Trinity 18: In Life, and Death, Christ Fulfills God’s Law
O God, because without You we are not able to please You, mercifully grant that Your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
We hear God’s Word:
1 Corinthians 1:(1-3) 4-9
We Meditate on God’s Word
The Pharisees ask a Law question. Jesus asks a Gospel question. The Pharisees seek to test Jesus in His own words. Jesus seeks to “test” them in the saving reality of who He is as the Messiah (Matt. 22:34–46). The Law requires you to “fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul” and to “love the sojouner” (Deut. 10:12–21). Failure to keep the Law perfectly brings judgment. On the other hand, the Gospel brings the grace of God given by Jesus Christ, that you may be blameless in the day of His return (1 Cor. 1:1–9). Jesus is David’s Son yet David’s Lord, true God and true man. He is Love incarnate who fulfilled all the demands of God’s Law on our behalf, that we might be saved from the Law’s condemnation and sanctified in the Gospel’s forgiveness. Thereby we see that “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9).
Luther on Trinity 18
True love to God does not act in this way, but in the heart it thinks and with the lips says: Lord God, I am thy creature; do with me as thou wilt; it matters not to me. I am ever thine, that I know; and if thou desirest, I will die this very hour or suffer any great misfortune; I will cheerfully do so from my heart. I will not regard my life, honor and goods and all I have, higher and greater than thy will, which shall be my pleasure all my days. But you will never find a person who will constantly regulate himself according to this commandment; for the whole life you are living in the body, in the five senses, and whatever you do in your body, should all be so regulated as to be done to the glory of God, according to the regulations of this commandment, which saith, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind.” As if Christ said: If you love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, then nothing will be lacking; you shall experience it in your daily life, namely: when everything you do, whether you wake or sleep, whether you labor or stand idle, whether you eat or drink, is directed and done out of love to God from the heart. In like manner your mind and thoughts will also be directed wholly and entirely to God, so that you will approve of nothing you are not certain is pleasing to God. Yea, where are those who do this?
25. And this part where he says, “With all thy mind, argues powerfully against the writings and teachings of man, upon which he especially depends, and thinks thereby to obtain a merciful God and merit heaven. Such imagination of the human reason draws us in a wonderful manner from this commandment, so that we do not love God with all the mind; as has been done hitherto, and is still done at the present day. For these priests and monks think nothing else than that God is moved by the mass and by other human inventions; but he abhors it and does not desire it, as is said in Isaiah 29, 13: “In vain do they serve me, because they are teaching such doctrines which are only the commandments of men.” ‘Mat. 15, 8-9. The commandment here requires you to consider nothing good that is against God and against everything he has commanded or forbidden. It thus requires, you to give yourself wholly and entirely to him in all your life and conduct.
26. From this you can conclude, there is no human being who is not condemned, inasmuch as no one has kept this commandment, and God wants everyone to keep it. There we stand in the midst of fear and distress, unable to help ourselves, and the first knowledge of the law is, that we see our human nature is unable to keep the law; for it wants the heart, and if it is not done with the heart, it avails nothing before God. You may indeed do the works outwardly, but God is not thus satisfied, when they are not done from the heart, out of love; and this is never done except man is born anew through the Holy Spirit. Therefore God aims to accomplish through the law nothing more than that we should in this way be forced to acknowledge our inability, frailty and disease, and that with our best efforts we are unable to fulfil a letter of the law. When you realize this, the law has accomplished its work. This is what Paul means when he says in Romans 3, 20, “Through the law is the knowledge of sin.”
27. From this it appears clearly that we are all alike, and are one in the inner wickedness of the heart, which the law reveals, when we look into it rightly. Therefore we might well say, If one is good, then all are good. Therefore no one should accuse another. It is indeed true that in public and gross sins there sticks a deeper sin; but the heart is alike bad, unless it be renewed by the Holy Ghost. But what shall I do when I once recognize my sin? What does it profit me? It helps me very much, for when I have come thus far, I am not far from the kingdom; as Christ says to a scribe in Mark 12, 34, who also knew that the works of the law were nothing without love.
28. But what shall we do to get rid of our bad conscience? Here follows now the other part of this Gospel, namely, who Christ is and what we can expect of him. From him we must receive and secure freedom from a wicked conscience, or we shall remain in our sins eternally, because for this purpose is Christ made known and given by the Father, in order that he might deliver us from sin, death, from a wicked conscience, and from the law.
29. We have now heard what the law is, and how through the law we come to the knowledge of sin; but this is not enough, another has a work to do here, whose name is Christ Jesus; although the first, the law, must indeed remain; yea, it is necessary. For if I have no sense of my sins, I will never inquire for Christ; as the Pharisees and scribes do here, who thought they had done everything the law commanded and were ready to do yet more; but of Christ they knew nothing. Therefore, first of all, when the law is known and sin revealed through the law, it is then necessary that we know who Christ is; otherwise the knowledge of sin profits us nothing.
30. But the law is known, when I learn from it that I am condemned, and see that there is neither hope nor comfort anywhere for me, and I cannot even help myself, but must have another one to deliver me. Then it is time that I look around for him who can help, and he is Christ Jesus, who for this purpose became man, and became like unto us, in order that he might help us out of the mire into which we are fallen. He loved God with all his heart and his neighbor as himself, and submitted his will to the will of his Father, fulfilled the law in every respect; this I could not do and yet I was required to do it. Therefore, he accepts him; and that which he fulfilled in the law, he offers me. He freely gives me his life with all his works, so that I can appropriate them to myself as a possession that is my own and is bestowed upon me as a free gift. He delivers us from the law, for when the law says, Love God with all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself, or thou wilt be damned, then I say, I cannot do it. Then Christ says: Come to me, take me and cling to me by faith; then you shall be rid of the law.
31. Now this is accomplished in the following manner: Christ has through his death secured for us the Holy Spirit; and he fulfils the law in us, and not we. For that Spirit, whom God sends into your heart for the sake of his Son, makes an entirely new man out of you, who does with joy and love from the heart everything the law requires, which before would have been impossible for you to do. This new man despises the present life, and desires to die, rejoices in all adversity, and submits himself wholly and entirely to the will of God. Whatever God does with him, is well pleasing to him. This Spirit you cannot merit yourself, but Christ has secured and merited it. When I believe from the heart that Christ did this for me, I receive also the same Holy Spirit that makes me an entirely new man. Then everything God commands is sweet, lovely and agreeable, and I do everything he desires of me; not in my own strength, but by the strength of him that is in me, as Paul says in Philippians, 4, 13: “I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me.”
32. But you must take heed, that you do not undertake to secure this faith in Jesus Christ by your own works or power, or that you think lightly about this matter; for it is impossible for the natural man; but the Holy Spirit must do it. Therefore beware of the preachers of selfrighteousness, who simply blabber and say: We must do good works in order to be saved. But we say that faith alone is sufficient to this end. Our good works are for another purpose, namely, to prove our faith, as you have already frequently heard from me.
Bach Cantata BWV 138: Why Are You Troubled, My Heart?
Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn,
Vaters in Ewigkeit,
Aus seinem Herzn entsprossen,
Gleichwie geschrieben steht,
Er ist der Morgensterne,
Sein’ Glanz steckt er so ferne
Für andern Sternen klar.
(“Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn, verse 1)
| 1. Chorus
Lord Christ, only Son of God,
of the Father in eternity,
sprung forth out of His heart,
just as it is written,
He is the morning star,
His gaze extends far and wide
and is more brilliant than other stars.
| 2. Rezitativ A
O Wunderkraft der Liebe,
Wenn Gott an sein Geschöpfe denket,
Wenn sich die Herrlichkeit
Im letzten Teil der Zeit
Zur Erde senket;
O unbegreifliche, geheime Macht!
Es trägt ein auserwählter Leib
Den großen Gottessohn,
Den David schon
Im Geist als seinen Herrn verehrte,
Da dies gebenedeite Weib
In unverletzter Keuschheit bliebe.
O reiche Segenskraft! so sich auf uns ergossen,
Da er den Himmel auf, die Hölle zugeschlossen.
(“Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn, verse 2)
| 2. Recitative A
O wondrous power of love,
when God considers His creation,
in the final portion of time
sinks down to earth;
o unfathomable, mysterious power!
A chosen body bears
the great Son of God,
whom David already
honored in spirit as his Lord,
for this blessed woman
remained in unchanged purity.
O rich power of blessing! that is poured forth upon us,
since He has unlocked heaven and padlocked hell.
| 3. Arie T
Ach, ziehe die Seele mit Seilen der Liebe,
O Jesu, ach zeige dich kräftig in ihr!
Erleuchte sie, daß sie dich gläubig erkenne,
Gib, daß sie mit heiligen Flammen entbrenne,
Ach wirke ein gläubiges Dürsten nach dir!
| 3. Aria T
Ah, draw my soul with skeins of love,
o Jesus, manifest Yourself powerfully in it!
Illumine it, so that it may perceive You in faith,
grant that it burn with holy flame,
ah, create a thirst for You in faith!
| 4. Rezitativ S
Ach, führe mich, o Gott, zum rechten Wege,
Mich, der ich unerleuchtet bin,
Der ich nach meines Fleisches Sinn
So oft zu irren pflege;
Jedoch gehst du nur mir zur Seiten,
Willst du mich nur mit deinen Augen leiten,
So gehet meine Bahn
Gewiß zum Himmel an.
| 4. Recitative S
Ah, lead me, o God, to the right path,
I, who am unenlightened,
who according to the will of my flesh
so often am accustomed to err;
however, if You only walk by my side,
if only You will lead me with Your eyes,
then my course
will certainly run to heaven.
| 5. Arie B
Bald zur Rechten, bald zur Linken
Lenkte sich mein verirrter Schritt.
Gehe doch, mein Heiland, mit,
Laß mich in Gefahr nicht sinken,
Laß mich ja dein weises Führen
Bis zur Himmelspforte spüren!
| 5. Aria B
Soon to the right, soon to the left
my erring steps lean.
Yet go with me, my Savior,
do not let me sink into danger,
yes, let Your wise direction
follow the trail up to heaven’s gates!
| 6. Choral
Ertöt uns durch dein Güte,
Erweck uns durch dein Gnad!
Den alten Menschen kränke,
Daß der neu’ leben mag
Wohl hier auf dieser Erden,
Den Sinn und all Begehrden
Und G’danken hab’n zu dir.
(“Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn, verse 5)
| 6. Chorale
Kill us through your goodness,
wake us through your grace!
Sicken the old being,
so that the new may live
even here on this earth,
having his mind, all desires,
and thoughts for You.
|“Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn,” Elisabeth Kreuziger 1524 (verses 1,2 5 – mov’ts. 1,2,6; source for others)|