Category Archives: grace

“Christ is the True Hero and I shall cling to Him” by Martin Luther

“Dear mother,

You know the real basis and foundation of your salvation, on which you must rest your confidence in this and all troubles, namely Jesus Christ, the cornerstone.

He will not waver or fail us, nor allow us to sink and perish, for He is the Saviour and is called the Saviour of all poor sinners, of all who face tribulation and death, of all who rely on Him and call on His name.

He says, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

If He has overcome the world, surely He has overcome the prince of this world with all His power. And what is His power but death, with which He has made us subject to Him, captives on account of our sin?

But now that death and sin are overcome, we may joyfully and cheerfully listen to the sweet words, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

And we must not doubt that they are certainly true. More than that, we are commanded to accept their comfort with joy and thanksgiving.

Whoever is unwilling to be comforted by these words does the greatest injustice and dishonor to the Comforter— as if it were not true that He bids us to be of good cheer, or as if it were not true that He has overcome the world.

If we act thus, we only restore within ourselves the tyranny of the vanquished devil, sin, and death, and we oppose the dear Saviour. From this may God preserve us!

Therefore, let us rejoice with all assurance and gladness. Should any thought of sin or death frighten us, let us lift up our hearts and say:

“Behold, dear soul, what are you doing? Dear death, dear sin, how is it that you are alive and terrify me? Do you not know that you have been overcome?

Do you, death, not know that you are quite dead? Do you not know the One who has said of you, I have overcome the world?

It does not behoove me to listen to or heed your terrifying suggestions. I shall pay attention only to the cheering words of my Saviour, ‘Be of good cheer, be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.’

He is the Conqueror, the true Hero, who in these words, ‘Be of good cheer,’ gives me the benefit of his victory. I shall cling to Him.

To His words and comfort I shall hold fast. Whether I remain here or go yonder, He will not forsake me.

You would like to deceive me with your false terrors, and with your lying thoughts you would like to tear me away from such a Conqueror and Saviour.

But they are lies, as surely as it is true that He has overcome you and commanded us to be comforted.”

This is also the boast of Saint Paul and his defiance of the terrors of death:

‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?’ (1 Cor. 15:55)

Like a wooden image of death, you can terrify and frighten, but you have no power to destroy. For your victory, sting, and power have been swallowed up in Christ’s victory.

You can show your teeth, but you cannot bite. For God has given us the victory over you through Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be praise and thanks. Amen.’

With such words and thoughts, and with none other, you may set your heart at rest, dear mother.

Be thankful that God has brought you to such knowledge and not allowed you to remain in papal error, by which we were taught to rely on our own works and the holiness of the monks and to consider this only comfort of ours, our Saviour, not as a comforter but as a severe judge and tyrant, so that we could only flee from Him to Mary and the saints and not expect of Him any grace or comfort.

But now we know differently about the unfathomable goodness and mercy of our Heavenly Father.

We now know that Jesus Christ is our mediator, our throne of grace, and our bishop before God in heaven, who daily intercedes for us and reconciles all who call upon and believe in Him.

We now know that He is not a grim judge, except to those who do not believe in Him and who reject His comfort and grace.

We now know that He is not the Man who accuses and threatens us, but rather that He intercedes for and reconciles us by His own death, having shed His blood for us in order that we might not fear Him but approach Him with all assurance and call Him our dear Saviour, our sweet Comforter, the true Bishop of our souls.”

–Martin Luther, “To Mrs. John Luther, (May 20, 1531),” Letters of Spiritual Counsel, Ed. and Trans. Theodore G. Tappert, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1955/2006), 34-35.

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“I commend you to Him who loves you more than you love yourself” by Martin Luther

“To my dear father, John Luther, citizen in the valley of Mansfeld:

Grace and peace in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. Amen.

Dear Father:

My brother James has written me that you are seriously ill. As the weather is bad and the season dangerous, I am very anxious about you, for though God has given you a strong, tough body, yet your age and the inclemency of the weather give me disquieting thoughts.

None of us is, or should be, sure of his life at any time. I should have come to you personally with the greatest willingness, but my good friends advised me against it and have persuaded me not to, and I myself thought it better not to tempt God by putting myself in peril, for you know how lords and peasants feel toward me.

It would be the greatest joy to me if it were possible for you and mother to come hither, which my Katie and all of us beg with tears that you will do. I hope we are able to take good care of you.

Therefore I am sending Cyriac to see whether your weakness will allow you to be moved.

However in God’s wisdom your illness turns out, whether you live or die, it would be a heartfelt joy to me to be with you again and with filial piety and service to show my gratitude to God and to you according to the Fourth Commandment.

In the meantime I pray from the bottom of my heart that our Father, who has made you my father, will strengthen you according to His immeasurable kindness and enlighten and protect you with His Spirit, so that you may receive with joy and thanksgiving the blessed teaching of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to which doctrine you have now been called and to which you have come out of the former terrible darkness and error.

And I hope that His grace, which has given you such knowledge, and thereby begun His work in you, will guard and complete it to the end of this life and to the joyous hereafter of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

God has already sealed this teaching and faith in you and has testified to it by such marks as that you have suffered much slander, abuse, obloquy, mockery, scorn, hatred, and odium for His name’s sake, as we all have done. These are the true marks of our likeness to the Lord Christ, as Paul says, that we may be like Him also in future glory.

Let your heart be strong and at ease in your trouble, for we have yonder a true mediator with God, Jesus Christ, who has overcome death and sin for us and now sits in heaven with all His angels, looking down on us and awaiting us so that when we set out we need have no fear or care lest we should sink and fall to the ground.

He has such great power over sin and death that they cannot harm us, and He is so heartily true and kind that He cannot and will not forsake us, at least if we ask His help without doubting.

He has said, promised, and pledged this. He will not and cannot lie; of that we are certain.

“Ask,” says he, “and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Matt. 7:7) And elsewhere: “Whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21)

The whole Psalter is full of such comforting promises, especially Ps. 91, which is particularly good to read to the sick.

I wish to write this to you because I am anxious about your illness (for we know not the hour), that I may become a participant of your faith, temptation, consolation, and thanks to God for His holy Word, which He has richly and graciously given us at this time.

If it is His divine will that you should postpone that better life and continue to suffer with us in this troubled and unhappy vale of tears, to see and hear sorrow and help other Christians to suffer and conquer, He will give you the grace to accept all this willingly and obediently.

This life, cursed by sin, is nothing but a vale of tears. The longer a man lives, the more sin and wickedness and plague and sorrow he sees and feels. Nor is there respite or cessation this side of the grave. Beyond is repose, and we can then sleep in the rest Christ gives us until He comes again to wake us with joy. Amen.

I commend you to Him who loves you more than you love yourself.

He has proved His love in taking your sins upon Himself and paying for them with His blood, as He tells you by the gospel.

He has given you grace to believe by His Spirit, and has prepared and accomplished everything most surely, so that you need not care or fear any more, but only keep your heart strong and reliant on His Word and faith.

If you do that, let Him care for the rest. He will see to it that everything turns out well. Indeed, He has already done this better than we can conceive.

May our dear Lord and Saviour be with you so that, God willing, we may see each other, either here or yonder. For our faith is certain, and we doubt not that we shall shortly see each other in the presence of Christ.

Our departure from this life is a smaller thing to God than my journey would be from here to Mansfeld or yours from Mansfeld to Wittenberg. It is only an hour’s sleep, and after that all will be different. This is most certainly true.

I hope that your pastor and preacher will point out such things to you in faithful service, and so you will not need what I say at all. Yet I write to ask forgiveness for my bodily absence, which, God knows, causes me heartfelt sorrow.

My Katie, little Hans, Magdalene, Aunt Lena, and all my household send you greetings and pray for you faithfully. Greet my dear mother and all my friends.

God’s grace and strength be and abide with you forever. Amen.

Your loving son,

Martin Luther
February 15, 1530.”

–Martin Luther, Letters of Spiritual Counsel, Ed. and Trans. Theodore G. Tappert, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1955/2006), 30-32.

[John Luther, Martin’s father, died on May 29, 1530, three months after this letter of consolation was written. On June 5, Luther wrote to Melanchthon: “John Reineck wrote me today that my beloved father, the senior Hans Luther, departed this life at one o’clock on Exaudi Sunday. This death has cast me into deep mourning, not only because of the ties of nature but also because it was through his sweet love to me that my Creator endowed me with all that I am and have. Although it is consoling to me that, as he writes, my father fell asleep softly and strong in his faith in Christ, yet his kindness and the memory of his pleasant conversation have caused so deep a wound in my heart that I have scarcely ever held death in such low esteem.” (30)]

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“It was not legalism for Jesus to do everything His Father commanded Him” by Sinclair Ferguson

“Neither the Old Testament believer nor the Savior severed the law of God from His gracious person.

It was not legalism for Jesus to do everything His Father commanded Him. Nor is it for us.

In some ways the Marrow Controversy resolved itself into a theological version of the parable of the waiting father and his two sons. (Luke 15:11-32)

The antinomian prodigal when awakened was tempted to legalism: ‘I will go and be a slave in my father’s house and thus perhaps gain grace in his eyes.’

But he was bathed in his father’s grace and set free to live as an obedient son.

The legalistic older brother never tasted his father’s grace. Because of his legalism he had never been able to enjoy the privileges of the father’s house.

Between them stood the father offering free grace to both, without prior qualifications in either.

Had the older brother embraced his father, he would have found grace that would make every duty a delight and dissolve the hardness of his servile heart.

Had that been the case, his once antinomian brother would surely have felt free to come out to him as his father had done, and say:

‘Isn’t the grace we have been shown and given simply amazing? Let us forevermore live in obedience to every wish of our gracious father!’

And arm in arm they could have gone in to dance at the party, sons and brothers together, a glorious testimony to the father’s love.”

–Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 173-174.

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“Saving faith is not the enemy of good works” by Michael Horton

“Saving faith is not the enemy of good works, but their only possible source.

We never offer up our good works to God for salvation, but extend them to our neighbors for their good. As a result, everyone benefits.

God, who needs nothing from us, receives all of the glory; our neighbors receive gifts that God wants to give them through us; and we benefit both from the gifts of others and the joy that our own giving brings.

Reverse this flow, and nobody wins. God is not glorified, neighbors are not served, and we live frustrated, anxious, joyless lives awaiting the wrath of a holy God.

The gospel produces peace and empowers us to live by faith. We live no longer anxious, but secure and invigorated because we are crucified and raised with Christ.

We are no longer trying to live up to the starring role we’ve given ourselves, but are written into the story of Christ.

We have nothing to prove, just a lot of work to do.Good works are no longer seen as a condition of our union with Christ, but as its fruit.

We are no longer slaves, but the children of God– co-heirs with Christ, our elder brother.

The first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism summarizes this faith well:

Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?

A. That I am not my own,
but belong with body and soul,
both in life and in death, 
to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. 
He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood,
and has set me free from all the power of the devil.
He also preserves me in such a way
that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head;
indeed, all things must work together for my salvation.
Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life
and makes me heartily willing and ready
from now on to live for Him.

As God’s creatures, made in His image, we are ‘not our own’ already in creation. Yet our redemption doubles this truth.

Created by God and saved by His grace, I am truly ‘not my own, but belong– body and soul, in life and in death– to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.'”

–Michael Horton, Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 41-42.

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“Our blessed Saviour’s unwearied kindness” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us learn a lesson from the centurion’s example.

Let us, like him, show kindness to every one with whom we have to do.

Let us strive to have an eye ready to see, and a hand ready to help, and a heart ready to feel, and a will ready to do good to all.

Let us be ready to weep with them that weep, and rejoice with them that rejoice.

This is one way to recommend our religion, and make it beautiful before men.

Kindness is a grace that all can understand.

This is one way to be like our blessed Saviour. If there is one feature in His character more notable than another, it is His unwearied kindness and love.

This is one way to be happy in the world, and see good days. Kindness always brings its own reward.

The kind person will seldom be without friends.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 155. Ryle is commenting on Luke 7:1-10.

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“Christ gives what no one else can, and Christ Himself is the greatest of His gifts” by Bobby Jamieson

“We return one last time to this book’s proper subject, the Christ whom Hebrews proclaims. The question with which we conclude is, So what?

What difference did the author of Hebrews intend his portrait of Christ’s person to make in the lives of those who heard his message? What role does Christ’s person play in Hebrews’ hortatory program?

Adolf Schlatter put his finger on the problem Hebrews’ recipients were facing. He said that they were asking, ‘Is it worth it to be a Christian?’ Hebrews answers with a single word: Christ.

The refrain of urgent reassurance that resounds through the letter is, ‘We have Christ.’

What do we have?

A great high priest who is not only exalted but compassionate, a hope that anchors our soul in the inner sanctum in heaven, a high priest seated on God’s throne, confidence to enter the Holy of Holies, an altar from which none but Christ’s people may eat (Hebrews 4:14-16; 6:19-20; 8:1-2; 10:19, 22; 13:10).

In Hebrews, Christ’s work cannot be divided from His person, nor His person from His work. Who He is and what He gives are inseparable. And the greatest gift He gives is Himself. ‘We share in Christ’ (Heb. 3:6).

In Hebrews 8:1-2, summing up the message of the whole letter, Hebrews appeals not only to Christ’s status and present ministry as high priest, but to the fact that this priest reigns on God’s throne.

What matters for Hebrews hearers is that our high priest is not only a man like us but also the God who rules over us. Jesus’ present priestly intercession is a salvific exercise of divine omnipotence.

If this high priest grants you access to God, none can take it away.

As Nikolaus Walter has put it, Hebrews’ portrayal of Jesus as both high priest and sacrifice is in its way an unsurpassable rendering of solus Christus: salvation is in Christ alone.

And Hebrews constantly appeals to who Christ is in order to announce why He alone can save.

The Son extends sonship to ‘many sons’ (Heb. 2:10) by becoming human like us (Heb. 2:11).

The Son became incarnate in order by his own death to deal death a deathblow (Heb. 2:14-15).

The Son was made like His brothers in every way to become the priest we needed, and He can help the tempted because He was tempted (Heb. 2:17-18).

The Son abounds in compassion because He sinlessly endured every temptation (Heb. 4:15).

The Son was perfected with indestructible life at His resurrection (Heb. 7:16) so that He is now able to intercede unceasingly for His own (Heb. 7:25).

The Son assumed a body in order to offer that body back to God in heaven (Heb. 10:5-14).

The Son began a universal rule after accomplishing salvation and was entitled to that universal rule by His unique claim to both divine and Davidic sonship (Heb. 1:3-4, 5-14).

Christ’s divine and human constitution and His faithful execution of His whole incarnate mission are integral to His ability to save.

Only this Christ can save. Only one who is divine; who became human; who endured temptation and gave His life in death; who was raised incorruptible; and who now reigns in heaven can deal decisively with sin, give us access to God, and make the new creation our permanent possession.

The heartbeat of Hebrews’ pastoral program is present possession of Christ. What makes being a Christian worth it is who Christ is, what Christ alone has done for us, and what Christ alone can give us.

Everything Christ gives is founded on and follows from not only what He has done, but who He is. Christ gives what no one else can, and Christ Himself is the greatest of His gifts.

No one else will do. But if you have Christ, you have all you need.”

–R.B. Jamieson, The Paradox of Sonship: Christology in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2021), 168-169.

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“Christ shall have a full reward for all His pain” by Charles Spurgeon

“I would, indeed I would, that the nations were converted to Christ. I would that all this London belonged to my Lord and Master, and that every street were inhabited by those who loved His name.

But when I see sin abounding and the gospel often put to the rout, I fall back upon this: ‘Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure; the Lord knoweth them that are His.’ (2 Timothy 2:19)

He shall have His own. The infernal powers shall not rob Christ, He shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied.

Calvary does not mean defeat. Gethsemane a defeat? Impossible!

The Mighty Man who went up to the cross to bleed and die for us, being also the Son of God, did not there achieve a defeat but a victory.

He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hands. If some will not be saved others shall.

If, being bidden, some count themselves not worthy to come to the feast others should be brought in, even the blind, and the halt and the lame, and the supper shall be furnished with guests.

If they come not from England they shall come from the east, and from the west, from the north and from the south. If it should come to pass that Israel be not gathered, lo!, the heathen shall be gathered unto Christ.

Ethiopia shall stretch out her arms, Sinim shall yield herself to the Redeemer. The desert-ranger shall bow the knee, and the far-off stranger enquire for Christ.

Oh, no, beloved, the purposes of God are not frustrated. The eternal will of God is not defeated.

Christ has died a glorious death, and He shall have a full reward for all His pain.

‘Therefore, be ye stedfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.’ (1 Corinthians 15:58)”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “The Wondrous Covenant,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 58 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1912), 58: 525-526..

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