A New Skin

From “Epistle Sermon for Easter Wednesday,” Church Postils (1544)

If you want to boast and take comfort in this preaching rightly, that by his dying and rising, Christ has helped you, then you must not remain in your old sinful life but put on a new skin. His dying and resurrection occurred so that you also finally would die with him to the world and become like his resurrection; that is, begin to become a new man, as Christ is in heaven, one who does not have the desire or live for greed and deception of his neighbor but is satisfied with what God gives him through his work and is generous, kind, and charitable to those who need him…

This is St. Paul’s admonition to all who want to be called Christians. In it he reminds them to what they were called, because they have the Gospel of Christ, and what the resurrection of Christ should work in them, namely, that they should be dead to all that is not taught or lived according to God’s word and will. If they believe in the risen living Christ, then they also, as those risen with him, should seek the same heavenly life where Christ sits at the right hand of God… nothing but faith lays hold of this preaching…

The Christians’ comfort in this life is that they hear about Christ and lay hold of him in faith. But, on the other hand, according to their sense and before the world it appears to be the opposite, since they must content with sin and their won weakness, and in addition are subject to all kinds of distress and misfortune….

“Be of good cheer,” Paul means to say, “for you have died to this earthly life and you must renounce it. But you have made a precious exchange. It is a blessed dying in return for which you obtain a much more glorious life. Through the death of Christ you are redeemed from sin and eternal death, and imperishable eternal glory is given to you. However, you do not yet have this life in yourselves through your senses, but in Christ through faith.”

So Christ is called “your life,” which is not yet revealed in you; but it is certain in Christ and so assured that no one can take it from you. So you also must be preserved through faith in Christ’s life, and obtain the victory over the fright and afflictions of sin, death, and the devil, until this life is also revealed to you and in you… The Christians who believe and know that Christ has risen should take comfort in this and look forward to living together with Christ and in eternal glory, provided that they previously died with him to the world.

Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a German priest and theologian, a seminal figure of the Protestant Reformation. His teaching about justification by faith, revealed in his study of the Pauline Epistles, became the core of Protestant teaching about salvation, and inspired a wide-reaching series of reform in Christian ministry, worship, and spiritual practice. His Church Postils were model expositional sermons on the traditional Mass pericopes intended to instruct newly ordained pastors in preaching. This translation is from Church Postil III, Luther’s Works Vol 77, Benjamin Mayes and James Langebartels, eds (St. Louis: Concordia, 2014). Martin Luther is commemorated on February 18 on the calendars of several Lutheran and Anglican Churches. 


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