As I prepare for my sermon this weekend, I am reading through some of Luther’s comments on my sermon text, John 14:23-29. Given the constant assaults on the Christian faith, particularly the recent attacks on those who confess traditional, biblical views of morality and marriage, I couldn’t help but notice how Luther’s words almost seemed to speak to us today who may be discouraged with our culture’s increasing rejection of Christ’s Word and will. Without further commentary, permit me to share these words from one of Luther’s sermons; this section comments on Jesus’ words in John 14:24, “My Father will love him.” You can find this quotation in Volume 24 of the American Edition of Luther’s Works.
We have often heard that Christ always draws us up to the Father with great diligence, and does so in opposition to the accursed thoughts which separate Christ from the Father and prompt one’s heart to be concerned and to ask: “Even though I believe in Christ, who knows whether the Father is gracious to me?” Hence Christ is always intent on leading us into the Father’s heart. If we but love Him, we should have no worry or fear. Then we cast and tear all thoughts of wrath and terror far out of our hearts. For the devil has no other dart with which to gain mastery over us than the picture of an unmerciful and angry God. If that shot hits the heart, no man is staunch enough to bear it. Therefore Christ always contends against this and arms us with the weapons of defense by assuring us that He Himself vouches for the Father’s love. If we believe in Him and are in His love, there is no longer any anger in heaven or on earth; there is nothing but fatherly love and all goodness. God, together with all the angels, smiles on and keeps watch over us as His dear children. Then you have no fonder wish than to depart immediately from this life. So thoroughly does God sweep all fear and terror from heaven and fill it with sheer assurance and joy if the heart but remains with Christ and holds to Him.This is indeed a beautiful and charming message. It costs us no hard labor, and no one need go on distant pilgrimages in search of it or torment himself with arduous works. It costs no more than what we already have in ourselves, namely, that our hearts adhere firmly to it in faith, that our lips make public confession of it, and that we show forth and prove our faith with love toward our neighbor. And even if you thereby must suffer the devil’s and the world’s enmity and hatred because of this, you have here the consolation which enables you to endure, yes, even to despise this enmity and hatred. For what harm can come to you even if the world is most hostile to you, persecutes and torments you? You still know that you have Christ the Lord as your Friend, and not only Him but also the Father, who assures you and testifies through the mouth of His Son that He loves and cherishes you because of your faith in Christ, and your confession of Him. Now since you have this Lord on your side, together with all the angels and saints, why should you worry about or fear the world’s ire? What else do they accomplish with their hatred and rage against you than to load God’s irresistible wrath and curse on themselves? This they will not be able to bear, but they will perish by it eternally when their hour strikes.Christ continues: “Not only will I and the Father love him who loves Me; We will also come to him and make Our home with him. Thus he is not only safeguarded from the future wrath, from the devil, death, hell, and all adversity; but he shall also have Us dwelling with him here on earth. We will be his daily guests, yes, members of his household and his table companions. This will happen to you and not to the world, which is not worthy of such honor and glory, since it will not hear and accept My Word; yes, it even hates and persecutes Me. But you who cling to Me and keep My words, be unafraid, and be unconcerned about the world’s attitude toward Me and you. Let the Father and Me care for you; for you already have a sure dwelling in heaven, a dwelling prepared for you by Us. Moreover, since it is your lot to suffer in the world, which will tolerate neither Me nor you, you shall also be Our castle and dwelling on earth. Here we will reside until the end.”This is a rich comfort and an exceedingly high honor. What greater glory and honor can there be than for us poor, miserable people on earth to be the Divine Majesty’s dwelling, pleasure-ground, and paradise, yes, His heavenly kingdom? Whatever you speak and do will please Him and will be regarded as spoken and done by Him, and whoever inflicts injury or sorrow on you will be doing it to Him. In addition, He will defend you well in body and soul. No one will consume you unless he has devoured Him first. No one will touch a hair of your head unless it is His will, and unless he did this to Him first. In brief, your deeds will be accounted right and will continue over against all the raging and fuming of the devil and the world—unless both the Father and Christ are no longer God. Thus we are not only absolutely sure of all grace, love, and friendship in yonder life; but we are also assured that everything we teach here as Christian will be true, that our life will be pleasing and acceptable to God, and that it will all prosper permanently.Here you will object and say: “The actual state of affairs looks far different to me. It seems to me that the world has the upper hand and is successful in its undertakings against the Christians. God is siding, not with me but with them; He is dwelling with them. And they defiantly boast against us: ‘Here is where God dwells; here is the church.’ ” But you must not look at every single phase of the present life as it passes and stands before your eyes now; your view must encompass the entire existence and realm of Christendom. For in days past Christendom was also persecuted; and, as history informs us, 70,000 were murdered on one day. Then it was assumed that Christianity would be exterminated. But what did its enemies accomplish? Christianity survived in spite of them; and the more they applied torture and murder, the more it grew. “For,” says Christ, “We are at home here, I and the Father; We will dwell here. You will not prevent this; and if you try, you shall perish in the attempt, as Jerusalem and Rome did.”That is what they are plotting against us now too. They are deliberating and conferring with one another about how to wipe us out completely by hanging or drowning or beheading us or burning us at the stake. But God sits up in heaven and says: “My clear angry lords and junkers, take it easy! Only please let Me keep a little cottage where I may live!” They refuse to believe this and are determined to put an end to us. They will persist in their attempts until they, too, lie in a pile of ashes. Here is the text which declares: “You poor Christian Church, you shall be Our dwelling, yes, Our castle and fortress where We want to live and abide. Just let them vent their anger and brag. We shall see whether We can stand Our ground against them and defend Ourselves against both the devil and the world. They shall let Us reign; they shall not succeed in wiping Christianity from the face of the earth, though they go crazy trying it.”The Christians live here on earth in defiance of the world, and they are called God’s dwelling to the vexation of the devil. Both must let Christendom remain here whether they like it or not. For Christ says: “We built the house; We founded and dedicated the church. And We are determined to keep and preserve it more firmly and solidly than any walls or fortifications are able to do.”We must learn this and be informed as to who and what constitutes Christendom and what we have in Christ. Then our hope of eternal life will be ever more solidly based, especially in our last hour; then we shall remain cheerful and undaunted by the world and by the devil, with his evil suggestions; then we are confident that Christ will remain our Guest, and we His inn and dwelling, as He promises here. They shall not prevent this. They shall not rob us of this Guest, even though they deprive us of life and limb and everything else. But since we have Him, we certainly have everything and will be able to cope with the devil, death, and hell. Hence even though we die now, we shall still live; and even though we go to hell, we are still in heaven. Even though the devil consumes and devours us, his belly will burst with his eternal mockery and mischief, and will disgorge us alive. For he will surely be compelled to leave undevoured this Lord who dwells in us, and to leave His church and dwelling undestroyed. For this Lord also wants to have a tabernacle and castle. He has erected it on a solid rock and mountain, and no power of hell will prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). This is the true dwelling of God that is typified in the Old Testament by the Ark of the Covenant and the temple, namely, the little group of Christians, who believe and confess the Word of Christ. This is where He wants to dwell and abide, regardless of whom this may irritate. This home shall and must be reserved for Him. And whatever is done, said, and performed by the Christians is to be proper and right, even if it is condemned by all men and all the devils; for the Christians are the Father’s dear children and brothers of Christ the Lord.