#71- You Have No Ability To Pray Except in Christ Jesus

“For if we prayed without faith, this would be to curse twice over, as we learned in our nasty papistical holiness. But where there is a believing heart and that heart has before it the promise of God it quite simply and artlessly prays its ‘Our Father’ and is heard. Outside of this church of God you may present your prayers and supplications to great lords and potentates to the best of your ability, but here you have no ability to pray except in Christ Jesus, in order that we may not boast that we are holy as they do in the papacy, who protest, of course, and say: Oh, it would be a presumption for anybody to call himself holy and fit; and yet they teach that man of himself has a ‘certain preparation’ for prayer.

They also teach prayer according to this doctrine in their chants and say: I have prayed in despair as a poor sinner. Oh, stop that kind of praying! It would be better to drop such praying altogether if you despair. For despair ruins everything and if you go to baptism, prayer, and the sacrament without faith and in despair, you are actually mocking God. What you should quickly say, however, is this: I am certain that my dear God has so commanded and that he has assured me of the forgiveness of sins; therefore I will baptize, absolve, and pray. And immediately you will receive this treasure in your heart. It does not depend on our worthiness or unworthiness, for both of these can only make us despair. Therefore do not allow yourself by any means to be driven to despair. For it is a mockery of God when we do not believe the words, ‘Go and baptize’ [Matt. 28:19], that is, baptize those who repent and are sorry for their sins. Here you hear that this is not human work, but the work of God the Father; he is the Householder who wills to dwell here. But if we despair, then we should stay away from the sacrament and from prayer, and first learn to say: All right, it makes no difference that I am unworthy, God is truthful nevertheless, and he has most certainly promised and assured us; I’ll stake my life on this” (Luther’s Works, v. 51, p. 307-308).

#70- By God’s Command, Authority and Power Come Deliverance

“Likewise, the blessed sacrament is not administered by men, but rather by God’s command; we only lend our hands to it. Do you think this is an insignificant meal, which feeds not only the soul but also the mortal body of a poor, condemned sinner for the forgiveness of sins in order that the body too may live? This is God’s power, this Householder’s power, not men’s.

So also in the absolution, when a distressed sinner is pardoned. By what authority and command is he pardoned? Not by human command, but by God’s command. Behold, here by God’s power I deliver you from the kingdom of the devil and transfer you to the kingdom of God [Col. 1:13]. So it is too with our prayer, which gains all things from God, not through its own power, or because it is able to do this, but because it trusts in God’s promise. In the world you see how hard it is to approach the Roman emperor and gain help; but a devout Christian can always come to God with a humble, believing prayer and be heard.

In short, the Word and the Holy Spirit, who prepares us for prayer, are in God’s power. It is the Word which we believe—this is what makes our hearts so bold that we dare to call ourselves the children of the Father. Where does this come from? The answer is: From God, who teaches us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer and puts into our hands the book of Psalms” (Luther’s Works, v. 51, p. 307).

#69- In the Christian Church only the Word of God Resounds

“Here Christ is not speaking of how the church is built, as he spoke above concerning the dwelling. But when it has been built, then the Word must certainly be there, and a Christian should listen to nothing but God’s Word. Elsewhere, in worldly affairs, he hears other things, how the wicked should be punished and the good protected, and about the economy. But here in the Christian church it should be a house in which only the Word of God resounds. Therefore let them shriek themselves crazy with their cry: church, church! Without the Word of God it is nothing. My dear Christians are steadfast confessors of the Word, in life and in death. They will not forsake this dwelling, so dearly do they love this Prince. Whether in favor or not, for this they will leave country and people, body and life. Thus we read of a Roman centurion, a martyr, who, when he was stripped of everything, said, ‘This I know; they cannot take away from me my Lord Christ.’ Therefore a Christian says: This Christ I must have, though it cost me everything else; what I cannot take with me can go; Christ alone is enough for me. Therefore all Christians should stand strong and steadfast upon the Word alone, as St. Peter says, ‘by the strength which God supplies’ [I Pet. 4:11].

Behold, how it all happens in weakness. Look at baptism, it is water; where does the hallowing and the power come from? From the pope? No, it comes from God, who says, ‘He who believes and is baptized’ [Mark 16:16]. For the pope puts trust in the consecrated water. Why, pope? Who gave you the power? The ecclesia, the church? Yes, indeed, where is it written? Nowhere! Therefore the consecrated water is Satan’s goblin bath [Kobelbad], which cripples, blinds, and consecrates the people without the Word. But in the church one should teach and preach nothing besides or apart from the Word of God. For the pastor who does the baptizing says: It is not I who baptize you; I am only the instrument of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; this is not my work” (Luther’s Works, v. 51, p. 306-307).

#66- The World has a Different Kingdom, God Dwelling in Word and Sacrament

“Thus since the Lord Christ said here, ‘He who has my commandments and keeps them, him will I love and manifest myself to him’ [John 14:21], Judas says: Are we to be the only ones? Is it to be such a meager revelation and manifestation? Will it not be manifest to the whole world, including the Jews and the Gentiles? What is it going to be? Are we to be the only ones to inherit you, and the Gentiles know nothing? This false Jewish delusion was in the apostles and that is why this Gospel here describes the kingdom of the Lord Christ and paints a far different picture of it for the disciples. It is if he were saying: No, the world has a different kingdom, my dear Judas; that’s why I say: If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and I will be with him along with my Father and the Holy Spirit and make our home with him. This home is God’s dwelling, as Jerusalem was called the dwelling of God, which he himself chose as his own: Here is my hearth, my house and dwelling [Isa. 31:9]; just as today the churches are called God’s dwellings on account of the Word and sacraments. Here I think that Christ is pronouncing a severe judgment, here he is prophesying and forgetting the dwelling of Jerusalem, of which all the prophets said: Here will I dwell forever. This dwelling the Lord Christ pulls down and erects and builds a new dwelling, a new Jerusalem, not made of stones and wood, but rather: If a man loves me and keeps my Word, there shall be my castle, my chamber, my dwelling” (Luther’s Works, v. 51, p. 304).

#65- We Can Protect and Defend Ourselves Against All Error and Fanatical Spirits

“After we have maintained this text over against the papistic rabble, different spirits come along from the opposite side and claim that they are the ones who have the Spirit. Their one boast is of nothing but the Spirit. And they bring some fine and alluring arguments and attractive words, as the Anabaptists and their ilk do today, and in years past the Montanists and many others did. Our whole quarrel with all these factions revolves about their claim that they have the Holy Spirit and that therefore they should be believed. It is our lot to be constantly locked in combat with the devil and false spirits. But if we view this verse and others aright, we can judge properly and refute everything that opposes it. Let them advance whatever doctrine they will; I know well what my Lord Christ says and what I must believe. If someone comes with a doctrine allegedly taught and revealed by the Holy Spirit, I cling to this Word and apply it to his doctrine as the proper touchstone. If I see that it agrees with the words of Christ, I consider it true and good. But if it deviates from them and presents something else, I declare: ‘You are not the Holy Spirit; you are the devil! For the true Spirit comes in the name of no one else than Christ, and He teaches nothing but what Christ said.’ Thus we can protect and defend ourselves against all error and fanatical spirits if we but adhere to this and preserve this verse in its truth and purity, knowing that the Holy Spirit does not present the trifles and hocus-pocus of men, but great and serious matters, namely, Christ with His gifts. We can boldly rely on this; and we can also conclude that we who have Christ are holy before God and have the Holy Spirit with us in opposition to any self-styled holiness” (Luther’s Works, v. 24, p. 176-177).

#64- Is It God’s Word or the Pope’s Opinion?

“If they were the true church, they would say: ‘I hold to the words of my dear Lord Christ. To these I cling firmly; according to them I decide everything, and I do not hold with those who want to do otherwise.’ That is what the church did years ago when it condemned all heresy and false doctrine, not on the basis of its own thinking, as the pope and his clique do, but in accordance with God’s Word. It concluded: ‘That is what my Christ says; that is what the Holy Spirit has taught me. Therefore I conclude and declare that Arius and others who teach the opposite are heretics and accursed teachers.’ This is a correct conclusion—the conclusion which must be adopted by the Christian Church. And this must be respected and observed. But conclusions touching on other things, such as vestments, food, drink, and other external show, were not reached in this manner; for they are based, not on Christ’s Word but on the pope’s own opinion. Let them prescribe in this sphere what they please; these matters do not concern the church. For whatever God’s Word teaches and Christendom concludes does not pertain to this life; it pertains to the life beyond. Therefore it must come not from our reason; it must come from above, from Christ, and must be in accord with His command”  (Luther’s Works, v. 24, p. 176).

#68- The Church Looks to Christ, not to Pope, Cardinals and Bishops

“This is why it must always be said that it is God who is speaking. After all, this is the way it must be in this world; if a prince wants to rule, his voice must be heard in his country and his house. And if this happens in this miserable life, so much the more must we let God’s Word resound in the church and in eternal life. All subjects and governments must be obedient to the Word of their Lord. This is called administration. Therefore a preacher conducts the household of God by virtue and on the strength of his commission and office, and he dare not say anything different from what God says and commands. And even though there may be a lot of talk which is not the Word of God, the church is not in all this talk, even though they begin to yell like mad. All they do is to shriek: church, church! Listen to the pope and the bishops!

But when they are asked: What is the Christian church? What does it say and do? they reply: The church looks to the pope, cardinals, and bishops. This is not true! Therefore we must look to Christ and listen to him as he describes the true Christian church in contrast to their phony shrieking. For one should and one must rather believe Christ and the apostles, that one must speak God’s Word and do as St. Peter and here the Lord Christ says: He who keeps my Word, there is my dwelling, there is the Builder, my Word must remain in it; otherwise it shall not be my house. Our papists want to improve on this, and therefore they may be in peril. Christ says: ‘We will make our home with him’; there the Holy Spirit will be at work. There must be a people that loves me and keeps my commandments. Quite bluntly, this is what he wants” (Luther’s Works, v. 51, p. 305-306).

#67- We Owe Obedience to the Church Which Speaks the Word of God

“In saying this Christ gave the answer to the argument concerning the true church; for to this day you hear our papists boasting and saying: the church, the church! It is true that Christ wants to have his home where the Father and the Holy Spirit want to be and to dwell. The entire Trinity dwells in the true church; what the true church does and directs is done and directed by God. Now the new church is a different dwelling from that of Jerusalem; he tears down all the prophecies concerning Jerusalem, as if Jerusalem were nothing in his eyes, and he builds another dwelling, the Christian church. Here we agree with the papists that there is one Christian church; but Christ wants to be everywhere in the land. These are fine, heart-warming words—that God wants to come down to us, God wants to come to us and we do not need to clamber up to him, he wants to be with us to the end of the world: Here dwells the Holy Spirit, effecting and creating everything in the Christian church.

But what is the dissension about between the papists and us? The answer is: about the true Christian church. Should one then be obedient to the Christian church? Yes, certainly, all believers owe this obedience; for St. Peter commands in the fourth chapter of his first Epistle: ‘Whoever speaks’ should speak ‘as one who utters oracles of God’ [I Pet. 4:11]. If anybody wants to preach, let him suppress his own words arid let them prevail in worldly and domestic affairs; here in the church he should speak nothing but the Word of this rich Householder; otherwise it is not the true church” (Luther’s Works, v. 51, p. 304-305).

#63- The Church Does Not Alter or Pervert The Word of God

“Therefore let us look at this text aright, keep it pure, and hold it properly before our noses. Christ says: ‘The Comforter, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things.’ These words they ignore; they pervert them by saying: ‘The Holy Spirit comes in our name; whatever popes, cardinals, and bishops decide is done by the Holy Spirit.’ But ‘in Christ’s name’ means: wherever Christ is understood, known, and believed; wherever His Baptism and the office of the ministry are administered.

Furthermore, Christ says: ‘He will teach you and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you; that is, He will teach you that it is My Word and doctrine. He will apply Himself to this and recall it to your mind, that you may understand and judge that it is My Word, the very words which I spoke to you. He will emphasize it and make it clearer from day to day, so that you will know Me ever better and see how through Me you are delivered from sin and death.’

That is my answer to our papists, who come strutting along with this verse. They praise the glorious name of the Christian Church. They say that the church is taught by the Holy Spirit and that for this reason its dictates must be obeyed. That is true and correct. But it is important to discern who is and who is not the church. Christ says: ‘You can observe and judge this by the presence or the absence of My Word. The Holy Spirit shall come in My name and teach what I have said. But if its teachings are different from, and not in harmony with, My Word, then it is not the Christian Church. For how could the church alter or pervert the Word of its Lord?’”  (Luther’s Works, v. 24, p. 175-176).

#62- The Church Is Concerned With Cleansing Us From Sin

“On the other hand, if you hear people preaching about Christ and treating and expounding His Word, Baptism, His suffering, and His resurrection, then you can say: ‘Here I am listening to the true Christian Church. For here is the Holy Spirit, who teaches and brings to remembrance what Christ said, not human prattle about food, drink, and clothing. For how do such things concern the church?  Or why should they require the Holy Spirit? Every father can establish such rules in his house for his servants. What is there to prevent a heathen who has heard nothing about Christ, the Holy Spirit, or the church from instituting ordinances with reference to the consumption of fish or meat on such and such a day, the celebration of holidays, the observance of fasts, or the wearing of a red, brown, black, or gray garb? What knowledge or revelation from the Holy Spirit is necessary to prescribe that a cardinal must sit above a bishop, a bishop above a prince, etc.? Any heathen or non-Christian can do that. For God endowed man with reason with which to reign on earth; that is, it should be competent to establish laws and ordinances touching man’s physical life, his eating, drinking, and clothing, and to maintain external discipline and respectable conduct.

Such authority is not restricted to Christians, but it pertains most of all to the heathen and the Turks. For in our capacity as Christians we are not concerned with this, and the office of the Holy Spirit does not deal with it at all. He is interested in other matters, namely, to cleanse us from sin, to deliver us from death, to free us from the devil, to extinguish the fire of hell, and to make us holy, living, and eternal children of God. This is not accomplished with cowls, tonsures, and the eating of fish or meat; to attain this we must give ear to the words and message of Christ, who shed His blood and died for us”  (Luther’s Works, v. 24, p. 174-175).