Thursday, May 28, 2020

Luther's Notes on the Gospel: Pentecost Vigil

John 14:15-21 
15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
19 “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. 20 At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. 21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”

Luther's Explanatory Notes

 15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments." 
"I impose nothing else upon you," says He, "than that you preach faithfully of me, and have charge of my word and sacraments, and for my sake have love and unity among yourselves, and endure with patience whatever may befall you on this account. I will not be a Moses, who urges you with threats and plagues; but I give you such commands, which you can without constraint do and keep, provided you love me."
16 "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever"
And I will pray the Father"If you keep my commandments, you must also take this into consideration, that the devil will trouble you, and the world will hate you. But I will not sit idle in heaven above; but will be your dear High Priest and Mediator." 

But how will these words, "I will pray the Father," agree with what was said above, [v. 13] : "Whatever you shall ask in My name, that will I do?" Answer: Christ speaks the word both of God and men. If He spoke everywhere as God, we could not prove that He was in truth a real man.

and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever. The world lives on securely without fear and alarm, but this poor little flock needs a comforter. "Hitherto," Christ will say, "you had, indeed, joy and comfort in me; but this was only a temporary and bodily comfort, which at any rate must cease. You shall have another Comforter, who shall always abide with you and will console you much more than I have done by my bodily presence."

So He begins to preach of the Holy Spirit. But He describes the Holy Spirit here and everywhere thus, that He does not merely name Him according to his essence, how He is and is called the Holy Spirit. For by this He can not be comprehended by us, because He is not seen or felt; but He gives Him a name according to His office and work, which makes Him comprehensible and real, which is the office of the word, and constitutes Him a preacher, and He calls him a " Comforter" and " Spirit of Truth," who is with them through the office of the word or the ministry, and lets Himself be heard and seen.

The word "Comforter" (from the Greek, Parakletes, which is nearly the same as Advocatus or Patronus) means an Advocate, Interceder, or Assistant before the court, who comforts, strengthens, or helps the guilty or accused one. This also the Holy Spirit does for us in our conscience before God's tribunal against sin, the world and the accusations of the devil.
17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 
Again Christ calls him also "the Spirit of Truth"; that is, a true, certain spirit, who does not deceive, nor let those be wanting in comfort who believe the Gospel, so that they know that such consolation which they hear through the word is honest and true, does not lie or deceive, and gives courage and joy to those who firmly trust in it; for it is not founded on any thing uncertain and changeable, but upon the word of Christ and God's eternal truth.

Christ also gives this name in antagonism to the devil, who is also a spirit, but not a spirit of truth, but a lying spirit, who deceives and destroys both with false terrors and comforts, yet under the semblance of truth.

But this comfort and truth of the Holy Spirit is very secret and deeply hidden in faith, so that the Christians themselves do not always find it, but in their weakness must often feel the contrary; because the devil hinders and restrains them everywhere, both inwardly through themselves and their own timidity of the flesh, and outwardly through the malice of the world, so that they often can have no good, consolable thoughts of God. Therefore let a Christian be wise here, and not judge or decide according to his own thoughts and feelings; but know that even against such temptation, he must hold on to the word, and consolatory teaching which the Holy Spirit proclaims to all sorrowful hearts and consciences. Isaiah 61:2.

 whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. Jesus speaks this to his disciples for their consolation . For when they look about in the wide world, and see so very many who despise and persecute our doctrine, and that these are not the simple, common people, but mostly the very intelligent, learned, powerful, and also those who pretend to be the most pious and holy; then a heart weak in faith becomes discouraged and begins to think: "Could such great people be altogether in error, and all that they do and say, suppose and decide be false and condemned?" Against this Christ speaks in very plain words, that it must not be expected, that the great mass, represented by the greatest, noblest, best, and the real kernel of the world, should hold to the truth.

But Oh, what a terrible word is this, not to be able to receive the Holy Spirit! For from this must follow, that the world has no part in the kingdom of heaven, must be forever separated from God, and remain in the power of the devil and the bonds of hell.

 but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. How do they know that they have the Holy Spirit and that he remains with them? Only from this, that they abide with Christ, through faith, and love and esteem His word. Therefore, whatever they do, suffer and live, is all the doing and work of the Holy Spirit and means to have lived, worked and suffered right and well.

18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. 19 “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.
I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. By the word "orphans," He points out how the church is constituted according to her own feelings and in the eyes of all the world; she is a rent, dispersed lot of poor miserable orphans, without a head, protector or assistant on earth. And such despair increases especially when one feels the devil's power. "But I will not leave you, as it looks and feels," says Christ, "but I will give you a Comforter, who shall inspire you with such courage, which shall assure you that you are my true Christians and the true church. To that end I will surely be with you, and abide with you with My protection and mastership, though I now part from you as regards My bodily and visible presence."

A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. The dear Lord Christ continues with friendly, consoling words to prepare them to take comfort, in their distress, sorrow and suffering. Therefore he now says to them: "Soon it will take place, there is only one night yet, and the world shall see Me no more." As if he would say: "It is such an evil, pernicious thing in the world, that whoever seeks his comfort and salvation from the people is already lost. For I myself have experienced this. Therefore I will also disappear from their eyes, that they shall not see me, and yet I will order it so, that the world must endure Me on earth and permit Me to rule. For soon after my death I shall rise from the dead, that you may always see Me both bodily and spiritually in My government, and experience My power in you and all the world."
20 At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. 21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” 
At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in youHe will say, "I live in the Father, and in such a life, that in my own person I have destroyed death, so that you must say that I am the Son of God, who performs such works as belong only to God. Afterwards ye will also say, that 'I am in you.' For as the Father has raised Me up and I have devoured death; so also will I devour death in you, that through faith in Me you shall be lords over death."

He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. He has comforted them with this high consolation, and then He says, "I will also be praised in you. Therefore I will give you a certain sign as to who are the true Christians who are in Me and I in them; namely, this, that they keep My commandments. For you already possess that which I shall accomplish in you. But whether you yourselves certainly believe and firmly abide by it, shall be seen when you also live on earth in such a way that you will preach and confess it freely and courageously, and for its sake risk goods, honor, body and life, and also love each other as heartily as I have taught and commanded you; thereby one must feel and judge where there is the true faith in Me. Therefore this is the characteristic of the true Christian, that he loves Me from the heart; otherwise he will certainly not do it."

He who loves me [and proves him self to be a true Christian] shall be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Why does He now say, that He will love them and manifest Himself to them? Has he not already done both [v. 20] ? Answer: This happens in this way: When a Christian has begun, and now is a Christian, believes and lives in Him; then the devil attacks him, falls upon him like a cloud-burst, inwardly with anxiety and fear, outwardly by all kinds of danger and misfortune. Therefore God performs two kinds of work in the Christian; these are called consolation and help.





Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 348-351

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Luther's Notes on the Gospel: Exaudi (Easter 7) (Sunday after the Ascension)

John 15:26-16:4
26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.
16:1 “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. 3 And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. 4 But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.
“And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you."


Luther's Notes


26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. 

But when the Helper comes. He means to say: Besides this, that with which I comfort you now by my example, how it shall go with me and also by what you hear of that which you shall find in the world, (vs. 18-25,) to this I will give you an addition and a present. For an other shall come, when I am gone, and (as they shall think,) dead for ever, whose mouth they shall not be able to stop, but who will publicly testify of me, before all the world, regardless whether it will deride or rage. The same is sent and given by the Father and me, to the end that ye may know and the world must experience, that it proceeds from my power and might, and that what the Holy Ghost preaches through you is my Father's mind, command and will. He is a "Comforter," and when there is no more consolation in the world and ye are very much terrified and weak, he shall speak to your hearts, that you shall not despair.

This Comforter is also called a "Spirit of Truth." For his comfort is not like that of the world, which is temporal, but his comfort endures forever, and can deceive no one. The world has its comfort too, but it is a lying comfort.

But whence does the Holy Ghost take this consolation? "From the Father," says Christ here; for he says, "Whom I will send unto you from the Father." For he, the Father, is the originating 1  person; I am the Son; and the Holy Ghost proceeds from us and the three persons are one thing and essence, alike mighty and powerful, as he expresses it yet clearer and says: "The Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father." That is to say, He shall comfort you, he is almighty and the Lord of all things. For if the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father, then it must follow that such Spirit is eternal; since nothing can proceed from the Father which is not like and according to his essence and nature.

But wherewith does the Holy Ghost comfort? Christ says, "He shall testify of me." For if the consciences shall be comforted, it must be done by the preaching of the death and resurrection of Christ, so that we can say: Though all should be lost, wife and child, house and land, goods and honor; yea, if it should be necessary that body and life should be given up, yet he lives above, who is called Jesus Christ, who for my sake became man, died, rose again and ascended to heaven for me.

But why does the Lord here use the word "testify?" For this reason, that we should attend the more to the word. For it is true, that the work of the Holy Ghost is inwardly in the heart. But such work he will carry on not otherwise than by the spoken word. Rom. 10:14.

 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.
And you also will bear witness, etc. He shall first testify inwardly in your hearts, afterwards also outwardly by miracles and your confession and preaching, that you "who have been with me from the beginning," can say what you have heard and seen. But the Holy Ghost must be here first, otherwise you can do nothing.

Now when he says, you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning, he points out especially the apostles be fore all preachers, and confirms the preaching, so that all the world shall be bound to the word. 1 John 1:1-3.

1 “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble.

 that you should not be made to stumble. For when ye shall see and experience, that all the world hates and perse cutes you, and especially those who are called the people of God and the true church, then you will be tried, either by doubts whether you have the true faith, or to become impa tient and unbelieving.

 2 They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. 

They will put you out of the synagogues. Here you learn that the gospel is such a teaching, which according to reason and human judgment is absolutely an irksome doctrine, which should be regarded not only as a great error, but as such a thing that should in no way be heard or tolerated, as the pernicious poison of the detestable devil. But he mentions two things with which the enemies of the Christians adorn their persecutions and life.

The first is, when he says, "They" (that is, not the openly bad villains, but those who are called the most prominent, wise, holy and as he says, servants of God) "shall put you out of the synagogues." This means nothing else than to be separated from the people of God, cut off and cast away as an unfit and condemned member, excluded from God and everything that is God's.

Now, where such excommunication and curse is pronounced there the other thing also must follow of which Christ speaks here: "yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service." For the execution or punishment, which the world imagines must be inflicted on such is, that they should be exterminated from the earth without mercy. (Deut. 13:8.) And this they will not do in secret, but in open court and with all honor and praise, and will not only allege their worldly authority, but assert that they must do this for God's sake, and for the sake of the Christian church, as her obedient members; that the Christians must so suffer and die, as the devil's members, and every one exclaims, Oh, what a truly holy priestly work and sacrifice has this emperor and prince done.

3 And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.

They have not known the Father nor me. It is necessary that we should make a distinction and learn that there have always been two kinds of churches. The false church takes the sword in hand and persecutes the true church. By this you can certainly know which is the false church, and still more certainly by what Christ says, "These things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me." This is the true touchstone. Now, what does it mean, to know Christ and the Father? There are two kinds of knowledge. The first kind is the knowledge which some also have of God. For they know, indeed, of him and say, " I believe in God the Father and his only be gotten Son;" but it is only on the tongue, it does not enter into the heart. Whoever would know the Father well must know him in Christ. But to know Christ in the right way, means to know that he died for me and has taken my sins upon himself. Then I ascend farther up from the Son to the Father and lay hold of God, where he is most tender, and think, O this is God, this is God's will and pleasure, that Christ has done this for me.

4 But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.
“And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you."

Remember I told you, etc. The Lord Christ feels it very well himself that it is very highly necessary to tell them this, that they may stand against the great offense. He says, I said it not to you at the beginning; for thus far it has not been necessary, because I was with you. For while ye have me with you, they must leave you in peace, and can do nothing to you, unless they have done it first unto me. This Gospel, (vs.5-15,) is fine, beautiful, and rich beyond measure, but very high and sharp, treating of the high and necessary article from which we have our name and are called Christians.


----

Note 1: the translator used the word "insipient" at this point [meaning "foolish, stupid"] which is a mis-spelling for "incipient" [meaning "origin, beginning, start"].



Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 362-364

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Luther's Notes on the Gospel: Ascension

Mark 16:14-20
14 Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. 15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
19 So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.

Luther's Notes


The Gospel of the Ascension. St. Mark comprises very briefly in this Gospel of the ascension all that Christ said and did after his resurrection until the fortieth day, when he ascended to heaven, which he did not speak and do all at once, or even in an hour. Therefore we must divide and distinguish the two parts, which are here briefly drawn together; namely, that the Lord here reproves the disciples for their unbelief (v. 14) and that he commands them to go and preach, according to the other Evangelists. Verses 15-18.

unbelief and hardness of heart. It was not a small weakness of which Christ charged the disciples, that they were not only unbelieving, but also stubbornly hard hearted, because they believed not what they had heard and others had seen, that the Lord had risen from the dead. Neither is it a small matter, since unbelief is the greatest sin that can be named, and he tells them the reason of their unbelief, when he says: "Their hearts are hardened;" yet he deals kindly and mildly with them.

But let no one imagine that the apostles were altogether unbelievers; for they believed what is written in the law and the prophets, although they were yet deficient in faith. They did not yet believe the resurrection of Christ from the dead. They believe that the resurrection of Christ is nothing else, than that we have a mediator before God who is Christ, and who makes us pious and accept able to God the Father. Without this faith we are children of wrath and can do no good work that would be acceptable to God, nor would God hear our prayers. 1 Cor. 15:14, 17; Rom. 10:9.

Go into all the world, etc. These are words of majesty, which can properly be called a majesty, that he commands these poor beggars to go out and preach this new Gospel, not to a single city or country, but in all the world, principalities and kingdoms, and to open their mouths freely and confidently before all creatures, in order that all who belong to the human race may hear this Gospel.

When this Gospel shall have been preached and heard in all the world, the proclamation will be accomplished, and then will also come the last day.

It is with this proclamation of the Gospel as when one casts a stone into the water, which produces constantly widening circles, till they reach the shore.

Go preach. For the Gospel is not entirely that which is written in books, but it is also an oral preaching, which must be heard.

The old law, and that which the prophets preached, is not proclaimed to all creatures in the whole world, but is preached by the Jews in their synagogues; yet the Gospel shall not be circumscribed, but shall go out irresistibly into all the world. Because he will have none excluded, he indicates that this is a new Gospel, of which the world knows nothing.

He who believes shall be saved. This may rightly be called a Gospel. For here you have in one word heaven opened, and hell closed. Oh, if one could here only learn these two words, Faith and Salvation!

He who believes and is baptized. He purposely spake these words so clearly and plainly to exclude the false views and presumption of the Jews, and of all the world in regard to their own works and deeds, and refers everything to faith and baptism; that is, not to our, but to his own work. Our high learned doctors intended here to master the Holy Ghost and sharpen his tongue, by saying that good works also belong to faith, and that faith is not sufficient for salvation. But we must let this verse stand clear and pure, with out any addition.

Something more. But Christ also says, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved." Here you might say, Now I hear that baptism, also, belongs to it. Yes, certainly it belongs to it; but baptism is not a work, which we perform, but it is God's work. For he that baptizes me stands in the place of God, and does not the work of man. God, who will not and can not lie, gave me the sign, that I shall be certain that he is gracious unto me and will save me. Therefore baptism shall accompany faith, because God wills it, that the faith shall not remain concealed in the heart, but shall break forth, and become known and manifest before the world. Again, no one could be brought to the faith by us, if we did not publicly profess the Gospel and have an external sign, whereby we could know where and who were Christians.

but he who does not believe. Once more Christ says, "but he who does not believe will be condemned." But here you must let the words remain as they stand. For he does not say, he who does not believe and does evil works besides; but plainly thus: If you have all good works and faith is lacking, it is vain. As little as sin can stand before faith, so little can good works stand before unbelief. He who does not believe, can certainly do no good work; but it is all sin. (Rom. 14:23.) "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin."

These signs shall follow. Some argue and interpret the signs spiritually; but they do not bear such interpretation; for thereby the Scripture becomes vacillating and unstable. Some say that although not every one has or can do these signs, yet they are given to the whole congregation, or the whole multitude of Christendom, so that one casts out the devils, another heals the sick, and so on. Therefore they say that such signs are a manifestation of the Spirit, that where these signs are, there is also the Christian Church, and vice versa. But these words do not refer to the congregation, but upon each individual especially, as is indicated in John 14:12. (See Matt. 10:8; Psalm 91:13.) For a Christian has like power with Christ, is in communion with him, and sits with him in the entire life.

But let no one undertake to do these signs, unless there is an absolute necessity. For Christ did not say that they must always continue to do such things, but that they shall have the power to do them. The disciples also did not always exercise them, but only for the attestation of the word of God, and to confirm the same by miracles, as it stands here in the text, verse 20. But as the Gospel is now spread abroad, it is not necessary to show signs, as in the times of the apostles.

He was received up into heaven. It is easily said and understood, that the Lord ascended to heaven and sits at the right hand of God. But it is a dead and meaningless word, unless it is received in the heart. Therefore we must let his ascension and sitting on the right hand of God be an active and powerful thing that is constantly in vogue, and not think that he ascended and sits there, and lets us rule here; but he has ascended, because he can work and rule there much better. When he was on earth, he was too far from us; now he is very near to us. (Ps. 8:5-7; 2:7; 110:1, 5-7;  58:19.) But reason can not grasp how this comes about; one does not hear or see it; therefore one must only believe it.

And they went forth and preached everywhere. Whence do they now receive such courage and power? No king of Persia has given it to them, but only the Lord, who has this day ascended to heaven and sits there, and who commanded them to go and preach to all creatures, and they have succeeded, and thus it still goes on to the end.

The Lord working with them, confirming the word with signs. But such external signs (v. 17, 18) are, indeed, small and almost childish miracles in comparison with the real, great miracles which Christ works in Christendom without cessation by his divine, almighty power; namely, that Christianity is defended and upheld on earth, and that the word of God and, yea, that even Christianity yet remains against the devil and all his angels, and also against so many tyrants and factions ; yea, also against our own flesh and blood, all of which storm against the church of Christ.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 172-174

Monday, May 04, 2020

Luther's Notes on the Gospel: Cantate (Easter 5)


Gospel · John 16:5-15
5 “But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.

Luther's Explanatory Notes

5 “But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 

But now I go away to Him who sent Me. That is, "to-morrow I shall be nailed to the cross and killed, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart." The sense is contained in the words, "where I am goin," as if he would say, "You are so very depressed and troubled over this word which you hear, that you do not think of further inquiring where I am going; that is, not which road, or for what purpose and why I go away, and of what good it shall be to you."

"But I must now excuse you, that you think so lightly of where I am going, and cannot console yourselves or rejoice on account of it, for you are so much accustomed to Me and wish Me to be with you, that no greater affliction can come upon you, than that I should be taken from you." In this way He wishes to cheer them up and rouse them a little from their sadness.

It is to your advantage that I go away. He will say, "For my own sake, I would need neither coming nor going; but it is expedient for you, and is your help and consolation. For My departure you shall have the comfort of the Holy Ghost, and with it the power which He will carry on through you, which I cannot do at present among you; for by this present bodily mission I am required to suffer and die and thus go to the Father and afterwards send the Holy Ghost, who shall do much greater things through you, than are now done by Me, and shall commit to you it great and excellent office and work, whereby my kingdom shall be ex tended over the world. v. 8ff.

8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 
He will convict the world, etc. Through the Holy Ghost, says Christ, you shall become courageous people and attack and reprove the whole world. In these words He shows what kind of kingdom His kingdom is, and how it shall be governed; namely, through the word which the Holy Ghost shall preach, and which shall work in the hearts of men.

What now is meant by the whole world? And what is meant by convicting the whole world applies to all that is in the world, even in its nicest and loveliest arrangement. For by the world we must not understand the gross, outward sins, such as adultery, murder, theft (for with these the worldly power has to do) but with the subtle, secret sins, which the Holy Ghost convicts, and the world does not recognize.

But to reprove or convict means to allow no merit in any thing of the world, but to attack its works and nature by the word and the gospel (which is the rod by which the world is reproved) and tell them that, whoever they may be, they are altogether guilty and unrighteous before God, and that they must obey this preaching of Christ, or be eternally damned and lost. According to this all men on earth must be subject to the office of the ministry, which the apostles and their successors administer for God's sake, and must be obedient to it, if they would obtain the grace of God and be saved.

True, the Holy Ghost reproved the world also from the beginning, by preaching, but now it is to begin the more earnestly over all the world and more energetically. (See Acts 2:37 ) On the other hand, if they will not receive such preaching they shall be eternally damned. (2 Cor. 2:16) "Of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment." These are three great things and excellent parts, in which all is comprised, that concerns the spiritual government and kingdom of Christ, and of which the world knows and understands nothing at all. The world, nature, reason, know not that unbelief is sin, and faith is righteousness, and that God's judgment condemns every thing which they and the devil urge against the Christians.
9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 
Of sin, etc. What is sin? Is it not stealing, murdering and the like? Yes, these also are sins; but not yet the very chief sins. For you find many people who are not guilty of these outward sins, but of the real chief sin of which the Holy Ghost preaches the whole world is guilty, else he could not reprove the whole world. Now, this sin is called unbelief in Jesus Christ. 

Here unbelief alone is referred to as sin and faith is praised, that it represses and extinguishes the remaining sin, even in the saints. As if He would say, "If they believed on me all their sins whatever they have committed would be remitted to them."

But what is it to believe on Christ? It is not only this, that anyone believes that Christ is God, or rules with God the Father in heaven in like power, but that He is to me a gracious God, has taken my sins upon Himself and reconciled me with God. He that believes not in Christ has not the Holy Ghost, and therefore can have no good thoughts. And though he does something that in itself is not bad, but right, he does it like a slave out of fear, and not out of a right hearty obedience.
10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 
Of righteousness. The Holy Ghost will also condemn righteousness. Now what kind of righteousness may this be? Christ does not here speak one word of what I shall do or not do; but only and alone of His work, which He does; namely, because "He goes to the Father, and we see him no more." This and nothing else shall be our righteousness. This is righteousness, says Christ, "that I go to the Father"; that is, no man is justified before God, but by and on account of this, that I die and rise again. This is also the reason why He mentions the going. He does not say, "I am with the Father," but "I go to the Father;" for in this going sin is swallowed up in righteousness and Christ is passed through death unharmed. (He did not remain under sin or death) The more you prosecute and know this work, (the belief in the going) the more cheerful it will make your heart; for where such knowledge is, there the Holy Ghost can not be absent. Then when he comes he must make the heart willing, cheerful and joyful, so that it goes out freely, and does every thing that is pleasing to God.

Now, who would have thought that such should be the righteousness and that it is to come in this way? Therefore the Christian's righteousness is a special piety, which no heart can imagine; we must hear and learn of the Holy Ghost, and though one learn it, yet he can not comprehend it as the Lord here says: "I go to my Father and you see me no more." For by this the manner and nature of faith is represented, that it does not feel or grope, or care for evidence of those things, but joyfully concludes to believe those things which he does not feel, nor can fathom these inwardly and outwardly with all his powers, (Rom. 8:24) Such righteousness is therefore very secret and hidden, not only from the world and reason, but also from the saints.
11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
The third thing is, that the Holy Ghost shall also condemn the world of judgment, (or on account of the judgment by which God condemns.) But what kind of judgment that is the Lord shows very finely, when he says, "because the prince of this world is judged." The prince of this world is the devil, with his members, who are all unbelievers and ungodly. In these words all flesh with all its powers is condemned, and what the world praises is rejected by God. If he, the prince of this world, the most supreme, is considered, who has all the power and wisdom of the world in the highest degree; then also all that the world regards as good is cast down.

This judgment embraces both the pious and unpious; yea, it begins here in the saints, (1 Pet. 4:17) "at the house of God." For the righteous, while they live, have flesh and blood, to which sin adheres; to suppress the same, God brings them into much distress and anxiety, until the flesh becomes entirely subject to the Spirit. (Rom. 7:18 ff; 8:4.) These are only beginnings of the judgment of God in external things; but against the evil one he will execute it hereafter. (1 Pet. 4:17.) The world does not yet know this judgment of the cross. But the Christians hold fast to it. For the reproof of the Spirit always sounds in their hearts and ears: Why do you fear? Do you not know that the prince of this world is judged? Such comfort those especially need, who have the office of the Holy Ghost to reprove the world of sin and righteousness. For no reproof will and can the world less endure than that they should be called sinners and proclaimed as such people, who have no righteousness. Therefore when such condemnation is publicly made (as it should be) the world begins to rage and roar as if it were mad. But the Holy Spirit is here and preaches to us of this judgment; otherwise the preachers would let themselves be intimidated. He, the Spirit, tells the world that it is condemned by His judgment, together with its prince and head, the devil.

The unrest of the world (He says). shall be that this King Christ has by His going to the Father overcome both the world and the devil, and now announces that he is Lord over all. The judgment of condemnation has already been pronounced on the devil, (and nothing more is wanting but the execution thereof, in order that the punishment may be inflicted upon him in eternal hell fire.

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
I have yet many things to say to you. By this He does not mean, "I have many other things to say to you, and the Holy Spirit will teach and explain to you differently from what I have done." But the "many things to say" means, when one speaks of one thing in various manners, but always discusses one thing. "These three things," he will say, "which I have now told you, you do not entirely under stand, even if I should explain them to you. I would, indeed, have much to say, in order the better to explain their meaning; but you are yet so deeply involved in the gross carnal understanding that you can not comprehend it. Therefore I will wait till the Holy Ghost comes."

These words the popish doctors have also perverted to the support of their pretentions, saying: "We must have something more than the gospel and the Holy Scriptures; therefore we should also hear what the councils and the pope decide." But with whom does Christ speak? Doubtless with the apostles. Again he says: "He will guide you into all truth." (v. 13.) Here we conclude: If what the councils teach is truth, then the apostles never came into the truth, since not one of them ever kept those foolish decisions of the councils.

In the third place he says, "But you can not bear them now." Here we ask: "Would it have been too difficult for the apostles to understand such a rule, which forbids to eat meat on Friday and the like?"
13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth. This He said designedly; for He sees far ahead, how the lying spirit of the devil shall also move and show itself in the church. "For He shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak." Here and in verse 13 He gives the Holy Spirit his true designation, whereby we shall know and try him. The others speak what they themselves have contrived, which is the devil's nature (John 8:44. He makes a preacher of the Holy Ghost, that we may not gaze up for Him to heaven (as the fanatics do) but know that He will be by and with the word.

Accordingly He says that the Holy Ghost will also prophesy, and will show you things to come. He speaks here of future things, which concern Christendom especially, and which we ought to know. The Revelation of St. John is also such a prophecy. This spirit of prophecy remains still in the Christian church, although not in the same degree as in the days of the apostles, that we can foretell such things, but only so far as we have received it from them.
14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 
In the third place he says, He shall I glorify me. That is, "make your hearts so full of the knowledge of God, that for My sake you will risk and suffer, and have all your joy and comfort in Me. For He shall receive of Mine and shall show it unto you." This is also spoken of the office of the Holy Ghost; but here He goes higher and shows how it is with the Divine Being. For he takes of his own; namely, the divine essence in eternity, not only of the Father, but also of Christ, and thus there remains one eternal essence or Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.
All things that the Father has are Mine. Thus He makes himself equal to the Father in all things. From this He infers and repeats what He has said of the Holy Ghost. "Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you." This is the circle, roundly closed and all three contracted into one divine essence.


Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 364-368


Friday, May 01, 2020

Luther's Notes on the Gospel: Jubilate (Easter 4)

John 16:16-23

16 “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.”

17 Then some of His disciples said among themselves, “What is this that He says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?” 18 They said therefore, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is saying.”

19 Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said to them, “Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’? 20 Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. 21 A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.

23 “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.


Luther's Explanatory Notes

16 “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.”
The first part of this gospel (v. 16- 23,) is nicely composed and put into such words, that it may stick the better in the hearts and memory of the disciples. For the words, “A little while, and you will not see Me" have a different sound from what words usually have. Now one is apt to take such strange, hidden, unusual speeches as special tokens and signs. Therefore the disciples also repeat them twice and one asks another what they can mean; so Jesus repeats them Himself for the fourth time, and yet they remain dark and unintelligible words to them, until He afterwards reveals what he meant; when He was risen from the dead and the Holy Ghost was given them, they understood it. According to the letter and the history the meaning of these words is easily understood; for in our creed the children also say, "I believe in Jesus Christ, crucified, died, and buried; the third day He rose again from the dead." These are the two "a little while" of which He speaks here. But when one is to bring it into life and experience, then the meaning is very high.

and again a little while, and you will see Me: That is, I will rise from the dead and permit Myself to be seen alive, "Because I go to the Father." To go to the Father is nothing else than to come into another life, as if Christ would say: "I shall leave this temporary life and enter into an immortal life, where the Father shall subject every thing unto Me."
17 Then some of His disciples said among themselves, “What is this that He says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?” 18 They said therefore, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is saying.”
What is this that He says to us, ‘A little while'... The two parts in the text, dying and rising again from the dead, the disciples can not see. There fore they say among themselves, "“What is this that He says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?” 18 They said therefore, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is saying.” Their thoughts are carnal and they argue thus: "Perhaps he will go privately into a chamber, or wander into another city, and not let Himself be seen for a time."
19 Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said to them, “Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’? 20 Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.
Your sorrow will be turned into joy. The other part of the gospel is a gloss and interpretation which the Lord Himself gives of his former words, and says: "you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful." Just as the disciples did not understand the word and the text before, so now also they do not understand the explanation of the words; yea, even after it had taken place, and it had come into their heads what the Lord here says, still they do not understand the text or the gloss. For there is a double meaning, a meaning of the words and a meaning of things. That is, it is not only necessary to know how to speak of the matter, but also when it comes to the point, that He can also comfort and strengthen himself with the words and can harmonize the words and the matter. Therefore the Lord comforts His disciples, harmonizes the words and the matter and says, "The words which I now speak to you will come into your heads and before your eyes. You will do nothing but weep and lament. Therefore you should remember and possess your souls in patience and carry out the words in your practice."

But Christ puts one and the other alternately, sorrow and joy, weeping and laughter. This is the true, great sorrow above all other sorrow, when the heart loses Christ, sees him no more and hopes for no more comfort from Him. These words touched the tender hearts of Saints Peter, John, Philip, etc. ; for they lose both at once and entirely, not only the friendly company of the Lord, but also the beautiful, glorious and excellent hope, that He should become a mighty Lord and King. And this is the despicable, devilish joy, which gloats over another's detriment and misfortune, of which Christ also speaks here: "The world shall rejoice and laugh in its sleeves over your weeping and lamenting, when it kills Me and inflicts all kinds of misfortune upon you."

Your sorrow will be turned into joy. This now is the text and the gloss, the words and the explanation. For from this it follows, that the joy of the world shall be turned into mourning.
21 A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.
Your heart will rejoice. The third part of this gospel is, that to strengthen this teaching, the Lord presents the example of a woman, who is in labor, and in this labor does not die, but brings a joyful sight into the world. "A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come." This example should be well considered. For as it happens here, so it is also in trial, and especially in the perils of death. Here reason cannot help, no creature, no work, neither this nor that, here is no consolation; you think you are forsaken of God and all creatures. Then the same God helps, when He thinks best. Christ also indicates by this example, that our strength is vain; for it is not in the woman's power to be delivered of her child; but when God helps and works, then the help is complete; but where He does not help all is vain, though the whole world were there. Here you see in this example: If a man shall be born, the mother must first die; that is, she must be so qualified, as if she were already dead, and think that all is over with her. Thus it shall also be with us; if we wish to become pious, we must first be dead and despair of all our works.

Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again. These are two excellent reasons why we should not regard it a small matter when for a brief time our faith seems to fail. The first is, that the temptation is altogether too great and vehement, that we think we are lost, that there is no more power or strength, and that we can hold out no longer. The other reason is, that we can see no reason, no way, means, or manner to obtain help. For this purpose the parable of the woman in labor is serviceable. There it also appears as if there would be no end and the mother must die. But in a moment it comes to pass, that instead of death, a two fold life comes forth: that the mother survives, and a beautiful, healthy child is born into the world. (Heb. 12:11) Therefore it is first called "a little while," because of the fast, quick change, which takes place, even sooner than it was expected. Then the apprehension is called "a little while," that shall be exchanged for the eternal joy. Rom. 8:18 ; 3 Cor. 4:17, 18.

your joy no one will take from you. When Christ is again before our eyes, and the conscience feels that it has the Lord, from whom it expects all blessing, then nothing can harm it any more, for Christ is Lord over all things. Can one also fall from this joy? Yes, when Christ is no longer in the heart, then the joy is gone. Grace remains, but conscience may fail. Therefore we should not be come impatient and discouraged under the cross; but hold fast to this consolation, that, though we suffer, yet it shall last only for "a little while."

This consolation is followed by an exhortation to prayer. For where a Christian is in fear, care, danger and misfortune, there is no other comfort than to hold on in prayer.
23 “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.
whatever you ask the Father in My name. In this text Christ shows us the defense against the hindrances and stumbling blocks of the devil and our flesh, that would draw us away from prayer. First, that we think by the devil's instigation: "O, you are not yet qualified to pray; wait awhile, till you are better qualified." Secondly, such thoughts also naturally arise: "How can you pray to God ? You are too unworthy." In the third place, the devil comes with a thrust and suggests doubts to you, whether God will hear your prayer. On the other hand Christ shows in the text how we may resist such stumbling blocks. Here you have first the command, in which He tells them to pray, and reproves them also, for not having prayed hitherto. It is not said here that you should ask whether you are worthy or unworthy, but it is your duty to obey God.

In the second place, look also on the promise, which he confirms and strengthens with a double oath: Verily, verily, He will give it unto you, as if He would say, "God is ready to give sooner and more than you ask;" yea, He offers His goods, if we will only accept them. Is it not an eternal shame before God and all the world, that Christ must so solemnly swear, and yet we do not believe it, nor let it move us at once to begin heartily to pray ?

To such a promise, in order that our prayer may be acceptable, belongs faith. See James 1:5, 6 ; 1 John 5:14 f.

But some say, I would fain trust that my prayer would be heard, if I were worthy and could do it well. Answer: Even thereby we become worthy to pray and to be heard, because we believe we are unworthy, and trust comfortably on God's faithfulness.

In the fourth place, we must ask something and present it to God for which we pray. Christ means this with the words: "Whatever ye shall ask;" whatever; that is, what you need. He Himself explains this some what, and says, "that your joy may be full;" that is, pray for all necessaries, till you have obtained all entirely, and have fullness of joy.

Fifthly, we must also desire or wish that it may be done, which is nothing else than to ask, as Christ says, "ask." Others have called this the ascent of the soul to God (Rom. 8:26, "groaning.") Tribulations produce such groaning.

Sixthly, we must ask "in the name of Christ"; this is nothing else, than that we come before God in faith on Christ, and console ourselves with good confidence, that He is our Mediator. This is true prayer in the name of Christ, when we thus trust in Him, that we shall be accepted and heard for his sake. This is the main article and foundation upon which prayer must stand and rest.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 368-371

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