What To Look For And Expect In The Gospel

High Key Close Up

Be sure, moreover, that you do not make Christ into a Moses, as if Christ did nothing more than teach and provide examples as the other saints do, as if the gospel were simply a textbook of teachings or laws.  Therefore you should grasp Christ, his words, works, and sufferings, in a twofold manner.  First as an example that is presented to you, which you should follow and imitate...  However this is the smallest part of the gospel, on the basis of which it cannot yet even be called gospel.  For on this level Christ is of no more help to you than some other saint.  His life remains his own and does not as yet contribute anything to you.  In short this mode [of understanding Christ is simply an example] does not make Christians but only hypocrites.  You must grasp Christ at a much higher level.  Even thought this higher level has for a long time been the very best, the preaching of it has been something rare.  The chief article and foundation of the gospel is that before you take Christ as an example, you accept and recognize him as a gift, as a present that  God has given you and that is your own.  This means that when you see or hear of Christ doing or suffering something, you do not doubt that Christ himself, with his deeds and suffering, belongs to you.  On this you may depend as surely as if you had done it yourself; indeed as if you were Christ himself.  See, this is what it means to have a proper grasp of the gospel, that is, of the overwhelming goodness of God, which neither prophet, nor apostle, nor angel was ever able fully to express, and which no heart could adequately fathom or marvel at.  This is the great fire of the love of God for us, whereby the heart and conscience become happy, secure, and content.  This is what preaching the Christian faith means...

Therefore make note of this, that Christ as gift nourishes your faith and makes you a Christian.  But Christ as an example exercises your works.  These do not make you a Christian.  Actually they come forth from you because you have already been made a Christian.  As widely as a gift differs from an example, so widely does faith differ from works, for faith possess nothing of its own, only the deeds and life of Christ.  Works have something of your own in them, yet they should not belong to you but to your neighbor.  

So you see that the gospel is really not a book of laws and commandments which requires deeds of us, but a book of divine promises in which God promises, offers, and gives us all his possessions and benefits in Christ.

Luther's Works (Volume 35: 119-120)

Related Post:  What Is A Christian Sermon?


Alden Swan said…
Awesome quote. Thanks!