Category Archives: Quotes

The Work of Jesus Kicking Satan’s Hiney Continues Today

We need to know that Christ’s work of driving out the devil never ceases but continues to go on in the Christian world until the Last Day. Wherever Christ’s kingdom is, his wondrous work continues, causing the dumb to speak, the blind to see, and the deaf to hear. When Christ came in to the flesh he set this work going, and it continues in Christendom day for day till the world’s end. For this task Christ left us designated instruments: holy baptism, the blessed Sacrament, the Word and absolution, and whatever else belongs to the ministry of preaching, in order to enable us to destroy the devil’s kingdom, to take from him his captives and cast him out of people. That promise is written in Isaiah 55:11: Verbum meum non redibit vacuum, “[My word] shall not return to me void.” Just as rain fructifies the dry land, causing it to become green and alive, so God’s Word produces fruit wherever it comes. The Holy Spirit accompanies the Word, to enlighten, kindle faith, cleanse, and free people from the devil’s power and rule.

So what that the world takes no note of it! That was true then when Christ personally accomplished it. For the world is not worthy of seeing the smallest spark of God’s wondrous signs and works, but deserves to be blind, senseless, and deaf; for it dishonors, reviles, and slanders the Lord Christ as we see here. We Christians, however, who have and believe the Word should see, know, and be comforted in our hearts that God has vested us with the power here upon earth to continue to drive out the devil also now – indeed it is our duty! – both spiritually and physically.

Every child that comes into this world is born into the kingdom of the devil, the lord of death, who exercises his sway through sin’s tyranny. But upon Christ’s command we bring a child to holy baptism, speak the words of promise which he commanded, and the child is born anew into God’s kingdom; and the devil must yield and get out. God’s grace, through Christ, is spoken by God to the child, inasmuch as he or she is baptized into Christ’s death. When a person whom the devil has greatly overwhelmed and seared with many accusations comes to me with heavy heart and troubled conscience seeking comfort and instruction, I have the mandate, as does every Christian, to comfort my brother and pronounce God’s grace, for Christ’s sake, upon him. The devil must yield, not to me, a poor and wretched sinner, but to the Word which the Lord Christ left us upon earth. When your conscience is weak and terrified, therefore, and you are unable to grasp tightly enough the comfort that God graciously wants you to have, the forgiveness of sins, then know that Christ has given the Lord’s Supper, his true body and blood to eat and to drink, so that you have no reason further to doubt that his body was given for your sins and his blood poured out for your transgressions. Where such faith and trust are present, there it is impossible for the devil to dwell and hold sway.

This work, therefore, must continue apace in Christendom, in order to drive the devil out by the finger of God. Christ began it, as St. Paul states in Acts 10:38, “[Jesus] went about doing good, healing all that were oppressed by the devil; for God was with him.” The Christian church continues this work until the world’s end, indeed more and greater works than those Christ did, as he himself promised (John 14:12): “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”

The fact is that the Christian church carries forward its ministry even further than Christ did. He preached in only a small corner of the Jewish homeland, driving out Satan, converting but few through his preaching. The Christian church, in contrast, is spread throughout the world and pursues its office of preaching and administering the sacraments with the help of the Lord Christ, who is the church’s Head and sits at the right hand of God, punishing the devil and his wicked works continuously, now at this place, tomorrow at another.

Martin Luther, House Postil for the Third Sunday in Lent (Luke 11:14-28)

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Gospel and Scripture

“It is, I believe, the failure to grasp and face up to the confessional doctrine of Biblical authority which has given rise to much of the confusion in the Lutheran church today regarding the relation of the Gospel to Scripture, of the material principle, so-called, and the formal principle of theology. Scripture is the principium cognoscendi, the source of our knowledge of theology; the Gospel is the source of our faith itself. Scripture is the source of our doctrine (fides quae creditur), also the doctrine of the Gospel; the Gospel creates personal faith (fides qua creditur). Scripture is properly called the authority, norm, source, judge; the Gospel in Scripture, or wherever it obtains, is power, God’s own power unto salvation to all who believe. The unity of faith in the Gospel is the foundation of our fellowship in the church universal (AC VII); unity in the articles of faith drawn from the Scriptures is the foundation for external fellowship among particular churches and synods (FC SD, Rule and Norm, 1; SD, X, 16, 31). The sola gratia and sola fide of the Gospel are the source and means of my salvation; the sola scriptura is the source of my preaching and teaching. Recognition of the formal principle (sola Scriptura) and loyalty to it are the fruits of faith in the Gospel; faith in the Gospel is the result of a Word and preachment drawn from and normed by the Scriptures.”

Robert Preus, “Biblical Authority in the Lutheran Confessions” (1977)

Robert Preus

The Law Is Preached to the Christian Because The Christian Remains in the Flesh

Christians, however, also need the Law as a norm, i.e., as rule and guideline from which they learn how they should walk in a God-pleasing way. Certainly not, however, in so far as they are reborn or Christians. To this extent, they have the Law of God within themselves and need no external rule and guideline for their manner of life. In this place belongs the word: “The Law is not laid down for the just.”[1] But inasmuch as Christians still have the flesh in themselves, blindness and perversity prevails in them regarding the will of God. They want to do things that God does not require of them, and the things they should do they want to omit.

The history of the Church and of every Christian life provides enough examples. Just think of monasticism. Men came and come to the strange delusion of wishing to serve God by leaving their vocation and running to the cloister. Let us remember that in ourselves, i.e., in our flesh, we often have little desire for the works of our vocation, but we may be content with the things that are not commanded us.

Therefore, we cannot seriously stress enough that the Law must be incessantly taught in the Church as the norm of a God-pleasing life. To the same people to whom the apostle said: “Christ is the end of the law”[2] he holds up before them: “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”[3] Further: Paul certainly gives Christians the testimony that they gladly give. He testifies to the Christian communities that they “gave according to their means and beyond their means, of their own accord”[4], and again: “I know your readiness”[5] — and yet the same apostle holds up before the same people as rule and norm: “God loves a cheerful giver”, and reminds them: “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”[6] From this we see that we merely follow the apostolic model when we hold up the Law to Christians as the norm that shows them what they are to do.

Let us see to it that in this point no antinomian practice creeps in among us. Someone might think that all external substance has no value before God. That is why I will continue with the preaching of the Gospel, but keep silent of the Law as the norm of the Christian way of life. I will wait for true works to come by themselves. That would make a false distinction between Law and Gospel. This would in practice neglect a part of the Word of God. It is true that a Christian, as a Christian, is not only willing to walk in God’s commandments, but as a Christian he also knows himself (namely because the Law is written in his heart according to the new man), what is the good will of God. But a Christian is a double person [German: Doppelmensch]. He still has the old man in himself who always indicates the wrong way regarding works. But because the old man does not live apart from the Christian or is removed from him, but dwells in the Christian, and forms a person with him, he thus continually obscures the right knowledge of what the will of God is to the Christian. For this reason, the Law of God must still be held up before Christians as the norm of a God-pleasing life.

Franz Pieper, “The Practical Importance of the Proper Distinction of Law and Gospel”

Note: Italicized print is Pieper’s emphasis. Bold print is my emphasis.

[1] 1 Timothy 1:9.
[2] Romans 10:4.
[3] Romans 13:13-14.
[4] 2 Corinthians 8:3.
[5] 2 Corinthians 9:2.
[6] 2 Corinthians 9:6-7.

The More You Know, The More You Don’t Know

“For Thy testimonies are my meditation, and Thy statutes my counsel.” (Psalm 119:24)

For to meditate means to think deeply and to explore the inner parts and always to follow the spirit within and not to construct a wall for yourself and set up a boundary, as if you had already achieved the end of understanding or acting. Therefore I have rightly said that the testimonies require faith above all, so that in what you do not yet understand you believe one who understands and you do not by your own authority set up the meaning for yourself or fight against another in what you do not know or about which you have doubts. Therefore to meditate means to know the testimonies inwardly since they are the signs and attestations of things to come. He who does not understand the Scripture in a relative way or does not work toward the future, namely, that he always knows that there is something left over for him to understand and do and faithfully to await and desire finally to understand and do, he certainly does not let the Scripture be the testimonies of the Lord. But now, until the life to come, there is always something left over to understand and to do. Therefore you must never be proud, as if you were already full, rich, and well provided. Always they are to you testimonies of what you have not yet understood or done. And yet you ought to wish and expect to do and understand them, as above: “My soul has coveted to long for Thy ordinances at all times” (Psalm 119:20). Not that it is necessary for us to understand and do everything in this life, but that the mind should be prepared never to want to stop doing and understanding more fully to eternity, to know no boundary, no end, no restriction. This is what it means to be in the spirit of freedom, for which no law and statute has been set, because it does more than is commanded, so that if one could live eternally, one would strive eternally to know and do, and never move backward. He is the one whose meditation is the testimonies of the Lord and who keeps His testimonies.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Psalm 119 (LW 11:434-435)

Christianity and Piety

Other doctrines outside of the Gospel, like the books of the heathen masters, insist that the people should through them become good; again, the legends of the saints especially insist that the people are to live as the saints lived. To make good people does not belong to the Gospel, for it only makes Christians. It takes much more to be a Christian than to be pious. A person can easily be pious, but not a Christian. A Christian knows nothing to say about his piety, for he finds in himself nothing good or pious. If he is to be pious, he must look for a different piety, a piety in some one else.

To this end Christ is presented to us as an inexhaustible fountain, who at all times overflows with pure goodness and grace. And for such goodness and kindness he accepts nothing, except that the good people, who acknowledge such kindness and grace, thank him for it, praise and love him, although others despise him for it. This is what he reaps from it. So one is not called a Christian because he does much, but because he receives something from Christ, draws from him and lets Christ only give to him. If one no longer receives anything from Christ, he is no longer a Christian, so that the name Christian continues to be based only on receiving, and not on giving and doing, and he receives nothing from any one except from Christ alone. If you look at what you do, you have already lost the Christian name. It is indeed true, that we are to do good works, help, advise and give to others; but no one is called a Christian by reason of that, nor is he on that account a Christian.

Therefore, if you wish to consider the word in its true meaning, you must identify a Christian by the fact that he only receives something from Christ, and has Christ within him; for this is what the word properly means. Just as a person is called “white,” because of his white color, black because of his dark color, large because of his size. So also one is called a “Christian” because of Christ, who dwells in him and from whom he receives his blessings. So, if one is called a Christian because of Christ, he is certainly then not called a Christian because of his works. From this it also follows that no one is called a Christian by reason of his good works. If this be true, as it undoubtedly is, then it must follow that our orders and sects do not belong under the Christian name, and they do not develop Christians.

Therefore they are deceivers, who preach or teach in the church, and occupy themselves with commandments, works and statutes, that accomplish nothing. Although they pretend to be Christians, nevertheless they still, under this name, attempt to burden and torment us with their commands and works. By reason of my works I may well be called one who fasts, one who prays, or a pilgrim, but not a Christian. If you were to weave all your works together, and add to them all the works of others, you would still not have Christ, and from these things you could not be called a Christian. Christ is something different and higher than law and the commandments of men. He is the Son of God, who is ready alone to give and not to receive. If I am so wise as to take what he offers, I have him, and if I have him I am then justly called a Christian. Thus you have the distinction as to what a Christian is and what Christ is.

Martin Luther, First Church Postil for Trinity 24 (Matthew 9:18-26)

Faith in Christ Alone is God’s Thunderclap

“Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.'” (John 6:29 ESV)

All Holy Scripture is in agreement with this true service of God, which is indeed grounded in Holy Scripture. Therefore if you want to serve God, bear in mind that you must believe in Him whom the Father sent. If you want to know how to obtain God’s grace and how to approach God, how to render satisfaction for your sin, and how to escape death, then this is truly God’s will and true service, that you believe in Christ. The text deals with the work that we are to perform, namely, to believe. Faith is a work that man must do, and yet it is also called the work of God; for this is the true existence, work, life, and merit with which God desires to be honored and served. If there is no faith, God accepts nothing as service rendered to Him. Here we have the answer to the question: What is the real service of God? It is the doctrine of faith in Christ. Later Christ tells us about the origin of faith—for no one possesses faith of himself—when He says (John 6:44): “No one can come to Me unless the Father draws him.” And again (John 6:65): “No one can believe in Me unless it is granted him by the Father.” For faith is a divine work which God demands of us; but at the same time He Himself must implant it in us, for we cannot believe by ourselves.

Here we see the glory of this precious verse, which, like a thunderclap, lays low all wisdom and righteousness, every commandment and ordinance, even the very Law of Moses, and all work-righteousness. It spreads another work before us, far beyond us and above us. For Christ, whom the Father sent, is not my fasting, praying, waking, and toiling. No, my fasting is a work which has its source in me. Waking is also a work of my head and my eyes. Likewise the giving of alms, toiling, and whatever man is able to do with his body, his life, and his soul—all this is our work, emanating from us and not from without. But where is Christ to be found in this? Christ is not our mouth, head, belly, eyes, hands, body, or soul; nor is He any other part of man. He is a Being entirely different from us, just as the sun is not my eye, my tongue, or my belly, but an altogether different being. My eyes can wake; but, for all that, I do not feel or perceive Christ. Furthermore, though I see with my eyes, I still do not behold Christ. He does not want to be grasped by our thoughts and reason. Thus faith is not our work; for I am drawn to Christ, whom I neither feel nor see.

Martin Luther, Exposition on the Gospel of St. John, Luther’s Works Vol. 23, page 23

To Love Is To Help It Become What It Is

To love the Church, then, is to help it become what it is. The first axiom of classical Greek wisdom is “Know yourself.” The second is, “Become what you are.” When St. Paul speaks of a Church without spot or wrinkle, therefore, he is not speaking of a different Church than the one with which we are so restlessly dissatisfied. No, he is speaking of this Church becoming what in reality it is. This does not mean that the whole of past and present Christianity will finally be vindicated and presented as the Bride of Christ, “holy and without blemish.” We know there are tares among the wheat, but we are also warned by our Lord not to embark upon a premature and presumptuous effort to sort out the one from the other. That will be done in due time. For now, and until he comes in glory, our task is to love. And to love means to assist in the actualizing of possibilities perceived by faith.

…..

Too often movements for change fail not for lack of analysis, nor for lack of commitment, but for lack of love. And when movements that are without love do succeed, their success is often a greater wrong than the wrong they set out to correct. Whom you would change – lastingly, and for the good – you must first love.

Richard John Neuhaus, Freedom for Ministry, pages 15-16

RJN

Salt, Light, Discipleship, and Good Works

The call of Jesus had been a call to ministry: “I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). The Beatitudes picture the disciple both as receiving from God in pure passivity and as caught up into the motion of the God who acts and the Messiah who gives. The beggar can only receive, but he does receive; and the mercy which he receives makes him merciful. The peace which God gives him makes him a peacemaker. Men molded by the Messiah act in the world, so vigorously and so decisively that the world persecutes them for it.

In the metaphor of salt and light Jesus makes plain to His disciples how inseparable discipleship and activity are, how impossible any thought of a quietistic and contemplative discipleship is (Matthew 5:13-16). The disciples are salt and light by virtue of what the call of Jesus has given them and what the word of Jesus is giving them. They need not trouble themselves about how they may become salt and light, any more than a city set on a hilltop need concern itself about becoming conspicuous. Where they are and what they are, the fact that they are with Jesus and in communion with the Messiah, gives them inevitably a function which is as universal as the authority of the Messiah; they are the salt of the whole earth and the light of the whole world.

Both salt and light are, of course, thought of as having a salutary effect upon their surroundings. Salt seasons and preserves, and light dispels darkness and makes a man’s goings and comings certain and secure. But what Jesus is stressing in the metaphors is the fact that in salt and light nature and function are one; salt salts because it is salt, and light illumines because it is light. Salt which no longer salts has ceased to be salt. the disciple who ceases to minister has forfeited his existence as disciple and has destroyed himself. He has, by forgoing activity, disrupted his communion with the Christ; and there is no second way to saltness. A man can be light only by his communion with the Christ, and he can remain light only by shining.

The disciple is salt and light by faith; and faith is not chemical process but a personal relationship and therefore involves responsibility and obedience. The disciple cannot make himself light, but he can obscure his light. He cannot make himself salt, but he can in irresponsible disobedience frustrate his saltness. Jesus therefore implants with faith that holy fear which makes a man work in awe and trembling, lest he should have received the grace of God to no purpose. Again Jesus centers the disciple’s life squarely in God and puts it under the tension of the approaching end of days. The disciples live and work as sons of God, and they so live and work that God may at the last, when all false works are judged and all false glories have been erased, be glorified by all – be known as God, acknowledged as God, adored as God by His redeemed creation. (Matthew 5:16; cf. Philippians 2:11)

Martin Franzmann, “Follow Me: Discipleship According to Matthew”, pages 41-42

What Does It Mean to Preach Christ?

What does it mean to “preach Christ”? Some believe that Christ is preached when presented as a model in a holy manner of life and in good works; the sum of Christian doctrine is proclaimed when people are told, “Walk in the way that Christ has walked, then you come to heaven.” But to preach Christ is to say something entirely different. To preach Christ is to teach and to inculcate that salvation in Him alone and in such a way that human works are not considered. Paul preaches Christ in this way. He says: “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”[1] And he calls out a warning to the Galatians: “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.”[2] Thus one only preaches Christ who teaches that we are justified and saved by grace for Christ’s sake through faith, and that salvation is not placed in a thousandth part on the works of man, nor on the works through which we follow Christ. As soon as someone teaches that one attains salvation through his own works, Christ is no longer preached but denied and blasphemed. Luther comes to this point when he defends his translation of Romans 3:28 against the upset Papists. He says: “Are we to deny Paul’s word on account of such ‘offense,’ or stop speaking out freely about faith? Land, St. Paul and I want to give such offense; we preach so strongly against works and insist on faith alone, for no other reason than that the people may be offended, stumble, and fall, in order that they may learn to know that they are not saved by their good works but only by Christ’s death and resurrection… What a fine, constructive, and inoffensive doctrine that would be, if people were taught that they could be saved by works, as well as faith! That would be as much as to say that it is not Christ’s death alone that takes away our sins, but that our works too have something to do with it. That would be a fine honoring of Christ’s death, to say that it is helped by our works, and that whatever it does our works can do too—so that we are his equal in strength and goodness! This is the very devil; he can never quit abusing the blood of Christ.” (“On Translating: An Open Letter”, Luther’s Works 35:196-197)

Franz Pieper, “The Practical Importance of the Proper Distinction of Law and Gospel”, 1895 Kansas District Convention Address

[1] Romans 3:28.
[2] Galatians 5:4.

Who Is A Christian?

Who is a Christian? Rationalists describe a Christian like this: A Christian is a man who strives to be virtuous, to live according to his reason, or to live honestly according to the rules of “the great virtuous teacher”. A papist, upon questioning, would define a Christian as follows: A Christian is a man who submits himself to the Pope’s rule and who conforms himself to ecclesiastical arrangement. And there might well be among Lutherans here and there those who describe a Christian this way: A Christian is a man who goes to Church, and from time to time to the sacrament, pays his contributions, and is concerned with an honest manner of life before the world. — These are, however, descriptions which are partly quite false, partly do not give a clearly visible essence of a Christian. We say on the basis of Scripture: A Christian is a man who is convinced through the working of the Holy Spirit of two things: 1. of the fact that he is a sinner worthy of condemnation before God, and 2. of the fact that God forgives all his sins for Christ’s sake; i.e., a Christian is a man who knows to distinguish Law and Gospel. He lets the Law come into play; he lets his sin be revealed by the Law. He does not say: There is no serious intent with the demands and threats of the Law. No, he leaves the demands of the Law as they are. He admits not only with words, but also in his heart: I am a sinner worthy of condemnation. Through the law comes to him knowledge of his sin and worthiness of condemnation. But he lets the Law remain in this area. The question of how he is saved can only be answered by the Gospel. He believes that God absolves him in the Gospel of the sins He has revealed to him by the Law. He recognizes the Law as the Word of God; but he also knows that God has yet another word, the Gospel, and that all poor sinners should hear this other Word and from it gain the confidence that their sins are forgiven them. Thus a Christian is a man who lets both Law and Gospel take effect in themselves, but also knows how to separate both of them. Where this does not happen, then there is also no Christianity.

Franz Pieper, “The Practical Importance of the Proper Distinction of Law and Gospel”, 1895 Kansas District Convention Address

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