You are on page 1of 2

A Brief Instruction on What to Look For and Expect in the Gospels

[Luther: die evangelie is die BLYE-GOEIE-BEMOEDIGENDE/ vertroostende boodska !!!"

htt ://#ikisour$e%org/#iki/&eidelbergse'(ategis)us*uselang+a, " Dro bo-+ aalleen

Martin Luther It is a common practice to number the Gospels and to name them by books and say that there are four Gospels. From this practice stems the fact that no one knows what St. Paul and St. Peter are saying in their epistles, and their teaching is regarded as an addition to the teaching of the Gospels, in a ein similar to that of !erome"s introduction. #here is, besides, the still worse practice of regarding the Gospels and epistles as law books in which is supposed to be taught what we are to do and in which the works of $hrist are pictured to us as nothing but e%amples. &ow where these two erroneous notions remain in the heart, there neither the Gospels nor the epistles may be read in a profitable or $hristian manner, and 'people( remain as pagan as e er. )ne should thus reali*e that there is only one Gospel, but that it is described by many apostles. + ery single epistle of Paul and of Peter, as well as the ,cts of the ,postles by Luke, is a Gospel, e en though they do not record all the works and words of $hrist, but one is shorter and includes less than another. #here is not one of the four ma-or Gospels anyway that includes all the words and works of $hrist. nor is this necessary. Gospel is and should be nothing else than a discourse or story about $hrist, -ust as happens among men when one writes a book about a king or a prince, telling what he did, said, and suffered in his day. Such a story can be told in arious ways. one spins it out, and the other is brief. #hus the Gospel is and should be nothing else than a chronicle, a story, a narrati e about $hrist, telling who he is, what he did, said, and suffered/a sub-ect which one describes briefly, another more fully, one this way, another that way. For at its briefest, the Gospel is a discourse about $hrist, that he is the Son of God and became man for us, that he died and was raised, that he has been established as a Lord o er all things. #his much St. Paul takes in hand and spins out in his epistles. 0e bypasses all the miracles and incidents 'in $hrist"s ministry( which are set forth in the four Gospels, yet he includes the whole Gospel ade1uately and abundantly. #his may be seen clearly and well in his greeting to the 2omans '343/5(, where he says what the Gospel is, and declares, 6Paul, a ser ant of !esus $hrist, called to be an apostle, set apart for the Gospel of God which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the Gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from 7a id according to the flesh and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, !esus $hrist our Lord,6 etc. #here you ha e it. #he Gospel is a story about $hrist, God"s and 7a id"s Son, who died and was raised and is established as Lord. #his is the Gospel in a nutshell. !ust as there is no more than one $hrist, so there is and may be no more than one Gospel.... 8es e en the teaching of the prophets, in those places where they speak of $hrist, is nothing but the true, pure, and proper Gospel/-ust as if Luke or Matthew had described it. For the prophets ha e proclaimed the Gospel and spoken of $hrist, as St. Paul here '2om. 349( reports and as e eryone indeed knows. #hus when Isaiah in chapter fifty/three says how $hrist should die for us and bear our sins, he has written the pure Gospel. ,nd I assure you, if a person fails to grasp this understanding of the Gospel, he will ne er be able to be illuminated in the Scripture nor will he recei e the right foundation.

:e sure, moreo er, that you do not make $hrist into a Moses, as if $hrist did nothing more than teach and pro ide e%amples as the other saints do, as if the Gospel were simply a te%tbook of teachings or laws. #herefore you should grasp $hrist, his words, works, and sufferings, in a twofold manner. First as an e%ample that is presented to you, which you should follow and imitate. ,s St. Peter says in I Peter 5, 6$hrist suffered for us, thereby lea ing us an e%ample.6 #hus when you see how he prays, fasts, helps people, and shows them lo e, so also you should do, both for yourself and for your neighbor. 0owe er this is the smallest part of the Gospel, on the basis of which it cannot yet e en be called Gospel. For on this le el $hrist is of no more help to you than some other saint. 0is life remains his own and does not as yet contribute anything to you. In short this mode 'of understanding $hrist as simply an e%ample( does not make $hristians but only hypocrites. 8ou must grasp $hrist at a much higher le el. + en though this higher le el has for a long time been the ery best, the preaching of it has been something rare. #he chief article and foundation of the Gospel is that before you take $hrist as an e%ample, you accept and recogni*e him as a gift, as a present that God has gi en you and that is your own. #his means that when you see or hear of $hrist doing or suffering something, you do not doubt that $hrist himself, with his deeds and suffering, belongs to you. )n this you may depend as surely as if you had done it yourself. indeed as if you were $hrist himself. See, this is what it means to ha e a proper grasp of the Gospel, that is, of the o erwhelming goodness of God, which neither prophet, nor apostle, nor angel was e er able fully to e%press, and which no heart could ade1uately fathom or mar el at. #his is the great fire of the lo e of God for us, whereby the heart and conscience become happy, secure, and content. #his is what preaching the $hristian faith means. #his is why such preaching is called Gospel, which in German means a -oyful, good, and comforting 6message6. and this is why the apostles are called the 6twel e messengers.6 ...&ow when you ha e $hrist as the foundation and chief blessing of your sal ation, then the other part follows4 that you take him as your e%ample, gi ing yourself in ser ice to your neighbor -ust as you see that $hrist has gi en himself for you. See, there faith and lo e mo e forward, God"s commandment is fulfilled, and a person is happy and fearless to do and to suffer all things. #herefore make note of this, that $hrist as a gift nourishes your faith and makes you a $hristian. :ut $hrist as an e%ample e%ercises your works. #hese do not make you a $hristian. ,ctually they come forth from you because you ha e already been made a $hristian. ,s widely as a gift differs from an e%ample, so widely does faith differ from works, for faith possesses nothing of its own, only the deeds and life of $hrist. ;orks ha e something of your own in them, yet they should not belong to you but to your neighbor. So you see that the Gospel is really not a book of laws and commandments which re1uire deeds of us, but a book of di ine promises in which God promises, offers, and gi es us all his possessions and benefits in $hrist. #he fact that $hrist and the apostles pro ide much good teaching and e%plain the law is to be counted a benefit -ust like any other good work of $hrist. For to teach aright is not the least sort of benefit. ;e see too that unlike Moses in his book, and contrary to the nature of a commandment, $hrist does not horribly force and dri e us. 2ather ... he teaches so gently that he entices rather than commands. 0e begins by saying, 6:lessed are the poor, :lessed are the meek,6 and so on. ,nd the apostles commonly use the e%pression, 6I admonish, I re1uest, I beseech,6 and so on. :ut Moses says, 6I command, I forbid,6 threatening and frightening e eryone with horrible punishments and penalties. ;ith this sort of instruction you can now read and hear the Gospels profitably. ;hen you open the book containing the Gospels and read or hear how $hrist comes here or there, or how someone is brought to him, you should therein percei e the sermon or the Gospel through which he is coming to you, or you are being brought to him. For the preaching of the Gospel is nothing else than $hrist coming to us, or us being brought to him....