#35- If The Church Doesn’t Keep the Word, Then No Different From Heretic

“Now if I do not know or distinguish the true church from the false one on the basis of obedience and obdurate disobedience, then I am unable to speak of a church any longer. Then one might accordingly also with due deference call all heretics, all factions and sects that are wantonly disobedient to Christ, the holy church; for they are in no way worse than the pope’s church, if indeed wanton disobedience against God does no harm. On the other hand, the papal church is no better because it is just as stubbornly disobedient to God and wickedly perverts his word and, besides, it is more insistent on being right than any other faction and heretic. This would finally be the upshot that there would no longer be either a church or heretics on earth, for by what criterion would we prove that this or that faction consists of heretics?

If we say, ‘God has commanded that lords and parents should be obeyed,’ then they have the papal church as an excellent example and can say, ‘Even the papal church does not keep God’s command; rather, it forbids keeping it and strangles and persecutes all those who want to keep God’s word.’ …  The result of the superlative skill of the papists is twofold: God’s kingdom is being destroyed by sheer heresy, and the worldly authorities are set at variance by constant revolts, and homes are filled with lost children. Nevertheless, it has to be regarded as justly done, and whoever wants to reprove it finds himself condemned and reproved as a heretic, rebel, and lost child. They should be thanked, these excellent teachers. But enough of that now; for I am indeed ready, if God so wills, to write something that deals particularly with the church.  In such a writing I should like to show who indeed they are who most assiduously teach people to be disobedient to God and man, who destroy both God’s and the world’s kingdom (as much as they are able) and make themselves free of them, and who alone possess the rule in heaven and on earth and yet do as they please” (Luther’s Works, v.38 p.229-230).

Galatians Bible Study, Pt. 29: The Holy Spirit Sent Into Our Hearts

Class #29:  “God has sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts” (Galatians 4:6).  All who believe and are baptized have been given the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), so that they know they are saved through faith in Jesus Christ and thus call God their Father.  On account of our great weakness, it is of great comfort for the believer to know that the Holy Spirit lives in him (1 Cor 6:19).  “This happens without a visible form, namely, when through the spoken Word we receive fire and light, by which we are made new and different, and by which a new judgment, new sensations, and new drives arise in us.  This change and new judgment are not the work of human reason or power; they are the gift and accomplishment of the Holy Spirit, who comes with the preached Word, purifies our hearts by faith, and produces spiritual motivation in us” (Luther’s Works, volume 26, p.375).

“But the external signs, as I have said earlier, are these: to enjoy hearing about Christ; to teach, give thanks, praise, and confess Him, even at the cost of property and life; to do one’s duty according to one’s calling in a manly way, in faith and joy; not to take delight in sin; not to invade someone else’s calling but to serve one’s own; to help a needy brother, comfort the sorrowful, etc.  By these signs we are assured and confirmed a posteriori that we are in a state of grace” (Luther’s Works, v. 26, p.379).

Overhead: Galatians Class 29 Overhead
Handouts: Galatians Class 29 Handout

#34- Distinguish Between The True Church of Christ and the Church of the Devil

“I, too, am a doctor in their theology and neither as unlearned nor inexperienced in it as their ranters (who do not understand their own theology) believe. Still, I did not know a good argument to defend the mass. I could also say, ‘Church, church, fathers, fathers,’ as they do, and with that vindicate everything. However, I do not possess that kind of strange faith (God who once saved me from it will also guard me against it) so that I could call those the church of Christ who are factions of the godless and the church of the devil, who embellish themselves with the name of the church of Christ and glory in it and yet the fruits cogently convict the tree of being evil. Just as little am I able to place the church above Christ and allow it to change and pervert what he teaches and ordains. For he should and must be the head, and the church (as St. Paul states) is subject and obedient to him out of fear and reverence. Otherwise, by what means could one make the distinction between the true church of Christ and the church of the devil except by its obedience or disobedience to Christ, especially when disobedience, publicly known and understood, excuses itself wickedly and shamelessly and claims to be in the right? For the holy church sins and stumbles or can even err, as the Lord’s Prayer teaches. However, it does not defend or excuse itself, but humbly asks for forgiveness and improves itself as it is able. Thus it is forgiven so that henceforth its sin is no longer reckoned as sin” (Luther’s Works, v.38 p.228-229).

Galatians Bible Study Pt. 28: The Child-Heir is Emancipated

Class #28:   The child-heir owns everything, but until he reaches the time set by the Father, he isn’t any different from a slave.  The child-heir is under guardians and stewards until the age of majority.  This example applies to the Old Testament Jews who were placed under the law until the coming of the promised Savior, Jesus Christ.  Through faith in Christ and in our baptism, we have been emancipated. We have received all the rights of sonship!  “Therefore, you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Gal 4:7).

Overhead: Galatians Class 28 Overhead
Handouts: Galatians Chapter Three 26 to Chapter Four 7

#33- Pray to God and Intercede for Your Enemies Who Despise The Word

“Moreover, let each one see to it that he does not forget to love his enemies, pray for those who persecute him and revile him, and not seek revenge, as Christ teaches in Matt. 6. For these miserable people have already been so terribly punished, and we, I am sorry to say, avenged at such a terrible price, that the time has come for us to plead with God for them, that we may avert the punishment and judgment that is coming upon them—as Christ did for us when in our blindness we too were committing sin. You see how terribly hardened they are in their blindness. They will not listen to us, nor give us a hearing. Neither will they answer, or let us hear from them. Instead they are like the Jews with St. Stephen [Acts 7:57]: they close their eyes and stop their ears, and shamelessly execute their sentence without knowing what they are doing. If you are a Christian you should observe carefully what wrath that brings upon them, what torment and punishment, and therefore how you should intercede for them with God. They act just like the possessed and madmen who say: We shall deal with God so harmfully and insolently that he will have to beat us over the head at once. Be assured, they will not continue their madness very long. Just wait a while, and let it suffice that your God makes you this promise: He who touches you touches the apple of my eye [Zech. 2:8]. Help therefore to pray for them. And even if we are not able to save them, let us pray that God may not because of their tyranny and blasphemy take his Word away from the whole German nation, and deprive all the other poor people who really long for it. May God’s grace and strength be with you all. Amen” (Luther’s Works, v.36 p.266-267).

#32- Do Not Speak With Slippery Words, But Frankly Confess Christ

“For you will observe that the tyrants are not out merely to destroy Luther, but to wipe out the teaching. It is on account of the teaching that they attack you and ask you whether you are Lutheran. Here you must be sure not to speak with slippery or evasive words but frankly to confess Christ, no matter who did the preaching—Luther, or Tom, Dick, or Harry. The person you can forget; but the teaching you must confess. Paul also writes thus to Timothy in II Tim. 1[:8]: ‘Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake.’ If it had been enough here for Timothy to confess the gospel, Paul would not have commanded him not to be ashamed also of Paul—not of Paul as a person but of Paul as a prisoner for the sake of the gospel. Now if Timothy had said, I do not hold with Paul or with Peter, but with Christ, when he knew that Peter and Paul were teaching Christ, then he would actually thereby have denied Christ himself. For Christ says in Matt. 10 concerning those who preach him: ‘He who receives you receives me, and he who rejects you rejects me.’ Why this? Because holding thus with his messengers, those who bring his word, is the same as holding with Christ himself and with his word” (Luther’s Works, v.36 p.266).

#31- Luther’s Teaching is Christ’s Teaching

“Finally, I see that I must add a good word of admonition to those whom Satan has now begun to persecute. For there are some among them who think that when they are attacked they can escape the danger by saying: I do not hold with Luther or with anyone else, but only with the holy gospel and the holy church, or with the Roman church. For saying so they think they will be left in peace. Yet in their hearts they regard my teaching as the teaching of the gospel and stand by it. In reality this kind of statement does not help them, and it is in effect a denial of Christ. Therefore, I beg such people to be very careful.

True, by any consideration of body or soul you should never say: I am Lutheran, or Papist. For neither of them died for you, or is your master. Christ alone died for you, he alone is your master, and you should confess yourself a Christian. But if you are convinced that Luther’s teaching is in accord with the gospel and that the pope’s is not, then you should not discard Luther so completely, lest with him you discard also his teaching, which you nevertheless recognize as Christ’s teaching. You should rather say: Whether Luther is a rascal or a saint I do not care; his teaching is not his, but Christ’s” (Luther’s Works, v.36 p.265).

#30- If You Wish To Remain In Your Sin, That Is Not Faith

“Third. Direct the examination also to your outward life and ask yourself whether you are showing love to your neighbor and are serving him. If you do not find these evidences of faith within yourself, if you are living the same as before, still packed full of unfaithfulness, hatred, envy, wrath, and unbelief, then, dear friend, by all means stay away from the sacrament until you have become a different person. Don’t let yourself be driven to it by crowd or custom or the ordinance of the pope. Heavens, if this idea were really put across, it would mean that where thousands come to the sacrament now, scarcely hundreds would come. In this way we would diminish the abominable sins with which the pope has flooded the world through his hellish ordinance, and so we would at last become again a group of real Christians, whereas at present we are almost completely pagan and only Christian in name. Then we should be able to do what is now impossible for us, namely, separate from our number those in whom we see by their works that they have neither faith nor love.

Alas, we are still far from Jerusalem; we have scarcely begun to break out of our captivity in Babylon, and yet we want to act as if we had already arrived at home. Everyone wants to be called Christian, and we have to permit it; but then they do not want to exercise faith and love. Creating sects does not help matters. So there is nothing else to do but to preach the gospel and to keep people away from the sacrament and all external rites until they feel and show themselves to be Christians and of their own accord press forward first to faith, to love, and then to the external sacrament and things like that” (Luther’s Works, v.36 p.264-265).

#29- The Proof of Faith is the Desire to Receive the Help of the Gospel

“First, since Satan through the ordinance of the pope has thrown the sacrament before swine [Matt. 7:6] by compelling everybody to partake of the sacrament at Easter, whether they believe or not, whether they love or not, and since he has also concealed from them the words of the sacrament, on which faith must depend and nourish itself, let us therefore labor first to raise the sacrament above the level of the swine. We do this, however, only as we dissuade and keep the people from it by teaching and exhortation, so that no one goes to the sacrament out of compulsion by, or obedience to, the pope’s ordinance. For the sacrament does not admit of people being compelled or driven to it. Rather, instructed by the gospel, people should request and insist upon it of their own accord, because they are driven by the hunger of their believing hearts.

Second. Now anyone who thinks he has this kind of hunger should see to it that he does not deceive himself. He should make sure that it is no mere desire of the human flesh that prompts him. He should examine his faith and determine whether it is genuine, as St. Paul admonishes in I Cor. 11[:28]: ‘Let a man examine himself.’ This examination, however, covers your whole life. You must find within yourself a smiting conscience which is weighed down with a sense of sin and longs for the grace of God, a conscience that stands in dread of death or hell and longs for strength, a conscience that seeks and takes the sacrament, firmly relying on Christ’s word, in order to receive such grace and strength and help. For as I have said, this sacrament requires a hungry, thirsty, oppressed, and anxious soul, that comes of its own accord, conscious of its own need and thirst, with utter confidence, and without regard to the pope’s laws or lawlessness. That is the proof of faith; it is an inward matter” (Luther’s Works, v.36 p.263-264).