In this quote from one of his sermons, Luther astutely notes the results of a relative lack of persecution on the church. It’s one of the paradoxes of the Christian faith that the more severely it is attacked, the stronger it grows and the more it spreads. The reverse is also true — when left alone, the cares of this world and its pleasures can easily choke out the gospel in a Christian’s heart. So warned Christ, and experience shows us that this is true. Luther takes the theology of the cross and applies it brilliantly here. It’s not just a pie-in-the-sky, merely abstract thing with him; it’s the way you live. I wish I could preach like this. (ht:gnesio)
Prosperity & Good Days
Posted: 16 Oct 2011 08:29 PM PDT
In like manner must all come to shame and be overthrown who rise up against this divine wisdom and the Word of God. Consequently no one should fear even if all the wisdom and power of the world oppose the Gospel, yea, even if they plan to suppress it by the shedding of blood; for the more blood is shed, the more Christians there will be. The blood of Christians, as Tertulian says, is the seed from which Christians grow. Satan must be drowned in the blood of Christians, consequently there is no art that can suppress the Gospel by force. It is with the Gospel as with the palmtree, which has the nature and character that it flourishes at the top, and one may laden it as heavy as he wishes; and especially if it be used as a beam or support it does not weaken under any burden, but rises in spite of the burden. Such is also the nature of the Gospel, the more one opposes it the greater it lays hold of us and the more one burdens it, the more it grows.
Therefore we should not be afraid of powers. But we should fear our prosperity and good days which cause us more harm than our anguish and persecution; and we should not be afraid in the face of the wisdom and the shrewdness of the world, for they can do us no harm. Yes, the more the wisdom of the world opposes the truth, the purer and clearer does the truth become, consequently the Gospel can experience nothing better than that the world rise up against it with all its force and wisdom; yea, the more my conscience, sin and satan attack me, the stronger does my righteousness become. For the sins which worry me, pain me; then I persevere harder and harder in prayer and in my cry to God; then faith and righteousness become stronger and stronger. This is what St. Paul means when he says in Corinthians 12:9: my power is made perfect in weakness. Now since we possess such a treasure that becomes stronger by virtue of trial and opposition we should not fear, but be of good courage and rejoice in tribulation; as St. Paul says to the Romans, Romans 5:3: and as the Apostles did who departed from the presence of the council with great rejoicing, and thanked God that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the Name, Acts 5:41. If satan were only prudent enough to keep quiet and let the Gospel be preached, he would receive less injury from it; for if the Gospel is not attacked it completely rusts and has no occasion or reason to make its power and influence manifest.
Thus we are here still secure, no one attacks us; as a result we always continue just as we were, yea, we become worse. In that certain enemies attack us with the Scriptures, they gain very little. In that they have taken up their pen against us, they accomplish no more than if they blew into the fire; but if they had east us into the fire or beat our heads, there would indeed be more Christians for our sake.
Consequently we have here a consolation, when we are attacked; that Christ is in us and holds the field of victory through us. Christ is so near us that we triumph at all times through him because we abide in Christ. As long as we do not have opposition taking us by the neck, he does nothing; but when we are attacked and conquered, then he is at hand and puts all our enemies to shame.
Via Luther’s Sermon on Matthew 22:15-22 [Erl. 14, 295; W. 11, 2404; St. L.]