Using Christ as a Cover

Christmas Friday

John 1:14

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, a glory as of the only-begotten Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

“Flesh” here means the entire human nature, body and soul, according to the custom of Scripture that calls man flesh, as John does in 1:13, “not of the will of the flesh.” And in the Creed we say: “I believe the resurrection of the flesh,” that is, the resurrection of all men. And Christ says is Matthew 24:22, “And if the days were not shortened, no flesh would be saved.” And in Psalm 78:39, “He remembered that they are flesh, a wind that passes and does not return.” And in John 17:2, Christ says: “You have given your Son authority over all flesh to give eternal life to all those whom you have given him.” I point this out so diligently because this verse has caused much offense among the heretics at the time when there were learned, great bishops. Some, as Photinus and Apollinaris, taught that Christ was a man without a soul and the divinity in him took the place of the human soul. Manichaeus, however, taught that Christ did not have natural, true flesh, but was a mere appearance passing through his mother Mary, not assuming her blood and flesh, like the sun shining through glass and not assuming the nature of the glass. This is why the evangelist used a graphic word, stating that he became flesh, that is, a man like every other man who has flesh and blood, body and soul…In those days, no matter how evil the heretics were, they still remained in Scripture and left some doctrines standing. But what is left now
when this birth of God and the faith are no longer recognized or preached, but only human laws and works are proclaimed from the pulpits? What does it matter whether Christ is God or not God; whether he is true flesh or a mere appearance of flesh; whether he has a soul or no soul; whether he came before or after his mother; whether all errors and heresies that ever existed are in full force or not–since we have no more of Christ than all the heretics. We also do not make use of him, and it is just as if he had become man in vain and as if all things had been written about him in vain–
since we have found a way to get to God’s grace by our own works! This is why there is no difference between our bishops
and all heretics that ever existed, except this one: We use Christ by our words as a cover and appearance, but underneath that cover, we cast him aside and make no use of him, as if he truly were the dummy the heretics foolishly believed him to be. St. Peter proclaimed this in 2 Peter 2:1…What use is it now whether Christ is not as the heretics preached him, if he is of no more use and benefit to us than to them? What use is it if we condemn such heresy and confess Christ rightly by our words, if our heart does not view him differently than they did? I cannot see that they could show Christ to be necessary for anything, if I were able to acquire God’s grace by my works. If I could do that, it is not necessary that he is God and becomes man. In short, everything that is written about him is unnecessary. It would be enough to preach God as the Jews believe him to be, and I then go about acquiring his grace by my works. What else would I want? What else would I need?

St. Louis ed., 11:196-198.

This entry was posted in Daily Devotions From the Writings of Martin Luther. Bookmark the permalink.