PATIENCE UNDER TRIBULATION.
[The following sermon is taken from volume VII:248-271
of The Sermons of Martin Luther, published by Baker Book House (Grand Rapids,
MI). It was originally published in 1909 in English by The Luther Press
(Minneapolis, MN), as Luther's Epistle Sermons, vol. 2. This e-text
was scanned and edited by Richard Bucher, it is in the public domain and
it may be copied and distributed without restriction.]
1. This epistle lesson is a beautiful selection from apostolic teaching.
Doubtless it was intentionally arranged for this Sunday; for Peter's concluding
words, "For ye were going astray like sheep; but are now returned unto
the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls," accord with the gospel selection
about the Good Shepherd. Yet it might also properly serve in part for the
text of a sermon on the passion of Christ; for the sufferings of Christ
are here presented as an example unto us. In the preceding part of the
chapter, Peter taught the Christians how, having obtained faith, they are
to exhibit its fruits--good works in the various stations of life. Particularly
does he admonish them to manifest the fruit of patience under crosses and
2. When the individual accepts Christ and begins to profess his faith
in word and life, invariably--it cannot be otherwise--the world, that eternal
enemy of Christ and faithfully- obedient servant of the devil, will be
dissatisfied. The world regards it contemptible, disgraceful, to live any
life but one pleasing to itself, to do and speak aught but as it desires.
Its rage is excited toward the Christian and it proceeds to persecute,
to torture, even to murder him when possible. We often hear the wiseacre
scoffers say that Christ could have enjoyed peace had he desired to. The
same may be said of Christians; they could have peace and pleasure if they
would but take advice and conform to the world.
3. What are we to do? It is a fact that to maintain and obey the truth
is to stir up wrath and hatred. Even the heathen assert as much. But the
fault lies not with the advocate of truth but with its rejecters. Is the
truth not to be preached at all? Must we be silent and permit all mankind
to go direct to hell? Who could or would heap upon himself the guilt of
such negligence? The godly Christian, who looks for eternal life after
the present one and who aims to help others to attain unto the same happy
goal, assuredly must act the part he professes, must assert his belief
and show the world how it travels the broad road to hell and eternal death.
And to do so is to antagonize the world and incur the displeasure of the
4. Now, since there is no escaping the fact that he who would confess
Christ and make the world better must, in return for his service and benefactions,
heap upon himself the enmity of the devil and his adherents, as Peter says--since
this is the case, we must remember that it is incumbent upon us to have
patience when the world manifests its bitterest, most hateful enmity toward
our doctrine and toward our very lives, when it reviles and slanders and
persecutes us to the utmost for our principles. Peter here admonishes and
persuades Christians unto patience under these circumstances, and at the
same time seeks to comfort them with tender and impressive words.
5. First, Peter reminds the believers of their calling--of their reason
and purpose in embracing Christianity. He says, in effect: "Remember, belief
in Christ necessitates confession of him, and the entire Christian Church
is numbered in the holy, divine calling that stands for the praise of God
and the promotion of his kingdom." An essential feature of this calling
is the suffering of evil in return for good. It seems inevitable that Christians
be condemned in the eyes of the world and incur its highest displeasures;
that they be destined to take up the gauntlet against the devil and the
world. It is said (Ps 44, 22): "For thy sake are we killed all the day
long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter," or for the sacrifice.
Sacrificial sheep were kept in an enclosure, not permitted to go to pasture
with the others. They were not kept for breeding, but to be daily, one
after another, slaughtered.
6. Paul would say: "What will you do, beloved Christians? Will you live
in the world and not encounter any persecution because of your good deeds?
Will you rage at the wickedness of the world, and in your rage become wicked
yourself and commit evil? Understand, you are called to suffer persecutions;
they are a consequence of your baptism, your Christianity. For these you
renounced the devil and professed Christ. You are baptized unto the suffering
of every sort of misfortune, unto the enduring of the world and the devil."
You cannot escape the smoke when compelled to live in the inn where the
devil is host and the whole house is filled with it. Again, if you would
have fire, you must have smoke as a consequence; if you would be a Christian
and a child of God, you must endure the resultant evils that befall you.
7. In short, the Christian, because he is a Christian, is subjected
to the holy and precious cross. He must suffer at the hands of men and
of the devil, who plague and provoke him; outwardly with misery, persecution,
poverty and illness, or inwardly--in heart--with their poisonous darts.
The cross is the Christian's sign and watchword in his holy, precious,
noble and happy calling unto eternal life. To such a calling must we render
full dues and regard as good whatever it brings. And why should we complain?
Do not even wicked knaves and opposers of Christians often suffer at the
hands of one another what they are not pleased to endure? And every man
must frequently suffer injuries and misfortunes relative to body, property,
wife and children.
8. Then, if you would be a Christian and live justly in your calling,
be not so terribly alarmed, so filled with hostile rage, so extremely impatient,
at the torments of the world and the devil. If you are unwilling to suffer
and to be reviled and slandered, if you prefer honor and ease, then deny
Christ and embrace the delights of the world and the devil. You will not,
even then, be wholly free from suffering and sorrow, though it will be
your prerogative not to suffer as a Christian and for the sake of Christ.
At the same time, you will discover that even though you enjoy only pleasure
on earth, it will be but for a brief time and ultimately you will find
the bitter end of the pleasure sought.
CHRIST OUR PATTERN.
9. In the second place, by way of rendering more impressive his admonition,
Peter holds up the example of our real Master, our Leader and Lord, Christ,
who endured persecutions similar to ours, and himself suffered more than
any. The apostle refers to him in a truly scriptural way--as of a twin
or dual character. He presents him not as an example of a saint in the
ordinary sense, but as the real Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, who suffered
for us, making sacrifice for our sins in his own body on the cross. In
this capacity, he is our treasure, comfort and salvation.
10. The apostle beautifully and strikingly points out the sublime perfections
of our Pattern, in his suffering, by way of gently urging us to patience.
He presents the chief points of Christ's endurance, examples of real patience;
all our sufferings, when compared with those of Christ, are cast into the
shade. "The passion of Christ," Peter would say, "the suffering of the
Lord, is a surpassing, a preeminent and sublimely glorious thing, transcending
every other instance of suffering; first, because it was for an example
to us; second, because he suffered to save us; third, because he suffered
innocently in all respects, never having cornmitted any sin." In these
three points we must leave to him alone the distinction, humbling ourselves
before them; even had we suffered death in its every form, we must cry
that all our suffering is nothing in comparison with his.
Even if we could attain to the sublimest, the supreme, the most glorious
degree of suffering, it would be but walking in his footprints, following
his example; it would be but to fall far short of his suffering. He would
stand preeminent--the Master. He would maintain immeasurable superiority
and we would still be left to follow as best we could. The extent of his
agony, the intensity and bitterness of his sufferings, no one on earth
can comprehend. And if it be beyond our comprehension, how much more is
it beyond our power to imitate or experience. We may thank God we have
it before us for an example to behold and follow. True, we fall far short
of perfect following, but we may approach it in proportion to our sufferings,
faith and patience; for one may exceed another in these things.
Christ is an example, Peter says, for all saints; not for a certain
few. Contrasted with Christ, all saints must with downcast eyes confess:
"Intense, bitter, grievous as our sufferings truly are, when the sufferings
of Christ our Lord are mentioned we will willingly keep silent; for no
human example of suffering will compare with that of Christ."
11. Now, this one fact, that one so exalted as Christ himself, the only
and eternal Son of God, has trod the path of suffering before us, enduring
unlimited distress, agony transcending the power of humanity to experience--this
alone should be enough to admonish and urge anyone to patiently endure
affliction. Why, then, should we disciples, we who are so insignificant
and inexperienced in comparison with our Master--why should we be at all
troubled at any suffering for his sake? especially when all he asks of
us is to follow him, to learn of him and to remain his disciples. Here,
mark you, is the example set before the entire Christian Church, the pattern
she is to follow to the extent of at least walking in Christ's steps, at
the same time, however, remembering that her most intense sufferings are
naught in comparison to a single drop of his shed blood, as we shall hear
12. Again, this example assumes its ineffable and inimitable character
from the fact that Christ suffered not for himself, nor yet merely as an
example, but in our stead. This act, to say the least, transcends all human
ability. No saint can boast of equaling this example, can say he suffered
for another as Christ suffered for our sins. No, here all boasting is summarily
disposed of. In respect to atonement, Christ left us no example, for none
can imitate him in that. He stands alone there. He alone was called to
suffer for all men; for those individuals now called and holy, and for
the still uncalled and sinners.
13. The atonement is the chief, the most exalted, article of the Christian
doctrine. Faith alone apprehends it as the highest good, the greatest blessing,
of our salvation, and recognizes that we cannot, by our works or our sufferings,
do or merit anything in atoning for sin. The manner in which this subject
is scripturally presented prohibits us from adding to it anything of human
origin. But so the accursed popedom has done in the teachings of its pillars
and supporters the monks, who regard the sufferings of Christ as merely
an example to us. They pervert and render immaterial the fact that he suffered
for us; they place the entire responsibility upon ourselves, as if we,
by our own works or our suffering are to make satisfaction for our sins,
to appease God's wrath and to merit grace. This is a doctrine not found
in the Word of God, but is of their own trivial, self-selected, self-devised
and false human teachings.
14. They have carried their untruthful, worthless inventions to the
extent of claiming for the saints not only sufficient acquired merit for
their own salvation, but a large accumulated surplus available for others,
which they have bequeathed to the Pope, thus furnishing him with an abundant
treasury. The Pope, through indulgences, is to distribute this excess,
these superfluous merits, as he feels disposed, at the same time dipping
out for himself and his shorn fat swine the riches of the world; indeed,
the ecclesiasts distribute their own merits and works. This is the refined
monastic chastity, poverty and rigid obedience of the orders--nothing but
shameless falsehood and scandalous vice, practiced under that covering,
both privately and publicly, with the exception of a few who were sincere
in their desire to be monks, of whom I was one. These falsehoods the orders
readily sold to the laity on deathbeds, and under other circumstances.
Indeed, wretched mortals who had incurred a death penalty and were about
to be publicly executed, they referred not to Christ for comfort, but counseled
patience in their own well- deserved suffering and death; as if God would
accept their pain as atonement for their sins if only they suffered patiently.
Purchasing of merit was the ecclesiasts' chief doctrine, their strongest
point. They fearlessly proclaimed it in public, and through its influence
erected numerous churches and cloisters and satiated the avarice and cupidity
of the Pope. And I too, alas, was one of these knaves until God delivered
me. And now, God be praised, I am execrated and condemned by the hellish
seat of the Roman dragon with its scales because I assailed this papal
doctrine and would not justify it.
15. Oh, the shameful abomination, that in the temple of God and in the
Christian Church must be taught and received things which make wholly insignificant
the sufferings and death of Christ! Gracious God! what can be said for
human merit--for superfluity of human merit--when not one saint on earth
has, with all his pains, suffered enough to cancel his own obligations;
much less to be entitled to the honor of making his sufferings avail anything
before God's judgment-seat, by way of remuneration or satisfaction for
the mortal sins of others in the face of divine wrath? Note, Peter says
Christ left us an example that we should follow his steps; which is but
concluding that no saint ever wrought or suffered enough to warrant the
claim: "I have accomplished the measure-reached the limit; Christ is no
more an example and pattern for me." No; the saint ought to be ashamed
to boast of his sufferings in comparison to those of Christ, and ought
to rejoice in the privilege of being partaker of the divine pain, of sharing
it so far as he can, and thus be found in the footsteps of Christ.
16. The theme of Christ's passion, then, must far outrank every other.
His sufferings are like pure and precious gold, compared to which ours
are as nothing. No one but Christ has suffered for the sins of another.
No man has ever paid the price of his own sins, great or small. Even if
man's suffering could avail aught for sin, the individual could not go
beyond expiating his own sins. But Christ had no need at all to suffer
for himself; for, as follows in the text, he had committed no sin. He suffered
to leave us an example, but yet also to bring to man the great blessing
of being able to say, "My sins and the sins of the whole world were atoned
for upon the cross, blotted out, through Christ's death." Peter, Mary,
John the Baptist, and every soul born of woman must include himself or
herself in this statement, "Christ also suffered for you."
17. In the third place, Christ stands preeminent, above all others,
in the affirmation of Peter, quoted from Isaiah 53,9:
"Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth."
18. You may draw your own conclusions as to the eminence of such a one;
for certainly there is to be found no other human being who has not at
some time sinned in word or deed. "If any man stumbleth not in word, the
same is a perfect man," says James 3, 2. But where is this perfect man,
and what is his name? It is this Christ, he alone of all, James should
have added. For Peter excludes all other individuals, in one class, saying,
"Ye were going astray like sheep." And later on (ch. 3, 18) he tells us
plainly, "Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous."
This statement leaves no man innocent of sin, either in word or deed; and
in word and deed is included man's whole life. Speech and action are associated
in various Scripture references; as in Psalm 34, 13-14: "Keep thy tongue
from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good."
But in speech is the greatest liability to error. In teaching, counseling,
admonishing, consoling and censuring, and in confessing the truth, no one
indeed will be found so perfect in his utterances as never to commit a
19. But Christ is the one perfect example in this respect. It is impossible
for saints to attain to his faultlessness. Surely no man--unless he desires
to be a liar and a true disciple of the devil instead of a child of God
and a faithful Christian--will be presumptuous enough to put himself on
an equality with Christ, will dare boast himself without sin in word and
act. Christ alone has suffered, the righteous for the unrighteous; that
prerogative can honorably and truthfully be ascribed only to Christ the
Lord, and is his perpetually. No man is just and innocent in word and act.
All must confess their sufferings, of whatever nature, to be the result
of their own sins, and well deserved chastisement. For the fact of having
escaped the eternal wrath, condemnation and punishment of God, they must
thank this just one alone, he who, being himself blameless, voluntarily
suffered to make satisfaction for the unrighteous, and appeased God's wrath.
The sufferings of all saints, then, must be rated far below those of Christ
the Lord. The saints must clothe and adorn themselves with his innocence,
and with the entire Christian Church pray, "Forgive us our trespasses";
and they must confess the article, "I believe in the forgiveness of sins."
20. Now, let us sum up the three arguments Peter uses in admonishing
Christians to patience in suffering. First: He says, "Hereunto were ye
called." Though you do have to suffer much and severely, you have ever
before you the example of Christ, to the limit of whose sufferings you
can never attain. You dare not boast even if you have suffered everything.
Moreover, you are under obligation to suffer for God's sake. Second: Christ
did not suffer for his own sake, nor of necessity; he suffered for your
sake, and all from good will toward you. Third: He was wholly innocent--free
from sin; internally--in heart--and externally--in word and deed. For where
evil dwells in the heart, it cannot long remain concealed. It must manifest
itself in words, at least. Christ says (Mt 12, 34), "Out of the abundance
of the heart the mouth speaketh."
21. Why, then, should you complain of your suffering or refuse to suffer
what your sins really deserve? Indeed, you deserve much more than you receive--even
eternal suffering. But God forgives you and remits the eternal punishment
for the sake of Christ the Lord, desiring that you patiently endure the
lesser suffering for the utter mortification of the sins inherent in your
flesh and blood. To make such lot the less grievous to you, Christ has
gone before and left you an example of perfect patience under the most
intense suffering, an example equaled nowhere in the world. The Supreme
Majesty, God's own Son, suffered in the most ignominious manner the extremity
of torture, pain and anguish in body and soul, something intolerable to
mere human nature; and that innocently, and for us condemned sinners--suffering
for the sins of strangers.
"Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered threatened
22. To further emphasize and make effectual in us the example of Christ's
patience, Peter proceeds to analyze it, to show it in its true colors,
to mention the details and make plain how it differs from any other example
of suffering. He has told us before that Christ did no sin, neither was
guile found in his mouth. Why, then, did the Jews persecute and crucify
him--put him to death? Inquire into his entire life history and you will
find that no one could justly impeach, nor could convict, him for any sin.
He himself appealed to his enemies to prove aught of sin in him. No one
could show an injury he had ever done to anyone, or a wrong he had ever
taught or practiced. On the contrary, he had gone about to bring to the
Jewish nation the grace and salvation of God. He had revealed God's Word,
opened the eyes of the blind, healed the sick, cast out devils, fed great
multitudes when hungry and lacking food. In short, in all his life, there
was nothing in word or act but truth, goodness, beneficence and a disposition
to aid. In return for the good he wrought, he was compelled to receive
the ungrateful reward of man's hatred and condemnation. His enemies were
moved solely by obdurate, diabolical hatred, and could not cease their
persecutions until they brought him to the cross, where he was disgracefully
hung up nude between two murderers, being lifted up as unworthy to touch
the earth and to live among men.
23. Christ was under no obligation to endure disgrace and ill-treatment.
He might have refrained from his benevolent ministrations when he saw the
futility of his efforts with the Jews. But he did not so; even in his sufferings
upon the cross he charitably prayed for his enemies. He had authority,
he had power enough, and he would have been justified in the action, had
he revenged himself on his furious enemies, invoked evil upon them, and
execrated them as they deserved to be execrated; for they had treated him
with gross injustice before all the world, as even the testimony of his
betrayer and his judge and all creatures admitted, and had bitterly reviled
him when he hung upon the cross. But he did none of these things. He bore
with ineffable meekness and patience all the ill-treatment his enemies
could heap upon him. Even in his extremity of anguish, he benevolently
interceded for them to his Heavenly Father, to which act the prophet Isaiah
(ch. 53) offers a tribute of high praise.
24. Notice, we have here in all respects a perfect and inimitable example
of patience-- patience of the most exalted kind. In this example we may
behold as in a glass what we have yet to learn of calm endurance, and thus
be impelled to imitate that example in some small measure at least.
25. Not without reason does Peter applaud the fact that when Christ
was reviled he reviled not again, and when he suffered he threatened not.
Though to endure undeserved violence and injustice is hard enough, that
which more than aught else naturally renders suffering grievous and makes
men impatient is to experience the monstrous unfairness of receiving the
mean and vexatious reward of ingratitude from individuals who have enjoyed
one's favors and greatest benefactions. Base ingratitude is extremely painful
for human nature to endure. It makes the heart flutter and the blood boil
with a spirit of revenge. When no alternative presents, an outburst of
reviling, execration and threatening follows. Flesh and blood has not the
power of restraint to enable it to remain calm when evil is returned for
favors and benevolence, and to say, "God be thanked."
26. Mark the example of Christ, however, and there learn to censure
yourself. Beloved, how can you complain when you see how infinitely greater
was the grief and how much more painful the anxiety endured by your beloved
Lord and faithful Saviour, the Son of God himself, who yet bore all patiently
and submissively and, more than that, prayed for those instrumental in
causing that agony? Who with a single drop of Christian blood in his heart
would not blush with shame to be guilty of murmuring at his sufferings
when, before God, he is so sinful and is deserving of much more affliction?
Wicked, unprofitable and condemned servant must he be who does not follow
his Lord's example of endurance but presumes to think himself better and
nobler than Christ; who with inimical spirit murmurs, complaining of great
injustice, when he really deserves affliction, and when he suffers infinitely
less than did his dear, righteous, innocent Lord. Beloved, if Christ so
suffered in return for the great blessing he conferred, be not too indolent
to imitate him in some degree by suffering without anger and reproaches.
Less reason have you to be angry and reproachful from the fact that you,
too, were one whose sins brought Christ to the cross.
27. But you may say: "What? Did not Christ revile when (Mt 23) he called
the scribes and pharisees hypocrites, murderers, serpents, a generation
of vipers, and even more severely rebuked them?" I reply: Oh yes, we would
gladly follow Christ's example here; we could cheerfully revile and accuse.
It is much easier than being patient. We would need no Master to help us
in this. But note what Peter says: When Christ was about to suffer death,
having fulfilled the obligation of his ministry--having proclaimed the
truth, rebuked falsehood and been brought to the cross therefore--and being
about to conclude his mission by suffering, he reviled not; as a sheep
for the slaughter, he permitted himself to be executed and opened not his
mouth against his calumniators and murderers. See Isaiah 53, 7.
28. It is necessary, then, to make a distinction here. Reviling--or
pronouncing execrations and threats--is of two kinds. In one case it is
official and pronounced of God; in the other, without authority and comes
from man. It was one of the duties of Christ's office on earth, and one
now incumbent upon those called to bear that office after him, to assert
the truth and censure the evil. Such a course is essential to the honor
of God and the salvation of souls; for if the truth were to be ignored,
who would come to God? Official chastisement is a work of divine, Christian
love. It is a parental duty imposed of God. God has implanted in the parent
nature intense love for the child; at the same time, if parents are godly
and have proper affection for their children they will not connive at,
or let pass unpunished, the disobedience of the latter. They must chastise,
both with reproof and with keen rods. These are official strokes--love
stripes-enjoined of God, and their infliction is our duty. They are not
injurious, but beneficial. Solomon says (Prov 13, 24): "He that spareth
his rod hateth his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes."
And Jesus the son of Sirach says in Ecclesiasticus: "He that loveth his
son causeth him oft to feel the rod, that he may have joy of him in the
29. So everyone may, and should, reprove when official duty or his neighbor's
case requires; it serves to reform the subject. To quote Solomon again
(Prov 27, 6): "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an
enemy are profuse [deceitful]." Reproofs and stripes prompted by love and
a faithful heart are beneficial. On the other hand, an enemy may use fair
and flattering words when he has enmity and deceit at heart, preferring
to let you go on to ruin rather than by gentle reproof to warn of danger
and rescue you from destruction. The faithful, conscientious physician
must often, of necessity and with great pain to the patient, amputate a
limb in order to save the body.
Paul, too, commands pious bishops to be urgent in season, out of season;
to reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering. 2 Tim 4, 2; Tit 2,
15. By our silence to commend or to encourage to evil the wrong-doer would
not be to manifest one's love to the offender, but rather to give him over
wholly to death and the devil.
30. It was this love and sincerity of heart which prompted Christ in
his office to censure and rebuke, for which he merited only wrath and hatred;
as we say, he sought his stripes. But the duty of his office required such
action on his part. His motive was to turn the transgressors from their
blindness and malice, and to rescue them from perdition; and he could not
be deterred by the consequent persecution, cross and death which awaited.
But having fulfilled his official duties, and the hour of his suffering
having arrived, he suffered patiently, permitting his enemies to heap upon
him all possible evil in return for his manifested love and blessings.
Instead of angrily reviling and execrating while, suspended from the cross,
he endured the most shameful calumnies, he, with strong cries and with
tears, prayed, "Father, forgive them." It was, indeed, a heart of unfathomable
love that, in the midst of extreme suffering, had compassion on its persecutors
and blessed them in greater measure than parent can bless child or one
individual bless another.
31. Observe, then, the distinction between official and unofficial censure
and rebuke; the former is prompted by love, and the latter by wrath and
hatred. The world, however, is artful and cunning enough when it hears
this distinction, to pervert and confuse the two, exercising its own revenge
under the name of official zeal and reproof. For instance, if a preacher
is disposed to act the knave, he can easily give vent to his personal anger
and vengeance in his pulpit utterances, censuring and rebuking as he pleases,
and then claim it is all in obedience to the demand of office and for the
good of the people.
Again, a judge, a mayor, or other prominent official, desiring revengefully
to satisfy a personal grudge, can more successfully accomplish his object
under the title of the office he bears and the obligations imposed upon
him for the punishment of the wicked than in any other way. This practice
now frequently obtains since the world has learned to use the Gospel to
conceal its malice and knavery, to adorn it with the name of a divinely
appointed office. It ever uses the name and Word of God to cloak its infamy.
But who is vigilant enough to elude such knavery and to make the children
of the devil honest? Let him who would be a Christian, then, take heed
how he shall answer such accusation. Assuredly God will not allow himself
to be deceived. He will, in due time, relieve the innocent victim of injustice,
and his punishment will seek out the wicked. Peter says, further
"But committed himself to him that judgeth righteously."
32. Who revealed to Peter the nature of Christ's thoughts upon the cross?
The apostle has just been saying that Christ reviled not nor thought of
revenge, but rather manifested love and good-will toward his virulent enemies.
How could Christ approve such malice? Truly he could not endorse it. Nor
could he commend his enemies for crucifying him and putting him to death
upon the cross without cause. No such conclusion may be drawn. The devil
and his adherents must not construe the passage to mean license to heap
all manner of torture and distress upon Christ and his saints as upon those
who must not only patiently bear these things, unmoved by revengeful desires,
but must render gratitude to their persecutors as if their acts were praiseworthy.
No; this can by no means be permitted. Could I be said to suffer
innocently if I am obliged to confess I am well treated? Several times
in this epistle Peter admonishes Christians not to suffer as evil-doers,
thieves, murderers. But if I suffer innocently and am unjustly treated,
I am not to justify the ill-treatment and strengthen the enemy in his sins;
for, so doing, I would approve his conduct and assume the guilt attributed.
That principle would be pleasing to the Pope and the devil and to tyrants;
they would willingly have it obtain. They are not wholly satisfied even
to murder the innocent; they would prefer to be justified in their action--to
have us confess to wrong-doing. But that is something no Christian heart
will do; it may be left to the devil.
33. But the Papists will say: "However, it is written, You must suffer
and not revile; you must thank God for persecution and pray for your enemies."
That is true; but it is one thing to suffer patiently, the while wishing
your enemies well and praying for them, and quite a different thing to
justify them in their conduct. I must cease not to confess the truth and
maintain my innocence, both in heart and with my lips. But if men will
not accept my word, my heart must tell me I have suffered injustice. Rather
should I endure ten deaths, could my enemies inflict them, than to condemn
myself in violation of conscience. So, when Peter made this little statement
about Christ not reviling nor threatening, which was true, he did not mean
that Christ justified his persecutors in their treatment of him. But what
are we to do? If we do not justify our enemies when they make us suffer,
they will do even worse things to us; for they desire the name and the
credit, in the eyes of the world, of having done right by us. Yes, as Christ
has somewhere said, they would have it thought they do God great service
by murdering us. Now, who is to judge and decide the question?
34. Peter declares that Christ committed the matter to him who judges
righteously. How should he do otherwise, knowing that his persecutors treated
him unjustly and yet maintained the contrary? There was for him no judge
on earth. He was compelled to commit the matter to that righteous judge,
his Heavenly Father. Well he knew that such sins and blasphemies could
not go unpunished. No, the sentence was already passed, the sword sharpened,
the angels given orders, for the overthrow of Jerusalem. Previous to his
sufferings, on his way to Jerusalem, as Christ beheld the city, he announced
its coming doom and wept over it. Therefore, he prays for his enemies,
saying: "Dear Father, I must commit the matter to thee, since they refuse
to hear or to see the wrong they do. Well I know they are rushing into
thy wrath and thy terrible punishment, but I pray thee to forgive them
what they do to me." And so they would have been forgiven had they afterward
repented at the apostles' preaching, and had they not further sinned in
persecuting God's Word and thus brought upon their unrepentant selves ultimate
CHRIST OUR EXAMPLE IN SUFFERING.
35. Observe, as Christ did, so should we conduct ourselves in our sufferings;
not approving or assenting to whatever may be heaped upon us, but yet not
seeking revenge. We are to commit the matter to God, who will judge aright.
We cannot maintain our rights before the world; therefore we must commit
our cause to God, who judges righteously and who will not allow calumniation
of his Word and persecution of believers to pass unpunished. We must, however,
pray for our persecutors, that they may be converted and escape future
wrath and punishment; and so we do. If it is possible for some of the bishops
and other Gospel- persecuting tyrants to be converted, we will heartily
pray and desire that their conversion may come to pass. But if it be impossible,
as now, alas, is to be feared, since, after having been much admonished
and often prayed for and having enjoyed the best advantages, they wittingly
rage against the known truth--if so, then we must commit them to God's
judgment. What more can we do?
I am persuaded that the intolerable persecution and calumniating of
the Gospel prevalent today cannot be permitted to pass with impunity. It
must ultimately meet the coming judgment upon the Papacy and Germany. Of
this there can be no doubt. But it is ours to continue preaching, praying,
admonishing and beseeching, in the hope of effecting repentance. Then,
if our enemies still refuse to turn from their evil ways, if they perish
in their impenitence, what can we do but say: "Dear God, we commit the
matter to thee. Thou wilt punish them; thou canst, indeed, most terribly."
36. Such, mark you, is the example of Christ, presented to the entire
Christian Church--set up as a pattern for her. Hence it is the duty of
the Church, as Peter elsewhere tells us, to arm herself with the same mind
which was Christ's, to suffer as Christ did and to think: If Christ, my
Lord and Leader, has suffered for me with so great meekness and patience,
how much more reason have I to submit to suffering! And what can it harm
me to suffer when I know it is God's will? Not because the suffering in
itself is so perfecting and precious, but for the sake of the dear Saviour
who suffered for me. I know, too, that my persecutors thus commit most
abominable sins against God and incur his wrath and punishment. Why, then,
should I be impatient or desire revenge? I am already too highly honored
of God in the fact that my sufferings meet his approbation and that he
will perfectly avenge me of mine enemies. What can it advantage me for
them to bum eternally in hell? I will rather pray and use my utmost efforts
for their conversion. If I fail and they are determined to persist in their
course, I must bring the matter home to God--must commit it to him.
"Who his own self bare our sins in his body upon the tree, that we,
having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness."
37. Peter's is the true preaching concerning the passion of Christ.
He teaches not only the merit in Christ's sufferings, but introduces both
themes--its efficacy and example. Such is Paul's custom, also. In this
verse Peter presents Christ's sufferings in the light of a sacrifice for
sin. They constitute a work acceptable to God as satisfaction for the sins
of the whole world and effective to reconcile him to men. So great is God's
wrath toward sin that none but that eternal one, the Son of God, could
avert it. He had himself to be the sacrifice, to allow his body to be nailed
to the cross. The cross was the altar whereupon the sacrifice was consumed--wholly
burned--in the fire of his unfathomable love. He had to be his own high
priest in this sacrifice: for no earthly mortal, all being sinners and
unclean, could offer to God the sacrifice of his beloved and wholly sinless
Son; the boasting of the priests of Antichrist in regard to their masses,
to the contrary notwithstanding. Now, by the single sacrifice of God's
Son, our sins are remitted and we obtain grace and forgiveness; and this
fact can be grasped in no other way than through faith.
38. Peter mentions the ultimate object of the divine sacrifice made
for us, what it accomplished in us, the fruit Christ's passion shall yield;
for he would not have the Christian Church overlook that point, or neglect
to preach it. Christ, he tells us, took upon himself our sins, suffering
the penalty. Therefore, Christ alone is entitled to be called a sacrifice
for all our sins. It was not designed, however, that after the sacrifice
we should remain as before; on the contrary, the purpose was ultimately
to work in us freedom from sins, to have us live no longer unto sin but
unto righteousness. Now, if in Christ our sins are sacrificed, they are
put to death, blotted out; for to sacrifice means to slay, to kill. Under
the Old Testament dispensation, all sacrifices had to be presented to God
slain. Now, if our sins are put to death, it is not meant that we are to
live in them.
39. Therefore, the saving doctrine of remission of sins and of Christ's
grace cannot be so construed as to admit of our continuing in the old life
and following our own desires. According to Paul (Rom 6, 1-8), enjoying
grace and remission of sins does not give license to live in sin. How shall
we who are dead to sin live any longer therein? The very fact that we may
be reckoned dead unto sins means they may no longer live and reign in us.
In Christ's holy body were they throttled and slain expressly that they
might also be slain in us.
40. Be careful, then, what you believe and how you live, that the efficacy
of Christ's sufferings may be manifestly fulfilled in you. If, through
faith, you have rightly apprehended his sacrifice, its virtue will be indicated
in the subduing and mortifying of your sins, even as they are already slain
and dead through his death on the cross. But if you continue to live in
sins, you cannot say they are dead in you. You but deceive yourself, and
your own evidence is false when you boast of Christ in whom all sins are
put to death, if sin remains vigorous in you. We naturally conclude it
is inconsistent for sin to be dead in us and yet alive; for us to be free
from sin and yet captive or fast therein. This fact has already been sufficiently
41. It is ours, Peter says, not only to believe that Christ has, through
the sacrifice of his own body, put to death sin and liberated us therefrom--a
thing the combined sacrifices of all mortal bodies could never have effected--but,
sin being put to death by him, to endeavor to become ever more and more
free from sin's sway in our bodies, and to live henceforth unto righteousness,
until we shall be completely and finally released from sin through death.
Therefore, if before you believed on Christ you were an adulterer, a miser,
a coveter, a maligner, you ought now to regard all these sins as dead,
throttled through Christ; the benefit is yours through faith in his sacrifice,
and your sins should henceforth cease to reign in you. If you have not
so received the sacrifice, you cannot boast of Christ and faith. Though
Christ has died for you, though your sins have been put upon him and reckoned
dead, still you are not rid of those sins if you do not desire to be, if
you do not, through faith, apprehend Christ and his blessing, nor in your
life and conduct follow his example.
42. Now you will say: "But you teach that we are all sinners, that there
is not even a saint on earth without sin. And surely we must confess the
article, 'I believe in the remission of sins,' and must pray, 'Forgive
us our debts."' I reply, most assuredly you never will attain sinless perfection
here on earth; if such were the case you would have no further need for
faith and Christ. At the same time, it is not designed that you should
continue as you were before obtaining remission of sins through faith.
I speak of known sins wittingly persisted in, in spite of the rebuke and
condemnation of conscience. These should be dead in you; in other words,
they are not to rule you, but you are to rule them, to resist them, to
undertake their mortification. And if occasionally you fail, if you stumble,
you should immediately rise again, embrace forgiveness and renew your endeavor
to mortify your sins.
"By whose stripes ye were healed."
43. It seems as if Peter could not sufficiently exalt and make impressive
Christ's sufferings. He brings in nearly the entire Fifty-third chapter
of Isaiah in the attempt. Note how, in regard to the efficacy of works,
he always significantly introduces the two themes at the same time--how
he carefully distinguishes between performing human works in obedience
to Christ's example, and receiving by faith the merit of Christ's work.
First, we have, "Who his own self bare our sins in his body upon the tree
. . . by whose stripes ye were healed." This is the vital part in our salvation.
Christ alone could fully accomplish the work. This doctrine must be taught
in its purity and simplicity, and must so be believed, in opposition to
the devil and his factions. Only so can we maintain the honor and the office
of Christ wherein is anchored our salvation. But the second part of the
doctrine must not be overlooked. There are false Christians who accept
only the first part and make no effort to reform themselves; but, being
liberated from our sins and in a state of salvation, we may not again defile
ourselves therewith. Where these two principals of the Christian doctrine
are not maintained in their proper relation, injury must result to the
truth in two respects: they who are occupied solely with their own works
corrupt the true doctrine of faith; they who neglect to follow the example
of Christ retard the efficacy and fruit of that faith.
"For ye were going astray like sheep."
44. Here Peter bluntly and clearly points out the fact I have stated,
that liberation from sin and death was effected not by our works and merits,
but by Christ's wounds and death alone. Forgiveness cost you nothing, Peter
teaches; no blood, no wounds. You were powerless in this direction. You
were but miserable, erring, lost sheep, separated from God, condemned to
hell and unable to council or help yourselves. In just such condition are
all they who are out of Christ. As Isaiah the prophet says more plainly
in the chapter from which these words are taken (verse 6): "All we like
sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way." That
is, whatever our lives, whatever our intent, we but turned farther away
from God. As it is written (Ps 14, 3): "They are all gone aside; they are
together become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one."
45. That men are prone to go astray like sheep is clearly exhibited
in their conduct; history proves it. It has ever been the case that when
mankind was divided into various idolatries or false services of God, into
superstitions numerous and varied, even when God's people thought to have
attained the perfection of holiness--then one ran here and another there,
ever seeking and seeking to come upon the road to heaven but getting farther
and farther from it. It was exactly the case of the sheep straying from
the flock and lost to the shepherd: the farther it runs and the more it
follows the voice of strangers, the farther astray it goes. It continues
to wander and to flee until it finally perishes, unless it hears again
the voice of the shepherd. Let no one, then, dare boast of having himself
found the right way to heaven, of having merited God's grace and the remission
of sins by his own manner of life. All men must confess the truth of Scripture
testimony that we were but erring sheep, fleeing ever farther from our
Shepherd and Saviour, until he turned us back to himself.
"But are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls."
46. You have now heard the voice of your Shepherd, who has brought you
back to himself, from your erring and idolatrous ways. It was not your
own effort that effected your return; it was accomplished at the cost of
your Shepherd's wounds and shed blood. Be careful, then, Peter would say,
to live not like erring and lost sheep; but, being converted--turned back--follow
your beloved Saviour. In him you have a godly Shepherd who faithfully pastures
and cares for you; and also a loyal Bishop who ever watches over and guards
you, not permitting you to stray.
47. Immeasurably gracious, and comforting are these words. But the meaning
of the word "bishop" has been miserably obscured and perverted by our idolatrous
priests and episcopal frauds. Likewise have they perverted and corrupted
the terms "ecclesiasts," "Church," "divine service," "priest," etc., by
their antichristian rule. Only those have right to the name "ecclesiast"
who have been redeemed from their sins through Christ's wounds, and who
live holy lives. But the Papists have taken the name away from true Christians
and applied it to the Pope's besmeared, and shavenheaded ones. Again, when
we hear the word "bishop" we think only of great, pointed caps and of silver
staves. As if it were sufficient to place in the Church such masks, such
carved and hewn idols! For they are nothing better; in fact, they do more
According to the Scriptures, a true bishop is an overseer, a guardian,
a watchman. He is like unto the householder, the warder of the city, or
any judicial officer or regent who exercises constant oversight of state
or municipal affairs. Formerly there were bishops in each parish, deriving
their name from the fact that their office required oversight of the Church
and the guarding against the devil, against false doctrines and all manner
of offenses. Paul, too (Acts 20, 28), reminds the bishops of their office,
saying: "Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the
Holy Spirit hath made you bishops (overseers]." And overseers should bishops
still be, as in fact all godly preachers and carers for souls are. But
in all Popedom the office now is but a mere name, to the sin and shame
of the entire Christian Church.
48. Now, Christ our Lord is that faithful Guardian, that true Bishop,
who above all others is entitled to the name (with him office and name
are identical), and who bears it with due honor, to our eternal happiness.
For, standing at the right hand of God and showing his wounds, he unceasingly
intercedes for us before the Father; and moreover, on earth he rules, sustains,
nourishes and protects, through his Word, his sacraments and the efficacy
of the Holy Spirit, the little flock that believe in him. Were he not present
with and watching over us here, the devil would long ago have overthrown
and destroyed us, and also the Word of God and the name of Christ. And
such is the case when God in wrath turns away his eyes from the world to
punish its ingratitude. Then immediately everything falls into the devil's
power. Therefore, pure doctrine, faith, confession and the use of the sacraments
are dependent for their perpetuity solely upon the vigilant guardianship
of our beloved Shepherd and Bishop.
49. Comforting, indeed, is it to have in Christ a priest so faithful
and righteous; though, alas, the worthy name of "priest" also has been
subjected to shame and contempt because of the Pope's disgraceful, shaven,
shallow-headed occupants of the office. Comforting, indeed, it is to be
the happy lambs who have a welcome refuge in the Shepherd and find in him
joy and comfort in every time of need, assured that his perfect faithfulness
cares for and protects us from the devil and the gates of hell. Relative
to this subject, the entire Twenty-third Psalm is a beautiful and joyous
song, of which the refrain is, "The Lord is my Shepherd."