#67 God Help Us As We Do Our Part as Christians

A thousand years ago you and I were nothing, and yet the church was preserved at that time without us. He who is called “who was” and “yesterday” had to accomplish this. Even during our lifetime we are not the church’s guardians. It is not preserved by us, for we are unable to drive off the devil in the persons of the pope, the sects, and evil men. If it were up to us, the church would perish before our very eyes, and we together with it (as we experience daily). For it is another Man who obviously preserves both the church and us. He does this so plainly that we could touch and feel it, if we did not want to believe it. We must leave this to him who is called “who is” and “today.” Likewise we will contribute nothing toward the preservation of the church after our death. He who is called “who is to come” and “forever” will accomplish it. What we are now saying about ourselves in this respect, our ancestors also had to say, as is borne out by the psalms and the Scriptures. And our descendants will make the same discovery, prompting them to join us and the entire church in singing Psalm 124: “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, let Israel now say,” etc.  (Luther’s Works, v.47, p.118)

Picture:  Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from  Das Newe Testament Deuotzsch.  The image is from Martin Luther’s (1483-1546) September Testament. The image is based on Revelation chapter 6:1-8.  After the first four seals are opened, four horsemen roam the earth bringing great calamity. They are shown carrying a bow, a sword, scales, and a pitchfork. Woodcut designed by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553), a close friend of Luther.  http://pitts.emory.edu/

#66 God Help Us As We Do Our Part as Christians

I can see there in the distance how the devil is puffing out his cheeks so vigorously that he is turning all red as he prepares to blow and rage. But our Lord Christ from the beginning (even when he was in the flesh) struck these puffed cheeks with his fist, so that they emitted nothing but the devil’s stinking wind. He still does this today and will ever continue to do so. For Christ does not lie when he declares, “I am with you always, to the close of the age” [Matt. 28:20], and when he assures us that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church [Matt. 16:18]. At the same time we are enjoined to remain awake and to do our part in preserving the light. We read, “Be watchful,” for the devil is called a “roaring lion” who “prowls around, seeking some one to devour” [I Pet. 5:8], and this he did not only in the days of the apostles when St. Peter uttered these words; he does so to the end of time. Let us be guided by this. God help us as he helped our forefathers, and as he will help our heirs, to the honor and glory of his divine name forever. For after all, we are not the ones who can preserve the church, nor were our forefathers able to do so. Nor will our successors have this power. No, it was, is, and will be he who says, “I am with you always, to the close of the age.” As it says in Hebrews 13 [:8], “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever,” and in Revelation 1 [:8], “He who is and who was and who is to come.” This is his name and no one else’s; nor may anyone else be called by that name.  (Luther’s Works, v.47, p.117-118)

Picture:  Beasts of the Earth and Sea from  Das Newe Testament Deuotzsch.  The image is from Martin Luther’s (1483-1546) September Testament. The image is based on Revelation chapter 13. All the people of earth, whose names are not in the book of life, worship the seven-headed beast emerging from the sea, as another beast emerges from the earth. Woodcut designed by Lucas Cranach, the Elder (1472-1553), a close friend of Martin Luther.  http://pitts.emory.edu/

#65 God’s People Will Never Have Earthly Peace in this World

And even if I were to live another hundred years and should succeed by the grace of God not only in allaying the past and present storms and rabbles but also all future ones, I realize that this would still not procure peace for our descendants so long as the devil lives and rules. Therefore I am also praying for a gracious hour of death; I care no more for this life.  I exhort you, our posterity, to pray and to pursue the word of God with diligence. Keep God’s poor candle burning. Be warned and be on the alert, watching lest at any hour the devil try to break a pane or window or fling open a door or tear the roof off in order to extinguish the light; for he will not die before the Last Day. You and I have to die, but after our death he still remains the same as he always has been, unable to desist from his raging. (Luther’s Works, v.47, p.117)

Picture: Fifth Trumpet from  Das Newe Testament Deuotzsch.

The image is from Martin Luther’s (1483-1546) September Testament. The image is based on Revelation chapter 9. The angel blows a trumpet causing a star to fall from heaving, opening the pit and allowing locusts with crowns to prey upon the earth. Woodcut designed by Lucas Cranach, the Elder (1472-1553), a close friend of Martin Luther.  http://pitts.emory.edu/

#63 Mob Rebellion is never Moderate

If it is considered right to murder or depose tyrants, the practice spreads and it becomes a commonplace thing arbitrarily to call men tyrants who are not tyrants, and even to kill them if the mob takes a notion to do so….  We dare not encourage the mob very much. It goes mad too quickly; and it is better to take ten ells from it than to allow it a handsbreadth, or even a fingersbreadth in such a case. And it is better for the tyrants to wrong them a hundred times than for the mob to treat the tyrant unjustly but once. If injustice is to be suffered, then it is better for subjects to suffer it from their rulers than for the rulers to suffer it from their subjects. The mob neither has any moderation nor even knows what moderation is. And every person in it has more than five tyrants hiding in him. Now it is better to suffer wrong from one tyrant, that is, from the ruler, than from unnumbered tyrants, that is, from the mob….

Solomon in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes repeatedly teaches us to obey the king and be subject to him. Now no one can deny that when subjects set themselves against their rulers, they avenge themselves and make themselves judges. This is not only against the ordinance and command of God, who reserves to himself the authority to pass judgment and administer punishment in these matters, but such actions are also contrary to all natural law and justice. This is the meaning of the proverbs, “No man ought to judge his own case,” and, “The man who hits back is in the wrong.”  (Luther’s Works, v.46, p.105-108)

#62 What If They Will Not Allow the Gospel? Flee

But these examples are not enough for us, for here we are not concerned with what the heathen or the Jews did, but what is the right and the just thing to do, not only before God in the Spirit, but also in the divine external ordinance of temporal government. Suppose that a people would rise up today or tomorrow and depose their lord or kill him. That certainly could happen if God decrees that it should, and the lords must expect it. But that does not mean that it is right and just for the people to do it. I have never known of a case in which this was a just action, and even now I cannot imagine any. The peasants who rebelled claimed that the lords would not allow the gospel to be preached and that they robbed the poor people and, therefore, the lords had to be overthrown. I answered this by saying that although the lords did wrong in this, it would not therefore be just or right to do wrong in return, that is, to be disobedient and destroy God’s ordinance, which is not ours to do.  On the contrary, we ought to suffer wrong, and if a prince or lord will not tolerate the gospel, then we ought to go into another realm where the gospel is preached, as Christ says in Matthew 10 [:23], “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next.”  (Luther’s Works, v.46, p.104-105)

#61 A Christian Patiently Suffers Wrong and Endures Evil

I say all this, dear friends, as a faithful warning. In this case you should stop calling yourselves Christians and stop claiming that you have the Christian law on your side. For no matter how right you are, it is not right for a Christian to appeal to law, or to fight, but rather to suffer wrong and endure evil; and there is no other way (I Corinthians 6 [:1–8]). You yourselves confess in the preface to your articles that “all who believe in Christ become loving, peaceful, patient, and agreeable.”  Your actions, however, reveal nothing but impatience, aggression, anger, and violence. Thus you contradict your own words. You want to be known as patient people, you who will endure neither injustice nor evil, but will endure only what is just and good. That is a fine kind of patience! Any rascal can practice it! It does not take a Christian to do that! So again I say, however good and just your cause may be, nevertheless, because you would defend yourselves and are unwilling to suffer either violence or injustice, you may do anything that God does not prevent. However, leave the name Christian out of it. Leave the name Christian out, I say, and do not use it to cover up your impatient, disorderly, un-Christian undertaking.  I shall not let you have that name, but so long as there is a heartbeat in my body, I shall do all I can, through speaking and writing, to take that name away from you. You will not succeed, or will succeed only in ruining your bodies and souls.  (Luther’s Works, v.46, p.31-32)

Picture: Mark  from  Das Newe Testament Deuotzsch.

Mark writes his gospel with his attribute the lion nearby. Woodcut designed by Lucas Cranach, the Elder (1472-1553), a close friend of Martin Luther.  http://pitts.emory.edu

#64 In this World, We Struggle and Suffer for the Sake of the Godly

For the devil is lord of the world. I myself could never believe this, that the devil should be the lord and god of the world. But I experienced often enough that this too is an article of faith: He is “prince of the world, god of this age.” However—God be praised—this is not believed by the children of men, and I myself do not fully believe it. For everyone thinks he knows best and hopes that the devil is beyond the ocean and God is tucked in our pocket.

But it is for the sake of the godly who wish to be saved that we must live, preach, write, do, and suffer all. Otherwise, if one contemplates the devil and the false brethren, it seems better not to preach, to write, or to do anything, but only to die early and be buried. For they pervert and revile all things and convert them into objects of offense and damage, just as the devil drives and leads them to do. It is inevitable that we struggle and suffer. We cannot be any better than the dear prophets and apostles who also had the same experience.  (Luther’s Works, v.47, p.113-114)

#60 Luther’s Illustration: Commit and Rely on God

I must also give you an illustration from the present. Pope and emperor have opposed me and raged against me. Now what have I done that the more pope and emperor raged, the more my gospel spread? I have never drawn a sword or desired revenge. I began neither conspiracy nor rebellion, but so far as I was able, I have helped the worldly rulers—even those who persecuted the gospel and me—to preserve their power and honor.  I stopped with committing the matter to God and relying confidently at all times upon his hand. This is why God has not only preserved my life in spite of the pope and all the tyrants—and this many consider a really great miracle, as I myself must also confess—but he has made my gospel grow and spread. Now you interfere with what I am doing. You want to help the gospel and yet you do not see that what you are doing hinders and suppresses it most effectively.  (Luther’s Works, v.46, p.31)

#59 Suffering Distinguished

This, you see, is the way we teach concerning suffering, and you should also accustom yourself to distinguish carefully between the suffering of Christ and all other suffering and know that his is a heavenly suffering and ours is worldly, that his suffering accomplishes everything, while ours does nothing except that we become conformed to Christ, and that therefore the suffering of Christ is the suffering of a lord, whereas ours is the suffering of a servant. And those who teach otherwise know neither what Christ’s suffering nor our suffering is. Why? Because reason cannot do otherwise; it likes to put on a display with its suffering, as with all other works, so that it may gain some merit. That’s why we must learn to distinguish. We have said enough for this time concerning the example of the Passion and our suffering. God grant that we may understand and learn it aright. Amen. (Luther’s Works, v.51, p.198-199)

Picture: Table of Contents from  Das Newe Testament Deuotzsch.

The table of contents from Martin Luther’s (1483-1546) September Testament published in September of 1522. The New Testament in German was Luther’s crowning achievement which opened the Bible to laypeople. The table of contests had four books of the Bible at the bottom (Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation) without numbers showing Luther’s preference for the other books.  http://pitts.emory.edu/

#58 Summary Concerning Suffering

Since we know then that it is God’s good pleasure that we should suffer, and that God’s glory is manifested in our suffering, better than in any other way, and since we are the kind of people who cannot hold on to the Word and our faith without suffering, and moreover since we have the noble, previous promise that the cross which God sends to us is not a bad thing, but rather an utterly precious and noble holy thing, why should we not be bold to suffer? As for those who will not suffer, let them go and be cavaliers; we preach this only to the devout who want to be Christians, the others wouldn’t carry it out anyhow. After all, we have so many assurances and promises that he will not allow us to stick in our suffering but will help us out of it, even though all men should doubt it. Therefore, even though it hurts, so be it, you have to go through some suffering anyhow; things cannot always go smoothly. It is just as well, nay, a thousand times better, to have suffered for the sake of Christ, who promised us comfort and help in suffering, than to suffer and despair and perish without comfort and help for the sake of the devil. (Luther’s Works, v.51, p.208)

Picture:  Woman and Dragon from  Das Newe Testament Deuotzsch.

The image is from Martin Luther’s (1483-1546) September Testament. The image is based on Revelation chapter 12. The woman’s baby is saved from the beast upon his birth and the dragon is defeated by angels. Woodcut designed by Lucas Cranach, the Elder (1472-1553).  http://pitts.emory.edu/