Wednesday, September 1, 2010

JOHN 14:14b (LUTHER)

14b That the Father may be glorified in the Son.

This is surely a strange Man! To reason or the wisdom of the world His speech sounds like that of a dreamer or a drunk. But I did not formulate these words, nor did any other man on earth. And if we were ever so smart, if we and all the sages studied this all our life, we would never hit upon this statement. Therefore even if these words sound foolish in the ears of the clever and the wise, let us be fools with Christ. For those who know and have experienced their power will certainly not regard them as foolishness. God be praised, I, too, have experienced in part what they can do and give; for they have often comforted and upheld me. They still uphold me.
In the preceding words we heard Christ claim the power and honor that belong to God alone. He said that He Himself would grant and do all that the disciples ask. What, then, is the meaning of the words “that the Father may be glorified in the Son”? Why does He now transfer the honor from Himself to the Father? Should He not, according to the natural logic of speech, say: “Whatever you ask, I will do, that I may be glorified”? Who is more entitled to glory than he who performs a deed or a work? It is but natural and proper that he who does something be honored. But now Christ says: “I will do the work and give you what you ask, but My Father shall have the glory.” He rearranges and changes the words in such a way that He includes and embraces both the Father and Himself. For just as He did not exclude the Father with the preceding words, “Whatever you ask … I will do it,” so when He says “that the Father may be glorified,” He does not separate and exclude Himself from the same honor that is due the Father.
But Christ speaks this way in order to substantiate this article, which states that He is true God together with the Father in one Divine Essence yet distinct in Person. He sets Himself apart from the Father, and then He again joins the two; He testifies that the Father is one Person in the Divine Essence and that He is another Person, but that they are still one eternal God, coequal in function and in honor. In German this simply means: “Whatever I do, the Father does; and the Father’s glory is My glory.” Thus He joins the two Persons, His and the Father’s, by rearranging the words “I will do what you ask, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” For when He says: “I will do it,” He indicates that He is also rightly entitled to the glory; and yet in the words that follow He is silent about His glory and gives this glory to the Father. But if the glory is to be the Father’s, it follows that He must do the very same work that Christ does. On the other hand, if the Father is to have the glory, Christ, who does the same work, must also have the same honor that the Father has.
This is powerful proof that in the Divine Essence there are two distinct Persons but not two natures or two kinds of nature. No, there is just one Divine Essence and Majesty. To summarize: “The work which I do is the Father’s work, so that the Father is glorified in the Son for doing this. Consequently, there is only one glory: He who honors the Son for the sake of the works which He performs honors not only the Son but in Him also the Father.”
What does it mean that the Father is to be glorified in the Son? Nothing else than this, that the Father is to be known and acknowledged as a merciful and compassionate Father, who is not angry with us and does not want to condemn us to hell but remits our sin and grants us all His grace for His Son’s sake, as has been adequately said before. This is the true honor with which God is glorified. For this generates genuine confidence in the heart, which now has refuge in Him, can confidently call upon Him in every need, thanks Him for His grace and benefits, and confesses and proclaims His name before everyone. This is the true service of God that pleases Him and with which He is glorified. But as Christ says, it can be done only “in the Son,” that is, where Christ is known and believed. As has been said, we learn to see God in Him, recognize His grace and fatherly heart, and know that whatever we ask of God in Christ’s name will surely be granted to and received by us.
Luther, M. (1999, c1961). Vol. 24: Luther's works, vol. 24 : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (24:99). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

JOHN 14:13.14 (LUTHER)

13. Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son;
14. if you ask anything in My name, I will do it.

This is a part of the consolation. For here Christ shows how much power His going to the Father will produce. What He has told the disciples—that they should do the same works that He Himself has done, and even greater ones—He again refers to Himself when He adds that all this shall come to pass through Him; for now He will be able to give, and do for, them what they need, and they shall have all that they ask for and desire. He wants to say: “You will do greater works than I have now done, because I am going to the Father. Neither world nor devil will prevail against you; they will give way before you and concede your mastery. And even though you are still aware of weakness and lack things, as though your lot were far different from what I foretold, and as though the devil and the world were gaining the victory over you—as it will appear outwardly to the flesh and all the world—do not let this terrify or deject you. No, the more distress and weakness you feel, the less you should give way and yield; for be assured that I will give you what you ask for and need. Therefore begin to pray confidently, and call upon Me with the assurance that I will grant your petition. For this very purpose I am going to the Father; there I shall see all your distress and weakness, and shall be able to grant your prayer.”
By telling His disciples to pray Christ wants to point out that of and among themselves they do not have the power to do such great things—things which He calls greater works than those He Himself has done. They will experience weakness, all sorts of trouble and want, opposition and hindrances in their calling, life, and acts. He lets this happen to them to forestall pride, presumption, and selfreliance, as though they now had everything and no longer needed Him. They should remain humble and continue to be aware of their own impotence. Then they will exercise their faith in Christ all the more by prayer and petition, and will experience His power in weakness and in suffering the more surely, because they will be impelled to call upon Him and implore Him. Thus He said to St. Paul in 2 Cor. 12:9: “My power is made perfect in weakness.”
With these and the following words Christ also demonstrates what constitutes a Christian’s true office and function, and how necessary the exercise of this is in Christendom. The prophet Zechariah refers to this when he says (12:10) that Christ will pour out and grant the spirit which is called “a spirit of compassion and supplication.” For in all Christians He will effect and produce these two things: First, He will convince and assure their hearts that they have a compassionate God; secondly, He will enable them to help others by their supplication. The result of the first is that they are reconciled to God and have all they need for themselves. Then, when they have this, they will become gods and will be saviors of the world by their supplication. Through the spirit of compassion they themselves will become children of God; and then, as children of God, they will mediate between God and their neighbor, and will serve others and help them attain this estate too.
For once a Christian begins to know Christ as his Lord and Savior, through whom he is redeemed from death and brought into His dominion and inheritance, God completely permeates his heart.51 Now he is eager to help everyone acquire the same benefits. For his greatest delight is in this treasure, the knowledge of Christ. Therefore he steps forth boldly, teaches and admonishes others, praises and confesses his treasure before everybody, prays and yearns that they, too, may obtain such mercy. There is a spirit of restlessness amid the greatest calm, that is, in Gods grace and peace. A Christian cannot be still or idle. He constantly strives and struggles with all his might, as one who has no other object in life than to disseminate God’s honor and glory among the people, that others may also receive such a spirit of grace and through this spirit also help him pray. For wherever the spirit of grace resides, there we can and dare, yes, must begin to pray.
Therefore Christ wants to say here: “When you believe in Me and have received the spirit by which the heart is assured of the grace of God (Christ had said above: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father”), then you will certainly be constrained to pray.” For prayer is the true work characteristic only of Christians. Before we become Christians and believe, we do not know how or what to pray. And even if a man prays most fervently, the spirit of grace is not yet present. Then the heart is still disposed to say: “Dear Lord, I ask you to regard my life, my intense suffering, or the merit of this or of that saint, the intercession and the good works of pious people.” This is not faith in divine grace and mercy through Christ. Moreover, the heart always remains in doubt and cannot conclude that its prayer has certainly been heard. It insists on dealing with God on the basis of its own holiness or that of others, and without Christ, as though God had to humble Himself before it, have His grace or assistance wrested from Him, and thus become our debtor and servant. This means deserving wrath, not grace; this means mocking God, not praying to Him.
A genuinely Christian prayer must issue from the spirit of grace, which says: “I have lived my best; therefore I implore Thee not to regard my life and my conduct, but Thy mercy and compassion promised me in Christ, and because of this to grant me the fulfillment of my prayer.” Thus our prayer must, in real and sincere humility, take no account of ourselves; it must rely solely and confidently on the promise of grace, in the firm trust that God will hear us, as He has commanded us to pray and has promised to hear us.
Therefore Christ distinctly adds the words “in My name.” He wants to teach us that no real prayer is possible without faith and that without Christ no one is able to utter a single word of prayer that is valid before God and acceptable to Him. This all the Turks, Jews, monks, and hypocrites try to do; for they all appear before God in the belief that He will regard their own or other persons’ merits and sanctity, and will praise and extol them on this account. Such was the prayer of the hypocrite of whom we read in Luke 18:11: “God, I thank Thee that I am not like other men.” As though he were to say: “I do not need Thy grace and mercy; I have earned this well myself.” He disdains to receive anything from God, but wants to give something to Him and oblige Him to pay for it. God should be happy to acquire such a holy man as His friend! But in the verse above (13) Christ says no to him. He refuses to hear and accept anyone’s prayer but his who comes in the name of Christ, and throws himself on pure mercy and grace, and who says with the publican: “God, be merciful to me a sinner!”
Thus you must learn from this text that through Christ alone we possess both grace and the granting of prayer, that we first become children of God, entitled to call upon Him, and then also receive what we need for ourselves and for others. Therefore wherever there is a Christian, there is none other than the Holy Spirit, who does nothing but pray without ceasing. Even though one does not move one’s lips and form words continuously, one’s heart nonetheless does beat incessantly; and, like the pulse and the heart in the body, it beats with sighs such as these: “Oh, dear Father, please let Thy name be hallowed, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done among us and everyone!” And when blows fall, when temptations thicken, and adversity presses harder, then such sighing prayers become more fervent and also find words. A Christian without prayer is just as impossible as a living person without a pulse. The pulse is never motionless; it moves and beats constantly, whether one is asleep or something else keeps one from being aware of it.
Anything further about what prayer is and how we are to pray has often been discussed elsewhere, and we shall revert to it later. Let it suffice here to see how highly the Christian estate is extolled. Christians are the only ones who can pray and in this way accomplish all that they want. Here and elsewhere Christ encourages and exhorts His own in a friendly manner to pray, and He indicates that prayer gives Him heartfelt pleasure. It is the glory and the consolation of Christians, who are endued with the grace and the spirit to understand what God has given them in Christ. No matter how much is said about this, the others neither understand nor heed it any more than a sow appreciates music played on the harp.
But what does Christ mean when He says here: “Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it”? Just before He had declared: “You will perform the same works that I do, and greater ones.” Now why does He say: “Whatever you ask of Me, I will do”? Who is this “I”? Methinks He should say: “Whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He will do it.” Here He assigns this to Himself. What a peculiar speech from this Man, to clothe such arrogance in such simple words! For with these words He lets it be clearly understood that He is the true, almighty God, coequal with the Father. For to say: “Whatever you ask, I will do,” is tantamount to saying: “I am God, who can and will give you everything.” If this were not so, why should the Christians pray in His name? Why do people call on the saints for help in need, on St. George for protection in times of war, on St. Sebastian against the pestilence, on the one saint for this and the other for that, unless they are sure that these saints will grant their petitions? But now Christ claims all this for Himself and says: “I will order no one else to give you what you ask for. No, I Myself will do this.” Consequently, He must be the one who can supply all our wants. He must be mightier than the devil, sin, death, the world, and all creatures.
This is a power which no creature, neither angel nor man, ever possessed or will possess in all eternity. To be sure, they can pray and move God, through His Word and promise, to grant and do what we need. Thus the apostles and the prophets Elijah and Elisha raised people from the dead by means of prayer. And thus the angels pray for people, as we read in the prophet Zechariah (12:8). But the power to grant and do such things, or to save us from any distress of sin and death, is not vested in them. Christ, however, takes to Himself all the power and might of the Divine Majesty and sums up in one sentence everything we should ask God for. He does not say: “If you pray for gold or silver or for anything that man, too, could give you”; but He says: “Whatever you ask,” barring nothing. We know, of course, what we must ask God for. We must ask not only for this beggarly earthly pittance, that is, for all the needs of this temporal life; but we should pray for deliverance from all present and future misery, from sin, death, and the grave, and that we may be made just, holy, free, alive, and glorious. And since Christ bids us pray for all this and promises to grant it, He must be true God.
Here we see how the evangelist St. John supports this article of faith in the Lord Christ by stating that in one Person He is both true God together with the Father and true man born of the Virgin. Therefore we, too, must teach and emphasize this doctrine, in order that it may be retained in its purity against the devil’s rabble and the heretics. For this is the doctrine which the devil has always seized on, which is still assailed and will suffer from manifold heresies until the Day of Judgment. For some have made the blasphemous statement that Christ was only a make-believe or a phantom and not a true man; others, that He had no human soul but, instead of this, the divine nature; others, that He was only called God; others, that He was merely a man.52 Thus the devil has always brought up something, only to corrupt the doctrine of Christ. At present he is also bestirring himself in some persons and is pregnant with his vile thoughts.
And he is abetted in this by his bride, Dame Witch, crafty Reason,53 who advances various pretexts and evasions against this doctrine and can wriggle in a masterly manner to prevent capture by the Word of God. It asks: “Where is it written that Christ calls Himself or boasts of being true God? If He is true God, why does He not come out openly and declare: ‘I am God’? If this were certain, and if it were so essential to believe this, He would have expressed it explicitly and by name.” Some clever and very learned men are beginning to mutter these views today.54 They parade this as though it were something outstanding, as though it were especially great wisdom, as though Holy Writ never recorded that Christ is God and must be believed to be God’s Son, the Savior of the world, Lord and God over all. Why, Scripture, especially the New Testament, is full of passages that tell who Christ is. But they, of course, have invented such dodges as excuses for their unbelief.
For what could be written or said with more clarity or definiteness than the words which even children confess in their Creed and which all Christendom sings, recites, and preaches: “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord”? But to what avail? Is the doctrine of our redemption not expressed clearly and plainly enough in Holy Writ, namely, that we are justified and saved solely through Christ? In all the churches the priests and the monks have chanted and read it daily at the altar, in the choir, and in the pulpit. But what good did it do? For they themselves preached and taught contrary to this doctrine. And even today they do not cease to yelp against it. My dear man, why not deny point-blank that Scripture declares Him to be the Lamb of God which bears our sins (John 1:29), that believers in Him have forgiveness of sin solely through His name (Acts 10:43), and that there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12)? Of course, if you want to set the Bible aside or to ignore willfully what Scripture says and follow your own notions, then, naturally, neither this nor any other article of the faith will be clear and certain.
Or is it not plain enough when the angel Gabriel is sent to the Virgin Mary and says (Luke 1:31): “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son”? What could be plainer and clearer? Who does not know what it means to conceive in the womb and to give birth? And yet there have been people—such as the Anabaptist rabble in Münster in our day—who deny that it is written that Christ is a natural Son of the Virgin, born of her flesh and blood.55 They want to persuade people to believe that such terms as “conceiving in the womb and bearing” are not the equivalent of maternity, and that the child or son is not a natural child but a monstrosity or a changeling. Indeed, if we let this pass, concede them such arbitrariness, and permit them to say and to interpret as they please, unrestrained by God’s Word, then anybody can reject whatever displeases him, declare that this text is not clear enough, and demand a clear one in proof.
This would surely have to be a clear expression, one which the devil could not pervert with his interpretation. Now what is clear enough, if the plain Word of God, given for our enlightenment and instruction, is called unclear, even though it shines directly into our faces? This is as if a willful person closed his eyes to the bright sun or covered doors and windows, and then complained about not being able to see. What more can be said or demonstrated to you if you refuse to hear and accept what God Himself tells you? Or do you suppose that your own notions about God and His mysteries—notions which you deduce from your blind reason—are clearer and more trustworthy than God’s own Word? Only a genuine, malicious devil refuses to listen in spite of being manifestly convinced; he resists the truth knowingly and willfully.
What would it have availed if everywhere the Holy Spirit had employed words such as these: “Christ is true God and man”—words which He often did use? It would have served no purpose other than to afford the heretics still more reasons for making the blasphemous statement that this is not sufficiently clear. Even if such terms as “God” and “man” were applied to Christ, one could not yet conclude from these with certainty that He truly had both a human and a divine nature; but because only the names were used, and Scripture did not record more to prove that He really had human essence and activity as well as divine majesty and power, then He would be God or man in name only. That is how the heretics reasoned when verses and texts in which Christ was called the Son of the Virgin or the Son of Man were rubbed under their noses. They said: “Oh, the word ‘man’ in this text does not denote a true human being, the flesh and blood of a mother; it denotes a phantom, or an image of a man, which passed through the Virgin’s womb as the sun casts its rays and brilliance on the wall through colored glass.” The Jews, too, declare that the word “virgin” does not signify an immaculate virgin but a young woman or maid.56
Thus even though the attention of the Arians was called to the words “God” and “God’s Son,” they countered by saying that these do not refer to a natural or real God but to one who is God in name only, and that the term “God’s Son” in this passage means no more than a lord, a prince, or a creature more glorious than all creatures. My dear man, anybody could twist and pervert things in such a way that “wood” should mean stone, that “man” should denote, not a man but a changeling, that “God” and “God’s Son” should mean, not what they mean but whatever one may choose to make of them. What would finally remain certain and clear in Holy Writ, yes, in any language? Then, when someone hands me a gulden, I could say that it is not a gulden but a token, or that it is not a groschen but a piece of tin.
Therefore the Holy Spirit has erected a safeguard on both sides, to prevent frivolous spirits from interpreting arbitrarily, and toying with, the terms “God” and “man,” and to make sure that these words mean what they should mean and signify in any language, namely, that “God” means God, and “man” means man. For the Holy Spirit not only applied the names “God” and “man” to Christ, but He also added the definition; that is, He expressed explicitly and clearly how these terms are to be interpreted and understood, lest everyone devise his own interpretation and make of them what he chooses. Therefore the Holy Spirit describes Christ both by name and according to His work or activity. If the name did not suffice, then the works ascribed to Him would be proof and would constrain us to say: “That is God, even though He were not called God anywhere.” And still they are such willful villains that they rant and blaspheme against this, even though one rubs under their noses such patent evidence of Scripture that they cannot ignore it. They wriggle away and drivel that Scripture does not state expressly that Christ is God. Thus they seesaw and dodge. First they insist on being shown the word “God”; and when this is done, they evade the issue and say that this word has a different sense here. But this is the devil practicing sleight of hand with Scripture and throwing dice with it, twisting it to suit his purpose. Grappling with him is like taking an eel by the tail.
Therefore we must adhere to Scripture against the devil and against these willful blasphemers. We must not let them pervert it and flit around over it, as though it lacked the clarity and power to prove our faith. We must persistently drum into people that Holy Writ does both: applies the terms “God” and “man” to Christ and presents words and works of His that pertain to God alone or refer to God alone. Thus it demonstrates that He is both called God and is God, and that He performs works that are peculiar to the true God.
The name “God” is used clearly and distinctly of Christ. For instance, in the last chapter of John (20:28) St. Thomas exclaims: “My Lord and my God!” And in Rom. 9:5 we read: “God over all, blessed forever,” which the old fathers also applied to Christ.57 Psalm 2:7 states: “Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee”; that is, “My true, natural Son, not merely an adopted or nominal son.” Or in Luke 1:32: “He will be called the Son of the Most High.” Many more verses speak of Christ’s divine power and works. And it is necessary to emphasize and document this more thoroughly, for this is more vital and cannot be twisted and misinterpreted as is done with the former verses. Take, for instance, the verses which we have already heard, in which Christ says of Himself: “Believe in God, believe also in Me.” Or: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.” Or: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” And: “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in Me?” In these verses St. John, as he does almost everywhere, asserts that Christ is both true man and true God. The factious spirits would be glad to hear Christ make the simple statement that He is either all God or all man. But Scripture combines the two. This is as it should be. The work of both, that of God and that of man, is assigned to Christ in one Person. Holy Writ fuses the two so adroitly that the words sound like those of a true man and, on the other hand, like those of the true and very God.
For when Christ says: “Believe in God,” He speaks as though He meant only God. But then He hastens to add: “Believe also in Me.” Here He includes Himself by referring the word “believe” also to Himself and ascribing the same deity to Himself. For the demand to believe in Christ implies that He must be true God. Or when Christ says: “The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does His works,” you hear nothing but the speech of a true man. But when He also declares: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life” and “He who has seen Me has seen the Father”—these are statements which no mere man, yes, no angel or any other creature, can make of himself; but these words are specifically and exclusively those of the Divine Majesty.
The same thing is true of the words before us: “Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it.” If He were only man, should He not say: “Whatever you ask the Father, He will do”? For, as has been said, no one but God is empowered to grant what we may ask, such as forgiveness of sin and eternal life. But now, by stating that He will do this, Christ affirms that He is true God. To be sure, He does not boast here of the name of God; He boasts of work which neither man nor angel has ever done or will be able to do in all eternity. And, lest anyone imagine that such words slipped from His lips accidentally, or that He spoke them in a dream, He repeats them and confirms them with the same words: “Whatever you ask, I will do it.” For the Lord Christ foresaw that this doctrine would meet with strong opposition on the part of human reason and would be resolutely and severely attacked by the devil. That is why He treats of this doctrine again and again, and uses many words to give strong proof of His divine power and majesty.
Therefore what sense is there in ranting against such clear words of God and saying: “After all, He does not call Himself God”? Even though He does not apply the name to Himself here—something He has others do in other passages—He does mention everything that is appropriate to God alone and that entitles Him to the name of God. If this were not set forth so explicitly and clearly, it would mean nothing, even if He called Himself God everywhere. For then people would always say, as the Arians do, that He is God in name only. But now that both the definition and the fact are stated, and such clear proof is given, it is reasonable that the name should follow the work or the fact itself. He must be called God, even though Scripture did not use this term anywhere. For Christ does not want to glory in the mere name apart from the fact and the deeds as the world has its fun and practices deception by glorying falsely in mere names.
Just to hear that Christ is called God’s Son and God in eternity should be sufficient for our faith, and we are under no obligation to engage in further debate with the devil. As already said, God does not trifle with mere names; the names that He gives to Himself and to all things really represent the truth.58 And yet God gives us so many verses for our victory over the devil and his followers—verses in which He praises His divine might and power, and assigns to Himself the honor, the majesty, and the works that are peculiar to God alone.
Therefore we remain loyal to this doctrine of Christ as Scripture teaches it. He is called and described as both true God and man. They themselves must read, sing, and preach Scripture in witness to the truth and in refutation of themselves. If others will not believe this and willfully make blasphemous statements against it, we will let them go their way with their god, the devil; but despite them we will believe this and adhere to the text which they themselves cannot deny. We will retain this text unaltered and unadulterated, together with our Creed, in which we confess: “I believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord, God’s only Son, and true man, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate, dead and buried.” We let all the words mean what they say. They were not given to be double talk but to supply our faith with a clear and sure basis and confirmation. We let him who will not believe these words dispute and indulge in subtle arguments as long as he pleases; the devil will give him his fill. But we will be masters over these wiseacres, so that they cannot twist the nose of Holy Writ as they please;59 and if they do, it will be on their own head. But no one will invalidate these texts and verses.
Enough has been said on our text in proof of this article about Christ. This should not only serve to inform us of His nature and essence, but we should also derive profit and gain from it for ourselves. Christ for His Person indeed remains Lord and God over all, even if you and I did not believe it, and even if all the world were to forsake Him. Your unbelief and blasphemy will not make Him lower than He has been from eternity. But it is essential that we apply this article to our good as the doctrine on which all our salvation and happiness rests.
For if this foundation stands and is ours by faith—that Christ is both, God’s Son and the Virgin’s Son, in one Person, though of two different natures, of the divine nature from eternity through the Father, of the human nature through His birth from Mary—then I have all that is necessary, and it is superfluous for me to let my thoughts flit heavenward and explore God’s will and plan. Then I am spared all the disputations of the Jews, Turks, heathen, and all the world about God, how He is to be sought and encountered, or how He is to be served and pleased. And I am also relieved of the anxiety and fear of my own heart.
For if I hear this article, that Christ is the one true God and none other, then I have hit upon “the one thing needful”—mentioned by Christ in Luke 10:42 and chosen by Mary—“which shall not be taken away from her.” Then I am sure that I need look for nothing else or reflect on anything else; but I look solely to this one Person, yes, to His hands and lips, for assurance and consolation. Otherwise the heart hovers in suspense, in uncertainty, and in doubt; and its own thoughts cannot cease flitting in useless speculation concerning God’s attitude toward us until it finally despairs or at least is seduced from the true knowledge of God into idolatry and a false worship of God. This is what happens to the monks and to the unbelieving saints, whose God conforms to their own hearts’ portrayal of Him, as though He were minded as they dream or imagine Him to be. Thus they fashion a false god for themselves. For they are without knowledge of Christ; and since Christ is not known in the heart, the Father cannot be known either.
For, after all, our faith is centered completely in this Christ. He Himself said above: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” And St. Paul declares in Col. 2:9 that “the whole fullness of the Deity dwells in Him bodily.” Consequently, there is no God except Him; and where He is not known, God is never known or found. In their Persons Christ and the Father are indeed different; but to us and in our faith and hearts they must be completely One.
No one but the Christians can acquire such understanding of this article. No papist, monk, or theologian has ever been able to teach it, just as I myself was unable to do so, although we daily read, taught, and discoursed on Christ’s divine nature and essence; we knew nothing of its meaning as taught in the Scriptures. We were stuffed with other notions—about tonsures, cowls, and our own works—and God was pictured to us in the light of these. Yes, instead of becoming acquainted with God through Christ, we made the dear Savior a Judge and ran from Him to the Virgin Mary and other saints as intercessors and mediators. We also sought reconciliation by means of our works, Masses, monastic life, fasting, and prayer. These are the very thoughts that lead away from this article and prevent it from being understood and applied. One may refer to and discuss it superficially, but this is like a blind man’s discussion of color.
But he who teaches and understands aright what it means that Christ is both true God and true man, on the basis of the verses already heard and those we shall hear later, such as “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” and “Believe Me that I am in My Father and the Father in Me”—such a person can surely conclude and say: “I will hear and know of no other God, but I will look and listen solely to this Christ. And if I hear Him, I already know on what terms I am with God; and I need no longer torment myself, as I did before, with my anxiety about atonement and reconciliation with God. For in this picture all wrath and terror vanish, and only grace and comfort shine forth. Now I can gain a real and genuine trust in God, console my conscience in all trials and adversity, judge all life and conduct properly, and teach and instruct everybody.”
For since Christ, who is one undivided Person, God and man, speaks thus, it is certain that God the Father and the Holy Spirit, that is, the whole Divine Majesty, is also present and speaking. Thus God is entirely contained in this one Person, and you need not and dare not search further and ask: “How and where is He to be found or encountered?” And when the devil subsequently tries to humbug you with other ideas about God’s wrath or mercy, about sin or piety, you can retort: “Here I have the words of Christ; they are spoken by the true God and by no other. For there is surely no other God, and I cannot say anything but what I hear from His lips. Furthermore, here I see the Lord Christ’s work, that He sheds His blood for me, dies, rises again, and gives me His Baptism and Sacrament. All this is most certainly done by my God; for this Person is both true God and true man, one Divine Being with the Father, one God, and therefore one voice or word or work. Therefore we can and must say: ‘God was crucified and died for me.’ And if anyone projects a god who did not suffer and die for me, I will have no truck with him. For although the Person of the Father is distinct from that of the Son and we should not say that the Father suffered for us, Christ is nonetheless the same God, one undivided Essence with the Father. Hence we cannot fail to find God in the Person of Christ. On the other hand, we can never find a God for our comfort and salvation outside Christ.”
That the Father may be glorified in the Son.
Luther, M. (1999, c1961). Vol. 24: Luther's works, vol. 24 : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (24:86). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


12. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father.

Here Christ reverts to the consolation which He had begun to dispense to the disciples. He had told them not to be frightened or mourn because He was about to depart from them visibly and physically, leaving them behind in the world; they should consider, and be comforted by, the benefits that would compensate them for the slight physical loss. He informed them that He would prepare much more glorious dwellings for them, that He would still be with them, and that He would also take them to His abode, which they could never reach without Him. Furthermore, He told them that they already knew the way and the Father, that therefore His mission in their midst was now fulfilled, that it was no longer necessary for Him to instruct them, and that the only thing left for Him to do was to conclude by helping them reach their goal. And for a further measure of comfort and assurance that His departure would entail no loss or harm to them but would enrich them more abundantly and gloriously than before, He adds that by His going they would be empowered to do works just like His, and even greater ones than He had done or would still do during His physical stay among them.
He has just said that He performs works intended to make them believe that the Father is in Him and that He is in the Father. Now He extends this and says that they, too, should perform such works—works which show that they also are in Christ and that Christ is in them. This He repeats later. Here He indicates, as we shall hear, what He proposes to do and accomplish through them in Christendom.
You ask: “Did not Christ just say that we should believe for the sake of the works He does? What, then, is the meaning of His statement that the disciples should perform the selfsame works? Why, then, need they believe for the sake of Christ’s works?” Answer: The former statement of Christ pertains to the time before we have become Christians, for He is speaking of works by which He makes us Christians. But the second statement refers to the works to be done by those who have become Christians. Therefore He says: “He who believes in Me.” First it is necessary that we believe in Him and cling to Him through faith, no matter how we may fare because of this. Christ says that He who believes in Him should perform the same and even greater works.
How is this to take place? To be sure, it was evident in the apostles and holy martyrs, who raised many from the dead and performed other helpful deeds. But what are we to say when Christ makes this statement not only of the apostles but of all who believe in Him? What kind of works could excel those of Christ the Lord? What works could be called greater than raising the dead, delivering souls from the might of the devil and death, and bestowing eternal life? Are these not exclusively Christ’s own works—works wrought in us by His divine power and might? Who, then, can say that we are to perform greater works?
Here I accept the general sense of this verse. It can have no other meaning than this, that the works of Christians are called greater because the apostles and the Christians had a wider field for their works than He did, that they brought more people to Christ than He Himself did during His earthly sojourn. Christ preached and worked miracles only in a small nook, and for just a short time. The apostles and their successors, however, have come to all the world, and their activity has extended over the whole history of Christianity. Thus Christ personally merely initiated His work. It has had to be extended farther and farther through the apostles and the preachers who came after them; it must go on until the Day of Judgment. Thus it is true that the Christians do greater works, that is, more works and more extensive works, than Christ Himself did. Yet the works are identical; they are the same as His. For when Christ declares that he who believes in Him will do greater works, He does not deny that such works must be done through His power and must issue from Him as the Fountainhead. No, He affirms both when He says: “He who believes in Me.” Also in the following words: “Because I go to the Father.” Likewise in verse fourteen: “Whatever you ask … I will do it.” Thereby Christ demonstrates that such works are performed exclusively by those who adhere to Him in faith. Through them He works and manifests His power.
We must not divorce the Head from its members, that is, Christ from His apostles and all Christendom. Every individual Christian is a man such as the Lord Christ Himself was on earth; he accomplishes great things. He is able to govern the whole world in divine matters. He can help and benefit everybody; he does the greatest works on earth. He is also regarded more highly by God than the entire world is. For his sake God gives to, and preserves for, the world all that it has. If there were no Christians on earth, no city or country would enjoy peace; yes, everything on earth would perish through the devil in a single day. That grain still grows in the field; that people recover from an illness; that they have their sustenance, peace, and protection—all this they owe to the Christians.
Although, as St. Paul says (2 Cor. 6:10), we are poor beggars, yet we make many rich; although we have nothing, yet we possess everything. It is also true that what kings, princes, lords, burghers, and peasants have is not theirs by reason of their golden hair47 but because of Christ and His Christians. Consequently, so long as Christians walk this earth, the host must benefit from his guest. On the other hand, the guest, that is, Christendom, must benefit from the host. Thus the history of the patriarch Jacob (Gen. 30:30) shows that when he was in the service of Laban, his father-in-law,48 prosperity was showered on the latter, who had not been rich before this time. God blessed Laban for the sake of His pious Jacob, who brought nothing with him and also received but little from Laban. Similarly, lords, burghers, and peasants today possess their land and their people, their power, honor, and goods because of the Christians who dwell in their midst, even though the former will not acknowledge this and thank the Christians poorly for it.
But which works of the Christians accomplish this? We see nothing special that they do beyond what others do, especially since the day of miracles is past. Miracles, of course, are still the least significant works, since they are only physical and are performed for only a few people. But let us consider the true, great works of which Christ speaks here—works which are done with the power of God, which accomplish everything, which are still performed and must be performed daily as long as the world stands.
In the first place, Christians have the Gospel, Baptism, and the Sacrament, by means of which they convert people, snatch souls from the clutches of the devil, wrest them from hell and death, and bring them to heaven. With these they also comfort, strengthen, and preserve poor consciences that are saddened and troubled by the devil and others. They are able to teach and instruct people in all walks of life and to help them live in a Christian and blessed way. All these are works which all kings and emperors in the world, all the mighty and the rich, all scholars and sages, are unable to do and could not purchase with all their wealth. For none of them can console and gladden a single conscience that is oppressed and aggrieved by sin. Nor can they instruct a person aright how to come to Christ and how to live before God. On the contrary, they disseminate lies and introduce idolatry in opposition to God’s Word, mislead souls and tear them from the truth by persecution, torture, and murder. All this we see in the regimes of the pope and the Turk. Therefore where such works are wrought as convert someone to Christ, strengthen him in his faith, and preserve him in a godly life, one may well boast that this is a work to which no emperor and no kings are equal, but which is performed solely by the power of Christ the Lord and is as great as or greater than raising the physically dead. Christ Himself does not regard such a miracle as great, for He testifies here that He will perform much greater works through His Christians. To destroy the kingdom and the power of the devil, who, according to Holy Writ, is the lord and god of the world (2 Cor. 4:4), requires God’s own almighty power and might and certainly not human effort.
In the second place, the Christians also have prayer. Christ will speak of this later. Through prayer they obtain for themselves and for others all that they ask of God, even physical things. This is one of the greatest works they do to help and preserve the world, even if they did nothing else. Thus when a Christian subject prays, and the prince is victorious over his enemies, who, then, actually defeated the enemies and achieved the victory? No other than the Christian, even if no one gives him credit and he gains neither reputation nor honor because of it. God did not grant victory for the sake of the prince—if he was an unbeliever—but in answer to the prayer of this one Christian. So greatly can a whole country or kingdom be benefited by one pious man, for whose sake all are blessed. This we find illustrated in Gen. 14:14 by the story of Abraham; also in the story of Lot, which is recorded in Gen. 19:22, where we read that Sodom and Gomorrah were spared while Lot still lived there. And in 2 Kings 5:1 we read that because of Naaman alone God bestowed good fortune and victory on the entire kingdom of Syria, which, after all, was idolatrous. According to Gen. 41:46 ff., all Egypt was helped because of Joseph. The kingdom of Persia fared similarly for the sake of Daniel. And the prophet Isaiah defeated the hosts of the Assyrian emperor singlehandedly through his prayer. Thus in times gone by good fortune and victory in war were often granted to the Romans, the Persians, and others solely for the sake of the Christians.
To summarize, kings, lords, and princes cannot claim credit for their rule, for peace, or for obedient subjects; all this is due to no one else on earth than the Christians. Kings, lords, and princes may think: “I wear the crown and wield the sword because of my own power and might.” Even when viewed with the eyes of reason, it would seem impossible for an individual to govern a whole country where there are so many heads, or for a burgomaster to rule over and hold in subjection an entire city if he were not supported and protected by another power. What is one burgomaster over against a big mob? Or the prince of a territory among so many vile knaves and rascals who live under him and next to him, both at court and in cities and castles? They take money from him and would gladly help betray him if it were not for God, who upholds his rule, and for the Christians in his realm, who pray. Hence these men receive a hidden help, a help that is unseen by them and unknown to them, namely, God’s Word and order and the prayers of Christians. But just as they do not know that their reign is God’s order and work and does not rest in the hands of man, so they do not know that God tolerates and preserves their rule solely for the sake of the godly Christians and their prayers. And that is why they repay this by persecuting both God’s Word and His Christians.
Even reason understands and must admit that, naturally viewed, it is impossible for so many heads to submit willingly to one head. For daily and too frequently we see and experience that the common rabble among burghers, peasants, and noblemen submit reluctantly and unwillingly and would much rather shake off the yoke of obedience and restraint. Therefore there must be another power that upholds kings and lords in their rule and suppresses the mob with its malice and disobedience. Otherwise everything would go to rack and ruin. That is what happens when God becomes angry, when the measure of iniquity of tyrants and of people is filled to overflowing, when they ungratefully persecute God’s Word and the Christians, destroy them, and silence their prayers. Then it is time to put an end to it. Then God closes His eyes and lets matters take their course. Then prince, burgomaster, mob, and all tumble in a heap as an old house falls to pieces. Then it is clear how well the world can govern when left to itself, and how well things go when God withdraws His hand and the Christians do not pray. In the meantime the world goes its way in abysmal ignorance; for it is blind and possessed of the devil.
But we, as Christians, must know that the whole system of earthly government stands and remains for its allotted time solely through God’s order or command and the prayers of Christians. These are the two pillars that support the entire world. When they are gone, everything must crumble. This will become evident as Doomsday approaches; but it can already be seen that all kingdoms and governments are enfeebled and are almost beginning to topple, because the two columns are threatening to drop and to break. The world will not have it otherwise. It will not tolerate God’s Word, which, after all, honors and preserves the world; but it persecutes and kills innocent Christians and incessantly storms against the pillars which uphold it, like a raging householder who would like to tear everything to pieces. Well, we shall support things as long as we can, although we receive no thanks for it. But if it comes to pass that God’s Word and the prayers of Christians are silenced, then may the devil, the god of the world, have mercy on it!49
One can understand this text all the better when I say that in both the spiritual and the temporal realms50 the very greatest works in the world—even though they are not recognized and acknowledged as such—are continuously performed by Christians. Among these works are the destruction of the devil’s realm, the deliverance of souls, the conversion of hearts, victory, the preservation of peace for land and nation, help, protection, and salvation in all sorts of distress and emergencies. All this, Christ says, is to come to pass through the Christians, because they believe in Him and derive everything from Him as their Head. Yes, all this is to be done by each individual Christian, and Christ can say: “The works which I do are done by every baptized Christian today.”
Consequently, the Christians are genuine helpers and saviors, yes, lords and gods of the world. Thus God says to Moses in Ex. 7:1: “See, I make you as God to Pharaoh.” And in Ps. 8:6 we read: “Thou hast put all things under his feet,” namely, emperors, kings, princes, power, honor, and goods; yes, even the cattle in the field, oxen, sheep, wild beasts, the birds of the air, and the fish in the water. God does not want it forgotten that whatever possessions and power the world has it holds in fee from the beggars described by St. Paul (2 Cor. 6:19): “as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” Everything that God grants the world He gives because of the Christians. Therefore it may all be called the Christians’ works and wonders, which they perform until the Last Day. And when these cease, God will also put an end to the world, and everything will be consumed by fire. In the meantime the Christians serve as the legs that bear the entire world. For this service the world rewards them by despising them, oppressing them, forcing them into mire and filth, disgracing them, reviling them, condemning them, yes, by chasing them out of the world. Thus we see how peasants, burghers, and junkers trample their pastors and preachers underfoot and begrudge them their morsel of bread; and some even tear off their heads. And we are now obliged to suffer such filth and stench from them as do the legs that carry the paunch and the reeking belly. But on that day they will have to regard us far differently and discover that not they but every Christian was an emperor and lord over all the masters of the world, not by reason of his person, in which he is a human being like the rest, but because of his faith in the Lord Christ. This is what Christ says here.
Well, the world is not going to believe this, nor is this proclaimed for the sake of the world, which is not worthy of attaining such knowledge, lest it be blessed too much. But this is told to us both for our instruction and for our consolation. Then we shall not underestimate Christians and regard them as other people, but we shall see how highly they are praised by Christ and esteemed by God. The world gapes only at what appears to be great and glorious, what is rich and mighty, and what struts along in a pompous manner; but the world is ignorant of the source of its possessions. But Christ says: “If you are baptized and believe in Me, then you are the man who has more and can perform greater things, yes, can do the same works that I am now doing, and even greater works than these. I will make you who believe in Me such lords that your works will count and accomplish more than those of all the kings and lords on earth. You shall carry out whatever you will; you shall help Me rule spiritually over souls for their salvation, and you shall also obtain and receive by means of your prayer whatever physical goods there are on earth. In consequence, the world will be beholden to you for everything. Unwittingly they will be your beneficiaries. You will feed and fatten them like sows in the pigsty until the Last Day, when they will be slaughtered as a roast for the devil, who will devour them as they now want to devour you.”
Look, this is something for Christians to boast of greatly; it is glorious. With this we can comfort ourselves over against the devil and the world, and in it we can rejoice. What I would give if I knew for sure that I could rescue a person from death! But this is nothing when compared with the privilege of being able to comfort and save hearts and consciences, to wrest them from the jaws of the devil, and, in addition, to help all men with my prayer. In contrast with such a privilege I should regard as filth and spit on all the gold and silver of the world, all the power and honor, if it were heaped up before me. And this is absolutely true, since Christ, the Son of God, says so. But it is not believed, since it is only a simple statement. If it were gold and silver and anything that glitters in the world and strikes the eye, everybody would flock to it and esteem it highly. But a Christian could exclaim defiantly: “Good and well, dear world, be rich, and count your guldens! I, a Christian, may have nothing on earth; yet you are indebted to me and my prayer for whatever you own. For my Christ is your Liege Lord; without Him you can possess nothing. And though I may appear to be a beggar in your sight, I still own a great treasure, compared with which all your wealth is not worth a penny. I can help everyone to know where to remain in the hour of death and in every trouble, and to have enough for all eternity. You are far from doing this with all your wealth, your crown, and your splendor.”
But where are those who are able to believe, and glory in, this? Yet it is said to us in order that we may at least begin to learn what we have from Christ and what we should expect from Him, and that we may regard our Christian estate higher and more glorious than the world regards its things. For Christ does not say: “If you believe in Me, you shall have a great treasure of gold and silver, and will occupy and possess cities, castles, land, and kingdoms.” That would not help the Christians. No, He says that we shall have power over sin, death, and the devil. Thus He tells the apostles in Luke 10:19: “Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. For I have placed into your mouth the Word which is My Word, and have given you the Baptism which is My Baptism; and through these I want to demonstrate My almighty power.”
Now since we have such a treasure, we have everything and are lords over all lords. On earth we are beggars, as Christ Himself was; but before God we are bountifully blessed with all good things. In comparison the world is poor and destitute, nor can it retain its goods without us. I, on the other hand, have abiding goods in the hour of death; for I have the Lord Christ Himself, who sits enthroned in heaven above. But in that hour you will be obliged to depart naked and bare, and you will not take as much as a thread with you. And up there you will be bereft of all property, even though you were a mighty king and owned all the goods of the world. A Christian will not leave one bit of his goods behind; for he already has his treasure in heaven, in and with Christ. Thus St. Paul states in Eph. 2:6 that God has already “made us sit with Him in the heavenly places.” To be sure, this is not apparent now; but on the Last Day all the world will see the riches and the eternal glory of poor Lazarus in heaven. At the rich man’s door he did not have the crumbs that fell from the table. Now the rich belly, together with all the unbelieving world, will lie in everlasting fire and burn.
Now why will the Christians do works just like, and greater than, those of Christ Himself? He says that there is no other reason than this: “Because I go to the Father.” What sense does this make? Is the Man drunk, or is He dreaming? Here is the explanation: As I have said, we do not perform such works of ourselves. But the fact that in all the world Christendom will do great works that Christ Himself performed only in a small nation is, He says, “because I am going to the Father and occupying My kingdom. This means: Through My suffering, death, and resurrection I overcome the devil, death, flesh and blood, and the world with all it contains; and I sit at the right hand of God, reign with power, and subject everything to Myself. I shall be able to say to death, sin, the devil, the world, and all that is evil: ‘Lie prostrate here at My feet; and cease being death, sin, devil, and the evil world, as you once were!’ ”
By “going to the Father” Christ means that He is to be made Lord and placed on the royal chair at the right hand of the Father, that all power and might in heaven and on earth are given to Him, as He says in Matt. 28:18. “You will get the power to perform such works because you are My members and believe in Me; because you will be in Me, and I will be in you. For through the power which, coequal in majesty and publicly glorified as true God and Lord over all creatures, I shall enjoy at the right hand of the Father I will work in you who believe in Me and who have My Word, Baptism, and Sacrament, and remain faithful to these. And just as I am Lord over sin, death, hell, the devil, the world, and everything, so you shall also be lords over these and be able to glory in the same power. This is yours, not by reason of your own worthiness or strength but solely because I am going to the Father.
“And I am going to the Father for the purpose of initiating and fulfilling this. For now, while I still sojourn here on earth in this flesh, I am weak and performing only small and slight works, such as raising a few people from the dead or helping a handful of Jews. And now I must let Myself be crucified and put to death. But afterwards—after My crucifixion, death, and burial—I shall first leap from death into life, from the cross and the grave into everlasting glory, divine majesty, and might. Then—as Christ states elsewhere (John 12:32)—I will draw all men to Myself, and all creatures will have to be subject to Me. Then I shall be able to say to you apostles and Christians: ‘You, Peter or Paul, you must go forth and overthrow the Roman Empire if it refuses to obey My Word.’ Thus it will become apparent that you are doing far greater works than I am now doing. For I have not yet fully entered upon My reign; I have not yet taken over a kingdom or a principality, not even among My Jews; but I am letting Myself be knocked down and executed by them. But after this I will rage among them and cast them before you to be handled like old cards, yet not with the sword or physical coercion but with the Word and prayer. Through these I will be powerful in you. I will support you to such an extent that they will either have to accept your Gospel or go to rack and ruin over it. That which stands will remain standing through you or will fall to pieces when you no longer uphold it. They will not live as they please, but against their will by your grace.”
Luther, M. (1999, c1961). Vol. 24: Luther's works, vol. 24 : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (24:76). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Friday, August 20, 2010


11. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me; or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.

Christ says: “If My preaching does not make you willing to believe that God dwells and is in Me and that I dwell and am in Him, then believe this because of the works you see before your eyes. These works, as no one can deny, are not human; they are divine. They prove and attest powerfully enough that He speaks and works in Me and through Me.” These are the works and the miracles which He performed publicly before all the world—giving sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, healing to all manner of sick, casting out devils, and raising the dead—solely by the Word. These are not only divine works, but they are also witnesses of God the Father. Therefore he who sees and hears these sees God the Father in them; and he is not only persuaded that God is in Christ and that Christ is in God, but from them he can also be comforted with the assurance of God’s fatherly love and grace toward us.
For if God were disposed to be angry with us, to condemn, punish, and torment us, He would not forgive us our sins through Christ; He would not remove the penalty for sins from the paralytics, the lepers, and others, who were possessed of, and tormented by, the devil. Furthermore, if God took delight in death, He would not raise and quicken the dead. But that is what He did in Christ; He taught us to look upon and recognize Him as a gracious Father, who is eager to help and to save us. This He also demonstrates daily in all the works He does in all the world by constantly preserving all His creatures, bestowing so many benefactions on the whole world, and bountifully pouring out His goods, except when of necessity and for the sake of the godly He must punish and restrain the wicked. But He rules in such a way that even physically we always see more of His grace and blessing than of His wrath and punishment. For we find a hundred thousand healthy people for every ailing, blind, deaf, paralytic, or leprous person. And even if one member of the body has a defect, the entire person, still endowed with body and soul, shows forth nothing but God’s goodness.
Moreover, all the wretchedness and misery rampant in the world is the work of the devil, who delights in bringing ruin and death on man; for it was he Who plunged all human nature into sin and death. But, as we learn from 1 John 3:8, “the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” and to re-establish the divine works of life. This He proved so forcefully that even the Jews had to admit grudgingly that no man could perform such works. And even though they declared that no one but God could forgive sin, still His works stood before their eyes in testimony that He had this divine power and that He was the Man who could help man from death to life, against sin to righteousness, from strife to peace and every good.43 Thus we become assured not only of the doctrine that Christ is true God with the Father, but also that He is a merciful God and Savior; and we can recognize and apprehend the Father’s heart and will in all the works of the Lord Christ, for the true and blessed consolation of all wretched and aggrieved hearts and consciences. “Thus,” says Christ, “My works will aptly demonstrate to you that the Father is in Me and wants to be known through Me.”
But you say: “After all, the devil can work miracles and signs like Christ’s. How, then, can we found our belief on the miracles of Christ?” It is true that the devil can torment people and lay them low; or he can blind them temporarily or lame a member, as he often did through his witches and devilish whores, and then heal them again. Not that these people were really blind or lame, for to such he could not restore sight or a member; but he bewitches the people and dupes their five senses, so that they do not know better and are willing to swear an oath that it is real.
At times the devil also takes possession of a person and then lets himself be cast out by adjuration, blessing, etc. All this he does for the purpose of confirming his lies and deceptions and of impressing the people, so that because of these apparently great miracles they are seduced into idolatry. This he has accomplished to date with pilgrimages and the idolatrous adoration of saints, at one place with the Sacred Blood, at another with this or that Mary.44 He has filled the entire country with shameful delusions and has prompted people to throng to such places and everybody to make vows there and transfer their trust from God to his lies. For in the end it was nothing but devilish deception with which he made fools of the people and persuaded them to believe that they had really been helped.
Yes, the devil can contrive to make a person who has been wounded, shot, or injured in some other way appear to be dead; he can render a person insensate for a while, with the result that everybody believes that he is really dead. Later on, however, this person regains consciousness, and then people say that he has been brought back to life through the power of this or that saint. Thus I have heard of a lad who had been lying submerged in water for two days; but when his parents took him and pledged him to St. Anne, he was restored to life.45 Are these not also miracles and signs? No, for surely these people were not actually dead. The devil so befuddled people’s senses that they thought them dead until he let them regain consciousness.
Thus we read in the lives of the old fathers about St. Macarius. He was approached by a married couple with a beautiful daughter whom the devil had bewitched so that her parents and everybody else took her for a cow. They brought her to Macarius in the wilderness and lamented that their virgin daughter had been changed into a cow by witchcraft. They implored him to ask God to restore her to her original form. But he said: “What has happened to you? I see nothing but a beautiful, healthy virgin. Therefore this must be nothing but deception with which the devil is duping you and deluding your five senses.” Finally he prayed over her and also bade the parents pray. This was the end of the deception, and the parents and others again saw their daughter as before.46
I am saying this to keep you from believing in all sorts of miracles and signs. For in Deut. 13:1 ff. Moses predicted that false prophets would also perform these. And in 2 Thess. 2:9 St. Paul clearly foretold that Antichrist’s reign would include all kinds of miracles and signs wrought by the devil. Therefore we must judge and consider all wonders and miracles in the light of God’s Word, to ascertain whether they are in accordance and agreement with it. If anyone directs you to any help other than the doctrine and the works of the Lord Christ, you can conclude freely that this is the devil’s work and his false miracles, by means of which he deceives and misguides you, just as he has done so far under the name of Mary and the saints where Christ was never known or taught aright. As St. Paul declares (2 Thess. 2:11), God permits the false Christians to be tempted in this way; they have to believe lies because they refused to believe the truth.
And since God forewarned us regarding such signs, we should be circumspect, and we should look into and judge these signs. We shall see that they happen outside and without Christ, yes, contrary to His Word and the faith, which proves that they are nothing but false signs of the devil. For the devil cannot perform genuine miracles and wonders; but, just as he is a murderer and liar from the beginning, so his works do nothing but misguide and harm man. He poisons the air and kills people through pestilence and other plagues. When he afflicts man with an illusory evil or conjures up a specter before one’s eyes, he can stop later on. But when a man is actually dead, he is impotent; and even if he were able to lend a helping hand in such an instance, he is so wicked that he would not do it.
Christ alone performs true, divine signs and wonders. Take, for instance, the time when He raised Lazarus, who had lain in the grave for four days, or when He brings back to life and health those who have been killed, destroyed, or injured by the devil. Furthermore, He exposes the devil’s fraud, lies, and deception, with the result that the devil is recognized and must stop. The devil does not pursue the Christians long with his hocus-pocus. For he is an arrogant spirit who wants to possess hearts and consciences only to induce people to believe his lies and worship him as God. Where he fails in this, he does not stay long. In times past there were many poltergeists and hobgoblins everywhere; they frightened the people into doing whatever they demanded of them. This was because the devil was not recognized and these hobgoblins were considered poor souls. But now that he is known, he desists from this game. Today he seeks different ways of casting a spell on the people and deluding them; this he does through his corporeal poltergeists and factions.
Luther, M. (1999, c1961). Vol. 24: Luther's works, vol. 24 : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (24:73). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


10. Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does His works.

As I have said, it is the purpose of these words to impress on and drum into us this chief article. Where the relationship of man to God or the ascertainment of God’s will is involved, we are to learn to dismiss everything else from our sight and heart, whatever may be taught and preached, even in the Law of Moses, and still more everything that proceeds from human reason and imagination. We must learn this one thing: to have a clear conception of Christ and let nothing tempt us away from this or lead us astray, be it a good work or an evil one, a good life or an evil life, holiness or sin. This is the knowledge in which St. John, an outstanding evangelist with regard to this theme, and St. Paul instruct more than the others do. They join and bind Christ and the Father so firmly together that we learn to think of God as only in Christ. As soon as we hear the mention of God’s name, or of His will, His works, His grace, or His displeasure, we must not judge these as the voice of our heart or man’s wisdom may discourse on them, or as the Law may suggest to us; but we must nestle and cuddle on the lap of Christ, like dear children on their mother’s lap or in her arms, and close our eyes and ears to everything but Him and His words. Or we must see Him as the faithful Savior, who sheds His blood so richly on the cross, rises again, subdues the devil and hell, treads death underfoot, proclaims this to you both personally and through the apostles, and grants all this to you. Thus He affirms abundantly that He harbors no anger or disfavor toward you but does everything to help and comfort you, all that He should and can do, if you but believe and accept this.
“Yes,” you say, “I see and hear this. But who knows whether this is God’s attitude toward me?” Guard against that thought, for that is separating and divorcing Christ from God! That is what Philip is doing here. He ignores Christ, seeks God up in heaven, and thinks: “Surely I can hear Christ talking to me. But who knows how God up in heaven is minded toward me or what He has resolved to do with me?” What else is that than unbelief and a secret denial of God? Christ must chide him for it, to rid him of this shameful delusion, as He says: “Philip, what do you mean by separating Me and the Father? Why do you let your thoughts soar in the clouds and let Me waste words on you? Do you not hear Me say that he who sees Me sees the Father Himself? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and that the Father is in Me? Furthermore, do you not hear Me say: ‘The words that I speak are not My own, but the Father’s’?” These are friendly but earnest words of the Lord. He will not put up with our vain and uncertain gaping and fluttering about. No, He wants us bound completely to Himself and to His Word, lest we seek God elsewhere than in Him.
In times past a pious hermit, St. Antony, admonished his brethren as he spoke of the young and inexperienced saints who want to be smart enough to fathom God’s inscrutable counsel and everything with their thoughts: “If you see such a young saint clambering heavenward and planting one foot into heaven, pull him down posthaste, before he can set his other foot up there too and then plunge down head over heels.”33 This is well spoken against the fluttering spirits, who like to speculate about sublime matters, who would like to bore a hole through heaven and peek in to discover what God Himself is and what He does, meanwhile ignoring Christ as superfluous for that purpose.34
Therefore be on your guard against ideas that disregard the Word and separate and tear Christ from God. For He did not bid you soar heavenward on your own and gape to see what God is doing in heaven with the angels. No, this is His command (Matt. 17:5): “This is My beloved Son; listen to Him. There I descend to you on earth, so that you can see, hear, and touch Me. There and nowhere else is the place for those to encounter and find Me who desire Me and who would like to be delivered from their sin and be saved.” We should quickly assent and say: “God Himself says this, and I will follow Him and give ear to no other word or message; nor do I want to know anything else about God. For, as St. Paul declares (Col. 2:9), in His Person ‘dwells the whole fullness of Deity bodily’; and there is no God apart from Him, where I could come to Him or find Him—although He is everywhere else, of course. Now wherever one hears this Man’s Word and sees His work, there one surely hears and sees God’s Word and work.”
Furthermore, when Christ commands His apostles to proclaim His Word and to carry on His work, we hear and see Him Himself, and thus also God the Father; for they publish and proclaim no other Word than that which they heard from His lips, and they point solely to Him. Thus the process goes on; the Word is handed down to us through the agency of true bishops, pastors, and preachers, who received it from the apostles.35 In this way all sermons delivered in Christendom must proceed from this one Christ; and the clergy must prove that the words and works of their ministry in Christendom—regardless of whether their own person is good or evil—are those of Christ. They must declare: “You are not to look to me or to follow me. No, heed only that which the Lord Christ says to you or shows you through me; for this is not my word; it is Christ’s Word. The Baptism and Sacrament I administer is not mine; it is His Baptism and Sacrament. The office I fill is not mine; it is the Lord’s office. But since it is Christ’s Word and Baptism, it is also the Father’s Word and Sacrament, because He says: ‘Whatever I say and do, I do not say or do on My own authority, but on the authority of the Father, who dwells in Me.’ ”
Thus it is all blended into one.36 All that issues from Christ’s lips emanates from the Father; for Christ declares: “What I say, not I, but the Father says.” Likewise St. Paul and other apostles and preachers affirm: “It is not I who baptizes and absolves you; it is Christ. It is not we who are speaking; it is Christ and God Himself. Hence when you hear this sermon, you are hearing God Himself. On the other hand, if you despise this sermon, you are despising, not us but God Himself.” For it is all from God, who condescends to enter the mouth of each Christian or preacher and says: “If you want to see Me or My work, look to Christ; if you want to hear Me, hear this Word.” Christ transmits this command to the apostles; these pass it on to their successors, bishops and preachers; these, in turn, deliver it to all the world, Thus the apostles and pastors are nothing but channels through which Christ leads and transmits His Gospel from the Father to us. Therefore wherever you hear the Gospel properly taught or see a person baptized, wherever you see someone administer or receive the Sacrament, or wherever you witness someone absolving another, there you may say without hesitation: “Today I beheld God’s Word and work. Yes, I saw and heard God Himself preaching and baptizing.” To be sure, the tongue, the voice, the hands, etc., are those of a human being; but the Word and the ministry are really those of the Divine Majesty Himself. Hence it must be viewed and believed as though God’s own voice were resounding from heaven and as though we were seeing Him administering Baptism or the Sacrament with His own hands. Thus here we do not separate, or differentiate between, God and His Word or ministry, given to us through Christ; nor do we seek God in another way or view Him in a different light.
When we get to heaven, we shall see God differently; then no clouds and no darkness will obscure our view. But here on earth we shall not perceive Him with our senses and our thoughts. No, here we see Him, as St. Paul states (1 Cor. 13:12), “in a mirror dimly,” enveloped in an image, namely, in the Word and the sacraments. These are His masks37 or His garments, as it were, in which He conceals Himself. But He is certainly present in these, Himself working miracles, preaching, administering the sacraments, consoling, strengthening, and helping. We see Him as we see the sun through a cloud. For now we cannot bear to see and look at His brilliant Majesty. Therefore He must cover and veil Himself, so to speak, behind a heavy cloud. Thus it has been ordained that he who wants to see and apprehend both the Father and the Son glorified and enthroned in majesty, must apprehend Him through the Word and through the works He performs in Christendom by means of the ministry and other offices.
By no means should we become so foolish as to sever and separate God, Christ, and His Word from one another and to debate about God as the heathen, the Turks, the sophists,38 or others do, with only His majesty in mind. Such men will indeed let God speak to the rest of us down here on earth and work in us through the clergy, through father, mother, etc.; meanwhile they themselves ascend into the clouds and are concerned about what God does and thinks up there. Not a good spirit, but the devil bids them ask about and reflect on that! But if you really want to know on what terms you are with God and whether your way of living finds favor in His eyes, then give ear to His Word recorded here, and you will soon learn: “He who sees and hears Me sees and hears the Father also.” Therefore ask yourself if you delight wholeheartedly in what Christ proclaims and does for you through His Christians, such as preachers, father, mother, and other pious people. If you sincerely listen and adhere to this, then you can rest assured. You need not entertain any further doubts; indeed, you must not. For whatever these people tell you, God truly tells you Himself.
But if you go your way like a reckless man, refuse to heed this, and still insist on exploring and fathoming your relationship to God in heaven with your own reason, you are lost. And it serves you right; for you reject God’s own offer to you, and instead seek something else. For it is the express purpose of His. presence here on earth to communicate His will to you, so that you may know assuredly how He is disposed toward you. He ordered and ordained all the offices and estates in Christendom for the purpose of filling the entire world with the works of God; and you ignore all this as though it were of no account. You think to yourself: “God dwells up in heaven among the angels and is occupied with other matters. How can a preacher or a father or a mother help me? If only I could hear and see God Himself!” That is severing and separating God from His work, Christ from His Word; and these two should be joined and kept together most firmly.
Hence let everyone be on his guard lest he search for God with his own reason and mind. Learn to adhere and cling simply to the Word. Be guided and directed by it. Then you cannot go astray. And in it you hear nothing but this message: “Believe in me. Believe that I forgive you your sins and am gracious to you for Christ’s sake. Be baptized on this. Be obedient to father and mother, and do what your calling and vocation enjoins. Then you have everything, and God in the bargain!” “Oh,” you ask, “is that seeing and hearing God? I assumed that He was up in heaven and that I needed a special revelation from Him.” No, far from it. If you want to encounter God, you must first see Him under the mask, in the Word. Then one day you can behold Him also in His majesty. For now God will not present you with anything special, apart from and contrary to His command contained in His Word.
It is a Shame and disgrace that we despise this because it is so common and familiar. Thus the arrogant spirit of Münzer and of the Anabaptist rabble of our day declared impudently that they would not acknowledge a Christ who did no more than have the Gospel preached and people baptized, but did not communicate with them in person.39 To cast aside the external Word and Baptism is surely the true mark and sign of all false and heterodox spirits. They do not content themselves with the simple order of God, which is issued to all of Christendom and by which He reigns over it. They disdain to hear from Him how they are to find Him; but they presume to teach, and prescribe to, Him how He should deal with them. But God will not submit to this; for He is not the man to be ordered about and to institute something particular for each individual or to issue a new Gospel, a new Baptism, message, or revelation for your sake. Once and for all He has ordained and proclaimed concerning this Christ: “Here is the Man whom you must hear if you want to come to Me and be saved. I herewith serve notice on you that I will give you no other sign. Therefore mark well that you must either accept Him or be lost.” This He has stated simply and clearly enough; this He has earnestly enjoined. And yet it avails nothing with the unbelieving world, so complete is the sway that the arrogant devil, who encroaches upon God’s majesty, holds over it.
Thus the Turks, to begin with, introduced something novel and refused to remain with the simple Gospel. “Oh,” exclaimed Mohammed, “Christ has ascended into heaven; I must have an angel through whom God communicates with me!” Then he proceeded to create a new Bible—that is, his Koran—and would not accept Baptism. The pope, together with his priests and monks, has been doing the same thing. They have surrendered Christ and the words about faith, ignored the Bible, and claimed that God sits enthroned up in heaven like a terrible Judge. Therefore we must have Mary and the other deceased saints as intercessors and must reconcile God through the sacrifice of the Mass. Furthermore, they have belittled Baptism and Christian vocations. Therefore it was necessary to enter special higher callings and orders, and to create a more exalted Baptism for the monks.40 In brief, they have introduced a special, self-devised sanctity, apart from and contrary to the common Word and order of God and the ordinary godly vocations. In this way alone they aspired to get to heaven or at least to assist others in attaining that goal. These things, they claim, gleam like precious gems. The others—plain Baptism, the Sacrament, father, mother, government, pious masters and mistresses in the home, servants and maids—they treat with scorn and regard as nothing. This viewpoint has so filled the world that the true light and the high honor of Christendom have been dimmed and trampled underfoot. Therefore we must again sweep out this filth of the devil and throw it away; we must cleanse this doctrine well and impress it on the hearts of men. One must teach and believe: “I must and will hear or see no work, no worship of God, no spirituality, no holy life other than that of this Man Christ, or that which He transmitted to the apostles, and the apostles, in turn, transmitted to the preachers. When I hear these, I hear Christ Himself; and when I hear Christ, I hear the Father.” Thus all must be woven together and interrelated. And if the relationship is right, all must follow in a straight line. It is like tracing and following a river or a brook to its source, the spring. I drink the water from the pipes. It comes from the brooklet; and this, in the end, flows from the spring.
This doctrine must be preached and expounded to Christendom in general, but it must also be impressed so that each individual Christian can practice and apply it in his own particular trials. When the devil hits the heart with his darts (Eph. 6:16), labeled eternal predestination or God’s wrath and judgment, then I must be steeled against these with the Word of Christ and say: “Away with you, you vile spirit of lies! Go devour your own stench, and do not distract me with such thoughts! For I have learned from Christ and from God Himself that if I want to know how God is disposed toward me and what His plans are for me, I must listen to none other than my Lord’s voice. There I see and hear nothing else than His gift of Baptism, His Sacrament; there I see that He absolves me from sin and acquits me. There is no threat at all that He wants to hurl me into hell. He does not want to drown me in Baptism; He wants to wash, cleanse, and quicken me. And in the Sacrament He does not place a sword at my throat as though He wanted to slay me, but He bids me eat and drink. Nor do I hear any anger or displeasure in His message; I hear sheer fatherly, cordial promise and consolation. Thus He also gave me father and mother, princes, and masters; all these are purely tokens of His mercy.” Be guided by this, and let others debate about, and pry vainly into, God’s plans in heaven; for you would never succeed, though you speculate yourself to death. But here you have the assurance which removes all doubt; for He descended from heaven for this very purpose, saying (Matt. 17:5): “This is My dear Son; listen to Him.” And the Son passed the message on to the apostles, the apostles handed it on to the preachers who succeeded them, and the preachers transmitted it to us and to our children. Thus it all proceeds as God has arranged it; and I constantly see and hear Him through the pipes if I follow the brooklet which flows from Christ and leads to the spring.
Behold, this is the beautiful conversation and sermon in answer to the apostle Philip’s question; it is a reply not only to him but also to the fluttering thoughts of all men, the thoughts with which they venture to apprehend God. Here Christ addresses you and all the world, and says: “What are you trying to do by seeking God elsewhere than in Me, or by heeding or listening to other words and works than those spoken and performed by Me? Do you not know that I am in the Father and that the Father is in Me? Later you hear Me speak through St. Paul, St. Paul through Titus or through other preachers, and so on through others who preach this Word—all centering in and identified with the Lord Christ. Where Paul is, there I am; where I am, there Paul is, and all the preachers. All are thoroughly and completely in Christ, but Christ is in and with the Father. At the same time Christ is in all, but the Father is in Christ. Why, then, do you let your foolish reason ask where the Father is? No disciple of Christ should ask that: Let the others—the non-Christians, heathen, Jews, Turks, heretics, monks, and sophists—search and seek in this way. But you must beware of departing from Me and following a different route! For if you do, you will not find God; then you will encounter the devil, who, as has been said, cannot dupe people unless he smears the name of Majesty on his lies.”
Therefore everyone who does not want to be deceived must learn and note with all diligence not to listen and agree when God is merely named or mentioned, even though men exalt and praise His name as greatly as possible and act ever so gloriously and majestically. Thus the devil often presented himself to me. I was so bewildered that I did not know what to do.41 Just adhere to the Word and say: “I will have none of that, even though it were the true Majesty Himself; for God has forbidden me to look for Him or think of Him anywhere but in Christ. Therefore it is surely a delusion and deception of the devil, under the name and semblance of the Majesty, which only frightens me and drives me from God. But God, in fact, invites me to Himself through Christ in the friendliest manner and presents me with the certain token of His grace and my salvation, namely, the Word and Baptism.”
As we know, the heathen likewise had to experience and acknowledge that God cannot be certainly found with any thoughts or any searching of reason. Thus the story is told of a king who asked his wisest philosopher: “What is God?” The sage took several days to consider; and when he was to give his reply, he again deferred it. This he did a third and a fourth time, until he finally had to confess outright: “What shall I say? The longer and the more profoundly I meditate on this, the less I Know.”42 Anyone else who ventures to learn something about God by means of his reason surely has the same experience. The longer he searches, the farther he is from his goal. He must miss the mark entirely unless, after finally finding the road that leads to Christ, he clings to the Word. Therefore let this verse be deeply engraved in your heart: “How can you say: ‘Show us the Father’? My dear man, do not flit about with your thoughts. Let God be God; let sin be sin; let holiness be holiness; let everything go and stay where it pleases. But listen to what I say to you here, and cling to it: ‘He who has seen Me has seen the Father.’ ‘The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does His works.’ ”
Note how Christ here joins the two, His words and His works, and attributes both to the Father. He Himself interprets the words “He who has seen Me has seen the Father,” namely, that this is nothing else than observing His words and works. For the Jews also saw Him with their eyes, just as a cow looks at something; but this did not improve them. Christian seeing and knowing, however, means to take note of His mouth and His hands, to pay heed to what He says and does. From this springs the knowledge which imparts the realization and the experience that God dwells and manifests Himself in Him, and that His words and works are God’s words and works. This is what Christ was eager to impress on, and drum into, them with this last sermon, which was delivered as He was about to depart from them; for herein, as has been amply stated, lies real power, and this is the true but also the most difficult knowledge of Christians. And now Christ concludes as He says:
Luther, M. (1999, c1961). Vol. 24: Luther's works, vol. 24 : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (24:64). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

JOHN 14:8,9 (LUTHER)

8. Philip said to Him: Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.
9. Jesus said to him: Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say: Show us the Father?

This is a very beautiful discourse or conversation and sermon of the Lord Christ. He had said much to the disciples about His Father: that He would go to Him and would also take them to Him in order that they, too, might see Him, yes, that they already knew Him and had seen Him. Then the apostle Philip, being somewhat sharper and more sagacious than the others, blurts out the profound question which has always troubled the greatest and wisest men, which they pondered and explored painstakingly but no one had been able to answer, which, in fact, is impossible for human nature and reason to answer, namely: “What is God? How can one know God? How can one find Him?” Thus philip, too, shows and betrays that he has never understood and does not now understand this, although he had often heard Christ preach and speak about the Father. This is because he still wants to understand this with his reason and fathom it with his mind. Although Christ wants to direct Philip solely to His Word and to Himself, saying that he already knows and has seen the Father, this does not yet take hold of him. He freely speaks his mind: “Ah, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied!” He says, as it were: “To be sure, You are telling us that we know the Father. But, in truth, not once in my life have I ever laid eyes on Him, although I have no greater wish than to have the great happiness to see Him just once.”
Thus the apostle’s words reflect that he is still a wavering, inconstant believer, as are all the others, although they, of course, do not express their opinions so bluntly. He also believes in God and has heard much about Him; but now, when he hears Christ say: “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; henceforth you know Him,” he finds these words strange and unintelligible. His imagination carries him so far afield that he lets Christ sit there and speak as St. Thomas did earlier (v. 5). He simply cannot fix his thoughts on Christ, who is conversing with him; but, ignoring Him, he gives wing to his thoughts and soars into the clouds, thinking: “O that we might get a glimpse of the Father seated up there among the angels!”
So thoroughly does this great apostle, who had heard Christ and had dwelt with Him so long, still miss the true mark! To our great comfort, however, this demonstrates how our shameful nature and reason finds it so difficult to dismiss its own notions, to desist from speculating about God, and to cling to Christ alone. Even the apostles themselves, who had Christ with them in person and heard Him discourse on this subject, could not shake off this rubbish. We, too, should take comfort from this when we feel our weakness. If we but begin to believe, Christ can and will close an eye to it. We may stray from the way at times or stumble; but we must beware of forsaking Him and running away, as the traitor Judas did. We must return to the right way, as Philip does here. He remains with Christ; he does not oppose Him, although his thoughts also look expectantly elsewhere, and although he, together with the others, is still weak in the faith and in the true knowledge of the Lord Christ. But since they remain loyal to Christ, delight in hearing His Word, and learn eagerly as His pupils, Christ regards them as His true disciples and judges that they already know the Father because they know Him. And this is true, though they themselves neither know nor understand it; for since they apprehend Christ, they truly apprehend the Father also. Thus Christ Himself says: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” They, of course, still follow their carnal thoughts, which divorce and separate the Father from Christ. Therefore He must always draw them back to Himself.
Thus—provided that we have begun to believe in Him—He can also condone our ignorance and folly and bear with our constant propensity for finding something in ourselves by which to come to the Father without Christ, and for viewing God merely as our own imagination portrays Him, namely, that He looks with favor on our own worthiness and zeal, or on our good intentions, and shows mercy for this reason. This abominable temptation is too deeply ingrained in our nature and dominates it entirely. I myself often feel that I would gladly sacrifice all that I have, yes, life and limb, to find at least one work, performed by me, on which I might stand and which I might offer to God in the assurance that He would have to acknowledge it and grant me His grace and eternal life for it. I cannot advance to the point—as I should and must—of surrendering myself to Christ unconditionally—without any reliance in, and any overweening estimation of, my works or my own worthiness, and confessing: “Let my life and my works be what they may! Even though they are acceptable and pleasing to God, still I will seek neither comfort nor salvation in any other than in the Lord Christ. The Father sent Him from heaven and through His own heavenly voice bore witness that Christ is the only One with whom He is well pleased (Matt. 17:5) and whom we must hear if we want to know God and find Him propitious.” No schismatic spirit, no arrogant hypocrite ever advances to that point, but only the poor, sad, disconsolate, and humble hearts and consciences. Even these succeed only with great effort, with great anxiety and anguish. Let the others strut before God on their own and with their good works. They will become a laughingstock; they will crush their heads and break their necks.
Above all, it is imperative that we first push everything else aside and that our thoughts of God and our mode of dealing with Him begin where He begins and directs us when, in the first place, He speaks from heaven and declares (Matt. 17:5): “This is My beloved Son; listen to Him.” As though He were saying: “If you want to be informed, smart, and wise, and if you want to seek and find Me aright, then here is your Master and Teacher. He is ordained and given to you by Me. He will tell and show you how to come to Me. And let Me assure you that if you hear Him, you have heard Me also. Therefore lend your ears to Him alone, and give Him your heart. And let no one impose on you, or trick you with, any other message or project.”
And when I hear Christ now, I hear only His words: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by Me. No one’s own notions, works, or holiness are valid here; I alone am. Therefore do not look beyond Me; but cling to Me, and place your trust solely in Me. And where I go through cross and death, there you will also abide, so that no one can separate you from Me and the Father.” He who knows and believes this is on the right way and cannot err or go astray. For he discovers Him who is the Way and everything—Him of whom the Father bears witness that it is He through whom one comes to Him. Therefore he abandons everything that is not Christ, all monasticism and work-righteousness, also all astute and subtle ideas about God. He dare not acquire any other knowledge, seek any other comfort, know of any other way, because he has all this in Christ. If he stays on this course, then he has already attained the goal toward which he should strive, namely, the knowledge and perception of God in faith. And then the only thing necessary is for him to continue in this faith until through it he finally comes into the manifest brightness where he will see God eternally, immediately and without any symbols.
That is what Christ means when He says in reply to Philip: “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” He says, as it were: “Good and well, I have let you put your blundering question to show you that you still do not understand as you should, even though you have been with Me so long and have heard Me so often. Please learn to know Me aright. Then you will know and understand all, and then you will know the Father also. I will not have you turn your eyes away from Me, look in another direction, and seek God elsewhere than in Me, whom you now see with your eyes and whom you hear talking to you. No, you must see and know God just as you see and know Me. In brief, you must not imagine or suppose that God can be apprehended and known in any other way or by any other means than through Me.”
But you must not conceive of this seeing and knowing God as being literal and physical, as a cow stares at a gate; you must not think that he who sees Christ also sees with his eyes the form of the Father. No, this must be done with the vision of the spirit and of faith, and yet in undeniable conformity with these words: Whoever sees Christ with the eyes of faith also sees the Father with those eyes; for he meets the very Person in whom the Father also dwells bodily, as St. Paul states (Col. 2:9), and in whom He reveals His whole heart and will. Thus we also see and know both Christ and the Father, not with our eyes or with our physical sight and knowledge but with this same faith. Seeing Christ with our physical sight alone avails us nothing; spiritual sight must be added. And this is the sight of the heart or the knowledge of faith. Caiaphas, Pilate, Herod, and almost the whole Jewish nation saw and knew Him; yet they knew neither Him nor the Father. Though they see and know the Person of Christ, still they do not see the Father in Christ and Christ in the Father, and both as one heart, mind, and will, yes, as one united and indivisible Divine Being.
Thus Christ wants to draw Philip and the other apostles back to Him. Their thoughts flit and flutter to and fro, roaming so far from faith that they do not know where and how to look for or find God, though they have Christ standing before their very noses. Christ says: “What are you looking at? Why do you let your thoughts flit and glide about like unstable quicksilver? How can you still ask Me to show you the Father? I thought that you were well acquainted with Him. Do you not hear? ‘He who has seen Me has seen the Father.’ That is to say: if you want to know on what terms you are with the Father, how He is disposed toward you, or what He thinks of you, in brief, how you can come to Him—for knowing this really means to know the Father—do not consult your own heart or your own thoughts; neither consult Moses or any other teacher. Look only to Me, and listen to My words. I say that you must listen and look to Me. If you take to heart what you see in Me and hear from Me, what I say to you, and how I manifest Myself to you, then you will surely find the Father; then you have seen and known Him aright, as one should see and know Him.”
The first thing you see in this Person of Christ is that He does not look at anyone with a sour face, treat anyone in an unfriendly manner, or frighten and drive anyone away from Him; He invites and draws all men to Him in the kindliest manner, both with His words and with His bearing. He shows Himself as a servant who wants to help everybody. Furthermore, He lets Himself be crucified for you and freely sheds His blood. All this you see with your eyes; and with your ears you hear nothing but friendly, sweet, and comforting words, such as: “Let not your hearts be troubled”; “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy-laden” (Matt. 11:28); “Whoever believes in Me shall not be lost, but have eternal life” (John 3:16), etc., etc. The Gospel of St. John is full of such verses. From this you can infer with certainty that He is not hostile to you but wants to show you all grace and goodness. Cling to this; hold firmly to it; do not permit your eyes and your thoughts to stray beyond this; and let nothing else that occurs to you lead you off the right path.
And as you now hear and see Christ revealing Himself to you, you can rest assured that the Father is disposed toward you in like manner. For a little later (v. 10) Christ states: “The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own authority,” but they are the Father’s words. And at another place we read (John 6:40): “This is the will of My Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life.” He who grasps this in faith cannot think that God is angry with him or will reject and condemn him. For here there is neither a word nor a sign of disfavor, but only friendly, gracious words, a loving and kind look, in short, sheer fervor and ardor of ineffable, fatherly, and sincere love.
Now perhaps you will say: “That is all good and well, but I am a miserable sinner who deserves God’s wrath; and in the Law I hear God’s fearful threats and the terrible sentence He pronounces on sinners. How can I conclude that He will be gracious to me?” I reply: “Yes, Christ is well aware of this. He sees your wretchedness far better than you yourself do. But do you not hear that this is the very reason why He comes to you and tells you this, lest you judge according to your own notions and feeling, which also have their basis in the Law? Instead, you should hear and take to heart what He tells you, and know Him well, despite the voice of your conscience and the terror of the Law. For you do not know the Father if you regard Him as an angry Judge and flee from Him. He is not at all inclined to enjoy anger and condemnation; nor does it please Him if we flee from Him. He did not institute the Law—though it is intended to work knowledge of sin and to terrify the impenitent—to perpetuate the fear of those who recognize their sins and are frightened. No, His real purpose and will is that you be rescued from all this misery, from sin, death, and damnation. For this purpose He sent you His Son Christ. He permits Him to be crucified and to shed His blood, in order to proclaim and to reveal to you that though you are a sinner and unworthy, you are not to be condemned on this account. He will erase all anger and threats from His memory for Christ’s sake and, instead, grant a full measure of mercy. He does not demand any more from you than that you recognize and believe this.”
Now that would be the true knowledge—if only we could attain it!—to control, bridle, restrain, and curb our thoughts so as not to know, think, or hear anything but how Christ is disposed toward us. Then all unrest, all ominous thoughts regarding eternal predestination, and all the saddening, evil darts of the devil would soon vanish. Then you would certainly have to conclude: “I know of no other God in heaven or on earth than of this One, who talks to me and treats me as I see Christ doing.” And if any monk, devil, or schismatic spirit comes to frighten you with the words: “God is a stern, angry Judge!” and then directs you elsewhere, suggesting, for instance, that you call upon Mary to intercede for you and say: “Mary, dear mother of all grace and compassion”—as they themselves unashamedly prayed and sang daily—or if they order you to go on so and so many pilgrimages, to enter a cloister, or to flee into the wilderness, etc., until you have rendered satisfaction for your sin and merited mercy—then on the basis of this you can judge and say that such doctrine and such notions are the devil’s lies and deadly venom. Or you can say that they are the false thoughts of your own imagination, which, contrary to Christ’s Word and God’s command, teach you to look at yourself and to refuse to hear and heed how God manifests Himself toward you in Christ; and thus they cause genuine idolatry and real blasphemy.
Therefore if you let Christ go, follow the lying devil’s deception or your own dream and jugglery, and blindly stray from the way and the bridge, it serves you right if you break your neck and fall into the abyss of hell; for you see and hear how faithfully He exhorts you and how gently He invites you to give ear to the words of the Man Christ. But you rebuff Him and His words and works as though He were a fool or a child who does not know what he is saying, and you prefer to follow the devil’s suggestions or your own notions.
As I have already said, however, this is and remains a great and difficult knowledge to acquire, to practice, and to translate into life. For the devil agitates and incites too much against this; he harasses us all he can for the purpose of diverting us and tearing us away from Christ and of inducing us to ignore Him. It is inherent in our nature that we want to deal with God on our own, And if I turn my eyes from Christ to myself, thoughts such as these will surely suggest themselves: “Oh, I am a poor sinner! Therefore God is my enemy and will condemn me.” This inevitably frightens me and makes me dejected. Then the devil leads me farther along and teaches me how to atone for my sin. He deceives me in two ways. In the first place, he persuades me to believe that I must take recourse to myself; secondly, he prompts me to devise my own Way of reconciling God. Then both the Word and Christ are lost. Instead, I should learn to dismiss both myself and my own notions of God, apart from the way offered by God, and take hold solely of this Word of Christ, which proclaims to me in the name of God: “Why do you give way to your own ideas? Why gape heavenward? Do you not hear what I say to you? ‘He who has seen Me has seen the Father.’ As I speak and deal with you, so the Father is speaking and dealing with you.”
Therefore let us take a firm hold of this text against all other poor ways and paths which our own religious fervor constructs and with which we propose to deal with God. Let us get used to turning away from our own notions when temptations beset us, and let us call to mind and exhort ourselves with the words with which Christ chides Philip: “Why do you ask Me to show you the Father if you see and hear Me? Are you not a big fool to try to explore, in the devil’s name, your relationship to God? Do you not know that He Himself must reveal this to you from heaven and that you must learn this from Him? And now His only message is (Matt. 17:5): ‘This is My beloved Son; listen to Him.’ And the Son distinctly proclaims: ‘I am the Way.’ He who sees, knows, accepts, and finds Me accepts and finds, sees and knows, the Father. This would put you on the right road, and you would no longer have to fear that you might go astray or fare badly.”
Now Christ wants to state this in greater detail, in order that we may see how vital it is for anyone who would unerringly find God to be able to declare: “This is what God says; this is what God does; this is His will and His work toward me.” He must glue and fix his gaze on Christ, rely fully on His words, and know that he who thinks, seeks, or undertakes anything else can never say that he knows or sees God. Thus the monks, the work-righteous, and anyone else who imagines or invents ideas regarding God or His counsel and will which ignore Christ’s Word—they all stray about in blindness and in a lying delusion. They seek and strive incessantly how to apprehend God and how to do something pleasing to Him, but they never make it. They flit and flutter about interminably., skipping from one thing to another; but they are unable ever to fill their hearts with confidence and assurance. They experience what Christ said (Matt. 24:23): “Many will come in My name and say, ‘Lo, here is Christ,’ or, ‘There He is.’ ” For whenever the names of God and Christ are mentioned, everybody flocks together, immediately supposing that this is a godly thing; but, as a matter of fact, they are carried to the devil with it. For it must happen that the world is duped and deceived with the name of God. Hence the saying: “All misfortune begins in the name of God.” For the devil cannot peddle his lies unless he adorns them with that beloved name. He finds it necessary to embellish them with that beautiful semblance, and he smears these holy names over them: God’s Word, the worship of God, a godly life. Therefore we must heed the warning, lest we be deceived; and we must pay close attention to the words which Christ speaks here and elsewhere, and we must judge only according to them.
Luther, M. (1999, c1961). Vol. 24: Luther's works, vol. 24 : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (24:56). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.