From the Word
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
2 Peter 3:18, RSV
What is it to know Christ but to look upon him as a gift and as an example? A gift given by God that becomes your own; so that when you see and hear him suffering or doing anything, you may not doubt that Christ himself in such suffering and works is yours, upon which you may depend as though you yourself had done them, and as though you yourself were Christ. This is what it means to know Christ aright: that he with all he has, out of pure divine goodness has been given unto us, that he has rendered satisfaction, obtained salvation and eternal life for us, and that all this is through him and for his sake, bestowed upon us without our merit.
If in this way you have Christ as the foundation and chief treasure of your salvation, then follows the other part of laying hold of him as your example, that you give yourself to the service of your neighbor as he has given himself for you. Then faith and love will be exercised, God’s commandment will be fulfilled, and man becomes happy and fearless to do and to suffer any and everything. Christ as a gift nourishes your faith and makes you a Christian; but Christ as an example moves you to do good works; these do not make you a Christian, but they go forth from you who have already become Christians. The pope, however, has changed this entirely; for he commands: If you would be saved, you must pray the rosary, fast, become a Carthusian, buy indulgences, build churches, and do innumerable things, not one of which Christ ever commanded. The worst of all is that when they have practiced such works, which benefit neither God, nor the world, for a time, they boast of them and say: I have fasted so many Fridays with bread and water, I have spent so many years in the cloister, I hope God will not leave me unrewarded for such service, but will on that account give me heaven. That certainly is denying Christ, and a terrible blasphemy of the great and unsurpassable grace of God manifested toward us in his Son, Jesus Christ. The true knowledge of Christ is to know why he came, and how we may appropriate him to ourselves.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 171–72.