* It is a great disgrace that
the world does not receive
its Creator. 99.
5. The glorious work effected
by Christ's coming.
a. The nature of this work.
* Good works canot change a
person, faith in Christ must
do that. 101-103.
b. The nature of persons, in
whom this work of Christ
finds expression. 104-109.
* Concerning the new birth.
1. How the new birth takes
2. How it is fully proved in
time of temptaion and
3. The fruits and evidence
of the new birth. 111-112.
4. This birth is not the work
of human reason and pow-
er, but the work of God.
II. Christ's Becoming Man.
1. The nature, meaning and un-
derstanding of this. 115.
2. How Christ's incarnation suf-
fered many things from
* Of the holy Scriptures and
a. How the holy Scriptures
are completely suppressed
by Antichrist. 117-118.
b. That Antichrist is worse
than any heretic. 118-121.
c. How and why we should
cleave to the holy Scrip-
tures and to Christ. 122.
* Christ must first come to us
in his grace, if we are to
be saved. 123.
3. How this teaching is to be
considered important, which
faith alone grasps. 124.
4. Whether Christ's incarnation
is contrary to reason. 125.
5. Whether reason can grasp it.
* Concerning reason; also con-
cernig the true God.
a. Reason points out presump-
tuous things in tlie works of
b. Reason can do nothing but
work apostacy. 128-129.
C. Those who place their fancy
and arrogance above God
and his Word, have not the
true God. 130-132.
d. Real believers do not mis-
take the true God. 131.
e. What is the surest evidence
that anything is from God.
6. How is it to be understood
when the Evangelist here
says, Christ dwellt among
HI. The Revelation Of Christ's
1. The right meaning and un-
derstanding of this. 135.
2. How this teaches that Christ
is true God. 136.
3. The persons who have and
have not part in this glory.
* The meaning of the -words,
"Grace and Truth." 138.
* How and why natural light
can never begin the work it
would have done. 139.
* The conclusion of the expo-
sition of this Gospel. 140.
CHRISrS TITLES OF HONOR AND HIS
1. This is the most important of all the Gospels of the
church year, and yet it is not, as some think, obscure or dif-
ficult. For upon it is clearly founded the important article of
faith concerning the divinity of Christ, with which all Chris-
tians ought to be acquainted, and which they are able to under-
stand. Nothing is too great for faith. Therefore let us con-
sider this Gospel lesson in the simplest manner possible, and
not as the scholastics did with their fabricated subtleties, con-
174 i^uther's church postil.
ceal Its doctrine from the common people and frighten them
away from it. There is no need of many fine and sharp dis-
tinctions, but only of a plain, simple explanation of the words
of the text.
2. In the first place, we should know that all that the apos-
tles taught and wrote, they took out of the Old Testament;
for in it all things are proclaimed that were to be fulfilled
later in Christ, and were to be preached, as Paul says in Rom.
1,2: "God promised afore the Gospel of his son Jesus Chrisi
through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures." Therefore ail
their preaching is based upon the Old Testament, and there
is not a word in the New Testament that does not look back
into the Old, where it had been foretold.
Thus we have seen in the Epistle how the divinity of Christ
is confirmed by the Apostle from passages in the Old Testa-
ment. For the New Testament is nothing more than a revela-
tion of the Old. Just as one receives a sealed letter which is
not to be opened until after the writer's death, so the Old
Testament is the will and testament of Christ, which he has
had opened after his death and read and everywhere pro-
claimed through the Gospel, as it is declared in Rev. 5, 5, where
the Lamb of God alone is able to open the book with the seven
seals, which no one else could open, neither in heaven, nor on
earth, nor under the earth.
I. CHRIST'S FIRST TITLE OF HONOR AND AT-
TRIBUTE: HE IS THE WORD.
3. That this Gospel may be clearer and more easily under-
stood, we must go back to the passages In the Old Testament
upon which it is founded, namely, the beginning of the first
chapter of Genesis. There we read. Gen. 1, 1-3 : "In the begin-
ning God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth
was waste and void ; and darkness was upon the face of the
deep; and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the
waters. And God said, Let there be light, and there was
light," etc. Moses continues how all things were created in
like manner as the light, namely, by speaking or the Word of
God. Thus : "And God said. Let there be a firmament." And
again: "God said. Let there be sun, moon, stars," etc.
THIRD CHRISTMAS DAY. 175
4. From these words of "Moses it Is clearly proved that God
has a Word, through which or by means of which he spoke,
before anything was created; and this Word does not and
cannot be anything that was created, since all things were
created through this divine utterance, as the text of Moses
clearly and forcibly expresses it, v.hen it says : "God said,
Let there be light, and there was light." The Word must
therefore have preceded the light, since light came by the
Word; consequently it was also before all other creatures,
which also came by the Word, as ]\Ioses writes.
5. But let us go farther. If the Word preceded all crea-
tures, and all creatures came by the Word and were created
through it, the A\^ord must be a different being than a creature,
and was not made or created like a creature. It must there-
fore be eternal and without beginning. For when all things
began it was already there, and cannot be confined in time
nor in creation, but is above time and creation; yea, time and
creation are made and have their beginning through it. Thus
it follows that whatever is not temporal must be eternal ; and
that which has no beginning cannot be temporal; and that
which is not a creature must be God. For besides God and his
creatures there is nothing. Hence we learn from this text of
^Moses, that the Word of God, which was in the beginning
and through which all things were made and spoken, must be
God eternal and not a creature.
6. Again, the Word and he that speaks it, are not one per-
son ; for it is not possible that the speaker is himself the Word.
What sort of speaker would he be who is himself the Word?
He must needs be a mute, or the word must needs sound of
itself without the speaker. But Scripture here speaks in strong
and lucid words : "God said." And thus God and His Word
must be two distinct things.
If Moses had written : "There was an utterance," it would
not be so evident that there were two, the Word and the
Speaker. But when he says: "God said," and names the
speaker and his word, he forcibly states that there are tw^o;
that the speaker is not the word, and the word is not the
speaker^ but that the word comes from the speaker, and has
176 Luther's church postil.
its existence not of itself but from the speaker. But the
speaker does not come from the word, nor does he have his
existence from it, but from himself. Thus, the words of
Moses point conclusively to the fact that there are two persons
in the Godhead from eternity, before all creatures, that the
one has its existence from the other, and' the. first has its
existence from nothing but itself.
7. Again, the Scriptures firmly and everlastingly maintain
that there is only one God, as Moses begins, saying: "In the
beginning God created the heavens and the earth." And
Deut. 6, 4, "Hear, O Israel ; Jehovah our God is one God."
Thus the Scriptures proceed in simple, comprehensible words,
and teach such exalted things so plainly that every one may
well understand them, and so forcibly that no one can gainsay
them. Who is there that cannot here understand from these
words of Moses, that there must be two persons in the God-
head, and yet but one God, unless he wishes to deny the plain
8. Again, who is there so subtle as to be able to contra-
dict this doctrine? He must distinguish or keep apart the
Word from God, the speaker ; and he must confess that it was
before all creatures, and that the creatures were made by it.
Consequently he must surely admit it to be God, for besides
the creatures there is is nothing but God ; he must also admit
that there is only one God. Thus the Scriptures forcibly con-
clude that these two persons are one perfect God, and that
each one is the only true, real, and perfect God, who has cre-
ated all things; that the Speaker has his being not from the
Word, but that the Word has its being from the Speaker,
vet he has his being eternally and from eternity, and outside
of all creation.
9. The Arian heretics intended to draw a mist over this
clear passage and to bore a hole into heaven, since they could
not surmount it, and said that this Word of God was indeed
God, not by nature, however, but by creation. They said that
all things were created by it, but it had also been created pre-
viously, and after that all things were created by it. This
they said from their own imagination without any authority
THIRD CHRISTMAS DAY. 177
from the Scriptures, because they left the simple words of
the Scriptures and followed their own fancies.
10. Therefore I have said that he who desires to proceed
safely on firm ground, must have no regard for the many
subtle and hair-splitting words and fancies, but must cling to
the simple, powerful, and explicit words of Scripture, and he
will be secure. We shall also see how St. John anticipated
these same heretics and refuted them in their subterfuges and
11. Therefore we have here in the Books of Moses the
real gold mine, from which everything that is written in the
New Testament concerning the divinity of Christ has been
taken. Here you may see from what source the gospel of St.
John is taken, and upon what it is founded; and therefore it
is easy to understand.
This is the source of the passage in Ps. 83, 6 : "By the
Word of Jehovah the heavens were made." Solomon in beau-
tiful words describes the wisdom of God, Prov. 3, 22, saying
that this wisdom had been in God before all things; and he
takes his thoughts from this chapter of !Moses. So almost all
the prophets have worked in this mine and have dug their
treasures from it.
12. But there are other passages by this same Moses con-
cerning the Holy Ghost, as for example in Gen. 1,22 : "And the
Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters/' Thus the
Spirit of God must also be something different from hi'm who
breathes him into existence, sends him forth, and yet he must be
before all creatures.
Again, Moses says in Gen. 1, 28-31 : "God blessed the crea-
tures, beheld them, and was pleased with them." This bene-
diction and favorable contemplation of the creatures point to
the Holy Ghost, since the Scriptures attribute to him life and
mercy. But these passages are not so well developed as those
which refer to the Son ; consequently they are not so promi-
nent. The ore is still halfway in the mines, so that these
passages can easily be believed, if reason is so far in subjec-
tion as to believe that there are two persons. If anyone will
take the time and trouble to compare the passages of the New
Testament referring to the Holy Ghost with this text of
Moses, he will find much light, as well as pleasure.
13. Now we must open wide our hearts and understanding,
so as to look upon these words not as the insignificant, perish-
able words of man, but think of them as being as great as he
is who speaks them. It is a Word which he speaks of himself,
which remains in him, and is never separated from him.
Therefore according to the thought of the Apostle, we
must consider how God speaks with himself and to himself,
and how the Word proceeds from within himself. However,
this Word is not an empty sound, but brings with it the whole
essence of the divine nature. Reference has been made in the
Epistle to the brightness of his glory and the image of his
person, which constitute the divine nature, so that It accom-
panies the image in its entirety and thus becomes the very
image itself. In the same manner God of himself also utters
his Word, so that the whole Godhead accompanies the Word
and in its nature remains in, and essentially is, the Word.
14. Behold, here we see whence the Apostle has taken his
language, when he calls Christ an image of the divine essence,
and the brightness of divine glory. He takes it from this text
of Moses, Vv'hen he says that God spoke the Word of himself ;
this can be nothing else than an image that represents him,
since every word is a sign which means something. But here
the thing signified is by its very nature in the sign or in the
Word, which is not in any other sign. Therefore he very
properly calls it a real image or sign of his nature.
15. The word of man may also in this connection be used
in a measure as an illustration; for by it the human heart is
known. Thus we commonly say: I understand his heart or
intentions, when we have only heard his words ; as out of the
fullness of the heart the mouth speaks, and from the word the
heart is known, as though it were in the word. In conse-
quence of this experience the heathen had a saying: Qualis
quisque est talia loquitur. (As a man speaks, so is he).
Again: Oratio est character animi (Speech is an image of the
heart). When the heart is pure it utters pure words, when
it is impure it utters impure words. With this also corre-
THIRD CHRISTMAS DAY. 179
spends the gospel of Mathew, 12, 31, where Christ says: "Out
of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." And
again: "How can ye, being evil, speak good things?" Also
John the Baptist says, John 3, 31 : "He that is of the earth
is of the earth, and of the earth he speaketh." The Germans
also have a proverb : "Of what the heart is full, overfloweth
out of the mouth." The bird is known by its song, for it sings
according to its nature. Therefore all the world knows that
nothing represents the condition of the heart so perfectly and
so positively as the words of the mouth, just as though the
heart were in the word.
16. Thus it is also with God. His word is so much like
himself, that the Godhead is wholly in it, and he who has the
word has the whole Godhead. But this comparison has its
limits. For the human word does not carry with it the essence
or the nature of the heart, but simply its meaning, or is a sign
of the heart, just as a woodcut or a bronze tablet does not
carry with it the human being, but simply represents it. But
here in God, the Word does not only carry with it the sign
and picture, but the whole being, and is as full of God as he
whose word or picture it is. If the human word were pure
heart, or the intention of the heart, the comparison would be
perfect. But this cannot be; consequently the Word of God
is above every word, and without comparison among all crea-
17 There have indeed been sharp discussions about the
inner word in the heart of man, which remains within, since
man has been created in the image of God. But it is all so
deep and mysterious, and will ever remain so, that it is not
possible to understand it. Therefore we shall pass on, and
we comeÂ» now to our Gospel, which is in itself clear and mani-
. "In the beginning was the Word."
18. What beginning does the Evangelist mean except the
one of which Moses says : "In the beginning God created the
heavens and the earth?" That was the beginning and origin
of creation. Other than this there was no beginning, for God
had no beginning, but is eternal. It follows, therefore, that
180 Luther's church postii..
the Word is also eternal, because It did not have its origin in
the beginning, but it was already in the beginning, John says.
It did not begin, but when other things began it was already
in existence ; and its existence did not begin when all things
began, but it was then already present.
19. How prudently the Evangelist speaks; for he does not
say: "In the beginning the Word zvas made," but it was
there," and was not made. The origin of its existence is dif-
ferent from the beginning of creation. Furthermore he says :
''In the beginning." Had he been made before the world, as
the Arians maintain, he would not have been in the beginning,
but he would have himself been the beginning. But John
firmly and clearly maintains: "In the beginning was the
Word," and he was not the beginning. Whence has St. John
these words? From Moses, Gen. 1,3 "God said, Let there
be light." From this text evidently come the words: "In the
beginning was the Word." For if God spoke, there had to be
a Word. And if he spoke it in the beginning, when the cre-
ation began, it was already in the beginning, and did not begin
with the creation.
20. But why does he not say: Before the beginning was
the Word? This would have made the matter clearer, as it
would seem ; thus St. Paul often says : Before the creation of
the world, etc. The answer is, because, to be in the begin-
ning, and to be before, the beginning, are the same, and one is
the consequence of the other. St. John, as an Evangelist,
wished to agree with the writings of Moses, wished to open
them up, and to disclose the source of his own words, which
would not have been the case had he said : "Before" the be-
ginning. Moses says nothing of that which was before the
beginning, but describes the Word in the beginning, in order
that he can the better describe the creation, which was made by
the Word. For the same reason he also calls him a word,
when he might as well have ^called him a light, life or some-
thing else, as is done later ; for Moses speaks of a word. Now
not to begin and to be in the beginning are the same as to be
before the beginning.
But If the Word had been in the beginning and not before
THIRD CHRISTMAS DAY. 181
the beginning, it must have begun to be before the beginning,
and so the beginning would have been before the beginning,
which would be a contradiction, and w^ould be the same as
though the beginning were not the beginning. Therefore it is
put in a masterly way: In the beginning zvas the Word, so
as to show that it has not begtm, and consequently must neces-
sarily have been eternal, before the beginning.
''And the Word zms with God."
21. Where else should it have been? There never was
anything outside of God. Moses says the same thing when he
writes : "God said, Let there be light." Whenever God speaks
the word must be with him. But here he clearly distinguishes
the persons, so that the Word is a different person than God
with whom it was. This passage of John does not allow the
interpretation that God had been alone, because it says that
something had been with God, namely, the Word. If he had
been alone, why would he need to say: The Word was with
God? To have something with him, is not to be alone or by
It should not be forgotten that the Evangelist strongly
emphasizes the little w^ord ''with." For he repeats it, and
clearly expresses the difference in persons to gainsay natural
reason and future heretics. For while natural reason can un-
derstand that there is but one God, and many passages of Scrip-
ture substantiate it, and this is also true, yet the Scriptures
also strongly oppose the idea that this same God is only one
22. Thus arose the heresy of Sabellius, who said: The
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are only one person. And again
Arius, although he admitted that the Word was with God,
would not admit that he was true God. The former confesses
,and teaches too great a simplicity of God; the latter too great
a multiplicity. The former mingles the persons; the latter
separates the natures. But the true Christian faith takes the
mean, teaches and confesses separate persons and an undi-
vided nature. The Father is a different person from the Son,
but he is not another God. Natural reason can not compre-
hend this: it must be apprehended bv faith alone. Natural
182 i.uthe:r's church postii..
reason produces error and heresy ; faith teaches and maintains
the truth ; for it cHngs to the Scriptures, which do not deceive
"And God was the Word."
23. Since there is but one God, it must be true that God
himself is the Word, which was in the beginning before all
creation. Some change the order of the w^ords and read:
And the Word zvas God, in order to explain that this Word
not only is with God and is a different person, but that it is
also in its essence the one true God with the Father. But we
shall leave the words in the order in which they now stand:
And God 7i'as the Word; and this is also what it means; there
is no other God than the one only God, and this same God
must also essentially be the Word, of which the Evangelist
speaks ; so there is nothing in the divine nature which is not
in the Word. It is clearly stated that this Word is truly God,
so that it is not only true that the Word is God, but also that
God is the Word.
24. Decidedly as this passage opposes Arius, who teaches
that the Word is not God, so strongly it appears to favor
Sabellius ; for it speaks as though it mingled the persons, and
thereby revokes or explains away the former passage, which
separates the persons and says : The Word was with God.
But the Evangelist intentionally arranged his words so as
to refute all heretics. Here therefore he overthrows Arius and
attributes to the \\^ord the true essential of the Godhead by
saying: And God zuas the Word; as though he would say: I
do not simply say, the W^ord is God, which might be under-
stood as though the Godhead was only asserted of him, and
were not essentially his, as you, Arius, claim ; but I say : And
God zvas the Word, which can be understood in no other way
than that this same being which every one calls God and re-
gards as such, is the Word.
Again, that Sabellius and reason may not think that I side
with them, and mingle the persons, and revoke what I have
said on this point, I repeat it and say again :
"The same zvas in the beginning zvith God.''
25. The Word was zvith God, with God, and yet God was
THIRD CHRISTMAS DAY. 183
the Word. Thus the EvangeHst contends that both assertions
are true: God is the Word, and the Word is with God; one
nature of divine essence, and yet not one person only. Each
person is God complete and entire, in the beginning and eter-
nally. These are the passages upon which our faith is founded
and to which we must hold fast. For it is entirely above rea-
son that there should be three persons and each one perfect
and true God, and yet not three Gods but one God.
26. The Scholastics have argued much pro and con with
their numerous subtleties, to make this doctrine comprehensi-
ble. But if you do not wish to become entangled in the meshes
of the enemy, ignore their cunning, arrogance, and subtleties,
and hold to these divine words. Press into them and remain
in them, like a hare in a rocky crevice. If you come out and
deign to listen to human talk, the enemy will lead you on and
overcome you, so that you will at last not know where reason,
faith, God, or even yourself are.
27. Believe me, as one who has experienced and tried it,
and who does not talk into an empty barrel; the Scriptures
are not given us for naught. If reason could have kept. on the
right road, the Scriptures would not have been given us.
Take an example in the case of Arius and Sabellius. Had
they clung to the Scriptures and disregarded reason, they
would not have originated so much trouble in the church.
And our Scholastics might have been Christians, had they
ceased fooling with their subtleties and had clung to the Scrip-
''All things zvere made through him."
28. Has this not been put clearly enough? Who would
be surprised, if stubborn men reject every effort to convince
them of their error, however plainly and earnestly the truth
may be told them, when the Arians could evade this clear and
explicit passage and say: All things are made by the Word,
but the Word was itself first made, and afterwards all things
were made by it ? And this In opposition to the direct words :
"All things were made through him." And there is no doubt
that he was not made and cannot be counted among the things
that were made. For he who mentions all things excludes