From the Word
1 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves; 2 let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to edify him. 3 For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached thee fell on me.” 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 15:1–6, RSV
The apostle gives us a general admonition from the Scriptures, saying that not only this passage, but the entire Scriptures were written for our learning. The Bible contains much about Christ, and also about numerous saints—Adam, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob—which was not recorded for their sakes. The Bible was written long after their time; they never saw it. Thus, however much is written about Christ, it is not for his sake; he had no need of it. It is recorded for our instruction. The record of Christ’s words and deeds is for our edification, the model for us to follow. Although the words are about Christ, they are directed to us, for our learning; we are to conduct ourselves as the Scriptures tell us Christ and his saints conducted themselves.
Mark the book the apostle here presents for the perusal and study of Christians — none other than the holy Scriptures. He tells us it contains doctrine for us. Now if our doctrine is to be found in the Bible, we certainly should not seek it elsewhere; all Christians should make daily use of this book. No other bears the title here given by Paul — book of comfort — one that can support the soul in all tribulations, helping it not to despair, but to maintain hope. For thereby the soul apprehends God’s Word and, learning his gracious will, cleaves to it and continues steadfast in life and death. He who knows not God’s will must doubt, for he does not know what relation he sustains to God.
Since the life to come is not evident to mortal sense, it is necessary for the soul to have something to which it may cling in patience, something to help it to a partial comprehension of that future life, and upon which it can rest. That something is God’s Word. Paul mentions “patience” before “comfort” to indicate that he who is unwilling to endure suffering and seeks consolation elsewhere cannot taste the comfort of the Word. It is the province of the Word alone to comfort. It must therefore meet with patience first. To maintain Christian patience under trials, the afflicted must comfort themselves with those portions of Scripture that show Christ’s example. Thus the hope of the soul continues steadfast.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 394–95.