not despair. I do not die, because Christ lives who is my righteousness and my eternal and heavenly life. In that righteousness and life I have no sin, conscience, and death. I am indeed a sinner according to the present life and its righteousness, as a son of Adam where the Law accuses me, death reigns and devours me. But above this life I have another righteousness, another life, which is Christ, the Son of God, who does not know sin and death but is righteousness and eternal life. For His sake this body of mine will be raised from the dead and delivered from the slavery of the Law and sin, and will be sanctified together with the spirit.”

Thus as long as we live here, both remain. The flesh is accused, exercised, saddened, and crushed by the active righteousness of the Law. But the spirit rules, rejoices, and is saved by passive righteousness, because it knows that it has a Lord sitting in heaven at the right hand of the Father, who has abolished the Law, sin, and death, and has trodden all evils underfoot, has led them captive and triumphed over them in Himself (Colossians 2:15). In this epistle, therefore, Paul is concerned to instruct, comfort, and sustain us diligently in a perfect knowledge of this most excellent and Christian righteousness. For if the doctrine of justification is lost, the whole of Christian doctrine is lost. And those in the world who do not teach it are either Jews or Turks or papists or sectarians. For between these two kinds of righteousness, the active righteousness of the Law and the passive righteousness of Christ, there is no middle ground. Therefore he who has strayed away from this Christian righteousness will necessarily relapse into the active righteousness; that is, when he has lost Christ, he must fall into a trust in his own works.

Martin Luther, “Lectures on Galatians”, 1535. Luther’s Works Volume 26, pages 6-9

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Fourth Sunday of Easter – John 16:16-23a

I am deeply indebted to my friend and brother in Office, Rev. William Cwirla, for much of what follows. To God alone be glory.

As Jesus looked deeply into the faces of His disciples that night in the upper room at the table, He saw uncertainty, fear, doubt, sadness. Jesus was speaking of His impending death and resurrection. In a little while, they would no longer see Him. The stone would be rolled in front of his tomb and He would be seen no more. The world would rejoice as the disciples sorrowed. But their sorrow would turn to joy.

Jesus told them. Again, a little while, and you will see me. Good Friday anguish turned into Easter morning joy with the news, “Christ is risen”. All the darkness and death of that previous Friday was swallowed up in joy and light. Jesus lives.

Why didn’t Jesus come right out and say that He would die and rise from the dead? He did say it at least three times, but it didn’t seem to register. Here Jesus says it another way, a way that we can hear it for ourselves and take it to heart. It means as much to us as it means to the disciples in that upper room. In a little while, you will not see me, and then again a little while and you will see me.

You can’t see Jesus now. He’s been glorified to the right hand of His Father. Yet He’s very “here”, that is “present.” He still dwells among us as the Word become flesh. He is present and active in His Word, in Baptism, in the Supper. He can be heard through His office of preaching. The Spirit He sends is busy delivering forgiveness, life, and salvation to our ears. We simply can’t see Him for a little while.

What you can’t see, you must believe. We must take Jesus at His Word. Just as the disciples were caught between the “now” of not seeing and the “not yet” of seeing, between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, so we too find ourselves caught between the “not seeing” of Ascension Day and the “seeing” of Judgment Day, the great Day of Resurrection still to come.

Our time is the time between the old and new creation. The old order of things is passing away. Expanding on the seventh petition of the Our Father in the Small Catechism, Luther described this life as a “vale of tears,” a valley of sorrow. Psalm 23 calls it the valley of the shadow of Death. There may be joy in this life, but it’s fleeting. It quickly evaporates and turns to bitterness. There may be peace in this life, but it’s always a tenuous peace. There may be laughter in this life, but it is a laughter that quickly returns to weeping.

We weep over our sin, our sinful condition, and what sin has done to this world we live in. We weep over broken friendships, broken families, and broken lives. We weep over the state of the church, over our struggling congregations, and over the seeming loss of vitality that once seemed to invigorate the church. We weep over the loss of loved ones and we say farewell to them in this life and stand at their graves not seeing but believing.

Jesus compared the “now” and the “not yet” to the difference between the labor pains of delivery and the joy that a child has been born into the world. The pains of childbirth are great. They are, in many ways, a death. In some cases, mothers still do die in childbirth. Yet in the end, all the pain and sorrow and tears give way to joy.

She no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. Mothers don’t forget the pain. But the pain of delivery is brought into a new context of life. And that’s what makes the difference. Present suffering has its context in future joy and glory. The pain and tears of this life have their meaning and purpose in the resurrection, in the dawning age when we will see once again with resurrected clarity.

You will have sorrow now. Jesus said that to His disciples on the eve of His death. They would sorrow deeply. He says these words to you as well. You will have sorrow now. But that sorrow fits into a bigger picture that will be seen in the light of the New Creation.

I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. That’s what awaits you and all who trust in Christ. You will see Jesus on the day of His appearing, the Last Day of the old creation, the First and only Day of the new. You will see Him whom you do not now see, and you will rejoice with unending joy.

Jesus “makes all things new” in death and resurrection. He takes all things into His own mortal flesh and He dies and rises. He takes this old creation that is passing away and He lets it die and then raises it up again. He takes all the flotsam and jetsam of history, including your own history, and washing it in His blood, redeems it with His death and raises it up for eternal good in the resurrection.

Nothing of your life is ever lost. It’s redeemed and held for you in a complete and whole way in Christ. Mom doesn’t forget her labor pains. They collapse into the joy that is her child. Our present sufferings do not compare with the glory that will be revealed to us. In the light of Christ and His death and resurrection, it all makes sense. It all fits together. When all becomes clear in God’s good time, then the vision truly will be glorious. Jesus says so. You will have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

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Good Works and Vocation

We have often heard what good works are, since we have come to the light and to knowledge through baptism and through the gospel. We did not learn in the papacy what constitutes a good work. Before the gospel came, we were told that the works which we ourselves devised and chose were good works, such as making a pilgrimage to St. James or some other place, giving money to the monks in the cloisters for the reading of many masses, burning candles, fasting with but bread and water, praying a certain number of rosaries, etc. But now that the gospel has come, we preach thus: Good works are not those which we choose of ourselves but those which God has commanded and those which our vocation calls for.

A servant does good works when he fears God, believes in Christ, and leads his life in obedience to his master. First he is justified before God through faith in Christ; then he goes on to lead a godly life in faith, maintains moderation and decency, serves his neighbor, cleans the stable, gives the horses fodder, etc. If he goes on performing works such as these, he is doing better works than any Carthusian monk. For since he is baptized, believes in Christ, and in assured hope is waiting for eternal life, he knows that whatever he does in his calling pleases God. Therefore everything that he does in his occupation is a good and precious work. To be sure, they do not seem to be great, outstanding works: riding out to the field, driving to the mill, etc. But because God’ s law and command covers them, such works cannot but be and be called good works and services rendered to God, no matter how insignificant they appear to be.

In like manner also a maidservant does good works when she performs her calling in faith, obeys her mistress, sweeps the house, washes and cooks in the kitchen, etc. Though these works are not as glamorous as the works of the Carthusian who hides behind a mask and has people gaping at him, still such works are much better and more precious before God than those of the Carthusian who wears a hair shirt, keeps his vigils, gets up at night and chants for five hours, eats no meat, etc. Although these appear to be glittering and shining works before the world, yet they have no command and order of God. How, then, can such so called “good works” possibly please God? Likewise when a peasant or a farmer helps his neighbor, serves him where he can, warns him of the danger threatening his body, wife, servant, cattle, and goods, helping him when he needs help, etc., such works do not make a great show, but they are nevertheless good and precious works.

When the civil government punishes the wicked and protects the virtuous, and when the citizens yield obedience to the government and do so from faith in Christ and in the hope of eternal life, they are performing good works, even though they do not shine and glitter in the sight of reason…. If you ask reason for advice, the works of a servant, a maid, a master, a mistress, a mayor, and a judge are common, lowly works compared with the Carthusian’s keeping his vigil, fasting, praying, abstaining from meat. But if you ask God’s word for advice, the works of all Carthusians and all monks, melted together in one mass, are not as good as the work of a single poor maidservant who by baptism has been brought into the kingdom of God, believes in Christ, and in faith is looking for the blessed hope.

These two articles St. Paul would keep alive among Christians: the knowledge of our Savior Jesus Christ and the knowledge of the office entrusted to us, so that we may rightly learn to know our occupation as Christians. Through baptism and through the gospel we are called as heirs of eternal life. Therefore we should wait for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. Secondly, since we are now Christians and heirs of the kingdom of heaven, everything we do in our calling and occupation is altogether a good and precious work. Also for that reason we should be zealous for good works….

Now, therefore, since we have heard what blessed hope we should look for, we should also learn what good works are, namely, those which result from faith, in the calling commended to us, according to God’s command and word. Although such works do not glitter in the sight of reason, they are nevertheless precious before God, while the Carthusian and the monk cannot see and understand these things. For example, I am a preacher; that is my office. If now I believe in Christ and look for the blessed hope and then go and tend to my preaching and perform my calling, even though people hold my office in low esteem, I would not trade my office for all the works that all the monks and nuns do in the cloister….

Likewise also that wife is a living saint who believes in Christ, looks for the blessed hope and appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in such a faith goes and does what belongs to the calling of a wife….

Just as reason knows nothing of the blessed hope of eternal life, so, too, it does not understand what constitutes truly good works. It reasons thus: This maid milks the cow, the farmer plows the field. They are performing common, lowly works which also the heathen perform. How, then, can they be good works? But this man becomes a monk, this woman becomes a nun; they look sour, put on a cowl, wear a rough garment: these are exceptional works which other people don’t do, therefore they must be good works. Thus reason argues. Thereby reason leads us away from the true knowledge, both of the blessed hope and of good works.

Martin Luther, “Of Our Blessed Hope” – A sermon on Titus 2:13 preached on August 19, 1531 in Kemberg. Translated by Arthur Schulz in “Journal of Theology” Volume 35, Number 3 (September, 1995). Quoted at length by Franz Pieper in “Christian Dogmatics” Volume 3, pages 40-42 (ET), pages 47-50 (German).

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Have Patience, Wait It Out, Take Courage, And Say, “So What?”

The devil and the world will never stop assailing [preachers]. If you speak the truth, the world rages madly; it begins to curse, condemn, persecute, and you’ll have to endure scorn and mockery. And if the world can whip out its sword against you, it will surely do that too, with master devil joining the fray, driving such poisonous, fiery darts into your heart that you will almost literally suffer a meltdown! When you experience this kind of tribulation – the world cursing and persecuting, deriding, and laughing, and the devil also plaguing you – what will you do? Become impatient, give up the ministry, walk away from it all, even cursing? Not at all! Instead, have patience, wait it out, take courage and say, So what? Didn’t my Lord Christ predict, “Ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice.” But, He added, Your sorrow will turn into joy after “a little while.” Because He’s always trustworthy, never having lied to me about the “little”, namely, that I do not now see Him and therefore weep and lament, so He will also not deceive me in regard to the other “little”, namely, that I will see Him again and my heart will rejoice! And that’s why we need seriously to ponder His words when He describes this alternating between not seeing and then seeing Christ, being sorrowful and then rejoicing, weeping and then being cheerful!

Martin Luther, House Postil for the Fourth Sunday of Easter (John 16:16-23a)

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The Blessed Exchange of Sorrow and Joy

Notice, now, how Christ alternates sorrow and joy, weeping and laughter. Just as He had previously done when He said, “A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you shall see me.” So He also does here in His explanation: You will surely have sorrow; and in contrast the world will be rejoicing, but both your mourning and the world’s joy have their “little while”; always there comes a blessed exchange, your sorrow becoming joy, and the world’s joy becoming sorrow. He speaks in that way so that patience will be increased. Indeed, who could remain steadfast and strong if God did not every once in a while provide relief? Ceaseless sorrow – that would be hell itself. But here’s the assurance: The sorrowing of Christians and the rejoicing of the world both have their “little while.” Christians will weep and lament; the world, on the other hand, will sing, dance, and celebrate! Be of good cheer, take the pause that refreshes and before you know it, there will be a trade-off: sorrow changing into joy, and joy into sorrow.

Luther’s House Postil for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

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Third Sunday of Easter – John 10:11-16

I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. This may make you tremble in fear. Jesus knows all about you because His Father in heaven knows all about you. He knows every hair on your head…or the lack of them. He knows all your sin and doubt. Knowing this, believing this, makes you wonder if God is well pleased with such a miserable person as you.

Don’t be afraid. We’ll sing in a little while, “The King of love my Shepherd is/Whose goodness faileth never.” Take a second to think about that last phrase. “Whose goodness faileth never.” Holy Scripture says that all His children, as long as they live on earth, remain full of misery and affliction. The same Word also says that despite all afflictions the Lord is well pleased with His own. His goodness never fails. He knows you, and you know Him.

The Lord knows you means more than He knows your vital statistics. He acknowledges you as His own. He holds you dear, despite all afflictions. He never forgets that He always takes care of you. Jesus says later in John chapter ten: I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

The verb “to know” in this case also means more than mere recognition. It’s not as if Jesus will give you a nod or a wink on Judgment Day. The nuance of the verb here means “to love, to accept someone from the bottom of the heart and also to care for them”. That’s unconditional love.

Mankind isn’t good with unconditional love, especially when there’s something in it for someone else. Take marriage for example. We say we love our spouse with an unconditional love, but if he or she does something that makes me mad, well, maybe our time together is over. Maybe our love for each other has run out. That does happen to marriages. Sin creeps in and Satan destroys love for each other. It happens in friendships, too, even among the closest of friends. Families are destroyed as well by the conditions we place on what is supposed to be unconditional love.

Jesus Christ knows nothing of conditional love. As a Shepherd, a Good Shepherd, in order to know His sheep, He marks them. Jesus marks His sheep just like an earthly shepherd marks his livestock of sheep. Jesus has written your name in the Book of Life. The prophet Isaiah foretells this marking when he writes, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.

The engraving is the mark where the nails were driven for your sin. Jesus knows you so well that He is willing to die for your sin. His blood cleanses you from all sin. His righteousness is your glorious dress, for His righteousness is perfect and pure. His goodness never fails.

You recognize your shepherd because He has spoken His Word of comfort to you. You have everything He promises you, both here in time and yonder in eternity. You cleave to Him, for there is no other Good Shepherd than Jesus Christ, the Door to the sheep pen. You are able to hear His voice and distinguish His voice from other voices, especially the voices of strangers and wolves who preach another gospel that is not the true Gospel of life from Jesus Christ.

There is comfort in believing the Word of the Good Shepherd. Jesus is your holiness. His Word is your dearest love, even His Word of Law. Yet you will never meet the perfect standard of the Law, even on your best day. The new creation and the old man in all of us struggle for supremacy to the grave. This is why you cling to Christ and His absolving Word on your behalf. You are baptized into Christ. He clothes you with His holiness. You live to do His will. You will fall short of that will. He will work repentance and give you forgiveness. His goodness faileth never.

When you know Christ in this way, you are one of His sheep. He knows you. He chose you from before the foundation of the world to be His precious child. There’s no need for you to seek how you may become a sheep. You are already a sheep. Be glad and take comfort that when you hear the voice of Jesus Christ, you have a dear Shepherd Who knows you. He cares for you as one of His own. He provides for you. He gives you daily bread. He gives you forgiveness of sins. He gives you eternal life. He feeds you with His Body and gives you to drink of His precious Blood. He protects you from the evil foe. He saves you. You don’t need to fear the devil, hell, and death. The Good Shepherd fights for you. The Good Shepherd picks you up when you stray and returns you to His fold. All this He does because His goodness faileth never.

“I nothing lack if I am His/And He is mine forever.”

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Second Sunday of Easter – John 20:19-31

It took one appearance by Jesus to turn the disciples’ unbelief into belief. It takes much more for us. Jesus is not visibly present among us. We cannot see His wounds. We cannot touch His hands and side. We need more than evidence in a book or from a pastor’s mouth to believe Jesus is alive.

Thomas said unless. We use if. If Jesus is alive, then He had better show His face somehow so I can believe He really exists. If Jesus really loves me, He will answer all my prayers the way I ask Him. If there is a God of the Bible, He will give me a sign. The faith that uses if is a faith that is centered in doubt or stubborn pride.

Today’s Introit from Psalm 81 says I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. In distress you called, and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. Did God’s people hear Him? My people would not heed My voice, and Israel would have none of Me. So I gave them over to their stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? We fall flat on our face when we think we can fix trouble without the Lord’s help. When we realize we are helpless without our heavenly Father and we don’t really believe He will help us, where will we turn? We turn to the God of love and mercy Who rescues us only to see us return to our foolish and thankless ways.

Though we love to sing, “To the old rugged cross I will always be true”, we are not loyal to the One Who hung on the old rugged cross. Though hearing Jesus’ resurrection from the dead brings great joy every year, it’s a week later and we forget about the resurrection. If seeing is believing, we will never know what it means to believe in the God Who saves us from sin and death.

Jesus tells Thomas because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. We weren’t in the room behind locked doors when Jesus walked in either that first night or one week later when Thomas was present. We didn’t walk the road to Emmaus with a stranger and not realize He is Jesus when He broke the bread. In spite of ourselves, in spite of our idols, and in spite of our unbelief, we believe. We believe because these [words in John’s Gospel] are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Gut feelings and reason cannot believe Jesus died and rose again. Faith clings to Jesus Christ and receives the benefits of His death and resurrection. How can this be? The Holy Spirit taught us by showing us the water and blood of Jesus pouring from His side. How can this be? The Spirit draws us into the Word of God where Saint John writes the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.

Today Jesus breathes on men who, in spite of themselves, will proclaim the resurrection peace of Jesus Christ. Jesus could have asked people to set up crosses on a street corner and watch people be drawn to that cross. The cross of Jesus, the cross on a street corner, and even the crosses in this church building, does no one good unless the cross is delivered. The Spirit puts the Father’s Word with water in Holy Baptism. This living water calls us out of darkness into the marvelous light of Christ. The Spirit puts the Father’s Word with bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper. The True Body and Blood of Christ forgive our sins and strengthen our faith. The Spirit puts the Father’s Word with the proclamation of forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. These gifts give the Holy Spirit Who works faith when and where He pleases in those who hear the Gospel.

This Gospel is what the disciples hear from Jesus’ mouth: peace be with you. The sinful doubt of the disciples finally left them when they saw Jesus alive. Thomas once did not believe, just as the other ten disciples once did not believe. When Jesus shows Himself, these eleven men once again believed in the Son of God.

Jesus shows Himself again here today, proclaiming peace be with you. What He achieved for you does no good unless it is delivered. No doubt about it, His forgiveness, His life, and His victory are delivered today for you. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.

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You Will Know Them By The Crosses They Bear

The holy Christian people are externally recognized by the holy possession of the sacred cross. They must endure every misfortune and persecution, all kinds of trials and evil from the devil, the world, and the flesh (as the Lord’s Prayer indicates) by inward sadness, timidity, fear, outward poverty, contempt, illness, and weakness, in order to become like their head, Christ. And the only reason they must suffer is that they steadfastly adhere to Christ and God’s word, enduring this for the sake of Christ, “Blessed are you when men persecute you on my account.” (Matthew 5:11) They must be pious, quiet, obedient, and prepared to serve the government and everybody with life and goods, doing no one any harm. No people on earth have to endure such bitter hate; they must be accounted worse than Jews, heathen, and Turks. In summary, they must be called heretics, knaves, and devils, the most pernicious people on earth, to the point where those who hang, drown, murder, torture, banish, and plague them to death are rendering God a service. No one has compassion on them; they are given myrrh and gall to drink when they thirst. And all of this is done not because they are adulterers, murderers, thieves, or rogues, but because they want to have none but Christ, and no other God. Wherever you see or hear this, you may know that the holy Christian church is there, as Christ says, “Blessed are you when men revile you and utter all kinds of evil against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.” (Matthew 5:11-12) This too is a holy possession whereby the Holy Spirit not only sanctifies his people, but also blesses them.

Martin Luther, “On the Councils and the Church”, Luther’s Works Volume 41, pages 164-165

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The Forgiveness of Sins Is Clear Enough

So that our readers may the better perceive our teaching I shall clearly and broadly describe it. We treat of the forgiveness of sins in two ways. First, how it is achieved and won. Second, how it is distributed and given to us. Christ has achieved it on the cross, it is true. But he has not distributed or given it on the cross. He has not won it in the supper or sacrament. There he has distributed and given it through the Word, as also in the gospel, where it is preached. He has won it once for all on the cross. But the distribution takes place continuously, before and after, from the beginning to the end of the world. For inasmuch as he had determined once to achieve it, it made no difference to him whether he distributed it before or after, through his Word, as can easily be proved from Scripture. But now there is neither need nor time to do so.

If now I seek the forgiveness of sins, I do not run to the cross, for I will not find it given there. Nor must I hold to the suffering of Christ, as Dr. Karlstadt trifles, in knowledge or remembrance, for I will not find it there either. But I will find in the sacrament or gospel the word which distributes, presents, offers, and gives to me that forgiveness which was won on the cross. Therefore, Luther has rightly taught that whoever has a bad conscience from his sins should go to the sacrament and obtain comfort, not because of the bread and wine, not because of the body and blood of Christ, but because of the word which in the sacrament offers, presents, and gives the body and blood of Christ, given and shed for me. Is that not clear enough?

Martin Luther, “Against the Heavenly Prophets”, Luther’s Works Volume 40, pages 213-214

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Everything Rests on the Preaching of the Word

Therefore as you go about your business in this illustrious Synod, and as you arrange everything to your liking, leave this one thing alone: that the clergy are to be given the mission of teaching the people and that they stop what is not substantive and occupy themselves with the pure Gospel and with the holy interpretation of the Good News, and that they be mindful of it and that they proclaim the Word of Truth to the people with fear and trembling. Finally, let them stop giving worldly opinions or at least speak of them sparingly and so become the true servants of God through the work of the Spirit. And, so say I, if this is not done with the greatest industriousness on your part and with earnest prayerfulness, then I can tell you at the outset that nothing else is worthwhile and that we have come to nothing and have made absolutely no progress whatsoever. For everything rests on the preaching of the Word and with it stands or falls the decision of the legitimate reformation of the Church as well as the foundation of a pious life.

– Martin Luther, quoted by Hans Joachim Iwand in “The Righteousness of Faith According to Martin Luther”, page 19

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