Fifth Sunday after Trinity

Jesus is the Lord of His Church

Jesus Is the Lord of His Church

Fifth Sunday after Holy Trinity

Grace and mercy to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

It it is written,

Do not be afraid, said Jesus.  From now on you will be catching men. And when they brought in there boats to land.  They left everything and followed Jesus. Thus far the text.

There are several things that scare me. 

That cause great fear. One has always been horror films of any kind.  The kind when someone just jumps out and you just watching knowing that it is just a tv show or movie you still jump out of your skin.  I am one of those guys. I’ve never liked horror.  

But then there are other things that scare me.  One is a certain person who likes to knock on my door every once in a while and see me jump out of my chair.  That is not as scary as horror

And then there are other things that cause me fear.  They don’t cause me to jump up. But it is just looking at the Lord’s church.  And I think it is a shared fear. That we see the church in it’s current state.  The church in general. And it seems to be shrinking. It seems to be not a popular.  It seems to almost be passing out of our culture. This causes anxiety. Anxiety itself is a type of fear.  So we are afraid.

Jesus says to not be afraid.

That is also a phrase that doesn’t really work on me.  When someone tells me to stop being afraid, I can’t do it.  Maybe it works for you. But when someone tells me to stop feeling a certain way, I am not able to just stop feeling what I’m feel.

But Jesus says, do not be afraid.

Do not be afraid for His church.  For what the Lord is doing is that He is calling people to His church.  In my fear, I will tend to forget that. Maybe you do to. Because there are popular ways to build up the Lord’s church.  But they are not linked here to our church.

Agree with Like Minded People - Emotionalism

One way, a very popular way, if we are going to build the church from the ground up is to find people are like minded.  People who like worshiping the way we like to worship. People who love Jesus they way we love Jesus. If we are all like-minded and we are all thinking and feeling the same thing then there is great unity in the church and people want to join that because people want to people.  So we could build a church by finding like-minded people to gather together.

But, what happens when one person in the group is not like-minded.  When there emotions are not identical to ours. Then the unity begins to break apart.  It’s one of the problems of building up the church by finding like-minded people.

Agree on a few doctrines - Fundamentalism

There is another popular way to build up the church.  To give it a secure foundation. If we can just agree to a few teachings of Jesus.  If we can just agree that Jesus is God - that is a good thing. If we can just agree that the Bible is God’s Word - that is a good thing.  We will add in a few others. As long as we hold to a few doctrines, then people will flock into the church and the church will grow.

Agree to disagree - Ecumenism

There is a third popular way to build up the church.  That is to agree to disagree. That we are all so different.  Different denominations. Different doctrines. Different minds.  Different feelings. We are all so different. We will say that is ok as long as we say we are Christians.  We will gather as Christians. Regardless of different teachings. Regardless of different feelings. It is a popular way to build up a church with a common foundation.

But all three of these have something missing.  They don’t speak precisely of what Jesus is doing.  They don’t speak of Jesus alone being the Lord of His church.  They don’t speak of Jesus creating His church by calling people to Himself.

Our text for today, is all on Jesus.  And when Jesus does His work, first people are flocking to Him.  He is doing miracles. He is speaking. And He is speaking strangely from the point of view from all the other religions in the worldly.  Different teachings. Different feelings. He is not saying we should agree to disagree. But He speaks and people are gathered around Him.

What is Jesus saying in His sermon?  The text skips over the words. It says He got into the boat.  And He taught them. And when He was finished then He spoke to those fishermen.  Put out your net. And they caught fish like they never caught fish before.

What was Jesus saying?  He was saying the same things that are recorded in the Old Testament.  He was speaking of Himself as being the Lord of Moses. Speaking of Himself as the Lord of all those Old Testament sacrifices.  Speaking of all those Old Testament prophecies that are fulfilled in Him. Jesus witness of Himself as being God. And Jesus spoke all things that the Father commanded Him to teach.

And the people listened.

And then Jesus confirmed all these things by the miraculous catch of fish.

What was the reaction to the work of Jesus, the work of God in that location according to this Bible text?  Simon-Peter, who has been listening very closely to all of this. Simon-Peter who let down his net even though he knew that catching anything is next to impossible.  He catches so many fish. Peter falls on his knees before Jesus and says, “Depart from me, a sinner.”

Peter was not afraid of Jesus until Jesus confirmed His message with the miracle.

Then Peter’s response is fear.  For what Jesus speaks He does. What Jesus promises He gives.  And now Peter is terrified. After Jesus does His work Peter recognizes his sin.  Before this God, there is nothing Peter can do or give. His emotions are disordered before Jesus.  Peter is not like Jesus. Peter holds to a few teachings of Jesus but not all. Peter is struck by God Law.  Peter is struck by how far he has fallen short by all the things Jesus said. Jesus does not agree that it is ok for sinners to disagree with His Father.  Peter is struck by his sin. He falls to his knees in terror.

This is not awe and respect at this point.  This is knee-knocking terror. Lord, depart from me.

That is our reaction to one of Jesus’ teachings.  We react in fear and terror. Like a horror movie.  It is almost like Jesus jumps out at Peter and scares him so bad that Peter falls down in terror.  This is too scary.

But as Jesus does, even when He sends His angels to speak to His people, Jesus begins with His response with a very different teaching than one that makes people afraid.  It is a completely different teaching. It is the Gospel.

Jesus says, Do not be afraid.  From now on you will be catching men.

That is the Gospel.  Do not be afraid.

Jesus shows you that you should be afraid in all of His law teaching of the Law.  His Father’s requirements. He shows you how far you how far you have fallen from the Father.  He shows you that you should be terrified. We even confessed at the beginning of this service that we deserve temporal and eternal punishment.  That should give us knee-knocking fear even as we say it.

But then the Gospel.  Do not be afraid.

All your falleness.  All your sin. All your unbelief in which you deserve punishment.  Do not be afraid because Jesus does not hold it against you.

Why?  Because going to the cross, Jesus receives the temporal and eternal punishment that you deserve.  Jesus dies in that punishment.

Jesus rises and says that your death and punishment is paid.  

Now, do not be afraid to come to Jesus and receive the forgiveness of your sins.  Do not be afraid to receive Jesus’ life. Jesus’ righteousness.

This is how Jesus builds His church. 

Death cannot break down the kingdom of God.  Not anymore. Now that Jesus is risen from the dead.

We should be afraid of our sins.

But we should cling to Jesus who does not hold those sins against you eternally.

Jesus has gently caught you in the net of His Gospel.

Jesus has baptized you by washing away your sins.  Don’t you know that you have been baptized into Jesus’ death.  Jesus does not hold your sins against you to those of you who believe; in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God, which passes understanding, protect and preserve you in Jesus Christ, our Savior.  Amen.

Martin Luther Sermon - Luke 5:1-11 - Fifth Sunday after Holy Trinity

                            Martin Luther Sermon - Luke 5:1-11 - Fifth Sunday after Holy Trinity

                            Martin Luther Sermon - Luke 5:1-11 - Fifth Sunday after Holy Trinity

Martin Luther Sermon - Luke 5:1-11 - Fifth Sunday after Holy Trinity

This sermon appeared in pamphlet or tract form in four different editions in 1522 and 1523, also in the two collections of 14 and 27 sermons of and was one of the “Three Beautiful Sermons Preached by Dr. Martin Luther at Wittenberg,”

Two of the pamphlet editions bear the title: “A Sermon on St. Peter and St. Paul concerning Trusting in God, etc.”

Text. Luke 5:1-11. Now it came to pass, while the multitude pressed upon him and heard the word of God, that he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; and he saw two boats standing by the lake: but the fishermen had gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the multitudes out of the boat. And when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Put out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answered and said, Master, we toiled all night, and took nothing: but at thy word I will let down the nets. And when they had dante this, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes; and their nets were breaking; and they beckoned unto their partners in the other boat, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, Lord. For he was amazed, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken; and so were also James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.

And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. And when they bad brought their boats to land, they left all, and followed hint.



Contents of this Gospel. 1.


1. Where this faith exists there is no lack of spiritual blessings. 2-7.

Those who believe have enough, but those who do not believe never have enough. The care for the needs of the body. avarice and unbelief. a. What follows from them. 3-4. b. They are a cursed thing. 5-6. c. The spiritual condition of things in the Papacy is the result of unbelief and the cares for the needs of this life.

2. What should move us to this faith. Why many suffer need in temporal things. 8-9.

3. How and why we should in addition to our faith perform the work of our calling. 10-11.

4. An objection raised by this doctrine of faith, and the answer.

5.How and why hope and expectation accompany this faith. 13-14.


1. The connection of this with the preceding faith.

2. How this faith in the example of Peter is painted forth. 16-19. In what way is a weak conscience to be strengthened and established. 16- 17. The difference between the true God and idols. 17.

Our works will avail nothing in the forgiveness of our sins, but we must confess them to God and Christ. 16-19.

3. The glorious fruit of this faith. 20-22. God cares for believers in spiritual and temporal things. 23.


1. Christ fishes with the Word, and he makes his disciples such fishermen.

2. There are here two ships. One signifies the Jews, into which Christ the Lord enters, as he was a servant of the circumcision, as St. Paul calls him in Romans 15:8. The other refers to the Gentiles, to whom the wink is given that they should come and help the first in order that both might be filled.

3. In vain we teach the law, human ordinances and our own devices the whole night in the dark, only to the end that the weak conscience may be smitten with anguish and martyred. But without the Word of Christ, which is light, one never catches anything. Therefore Peter says here: Lord, upon thy Word I will let down the net. If you will preach, then you must have the Word of Christ and you must also be sent by Christ.

4. Here you observe, Christ provides also for the needs of the bodies of his followers.


1. This Gospel is easy for those to understand who believe, and it presents to us two thoughts, namely: Faith in its relation to temporal blessings, and faith in its relation to eternal blessings.


2. In the first place Christ shows that those who believe on him will certainly have sufficient also for this present life. And this he does in that he gives Peter and his partners such a great multitude of fishes, more than they had any reason to expect; also, in that Christ also provides for the feeding of our stomachs, if it were not only for our cursed unbelief. For behold Peter and look deep into his heart and you will find, that he had no idea that he should catch so many fishes; then God came and drove the fish into the net, and more than all the disciples had desired.

3. Therefore this is an example that all who believe will have enough for their temporal needs; but those who do not believe can never get enough and have no rest in scheming how to secure riches, by which they fall into all kinds of vice. Then comes to pass what Paul in 1 Timothy 6:6-10 says: “But godliness with contentment is great gain; for we brought nothing into the world, for neither can we carry anything out; but having food and covering we shall be therewith content. But they that are minded to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and hurtful lusts, such as drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil: which some reaching after have been led astray from the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

4. Now this passage of St. Paul shows clearly what follows our unbelief, namely, that he who strives after possessions and will become rich, must fall into the temptations and snares of the devil. These we cannot see, for they are spiritual. However if we could see the harm and ruin he does in spiritual things as he does in corporal things, then we would be good preachers. For we see publicly how an unbelieving man scrapes and does violence to everybody in order that he may scratch together something in which he may place his confidence, and say: Yea, now I have enough. Thus we see, what an avaricious, unfriendly thing unbelief is; for it is a benefit to no one, it sells no one anything unless it sees its own advantage in doing so.

5. For it has ever been a curse that we cannot trust God even for the daily food our stomachs crave, and that we continually think we are to die from hunger; and yet, we are to have enough, as Christ in Matthew 6:25f. says: “Therefore I say unto you, Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment? Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life? And why are ye anxious concerning raiment?

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Be not therefore anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

6. Here you see how God cares for the birds and flowers, and adorns them so beautifully; much move will he give us what we need; and yet we cannot trust him. So successfully has the devil taken us captive by his snares. If one comes now so far that he is not satisfied and does not trust God, then love must at once cease, so that he does no one any good, but he scratches together everything only on his own heap.

7. And in this way the calling of the priests and monks arose; only in order that they might help themselves and feed their stomachs, and not being permitted to work they ran into the cloisters. And the proverb is true:

Despair makes monks; yea, not only monks, but also priests, bishops and popes; for they do not trust God that he is able to feed and clothe them, and only think how they may fortify themselves against all want and poverty. All this is the life of unbelief. Then they go and keep strumpets or commit adultery, which are the fruits that follow unbelief; for they never trusted God, that he was able to sustain them, if they took unto themselves wives and remained out of the monasteries.

8. Now, here is an example that excites us to trust in God, and first for the needs of the stomach; since he cares for us also in temporal things. This we see here in the case of Peter, when he thus caught a great multitude of fishes, more than filled their boats. From this it is clearly shown God will forsake no one, each must have what he needs, if he trusts in God alone; as Psalm 37:35 says’ “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” There is no lack of provisions, only a lack of faith; before that should take place the angels would come and minister unto us. Therefore the fact that the people suffer now such need, is caused only by unbelief.

9. And although God is near us and will give us what we need, yet he requires on our part both work and hope, even if he delay for a time; therefore he gives Peter here a draught of fishes, and says: “Put out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.”

10. As if the Lord would say: Let down the nets, and do the work that belongs to a fisherman, and let me care for the rest. The care or solicitude shall not be thine but mine, and the work thine. We however wish to turn this around for Christ: we want the care and let him have the work. Hence it is that everyone strives after usury, and hoards money so that they may never need to work.

11. Therefore if you wish to lead a truly Christian life, let thy God see to it how the fishes come into your net, and go and enter some calling in life that you may labor. But we all wish to fill such positions, where we do not need to labor; that has ever been the trick of the devil. And because of this we became monks and priests, only in order that we might live like noblemen and would not need to work. Moved by this mothers left their children go to school, in order that they might have good days and serve God. In this way it came so far that people did not know what good living was; and yet God commanded and took pleasure in it, that man should eat his bread in sweat; as he said to Adam: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,” Genesis 3:19. And the deeper you stick in the law, the better it is. Therefore labor and believe, and let God rule unhindered.

12. If we speak of faith, and are to lean upon God and let him care for us, then they say: Yes, I must believe a long time before a roasted dove flies into my mouth, if I do not labor. Yes, it is true, you must toil, for you are commanded to do so: but let thy God provide for you. Believe and labor, then will not only a dove but a roasted goose fly into your mouth.

13. But to these belong also another part, namely, that we should hope, even if God does delay for a, time. Hence Christ here left them toil all the night without catching anything and it seemed he would permit them to die of hunger. Peter might have well thought since he fished so long and caught nothing: now God will let the stomach languish. But he despairs not, he continues to labor, and stands and hopes, God would give it to him although he might delay. Then God comes and gives him such a great multitude of fishes all at once, and more than he had been able to catch in eight days.

14. Therefore you must learn this part well, that you are to work and hope, even if God should delay a little and let you toil in your sweat, so that you imagine your labor is now lost. Then you must be wise and learn to know your God and to trust in him. Then he arrives and gives you more than you need, as he does here to Peter. Therefore if God has already delayed, only remember in the example of Peter there was also a little delay and yet it richly came. Thus it strikes in the time of his good pleasure; therefore do not despair, but hope and then thy works will be golden and pleasing to him; and then hope waits patiently, when God withdraws from us and does not do at once what we earnestly wish. Therefore he must make an appendix and hang on it a costly stone that thy works may become important. This precious stone is faith; but the works of unbelievers are stubble, for they are not built upon faith. This is the first part of our Gospel, now follows the second.


15. After the disciples caught the fishes and tasted the fruit of faith, their faith increased and grew. Now, we must first come to the point that we can commit unto God the care of our stomachs. For whoever cannot entrust that to God, can never commit unto him his soul. But this is only the faith of the child, where we learn to go to the public bank and continue to suck our mother’s breast. Yet, by this we must learn to confide our soul to God for his keeping. This to-day’s Gospel aims to do, when it says:

But Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was amazed, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken.

16. Let Peter here be a figure of those who should believe in the eternal possessions, and substitute for him the conscience, that now waits and looks for temporal blessings and possessions. A sinful conscience by reason of its nature is apt to do just as Peter does here, flee from its Savior, and think: O, God, I am not worthy to be saved and sit among the saints and angels! Oh, that treasure is far too high for me’. Here the narrow small conscience cannot grasp these great treasures, but thinks: Yes, if I were as St. Peter and Paul, then I might believe it. This is foolish; for should you wish to establish yourself upon your holiness, then you would build on the sand. No, not so; but do like St. Peter. For in that he considered himself so unworthy, then he became first worthy. And just because you are a sinful person, you must trust. Here you must open wide your conscience and greatly expand your heart, in order that grace may flow freely into them.

17. If you have now learned to know God, then refuse him nothing whatever; that is, if we behold the great treasures, then we should not despair. It is proper that we know ourselves, and the more thoroughly we do this the better; but you must not reject grace because of your sins. For if you find that your conscience struggles and would drive you to despair, then you are most comfortable and fortunate; then you will find the consolation in your conscience, and say like Micah 7:18-19: “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and casts their sins into the sea and drowns them?” All gods that do not take away sin are idols. Therefore Micah well says, that there is no God like our God; for other gods wish to discover righteousness, but our God brings it; God the Lord brings it and does not discover it. Therefore you must not despair, although your conscience struggles and feels its sins; for the more disgraced you are, the quicker God imparts grace.

18. Now the great multitude of people go and dress themselves like the kitten does, and think God will then accept them. No, the Scriptures praise God that he takes away sins and casts them into the ocean. We cannot help our sins by our works nor become righteous by means of any power within ourselves: God, and no one else, will do that, without merit and without works, out of pure grace; as in Isaiah 43:22 he says: “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake: and I will not remember thy sins.” And thus it must be, or you will never obtain a cheerful conscience. Therefore when Peter said, “I am a sinful man,” he did right. It is true he had indeed cause to fear and humble himself; but he was constrained not to reject God, but to accept him.

19. Therefore, if I feel my sins and become like St. Peter, and would run away from God; then I must first turn and approach nearer and nearer to him. For if God had fled and had not desired to take away your sins, he would not have come to you and run after you. Therefore the more you feel that you are a sinful man and the more you wish to flee from God, the more you should press forward to him; mark that well. For as St. Peter does here, so do all consciences, that are terrified before their sins, they wish to flee from God and seek another idol. Then do not desist, but approach God with fresh confidence and hold to him. On the other hand, if we flee from him and seek work righteousness and obtain help from another God, and afterwards come to the true God; then we will find him just like the foolish virgins, to whom, while they went to buy oil, the door was closed. Matthew 25:10.

20. But what did Christ do, when Peter humbled himself and in the face of great fear and terror he asked the Lord to depart from him? Did he let him stick in his despair? No, but he came to him, comforted him and said: “Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.”

21. These are evangelical or Gospel words, that comfort weak hearts. And just in this way God makes our work and temptation golden before our eyes. Therefore observe now, how God provides for our bodies, in that he here gives Peter a great multitude of fishes, when he would have had enough with two, and in like manner satisfies and enriches him spiritually, so that he could from his fullness impart to others, and thus he made him a natural and a spiritual fisherman; a natural fisherman in that he caught a great multitude of fishes which he could sell; a spiritual fisherman in that he should henceforth catch men; for he had now the Gospel, by which he should gather the people and enlarge the kingdom of Christ.

22. Behold, thus it comes to pass: If one believes, God gives him so much that he is able to help all people, outwardly with his property and gifts; and from within he breaks forth, teaches others and makes them inwardly rich also, for such a person cannot keep silent, he must declare to others what he experienced; as Psalm 51:10-13 says: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy Spirit from me.

Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.” Also in another Psalm, 116:20, David says: “I believe, for I will speak.” This comes to pass thus: If I believe, I know God and then I see what other people lack, and go and preach to them the Gospel.

23. Thus we see in this Gospel how God cares for his own and how he sustains them temporally and spiritually both in body and soul. But where for the time there is need, it is certainly because of our unbelief or because we lately first began to believe. For when faith is still new and small, its blessings at the time are small and insignificant, to the end that we should learn to know and trust God. But if we are come to the point that we freely trust God, then we will be in want of nothing, for God then fills us with temporal and spiritual blessings, and with such superabundant treasures, so that we are able to help all people. That is called making the poor people rich and feeding the hungry. This is sufficient on to-day’s Gospel.

Martin Luther Sermon - 1 Peter 3 - Fifth Sunday after Holy Trinity

                     Martin Luther Sermon - 1 Peter 3 - Fifth Sunday after Holy Trinity

                     Martin Luther Sermon - 1 Peter 3 - Fifth Sunday after Holy Trinity

Martin Luther Sermon - 1 Peter 3 - Fifth Sunday after Holy Trinity


1 PETER 3:8-15. 8 Finally, be ye all like-minded, compassionate, loving as brethren, tender-hearted, humble-minded: 9 not rendering evil for evil, or reviling for reviling; but contrariwise blessing; for hereunto were ye called, that ye should inherit a blessing. 10 For, He that would love life, And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips that they speak no guile: 11 And let him turn away from evil, and do good; Let him seek peace, and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, And his ears unto their supplication: But the face of the Lord is upon them that do evil. 13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be zealous of that which is good? 14 But even if ye should suffer for righteousness’ sake, blessed are ye: and fear not their fear, neither be troubled; 15 but sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord.


1. Here you have enumerated again a long list of eminently good works enjoined upon Christians who believe and have confessed their faith in the Gospel. By such fruits is faith to be manifest. Peter classifies these works according to the obligations of Christians to each other, and their obligations to enemies and persecutors.

2. Immediately preceding the text, Paul has been instructing concerning the domestic relations of husband and wife; how they should live together as Christians in love and companionship, giving due honor and patiently and reasonably bearing with each other. Now he extends the exhortation to Christians in general, enjoining them to live together in Christian love, like brothers and sisters of a household. In the rehearsal of many preeminently noble virtues and works, he portrays the ideal church, beautiful in its outward adornment, in the grace wherewith it shines before men. With such virtues the Church pleases and honors God, while angels behold with joy and delight. And what earthly thing is more desirable to man’s sight?

What happier and more pleasing society may he seek than the company of those who manifest a unity of heart, mind and will; brotherly love, meekness, kindliness and patience, even toward enemies? Surely, no man is too depraved to command such goodness and to desire companionship among people of this class.

3. The first virtue is one frequently mentioned by the apostles. Paul, for instance, in Romans 12:16, says: “Be of the same mind one toward another.” Also in Ephesians 4:3: “Giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Harmony is the imperative virtue for the Christian Church. Before the other virtues — love, meekness — can be manifest, there must first be concord and unity of heart among all. It is impossible that outward circumstances of human life be always the same; much dissimilarity in person, station, and occupation is inevitable.

To this very unlikeness and to the natural depravity of flesh and blood is due the discord and disagreement of men in this world. Let one become conscious of personal superiority in point of uprightness, learning, skill or natural ability, or let him become aware of his loftier station in life, and he immediately grows self-complacent, thinks himself better than his fellows, demands honor and recognition from all men, is unwilling to yield to or serve an inferior and thinks himself entitled to such right and privilege because of his superiority and virtue.

4. Pride is the common vice of the world, and the devil fosters it among his numerous followers thereby causing every sort of misery and unhappiness, corrupting all ranks and stations, and rendering men vicious, depraved and incapable of executing good. In opposition to this vice the apostles diligently admonish Christians to be of one mind, regardless of station or occupation, since every individual must remain in the position to which he has been ordained and called of God. All ranks and stations cannot be one.

Particularly is this true in the Church; for in addition to the outward difference of person, station, and so on, there are manifold divine gifts unequally distributed and varyingly imparted. Yet these many dissimilarities, both spiritual and secular, are to be amenable to the unity of the spirit, as Paul calls it, or a spiritual unity. Just as the members of the physical body have different offices and perform different functions, no one member being able to do the work of the other, and yet all are in the unity of one bodily life; so also Christians, whatever the dissimilarity of language, office and gift among them, must live, increase and be preserved in unity and harmony of mind, as in one body.

5. This matter of harmony is the first and most necessary commandment enjoined by the doctrine of faith; ay, this virtue is the first fruit which faith is to effect among Christians, who are called in one faith and baptism. It is to be the beginning of their Christian love. For true faith necessarily creates in all believers the spirit that reasons: “We are all called by one Word, one baptism and Holy Spirit, to the same salvation; we are alike heirs of the grace and the blessings of God. Although one has more and greater gifts than another, he is not on that account better before God. By grace alone, without any merit of ours, we are pleasing to God. Before him none can boast of himself.”

6. How can I think myself better than another by reason of my person or my gifts, rank or office? Or what more than I has another to boast of before God concerning himself? No one has a different baptism or sacrament, a different Christ, from mine, or grace and salvation other than I have. And no individual can have another faith than have Christians in general, nor does he hear any other Gospel or receive a different absolution, be he lord or servant, noble or ignoble, poor or rich, young or old, Italian or German. When one imagines himself different from or better than his fellows, desiring to exalt and glorify himself above others, he is truly no longer a Christian; because he is no longer in that unity of mind and faith essential to Christians. Christ with his grace is always the same, and cannot be divided or apportioned within himself.

7. Not without reason did the beloved apostles urge this point. They clearly saw how much depends upon it, and what evil and harm result from disregard of the commandment. Where this commandment is dishonored, schisms and factions will necessarily arise to corrupt pure doctrine and faith, and the devil will sow his seed, which afterwards can be eradicated only with difficulty. When once self-conceit rules, and one, pretending more learning, wisdom, goodness and holiness than his fellows, begins to despise others and to draw men to himself, away from the unity of mind which makes us one in Christ, and when he desires the first praise and commendation for his own doctrine and works, his own preaching, then the harm is already done; faith is overthrown and the Church is rent. When unity becomes division, certainly two sects cannot both be the true Church.

If one is godly, the other must be the devil’s own. On the other hand, so long as unity of faith and oneness of mind survives, the true Church of God abides, notwithstanding there may be some weakness in other points. Of this fact the devil is well aware; hence his hostility to Christian unity. His chief effort is to destroy harmony. “Having that to contend with,” he tells himself, “my task will be a hard and wearisome one.”

8. Therefore, Christians should be all the more careful to cherish the virtue of harmony, both in the Church and in secular government. In each instance there is of necessity much inequality. God would have such dissimilarity balanced by love and unity of mind. Let everyone be content, then, with what God has given or ordained for him, and let him take pleasure in another’s gifts, knowing that in eternal blessings he is equally rich, having the same God and Christ, the same grace and salvation; and that although his standing before God may differ from that of his fellows, he is nevertheless in no way inferior to them, nor is anyone for the same reason at all better than or superior to himself.

9. In temporal affairs, every inequality in the world can be harmonized by a unity of mind and heart. In relations other than spiritual there is mutual love and friendship. How great the outward dissimilarity between man and wife — in person, nature and employment! likewise between masters and their subjects. Yet, in mutual conscientiousness they mutually agree and are well satisfied with each other. So it would be possible to enjoy life upon earth in peace and happiness were it not that the devil cannot suffer it. He must divide hearts and alienate love, allowing no one to take pleasure in another. He who is illustrious, of noble birth, or has power or riches, feels bound to despise others as silly geese or witless ducks.


10. The other virtues enjoined by Peter are easily recognized — “Compassionate, loving as brethren, tenderhearted, and humbleminded” [Luther translates “friendly” — courteous]. These particularly teach that Christians should esteem one another. God has subjected them all to love and has united them, with the design that they shall be of one heart and soul, and each care for the other as for himself. Peter’s exhortation was especially called for at that time, when Christians were terribly persecuted.

Here a pastor, there a citizen, was thrown into prison, driven from wife, child, house and home, and finally executed. Such things happen even now, and may become yet more frequent considering that unfortunate people are harassed by tyrants, or led away by the Turks, and Christians are thus dispersed in exile here and there. Wherever by his Word and faith God has gathered a church, and that spiritual unity, the bond of Christianity, exists in any measure, there the devil has no peace. If he cannot effect the destruction of that church by factiousness, he furiously persecutes it. Then it is that body, life and everything we have must be jeopardized — put to the stake — for the sake of the Church.

11. Christians, according to Peter, should, in the bond of a common heart and mind, sympathetically share the troubles and sufferings of their brethren in the faith, whoever and wherever the brethren may be. They are to enter into such distresses as if themselves suffering, and are to reason: “Behold, these suffer for the sake of my precious faith, and standing at the front, are exposed to the devil, while I have peace. It does not become me to rejoice in my security and to manifest my pleasure. For what befalls my dear brethren affects me, and my blessings are the cause of their misfortune. I must participate in their suffering as my own.” According to the admonition of Hebrews 13:3: “Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; that is, as if in the same bonds and distress. Remember them that are illtreated, as being yourselves also in the body;” as members of the same body.

12. We are all bound to one another, just as in the body one member is bound to another. As you know by your own physical experience, “Whether one member suffereth, all the members suffer with it; or one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it,” as Paul says in Corinthians 12:26. Note how, when a foot is trodden upon or a finger pinched, the whole body is affected: eyes twitch, nose is contorted, mouth cries out — all the members are ready to rescue and help. No one member can forsake the others. In reality not the foot or the finger is injured, but the whole body suffers the accident. On the other hand, benefit received by one member is pleasing to all, and the whole body rejoices with it. Now the same principle should hold in the Church, because it likewise is one body of many members with one mind and heart. Such unity naturally entails the participation by each individual in the good and evil of every other one.

13. This virtue of sympathy, resulting as it does from a unity of mind and faith, is impossible to the world. In the world every man looks only upon what benefits himself and regards not how others, especially the godly, fare. Indeed, the world is capable of scornful smiles and extreme pleasure at sight of Christians in poverty and distress, and in their sufferings it can give them vinegar and gall to drink. But you who claim to be a Christian, should know it is yours to share the sufferings of your brethren and to prove your heartfelt sympathy with them. If you cannot do more, at least show it with comforting words or prayer. Their suffering concerns you as well as themselves, and you must expect the same afflictions from the devil and the wicked world.


14. “Loving as brethren.” This virtue must prevail among Christians everywhere. They are to manifest toward one another the love and faithfulness of brothers according to the flesh. It is a law of nature that brothers have a peculiar confidence in one another, being of the same blood and flesh and having a common inheritance. Particularly is this true when in distress. Although they may not be united in other respects, yet when stranger blood assails and necessity comes, they of the same flesh and blood will take one another’s part, uniting person, property and honor.

15. Likewise Christians should exercise a peculiar brotherly love and faithfulness toward one another, as having one Father in heaven and one inheritance, and in the bond of Christianity being of one faith, united in heart and mind. None may despise another. Them among us who are still weak, frail and eccentric in faith and morals, we are to treat with gentleness, kindness and patience. They must be exhorted, comforted, strengthened. We should do by them as do the brothers and sisters of a household toward the member who is weak or frail or in need. Indeed we cannot otherwise dwell in peace. If we are to live together we must bear with one another much weakness, trouble and inconvenience; for we cannot all be equally strong in faith and courage and have equal gifts and possessions. There is none without his own numerous weaknesses and faults, which he would have others tolerate.


16. “Tenderhearted, humbleminded” [friendly]. Here Peter has in mind mankind in general — friends and enemies, Christians and persecutors.

Owing to original sin, man is naturally disposed to seek revenge, especially upon those who injure him without cause. If he can do no more, he at least maliciously invokes evil upon his enemy and rejoices in his misfortune.

Now, Christians more than any others in this world are innocently persecuted, injured, oppressed and aggrieved, even by those having the name and honor of Christians, a thing of frequent occurrence today. God’s people are aggrieved by such treatment, and if the natural instinct of flesh and blood could have its way, they would gladly revenge themselves; just as they of the world mutually exercise their revenge, not content until passion is cooled.

17. But a Christian should not, and indeed consistently he cannot, be unmerciful and vindictive, for he has become a child of God, whose mercy he has accepted and therein continues to live. He cannot seek pleasure in injury to his neighbor or enjoy his misfortune. He cannot maintain a bitter or hard and stubborn heart toward him. Rather he is disposed to show mercy even to his hostile neighbor, and to pity his blindness and misery; for he recognizes that neighbor as under God’s wrath and hastening to everlasting ruin and condemnation. Thus the Christian is already more than revenged on his enemy. Therefore he should be friendly towards the hostile neighbor and do him every kindness he will permit, in an effort to lead him to repentance.

18. Yet, in showing mercy, as frequently enjoined heretofore we are not to interfere with just and ordained punishments. God’s Word does not teach us to demand mercy or commend kindness where sin and evil practices call for punishment, as the world would have us believe when their sins merit rebuke, particularly the vices of those in high places. These transgressors claim that when reproved their honor is assailed and occasion is given for contempt of their office and authority, and for rebellion, a thing not to be tolerated. This is not true. The lesson teaches the duty of each individual toward all other individuals, not toward the God-ordained office. Office and person must be clearly distinguished. The officer or ruler in his official capacity is a different man from what he is as John or Frederick. The apostle or preacher differs from the individual Peter or Paul. The preacher has not his office by virtue of his own personality; he represents it in God’s stead. Now, if any person be unjustly persecuted, slandered and cursed, I ought to and will say: “Thank God;” for in God I am richly rewarded for it.

But if one dishonors my baptism or sacrament, or the Word God has commanded me to speak, and so opposes not me but himself, then it is my duty not to be silent nor merciful and friendly, but to use my God-ordained office to admonish, threaten and rebuke, with all earnestness, both in season and out of season — as Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:2 — those who err in doctrine or faith or who do not amend their lives; and this regardless of who they are or how it pleases them.

19. But the censured may say: “Nevertheless you publicly impugn my honor; you give me a bad reputation.” I answer: Why do you not complain to him who committed the office to me? My honor is likewise dear to me, but the honor of my office must be more sacred still. If I am silent where I ought to rebuke, I sully my own honor, which I should maintain before God in the proper execution of my office; hence I with you deserve to be hanged in mid-day, to the utter extinguishment of my honor and yours. No, the Gospel does not give you authority to say the preacher shall not, by the Word of God, tell you of your sin and shame. What does God care for the honor you seek from the world when you defy his Word with it? To the world you may seem to defend your honor with God and a good conscience, but in reality you have nothing to boast of before God but your shame. This very fact you must confess if you would retain your honor before him; you must place his honor above that of all creatures. The highest distinction you can achieve for yourself is that of honoring God’s Word and suffering rebuke.

20. “Yes, but still you attack the office to which I am appointed.” No, dear brother, our office is not assailed when I and you are reminded of our failure to do right, to conduct the office as we should. But the Word of God rebukes us for dishonoring that divinely ordained appointment and abusing it in violation of his commandment. Therefore you cannot call me to account for reproving you. However, were I not a pastor or preacher, and had I no authority to rebuke you, then it would be my duty and my pleasure to leave your honor and that of every other man unscathed. But if I am to fill a divine office and to represent not my own but God’s dignity, then for your own sake I must not and will not be silent. If you do wrong, and disgrace and dishonor come upon you, blame yourself. “Thy blood shall be upon thine own head,” says Scripture, 1 Kings 2:37. Certainly when a judge sentences a thief to the gallows, that man’s honor is impugned. Who robs you of your honor but yourself, by your own theft, your contempt of God, disobedience, murder, and so on? God must give you what you deserve. If you consider it a disgrace to be punished, then consider it also no honor to rob, steal, practice usury and do public wrong; you disgrace yourself by dishonoring God’s commandment.

21. This much by way of reminder of the difference between official rebuke and personal anger and revenge. It must constantly be kept before us because of the artfulness of flesh and blood, which ever seeks to disregard that difference. True, God would have all men to be merciful and friendly, to forgive and not to avenge wrong; but the office, which is ordained for the punishment of the wicked, will not always admit of that course. Few are willing to forgive, and therefore God must enforce his government over the merciless. They must be punished without mercy. This divine principle must not be restricted. Neither must it be applied beyond measure. Every official must be careful not to exceed the demands of his office, exercising his own revenge, his own envy and hatred, in the name and under pretense of that position.

22. Peter continues to expatiate upon this topic — the good works he has been discussing: gentleness, mercy, friendliness — citing beautiful passages of Scripture and using other exhortations — to incite Christians to practice these virtues. He says: “Not rendering evil for evil, or reviling for reviling; but contrariwise blessing: for hereunto were ye called, that ye should inherit a blessing.”

23. We have now seen whose prerogative it is to avenge, rebuke and punish evil. This passage does not refer to official duty. When the judge declares sentence of execution upon a thief we have truly an instance of vengeance and reproach, and a public and extreme reflection upon honor.

But it is God’s judgment and his doing, with which we are not here concerned. The Christian of true faith and innocent life, who confesses his doctrine and belief, and as he is commanded rebukes opposing forces, will provoke the devil and the world, and will be persecuted, oppressed and harassed in the name of office and right, even by individuals whose official duty it is to protect the godly and restrain unjust power. If these cannot do more, they will at least annoy, hinder and oppose that Christian as far as possible. If the Christian be quick-tempered and fail to curb his anger and impatience, he will effect no good. He will only bring upon himself that disquiet of heart which consumes and worries itself with thoughts of revenge and retaliation upon the offender; which when the devil perceives, he rejoices. He so urges and instigates as to cause more mischief on both sides. Thus he doubly injures the Christian — through his enemy and through the anger wherewith the Christian torments himself and spoils his own peace.


24. What then shall we do, you say, when we must suffer such abuse and without redress? The only resource, Peter says, is to possess your heart in patience and commit the matter to God. This is all that remains when they whose duty it is will not help you, nor restrain and punish the wrong, but even do you violence themselves. If the evil receive not judicial punishment, let it go unpunished until God looks into it. Only see that you keep a quiet conscience and a loving heart, not allowing yourself, on account of the devil and wicked men, to be disturbed and deprived of your good conscience, your peaceful heart and your God-given blessing. But if in your official capacity you are commanded to punish the evil, or if you can obtain protection and justice from rightful authorities, avail yourself of these privileges without anger, hatred or bitterness, ay, with a heart that prompts to give good for evil and blessing for reviling.

25. Such conduct is becoming you as Christians, the apostle says, for you are a people called to inherit a blessing. Oh, wonderful and glorious fact, that God has decreed and appropriated to you this blessing whereby all the riches of his grace and everything good are yours! and that he will abundantly give you his Spirit to remain with you, blessing body and soul, if only you hold fast his grace and do not allow yourselves to be deprived of it. What price would you not gladly pay for this blessing, were it purchasable, instead of being freely given, without your merits, and were you privileged thus to buy the assurance of having a God so gracious, one willing to bless you in time and eternity? Who would not willingly give even body and life, or joyfully undergo all suffering to have the perfect assurance of heart which says: “I know I am a child of God, who has received me into his grace and I live in the sure hope that I will be eternally blessed and saved.” Think, Peter says, what a vast difference God makes between you and others because you are Christians. He has appointed you to be heirs of everlasting grace and blessing and of eternal life. But they who are not Christians — what have they but a terrible sentence like a weight about their necks? the sentence pronouncing them children of the curse and of eternal condemnation.

26. If men would take this to heart, it would be easy by teaching and persuasion to win them to friendship and kindness toward their fellow-men; to induce them not to return evil or reviling from motive of revenge, but when their own privileges and protection and the punishment of evil cannot be obtained, quietly and peaceably to suffer injury rather than lose their eternal comfort and joy. Christians have excellent reason, a powerful motive, for being patient and not revengeful or bitter in the fact that they are so richly blessed of God and given that great glory whereof, as Peter afterwards remarks, they cannot be deprived, nor can they suffer its loss, if only they abide in it. The apostle emphasizes this fact and further persuades Christians by citing the beautiful passage in Psalm 34:12-16: “He that would love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: and let him turn away from evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears unto their supplication: but the face of the Lord is upon them that do evil.”

27. These words the Holy Spirit uttered long ago through the prophet David, for the instruction and admonition of all saints and children of God.

David presents to us the matter as he daily saw it in his own life and learned from his own experience, and as he gathered from examples of the dear fathers from the beginning of the world. “Come hither, dear children,” he would say, “if you will be taught and advised, I will give you sound instruction as to how we are to fear God and become his children. Who desires peace and comfort?” “Oh, who would not desire peace and comfort?” cries the world. For these everyone seeks and strives, and all the efforts of the world are directed toward this end.


28. There are two ways to the goal of peace. One is that chosen by the world. The world seeks to obtain peace by preserving its own with violence. It desires the death of all who oppose it and will suffer injury or evil in word or deed from no one. This method, it is true, is appointed to govern mental authority. It is the duty of civil rulers to faithfully employ it to arrest and hinder evil as far as possible. But they can never wholly restrain evil nor punish every offense. Much wickedness will remain, particularly secret evil, which must punish itself, either by repentance here or in hell hereafter. By this procedure Christians will not accomplish for themselves any personal advantage; the world is too wicked and it will not give them support.

29. Therefore, if you desire peace for yourself personally, particularly as a Christian, you must choose another way. The Psalm shows it to you when it says: “Refrain thy tongue from evil, and thy lips that they speak no guile.” This injunction really applies to doctrine, meaning that we are to abide by the true Word of God and not to allow ourselves to be seduced by false teaching. But Peter here extends the application to the outward life and conduct of Christians in the work, the circumstances being such as to call for this admonition in the matter of refraining the tongue. On account of the faith and confession for which men are called Christians, they must suffer much; they are endangered, hated, persecuted, oppressed and harassed by the whole world. Christ foretold ( Matthew 10:22): “Ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.” Easily, then, Christians, might believe they have cause to return evil, and being still flesh and blood mortals, they are inevitably moved to be angry and to curse, or to forsake their confession and doctrine and with unbelievers to join the false church with its idolatrous teaching. Here the Psalm admonishes: Dear Christian, let not all this move you to rave, curse, blaspheme and revile again, but abide in the blessing prepared for you to inherit; for you will not by violence remedy matters or obtain any help. The world will remain as it is, and will continue to hate and persecute the godly and believing. Of what use is it for you to hate, chafe and curse against its attitude? You only disturb your own heart with bitterness, and deprive yourself thereby of the priceless blessing bestowed upon you.

30. We have the same teaching in the fourth verse of Psalm 4, which comforts saints and strengthens them against the temptation and provocation to anger and impatience which they must experience in the world. “Be ye angry,” David says, “and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still.” That is, although according to the nature of flesh and blood you fret because you are compelled to witness the prosperity of the world in its ungodly life and wickedness, and how it spites, despises and persecutes you with pride and insolence, nevertheless let not yourselves be easily provoked; let wrong, displeasure, vexation and worry remain outside the inner life; let them affect only the outward life, body and possessions. By no means let them become rooted in your heart.

Still your hearts and content yourselves, and regard all this vexation as not worth losing sleep over. If you desire to serve God truly and to render acceptable sacrifice to him, then with faith in his Word place your hope in him as your dear Father who cares for you, hears you and will wondrously support you.


31. But the psalmist’s additional words, “Refrain your lips that they speak no guile,” refer, as I have said, primarily to confession of the doctrine; but there is another thought: When one is prompted to anger and to complaint about injury and wrong, in his impatience and irritation he cannot speak fairly concerning the matter of offense, but invariably exaggerates. So it is with anger and retaliation. One receiving but a pin-point wound will fly into a passion and be ready to break the offender’s head. The individual that suffers a single adverse word immediately proceeds to abuse and slander in the extreme his opponent. In short, an angry heart knows no moderation and cannot equally repay, but must make of a splinter, even a mote, a great beam, or must fan a tiny spark into a volcano of flame, by retaliating with reviling and cursing. Yet it will not admit that it does wrong. It would, if possible, actually murder the offender, thus committing a greater wrong than it has suffered.

32. So wicked and unjust is human nature that when offended it stops not with equal measure in retribution; it goes beyond and in its anger and revenge spares neither the neighbor’s honor nor his body and life. James 1:20 says: “The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God”; that is, it suffers not a man to abide in his faith and good conscience. But official indignation, which is God’s wrath, does not so. It seeks not the destruction of man, but only the punishment of the actual fault. Man’s anger and revenge, so wicked and insatiable are they, return ten blows for one, or even double that number, and repay a single abusive word with a hundred.

33. So Peter admonishes you to restrain your tongues, to curb them, lest they suddenly escape your control and sin with wicked words, doing injury double that you have received. Guard your lips that your mouth utter not guile or falsehood through your anger, and that it may not calumniate, abuse and slander your neighbor contrary to truth and justice and in violation of the eighth commandment. Such conduct is, before God and man, unbecoming a Christian and leads to that most disgraceful vice of slander, which God supremely hates. It is the devil’s own, whence he has his name of liar or slanderer — diabolus, or devil.


34. The Psalm says further: “Turn away from evil and do good”; that is, beware lest on account of the wickedness of another you also become wicked, for anger and revenge meditate only harm and wickedness.

Therefore be all the more diligent to do good, if you can, that your heart may retain its honor and joy and that you may abide in righteousness, and not fall from God’s grace and from obedience to him into the service of the devil. By anger and revenge the devil tempts you, endeavoring to get you again into his toils and to embitter your heart and conscience until you shall exceed others in sin.

35. “Seek peace and pursue it,” continues the apostle. This is a sublime exhortation, and faithful, divine counsel. You must not think, Peter would say, that peace will run after you, or that the world — much less the devil — will bring it into your house. Rather you will find the very opposite true.

From without strife will be carried to you in bales, and within your own heart will be kindled anger and bitterness to fill you with everlasting disquiet. Therefore if you desire peace, wait not until other people help you to obtain it, nor until you create it for yourself by force and revenge. Begin with yourself. Turn from the evil to the good. Even undergo suffering to provide your heart with the peace which endures in spite of all that would rob you of it. Strive ever to keep your heart firm in the resolve: I will not be angry nor seek revenge, but will commit my affairs to God and to those whose duty it is to punish evil and wrongdoing. As for my enemy, may God convert and enlighten him. And however much more of violence and wrong I may suffer, I will not allow my heart to be robbed of its peace.

36. Notice, the way to preserve peace and to see good days even in evil times is to keep a silent tongue and a quiet heart through the comfort of divine grace and blessing. No outward occasion may be given for strife, but always peace is to be sought with good words, works and prayers. We must even pursue peace, follow after it, with genuine and strong suffering.

Thus we preserve it by force. In no other way can a Christian see good days and hold fast his blessing. Remember you must make strenuous effort if you would not reject your blessing nor be influenced by another to carelessly lie and otherwise sin with your tongue. Flesh and blood are weak and sluggish in the matter of preserving peace, therefore Peter strengthens his exhortation and further encourages us by the promise of God’s help and protection for the faithful and his punishment of their enemies. He says: “For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears unto their supplication.”

37. Inscribe this verse upon your heart in firm faith and see if it does not bring you peace and blessings. Try to believe that God sits above, sleepless and with his vigilant eye ever upon you. With watchful vision he beholds the righteous as they suffer violence and wrong. Why will you complain and become discouraged by reason of the harm and grief you experience, when the gracious eyes of the true Judge and God are upon you and his intent is to help you? All the wealth of the world would I give, if I might, to purchase that watchful care, or rather to obtain the requisite faith; for surely the lack is not in his regarding, but in our faith.


38. More than this, God’s ears, the apostle tells us, are also open to the prayers of the righteous. As he looks upon you with gracious, winning eyes, so also are his ears alert to even the faintest sound. He hears your complaint, your sighing and prayer, and hears, too, willingly and with pleasure; as soon as you open your mouth, your prayer is heard and answered.

39. Again, Peter says: “The face of the Lord is upon them that do evil.”

True, God’s eyes are upon the righteous, but nevertheless he sees also the others. In this case he beholds not with a friendly look or gracious countenance, but with a displeased and wrathful face. When a man is angry the forehead frowns, the nostrils dilate and the eyes flash. Such a manifestation of anger are we to understand by the Scripture when it refers here to “the face of the Lord.” On the other hand it illustrates the pleased and gracious aspect of God by “the eyes of the Lord.”

40. Now, why is “the face of the Lord” upon evil-doers and what is its effect? Certainly God’s purpose is not to heed or to help them, to bestow blessing or success upon their evil-doing. His purpose is, according to the succeeding words in the psalm, “to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.” This is a terrible, an appalling sentence, before which a heart may well be prostrated as from a thunderbolt. And ungodly hearts would be thus appalled were they not so hardened as to despise God’s Word.

41. Notwithstanding the indifference of the wicked, the sentence is passed.

Verily it is no jest with God. It illustrates how sincerely he cares for the righteous and how he will avenge them on the wicked, toward whom his countenance bespeaks punishment in due time and the cutting off of their memory from the earth. In contrast, the righteous, because they have feared God and abode in their piety though suffering for it, shall, even here upon earth, live to see blessing and prosperity upon their children’s children. Although for a time the company of the wicked conduct themselves with pride upon the earth, and imagine themselves secure beyond the possibility of being unseated, nevertheless when their hour comes they are suddenly hurled down from earth into the abyss of hell and must suffer the righteous to remain in possession of the earth. So testifies Christ in Matthew 5:5, and Psalm 37 more fully explains the matter.

42. It is proven by all the examples of Scripture and also by the experience of the whole world from the beginning, that God casts down those who seek only to injure. They who have despised God’s threats and angry countenance with security and defiance have at last experienced the fulfillment of these warnings and perished thereby. King Saul thought to destroy godly David, to exterminate his root and branch and blot out his name as if he had been a rebellious, accursed man. But God effected the very opposite. Because David in his sufferings and persecution walked in the fear of God and trusted him with simplicity, desiring no harm to his enemy, God’s gracious eye was ever upon him and preserved him from that enemy. On the other hand, the angry face of God was bent upon King Saul, and before David was aware of it the king had fallen, and his whole family met ruin with him; they were obliged to surrender crown and kingdom to the persecuted David.

43. Christians should strengthen their faith with the comforting thought that God’s gracious countenance is over them and he turns eye and ear toward them; and that on the other hand he looks with angry face upon their enemies and those seeking to injure, and will take a hand in their game, obliging them either to refrain from their evil-doing, or to perish by it. Such retribution is certain. No one can live long without proving by his own experience and that of other men the truth of the proverb, “Right will assert itself.” However, we lack in faith and cannot wait God’s hour. We think he delays too long and that we suffer too much. But in reality his time will come speedily, and we can well wait and endure if we believe in God, who but grants our enemies a brief opportunity to be converted. But their appointed hour is already at hand and they will not escape if it overtakes them without repentance. “And who is he that will harm you, if ye be zealous of that which is good? But even if ye should suffer for righteousness’ sake, blessed are ye.”

44. According to Peter’s words here, you have a very great advantage over all your enemies, whoever they be, in being richly endowed by God with eternal blessing. You know he will protect, support and avenge you, hence you abide in your faith and godliness. Although your adversaries think to trouble and harm you, they can do you no real injury whatever they effect.

For wherein can persecution harm if you strive for godliness and abide in it? Not by malice, might and violence can your enemies take from you, or diminish, your piety and God’s grace, his help and blessing. And even from all the bodily and temporal harm they can inflict, you suffer no loss. For the more they seek to injure you, the more they hasten their own punishment and destruction, and the greater is your recompense from God. By the very fact that they slander, disgrace, persecute and trouble you, they multiply your blessing with God and further your cause, for God must the sooner consider your case, supporting you and overthrowing them. They but prepare your reward and benefit by their wicked, venomous hatred, their envy, anger and fury. At the same time they effect for themselves conditions the very reverse. Being condemned by their own evil consciences, they cannot in their hearts enjoy one good day, one peaceful hour; and they heap up for themselves God’s wrath and punishment.

45. Indeed, you are all the more blessed, temporally and eternally, Peter declares, for the very reason that you suffer for righteousness’ sake. You are so to regard the situation and to praise and thank God for your suffering. The apostle looks upon tribulation in this light and exalts it as supreme blessedness and a glorious thing. Christ says in Matthew 5:11-12: “Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven.” Oh, your adversaries should purchase a little of this comfort regardless of cost and boast of suffering a little for the sake of righteousness! Could they understand the promise and be worthy of it, how intensely might they desire to have suffered all and much more than they thought to inflict upon you, if only they might be blessed and prove the comfort of this precious, divine promise! “Fear not their fear, neither be troubled; but sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord.”

46. Here again Peter resorts to Scripture and cites a verse from the prophet Isaiah ( Isaiah 8:12-13) where he admonishes God’s people not to be terror-stricken by the wrath and threats of men, but firmly and confidently to trust in God. The prophet speaks similarly in Isaiah 51:7: “Fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye dismayed at their revilings.” As if he would say: Why will you permit yourselves to be disturbed by the persecutions of men, however great, mighty and terrible enemies they may be, when you are blessed and happy in God to the extent that all creatures must pronounce you blessed? Moreover, you know the eyes of your God behold you and his ears are open to your cry, and whatever you desire and pray for is heard and granted. More than this, your adversaries are threatened by his angry face. What are all men — tyrants, pope, Turk, Tartars, ay, the devil himself — compared to this Lord, and what can they do against him, when and wheresoever he chooses to show his power?

They are but as a straw to a mighty thunderbolt which makes the earth tremble. Therefore, if you are indeed Christians and believe in God you ought in no wise to fear all these adversaries, but rather, joyfully and with scornful courage to despise their defiance, their threatening and rage, as something utterly harmless to you; they are but effecting their own destruction in hurling themselves at the Majesty before which all creatures must tremble.


47. But this you are to do: Sanctify God; that is, regard and honor him as holy. This is nothing else than to believe his Word; be confident that in God you have truly one who, if you suffer for righteousness’ sake, neither forgets nor forsakes, but graciously looks upon you and purposes to give his support and to revenge you on your enemies. Such faith and confession honors him as the true God, upon whom man can confidently and joyfully call for help, reposing his whole trust in him upon the authority of his sure Word and promise, which cannot deceive or fail.

48. In contrast, unbelievers cannot sanctify God; they cannot render him due honor, although they may talk much of him and display much divine worship. They do not accept God’s Word as the truth, but always remain in doubt. In the hour of suffering they deem themselves utterly forgotten and forsaken by the Lord. Therefore they murmur and fret, being very impatient and disobedient toward God. They rashly seek to protect and revenge themselves by their own power. That very conduct betrays them as beings without a God, as blind, miserable, condemned heathen. Such are the great multitude of Turks, Jews, Papists and unbelieving saints today throughout the world.