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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lead a godly life in response to his will. In view of his
coming and our great and glorious redemption, we ought
firmly and cheerfully to bear up under the persecution, mur-
ders, shame and misfortunes the v/orld effects, and to be
courageous in the midst of death. With these joys before
us, we ought the more stedfastly to persevere in a godly
life, boldly relying upon the Saviour, Jesus Christ.

38. On the other hand, the words of this verse are ter-
rible to the worldly-minded and wicked who are unwilling
to endure, for the sake of godliness, the persecutions of
the world. They prefer to make their godliness go no far-
ther than to live v/ithout friction in the world and thus
avoid incurring enmity and trouble. But the dissolute, the
reckless, the obdurate, utterly disregard those words. They
never give a thought to the fact of having to appear on the
final day. Like frenzied animals, they run blindly and
heedlessly on to the day of judgment and into the abyss of
hell. You may ask, "How shall I obtain the godliness fit-
ted to enable me to confidently await that day, since human
nature and reason ßee from a godly life and cannot accom-
plish it?" Observe v^hat follows,



FIRST CHRISTMAS SERMON. 133

"Who gave himself for us."

39. The things the apostle has been so carefully present-
ing are laid before you to enable you to perceive and ac-
knowledge your helplessness, to utterly despair of your own
power, that you may sincerely humble yourself and recog-
nize your vanity, and your ungodliness, impiety and unsaved
state. Note, the grace appearing through the Gospel teaches
humility; and being humbled, one desires grace and is dis-
posed to seek salvation. Wherever a humble desire for*
grace exists, there is open to you the door of grace. The
desire cannot be without provision for its fulfilment. Peter
says (1 Pet 5, 5), "God resisteth the proud, but giveth
grace to the humble." And Christ frequently in the Gospel
declares: "Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be hum-
bled ; and whosoever shall humble himself shall be exalted."

40. So the blessed Gospel is presented to you. It per-
mits saving grace to appear in and shine forth from you,
teaching you what more is required to keep you from fall-
ing into despair. Now, the Gospel, the appearance of the
light of grace, is this which the apostle here declares,
namely, that Christ gave himself for us, etc. Therefore,
hearken to the Gospel; open the windows of your heart
and let saving grace shine forth, to enlighten and teach you.
This truth, that Christ gave himself for us, is the message
spoken of as proclaimed to all men. It is the explanation
of what is meant by the appearing of grace.

41. Banish from ycmr mind, then, the error into which
you may have fallen, of thinking that to hear the epistles of
Paul and Peter is not to hear the Gospel. Do not allow
yourself to be misled by the name "epistle." All Paul
writes in his epistles is pure Gospel. He says so in Ro-
mans 1, 1 and in First Corinthians 4, 15. In fact, I venture
to say the Gospel is more vividly presented in the epistles
of Paul than in the four books of the evangelists. The lat-
ter detail- the life and words of Christ, which were under-
stood only after the advent of the Holy Spirit, who glori-
fied Christ. Thus the Saviour himself testifies. Paul,
though he records no account of the life of Christ, clearly



134 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

explains the purpose of our Lord's coming, and shows what
blessings his advent brings to us. What else is the Gospel
but the message that Christ gave himself for us, to re-
deem us from sin, and that all v/ho believe it will surely be
saved?

So we are to despair of our own efforts and cleave to
Christ, relying upon him alone. Gracious, indeed, and com-
forting is this message, and readily welcomed by hearts
despairing of their own efforts. "Evangelium," or Gospel,
implies a loving, kind, gracious message, fitted to gladden
and cheer a sorrowing and terrified heart.

42. Take heed to believe true what the apostle, through
the Gospel, declares — that Christ gave himself for you for
the sake of redeeming you from all unrighteousness and of
purifying you for a peculiar inheritance. It follows that,
in the first place, you must believe and confess all your ef-
forts, impure, unrighteous; and that your human na-
ture, reason, art and free-v/ill are ineffectual apart from
Christ. Unless you so believe, you make void the Gospel;
for, according to the Gospel, Christ did not give himself for
the righteous and the pure. Why should he? With right-
eousness and purity existent, he would be giving himself
in vain. It would be a senseless giving.

In the second place, you must believe that Christ gave
himself for you, to put away your impurity and unrighteous-
ness and make you pure and righteous in himself. If you
believe this, it will be so. Faith will accomplish it. The
fact that he gave himself for you can make you pure and
righteous only through faith on your part. Peter (Acts 15,
9) speaks of the cleansing of hearts by faith. Observe,
Christ is not put into your hand, not given you in a coffer,
not placed in your bosom nor in your mouth. He is pre-
sented to you through the Word, the Gospel ; he is held up
before your heart, through the ears he is offered to you, as
the Being who gave himself for you — for your unrighteous-
ness and impurity. Only with your heart can you receive
him. And your heart receives when it responds to your
opened mind, saying, '*Yes, I believe." Thus through the



FIRST CHRISTMAS SERMON. 135

medium of the Gospel Christ penetrates your heart by way
of your hearing, and dwells there by your faith. Then
are you pure and righteous; not by your own efforts, but
in consequence of the guest received into your heart
through faith. How rich and precious these blessings!

43. Now, when faith dwelling within you brings Christ
into your heart, you cannot think him poor and destitute.
He brings his own life, his Spirit — all he is and commands.
Paul says the Spirit is given, not in response to any work
of man, but for the sake of the Gospel. The Gospel brings
Christ, and Christ brings the Spirit — his Spirit. Then the
individual is made nev/; he is godly. Then all his deeds
are well wrought. He is not idle ; for faith is never inactive.
It continually, in word and act, proclaim.s Christ. Thus
the world is roused against Christ; it will not hear, will
not tolerate, him. The result is crosses for the Christian,
and crosses render life loathsome and the day of judgment
desirable. This, mark you, explains the Gospel and the
appearing of the saving grace of God.

44. How can death and the day of judgment terrify the
heart that receives Christ? Who shall injure such a one
when the great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who orders
the day of judgment, stands by with all his glory, great-
ness, majesty and might? He who gave himself for us, he
and no other, will control that day. Assuredly he will not
deny his own testimony, but will verify your faith by de-
claring he gave himself for your sins. And what have you
to fear from sin when the judge himself owns he has taken
it away by his own sacrifice? Who will accuse you? Who
may judge the Judge? who exercise authority over him?
His power outweighs that of all the world with its sins in-
numerable. Had he purchased your salvation with any-
thing but himself, there might be great error in this doctrine.
But what can terrify when he has given himself for you?
He would have to condemn himself before sin could con-
demn the souls for whom he died.

45. Here is strong, unquestionable security. But our
connection with it depends upon the stedfastness of our



136 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

faith. Christ certainly will not waver. He is absolutely
stedfast. We should, then, urge and enforce faith by our
preaching and in our working and suffering, ever making
it firm and constant. Works avail nothing here. The evil
spirit will assail only our faith, well knowing that upon it
depends all. How unfortunate our failure to perceive our
advantage ! for v^e ignore the Gospel with its saving grace.
Wo unto you, Pope, bishops, priests and monks ! Of what
use are you in the churches and occupying the pulpits?
Now let us analyze the words,

"That he might redeem us."
46. He gave himself to redeem — not himself, but us.
Evidently, we are naturally captives. Then how can we
be presumptuous and ungrateful enough to attribute so
much merit to our free-will and our natural reason? If we
claim there is aught in us not bound in sin, we disparage
the grace whereby, according to the Gospel, we are re-
deemed. Who can do any good thing while captive in sin,
while wholly unrighteous? Our own efforts may seem to
us good, but in truth they are not; otherwise, the Gospel
of Christ must be false.

"From all iniquity."
47. The word Paul uses for "iniquity" is "anomias," the
specific meaning of which is, anything not conforming to
the Law, whether transgression of soul or body, the former
transgression being ungodliness or impiety, and the latter
worldly lusts. He is careful to add the word "all," to make
plain the inclusion of the sins of the body and the unright-
eousness of soul wherefrom Christ has completely redeemed
us. This teaching is a blow at the self-righteous and sepa-
rate, who redeem themselves, and others as well, from cer-
tain form.s of unrighteousness by means of the Law, or by
their own reason and free-will. In reality they do avoid the
outward act of transgression, being restrained by prohibi-
tions, or fear of pain and penalty, or expectation of reward
or gain. But this is only ridding of the scum of unright-
eousness; the heart remains ßlled with un^odty, unregener-
ate inclination and worldly lusts, and neither body nor soul



FIRST CHRISTMAS SERMON. 137

is righteous. But through faith Christ redeems us from
ail unrighteousness. He liberates us, enabling us to live
godly and heavenly, a power v^e had not when in the prison
of unrighteousness.

*'And purify unto himself."

48. Sin is attended by two evils : First, it takes us cap-
tive. In its power we are incapable of doing good, of desir-
ing or even recognizing good. Sin thus robs us of power,
freedom and light. The second evil attendant upon sin is
the natural outcome of the first: we forsake good to engage
only in iniquity and impurity, tilling with hard and heavy
labor the land of wicked Pharaoh in Egypt. But when,
through faith, Christ comes, he liberates from the bondage
of Egypt and gives power to do good. That power is our

first gain.

49. Afterward, the effort of our entire lives should be to
purge from body and soul unrighteous, unregenerate, and
worldh/ conduct. Until death our lives should be nothing but
purification. While it is true that faith instantly redeems
from all legal guilt and sets free, yet evil desires remain in
body and soul, as odor and disease cling to a dungeon. Faith
occupies itself with purifying from these. Typical of this
principle, Lazarus in the Gospel was raised from the dead
by a single word (Jn 11, 44), but afterward the shroud and
napkin had to be removed. And the half-dead m^n v/hose
wounds the Sam.aritan bound up and whom the Samaritan
carried home, had to remain in the inn until he was restored.

"A people for his own possession."

50. The thought is of ownership — a peculiar inheritance
or possession. The Scriptures term God's people his inherit-
ance. As a landholder cultivates, nourishes and improves
his inheritance, so, through the medium of our faith, Christ,
whose inheritance we are, cultivates us, or impels us to daily
grow better and more fruitful. Thus you see, faith liberates
from sin, but more than that, it makes us Christ's inherit-
ance, which he accepts and protects as his own. Who can
injure us when we are the inheritance of the mighty God?

"Zealous of good works."



138 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

5L As ungodliness is opposed by inheritance, so zeal or
diligence in our efforts after good opposes worldly lusts.
By inward godliness we become Christ's heritage, and by
sober and righteous living are good works wrought. As
his heritage we serve him, and by good works we serve
our neighbors and ourselves; first the heritage, then the
good works. For good works are not wrought without god-
liness, and we are taught we must be zealous — zelotas —
that is, must emulate one another in doing good, or vie with
one another in the effort to work universal good, disputing
who was the best and who did the most good. This is the
real meaning of the word "zelotas." Where are these now?
"These things speak and exhort.''

52. Truly, O Lord God, it is a vital charge, this — not
only to preach the principles taught in this lesson, but con-
tinually to urge, admonish and arouse the people, leading
them to faith and actually good works. Though we may
have taught, we must follow it up with persevering exhorta-
tion, that the Word of God may have its sway.

53. O Pope, bishops, priests and monks now flooding
the Church with fables and human doctrines, let these things
sink into your minds. You will have more than enough
to preach if you attempt only what this text contains, pro-
vided you continually admonish the people and enforce it.
It beautifully portrays the life of the Christian. Its teach-
ing, and only this, are you to preach and enforce. God
grant it! Amen.

54. Note, the office of a minister calls for two things —
teaching and exhortation. We must teach the uninformed,
and must admonish the already informed lest they go back-
ward, grow indolent or fall away entirely instead of perse-
vering against all temptations.

THE ARMOR FURNISHED BY THE TEXT.

55. First, the text gives us authority to maintain that
without grace no good can be wrought and all human ef-
forts are sinful. This principle is established by Paul's
statement, "Grace hath appeared." Evidently, previous to
the advent mentioned, no grace existed among men. If



FIRST CHRISTMAS SERMON. 139

no grace existed, plainly there was only wrath. Therefore,
without grace, there is in ourselves nothing but unregener-
acy and wrath, instead of good.

56. Again, Paul's reference to saving grace clearly indi-
cates that whatever is devoid of grace is already condemned
and beyond the power of procuring help and salvation.
Where, then, is free will? Where are human virtues, hu-
man reason and opinions? All are without saving grace,
all are condemned, sinful and shameful before God, even
though precious in our sight.

57. Still more impressive is the phrase "to all men."
None are excepted. Manifestly, then, until recognition o£
the Gospel, naught but wrath ruled in all men. The apostle
says (Eph 2, 3), "We were by nature children of wrath,
even as the rest." Here he repels with safe armor, and stops
the mouths of, all who boast of reason, works, opinions,
free-will, light of nature, etc., as efficacious without grace.
He makes them all corrupt, impious, ungodly and devoid of
grace.

58. Further, Paul declares the grace of God appeared to
"ail men" to enable them to "deny ungodliness and worldly
lusts." Who can stand before the armor he uses? What
is the inevitable conclusion but this: without the grace of
God, the works of all men are ungodliness and worldly
lusts? For were there godliness, or spiritual aspirations,
in any individual, there would be no reason for "all men"
to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts; neither would the
saving appearance of grace be called for in all cases. In this
way, mark you, we should use the Scriptures as armor
against false teachers. Not only are they for the exercise
of our faith in our daily living, but for the open defense and
battle of faith against the attacks of error.

59. Before the testimony of this text, all hypocrites, all
ecclesiastics, must lie prostrate in defeat, no matter how
much they may have fasted, prayed, watched and toiled.
These exertions will avail naught ; ungodliness and worldly
lusts will still survive in them. Though shame may cause
them to conceal evil expression, the heart is still impure.



140 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

Could our works, apparel, cloisters, fasting and prayers
render us godly, the apostle might more properly have said
that a prayer or a fast, a pilgrimage or an order, or some-
thing else, had appeared teaching us to be godly. But em-
phatically it is none of these; it is the appearing of saving
grace. This, this alone, nothing else, renders us godly.

60. The danger and error of human laws, orders, sects,
vows, and so on, is easily apparent. For they are not
grace; they are merely works, by their false appearance
leading the whole world into error, distress and misery.
Under their influence, the world forgets grace and faith,
and looks for godliness and happiness in these errors.

61. Again, Paul's admonition to us to look for the
blessed and glorious appearing of the great God establishes
the fact of another life beyond this. Plainly, it is evident
that the soul is immortal; yes, that even the body must
rise again. We saj^ in the creed, "I believe in the resurrec-
tion of the body and in the life everlasting."

62. Further, it may be logically inferred from Paul's lan-
guage — "the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" —
that Christ is true God. Clearly, then, it follows that the
Being to come in glory on the judgment day is the great
God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

63. Should one in a caviling spirit apply to the Father
alone the reference here to "the great God," his theory
would not hold. For this glorious appearing is shared by
the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Were Christ
not true God, the glory and splendor of God would not be
attributed to him. Since mention is made of the splendor,
the glory, the work, of "the great God and our Saviour" the
latter must be God with the former. Through the m.outh of
Isaiah, God has more than once said, "My glory will I not
give to another," and yet here he shares it with Christ.
Hence Christ can be no other than God. The glory of God
is his. Yet he is a person distinct from the Father.

64. Once more, a strong argument against human doc-
trine is afforded us in Paul's words, "These things speak
and exhort." Had Paul designed anything further to be



FIRST CHRISTMAS SERMON. 141

taught than the things he mentions, he surely would have
said so. Our bishops and popes today think they have
done enough when they permit these Paul's injunctions to
be written in books and on slips of paper, enforcing them
by no commands of their own; but the fact is, their own
voices should be heard in constant preaching and enforcing
of the Gospel. Wo unto them !



Early Christmas Morning Service.

Epistle Text : Titus 3, 4-8.

4 But when the kindness of God our Saviour, and his
love toward man, appeared, 5 not by works done in
righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according
to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of re-
generation and renewing of the Koly Spirit, 6 which he
poured out upon us richly, through Jesus Christ our
Saviour; 7 that, being justified by his grace, we might
be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life,
8 Faithful is the saying, and concerning these things I
desire that thou affirm confidently, to the end that they
who have believed God may be careful to maintain good
works. These things are good and profitable unto men.

GOD'S GRACE RECEIVED MUST BE BESTOWED.

1. This epistle selection inculcates the same principle
taught in the conclusion of the Gospel lesson pertaining to
contentment, good will and love for our neighbor. The
substance of the text is: Why should we be unwilling to
do for others what has been done for us by God, of whose
blessings we are far less worthy than anyone can be of our
help? Since God has been friendly and kindly disposed
toward us in bestowing upon us his loving kindness, let us
conduct ourselves similarly toward our neighbors, even if
they are unworthy, for we too are unworthy.

2. It is necessary to a ready understanding of this epistle
that we know the occasion of these words. In the verses
immediately preceding, Paul says to Titus, his disciple:

142



SECOND CHRISTMAS SERMON. 143

"Put them in mind to be in subjection to rulers, to authori-
ties, to be obedient, to be ready unto every good work, to
speak evil of no man, not to be contentious, to be gentle,
showing all meekness tov/ard all men. For we also once
were foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts
and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, hating one
another."

Note that Paul here indicates the relation we sustain to
God and man. He would have us obedient to magistrates
and kind to neighbors. Though our neighbors may be
blind, erring and wicked, yet we should be charitable in
our judgment and cheerfully endeavor to please them, re-
membering God's similar attitude toward us when we were
as they.

3. The word "appeared," implying the revelation of the
Gospel, or Christ's appearance to the whole world, is suffi-
ciently defined in the preceding epistle lesson. Though in.
that case it refers to the birth of Christ, little depends on
the circumstance so far as the meaning of the word is con-
cerned. Paul does net employ here the little word "grace"
used there, but he described the God of grace with two other
pleasing words — "kindness" and "love." The first is, in
Greek, "Chrestotes" (friendliness), implying that friendly,
lovable demeanor vv^hich makes the individual attractive and
gives his society a gracious influence moving everyone
within its circle to love and affection. Such a one is capable
of bearing with all men. He is not inclined to neglect any
nor to repel with harshness. In him everyone may repose
confidence. All mien can approach him and deal with him.
He resembles Christ, whom the Gospel portrays as always
friendly to everyone, repelling none but gracious unto all.

4. God, too, shows himself to us through the Gospel as
wholly lovable and kind, receiving all, rejecting none, ignor-
ing our shortcomings and repelling no soul by severity.
The Gospel proclaims naught but grace,. whereby God sus-
tains us and through which he kindly leads us, regardless of
our worthiness. This is the day of grace. All men may
confidently draw near to the throne of his mercy, as it is



144 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERPv/IONS.

written in Hebrews 4, 16. And we read in Psalm 34, 5:
"They looked unto him, and were radiant; and their faces
shall never be confounded." That is, God will not permit
us to ask in vain, or to come unto him and go away empty
and ashamed.

5. The second Word is, in Greek, "Philanthropia" (Phil-
anthropy) — love of mankind. Avarice is the love of money.
David (2 Sam 1, 26) refers to "the love of women." But
naturalists term certain animals — the dog, the horse, the
dolphin — philanthropic or humane, because they have a na-
tural love and fondness for man; they adapt themselves to
his service as if endowed with reason enabling them to un-
derstand him.

6. It is an attitude of love for mankind the apostle here
attributes to our God. Moses has done likewise in Deuter-
onomy 33, 2-3, v^^here he says of God: "At his right hand
was a fiery law for them. Yea, he loveth the people." This
quotation indicates that God does more than show himself,
through the Gospel, with a kindly bearing, desiring to drav/
men unto himself, and tolerant of their shortcomings; he
would give them of himself, would bestow his presence,
and he extends his grace and friendship.

7. These two words descriptive of God, "kindness" and
**love," are indeed pleasant and consoling. They represent
him as offering grace, following us, ready to receive most
graciously all who draw near to him and desire him. What
more could he do? Note now why the Gospel is termed a
gracious, comforting message concerning God revealed in
Christ. What can be conceived more gracious to a poor,
sinful conscience than what these words convey? 01i> how
wretchedly the devil, through the laws of the Pope, has per-
verted for us these pure words of God !

8. These two words are to be accepted v/ith their full
and broad import. No distinction of person, as prevails
among men, is to be made: for divine love and kindness is
not secured by human m.erit ; it is of God's grace alone and
given to all that bear the name of man, however insignifi-
cant. God loves not what is characteristic cf one person.



SECOND CHRISTMAS SERMON. 145

but o£ all. He is partial not to one, but kind to all. There-
fore a man's honor is perfectly maintained, and no one can



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 12 of 29)