This, like the preceding sermon, is not found in edition c. It appears in the collections of 14 and 27 sermons, and is one of the “Five beautifulChristian sermons preached by Dr. Martin Luther at Wittenberg, 1523.”
German text: Erlangen Edition, 12:109; Walch Edition, 11:1182; St. Louis Walch, 11:877.
2. How the Cross is to be distinguished from the sufferings of the godless 15.
* A short review of what is set forth in this discourse 16.
I. THE HOLY SPIRIT CONVICTS THE WORLD OF SIN.
1. Christ pictures to us in this Gospel what his kingdom is and what takes place in it, how it is governed and what it accomplishes. Here you learn that there is a kingdom upon the earth and that it is invisible, and that it cleaves to and rests upon the Word of God alone. Christ does not say that he wishes his disciples to follow him up into heaven at once; but that he will send them the Holy Spirit and that he departs from them for the very purpose of sending them the Holy Spirit, in order that thereby his kingdom may be further developed. Therefore, he says: “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” They could not understand that kingdom, how it should exist and be administered. Their reason and senses were still too carnal, they had never seen a spiritualkingdom, nor heard of one; therefore they continually thought of a temporal, outward kingdom. And here as in other Gospels, faith and trust in Christ are preached. We wish now to consider the leading thoughts in this Gospel and to explain them as far as God gives us his grace to do so. The Lord addresses his disciples thus: “When the Comforter is come, he will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment; of sin, because they believe not on me.”
2. Here we must let that be “sin” which is ascribed to, and included in, sin by the high majesty of heaven. In the text only unbelief is mentioned as sin, “because,” says the Lord, “they believe not on me.”
No sinsdare and can remain upon Christ. Such faith makes me pure and acceptable to the Father. Of this faith the pope and our highly educatedleaders know nothing to speak, much less to believe. They teach that man should do many good works if he is to be acceptable to God and be free from sin, and that then God imparts to him his grace.
Faith is so strong and overpowering that no sindare put it under any obligation. Although sins are present in pious and believing persons, they are not imputed to them, nor shall their sinscondemn them. This is Paul’s meaning when he says in Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in ChristJesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Their hearts are cleansed by faith, as Peter writes in Acts 15:9. Therefore, whatever they do in this faith, in this assurance is all good, pure and pleasing to God. On the contrary, without this faith all their doings are sin and destruction, though their good works may shine and glitter as beautifully as they will, and ever though they raise the dead. For Paul says: “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin,” Romans 14:23.
5. What will now become of all the priests, nuns and monks who, wishing to escapesin, run into cloisters and undertake to do many good works without this faith? Unbelief is called sin, as I said, but to believe on Christ — that he takes my sins upon himself, reconciles me to the Father and at the same time makes me his heir of all that is in heaven and earth — this is good works. In John 6:28-29, the Jews asked Christ: “What must we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered: “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” Yea, and should we preach thus, who will then enter the cloisters or contribute anything for them? The purses of the monks would then surely become flat, their kitchens scanty, their cellars empty and neglected. For this reason they will not allow faith to be preached; nay, they condemn this doctrine and banish its preachers. Indeed they have already set about it in good earnest. Christ further says: “Of righteousness, because I go to the Father.”
II. THE HOLY SPIRIT CONVICTS THE WORLD OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.
7. But what are we to understand here by “the world?” We dare not understand by it the coarse, outward sins, as adultery, murder, stealing and theft. There are instituted for such characters the wheels and gallows, with which the worldly powers, the kings, emperors and princes, have to do.
11. His way to the Father is his glory. For “to go” means to die, and to pass through death to the Father and enter upon another existence. He glories in his future course when he says: “I go unto the Father.”
12. The nature and art of faith are here set forth: Faith neither feels nor gropes, nor do the things connected with it require a science; but it bestirs itself cheerfully to believe the things it neither feels nor ‘can measure with all its powers inwardly or outwardly. Paul says in Romans 8:24: “Who hopeth for that which he seeth?” Therefore, the Lord aptly says: “And ye behold me no more.” As if he would say that this way of good works which he is traveling, will not be seen nor grasped by the senses, but it must be believed. Now follows the third and last part of our Gospel.
III. THE HOLY SPIRIT CONVICTS THE WORLD OF JUDGMENT, OR THE CROSS.
14. That, however, does not take place until death, when the flesh is completely turned to ashes. We must be in all points like Christ. Since he was here despised, mocked and tried, so that, as the prophet Isaiah ( Isaiah 53:3) says, he was esteemed and held as one stricken and smitten of God, the most despised and unworthy, full of grief and sorrow.
15. Therefore, St. Peter carefully discriminates and says: “If judgment begin first at us, what shall be the end of them that obey not the Gospel of God? And if the righteous is scarcely saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?” 1 Peter 4:17-18. This discrimination is between the sufferings of the godly and of the wicked. Godly and believing persons know their sins; they bear all their punishment patiently, and are resigned to God’s judgment without the least murmur; therefore, they are punished only bodily, and here in time, and their pain and suffering have an end.
16. Thus, three thoughts have been presented to us in this Gospel: Sin, righteousness and, finally, the cross and persecution. We shall be freed from sin through faith. If we believe that Christ made satisfaction for our sins and that his satisfaction is ours, that is then the righteousness. When we are free from sin, and are just and pious, then the world, Satan and the flesh will arise and contend and battle against us. Then come persecution and the cross. This we wish to have set forth in brief at present from this Gospel. May God grant his grace that we learn it thus, and know how to govern ourselves by it when we need it.