Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Bit of Luther on Preaching

Since discussions about preaching are making the rounds, I was reading through stuff Luther wrote about preaching.  Here's some snippets that I found.

"What do you suppose would happen if we did not rebuke noblemen and other people? You might perhaps send them home to the devil, bedecked with flowers. Nevertheless, they boast that they are good evangelicals. What are we do to in the circumstances? Should we cease preaching and let them go to the Devil? It would not be surprising if I threw the keys at the Lord's feet and said: Lord, do Your own preaching. No doubt You are able to do it better; for we have preached to them, but they will not listen to us. But God wants us to stand fast in our calling and office, to administer them, and to give rebukes. For He wants to rule His Church throughout preachers, through the external Word and Sacraments, just as He rules the world through burgomasters, kings, princes, and lords, and punishes the wicked with the sword. In reality, He would not need the executioner and government, as Romans 13 says; for He could punish wicked rogues Himself much better. So God wants to use us too for the office of rebuking in the church... and if this were not God's ordinance an institution, I would not want to preach a sermon as long as I live." - a sermon from 1538 on John 3:16-17, dealing with the antinomian controversies of his day.  What Luther Says 3561

"There are two hindrances to the Gospel.  The first is the teaching of false doctrine, driving into consciences the Law and works.  And the second is a trick of the devil.  When he finds that he cannot subvert the faith by directly denying the Gospel, he sneaks in from the rear, raises useless questions, and gets men to contend about them and meanwhile forget the chief thing.  He gets them to contend about dead saints and departed souls; where they abide, whether they sleep, and the like.  One question follows another in endless succession... People gape with open mouths at these things and lose the chief things.  A man does not need much wit to gain popular applause; let him but preach new and strange things, and people will say that he is more learned than others.  They come in droves, with eyes and ears and mouth wide open.  So nothing is said about faith and love, for people consider this as commonplace as daily bread.  All have heard and know enough about this, and it is irksome to hear the same thing forever" - A sermon from 1524 on 1 Tim 1:3-11 -- What Luther Says 3565

"The porter here is the preacher who rightly teaches the Law--shows that the Law exists and must reveal to us our helplessness; that the works of the Law do not help us, and yet they are insistent. He then opens to the shepherd, that is, to Christ the Lord, and lets him alone feed the sheep. For the office of the Law is at an end; it has accomplished its mission of revealing to the heart its sins until it is completely humbled. Then Christ comes and makes a lamb out of the sheep--feeds it with his Gospel and directs it how to regain cheer for the heart so hopelessly troubled and crushed by the Law.
10. The lamb then hears Christ's voice and follows it. It has the choicest of pastures, and knows the voice of the shepherd. But the voice of a stranger it never hears and never follows. Just as soon as one preaches to it about works, it is worried and its heart cannot receive the teaching with joy. It knows very well that nothing is accomplished by means of works; for one may do as much as he will, still he carries a heavy spirit and he thinks he has not done enough, nor done rightly. But when the Gospel comes--the voice of the shepherd--it says: God gave to the world his only Son, that all who believe on him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Then is the heart happy; it feeds upon these words and finds them good. The lamb has found its satisfying pasture; it wants none other. Yea, when it is given other pasture, it flees from it and will not feed therein. This pasture always attracts the sheep, and the sheep also find it. God says in the prophecy of Isaiah: "So shall my Word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish all in the things whereto, I sent it" (Is 55:11)."  - Sermon on John 10:1-10 - sermons of Martin Luther volume 3

"When the pope was ruling throughout Christendom, the world truly had a fine government.  The pope's preachers were held in honor, and folk could not through enough to all the monks and clerics.... and yet, not a one of them said anything about Christ and the true comfort of consciences... But now, when Christ is preached, I will stir up, through the devil, all bishops, princes, and loards, yea, and your own parish too, that they may become more hostile to you than to any other man on earth.  And this is exactly what the world is bound to do... We should, therefore, not be surprised if all the world is hostile to us when we preach Christ; for we really deserve its hostility.  Do you not hear that the world wants neither to see nor to hear Him and is the deadly enemy of all who want to speak of Him?" - on John 15:18 - WLS 3585

"The teachers of old have said that in all his sermons a preacher should watch these four points: vices as opposed to virtues, punishments as opposed to rewards.  This would have been good advice if they had retained Christ.  For the Law deals with these four points: with vices or sins against the Law, with virtue according to the Law, with punishments for sins according to the Law, and with rewards for virtue according to the Law.  But this teaching does not make Christians.  It is a teaching of the Law which does not lead to perfection.  With this teaching of the Law we must combine the Gospel of grace.  Only then do we succeed in making a man a perfect Christian." - Luther on Genesis 17:10-11 - WLS 3602

"If you preach faith, people become lax, want to do no good, serve and help no one.  But if you do not preach faith, hearts become frightened and dejected and establish one idolatrous practice after another.  Do as you please; nothing seems to help.  Yet faith in Christ should and must be preached, no matter what happens.  I would much rather hear people say of me that I preach too sweetly and that my sermon hinders people in doing good works (although it does NOT do so) than not preach faith in Christ at all; for then there would be no help for timid, frightened consciences.
I see and experience this:  Here is a man who is lax and lazy, who falsely boasts of faith and says that the relies on the grace and mercy of God and that these will not doubt help him even though he clings to sins.  But as soon as death comes to him, it appears that he has never really grasped and believed the grace and mercy of God.  Therefore one will have enough to do to cheer and comfort him, even though he has not practiced any particular idolatry.  But when the message of faith has been extinguished and the heart is completely swamped by sadness, there is neither counsel nor help.  Say something about grace to such a heart and it will answer: You preach much to me about grace and mercy; but if you felt what I feel, you would speak differently.  So a frightened, inconsolable heart goes on.  I have heard people speak like this when I tried to comfort them.  Therefore I should like to have the message of faith in Christ not forgotten but generally known.  It is so sweet a message, full of sheer joy, comfort, mercy, and grace.  I must confess that I myself have not yet full grasped it.  We shall have to let it happen that some of our people turn the message into an occasion for security and presumption; but others, the work-righteous, slander us on this account and say that we make people lazy and thus keep them from reaching perfection.  Christ Himself had to hear that He was a friend of publicans and sinners, that He broke the Sabbath, etc.  We shall not fare any better." - 1534 on Acts 1:1-11 - WLS 3603

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