Martin Luther.

The precious and sacred writings of Martin Luther ... based on the Kaiser chronological edition, with references to the Erlangen and Walch editions; (Volume 7) online

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36. But what is meant by "making known" our prayers
to God when he knows them even before we begin, in fact,
comes to us first and induces us to pray? I answer, Paul
uses this expression by way of teaching us how to really and
truly pray — not to pray vainly or at a venture as do they
who are indifferent vv^hether God hears them or not, who are
ever uncertain of being heard, yes, are inclined to think
they will not be heard. That is not praying; it is not pe-
titioning. It is temipting and mocking God. Should one
entreat me for a penny and I knew he did not believe, did
not have a thought, that I vv^ould give it him, I would not
be disposed to hear him. I would conclude he was either
mocking me or was not in earnest. How much less will
God hear mere noise! True prayer is the "making known"
of our desires to God. In other words, we must not doubt



FOURTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT. 109

that God hears us; that our prayer reaches him; that our
requests assuredly shall be granted. If we do not believe
we are heard, that our prayer reaches God, undoubtedly it
will not reach him. As we believe, so v^ill it be.

The ascending smoke is but our faith when we believe our
appeal reaches God and is heard. Paul's words hint at the
frequent claims of the psalms: "My cry before him came
into his ears." Ps 18, 6. "Let my prayer be set forth
. before thee." Ps 141-2. Relative to this topic,
Christ says, "All things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer,
believing, ye shall receive." Mt 21, 22. See also Mk 11, 24.
And James counsels (ch 1, 6-7) : "But let him ask in faith,
nothing doubting; for he that doubteth ... let not
that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord."

37. Easily, then, we recognize the bawling in the clois-
ters and cathedrals all over the world as mere mockery,
a tempting of God. Prayer of that sort is well enough made
knov/n to men, considering the constant loud outcry and
bellowing of them who offer it. But to God it is unknown.
It fails to reach him because the offerers do not believe, or
at least are uncertain, that it v/ill. As they believe, so is
it. Time indeed it is for such mockery and tempting of
God to be rejected and the mock-houses, as Amos calls
them in the seventh chapter, to be exterminated. Oh, if
we would but pray aright, what could we not accomplish!
As it is, v/e pray much and obtain nothing ; for our prayers
never reach God. Wo to unbelief and distrust !

THE PEACE OF GOD.
"And the peace of God, which passeth all under-
standing, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in
Christ Jesus."

38. Note the beautiful logic and order of Paul's teach-
ing. The Christian is first to rejoice in God through faith
and then show forbearance or kindness, to men. Should he
ask, "How can I?" Paul answers, "The Lord is at hand."
"But how if I be persecuted and robbed?" Paul's reply is,
"In nothing be anxious. Pray to God. Let him care."
"But meanwhile I shall become weary and desolate." "Not



no LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

so ; the peace of God shall keep vou." Let us now consider
the last thought.

39. By the phrase, "the peace of God," we must under-
stand, not that calm and satisHed peace wherein God him-
self dwells, but the peace and contentment he produces in
our hearts. It is called the "peace of God" in the same
sense that the message of God which v^e hear and believe
and speak is styled "the V/ord of God." This peace is the gift
of God, and is called the "peace of God" because, having it,
we are at peace with him even if we are displeased with men.

40. This peace of God is beyond the power of mind and
reason to comprehend. Understand, however, it is not be-
yond man's power to experience — to be sensible of. Peace
with God must be felt in the heart and conscience. How else
could our "hearts and minds" be preserved "through Christ
Jesus"? To illustrate the difference between the peace of
God and the peace comprehensible by reason: They who
know nothing of fleeing to God in prayer, when overtaken
by tribulation and adversity and when filled with care and
anxiety proceed to seek that peace alone which reason ap-
prehends and which reason can secure. But reason ap-
prehends no peace apart from a removal of the evil. Such
a peace does not transcend the comprehension of reason; it
is compatible with reason. They who pray not, rage and
strive under the guidance of reason until they obtain a
certain peace by fraudulent or forcible removal of the evil.^
Just as the wounded seeks to be healed. But they who re-
joice in God, finding their peace in him, are contented. They
calmly endure tribulation, not desiring what reason dictates
as peace — removal of the evil. Standing firm, they await
the inner strength wrought by faith. It is not theirs to in-
quire whether the evil will be short or long in duration,
whether temporal or eternal ; they give them.selves no con-
cern on this point, but ever leave it to God's regulation.
They are not anxious to know when, how, where or by
whom termination of the evil is to come. In return, God
affords them grace and removes their evils, bestowing bless-
ings beyond their expectations, or even desires.



FOURTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT. Ill

41. This, mark you, is the peace o£ the cross, the peace
of God, peace o£ conscience, Christian peace, which gives us
even external calm, which makes us satisfied with all men
and unwilling to disturb any. Reason cannot understand
how there can be pleasure in crosses, and peace in dis-
quietude; it cannot find these. Such peace is the v/ork of
God, and none can understand it until it has been experi-
enced. Relative to this topic, it is said in the epistle for the
second Sunday in Advent : "The God o£ hope fill you v/ith
all joy and peace in believing." What the apostle there
terms "peace in believing" he here calls "peace of God."

42. In this verse Paul implies that for him who rejoices
in God and exercises forbearance in his life, the devil v/ill
raise up a cross calculated forcibly to turn his heart from
that way. The Christian should therefore be well fortified,
placing his peace beyond the devil's reach — in God. Let
him not be anxious to rid himself of what the devil has
forced upon him. Let him suffer Satan's wantonness until
God's coming shall exterminate it. Thus will the Chris-
tian's heart, mind and affection be guarded and preserved
in peace. His patience could not long endure did not his
heart exist above its conditions, in a higher peace — were
it not satisfied it has peace v/ith God.

43. "Heart" and "mind" here must not be supposed to
mean human will and understanding. We are to take Paul's
explanation — heart and mxind in Christ Jesus; in other
words, the will and understanding resultant in Christ, from
Christ and under Christ. Faith and love are meant— faith
and love in all their operations, in all their inclinations to-
Wcivd God and men. The reference. is simply to a disposi-
tion to trust and love God sincerely, and a willingness of
heart and mind to serve God and man to the utmost. The
devil seeks to prevent this state by terror, by revealing
death and by every sort of misfortune; and by setting up
human devices to induce the heart to seek comfort and
help in its own counsels and in man. Thus led astray, the
heart falls from trust in God to a dependence upon itself.



112 LUTHExTS EPISTLE SERMONS.

44. Briefly, this text is a lesson in Christian living, in
the attitude of the Christian tov/ard God and man. It
teaches us to let God be everything to us, and to treat all
men alike, to conduct ourselves toward men as does God
toward us, receiving from him and giving to th*em. It may
be summed up in the words "faith" and "love/'



jftrst (Tbristmas Sermon

Christmas Eve Service.

Epistle Text: Titus 2, 11-15.

11 For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing
salvation to all men, 12 instructing us, to the intent
that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should
live soberly and righteously and godly in this present
world; 13 looking for the blessed hope and appearing
of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus
Christ; 14 who gave himself for us, that he rniglit re-
deem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a
people for his own possession, zealous of good works.

15 These things speak and exhort and reprove v^^ith
all authority. Let no man despise thee.

THE APPEARING OF THE GRACE OF GOD.
1. It is written in the book of Nehemiah (ch 4) that
the Jews, in rebuilding Jerusalem, wrought with one hand
and with the other held the sword, because of the enemy
who sought to hinder the building. Paul in Titus 1, 9 car-
ries out the thought of the symbol in this teaching that
a bishop, a pastor, or a preacher, should be mighty in the
Holy Scriptures to instruct and admonish as well as to
resist the gainsayers. Accordingly, we are to make a tvv70-
fold use of the Word of God: as both bread and weapon;
for feeding and for resisting; in peace and in war. With
one hand v/e must build, improve, teach and feed all Christ-
endom; with the other, oppose the devil, the heretics, the
v/orld. For where the pasture is not defended, the devil
will soon destroy it; he is bitterly opposed to God's Word.
Let us then, God granting us his grace, so handle the Gos-

113



114 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

pel that not only shall the souls o£ men be fed, but men
shall learn to put on that Gospel as armor and fight their
enemies. Thus shall it furnish both pasture and weapons.

2. The first consideration in this lesson is, Paul teaches
what should be the one theme of Titus and of every other
preacher, namely, Christ. The people are to be taught who
Christ is, why he came and what blessings his coming
brought us. "The grace of God hath appeared," the apostle
says, meaning God's grace is clearly manifest. How was
it manifested? By the preaching of the apostles it was
proclaimed world wide. Previous to Christ's resurrection,
the grace of God was unrevealed. Christ dv/elt only among
the Jews and was not yet glorified. But after his ascension
he gave to men the Holy Spirit. Concerning the Spirit, he
before testified (Jn 16, 14) that the Spirit of truth, v/hom
he should send, would glorify him.

The apostle's meaning is: Christ did not come to dwell
on earth for his own advantage, but for our good. Therefore
he did not retain his goodness and grace within himself.
After his ascension he caused them to be proclaimed in
public preaching throughout the world — to all men. Nor
did he permit the revelation to be made as a mere procla-
mation of a fact, as a rum^or or a report; it was appointed
to bring forth fruit in us. It is a revelation and proclama-
tion that teaches us to deny — to reject — ungodly things,
all earthly lusts, all worldly desires, and thenceforward lead
a sober, righteous and godly life.

3. In the first verse, the true essence of the text, "The
grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men,"
Paul condemns the favors of the world and of men as
pernicious, w^orthy of condemnation, ineffectual; and would
incite in us a desire for divine grace. He teaches us to de-
spise human favor. He who would have God's grace and
favor must consider the surrender of all other grace and
favor. Christ says (Mt 10, 22), "Ye shall be hated of all
men for my name's sake." The Psalmist says (Ps 53, 5,),
"God hath scattered the bones of him that campeth against



FIRST CHRISTMAS SERMON. 115

thee." And Paul declares (Gal 1, 10), "If I were still pleas-
ing men, I should not be a servant of Christ." Where the
saving grace of God comes, the pernicious favor of men
must be ignored. He who would taste the former must
reject and forget the latter.

4. According to the text, this grace has appeared, or
is proclaimed, to all men. Christ commianded (Mk 16, 15)
that the Gospel be preached to all creatures throughout the
whole world. And Paul in many places — for instance,
Colossians 1, 23 — says, "The Gospel, which ye heard, was
preached in all creation under heaven." The thought is.
The Gospel was preached publicly in the hearing of all
creatures, much more of all men. At first Christ preached
the Gospel and only in the land of the Jews, knowledge of
the Holy Scriptures being confined to that nation, as Ps 76, 2
and Ps 147, 19 declare. But afterward the Word was made
free to all men; not confined to any particular section.
Psalm 19, 4 declares, "Their line is gone out through all
the earth, and their words to the end of the world." This
is spoken of the apostles.

5. But .you may object, "Surely the words of the apos-
tles did not, in their time, reach the end of the world; for
nearly eight hundred years elapsed after the apostolic age
before Germany was converted, and also recent discoveries
show there are many islands and many countries where no
indication of the grace of God appeared before the fifteenth
century." I reply: The apostle has reference to the char-
acter of the Gospel. It is a message calculated, from the
nature of its inception and purpose, to go into all the world.
At the time of the apostles it had already entered the
greater and better part of the world. Up to that day, no
message of like character was ever ordained. The Law of
Moses was confined to the Jewish nation. Universal procla-
mation of the Gospel being for the most part accomplished
at that time, and its completion being inevitable — as it is
today — the Scripture phraseology makes it an accomplished
fact.



116 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

In the Scriptures we frequently meet with what is called
"synecdoche;" that is, a figure of speech whereby a part
is made to stand for the whole. For instance, it is said that
Christ was three days and three nights in the grave, when
the fact is he passed one entire day, two nights, and por-
tions of two other days in that place. Mt 12, 40. Again,
we read (Mt 23, 37) of Jerusalem stoning the prophets, yet
a large proportion of the inhabitants were godly people.
Thus, too, the ecclesiastics are said to be avaricious, but
among them are many righteous men. This way of speak-
ing is common to all languages ; especially is it found in the
Holy Scriptures.

6. So the Gospel was in the apostolic day preached to
all creatures; for it is a message introduced, designed and
ordained to reach all creatures. To illustrate: A prince,
having despatched from his residence a message and seeing
it started upon the way, might say the message had gone
to the appointed place even though it had not yet reached
its destination. Similarly, God has sent forth his Gospel
to all creatures even though it has not so far reached all.
Note, the prophet says the voice of the apostles has "gone
out through all the earth." He does not say their voice
has reached the entire world, but is on the v/ay — "is gone
out." And so Paul means the Gospel is continuously
preached and made manifest to all men. It is now on the
way ; the act is performed though the effect is not complete.

FIRST EVIL— UNGODLINESS.

7. The appearing of grace, Paul says, instructs us in
two things: one is described as "denying ungodliness and
wordly lusts." We must explain these terms. The Latin
word "impietas," which the apostle renders in the Greek
"asebia" and which in Hebrew is "resa," I cannot find any
one German v/ord to express. I have made it "ungcettlich
wesen," "ungodliness." The Latin and Greek terms do not
fully convey the Hebrew meaning. "Resa," properly, is
the sin of failing to honor God; that is, of not believing,
trusting, fearing him, not surrendering to him, not submit-



FIRST CHRISTMAS SERMON. 117

ting to his providence, not allowing him to be God. In
this sin, those guilty of gross outward evils are deeply impli-
cated indeed ; but much more deeply involved are the wise,
sainted, learned ecclesiasts who, relying upon their works,
think themselves godly and so appear in the eyes of the
world. In fact, all men w^ho do not live a life committed
to the pure goodness and grace of God are "im.pious,'* un-
godly, even though they be holy enough to raise the dead,
or perfect in continence and all other virtues. "Graceless"
or "faithless" would seem to be the proper adjective to de-
scribe them.. I shall, however, use the term "ungodly.'*
Paul tells us that saving grace has appeared to the graceless
to make them rich in grace and rich in God ; in other words,
to bring them, to believe, trust, fear, honor, love and praise
him, and thus transform ungodliness into godliness.

8. Of what use would be the appearing of saving grace
were we to attem.pt to becomie godly in life through some
other means? Paul here declares grace was revealed and
proclaimed to the very end that we might deny ungodliness
and thereafter live righteously ; not through or of ourselves,
but through grace. No one more disparages divine grace,
and more gainsays its appearing, than do hypocrites and
ungodly saints ; for, unwilling to regard their own v^orks
ineffectual, sinful and faulty, they discover in them.selves
much good. Measuring themselves by their good inten-
tions, they imagine they deserve great merit independently
of grace. God, however, regards no work good — nor is it —
unless he by his grace effects it in us. It was for the sake
of accomplishing in us all many such works, and of deterring
us from our own attempts, that God manifested his saving
grace to men.

9. Now, the foremost evil of men is their godlessness,
their unsaved state, their lack of grace. It includes first a
faithless heart, and then all resultant thoughts, words,
works and conduct in general. Left to himself, the individ-
ual's inner life and outward conduct are guided only by
his natural abilities and human reason. In these his beauty
and brilliance sometimes outshine the real saints. But



118 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

he seeks merely his own interest. He is unable to honor
God in life and conduct, even though he does command
greater praise and glory in the exercise of reason than do
the true saints of frequent Scripture mention. So world-
wide and so deeply subtile an evil is this godless, graceless
conduct, it withholds from the individual the power to per-
ceive the evil of his way, to believe he errs, even when his
error is held up to him. The prophet (Ps 32, 2) looks upon
this blindness as not that of reason, or of the world, or of
the fiesh, but as a spiritual deception, leading astray not
only the reason but the spirit of man.

10. In fact, that ungodliness is sinful must be believed
rather than felt. Since God permitted the manifestation of
his grace to all men to lead them to deny ungodliness, we
ought to believe him a Being who knows our hearts better
than we do ourselves. We must also confess that v/ere it
not for the ungodliness and faulty character of our deeds,
God would not have ordained the proclamation cf his grace
for our betterment. Were one to administer remedies to
an individual not ill, he would be looked upon as lacking
sense. Accordingly, God must be regarded in the same
light by them who, measuring themselves by their good in-
tentions and their feelings, are unwilling to believe all their
deeds ungodly and worthy of condemnation, and that God's
saving grace is necessary. To them this is a terrible doc-
trine. Christ (Mt 21, 32) charges the chief priests, doctors
and ecclesiasts (elders) with disbelieving John the Baptist,
who called them to repentance; they refused to know their
sin. All the prophets met death for accusing the people of
the sin of ungodliness. No one believed the prophets. No
one of the people thought himself guilty of such sin. They
judged themselves by their feelings, their intentions and
works; not by God's Word, not by his counsel delivered
through the prophets.

11. Paul employs a strong Greek term, "pasdeusa," mean-
ing *'to instruct" — such elementary instruction as we give
children concerning a thing whereof they have no knowl-
edge at all. The children are guided, not by their reason,



FIRST CHRISTMAS SERMON. 119

but by the instructing word of their father. According
to his representation they regard a certain thing as useful
or as harmful. They believe in and are guided by him.
With intelUgent and learned individuals, however, we ex-
plain in a way comprehensible to their reason why a cer-
tain thing is profitable and a certain other thing unprofita-
ble. God designs that we, as childish pupils, be instructed
by his saving grace. Then if we cannot feel we may yet be-
lieve that our natures are godless and faulty, and so receive
grace and walk therein. Well does Christ testify (Mt 18,
3), "Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall
in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven ;" and Isaiah (ch.
7, 9), "If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be estab-
lished." Divine, saving grace, then, has appeared, not only
»to help us, but also to teach us our need of grace. For the
fact of its coming shows all our works gedless, graceless,
condemned. The psalmist (Ps 119, 5-8) fervently entreats
God to teach him his judgments, lav/s and commandments,
that he may not be guided by his own ideas and feelings,
a thing God has forbidden (Deut 12, 8), saying: "Ye shall
not do . . . every man whatsoever is right in his own

eyes."

SECOND EVIL— WORLDLY LUSTS.

12. The other evil in man Paul terms "worldly lusts."
Therein is comprehended all disorderly conduct the individ-
ual may be guilty of, touching himself and his neighbor;
while the first evil — ungodliness — comprehends all wrongs
toward God. Observe Paul's judicious choice of words—
"lusts," "worldly lusts." By the use of "worldly" he would
include all evil lusts, whether it be for goods, luxuries,
honor, favors or aught of the world wherein one may lust-
fully sin. He does not say, however, we must deny our-
selves worldly goods, or must not make use of them. They
are good creatures of God. We must avail ourselves of
food, drink, clothing and other necessaries of life. No
such thing is forbidden; it is only the lust after them, the
undue love and craving for them, that we must deny, for
it leads us into all sins against ourselves and our neighbors.



120 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

13. In this expression is also condemned the conduct of
godless hypocrites, who, though they may be clad in sheep's
clothing and sometimes refrain from an evil deed through
cowardice or shame or through fear of hell's punishment, are
nevertheless filled with evil desires for wealth, honor and
power. No one loves life more dearly, fears death more ter-
ribly and desires more ardently to remain in this world than
do they; yet they fail to recognize the worldly lusts where-
in they are drowned, and their many works are vainly per-
formed. It is not enough to put away wordly works and
speech; worldly desires, or lusts, must be removed. We
are not to place our affections upon the things of this life,
but all our use of it should be with a view to the future
life; as follows in the text: "Looking for the .
appearing of the glory," etc.

14. Observe here, the grace of God reveals the fact that
all men are filled with worldly lusts, though some may con-
ceal their lustfulness by their hypocrisy. Were men not
subject to such desires, there could be no necessity for the
revelation of grace, no need for its benefits, no occasion for
its manifestation to all men, no need it should teach the
puttihg off of lusts. For whosoever is not subject to lusts
is not called upon to forsake them. Paul's statement here
has no reference to such a one. Indeed, he cannot be a
human being ; hence he has no need of grace, and so far
as he is concerned its manifestation is not essential. What,
then, must he be? Unquestionably, a devil, and eternally
condemned with all his holiness and purity. Could the
hypocrites, however, wholly hide their worldly lusts, they
could not conceal their ardent desire to hold to this life,
and their unv/illingness to die. Thus they reveal their lack
of grace, and the worldliness and ungodliness of all their
works. Nevertheless, they fail to perceive their graceless
condition and their perilous infirmity.

15. Further, Paul speaks of "denying," or renouncing.
Therein he rejects many foolish expedients devised by men
for attaining righteousness. Some run to the wilderness,
some into cloisters. Others separate themselves from so-



FIRST CHRISTMAS SERMON. 121

ciety, presuming by bodily Right to run away from ungodli-
ness and worldly lusts. Yet others resort to tortures and
injuries of the body, imposing upon themselves excessive
hunger, thirst, wakefulness, labor, uncomfortable apparel.



Online LibraryMartin LutherThe precious and sacred writings of Martin Luther ... based on the Kaiser chronological edition, with references to the Erlangen and Walch editions; (Volume 7) → online text (page 10 of 29)