Martin Luther on the Witness of the Holy Spirit

This is a golden passage from Luther’s 1532 sermon on John 15.26-16.4 (specifically 15.26).

“Christ says very definitely, the Holy Spirit will witness of me, of me and not of someone else. Beyond this witness of the Holy Spirit about Christ there is no sure and abiding comfort. That is why one should write the words ‘of me’ with capital letters and diligently remember them. For of this we may be certain, that the Holy Spirit promotes no other doctrine, preaches neither Moses nor other laws whereby to comfort the conscience. If the conscience is to be comforted, it can only be by the preaching of Christ’s death and resurrection – this alone comforts. In contrast, all other preaching of law, good works, holy living, whether commanded by God or men, is incapable of comforting a person in times of need and death; instead it leaves him uncertain and in despair, frightened and tormented. If we consider God without Christ, we find no comfort but only righteous wrath and displeasure. But whoever preaches Christ proclaims and brings true comfort, so that it will be impossible for hearts not to be joyous and of good cheer.”

“No one in need of comfort, therefore, should wait until the Holy Spirit in all his majesty speaks to him personally from heaven. For the Holy Spirit carries out his witness publicly in the sermon. That is where you must seek and await him, till the word which you hear with your ears witnesses inwardly of Christ in your heart. But such inward witness does not come about until the external, spoken witness of the Word is heard which tells that Christ became man, was crucified, died, and rose again for our sakes.”

This whole sermon, found on pages 144-150 of volume 6 of the Baker 7-volume edition of Luther’s Sermons, is a beautiful picture of Luther’s Christ-centered exegesis, preaching, and pastoral care.

shane lems

sunnyside, wa