Return to the Same Answer

From “Of the Clarity and Certainty or Power of the Word of God” (1522)

If the image is our own, then we are an image of ourselves. But if the image is of God, how can we call it our own image? You see then that we ourselves are absolutely nothing and in the flesh we can do nothing. Therefore, immediately after the complaint that he is brought into captivity to sin, St. Paul cries out, “O wretched man that I am!  Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”…

At once he takes comfort, “I thank God through Jesus Christ,” that is, that through the Lord Jesus Christ he is saved from the curse of sin and it can no longer bring him into condemnation. Therefore Paul adds, “So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God. But with the flesh the law of sin.”

Let it be noted that here Paul looks upon himself as a servant of God and also a servant of sin. But how can he be both at the same time? It is in this way: according to 1 John 1, we are never without sin, indeed, as we have already seen, sin always dwells within us, even though it has been overcome and led captive by Christ, Heb. 9; Rom. 6… Thus we are under an obligation to live according to the law of God which we cannot fulfill. Like St. Paul, we can only cry out, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” And we must return the same answer: the grace of God through the Lord Jesus Christ…

There is no law or word which will give greater delight to the inward man than the word of God. For according to Isaiah 28, “the bed is shorter than that the adulterer can stretch himself on it, and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it.” That is, God is the bridegroom and husband of the soul. He wills that it should remain inviolate, for he cannot allow any other to be loved – that is, to be as highly esteemed and precious – as he is. Nor does he will that the soul should seek comfort anywhere but in him, or allow any other word to minister comfort but his word. For in the same way it is the husband’s will that the wife should cleave only to him, lavishing all her care upon him and seeking no other comfort but that which he can give. As Isaiah says, “God is zealous, a strong lover of souls.”… Such is the life and power of that word which sustains the soul of man as food sustains his body….

For he who keeps the Word or saying of God will not see eternal death. So then we have come to the point where, from the fact that we are the image of God, we may see that there is nothing which can give greater joy or assurance or comfort to the soul than the word of its creator and maker.

Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) was a Swiss pastor and theologian, the leader of the Reformation in Zurich. He was a pioneer of expository preaching, and is remembered today principally for his radical liturgical reforms and sacramental theology. This sermon was delivered in the Grossmunster, the city’s principal church just as Zwingli was beginning the Reformation. This translation is from in G.W. Bromiley, ed., Zwingli and Bullinger (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1953).


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