Seventh, the holy Christian people are externally recognized by the holy possession of the sacred cross. They must endure every misfortune and persecution, all kinds of trials and evil from the devil, the world, and the flesh (as the Lord’s Prayer indicates) by inward sadness, timidity, fear, outward poverty, contempt, illness, and weakness, in order to become like their head, Christ. And the only reason they must suffer is that they steadfastly adverse to Christ and God’s word, enduring this for the sake of Christ, Matthew 5[:11], “Blessed are you when men persecute you on my account.”…This [cross] is a holy possession where by the Holy Spirit not only sanctifies his people, but also blesses them.

“I did not learn my theology all at once, but had to search constantly deeper and deeper for it. My temptations did that for me, for no one can understand Holy Scripture without practice and temptations. This is what the enthusiasts and sects lack. They don’t have the right critic, the devil, who is the best teacher of theology. If we don’t have that kind of devil, then we become nothing but speculative theologians, who do nothing but walk around in our own thoughts and speculate with our reason alone as to whether things should be like this, or like that.”

“The gospel invites us to believe not that we are safe provided, but that we are safe period. It is not that sin should not have dominion over us, but that it cannot, for its power has been destroyed by Jesus. It reigns in our death, of course, as it always did, but what is that?  What is it to have sway over a valley of dry bones? The main thing is that it does not reign over Jesus, and Jesus is our life.

The Fifth Petition: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

This should serve God’s purpose to break our pride and keep us humble. He has reserved to himself this prerogative: those who boast of their goodness and despise others should examine themselves and put this petition uppermost in their mind. They will find that they are no more righteous than anyone else, that in the presence of God all people must fall to their knees and be glad that we can come to forgiveness. Let none think that they will ever in this life reach the point where they do not need this forgiveness. In short, unless God constantly forgives, we are lost.

What, then, are the priests and bishops? Answer: Their government is not a matter of authority or power, but a service and an office, for they are neither higher nor better than other Christians. Therefore, they should impose no law or decree on others without their consent. Their ruling is rather nothing more than the inculcating of God’s word, by which they guide Christians and overcome heresy. As we have said, Christians can be ruled by nothing except God’s word, for Christians must be ruled in faith, not with outward works. Faith, however, can come through no word of man, but only through the word of God, as Paul says in Romans 10[:17], “Faith comes through hearing, and hearing through the word of God.” Those who do not believe are not Christians, they do not belong to Christ’s kingdom, but to the worldly kingdom where they are constrained and governed by outward rule. Christians do every good thing of their own accord and without constraint, and find God’s word alone sufficient for them.

“We should not regard as free or indifferent, but rather as things forbidden by God that are to be avoided, the kind of things presented under the name and appearance of external, indifferent things that are nevertheless fundamentally opposed to God’s Word (even if they are painted another color). Moreover, we must not include among the truly free adiaphora or indifferent matters ceremonies that give the appearance or (in order to avoid persecution) are designed to give the impression that our religion does not differ greatly from the papist religion or that their religion were not completely contrary to ours. Nor are such ceremonies matters of indifference when they are intended to create the illusion (or are demanded or accepted with that intention), as if such action brought the two contradictory religions into agreement and made them one body or as if a return to the papacy and a deviation from the pure teaching fo the gospel and from the true religion had taken place or could gradually result from these actions.”