From 1531 to 1535 Luther delivered many of these sermons, what are known as his Hauspostille (house postils). These were written for fathers to use as devotional material in their households, as well as for pastors to use for aid in sermon preparation. Just as Luther expected the head of the household to teach the Catechism to his children, so he desired them to have devotions with them, a practice that Luther was eager to do himself.
Baptism is surely a testament to the simplicity of God’s grace! The God who is beyond comprehension, whose depth of wisdom we cannot search, and whose paths are beyond tracing out nevertheless bestows upon us the benefits of Christ crucified through such simple means as water and Word.
Like Abraham, the Lord has made some extraordinary promises to you. Your sins are forgiven. You will be raised from the dead and given eternal life in God’s kingdom that has no end. You have been rescued from sin, death, and hell because Christ has died and Christ has risen. The Gospel preached to you declares it. The water and Word of your Baptism guarantees it. Believing and trusting in these promises of God is thus counted to you as righteousness.
The Litany was in use during Luther’s early years of reform, though he desired it to be sung in the Mass and the daily offices of the congregations.
There’s not merely one way that God ensures the forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus is delivered unto us. Instead, He provides it to us in plentiful ways, through abundant (even superabundant!) means.
While circumcision and the Old Testament laws and ceremonies differ greatly from the means of grace in the New Testament, one thing remains the same: faith alone saves.
When we learn it aright, we learn that the call to repentance is the call of a God who loves us and desires us to despair of our self-righteousness and benefit from the free forgiveness that is ours through the merits and sacrifice of Christ Jesus.
Regarding the truth taught in the Catechism, Luther says, “For this reason alone you ought gladly to read, speak, think, and use these things, even if you had no other profit and fruit from them than driving away the devil and evil thoughts by doing so. For he cannot hear or endure God’s Word… Yes indeed, it is the power of God that gives the devil burning pain and strengthens, comforts, and helps us beyond measure.”
The true children of Abraham are not his blood offspring but those who share the same faith as Abraham—faith in the promised Seed of Abraham, our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus once said to some of those who were offended by His teaching, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” (John 8:56) Abraham rejoiced in the day of Jesus, not by physical sight, but by faith in God’s promise to him!
Knowing how to rightly talk about the Law is important. As we’ll see, it helps us avoid the trap of legalism (believing that keeping the Law is in some way necessary to be pleasing to God) or license (believing that the Law no longer applies or even that the Law is bad, because of the Gospel).