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.