#49- The Devil Cannot Tolerate the Gospel

“The papacy looked beautiful; all was peace and tranquility. Even though there were many monks and monastic orders, all were subject to one head and authority, the pope. Consequently, there was unity of doctrine and belief. This makes an impression on people, and for this men strive. It would be a fine thing to have one head rule over all. Yet this is impossible, since neither Christ nor a prophet nor an apostle has been able to accomplish it. Therefore resign yourself to the fact, and be prepared for discord and unrest as soon as the Gospel is preached. This is also borne out by the parable in the Gospel (Luke 11:21–22): ‘When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace; but when one stronger than he assails him and overcomes him, he divides his spoil.’

This is the fault, not of the Gospel but of the devil, who cannot tolerate the Gospel. If we preached as the pope demands, courted his favor, and fawned before him, we would still be at peace with him. But then we would be serving the devil. Peace in the papacy was predicated on general acquiescence in all that was done, so that no one opposed the other, and the devil’s doctrine was accepted as God’s Word. The pope lay in the mire like a sow that snores when people gently scratch it behind the ears. But now he is bestirring himself and waking up, because he is being attacked and having his hide thrashed. And the same thing is happening to us” (Luther’s Works, v. 23, p. 290-291).

#48- Those Who Preach Christ Will Experience Discord and Factions

“Still these are examples and stories which serve to illustrate how people fare who hear Christ preach. And at the same time we can derive strength and comfort from this when we are charged with the offense of injecting errors in the faith. The gravest accusation our adversaries level against us is this, that our doctrine is an innovation, while they claim to remain with the old faith. Thus strife and dissension develop from the doctrine. Some declare: ‘I will await the decrees of a council, and I am ready to accept whatever emperor and bishops will resolve.’

This is the greatest offense; it fills eyes, ears, and mouth. It is hard to bear, and we need comfort to be able to disregard it. Such an offense is inevitable, for we will not meet a better fate than Christ did. If the Gospel could take its course without the rise of error, disturbance, and discord, it would have done so here with this Man Christ, who was a better preacher than the apostles. But it happens even to Him, the Lord Christ, that as He preaches, misunderstanding, yes, dissension arises among the people. They do not know how to adjust themselves to this new doctrine. One has this to say, another that. Christ Himself confused the people with His sermons. So many factions and sects spring up. The one preaches this, the other that; and this puzzles and perplexes the people. In the face of this you must say: ‘It is not my fault that there are so many factions. A Christian who believes and proclaims the Word of God need not worry about that. This is inevitable, and he must be resigned to the fact that it will never be any better in the world.’ Convince yourself of this, mark it as unavoidable, and submit to it. If the preaching is God’s Word, sects arise, and the same thing happens that is told here”  (Luther’s Works, v. 23, p. 289-290).

#47- Those Who Are the Church Show It by Teaching and Life, Faith and Fruits

“Therefore it is dangerous and suspicious for them boastfully to appropriate the name of the Christian Church, as if this required great skill and everyone before them were ignorant. You must tell them: “If you want to be the church and bear its name, you must prove your title. You must teach correctly, as the holy Christian Church teaches. You must have your life conform to its life. You must manifest your faith and the fruits of faith. Give evidence that you are the Christian Church.” But since they do not administer the episcopal office as it should be administered but persecute whom they will and yet insist on being regarded as pious princes and the Christian Church, we are obliged to say that they are the devil’s church; for the Christian Church does not treat doctrine so wantonly. The heretics frighten and delude many people with their claim to the name “church.” That is what the people in the Gospel did when they said that Christ must come from Bethlehem and when they spurned Him because He had come from Galilee.

Our adversaries talk similarly of us today. They deny our claim to be the Christian Church because we come from Galilee or from Wittenberg, and because we will not await their decision. We will tell them: ‘Lo, there are Christians also from Galilee and from Nazareth. Just because they believe and proclaim what is displeasing to you, you do not consider them Christians.’ We will not wait for their decision, nor will we preach to their liking. Let us preach about the Man who will give us abundance also after this life. If we had preached to suit their taste, we would have become great lords long ago. But—so it is said—there is no gain in that.

The people were divided over Christ’s preaching, in this way that some said He was the Christ, others declared He was a prophet, and still others flatly disavowed both contentions and said that no prophet comes from Galilee. This argument among the people was not settled, and there is not much to be said about this matter”  (Luther’s Works, v. 23, p. 289).

#46- Be Careful Because Words and Names Can be Misused and Perverted.

“Therefore since this argument is waxing warm in our day, you must be prepared to give this account and reply: the term “Christian Church” has a double meaning, as other words do too. For there is a true and there is a false church. Now show me the true church. The pope claims to be the true church, but how is he going to prove it? He has the Gospel and Baptism; so do we. The issue is: Who has the true Gospel and Baptism, and who the false? The one Christ is the true one, but all heretics fashion a new Christ. Words have double meanings. Every heretic assigns a special meaning to a word, and he also employs the terms used in the divine Word. The term “god,” for example, is given the most manifold meanings. I suppose there are a thousand different gods.

Mammon is a god. So are the Order of St. Francis and the Carthusian Order. Everybody has his own peculiar god. Therefore you must be wary. Just as the word ‘god’ really pertains only to the one God but is perverted and applied so variously, thus “Christian Church” is also misused and loosely used. You must pay no attention to them when they say: “Here is the church.” Your answer must be: ‘I am well aware that there is one Christian Church, and I know the term ‘Christian Church’ very well. But it is news to me that you are that church. You may indeed vaunt that you are the Christian Church, but that beautiful name by itself will not mislead me. I know that the heretics are to deck themselves with the fine name of God, of Christ, and of the Christian Church, and thus deceive the world’”  (Luther’s Works, v. 23, p. 288).

#45- Those Who Do Not Believe in Christ Are Outside the Church

“But when they counter: “Your stand is not correct,” the controversy is under way. To settle this requires a spiritual council, which will proclaim the same faith that my brother and I share with all Christians, wherever they may be. They are all of one mind. The Christian Church is the church which believes in Christ and desires to be saved by Him, not by works or merits. Whatever the Holy Spirit says to us He says to all Christians everywhere. That is the Bethlehem and the tribe of Judah from which Christ comes. Thus it is also true that there is neither prophet nor Christian nor teacher nor preacher outside the church; for it is one body and soul, bound together and related as the members are to the body, for they are members of the body. An amputated fist is dead, lifeless, no longer attached to the body. Similarly, a heretic is detached from the Christian Church by false doctrine and unbelief, and is dead; for those outside the Christian Church are dead.

The Christian Church is not the same as a collection of bishops’ or cardinals’ hats. That may be termed a council, or it may develop into a council, but not into the Christian Church. For the church cannot be convoked into one assembly but is dispersed over all the earth. The church believes as I believe, and I believe as the church believes. There is no difference or disparity in our belief. We all believe one Christian Church. Outside this church there is nothing. This is my faith, and this gives rise to altercation”  (Luther’s Works, v. 23, p. 287-288).