How Can We Stand Before God?

Epiphany 5 Friday

Matthew 5:18-19

“For I tell you: Truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota or a tittle will pass from the law until it all takes place. Therefore, anyone who abolishes one of these smallest commandments, and teaches the people accordingly, will be called the smallest in the kingdom of heaven. But anyone who does and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

This is to say, I want that everything should be taught and kept purely and completely and that nothing is removed from it. Thereby he indicates that he found things in a different condition, namely, that both doctrine and life were not going right anywhere. This is why, as we see in what follows, he must take up both doctrine and life and salt them thoroughly so that they become pure. This is also how we must teach so that we do not allow one letter of the gospel to break off, but say: “Everything must be taught, believed, and kept purely.” Thus, he indicates that he would deliver a sharp sermon and not accept the blame for abolishing the law. Instead, he wants to strike them to prove how they weakened and abolished the law and replaced it by their glosses. This is just what our bunch of papists did to the gospel and Scripture when they kept completely silent about the highest article concerning the righteousness of faith through Christ. They also took the cup away from the people in the sacrament of the altar and hid the words of institution. In fact, they went so far as to proclaim that the commandments Christ here urges are not necessary commandments but only good evangelical counsels, which is directly against these words and condition that heaven and earth must pass away before one of the least commandments is not kept…Instead, Christ says, “I will definitely see to it that not only none is abolished, but that he who is a preacher and abolishes one or does not teach one should know that he is not my preacher but shall be condemned and rejected from the kingdom of heaven.” For by saying, “he shall be called the smallest in the kingdom of heaven,” he means to say nothing other than that he shall not be in the kingdom of heaven; rather, as such a preacher considers it a minor thing to despise God’s commandment, so he shall be despised and cast away. This is why all the preachers of the gospel must be well prepared to be able to boast before the world accordingly, how we can dare our adversaries to show us one verse or article of Scripture we abolish or do not preach correctly…Beware of the adversaries and do not be terrified by their condemning, persecuting, and raging. Here we have the comfort that those who teach or cling to God’s Word purely and faithfully shall be great with Christ in the kingdom of heaven, even though those people curse them into the abyss of hell. But I do not discuss here how the law must be fulfilled so that no iota or tittle passes away, etc., although we teach that no person can fulfill it. For I have said that Christ here does not speak chiefly about life but about doctrine. He also does not speak here about the lofty chief article. That is to say, Christ does not here teach who he is and what he gives us, namely, that we cannot be justified or saved by the law’s teachings but only arrive at knowing ourselves as those who cannot fulfill properly a single tittle out of our own powers. Christ here also does not say that we–even if we, after becoming Christians by baptism and faith, do as much as we can–can never stand before God on this basis, but must always crawl to Christ who fulfilled everything in the purest and most perfect way and who freely gives himself to us with his fulfillment, so that we stand before God through him, which is why the law cannot accuse or condemn us. This is how it is true that everything must take place and be fulfilled to the smallest tittle–but only by this one Man. Enough about this has been said elsewhere.

St. Louis ed., 7:424-427.

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