From the Word
And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled.
Luke 14:23, RSV
This refers to the heathen, who have dwelt in no city, who were without any worship of the true God, but were idolatrous, and did not know what God was. Go thither, he says, and compel them to come in. For the world arrays itself against the gospel in every way, and cannot tolerate this doctrine, and yet this housefather wants his house full of guests; he has made preparations, and now must have people to eat, drink and be joyful, even if he had to make them of stones.
But how shall we compel, as God does not want any forced worship? He desires that we should preach thus: Dear friend, do not despair because you are a sinner and have such a terrible sentence of condemnation passed upon you; but do this, go forth and be baptized and hear the gospel. Here you will learn that Jesus Christ has died for your sakes and has made satisfaction for your sins. If you will believe this you will be safe against the wrath of God and eternal death, and you shall eat here at this glorious supper and live well, become hearty and strong. When a man feels his wretchedness and misery, then is the time to say to him: Sit down at the table of this rich Lord and eat, that is, be baptized and believe in Jesus Christ, that he has made satisfaction for your sins. There are no means to aid you, except you be baptized and believe. Thus wrath will cease and heaven will shine with pure grace and mercy, forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
These words are, therefore, lovely and comfortable for the poor, miserable multitude of those who are constrained to come in, who before were lost and condemned heathen. By these words God desires forcibly to portray and show unto us his unfathomable grace. Thus God shows that he is immeasurably more anxious to give and help us than we are or ever can be to receive and pray; and that he requires nothing more difficult from us than that we open our hearts and accept his grace. This is the way we are to come to this supper, that from Jews and Gentiles there may be one Christian Church.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 268–69.