03 September 2016

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

For who can harm or injure a man who has this confidence, who knows that heaven and earth, and all the angels and the saints will cry to God when the smallest suffering befalls him?—Martin Luther on John 17

3 comments:

Unknown said...

This is a reflection of Luther’s Roman Catholic past, in which heaven was an Italian village in which people would constantly come to the “Padrone” asking favors for themselves and for others. The truth is this: God in the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity knows when we are suffering, before anyone tells Him about it. He loves us more than all the angels and saints combined. Therefore, if it were His will, He would stop our suffering even before the crowd of intercessors asked Him to, which they do not, because they know better. He, Himself, is no stranger to suffering. He willingly endured mind-bending agony for us on the cross for the joy that was held before Him (Hebrews 12:2). Before that, He predicted that His disciples would drink the same cup (Matthew 20:23). He does not take the same view of suffering as people do. Philippians 1:29, “For He has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for Him as well…” 1 Peter 4:19, “Therefore, let those suffering in accordance with God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator, while continuing to do good.”
In the 17th chapter of John, our Lord commits His disciples to His Father for the three days during which He would be gone from them. Then on the first day of His return, He comes to them and breathes the Holy Spirit into them (John 20:22), Who would preserve their souls from this point on, even as they went out to drink the cup of suffering our Lord had predicted for them. They did so, rejoicing, Romans 5:3, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Will, I know you have used this quote from Luther in the past as the assurance of the comfort we receive from the intercession of the Communion of Saints both here and above. But apart from that context, I have problems with this quotation because of what it seems to imply about the nature of Paradise and of suffering.
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

Joanne said...

And yet the Bible is full of intercessions. Two of my favorites are Abraham bargaining with God over the destruction of Sodom (Genesis 18), and Moses interceding for the people when God is determined to kill them all when the spies' report results in the people grumbling again (Numbers 14). After Moses' eloquent pleading the Lord responds, "I have pardoned, according to your (Moses') word. At Sodom, suppose 10 righteous men are found there? Or just 5, or just 1? On the cross, Jesus intercedes for his executioners, "Father forgive them ..." And the Syro-Phoenician woman (Matthew 15) intercedes for her daughter and Jesus does give her the food meant only for the sons. And the parable of the Importunate Friend (Luke 11), but because you have importuned me, I will get up and come down to lend you 3 loaves of bread. Ask, even impudently, and you will receive, even if my first will was to stay in bed. We pray using God's own words, that He would have a second will based on his grace rather than our sin.

Unknown said...

Joanne, you are absolutely right. There are numerous places in the Bible where we are urged to pray for one another. What I am questioning is whether the saints who have gone before us, or the angels, intercede for us with God. The Confessions allow that the saints do so “in a general” way, but I do not believe they are aware of the specifics of our lives. I know that our Lord is said to intercede for us, but I suspect that He does so against the Devil and his kingdom.
As to God “changing His mind” as a result of intercessory prayer, I suspect that God knew what He was going to do all along, but He encourages people to intercede for one another. You may recall that He commanded Abraham to sacrifice his only son. He did not change His mind at the last moment. He never intended for Abraham to complete the sacrifice.
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart