A conscience is like a sports referee. Your conscience cannot condemn you. Neither can it free you from accusations. Your conscience calls your daily actions in light of some standard. It tells you whether you are ok or not before that standard. Our consciences needs to be taught what is right and wrong before it tells us whether our actions are right or wrong. Your conscience is Christian as it has been conformed to what is written in the Holy Bible. To read more, visit this post for a longer introduction.
Your Christian conscience can be evaluated. What is the condition of your conscience before God? Or, what about before other people? Finally, what about before yourself? A bad conscience before God needs the Gospel for the forgiveness of sins. A bad conscience before other people or yourself needs God’s Law. In either case, we need to receive the whole counsel of God’s Word as a gift. To read more, visit this other post.
My name is Jeffrey Pautz and I’m the author behind The Spirited Word. The purpose of TSW is to help people receive a good Christian conscience.
At the end of last week’s post, I mentioned that a good conscience is connected to daily prayer. This is what the Holy Spirit tells us through the pen of saint Paul. Paul received a good conscience every morning and evening.
Daily prayer begins and ends with God. He even gives us the words to say. Jesus teaches His disciples to pray in Matthew 11. Jesus doesn’t give a lecture. He says, “When you pray, say” the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gives us the words to pray. The Father delights hearing those word from us and giving us what they ask. These words are The Spirited Word. The Holy Spirit gives and does what the words say. How beautiful this is. Christian prayer always begins and ends with the Holy Triune God.
The whole Bible may be prayed as well. All the words of Holy Scripture came from God our Father. He sent Jesus to fulfill all that is promised in the writings. The Holy Spirit calls and gathers us by those words so that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ and that by believing in Him we may have eternal life. These living words, like the Lord’s Prayer, may be prayed to our Father so that again prayer begins and ends with God for His glory and your benefit.
HEAR GOD’S WORD
The ancient Christians did not silently read their Bibles. The Holy Word was voiced aloud like the public readings of the Bible during a Sunday church service.
STUDY GOD’S WORD
Christian meditation is unique. It’s both the study of God’s Word and also the daydreaming about that Word.
Study includes an understanding of vocabulary and grammar. What is the meaning of the words as they are written? It is that straight forward . This doesn’t mean that study is easy. Thankfully, God’s Word is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow just like the Lord who wrote it.
I like the term daydreaming rather than meditation or contemplation. Farmers, in general, have this skill. At least the farmers I know. I grew up in a farming community. Plowing a field or shoveling manure is a routine that allows time to also think about other things. Anyone who has watched a commercial is familiar with this kind of daydreaming, too. You hear the details and see the pictures of the commercial while at the same time you are tuned out waiting for the programming to return.
The Word sinks in. The Holy Spirit works in your soul. You have received from the Lord. Then you go about the rest of your day.
ATTACK ON YOUR CONSCIENCE
The old evil foe is only beginning to teach you how precious a treasure you have in Jesus. Satan does not like Christ’s church. He strives to disrupt and corrupt it. He desires you to fall away from the grace of God in Jesus. You have a bulls-eye on your chest because you are baptized and believe in Jesus.
The spiritual attack does not happen outside the church among an unbelieving population. Spiritual attack takes place in your heart. It takes place in your conscience.
THIS NEXT PART IS AMAZING.
Satan uses God’s Ten Commandments to attack you! He disrupts and distorts God’s good law. It’s that simple (but
simple does not make it easy)!
First, Satan tries to use the first three commandments to destroy your faith in Jesus. You know them:
You shall have no other gods.
You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
Have you ever broken them? Of course you have. Some will believe Satan and fall away from our gracious heavenly Father who desires that none be lost. Let us remain repenting and believing in Jesus. In this Gospel, the Lord does not hold your sins against you.
Second, Satan may use the remaining commandments to destroy you love for other people. You know them too, don’t you:
You shall not kill
You shall not commit adultery
You shall not steal
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house or wife, man-servant, maid-servant, ox, donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor
Have you ever broken them? Of course you have. Your are in pain. What do you do? Do you believe that your neighbor is the cause of all your problems? Rather, let’s repent and believe that Jesus died for both the sins our neighbors have committed against us as well as the sins we have committed to our neighbor.
We hear and dwell on God’s Word in the morning. At the end of the day we are hurting again. If you are married, God has given you your wife or husband but they did something to hurt you. If you have children, God has given you your children but they did something to hurt you. It’s one thing if a stranger hurts you, but a loved one? Hurt by a gift from God?
God never intended to hurt you. He never intends for you to fall from faith in Him or from love toward your neighbor. It is a spiritual attack from Satan, or the world, or from your own sinful flesh.
A GOOD CONSCIENCE IS LIKE A SOFT PILLOW
God understands. The challenge is to commend all those sins to Jesus. This is faith in the promise that God will never leave you nor forsake you. This is the invitation to not let the sun go down on your anger. You give Him the sin. He gives you His life.
There is no softer pillow than to fall asleep with a good conscience.
In the morning, rinse and repeat. Do it again. Hear God’s Word again. Meditate on God’s Word through study and lingering in a little daydream. The attack will happen again. But even Satan uses God’s Holy Word. He is a good teacher that way. However, by faith in Jesus, let’s remain repenting of all sin and believing in Jesus our Savior.
This week, go to church. It’s an hour of prayer. Hear God Word. Ponder your pastor’s message. Enjoy all the good people God has given you. And see how many days you can begin and end the day praying the Lord’s Prayer. Slowly. Let it sink in.
In today’s Martin Luther sermon, Christ gives us another lesson in faith and free food for life, that we should not be overanxious about our daily bread and our temporal existence because the Lord provides, and He stirs us up by means of a miracle; as though to say by his act what he says by his words in Matthew 6,33: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Jesus cares more and sooner than you do for yourself
For here we see, since the people followed Christ for the sake of God’s Word and the signs, and thus sought the Kingdom of God, he did not forsake them but richly fed them. He hereby also shows that, rather than those who seek the Kingdom of God should suffer need, the grass in the desert would become wheat, or a crumb of bread would be turned into a thousand loaves; or a morsel of bread would feed as many people and just as satisfactorily as a thousand loaves; in order that the words in Matthew 4:4 might stand firm, that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” And to confirm these words Christ is the first to be concerned about the people, as to what they should eat, and asks Philip, before they complain or ask him; so that we may indeed let him care for us, remembering that he cares more and sooner for us than we do for ourselves.
Jesus feeds the godly and the ungodly. He bears with the weak faith of His disciples.
2. Secondly, he gives an example of great love, and he does this in many ways. First, in that he lets not only the pious, Who followed him because of the signs and the Word, enjoy the food; but also the slaves of appetite, who only eat and drink, and seek in him temporal honor; as follows later when they disputed with him at Capernaum about the food, and he said to them in Jn 6, 26: “Ye seek me, not because ye saw signs, but because ye ate of the loaves,” etc., also because they desired to make him king; thus here also he lets his sun shine on the evil and the good, Mt 5,45. Secondly, in that he bears with the rudeness and weak faith of his disciples in such a friendly manner. For that he tests Philip, who thus comes with his reason, and Andrew speaks so childishly on the subject, all is done to bring to light the imperfections of the disciples, and on the contrary to set forth his love and dealings with them in a more beautiful and loving light, to encourage us to believe in him, and to give us an example to do likewise; as the members of our body and all God’s creatures in their relation to one another teach us. For these are full of love, so that one bears with the other, helps and preserves what God has created.
Nothing too small for Jesus to do for you.
3. That he now takes the five loaves and gives thanks etc., teaches that nothing is too small and insignificant for him to do for his followers, and he can indeed so bless their pittance that they have an abundance, whereas even the rich have not enough with all their riches; as Ps 34, 11 says: “They that seek Jehovah shall not want any good thing; but the rich must suffer hunger.” And Mary in her song of praise says: “The hungry he hath filled with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.” Lk 1, 53.
Receive and use what Jesus gives
4. Again, that he tells them so faithfully to gather up the fragments, teaches us to be frugal and to preserve and use his gifts, in order that we may not tempt God. For just as it is God’s will that we should believe when we have nothing and be assured that he will provide; so he does not desire to be tempted, nor to allow the blessings be has bestowed to be despised, or lie unused and spoil, while we expect other blessings from heaven by means of miracles. Whatever he gives, we should receive and use, and what he does not give, we should believe and expect he will bestow.
II. THE SPIRITUAL EXPLANATION
Jesus is the Bread from heaven
5. That Christ by the miraculous feeding of the five thousand has encouraged us: to partake of a spiritual food, and taught that we should seek and expect from him nourishment for the soul, is clearly proved by the whole sixth chapter of John, in which he calls himself the bread from heaven and the true food, and says: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye seek me, not because ye saw signs, but because ye ate of the loaves, and were filled. Work not for the food which perisheth, but for the food which abideth unto eternal life, which the Son of man shall give unto you.” Jn 6,26-27. In harmony with these words we will explain also this evangelical history in its spiritual meaning and significance.
Outward righteousness is like grass – it withers
6. First, there was much hay or grass in the place. The Evangelist could not fail to mention that, although it appears to be unnecessary; however it signifies the Jewish people, who flourished and blossomed like the grass through their outward holiness, wisdom, honor, riches etc., as Isaiah 40, 6-7, says: “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, because the breath of Jehovah bloweth upon it; surely the people is grass.” From the Jewish people the Word of God went forth and the true food was given to us; for salvation is of the Jews, Jn 4,22. Now, as grass is not food for man, but for cattle; so is all the holiness of the outward Jewish righteousness nothing but food for animals, for fleshly hearts, who know and possess nothing of the Spirit.
True saints love the Word of God and despise outward holiness
7. The very same is taught by the people sitting on the grass; for the true saints despise outward holiness, as Paul does in Phil 3, 8, in that he counted his former righteousness to be filth and even a hindrance. Only common and hungry people receive the Word of God and are nourished by it. For here you see that neither Caiaphas nor Annas, neither the Pharisees nor the Scribes follow Christ and see Christ’s signs; but they disregard them, they are grass and feed on grass. This miracle was also performed near the festive time of the Jewish Passover; for the true Easter festival, when Christ should be offered as a sacrifice, was near, when he began to feed them with the Word of God.
Jesus teaches through the mouth of preachers
8. The five loaves signify the outward, natural word formed by the voice and understood by man’s senses; for the number five signifies outward things pertaining to the five senses of man by which he lives; as also the five and five virgins illustrate in Mt 25, 1. These loaves are in the basket, that is, locked up in the Scriptures. And a lad carries them, that means the servant class and the priesthood among the Jews, who possessed the sayings of God, which were placed in their charge and entrusted to them, Rom 3, 2, although they did not enjoy them. But that Christ took these into his own hands, and they were thereby blessed and increased, signifies that by Christ’s works and deeds, and not by our deeds or reason, are the Scriptures explained, rightly understood and preached. This he gives to his disciples, and the disciples to the people. For Christ takes the Word out of the Scriptures; so all teachers receive it from Christ and give it to the people, by which is confirmed what Matthew 23, 10 says: “For one is your master, even the Christ,” who sits in heaven, and he teaches all only through the mouth and the word of preachers by his Spirit, that is, against false teachers, who, teach their own wisdom.
Faith is always alone. Love is never alone.
9. The two fishes are the example and witness of the patriarchs and prophets, who are also in the basket; for by them the Apostles confirm and strengthen their doctrine and the believers like St. Paul does in Rom 4,2-6, where he cites Abraham and David etc. But there are two, because the examples of the saints are full of love, which cannot be alone, as faith can, but must go out in exercise to its neighbor. Furthermore the fishes were prepared and cooked; for such examples are indeed put to death by many sufferings and martyrdoms, so that we find nothing carnal in them, and they comfort none by a false faith in his own works, but always point to faith and put to death works and their assurance.
Faith comes by hearing
10. The twelve baskets of fragments are all the writings and books the Apostles and Evangelists bequeathed to us; therefore they are twelve, like the Apostles, and these books are nothing but that which remains from and has been developed out of the Old Testament. The fishes are also signified by the number five (Moses’ books); as John 21,25 says: “Even the world itself would not contain the books that should be written” concerning Christ, all which nevertheless was written and proclaimed before in the Old Testament concerning Christ.
God lets us see how precious God’s Word is for us
11. That Philip gives counsel as how to feed the people with his few shillings, and yet doubts, signifies human teachers who would gladly aid the soul with their teachings; but their conscience feels it helps nothing. For the discussion Christ here holds with his disciples takes place in order that we may see and understand that it is naturally impossible to feed so many people through our own counsel, and that this sign might be the more public. Thus he lets us also disgrace ourselves and labor with human doctrines, that we may see and understand how necessary and precious God’s Word is and how doctrines do not help the least without God’s Word.
Many eager to help you with God’s law, but few with the Gospel
12. That Andrew pointed out the lad and the loaves, and yet doubted still more than Philip, signifies the teachers who wish to make the people pious and to quiet them with God’s laws; but their conscience has no satisfaction or peace in them; but only becomes continually worse, until Christ comes with his Word of grace. He is the one, and he alone, who makes satisfaction, delivers from sin and death, gives peace and fulness of joy, and does it all of his own free will, gratuitously, against and above all hope and presumption, that we may know that the Gospel is devised and bestowed, not through our own merit, but out of pure grace.
The best Christians live without worry but with a few things
13. Finally, you see in this Gospel that Christ, though he held Gospel poverty in the highest esteem and was not anxious about the morrow, as he teaches in Matthew 6, 34, had still some provisions, as the two hundred shillings, the five loaves and the two fishes; in order that we may learn how such poverty and freedom from care consist not in having nothing at all, as the barefooted fanatics and monks profess, and yet they themselves do not hold to it; but it consists in a free heart and a poor spirit. For even Abraham and Isaac had great possessions, and yet they lived without worry and in poverty, like the best Christians do.
This Martin Luther sermon is about faith in Jesus Christ who is the Strong Man against the devil. It is also about love toward others by giving an argument against those who make fun of Jesus. It is a long sermon so I have provided a download link for you to read later. This is a free download.
Christ’s Defence Against His blasphemers and those Who Slandered Him
This Gospel Teaches Us Faith and Love
1. This is a beautiful Gospel from which we learn many different things, and in which nearly everything is set forth as to what Christ, his kingdom and his Gospel are: what they accomplish and how they fare in the world. In the first place, like all the Gospels this one teaches us faith and love; for it presents Christ to us as a most loving Saviour and Helper in every need and tells us that he who believes this is saved. For we see here that Christ had nothing to do with people who were healthy, but with a poor man who was greatly afflicted with many ills. He was blind, as Matthew says; also dumb and possessed with a demon, as Luke tells us here. Now all mutes are also deaf, so that in the Greek language deaf and dumb are one word. By this act Christ draws us to himself, leads us to look to him for every blessing, and to go to him in every time of need. He does this that we also, according to the nature of love, should do unto others as he does unto us. This is the universal and the most precious doctrine of this Gospel and of all the Gospels throughout the church year. This poor man, however, did not come to Christ without the Word; for those who brought him to Christ must have heard his love preached and were moved thereby to trust in him. We learn therefore that faith comes through the Word; but more of this elsewhere.
This Gospel Shows Us Three Kinds of People Who Hear The Gospel
2. Secondly, it is here demonstrated how Christ and his Gospel fare in the world, namely, that there are three kinds of hearers. Some marvel at him; these are pious and true Christians, who consider this deed so great that they are amazed at it. Some blaspheme the Gospel; these are the Pharisees and scribes, who were vexed because they could not do the like, and were worried lest the people should hold Christ in higher esteem than themselves. Some tempt him, like Herod desired a sign after his own heart, that they may make sport of it. But he answers both parties; at first, the blasphemers in this Gospel, and later on the tempters, saying that no sign shall be given this wicked generation except the sign of the prophet Jonah, of which we read in the verses following. He answers the blasphemers in a friendly way and argues five points with them.
Answering Against the Unbelievers
First, A Devil Can’t Drive Out A Devil
3. In the first place, with honest and reasonable arguments he concludes from two comparisons that one devil cannot cast out another; for if that were so, the devils would be divided among themselves and Satan’s kingdom would indeed not stand. For nature teaches that if a kingdom is divided against itself and its citizens drive out each other, it is not necessary to go to war against it, for it will come to ruin soon enough of itself. Likewise a house divided against itself needs no other destruction. Even the heathen author Sallust, teaching only from the light of nature and experience, says: “Great wealth passes away through discord, but through concord small means become large.” If now the devils were divided among themselves to such a degree that one should drive out the other, Satan’s dominion would be at an end, and we would have rest from his attacks.
Hardened Hearts Will Not Be Instructed
4. What then were these blasphemers able to say to such clear arguments? They were put to silence, but their hearts were hardened, so that they did not heed his words. A hardened heart will not be instructed, no matter how plainly and clearly the truth is presented; but the faith of the righteous is strengthened when they see that the ground of their faith is right and good. And for the sake of such we must answer those whose hearts are hardened, and put them to silence. Even though they will not be converted nor keep silence still it serves to reveal their hardened hearts, for the longer they talk the more foolish they become, and they are caught in their folly, and their cause is robbed of the appearance of being right and good, as Solomon also says in Proverbs 26,5: “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.” That is, answer him according to his folly that his folly may be put to shame for the sake of others, that they may not follow him and be deceived, thinking that he is right. Otherwise, where no such condition exists, it is better to keep silent, as Solomon also says in the same chapter, verse 4: “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.”
They Have Condemned Themselves
5. Nor could they say here that the devils only pretended to be divided among themselves and to yield to one another in order to deceive the people, for it is publicly seen how they resist and contend, cry and rave, tear and rage, when they see that Christ means to expel them. It is then clearly seen that they are opposed to Christ and his Spirit, and they are not united with him, to whom they must yield so unwillingly. Therefore it is only a flagrant blasphemous lie, in which they are caught and put to shame, by which they try in venomous hate to give the devil credit for a work of God. From this we learn not to be surprised when our doctrine and life are blasphemed and stubborn hearts will not be convinced nor converted, although they are overwhelmed, as it were, with tangible truth and completely put to silence. It is enough that through our arguments their obstinate folly is revealed, acknowledged and made harmless to pious people, so that the latter may not be misled by its fine pretension. They may then go whither they will, they have condemned themselves as St. Paul says, Titus 3, 11.
Second, The Son of God Considered A Child of The Devil
6. In the second place, he replies with a public example and a similar work, when he says: “By whom do your sons cast them out?” As if he would say: “Is this not simple idiocy? Just what you praise in your sons, you condemn in me. Because your sons do it, it is of God; but because I do it, it must be of the devil.” So it is in this world. What Christ does, is of the devil; if someone else did it, it would be all right. Thus the tyrants and enemies of the Gospel do now, when they condemn in us what they themselves do, confess and teach; but they must proceed thus in order that their judgment may be publicly approved, when they are condemned by all justice. The sons, of whom Christ here says that they drive out devils, were, I think, certain exorcists among the people, for God, from the beginning, had given this people manifold spiritual gifts and he calls them their “sons,” as though to say: I am the Son of God and must be called a child of the devil, while those who are your sons, begotten by you, do the same things and are not to be considered children of the devil.
The Finger of God Is The Holy Spirit and Power of God
7. “Therefore shall they be your judges,” that is, I appeal to them. They will be forced to decide that you wrongfully blaspheme me, and thus condemn yourselves. For if one devil does not drive out another then some other power must do it that is neither satanic nor human, but divine. Hence the words: “But if I by the finger of God cast out demons, then is the kingdom of God come upon you.” This finger of God is called in Mt 12,28 the Holy Ghost, for the words read thus: “But if I by the Spirit of God cast out demons,” etc. In short, Christ means to say: If the kingdom of God is to come unto you, the devil must be driven out, for his kingdom is against God’s kingdom, as you yourselves must confess. But demon is not driven out by demon, much less by men or the power of men, but alone by the Spirit and power of God.
8. From this follows that where the finger of God does not cast out the devil, there the devil’s kingdom still exists; where Satan’s kingdom still exists, there the kingdom of God cannot be. The unavoidable conclusion then is that, as long as the Holy Spirit does not enter our hearts, we are not only incapable of any good, but are of necessity in the kingdom of Satan. And if we are in his kingdom, then we can do nothing but that which pleases him, else it could not be called his kingdom. As St. Paul says to Timothy: “The people are taken captive in the snares of the devil unto his will” 2 Tim 2,26. How could Satan suffer one of his people to take a notion to do something against, and not for, his kingdom? Oh, it is a striking, terrible and powerful statement that Christ here admits such a dominion, which we cannot escape except by the power of God; and that the kingdom of God cannot come to us until that kingdom is driven out by divine, heavenly power.
9. This truth is proved in the case of this poor man, who was bodily possessed of the devil. Tell me, what could he and all mankind do to free him from the devil? Without a doubt, nothing. He had to do and suffer just as his master the devil willed, until Christ came, with the power of God. Now then, if he could not free himself from the devil as to his body, how could he, by his own power, deliver his soul from Satan’s spiritual dominion? Especially is this the case since the soul, because possessed of sin, is the cause of all bodily possession as a punishment, and sins are more difficult to remove than the punishment of them, and the soul is always more firmly possessed than the body. This is proved by the fact that the devil permits the body to have its natural powers and functions; but he robs the soul of reason, judgment, sense, understanding, and all its powers, as you readily see in the case of this possessed man.
Third, Christ is the Stronger Man Over Satan
10. He answers them in the third place, by a comparison taken from life, namely that of a strong man overcome by one stronger, and robbed of all his armor and goods etc. By this he testifies also that no one but God can overcome the devil, so that again no man can boast of being able of himself to drive out either sin or the devil. Notice how he pictures the devil! He calls him a mighty giant who guards his court and home, that is, the devil not only possesses the world as his own domain, but he has garrisoned and fortified it, so that no one can take it from him. He rules it also with undisputed sway, so that it does whatever he commands. Just as little as a house or court may withstand or contend against the tyrant who is its master, can man’s free will and natural powers oppose sin and Satan, that is, not at all; but they are subject to them. And as that house must be conquered by a stronger man and thus wrested from the tyrant, so must man also be ransomed through Christ and wrested from Satan. We see again, therefore, that our works and righteousness contribute absolutely nothing toward our salvation; it is effected alone by the grace of God.
Fourth, He Who Does Not Believe Is Against Christ.
11. He answers them fourthly, with pointed proverbs and teachings, as: “He that is not with me is against me,” and, “He that gathereth not with me, scattereth.” “The devil is not with me for I drive him out, hence he must of necessity be against me.” But this saying does not apply to the devil alone, but also to the blasphemers whom he here convicts and condemns, as being against him since they are not for him. “To be with Christ” is to have the same mind and purpose as Christ, that is, to believe in Christ that his works save us and not our own, for this is what Christ holds and teaches. But “to gather with Christ” is to do good out of love to him, and to become rich in good works. He that does not believe is, by his own free will, not with Christ but against him, because he depends upon his own works. Therefore, he that does not love, does not gather with Christ, but by fruitless works becomes only more sinful and drifts farther and farther from the faith.
Fifth, The Last State Is Worse Than The First
12. In the fifth place, he answers with a threat, namely, that the last state always is worse than the first. Therefore we should take heed that we not only refrain from blaspheming the Gospel and Christ, who does such great things for us and drives the devil out of us; but with zeal and fear hold fast to them, in order that we may not become possessed of seven worse devils whereas one possessed us before. For thus it was with the Jews, who had never been so wicked as while the Gospel was being preached to them. So also under the papacy, we have become seven times, (that is, many times) worse heathen under the name of Christ than we ever had been before; as St. Peter says: “The last state is become worse with them than the first.” 2 Pet. 2:20. And if we neglect the great light which we now have, it will come to pass in our case also, that we shall become worse than we were before, for the devil does not slumber. This should be sufficient warning.
Only Jesus Christ Redeems Us From The Devil
13. Finally, when the woman cries out to Christ and praises him, saying, “Blessed is the mother that bore such a son,” etc., he opposes her carnal worship and takes occasion to teach all of us the substance of this Gospel, namely, that we should not go gaping after the works or merits of the saints but rather see to it that we hear and keep the Word of God. For it does not concern or profit us in the least to know how holy and honorable the mother of this child might be, nor how noble this Son of hers may be; but rather what this Son has done for us, namely that, by grace, without any merit or worthiness on our part, he has redeemed us from the devil. This fact is proclaimed to us through the Word of God, and this we are to hear and hold in firm faith; then shall we too be blessed like this mother and her child. Although such a Word and work will be blasphemed, we should suffer it and give an answer with meekness, as St. Peter teaches, for the improvement of others.
II. THE ALLEGORICAL OR SPIRITUAL MEANING OF THIS GOSPEL.
All The Children Of Adam
14. This dumb, deaf, blind, and demon-possessed man represents all the children of Adam, who through the flesh are possessed of Satan in original sin, so that they must be his slaves and do according to his will. Hence they are also blind, that is, they do not see God. They are deaf, for they do not hear God’s Word, and are not obedient or submissive to it. They are also dumb, for they do not give him one word of thanks or praise, nor do they preach and proclaim Christ and the grace of God. But they are all too talkative about the teachings of the devil and the opinions of men. In these things they see only too well and are wiser than the children of light in their undertakings, opinions, and desires. In these things they hear with both ears and readily adopt the suggestions of flesh and blood. So then, whatever we do, in word and deed, as to both body and soul, is of the devil, whether it be externally good or bad, and must be redeemed through the work of God. We are in his kingdom and therefore we acknowledge him, see, hear, and follow him and praise and proclaim his name. All this takes place through the Spirit of God in his Word, which casts out the devil and his kingdom.
The Lord Of The Flies
15. The Jews called the chief of the devils Beelzebub. The Hebrew word “sebub” means a fly; “baal” or “beel,” a man or ruler, as a householder. When the two words form a combination, they mean an arch-fly or chief-fly, or, in plain German “Fliegenkoenig oder grosse Hummel,” that is, king-fly or the great-drone. They gave Satan this contemptuous epithet as though they were entirely free from him, secure against him, and lords over him. That is the way all conceited, corrupt hypocrites do; they imagine they are so pure and holy, that the devil is a helpless, feeble fly compared with them, and that they do not need the grace of Christ nor the Word of God. Still they think he is strong enough for others, yet, that whatever godfearing people teach and do must be the devil’s own work, and they consider it such a trifling thing as though it were a dead fly. The devil can well endure such contempt, for by it he is placed above the true God in their hearts.
The Devil Uses Carnal Conceit, False Doctrine, and Traditions of Men To Terrify Consciences
16. The tyrant in the court or palace is the devil, as I said before. He is in peace, however, as long as God’s Word and finger do not oppose him, and just like this deaf mute, his people do whatever he wishes, for they know no better. His weapons and armor are the carnal conceit, doctrines and traditions of men, by which he terrifies the conscience and protects himself.
The Gospel Is Stronger Than The Devil
17. But when the stronger man, the Gospel, comes, peace flees, and he rages like a madman, for he resents being condemned, unmasked, punished, and publicly branded. Then he gathers up his armor, the powerful, wise, rich and holy people, and sets them all to attacking God’s Word, as we see in the persecution of the teachers of the Gospel. Such rage and persecution signify that the devil retires very unwillingly and raves in his whole body; for as he acts in the body and its members when he must depart, so he also behaves in the whole world, resisting with all his power when he is to give place to the Gospel; but it is all in vain, he must be expelled.
Christ Is Stronger Than The Devil
18. For a Stronger One, that is, Christ, comes and overpowers him and takes away his whole armor, that is, he converts some of those same persecutors, and to that extent makes him weaker, and his own kingdom stronger. He divides the spoils too, that is, those he converts he uses for various offices, graces, and works in Christendom, of which Paul writes in Rom 12,6. He is also in the court yard or ante-room of the palace, for the devil’s kingdom consists in outward appearances and pretenses of wisdom, holiness, and strength; but when it is captured by the Gospel it is found to consist of pure folly, sin and weakness.
The Devil Never Sleeps
19. The text continues, “When the unclean spirit has gone out, he wanders through dry places, seeking rest,” etc. This means as much as the saying, “The devil never takes a vacation” and “The devil never sleeps,” for he is seeking how he may devour man. “Dry places” are not the hearts of the ungodly, for in such he rests and dwells like a mighty tyrant, as the Gospel here says; but there are dry and waste places here and there in the country where no people live, as forests and wildernesses. To these he flees in wicked rage because he is driven out. You will remember that the devil found Christ in the wilderness. Now, in Judea, there is not much water, hence we read that it contains many and wastes. In other countries, however, as in our own, which are well watered, the devils stay in rivers and lakes, and there they sometimes drown those who bathe or sail upon them. Furthermore, at some places there are water spirits, who entice the children from the shores into the water and drown them. These are all devils.
Be Sober, Be Watchful
20. That he comes again and finds the house swept and garnished (Matthew adds “empty”) signifies that the man is sanctified and adorned with beautiful spiritual gifts, and that the evil spirit clearly sees that he can do nothing there with his familiar tricks, for he is too well known. Thus when the worship of idols was driven from the heathen, he never attacked the world with that device again. But what did he do then? He tried something else, went out, took with him seven spirits, more evil than himself, and entered in with them and dwelt there, and the last state of that man was worse than the first. So he has dealt with us. When Christ had become known in the world and the devil’s former kingdom with its idol worship had been destroyed, he adopted another plan and attacked us with heresy and introduced and established the papacy, in which Christ was entirely forgotten, and men became worse heathen under the name of Christ than before he was preached, as we can see now with our own eyes. Such also was the lot of the Jews after the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the Greeks under the Turks. And so all will fare, who at first hear the Word of God and afterwards become secure and weary of it. St. Matthew says, in Mt 12, 14, that Satan finds the house empty. And in Mt 13, 25, he sowed tares among the wheat, by night, while men slept. Therefore it is necessary for us to watch as the apostles always admonish us, especially St. Peter in 1 Pet 5, 3: “Brethren, be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour”; for wherever he overthrows faith, he easily restores again all former vices.
If you enjoyed this Martin Luther Sermon, you might enjoy a Kindle eBook for $5.99 (at the time I am writing). This is an affiliate program which means that at no additional cost to you I will earn a few pennies from Amazon to keep up this blog. The link to that ebook is here: 2: The Sermons of Martin Luther (Volume II): Lenker Edition (Luther’s Sermons) (Volume 2). The above sermon is in this volume. It still contains the older style of the English language. However, if you read the who sermon you probably aren’t too concerned about that and you might enjoy the ebook. If not, that’s ok, too.
What Are The Four Biblical Marks of a Good Conscience?
The purpose of this blog is to help Christians from around the world receive a good conscience. The first article in this particular series we asked Is A Referee Like Your Conscience? Today, we ask, “What are the four Biblical marks of a good conscience.”
1. A Good Conscience Before God
The first mark is the conscience before God. Paul is on trial before the high priest, Ananias. It is written in Acts 23:1-3,
23 Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” 2 And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law (NKJV)?
Paul is speaking before a council of pastors. They are religious authorities. Most likely, they are the heads of Christian denominations.
What did those religious guys hear when Paul said, “I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day?” It’s a question. I’m a religious guy, too. I am a pastor of a small congregation.
What did they hear? I’m pretty sure they heard Paul claim that he never sinned against God. That is a bold claim. Ananias the high priest would have known the first three of the Ten Commandments. It is written in Exodus 20,
You shall have no other gods before Me.
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Ananias knowns that the only one without sin is God Himself. Paul is struck. He appeared to claim innocence before God is a sin. However, Paul did not claim innocence. He claimed He had a good conscience before God. A good conscience before God does not come from innocence before His Ten Commandments. Rather, a good conscience before God comes from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul’s failures are forgiven in Christ. God no longer holds Paul’s sin against Paul. This is how Paul can stand before God and claim a good conscience. Paul believes in Jesus.
2. A Good Conscience Before Man
The second mark of a good conscience is before man. Paul is on trial before the government officials. It is written in Acts 24:10-16,
10 Then Paul, after the governor had nodded to him to speak, answered: “Inasmuch as I know that you have been for many years a judge of this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself, 11 because you may ascertain that it is no more than twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12 And they neither found me in the temple disputing with anyone nor inciting the crowd, either in the synagogues or in the city. 13 Nor can they prove the things of which they now accuse me. 14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. 15 I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. 16 This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men (NKJV).
Paul strives to be a good citizen. The government has its own laws that the citizens need to follow. The second table of the Ten Commandments is a good summary of those laws. It is written in Exodus 20,
You shall honor your father and your mother
You shall not murder
You shall not commit adultery
You shall not steal
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.
Paul strives to keep these commandments. God and government and all people expect this kind of conduct from us. However, Paul is not innocent of breaking these laws either. So how can Paul have a good conscience before all men? Again, a good conscience does not come from the commandments but from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul strives to reconcile with those he hurt. Paul also forgives those who have hurt him.
3. A Good Conscience Before Yourself
That’s right. How can we have a good conscience when standing before the mirror?
The apostle Paul addresses this one too. It is written in 1 Corinthians 4:1-5,
Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God (NKJV).
Paul is a servant of Christ. He is a Christian. Yes, he is also a ‘steward of the mysteries of God’ which means he is a pastor. However, for us, he is also addressing himself as a Christian without pastoral duties as well.
Paul does not judge himself. This does not mean that Paul doesn’t have a nagging conscience. He might. And yet, Paul doesn’t listen to the nagging.
Paul can’t think of anything against himself. This is good. Paul does what is right rather than wrong. However, this is not the basis of his good conscience. Like we said earlier, a good conscience does not come from the Ten Commands but from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul is content to let God judge him through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God’s judgment in the Gospel is better than Paul’s fallenness. God forgives Paul in the name of Jesus. Paul can’t do that for himself.
4. A Good Conscience Is A Gift From God
The fourth and final mark of a good conscience is that we receive a good conscience from God. This makes a good conscience distinctively Christian.
The apostle Paul writes the following to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:3-7,
3 I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, 4 greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, 5 when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. 6 Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (NKJV).
Paul’s good conscience is closely connected to his morning and evening prayers. Paul is filled with God’s Word in the morning. Paul gives thanks to God and confesses his sin in the evening.
God invites you and me to receive a good conscience every morning and evening. His invitation is written in Matthew 11,
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (NKJV).
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