Renewing our Existence

Lent 2 Wednesday

John 3:5

Jesus answered: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

Christ here says to Nicodemus: “The time has come that your circumcision, law, and Moses are to cease. For so far, you have waited for me as the one of whom the prophets and Moses prophesied, telling you to listen to me. Now, since I have come, listen to me and hide your good works, your ceremonies, sacrifices and the other services of the temple. Come to me and be baptized by water and the Holy Spirit. This baptism gives you the new birth and turns you into new men, bringing a new birth or renewal of your existence. For the Holy Spirit works faith in us. By this faith, we regain God’s image which we lost in paradise. When we are baptized and believe that Christ died for us, we grow daily in faith, also in the fruits and good works of the Holy Spirit. If you want to be saved, accept my teaching. For am I to preach and Moses is to be silent now.” Neither the pope nor the Muslims believe that Christ died for me. In fact no one believes this except those whom the Holy Spirit gives it by means of the preaching of the gospel. For the Holy Spirit must grant that it is preached. The Holy Spirit is also the scribe who imprints this on our heart so that I believe and say: I believe in Jesus Christ. Thus, the Holy Spirit’s sermon consists in this expression: New Birth. He teaches and writes it. Those who believe in Christ, that he was born, died and buried for us, also that he rose from the dead–those is born again or born anew. Now, if you abide in this faith, then the Holy Spirit is there and baptizes you, strengthens and increases your faith, and puts a new mind in your heart. He also awakens in you holy and new thoughts and feelings, so that you begin to love God and cease to engage in all the godless dealings, and wholeheartedly do what God wants you to do, love your neighbor and
avoid anger, hatred, and envy. Such are the works done by those who have first been born anew, namely, by baptism, where the Holy Spirit is and where he makes the person new. Now, once the person is born anew, the new man begins to use all kinds of clothes, food, and drink–and a Christian says: “If you do not want to wear religious gear, wear a simple shirt. If you do not have a gray shirt, wear a red one. It does not matter how you dress, just as it also does not matter whether you are a man or a woman. For none of these things brings about the new birth, which is brought about instead when I believe in Christ who died for me. I know this from the divine Word by the Holy Spirit, also from baptism. What do I need to wear religious gear for this?” A Christian does not need these ceremonial things for anything. The main thing is to be baptized by the Holy Spirit and to obtain faith through him–these things bring about the new birth. Afterwards I serve God in the first three commandments. Then, according to the remainder of the Ten Commandments, I manage my office and vocation and possessions, love the neighbor, and lead a quiet life with my wife. If then the cross comes along, I suffer it gladly and then go to the sermon where I hear Christ, my bishop, and do not need to run to Rome or to St. James on a pilgrimage–This will be the new sermon how we become new men and how we then, as those born anew, also do good works. And this is the chief part of our Christian doctrine, so that the people would be instructed how they have to be born again through water and the Holy Spirit, not by wearing this or that pieces of religious clothing. For
religious clothing only covers the old rogues in us and does not turn us into new men. But Nicodemus does not understand any of this.

St. Louis ed., 7:1861-1863.

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