The Paradoxical Martin Luther on 1 Timothy 2:4-6

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in 1 Timothy 2:4-6


1) Therefore the prophets and all the saints before Christ cry out so often and so anxiously: “Come, O Lord!” as people desirous of looking upon His glory and that light of the Seed of Abraham and David which all the godly in the New Testament enjoy by God’s great favor. Moreover, note should be taken of the explanation of the universal principle, “ALL NATIONS SHALL BE BLESSED,” which, of course, in Holy Scripture is a common way of saying that not a single one of the nations is blessed except through this Seed. The same thought occurs in John 1:9: “It enlightens every man,” and also in 1 Tim. 2:4: “God desires all men to be saved”not that all are enlightened, but that the universal blessing, scattered abroad among all nations, comes from this Seed. An exclusive rather than a universal principle is meant, as though one said: “Nowhere is there light, life, and salvation except in this Seed.” Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis,” in Luther’s Works, 4:177

2) There are many arguments against predestination, but they proceed from the “prudence of the flesh.” Therefore he who has not denied himself and learned to subject his questions to the will of God and hold them down will always keep asking why God wills this and does that, and he will never find the reason. And very properly. Because this foolish wisdom places itself above God and judges His will as something inferior, when actually it should be judged by Him. Therefore the apostle in a few words destroys all the arguments; first restraining our temerity so that we do not sit in judgment over the will of God by saying: “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God”? (Rom. 9:20). It is as if he were saying: “You are under the will of God; why do you presume, therefore, to argue with Him and try to catch Him”? Then he adds the express reason: “Has the potter no right over the clay”? (Rom. 9:21)…

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,” in Luther’s Works, 25:375.

3) 4. God wants all men to be saved. Elsewhere we read (John 13:18): “I know whom I have chosen.” If anyone wants to be agreeable, he has a hundred arguments which they may oppose. They want only that to be heard which they themselves say. To such people, then, say, “Farewell.” We must answer (1 Cor. 11:16): “If anyone is disposed to be contentious, we recognize no such practice.” On the other hand, those who really want to learn are quiet and at peace. If you say something twice to someone, he should look for another teacher, because our doctrine is the sort which brooks no contention. The Holy Spirit, then, must not fight against Himself. In this vein Augustine says: “No one saves except the one God. Nowhere is there salvation except in God.” John, the illuminator, that teacher, is reported as saying: “All in this city.” This is an exclusive proposition that is expressed in universal terms. Every man is an animal, therefore only man is. In the same way: He causes all men to be saved, therefore He is the only Savior. This is a strong idea and appears to have confirmation from the text:

5. One God. Here the exclusive proposition connects with the universal. That is: No man saves; or, God alone saves. The good and godly heart will not laugh. This is a very fine statement, for outside of God there is no salvation. God is our God. He is salvation. Whatever good happens to anyone comes from God; whatever evil, from Satan. All men (v. 4). That is, He is their Salvation. God saves them with His goodness. Then He also makes these things come true. There is the question whether this means eternal or temporal salvation. We can take Augustine’s statement either way, because no one saves except God alone.

I think he is speaking about general salvation. He saves from the perils of adultery, fornication, poverty, error. Whoever now has escaped some peril escapes as God saves him. Ps. 107 confirms this idea. There God lists all their perils and their many works. He lists prison, poverties, captivity, the perils of the sea; and everywhere He says: “You shall confess, etc.” He is speaking about the most general salvation. Paul says in ch. 4:10: “He is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.” That passage clearly distinguishes between “all men” and “those who believe.” The latter He saves eternally, but not the former. Accordingly, when we make a distinction of salvation between faithful and faithless people, we must draw from those passages this conclusion, that Paul here refers to general salvation. That is, God saves all the faithful, but He does not save the faithless in the same way. After all, He gives the victory even to wicked kings, but to David He gave a singular victory. To him, while he was still a mere lad but a pious one, He gave the throne of the kingdom. God preserves from plague both the ungodly and the godly. He gives both the light of the sun. Is this not a general statement? He tells us to pray for all men, because such a prayer for men is acceptable, even if they are wicked. The grace of God is one and the same, even for the faithless. We must therefore pray not only for the faithful but for all men. That prayer offered for them is both heard and pleasing, because He wants it so and desires to save all men. God wants to be asked that we may gain this request from Him, as Paul says Rom. 3:29: “Is He not the God of the Gentiles also”? He commands us to pray, and He accepts our prayer even for the wicked, because He is considering the following: that through our prayers He wants to save even the wicked, to give peace, wife, etc. Prayer for all men is acceptable, because He desires all men to be saved. Paul is not speaking about God’s incomprehensible will–a topic forever secret, as here regarding the will of His command. There is a will which is hidden and reserved for Himself. This He points out to us in word and deed. His other will He reveals with many signs. Therefore we take this passage to refer to the will of His command or work, not to His hidden will. The contentious man, however, does not agree. From the material we have just treated and from other passages which agree you see this, as below in chapter 4 and in the psalm. Why? Because He wants to save all men. God pours out His blessings so that doing this good thing–giving rain, for instance, to all men–pleases Him. It is therefore our duty to pray that the rain come. Satan, on the other hand, has his delight in the wicked, who desire to disturb this peace.

And come to the knowledge. This also refers to the will of the precept: “God wants all men to be saved.” He wants to illumine all men under the sun, because He Himself shows the light of the sun to the whole world. If they wish to ask us: “Why does He make some people blind”?, that is God’s hidden and incomprehensible will. However, I see the sun shining as a sign. In this way He wants “all men to be saved.” You see, He causes the sun of Christ to rise in the world. He has given us the command that we illumine all men: “Go and preach to every creature” (Matt. 28:19), that is, He exposes to absolutely all men the light or knowledge of the truth. This is nothing else than that He wants all men to know this. After all, the Gospel comes that men may know the Gospel. Many do not know it. This relates to His most secret will. But His will which He has given us to teach is incomprehensible. These questions are too deep for you to explore. Adam broke his neck over them. This is beyond us and means nothing to us. We must think about those matters which have been expounded and given to us, for instance, the fact that He has given light to all men, and what they do not perceive with their eyes has still been expounded.

Thus Paul’s statement is very simple. It is our job to pray that we may have a quiet life; that there be one salvation; that a prince have a safe rule and realm on earth; that a husband have a safe home and wife; the state, a safe magistracy; the housefather, a healthy crop. Next, we pray that all men may know the truth; that they may know the source from which they receive their blessings. You see, through our prayer and thanksgiving we indicate that these come from one Man. But these things do not bring one to a knowledge of the truth.

5. For there is one. Here we have the explanation: these things belong not only to Christians but to all men. Therefore we must pray to one God on behalf of all men. He must reveal Himself to the Gentiles that they may know how to have this Word of salvation and all good things. Mediator. What is the knowledge of the truth? It is to know the one God, from whom come those temporal blessings. He is clearly setting down a twofold salvation. There is a true God, who saves all men with a general salvation; and Christ the Mediator, who saves with an eternal salvation which also comes from God but through Jesus Christ. After all, Christ was not incarnate to have kingdoms, wives, and children. We have those gifts without the death of Christ. In those prior things God is our Savior without Christ. However, in our eternal salvation God is not our Savior without the Mediator. You see that Paul is speaking about salvation in general. This he then divides into temporal and eternal salvation. No matter what he assigns to God, this is salvation left to God through Christ. Some people select other gods, but we know the God of all men. He has not left Himself without witnesses that they might see the one God, but this is because they do not know Him.

Between God and men 6. who gave Himself as a ransom for all. It is not clear whether this “for all” means for all men or for all those who are redeemed. It sounds as if he were speaking only about the faithful, because he seems to be making a distinction between temporal and eternal salvation. That is, he seems to say that all who are redeemed are redeemed through Him and not another. Whoever wants to argue may go his own way. He appears to be making a distinction here between faithful and faithless men. Yet he speaks about the faithful in such a way that there is no man among them who makes satisfaction for himself but through Christ. This is a very beautiful passage about redemption, about which Paul is happy to write. He speaks of redemption, or of the price of redemption, which means the price by which captives are ransomed. As Christ pays His life and head for our life and head, He has become the Price by which satisfaction is made for divine justice and wrath on our behalf. Some people think that Christ’s death has been set as an example, a type, an ideal of Christians. This is preaching scarcely half of Christ. He truly is the Price of redemption, which God elsewhere calls the forgiveness of sins. The wrath of God is real, not imaginary. It is no joke. Were it false, mercy would be false. You see, as wrath is, so is the mercy which forgives. May God avert that joke from us. When genuine wrath is at its highest, so is genuine mercy. Thus most truly has Christ taken the wrath of God upon Himself and has carried it on our behalf. He takes this upon Himself not only as an example, but He is the very true Price which is paid for us. If He has placed Himself in His own Person to turn away wrath from us, He has established Himself as the Price for us. If He is the Price, He has given not gold or silver but Himself. But here come the new Enthusiasts and Zwingli, and they say: A man, not the Son of God, has suffered for us. They make the Savior nothing more than a man. They go so far as to say that as God He does not suffer and that therefore only His humanity has been given for us. As proof they use this text, “the man.” This passage we must observe as the rule and must explain other passages according to it, as, for instance, Phil. 2:7 and the passage (John 6:63) “The flesh is of no avail, etc.” The figure alloiosis is a matter of case for case, number for number. The city which I establish they have upset when the word for one nature is used for the other and also in the case of “Son” in Rom. 8:3, where the words “the Son of God” are taken for “man.” Rather, one ought to say: whenever the word for one nature appears, whatever is said about the one nature must be understood as referring to the entire Person. Here, for instance, “man” is the word for one nature; yet the whole Person is referred to. This must be kept in force, etc., whenever the word for the part is attributed to the whole. “The Ethiopian is white,” because he has white teeth. “He struck the son of the king,” but this fellow says: “No, because he was struck in the leg.? In all matters we must note the manner of speaking. Grammar ought to set the norm of speaking. The sophist says: “No. He struck the leg of the king’s son.” But this limb along with the son is one person. They cannot be torn apart in nature. It is the true Son of God and Son of Man who is crucified. It is said in truth: the Son of God is crucified, not as concerns the divine nature but according to the Person.

I had begun to treat the point concerning the communication of attributes, for that error creeps in with the others, and according to that device Christ, the Salvation of the whole world, will be lost. He will follow us who have been redeemed through His humanity alone. That error wants this word used as confirmation through alloiosis, that is, through an exchange. Consequently it has been taken up into an article of our faith and has been set forth in sacred literature that Christ is God in true substance and nature. If that article stands, it follows inevitably that whoever harms one limb of this Person harms the whole Person. He divides that Person, as it were, into two persons. He says that His humanity suffered, but not the divinity. This has outward appeal: “The divinity cannot be killed.” It does not follow, however, that therefore the Son of God was not crucified. Whoever bows down to worship Christ worships the Son of God, because he touches and worships that Person who is God. When I strike the king and touch his arm, I have not struck his skin. “You have struck the tunic with which he was clothed and covered. They did not crucify God but someone clothed as God.” Man. When we hear a term such as this, nature will be such that when people have the term on their side, they let it stand as it is; but if it is against them, they take pride in their full sacks. Then the term signifies a part of that Person, because it is the word for the human nature. But because that Man is in substance a divine Person, “man” here has to mean man in a sense other than elsewhere because of the union of persons.

Mediator. Unless you know this, you will lose Christ. Peter said: “I struck him.” The Enthusiasts say: “How could you? You know that a man is composed of body and soul. How can you touch the soul? Therefore you have injured only the flesh.” The flesh and soul are one person. These are statements from nature. When someone hits a dog in the leg with a stone, because of the injured limb we say that the whole dog is injured. This is synecdoche. In passing, I wanted to warn about this: in what sense Christ is Man in regard to His Person and yet is the Mediator, even if you were to separate Christ?s divinity from His humanity. Christ entered into glory. Here Christ is taken for His human nature according to alloiosis. But “Christ” signifies the entire Person, who is the Son of Man and Son of God. Yet this was before He was glorified. Yet it is truly said that the entire Christ is glorified, although in the other Person. “I live by faith” (Gal. 2:20) even in that Man, because He is one Person. I will attach myself to Christ as to the Person who in work and practice cannot be separated. They can separate Him in their speculations. If I prostrate myself before Christ, I do so before the Son of God as well as before the Son of Man in one Person. Without apology the expression issues from Christ and is directed to the blind man. John 9:36–37: “Who is the Son of God”? “And you have heard Him, etc.” There Christ says that the blind man is hearing and seeing the Son of God. I see the very Person, who is truly God. I look at a man; nevertheless, his intellect is his better part. Yet I hear him. I hear that person which is a real spirit, even if I may not see his reason and intellect. I see that part–the part of the flesh–joined with reason. We must listen to grammar, to the usus loquendi about matters, and to sophist keenness. This deceived Wycliffe, too. They look at the reason for speaking but not at the manner of divine operation. Therefore it deceives them. Christ is established as one Person consisting of God and Man. No suffering, no work can apply to Him without our saying that it touches His entire Person. Martin Luther, “Lectures on 1 Timothy,” in Luther’s Works, 28:261


Martin Luther on John 1:29

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in John 1:29


1) Behold, the Lamb of God.

This is an excellent and splendid testimony of John regarding the introduction of the new rule and kingdom of Christ. It is a powerful statement. The words are clear and lucid; they tell us what one should think of Christ. John’s earlier words (John 1:17), “The Law was given through Moses,” can hardly be called praise of Moses. But in this passage John virtually chides him, as if he were saying: “You Jews sacrifice a lamb every Passover, as Moses commanded you. In addition you butcher two lambs daily, which are sacrificed and burned each morning and evening. It is a lamb, to be sure. But you Jews make such a display of it, you praise these sacrifices and boast of them so much, that you eclipse the glory of God, push God into the background, and deprive Him of His honor. Compare the true Lamb with the lamb which the Law of Moses commands you to butcher and eat.” One is a lamb procured from shepherds. The other, however, is an entirely different Lamb; it is the Lamb of God. For It has been ordained to bear on Its back the sins of the world. Compared with this Lamb, all the lambs you butcher in the temple, roast, and eat count for nothing.

“The paschal lamb of the Law was, indeed, splendid child’s play, as well as a ceremony instituted to remind you of the true Lamb of God. But you exaggerate its significance and assume that such butchering and sacrificing were done to remove your sins. Don’t give way to that illusion! Your lambs will never accomplish that. Only the Son of God will. Those lambs in the Law were merely to be the people’s toys, to remind them of the true Paschal Lamb, which was to be sacrificed at some future time.” But they had nothing but contempt for all this and supposed that a lamb slaughtered at Passover sufficed. Therefore John, as it were, juxtaposes Moses’ lamb and Christ, the true Lamb. The Law was not to extend beyond Christ. John wishes to say: “Your lamb was taken from men, as Moses commanded in the Law of God (Ex. 12:3–5). But this is God’s Lamb. The Easter lamb is a Lamb from God, not a lamb selected from the wethers. The lamb of the Law was a shepherds lamb or a man’s lamb.” John wants to say: “This is the true Lamb, which takes away the sin of the people. With your other lambs, sacrificed on the Passover festival, you did try to remove your sin; but you never succeeded. In this Lamb, born of a virgin, you will. It is not a natural lamb or wether referred to in the Law, and yet It is a lamb.” For God prescribed that it was to be a Lamb that should be sacrificed and roasted on the cross for our sins. In other respects He was a man like all other human beings; but God made Him a Lamb which should bear the sins of all the world.

This is an extraordinarily free and comforting sermon on Christ, our Savior. Neither our thoughts nor our words can do the subject full justice, but in the life beyond it will redound to our eternal joy and bliss that the Son of God abased Himself so and burdened Himself with my sins. Yes, He assumes not only my sins but also those of the whole world, from Adam down to the very last mortal. These sins He takes upon Himself; for these He is willing to suffer and die that our sins may be expunged and we may attain eternal life and blessedness. But who can ever give adequate thought or expression to this theme? The entire world with all its holiness, rectitude, power, and glory is under the dominion of sin and completely discredited before God. Anyone who wishes to be saved must know that all his sins have been placed on the back of this Lamb! Therefore John points this Lamb out to his disciples, saying: “Do you want to know where the sins of the world are placed for forgiveness? Then don’t resort to the Law of Moses or betake yourselves to the devil; there, to be sure, you will find sins, but sins to terrify you and damn you. But if you really want to find a place where the sins of the world are exterminated and deleted, then cast your gaze upon the cross. The Lord placed all our sins on the back of this Lamb. As the prophet Isaiah declares (53:6): “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way,” the one hither, the other yon. One sought God in this manner, another in a different way; there were countless modes of looking for God.”

And as it happens when one loses the right way, and, for instance, turns in the wrong direction at a crossroad, one false decision leads to a hundred others. Thus the one chose the rule of St. Francis for help, the other the order of St. Benedict. And pope and Turk, each according to his own judgment, fabricated his own means of penance for sin. But it is written: “They have all gone astray.” But now, which is the right way, the way that guards against going astray? The farther one strays from the right road, the more confused one grows. Isaiah says that the right way is this: “God placed all our sins upon Him and smote Him for the sins of the people; when we all went astray, God put all our sins on the back of His Lamb, and upon no other. He ordained the Lamb to bear the sins of the entire world.”

Therefore a Christian must cling simply to this verse and let no one rob him of it. For there is no other comfort either in heaven or on earth to fortify us against all attacks and temptations, especially in the agony of death. And whoever believes that this Lamb bears the sins of all the world must regard pope and Turk as the Antichrist. For the pope has taught that the Christian must be concerned with bearing his own sin, atoning for it with alms and the like. This is his shameless lie even to the present day. But if what he teaches is true, then I, not Christ, am yoked and burdened with my sin. And then I would necessarily be lost and damned. But Christ does bear the sin–not only mine and yours or that of any other individual, or only of one kingdom or country, but the sin of the entire world. And you, too, are a part of the world.

John’s memory has been cherished, to be sure. In the papacy many murals depict St. John. Pictures of him and of the Lamb were carved in wood and stone or fashioned in gold and silver. Once annually his day was celebrated. His fingers were painted pointing to the Lamb. But all of this was external and never took possession of the heart. No one understood the true significance of the painting and the figure. The papists are still blind, foolish, and absurd. They have paintings and carvings and sculptures of St. John, and they prize portrait and statue; but their doctrine and their life run counter to all this. For they call upon St. Francis or Benedict, St. Catherine or Barbara, and other saints for aid. Is this not blindness? Were we not foolish and mad? Not only did we have the doctrine informing us that this is the Lamb which bears the sin of the world, but we also viewed the picture of St. John pointing his finger at Christ and carrying Christ on his left arm. We celebrated great festivals commemorating all this. And yet our vision was faulty; we did not understand its meaning, nor did we know why John was showing us the Lamb.

This is the basis of all Christian doctrine. Whoever believes it, is a Christian; whoever does not, is no Christian, and will get what he has coming to him. The statement is clear enough: “This is the Lamb of God, who bears the sin of the world.” Moreover, this text is the Word of God, not our word. Nor is it our invention that the Lamb was sacrificed by God and that, in obedience to the Father, this Lamb took upon Himself the sin of the whole world. But the world refuses to believe this; it does not want to concede the honor to this dear Lamb that our salvation depends entirely on His bearing our sin. The world insists on playing a role in this too. But the more it aspires to do in atonement for sin, the worse it fares. For there is no atoner but this Lamb; God recognizes no other. Would it not be reasonable and right to take these words into our hearts that we might become aware of our sin?

Now note here that the Law of Moses, indeed, apprises you of your sin and tells you how you should obey God and man. It also informs me that I am hostile to God, that I blaspheme Him, and that I do not regulate my life properly according to the precepts of the Ten Commandments. In brief, the Law shows me what I am; it reveals sin and burdens me with it. This is its proper function. Then I become frightened and would like to be rid of it. But the Law says: “I cannot aid you in this.” Then we run to the saints, and we invoke the assistance of the Virgin Mary, saying: “Intercede for me before your Son; show Him your breasts!” Another calls on St. Christopher, although he never existed on this earth. Another hies himself to St. Barbara for her intercession. Others enter monastic orders, thereby aspiring to becoming holy themselves and their own saviors. Indeed, each one of us beholds his sins and promises to mend his sinful life from day to day, saying: “O Christ, grant me a respite and stay the time of my death, and I shall become pious and atone for my sin!” But is this not a hideous and terrible blindness? Sin is at your throat; it drives you and lies heavy on you. Reason knows of no other counsel and advice. As soon as reason sees that it has sinned, it declares: “I will reform and become pious!” But now St. John intervenes and declares that the entire world is polluted with sin. He shows us through the Law that we are saddled with this sin, and that we must not let it rest where the Law has deposited it, namely, in our bosom. For if sin remains there, you are damned and doomed. At the same time you are too feeble to remove it; you cannot overcome sin.

In view of this, St. John, by his testimony or sermon, shows us Another upon whom God the Father has laid our sins, namely, Christ the Lord. The Law lays them upon me, but God takes them from me and lays them upon this Lamb. There they fit very well, far better than on me. God wishes to say to us: “I see how the sin oppresses you. You would have to collapse under its heavy burden. But I shall relieve and rid you of the load–when the Law convicts you of, and condemns you for, your sin–and from sheer mercy I shall place the weight of your sin on this Lamb, which will bear them.”

May you ever cherish and treasure this thought. Christ is made a servant of sin, yea, a bearer of sin, and the lowliest and most despised person. He destroys all sin by Himself and says: “I came not to be served but to serve” (Matt. 20:28). There is no greater bondage than that of sin; and there is no greater service than that displayed by the Son of God, who becomes the servant of all, no matter how poor, wretched, or despised they may be, and bears their sins. It would be spectacular and amazing, prompting all the world to open ears and eyes, mouth and nose in uncomprehending wonderment, if some king’s son were to appear in a beggar’s home to nurse him in his illness, wash off his filth, and do everything else the beggar would have to do. Would this not be profound humility? Any spectator or any beneficiary of this honor would feel impelled to admit that he had seen or experienced something unusual and extraordinary, something magnificent. But what is a king or an emperor compared with the Son of God? Furthermore, what is a beggar’s filth or stench compared with the filth of sin which is ours by nature, stinking a hundred thousand times worse and looking infinitely more repulsive to God than any foul matter found in a hospital? And yet the love of the Son of God for us is of such magnitude that the greater the filth and stench of our sins, the more He befriends us, the more He cleanses us, relieving us of all our misery and of the burden of all our sins and placing them upon His own back. All the holiness of the monks stinks in comparison with this service of Christ, the fact that the beloved Lamb, the great Man, yes, the Son of the Exalted Majesty, descends from heaven to serve me.

Such benefactions of God might well provoke us to love and to laud God and to celebrate this service in song and sermon and speech. It should also induce us to die willingly and to remain cheerful in all suffering. For how amazing it is that the Son of God becomes my servant, that He humbles Himself so, that He cumbers Himself with my misery and sin, yes, with the sin and the death of the entire world! He says to me: “You are no longer a sinner, but I am. I am your substitute. You have not sinned, but I have. The entire world is in sin. However, you are not in sin; but I am. All your sins are to rest on Me and not on you.” No one can comprehend this. In yonder life our eyes will feast forever on this love of God. And who would not gladly die for Christ’s sake? The Son of Man performs the basest and filthiest work. He does not don some beggars torn garment or old trousers, nor does He wash us as a mother washes a child; but He bears our sin, death, and hell, our misery of body and soul. Whenever the devil declares: “You are a sinner!” Christ interposes: “I will reverse the order; I will be a sinner, and you are to go scotfree.” Who can thank our God enough for this mercy?

Whoever can confidently believe that the sins of the world, also his own, were laid on Christ’s shoulders will not easily be deceived and deluded by the schismatic spirits, who are in the habit of quoting us verses that deal with good works and alms and give the impression that good work wipe out sins and acquire salvation. A Christian can refute any passages which the factious spirits may adduce about good works. This cardinal text still remains intact. It reads that I cannot bear my sin or render satisfaction for it, but that God has chosen a sacrifice which was slaughtered, roasted on the cross, and eaten. Upon this Lamb all sins were laid. A Christian will not permit himself to be cut adrift from this, nor will he be led away from a proper understanding of the Gospel. Let them teach or preach what they choose in the world. He will adhere to the plain and true faith and clear words, namely: “If I had been able to earn anything for myself, then it would not have been necessary for God’s Son to die for me.” John declares that it is solely the Lamb that bears the sin of the whole world; otherwise it would surely not be done at all. I, too, will find refuge in Him. You may do whatever you please!

The Law, to be sure, can command to do this and that; it can also prescribe rules of conduct for life. It says: “Do not covet your neighbors wife, his goods, his honor; do not kill; do not commit adultery, etc.; give alms.” And it is laudable and good to comply with these Commandments. By doing so we abstain from outward sin in the world. But it is futile to try to expunge sin before God through the Law. The one thing that is effective in this respect is spoken of here: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” And in Is. 53:6 we read: “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” And again (Is. 53:8): “The Lord will strike Him for the transgression of my people.” Everything centers in Christ. Therefore a Christian must adhere to this verse with simplicity of heart and not let anyone rob him of it. Then he will be aware of the blindness of all heathen, of the papists, and of the godless, who themselves want to render satisfaction with pilgrimages and with good works. They make much of these and console themselves with purgatory. But they are blind. For Holy Scripture declares that the sin of the world does not lie on the world, or St. John’s sin on St. John, or St. Peter’s on Peter; for they are unable to bear it. The sin of the world lies on Christ, the Lamb of God. He steps forth and becomes a vile sinner, yea, sin itself (2 Cor. 5:21), just as if He Himself had committed all the sin of the world from its beginning to its end. This is to be the Lamb’s office, mission, and function.

And now if Holy Scripture contains verses which seem to intimate that one should atone for sin through good works, you should apply these to the inferior realm of domestic affairs or of temporal government; enjoin them upon fathers and mothers, and do not use them in an attempt to prove that good works could present satisfaction for your sins before God. Good works leave sins unborne and unpaid; the Lamb bears them all. Therefore ask yourself if it was not just of God to be angry with us and to punish us because we had strayed into the ranks of the pope’s and the Turk’s schismatic spirits. For the Lamb Itself preaches to us: “Behold, how I bear your sins!” However, no one will accept it. If we believed and accepted it, no one would be damned. What more is the Lamb to do? He says: “You are all condemned, but I will take your sins upon Myself. I have become the whole world. I have incorporated all people since Adam into My person.” Thus He wants to give us righteousness in exchange for the sins we have received from Adam. And I should reply: “I will believe that my dear, dear Lord, the Lamb of God, has taken all sins upon Himself.” Still the world will not believe and accept this. If it did, no one would be lost.

We learn that we have all been hurled into sin by the devil and that the Lamb alone extricates us. Refusal to believe this is not Christ’s fault; it is mine. If I do not believe this, I am doomed. It is for me to say simply that the Lamb of God has borne the sin of the world. I have been earnestly commanded to believe and to confess this, and then also to die in this faith.

You may say: “Who knows whether Christ also bore my sin? I have no doubt that He bore the sin of St. Peter, St. Paul, and other saints; these were pious people. Oh, that I were like St. Peter or St. Paul!” Don’t you hear what St. John says in our text: “This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”? And you cannot deny that you are also part of this world, for you were born of man and woman. You are not a cow or a pig. It follows that your sins must be included, as well as the sins of St. Peter or St. Paul. And just as you are unable to expiate your sins, so they have been unable to expiate theirs. There are no exceptions here. Therefore do not yield to your own thoughts, but cling to the words which guarantee you and all believers forgiveness of sin through the Lamb. Don’t you hear? There is nothing missing from the Lamb. He bears all the sins of the world from its inception; this implies that He also bears yours, and offers you grace.

If someone does not partake of and enjoy such grace and mercy, he has none to blame but himself and his refusal to believe and accept it. He says to himself: “This does not pertain to you, but only to St. Peter and St. Paul. I must become a monk, invoke the saints, and go on pilgrimages.” Go to the devil if you refuse to believe these words! For if you are in the world and your sins form a part of the sins of the world, then the text applies to you. All that the words “sin,” “world,” and “the sin of the world from its beginning until its end” denote–all this rests solely on the Lamb of God. And since you are an integral part of this world and remain in this world, the benefits mentioned in the text will, of course, also accrue to you.

It is extremely important that we know where our sins have been disposed of. The Law deposits them on our conscience and shoves them into our bosom. But God takes them from us and places them on the shoulders of the Lamb. If sin rested on me and on the world, we would be lost; for it is too strong and burdensome. God says: “I know that your sin is unbearable for you; therefore behold, I will lay it upon My Lamb and relieve you of it. Believe this! If you do, you are delivered of sin.” There are only two abodes for sin: it either resides with you, weighing you down; or it lies on Christ, the Lamb of God. If it is loaded on your back, you are lost; but if it rests on Christ, you are free and saved. Now make your choice! According to the Law, to be sure, sin should remain on you; but by grace sin was cast on Christ, the Lamb. Lacking this grace, we should be doomed in an accounting with God.

These are clear, plain, and powerful words, strengthened by that splendid and beautiful portrait of St. John pointing to the Lamb with his finger. I was always fond of such pictures; for instance, the one on which the Paschal Lamb is depicted carrying a little banner, or the picture of the crucifixion. But in the papacy we never understood their true significance. This is the message they really wanted to convey: “Behold, man! According to Law and justice, your sins should rest on you. But the Lamb which I exhibit here bears your sins by grace. This sin has been placed on the Lamb. Now you are holy, righteous, and free of sin; you have been saved for the sake of the Lamb. Therefore you have to know that you are not bearing your own sin. For then you would be lost; the Law would condemn and execute you. But behold, God has delivered you from your sins and has placed them on the Lamb. And thus you are saved, not for your own sake but for His.” Martin Luther, “Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4,” in Luther’s Works, John 1:29, 22:161-170.

2) 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.


Martin Luther (1483–1546) on John 3:14-18

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in John 3:16

[Note: Bbecause of the length of this, this excerpt is not for the light-hearted]


14. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up.

Let us note and remember this text well; for the Lord Christ was truly the best of preachers, excelling even the other apostles. Therefore it behooves us to listen attentively to His words. These words are familiar. They are often treated in sermons. One finds them painted on many walls, and they have also been stamped on coins.46 Would to God that these words were also stamped and inscribed on our hearts! They deserve to be sealed in our hearts. Thus the bride exclaims in the Song of Solomon: “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm” (8:6).

These sublime words of our text are the greatest article of our Christian doctrine. All the world hears these words, but only a few accept them and engrave them on their hearts. The world grows hostile to this article and finds it intolerable. Of course, the Turk also thinks highly of Christ and concedes that He was a great prophet, that He was born of the Virgin Mary, and that His mother was not conceived in original sin.47 However, he does not confess that Christ is his God and Lord but places his Mohammed above Christ or at least alongside Him. And the Turk is, at the same time, reputed to be very pious. He leads an abstemious life, and he devises his own way to heaven.

You also know that the pope thinks nothing of this text. In fact, this article of faith is practically forgotten in the papacy. To be sure, the pope retains the bare words of this text in the Gospel, but he denies their power altogether. Only Baptism is preserved in its purity in the papacy.48 But basically the pope’s regard for Christ is little better than that of the Turk. The pope and the cardinals write that Christ rendered satisfaction only for original sin and that we ourselves must atone for the actual and daily sins.49 All this is an attempt to rob us of Christ, who became our Bridegroom through faith. The devil attacks this article in thousands of ways in order to destroy it. But he will still have to let bride and Groom remain together; and this happens by faith alone. Faith is the engagement ring which betroths us to Christ. By faith we take hold of Christ, saying to Him: “You alone ascended above.” As He said earlier: “No one has ascended into heaven but He who descended from heaven.”

This article of faith, that Christ is our Lord, is what makes us Christians. It is the jewel, the gem, and the golden chain around the neck of the bride, who believes that Christ is true God from eternity, that He descended from heaven and became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and that He, and no other, ascended again into heaven. Thus He was declared the Son of God (Rom. 1:4), and He sits at the right hand of His heavenly Father. This is most certainly true, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. For if Christ were not seated at the right hand of His Father, this article of faith would never have come down to us; nor would it have been possible for this article to maintain itself against the constant opposition of so many kings and tyrants in the world.

Christ now construes His “ascending” to mean that we shall also ascend in Him, since Jesus Christ is the only one to ascend into heaven after first descending from there. Otherwise some might ask: “Well then, what about us?” Christ answers: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so, etc.” Therefore we shall also ascend in Him. You can throw this into the teeth of all Jews, Turks, and papists, who propose to be their own way to heaven with their orders, rules, and good works—they have invented so many roads to heaven—and say to them: “No one ascends into heaven but He who descended from heaven.” He, the Lord Christ, took with Him into heaven the body and the bride He had acquired and adorned on earth. No one has ever ascended into heaven apart from Him.

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Martin Luther on 2 Peter 2:1

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in 2 Peter 2:1 (and Jude 4)


2:1: Even denying the Master who bought them.

“Oh,” they say, “we by no means deny the Lord!” Then if one says: “If you are redeemed through Christ, and if His blood wipes out your sin, then what do you propose to wipe out with your way of life?” they reply: “Ah, faith alone does not do this; the works must contribute to it!” In this way, to be sure, they confess the Lord Christ with their lips, but with their hearts they deny Him completely.

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, ed., by Jaroslav Pelikan, 30:171-172.


Martin Bucer (1491-1551) on Predestination

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in God who Ordains


THE GREEK WORD proorismos means literally ‘predetermination’,1 though the common rendering is ‘predestination’. St. Paul, in fact, uses the verb proorizein to signify two things: fist, the election of the saints and their separation from the remaining polluted mass2 of lost mankind (what Scripture denotes by the word hibdîl, which is used by the Lord when he speaks of the election of his own people out of the rest of the nations),3 and secondly, the election of the saints before they are even born.4 Now the apostle’s objective in this passage (in Romans 8) is to teach us that God destined us for salvation before we were born, let alone before we had performed any good works.

From this fact he proceeds to demonstrate that this purpose of God for our salvation is fixed and unshakeable and cannot be frustrated by any of his creatures, because God adopted it on his own initiative and out of his own kindness, which cannot change, and not out of any regard for our merit, which always fluctuates so wretchedly.

Hence foreknowledge, predetermination and election5 are at this point one and the same thing, so to speak; for God chose us in Christ before the foundations of the world were laid, having predetermined (proorisas) us to adoption as sons.6

Predetermination (proorismos), then, which we commonly call ‘predestination’, is that act of designation on the part of God whereby in his secret counsel he designates and actually selects and separates from the rest of mankind those whom he will draw to his Son, Jesus our Lord, and engraft them into him (having brought them into this life at his own good time [410], and whom, when thus drawn and ingrafted, he will regenerate through Christ and will sanctify to fulfill his purposes. This, then, as I have said, is the predestination of the saints.

There is in addition a general predestination. Proorismos means simply ‘predetermination’, and God accomplishes all things by his predeterminate counsel,7 assigning each and every thing to its own use, and so separating it from other things as far as this its use is concerned. If you require a definition of this general predetermination it is the assigning of each thing to its own purpose, whereby before creating them God destines all things severally from eternity to some fixed use. In this sense there is even a predestination of the wicked, for just as God forms them also out of nothing, so he forms them for a definite end. God does everything in wisdom, not excepting the predetermined and good use of the wicked,8 for even the godless are the skeuē the tools and instruments, of God, and ‘God has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked man for the day of evil’.9 The theologians, however, refuse to call this ‘predestination’, preferring ‘reprobation’ instead.10 Nonetheless, God does all things well and wisely, and so does nothing except by chosen design. He gave Pharaoh up to a depraved mind and raised him up for the purpose of showing his power in punishing him; Esau too he hated before he had done any evil.11 Scripture speaks in terms as plain as these. Indeed, who will deny that when God formed these and all the wicked he foreknew before he made them the purposes for which he wished to use them, and that he ordained and destined them for those ends? So what prevents us calling it ‘predestination’ in their case too? At any rate, none of the wicked does God fail to put to a good use, and in every act of sin on our part there is some good work of God. But both in the present passage and in Ephesians 1 the apostle used the word proorizein when dealing with the certainty of God’s goodwill towards his saints, and hence the divine predestination of which he is speaking here is the marking out of the saints for participation in salvation. Ths, however, is not the reason why many assert predestination only of the saints, and reprobation of the wicked, but because it seems to them unworthy of God to say that he has predetermined anyone to perdition. Nevertheless, Scripture does not shrink from stating that God abandons certain men to a depraved mind and works in them to their ruin;12 why, then, is it unworthy of God to say that he had also decided in advance to abandon them to a depraved mind and work in them to their ruin? But it is intolerable to human reason that some men should by God be hardened, blinded and given up to a reprobate mind, and this is why it is thought impious to ascribe to God the predetermining and destining of anyone to these fates. For the intellect recognizes that among men a person who blinded his servant and then, when he required of him some service which he could not fulfill except by sight, punished him for not carrying out his orders, would be condemned as utterly unjust and cruel. By the same touchstone man proceeds to pass judgment on God too, and decrees that it is unjust of him to require of those whom he himself hardens, blinds and abandons to a spirit of depravity, the kind of lie that no man can live unless for this very purpose God himself has regenerated and enlightened him and given him a new and upright spirit, and that it is cruel of him to punish such men for committing the sort of offences that are produced by their hardness, blindness and depravity of mind. The unsettlement occasioned by this verdict of our reason has led some so far astray as to claim, contrary to countless explicit utterances of holy Scripture, that God will in the end enlighten and save all the wicked.13 Others, however, who have maintained a straightforward and universal belief in holy Scripture have begun to interpret ‘hardened, blinded, handed over to depravity’ in terms of ‘withdrew his Spirit from, allowed to be hardened and blinded‘. But neither course can satisfy the human intellect, for it is unable to acknowledge the justice with which God even temporarily blinds, hardens and gives up to a depraved disposition men from whom he demands a life in all parts righteous and holy. It also cannot fail to judge it inhuman that God even allows men to fall when he alone can save them from falling, and cruel, that he punishes the fallen when, bereft of his aid, they could not help falling.

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