Martin Luther, written and preached 500 years ago
“As my father sends me so I send you.”
Jn. 20:21″Why did God the Father send Christ? For no other purpose than to do the Father’s will, namely, to redeem the world. He was not sent to merit heaven by good works or become righteous thereby. He did many good works, aye, his whole life was nothing else than a continual doing good. But for whom did he do it? For the people who stood in need of it…for all he did he did for the purpose of serving us.
“As the Father has sent me’, he says here, ”so I send you”. My Father has sent me to fulfil the law, take the the sin of the world upon myself, slay Death and overcome hell and the devil and not for my sake, for I am not in need of it; but for all your sakes and in your behalf, in order that I may serve you… By faith (in Christ) you shall accomplish this. It will make you righteous before God and save you (Rom. 10) and likewise overcome death, sin, hell and the devil.
But this faith you are to show in love, so that all your works may be directed towards this end; not that you are to seek to merit anything by them; for all in heaven an earth is yours beforehand; but that you serve your neighbor thereby…For where faith in the heart is right, there is no need of much commanding to good works to be done; they will follow of themselves.
But good works are those we do to our neighbor in serving him, and the only one thing commanded of a Christian is to love. For by faith he is already righteous and saved; as St. Paul says in Romans 13:8; “Owe no man anything save to love one another, for he that loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”
But the works of love are only an evidence of the existence of faith…In this manner the Apostles exhort us to good works in their writings; not that we become righteous and are saved by them, but only to prove our faith both to ourselves and others, and to make it sure…
Accursed be the life that is lived for itself and not for your neighbor; and on the contrary, blessed is the life in which one lives not for himself but for his neighbor and serves him by teaching, by rebuke, by help and by whatever manner and means. If my neighbor errs, then I am to correct him; and if he will not heed me, I am to patiently bear with him…through faith we belong to God above, through love we belong to our neighbor below..”
Martin Luther, First Sunday after Easter, 1521, Complete Sermons of Martin Luther, pp.374-375, 377