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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utes. High and low festivals have nothing to do with it.
It emanates from the Gospel, and certainly is as often ren-
dered by a poor, rustic servant as by a great bishop.



SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT. 51

55. It is plainly evident who have abolished divine ser-
vice and still daily suppress it. They are none but that
hopeless rabble, the Pope and his blockheads the bishops
and priests, monks and nuns, whose great boast is of their
divine services; who delight to be called the spiritual class
and, by their juggling, grasp the advantages and honors of
the world and live in riotousness. Yet they pretend to
help others to heaven with their foolish works and no men-
tion of the Gospel. Indeed, they persecute and condemn th&
Gospel, giving Peter just occasion to term them children of
condemnation.

56. Note, Paul says divine service must be rendered with
"one mind" and with "one mouth.'* We render divine serv-
ice when we are harmonious, and when we recognize our
common equality and our common blessings in Christ ; when
none exalts himself above another nor assumes special ad-
vantages.

Do you ask how it is we are equal, I reply : All outside of
Christ are equally condemned. One needs Christ as much
as another. When converted, all receive the same baptism
and sacram.ent, the same faith, the same Christ and Spirit,
the same Gospel — in a word, the same God. Here in this
wilderness the heavenly bread is impartially distributed.
Then how can it possibly be right for one to exalt himself
over his fellow spiritually, one priest above the other?
What can he have that surpasses Christ? And each has the
same Christ, and Christ receives each one unreservedly.

57. True, one may embrace Christ more fervently than
another; he may love him more and be more steadfast in
his faith. Nevertheless, he has not for that received of Christ
more than another. Christ is one and the same Christ to all,
and in the things of salvation alike to everyone. Therefore
he is truly Christ. Since there is one common blessing for
the weak and the firm in faith, for the strong in Christian
conduct and for the erring, one should not esteem another
more lightly than himself, nor reject him. He is to recog-
nize his fellow as an equal. Then shall praise to God arise
harmoniously, and emanate as from one heart and one



52 " LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

mouth. For so each individual praises God, and heart and
mouth are actuated by the same impulse common to his fel-
lows. All recognize Christ and render thanksgiving for
what they receive through him ; as prophesied in Psalm 72,
15: "Men shall pray for him continually; they shall bless
him all the day long." But he who offers thanks simply
for his own advantages or possessions, destroys unanimity
of purpose and expression, and belongs not to the com-
munion of saints. Thus the Papists and sects do. From
them we never hear praise of Christ, but praise of their own
works.

58. That Paul calls us to praise "the Father of our Lord
Jesus Christ," and not to confine our praise to Christ, is
worthy of special notice in our day when we extol the honor
of the saints so highly that we trust in them and fail to
press into God's very presence. We find one satisfied in
calling upon St. Barbara and obtaining her favor, while
there is no certain knowledge that she is a saint. Another
is satisfied with Christofel, v/hich is without doubt one of
the greatest fictions and lies. But scarcely anyone is satis-
fied to honor the Virgin Mary and have her favor.

59. I fear abominable idolatry will thus gain ground, be-
cause we place in the saints the confidence and trust that
should be placed in God alone, and expect from them what
we can receive from God alone; and if no other evil were
involved, it is a question whether the worship and honor
of saints is supported by a passage or example in Scripture,
and whether it is not contrary to this and like sayings of
Paul, which teach us to press into the presence of God and
place all our trust in him and expect everything we need
for him. Christ, too, through the whole Gospel, points
us to the Father. He came into the world that we should
through him come to the Father.

60. To come to the Father does not mean to walk on
bodily feet to Rome or to fly to heaven on wings. It means
to rely upon God with sincere confidence as upon a gracious
parent; as the opening of the Lord's Prayer implies. In
proportion as we have such confidence of heart, do we come



SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT. 53

nearer to the Father. Both reason and experience must con-
fess, if the heart trusts in God, the Creator, that all trust
in creatures vanishes, whether in saints in heaven or upon
earth. Therefore Peter says: "Knowing that ye were re-
deemed, not with corruptible things, with silver or gold,
. but with precious blood, as of a lamb without
blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ . . .
so that your faith and hope might be in God." 1 Pet 1, 18-21.
And Paul says, "Through whom [Christ] also we have had
our access by faith into this grace," etc. Rom 5, 2.

61. I admit that some can make a proper use of honoring
the saints and the virgin Mary ; though it is seldom they do-
The example is dangerous and it should not be introduced
into the congregation as a practice. The teaching of Christ
and of all the apostles is, that we should cheerfully approach
God the Father alone through Christ. For it scon happens,
because of man's terrible fail, that people seek comfort more
from the saints than from God, and pray to their names for
help rather than to God. It is a perverted, an unchristian,
state of things that exists at present. I fear the world is full,
yes, full, of idolatry.

62. God permits the worshiper of saints at times to re-
ceive help and perform v/onders ; yet, he does so through the
agency of the devil. For it is God who gives to the serv-
ants of Satan their bodies and lives, their possessions and
honor, and this he does through the agency of Satan. This
is plainly evident ; like a rich prince may give a treasure to
one knave through another knave. Kence we are not to
build upon miraculous signs nor upon the example of the
multitude, but alone upon the teachings of Christ, or of his
apostles, in this and all cases.

63. Nov/, while Christ is our common blessing, as before
said, we should at the same time ascribe all to the Father;
for Christ is the Father's gracious manifestation whereby
our hearts are drawn to himself. So we should confidently
love and praise the Father for his lavish blessings. With
such exercise our hearts will learn to comfort themselves in
him and to look to him for every blessing in life or death ;



54 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

but this through Christ and not through merit in ourselves.
Christ was given that by him we might thus confidently ap-
proach the Father. John 14, 6 declares: "No one cometh
unto the Father, but by me."

64. Notwithstanding Christ is truly God and one might
safely repose confidence in him, yet he constantly points to
the Father; for he would not have mankind continue to
trust in his humanity as the disciples did before his suffer-
ing, instead of lifting its thoughts above his humanity, up to
his divinity. We must look upon Christ's humanity as en-
abling him to be a way, an evidence, a v/ork of God, whereby
we come to God. We are to place our whole confidence in
God, and in him alone, being very careful not to devote any
portion of it to the mother of God or any saint and so set up
an idol in our hearts.

"Wherefore receive ye one another, even as Christ
also received you, to the glory of God."

65. What is the significance here of that word "where-
fore?" "There are two reasons," the apostle would say to
the Romans, "why ye should receive one another. The
first is, because of Christ's exam.ple. As ye have heard,
the Scripture presents Christ to us as one upon whom fell
the infamy of our sins — for us he was ignominious in God's
sight — and who did not despise, reject or revile us, but re-
ceived us that he might redeem us from our sins. We are,
then, under particular obligation to receive one another."

66. The other reason the apostle presents for our receiv-
ing one another is that thus we contribute to the praise and
honor of God. This we learn from Christ. He everywhere
testifies that all he does is in obedience to his Father's will,
and that he cam.e for no other purpose than to do the will of
God. It is certain, then, he bore the ignominy of our sins
simply because it was his Father's will.

67. Mark the exceeding mercy of the Father's control-
ling will in placing upon his beloved and only Son our sins,
and permitting him to bear the shame of them, merely that
we might escape condemnation therefor. Now, a true rec-
ognition of this, God's gracious will, must evoke sincere



SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT. 55

love and praise to him and gratitude for his mercy. For,
once the individual glimpses the Father's merciful will, he
has a conscience so happy and serene he cannot restrain
himself but must honor and praise God for his priceless
blessings.

68. Note, Paul says Christ has in himself upheld the
honor of God by receiving us and bearing, yes, exterminat-
ing, our sins. So should we likewise take upon ourselves the
burdens, the sins and im.perfections, of our neighbors, and
bear with and help to reform them. "When such Christian
conduct is m.anifest before sinners and the spiritually weak,
their hearts are attracted to God and forced to exclaim:
"Truly, he must be a great and gracious God, a righteous
Father, whose people these are; for he desires them not to
judge, condemn nor reject us poor, sinful and imperfect
ones, but rather to receive us, to give us aid and to treat us
as if our sins and imperfections were their own. Should
we not love and exalt such a God? Should we not praise
and honor him and give him the implicit confidence of our
hearts in all things? What must be the character of that
God who desires his people to be so noble?"

69. Mark you, this is the praise God would have from us,
that v/e receive one another and regard our neighbor's condi-
tion as our ov/n. Such conduct on our part would encour-
age others to believe and Vn^ouM strengthen the faith of be-
lievers. But v^here will we find in all the world any who
follow Christ's example in this respect? Only tyrants, yes,
devils, rule in church offices, who do nothing but excom-
municate and condemn, drive and hound the people.

MISSIONS TO THE HEATHEN.
"Now I say that Christ hath been made a minister of
the circumcision for the truth of God, that he might
confirm the promises given unto the fathers, and that
the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy."

70. The apostle has submitted to the Romans his senti-
ment that, in obedience to the example of Christ, they
should receive one another, to the honor of God, and make
no distinction between Christ's people, whether saints or



56 ■ LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

sinners, strong or weak, rich or poor, since all are entitled
to the same privileges. For all have the same blessings in
Christ, vi^ho creates unity of heart, spirit, mind and word
and renders com.m.on all things, whether spiritual or tempo-
ral, and hov/ever diverse they may be. Nov/ Paul goes on
to establish his position v/ith strong passages of Scripture.
Standing betv/een Jews and gentiles as an arbitrator and
mediator, he by the use of scriptural authority dissipates
all causes of discord. He would say: "You Jews cannot
reject the gentiles, even though they do not follow your
customs in eating and drinking, for they have the very same
Christ you have, according to Scripture prophecy." Again,
"You gentiles cannot despise the Jews for not conforming
to your v/ays in the matter of eating and drinking, for the
Scripture promises to them the same Christ you profess."

"Now," Paul's argument is, "since the Scripture gives to
all equal privileges in Christ, and Jews and gentiles are
brought together under his authority, and since outside of
Christ is naught for anyone, but in him everyone has all
things — in view of these facts, why contend, why judge one
another and stir up factions? V/hy not much rather receive
one another in kindness as Christ received you? No one is
favored over another and no one has less than another.
Why then contend, and create schisms, over the question
of meats, drink, clothing ; over observance of time and place ;
over manners and such things? These are not vital in any
respect; they are temporal things, outside of Christ, and
contribute nothing to salvation. Let every man exercise the
liberty he desires in these matters. If any is still weak
in faith and has not freedom of conscience, patiently bear
with him till he becomes strong, for your lenience will cost
you nothing; you will still have Christ unreservedly."

71. To understand Paul's words here we must remember
he is wont to refer to the Jewish people as "the circumci-
sion." For they practiced the rite. Circumxision was a
token whereby they were distinguished from other peoples.
Such metaphors are often employed; for instance, we refer
to women when we say, "Misfortune is oft woven with a



SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT. 57

weft of tresses"; to monks in the words, "Observe, what
the cowl may not do" ; or designate the priests when we ex-
claim., "How avaricious the bald pate!" And horsemen
are indicated by the words "spurs" and "stirrups." It is in
this m^etaphorical sense Paul, referring to a characteristic
sign, terms the Jev/s "the circumcision" and the gentiles
"praeputium," "the uncircumcision" ; "They saw that I had
been intrusted with the Gospel of the uncircumcision, [that
is, of the uncircumcised gentiles] even as Peter with the
Gospel of the circum.cision [that is, of the Jews]." Gal 2,
7-8. A.nd again: "Remember, that once ye, the Gentiles
in the nesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that v/hich is
called Circumicision," etc. Eph 2, 11. So here he says, "I
say that Christ hath been made a minister of the circumxi-
sion" ; that is, of the Jev/ish people.

Using a convenient term, he calls Christ a "minister," as
he calls all preachers and apostles ministers. "V/hat then
is .Apollos? and what is Paul? Ministers through v»7hom ye
believed." 1 Cor 3, 5. The substance of the apostle's words
is this: Jesus Christ was a miinister of the circumcision.
That is, a preacher, teacher, apostle, messenger, sent from
God to the Jewish people. For Christ never preached to
the gentiles. He was not sent to them, but to the Jews only.

72. But Christ was a minister to the Jews, not because
of their merit, but as here stated, "for the truth of God."
And what do we understand by those words? God prom-
ised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that Christ should be born
of their seed. To maintain God faithful in his promises,
Christ came in fulfilment thereof. Thus is the truth of
God proven ; God keeps his promises. For the sake of God's
truth, or in other words, that God might be proven truthful,
and not for the sake of merit on the part of anyone, Christ
became an apostle and a minister of the circumcision. This
explanation is necessary to satisfy the succeeding phrase,
"that he might confirm the promises given unto the fathers."
Observe the apostle's meaning in the words "the truth of
God"— the fulfilment and establishment of the divine prom-
ise made to the patriarchs concerning Christ.



58 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

73. True, Jews and gentiles have Christ in common, yet
the promise was not to the gentiles; it was to the Jews
exclusively. Paul tells us in Romans 3, 2 that the Jews
"were intrusted with the oracles of God" ; and again, in Ro-
mans 9, 4, that the Law was given to them. So, too, Christ
came to the Jews alone, as he says himself : "I was not sent
but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Mt 15, 24.
It was the peculiar privilege of the Jews to have Christ
promised to them, and to be able to await his coming. But to
the gentiles was nothing promised, and they awaited noth-
ing. At the same time, Jews and gentiles are on common
ground in the fact that, Christ being promised of pure grace,
he was given to the gentiles also. After the promise was
made to the Jews, the gentiles had just reason to regard
the coming Messiah as given to them also.

74. The Jews, then, have Christ not only through grace
in the promise, but also because of the truth of God in ful-
filment of his promise. But the gentiles have neither the
grace of the promise nor the truth of fulfilment. They have
merely the naked, unpromised, unexpected mercy Christ
gives to them. There is no promise, and no obligation for
fulfilment of the truth of God. Yet, the Scriptures having
revealed that the gentiles should obtain Christ, though v/ith-
out promise, hope or expectation, the Scriptures must be
fulfilled. Therefore, one people is not favored over the
other. But Christ v/as given to the Jews through divine
promise and divine truth, and to the gentiles through pure,
unexpected mercy.

Since the Scriptures contain a promise to the Jews and
a prediction concerning the gentiles, the two peoples have
a common bond in Christ. Hence each should receive the
other as a participant in the common blessing. The Jews
are not to despise the gentiles; because the Scriptures say
the gentiles shall praise God for his mercy, and how shall
the Jews despise those who enjoy God's mercy and praise
him for it? On the other hand, the gentiles should not de-
spise the Jews; for to the latter was Christ promised, and
in fulfilment of the promise he became their minister and
preacher, making God faithful to his word.



SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT. 59

75. Let us see what is Paul's intent in declaring : "I say
that Christ hath been made a minister of the circumxision
for the truth of God, that he might confirm the promises
given unto the fathers." Why this claim? Doubtless that
none may despise the Jews, but rather receive them, in
obedience to the example of Christ. Christ did not despise
them ; nay, he was even publicly promised and given to them
as their own minister, preacher and apostle. But what do
you say, Paul, in regard to the gentiles? "I do not say
they are promised aught, but I say they enjoy and praise the
mercy of God given them without prom.ise, as the Scriptures
imply. So, too, none should despise the gentiles, but rather
receive them, in obedience to Christ's example." As Christ
is a common bond between Jews and gentiles, though not
given to each people in just the same way; so should there
be unity among us. We must receive one another, bear
one another's burdens and have patience with imperfections,
regardless of personal appearance, name, condition or any-
thing else.

"Therefore I will give praise unto thee among the
Gentiles, and sing unto thy name."

76. Now the apostle goes on to quote some Scripture
passages revealing the fact that the gentiles shall praise God
for his mercy. This first quotation is found in Psalm 18,
49, and also in Psalm 108, 3. The words are spoken by the
prophet for Christ, as in both cases the whole Psalm makes
plain. Now, if this declaration is to be verified, Christ must
be present v/ith the gentiles, not physically but spiritually.
For unless Christ is present spiritually, praise of him is not
forthcoming; but the singing of his praise is guarantee of
his spiritual presence. So this quotation forces us to con-
clude that the gentiles shall believe in Christ and possess
him ; in other words, enjoy the mercy of God. Yet the verse
makes no promise to them. It is merely a revelation con-
cerning their future conduct.

77. We have before mentioned what constitutes true
service of God. Here the prophet refers to it as praising and
singing unto God's name. And so is it defined throughout



60 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

the Scriptures. Now, praise is simply a confession of bless-
ings received. The Hebrew and apostolic word in this verse
is "confitebor," "I will confess thee" ; meaning, "I will thank
and praise thee and declare, All have I received from thee."
"And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his
people."

78. These words are quoted from Deuteronomy 32, 43,
where Moses says, "Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people."
The Hebrew, however, admits of the rendering, "Rejoice,
ye Gentiles, with him" (understand "his people"). It is
with this thought of God, it seems to me, the apostle intro-
duces the quotation. Yet, whether we read it thus or other-
wise, clearly no one praises the people of God, nor rejoices
with him, unless he be partaker of God's blessings and own
him God. For he who does not possess God and his bless-
ings is an enem.y to God's people, cursing and persecuting
them, as God says in Genesis 12, 3, "I v^rill bless them that
bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse." Here
you see, they who bless God's people are partakers of his
blessings. So this second quotation teaches conclusively
that the gentiles shall become Christians.

"And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and let
all the peoples praise him.."

79. This verse is Psalm 117, 1-2. It also has reference to
true service of God. Therefore it, too, teaches that the
gentiles shall be the people of God. For only they serve
(praise and honor) God who are his people.

"And again, Isaiah saith. There shall be the root of
Jesse, and he that ariseth to rule over Gentiles, on him
shall the Gentiles hope."

80. We have this declaration in Isaiah 11, 10. In He-
brew it reads : "And it shall come to pass in that day that
the root of Jesse, that standeth for an ensign of the people,
unto him shall the nations seek; and his resting-place shall
be glorious." The meaning evidently is that the gentiles
shall possess Christ and he shall reign over them. Paul
makes a slight change in the words, following the rendering
of the old translators who v/rote the Bible in the Greek



SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT. 61

language. The meaning of the quotation is the same, how-
ever. The "root" of Jesse should not be understood here
as "stem" or "tree" in the genealogical sense, as the artist
would delineate the "tree" of Jesse, the father of David, with
its m.any branches; and as we understand when we sing of
the blessed Virgin, "the stem of Jesse has sprung forth.'*
That would be altogether a forced construction. Christ him-
self, and none other, is the "stem." or "root." The construc-
tion of this passage from Isaiah makes that meaning plain,
for it says practically, "The gentiles shall hope for the stem
or root of Jesse, which is to rule the nations," etc. This
prophecy cannot be made to refer to the human Jesse or to
our blessed Virgin.

81. Christ is the root of Jesse. He descended from the
lineage of Jesse, through David, but in him physical descent
ceased. He suffered and was buried in the grave as an ill-
favored root, concealed from the world, and out of him grew
that beautiful tree, the Christian Church, spreading out into
all the world. The root of Jesse is properly delineated when
portrayal includes the sufferings of Christ and their fruits.

82. Paul's assertion "and he that ariseth to rule over the
Gentiles" is equivalent to the Hebrew "that standeth for
an ensign of the people." It shov/s Christ's governrnxcnt a
spiritual one. The Gospel raises him as a standard before
the whole world, an ensign to which we must be loyal
through faith. We do not see him physically ; we behold him
only through the ensign, the Gospel. And it is through the
Gospel he reigns over men ; not in a physical presence.

83. Again, the expression "on him shall the Gentiles
hope" does' not m.aterially differ from the Hebrew render-
ing "to it shall the Gentiles seek." The meaning is, the
gentiles shall look unto the root of Jesse and cleave only
to him, placing all confidence and hope in him and finding in
him their consolation. They shall seek for and desire
naught else.

But the phrase "and his grave [resting-place] shall be
glorious," contained in the quotation from Isaiah but
cm.itted by the apostle, is not well rendered by Jerome, who



62 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS,

thinks Isaiah refers to the glorious grave o£ Christ. Isaiah's
thought was of Christ's rest being glorious; that is, his
death should mean something more than that of ordinary
mortals, to whom death is the end of glory. The glory of
the root of Jesse had its beginning in his death. For not
until then was he raised to true life and power, to real glory
and honor — an ensign for the gentiles, and ruler of them.
Indeed, then he was seated at the right hand of God, Lord



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 5 of 29)