Why Death and Sin are not Put Away in an Instant

Epiphany 3 Friday

Isaiah 9:4

“For the yoke of their burden and the rod of their shoulder and the staff of their driver you have broken as in the time of Midian.”

The second reason for the Christians’ joy is that “the rod on their shoulder” has been removed. This, as has been said, refers to the sin that makes death powerful and gives it its bite. For death cannot be considered overcome where sin is not overcome. And it is impossible that there should be death without sin or sin without death. This is also why death could not rule over Christ for long, although it kept him for a time for our sakes. For while Christ took our sin upon himself, there was no sin in him. This is also why death cannot keep ruling over Christians because they are now righteous in Christ and have no sin, even though death holds them back for a short time. For this is how death and sin are overcome masterfully: You do not simply put them away in an instant by force and never feel them again. Instead, you first take away their rightful claim and power, condemning them with judgment and right, so that they are to perish. Now, although they might rage and make themselves felt in the meantime, before they are crushed, this does not matter: The judgment has already been pronounced over them, so that they have no claim or power anymore and shall and must soon cease and come to their end. This is what one does with a mighty enemy: When he is captured, he is not killed right
away, but is kept alive until he is convicted by a court and then the judgment is carried out. Now, the life he lives in prison is certainly a life, but it is a miserable life that no longer has any right or power to do harm, to rule, to oppress his opponents. Rather, this life is preserved for death. He no longer lives to rule, but to be condemned and executed. This is what happens to sin and death as well. Christ won the battle and took them captive so that they can no longer rule or win against us as they did before, as Psalm 68:18, “You have ascended on high and have taken captive those who had taken captive us.” And daily, he lets go forth the law and the judgment over them and has them condemned by the gospel as those who have no right or might over us, but shall cease and come to their end soon. Accordingly, Paul says in Romans 8:3 that Christ condemned sin by sin. The fact that they still move and make themselves felt is nothing. For they are condemned and have lost their rightful claim and the dominion and can do no harm. There is nothing left except that they shall soon come to their end and cease. What does it hurt me that I feel death or sin for a short time as if they ruled, when I know that they do not rule, but are condemned, and that their movements and my feeling is nothing but their writhing and trembling as they look at the gallows where they are to be executed? Conversely, what is the advantage of those who do not feel sin and death for a short time, as if death had been removed by force, while sin and death retain their rightful claim and power over them, so that they will soon overcome them and rule them eternally?

St. Louis ed., 11:1984-1985.

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