"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Proud Toward Sinners? You Are Utterly Damned

An extract from a sermon entitled "The Lost Sheep" by Martin Luther

A friend of mine recently pointed out the following section from a five hundred year old message that speaks as relevantly to pastors today as it did then. It caused me to realize again that one of my main callings as a pastor is to go after the lost sheep, but to accomplish my mission I must have a certain conduct toward the sinner. I think you will find Luther's words powerful and penetrating.

"So dearly must I love the sinner that I shall even run after him, and shall become like the shepherd that seeks the lost sheep, like the woman that seeks the lost piece of silver. On this occasion, therefore, we shall speak concerning such great work of love as is shown when a pious man invests the sinner with his own righteousness, when a pious woman invests the most wanton harlot with her own honor.

This is something that neither the world nor reason will do. A work like this cannot be done by honorable and pious men who are actuated only by reason, by men who would prove their piety by turning up their nose at those who are sinners, as here the Pharisees do who murmur and grumble at public sinners.

This is what our monks do. They have gone about making faces at all who lie in their sins, and have thought: “Oh, but this is a worldly fellow! He does not concern us. If now, he really would be pious, let him put on the monk’s cowl!” Hence it is that reason and such hypocrites cannot refrain from despising those who are not like them. They are puffed up over their own life and conduct, and cannot advance far enough to be merciful to sinners. This much they do not know, that they are to be servants, and that their piety is to be of service to others. Moreover, they become so proud and harsh that they are unable to manifest any love. They think: “This peasant is not worthy to unloose the latchet of my shoes; therefore do not say that I am to show him any affection.” But at this point God intervenes, permitting the proud one to receive a severe fall and shock that he often becomes guilty of such sins as adultery, and at times does things even worse, and must afterwards smite himself, saying: “Keep still, brother, and restrain yourself, you are of precisely the same stuff as yonder peasant.” He thereby acknowledges that we are all chips of the same block. No ass need deride another as a beast of burden; for we are all of one flesh.

This we clearly see in the two sorts of people here presented to us as examples. In the first place, we have the Pharisees and hypocrites who are exceedingly pious people, and were over head and ears in holiness. In the second place, we have the open sinners and publicans, who were over head and ears in sins. These, therefore, were despised by those shining saints, and were not considered worthy of their society. Here, however, Christ intervenes with his judgment and says that those saints are to stoop down and take the sinners upon their shoulders, and are to bear in mind that, with their righteousness and piety, they are help to others out of their sins. But, no! That they will not do. And this is indeed the way it goes.

A truly Christian work is it that we descend and get mixed up in the mire of the sinner as deeply as he sticks there himself, taking his sin upon ourselves and floundering out of it with him, not acting otherwise than as if his sin were our own. We should rebuke and deal with him in earnest; yet we are not to despise but sincerely to love him. If you are proud toward the sinner and despise him, you are utterly damned.

These, then, are great and good works in which we should exercise ourselves. But no man pays attention to them. Such works have entirely faded away and become extinct. In the meantime, one resorts, in the name of the devil, to Saint James, another proceeds to build a church, a third provides for the saying of masses, - this one does this, the other does that, and no one thinks of praying for the sinner. It is therefore to be feared that the holiest are in the deepest hell, and that the sinners are mostly in heaven.

But it would be a truly Christian work, if you received sinners, if you entered into your closet and there said, in earnest prayer to the Lord: “Oh, my God! Of such a person I hear so and so, he lieth in his sins, he hath fallen. Oh, Lord, help him to rise again,” etc. This is just the way in which to receive and serve the sinner."


volfan007 said...


amen and amen!

Lord, give me more of a heart for sinners....more of a heart for winning them to You.


Alycelee said...

Thank God, He gives us grace.
Oh that we would remember to extend that same grace to others, for we will be judged by the same.

Bryan Riley said...

We begin by going in our prayer closet, yes, and then we must obey the voice of God... But what might He be telling us about our ministry to the sinner? How do we chase after that lost sheep or the lost coin?

Excellent sermon. Wow. I'd like to have access to more such as this. Are there modern publications of such works?

Bob Cleveland said...

"...serve the sinner".

Wow. What a thought. The sermon, in the last three words.

jthomas899 said...

Great sermon! Thanks for posting it so we can read it.

Wade Burleson said...


CBD Christian booksellers has a special on "Luther's Works" which is a multi-volume set of books that is well worth the money.

Anonymous said...

Isn’t this the picture of the typical modern church?

Me and my three and your doctrine better match mine.......sinners are dirty and I'll defile my "holiness" if I touch them.

Give me a "Mc Sermon" and let me go home, the kickoff is at 1 and I don't want to miss it.

Debbie said...

I enjoy reading Martin Luther's sermons and this one is no exception.

jthomas899 said...

I hate to derail the blog, but I have been reflecting on my statements of late, and would like to issue an apology. I was more blunt than I intended to be. Many times I am overstating my argument to strain a gant to make a point.

I need to realize in the future that most of you do not know me or my motives behind what I post.

God Blessings

WTJeff said...

I have had my "severe fall and shock" and since then I see no room for me to look down on the sinner. God's grace is beyond real to me. Luther truly hit on the head. Our hearts must break for the lost.

Another aspect of this is the joy we experience when we do what Jesus would. When I get to preach, train, and encourage people to reach out to those who won't come to our churches, I love it. But when I get to actually invest in somebody who doesn't know Jesus, I have a greater sense of why God made me.

This weekend, me and my lost friend are taking our families to the mountains for a "poor boy" ski trip -- intertubing down a public hill near a ski resort. Please pray that he and his family would see the Savior in mine. I hope to have our first spiritual conversation on this trip.


Wade Burleson said...

Jeff Thomas,

Humble. Gracious. I feel I know you better after your comment. Thanks.


I'll ask the Lord to give you boldness and clarity as you share your faith with this family, and that the spirit will do His part in opening the hearts of those who need Christ.


johnthebaptist2007 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
davidinflorida said...

Pastor Wade,

I dont want this to appear like an advertisement, BUT , after teaching " The Way Of The Master" course at the church I attended, I have a whole new perspective on the lost. I now crave to witness to people and strick up conversations about salvation.

For those of you who desire a change in your life in this area, I highly recommend it.

jasonk said...

I love that sermon. It is one of my all-time favorites.

Steve Camp wrote a song several years ago-- "Don't tell them Jesus loves them, till you're ready to love them too."