#36 Where God Built a Church, the devil Built a Chapel Beside It

Now when the devil saw that God built such a holy church, he was not idle, and erected his chapel beside it, larger than God’s temple. This is how he did it: he noticed that God utilized outward things, like baptism, word, sacrament, keys, etc., whereby he sanctified his church. And since the devil is always God’s ape, trying to imitate all God’s things and to improve on them, he also tried his luck with external things purported to make man holy—just as he tries with rain-makers, sorcerers, exorcists of devils, etc. He even has the Lord’s Prayer recited and the gospel read over them to make it appear a great holy possession. Thus he had popes and papists consecrate or sanctify water, salt, candles, herbs, bells, images, Agnus Dei, pallia, chasubles, tonsures, fingers, hands—who can tell it all?—finally the monks’ cowls to a degree that many people died and were buried in them, believing that thereby they would be saved. Now it would have been fine indeed if God’s word or a blessing or a prayer were spoken over these created things, as children do over their food or over themselves when they go to bed and when they arise. St. Paul says of this, “Everything created by God is good, and is consecrated by the word of God and prayer” [I Tim. 4:4–5]. The creature derives no new power from such a practice, but is strengthened in its former power.  (Luther’s Works, v.41, p.167-168)

Picture: Come Unto Me Statue

#35 Signs of the Fruits of Faith Not as Reliable as Faith Itself

However, these signs cannot be regarded as being as reliable as those noted before since some heathen too practice these works and indeed at times appear holier than Christians; yet their actions do not issue from the heart purely and simply, for the sake of God, but they search for some other end because they lack a real faith in and a true knowledge of God. But here is the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies the heart and produces these fruits from “an honest and good heart,” as Christ says in the parable recorded in Matthew 13 [Luke 8:15]. Since the first table is greater and must be a holier possession, I have summarized everything in the second table. Otherwise, I could have divided it too into seven holy possessions or seven principal parts, according to the seven commandments.

Now we know for certain what, where, and who the holy Christian church is, that is, the holy Christian people of God; and we are quite certain that it cannot fail us. Everything else may fail and surely does, as we shall hear in part. Men should be selected from this people to form a council; that might be a council ruled by the Holy Spirit. Thus Lyra, too, writes that the church is not to be assessed by the high or spiritual vocations in it, but by the people who truly believe.  I am surprised that he was not burned at the stake for these words, for denying that popes, cardinals, bishops, and prelates compose the church; this amounts to abominable heresy, intolerable and offensive to the holy Roman church. More about this elsewhere.  (Luther’s Works, v.41, p.167)

Picture: The Good Shepherd window, middle frame

#34 Other Outward Signs(Fruits of Faith) that Identify The Church

In addition to these seven principal parts there are other outward signs that identify the Christian church, namely, those signs whereby the Holy Spirit sanctifies us according to the second table of Moses; when he assists us in sincerely honoring our father and mother, and conversely, when he helps them to raise their children in a Christian way and to lead honorable lives; when we faithfully serve our princes and lords and are obedient and subject to them, and conversely, when they love their subjects and protect and guard them; also when we bear no one a grudge, entertain no anger, hatred, envy, or vengefulness toward our neighbors, but gladly forgive them, lend to them, help them, and counsel them; when we are not lewd, not drunkards, not proud, arrogant, overbearing, but chaste, self-controlled, sober, friendly, kind, gentle, and humble; when we do not steal, rob, are not usurious, greedy, do not overcharge, but are mild, kind, content, charitable; when we are not false, mendacious, perjurers, but truthful, trustworthy, and do whatever else is taught in these commandments—all of which St. Paul teaches abundantly in more than one place.

We need the Decalogue not only to apprise us of our lawful obligations, but we also need it to discern how far the Holy Spirit has advanced us in his work of sanctification and by how much we still fall short of the goal, lest we become secure and imagine that we have now done all that is required. Thus we must constantly grow in sanctification and always become new creatures in Christ. This means “grow” and “do so more and more” [II Pet. 3:18].  (Luther’s Works, v.41, p.166)

Picture: The Baptismal Font

#33 The True Seven Principle Possessions of The Church

These are the true seven principal parts of the great holy possession whereby the Holy Spirit effects in us a daily sanctification and vivification in Christ, according to the first table of Moses. By this we obey it, albeit never as perfectly as Christ. But we constantly strive to attain the goal, under his redemption or remission of sin, until we too shall one day become perfectly holy and no longer stand in need of forgiveness. Everything is directed toward that goal. I would even call these seven parts the seven sacraments, but since that term has been misused by the papists and is used in a different sense in Scripture, I shall let them stand as the seven principal parts of Christian sanctification or the seven holy possessions of the church.

  1. The Holy Word of God
  2. The Holy Sacrament of Baptism
  3. The Holy Sacrament of the Altar
  4. The Office of the Keys
  5. The Ministers Who Administer
  6. Prayer, Praise and Thanksgiving
  7. The Sacred Cross of Affliction

(Luther’s Works, v.41, p.165-166)

Picture:  The Victorious Savior Window

#32 The Victory of Christ Is Utterly Certain

We must look at this image and take hold of it with a firm faith. He who does this has the innocence and the victory of Christ, no matter how great a sinner he is. But this cannot be grasped by loving will; it can be grasped only by reason illumined by faith. Therefore we are justified by faith alone, because faith alone grasps this victory of Christ. To the extent that you believe this, to that extent you have it. If you believe that sin, death, and the curse have been abolished, they have been abolished, because Christ conquered and overcame them in Himself; and He wants us to believe that just as in His Person there is no longer the mask of the sinner or any vestige of death, so this is no longer in our person, since He has done everything for us.

Therefore if sin makes you anxious, and if death terrifies you, just think that this is an empty specter and an illusion of the devil—which is what it surely is. For in fact there is no sin any longer, no curse, no death, and no devil, because Christ has conquered and abolished all these. Accordingly, the victory of Christ is utterly certain; the defects lie not in the fact itself, which is completely true, but in our incredulity. It is difficult for reason to believe such inestimable blessings. In addition, the devil and the sectarians—the former with his flaming darts (Eph. 6:16), the latter with their perverse and wicked doctrine—are bent on this one thing: to obscure this doctrine and take it away from us. It is above all for this doctrine, on which we insist so diligently, that we bear the hate and persecution of Satan and of the world. For Satan feels the power and the results of this doctrine.  (Luther’s Works, v.26, p.284-285)

Picture: The Risen Christ

#31 This Fortunate Exchange

By this fortunate exchange with us He took upon Himself our sinful person and granted us His innocent and victorious Person. Clothed and dressed in this, we are freed from the curse of the Law, because Christ Himself voluntarily became a curse for us, saying: “For My own Person of humanity and divinity I am blessed, and I am in need of nothing whatever. But I shall empty Myself (Phil. 2:7); I shall assume your clothing and mask; and in this I shall walk about and suffer death, in order to set you free from death.” Therefore when, inside our mask, He was carrying the sin of the whole world, He was captured, He suffered, He was crucified, He died; and for us He became a curse. But because He was a divine and eternal Person, it was impossible for death to hold Him. Therefore He arose from death on the third day, and now He lives eternally; nor can sin, death, and our mask be found in Him any longer; but there is sheer righteousness, life, and eternal blessing. (Luther’s Works, v.26, p.284)

Picture:  The Tools of Crucifixion:  The hammer and the pliers and the nails used in affixing Jesus to the cross.  The pole with a vinegar-soaked cloth to wet his lips before He cried, “It is finished.”  Also the spear which was used to pierce His side.

#30 This Doctrine, So Sweet and So Filled With Comfort

With gratitude and with a sure confidence, therefore, let us accept this doctrine, so sweet and so filled with comfort, which teaches that Christ became a curse for us, that is, a sinner worthy of the wrath of God; that He clothed Himself in our person, laid our sins upon His own shoulders, and said: “I have committed the sins that all men have committed.” Therefore He truly became accursed according to the Law, not for Himself but, as Paul says, ὑπὲρ ἡμω̂ν. For unless He had taken upon Himself my sins, your sins, and the sins of the entire world, the Law would have had no right over Him, since it condemns only sinners and holds only them under a curse. Therefore He could neither have become a curse nor have died, since the cause of the curse and of death is sin, of which He was innocent. But because He took upon Himself our sins, not by compulsion but of His own free will, it was right for Him to bear the punishment and the wrath of God—not for His own Person, which was righteous and invincible and therefore could not become guilty, but for our person.  (Luther’s Works, v.26, p.283-284)

Picture: This Lord’s Supper scene which is inset in their altar is three-dimensional.  Even the faces of the disciples not facing the congregation were completed by the artist.

#29 If the Doctrine of Justification is Sound, So Are the Others

As I often warn, therefore, the doctrine of justification must be learned diligently. For in it are included all the other doctrines of our faith; and if it is sound, all the others are sound as well. Therefore when we teach that men are justified through Christ and that Christ is the Victor over sin, death, and the eternal curse, we are testifying at the same time that He is God by nature.

From this it is evident enough how horribly blind and wicked the papists were when they taught that these fierce and mighty tyrants—sin, death, and the curse—who swallow up the whole human race, are to be conquered, not by the righteousness of the divine Law (which, even though it is just, good, and holy, cannot do anything but subject one to a curse) but by the righteousness of human works, such as fasts, pilgrimages, rosaries, vows, etc. But, I ask you, who has ever been found who conquered sin, death, etc., if he was equipped with this armor? In Eph. 6:13 ff. Paul describes a far different armor to be used against these savage beasts. By putting us, naked and without the armor of God, up against these invincible and almighty tyrants, these blind men and leaders of the blind (Matt. 15:14) have not only handed us over to them to be devoured but have also made us ten times greater and worse sinners than murderers or harlots. For it belongs exclusively to the divine power to destroy sin and abolish death, to create righteousness and grant life. This divine power they have attributed to our own works, saying: “If you do this or that work, you will conquer sin, death, and the wrath of God.” In this way they have made us true God by nature! Here the papists, under the Christian name, have shown themselves to be seven times greater idolaters than the Gentiles. What happens to them is what happens to the sow, which “is washed only to wallow in the mire” (2 Peter 2:22). And, as Christ says (Luke 11:24–26), after a man has fallen from faith, the evil spirit returns to the house from which he was expelled and brings along seven other spirits more evil than himself and dwells there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. (Luther’s Works, v.26, p.283)

Picture: Cross and crown

#28 Those Who Deny the Divinity of Christ lose all Christianity

This is the chief doctrine of the Christian faith. The sophists have completely obliterated it, and today the fanatics are obscuring it once more. Here you see how necessary it is to believe and confess the doctrine of the divinity of Christ. When Arius denied this, it was necessary also for him to deny the doctrine of redemption. For to conquer the sin of the world, death, the curse, and the wrath of God in Himself—this is the work, not of any creature but of the divine power. Therefore it was necessary that He who was to conquer these in Himself should be true God by nature. For in opposition to this mighty power—sin, death, and the curse—which of itself reigns in the whole world and in the entire creation, it is necessary to set an even higher power, which cannot be found and does not exist apart from the divine power. Therefore to abolish sin, to destroy death, to remove the curse in Himself, to grant righteousness, to bring life to light (2 Tim. 1:10), and to bring the blessing in Himself, that is, to annihilate these things and to create those—all these are works solely of the divine power. Since Scripture attributes all these to Christ, therefore He Himself is Life, Righteousness, and Blessing, that is, God by nature and in essence. Hence those who deny the divinity of Christ lose all Christianity and become Gentiles and Turks through and through. (Luther’s Works, v.26, p.282-283)

Picture:  flower

#27 The Church Is Not Recognized by Relics

Meanwhile, pay no heed to the papists’ holy possessions from dead saints, from the wood of the holy cross. For these are just as often bones taken from a carrion pit as bones of saints, and just as often wood taken from gallows as wood from the holy cross. There is nothing but fraud in this. The pope thus tricks people out of their money and alienates them from Christ. Even if it were a genuine holy possession, it would nonetheless not sanctify anyone. But when you are condemned, cursed, reviled, slandered, and plagued because of Christ, you are sanctified. It mortifies the old Adam and teaches him patience, humility, gentleness, praise and thanks, and good cheer in suffering. That is what it means to be sanctified by the Holy Spirit and to be renewed to a new life in Christ; in that way we learn to believe in God, to trust him, to love him, and to place our hope in him, as Romans 5 [:1–5] says, “Suffering produces hope,” etc.  (Luther’s Works, v.41, p.165)

Picture: In the small museum they had a hand-made altar cloth that was now retired.  The thorn crown with nails and the multi-colored fringe closely resembles our paraments.