He Calls You So Graciously (Zwingli)

Huldreich (Ulrich) Zwingli, the Swiss Reformer, was born in 1484, the same year as the German Reformer, Martin Luther. Zwingli is often known today for his memorialist view of the Lord’s Supper. However, there’s a lot more to Zwingli’s labors and teaching than a certain view of the Supper. He did clearly preach the truths of Scripture and criticized the doctrinal and moral abuses of the church in his day. Below is one excellent example found in his published sermon called “The Clarity and Certainty of the Word.”

Illustration: A man is longing for his soul’s salvation, and he asks a Carthusian: Dear brother, what must I do to be saved? And the answer will undoubtedly be this: Enter our order, and you will assuredly be saved, for it is the most rigorous. But ask a Benedictine and he replies: It is worth noting that salvation is easiest in our order, for it is the most ancient. But if you ask a Dominican he will answer: In our order salvation is certain, for it was given from heaven by our Lady. And if you ask a Franciscan, he will say: Our order is the greatest and most famous of all; consider then whether you will find salvation more easily in any other. And if you ask the Pope he will say: It is easiest with an indulgence. And if you ask those of Compostella they will say: If you come here to St. James you will never be lost and you will never be poor.

You see, they all show you some different way, and they all contend fiercely that their way is the right one. But the seeking soul cries out: Alas! whom shall I follow? They all argue so persuasively that I am at a loss what to do. And finally it can only run to God and earnestly pray to him, saying: Oh God, show me which order or which way is the most certain. You fool, you go to God simply that he may distinguish between men, and you do not ask him to show you that way of salvation which is pleasing to him and which he himself regards as sure and certain. Note that you are merely asking God to confirm something which men have told you.

But why do you not say: Oh God, they all disagree amongst themselves; but you are the only, unconcealed good; show me the way of salvation? And the Gospel gives us a sure message, or answer, or assurance. Christ stands before you with open arms, inviting you and saying (Matt. 11): “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” O glad news, which brings with it its own light, so that we know and believe that it is true, as we have fully shown above. For the one who says it is a light of the world. He is the way, the truth and the light. In his Word we can never go astray. We can never be deluded or confounded or destroyed in his Word. If you think there can be no assurance or certainty for the soul, listen to the certainty of the Word of God. The soul can be instructed and enlightened – note the clarity – so that it perceives that its whole salvation and righteousness, or justification, is enclosed in Jesus Christ, and it has therefore the sure comfort that when he himself invites and calls you so graciously he will never cast you out. 

Ulrich Zwingli, “The Clarity and Certainty of the Word”, in Zwingli and Bullinger, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1953) p.83-83.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54002

Monks, Hermits, and the Devil’s Deception (Luther)

Product Details At one time in his life, Martin Luther was a monk in the Augustinian order, a strict branch of monasticism that emphasized separation from the world and vigorous spiritual disciplines.  However, after discovering the freedom of the gospel, Luther stopped living a monastic life because he found his righteousness and salvation in Christ, not in strict spiritual disciplines or separation from the world.  He went on to speak against monasticism because it was often a works-righteousness endeavor and because monasticism made it impossible for someone to love and serve his neighbor.  Here’s how he put it in a sermon from 1532 (on Mt. 22:34-46):

“In the papacy it was very common for all knights, soldiers, jurists, and people of this sort, who imagined they had been in an improper, execrable calling, to say, ‘Up til now we have served the world, but now we want to begin serving God.’  For this reason many of them entered the monastery and became monks and hermits.”

“However, this was a devilish deception.  Is it serving God when you crawl into a corner where you help and bring solace to no one?  What need does our Lord God have of the service you perform in a corner?  The one who wants to serve God should not crawl into an isolated cell but remain among people and serve them, where he can rest assured that thereby he is serving God, for he has commanded it and said, ‘The second is like unto it.'”

“…The lesson, therefore, very closely shows… that God looks an all the good and bad we do to the neighbor as being done to him.  If, when we serve our neighbor, each one would consider it as being done to God, the whole world would be filled with God-pleasing service.  A servant in the stable, a maid in the kitchen, a boy in school, they would be nothing but servants of God, were they to willingly perform whatever father and mother, master and mistresses commanded….”

Of course we should take time to pray, read Scripture, worship God with his people, and meditate on the great works of God.  But we should never withdraw from people, for people are the neighbors God calls us to love and serve!

The above quotes are found in

“God Seeks Nothing Extraordinary From Us”

Here’s a great excerpt from a 1534 sermon Martin Luther preached on Matthew 22:34-46.  These are good words to think about in response to the modern-day “radical” movement.

“The Lord’s reply is especially irksome, that the everyday routine works which people are commanded to do, namely, that they are to love God and the neighbor, supersede all other works, regardless of how they shine and glitter.  The fact is, not only the Pharisees among the Jews, and the hypocrites under the papacy, have regarded human traditions as more important than God’s commandments; for there is a little monk that sticks in all of us from youth on.  We, too, regard the ordinary works God has commanded as insignificant, but the special, diverse works done by the Carthusians, monks, and hermits, about which God has commanded nothing, as especially noteworthy.”

“However, our Lord God is averse to such distinction.  He does not prefer one before another, nor does he exclude anyone from serving him, no matter how lowly he might be.  Instead, he enjoins upon everyone to exercise love to God and his neighbor.  Since God seeks nothing extraordinary from us and tolerates no distinctions, we must conclude that when a maid, who has faith in Christ, dusts the house her work is more pleasing in service to God than that of St. Anthony in the wilderness.  That is Christ’s meaning here.  This is the highest commandment: to love God and one’s neighbor.  God is not concerned about the rules of the Franciscans, Dominicans, or other monks, but wants us to serve him obediently and love the neighbor.  They may consider their monastic rules to be something wonderful and special, but before God they are nothing.  The very highest, best, and holiest work is when one loves God and the neighbor, whether a person is a monk or nun, priest or layperson, great or small.”

A few paragraphs later, Luther summarizes this discussion well:

“…We, therefore, must learn to think and answer like this: Not something extraordinary, but to love God and your neighbor, that is the best way of life!  If I do that, I don’t have to be searching for another way.  It is so very true that loving God and the neighbor is the greatest and best work, even though it appears to be so very ordinary and insignificant.”

Martin Luther, Luther’s Sermons, vol. 7, pages 75-6.  Also see my review of Matthew Redmond’s helpful book, The God of the Mundane.

shane lems