Early Luther: The “Many” as the elect:
1) The second argument is that “God desires all men to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4), and He gave His Son for us men and created man for eternal life. Likewise: All things exist for man, and he himself exists for God that he may enjoy Him, etc. These points and others like them can be refuted as easily as the first one. For these verses must always be understood as pertaining to the elect only, as the apostle says in 2 Tim. 2:10 “everything for the sake of the elect.” For in an absolute sense Christ did not die for all, because He says: “This is My blood which is poured out for you” and “for many”–He does not say: for all”–“for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 14:24, Matt. 26:28). Martin Luther, “Lectures on Romans,” [1515-16] in Luther’s Works, 25:375-376.
Mature Luther: The “Many” as all:
2) Christ, Like Adam, Affected All Men Isaiah here uses the word “many” for the word “all,” after the manner of Paul in Rom. 5:15. The thought there is: One has sinned (Adam), One is righteous (Christ), and many are made righteous. There is no difference between “many” and “all.” The righteousness of Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, our Lord and Savior, is so great that it could justify innumerable worlds. “He ‘shall justify many,” says he, that is to say, all. It should, therefore, be understood of all, because He offers His righteousness to all, and all who believe in Christ obtain it. (W 40 III, 738 f–E op ex 23, 523 f – SL 6, 720). Cited from: Ewald M. Plass, What Luther Says (Saint Louis, Missouri: Concordia Publishing House, 1959), 2:601. [Note: this lecture was first delivered in 1544, but only later put into print in 1550.]
The Latin from the Weimar edition:
3) ‘Iustificabit multos’. Loquitur more Pauli: Rom. 5. utitur hoc [Rom 5,15] vocabulo ‘multos'; Hoc loco: ‘omnes'; est in relatione: ‘unus peccavit’, ‘unus iustus’, et: ‘multi iustificantur’. Nulla differentia est inter ‘multos’ et ‘omnes’. Iusticia Christi, unigeniti Filii Dei, Domini ac salvatoris nostri, tanta est, ut infinitos mundos possit iustificare. ‘Iustificabit multos’, inquit, id est, ‘omnes’. Intelligatur igitur de omnibus, quod offerat omnibus suam iasticiam, quam omnes consequuntur, qui in Chrihtum credunt. D. Martin Luther’s Werke (Weimar: H. Böhlau,1930), 40/III: 738. [Note: I have not been able to find this quotation in the Pelikan English edition of Luther’s works.]
1) But these five verses have been explained by some in many other ways, in a very labored way: Some in a farfetched way, some tropologically, some in a mixture of everything. Therefore some, according to the Hebrew, have put it thus: “Redeeming a brother, a man will not redeem a man,” if you will; that is, Christ redeeming His brother, namely, anyone chosen, for He is also a man in the church, though He is the Redeemer. He will not redeem, namely, the heel and those who boast, etc., or, a man, that is, Judas and his ilk. And He will not give God a ransom for him, namely, for Judas and his ilk, and the price of the redemption of their soul, but He will be quiet forever (that is, Christ Himself will rest) and live eternally. And He will not see destruction, though He sees the wise (according to this world) dying. But this explanation is a little too forced, because although Christ did not effectively give His ransom for Judas and the Jews, He certainly gave it sufficiently. It is rather that they did not accept it. Therefore it should not be denied that it was given, but rather it should be denied that the benefit of the propitiation was accepted. Again, putting “man” in the accusative in place of in the nominative is more a guess than an explanation. Again, construing the “wise” here as the wise of this world does not seem to make sense, since there follows immediately the senseless and the fool shall perish together. For that reason the former explanation seems better. Martin Luther, “First Lectures on the Psalms,” in Luther’s Works 10:228.
2) Through the help of the Holy Spirit, God’s saints understood what Moses was saying. Others, the boorish and carnally-minded mass of people, did not understand him for the reason that Scripture uses these same words with reference to a physical and particular deliverance. If one, therefore, does not pay attention to the context, one will never understand the burden of Moses’ petition: that Christ might come into the flesh and redeem the world from sins and death. This is that plenitude and abundance of mercy which Psalm 130 designates as “plenteous redemption” (Ps. 130:7). With this ransom, by which Christ made payment for sins, an endless number of worlds could have been redeemed. Martin Luther, “Selected Psalms,” in Luther’s Works, 13:134
Christ shed his blood and died for the world:
1) How, then, do we rid ourselves of the earthly? Our Gospel, which they condemn so deplorably, gives us the answer, namely, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, of whom we confess in our Christian Creed: “I believe in Jesus Christ.” He “comes from above”; He is not of the earth but from above, as we read in 1 Cor. 15:47. He was not conceived by an earthly being but by the Holy Spirit from above. He brings heavenly things with Him; He becomes man, dwells and lives on earth, prays, fasts, and does good to many. Reason, in its ignorance, says nothing about this. No man has ever descended from heaven, been conceived by the Holy Spirit, suffered under Pontius Pilate, or died for the whole human race. We must all join the little children in confessing: “We believe in Jesus Christ, who was conceived, was born, and suffered.” This Man’s work alone accomplished everything. All that we are and have is of the earth, but He who is from above does it all with His death and blood. Even one little drop of His blood helps the entire world; for this Person is very God, begotten of the Father from eternity. He holds the ransom money for me, not for Himself. He was not born, nor did He suffer and die in order thereby to become the Son of God; for He was this already. No, He suffered and died that I might become a son of God through Him and that I might derive my righteousness, wisdom, and sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30) from above. Martin Luther, “Sermons on the Gospel of St. John,” in Luther’s Works, 22:459.
2) This, too, is a comfort, as we have heard. Their hatred for you will not arise because of any evil deeds or sins, or because you might be scoundrels and thieves, murderers or adulterers. It will arise solely because you want to preach of Me and say that I shed My blood and died for the world, and that it cannot be, and must not attempt to be, saved otherwise than through Me. This will be the reason for all the hatred and persecution in the world, and it is surely a praiseworthy reason. Martin Luther, Martin, “Sermons on the Gospel of St,” in Luther’s Works, 24:279.
3) You hear “the merit of Christ” here. But if you weigh these words more carefully, you will understand that Christ is completely idle here, and that the glory and the name of Justifier and Savior are taken away from Him and attributed to monastic works. Is this not taking the name of God in vain? Is this not confessing Christ in words but denying His power and blaspheming Him? I myself was once stuck in this mire too. Although I confessed with my mouth that Christ had suffered and died for the redemption of the human race, I thought that He was a judge, who had to be placated by the observance of my monastic rule. Therefore whenever I prayed or celebrated Mass, I always used to add this at the end: “Lord Jesus, I come to Thee and pray that the burdens of my order may be a recompense for my sins.” But now I thank the Father of mercies, who has called me out of the darkness into the light of the Gospel and has endowed me with an abundant knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake, as Paul says (Phil. 3:8-9), “I count everything as loss, yes, count it as skubula, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on the rule of Augustine, but that which is through faith in Christ,” to whom, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be praise and glory forever and ever. Amen. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Galatians,” in Luther’s Works, 26:154.
1) Now what is remembrance? And what are the wonderful works of God we should remember at our Easter festival? We are to publish, praise, preach, and confess the indescribable wonders God has done for us through Christ. We were damned in sin, lost in death, enslaved under the devil. From this He delivered us by His blood and death and brought us out of sin to righteousness, out of death to life, from the devil to God. These wonderful works are different from those ancient ones, when He delivered the Children of Israel out of the earthly Egypt, out of temporal death, and out of the power of a mortal Pharaoh. And at that there were only a few whom He redeemed, namely, the Children of Israel. But here we have an eternal deliverance from eternal sin, death, and hell. And many are redeemed, in fact, the entire world. But why talk so much? There just is no similarity; as heaven and earth, the temporal and the eternal, cannot be compared, so those ancient wonders cannot be compared with these. They are hardly even a type or symbol of these wonderful works. Martin Luther, “Selected Psalms,” in Luther’s Works, 13:372.
The Redemption of the world:
1)The Turks also boast that they are creatures of God; and they swear by God, the Creator of heaven and earth. The pope boasts that he believes in Christ, namely, that He is the Son of God and the Redeemer of the world. Meanwhile he establishes monasteries and institutes Masses, fasts, the worship of saints, and the like, but in vain. For these are works of your own creation–of you who are made of flesh–and they are fruits of an evil tree. But if the tree is to become good, you must become a person of the promise; that is, you must accept grace and rely on mercy alone, something which cannot happen unless you apprehend the Word of the promise by faith. Ishmael is Abraham’s natural son. Nevertheless, he is not the heir. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis,” in Luther’s Works, 4:53.
2) In Matt. 12:39–40 Christ Himself drew an analogy between Himself and Jonah. This is not a complete allegory but just an illustrative comparison. For Christ refers only to Jonah’s sojourn in the whale, saying that He Himself will lie in the bowels of the earth as Jonah did in the whale. He calls it “the sign of the prophet Jonah”; that means, it is a sign which bears resemblance to an experience of Jonah. He does not assign a spiritual significance to those three days, as is proper in spiritual interpretations. Therefore this is a comparison rather than an allegory. And no one would be authorized to interpret it as we do if Christ had not done so Himself. Well, there is not much to be said about this, since it is common knowledge throughout the world that Christ died and rose again and that this was the miraculous sign given to the unbelieving Jews, yes, proclaimed to the entire world through the Gospel to inform all how they are redeemed by this same miraculous sign and eminent divine work and that they must adhere to this in true faith. But the whole world takes offense at this sign, particularly the Jews; it is a stumbling block and foolishness to them. However, it will remain intact for all of that. They would prefer to have a different sign, but none will be given them. For as Christ says (Matt. 12:39): “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” More has been said about this elsewhere. Martin Luther, “Minor Prophets,” in Luther’s Works, 19:102.
3) He says, “My Servant Zemah,” as if He did not have any other servant or the others were not His servants. But Christ is called the Servant of God in particular and above all others, as Isaiah more than the other prophets is in the habit of calling Him, for example, Is. 52:13: “Behold, My Servant shall prosper”; and 42:1: “Behold, My Servant,” which the evangelists translate puermeus, for example, Matt. 12:18 and Acts 4:27: “[They] were gathered together against Thy holy Child Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, etc.” For this Servant was to do the actual work of which all the other servants had prophesied, even as He Himself in the Gospel of John often praises the work that the Father has commanded Him, namely, that of redeeming the world through His suffering, etc. (John 4:34; 5:36). Thus He is the real, one Servant of God, the pattern for all other servants. He calls Him “Zemah,” which in German means a plant—like a branch, a sprig, or a rod; as also Is. 4:2 says: “In that day the Branch of the Lord shall be glorious”; and Jer. 33:15: “At that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring forth for David, etc.” He is called a Branch, however, because without ceasing Christ is being preached in the Gospel and is growing and increasing in the world. For until Judgment Day Christ’s kingdom will be growing and increasing and will always gain new and more Christians out of this world. Martin Luther, “Minor Prophets,” in Luther’s Works, 20:217.
3) In this issue, therefore, you must always pay attention to the Word of God and guide yourself according to it, not according to the personality. You heard earlier about the signs that take place in order to substantiate something different from the Word of God; about these there is nothing in Scripture. But there are signs which apply to something that God has spoken and substantiated. So the prophecy of the high priest Caiaphas announced that with His death Christ would redeem the world. This was a genuine and precious prophecy, though his motive was venomous and wicked. Although the prophet Balaam was a villain, he prophesied truly as a prophet about the people of God and about Christ; God was speaking through him. Martin Luther, “The Sermon on the Mount and the Magnificat,” in Luther’s Works, 21:276.
4) It follows, in the second place, that this Seed of Abraham could not be born in the common course of nature, of a man and a woman; for such a birth is cursed and results in nothing but accursed seed, as we have just said. Now, if all the world was to be redeemed from the curse by this Seed of Abraham and thereby blessed, as the word and oath of God declare, the Seed itself had to be blessed first, neither touched nor tainted by that curse, but pure blessing, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Again, if God, who cannot lie, declared with an oath that it should be Abraham’s natural seed, that is, a natural and genuine child, born of his flesh and blood, then this Seed had to be a true, natural man, of the flesh and blood of Abraham. Here, then, we have a contradiction–the natural flesh and blood of Abraham, and yet not born in the course of nature, of man and wife. Therefore He uses the word “your seed,” not “your child,” to make it very clear and certain that it should be his natural flesh and blood, such as seed is. For a child need not be one’s natural child, as everyone knows. Now, who will find the means to establish God’s word and oath, where such contradictory things lie side by side? Martin Luther, “The Sermon on the Mount and the Magnificat,” in Luther’s Works, 21:352-353.
5) I argue that this is not the treasury of indulgences; but that it is the treasury of the church only a heretic would deny. For Christ is the Ransom and Redeemer of the world, and thereby most truly and solely the only treasury of the church. But that he is the treasury of indulgences I deny until I shall be taught differently. My reasons for denying this are these… Martin Luther, “Explanations of the Ninety-Five Theses,” in Luther’s Works, 31:216-217.
6) What it means, however, is that which is our own, no matter how good and holy it may seem, is nothing in the sight of God; it must become nothing and be utterly dead. For if we could atone for sin and drive out death by human powers, it would not have been necessary for Christ to become man and be baptized and die for our sins. Therefore if you would not fail and be lost, believe the Scriptures, which testify that all men are sinners, that before God no man living is righteous [Ps. 143:2; Rom. 3:20]. But if they are to become righteous, this must come to pass through Christ, the blessed Seed of whom it was promised to Adam, Abraham, etc., that he would crush the serpent’s head and redeem the whole world from its curse. This he did; he took the sin of the whole world upon himself; he became a curse for us, and thus redeemed from the curse all those who believe in him (Gal. 3 [:13]). Martin Luther, “Sermons,” in Luther’s Works, 51:316-317.
Redemption of the human race:
1) One must, therefore, hold fast to the statement of the psalm (110:4): “Thou art a Priest forever.” The Levites had their sacrifices and their priests; but they were temporal, where one followed the other. Our Priest, however, is both without an end and without a successor. Indeed, He is even without a beginning; for He is from eternity and lives eternally, and He also has an eternal sacrifice, by which we who live from the beginning of the world until the end of the world have been redeemed. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis,” in Luther’s Works, 2:384.
2) Accordingly, we can imagine how great Abraham’s standing with this king was from now on, for Abimelech hears God Himself call Abraham a prophet. Therefore the Icing received him most courteously and heard from him heavenly wisdom about the Son of God, who would be born from Abraham’s house and would redeem the human race, and thus, after removing the curse, would bring everlasting blessing. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis,” in Luther’s Works, 3:338.
3) But it is proper for him to honor this King before whom he bows and whom he acknowledges as his Lord, although He is also his Son. The reason for this is the fact that He has a throne and kingdom at the right hand of God which neither David nor any other king on earth can reach by his power. Everything subject to God has been subjected to Him. Now He rules in such a way that He redeems all mankind, which had been oppressed by the devil, sin, and death beyond the possibility of help from any creature, giving them heavenly, imperishable possessions and eternal life and peace instead. Therefore, it is also written in the prophets concerning Him that He shall have an eternal kingdom, which shall never end. And Isaiah 9:6 gives Him the name “Everlasting Father.” This government does not exist for the sake of this life, for the purpose of obtaining money and property or preserving temporal peace; but it exists that we may also have a Lord after this life who will help us, lest we remain subject to death and damnation. But if we are to be redeemed from death, we must at the same time–indeed, before that time–be freed from sin and God’s wrath, since death came upon us because of it. If we are to be God’s children and heirs, this Lord must restore us to a condition of eternal righteousness and innocence. Martin Luther,”Selected Psalms,” in Luther’s Works, 13:239-240.
4) Another interpretation is an affirmative one, namely, that he who receives circumcision is also obligated to keep the whole Law. For he who accepts Moses in one point is obliged to accept him in all points. He who observes one part of the Law as a matter of necessity must observe all the other parts of it. Nor does it help if you want to say that circumcision is necessary, but that the remaining laws of Moses are not. The same principle by which you are obliged to receive circumcision obliges you to accept the whole Law. Now to observe the whole Law is tantamount to pointing out in fact that the Christ has not yet come. If this is true, then all the Jewish ceremonies and laws about foods, places, and seasons must be observed; and we must still look for the Christ, who is to make the kingdom and priesthood of the Jews obsolete and is to establish a new kingdom throughout the world. But all Scripture testifies, and the facts themselves show, that Christ has already come, has redeemed the human race by His death, has abrogated the Law and has fulfilled what all the prophets predicted about Him. Therefore He abolished the Law and granted grace and truth (John 1:17). Accordingly, the Law does not justify; neither do its works. It is faith in the Christ who has already come that justifies. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Galatians,” in Luther’s Works, 27:15.1
Christ Came to redeem all the Gentiles:
1) To be sure, Moses does not exclude the Jews with the words “all Goyim,” for the children of Israel, too, are often called Goyim in Scripture. No, they exclude themselves, as David prophesied of them in Ps. 109:17?18: “He did not like blessing; may it be far from him! He loved to curse; let curses come on him! He clothed himself with cursing as his shirt (the garment closest to his body), may it soak into his body like water (through flesh and blood), like oil into his bones (through marrow and bones)!” Now, I trust, we Christians understand Christ’s words in John 5:46: “If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote of Me.” He indeed wrote of Christ throughout his entire book, in which he speaks of God and Messiah. We will now also comprehend the passage in John 8:56: “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see My day; he saw it and was glad.” Where did he see it? In this verse, where he heard that his Seed was to be God and man, who would bless all Gentiles, redeem them from sin and death, and give eternal life and holiness and blessedness. He felt the same joy which David experienced above, in 1 Chron. 17:16, when the same Son was promised him. Martin Luther, “Last Words of David,” in Luther’s Works, 15:326.
1) At the present time, thanks to the boundless kindness of God, we have the most glorious honor of Christ, as is clear from our sermons and the whole ministry. Look at Baptism, the Lords Supper, absolution, and the Gospel. These great gifts of the Holy Spirit should be praised and proclaimed by all, and in them God, who has given such power to men (cf. Matt. 9:8), should be acknowledged and praised. I am not the patriarch Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob. But observe what I do. I take an infant, and by baptizing it I redeem it from death, the devil, and sins, and translate it from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. This a pastor of the church does, and in an emergency any Christian does so. Therefore it is meet and right that we should wonder at and proclaim such great mercy and goodness of God. He blesses us with an eternal and spiritual blessing, so that the devil is compelled to flee when he sees an infant being baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. For here I am not destroying the kingdom of the Turk or of Augustus or of the king of the Persians. No, I am destroying the kingdom of the prince and god of this world. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis,” in Luther’s Works, 8:182.
2) Now the point will be made that surely these are not all true priests. How does it happen that many are heretics in spite of their Baptism? Although they were called by God, they do not speak the truth. Those who are Christians are convinced that they are called to confess God. In Baptism we all receive the chrism and the priestly garb. In the First Epistle of St. Peter, chapter two, we are told that we are called out of darkness into His precious and marvelous light that we may declare all His virtues, His power, and His wonderful deeds (1 Peter 2:9). Peter writes to the entire church that all who want to be Christians must confess and declare: “I am ready to live and to die on the basis of what I have heard in the proclamation.” What kind of wonderful deeds does he have in mind? I preach and you believe that you are redeemed by Baptism, not from pestilence and leprosy but from death, sin, and the power of the devil, and that Baptism works salvation and eternal life in me. It is a miracle that man, who is damned and lost, who died and is stinking in his grave, should still have this consolation: his sins are forgiven, grace and mercy will surround, and shine on, him, and he will be blessed eternally. This is the message which is to be preached; whoever believes the message will surely have all it conveys, for further on we read: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36). Those are the marvelous deeds God works in us through the ministry of oral preaching. Martin Luther, “Sermons on the Gospel of St. John,” in Luther’s Works, 22:479-480.
3) Therefore, Christ redeemed us once with a single work, but He did not pass out redemption with a single means. He gave it out through the medium of washing in Baptism, through the medium of eating in the Sacrament of the Altar, through the media of comforting the brethren, of reading in the Book, that the fruit of His passion might be spread everywhere. Martin Luther, “1 Timothy,” in Luther’s Works, 28:269.
1) The bloody man is one who pours out blood, one who kills many. Also David was a man like that. But because this is sometimes done lawfully, he adds here, the deceitful man. He is properly a slanderer, because he is one person to your face and another behind your back. And here the person is most appropriately called not a man “of blood” but “of bloods,” because he killed very many and shed the blood of many souls. Yet their blood was made one with the blood of Christ, by which they were redeemed and incorporated with Him. Note then, that the slanderer alone above all people is called “abominable” before God, because he stinks with the slaughter and blood of many. However, in a literal sense this is said of the Jews, who called down upon themselves Christ’s blood and also killed Him and are abominable in his blood still. But the singular “man of blood” is put for the plural, that is to say, whoever is a man of blood. To the present day they pour Christ’s blood on themselves while they disparage Him, etc. Martin Luther, “First Lectures on the Psalms,” in Luther’s Works, 10:77.
2) One must know this and get used to it. No matter how comforting this message about Christ, our King and Priest, may be in opposition to sin, death, and the devil, it must happen that the world will not endure this Priest and King. They will put up with all kinds of idolatry and error. But the enemies of this King will be the very ones who are considered the best on earth. Certainly it is an abominable and shameful thing that they will revolt against their own Lord, who has redeemed them and wants to help them. If we were not experiencing and seeing it with our own eyes, could anyone believe this possible? Everyone thinks: “Who would want to be such a foolish, indeed an accursed and devilish person, to refuse to hear and accept this message gladly? Is there a man who would not run more than a hundred miles after this message and then fall to his knees in reverence before it?” But now we are experiencing it. We see how many righteous Christians are condemned, burned, drowned, murdered, and expelled in all lands–in France, in the Lowlands, and among our neighbors for no other reason than that they confess Christ as the only Priest and Savior. But the worst knaves, scoundrels, and murderers are allowed to go about safely, as long as they do not adhere to this message but help to blaspheme and persecute it.
But we are told this primarily to keep us from being astonished or taking offense when we see emperors, kings, princes, lords, the wise, the intelligent, and the best people condemning this doctrine. We should not begin to doubt and think like those fickle spirits who say to themselves: “Well, perhaps it is not true. If it were, the great, the powerful, the learned would certainly accept and believe this. If the Emperor, the King of France, great princes, lords, and bishops allowed this to be preached, I should want to believe it also.” No, this is not right! You ought to think the very opposite: “It must certainly be the true doctrine; for I hear and see that kings and lords, who otherwise tolerate and encourage all sorts of idolatry and lies, will not let Christ be preached and believed. They have no reason whatever to blame us for doing any damage or injury to them. In fact, we would like to help them and all the world, including ourselves. We pray for them and teach everyone to be obedient to them. But this is the great sin which they will not tolerate and for which we must die: we preach that Christ is our Savior and the Savior of all the world, that only through His blood are we redeemed and saved. Here we shall take our stand and receive and distribute His Sacrament as He has commanded.” Martin Luther, “Selected Psalms,” in Luther’s Works, 13:335-336.
3) Why not? Simply because Christ did not appear upon the scene as their imagination had depicted Him. He came as the Savior of the world, who crushed the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15), for the purpose of redeeming them and all the nations on earth from the eternal curse, that is, from the power of the devil, from sin, and death. He came to make them children of God, to justify them and save them, as the promises given to Adam and to Abraham specified (Gen. 3:15; Gen. 22:18). Such a Christ and Messiah was not to their liking. No, they wanted a Messiah who would soon make them rich, great, and mighty lords holding dominion over all the nations of the world. Martin Luther, “Sermons on the Gospel of St. John in Luther’s Works, 22:79.
4) This pertains, first of all, to those who seek to serve God with false worship. They cannot bear to hear that they are to be redeemed and forgiven through the Son of God and that their own mode of worship is to count for nothing. Nor will they tolerate being reproved for their evil deeds. The pope belongs in this category. He is so attached to his rules, orders, monkeries, and other lies, and clings to these so tenaciously that, as a result, he hates and persecutes Christ, God’s Son. Of course, he does not acknowledge this hatred. On the contrary, he declares that he loves the Son of God and believes in Him; but his works refute this claim. Martin Luther, “Sermons on the Gospel of St. John in Luther’s Works, 22:395.
5) Behold, what powerful words St. Peter uses! He says: “They deny the Master who bought them.” They should be under Him as under a Master who owns them. But now, even though they believe that He is a Lord who has ransomed all the world with His blood, yet they do not believe that they are ransomed and that He is their Master. They say that although He ransomed and redeemed them, this is not enough; one must first make amends and render satisfaction for sin with works. Then we say: “If you take away your sin yourself and wipe it out, what, then has Christ done? You surely cannot make two Christs who take away sin. He should, and wants to, be the only One who puts sin aside. If this is true, I cannot make bold to wipe out sin myself. But if I do this, I cannot say or believe that Christ takes it away.” This amounts to a denial of Christ. For even if they regard Christ as a Lord, yet they deny that He redeemed them. To be sure, they believe that He sits up there in heaven and is a Lord; but that it is His real work to take away sin, this they take from Him and ascribe to their own works. Thus they leave Him no more than the name and the title. But they want to have His work, His power, and His office themselves. Therefore Christ speaks truly (Matt. 24:5): “Many will come in My name, saying: ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.” For they really do not say: “My name is Christ.” No, they say: “I am Christ.” For they arrogate to themselves the very office that belongs to Christ and thus push Him from the throne and sit on it themselves. This is so apparent that no one can deny it. Therefore St. Peter calls them damned or destructive sects, for they are all running straight to hell. Consequently, I think that among a thousand scarcely one is saved. For he who wants to be saved must say: “My obedience, my chastity, etc., do not save me; my works remove no sin from me.” But how many there are who have this notion and remain in such a damnable estate! Martin Luther, “The Catholic Epistles,” in Luther’s Works, 30:171-172.2
Redemption not effected:
1) When I contemplate my sins, I fail to discover a single good work done by me; but I hear of all the works Christ does and of the grace He grants me. Here I am not concerned with what I do. They do not know any of this. They do not know Him who sent Christ. Therefore they refuse to accept His Word and cannot be redeemed. In brief, they cannot be Christians, for they give ear to their own words; they must remain in the devil’s dungeon, for they utterly despise Christ. God has bound us to this Man, Christ, and He has constantly stressed the value of the Word of Christ. That is why Mary is seated at Christ’s feet and listens to Him as He teaches God’s Word. In this way–and that is what makes us Christians–I know Christ. As to the rest, we can then join Martha in washing, sweeping, cooking, and other activities. Martin Luther, “Sermons on the Gospel of St. John,” in Luther’s Works, 23:251.
1) In this way the pope has concocted the fiction that he has the power to remit sins. He has usurped the Keys, sold remission of sins, and promised deliverance from hell and purgatory. But he merely carried off the money, while the wretched souls were left under the power of sin, hell, and the devil. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis,” in Luther’s Works, 4:203.
2) To say that the cross emblazoned with the papal coat of arms, and set up by the indulgence preachers, is equal in worth to the cross of Christ is blasphemy.
Who does not see how brazen these men are? What else would they not dare to do, who dare to do such things? Must the souls who are redeemed by the blood of Christ be entrusted to these men? The cross of Christ gives life to the whole world by the destruction of sin. That cross, on the other hand, which is equipped with the papal coat of arms, grants the remission of certain punishments. Are therefore eternal and temporal punishments to be considered of equal value? But why should I pursue all the monstrosities which follow from such preaching, the spreading abroad of which not even heaven itself can endure? Martin Luther, “Explanations of the Ninety-Five Theses,” in Luther’s Works, 31:243.
1) For as a rebel who is exceedingly proud I fear that I may become puffed up over these utterly evil names and rejoice more at my own gain than grieve at the wickedness of those people. Let them at least grant me?indeed, let them grant themselves? this one thing, that little by little they set aside the utterly odious mask of Martin and look freely and solely at the apostle Paul. And then let them compare him with the appearance presented by the church, which today is most wretched. For I do not think that in their hearts they are so stupid as not to realize what the multitude of laws has done today. For how many souls are strangled and perish every day on account of this one tradition which forbids wives to all priests without any distinction! It is horrible to contemplate the offenses as well as the perils caused by this one law. Similar to this are the many others, which are simply the handmaids of sin, death, and hell, to say nothing meanwhile of the loss of sincere godliness, which has gradually died away under the tyranny of these laws. If it is considered a matter deserving of such tears that the blood of so many thousands is shed because of the will of one emperor, what do you think of this (open your eyes!), that because of the will of one man or one Roman Church so many thousands of souls are lost forever? In short, if we weigh the meaning of love, it will be easy to understand that such boldness in establishing laws in a power, not for the building but for the destruction of the whole church. The fewer the laws by which a commonwealth is administered, the more fortunate it is. But as for our ecclesiastical commonwealth, when one law of love has been established in order that this might be the most fortunate commonwealth of all, because of what great wrath of Almighty God does it endure, in place of that one extinct law, clouds, forests, and oceans of laws, so that you would scarcely be able to learn even their titles! Finally, as if this were not enough, they are at pains even now to come to our aid with on other remedy for sin than the multiplication of new laws, the heaping of sins upon sins, and, as the prophet says (Hab. 2:6), loading themselves with thick mud. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Galatians,” in Luther’s Works, 27:408-409.
Redeemed souls perishing:
1) We acknowledge not only that you have, with us, come from the true church and been washed and made clean in baptism through the blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as St. Peter says here, but also that you are in the church and remain in it. Indeed, we say that you sit and rule in it as St. Paul prophesied in II Thessalonians 2 [:3-4], that the accursed Antichrist would sit (not in the cowshed), but in the temple of God. But you are no longer of the church, or members of the church, for in this holy church of God you are building your own new apostate church, the devil’s brothel with limitless whoredom, idolatry, and innovation, by which you corrupt those who have been baptized and redeemed along with yourselves. And you swallow them down through the jaws of hell into the abyss of hell itself, with a countless multitude, along with the terrible wailing and deep sorrow of those who see this with spiritual eyes and recognize it. Martin Luther, “Against Hanswurst,” in Luther’s Works, 41:209-210.3
Redeemed souls perishing implied:
1) “These arrogant and unlearned papists can’t govern the church because they write nothing, they read nothing, but, firmly saddled in the pride of possession, they cry out that the decrees of the fathers are not to be questioned and decisions made are not to be disputed, otherwise one would have to dance to the tune of every little brother. For this reason the pope, possessed by demons, defends his tryranny with the canon Si papa. This canon states dearly: If the pope should lead the whole world into the control of hell, he is nevertheless not to be contradicted. It’s a terrible thing that on account of the authority of this man we must lose our souls, which Christ redeemed with his precious blood. Christ says, ‘I will not cast out anybody who comes to me’ [John 6:37]. On the other hand, the pope says, ‘As I will it, so I command it’; you must perish rather than resist me. Therefore the pope, whom our princes adore, is full of devils. He must be exterminated by the Word and by prayer.” Martin Luther, “Table Talk,” in Luther’s Works, 54:330.
2) If some persons, with pretense of piety, make the allegation here that the innovations which are forbidden are not those pertaining to error and deception, but those pertaining to passable and tolerable ceremonies and doctrines, then I say to them, “My dear fellows, your interpretation cannot be defended.” There lies the edict, as plain as day. Nothing but Lutheran articles are condemned in it, and not a single popish article. At least for a token they might have touched upon the one according to which monks have brought consolation in the hour of death to Christian souls–bought with Christ’s blood–with their cowls and holy orders, in that they would be saved through this attire and the merit of the order. But no, no, not an error shall be admitted, atoned for, or corrected, only our articles, which, as they themselves know, are not ours, but come from Holy Scriptures and are contradicted by nothing except their ancient practice. Since they name no popish articles, and then forbid all innovation, they therefore give opportunity and authority to all preachers to keep all the errors and lies, and do not allow one to be changed. Qui tacet, consentire videtur. Who will dare to name an error, when the edict does not name a single one and forbids all innovation so sternly? There is nothing but arch-knavish trickery in all their words and works; they must fall, because of God’s anger. Martin Luther, “Commentary on the Alleged Imperial Edict,” in Luther’s Works, 34:101-102.
3) How do you like these people, my dear brother? My opinion is that you are gambling with God’s Word, like a rogue. You play with Christendom and poor sinners as if they were an old worn-out deck of cards, though God himself has redeemed them so dearly by his dear Son’s blood and death. Indeed, such wickedness cannot be overcome by complaining, cursing, and words of anger. If I or one of our persuasion had said and taught that the pope’s key was ineffective in its working and that it might possibly fail, heaven help us] What an outcry we would have heard. Heaven and earth would have been in danger of caving in. First of all they would have made heretics out of us. Then they would have threatened us with the (papal) ban, with anathemas and damnation, as if we intended to weaken the power of the church. For they never could endure that one would say that the pope can err and be mistaken in matters of belief. But now they say, teach, and confess openly that absolution in confession is uncertain. And if repentance before God is insufficient, absolution is not effective. The papists can never tell us what kind of repentance is sufficient or when. In so doing they plant doubt into the pitiable conscience of poor people so that they never know where they stand, or what they have or do not possess. Nevertheless they take all their money and possessions in exchange for uncertain words and works. Martin Luther, “The Keys,” in Luther’s Works, 40:344.
4) Because the pope grabbed the keys of St. Peter for himself before he proved his claim, and he can never prove it, it follows that he has, like a villain, stolen what is not his, or that they must be false, painted keys which are nothing but a picture; and we are free to believe nothing from him, the desperate liar and scoundrel, yes, the spirit of a devil! Moreover, we may with a good conscience take his coat-of-arms, which features the keys and his crown, to the privy, use it for wiping, and then throw it into the fire (it would be better it were the pope himself). To deal so falsely and blasphemously with God’s word in such important things concerning all of Christendom is to instigate idolatry, which no finite punishment can avenge–God must himself punish it in deepest hell. Meanwhile, a good Christian, whenever he sees the pope’s coat-of-arms, should spit and throw filth at it, just as one should spit and throw filth at an idol, to the glory of God. For such a papal coat-of-arms is a public lie and the devil’s image, which the people have vainly feared and depended on as though it were God’s commandment, when it is sheer lies, blasphemy, and arch-idolatry. This, I say, follows from the best confessions of his very own lawyers, since they say the text, Matthew 16, does not contribute to the existence of a papacy. This is like saying that the pope lies and blasphemes when he applies Matthew 16 to his worthless, blasphemous papacy, and out of this he makes his accursed coat-of-arms and crown in order to frighten the world and subject it to himself and to capture and corrupt the consciences which had been redeemed and freed through Christ’s blood. Martin Luther, “Against the Roman Papacy,” in Luther’s Works, 41:306-307.
Souls of our brothers:
1) These false teachers, however, with complete self-confidence granted the people deferment in a miserable manner, and, as far as they were concerned, left them in danger of eternal death. I do not know, therefore, whether or not those who have desired to keep people in such anxiety should be excused from the crime of murdering souls. Surely in this case it is not the salvation of the giver which is sought, but rather his gift, even if he perishes. If they were good shepherds of souls and true Christians, they would endeavor with every effort to guide the sinner to the fear of God and a dread of sin, and not discontinue with weeping, praying, admonishing, and rebuking until they had won the soul of a brother. But if a person were to continue to give money and persist in doing evil, these hucksters should throw the money in his face and say with the Apostle, “I seek not what is yours but you” [II Cor. 12:14]. And again they would say, “Your money perish with you” [Acts 8:20]. Whereupon they would shrink back from him with horror. In that respect they would treat him rightly. But this is a far cry from our Mercury0 who says, “Nay, rather we shall do this: if sinners come to us trusting in capable mediators (by which they mean money), they may be one of us, able to do what we can do, even able to redeem souls, even if this is contrary to Christ and the apostles. And while they immediately perish we shall laugh and rejoice because we are sure of their gift. This is love for the people of Christ and for our brothers. In this manner we take care of their souls so that they may know our newest kind of compassion for them in their sins, that is, no compassion at all.” Martin Luther, “Explanations of the Ninety-Five Theses,” in Luther’s Works 31:188.
Redemption of the penitent:
1) This is truth, this is wisdom. I must know God and myself; I must know that God has promised to redeem all who feel they are sinners and that there is no salvation unless we say with the prophet: “Against Thee only have I sinned and done that which is evil in Thy sight; I was conceived in sin,” etc., that is, unless we assert that whatever is reason and will in man is condemned and evil. This wisdom and truth is in secret or hidden, because even when it is taught, it is not believed or grasped by the world. We ourselves often fight against this wisdom. We cannot completely reject a trust in our works, but feel that though we may often err and fall, still we do not err in everything before God. One thinks that he can avoid judgment because he is a good husband, another because in his business dealings he does everything squarely. Though the Turk is forced to doubt his religion, still he does not think that God is so cruel as to destroy all others and only make us Christians wise–especially since they live quite strictly as far as outward morals are concerned. Martin Luther, “Selected Psalms,” in Luther’s Works, 12:356-357.
1) He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life.
This is a résumé in which He sums up all that has been said, as is customarily done at the end of a sermon. He says: “My dear friends, these are the facts. They are unalterable. This is the sum and substance of the matter.” The Lord wants to say: “You must be guided by this; give up all else that men may suggest, and adhere solely to these words: “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the Last Day.” “ This is to be the final word on the subject. Therefore let reason be reason and works be works. No matter how these words may seem and sound, they stand and remain: He who eats, that is, he who believes with all his heart that Christ gave His body for him, died for him, and redeemed him from sin and death, he already possesses eternal life. Martin Luther, “Sermons on the Gospel of St. John,” in Luther’s Works, 23:140.
1) Thus the qualities of this kingdom of Christ are shown to you here. By divine power and might He renews all of human nature, with the result that a new light, a true and complete knowledge of God, and a new disposition arise in us. We are cleansed from all blindness, unbelief, evil lust, and works of disobedience, and are redeemed from sin and death to live with God as people who are just and blessed. All this begins for the Christian in this life. In the life after the resurrection everything will be made perfect, so that the whole of human nature, body and soul, will live in a pure and everlasting obedience toward God. Martin Luther, “Selected Psalms,” in Luther’s Works, 13:291.
1) For the sake of those who are not yet sufficiently instructed in Christ I repeat what I have said rather often above, namely, that these expressions “to redeem,” “that we might receive adoption,” “you are sons,” “He has sent the Spirit,” “He is a son and heir, not a slave,” and similar expressions are not to be understood as having been fulfilled in us, but that Christ has fulfilled this in order that it may also be fulfilled in us; for they have all been begun in such a way that from day to day they are achieved more and more. For this reason it is also called the Passover of the Lord, that is, a passing through (Ex. 12:11?12), and we are called Galileans, that is, wanderers, because we are continually going forth from Egypt through the desert, that is, through the way of cross and suffering to the Land of Promise. We have been redeemed, and we are being redeemed continually. We have received adoption and are still receiving it. We have been made sons of God, and we are and shall be sons. The Spirit has been sent, is being sent, and will be sent. We learn, and we shall learn. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Galatians,” in Luther’s Works, 27:289.
Sins of the world:
1) This passage is also not in disagreement with the opinion of those who conclude that Adam was created in the region of Damascus and that afterwards, when he had been driven out because of his sin, he had also dwelt in Palestine. Thus the center of Paradise was where Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Jericho were located later on, the places where Christ and John spent the greater part of their life. The fact that the present sites do not well agree with this is due to the devastation by the Flood, by which mountains, rivers, and fountainheads were changed. It is possible that later on Calvary, where Christ offered Himself for the sins of the world, was located where the tree of the knowledge of good and evil had been while Paradise was still standing. Thus so far as the place is concerned, death and destruction through Satan would be matched by life and salvation won through Christ. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis,” in Luther’s Works, 1:310.
2) Therefore it is also proper that we begin a new book at this point, where a new light comes from heaven. This light reveals that Christ will be born from the descendants of Abraham; and it makes the very sweet announcement concerning His ministry that He will bring a blessing for the world, that is, that He will atone for the sins of the world and thus reconcile us to God and give us eternal life. Added to this is the designation of the place where Christ is to be born. Because the land of Canaan is promised to the descendants of Abraham and Christ was to be born of the descendants of Abraham, it is sure that Christ will be born in the land of Canaan and from the Jews. This light the church did not have before Abraham. Therefore there now arises almost a new church, because a new Word is beginning to shed its light. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis,” in Luther’s Works, 2:236-237.
3) This, then, is the ascent and descent of the angels of God and of the blessed, who look on this, pay attention to it, and proclaim it, as can be seen on the day of the nativity. They descend as though there were no God up in heaven. They come to Bethlehem and say: “Behold, I announce great joy to you, The Lord has been born for you” (cf. Luke 2:10?11). And in Heb. 1:6 we read: “When He brings the First-born into the world, He says: ‘Let all God’s angels worship Him.’” They adore Him as He now lies in the manger at His mother?s breasts. Indeed, they adore Him on the cross, when He descends into hell, when He has been subjected to sin and hell, when He bears all the sins of the whole world. And they submit themselves forever to this lowest One. Thus, therefore, the angels ascend and see the Son of God, who is begotten from eternity. On the other hand, they descend when they see Him born in time of Mary. And whether ascending or descending, they adore Him. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis,” in Luther’s Works, 5:220.
4) Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven. This is at once in opposition to the hypocrites, who do not need forgiveness and, like healthy people, have no use for a doctor. For they do not think they have iniquities but rely on themselves as righteous and do not eat with the tax collectors and sinners, because they are not like other people (cf. Luke 15:2; 18:9 ff.). So the Pharisees rejected Christ, who bears the sins of the world, because they have none. And they say, “Are we blind?” And He said to them, ?If you were blind, you would not have sin; but now that you say: “We see,” your sin remains? (John 9:40, 41). Martin Luther, “First Lectures on the Psalms,” in Luther’s Works, 10:145.
5) Those who do not believe this Word are still sprinkled; the blood of Christ and the Word of Christ will judge them, but their unbelief will prevent them from being cleansed. The Sacraments, Baptism and the Lords Supper, belong to this sprinkling, for in both we are sprinkled with the blood of Christ. In Baptism we are baptized into the death of Christ (Rom. 6:3), and in the Lords Supper the body and blood of Christ are distributed to the church. In the ministry of the Word similarly we hear this sprinkling, that Christ has made satisfaction for the sins of the world. Here nothing remains but this: As we hear this in the Word and as it is offered and shown to us in the symbols of our faith, we should firmly believe, and we should strengthen our minds with trust in this sprinkling. Martin Luther, “Selected Psalms,” in Luther’s Works, 12:363.
6) The pope does it differently. First he urges contrition. Then from the contrition he wants to determine whether the Word is efficacious or not, as though the promise of God did not have the power in itself but needed the addition of our merits, contritions, or satisfactions. They hold to this teaching so hard that we who teach what is sounder are condemned as heretics and subjected to all manner of torture. In all the bulls this clause is added: “To those who properly confess and are contrite”–as though the certainty of absolution depended on the certainty, of contrition, even though the heart can never determine when it is contrite enough. The greed of the pontiffs has sold these indulgences for big money, “But, O Christ, remove these indulgences. Rather let the pontiffs be angry at us than that we should forsake the certainty of Thy Word and rely on our contritions, as they teach. Our whole certainty is placed in Thy Word, in which Thou dost reveal that the sins of the whole world have been expiated and destroyed by Thy sacrifice, death, and resurrection.” When the heart hears this voice, then the joy arises of which David speaks here. Why should the heart not rejoice when it hears that divine mercy is so great that He enjoys granting grace and does not look at our insufficient contrition, but considers only His mercy and our calamity? After hearing comes confidence, so that we say: “I am baptized. I have taken the body given for me on the cross. I have heard the voice of God from the minister or brother, by which the forgiveness of sins has been announced to me.” This confidence conquers death and all other evils. Martin, “Selected Psalms,” in Luther’s Works, 12:371.
7) The pope and his priesthood have falsely boasted of these and thereby have blasphemously revolted against Christ. But Christ is the only Priest whom God has assigned to the task of reconciling us to Him and obtaining the forgiveness of sins. He made His sacrifice in obedience to God’s command, not as a venture of His own, moved by pious zeal. This is the reason why He also has the sure testimony that His sacrifice pleases God and is acceptable to Him. Everything He does is precious. God is thoroughly pleased in every way, because Christ is totally without sin and guilt (Heb. 7:26). This is clearly a sacrifice entirely different from that which those priests offered, a sacrifice consisting of the blood of bulls and goats. As I said before, the latter was merely a type of the former. But since, as these sacrifices also demonstrated, God will not grant reconciliation and forgiveness without blood and death, the Epistle to the Hebrews also says (Heb. 9:22) that the sacrifice of Christ the Priest had to consist of the shedding of blood. However, it was His own blood, not the blood of a stranger. By His death on the cross He made such a sacrifice once for the sins of all the world (Heb. 7:27). The cross was the altar on which He, consumed by the fire of the boundless love which burned in His heart, presented the living and holy sacrifice of His body and blood to the Father with fervent intercession, loud cries, and hot, anxious tears (Heb. 5:7). That is the true sacrifice. Once and for all it takes away the sins of all the world and brings an everlasting reconciliation and forgiveness. It deserves to be praised to the utmost and to have every honor given to it, especially over against those other false, lying sacrifices of our own works, which were invented to deny and blaspheme this sacrifice. He is also the Priest who ought to be called a priest above all others. What man can praise and exalt Him enough? He has the name and is the true and only Son of God! Willingly and without price He has mediated between God’s wrath and our sin. By His blood and death He gave Himself as the sacrifice or ransom and thereby far outweighed both of them. No matter how great or burdensome sin, wrath, hell, and damnation may be, this holy sacrifice is far greater and higher! Martin Luther, “Selected Psalms,” in Luther’s Works, 13:319-320.
8) I have swept away your transgressions like a cloud, and your sins like mist. A most beautiful text! “Remember the God who sweeps away your transgressions.” This is said in opposition to the idols. It is as if He were saying: “The idols cannot forgive sins; on the contrary, they make their devotees weary. Therefore it is clear: No work, no worship and religion removes sin. I alone do that, and I sweep it away like a cloud.” The comparison is taken from the sun. Just as the sun absorbs the clouds up in the sky like snow, so the rising sun in the morning purifies the mist-enshrouded earth. “Even so I sweep sin away.” Here Christ is pictured in His own activity. There we must look upon Him as the eternal High Priest, who should kill all sins of the whole world. He is not a judge as the papists make Him out to be. “My business is to sweep away sins, just as it is the sun’s business to sweep away cloud and mist.” You see the sun’s effectiveness, how powerfully, not immediately but little by little, it swallows up the clouds. Just so God every day swallows up the cloud in us, so that day by day we walk in a stronger faith. Faith is the light of the heart and the work of the Holy Spirit, who is active in the daily conduct and edification. It is Christ’s business to sweep away sins like cloud and mist. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Isaiah,” in Luther’s Works , 17:116.
9) We read that when St. Bernard was at the point of death, he remarked: “I have misspent and wasted my life disgracefully; but I take comfort in the knowledge that Jesus Christ, my Lord, has a twofold claim on heaven. In the first place, He can lay claim to it for Himself, because he is the true and natural Son of God, governing with the Father from eternity. Hence He is entitled to heaven as an Heir from eternity. But this is not the source of my comfort. In the second place, however, He has gained heaven through His holy suffering and death and then presented this to me. In this manner I, too, fall heir to heaven.” Had St. Bernard not died in this faith, he would have gone to the devil and into the abyss of hell with his monkery and monastic life. It is the same with all the monks in the papacy. No matter how holy and ascetic their life may have been, if they were saved, they must have come to this same realization and confessed: “I have conducted my life shamefully. I cannot put my trust in my cowl, in rules, or in my order. But I do believe in Jesus Christ, who died for my sins and for the sins of the whole world. To Him I cling, and I depart this life with implicit confidence in His consoling promise: ‘Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matt. 11:28).” I hope that Francis and Dominic also embraced this faith; if not, I would not want to go to the heaven they entered! Martin Luther, “Sermons on the Gospel of St. John,” in Luther’s Works, 22:52-53.
10) The Lord calls him “a burning and shining lamp,” because all who accepted his testimony and believed in Christ–who is not only the Life and the Light of mankind but also the Lamb of God which bears and removes their sins and the whole world’s sins–have thereby been enlightened and have become the children of light and received salvation and life eternal. Martin Luther, “Sermons on the Gospel of St. John,” in Luther’s Works, 22:63.
11) It is expressly stated here that Christ came and removed the sin of the world so completely that it is entirely deleted, entirely forgiven. But to refuse the Helper, to refuse to hear the Man who abolishes sin, and, more than this, to want to kill Him and to persevere in sin that is vile and base. It is terrible to hear this proclamation, which brings remission of sin and release from death, maligned as heresy and to see this Helper persecuted. We preach this every day, and that is what goes on. I did not suck these words out of my finger; no, you hear that this is spoken by Christ Himself. Nevertheless, it is decried as heresy. Should our God not become angry? Should He not dispatch pestilence, famine, pope, Turk, Tartars, Sacramentarians, Anabaptists, and all sorts of sectaries to plague us? Our refusal to accept the Son surely deserves such punishment. It is terrible to proclaim that one should not accept and love a Helper and Savior who remits sin. Whoever acts this way and becomes ungrateful to God has a right to expect God to punish him with Turks, Tartars, and Anabaptists, and that schismatic spirits, sectaries, and false brethren will rain and snow down on him. Martin Luther, “Sermons on the Gospel of St. John,” in Luther’s Works, 22:383-384.
12) Thus we have now treated this sermon in the sixth chapter about the eating and drinking of the flesh and blood of Christ. It pertains to the chief doctrine of the Christian faith, which we should study diligently. We should become exceedingly familiar with this chapter and use it properly; for here we find it clearly stated that no works will avail, but only faith in the flesh of Christ, who died for the sins of the world. We have also heard that people take offense at this doctrine, since the world, reason, and man do not like it. Therefore this doctrine calls for a simple heart, which is humble by reason of its sin and sighs to our Lord God for faith. Once you have become a Christian, the Holy Spirit impels you to perform good works. Do not undertake good works before you have come to faith, for whatever you do before that does not count. The flesh is of no avail; the Spirit is absent. Before coming to this faith you are unable to do a single good work, and you cannot atone for a single sin. For it is definitely said that “the flesh is of no avail,” it is condemned and is null and void. Now you are informed. Martin Luther, “Sermons on the Gospel of St. John, in Luther’s Works, 23:184-185.
13) For if they really knew God the Father and Christ, His Son, they themselves would have to join us in concluding from such knowledge: “We believe that we cannot be saved in any other way than through the one Mediator, Christ, who was sent by the Father to bear and to pay for the sins of the world, as is set forth incisively and powerfully in St. Paul’s discussion and conclusion. For to know the Father means to know God’s plan for us; it means to know the purpose for which He sent His Son: to redeem us from sin, since the Law could not help us (Rom. 8:2?3).” Matin Luther, “Sermons on the Gospel of St. John.” in Luther’s Works, 24:325.
14) Against this temptation we must use these words of Paul in which he gives this very good and true definition of Christ: “Christ is the Son of God and of the Virgin; He was delivered and put to death for our sins.” If the devil cites any other definition of Christ, you must say: “The definition and the subject are false; therefore I refuse to accept the definition.” I am not speaking vainly here, for I know why I define Christ so strictly from the words of Paul. For Christ is not a cruel master; He is the Propitiator for the sins of the whole world. If you are a sinner, therefore-as indeed we all are-do not put Christ on a rainbow as the Judge; for then you will be terrified and will despair of His mercy. No, grasp the true definition of Him, namely, that Christ, the Son of God and of the Virgin, is not One who terrifies, troubles, condemns us sinners or calls us to account for our evil past but One who has taken away the sins of the whole world, nailing them to the cross (Col. 2:14) and driving them all the way out by Himself.
Learn this definition carefully. Especially practice this pronoun “our” in such a way that this syllable, once believed, may swallow up and absorb all your sins, that is, that you may be certain that Christ has taken away not only the sins of some men but your sins and those of the whole world. The offering was for the sins of the whole world, even though the whole world does not believe. So do not permit your sins to be merely sins; let them be your very own sins. That is, believe that Christ was given not only for the sins of others but also for yours. Hold to this firmly, and do not let anything deprive you of this sweet definition of Christ, which brings joy even to the angels in heaven: that Christ is, in the strictest of terms, not a Moses, a tormentor, or an executioner but the Mediator for sins and the Donor of grace, who gave Himself, not for our merits, holiness, glory, and holy life but for our sins. Christ also interprets the Law, to be sure; but this is not His proper and chief work. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Galatians,” in Luther’s Works, 26:37-38.
15) This is not the truth of the Gospel; it is falsehood and pretense. The true Gospel, however, is this: Works or love are not the ornament or perfection of faith; but faith itself is a gift of God, a work of God in our hearts, which justifies us because it takes hold of Christ as the Savior. Human reason has the Law as its object. It says to itself: “This I have done; this I have not done.” But faith in its proper function has no other object than Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was put to death for the sins of the world. It does not look at its love and say: “What have I done” Where have I sinned? What have I deserved?” But it says: “What has Christ done? What has He deserved?” And here the truth of the Gospel gives you the answer: “He has redeemed you from sin, from the devil, and from eternal death.” Therefore faith acknowledges that in this one Person, Jesus Christ, it has the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Whoever diverts his gaze from this object does not have true faith; he has a phantasy and a vain opinion. He looks away from the promise and at the Law, which terrifies him and drives him to despair. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Galatians,” in Luther’s Works, 26:88.
16) For the issue before us is grave and vital; it involves the death of the Son of God, who, by the will and commandment of the Father, became flesh, was crucified, and died for the sins of the world. If faith yields on this point, the death of the Son of God will be in vain. Then it is only a fable that Christ is the Savior of the world. Then God is a liar, for He has not lived up to His promises. Therefore our stubbornness on this issue is pious and holy; for by it we are striving to preserve the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to keep the truth of the Gospel. If we lose this, we lose God, Christ, all the promises, faith, righteousness, and eternal life. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Galatians,” in Luther’s Works, 26:90-91.
17) But by the true definition Christ is not a lawgiver; He is a Propitiator and a Savior. Faith takes hold of this and believes without doubting that He has performed a superabundance of works and merits of congruity and condignity. He might have made satisfaction for all the sins of the world with only one drop of His blood, but now He has made abundant satisfaction. Heb. 9:12: “With His own blood He entered once for all into the Holy Place.” And Rom. 3:24?25: “Justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by His blood.” Therefore it is something great to take hold, by faith, of Christ, who bears the sins of the world (John 1:29). And this faith alone is counted for righteousness (Rom. 3:4). Martin Luther, “Lectures on Galatians,” in Luther’s Works, 26:132.
18) I have said this in interpretation of the sentence “And it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” in order that the students of the Sacred Scriptures may understand how Christian righteousness is to be defined properly and accurately, namely, that it is a trust in the Son of God or a trust of the heart in God through Christ. Here this clause is to be added to provide the differentia for the definition: “which faith is imputed as righteousness for the sake of Christ.” For, as I have said, these two things make Christian righteousness perfect: The first is faith in the heart, which is a divinely granted gift and which formally believes in Christ; the second is that God reckons this imperfect faith as perfect righteousness for the sake of Christ, His Son, who suffered for the sins of the world and in whom I begin to believe. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Galatians, in Luther’s Works, 26:231.
19) And all the prophets saw this, that Christ was to become the greatest thief, murderer, adulterer, robber, desecrator, blasphemer, etc., there has ever been anywhere in the world. He is not acting in His own Person now. Now He is not the Son of God, born of the Virgin. But He is a sinner, who has and bears the sin of Paul, the former blasphemer, persecutor, and assaulter; of Peter, who denied Christ; of David, who was an adulterer and a murderer, and who caused the Gentiles to blaspheme the name of the Lord (Rom. 2:24). In short, He has and bears all the sins of all men in His body not in the sense that He has committed them but in the sense that He took these sins,. committed by us, upon His own body, in order to make satisfaction for them with His own blood. Therefore this general Law of Moses included Him, although He was innocent so far as His own Person was concerned; for it found Him among sinners and thieves. Thus a magistrate regards someone as a criminal and punishes him if he catches him among thieves, even though the man has never committed anything evil or worthy of death. Christ was not only found among sinners; but of His own free will and by the will of the Father He wanted to be an associate of sinners, having assumed the flesh and blood of those who were sinners and thieves and who were immersed in all sorts of sin. Therefore when the Law found Him among thieves, it condemned and executed Him as a thief…
In the same way John the Baptist called Christ the Lamb of God (John 1:29). He is, of course, innocent, because He is the Lamb of God without spot or blemish. But because He bears the sins of the world, His innocence is pressed down with the sins and the guilt of the entire world. Whatever sins I, you, and all of us have committed or may commit in the future, they are as much Christ’s own as if He Himself had committed them. In short, our sin must be Christ’s own sin, or we shall perish eternally. The wicked sophists have obscured this true knowledge of Christ which Paul and the prophets have handed down to us.
Is. 53:6 speaks the same way about Christ. It says: God has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. These words must not be diluted but must be left in their precise and serious sense. For God is not joking in the words of the prophet; He is speaking seriously and out of great love, namely, that this Lamb of God, Christ, should bear the iniquity of us all. But what does it mean to bear The sophists reply: To be punished. Good. But why is Christ punished? Is it not because He has sin and bears sin? That Christ has sin is the testimony of the Holy Spirit in the Psalms. Thus in Ps. 40:12 we read: My iniquities have overtaken Me; in Ps. 41:4: I said: O Lord, be gracious to Me; heal Me, for I have sinned against Thee!; and in Ps. 69:5: O God, Thou knowest My folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from Thee. In these psalms the Holy Spirit is speaking in the Person of Christ and testifying in clear words that He has sinned or has sins. These testimonies of the psalms are not the words of an innocent one; they are the words of the suffering Christ, who undertook to bear the person of all sinners and therefore was made guilty of the sins of the entire world.
Therefore Christ not only was crucified and died, but by divine love sin was laid upon Him. When sin was laid upon Him, the Law came and said: Let every sinner die! And therefore, Christ, if You want to reply that You are guilty and that You bear the punishment, you must bear the sin and the curse as well. Therefore Paul correctly applies to Christ this general Law from Moses: Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree.Christ hung on a tree; therefore Christ is a curse of God.
And this is our highest comfort, to clothe and wrap Christ this way in my sins, your sins, and the sins of the entire world, and in this way to behold Him bearing all our sins. When He is beheld this way, He easily removes all the fanatical opinions of our opponents about justification by works. For the papists dream about a kind of faith formed by love. Through this they want to remove sins and be justified. This is clearly to unwrap Christ and to unclothe Him from our sins, to make Him innocent, to burden and overwhelm ourselves with our own sins, and to behold them, not in Christ but in ourselves. This is to abolish Christ and make Him useless. For if it is true that we abolish sins by the works of the Law and by love, then Christ does not take them away, but we do. But if He is truly the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, who became a curse for us, and who was wrapped in our sins, it necessarily follows that we cannot be justified and take away sins through love. For God has laid our sins, not upon us but upon Christ, His Son. If they are taken away by Him, then they cannot be taken away by us. All Scripture says this, and we confess and pray the same thing in the Creed when we say: “I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who suffered, was crucified, and died for us.”
This is the most joyous of all doctrines and the one that contains the most comfort. It teaches that we have the indescribable and inestimable mercy and love of God. When the merciful Father saw that we were being oppressed through the Law, that we were being held under a curse, and that we could not be liberated from it by anything, He sent His Son into the world, heaped all the sins of all men upon Him, and said to Him: Be Peter the denier; Paul the persecutor, blasphemer, and assaulter; David the adulterer; the sinner who ate the apple in Paradise; the thief on the cross. In short, be the person of all men, the one who has committed the sins of all men. And see to it that You pay and make satisfaction for them. Now the Law comes and says: I find Him a sinner, who takes upon Himself the sins of all men. I do not see any other sins than those in Him. Therefore let Him die on the cross! And so it attacks Him and kills Him. By this deed the whole world is purged and expiated from all sins, and thus it is set free from death and from every evil. But when sin and death have been abolished by this one man, God does not want to see anything else in the whole world, especially if it were to believe, except sheer cleansing and righteousness. And if any remnants of sin were to remain, still for the sake of Christ, the shining Sun, God would not notice them.
This is how we must magnify the doctrine of Christian righteousness in opposition to the righteousness of the Law and of works, even though there is no voice or eloquence that can properly understand, much less express, its greatness. Therefore the argument that Paul presents here is the most powerful and the highest of all against all the righteousness of the flesh; for it contains this invincible and irrefutable antithesis: If the sins of the entire world are on that one man, Jesus Christ, then they are not on the world. But if they are not on Him, then they are still on the world. Again, if Christ Himself is made guilty of all the sins that we have all committed, then we are absolved from all sins, not through ourselves or through our own works or merits but through Him. But if He is innocent and does not carry our sins, then we carry them and shall die and be damned in them. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christi Amen. (1 Cor. 15:57.)
Now let us see how two such extremely contrary things come together in this Person. Not only my sins and yours, but the sins of the entire world, past, present, and future, attack Him, try to damn Him, and do in fact damn Him. But because in the same Person, who is the highest, the greatest, and the only sinner, there is also eternal and invincible righteousness, therefore these two converge: the highest, the greatest, and the only sin; and the highest, the greatest, and the only righteousness. Here one of them must yield and be conquered, since they come together and collide with such a powerful impact. Thus the sin of the entire world attacks righteousness with the greatest possible impact and fury. What happens? Righteousness is eternal, immortal, and invincible. Sin, too, is a very powerful and cruel tyrant, dominating and ruling over the whole world, capturing and enslaving all men. In short, sin is a great and powerful god who devours the whole human race, all the learned, holy, powerful, wise, and unlearned men. He, I say, attacks Christ and wants to devour Him as he has devoured all the rest. But he does not see that He is a Person of invincible and eternal righteousness. In this duel, therefore, it is necessary for sin to be conquered and killed, and for righteousness to prevail and live. Thus in Christ all sin is conquered, killed, and buried; and righteousness remains the victor and the ruler eternally…
This is the chief doctrine of the Christian faith. The sophists have completely obliterated it, and today the fanatics are obscuring it once more. Here you see how necessary it is to believe and confess the doctrine of the divinity of Christ. When Arius denied this, it was necessary also for him to deny the doctrine of redemption. For to conquer the sin of the world, death, the curse, and the wrath of God in Himself–this is the work, not of any creature but of the divine power. Therefore it was necessary that He who was to conquer these in Himself should be true God by nature…
With gratitude and with a sure confidence, therefore, let us accept this doctrine, so sweet and so filled with comfort, which teaches that Christ became a curse for us, that is, a sinner worthy of the wrath of God; that He clothed Himself in our person, laid our sins upon His own shoulders, and said: I have committed the sins that all men have committed. Therefore He truly became accursed according to the Law, not for Himself but, as Paul says, For unless He had taken upon Himself my sins, your sins, and the sins of the entire world, the Law would have had no right over Him, since it condemns only sinners and holds only them under a curse. Therefore He could neither have become a curse nor have died, since the cause of the curse and of death is sin, of which He was innocent. But because He took upon Himself our sins, not by compulsion but of His own free will, it was right for Him to bear the punishment and the wrath of God not for His own Person, which was righteous and invincible and therefore could not become guilty, but for our person.
By this fortunate exchange with us He took upon Himself our sinful person and granted us His innocent and victorious Person. Clothed and dressed in this, we are freed from the curse of the Law, because Christ Himself voluntarily became a curse for us, saying: “For My own Person of humanity and divinity I am blessed, and I am in need of nothing whatever. But I shall empty Myself (Phil. 2:7); I shall assume your clothing and mask; and in this I shall walk about and suffer death, in order to set you free from death.” Therefore when, inside our mask, He was carrying the sin of the whole world, He was captured, He suffered, He was crucified, He died; and for us He became a curse. But because He was a divine and eternal Person, it was impossible for death to hold Him. Therefore He arose from death on the third day, and now He lives eternally; nor can sin, death, and our mask be found in Him any longer; but there is sheer righteousness, life, and eternal blessing…
Now that Christ reigns, there is in fact no more sin, death, or curse this we confess every day in the Apostles’ Creed when we say: I believe in the holy church. This is plainly nothing else than if we were to say: I believe that there is no sin and no death in the church. For believers in Christ are not sinners and are not sentenced to death but are altogether holy and righteous, lords over sin and death who live eternally. But it is faith alone that discerns this, because we say: I believe in the holy church. If you consult your reason and your eyes, you will judge differently. For in devout people you will see many things that offend you; you will see them fall now and again, see them sin, or be weak in faith, or be troubled by a bad temper, envy, or other evil emotions. Therefore the church is not holy. I deny the conclusion that you draw. If I look at my own person or at that of my neighbor, the church will never be holy. But if I look at Christ, who is the Propitiator and Cleanser of the church, then it is completely holy; for He bore the sins of the entire world.
Therefore where sins are noticed and felt, there they really are not present. For, according to the theology of Paul, there is no more sin, no more death, and no more curse in the world, but only in Christ, who is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, and who became a curse in order to set us free from the curse. On the other hand, according to philosophy and reason, sin, death, etc., are not present anywhere except in the world, in the flesh, and in sinners. For the theology of the sophists is unable to consider sin any other way except metaphysically, that is: A quality clings to a substance or a subject. Therefore just as color clings to a wall, so sin clings to the world, to the flesh, or to the conscience. Therefore it must be washed away by some opposing motivations, namely, by love. But the true theology teaches that there is no more sin in the world, because Christ, on whom, according to Is. 53:6, the Father has laid the sins of the entire world, has conquered, destroyed, and killed it in His own body. Having died to sin once, He has truly been raised from the dead and will not die any more (Rom. 6:9). Therefore wherever there is faith in Christ, there sin has in fact been abolished, put to death, and buried. But where there is no faith in Christ, there sin remains. And although there are still remnants of sin in the saints because they do not believe perfectly, nevertheless these remnants are dead; for on account of faith in Christ they are not imputed…
But Christ is grasped, not by the Law or by works but by a reason or an intellect that has been illumined by faith. And this grasping of Christ through faith is truly the speculative life, about which the sophists chatter a great deal without knowing what they are saying. The speculation by which Christ is grasped is not the foolish imagination of the sophists and monks about marvelous things beyond them; it is a theological, faithful, and divine consideration of the serpent hanging from the pole, that is, of Christ hanging on the cross for my sins, for your sins, and for the sins of the entire world (John 3:14–15). Hence it is evident that faith alone justifies. But once we have been justified by faith, we enter the active life. In this way the sophists could have made a correct distinction between the contemplative and the active life, if they had called the former Gospel and the latter Law; that is, if they had taught that the speculative life should be included and directed by the Word of God and that in it nothing else is to be looked at except the Word of the Gospel, but that the active life should be sought from the Law, which does not grasp Christ but exercises itself in works of love toward one’s neighbor. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Galatians,” in Luther’s Works, 26:277-281, 282, 283-284, 285-286, 287.4
20) The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
Here you have the fulfillment of the first sermon of the Gospel. The Seed of the woman had to be born to destroy the works of the devil (Gen. 3:15). Now He has appeared in the flesh and has destroyed them. For, as Col. 2:15 says, “He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them through Himself.” Thus Christ bore the sins of the world once. Yet He does not cease to bear them constantly in us through the battle of the spirit and the flesh. Those two princes drive each other out. Christ destroys the works of the devil; the devil destroys the works of Christ. Christ builds love, humility, chastity, etc., in us; the devil builds uncleanness, fornication, strife, and pride. Martin Luther, “The Catholic Epistles,” in Luther’s Works, 30:272.5
21) 12. Furthermore, Christ died for the sins of the whole world from the beginning of the world before there was any ceremonial law.
13. Consequently, Paul must be understood as speaking about the law and sins of the whole world from the beginning on. Martin Luther, “Theses Concerning Faith and Law,” in Luther’s Works, 34:115.
22) The gospel and all of Scripture present Christ as the high priest, who alone and once for all by offering himself has taken away the sins of all men and accomplished their sanctification for all eternity. For once and for all he entered into the holy place through his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption [Heb. 9:12, 28; 10:12, 14]. Thus no other sacrifice remains for our sins than his, and, by putting our trust altogether in it, we are saved from sin without any merits or works of our own. Of this sacrifice and offering he has instituted a perpetual remembrance in that he intends to have it proclaimed in the sacrament of the altar and thereby have faith in it strengthened. But how can this be accomplished in the abomination of the papal ordinations? Martin Luther, “Church and Ministry” in Luther’s Works, 40:14
23) We cannot now discuss this rich text, which actually is one of the foremost in all of Scripture. And, as is only natural, everybody has reflected on it; for it not only fixes the time of Christ’s advent but also foretells what he will do–namely, take away sin, bring righteousness, and do this by means of his death. It establishes Christ as the Priest who bears the sin of the whole world. This, I say, we must now set aside and deal only with the question of the time, as we determined to do–whether such a Messiah or Priest has already come or is still to come. [This we do] for the strengthening of our faith, against all devils and men. Martin Luther, “The Christian in Society,” in Luther’s Works, 47:230.
24) What it means, however, is that which is our own, no matter how good and holy it may seem, is nothing in the sight of God; it must become nothing and be utterly dead. For if we could atone for sin and drive out death by human powers, it would not have been necessary for Christ to become man and be baptized and die for our sins. Therefore if you would not fail and be lost, believe the Scriptures, which testify that all men are sinners, that before God no man living is righteous [Ps. 143:2; Rom. 3:20]. But if they are to become righteous, this must come to pass through Christ, the blessed Seed of whom it was promised to Adam, Abraham, etc., that he would crush the serpent’s head and redeem the whole world from its curse. This he did; he took the sin of the whole world upon himself; he became a curse for us, and thus redeemed from the curse all those who believe in him (Gal. 3 [:13]).
Such knowledge and faith produces a joyful heart, which is certain and can say: I know of no more sins, for they are all lying on Christ s back. Now, they can never lie both upon him and upon us. Therefore no one can say that he makes satisfaction for sin through his own righteousness or discipline; for atonement and redemption of sin belongs to Christ alone. But Christ is neither my work nor yours nor any man’s works. Nor are they his body and blood, which he sacrificed for our sins; he is true God, true man, who bears the sins of the whole world. But he takes them and drowns and smothers them in baptism and the Cross, and lets you proclaim that he has given his body for you and poured out his blood for the forgiveness of your sins. And if you believe this, then they are forgiven, you are good and righteous, you receive the Holy Spirit, in order that henceforth you may be able to resist sin. And when through weakness you are overtaken by it, it shall not be imputed to you, as long as you otherwise remain in this faith.
This is the forgiveness of sins; it does not occur without payment or satisfaction; but this payment is not yours. It cost Christ his body, life, and blood. It will be of no use even if you, indeed, the whole world, were to offer up your body and blood, for no offering is acceptable to God to pay for sin, says the Scripture, except the one sacrifice of Christ. It is his sacrifice of himself for your sin and the whole world’s sin and his giving to you his innocence and righteousness that comes to your help and drowns your sin and death. And when you are baptized in this faith you are putting on Christ, who washes away your sins in baptism and gives you the Holy Spirit, etc. So you see, do you not, that this forgiveness is not brought about through your penance, but rather that Christ bears the sins of us all and kills them in his body, and that we take hold of this by faith and let ourselves be baptized according to his command.
This is what John also means when he says to the Lord, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” It is as if he were saying: I am a sinner, so I should rightly be receiving baptism from you, Lord, and thus be cleansed and absolved of sins by you. For he well knew that Christ had no sin and yet it was He who was bearing the sins of the whole world, the only one to bring forgiveness and impart the Holy Spirit. That?s why he says: I need to be baptized by you.
But Christ says, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness” [Matt. 3:15]; as much as to say: The purpose of my baptism is to wash away and drown the sins of all the world, that through it all righteousness and salvation may be accomplished. Therefore baptism was instituted by God primarily for Christ’s sake and then afterwards also for the sake of all men. For first he must sanctify baptism through his own body and thereby take away the sin, in order that afterwards those who believe in him may have the forgiveness of sins. Therefore baptism is not a useless, empty thing, as the sectarians blasphemously say, but in it all righteousness is fulfilled. Martin Luther, “Sermons,” in Luther’s Works, 51:316318.
John 1:29 references (sample):
1) But Scripture teaches us otherwise and declares (Rom. 4:25): “Christ died for our sins and rose again for our justification”; likewise (John 1:29): “Behold the Lamb of God, which bears the sins of the world.” Therefore let the Blessed Virgin keep her place of honor. Among all the women of the world she has this privilege from God, that as a virgin she gave birth to the Son of God. But this must not be permitted to deprive her Son of the glory of our redemption and deliverance. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis in Luther’s Works, 1:192.
2) It is often possible to see this in Holy Scripture, where the prophets, by reason of special illumination and because of the gift of the Holy Spirit, were able to ascertain much from a comparison of things and words, as David does in Ps. 51:7, when he says: “Purge me with hyssop, O Lord.” David took this expression from the sprinkling of water and ashes mentioned in Num. 19 (cf. vv. 4, 6). For from this he concludes that the sprinkling will be far different from the one prescribed by the Law. Thus on the basis of the sacrifice of the paschal lamb they pictured to themselves the true Lamb, which takes away the sins of the world (cf. John 1:29). Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis,” in Luther’s Works, 8:153.
3) Therefore I would like to interpret as follows: Christ and the church, which is His colt, are one; that is, Bridegroom and bride are one body, His and her pullus (he-colt) and His and her pulla (she-colt). They are one and the same in the church. “My Beloved belongs to me, that is, He is mine; and I belong to Him” (Song of Sol. 2:16). Therefore we are one. I am Christ’s, and Christ is my righteousness, wisdom, and justification. I am His colt. Again, He who says: “I am your sinner? is my sin. And I say to Him: “Thou hast borne my sin; Thou art the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (cf. John 1:29). Here Bridegroom and bride are joined in the same spirit, and everything they have becomes common property. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis,” in Luther’s Works, 8:263.
4) This is the theology of the pope and his theologians. He is the very Antichrist. The Turk is more modest. He acknowledges that Christ is a prophet and that He sits on the left hand of God. But the asses in Louvain openly deny that Christ is a prophet. Although they say that He is a prophet, yet they contradict this in actual fact and deny that we have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life through Christ. They deny and abolish, to the best of their power, statements that are completely clear and full of consolation and life, such as: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29), “To Him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name” (Acts 10:43), and “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis,” in Luther’s Works , 8:312.
5) St. Paul speaks of it this way in Philippians 2:6, 7: Jesus Christ, “though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant.” He says that Christ emptied Himself of the divine form; that is, He did not use His, divine might nor let His almighty power be seen, but withdrew it when He suffered. In this emptying and humiliation the devil tried all his hellish might. The Man and Son of Man stands there and bears the sins of the world (John 1:29), and because He does not give the appearance of having divine consolation and power, the devil set his teeth over the innocent Lamb and wanted to devour It. Thus the righteous and innocent Man must shiver and shake like a poor, condemned sinner and feel God’s wrath and judgment against sin in His tender, innocent heart, taste eternal death and damnation for us–in short, He must suffer everything that a condemned sinner has deserved and must suffer eternally. Martin Luther, “Selected Psalms,” in Luther’s Works, 12:127.
6) Thus we should not transfer Moses to heaven but leave him among his Jews on earth in this physical life. “For there is one who ascended into heaven, who also descended, the Son of Man and the Son of God, Christ Jesus” (John 3:13). It is He whom we are commanded to “hear” (Matt. 17:5). It is He who bore the sins of the world (John 1:29). This is the one satisfaction; this is the one washing, by which we are saved. And the basis of salvation is that when you hear this, you should not be unbelieving toward divine revelation but believe it (John 20:27). The fact that a new life should follow does not belong to satisfaction, but to the obedience you owe. Because the Holy Spirit arouses this in us, we cannot claim any merit of ours from it to reconcile God and to expiate the sins which, we are taught, have already been expiated through Christ. Martin Luther, “Selected Psalms,” in Luther’s Works, 12:364-365.
7) After the wrath of God has been proclaimed to this world and man has been slaughtered as a sacrifice to God, then the hearing of gladness follows: “You shall not die” (2 Sam. 12:13). God does not want to be wrathful to sinners who have been slaughtered this way, but He wants to save them, because He sent His Son to bear the sins of the world (John 1:29). This is the true teaching and true worship by which sinners are converted. Those who persuade a sinner who confesses his lusts or adultery that he should punish his body or seek out a monastery so as to live as a celibate do nothing but turn a mind from the idol of Venus to the idol of abomination and so double his damnation. This is to fall from Scylla to Charybdis, to jump from the frying pan into the fire, where with the expulsion of one sin seven more come in, as Christ says about the expelled demon (Matt. 12:45). Martin Luther, “Selected Psalms,”in Luther’s Works, 12:389.
8) In my opinion, however, all of this seems to be something that should be applied to Christ, because of whom the temple was rebuilt and the people led back again from captivity. Because Christ had been promised to the Jews and was going to be born of their flesh, therefore the kingdom and priesthood had to be preserved. In short, that entire time following the Babylonian captivity was waiting for Christ. Everything was happening on His account. But one can see the marvelous plan of God Most High–how He works in His own way that He always calls into existence those things which do not exist as if they did exist (cf. Rom. 4:17) and brings down to Sheol before He leads to heaven, etc. (cf. 1 Sam. 2:6). As He is about to bring forth Christ the King, as He promised, He allows the Persians to come to power after the Jews have been carried off into a wretched captivity. Now nothing would appear less possible for a kingdom and priesthood which, along with all the people, had been carried away than that the people would be led back home, the temple rebuilt, the people restored to their original position of honor, and finally, that their kingdom would last forever, as had been promised. That is why the prophets always connect with that time the kingdom of Christ and the new glory which was to come through Christ the King. We have also seen above in chapter 3 how he treated the passage about the stone which was going to take away the sin of the world, etc. That we can understand in no other way except that he is speaking of Christ. Haggai, too, adds to his second chapter (vv. 9, 8): “And in this place I will give prosperity, says the Lord,? and ?the Desire of all nations shall come,” as if to say: “As soon as the temple is finished, Christ will come and enter upon His throne.” Martin Luther, “Minor Prophets,” in Luther’s Works, 20:49-50.
9) And I will remove the guilt of this land. On the day of His suffering He bore all our sins, as Isaiah writes (cf. Is. 53:4): “He Himself carried our sins.” You see, through and in the crucified Christ, God took away the sin of the whole world. In this way the prophet indicates that true Priest finally will come to take away the sin of His people and to free them from their sins. This finally will be the true sacrifice, of which the priesthood of Joshua, the high priest of the Law, was incapable. He further declares that this will happen in a single day. With this one phrase he annuls the entire Old Testament, as if to say: “He will need one other day, and that alone will be enough. With this one day He will take away the sins of the whole world. With one sacrifice He will make all things perfect.” Thus later there will be further need for no other day, no other priesthood, no other sacrifice. See Heb. 7. Martin Luther, “Minor Prophets,” in Luther’s Works, 20:41.
10) And I will remove the guilt of this land in a single day. The stone is to be polished so that in this way sin may be removed. Now sin, as we well know, is removed by nothing but the suffering of Christ. For that is the power and the fruit of His suffering, the forgiveness of sins, as Is. 52 and Peter and Paul teach in many places. This polishing, then, must be His suffering and not His birth or conception. By promising to remove the sins of the whole world, however, He shows that no sin can be forgiven through the old priesthood. Yes, everything that is not, and cannot be called, the suffering of Christ cannot remove sin; and before God all good works are worthless and sinful. The polished Cornerstone must do the deed, and nothing else can do it. Martin Luther, “Minor Prophets,” in Luther’s Works, 20:219-220.
11) Now another testimony of Christ?s divinity is added; for John declares that Christ existed before him and that he, John, did not know Him. Indeed, he knew of Christ’s existence; the command to proclaim the presence of Christ to the people had come to John in the desert. But he was not really aware of His true character until God Himself revealed Him by means of the unusual and beautiful sign, when the heaven opened, when the Father’s voice was heard, and the Holy Spirit hovered overhead. In the beginning of John’s Gospel you heard the evangelist describe John the Baptist as a witness to the Lamb, testifying that He is very God and God’s Son, but also true man, because God had become man. Later on the Lamb let Himself be slaughtered and sacrificed for us; He bore the sins of the whole world. This sermon and testimony of John regarding the Lamb that bears the sin of the world is to endure until the end of the world. Martin Luther, “Sermons on the Gospel of St. John,” in Luther’s Works, 22:171.
12) It is St. John’s wont to associate these three items. And, to be sure, they belong together and cannot be dissociated. First of all, St. John proclaims that Christ is God. Practically throughout his Gospel, he emphasizes that Christ is very God, born of the Father from eternity, not created He wrote this Gospel for the purpose of proclaiming this article of faith. Thereupon he declares that this Person, God’s Son, is also true man, born of the Virgin Mary. In the second place, John drives home the point that no one is saved by his own good works but solely through the Son of God; for He was sent into this world, He became man and the Lamb of God, to bear the sin of the world. Outside Christ there is no deliverance from sin and death; for He, and no other, was sent on that mission. If another had been able to perform this, why, then, should God have sent His Son? In the third place, it is necessary that faith be sincere, not deceitful, false, or hypocritical but convinced that this is really so, and ready to wager everything on it. Martin Luther, “Sermons on the Gospel of St. John,” in Luther’s Works, 22:391.
13) Tell them: “I am very well aware of all this. But then tell me why you priests receive the cup, while we have to content ourselves with one kind.” They will counter: “Oh, we are priests, members of a special station, set apart from you laymen!” Well, that is surely very smart! Who told you that you are to distinguish between priests and laity in the Lord Christ? Is there also another Baptism for the laity than for the priests? Why does the Lord Christ say that He died for the sins of the whole world without any discrimination among the various estates of man? No, servants and emperors have but one Baptism, as they have but one Christ. Why should we not deal with the Sacrament of the Altar in the same way, since we all share the same Baptism, the same faith and hope in Christ, the same Holy Spirit, and also the same Christ? Only in Holy Communion do you differentiate and say: “There is a difference between laymen and priests.” Martin Luther, “Sermons on the Gospel of St. John,” in Luther’s Works. 22:443.
14) For this is the mystery of the kingdom of heaven, as Christ calls it (Luke 8:10), the Christian revelation and message that Christ was sent by order of the Father to preach to the world and to perform miracles, in order that the people might believe in Him. Then He was to take upon Himself the sins of the whole world, blot them out in His own Person, overcome death through His own death, and afterwards sit at the right hand of God and have His message publicly proclaimed, in order that all who believe in Him might share in the victory which He had achieved. “This firm counsel of God,? Christ says, “I will preach to you very clearly and forcefully.” And that is what happened. The writings and the message of the apostles bear this out. The apostles clung solely to this article of faith and taught it with all diligence day and night. Thus when St. Paul bade farewell to the elders at Miletus, he said, as is recorded in Acts 20:27: “You know that I spent three years in your midst, during which time I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” And in Acts 2:22–23 Peter says: “Jesus of Nazareth, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed.” Martin Luther, “Sermons on the Gospel of St. John,” in Luther’s Works, 24:402-403.
15) In a sense Paul treats the argument of this epistle in every word. He has nothing in his mouth but Christ. Therefore in every word there is a fervor of spirit and life. Note how precisely he speaks. He does not say: “Who has received our works from us? or “Who has received the sacrifices required by the Law of Moses’ acts of worship, monastic orders, Masses, vows, and pilgrimages.” Instead, he says: “Who has given.” Has given what? Neither gold nor silver nor cattle nor Passover lambs nor an angel, but “Himself.” For what? Neither for a crown nor for a kingdom nor for our holiness or righteousness, but ?for our sins.? These words are a veritable thunderbolt from heaven against every kind of righteousness, as is the statement (John 1:29): ?Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!? Therefore we must pay careful attention to every word and not look at it casually or pass over it lightly; for these words are filled with comfort, and they give great encouragement to timid consciences. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Galatians,” in Luther’s Works, 26:32.6
16) Through the Law, therefore, we are condemned and killed; but through Christ we are justified and made alive. The Law terrifies us and drives us away from God. But Christ reconciles us to God and makes it possible for us to have access to Him. For Christ is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Thus the believer in Christ has the One who took away the sins of the world. If the sin of the world is taken away, then it is taken away also from me, as one who believes in Him. And if sin is taken away, then wrath is taken away; and if wrath is taken away, so are death and damnation. Righteousness replaces sin; reconciliation and grace replace wrath; life replaces death; and eternal salvation replaces damnation. Let us learn to practice this distinction, not only in words but in its application to our life and in our feelings. For where Christ is, there must be a good conscience and joy; Christ Himself is our Reconciliation, Righteousness, Peace, Life, and Salvation. Whatever the miserable and afflicted conscience seeks, that it finds in Christ. Now Paul develops this argument persuasively… Martin Luther, “Lectures on Galatians,” in Luther’s Works, 26:151.7
17) In the same way John the Baptist called Christ “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). He is, of course, innocent, because He is the Lamb of God without spot or blemish. But because He bears the sins of the world, His innocence is pressed down with the sins and the guilt of the entire world. Whatever sins I, you, and all of us have committed or may commit in the future, they are as much Christ’s own as if He Himself had committed them. In short, our sin must be Christ’s own sin, or we shall perish eternally. The wicked sophists have obscured this true knowledge of Christ which Paul and the prophets have handed down to us. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Galatians,” in Luther’s Works, 26:278.
18) Here He names “the iniquity of the sanctuary” and “the sins of the priesthood,” not because the sanctuary or the priesthood have committed them, but because it is the nature and the duty of the priesthood to be the bearer and the carrier of sins. Therefore they are its sins because it bears them and takes them away from others. Here again Christ was pictured as the true Aaron and “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). Therefore in this passage the apostle describes His priesthood as having reached its peak and accomplished its work when He cried out for us on the cross, as is stated later. Thus Is. 53:4 states. “Surely He has borne our weaknesses and carried our sins.” Martin Luther, “Lectures on Hebrews,” in Luther’s Works, 29:168.
One Ambiguous Reference:
1) The third is the worst, that they call the church in Jerusalem the mother of all churches because Christ the Lord himself had been bishop there, and in proof of this had sacrificed himself on the cross for the sins of the whole world; there the Holy Spirit had been given from heaven on the day of Pentecost; there all the apostles had afterward ruled the church together (not only Peter, of whom the bishop of Rome boasts). Not one of these events had occurred in Rome. Thus they gently admonished the bishop of Rome to consider that he was far from being the bishop of Jerusalem, of the mother church, but that his church in Rome was a daughter church which did not have Christ and the apostles and which did not bring Jerusalem to the faith; but rather, he and his church had been brought to the faith through the church in Jerusalem–so had St. Paul humbled the Corinthians, telling them that the gospel did not come from them, but from others to them [II Cor. 10:14]. Martin Luther, “On the Councils and the Church,” in Luther’s Works, 41:89.
“Sins of the world” used in non-controversial contexts:
1) Therefore when Moses states that the Lord rested, he is speaking about the original state of the world. Because there was no sin, nothing new was created in it. There were neither thorns nor thistles, neither serpents nor toads; and if there were any, they were neither venomous nor vicious. Thus he is speaking about the creation of the world in its perfection. At that time the world was pure and innocent because man was pure and innocent. Now, when man is different on account of sin, the world, too, has begun to be different; that is, the fall of man was followed by the depravation and the curse of the creation. “Cursed is the earth,” said God to Adam (Gen. 3:17–18), “on your account; thorns and thistles it will bring forth for you.” On account of the sin of one single cursed Cain the earth is cursed so that even if it is tilled, it will not yield its best products. Later on there comes the Flood because of the sin of the whole world, and the entire human race is destroyed. A few righteous people were preserved, however, lest the promise concerning Christ should not be fulfilled. But inasmuch as it appears that the earth was disfigured by sin, therefore I for one believe that the light of the sun also was more brilliant and beautiful when it was created, before man’s sin. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis,” in Luther’s Works, 1:77.
2) The mystic reason which the Master of the Sentences and other teachers adduce is passable. They maintain that circumcision was deferred to the eighth day because in the resurrection, which is signified by the eighth day, we shall be perfectly circumcised, in order that we may be free from every sin of the world. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis,” in Luther’s Works, 3:140-141.
3) Thus the doctrine of the Gospel is blamed for every evil. When the Goths were laying Italy waste at the time of Augustine, in Rome the entire blame was put on the apostles Peter and Paul. For wicked people remove from their eyes the sins of the world, and the Word of God, which is completely pure and holy, unjustly bears the blame for all crimes; for it does not teach usurious practices, greed, luxury, and the other misdeeds and frauds of the world, but it cries out and fights against all these sins. Why, then, is the Gospel burdened with such atrocious slanders? Because the wickedness of Satan, in which he delights, consists in blaspheming the Gospel and heaping up abuses against it from all sides. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis,” in Luther’s Works, 5:11.
4) It is customary for the prophets to distribute Scripture passages into particular forms, using the present tense in some cases and the future in others, as the situation demands. Having finished the song about the Babylonian captivity, the prophet begins to depict the future calamity in the time of Christ. This is the last and final threat. So among our people there is the threat of Turk and tyranny. Since all mock us, he threatens with the Last Judgment. This is what the prophet is doing here. Since the people were not moved by him, he uses other threats and begins to threaten them with rejection, as if to say, “You will now see another people.” They sought Me. In Hebrew it is “I was sought and found.” The construction is passive. Based on this passage, Paul is bold to say in Rom. 10 that those who do not seek find, etc., so that there may be boasting only in God. This is a strange situation: Those who seek do not find, and those who do not seek find. God says, “Seek first His kingdom” (Matt. 6:33); “Seek, and you will find” (Luke 11:9). Why does He here praise those who do not seek? God is sought in a twofold way: first, in His Word and commandment, second, by means of one?s own righteousness. So here the Jews are called seekers who do not find, because God is not sought in this manner. What is this coming to? Here it is not the coarse sins of the world that are condemned, but religion, the act of seeking and worshiping God, as if to say, “Those who worship and seek Me will not find Me.” Martin Luther, “Lectures on Isaiah,” in Luther’s Works, 17:375.
5) In the world, on the other hand, nothing but hatred, persecution, temptation, and all sorts of adversity continue; and a Christian must finally become weary and dejected. I myself have often experienced this when the devil, through the agency of the world and my conscience, put me to the test so severely that I did not know where to turn. And since the devil does not cease, or desist from, frightening and wearying us with thoughts of sin and death, the Holy Spirit will not stop fortifying our hearts against this and inspiring us with a courage that will overcome it all and cause us to say with the prophet David in Ps. 118:17: “I shall not die, but I shall live, even though I feel a thousand deaths. I will still stand justified and holy before God, even though I felt burdened with the sin of the whole world. I will still be saved and go to heaven, even if you opened your hellish jaws much wider. My Lord Christ is not my enemy, neither is the Father or the Holy Spirit; for They all co-operate in affording me the comfort which the Father sends, the Son prays for, and the Holy Spirit Himself brings.” Martin Luther, Sermons on the Gospel of St. John,” in Luther’s Works, 24:116.8
6) But if you ask: “Then what sin do they commit, or what is reproved in them”? Christ replies: “Because they do not believe in Me.” Here we have the terse answer which makes sinners of them all and also condemns them. This is the answer in a nut shell: they are without faith or the knowledge of Christ. This is conclusively identified in one word as sin. Consequently, one need not search long or ask what sin or what kind of sin is to be reproved in a person, or how many sins or what varieties there can be. Here you have everything in one statement: that this is the only sin reproved in the same way in everybody, that it is the sin of the whole world–the sin of being without Christ or without faith. Martin Luther, “Sermons on the Gospel of St. John,” in Luther’s Works, 24:340.
7) And in Ps. 21:12 we read: “In Thy remnants Thou shalt prepare their face, for Thou shalt make them turn their back.” And the reason for this kind of speaking is that grace and spiritual righteousness picks a man up and changes him and turns him away from his sin, although sin still remains, so that while it makes the spirit righteous, it allows concupiscence to remain in the flesh and in the midst of the sins of the world. And this way of speaking is a most effective device against the self-righteous. But human righteousness tries first of all to take away sins and change them and also to preserve man as he is, thus it is not righteousness but hypocrisy. Therefore, as long as a man lives and is not taken away and changed by the renewing power of grace, he can in no way do anything to prevent his being under sin and the Law. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Romans,” in Luther’s Works, 25:322.
8) Reason will not permit this extremely dangerous opinion to be taken away from it by any means at all, because it does not understand the righteousness of faith. Hence the papists babble, not so much foolishly as wickedly: “The church has the Law of God; it has the decrees of the councils and the writings of the holy fathers. If it lives according to these, it is holy.” No one will persuade them that by their self-chosen works and their religion they are only provoking the wrath of God, not placating it. No self-righteous people believe this, but they suppose the very opposite. Therefore the presumption of righteousness is the dregs of all the evils and the sin of all the sins of the world. For all other sins and vices can be corrected, or at least prohibited by the punishment of the magistrate. But this sin, each man’s personal presumption of his own righteousness, peddles itself as the height of religion and sanctity, because it is impossible for the nonspiritual man to judge rightly about this issue. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Galatians,” in Luther’s Works, 26:307.
9) Now what is the treasure with which we have been redeemed? It is not perishable gold or silver; it is the precious blood of Christ, the Son of God. This treasure is so costly and noble that the mind and reason of no man can comprehend it. Just one drop of this innocent blood would have been more than enough for the sin of the whole world Yet the Father wanted to pour out His grace on us so abundantly and to spend so much that He let His Son Christ shed all His blood and gave us the entire treasure. Therefore He does not want us to make light of and think little of such great grace; but He wants us to be moved to conduct ourselves with fear, lest this treasure be taken away from us. Martin Luther, “The Catholic Epistles,” in Luther’s Works, 30:36.9
10) So by means of this doctrine concerning the governing part of man, man will come to be exalted above Christ and the devil, or in other words, he will become Lord of lords and God of gods. What has now happened to that “probable opinion” which said that free choice could will nothing good? Yet here she contends that it is the principal part, and a sound and virtuous part, which does not even need Christ, but can do more than God himself and the devil can. I say this to let you see again how very perilous it is to venture into divine and sacred subjects without the Spirit of God and in the temerity of human reason. If Christ is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world [John 1:29], then it follows that the whole world is subject to sin, damnation, and the devil, and the distinction between principal and nonprincipal parts is of no use at all. For “world” means men, who savor of worldly things in all their parts. Martin Luther, “Bondage of the Will,” in Luther’s Works, 33:228.
11) “Simon Bar-Jona (says the Lord), you are blessed.” Good for you, O Simon, that you know that I am the Messiah and the Son of the living God; your father John did not teach you this–for this is what Jesus calls him, in the last chapter of John [21:17], “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” which Matthew 16 says in Hebrew “Simon Bar-Johanna,” or even shorter, “Bar-Jona,” which means “son of Jonas” or “son of Johanna.” No, you did not get this deep understanding from your father, nor did the other disciples, including you, get it from flesh and blood, or from their fathers or from several people; rather, my Father in heaven has revealed it to you. In these few words of Peter, which he confesses with all the other disciples (for they are all represented in Peter’s reply), is included the whole of the gospel, indeed, all of Holy Scripture. What else does Scripture from beginning to end intend to say, except that the Messiah, the Son of God, should come and through his sacrifice, “like that of a lamb without blemish” [I Pet. 1:19], bear and take away the sin of the world and thus deliver from eternal death to eternal salvation? Holy Scripture, Genesis 3 [:15], “Her seed shall bruise your head.” And Eve, Genesis 4 [:1], as she speaks of Cain, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” Martin Luther, “Against the Papacy,” in Luther’s Works, 41:314.
12) Therefore, even as God enables us to find our blessings in the sins of the world, so also are its persecutions intended to increase our blessings, so that they may not be fruitless or in vain. Thus the very things that work us harm are turned to our profit. Concerning the innocents murdered by Herod [Matt. 2:16-18], St. Augustine says that Herod could never have done as much good with his favor as he did with his hatred. St. Agatha went triumphantly to prison as if it were a banquet hall, pleading in this manner, “Unless you cause my body to be broken by your executioner, my soul will not be able to enter paradise bearing the Victor’s palm, even as a grain of wheat, unless it is stripped of its husk and harshly beaten on the threshing floor, is not gathered into the barn.” Martin Luther, “Fourteen Consolations,” in Luther’s Works, 42:159-160.
13) And for a sign of all this I have his dear baptism, his gospel, his Word and sacraments, to which I have been called and which I have confessed before the whole world. These seals and letters cannot fail me, any more than God himself can fail me. If some few sins should occur, such as living and doing wrongly, these nevertheless will not count, in order that Christ’s death and resurrection may be prized beyond my sin and the sin of the whole world. Speak out freely and say: No matter how much sin I have committed, even more than ten worlds can commit, I still know that Christ’s death and resurrection is far greater. Swiftly fling out that defiance and boast, not of yourself or your righteousness, but of the fact that Jesus Christ died and rose again for you. If you believe this, then be bold and assured that he will bring you with Christ, and as you have heard that Christ is risen, so you too will rise again. Martin Luther, “Sermons,” in Luther’s Works, 51:242.
14) For this reason we shall reckon our beloved sovereign among those who sleep in Jesus Christ, but especially because he did not depart from the confession of the death and resurrection of Christ, but suffered all manner of injury and affront for it. We therefore are not going to make him a living saint. If some sin crept in, let it go, we shall let him remain a human being, but will so cloak it over that the devil will not see such small sins and emphasize the great works which the angels in heaven will extol. For what can the devil bring up against his personal righteousness, since Christ is standing there alongside him and for him with His death and resurrection, which is more than the sin of the whole world? Martin Luther, “Sermons ,” in Luther’s Works, 51:239.
1 John 2:2:
1) The text, then, means to say this: The old priests washed their hands and feet externally in their lavers; but now there is to be a washing in which not hands and feet are to be washed but all sin and uncleanness is to be washed away, so that, even if someone should sin and still have many of Adam’s and Eve’s other evil inclinations in him, everything should still become clean. For it is a daily, public, free washing, that is, an eternal forgiveness of sins, which is at all times open to all sinners and unclean persons; and we say this in the Creed: “I believe in the forgiveness of sins,” and in 1 John 2:2: “Christ is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world, etc.” Martin Luther, “Minor Prophets,” in Luther’s Works, 20:332.
2) Thus truth is faith itself, which judges correctly about God, namely, that God does not look at our works and our righteousness, since we are unclean, but that He wants to be merciful to us, to look at us, to accept us, to justify us, and to save us if we believe in His Son, whom He has sent to be the expiation for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). This is the true idea about God, and it is really nothing other than faith itself. By my reason I cannot understand or declare for certain that I am accepted into grace for the sake of Christ, but I hear this announced through the Gospel and take hold of it by faith. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Galatians,” in Luther’s Works, 26:238-239.10
3) Then we shall be as we have been redeemed and purified. There must be a careful distinction between the two. Thus Peter says (1 Peter 2:24): “He Himself bore [our sins]–that we might live to righteousness.” Now that Christ has suffered in the flesh, it follows: “As He has done, so we ought to do.” Thus John says (1 John 2:9): “He who says he is in the light.” He is speaking of the imitation [of Christ]. But, on the other hand, he says (1 John 2:2): “not for our sins only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Here he is referring to the gift. Therefore you must carefully consider these two things. Heretofore we have taught in the schools that Christ is an example and a lawgiver. But about the other part, how He has been given for us, they taught nothing at all. And yet this is the most important part and the summary of what ought to be taught and known in Christ; if this is not taught, faith perishes, because righteousness is not based on the teaching of the first part. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Titus,” in Luther’s Works, 29:67-68.11
4) Besides, some of them are now beginning to preach shamelessly the blasphemous doctrine that Christ has made satisfaction only for original sin and sins prior to baptism; for sins that follow baptism we must ourselves make satisfaction. This is simply to make Turks and heathen out of Christians. It does not take into account that John in the first chapter of his First Epistle clearly says about all Christians and about himself: “But if we walk in the light, … the blood of Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin” [I John 1:7]. And in the second chapter of the First Epistle of John: “But if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” [I John 2:1–2]. The Epistle to the Hebrews gloriously portrays Christ’s eternal priesthood, namely, how he intercedes for us before God [Hebrews 4:14], and Paul says to the Romans in the eighth chapter: Christ “intercedes for us” before the Father [Romans 8:34]. But what could such leaders of the blind and traducers of baptism understand about these matters? Martin Luther, “The Private Mass and the Consecration of Priests,” in Luther’s Works, 38:183-184.
Hence it ought to be observed, that whenever the Church is afflicted, the example of the Prophet ought to move us to be touched (sumpatheia) with compassion, if we are not harder than iron; for we are altogether unworthy of being reckoned in the number of the children of God, and added to the holy Church, if we do not dedicate ourselves, and all that we have, to the Church, in such a manner that we are not separate from it in any respect. Thus, when in the present day the Church is afflicted by so many and so various calamities, and innumerable souls are perishing, which Christ redeemed with his own blood, we must be barbarous and savage if we are not touched with any grief. And especially the ministers of the word ought to be moved by this feeling of grief, because, being appointed to keep watch and to look at a distance, they ought also to groan when they perceive the tokens of approaching ruin. Calvin, Isaiah, 22:4.
1) Now, since the Son of God, although He was not only pure, but purity itself, still was the representative of the human race, He subjected himself to the Law; and (as Paul teaches) submitted Himself to the Law, “to redeem them that were under the Law.” ( Galatians 3:13, and 4:5.) Calvin, Leviticus, 12:2;
2) It is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree. Now, Christ hung upon the cross, therefore he fell under that curse. But it is certain that he did not suffer that punishment on his own account. It follows, therefore, either that he was crucified in vain, or that our curse was laid upon him, in order that we might be delivered from it. Now, he does not say that Christ was cursed, but, which is still more, that he was a curse,–intimating, that the curse “of all men was laid upon him” (Isaiah 53:6.) If any man think this language harsh, let him be ashamed of the cross of Christ, in the confession of which we glory. It was not unknown to God what death his own Son would die, when he pronounced the law, “He that is hanged is accursed of God.” (Deuteronomy 21:23.).
But how does it happen, it will he asked, that a beloved Son is cursed by his Father? We reply, there are two things which must be considered, not only in the person of Christ, but even in his human nature. The one is, that he was the unspotted Lamb of God, full of blessing and of grace; the other is, that he placed himself in our room, and thus became a sinner, and subject to the curse, not in himself indeed, but in us, yet in such a manner, that it became necessary for him to occupy our place. He could not cease to be the object of his Father’s love, and yet he endured his wrath. For how could he reconcile the Father to us, if he had incurred his hatred and displeasure? Calvin, Galatians 3:13.
3) Therefore let us not doubt but that mercy is ready for us, as oft as we seek it in his name, for if we should come with any opinion of our own deservings, what were that worth? But when we know how dearly the Son is beloved of the Father, and how precious his death was: that is the thing wherewith we have full certainty that God will always hear us, and that we shall find him merciful and favorable towards us, namely if we rest wholly upon that which is told us here: which is, that our Lord Jesus Christ forbear not even to become accursed for our sakes. Herewithal let us mark how Saint Paul saith, that by that means the promise of the spirit came unto the Gentiles, as it had been given unto Abraham. Now by naming Abraham here, he shows that the promise belonged first and foremost to those that came of his race. For the Jews had as it were a peculiar interest in the heritage of salvation, till such time as God opened the gate to the whole world, and published his Gospel to the end that all men should be made partakers of the redemption that was purchased by our Lord Jesus Christ. Now then, although the said promise belonged to the Jews, and was after a sort peculiar to them: yet was it after them made common to the whole world. Calvin. Sermons on Galatians, Sermon 19, 3:13-14, pp., 404-5/287-8.