Home > Luther, Martyria > Why People have to be Compelled to Come to Christ, and How to do it

Why People have to be Compelled to Come to Christ, and How to do it

From Luther’s Church Postil.

And they all with one consent began to make excuses…Luke 14

That is what the Lord in Mat. 10:37-38 says: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And he that doth not take his cross and follow after me, is not worthy of me.”  Now observe how few there are who are thus experts in leaving all for Christ.  For whoever will come to this supper, must esteem the Gospel above everything, body and riches, wife and child, friend and foe; yea, he must forsake everything that separates him from the Gospel, let it be as good, right, and holy as it ever can be.

Do not think that these men who excuse themselves here were engaged in public, coarse sins, and in unrighteous employment and business.  No. They were occupied in a laudable, good employment.  For it is never wrong that we buy and transact business, that we honestly support ourselves, or take a wife and live in the married state.  But the reason we should not come into the state of these persons is that they were unwilling to leave these things, but clung to them with all their hearts.  Now we must be willing to leave them, if the Gospel will require it…

…But what does it mean when he says to the servant: “Go out into the highways and hedges, and constrain them to come in, that my house may be filled?” 

This is to be understood as referring to those of a dispirited, timid conscience, who also belong among the guests of this supper, they will be constrained to come in.  However,  it is not an outward but an inward and spiritual constraining, and takes place in this way: When the Law is preached and sin is unfolded or made manifest, that man comes to a knowledge of himself, so that compelling and constraining them to come in means to force anew the sins into the conscience, that thereby man may acknowledge that he is nothing, that all his works are sinful and damnable, and thuse quickly receives a despairing conscience and a bashful and terrified heart, in which every refuge and help are taken from him and everywhere he is unable to find any comfort in them, and finally despairs of all help in himself. 

When this now takes place, it is called “constraining,” for you should not delay his “coming in,” but help him out of his state of despair.  But this takes place, when you comfort him with the Gosple and tell him how he may be delivered from his sin, and say to him: “Believe in Christ, that he has freed you from sin, then your sins are forgiven you”.  That is what “constrain them to come in” means; and it does not mean outward compelling as they explain it, so that they drive rogues and wicked persons, as it were with police force, to this supper; for that accomplishes nothing…

And the Lord says further to the servant and to others: “For I say unto you that none of those men that were bidden shall taste of my supper.”  These words are the conclusion and summary of this Gospel lesson, that those, who are the most certain and wish to taste of this supper, shall not taste of it.  The reason you have heard.  Therefore in brief, the guests, who are here invited and came not, are those who imagine they could obtain the supper through their own works, they greatly exert themselves and are sure of their cause, they wish to taste of the supper.  But the Lord concludes with powerful words and says: “That none of those men that were bidden shall taste of my supper.”  Why then, dear Lord?  They have done nothing bad and neither have they been occupied with false teachings.  Why, the reason is that they have denied the faith, and did not publicly confess it before everybody, and did not esteem this rich and expensive supper above all creatures.  For since it is costly and precious, it therefore requires something from the people who esteem it so, and it puts them under some obligation, be what it may.  See, that is the sense of this gospel text…


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