I wish there were some way to share these thoughts with you without offending you. Giving offense is not my intent. When someone is traveling at a high rate of speed toward a bridge-less chasm, how does one politely stop him? One can only hope the driver and passengers will feel a hundred times more grateful than they had felt irritated and resentful for being stopped in their course. This paper has been prepared by a friendly mind, a concerned spirit, and with a heartfelt prayer that you will slow yourself down enough to consider whether the bridge is truly out or not.

In witnessing, have you ever said to the person, "What if I am right and you are wrong concerning eternity?" I think this is a legitimate question. I ask you the same question: What if my view of Luther is correct; What if the church is beyond repair unless it is led to repentance and a true faith via Luther's teachings? What if God is about to "spew us out of His moth in disgust, and what if Luther is the "ark of protection" from God's anger?

My concern is for the well-being of the church and the honoring of His Word. Because of my concern and my love for you, I am willing to ask hard questions. Many of these questions follow, but I put forth a few now: How do you deal with the fact that Luther calls you a heretic, a schismatic spirit, and a fanatic? Does the judgment of the man who turned the world upside-down for Christ carry no weight with you? Is the church, are Christians, so callous and incorrigible today that it (they) cannot hear the Word of God from this mighty prophet?

Luther has intimately blessed my life for four years. I can give testimony to the fact that my spiritual life has changed much, much more in this time than in all the other years of "Christian" experience combined. Legalism did not profit me; neither did my swing into so called Christian freedom—which was only a reaction to the stifling tone of Dixie Baptist Church and Bob Jones University.

I now know what it is to be a Christian, and what it means to follow Christ. No! I have not arrived, but I know where I'm going. I'm going with Christ in whom I confess my sins and sinfulness and in Whom I find sweet forgiveness, a pure conscience, and peace.

I am not saying you are not a Christian. You have Baptism, the Word, and the Table, even though you are mostly in the dark concerning each. You do not take any advantage, I presume, at all of the Keys. While we have a gracious God, who saves despite such imperfect faith, how long is He going to tolerate our despising of His gifts?

Please read the following questions, which are mine, and quotes, which are Luther's, believing they have come from a hearts of love and wisdom.

May judgment begin at the house of God, in the hearts of believers, and in the minds of ministers.


Timothy Vance

(I am at a loss in regard to how these quotes should be ordered. I have left them pretty much in the same order I typed them into the computer from Luther's Works. )

Are you willing to settle for distortion and perversion just because the Spirit can use these to the benefit of the Church? Are you willing to be used by the Spirit to preserve Christianity from the great Falling Away which has taken place, and continues to take place, right before our eyes?

If the office of the ministry were not constantly being administered in Christendom and the Holy Spirit did not hold sway, it would be impossible to retain Baptism, the Sacrament, and the knowledge of Christ. Who could preserve these if it were not done by the exercise of the public ministry? Studying and praying in secret would not accomplish this. Others could not learn and attain them by such means. What has been done is due to the fact that God has always given preachers and spread the Word, so that it has been spoken and heard by His own people, even though very imperfectly. In many places His Word has been distorted or even perverted; and only a few have retained and administered it properly, while most people have fallen away from it. But despite this, God has preserved His own and has always given some who preached against the false teaching of the pope and other factions, even though they were persecuted and suppressed for a time. Thus Christianity has been preserved amid the greatest and most grievous errors and heresies, as at the time of Arius and later, and also during the horrible persecution in the days of the martyrs. It has been wonderfully defended, and it has endured and carried the day against the world and the devil. Upheld by the Holy Spirit, it has expanded more and more. (John 14:18, vol. 24, p. 131)

Do you think your church is Christian just because it is growing and prospering? Do you realize Luther is calling you "false brethren," because you do not confess the Word properly? Can any amount of sincerity or devotion to Christ make up for not rightly dividing the Word of God? Is there any way you can humble yourself enough to consider that your brand of Christianity is "make-believe?"

To our sorrow we see that in Christendom there are always some wild and useless branches that bear nothing but immature fruit, which must be rejected. True, they come from the vine; but they do not remain there. They are baptized, they hear the Gospel, and they have the forgiveness of sins. At first, as Christ states here, they are on the vine, that is, in Him. But as time goes on, they degenerate into wild offshoots and are Christians in name only. To be sure, they use God's Word, glorify Him, and make use of and enjoy the sap of others. Consequently, they develop into large branches. They want to be honored and acclaimed as the best of Christians. They can display their Christianity more ostentatiously than the others and can put on an appearance that outdoes all the rest. But it is all sham, and one day they will be exposed for what they are: decayed wood without true sap and strength. They do not teach and confess the Word properly; it is all make-believe. These are the first kind. We call them schismatic spirits and false brethren.

It is their own fault, but do you realize that you have been instrumental in decimating the true Christian Church—the Lutherans, especially the Missouri Synod? Are you willing to do something in true faith and genuine repentance to "atone" for this great sin?

In the second place, these words also apply to the indolent Christians. They have the Word and pure doctrine, but they do not live in conformity with it. (The Lutherans) Their only desire is to do and live according to their lusts. In reality there is little difference between them and the first group; they only lack a leader. For such loose and lazy Christians are easily bowled over by factions and false teachers, who soon find them to be docile pupils predisposed to heresy, since such people are already weary of and sated with the true doctrine. Even those who are alert and awake in the true faith have all they can do to remain steadfast. As has already been said, there is little to separate the two classes mentioned. When false teachers approach such lazy Christians, the two classes finally merge into one. A spirit of faction ensures, so that they can no longer remain with us but dissociate themselves and manifest their unfitness… Therefore a Christian, as a true branch in Christ, must cling to his faith among such false saints; he must persevere and remain steadfast, in order that he may be found genuine. For without such perseverance there can be no true faith. (John 15:2, vol. 24, p. 201-3)

Can your heart possibly be open to the possibility that you have become a part of destroying what God wrought through Luther? Is your God gracious enough for you to seriously consider that you have been "kicking against the pricks" just as the Apostle Paul did before he was converted? Do you have the courage to ask Christ to show you how you are leading your followers into perdition?

Through these sects the devil works far greater harm than he does through tyrants. For even though the latter attempt to frighten us away from the true doctrine with violence and threats, still they are few in number. But when the devil spits out his venom in the name of the Gospel and of the Christian Church, and offers to help souls from error on the pretext that hitherto they have been incorrectly instructed or never sufficiently instructed, and that they will now receive better and different information, then it happens that not only one or two people but a whole city and country falls away. In one hour he tears down what has taken many years to build. This is what happened to us through the schismatic spirits and others. (John 15:26-27, vol. 24, p. 294-95)

Can you consider that you have lost and have persecuted the main doctrine of salvation? Can you not see that you have, no matter how innocently, no matter how subtly, made a Lawgiver out of Christ? Can you prayerfully consider that what you do hold by way of doctrine is "flimsy?" Are you ready to return to the proper course?

As has been repeatedly said, the Father is known solely in Christ and will not and can not be attained and met or worshiped and called upon apart from this Mediator. Therefore all depends on this article about Christ, and he who has this article has everything. In order to be able to abide by it, the Christians must be engaged in the most strenuous warfare and must fight constantly. Therefore Christ and the apostles have good reason to insist on it everywhere. Although the other doctrines are also based on Scripture—for example, Christ's birth from a pure virgin—it does not stress them as much as it does this one. When St. Paul champions this doctrine of Christ's birth, he does not even call the mother by name; nor does he mention the honor of the virgin; he states simply (Gal. 4:4) "born of woman." But when he informs us that we receive grace and salvation, not by works and the Law but only through this Mediator, Christ, then he speaks exhaustively.

This is also the only doctrine that is constantly subjected to persecution by the devil and the world, as was announced about it at the very beginning in the first sermon God delivered to man after the Fall (Gen. 3:15): "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel." This is the very enmity Christ is speaking here when He says that His Christians will be excommunicated and put to death on account of their knowledge of Him and because they preach about Him. Other doctrines have also been attacked, but not one has caused so much bloodshed as this one. For this began at once in the case of the first two brothers, Cain and Abel, when the one had to die at the hand of the other because of this same question. And it will continue as long as the world exists.

Throughout all history we find that all heresy and error has arisen where this doctrine has disappeared, where people become smug, as though they knew it very well, and thus turned from it to something else and began to dispute about the Person of Christ, whether He was true God or a mere man. With such speculations and questions they opened the door to every evil. The one denied the divinity of Christ; the other, His humanity. Some denied the Person of the Holy Spirit; others, the virginity of Mary. But they all, as many as there were, also erred in this chief doctrine and misled others. For all other doctrines stand and fall with this one; it includes all the others; it is all-important. He who errs in the others certainly errs in this one too. Even if he holds to the others, still all is in vain if he does not have this one.

On the other hand, if one abides by this article diligently and earnestly, it has the grace to keep one from falling into heresy and from working against Christ or His Christendom. For the Holy Spirit is surely inherent in it, and through it illumines the heart and keeps it in the right and certain understanding, with the result that it can differentiate and judge all other doctrines clearly and definitely, and can resolutely preserve and defend them. This we see in the old fathers. When they retained this article of faith and based their doctrines on it, or derived them from it, they preserved purity of doctrine in every detail. But when they departed from it and no longer centered their arguments in it, they went astray and stumbled with a vengeance, as happened at times to the oldest, to Tertullian and Cyprian. And this is also basically the failing not only of the papists but of our schismatic spirits, who rant against Baptism and other doctrines. They have already surrendered this article of faith and have paid no attention to it. Instead, they have put forth other matters. In this way they have lost a proper comprehension of all doctrines, with the result that they cannot teach anything about them that is right and can no longer preserve any doctrine as unquestionable. This can be seen in their books. And now they lapse from one error into another, until they finally lead themselves and others into perdition.

For where this knowledge of Christ has vanished, the sun has lost its brilliance, and there is nothing but darkness. Then one no longer understands anything aright and cannot ward off any error or heresy of the devil. And even if the Word concerning faith and Christ is retained—as it has remained in the papacy—the heart has no foundation for a single doctrine. Whatever remains there is merely froth, flimsy opinions or illusions, and a painted and tinted faith—that is, a vague, worthless, empty thought which does nothing and is good for nothing, which neither stands its ground nor fights when the battle begins and it must prove its mettle.

Whoever holds to this doctrine will not let himself be seduced into heresy and error. Even though he strays and stumbles in some place or other, he soon returns to the proper course, provided that he does not fall away from this doctrine. For this light consumes and banishes clouds and darkness; it teaches and consoles him anew. But if he loses this light, he is beyond help. Where this knowledge is gone, it has taken everything with it. Then you may accept and confess all other doctrines, as the papists do; but there is no serious and true understanding. (John 16:3, vol. 24, pp. 319-22)

Are you sure you are the true church? Are you sure you believe properly about Baptism? About the Lord's Supper? Are you absolutely positive that you have not helped your followers perceive Christ as a "stern judge?" If so many fall away, and you are concerned about the state of the church today, how do you KNOW you, too, have not fallen away from the true faith (even though your falling away may have been inherited, so to speak)? Are you willing to divorce yourself from Satan's angelic appearance?

I congratulate myself if they excommunicate me; for such a ban is nothing but a misnomer, just as all their boasting and all their activity are false. Christ Himself warned me here beforehand and exhorted me not to be concerned about this. "Yes," you ask, "but what do you have to say about his? After all, it was the Christian Church that excommunicated you." I reply: "No, this it did not do; for even though it boasts of the name, this does not make it the church. What do I care if those who use nothing but the mere name excommunicate me? But if those who really are the church of Christ were to excommunicate me, I would indeed have to fall down at its feet, beg for mercy, and render implicit obedience."

Now you ask: "But how do I know which is the true church and which is not?" Answer: "As I have said, all depends on the right knowledge of the essence of the church and on the proper differentiation between the name and the essence of the church." Christ Himself will give this distinctive and authoritative identification in the following words: "And they will do this because they have not known the Father, nor Me" (John 16:3). With this touchstone I can easily and reliably judge who are and who are not the church. For one can see without difficulty who knows the Father and Christ and who does not know them; in fact, these people identify themselves. Here I am bringing into court the pope, his bishops, and all who call themselves the church, and asking them: "Do you also believe in Christ, that you have forgiveness of sins and salvation solely through His blood and that this faith conforms to the will of God the Father? Are you baptized; do you receive the Sacrament; and do you hope for eternal life in this faith?"

"Yes," they say, "we surely do believe." But in order to see whether they really believe this, I ask further: "Why, then, do you teach that we adults have long since lost Baptism and that everyone must now atone for his sins and be saved by good works?" Now they have the insolence to preach and write that Christ died and atoned only for original sin, and that we have to devise ways of atoning for our actual sins. Here we discover that they have fallen away from the faith and are leading the people away from Christ to their own works by telling them to enter a cloister or to go an a pilgrimage to Rome or to St. Iago, to lean an austere and ascetic life, or to choose the Virgin Mary or this or that saint as intercessor, in order to be saved by this. Thus they make of Christ nothing but a stern and irate Judge who must be feared as One who wants to cast us into hell. They portray Christ seated on His judgment seat on a rainbow, with His mother Mary and John the Baptist on both sides as intercessors against His terrible wrath.

This amounts to a complete removal of Christ; it means that He is not only not known but is simply completely out of sight, buried, and covered with earth, in order that I may no longer see Him as the One who was born, suffered, died, and rose again for me—as the children say in the Creed—but only as the One who wants to judge me according to my life and my works, whether I have paid or atoned for sin or not…

Yet the proclamation of this text—together with Baptism, the Sacrament of Christ, and the articles of the Creed—has remained even in the papacy, although many errors and devious paths have been introduced alongside it. Still many people have been saved on their deathbeds through this text, because they have fallen away from the other, false trust, have clung to Christ alone, and have confessed Him in faith. All errors notwithstanding, the true church has never perished. The majority, however, which boasts of the name, has forgotten Baptism, has rejected Christ, has despised God's Word, and has replaced these with their own baubles and their self-devised worship, their saints, their idolatry, their sacrifice of the Mass, their buying and selling for all the living and the dead, yes, even for cows and oxen…

In the meantime we adhere to the distinction made here by Christ and do not regard as Christendom those who do not hold truly and absolutely to what Christ taught, gave, and ordained, no matter how great, holy, and learned they may be. We tell them that they are the devil's church. On the other hand, we want to acknowledge and honor as the true bride of Christ those who remain faithful to His pure Word and have no other comfort for their hearts than this Savior, whom they have received and confessed in Baptism and in whose name they have partaken of the Sacrament. These are the true church. It is not found in only one lace, as, for example, under the pope; but it exists over the entire earth wherever Christians are found. Outwardly they may be scattered here and there, but they meet in the words of the Creed: "I believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who was born, suffered, and died for us on the cross." In like manner they pray: "Our Father who art in heaven." They share the same Spirit, Word, and Sacrament. They all lead the same holy and blessed life, each one according to his calling, whether father, mother, master, servant, etc. Thus whatever we preach, believe, and live, this they all preach, believe, and live. Physically separated and scattered here and there throughout the wide world, we are nevertheless gathered and united in Christ.

Behold, this is the true catholic, universal Christian Church; it will surely not excommunicate or persecute us but will gladly accept and confirm our doctrine and regard us as dear brethren… But to the false brethren we say: "Dear sirs, just see to it that you use your office properly an administer it as you should. Otherwise you will lose everything. Otherwise you will be split and reduced to dust." For God did not give us His Law, temple, priesthood, ministry, Sacrament, and Office of the Keys to do with as we please but to use and administer in accordance with His command. If we are unwilling to do this, He dismisses us and takes everything away from us.

Thus St. Paul's sermon and ours are directed against the Law and yet not against the Law, against the church and yet not against the church. For we do not attack such divine institutions; we attack the erroneous conception and the abuse which our opponents adorn with the name of the church and thus distort Law and God's Word, and in this way oppress the true church and God's people. Therefore we must pull off their mask and point out the true nature of the Gospel, Baptism, and the ministry; we must divorce these from their misuse of them. The devil always adorns himself with such an angelic, yes, such a divine form and appearance, just as he makes a god of himself when he speaks to Christ in Matt. 4:9. (John 16:1-2, vol. 24, pp. 307-12)

Surely you see how the church is "factioned" off: How do you know that you are not a faction? Can you not see how the confusion in the church is directly related to an improper understanding of the Gospel, or how one is freed from sin?

If we blunder, and fail to appropriate this chief doctrine—how to be rid of sin—He will also disperse us so thoroughly that we will not know whether there will be any other true Christians anywhere. At one place a schismatic spirit will arise, at another a sect; and every nook and cranny will crawl with fanatics, heretics, and fluttering spirits. Then our adversaries will exclaim: "Oh, such are the fruits of the Gospel! May the devil lay about among them! Why do they not believe?" The Jews reproached Paul and the other apostles similarly; they said: "What good has come from the preaching of the Gospel?" But it serves them right; it is your own fault. If you do not want to be pious and free from sin, you will not remain in the house; but you will be evicted. And if you then wander hither and yon and have as many pastors as you have beliefs, you are only getting your just due. That is what happens when God begins to disperse the people; then gross confusion ensues, and many factions and sects arise…

"For even if you are delivered from the pope, I will," says God, "soon create other rabbles to rob you of your freedom of heart, as the pope did. For I still have a supply of mad saints, wise and intelligent people, jurists, and other foolish minds who will take counsel and devise ways and means to disperse you. Therefore see that you strive for a different freedom, a higher and loftier freedom than that of the flesh, for which the Jews strove. You should strive for freedom from sin." John 8:38, vol. 23, p. 408)

How do you deal with, handle, or treat, Luther's statement here—"there will not be any true Christians anywhere?" Is he just wrong? Is he just arrogant? If these assessments are true, why have ANYTHING to do with him? If you believe him on some things, why do you refuse to believe him on what he fought for most—justification by faith which included a proper view of Baptism, Communion, and the Office of the Keys? Are you so arrogant that you are unwilling to be crushed by this great judge of the doctrine?

A Christian soon smells from afar which is God's and which is human teaching. He sees from afar that the schismatic spirits are speaking their own human mind and opinion. They cannot escape me, Dr. Luther. I can soon judge and say whether their doctrine is of God or of man; for I am doing the will of God, who sent Christ. I have given ear to none but God's Word, and I say: "Dear Lord Christ, I want to be Thy pupil, and I believe Thy Word. I will close my eyes and surrender to Thy Word." Thus He makes me a free nobleman, yes, a fine doctor and teacher, who is captive to the Word of God and is able to judge the errors of the faith of pope, Turks, Jews, and Sacramentarians. They must fall, and I tread them all underfoot. I have become a doctor and a judge who judges correctly. (John 7:17, vol. 23, p. 230)

Do you really understand this? Would your people understand this? Can you make a proper distinction between the Law and the Gospel?

It is the supreme art of the devil that he can make the law out of the gospel. If I can hold on to the distinction between law and gospel, I can say to him any and every time that he should kiss my backside. Even if I sinned I would say, "Should I deny the gospel on this account?" It hasn't come to that yet. Once I debate about what I have done and left undone, I am finished. But I reply on the basis of the gospel, "The forgiveness of sins covers it all," I have won. On the other hand, if the devil gets me involved in what I have done and left undone, he has won, unless God helps and says, "Indeed! Even if you had not done anything, you would still have to be saved by forgiveness, for you have been baptized, communicated, etc."

So don't be too daring. The distinction between law and gospel will do it. The devil turns the Word upside down. If one sticks to the law, one is lost. A good conscience won't set one free, but the distinction between law and gospel will. So you should say, "The Word is twofold, on the one hand terrifying and on the other hand comforting." Here Satan objects, "But God says you are damned because you don't keep the law." I respond, "God also says that I shall live." His mercy is greater than sin, and life is stronger than death. Hence if I have left this or that undone, our Lord God will tread it under foot with his grace. (LW, vol. 54, p. 106)

If disunity is the rule today, how do we know anyone is sure of salvation? Shouldn't this make us afraid? Isn't it time that judgment begin at the house of God? Isn't it time to work out our salvation with fear and trembling? If you are not in "full agreement" with Luther, how do you decide who is off kilter? Are you a master theologian? Have you memorized the Bible? Have you lived in fear of death daily? Has God used you to turn the world upside-down?

I believe that no one can be saved who is not in this gathering or community, harmoniously sharing the same faith with it, the same word, sacraments, hope, and love. And that no Jew, heretic, pagan, or sinner can be saved along with this community unless he becomes reconciled with it and unites with it in full agreement in all things. (LW, vol. 43, p. 28)

Even though God can use you as a "rogue" to bring others into Heaven, do you really want to be a rogue? Would you rather not be a vessel of honor, a good minister of Jesus Christ? Have you considered that a catholic priest is less ungodly than you are by virtue of the fact that his belief about Baptism and Communion is more right than yours? Can you not be incited by jealousy?

Still we must admit that the enthusiasts have the Scriptures and the Word of God in other doctrines. Whoever hears it from them and believes will be saved, even though they are unholy heretics and blasphemers of Christ. It is not a minor grace that God gives his Word even through evil rogues and the godless. In fact it is in some respects more perilous when he proclaims it through holy than through unholy folk. For the thoughtless are tempted to attach themselves to the holiness of the people rather than to the Word of God. Greater honor is then given to man than to God and his Word. This danger does not exist when Judas, Caiaphas, and Herod preach, though no one can make this an excuse for an evil life if God can make some use of such. Now if a godless man can have and teach the Word correctly, much more can he baptize and give the sacrament properly…

Can you not see that you are making "faith" a work when you make belief in God's promises contingent on your faith? Do you desire the right faith? Are you willing, then, to read Luther? Are you willing to take inventory of how skewed "the common faith" has become? Will you help Luther's prayer be answered?

Our baptism, thus, is a strong and sure foundation, affirming that God has made a covenant with all the world to be a God of the heathen in all the world, as the gospel says (Matt. 8:28)…Here, namely, that we are baptized; not because we are certain of our faith but because it is the command and will of God. For even if I were never certain any more of faith, I still am certain of the command of God, that God has bidden to baptize, for this He has made known throughout the world. In this I cannot err, for God's command cannot deceive. But of my faith He has never said anything to anyone, nor issued an order or command concerning it.

True, one should add faith to baptism. But we are not to base baptism on faith. There is quite a difference between having faith, on the one hand, and depending on one's faith and making baptism depend on faith, on the other. Whoever allows himself to be baptized on the strength of his faith, is not only uncertain, but also an idolater who denies Christ. For he trusts in and builds on something of his own, namely, on a gift which he has from God, and not on God's Word alone. So another may build on and trust in his strength, wealth, power, wisdom, holiness, which also are gifts given him by God. But a baptism on the Word and command of God even when faith is not present is still a correct and certain baptism if it takes place as God commanded. Granted, it is not of benefit to the baptized one who is without faith, because of his lack of faith, but the baptism is not thereby incorrect, uncertain, or of no meaning. If we were to consider everything wrong or ineffectual which is of no value to the unbeliever, then nothing would be right or remain good. It has been commanded that the gospel should be preached to all the world. The unbeliever hears it but it has no meaning for him. Are we therefore to look on the gospel as not being a gospel or as being a false gospel? The godless see no value in God Himself. Does that mean He is not God?

Of his baptism as a child he would say, I thank God and am happy that I was baptized as a child, for thus I have done what God commanded. Whether I have believed or not, I have followed the command of God and been baptized and my baptism was correct and certain. God grant that whether my faith today be certain or uncertain, or I think that I believe and am certain, nothing is lacking in baptism. Always something is lacking in faith. However long our life, always there is enough to learn in regard to faith. It can happen that faith fails, so that it is said, "See, he had faith but has it no more." But one cannot say about baptism, "See, baptism was there but is no longer present." No, it remains, for the command of God remains, and what is done according to His command stands and will ever remain…Were child baptism now wrong God would certainly not have permitted it to continue so long, nor let it become so universally and thoroughly established in Christendom, but is would sometime have gone down in disgrace…

We who know that baptism is a God-given thing, instituted and commanded by God Himself, look not at its abuse by godless persons, but simply at God's ordinance. We find baptism in itself to be a holy, blessed, glorious, and heavenly thing, to be held in honor and fear and trembling, just as it is reasonable and right to hold any other ordinance and command of God. It is not the fault of baptism that many people abuse it. It wold be as wrong to call the gospel a vain babbling because there are many who abuse it. Since then, as far as I have been able to see and hear, the Anabaptists have no argument but high-sounding words of sacrilege, everyone ought to shun and avoid them as messengers of none other than the devil, sent out into the world to blaspheme the Word and ordinance of God so that people might not believe therein and be saved. For they are the birds who eat the seed sown by the wayside (Matt. 13)…

Assume that the first baptism is without faith. Tell me which is the greater and the more important in the second baptism, the Word of God or faith? Is it not true that the Word of God is greater and more important than faith, since faith builds and is founded on the Word of God rather than God's Word on faith?… So they must confess that in the first baptism it was not the Word of God that was defective, but faith, and that what is needed is another faith and not another Word. Why then do they not concern themselves rather with a change of faith and let the Word remain unaltered? Shall we call God's Word and ordinance false because we do not truly believe it? In that case a true word would be rare and far between. If they were to act rightly accordingly to their own peculiar logic they should be urging a rebelieving, not a rebaptizing. For baptism is by the Word and ordinance of God and are not be opposed to it or other than it is, while faith may be otherwise than it is (if it is not present). So really they should be "Anabelievers" and not Anabaptists, if they were right, which, of course, they are not. (LW, vol. 40, pp. 252-61)

Accordingly I pray to God, the Father of all grace and mercy, that he might sometime graciously deliver the good people, wherever they are, in Switzerland or Silesia, from the damned teaching of the fanatics Karlstadt, Zqingle, Oecomplampadius, Stenckefeld, and their comrades, and instead give them upright teachers. Amen. For, as has been said, I do not want to have anything to do with these teachers because it is entirely useless. My books which I have written to oppose them are available, and the truth has been abundantly and powerfully enough proved by me for anyone who desires to have the right faith. So there need be no more quarreling or debating. (LW. Vol. 38, p. 294)

Do you have the courage to read these words over and over and over, prayerfully, until God breaks your heart and your spirit, and allows the Light of His Word to penetrate your dark blindness?

Consequently, it will not do the fanatics any good if, in connection with the sacrament, they do a great deal of babbling about the spiritual eating and drinking of the body and blood of Christ and about the love and unity of Christians. For these words are nothing but fig leaves with which Adam and Eve wanted to cover and adorn themselves so that God should not notice their shame and sin. Much less will their great labor of teaching and writing and their earnest, chaste conduct help them. All this is still a heathenish practice. It is also useless for them to believe in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and in Christ the Savior. Everything, I say, is lost along with all articles of faith, no matter how correctly and blamelessly they speak of and represent the same with their false, blaspheming mouth, because they deny and call false this single article of faith when Christ says in the sacrament: "Take (the bread) and eat; this is my body which is given for you," etc. For what they chatter about spiritual eating and about love has solely this aim: They want to cover up and hide such harm and poison so that one should not take notice of or see the same but should regard them as remarkable and very good Christians. This is what we call placing an illusion before one's eyes and adorning the gloomy devil (as St. Paul teaches in 2 Cor. 11:14) with the bright dress of the angels of light. Therefore, their great boasting and many works are in vain because they do not want to be Christians in this one article of faith. The Lord talks about this in Luke 11:35-36: "Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly light…

Perhaps you would like to say: "My dear Luther, it is to be hoped that this is not so, or at least there is no use being anxious about the fact that God should be so very vehement and relentlessly strict that he would want to condemn people on account of one article of the faith if they faithfully adhere to and believer all other articles." This is the way not only the heretic comforts himself but also other sinners comfort themselves. They want God to take into consideration the rest of their good works and to be gracious to them, as King Saul, too, wanted to cover up his disobedience with his religious devotion and sacrifice, I Samuel 15:15.

So they proceed securely and with self-assurance, as if they lacked nothing; the many great works and the labor which they do will outweigh a single failure. Over against this attitude it must be said that God could scarcely hope or expect that His poor, miserable, blind creation should be so senseless and proud in opposition to its Creator and Lord that it would deny, regard as false, and blaspheme His divine word; rather, He should be able to hope that His humble, submissive, obedient creation wold not deny and blaspheme a single word but sincerely receive all words in general and every word in particular, and give thanks with great joy that the creation is worthy to hear one single word from its dear God. Yes it is fitting for God to look at it in this way. Now, however, the heretics treat God's word as though it were man's word, or a fool's word, which they can despise, mock, and blaspheme. They think they can do everything better according to their own good judgment. (LW, vol. 38, p. 312)

Are you willing to read this and be taught what the difference between the Law and the Gospel is? Are you willing to develop a proper understanding and appreciation of punishment?

As yet I do not know whether sin ever refers in Scripture to those works which we call sin, for it seems almost always to refer to the radical ferment which bears fruit in evil deeds and words. It is the law which reveals that what was before unknown and dead (as Rom. 5:13 says) is properly speaking sin, and that it very much alive, though hidden under the false works of the hypocrites… "The law brings wrath," because as is said in Gal. 3:10, "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, and do them." So also it is said in Rom. 5:12, "death through sin," and Rom. 623, "the wages of sin is death." Up to this point the light of the law instructs, teaching us that we are under corruption and wrath, and designating all men as liars and sons of wrath. We would perhaps have disregarded corruption and been pleased with our evil unless this other evil, which is wrath, had refused to indulge our foolishness and had resisted it with terror and the danger of hell and death, so that we have but little peace in our wickedness. Plainly wrath is a greater evil for us than corruption, for we hate punishment more than guilt.

So the law reveals a twofold evil, one inward and the other outward. The first, which we inflict on ourselves, is sin and the corruption of nature; the second, which God inflicts, is wrath, death, and being accursed. These are, if you wish, guilt and penalty…We should speak fully and bluntly of sin—or guilt, or inward evil—as universal corruption of nature in all its parts: an evil which inclines us to evil from our youth up, as is written in Gen. 6:5 and 8:21. So great is this wrath that there is nothing profitable in those things which seem good as, for instance, arts, talents, prudence, courage, chastity, and whatever natural, morel, and impressive goods there are. The common sense of all men can detect nothing wrong with these things…

It must be added that God Himself does not deny that these virtues are good—for this cannot in fact be denied—but He rewards and bedecks them with temporal benefits, such as power, wealth, glory, fame, dignity, honor, enjoyment, and the like. Thus a covering—not merely of its own beauty, but of divine recompense-is added to this natural blindness which does not know the true good; thus it confidently and stubbornly maintains that it is good. This is the chief reason for the prophetic task, this is why all the prophets were killed, for they reviled these works and insisted on those which are more genuinely good. For prophecy was nothing else than the burnishing, activating, and application of the law…

Therefore it is only the law which shows that these virtues are evil—not, to be sure, in themselves, for they are the gifts of God, but because of that deeply hidden root of sin which is the cause of men being pleased with, relying, and glorying in these things which are not felt to be evil. This is now and always the innermost evil of sin, for trust, pleasure, and glorying must e in God alone, as Jer. 9:23 says: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches." All these are goods, but they are freely distributed among the evil more often than among the good…

In the midst of so much wisdom, goodness, righteousness, and religiousness, they will not be evil, nor can they recognize that they are, because they do not listen. You see, therefore, how imcomparable the law transcends natural reason, and how bottomless is the sin of which it gives us knowledge. Therefore all are under wrath, since all are under sin.

The gospel, on the contrary, deals with sin so as to remove it, and thus most beautifully follows the law. The law introduces us to sin and overwhelms us with the knowledge of it. It does this so that we may seek to be freed and to sigh after grace, for the gospel also teaches and preaches two things, namely, the righteousness and the grace of God. Through righteousness it heals the corruption of nature… The companion of this faith and righteousness is grace or mercy, the good will (favor) of God, against wrath which is the partner of sin, so that he who believes in Christ has a merciful God. For we would not be completely happy in this good of righteousness, and we would not highly esteem God's gift, if that was all there was, and it did not gain for us the grace of God. This grace truly produces peace of heart until finally a man is healed from his corruption and feels he has a gracious God. It is this which fattens the bones and gives joy, security, and fearlessness to the conscience so that one dares all, can do all and, in this trust in the grace of God, laughs even at death.

Hence, just as wrath is a greater evil than the corruption of sin, so grace is a greater good than that health of righteousness which we have said comes from faith. Everyone would prefer—if that were possible—to be without the health of righteousness rather than the grace of God, for peace and the remission of sins are properly attributed to the grace of God, while healing from corruption is ascribed to faith. Faith is the gift and inward good which purges the sin to which it is opposed. It is that leaven which is described in the gospel as wholly hidden under three measures of meal (Matt. 13:33). The grace of God, on the other hand, is an outward good, God's favor, the opposite of wrath. These two things are distinguished in Rom. 5:15. (LW, vol. 32, pp. 224-27)

Can you be as open-minded and soft-hearted as this Samaritan woman? Can you not consider that you have been led into a blind arrogance that gives you permission to decide what is right? Will you PLEASE allow yourself to be "regained?"

The sects and heretics have always assailed the true church, as this woman does when she says: "Do you, an excommunicated Jew, ask me, a holy Samaritan, to give you a drink?" The Samaritans firmly believed that they would be saved because they worshiped God on Mt. Gerizim. This young woman is not obdurate, however, not headstrong and incorrigible. This is how we should like to see many of those who are enveloped in the darkness and cannot find their way out of the gloom by themselves. Would that they were led out and converted to Christ! They would belong in the category of this Samaritan woman. Otherwise the devil will take possession of the schismatic spirits, leaving them bereft of all five senses. All the prophets experienced—and so do we in our day—that a fanatic is an unmitigated fool. He will accept nothing but what he things in his heart if true and what is uppermost in his mind. He is like the wolf which cries incessantly: "Bring the lamb here!" Thus they and theirs go to their doom. While they are in this stupor, they hear nothing but what they like. It is difficult to regain such people. Take, for example, the Sacramentarians, who assail the positive truth. God forbid that we should be like them! This woman is not yet possessed by the devil to such an extent that she cleaves and clings to error and cannot be torn away from it, although she is, of course, caught in the web of error and is not a true believer. We find many of her kind today. It is still possible to help such people. For their sake we must preach, as the Lord Himself here preaches to this young woman. (John 4:9, LW, vol. 22, pp. 525-26)

Dear friend, whom I love deeply, are you sure you are Christian?

If Christians regarded Christ as the only Light and staunchly adhered to that belief, then our views, doctrine, and faith would be uniform, and our sermons would convey the same harmonious message everywhere in the world. Our brethren in the Orient would be of one mind with us. If someone were to come into our midst from Babylon and hear our lectures or sermons, he would say: "I, too, believe as you teach. I also cling to the only Light, Christ." He would acknowledge that we preach of that one Light, Christ. And if I were to travel to Turkey and encounter a Christian who was discussing Christian doctrine and faith on the basis of Scripture, I would say: "That is also my creed." This accounts for our name "Christian"; we all are named after our Lord Christ. Our name "Christian" reflects our belief that He is our sole Light, Life, Way, Hope, and Salvation. (John 1:8, LW, vol 22, p. 60)

Can you not see that you have fallen into the "greater effort" trap? Or maybe for you, you have gone to the opposite extreme of underplaying the importance of the Law. Either way, will you not consider how you have formulated your own style of worship? Are you willing to ponder what the Gospel is? Can you consider that you have nothing but some vague idea of what the Gospel is without Luther's help? Don't you want to get on board and be a true minister of reconciliation? Once you are broken, like a wild stallion is broken of his stubborn ways, there is so much work to do in His vineyard before He returns.

May a merciful God preserve me from a Christian Church in which everyone is a saint! I want to be and remain in the church and little flock of the faint-hearted, the feeble, and the ailing, who feel and recognize the wretchedness of their sins, who sigh and cry to God incessantly for comfort and help, who believe in the forgiveness of sin, and who suffer persecution for the sake of the Word, which they confess and teach purely and without adulteration. Satan is a cunning rogue. Through his fanatics he wants to trick the simple-minded into the belief that the preaching of the Gospel is useless. "Greater effort" is necessary, they say. "We must lead a holy life, bear the cross, and endure persecution." And by such a semblance of self-styled holiness, which runs counter to the Word of God, many a person is misled. But our righteousness and holiness is Christ. In Him, not in ourselves, we have perfection (Col. 2:10). And I find comfort in, and cling to, the words of St. Paul spoken in I Cor. 1:30: "God made Christ our Wisdom, our Righteousness and Sanctification and Redemption."

Thus there is no other means of attaining faith than by hearing, learning, and pondering the Gospel. This we must know in order to cope with the schismatic spirits and their claim that before a man is able to preach, confess, and suffer, he must "have the Spirit." In our text you hear this view contradicted and refuted. John was sent by God to testify to Christ that all might believe through him, that is, through his testimony. Hence one dare not despise the oral Word, but one must hold it in love and in high esteem. For God instituted the ministry of reconciliation and established the Word of reconciliation, that is, the Gospel, among us (2Cor. 5:19) that we should pay diligent attention to it and hear it. (John 1:7, LW, vol. 22, p. 55.)

Plainly, Luther is calling you all these names if you do not agree with him on Baptism, Communion, the Office of the Keys, etc. Are you willing to toil to the point of death, even if it's only a mental death, to overcome your mistaken opinions? Do you think the Mr. Know-It-All attitude of today has skipped you? Is it possible that things are so topsy-turvy, that everything is the exact opposite of what it seems? Is it possible that God is disciplining His people by withdrawing His Word from us, because we have despised it so much?

The schismatic spirits, on the other hand, lay claim to better ways and means of conversion; however, they do not convert to God but to the devil himself. They are so full of the fanatical spirit that they do not realize how much is required to overcome and vanquish one's own mistaken ideas, opinions, and conceit. It takes toil and trouble to engender faith in people by the God-ordained means of the preaching ministry, absolution, and the Sacrament. Even John could not persuade all his hearers to give credence to his testimony, to accept Christ and acknowledge that He is the Light and the Life of mankind and the Savior of the world… Whoever fails to adhere closely to the Word of God takes offense very easily at this or that or something else. Whatever misfortune may befall us is magnified by the devil through his blasphemers, and then the blame is laid on the blessed Gospel. Such a person is offended by so many things that he becomes bewildered and then resolves: "I shall stick with the old faith." There are many people of this type in our time. (John 1:6, LW, vol. 22, p. 48)

Do you want to remain in the kitchen, or be moved into the throneroom of the Word? The choice is yours—kind of. But do you think this movement will take place without much difficulty and suffering? Are you afraid to be misunderstood? Are you afraid to be considered a fool? Do you not wonder why there is no real suffering today? Could it be that there is virtually no one truly standing for the Truth, once for all delivered to the saints?

Many now hear us teaching and read our writings, but with their hearts they are wandering about in the kitchen or elsewhere. So it comes to pass that although they stand with ears erect, they nevertheless understand nothing. This is a kind of insensibility which is not natural but voluntary, by which man withdraws his heart from things present and observes and desires strange and lofty things. Hearts of this kind Isaiah calls hearts that have been made fat, as though they have been covered with slime, and eyes that have been made heavy, such as the disciples had in the garden who did not pay attention to what Christ was saying (cf. Matt. 26:26ff.). Of this kind are the majority among Jews and Christians alike. There are very few who have any regard for the doctrine of the fathers or who imitate their faith. (Genesis 35:6-7, vol. 6, p. 251)

I close with this quote below because I know that Luther's "cause" was and is God's cause, and that my cause is Luther's cause. I have suffered much for this belief and am willing to suffer to the fullest extent of my faith.

I know I am right and have no cause to doubt this. Can you say the same thing? On what grounds?

But if we are sure and do not doubt that it is his cause and word, then our prayer has certainly already been heard, and help for us already has been decided upon and prepared; this cannot be wrong. For the Lord says: "Can a woman forget her child, that she should not have compassion on the fruit of her womb? Even if she should forget it, yet I will not forget you; behold, I have graven you on my own hand." (Is. 49:15) (LW, vol. 49, p. 395)

The will of the Lord be done.