† Luther on “How Sinners Get to Heaven” †
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. -John 3:16
Notice that Christ represents the Father to us as none else than the all-loving and magnetic one, and he brings us through himself to the Father. Everything Christ does tends to help us to acquire a loving confidence in the Father. To simply fear the Father confers no benefit; but to bear to him a companionable love of rare quality makes us blessed. Christ says here, the Father so loved the world that he gave his beloved child for the world, and instituted for us a way to come to him; that way is Christ. I have often said that faith alone is not sufficient before God, but the price of redemption must also be in evidence.
What is now the cost of redemption? We do not possess the Father except through a mediator, and he will not allow us to approach the Father without one. Some teach us to approach the Father without a mediator, through our own good works. That means to reject Christ as a mediator. It would be at the peril of our lives, for we should be despising the priceless sacrifice which the Father made for us. But let us thank the Father for ordering it as he has, and placing between us one who is God and equal with God, and also man, on a level with man; for we are human and he is God. Where God and man oppose each other, man meets with instant destruction, for he cannot stand against God. God has intervened by placing as mediator one who is true God and true man. Through him we are to come to the Father; with the price we can pay nothing is accomplished.
Those who teach that man is to be saved by his own works say: Whosoever becomes a monk or nun, or repeats every day the little prayer of St. Bridget, shall be eternally saved. This is no less than saying: I will work enough to escape perdition; I will turn my sins into vapor, to disappear and open a way into heaven. They wish to discover the sacrifice or price of salvation in themselves and to ignore Christ as mediator. But they must perish, since they fain would come to the Father without a mediator, without Christ, whom the Father holds up before us out of his gracious goodness. Christ teaches here that we are not lost, but have eternal life; that is, that God has so loved us that he allowed the ransom to cost him his only beloved child. Him he placed in our stead to suffer misery, hell and death, and let him drink our cup to the dregs. This is the way we are to be saved.
Now, if there were another way to heaven doubtless he would have made it known to us. There is no other. Therefore, let us cling to the words, firmly pilot our hearts along this way and keep within it, and let us close our eyes and say: If I had the merits of all the saints, the sanctity and purity of all virgins, and the piety of St. Peter besides, still I would not give a fig for all I call my own. I must have another foundation on which to build, namely, the words: God has given his Son, that whoever believes on him, whom the Father sent out of love, shall be saved. And let us defiantly boast [in Christ] that we must be sustained. Let us fearlessly establish ourselves upon his words, which neither Satan, hell nor death can overthrow, for the Father mightily writes his Word over these terrors and all that clings to them. Come what will, let us say: Here is God’s Word; that is my rock and anchor; to that I cling and that abides; and where that abides, there I abide also. For God cannot lie; sooner would the heavens and earth perish than the smallest letter of his Word fail.
Say to the Father: “Although I cannot exist before your majesty nor that of any angel – all must shake and tremble – yet I have here one, Christ, whom you cannot not fail to regard. I am under his protection and rely upon your Word that you will receive me through him. You will not reject me, for you must reject him before you reject me.” In this way one must come to the Father through Christ, thereby gaining a beautiful and loving refuge in him. This lifts up and cheers a timid, despairing conscience and gives it peace.
“A sermon on Pentecost Monday, the Gospel of John 3, ‘God so loved the world’ etc.
Preached by Dr. Martin Luther, Wittenberg,” (1522).
† The Sufficiencies of God’s Grace †
My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:9
No Christian enjoys suffering, hardship, persecution, the struggle with sin, stumbling in temptation, a bad conscience that doubts God’s forgiveness, or the experience of our own frailties and weaknesses. Yet Jesus says to us the same thing He said to Paul: “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” The paradox of the Christian life is that it is only through the experience of our human weaknesses and limitations as sinners that we truly come to know the power and comfort of God’s grace in Christ. Without the experience of the Law condemning us, our conscience accusing us, and the sufferings and struggles of our lives weighing us down, we would never be in the proper position to receive the free, unconditional, and totally unmerited mercy of God that Jesus gives to us in the Gospel.
That God loves and forgives us for Jesus’ sake precisely because we are weak and infirm without Him is the heart of the Gospel and the centre of our faith. That God loves and forgives us freely for Jesus’ sake as sinners is precisely the power by which we live our lives each day as Christians. Without weakness, struggle, and suffering we would not understand and know the fullness of God’s love for us in Christ which is the source of a joyful life that is lived in the absolute freedom of Jesus’ forgiveness and unending mercy. No wonder, then, that St. Paul goes on to confess: “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
† What to Do When the Devil Throws Your Sins in Your Face! †
So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, then tell him this: “I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it. Fo I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!” — Martin Luther
For you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer. I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin. Do not forsake me, O LORD! O my God, be not far from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation! Psalm 38:15, 18, 21-22
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3:16-17