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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with our salvation. Let us, then, joyfully listen. The lan-
guage is incomparably beautiful, telling that the supreme
Christ, the heir of all things, the effulgence of God's glory
and the image of his substance; who upholds all things,
not by extraneous power, not with assistance, but by his
own power, his own act; who, in short, is all in all — that
he has come to serve us, has poured out his love for us
and made purification for our sins.

32. The apostle says "our," "our sins;" not his own sin,
not the sins of unbelievers. Purification is not for, and
cannot profit, him who does not believe. Nor did Christ
effect the cleansing by our free-v^ill, our reason or power,
our works, our contrition or repentance, these all being
worthless in the sight of God ; he effects it by himself. And
how? By taking our sins upon himself on the holy cross,
as Isaiah 53, 6 tells us.

33. But even this answer does not sufficiently explain
how he cleanses us "by himself." To go further: When
we accept him, when we believe he has purified us, he
dwells within us because of, and by, our faith, daily con-
tinuing to cleanse us by his own operation; and nothing
apart from Christ in any way contributes to the purification
of our sins. Note, he does not dwell in us, nor work our
cleansing through himself, by any other way than in and
through our faith.

34. Hearken, then, ye deceivers of the world and blind
leaders of the blind; ye Pope, ye bishops, priests, monks,
learned and kile talkers; who teach the purification of sins
by human achievements, and that satisfaction for sins may
be made by men; who issue indulgences and vend devised
purifications of sins. Listen to the teaching here : Purifica-



THIRD CHRISTMAS SERMON. 181

tion of sins is not effected by human effort, but solety in
Christ and through himself. Christ is communicated to
us, not through any work of ours, but through faith alone,
as Paul teaches in Ephesians 3, 17 that "Christ dv/ells in
your hearts through faith." Plainly, then, the purification
of sins is faith, and he who believes that Christ lias purged
his sins, unquestionably is cleansed through that faith and
in no other way. Appropriate, then, is Peter's expression
in Acts 15, 9, "cleasing their hearts by faith."

35. Having once possessed faith, and purification being
effected in us b}?- Christ, we are then to perform good works,
hating our sins and repenting of them. Under these condi-
tions our works are really good. Before faith is present,
they avail naught; rather they induce false confidence and
trust. So heinous an evil are our sins, and so enormous
is the cost of their purification, it was necessary that one
exalted as we here read Christ was, must intervene to purge
them, by himself. What could the poor, vain attempts of
us who are creatures, and besides sinful, feeble, corrupt
creatures, accomplish where the demand was of such mag-
nitude? One might as reasonably presume to burn heaven
and earth with an extinguished brand. Our sins. can be ex-
piated only by a price commensurate with the God they
offend.

"Sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high ;
having become by so much better than the angels, as
he hath inherited a more excellent name than they."

36. This statement refers to the human nature of Christ
wherein he effected the purification of our sins; at the
same time it is true the cleansing was an achievement of
the Son of God. We must not, in making distinction of
natures, try to make a distinction of persons. Again, we
may truly say the Son of God sits on the right hand of the
Majesty, though the passage is to be accepted only in the
human sense, for in his divine nature he is himself the only
Majesty, in unity with the Father, upon whose right hand
he sits. But we will abandon these comments which but



182 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

obscure, and keep to the clearer language of the text.

37. To "sit on the right hand of the Majesty" certainly
implies a likeness to that Majesty. Wherever it is said that
Christ sits at the right hand of God, there is fundamentally
established his title to true God ; for no one but God himself
is like God. So, to say that the man Christ sits on the
right hand of God is equivalent to saying he is true God.
Psalm 110, 1 declares, ^'J^^ovah saith unto my Lord, Sit
thou at my right hand." That is, Jehovah said to Christ
the man : Be like me ; in other words, Thou shalt be recog-
nized not simply as man but as God. It is with this thought
the apostle cites the psalmist.

Again, it is written (Ps 8, 6), "Thou hast put all things
under his feet." That is, Thou hast made him equal with
thyself. Not that Christ was not God until all things were
put under his feet. But his humanity v/as not yet God and
equal v/ith God. For as soon as he began to be man, he
began to be God. The Scriptures refer to Christ in terms
more appropriately significant than we are accustomicd to
use. So far at tim.es is the person lost sight of in the nature,
or the natures so strongly distinguished, few rightly com-
prehend the words. I have myself frequently erred in pas-
sages of this character, attributing to the nature that which
concerns the person, and vice versa. In Philippians 2, 6-8
we read: "Who, existing in the form of God, counted not
the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being
made in the likeness of men ; and being found in fashion as
a man." This passage, however, is obscure.

38. To return to our text : Note, the apostle now begins
to cite the Old Testament for Scripture testimony that
Christ is God. Up to this time he has given us his ov/n
views and used his own language, based on his interpreta-
tions of Scripture. He has told us Christ is far superior
to the angels for he has become God and has by inheritance
obtained a m.ore excellent name than they. His whole de-
sign is to show the man Christ, becoming God, being recog-
nized and glorified as God.



THIRD CHRISTMAS SERMON. 183

"For unto which of the angels said he at any time,
Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?'*

39. This quotation is from the Second Psalm. To make
plainer the apostle's allusion to Christ, we cite the entire
Psalm, as follows: "Why do the nations rage, and the
peoples meditate a vain thing? The kings of the earth set
themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against
Jehovah, and against his anointed, saying. Let us break their
bonds asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that
sitteth in the heavens will laugh : the Lord will have them
in derision. Then will he speak unto them in his wrath, and
vex them in his sore displeasure: Yet I have set my king
upon my holy hill of Zion. I will tell of the decree : Jehovah
said unto me, Thou art my son; this day have I begotten
thee. Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for thine
inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy
possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron ; thou
shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. Now there-
fore be wise, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the
earth. Serve Jehovah with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
(Kiss the son, lest he be angry, and ye perish in the way,
for his wrath will soon be kindled. Blessed are all they
that take refuge in him."

40. We see plainly, the reference here is to Christ,
against whom raged the Jews, with Pilate, Herod and the
chief priests. To Christ, God says, "Thou art my Son."

41. The Jews endeavor to evade this passage of the
apostle by introducing wild interpretations. Unable to
deny that the Psalm refers to a coming king and anointed
one — or Christ, as "anointed" implies — they assert the allu-
sion is to David, who was also a Christ. For they term all
kings "messiahs" or "christs" — anointed ones. But their
position will not hold. David never inherited the heathen,
nor did his kingdom extend to the uttermost parts of the
earth, as recorded of the king mentioned in the Psalm.
Again, in no instance in the Scriptures is it said to any
man, "Thou art my Son."



184 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

42. Even when the Jews do admit the Psalm's allusion
to the Messiah they resort to two evasions. They main-
tain he is yet to come, that Jesus Christ is not the Messiah.
Further, that despite being called the Son o£ God, he is
not God. For, they say, it is written of the children of God
in general (Ps 82, 6) : "I said. Ye are gods, and all of you
sons of the Most High"; and many times in the Scriptures
the saints are called the children of God (Gen 6, 2; Ps 89,
27 ; Mt 5, 45 ; 1 Jn 3, 2) ; Paul, too, in various places calls
us children of God, and v/e in return call him Father, as in
the Lord's Prayer.

43. Hov/ shall we reply to them? Shall we leave the
apostle unsustained, as if he had not given good, clear
Scripture proof? To do so would be unjust. In the first
place, v/e have the testimony of experience that Jesus is
he of whom the Psalm speaks; in Christ the prophecy is
fulfilled and become history. He was persecuted by kings
and rulers. They sought to destroy him and only brought
derision upon themselves in the attempt. They were them-
selves destroyed, as the Psalm says. Throughout the v/orld
Christ is recognized Lord. No king, before nor since, has
ruled or can rule in equal extent. Now, if in Christ the
Psalm is fulfilled, it cannot be made to refer to any other.

44. Admitting the saints are called "gods" and "the chil-
dren of God," the apostle's reasoning based on the fact that
nowhere is it said to any angel, much less to any man,
"Thou art my Son," sufficiently proves that Christ is God.
He must be peculiarly God's Son, having a relation un-
shared by men and angels. The fact that God does not in-
clude him among other sons but especially distinguishes
him, indicates his superiority. He cannot be superior to
angels without being true God, for angels are the highest
order of beings.

45. Further, God begets all other children through some
agency. For instance, James 1, 18: "Of his own will he
brought us forth by the word of truth." Angels are not be-
gotten, but are created. The Son, hov/ever, God did not



THIRD CHRISTMAS SERMON. 185

create; he begat him through himself. He says: "I, I
myself — by myself I have begotten thee this day." Such
language is not employed with reference to any other. This
personal bringing forth of a single Being embraces a natural
birth. True, God says of Solom.on (1 Chron 22, 10), "He
shall be my son ;" but he does not make to him the personal
declaration, "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten
thee." David begat Solomon, but the one referred to was
begotten by God alone.

46. Again, God says "this day;" that is, in eternity.
Natural birth cannot be effected in a day, as witness the
human species as well as the animals. To specify concern-
ing this particular birth, God adds "this day." He begets
his Son instantaneously — eternally; begetting and bringing
forth are sim^ultaneous. God does not say, "I begat thee a
year ago;" it is nov/ — "Thou art my Son, I have begotten
thee." Essentially, then, it is a transcendental birth, a birth
of an exalted nature and incomprehensible to man.

47. According to Hosea 11, 1, God says he called his
son out of Egypt. This verse, like the Psalm, implies the
Son of God. The Jev^^s assert the reference is to the people
of Israel, but Matthev/ (ch 2, 15) applies it to Christ. But
however this may be, nov/here in the Scriptures do we find
it said to any m.an, not even to a renowned king, "Thou
art my Son." Much less do we find where God says to any
man, "I myself have begotten thee — this day have I begot-
ten." Hence it is plainly evident from the Psalm that
Jesus is the Christ and the true, natural Son of God.

48. Mark you, so much emphasis does the apostle lay
upon Scriptural authority, v/e are under no obligation to
accept anything the Bible does not assert. Were not this
true, his argument, "Unto which of the angels said he at
any time," etc., would not be conclusive. The Jews m.ight
say, "Notwithstanding God did not in the Scriptures make
such assertion to the angels, he may have otherwise as-
serted it; for the Scriptures do not record everything."
Now, if in the purpose of God we are under no obligation to



186 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

accept anything not presented in the Scriptures, we are
also to reject all doctrines not taught therein.

49. This conclusion operates against the presumption
of the Pope and his followers, who shamelessly assert we
must accept more than the Scriptures present. They claim
it is not conclusive reasoning to say of a certain thing, "It
is not in the Scriptures, therefore it is not authentic." They
oppose the apostle's teaching even to greater extent than do
the Jews, introducing their councils, teachers and high
schools. Beware of their error. Be certain you have full
Scripture authority for all you accept. Of whatever is not
in the Scriptures, ask as does the apostle here, "When did
God ever assert it?"

"And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall
be to me a Son."

50. The Papists also inipair the force of this passage.
Apparently the purpose of their teaching is but to v\7eaken
the point of the Scriptures. They assert the verse has two
meanings: first, it refers to Solomon as a figure of Christ;
second, to Christ directly. But to admit the Scriptures to
be of uncertain meaning would be immediately to make
them not conclusive. The Jews might maintain that refer-
ence is to Solomon primarily. Then the apostle apparently
would be overthrov/n and would establish nothing. So we
should nrmty hold that Christ alone is here spoken of, even
as the preceding verse presents a Son peculiar and above
all other sons. If the word was not spoken to angels,
much less was it to Solomon. The apostle says this Son
has obtained a more excellent name than the angels; there-
fore, by no means can the reference be to Solomon.

51. We are not to be content merely to accept the apos-
tle's statement; we are under obligation to show how he
clearly and conclusively establishes his position. Know,
then, he cites Second Samuel 7, 14 and Psalm 89, 26. The
books named are prophetic. In the passages adduced the
reference is to Christ alone; not to Solomon. But in First
Chronicles 22, 10, a historical book, reference is had to Sol-



THIRD CHRISTMAS SERMON. 187

omon alone : "He shall be my son, and I will be his father."
Even the Jews admit the true Christ is alluded to in Psalm
89, 26-27 : *'He shall cry unto me, Thou art my Father, my
God, and the rock of my salvation. I also will make him
my first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth." Like-
wise is the reference to Christ in verse 6: *'Who among
the sons of the mighty is like unto Jehovah [the Lord] ?"
The meaning is: Among the sons of God is one who is
God, and no one is like unto the Lord.

52. Though the passages in Second Samuel and First
Chronicles are in harmony, yet such are the circumstances
forming the setting in the first passage, the word cannot
be understood to refer to Solomon. The two texts must
be two different declarations to David, one concerning
Christ and one concerning Solomon. In the first instance
(2 Psalm 7, 12), God says to David: "V/hen thy days are
fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set
up thy seed after thee, that shall proceed out of thy bowels."

53. Now, Solomon v/as not set up king subsequent to
David's death, but while David yet lived. 1 Kings 1, 30if,
David well knev/ the declaration was made concernina:
Christ. It is for that reason he expressed heartfelt praise
to God, saying (2 Sam 7, 19) : "O Lord Jehovah, thou hast
spoken also of thy servant's house for a great while to
come." While he himself lived, David ordained Solomon
his successor. He says (1 Chron 22, 8-10) : "The word of
Jehovah came to me saying ... A son shall be born
to thee, v>7ho shall be a man of rest . . . He shall
build a house for my name ;" not thou who "hast shed blood
abundantly." In the passage from Samuel nothing is said
about the shedding of blood. There God says he will build
a house for David. Further argument for the idea advanced
is found in the fact that in Second Samuel 7, 14-15 God freely
unqualifiedly promises: "If he commit iniquity, I will
chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of
the children of men; but my lovingkindness shall not de-
part from him." He freely promises his grace for the things
so bitterly bewailed in Psalm 89.



188 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

54. As Psalm 132, 12 shows, the promise made concern-
ing Solomon is made only upon the condition, "If thy chil-
dren will keep my covenant," etc. This David indicates in
First Kings 2, 4, and God makes it known to Solomon in the
following chapter, verse 14. The passage from Samuel,
then, should be understood particularly to refer to Christ,
but not that from Chronicles. This is clearty and conclu-
sively proven.

"And when he again bringeth in the firstborn into
the world he saith, And let all the angels of God wor-
ship him."

55. Here we have cited a third passage from Psalm 97
(verse 7), which clearly speaks of the kingdom of God,
whereof Christ in the Gospel teaches. In this kingdom
Christ reigns; he is Lord. It had its beginning after his
ascension and is completed through the preaching of the
Gospel ; for it plainly alludes to preaching. It reads :

"Jehovah reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multi-
tude of isles be glad. Clouds and darkness are round about
him [that is, he reigns in faith concealed] : righteousness
and justice are the foundation of his throne. A fire goeth
before him, and burneth up his adversaries round about.
His lightnings lightened the world [these are his miracles] :
the earth saw and trembled. The mountains [the great
rulers, and the proud] melted like wax at the presence of
Jehovah, at the presence of the Lord of the v



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 16 of 29)