Devotion on Sin, Righteousness and Judgment

Excerpts from Martin Luther’s sermon on John 16:5-15:

When the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, comes He will convince the world of blindness and ignorance. All men who have not been enlightened by the Holy Spirit, no matter how clever they may be thought to be by prevailing external
circumstances, rule or dealings, are fools and blind before God. They do not like being reminded of this. In fact, they become very cross and angry if you tell them that all their achievements count for nothing at all before God. They are quite sure that the reason and natural light that God has created in them, must at least count for something.

What can we reply?

There stands the Scripture, the Word of God, plain and clear, telling us that the Holy Spirit will come and convince the world of ignorance in regard to sin, righteousness and judgement.

This is a fixed determination; it cannot be modified or changed. Let him who will, be angry; this is no concern of Christ here…. [St. Louis. Ed. XI.865,2]

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The world is in a wretched plight. Not only is it ignorant of sin, of righteousness and of judgement, but it cannot recognize this fact, not to mention the utter impossibility of getting rid of this ignorance.

Here you see also how all credibility is taken from those who want to train others in the ways of godliness when they do not even know what sin is. It would be both interesting and instructive to examine our theological schools and learned theologians on the meaning of the one little word ” sin”. Have you ever heard it said or taught that ” sin” is not believing in Christ? They tell us that ” sin” is to speak, desire, or do something contrary to God’s will and commandment.

How does this agree with Christ’s statement here that the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin ” because they do not believe in me”? It is not so difficult to convict the world of being ignorant of sin, even though it is a very learned world. The world will not find it easy to explain this text….[St. Louis Ed.XI.866,3]

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Christ has come and proclaimed the truth that everything we do apart from the Holy Spirit, no matter how great it is and how lovely it appears to be, is sin. We cannot do anything good gladly and willingly without the Holy Spirit. Christ came on earth to take our place. He has taken away all our sins. As a result of this we have received the Holy Spirit through whom we have also obtained love and the desire to do what God wants us to do.

This entire work of Christ is God’s free gift to us, so that we should never presume to come before God with our own works, but solely and only through Christ and His merits. Through the work of Christ it also comes to pass that sin for us is no longer what we have done contrary to God’s Law. The Law played no part at all in making us righteous and acceptable before God, because by nature we cannot do this.

What then is “sin” in view of the work of Christ? It is nothing else but the rejection of the Saviour and the refusal to accept Him who can remove our sins from us. Where Christ is present, there is no sin. He brings with Him the Holy Spirit, who enkindles faith in our hearts and the desire to do what is good.

The world is no longer convicted or condemned because of any other sin, for Christ has destroyed all sin. In the New Covenant, however, the only thing that is sin is failure to recognize Christ and to accept Him. [St.Louis Ed.XI.868,8-9]

PRA YER: Of your mercy and grace, O God, imbue us with such knowledge and understanding of your wonderful love in Christ that we never allow ourselves by any deception of self-love or the devil to be withdrawn from the circle of your grace and mercy, in Christ Jesus our Saviour. Amen.

[From pages 189-191 of Luther for the Busy Man, translated by Dr. P.D. Paul, Lutheran Publishing House, Adelaide, South Australia, 1974.]

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